On the blog:
Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower is a slightly-longer-than-average nonfiction picture book about con man Robert Miller, better known as Count Victor Lustig, one of forty-five different aliases Miller used as he conned people across Europe and America with various tricks and scams. Perhaps his most audacious scheme was to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap metal to a scrap metal dealer who was apparently so humiliated by losing his life savings in this way that he never even reported Lustig to the police. The law did eventually catch up with Lustig. He was convicted of counterfeiting money and imprisoned—only to escape by posing as a window washer. He was eventually recaptured and sent to Alcatraz, from which he did not escape. Geisel winner Greg Pizzoli writes a book suited to older readers (there’s plenty of complex vocabulary here, and the sentences aren’t exactly simple either) that’s quite the page-turner as we wonder what scheme Lustig will cook up next. The art is also a star here.
Piper Green and the Fairy Tree is the inaugural title in a terrific new chapter book series for younger readers. Written by Ellen Potter and charmingly illustrated by Qin Leng, this book has it all: engaging characters, a unique setting, just enough plot to keep the pages turning, quirk appeal (I especially love Piper’s little brother Leo, who is married to a Post-It note he’s named Michelle), and KITTENS. Perfect for readers who aren’t quite ready to read Clementine independently.
Just Ducks blends a fictional story of a child observing ducks on her way to and from school with a nonfiction component that shares different facts about ducks in small print. Nicole Davies’s writing is strong and poetic, as always, and both story lines—the child’s observations and the narrator’s factual information—are compelling.
My Graphic Novels class read El Deafo this week. It’s a reread for me, and while I was thrilled it received a Newbery Honor, I had also been thinking it was a slightly strange choice, given that the drawings are really important to the story and presumably not up for discussion by the Newbery committee. So for my reread, I tried to ignore the drawings as much as possible and concentrate on the prose alone to think through the question of whether the text is truly Newbery-worthy. And I have to say, it really is! Brilliantly written, brilliantly illustrated, this book led to a great discussion in my class. So glad I decided at the very last minute to include it on the syllabus for this course. It also inspired some great fan art drawn by one of my students:
I’m very meh about James Riley’s fractured fairy tale series, but my son did like the first book well enough to want to begin Book 2 immediately. The pages turn quickly, and Riley manages to end most chapters on a cliffhanger, but there’s a real lack of depth and complexity to the story, characters, and writing. It’s better than Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories, but not nearly as good as Christopher Healy’s Hero’s Guide.
I also shared these picture books with my college students for #classroombookaday, though Mr. Tiger Goes Wild was a last-minute substitution for This Is Sadie, which I decided to save for another week. I Yam a Donkey! is tremendously fun as a read-aloud. A goofy Donkey voice just came to me entirely unbidden.