My semester is finished, which means it’s time for the #bookaday challenge. (The link will take you to the announcement for last year’s challenge. College summer break starts early–which means more books for me!). I missed my Monday reading post last week, so this post attempts to catch up briefly on two weeks of reading.
I was already a massive Jason Reynolds fan, but now I love him even more because he has bought me more reading time with my son. After our last readaloud, my son said he was done. Bored. Bedtime reading just wasn’t for him anymore. “I’m too old for this,” he announced. I’ve been battling his “I’m too old for readalouds” for a couple of months now and wondered if I should gracefully exit. But then I decided to make one last stand. “Maybe we’re reading the wrong books,” I said. (Never mind that he was choosing all the books!) “Do you mind if we try just one more?” And I showed him the cover of When I Was the Greatest. (Which happens to be one of my favorite covers of all time.) And I read the first page. And he was hooked. When I Was the Greatest is the first book in maybe a year that he’s stayed fully awake for, that he’s wanted to talk about, that he’s been really invested in. He’s not ready for All-American Boys yet, but we’ll read Ghost just as soon as we finish our current read-aloud, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Thank goodness for book covers and book titles that sell themselves!
I was maybe the only person on the planet who was a bit meh on Will Schwalbe’s popular The End of Your Life Book Club. It was probably more the timing than the book itself. And maybe it’s just timing that makes me adore his new book, Books for Living. This is very much a love letter to reading with short essays on meaningful books in his life. He has eclectic reading tastes, and the essays themselves are also eclectic–sometimes focused closely on the book itself and its lessons, other times ranging away from the book to his memories and experiences. There is wisdom and life and so much #booklove here. Highly recommended.
Evie Wyld’s Everything Is Teeth is an odd little graphic novel memoir. It’s hard to say exactly what it’s about because there isn’t really a plot. It’s a memoir that’s more about mood and atmosphere–a tricky thing to pull off, but it absolutely works, thanks in large part to Joe Summer’s evocative illustrations. As a child, Evie was obsessed with sharks and shark attacks, and they become a metaphor for other unspoken things. Throughout the book, there is a strong sense of foreboding. I kept expecting some big secret or childhood horror to be revealed, but that never happens. This book won’t be for everyone, but it’s just the kind of graphic novel memoir I like–moody, haunting, and kind of weird.
Lowriders to the Center of the Earth features some of the craziest graphic novel art I’ve ever seen by Raul the Third. It’s done in ballpoint pen! I read an interview with Raul where he talks about how he was inspired by the limited supplies he had to create art when he was a kid. The story is all fast-paced adventure and incorporates a lot of Spanish words and phrases as well as different aspects of Mexican popular culture and Aztec mythology. I’m glad this won a Pure Belpre Award this year: it wasn’t a series I’d heard of, but I know many readers who will really connect with the story and art.
Holly Thompson’s Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth is a wonderful middle-grade verse novel about an American boy living in Japan with his teacher parents. It’s not always an easy story to read: Jason is the victim of bullies who target him for being different. But he finds solace and support in the practice of aikido, his relationship with his little sister, and growing friendships with an elderly man with Parkinson’s and a Japanese teenager who homeschools.
Mighty Jack is the first in a terrific new graphic novel series by Ben Hatke. There is something for everyone here–plenty of magic and adventure, but also strong, interesting characters and relationships and a serious treatment of economic hardship.
A Perfect Day features what may be my favorite Lane Smith art. The story is fun too. All the animals in the back yard are having their perfect day until Bear arrives; Bear’s perfect day pretty much ruins everyone else’s fun.
Drew Daywalt’s new picture book is another winner. Such a funny origin story for the classic rock paper scissors game. This one had me laughing out loud.
Paxton is tired of adults asking for “the magic word” every time he makes a request, so he decides to make up his own magic word, Alakazoomba, which turns out to be the REAL magic word. Soon, Paxton has conjured magical walruses to get rid of anyone who annoys him and has turned his house into a child’s fantasy dream house, complete with waterslides and roller coasters and a magical elephant who plays cards. Clever, slightly subversive fun from Mac Barnett.
Maria Gianferrari’s Coyote Moon is a gorgeously written and even more gorgeously illustrated story of a coyote mother hunting in a suburban environment. Ibatoulline outdoes himself here, and that’s really saying something.
Those poor bunnies! This was a reread for me, and I found it just as weird and wonderful this time. There is something so innocent and sweet about Nyeu’s art; matched with the somewhat sadistic treatment of the bunnies (the tail-clipping scene followed by the sewing machine is hardcore!), it makes for one hilarious picture book. Not a story for everyone (my son, for instance, is both mystified and disturbed by my delight in this book), but really good fun for the right reader.
I thought Wonder Bear was a straightforward, kind of simple wordless picture book until I sat down to describe it and began to struggle. None of the sentences I wrote about it made any sense–unless maybe you, too, had read the book. Nyeu creates this stream-of-consciousness dreamlike story that’s not really about anything other than the images themselves. It’s a pretty daring undertaking, especially for a first book.
Incredibly beautiful and creative retelling of Pinocchio’s origin story. Like nothing you’ve read before.
Oh, man. Elisha Cooper’s Big Cat, Little Cat is adorable but also packs an emotional punch. This one made me tear up. And then after I pulled it together, I saw Cooper’s dedication in the back of the book, and that made me cry again. Then I made my husband read it, and he got teary too. And when I saw my husband was at That Scene, I had another attack of all the feels and got teary AGAIN. So. Yeah. Read this but be prepared! (Brilliant artistic choices here too.)