Meet Me at the Museum was a recommendation on the Modern Mrs. Darcy podcast and the choice my mother and I made for the epistolary novel category of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, which we are completing together this year. I was looking for a readalike for 84 Charing Cross Road or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Meet Me at the Museum isn’t exactly that, but there is something similar in its tone, pacing, and wistful optimism. It is a gentle and quiet book in which not that much happens, but through connection and letters, lives are transformed. The plot is simple: Tina Hopgood, a farmer’s wife in England, writes to the curator of the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark to inquire after an exhibit. He writes back, and they strike up a correspondence through which they share observations about their daily lives as well as stories of their pasts. I read it slowly, as it didn’t seem like the kind of book you need to rush through.
It must be the week of gentle books, because here is another one. Saving Winslow is the story of a boy who adopts a sickly newborn donkey that no one else thinks will survive. It’s a heartwarming and uplifting story, so I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that the donkey not only survives but thrives. This is one of those Sharon Creech books where the characters seem more symbolic than fully realistic, and normally that bothers me, but somehow it works better for me when the plot focuses on an animal. It’s a charming story with enough secondary drama through some of the secondary characters to keep the pages turning.
And now for gentle book number three: Katie O’Neill’s Aquicorn Cove. I am just the slightest bit obsessed with her earlier graphic novel, The Tea Dragon Society, and Aquicorn Cove shares some of the themes and character types that made Tea Dragon so memorable. Again there is a focus on tradition and old ways that preserve rather than exploit the natural world. Again there are strong family relationships and characters that confound stereotype. There is a stronger environmental theme here, as well as a thoughtful and sensitive exploration of grief.
Son of the Mob was my latest read-aloud with my son, and it’s Gordon Korman at his best–a clever hook (reluctant Mafia son Vince falls in love with FBI daughter Kendra), plenty of funny dialogue, and a page-turning plot. I’ve got exactly three accents I can pull off when I do read-alouds: robot, pirate, and wise guy. It’s always tricky when there’s more than one special accent needed in a book. One pirate, sure, but a whole ship of them? That’s hard. I felt like I was channeling my inner Jim Dale to manage not one but five different Long Island-accented character voices for this book! I don’t think my son even noticed, but at least I was impressed by my own performance.
I read this a couple of days before the Caldecott announcements, and while I loved it, I never ever would have picked it as a Caldecott contender. I saw it on only one or two Mock Caldecott lists, so it seems that it was a surprise all around. (Big kudos to the teacher and elementary class who not only included Rough Patch in their study but also selected it as an Honor book!) I always like a surprise Caldecott, and I think this is a strong title and especially interesting in its use of white space that almost pauses the story.
Fox the Tiger won the Geisel Award, and I was very pleased to be introduced to this new-to-me series. I think these early readers must be so hard to write, and this one manages to be clever, funny, smart, and even convey a message about being yourself.
Tiger Vs Nightmare was a Geisel Honor, and it’s one thing I rarely say about a Geisel: gorgeous. Those panels depicting Tiger’s nightmares are a wow. I love the unexpected plot twists here.
A different King and Kayla title won a Geisel Honor, and while I’m waiting for that book to come in from the library, I checked out King & Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code. I hope all of the books in the series are as good as this one, because this one was hilarious. The story is narrated by the long-suffering King, who loves his humans even though they’re clearly a bit dim and can’t ever understand what he’s trying to communicate to them. He solves the case right away and then has to watch the humans bumble through the clues. Really clever writing by Dori Hillested Butler.