Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: Goodnight June

Summary: The New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter imagines the inspiration for Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Songs) is an adored childhood classic, but its real origins are lost to history. In Goodnight June, Sarah Jio offers a suspenseful and heartfelt take on how the “great green room” might have come to be.

June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown—and steps into the pages of American literature. -- Plume

I'm pretty sure that I've read all of Sarah Jio's novels. For the most part, I've enjoyed them all -- some more than others; and I definitely consider her a must-read author for me. Her latest book GOODNIGHT JUNE just might be one of my favorites. Maybe it's because I have a soft spot in my heart for this children's classic, but I really liked how she incorporated Margaret Wise Brown's life into this novel.

GOODNIGHT JUNE tells the story of June Andersen, a woman who seems to have it all. June is a successful banker who isn't afraid to be tough when the job requires it. However, her personal life is far from what many would consider to be a success. When she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby's estate out of the blue, June finds herself returning to her aunt's beloved bookstore and unlocking secrets about the origins of the famous book GOODNIGHT MOON along with some secrets about her own personal life.

I really enjoyed GOODNIGHT JUNE. Once again, Ms. Jio did a great job of balancing two related stories -- June's present day story along with her Aunt Ruby's story that took place 70+ years earlier. I actually liked how the stories were tied together through letters, and it almost felt like a mystery of sorts in how June discovered the truth about her aunt's past. The transitions between the two time periods were smooth and I like both stories quite a bit. In all honestly, I'm not sure which story I preferred more -- and that's unusual for me because I usually always like one storyline was more than the other!

June was an interesting character (although probably not as interesting as Ruby was in her prime!) She really was a troubled soul trying to find meaning in her job as a banker. She definitely had some baggage and issues with her family and I liked how, through the course of GOODNIGHT JUNE, she was able to reconcile some of her hang-ups. I also appreciated that she had a chance at finding romance and true happiness.

Probably my favorite part of the novel was how Ms. Jio created a story behind the classic picture book GOODNIGHT MOON. She actually had a lot of leeway since little is known about the book's origins and it certainly worked to her advantage (although I think she did a great job of including the facts she did have into the story.) The relationship she created between Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown was interesting, and I liked that the book also showcased a children's bookstore back in the 1940s. As much as I enjoyed this storyline though, I think all of the references to this beloved classic made the book extra-special to me!

Like all of Ms. Jio's books, GOODNIGHT JUNE would make a great book club selection. There is a reading guide available with thirteen questions that will help stimulate your discussion. Some of the topics you  might want to explore include sibling relationships, acceptance, forgiveness, second chances, sacrifice, love, searching, and self-awareness.

GOODNIGHT JUNE is a delightful story and certain to entertain Ms. Jio's huge fan base as well as people like me who love GOODNIGHT MOON.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I've only read one of Jio's books but I liked it. I'm glad to see this one's so good!

Carin Siegfried said...

Personally I prefer Runaway Bunny to Goonight Moon but I'm adding this book to my TBR list now! I especially want to read the parts about the bookstore.