On my blog this week:
- Sunday Salon, a round-up of online reading
- 5 Things I Loved About Last Week
- Top Ten Book Covers I’d Want to Frame as Art
How did I miss Joan Bauer’s Almost Home until now? This is definitely one of those books that I liked too much to be able to describe coherently. There was so much that I loved about this book: the strong voice and resilience of the main character, Sugar Mae Cole; a cast of caring adults who want good things for kids; a couple of adults who make mistakes but are still good people; bolder and happier living through vibrant house paint; good pets. It’s a book I’d recommend to readers who loved Lynda Mulally Hunt’s One for the Murphys, which circulated widely in my Children’s Lit class and was several students’ favorite book.
I’m reading the Clementine series aloud to my younger son, and it is such a delight to revisit these wonderful books. Maybe my all-time favorite chapter book series.
I read Sara Farizan’s If You Could Be Mine for The Hub Reading Challenge. One reason I enjoy this particular challenge is that it introduces me to books I might not otherwise find. Farizan’s novel is about Sahar and Nasrin, two teenage girls in Iran who are in love with each other. Homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran, so they must keep their feelings about each other a secret. This becomes increasingly challenging for Sahar when Nasrin agrees to the marriage arranged by her parents. If You Could Be Mine is a very quick read and well worth reading, but there are some real problems with character and plot development. Sahar is a relatively interesting character, but Nasrin is very underwritten: it’s never clear why Sahar–or anyone else–would be interested in her. And Sahar’s solution to the problem of how to be with Nasrin–get sex change surgery!–really didn’t work for me. I appreciate that Farizan is exploring so many different facets of sexuality and identity, but in tackling so much, she wasn’t able to fully explore either lesbian or trans identity and experience.
Jennifer Paros’s Violet Bing and the Grand House is quirky, charming, and just a little weird. Violet Bing is determined to dislike everything and say no to all new things. When she refuses to go on family vacation, her parents leave her with Great-Aunt Astrid at the Grand House. Aunt Astrid tries to entice Violet into all kinds of fun activities, but Violet announces that she is too busy. Busy, for Violet, looks mostly like sitting in a chair by the window staring outside. But eventually, she begins to come around and find “Things of Interest” where she least expected them. I thought it was going to be revealed that Violet had some sort of psychological diagnosis that explained her compulsive and odd behaviors, but it wasn’t that kind of story.
I am so glad that Sarah C. Campbell’s Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator won a Geisel Honor, because otherwise I am pretty sure I never would have checked it out from the library. Big photos of snails = not my thing. But this is a fascinating nonfiction title to introduce very young readers to the wolfsnail, a carnivorous snail who hunts and eats other snails and slugs. The photos and simple text work together beautifully, and my son and I talked about this book for several days after reading it.
I decided the time was right for Eric Walters’s My Name Is Blessing, the true story of a Kenyan boy born with a physical deformity and orphaned at a young age. He is raised by his grandmother, who has the care of many of her grandchildren, and who often can’t feed them. She decides to take him, the youngest, to an orphanage. I thought the orphanage part would really upset my son, but he was much more bothered by the way that Blessing was teased by others. A well-written and interesting book, with photos of the real Blessing and considerable backmatter at the end.
Catherine Stock’s gorgeously illustrated Where Are You Going, Manyoni? is a simple story of a girl leaving home and walking for hours across the African landscape to get to school. We spent a long time looking at the pictures, which are filled with African wildlife.
I enjoyed this title by Eve Bunting describing the different items from nature that Anna has put on her special display table and briefly narrating how she found them. Rich writing and vivid illustrations.
Twenty Heartbeats is a story that is going to stick with me. A rich man commissions a painter to paint a portrait of his favorite horse. Years pass, and the painter still hasn’t finished the painting. When the rich man returns to demand his painting, he’s angry when the painter sits down in front of him and quickly dashes off a finished painting. Why has he had to wait years for that? Then the rich man catches a glimpse of the painter’s studio and understands why it has taken the painter so many years to get this portrait right. Ed Young’s illustrations are incredible.
When Wishes Were Horses is the humorous story of what really happens when every time a young boy makes a wish, a horse pops up. It’s a clever story, but what makes the story work are Brad Sneed’s beautiful horse paintings.
We made a tiny bit of progress on our Caldecott Challenge by reading Gerald McDermott’s Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest.
I loved the story, paintings, and message in Sharon Dennis Wyeth’s Something Beautiful, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet. At first, the girl in this story can only see what’s ugly in her urban neighborhood–trash, broken bottles, graffiti, poverty. But she begins a search for “something beautiful” and discovers all kinds of beautiful things and people around her.
Reading Goals Update:
Nerdbery Challenge: 0/12 books
#MustReadin2014: 6/15 books
YA Shelf of Shame Challenge: 5/12 books
Professional Development Reading Goal: 2/12 books
Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 45/100 books
Picture Book Reading Goal: 218/350 books
Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 27/100 books
YA Lit Reading Goal: 22/60 books
Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 17/12 books
Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 76/200