On my blog:
- My garden comes to life in a gardening slice of life
- Cats lost and found for Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday
- Want to read more middle grade? I have resources to get you started
- Most popular middle-grade titles I booktalked in Children’s and Adolescent Lit
- The weekly celebration of things I loved about last week (includes a Frances photo!)
- Sunday Salon, a round-up of what I’ve been reading online
Tanya Lee Stone’s Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles tells the story of the first all-African American paratrooper unit, trained for World War II combat but never sent overseas.The experiences of the men who served in this unit are individually interesting, and Stone never loses sight of the people who form the heart of the story. But her larger purpose here is to expose the racism that led to a segregated military where African-Americans were invited to serve, but only in menial positions, where their valor and courage were rarely given full scope, and where their important contributions were rarely acknowledged. This is an important (and infuriating–as books about injustice often are) book that needs to be more widely read. The photographs are absolutely stunning.
Kristin Elizabeth Clark’s verse novel, Freakboy, reminded me of Ellen Hopkins’s novels (and features a blurb from Hopkins on the cover). Transgender identity and gender fluidity are the key themes, and Clark uses the trajectory of all three main characters–Brendan, the star wrestler who doesn’t feel comfortable inside his body but doesn’t understand why; Vanessa, his girlfriend, who is also a wrestler and who doesn’t understand why Brandon is increasingly distant; and Angel, an older teen who serves as a mentor and friend to Brandon–to explore her topic. Freakboy is sometimes a bit heavy-handed–it’s very much an issue novel–but the characters’ plights are often poignant, and Angel, especially, is an interesting character.
I’ve read and enjoyed some of Elinor Lipman’s early novels but haven’t read her in years. I picked up her comedy of manners, The Family Man, out of a sudden desperate need for an audiobook. I definitely enjoyed this book–it’s amusing, clever, well-written. I don’t read many books for grown-ups, and the ones I do read are rarely light reads. So this was something new and different for me and a nice change of pace.
Stephan Pastis’s Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is more quirky and cleverly written than the Big Nate or Wimpy Kid series (and I did appreciate that about it), but I just don’t think I can read any more middle-grade series featuring boys who have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I love Captain Underpants; I like irony and recognize that these series are full of it; I like black humor; I don’t like stories that are heavy-handed with morals or messages. So you’d think I’d be able to handle a book like Timmy Failure without losing my mind. But I can’t help asking, Why are all the books most heavily marketed toward middle-grade reluctant boy readers are always about boys who are jerks? I loved the Wimpy Kid books–until I started reading them out loud at my son’s request. If he read voraciously on his own, I think I would care a lot less what he consumed because he would be exposed to such variety and so many different ways of being in the world and being in books. But as it is, the only books he reads are books I read to him, and I feel like our reading should show him boys who have real feelings, boys who act like real human beings rather than sociopaths or future criminals. I do want books to be funny and fun, but I also want them to have heart. And that’s what I find so frequently missing in these series: heart.
We also read a lot of picture books this week. These were my two favorites:
Nightsong, written by Ari Berk and illustrated by Loren Long, is a lovely story of a little bat flying on his own for the first time and learning how to use echolocation (called sense in the story) to find his way at night. I think the word lyrical is really overused in book descriptions, but it’s certainly apt here. And Long’s illustrations are especially strong: it can’t be easy to make such dark scenes feel somehow light, but he does, and the bat is adorable. A memorable story about independence, love, finding your way, and home. Also, it never hurts when a book has a nice mother-son relationship at its core!
My son really didn’t care for this book, but Gracias Thanks, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by John Parra, was probably my favorite read of the week. This is one I want to own and read again–and share.
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: 46/100 books
Picture Book Reading Goal: 257/350 books
Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 29/100 books
YA Lit Reading Goal: 24/60 books
Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 18/12 books
Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 81/200