On my blog this week:
- A curation of some of my favorite online reading from the week
- A gardening and cat celebration (including cat photos!)
- A review of Peter Johnston’s Opening Minds (and currently my most-viewed blog post EVER, thanks to Donalyn Miller and many others who shared on Twitter: THANK YOU!)
- A review of Picasso and Minou, a nonfictionish picture book
- A list of the Top Ten Books I want to buy right now (confession: I then went ahead and bought three)
Another wonderful middle grade week. I am crazy in love with middle grade right now.
If I were teaching right now, Umbrella Summer is totally one of those books that I would take into my classroom and wave around in the air. Then I would try to book talk it responsibly, but mostly I would end up grunting because when I really, REALLY like a book, I can’t put my liking into coherent words. But this is a wonderful book. Annie Richards is not having her best-ever summer. She is mourning the death of her beloved older brother, largely parenting herself because her parents are too deep in their grief to focus on her, and experiencing some best-friend drama. I could totally relate to Annie’s coping mechanism: extreme hypochondria and caution. But with the help of her new neighbor, she learns how to set down the umbrella now that it’s no longer raining and to come back to life.
I am reading the Clementine series aloud to my younger son. It’s a reread for me–and totally delightful.
My older son and I are reading Suzanne Selfors’s Imaginary Veterinary series, and she really can’t write fast enough for us. We finished Book 2 last week, started Book 3 yesterday, and we’re already feeling bummed that we have to wait until next month for Book 4. I am not quite sure why I like these stories so much, but I do. They zip along, they’re fun, and they have some heart. We also love the in-text illustrations by Dan Santat. I hope we can find another series after this that we both like as much.
This week, I decided to give myself a treat and read or reread some picture books by myself that my son didn’t want to read. And I’m so glad I did.
I understand why my kids didn’t care for We Need a Horse when I first read it aloud to them last year. It’s one of those metaphysical picture books, and their response to those kinds of books is generally “Huh?” But it’s just gorgeous–Sheila Heti’s writing, Clare Rojas’s amazing art, and the quality production of the book itself.
In Orani: My Father’s Village, Claire Nivola remembers summer visits to her father’s village in Sardinia. This is an incredibly evocative and rich story. I especially loved the concluding lines as she reflects on the busy, chaotic life she returns to in New York at the end of each summer: “Everywhere, there were so many people! It seemed strange that not one of them knew Orani. But then, what different world, I wondered, what Orani of their own might they have known before they traveled here?”
I was unfamiliar with Carin Berger’s work until I read a post by Betsy Bird on Caldecott Almosts–illustrators she thinks she have won a Caldecott by now. Bird’s description of “the splendor of [Berger’s] cut paper work” intrigued me, and I was pleased to discover that my library has a couple of Berger’s books. Forever Friends is a charming story of a friendship between a bird and bunny, but it’s really the delicate art that’s the star here.
I reread Nadine Brun-Cosme’s Big Wolf & Little Wolf, exquisitely illustrated by Olivier Tallec. These stories make me so happy. There is still one Big Wolf & Little Wolf story that I haven’t read. I sense a book order in my future.
I read about 20 picture books to my son this week, and I’ll highlight a couple of my favorites:
I just loved Ninja! by Arree Chung. We’re pretty into ninjas around here, so this was a perfect book for us.
Lita Judge’s Flight School is just as delightful as everyone in my nerdy PLN said it was. I love sharing stories with my son about characters with unlikely goals who won’t be deterred and who find unusual ways to succeed.
I have to confess that non-Disneyfied versions of fairy tales are generally too extreme for me now. Maybe if I were reading them to kids whose traumas and fears were largely imaginary, that would be one thing. But there are a few elements in the Hansel and Gretel story that I think might be a little too close to the realities of my son’s childhood. I feel like I’m retraumatizing him when I read a story like this to him. He is okay reading nonfiction books that deal with the hard truths of some children’s lives. He knows all too much about cruelty, starvation, and abandonment. But he is both mystified and disturbed by such themes being presented fictionally: he has no idea why someone would want to read a story like this when it didn’t even happen in the first place. He doesn’t yet understand the uses of fiction, and I am not sure that fairy tales are the way for him to begin to understand that. But if you are going to read a Grimm version of Hansel and Gretel, make it this one. Rachel Isadora’s illustrations are MAGNIFICENT. The cover doesn’t begin to hint at the lush world she creates inside.
Reading Goal Update:
Nerdbery Challenge: 0/12 books
#MustReadin2014: 6/15 books
YA Shelf of Shame Challenge: 5/12 books
Professional Development Reading Goal: 3/12 books
Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 55/100 books
Picture Book Reading Goal: 333/350 books
Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 40/100 books
YA Lit Reading Goal: 25/60 books
Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 20/12 books
Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 94/200