On the blog:
- A curation of online reading
- A collection of little appreciations from last week
- A snapshot of my son at age 12
I’ve long been a reader of Jillian Lauren’s blog and have followed her adoption story, which shares some similarities with mine. Well, the Ethiopia part and the traumatized child part. That’s enough of a connection for me to feel like she’s my long-lost best mom pal. I could so, so, so relate to the story of how she figured out how to be the kind of mom her son, Tariku, needs. (Her blog post, Why I Sing Loudly At Whole Foods, is one of the best descriptions I’ve ever read of what it means to be that kind of mom.) This was the part of the story that drew me to her new memoir, Everything You Ever Wanted, in the first place. But the book surprised me. It’s about much more than parenting a child who has experienced serious trauma. Lauren starts the story much earlier, long before she and her husband adopt. She’s had an unusual life, and the book is really about her journey to healing and self-understanding. Becoming the mother Tariku needs is the key to that healing and self-understanding. Tariku pushes her every day to be a better person, to be more than she is—to be more than she thinks she can be. I know this is what mothering is like for everyone, but there is a special urgency and intensity to mothering a child who has experienced trauma. Lauren writes beautifully and unflinchingly about herself, her life, motherhood. One of my favorite books of 2015.
I’m not sure any readaloud has ever taken more time to finish than Rick Riordan’s The Son of Neptune, the second in his Heroes of Olympus series. Thankfully, it’s a better book than the first book in the series, The Lost Hero. There’s more action and adventure, and the characters are more interesting. It’s another doorstop of a book, at least 100 pages longer than it needs to be, but fans of the Percy Jackson series will certainly enjoy it.
I have long mourned my lost copy of Alexander, a favorite picture book from childhood. But it turns out that I didn’t need to mourn: I only needed to clean out a storage cupboard because that’s where my much-read copy was hiding. As I read it to my son this week, I remembered the hours I spent pouring over Tom Vroman’s illustrations of the naughty Alexander, a red-and-green striped horse who has a very bad day. Except, the reader discovers, Alexander isn’t the naughty one at all. It’s Chris, the little boy, who has done all the naughty things and blamed Alexander, who happens to be his imaginary horse. Harold Littledale subtly cues the reader to Alexander’s imaginary status on the first spread, but I totally missed it as a child. How I longed for the parental forbearance and acceptance Chris’s dad shows! Not all beloved picture books from my childhood hold up, but Alexander is just as brilliant as I remembered.
We read two nonfiction picture books written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Graham Byrne this week, Emu and Big Red Kangaroo. Both are superb—lyrically written, informative, and brilliantly illustrated. Of the two, I think we both liked Emu best, perhaps because we learned so much that we didn’t know before about emus. But both are must-purchases for the elementary nonfiction collection.
Ling and Ting: Twice as Silly is another fun early reader from Grace Lin that collects six short stories about Ling and Ting. Each story ends with a silly or unexpected twist. I really appreciate an early reader that works for both child and adult readers, and Grace Lin’s series certainly does. Her illustrations always please me as well.
We are just a little bit obsessed with Stephen Gammell’s work at my house. Is That You, Winter? tells the story of grouchy Old Man Winter who wakes up early to head out in his beat-up old truck and spread winter wherever he goes. The text is limited but effective, and the art is gorgeous. There is a cute twist at the end as we discover who Old Man Winter really is.
Mixed Beasts is a delight–short nonsense poems about bizarre animal combinations such as the Rhinocerostrich and the Kangarooster beautifully illustrated by Wallace Edwards. The poetry is fine, if you like that sort of thing, but the illustrations are the real draw. So much to look at and wonder over. The creatures themselves are marvelous, and the backgrounds are lush with flora and fauna.