On the blog:
- Top 10 words that will make me buy a book
- A round-up of some favorite online reading from the past week
Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois is a gorgeously written and illustrated biography of artist Louise Bourgeois. I so appreciate picture book biographies that do more than report the facts from birth to death, that try to shape a life and work thematically. Novesky weaves a particular set of symbols and themes (the river, textiles, Bourgeois’s mother) into a rich narrative that explores the origins and meanings of Bourgeois’s art. Novesky’s sentences are exquisitely crafted: I identified sentence after sentence that I would enjoy sharing with students in a mentor text study. And Arsenault has outdone herself in the illustrations for this book. The strongest picture book biography I have read in quite awhile.
Lost in NYC is such a fun graphic novel. It’s a little short on plot and characterization–new kid Pablo and his partner Alicia get separated from the other students on a field trip to the Empire State Building–but there is so much to entertain and dazzle that it really doesn’t matter. The artwork captures the glory and overwhelm of urban public transportation, and there is much interesting informational material about New York’s subway system (including incredibly cool archival photos) and the Empire State Building.
Rebecca Bond’s Out of the Woods recounts a true story about the author’s grandfather, who grew up in a hotel his mother ran in the woods of Ontario. The story is quiet, leisurely paced, full of rich historical detail–and then comes that dazzling climax, when a forest fire sends all of the people and all of the forest animals into the lake. Hunter and prey wait in the water, mere feet apart, until the flames die down and they can all return to their homes. There is an interesting end note with further information. Bond’s delicate illustrations are old-fashioned, but I found them appealing.
I have only read one other book by Margarita Engle, but Enchanted Air has convinced me I need to read them all–and quickly. Enchanted Air is an exquisite verse memoir of growing up Cuban-American in the 50s and 60s during the breakdown of Cuban-American relations. As a child, Engle spent summers visiting her mother’s family in Cuba, and although I enjoyed the entire book, the poems about Cuba are especially vivid and powerful. This is also the portrait of an artist as a young girl, and we can see the poet Engle later becomes in her childhood observations, habits of mind, and sensibility.