Slam was one of the first YA novels I read as an adult, shortly after I first started teaching high school. My students were OBSESSED with basketball, and I was looking for something to booktalk. I liked Slam a lot, but I don’t think I fully appreciated Myers’s artistry and craft until I read it aloud to my son. Voice is so strong in this novel, and there is an elegance to Myers’s writing that comes from clarity and rhythm of language and sentence. In terms of plot and character, this book features several of my favorite things in YA: involved parents; tricky friendship problems; a soft ending that doesn’t tie everything up with a neat bow. Slam himself is a bit of a blow hard and often doesn’t seem like he has much depth as a character, but then he makes a thoughtful observation about his neighborhood, interacts sensitively with his little brother, or expresses concern about his old friend, Ice, and we realize there is more to him than slam dunks and trying to hook up with the girl he likes.
A Letter to My Teacher is a beautifully written love letter to teachers. The author of the letter reflects on her experiences in second grade as a student who struggled with school, but her teacher always found gentle and loving ways to include her and teach her. The final spread was a warm, fuzzy, feel-good surprise.
The illustrations alone had me laughing. That is one homely pug! The story rhymes, which is usually the kiss of death for me, but I didn’t mind it here. Greedy, selfish Pig gets his comeuppance at the end in a rather violent scene that will probably lead to some hilarious one-star reviews on Amazon. An amusing little story that would make a fun read-aloud.
I’m not quite sure what to think of Colette’s Lost Pet. New to town, Colette lies to the first kid she meets, telling him she’s looking for her lost pet. The lie grows with every new child she meets, and pretty soon an entire town of kids is helping her look for her entirely imaginary pet. In the end, it becomes obvious that her pet isn’t real, but the kids don’t seem to mind; in fact, they are eager to hang out with Colette again so they can hear more exciting tall tales. I thought the book would have worked better if Colette’s lies had been a little more obvious and entertaining. I’m just not sure that a bunch of kids who have been sent on a wild goose chase all over town after an imaginary pet would be quite so accepting of the lies unless they were dazzlingly over the top. Arsenault’s art is quite charming, though, so this is definitely worth a look.
I found myself mesmerized by The Secret Life of Squirrels and as much as I wanted to stop reading (because once you get over the fun of photos of squirrels interacting with little sets, it’s a boring story), I just couldn’t quite. The back matter was interesting–how to take good nature photos and how the author/photographer gets those crazy photos. (Peanuts! Squirrels really love peanuts, apparently.)