On my blog:
- A curation of my favorite online reading for the week in Sunday Salon
- 5 Things I Loved About Last Week
- A review of Lois Ehlert’s new autobiography, The Scraps Book
- An update on my Children’s Lit class
In reading, it was one of those weeks where I nearly finished a bunch of books but then didn’t. I only managed to finish one this week:
Sharon Creech’s The Boy on the Porch is the kind of book you read in one sitting. The first chapter contains quite a hook: a couple named John and Marta find a young boy asleep on their porch one morning. They don’t know who he is or where he came from, and he doesn’t speak, so he can’t tell them. I had to keep reading. I enjoyed this book, but at the end, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d read or what I thought about it. The book has a strong theme about finding family, but certain other elements were underwhelming to me, especially setting and characterization. The book has a fable-like quality to it, which could explain the lack of development or specification with time period and setting. That could also explain the underdevelopment of the main characters. But I wasn’t ultimately sure what Creech was getting at. The whole book felt a bit underwritten to me.
Otherwise, it was all picture books all the time around here. Some highlights:
I made a big dent in Lois Ehlert’s works this week. I read 12 books by her. My favorites were:
There were definitely a couple I didn’t care for in a big way, but I have so much more appreciation for her books after my reading this week.
I read two books recommended by my students in Children’s Literature:
The Goodbye Cancer Garden is about a family who decides to plant a vegetable garden to help them cope with the mother’s diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. This book is very upbeat and positive, though it still freaked my son out to think of a mother ever getting sick. (Though this mother mostly smiles and looks beatific throughout her cancer treatment.)
We enjoyed Pig Kahuna, especially the illustrations and the fact that one of the pigs is named Fergus (as is our fattest, fluffiest, most peace-loving cat).
Three new picture books arrived in the mail for me this week:
I shared Jarrett Krosoczka’s wonderful TED talk with my Children’s Lit class this week and got Peanut Butter and Jellyfish for our classroom library. It’s a sweet story and it’s impossible not to like a seahorse and jellyfish named Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, but I felt this was a bit on the slight side with a plot and theme treated more effectively in other books.
Dan Santat can do no wrong, and The Adventures of Beekle may be his best book yet. It’s a heartfelt and clever story of what happens when an imaginary friend gets tired of waiting for his unimaginary friend to claim him and decides to take matters into his own hands. Loved this one so much!
I had been a bit disappointed in the last couple of Pigeon books, but I think that Mo Willems is back in top form with The Pigeon Needs a Bath! It still amazes me how much emotion Willems is able to convey through his simple drawings.
In addition to Ehlert’s Color Zoo, I read one more book for the Caldecott Challenge:
Gerald McDermott’s illustrations for Arrow to the Sun are brilliant. My husband surprised me by saying they were maybe his favorite picture book illustrations of all time. I didn’t care for the writing, though.
I made the tiniest progress on the Geisel Challenge:
Another rhyming book I loved! I may have to reconsider my longstanding dislike of rhyme and repetition. (Not that I’m questioning its importance in children’s literature–only that I don’t care for rhyming or repetitive stories myself.)
I’m a big fan of Janet Morgan Stoeke’s Minerva Louise series, so I was pleased to find Pip’s Trip at the library this week. The Loopy Coop hens are about as bright as Minerva Louise, so Pip’s trip isn’t quite the journey you might imagine.
Aaron Meshon’s Take Me Out to the Yakyu features a biracial boy who loves baseball when he’s with his family in America–and when he’s with his family in Japan. Facing illustrations compare the experience of attending games in both countries, and there’s a Japanese-English glossary at the back along with author’s notes on the history of baseball and cultural differences between the sport.
I am really hoping to finish Grasshopper Jungle, Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake, What I Saw and How I Lied, and Openly Straight this week–as well as my current professional development book, Thrive. Here’s hoping for lots of reading time!