On the blog:
- Some very-fine-if-I-do-say-so-myself curated content from last week’s online reading
- A celebration of early Christmas, good books, cats, and more
- My Top 15 Picture Books of 2015
- My Top 10 Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2015
- The Top 10 Books Santa Left Under the Tree
I’ve already posted my Top 10 Reads of the Year list, but I’m going to have to make room on it for one more book, because Naomi Novak’s Uprooted is definitely a Top 10 of the year for me. When I love a book this much, I don’t do well with articulation. I could easily slap some adjectives on it–rich, complex, wonderful–but really, you just need to read the book. I promise it will be one of the best you read this year.
Warning: Varian Johnson’s The Great Greene Heist is not good bedtime reading: it’s much too entertaining and exciting! Every time I got to the end of a chapter, my son begged for just one more because he had to know what was going to happen next. This is pretty much the perfect middle-grade novel: plenty of page-turning plot, a diverse and engaging cast of relatively complex characters, good writing, lots of humor, a smidge of romance. It’s a great read-aloud. And it has a solid hook: Ocean’s 11 for the middle-school set. How can you not want to read it? I especially admired the way Johnson handled the shifting viewpoints from chapter to chapter. We may have stayed up too late a couple of nights reading, but it was worth it. One of my favorites of the year, for sure, and definitely in my son’s Top 5.
I’ve been trying to cram in a few more professional development titles before the end of the year, but it’s been slow going. For some reason, it’s really hard to put down a novel like Uprooted and pick up Conferring with Readers. But I really liked Uncommon Core by Michael Smith, Deborah Appleman, and Jeffrey Wilhelm, and even found it a bit of a page-turner. I hope to post a full review later in the week.
Jessixa Bagley’s Boats for Papa is both beautiful and heartrending. It tackles a difficult subject–the loss of a parent–with great artistry and sensitivity.
Sangmi Ko’s A Dog Wearing Shoes was a surprise delight. Mini discovers a silly-looking dog wearing yellow boots and falls hard. Her mother tells her that the dog surely has an owner, but Mini doesn’t want to listen–until her little dog runs off and she realizes how it feels to lose a pet. There is a satisfying happy ending where the dog is restored to its owner and Mini finds a new pet of her very own. A strong message in support of animal shelters as well.
I loved Lisa Brown’s illustrations in Mummy Cat and I appreciate a picture book set in a fascinating world that I see surprisingly few children’s books set in: ancient Egypt. But Marcus Ewert’s rhyming text fell very flat for me. I stick to my rhyming picture book rule: if you’re Deborah Underwood or Julia Donaldson, rhyme away! Everyone else, rewrite that text in prose. There is some interesting back matter here explaining mummy rites and rituals as well as giving some history of Queen Hatsepshet, who inspired the young queen mummy in the story.
Margie Palatini’s Under a Pig Tree: A History of the Noble Fruit is so weirdly wonderful and hilarious. The book purports to be a history of the fig tree unfortunately corrected by the publisher, who decides the author really means pig every time she writes fig. Many ridiculous statements about pigs ensue, and the author always jumps in, scrawling all over text in protest. I have a feeling this book probably appeals to adults more than children, but that’s okay. I loved it!
Suzy Lee’s eye-popping autumn palette and delicate drawings elevated this picture book for me. Bernard Weber’s text more than adequately conveys what it’s like to have a “conversation” with a child of a certain age. It’s a charming story, but I did feel a bit exhausted by the end. So many words! Still, I loved that the book shows a tender father-daughter relationship, and I also appreciate that very little happens in the story beyond this creation of a world and a relationship through words.