On the blog:
- A links post of my favorite curated content from the last couple of weeks
My son and I continue to work our way through Gordon Korman’s heisty middle-grade series. In Framed, our hero gets blamed for a heist he didn’t actually commit, sent to an alternative school that’s nicknamed Jail For Kids, and forced to try to clear his name while under house arrest. Luckily, he’s got plenty of friends who want to help him find the real culprit. Hard as it may be to believe, the plots are getting progressively more ludicrous with each book. We’re in the middle of Book 4, and I’m counting down to the end. But my son seems to be loving the series, so I’m not really complaining. (Well, I’m complaining, but only a little bit. At least Korman writes decent sentences. I can forgive most anything if the sentences don’t make me cringe to read aloud.)
I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of art journaling, and I found a great deal of inspiration and awe in A World of Artist Journal Pages, which features over one thousand journal pages plus interviews with select artists. So many gorgeous pages and a lot of thoughtful words about art, creativity, writing, journaling, and inspiration.
I’ve been saving the last two Elephant & Piggie books for a rainy day comfort read. Saving a book often means my expectations are too high or just plain wrong going into it, and I end up not quite satisfied–even by a very good book–because reality and fantasy don’t quite align. And I think that’s what happened with I Really Like Slop! It just wasn’t the right day for me with this story. Reflecting on it afterwards, I recognize all the elements I love in an Elephant & Piggie story, but it didn’t come together for me on a first reading. Perhaps in the fall when I share it with my Children’s Lit students.
Ok, so I have to get my complaint out of the way first. The text clearly identifies Sonya’s chickens as hens, but in the end, a baby chick hatches from one of their eggs. Where is the rooster that would be needed for a fertilized egg? Did I miss something? I poured over the illustrations: was that comb bigger than the other combs? Was that chicken really a rooster? I will totally confess that I started fixating on this detail and had to look up some reviews online to see if any other readers had this particular problem. Not that I could find. So then I started to worry about my sanity. Why couldn’t I let it go? Why couldn’t I assume there was a perfectly good reason for a fertilized egg? Why did I notice this in the first place? Why am I still thinking about it days later?
Obsessive compulsive reading behavior aside, Sonya’s Chickens is wonderful! A very thoughtful and thought-provoking look at death. I love Sonya’s father’s explanation for why a fox would kill her chicken, and I love how Sonya is able to make peace with the chicken’s death once she understands this. The illustrations are gorgeous (and there’s a multi-racial family, just because! Thank you, Phoebe Wahl! That was the first thing my son noticed–“hey, that mom is white and her baby is brown. That’s like us!”), and though there is more text than I typically prefer in a picture book, it never felt overlong to me. Well-written, direct but sensitive, engaging and even useful. Good stuff!
I was very amused by Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s One Day, The End: Short, Very Short, Shorter Than Ever Stories. I don’t know exactly how I want to use this in my writing classroom, but I do. I’m teaching Creative Writing for the first time this fall and somewhat dreading the fiction unit, so maybe we will write and illustrate short, very short, and shorter than ever stories. I love a book where the illustrations give a whole new meaning to the words, and this is a strong example.
Dorothea’s Eyes is a phenomenal nonfiction picture book biography of photographer Dorothea Lange written by Barb Rosenstock, who is quite possibly the very best writer of nonfiction picture book biographies. The writing craft amazes me in her books. This is a book about noticing what’s around you, really seeing the world, about being unafraid to look at ugly things and finding a way to love those ugly things and make something worthwhile, meaningful, even beautiful out of them. Lange’s eye is unflinching. If you haven’t read it yet, try to get to it soon–it’s so good. (I also loved Gerard DuBois’s art.)