On the blog:
- A little curated content–my favorite reading from around the web
- A poem for NaPoWriMo: What’s In My Gratitude Journal
- A new challenge–National Poetry Writing Month
- A reflection on what I learned in a month of daily slicing
- A slice about my son learning he can’t play football anymore
- A collection of six-word memoirs about slicing
- A slice about a field trip to one of South Dakota’s many kitschy attractions
My son and I finished our read-aloud of Gennifer Choldenko’s trilogy set on Alcatraz Island. All three books are very strong read-alouds with so many avenues for further exploration and discovery. There’s also a great connection in Book 3 with Greg Pizzoli’s excellent picture book nonfiction title, Tricky Vic. I was sad to see the end of this series and wish we had three more to read. Natalie and Piper have become members of our book family: we’ve been talking about them A LOT. Always interesting to me which characters and situations in a story spark some kind of connection or greater interest in my son.
Rules was our next read-aloud. I’ve read it several times before, though it’s been years since my last reading. As a read-aloud with my son, I didn’t love it. Stylistically, it didn’t feel seamless to me. Catherine’s voice didn’t quite cohere across the whole novel. There are many passages where she sounds like a twelve-year-old girl. And then there are some passages where she sounds like she wandered into a Newbery novel and knows she needs to add some nature descriptions to elevate things a bit. Lord writes beautifully in her other novels about the Maine landscape, but it felt like an afterthought in Rules and not necessary for the story. I did really enjoy the characters’ interactions and the way Lord develops sympathy for flawed characters.
Author Jeff Kurrus is visiting my Children’s Literature class next week, and we read Have You Seen Mary?, his fictionalized account of the annual sandhill crane migration, in class to prepare. Michael Forsberg’s photography is exquisite, and some of the information on sandhill cranes was so interesting. I found myself really wishing for a straight nonfiction text, however. I can’t wait to ask him why he writes fiction instead of nonfiction.
Nerdy Birdy was my favorite book this week. Hilarious and touching with a strong message about acceptance and friendship. I’ll be purchasing this one soon for my own collection.
John Rocco’s illustrations for How to Train a Train are dazzling. The text took a bit to get going for me, but once it did, I thought it was a strong match for the pictures. The premise here is simple: trains (and occasionally planes or automobiles) make excellent pets, but they do need some training. There is a great deal of humor in the illustrations, and for train fans, I imagine this would be a huge hit.
Unusual picture book written by Aaron Reynolds about a boy who shadows an artist who makes sculptures from junk metal. The story and writing is quite different from Reynolds’s other books. There is very little humor here, and it’s written in non-standard English to capture the voice of the main character. There is a nice message here about finding art in the everyday world around you, and I always love finding picture books that feature African-American characters, but the dialect made me uncomfortable.
I had the most wonderful experience a few weeks ago. I went into my colleague Steve Coughlin’s office and asked for some poetry book recommendations. (Steve’s own recent book of poetry, Another City, is superb–highly recommended.) I told him who I like, and he curated a little stack of books just for me. I do this for my students all the time but rarely have it done for me, and ever since, I’ve been thinking about the power of the personalized book stack. Anyway, Kay Ryan’s The Niagara River is the first of the books I read, and it was a very good match for me. The poems are short and intense, growing out of the everyday and the ordinary, and they linger. Just what I like.
My audiobook this week was a lecture series by Brene Brown called The Power of Vulnerability. It’s vintage Brene–a mix of anecdote, story, data, and big concepts. I see a lot of myself in Brene–probably any honest academic would. Perfectionism? Check. Avoidance of vulnerability? You betcha. I enjoy her folksy stories and her Texas twang, and she’s discovered some real gems in her research. Plus, it’s heartening to hear someone else’s experience of trying to become a full human being (what she calls living wholeheartedly).