On the blog:
- The usual Sunday links post curating interesting web content
- A post about 7 assignment trends in my fall classes, including sketching, microresponse, and TED Talks
- A Top Ten list of my auto-buy authors and illustrators
Jack is Liesl Shurtliff’s second fractured fairy tale middle-grade novel, a follow-up to the enormously popular Rump. My son loved Rump. I wasn’t as much of a fan. It’s based on what is probably my least favorite fairy tale, for one, and Shurtliff’s short, choppy sentences didn’t make for the best read-aloud in my view. But I enjoyed Jack. The character development and plotting were at least as strong as in Rump, and the sentence-level writing was much stronger.
I was inspired by Carrie Gelson’s recent post about her Auto-Buy Illustrators to check out some books illustrated by Freya Blackwood, and both the books I read this week were excellent. Libby Gleeson’s Half a World Away was probably my favorite, both for the story and for the illustrations. Two best friends feel lost when one moves half a world away, but they find a way to feel connected in the end. Ivy Loves to Give is a clever story about a little girl who sometimes gives gifts that don’t work out so well—but other times gives just the right gifts. The clever part is that the gifts that didn’t work out so well in the first half of the story are the just right gifts when given to the right person. The text is very simple and short, and quite a bit of entertaining inference needs to happen through reading the illustrations.
Ice Bear is a strong nonfiction title about polar bears for very young readers. There isn’t a tremendous amount of text, but I still learned a great deal and appreciated Nicola Davies’s poetic language. Each spread includes two text fonts—the larger for the more poetically-written story and the smaller for additional factual information. Gary Blythe’s paintings are gorgeous and atmospheric. I wish Davies hadn’t included the unnamed Inuit narrator on the first and last pages. I found that device took me out of the text and raised questions for me about appropriation and essentializing.
Something Extraordinary is a powerful story about imagination and the importance of noticing what’s around us. A little boy wishes for many things—a hundred unusual pets, flavored rain, a big bushy tail—but most of all, he wishes that something extraordinary would happen. When he finally starts paying attention to his surroundings, he sees that something extraordinary is happening. Excellent pacing and strong illustrations.
Dory and the Real True Friend is Abby Hanlon’s follow-up to one of my favorite books of 2014, Dory Fantasmagory. At first, I was afraid I wasn’t going to like the second book as much as the first. It took a little time to get to the fantasmagorical. But once you’re there, this book is every bit as much of a delight as the first book. If Book 1 is focused more on Dory’s role within her family, in Book 2 we get to see Dory navigating the world of school, which can be a challenging place for the truly imaginative and creative.
A Painter’s Progress ended up on my TBR list because it showed up on several Best of 2014 annual reading lists, and I like books about art and artists. I’m somewhat familiar with Freud’s nudes, which tend to make the viewer a bit uncomfortable, but I didn’t know much about his art. I’m not sure this book really expanded my knowledge. It’s a book of 241 full-color, mostly full-page photographs of Freud and his working space taken during the last years of his life. There’s very little text, but what there is is quite fascinating—a few quotes from Freud on his beliefs about art, creativity, and work. The photographs and few quotes combine to present a portrait of the working artist. It’s an odd book. I found it both interesting and uninteresting, probably best for fans of Freud’s work.