On the blog:
- A collection of the online reads I most enjoyed last week
- A celebration of coloring and the Creative Mind class I teach
- A list of nonfiction author recommendations for Adolescent Literature
- A slice of life about taking a daily photo of my son
Sometimes I consider finding a different book to kick off my Children’s Lit class, but Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t) contains just the right message for this class: there’s a right book for everyone, even the most resistant reader. It’s cleverly written and humorously illustrated, and it makes me laugh every time–though I’ll be honest, I’m usually the only person in the room laughing that first day. (It takes a few class sessions for students to loosen up and realize it’s OKAY–even EXPECTED–to laugh at funny picture books!)
I was in a weird situation this year of NOT HAVING READ THE CALDECOTT WHEN IT WAS ANNOUNCED! Luckily, I had bought Finding Winnie, so it was sitting in a stack waiting to be read. I just hadn’t gotten to it yet. My son and I remedied that over breakfast not ten minutes after the award was announced. It’s a wonderful book, though it would not have been my choice for the Caldecott. (I was Lenny & Lucy, Last Stop on Market Street, and Trombone Shorty all the way!) I thought Lindsey Mattick’s writing was at least as strong as Sophie Blackall’s illustrations, and I loved the twist at the end. I do wish that there had been a bibliography and note about sources. The absence of sources drives me nuts in nonfiction books! I also keep reading online about all the research Blackall did for this book, and I’m pretty sure I would appreciate the illustrations more if there had been an illustrator’s note sharing some of that.
I was pleasantly surprised by J. Scott Savage’s Cove: Fires of Invention, the first book in a new steampunk dystopian middle-grade series. My son fell in love with the cover and asked for the book for Christmas (!!!!). It’s about a boy named Trenton who loves to tinker and build things, but he lives in a society where creativity and innovation are forbidden. He meets a girl, Kallista, who manages to live outside of society’s strictures and they embark on a quest to solve a mystery left behind by Kallista’s father, an infamous innovator named Leo Babbage who killed himself and others when an experiment he was working on exploded. The quest leads Trenton and Kallista to question the very foundations of their city and society. The book is competently written, there are equally strong male and female leads, and there’s a mechanical dragon. I don’t need much more than that to find a read-aloud with my son fully engaging. Actually, after all the badly written books we read last year, Cove: Fires of Invention felt like a work of genius at times! I’ll definitely be checking out Savage’s other series, FarWorld.
Who Was Gandhi? is the first “bobble-head biography” (as my son calls this series) that I’ve read. My son doing a report on Gandhi for school, and this was our way of learning about him. It’s a quick read and certainly informative. While the book would appear to appeal to reluctant readers by virtue of its slim size and frequent illustrations, the text reads more like an encyclopedia entry than narrative nonfiction. It felt like a missed opportunity to introduce readers to good nonfiction writing which can combine information and engaging narrative. There are a million books in this series (okay, not a million, but a lot) with subjects ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Seabiscuit.
A.K. Summers’s fictionalized graphic novel memoir, Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag, is a chronicle of a pregnancy that’s challenging for all the usual reasons but adds in gender identity. Summers’s main character, Teek, is a butch lesbian whose dress and hairstyle are an important part of her gender identity. She isn’t sure how to navigate pregnancy as a woman who takes pride in a masculine look. Summers is often very, very funny–this book has so many laugh-out-loud moments–but she’s not afraid of poignant, heartfelt moments either. Lots to think about here.
I reread Lusy Knisley’s Relish: My Life in the Kitchen this week, and it’s just as delightful as it was the first time. A light-hearted graphic novel memoir that still says something important about its subject. This time, I’m determined to try some of the recipes too!