On the blog:
- A curation of favorite online reading
- A review of a nonfiction picture book written and illustrated by Susan Roth
- A slice of scenes from the past week parenting my son
In Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin (of The Happiness Project) tackles habit formation. She identifies four different tendencies in forming habits (I’m a questioner crossed with a rebel) and suggests that the key to forming habits rests in identifying our tendency and working within rather than against it. This insight helps explain why some habits are easier to form than others and why some people find forming habits in general easier than other people find it. Knowing that I’m a questioner (and a rebel) helps me know that if I want to form a new habit, I need to have a good reason for forming it: I probably need to do research and be able to answer questions about why this particular habit is actually important and how it benefits me. This isn’t a book about which habits are the best ones to have or, really, about how exactly to form habits, since the approach that works will vary from person to person–though Rubin does provide plenty of insights and guidance depending on your tendency. Overall, the book is more a personal inquiry into habits and an exploration of what we might learn about habits from examining ourselves and others, our tendencies and challenges.
Joy Harjo’s The Good Luck Cat is a must-read for cat lovers. Woogie has blown through eight of her nine lives, and her young owner fears she’s used up the ninth when Woogie goes missing. As befits a lucky cat, though, everything turns out all right in the end. I also loved that this is a picture book featuring contemporary Native Americans! Why aren’t there more of those?
Jim Aylesworth’s My Grandfather’s Coat got some Caldecott buzz last year for Barbara McClintock’s artwork. The story is fine–a retelling of a folksong that has been dramatized in other picture books–but it’s McClintock’s art that makes this book special.
One of my favorite reads of the week was Marilyn’s Monster, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by the incomparable Matt Phelan. The story reminded me a bit of Beekle–just substitute monsters for imaginary friends. All of Marilyn’s friends have gotten their monsters, and she’s tired of waiting patiently for hers to show up. She wants to go looking for her monster, but she’s repeatedly informed that’s not the way it works: your monster must find you. In the end, she breaks with tradition and sets out to find her monster, only to discover that her monster needs rescuing. Phelan’s art is wonderful in this one, and it’s a clever and charming story.
Nora’s Ark is a wonderful story of what happens to one family in a small Vermont town when the river floods. It’s 1927, and Grandpa has been building a new house on a hill for Grandma. She doesn’t really want to move in, but when the waters rise, she and many of her neighbors–including the animals–take refuge in the kitchen. Emily Arnold McCully’s illustrations are gorgeous as well as comical, and Natalie Kinsey-Warnock’s writing is strong.
I made the bold move of checking Guess How Much I Love You out from the library and the even bolder move of reading it out loud to my son. Most nights, he wouldn’t have been able to take it (it was a week full of “you’re not my mom and it doesn’t matter how much you love me, you never will be”), but he had a connected day yesterday so I took a chance. He groaned when I read the title out loud and said, “You picked that on purpose, didn’t you? You’re a terrible mom.” But he said it with humor and affection in his voice and then snuggled in close, so I read it. Some of these classic parent-child I love you stories have really creeped us out (Love You Forever, I am totally thinking about you) or felt overrated and cliched, but I do think Guess How Much I Love You works. It’s heartfelt and touching without being treacly. It wouldn’t make most parents crazy to read it out loud several hundred times, though I will say that “Big Nutbrown Hare” and “Little Nutbrown Hare” don’t exactly trip lightly off the tongue.