Weil, Cynthia. I'm Glad I Did
January 27th 2015 by Soho Teen
ARC from Baker and Taylor
Justice Jeannette (JJ for short) doesn't want to be a lawyer like the rest of her high powered family in 1963; she's always wanted to be a songwriter. When she is told that she needs to get a summer job or help out at her mother's law office, she presents herself at Good Music in the Brill Building in New York City... and gets the job, even though she is only 16. Most of her duties involve filing, but she is also encouraged to write songs. JJ also runs into Luke Silver after the two mix up papers in the elevator. Never having known his mother, he is closing up his father's music business after his father's death. JJ writes a good song based on Luke's lyrics, and one evening while singing it, is heard by the cleaning lady, who turns out to be washed up blues singer Dulcie Brown. Encouraged, but still not willing to share her work with her boss, Dulcie meets with her uncle Bernie, who is a big wig in the business and has interesting insights. When Dulcie dies of an apparent (but suspicious) suicide, JJ and Luke both learn secrets about their families. Can they continue their work and be successful? Will they figure out what happened to Dulcie? A fascinating look into a particularly interesting period in music publishing, by someone who knows it well.
Strengths: Even with the mystery, this is cheerier than many books! The horrific news of the time is not ignored, but treated as background, as well it should be. The insights into the music business are something I have not seen in a book, and having JJ be a writer and not a singer was definitely new. The connection to even older music was welcome, and different elements, like Civil and Women's Rights, were woven into the story well.
Weaknesses: I wish there had been more details about life in the 1960s in general. What did they wear, what did the offices look like, etc. I normally don't ask for details like that in books, but there is so little written about this time period, and the details are so fascinating, that it would have been nice. Would have also made the book longer, and at 272 pages, it was just about right.
Leonard, Candy. Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World.
August 26th 2014 by Arcade Publishing
ARC from Netgalley.com
Need a book for all of the students using the Beatles as a starting point for a National History Day Project on the Beatles as Turning Point/Leaders and Legacy/Frontiers/Taking a Stand? This is it. Interviews with lots of first generation fans are set between deeply introspective delving into What the Beatles Meant during their time. I'm pretty well versed in the Beatles (the reason they joke about Paul's gradfather being "clean" is that the actor was Wilfred Bramble, known for playing Steptoe in Steptoe and Son, where the joke was that he was a "dirty old man"), but even I learned some things about the Beatles and their influence. (Some of the hatred of Yoko Ono was because she was of Japanese descent. Hadn't thought of that. And the Monkees were aimed at disenchanted, younger Beatles fans!) Really, just about everything is covered, especially a light overview of history during this time. That said, it's a very, very dense read. Still, if you have students desperately trying to prove that the Beatles were leaders in the antiwar protest movement of the 1960s, this is your book, since it deals with the effect of the Beatles on people and society and is not another rehasing of their personal lives. The digital ARC I had didn't seem to have any pictures, which can certainly be obtained in other books.