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The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai
Cat Got Your Secrets by Julie Chase
Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn
A Charm of Goldfinches and Other Wild Gatherings by Matt Sewell
The Deep by Rivers Solomon
The Dragon Thief by Zetta Elliott
Final Girl by Michelle Schusterman
Giant Days, Volume 11 by John Allison
Gideon Falls, Volume 3: Stations of the Cross by Jeff Lemire
Guts by Raina Telgemeier
Have You Seen a Giraffe Hat? by Irma Joyce
I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest
A Kingdom for a Stage by Heidi Heilig
Kneaded to Death by Winnie Archer
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Milo's World: The Land Under the Lake by Richard Marazano and Christophe Ferreira
Murder by Mocha by Cleo Coyle
Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia
Operatic by Kyo Maclear and Bryon Eggenschwiler
Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao
Over the Moon by Natalie Lloyd
The Phantom Tower by Keir Graff
Posted by John David Anderson
Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
West with the Night by Beryl Markham
What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr

Miscellaneous
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 04)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 11)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 18)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (November 25)
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October 2019 Summary

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Butterfly Yellow: 11/11/19

Butterfly Yellow

Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai is set during 1981 in Amarillo Texas. It's told from alternating points of view. Hằng is an eighteen year old refugee from Việt Nam on a quest to find her younger brother. Leroy is an eighteen year old wannabe cowboy who has a good ear for understanding Hằng's English and the desire to help her out.

The first thing that struck me about grounded Butterfly Yellow is in the era. The details are right for 1981. The arts and music are there. Leroy, for instance, is just discovering rap and hiphop after the recent release of Rapture by Blondie. He's trying to learn the lyrics for the older songs that have finally gained purchase on white radio stations. Hằng meanwhile has learned her English through Clint Eastwood films and National Geographic issues.

The second thing that sets Butterfly Yellow apart is the way Hằng's accent is rendered. Rather than write her accent as an English speaker would hear it, Thanhha Lai has rendered her English with Vietnamese phonemes. It takes a while to get used to but it ultimately provides the best insight into the music of Hằng's native language.

Much of the novel is centered on Hằng working for her brother's adoptive family, hoping she can spark memories of his childhood before being airlifted against his and his sister's will. There are glimpses of his old life — he's given his horse his old name and he can hum along with the songs Hằng sings.

Ultimately Butterfly Yellow is about Hằng and Leroy both need to readjust their initial goals to the reality of the situation. She won't be taking her brother home. Leroy won't be meeting his favorite rodeo star, nor is he cut out to be the sort of cowboy he's imagined himself as. All in all it's a delightful and realistic look at the post Việt Nam war era as seen through the eyes of two eighteen year olds trying to learn how the world works and their place in it.

Five stars

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