Learning Express

Featured Book Lists
New York Times Bestsellers
Click to search this book in our catalog Brother & Sister
by Diane Keaton

Kirkus In this melancholic addition to Keaton's two previous works of memoir (Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty, 2014, etc.), she strives to understand her troubled younger brother.Two poignant passages bookend the author's brief account of her relationship with her brother, Randy Hall. In the first, she recalls the pair at 5 and 3, sharing a bedroom in their Southern California home, Keaton "glancing down from my top-bunk apartment in the sky and seeing Randy's anxious bobbing head, his fear of the dark, and his sweet if hapless face.Why couldn't he stop seeing ghosts lurking in shadows that weren't there?" The second depicts the siblings, now in their 70s, sitting quietly as Keaton holds her ailing brother's hand and strokes his hair during a visit to his nursing home. In between these moments of intimacy, Keaton admits to long periods of estrangement from her sensitive, self-destructive, alcoholic brother, who "took failure and wore it the way Hester Pryne wore her scarlet letter," spending an isolated life writing, collaging, drinking, and existing by grace of the supportfinancial and otherwiseof his parents and sisters. While never completely free of worry or involvement, the author discloses that "while I was playing the firebrand Louise Bryant [in the film Reds], he'd attempted to gas himself in the garage.I told myself I didn't have time to linger on my family's problems, and certainly not Randy's." Keaton thoughtfully wrestles with her guilty conscience while attempting to assemble a clearer picture of her brother's nature. To do so, she relies heavily on excerpts from his poems, prose, and letters and those of family members. Yet Halldescribed variously as "a schizoid personality" by a doctor, an "Almost Artist" by Keaton, and a "genius" by his idealizing motherremains inscrutable and difficult to sympathize with.Keaton sheds her whimsical persona to explore difficult burdens that those with an unstable sibling will recognize. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Actor Keaton (Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty) focuses on her complex relationship with her mentally ill younger brother in this resonant and melancholy family memoir. Keaton admits that she saw her brother, Randy, as a burden when they were kids growing up in Southern California: “He was a nuisance, a scaredy-cat, and a crybaby.” As she got older, “he became an absent presence. I avoided him as my life got busier while his got smaller and more difficult.” Throughout, Keaton shares details of her career (filmmakers Woody Allen and Nancy Meyers, among others, get mentions), but the focus is on Randy, an alcoholic plagued by sadomasochistic fantasies about women, and whose escalating instability—vividly described here (in a letter to Keaton, Randy writes, “When I thought about sex it was always with a knife”)—affected Keaton, her parents, and her two sisters. The author, who became “the family documentarian” after her mother’s death in 2008, utilizes family letters and journals to enhance the narrative, which follows Randy as he unravels and turns into a “Boo Radley character.” Keaton talks about the complexities of loving a brother she never quite knew; of watching him become consumed by alcohol, then falling into the grip of dementia “in the process of dying”; and of wishing she had done more to help him (“I want to have another chance at being a better sister”). This slim but weighty book stands as a haunting meditation on mortality, sibling love, mental illness, and regret. (Feb.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Actress Keaton (Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty) reflects on her relationship with her younger brother, Randy Hall. Early on, Hall exhibited heightened fears and anxieties that were intensified by a father with exacting standards and a mother who found it difficult to acknowledge the scope of her son's complexities. Hall wrote poetry, made collages, but increasingly withdrew—eventually walking out of a job at their father's company, divorcing his wife, descending into alcoholism, and angrily shutting out the world. In an effort to seek understanding of his struggles, Keaton eloquently and unflinchingly examines her brother's life, drawing from excerpts of his poetry and her mother's journals and letters in an attempt to find answers to her questions. The result is a cohesive, honest look at an entire family impacted by a troubled individual, as well as how Keaton maintained a bond with her sibling despite tremendous challenges. VERDICT Immersive and haunting, this is a must for Keaton's fans and for those seeking to comprehend the nuances of sibling and family relationships.—Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life
by Asheley Bryan

