On the blog:
- A curated links post of some of my favorite online reading from last week
- A gritty celebration
- A reading goals check-in focused on my Best of 2014 reading challenge
Tamara Will Wissinger’s Gone Fishing is a clinic in how to write a verse novel. Not only does Wissinger try out dozens of different forms and formats in this story of a boy who is excited to go fishing with his dad, she includes ample back matter defining poetic techniques and the many different forms she uses. Fishing is one topic I really cannot be interested in, but there is an engaging subplot involving Sam’s little sister Lucy, who invites herself along on the fishing trip, much to Sam’s chagrin. The brilliant Matthew Cordell provides illustrations.
No Matter the Wreckage is a collection of spoken word poet Sarah Kay’s poetry. A few of the poems I’ve seen her perform (on youtube), but most were new to me, and there were so many that I loved. She is so good at teasing out the small moments of meaning in relationships. I was most surprised and most moved by her poems about her brother. This would be a good collection for a high school classroom library, but otherwise it’s a book for grown-ups.
I finally read Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Pura Belpre winner, Under the Mesquite, about a Mexican-American girl, Lupita, whose mother has been diagnosed with cancer. McCall is a terrific poet: this is a novel that had to be written in verse. So many beautiful lines and images as well as a powerful story of a girl coming into her own as she deals with tragedy.
What a special leveled reader! Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer is the true story of African-American ballerina Michaela DePrince, who was adopted from Sierra Leone as a child and overcame significant barriers to become a successful ballerina. This story would make a terrific pairing with Firebird.
Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend is a beautifully designed and illustrated story about how horses came to the Lakota tribe on the Western Plains. Donald F. Montileaux is a local artist whose work we frequently see in Rapid City, so it was a special treatment to read a picture book written and illustrated by him. His style is influenced by Native American ledger art, which he briefly explains in a “Note about the Illustrations” at the back. This is a dual-language book in English and Lakota.
I have been wanting to reread A Hole Is to Dig for years. It’s one that I know I read and loved as a child. There are so many clever definitions. This book had the effect of making me want to pick up my pen and start writing my own definitions. Maurice Sendak’s neat little illustrations add to the charm.
Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs was one of the more traumatic reading experiences my son and I have ever had. I literally had just gotten him regulated after a long session of “Mom is going to die someday so why bother to attach to her now?” We were moving on. We settled down to read stories and have a calming storytime experience before bed. And do you know what happens in Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs? TWO NANAS DIE!!! Granted, one of them was 94, and I’m only 42, but still. It was such a shock. There was no coming back from the crazy after I read this book aloud, though I did race into the dining room to see what else I might have that could offer some comfort. That’s how we came to read
Orange Oliver: The Kitten Who Wore Glasses. My mom picked up a big stack of old children’s books at the library sale for me to use in my Children’s Lit class for a Battle Bunny-style project. But there’s no way I can allow Orange Oliver: The Kitten Who Wore Glasses to be scribbled over. It’s too vintage awesome. It’s actually a pretty decent little story with some fine writing at times, though there are some weird moments, as I’ve come to expect in picture books published in the 1970s (or earlier). I just love the vintage look and feel, and the final spread of Oliver soaring through the air in his thick Clark Kent glasses is perfection.
Still, even Orange Oliver was no match for the trauma of dead nanas.
The Farmer and the Clown was a bit of a disappointment to me when I first read it last year, though I’m still not quite sure why. This week, I revisited it with my son. We haven’t had much success with wordless picture books, which has been surprising to me. He’s a struggling reader, and he learns a lot through visuals, so I would think wordless PBs would appeal to him. But they do not. I opened the book, thinking we’d just look at the pictures silently together, but when I realized how disappointed he was, I decided to make up a story to go along with the images. “Once upon a time,” I started, and then narrated the story pretending to read. He loved it! It wasn’t always the smoothest narration, but somehow he managed to be delighted by the whole experience. We’ll definitely be trying this again with other wordless PBs.