In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

WHY WE BROKE UP by Daniel Handler

copyright date: 2011
primarily marketed for: young adults (high school)

Every once in awhile a book this good finds its way into my hands.  Every once in awhile.  I hope it may find its way into yours. 

Everything about this book is appealing: 
·      The fact that it is by Daniel Handler, perhaps better known as Lemony Snicket. 
·      The fact that each chapter is illustrated with wondrously fun art by Maira Kalman (illustrator also of 13 Words and Fireboat- two of my picture book favorites). 
·      The fact that it begins: “Dear Ed,” and ends: “Love, Min”. 
·      The fact that the pages are a heavy glossy paper that makes the weight of the book as substantial as the story inside and just plain feels good to touch. 
·      The fact that it is written in the form of a list of objects that fill a box of mementos of a relationship that we start the book knowing has already ended, and yet we don’t give up hope that somehow the inevitable ending will be avoided. 
·      The fact that Daniel Handler has this way of writing—this way of writing that almost makes me think he is Australian, even though he’s not (proof of Handler’s almost Australian way of writing by making words work in unexpected ways that are dead-on: “But all I remember is the music fading, vengefully turned down so it no longer sound-tracked the day.”) 
·      The fact that reading this story made me feel exposed as the awkward human I am, and yet made me feel comforted that I am not alone—I am an awkward human amongst awkward humans who are experiencing similar feelings in painfully similar situations (the essence of them is similar anyway). 
·      The fact that even though it touches on really mature subjects and uses mature language and seems to just accept that all high school students are underage drinkers, it honestly communicates a life lesson about relationships that is soberingly true and necessary for us all to learn—and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all learn it vicariously through Daniel Handler’s fictitious relationship in this book instead of learning it the hard way?
·      The fact that the protagonist, whose voice is instantly endearing, has a passion for French movies and can’t help but reference applicable scenes from them—scenes from movies that, to the best of my knowledge, are entirely fabricated from Handler’s own imagination, making their obscurity that much more absurd.
·      The fact that this book has illustrated endpages—how many YA books have illustrated endpages?
·      The fact that this book has its own tumblr page.

Enough said.


  1. Nice style of reviewing, Christy, & the book sounds great. I'll certainly keep it in mind. Here's one rec for you: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares. Your students might like it for the relationship angle too.

  2. This sounds terrific. I can think of several hands to put it in! Thanks for this!