This week on my blog:
- I collected some of my favorite articles from the week in Sunday Salon
- I celebrated the reading community I see developing in my Children’s Literature class
- I recommended some blogs for one of my favorite pre-service teachers to follow
- I wrote about the challenges of reading nonfiction picture books to my son
- I shared my Bookish Bucket List
This week in reading:
I am no longer afraid of my YA Shelf of Shame! I finished Beauty Queens this week and I’m currently in the middle of I Am the Messenger and Grasshopper Jungle, and I have to say that my gentle readers were right: there are a lot of excellent books on my shelf! Beauty Queens is batshit insane. There’s really no other way to put it. It’s got the highest of high concepts: a plane of beauty queens crash lands on a deserted island. It’s the anti-Lord of the Flies! But Bray ramps the plot up even more with an evil corporation, a delusional dictator, and a ship load of reality tv show pirates. I am not one to use the word rollicking to describe, well, anything, but this is a rollicking book if ever there was one. It’s stuffed to the seams with satire, but there is also a serious and thoughtful analysis of gender roles and identity. I listened to it on audio, brilliantly narrated by Bray herself, and I have discovered that everything is funnier when you say it in Tiara’s voice. Please tell me that Bray narrates some of her other books, because I’d listen to her read anything! My husband is listening to it now and also loving it. (He has discovered that everything is funnier when you say it in MoMo B. Cha Cha’s voice.)
I am always on the lookout for chapter books featuring African-American characters, and I felt like I hit the mother lode in this series by Sharon M. Draper, which features four African-American boys who work together to solve a mystery. I read this book aloud to my older son, who is not ready to read this one on his own yet. I didn’t find this book particularly engaging in terms of plot, character, or writing, but he seemed to like it quite well and get caught up in the mystery. My second-grader will be able to read this one independently, so I’ll be giving it to him next.
We shared a lot of picture books together last week, and I’ll highlight some here:
After seeing it on several #imwayr lists last week, I couldn’t wait for a library trip and had to order a copy of Sparky! for myself, and I am so glad I did. I read it aloud three times in 24 hours to different audiences and adored it each and every time.
I have to be honest: my son hated this book. But I ADORED it! K.G. Campbell’s illustrations of the dreadful sweaters that Lester’s Cousin Clara can knit so lickety-split are wonderfully weird, and the story of how Lester inadvertently found an outlet for his Cousin Clara’s questionable talent is quirky and charming.
I checked out the third Bink & Gollie book for one of my students in Children’s Literature, but when my son saw it, he wanted me to read it to him again. So I did. I don’t think it’s nearly as strong as the first two books, but there is still so much charm in Tony Fucile’s illustrations.
How could there be a Mini Grey book I didn’t know about??!! Carrie Gelson clued me in, I clicked a few times on my computer, and two days later, there I was reading The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-To-Be, which is utterly delightful as all Grey’s books are and also a very strong fractured fairy tale.
I am so in love with Peter McCarty’s art. The contrast between Hondo’s day inside and Fabian’s day outside is amusing, and there is something so wonderful about Fabian’s wedge shape.
Enemy Pie, written by Derek Munson and illustrated by Tara Calahan King, is a delightful and clever story about how to turn an enemy into a friend. My son was telling me last night about a girl at school who wrote up her enemy list (he was not on it, thankfully, though he had teased her earlier in the year and hurt her feelings), and we agreed that she needed someone to make an enemy pie for the three kids who were on it. Think I’ll read this one aloud in Children’s Lit this week.
What Does It Mean to Be Present?, written by Rana DiOrio and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, helps children understand the value of living in the present moment. Another one I want to share in Children’s Lit.
I was very excited to find one of Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Dog and Bear stories at the library. I love these stories for early readers. It is so hard to get the language right in a book like this–simple but not simplistic–and especially hard, I think, to write a story that equally engages a child and an adult reader. Dog and Bear nails it perfectly.
Dream Carver, written by Diane Cohn and colorfully illustrated by Amy Cordova, tells a story inspired by the real-life artists of Oaxaca, Mexico, who carve large, whimsically painted wooden animals. I liked the message here about imagination and pursuing your dreams, and Cohn incorporates a number of Spanish words into the text.
My Pal, Victor, written by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and illustrated by Robert L. Sweetland, is a dual-language English-Spanish book about two friends who enjoy doing everything together. At the end of the story, you find out the friend is in a wheelchair. This book has a strong positive message about people with disabilities, but it is unfortunately seriously marred by the illustrations, which are inconsistent and often poorly drawn.
Another dual-language English-Spanish book, Maya Christina Gonzalez’s My Colors, My World celebrates the joy of finding vivid colors even in a monochromatic desert landscape. I found this story a bit inconclusive (the final line doesn’t quite work to bring closure), but the illustrations are lush and beautiful.
Papa and Me, written by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez, celebrates the love between a father and son as it details the different activities the two enjoy together throughout a day. Gutierrez’s illustrations are pleasingly trippy, and Dorros incorporates Spanish words throughout the text which are seamlessly clarified in English.
I have decided that Jeannette Winter’s nonfiction picture books are very hit or miss for me. I should have loved Henri’s Scissors, because it incorporates several of my favorite picture book elements: it’s about an artist trying something new; it’s about inspiration, imagination, and following your dreams; there’s a cat; there are folk-art style pictures. But it fell flat for me, and I’m not sure why. I am going to have to read it again and try to figure out why I didn’t like it. And although I thought the final spread was lovely, sending the main character off to heaven at the end creates a bit of an issue for non-Christian readers.
I couldn’t resist buying Ugly Cute Animals at the Scholastic Book Fair. It has a sloth on the cover! I love sloths! Not all of the animals in this book actually qualify as ugly and cute: llamas, for example, may have ugly dispositions but I don’t think anyone would call them ugly, and while the fennec has large ears, it is only adorable. Perhaps the writers should have googled ugly cute animals and tried to include some of the homely faces that pop up! Still, there are lots of good photos and enough information to engage early readers.
My Wednesday nonfiction picture book post will focus on four more excellent titles that we read this week:
Reading Goal Updates
Nerdbery Challenge: 0/12 books
#MustReadin2014: 6/15 books
YA Shelf of Shame Challenge: 1/12 books
Professional Development Reading Goal: 2/12 books
Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 32/100 books
Picture Book Reading Goal: 142/350 books
Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 11/100 books
YA Lit Reading Goal: 15/60 books
Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 13/12 books
Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 49/200