On the blog:
- A conclusion to Poetry Writing Month with “What a Poem Needs”
- A slice about What’s in My Notebook
- My Children’s Literature students shared their Top 10 lists for the semester
- A reflection on what those pre-service teachers in Children’s Literature learned
Another winning middle-grade novel from Erin Entrada Kelly, You Go First weaves together the stories of two middle-schoolers who only know each other online through a Scrabble game they play. They do strike up more of a friendship over the course of the novel, but the book is really about what’s going on with their families, friends, and school. And there is a lot going on. But Kelly can somehow pull off all that storyline and plot and still make this feel like a quiet, gentle novel.
Sea otters save the world! I had no idea that sea otters were the key to saving ocean ecosystems, and that’s not exactly what this book claims–but almost. It turns out that apex predators are very, very important to their ecosystems, and that ecosystems tend to collapse without them. And that’s what Sea Otter Heroes is really about: ecosystems. The scientist at the center isn’t studying sea otters at all: he’s studying seagrass. Which is much less delightful than sea otters. But Patricia Newman manages to make even seagrass seem engaging. There is a compelling mystery at the heart of Sea Otter Heroes, and it’s hard to imagine the child who wouldn’t read this book and think that science is pretty exciting stuff.
Eugenia Lincoln smiles. More than once! Eugenia Lincoln is happy. Not at first, of course. At first, she is very, very cranky. But keep reading, because Eugenia Lincoln discovers the music of her heart. Who would have guessed it was possible? My new favorite in the Tales from Deckawoo Drive series.
Brian Selznick and David Serlin take repeated structure just about as far as it can go in this charming early reader, as Baby Monkey solves crime after crime following the exact same steps. It might be tedious–except that Selznick’s illustrations change just enough to keep the reader entirely engaged through reading the same story in chapter after chapter. The final chapter shakes things up in a surprisingly heartfelt way. I appreciated the Key to Monkey’s Office at the end which shows how the wall art, books, and objects in the office change at the beginning of each chapter to reflect that particular “crime.”
A Lion in Paris is a gorgeous object, delightful for the reader though frustrating for the book shelver, because it is gigantic and its oversized dimensions make it an impossible fit on any of my shelves. The storyline worked for me: a bored lion decides to leave the savanna and travel to Paris to explore a different place. He goes through the usual emotions of a newcomer–fears, confusion, followed by appreciation and comfort as he gets to know the place. The illustrations did not always entirely work for me, though I appreciate their inventiveness. There were a couple that I really loved (the cover spread as well as a spread where the lion turns gray in the rain), but I found the mix of collage and drawing a little off-putting here, even though it’s generally a style I really like. I think it’s because the drawing was so beautiful and dreamy to me and the often weird and even ugly cut-outs distracted me from the drawing. But I think that was probably the point–to juxtapose the dreamy landscape with the very human cut-outs. In any case, Alemagna continues to be a really exciting writer/illustrator to me.