School Library Journal Gr 4-6-Using real documents from an estate appraisal dated July 5, 1828, Bryan has created beautiful portrait paintings for 11 people who were named and priced as property on the Fairchildses' estate (the documents are reproduced fully in the endpapers and in segments throughout the work). Relying on narrative poetry to explore each figure's inner and outer life, Bryan gives voice to their history, their longing for freedom, and their skills as artisans, cooks, musicians, carpenters, etc. Each person has two visual portraits, with each accompanied by a poem (on the opposite page). Collaged historical documents of slave auctions fill the negative space of the first portrait frame. The second portrait depicts that person in a private dream, often a dream for safety, family, community, or the freedom to create. Peggy, a self-taught expert herbalist and cook for the Fairchildses, knows that although she works hard, everything goes to the estate. She dreams of her Naming Day ceremony and her parents calling to her, "Mariama! Mariama!" Each portrait reflects the role of song, call-and-response, ceremony, spirituality, community, and griots in living a double life-doing what was demanded while keeping close in their hearts the "precious secret," the constant yearning for freedom. Expertly crafted, these entries will deeply resonate with readers. Referenced in the poems are slave independence in Haiti, the drinking gourd, the North Star, and songs such as "Oh, by and By," "This Little Light," and "Oh Freedom." VERDICT A significant contribution to U.S. and African American history that will elicit compassion and understanding while instilling tremendous pride. A must-purchase for all collections.-Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, MA Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Using a document from 1828 that lists the value of a U.S. landowner's 11 slaves, Bryan (Sail Away) creates distinct personalities and voices for each, painting their portraits and imagining their dreams. He starts with the wife of the slave owner, who felt her husband was good to their slaves ("He never hired an overseer"). But it's quickly clear that "good" slave ownership is an oxymoron: "I work hard-all profit to the estate," their cook Peggy observes. Bryan shows that the enslaved had secret lives of their own: "Years ago blacksmith Bacus and I/ 'jumped the broom'-/ the slave custom for marriage. No legal form for slaves." They cherish their traditions, call each other by their African names ("I am Bisa, 'Greatly Loved'?"), dream of escape, and long for freedom. His portraits show the men, women, and children gazing out at readers, the contours of their faces traced as if carved from wood, while strong rhythmic outlines mimic stained glass, echoing the sense of sacred memory. There are few first-person accounts of slaves, and these imagined words will strike a chord with even the youngest readers. Ages 6-10. (Sept.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Gr 4-6-Documents related to an 1828 estate sale that included, along with hogs and cows, the names and prices of 11 individuals, were the genesis of this tribute to the lives, talents, and community of generations of those who were treated as property and whose humanity was disregarded. Bryan's expressive portrait art allows readers to peer into the faces of these men and women, while his poems unmask their hopes and aspirations. Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list *Starred Review* Inspired by a document appraising the value of 11 enslaved people (along with livestock and cotton) in an estate for sale in the antebellum South, this exceptional book presents the imagined faces and voices of individuals whose society, against all reason, regarded them as less than human. Each person appears in a four-page section, opening with a page of free-verse text opposite a riveting head-and-shoulders portrait with a grim collage background of slavery-related documents. A banner reveals the person's appraised value, master-imposed slave name, and age. In the text, these individuals introduce themselves, their roles on the estate, and the skills (cooking, blacksmithing, sewing) they take pride in. On the second double-page spread, a verse text offers more personal reflections on their African roots, their love of family, and their dreams, while a more detailed, colorful painting expresses their heritage, their strength, and their rich inner lives. Their humanity shines through, showing the tragedy of their status and the gross absurdity of assigning prices to people. Longing for freedom is a constant theme, made all the more poignant by the appraisal document's date: 1828, decades before emancipation. Clean and spare, the verse brings the characters to life, while in the radiant artwork, their spirits soar. Rooted in history, this powerful, imaginative book honors those who endured slavery in America.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Powered by: YouSeeMore © The Library Corporation (TLC)