Wednesday, September 22, 2021

More good Middle-Grade Books I've Read this Year

 If you saw my posts for The Canyon's Edge by Dusti Bowling and 365 Days to Alaska by Cathy Carr, you'll know that I've been reading some awesome middle-grade novels (and graphic novels!) recently.  Though the two above are my favorites of 2021 so far, here are some other good ones:

Class Act, by Jerry Craft.

Though I didn't find it quite as funny, charming, and subtly powerful as the first book (New Kid), I really enjoyed this graphic novel about a kid navigating both 8th grade and the social/racial/economic divides between his friends.

I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but this is one that makes me want to keep reading them.

Which leads me to...



Pájaro Blanco (White Bird) by R.J. Palacios

I thought it was a bit misleading to call it a Wonder novel, and I had a few issues with the ending, but the main story itself was fantastic.

I started at a little past midnight and finished at 2:30 am.  Reading that long is not something I do much anymore--and I needed to get up at a decent time in the morning--so that's really saying something.

Warning:  because of the content, if you're a parent of a child reading this, you might want to read it too and discuss.
 


The Great Hibernation,  by Tara Dairman

So, I found rather a lot of plot holes in this book.  But...

It was very interesting watching these kids try to act like adults and keep society going, and I LOVED the creepy downhill slide into oppression.  Chilling...yet it rarely felt heavy handed.  Nicely done. 

I also liked the characters and setting quite a bit. 



A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan

This book tackles big issues (bigotry, depression, finding belongingness when you feel caught between two countries).  But it also serves a heaping helping of good food and friendship.

The alternating first-person points of view needed to be more distinct, but the writing was engaging.  




Soul Lanterns, by Shaw Kuzki

Some of the writing in this felt clunky and pedantic--especially the parts with the kids 25 years later learning about their own history--but some of that might have been the translation.

The stories of the people who survived--and didn't survive--the nuclear bomb blast in Hiroshima were heart-wrenching and beautifully told.  I cried.  A lot.  It takes a really good book to make me cry.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Bryce Canyon National Park--Figure-8 Combination Hike

I LOVE Bryce Canyon.  Granted, it was the first time I'd been out of my home state since the pandemic began, and that made it extra special, but seriously...the place is gorgeous.  The pictures are pretty, but they don't do it justice.

Bryce Canyon from the Rim Trail between Sunset and Sunrise Points

Hiking Route:  I only had time to do one big hike, and I chose a good one with a slightly boring name:  the Figure-9 Combination Loop.  I started at Sunset Point, walked along the Rim Trail to Sunrise Point, then headed down into the canyon, following the Queen's Garden Trail to the Peekaboo Loop (which I did clockwise, as you're supposed to do in summer).  When the Peekaboo Loop looped back, I took the Wall Street Trail back up to Sunset Point.  By then I was a little hot and tired,  but I didn't want to stop, so I walked the Rim Trail up to Inspiration Point.  

Queen Victoria in the distance from the Queen's Garden Trail

Hike stats:  Figure-8 Combination Loop Stats: 6.4 miles, 1631 feet elevation gain.  Add another half mile or so and a bit more elevation if you go up to Inspiration Point.  The elevation gain isn't exceptional.  What makes it difficult is the elevation you start at.  Sunset Point sits at about 8000 feet.  So, unless you live at high elevation, you'll find yourself out of breath faster than normal.      

Trail snaking between hoodoos on the Peekaboo Loop

Hiking time:  The NPS brochure recommends 4-5 hours for the Figure-8.  It took me just over 3 hours, including a short lunch break. This is the point where I normally feel proud until some hiking friend says, "I did it in 2 hours."  Anyway,  what matters is the enjoyment.  If you want to take 6 hours, then you'll just have 3 more hours of enjoyment than I did.  

The Wall of Windows on the Peekaboo Loop

Hiking stars:  6 out of 5.

Only problem:  It's not exactly isolated.  The Queen's Garden/Navajo Loop parts are quite crowded.  "Disneyland trails" I call them, because there are so many people.  However...the Peekaboo Loop was a different story.  There were people, of course, but in the whole loop (3.5 miles) I only met about six sets of people coming the other way and kept leapfrogging with one set of people going the same way I was.  By the end, we'd struck up a bit of a friendship.  Ahhh...trail life.

The slot canyon part of the Wall Street Trail

I really recommend a hike down into the canyon, even if you don't have time/energy/inclination to do a long hike.  Walking among the hoodoos and seeing them tower over you is a very different experience than seeing them only from above.

Options for shorter below-the-rim hikes:  Take the Queen's Garden train down as far as you want and then retrace your steps.  It's considered the easiest descent into the canyon.  Another good route would be the Navajo Loop.  

And of course do some along-the-rim walking too. 

Heat:  Try to start early, especially if it's a warm day, and carry plenty of water.  Many trails are quite exposed.