On the blog:
- A slice in the popular Currently format
A lovely, poignant memoir about a blind poet’s first guide dog that’s really about coming to an acceptance of yourself for the very first time in middle age. It’s also about having hope and feeling a true sense of possibility for yourself later in life. It’s a quick read and really fascinating, especially in the details of just how much training a person needs before they are ready to start working with their guide dog.
Although Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak’s Still Learning to Read is geared towards grades 3-6, I found so much here that was relevant to K-16 reading instruction. Especially strong in showing how read aloud remains essential during these years and can do so much of the work of reading instruction for all students. This edition has good chapters on nonfiction and close reading. Great book recommendations throughout as well.
I thought I was an Allen Say completist, but somehow I had missed this picture book about a painter named Emma whose creativity is linked to the images she sees in her bedroom rug. This book leaves a lot of space for the reader to work and wonder. It was recommended in Still Learning to Read as a good title for demonstrating the power of rereading.
I was also shocked to discover this week that I’d never read Library Lion. I know exactly what happened: I checked it out several years ago when I got serious about reading picture books, but then I opened it up and saw that it has one thing that really puts me off in a picture book: lots and lots and lots of text! And I clearly returned it to the library unread. How silly of me! But also how nice because now I was able to read it for the first time this week. Usually when I read text-heavy picture books, I do a lot of pruning in my mind as I read. I can always find words to cut to tighten that story up. But in Library Lion, the storytelling is so effective, the writing so thoughtfully crafted, that the length didn’t bother me at all and I don’t think I made one invisible edit in my mind as I was reading. A charming story with perfect illustrations by Kevin Hawkes.
I was hoping Bunny’s Book Club might be the perfect first read-aloud for my Theory & Practice of Teaching Reading course for preservice teachers this fall. I did enjoy it, especially the sweet illustrations, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.
Hannah Sparkles shows up for life with pom poms in hand–literally. She loves pink and sparkles and rainbows and sunshine. When she makes a new friend who has quite different preferences (rain? bugs?!), Hannah struggles to understand how someone so different could possibly be happy. A sweet story with a clear didactic message that doesn’t feel preachy.
Speaking of didactic children’s books, Be Kind has the lesson right there in the title. But even though there is a very obvious message here, Be Kind never feels heavy-handed or forced. Miller structures the book as an inquiry into what kindness is, grounded in a very real and relatable incident at school: Tanisha spills grape juice on herself and then runs off when her classmate tries to be kind. He spends the book trying to figure out what it means to be kind and how a small gesture might be effective. A powerful title for social emotional learning.
Another laugh-out-loud charmer from Jan Thomas. Duck’s incessant quacking is definitely my favorite thing. Clever use of endpapers to begin and end story, plenty of drama and intrigue and humor. I thought a few Jan Thomas titles would satisfy, but now I’m wanting to read them all.
A nearly wordless picture book from Daniel Mirayes about a shy, unpopular boy who goes off on an incredible night adventure which he then recounts to his classmates the next morning. Magical illustrations and a fun little twist at the end.
Philip Stead writes and illustrates picture books that manage to feel very fresh even as they make me nostalgic for the picture books of my childhood. I always think his books would be as comfortable in 1970 as they are in 2018, and that’s a pretty magical thing to pull off. It’s something about the space he creates for readers to do the work and how so often the books aren’t really about anything so much as being present and noticing the life around you and then the style of illustration too–loose and suggestive. Vernon Is on His Way is vintage Stead and, for me, ranks right up there with his very best work.
Another favorite this week was The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have. It can’t be easy to illustrate a story about an imaginary dog, but Anton van Hertbruggen does it with such style. The color palette felt so fresh here, and the matter-of-fact language of the story juxtaposed to the high drama of the illustrations really worked. The final spreads are dazzling!