On the blog:
- A curation of my favorite online reading from last week
- A celebration of family outings, new coffee mugs, and finishing big work projects
- A check-in of my progress on my #MustReadin2015 reading list
- A review of a nonfiction picture book about the true story behind the bear that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh
- A slice about why I want my son to be able to take my presence for granted at his sporting events
A very terrible thing happened. Well, first, a most wonderful thing happened: my son continued to ask for five picture books as bedtime reading every night. Which means we are reading a big pile o’ PBs every week. And that’s how the terrible thing happened. I took our stack back to the library before I scanned any of the titles into my GoodReads account! So I have no idea what we read last week. The books had been mostly selected at random, most were by authors I’d never heard of, and reading five in a row each night before bedtime isn’t exactly the best way for me to remember what I’m reading. I tried to recreate the list as best I could, but I am still 9 books short!
Writing the #MustReadin2015 check-in post inspired me to pick up another book from the list. I hope I like all the remaining books on my list better than I liked this title. Under the Egg should have been squarely in my reading wheelhouse: I love an art caper, and I also love a story where the theme is finding a place for yourself in a community. But this book drove me nuts. I couldn’t pin down the voice of the narrator, Theo, who is supposed to be thirteen, but reads more like a precocious ten-year-old. Everything about her living situation–surviving off of beets and eggs from her backyard garden and chickens in the heart of Manhattan–struck me as far beyond straining credulity. Theo’s mother also strains credulity: she is basically housebound and far too flighty to manage even the simplest household task. She spends all her time working out abstruse (and imaginary?) math theorems and racking up tea bills from their next-door neighbor who owns a fancy tea shop. And then there is the painting. Theo’s grandfather, who recently died, was a painter. While cleaning his studio, she spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on one of his paintings (what?! Who does that?!), which removes the overlayer of paint and reveals a Renaissance mother and child beneath. Theo and her new friend Bodhi set out to solve the mystery of who painted the mother and child and how Jack ended up with it. The two girls prove themselves to be far better detectives than art historians who have devoted their lives to this sort of thing and even manage to talk their way into getting the painting X-rayed at the emergency room so they can see what’s beneath. The whole thing is really absurd. Plot coincidences pile up until the final reveal of the painting’s original owner, who turns out to be someone the girls know. OF COURSE IT DOES!
And now for some books I really liked:
Christopher Myers’s My Pen is a beautiful testament to imagination and creativity. Noting that he sometimes feels small, the narrator describes how powerful and strong he feels when he has his pen in hand and can use it to create new worlds. There are so many striking images here, and Myers’s use of language is also strong.
Miz Mozetta and her friends ought to be too old to dance, but Jazzy Miz Mozetta shows just how many moves the old folks still have. This wonderful story is a tribute to jazz that honors the past without ever going historical. Roberts keeps admirable control of her language in text that captures the beauty and movement of music and dance without ever forgetting about narrative and story. The text is well-crafted and fun to read aloud, and Frank Morrison’s illustrations bring incredible movement and exuberance to the story. Morrison won a well-deserved Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for his work in this 2004 title.
Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? is really too young for my son, but I still enjoyed reading it aloud to him. The main reason I checked it out is because it’s illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier and we’re trying to be completists with Ruzzier. How I love his work. This is a rhyming book, and you all know how I feel about rhyme, but somehow Eve Bunting made it okay. I’ve been struggling to put into words what I liked about this book, so I asked my son what I should write. Here’s his review: “Tell everybody this book is good for kids.” So there you go. Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? is good for kids.
We’re also trying to be completists of Emily Gravett’s work, so I was very pleased to discover Wolf Won’t Bite, which my son liked so much we had to read twice in the same evening. Gravett’s fractured fairy tale has the three little pigs capturing the wolf for their circus act and boasting about all the things he will do without biting them. I’m sure you can imagine what happens in the end. My son has a review for this one too: “Tell them it’s really funny. The pigs are stupid. No, don’t say that. That’s not polite.”
It would be nice to be completists of Eve Bunting too, but she’s written hundreds of books and I don’t know that we’ll ever get there. Gleam and Glow is surely one of her best–a poignant look at a family whose lives are changed by war. The Afterward explains that the story was inspired by events in Bosnia, but the situations, experiences, and feelings Bunting describes could apply to many similar conflicts around the world. I think this book could lead to some rich discussions. We didn’t love the art by Peter Sylvada, though his fish paintings are quite lovely. Though now that I’m thinking about it, what we didn’t like about the art–it seemed generic–may give the book a wider appeal.