Strange Boys, Vanishing New York, Brollies, and IT | What We’re Reading & Watching  

This time out, the “What We’re Reading & Watching” gang finds a jewel in the slush pile, confronts monsters who bedevil us, fights for New York City’s soul, hoists brollies against the rain, and piles up future reads for self and kids.

Bette-Lee Fox, Managing Editor, LJ
Who knows what will entice you to pick up a book, either from a shelf of discarded galleys or from a pile of such items lugged home from the office. I liked the mostly red cover of Monica Wood’s The One-in-a-Million Boy (Houghton Harcourt) and the précis from the back cover: “The incandescent story of a 104-year-old woman and the sweet, strange young boy assigned to help her around the house.” I’d put down a few other books of late after a few pages; I was getting desperate knowing soon I’d be mired in Best Book reading and this might be my last chance for a while at a book “just for me.” I seem to have found myself recently devouring stories featuring children who are a bit different or complex and require more from the adults around them. Such is the case with “the sweet, strange boy” of this novel, who will tear your heart out in so many ways, and the grown-ups who become much better for having known him. Find it; read it; recommend it.

Liz French, Senior Editor, LJ Reviews
My colleague Mahnaz loaned me her actual store-bought copy of Jeremiah Moss’s Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul (Dey St: HarperCollins) because I follow (haphazardly) Moss’s blog, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, and generally lament the same losses and detest the same genericizing of Gotham that he does. I’m a fan of the blog, but the book is leaving me cold. It’s a little too louche-loving and crusty grit-embracing for me, although I enjoyed his sneering takedown of the infamous “CBGB toilet” exhibit at the Met’s Fashion Institute “Punk Fashion” show. Moss is very close-minded about any sort of change—I get the feeling if he’d been around in the early 20th century he’d be “agin” indoor plumbing and electric light—but he is right (imo) about how many of those changes by “the elites” have coopted our city and destroyed its character.

Tyler Hixson, WWR/W alumnus (Brooklyn Public Library)
I was one of the many who contributed to IT‘s record-breaking opening weekend, and I was not disappointed. Andy Muschietti’s (director of 2013’s sleeper horror hit Mama) vision of one of my favorite Stephen King novels had everything in it that the 1990 TV miniseries didn’t (no disrespect to Tim Curry, but the miniseries is lackluster at best). For those who are unfamiliar with the story, IT is about a group of seven kids—the Losers Club—that take on “It,” an ancient evil that has plagued the town of Derry, ME, every 27 years since forever. The book tells the story of the Losers Club battling It as kids and 27 years later as adults; this movie focuses on the Losers Club as kids. This adaptation’s R rating allows the kids to be vulgar and crude, and the real-life horrors they face—the bullies, the sinister, indifferent adults—are truly terrible, but the biggest upgrade, enhanced by CGI, is Pennywise the Dancing Clown, played by Bill Skarsgård, who more than fills Curry’s giant shoes. If you weren’t afraid of clowns before you watch the film, you will be when you’re done.

IT is essentially a coming-of-age story, and the film’s best moments are when the group is all together. There’s Bill (the excellent Jaeden Lieberher), the stuttering ringleader of the club whose younger brother Georgie is dragged into the sewer by Pennywise at the beginning of the film; Richie (Finn Wolfhard, from Netflix’s Stranger Things), the wisecracking loudmouth; Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), the nervous hypochondriac; Stan (Wyatt Oleff), the Jewish nerd; Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), the heavyset new kid, who’s got a crush on Beverly (the also excellent Sophia Lillis), who joins the group because she feels slighted by the town that considers her promiscuous; and Mike (Chosen Jacobs), the only black kid in the neighborhood, and the last to join the club after the group saves him from a town bully and his gang. The chemistry between Richie and Eddie is screamingly hilarious as they rag on each other even in moments of mortal peril, and the “love triangle” of Bill, Beverly, and Ben is sweet and tender. The film manages to delight and terrify in equal measure, and the multitude of Easter eggs that the filmmakers sprinkle throughout will satisfy King’s Constant Readers. IT: Chapter Two can’t come soon enough.

Meredith Schwartz, Executive Editor, LJ
I have just picked up Marion Rankine’s Brolliology: A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature  (Melville House). I’m a fan of microhistories in general—they are generally much less full of war and woe than macrohistories—and I’ve already encountered a few odd umbrella facts in my other hat (a bonnet) as a historical reenactor, so it’ll be fun to fill in the rest of the story.

Henrietta Verma, WWR alumna (National Information Standards Organization)
I’m crazy busy at the moment and not reading much besides news, but I have added a few items to my WIWBR (What I Will Be Reading) list. The first is Manoush Zomorodi’s Bored and Brilliant: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Spacing Out (St. Martin’s); it’s quite hard for me to do nothing, and I hope this book will give me permission. Next is Micaela Erlanger’s How To Accessorize: A Perfect Finish to Every Outfit (Clarkson Potter: Crown), so I can look fab while spacing out, and because I’m intrigued by a book on accessorizing that has such an understated cover. The last of my recent wannareads is Kassia St. Clair’s The Secret Lives of Color (Penguin Pr.), just because it looks fascinating.

I add books to my kids’ lists, too, and sometimes they even like them. For Henry, age six, when I can drag him away from Dav Pilkey’s canon, next up is Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion (Millbrook) by Chris Barton, illustrated by Victo Ngai. My 13-year-old daughter gave an almost-audible grunt when I told her about Adam Silvera’s new They Both Die at the End (HarperTeen), which is high praise, so I’m going to get a hold of that as well.




Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email:, Twitter: @lizefrench

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