Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to participate in the kidlit version of this weekly meme.
On the blog:
- Some of my students’ work to end the semester, curated in my weekly round-up post of online reading
- 5 illustrators I discovered in 2015
- Top 10 New-to-Me Authors I Read for the First Time in 2015
Liesl Shurtliff’s new fractured fairy tale, Red, isn’t going to be published until April 2016, so perhaps it’s a bit cruel to share it on my blog this week and tell you all how wonderful it is, since I know many readers are eagerly awaiting this follow-up to Rump and Jack. I promise: it will be worth the wait! I thought it was by far Shurtliff’s best novel. The sentence-level writing is so much stronger than her earlier work; it was a beautiful read-aloud. It also deals with more difficult (and triggering) subject matter. Red’s grandmother is ill, and Red isn’t sure how she can manage to live if her grandmother dies. She sets off to find some kind of magical cure. There are magical options, but all come with a steep price, of course. Red’s work throughout the story is to come to terms with the inevitable: the people we love are going to die. (Extra triggering material for traumatized children comes through a subplot involving Goldilocks, whose mother has abandoned her.)
I don’t know how anyone avoided buying this book after hearing Jeff Anderson at NCTE read aloud an early passage about an anti-bullying school assembly. Hilarious stuff! Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth is a terrific read-aloud for 5th through 7th. It’s a funny story with great appeal for reluctant readers, and there are still plenty of issues for thought–what it means to fit in, how to be a leader, how to stand up for yourself and others. I very much appreciated the diverse cast of characters as well.
Swan is a picture book biography of ballet dancer Anna Pavlova, best known for her role as the dying swan. Laurel Snyder’s text is absolutely gorgeous–so elegant and artful. And Julie Morstad’s illustrations are among my favorite of the year. In some nonfiction picture books, there is a perfect marriage of art and information, but in others, one dominates the other. And in this book, art definitely dominates. Beauty of language and image take precedence over factual information. So don’t read it for the information (though the author’s note at the end will clarify many of your questions). Read it for the experience.
The illustrations are the real appeal of Faye Hanson’s picture book, The Wonder, about an imaginative boy whose daydreams and curiosity are suppressed by adults everywhere he goes. Then he steps into art class, is given a piece of blank paper, and is encouraged to draw whatever he can imagine. All of his earlier wonderings and imagination come pouring out. The book’s early illustrations are sepia-toned with only the boy’s daydream or wonder illustrated in color, but as he gains the freedom to imagine, colors explode.
Hmmm. I don’t know what I think about Leo Lionni’s Little Blue and Little Yellow. Super simple story and illustrations: two blobs of color, yellow and blue, are friends. One day they hug so much they turn green. When they come home, their parents don’t recognize them. Eventually they turn yellow and blue again, their parents understand what happened, everyone hugs, and everyone turns green. Yep. Huh. I googled to find out what year the book was first published (wondering if this should have been a staple of my childhood) and instead found this site, Teaching Children Philosophy, where Little Blue and Little Yellow is used to lead epistemological and ontological discussions with children. So my morning was able to start off with these questions:
- Imagine that I paint a paper orange, is it still the same paper?
- Now imagine I burn that paper is it still the same paper?
Sometimes I just really love the world.