On the blog:
- A few haiku found in quotations from NCTE
- A slice about taking photos of cats (with lots of photos of cats)
- A prairie haiku
- My son and husband also write haiku with me
- Two haiku inspired by waiting in the hall during a wrestling match
- The inevitable writer’s block haiku
- A haiku about the least haiku-y thing I do: grading
I did somehow keep up with my daily haiku challenge during this busiest of weeks, but my reading life did take a hit, as I often had other things scheduled during my normally sacred daily reading time. I still managed to finish a few things.
My favorite book of the week was Last Pick, a post-apocalyptic middle-grade/YA graphic novel. It’s the first of the series and does end on a cliffhanger that made me extremely eager for Book 2, but it still feels fully developed as a story. Aliens have invaded and removed everyone ages 16-65, leaving only the young and the old to fend for themselves. The relationship between twins Sam and Wyatt is realistic and well developed, and both are fascinating characters (Wyatt is autistic). They are quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) rebelling against harsh alien rule and finding ways to undermine alien authority. Sam’s daring exploits make her a target. There’s a good balance between action scenes and more introspective moments that let us know what it’s like to live in this dystopian world. The art is also good.
I admired The Joe Shuster Story for its meticulous research (it includes lengthy and interesting endnotes) and thoughtful presentation of the story of the writer and artist behind Superman. Because even though the subtitle here is “The Artist Behind Superman,” it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the more mild-mannered Joe Shuster when writer Jerry Siegel is around. You won’t learn much more than the bare details about their personal lives, but you will learn every possible detail about their business dealings with the companies they worked for and specifically how they lost the copyright for Superman and spent years fighting to get it back. Because so much time is spent on corporate wheelings and dealings, contracts, and financial details, it’s a little difficult to figure out the audience for this book. I suspect this is a book with more appeal for adults and for teens who are very interested in the history of the comics industry.
Cottons: Secret of the Wind is another first volume in a series, and it’s a stupendous looking book (gorgeous, gorgeous art), but it didn’t work as well for me in telling a story that felt fully developed and somehow complete, or at least complete enough given that it’s the start of a series. The author hits the plot and themes hard, perhaps at the expense of character development, and the plot and themes are pretty dark. Factory labor conditions, weaponized art, potential enslavement of one group by another. This isn’t really a graphic novel for children. So little is resolved that I felt quite surprised to get to the last page. Unlike most first volumes, this one ends on a minor note rather than a cliffhanger, and perhaps that is what leads to the unresolved feeling. Comparisons to Watership Down abound in online reviews, and I don’t think that’s too far off, in that Watership Down also had some dark themes of survival and industrialism/”progress” vs. nature. But the characters in Watership Down are much more compelling and delightful than the characters in Cottons.
This is a time when I’d really like to have some children to try a book out on. I found myself a bit bored by Johnny Boo and the Ice Cream Computer, but I’m guessing that children might respond quite differently. When I think of the early reader series I like best, there is a great deal of kid appeal (which Johnny Boo has) as well as something for adults. It’s a very difficult format to perfect, I think, as the needs of the primary audience are so specific, and adding those little ironic moments that Mo Willems and Dav Pilkey are so good at does risk confusing or disengaging the primary audience. I would say that Johnny Boo has less to engage the adult reader than some of the other early reader series I love. But it does have a crazy pastel color palette that I enjoyed, and I could appreciate its good silly fun.
I only managed to read one picture book this week, but it is a very worthwhile one. Francesca Sanna wrote and illustrated one of my favorite PBs from last year, The Journey. Me and My Fear also features an immigrant child’s story and focuses on the fear and anxiety that we all feel and how those fears may grow. Wisely, Sanna doesn’t suggest that we should or even could eliminate fear, only that we must work not to let it get too big. Thoughtful, gentle, and comforting.