Last week, I finally posted my review of Teach Like a Pirate. I shared a lot of interesting education-focused online reading in my Sunday Salon post. I tackled Lindsey’s question about how to make the most of your time in the classroom. And I gushed about the first chapter of Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild.
I read a phenomenal book this week, David Finkel’s Thank You for Your Service. Finkel follows some of the American soldiers he reported on in his other phenomenal book, The Good Soldiers, after they return from Iraq. This book is brutal and devastating and full of some of the best writing I’ve read in a long time. I am so grateful to all the people Finkel writes about for their bravery in inviting a reporter into their lives. There is very little heart-warming or inspirational about these people’s stories: their lives are often ugly and messy and full of suffering and pain, and I am absolutely in love with all of them. Finkel talks about how soldiers in the war are always falling in love with each other, and that’s what his book does–makes the reader fall in love with Adam Schumann, Saskia Schumann, Amanda Doster, Tausolo Aieti, and everyone else he writes about. What a feat of writing. Definitely my favorite book of 2013.
And now back to children’s lit.
I loved the art in J. Otto Seibold’s Lost Sloth–and also the fact that it’s about a sloth. Sloths are kind of hilarious. But the story didn’t quite work for me. On paper, it does seem funny: sloth wins a free shopping spree but he’s on the clock to get to the store and to finish the spree. But there was something flat about the narrative. Still, pictures are great, and it’s worth a read.
I also enjoyed the art in Bruno Gibert’s The King Is Naked, but once again, the story was a bit thin with key connections not being explicit enough for young readers.
I intended to do separate Caldecott Challege update posts, but I never get those done, so I’m going to start including the Caldecotts in my #IMWAYR posts. This was not our strongest week of Caldecotts. We read Marie Hall Ets’s Just Me, a 1966 Honor Book.
This was not one of our favorites. The premise is simple: a little boy mimics the walk of each animal on the farm until at the end, he runs like himself. I don’t mind a simple premise, but this was simple to the point of being simple-minded. The book seemed endless, and the writing wasn’t special. I also dislike Ets’s art. We have read several of her books now, and I think they’re all quite ugly! I really need to do some research to understand the techniques she’s using and why so many different Caldecott committees thought her books were among the most distinguished of the year.
Margot Zemach’s clever Yiddish folk tale, It Could Always Be Worse, was a 1991 Honor Book. There is a fine and funny lesson here about having perspective on the little annoyances of life.
A 1980 Honor Book, Uri Shulevitz’s The Treasure is a beautifully illustrated story about traveling far to find that what you’re seeking is really right under your own roof. I do wish that the treasure had been metaphorical rather than literal.
Evaline Ness has such a distinctive style, and I do tend to like looking at her books, but again, the story and writing just didn’t work for me. Tom Tit Tot, a 1966 Honor Book, is a retelling of an English folk tale (basically the Rumpelstiltskin story). I think she was going for a sort of medieval style in this book, but it was annoying to me to try to read aloud to my son and annoying to him to try to understand.
So. Not our favorite week ever in picture books. But that’s okay! We’re making progress in our Caldecott Challenge, and we’re both happy about that.
I may not be reading very much this week because on Wednesday, I’m leaving for #NCTE13. SO EXCITED! I’ve got such a week of learning in store for myself! Nancie Atwell, Linda Rief, Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Donalyn Miller, Colby Sharp, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Dessen….and many, many more!