On the blog:
- A haiku about my teenaged ambitions, as reflected by the books I’ve kept
- A haiku about a pomegranate
- Two haiku about trying to find a haiku moment in a basketball gym
- Three haiku about trying to avoid the obstacle of wildlife on my commute
- Three haiku found in hiking field notes
- A slice about the haiku challenge, with haiku of course
Imagine a queer-friendly Nancy Drew meets High Fidelity meets Fight Club and you’ve got Heavy Vinyl. Maybe that’s not easy to imagine? But somehow it mostly works, and it manages to be pretty sweet despite the fistfights. I enjoyed the record store setting and the dynamics among the girls who work there. The Fight Club subplot (I guess that’s kind of a spoiler) was a bit odd, and I wasn’t sure what the writers were getting at there. But I’ll probably look for the next volume, and this is definitely a series I would have loved to have in my classroom library.
Mancastle gets renamed Ladycastle when all but one of the castle’s men are killed in battle. The new “king’s” first act is to release the princess from the tower where she’s been kept by her father ever since she hit puberty, and the two of them work together with siblings and friends to save Ladycastle repeatedly from different threats. Part of the fun of Ladycastle is the way it plays with different fairy tale tropes. There’s an appealingly diverse range of characters (comics are killing it when it comes to inclusivity!), plenty of action, strong art, and witty dialogue.
I’m a big captain Underpants fan, but somehow I never got around to the Dog Man series, and this, the fourth book, is actually my introduction to the series. Normally I would dutifully start with Book 1, but this late into Cybils reading and judging, I don’t have time to pick up all the previous volumes, and honestly, I didn’t think I’d be too lost at the beginning. Harold and George helpfully summarize what happened in previous volumes before launching this new story. In general I like dogs and cats better than humans, so I think I prefer Dog Man to the Captain Underpants books. Cat Kid is a pretty fantastic sidekick. Any author who can somehow make references to East of Eden work with fart jokes has my respect. Obviously I’m not the audience for this book, but I still snorted at a few of the jokes.
I feel like Moonstruck should have worked for me. There’s magic and a coffee shop and unusual creatures and gender fluidity and queer romance. But I found it frequently incoherent with its plotting and character development. It does have its moments, and it’s worth a look for the colorful art and magical creatures.
I read and liked Volumes 1 and 2 of G. Woodrow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel series, but I’m not a huge comics reader and didn’t keep up. I was worried about dropping into Volume 9 having skipped 3-8, but there was a helpful summary at the beginning and it wasn’t hard to get oriented. This is kind of a weird story, though. Ms. Marvel herself is missing for the first half or more and her friends have to take up the patrolling and superhero work, much like the Scooby Gang when Buffy disappeared to L.A. after one of those bad break-ups with Angel. And Kamala’s friends do about as good a job as the Scooby Gang: their attempts to save the world are earnest, sometimes inept, and frequently comic. Let’s just say they really, really need Ms. Marvel to return. And let’s also say that it takes a really, really long time for that to happen. I was expecting things to pick up and get more exciting once Kamala returned, but the action subplot got wrapped up quickly so that we could spend a bunch of pages on a boring love triangle. Not a very consistent or, ultimately, coherent story.
I’ve got to be honest: I really hate the storyline of Anne of Green Gables. I loved Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon series when I was little, and I tried so many times to read Anne. I am sure I started and abandoned that book at least two dozen times. I just couldn’t get through it. And now, as an adult and adoptive mother, the orphan language and orphan insults are big triggers for me. I can’t read it. But Brenna Thummler’s art is absolutely extraordinary. There’s a crazy gorgeous color palette that will be familiar to readers of Sheets. And so much of the story is told through wordless panels, which is so interesting given how very talky Anne (and everyone else in this book) seems to be. I can’t speak to how faithfully this adaptation captures the original, but in terms of an adaptation becoming a stand-alone work of art, this succeeds brilliantly.
I really liked Julia Kaye’s memoir, a collection of web comics, about her experience of being transgender and transitioning. Although the book is about big themes of social and self-acceptance, those themes are often expressed through small moments each day. Kaye is really good at capturing and reflecting on the details: needing to shave, being called Mister or Sir, trying to figure out how to change her voice. This book is often painful to read but it’s also heartfelt and full of hope. A great choice for a classroom library.
I’m still trying to figure out what I think of Undocumented. It’s a gorgeous object where the design is a big part of the appeal and the power (and will also present some serious challenges to keeping this book intact in a library). Tonatiuh’s work is heavily influenced by the art and style of Mixtec codices, which were written on long pieces of deerskin that were then folded accordion-style to read. I love that Tonatiuh was able to create a book that gives readers the same experience of book-as-object that these codices would have given. (Check out the amazing Codex Zouche-Nuttall.) And the story is important and powerful: it’s about an undocumented worker from Mexico who helps other workers at his restaurant organize, demand, and secure a living wage. My hesitation comes from questions about audience. I just don’t know who that is. The thematic concerns of making a living, supporting a growing family, and union organizing seem adult and unlikely to appeal to most teens. But I’m not sure the story goes into enough detail and depth to engage many adult readers who aren’t already fans of Tonatiuh’s work.
My son and I just finished our read-aloud of Night. It’s been so many years since I read this book myself. I think I was a teenager? It’s even more powerful than I remembered, but definitely a difficult, even brutal, read, as it should be. I was afraid it would be difficult to follow, but Wiesel does a marvelous job of writing for every age and every audience. Certainly one of our most affecting shared reads.
Over the next few weeks, I am hoping to catch up on some possible Caldecott contenders that I’ve missed this year. Zola’s Elephant is a sweet story of two lonely girls who eventually find each other and become friends with fantastic art from Pamela Zagarenski.
Another fun entry in the Mother Bruce series. This time, grumpy Bruce is coerced into playing Santa, even though he has less than zero holiday spirit. I read the first Mother Bruce book to my pre-service teachers this week (such a fun read-aloud), and I was so happy to find Santa Bruce waiting for me at the library that same day.