This week on my blog, I wrapped up my reading year and shared my favorites of 2013. I wrote about my reading goals for 2014 and came up with a fun list of books for Carrie’s #MustReadin2014 challenge. (PS: It’s not too late to write your own list and join us!) I also shared 5 things I loved about last week and a longer-than-usual Sunday Salon post of links to interesting online reading.
I also read a lot last week–and mostly really good books:
I read Claudia Mills’s Kelsey Green, Reading Queen aloud to my older son. He couldn’t relate to Kelsey’s reading obsession, but he does like contests, winning, and trophies, so he could really get behind her need to win the reading contest and have her name on a plaque. In some ways, this book made me cringe because this is exactly what I don’t like to see schools doing with reading–making it into a competition to try to get kids to read more. But I have to confess that Kelsey is exactly who I was in third grade. I would have wanted the gold star for reading the most, so Claudia Mills gets it right. I am looking forward to the other books in this new series.
No wonder Ame Dyckman’s hilarious Tea Party Rules (illustrated by K.G. Campbell) is showing up on Favorites of 2013 lists: it’s so good! I thought my older son might find this one a little too young, but he declared it a 5-star read, and I agree!
I didn’t love Jeanette Winter’s Tale of Pale Male, but I did love how it sparked my son’s curiosity about urban hawks. We spent some quality time looking at photos and videos of Pale Male and also discovered that he’s still alive and doing well in NYC!
Zen Ghosts is a book that I like and appreciate more and more the more I reflect on it. Which is kind of appropriate for a story with a zen koan at the center. And the illustrations are absolutely magnificent.
This was the only book I read this week that I really didn’t like. Still, David Roberts’s illustrations are vivid and fun.
I finished one of my Christmas books, Hyperbole and a Half. It didn’t matter that I’ve read a number of these pieces on Allie Brosh’s blog. They were just as good the second (or third or fourth) time around. The God of Cake and Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving are two of the funniest things I’ve ever read. Brosh also has a couple of moving and smart pieces about depression. I have no idea how Brosh manages to make such simple drawings so incredibly expressive. Simple Dog is one of my all-time favorite characters.
I first read Kendall Hailey’s memoir, The Day I Became an Autodidact, when it was published in 1989 or so. It was directly responsible for my decision to take a year (or two) off between high school and college to do nothing (much) except read and write. Thanks, Mom, for funding my years off! Hailey graduates early from high school and decides to become an autodidact rather than go to college. She reads voraciously, writes, paints, travels, watches a lot of old movies, sees a lot of plays, and acts. There is a lot in this book about happiness and how to live a good life and what family is all about. Hailey is really at her best, I think, writing about her family. After you’ve read The Day I Became an Autodidact, you’re going to want to know what Kendall has been doing for the last 25 years. Check out Book Riot’s interview: Rediscovering a Writer: Whatever Happened to Kendall Hailey? I want to read her collection of essays! Someone publish it!
I started Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s middle-grade novel, One for the Murphys, a few months ago and abandoned it. It made me mad. I didn’t believe it. I thought that Carley’s emotional transformation happened much too fast and much too easily. She’s in the foster system after experiencing some pretty intense abuse, but it takes her foster mom almost no time to win her over. I wasn’t reading this book from Carley’s perspective but from Mrs. Murphy’s, and as the mom to two traumatized kids adopted from another country’s equivalent of a foster care system, I know that it takes years for kids to begin to trust and love and attach. But then, mostly in a last-minute effort to finish some of the books I’d started in 2013, I decided to give the book another chance, and I’m so glad I did, because it’s very well-written and thoughtful. This is going to be an important book for many kids.
I read two professional development books this week, which I plan to review later in the week.
And now my favorite book of the week:
I loved Nina LaCour’s YA novel, The Disenchantments, so so much. Whenever I really love a book, I can’t articulate why. I just want to thrust copies into people’s hands and grunt loudly at them and maybe wave my arms around, because really, I have no words. It’s just really, really good, and you should go read it right now.
I have one more week of break before I go back to work, though I do have a lot of work to do–like four new syllabi to write! But all those hours I would normally be teaching are hours I can mostly spend reading this week. Yay!