On the blog:
- A curation of online reading I enjoyed last week
- A recommendations list of Graphic Novels for Grown-Ups for #GNCelebration
- A list of the Top 10 Bookish Behaviors I Need to Quit
I knew nothing about Beautiful Darkness when I checked it out from the library last week. Then I happened to be skimming book blogs that very same afternoon and came across a review of the book that started something like “Well, I’m still traumatized for life by Beautiful Darkness.” I just thought, ugh. I can’t read a book that’s going to traumatize me for life. But there it was, and there I was, and I got just a little bit curious. I mean, there’s a little wide-eyed doll-like creature in some pretty leaves on the cover. How bad could it be? Somehow my eyes managed to avoid processing that thing the wide-eyed doll creature is hiding behind: A DECOMPOSING HAND. This is SO not my kind of book, but once I started reading, I was hooked, and I ended up really loving it and thinking easily of a dozen students I want to recommend it to. I laughed out loud numerous times–not because it’s funny, though it is sometimes very funny in a dark way–but because I was so horrified by the things that were happening and so surprised by the twists and turns of the story. The art is often very disturbing, but also very beautiful. The story is strongly allegorical–about survival, the lengths we go to for it, how quickly our organized and civilized ways can disappear when we’re in survival mode. A must-read, though perhaps not for the squeamish.
I always worry when a picture book is as highly anticipated as Leo: A Ghost Story was for me. One of my very favorite writers of PBs paired with one of my very favorite illustrators of PBs? Sometimes such high expectations make a reading fall flat–not through any fault of the book. Leo has been sitting at the top of my stack for a couple of weeks, daring me to read it. I finely got brave this weekend and cracked the cover. Robinson’s palette and artistic choices are always surprising, yet also always distinctly his work, and the story is charming, humorous and full of heart. A winner.
My favorite Christian Robinson title this week, though, was Rain!, written by Linda Ashman. I’m crazy about the art and crazy about the story, which contrasts the reactions of a child and an old man to a rainy day. Such a wise meditation upon perspective. Also, the old man’s grouchiness is eventually cured in part by a cookie, and this is a life philosophy I can get behind.
The Day I Lost My Superpowers relies on the juxtaposition of text and image for much of its humor, as the images tell a slightly different story from the text. Discovering a flying superpower, for instance, simply means jumping off the bed. My son is off picture books right now, but if he were open to listening to them, this is one I would want to share, both for the lovely line and image about going back in time (where the child pretends to be a baby again and is held by her mother) and for the conclusion, where our superhero hurts herself but the pain disappears after a bit of soothing from her mother.
I loved Lauren Castillo’s illustrations in City Cat, but I couldn’t suspend disbelief enough to enjoy the story. It’s about a stray cat who stows away and joins a family on their European vacation. Part of the fun of the illustrations is identifying all the famous monuments of Europe and spotting the cat hanging out in each picture. But I was too worried about the cat’s health and safety. These are big busy cities! All kinds of bad things could happen! Even though I knew the cat wasn’t going to get run over by a car or attacked by a dog, I still couldn’t relax.
David Ezra Stein’s Leaves is pretty much picture book perfection. It doesn’t break any new ground: a young bear experiences the four seasons for the first time, and he’s confused in fall, cozy in winter, and delighted by spring, just as you would expect. But it’s perfectly done. I love Stein’s exuberant loose lines, and the simple text is surprisingly poetic.