On the blog:
- A curation of my favorite online reading from last week
- A slice about teaching pleasure reading to college students
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed is a collection of essays by writers who have chosen not to have children about their decisions and their lives. The 16 essays in this collection are all interesting, and 4 or 5 of them are really stellar. But I was left with mixed feelings about the collection overall. Because 15 of the 16 essayists are writers (the 16th works in publishing), the view from the other side is decidedly limited, and after a point, many of the essays sounded the same: work is too consuming, financial reward too unpredictable, couldn’t imagine bringing a child into this lifestyle. I was also left realizing just how limited our understanding of each other really is. These are writers: their work is to enter imaginatively into the space of people quite different from them. But I felt that only three essayists in the collection came close to understanding parenting. And that was a real flaw in the collection because most of the writers spent considerable time in their essays reflecting on what it means and how it feels to be a parent (especially how it feels to be a mother, since the majority of the essayists are women). Of course, they’re reflecting on how they think it feels to be a parent but not acknowledging the limitations of their position and their imagination. If you like essays and you’re interested in parenting, this collection will get you thinking at the very least.
I can’t believe I have to wait until May for the publication of the second volume in Judd Winick’s excellent new graphic novel series about an alien robot who crashes to the earth but can’t remember his past or why he’s here. It’s up to his new friends, D.J. and Gina, to help him. This is a graphic novel with wide appeal, and I absolutely loved the diverse cast of characters Winick creates. Well-written, appealingly illustrated, good stuff.
I really enjoy Gemma O’Neill’s art, and it’s hard to resist a story that features meerkats romping in a lion’s mane. Monty is quite vain about his magnificent mane but discovers that friendship is even more important. There’s nothing new in the plot or theme, but it’s a pleasant take on a classic story. Plus meerkats!
I never quite know what to do with a picture book like Kathryn Otoshi’s and Bret Baumgarten’s Beautiful Hands. The text is very simple, asking what amazing things the reader will do with their hands to make the world a better place. It’s meant to be inspirational, and it is, but there’s something about this kind of picture book that leaves me a bit cold. Maybe because there are no characters and no story, only idea. And for me, idea alone isn’t as powerful as story. At first, I didn’t like the handprint art or the primary colors, but it started to grow on me, and I ended up amazed at what the illustrator was able to do with such a simple concept. There are some stupendous spreads in this book.
Strictly No Elephants is really a story about being inclusive and friendly with everyone. Our main character is crushed to discover the pet club has a “strictly no elephants” policy. Luckily, he is able to start his own club where all kinds of unusual pets (including a narwhal!!) are welcome. Lisa Mantchev’s text is sweet and well-crafted, and Taeeun Yoo’s illustrations are terrific as always.
It’s a celebrity picture book! And, like many celebrity picture books, it’s hit or miss. The hit is definitely Dan Krall’s illustrations. The text is sometimes clever but overall too long and drags at times. Krall’s dynamic illustrations, however, are a delight.
Bear and Bunny was my favorite picture book of the week. The two friends are a bit confused: Bear thinks Bunny is an unusually small bear, and Bunny thinks Bear is an unusually large rabbit. Their illusions are never destroyed either. They decide they want a pet and set off to find the perfect one, only there’s some comic confusion there as well. Lovely illustrations by Will Hillenbrand and a perfectly paced text by Daniel Pinkwater.
I was also very fond of Emily Jenkins’s The Fun Book of Scary Stuff, illustrated by Hyewon Yum. A boy and his two dogs have a conversation about scary stuff. The bull terrier is able to pooh-pooh all the fears until he gets to the really scary stuff–the dark! The pug acts as a comic foil.