On my blog this week, there was not much happening since I was on vacation in Mexico, but I did post a Top Ten list for Tuesday: my Top Ten favorite graphic novels.
My week was spent mostly sitting and staring at this amazing view–sometimes from the balcony, but usually from the beach:
Grandma–sainted Grandma–stayed with my kids so that my husband and I could vacation ALONE, so I didn’t do any reading with my kids this week, though I think they both read about 50 books each with Grandma.
When I wasn’t sitting and staring at the view or bobbing in the ocean, I read quite a bit. Of course it was all very dramatic figuring out what books to take with me, and there was much swapping of books in and out of suitcases and adding titles to my Kindle before we left. In the end, I finished four books and am halfway through four more. The four I finished:
Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire is most definitely my most-anticipated read of 2014, despite the fact that it’s been sitting on my shelf unread since publication day. I was saving it! Code Name Verity was my favorite book last year, and I had very high expectations for Rose Under Fire. Perhaps too high, but thankfully, it did more or less measure up. Like CNV, RUF took a bit to get going for me. I wasn’t really engaged until fifty pages in or so, though if you’ve read and loved CNV, the world Wein creates (female pilots in England in World War II) feels like home. In RUF, the main character is Rose Justice, an American pilot whose British uncle pulls some strings to get her a job working for the auxiliary transport ferrying planes. Although her capture by the Germans doesn’t happen right away, it’s not really a spoiler to say that’s what’s going to happen to Rose: she is sent to Ravensbruck as a political prisoner and must survive the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. Wein creates a unique voice in Holocaust historical fiction through Rose’s perspective as a female American pilot in a concentration camp. For me, the books I love best often send me directly to more books, and in this case, as soon as I finished RUF, I wanted to read more about the Rabbits, a group of women who were the victims of Nazi medical experimentation. Can’t wait to get to the library this week! Rose Under Fire is also on my #MustReadin2014 list.
Meg Medina’s Pura Belpre-winner, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, is also on my #MustReadin2014 list and on the syllabus for my Adolescent Lit course. I thought this book was only going to be about Piddy’s experiences being bullied by Yaqui Delgado, which is a big subject in itself, but Medina has a lot more going on in this book: there is the heartfelt and complicated relationship between Piddy and her mom; the growing pains of adolescent friendships between Piddy and her best friend, Mitzi, now that both girls are at different schools and Mitzi seems to be becoming a different person; Piddy’s first sexual experience; a disturbing and realistic look at domestic violence; Piddy’s identity as a Latina; Piddy’s identity as a smart kid at school and struggle with schoolwork once she is bullied by Yaqui and terrified to be at school–and probably something else that I’m forgetting. The adults in this book are especially finely drawn, and there are many important adult characters who interact with Piddy in ways that feel realistic. Medina juggles a lot of different plots and themes, but it all works together beautifully. This is a masterful novel, I think, as well as an important one–plus it’s super readable and engaging.
I can’t remember why I bought Julie Maroh’s graphic novel, Blue Is the Warmest Color, but I’m glad I did. I really liked the look of the art, especially Maroh’s muted palette and use of color. The story is about a French teen who is discovering and exploring her lesbian identity, told retrospectively as her girlfriend reads her diary (at her request–not in a sneaky way!). There is also a tearjerker quality to the story that I think will really appeal to several of my readers. It’s a great story for teens to read, but do note there is some explicit sexual content. I do love finishing a book and knowing exactly whose hands I’m placing it in next, and I have a particular reader in mind for this book.
A Twitter conversation with Carrie Gelson a couple of weeks ago reminded me how much I love Anne Fadiman’s essays. At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays was a last-minute add to the suitcase of books. I very much enjoyed reading about Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson while lounging on a chaise on a sunny beach in Mexico. My favorite essays were about Charles Lamb and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but I also enjoyed the pieces on coffee and ice cream and moving. Rereading books I love is a great pleasure, but one that I rarely indulge because I have so many books I want to read for the first time. But maybe I need to slow down sometimes and reread. I also love the familiar essay but again, I focus so much of my reading energy on work-related reading (which I also love) that I often neglect reading that is “merely” personally enriching. Perhaps this summer I will take some time to reread and also to focus on reading that doesn’t benefit my teaching life in any particular way.