On the blog:
- A slice about the ALA Youth Media Awards announcements
I’ve been busy reading Newberys this week, as I hadn’t read the winner or two (only two?!) honor books. First up was the gold medal winner, Merci Suarez Changes Gears, which has been sitting on my shelf unread since it was first published. I’m grateful to have the Newbery push to get to it, because it’s really wonderful. There’s plenty to interest in the plot and a memorable setting in Florida, but this book is really all about character. Merci herself is a delight–funny, observant, curious, ambitious. And the secondary characters really shine–from Edna, the mean girl at school, to Lolo, her grandpa who is struggling with Alzheimer’s. When I started the book, I wondered why it had to be so long (trying to get through three Newberys quickly here), but by the end, I would have gladly read another hundred pages.
For those of you who are looking for a book idea, what about writing middle-grade or YA historical fiction set during World War I? I generally try to get my son out of his history textbook and into documentaries, picture books, or, occasionally, full-length history or historical fiction when I can, and a long road trip that coincided with the chapter on World War I seemed like the perfect time for a historical fiction audiobook. But I struggled to find anything written for kids or young adults (unless it was about the Christmas Day Truce. There are several good books about that.). I finally settled on Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, and while I found it overly plotted and sentimental, my son absolutely loved it. Like “maybe the best book I’ve ever read!” loved it. (It helped that the narrator was very good.) I always enjoy discovering new things about his reading interests and tastes. Interestingly, he’s had two “best books I’ve ever read” moments in the past few months, and both were emotional books about war.
Here is a book that shouldn’t have been remotely interesting to me but I could hardly put it down. Walkable City is one that Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs Darcy adores and plugs whenever she can. It took me awhile to decide to try it, because I didn’t think I had any interest in urban planning. (I live in western South Dakota, after all.) But Walkable City is deeply engaging, incredibly informative, and often very, very funny. Yes, it’s a book about how to make cities and cutesy downtown areas more walkable, but it’s also a book about how we can live better and more safely and how we can utilize public space more effectively and enjoyably.
The first thing that will strike you about The Lost Words is its size: it is massive, more like an atlas than a picture book. I have no idea how bookstores or libraries are going to shelve this thing. But they really must, because both words and art are extraordinary. This is a collection of acrostic poems written by Robert Macfarlane based on the forty or so nature words (many of them birds and animals) that were dropped from a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary. Jackie Morris contributes stunning realistic paintings.
What a bold and surprising book! Not at all what I was expecting from a picture book called The Funeral, but exactly what you would expect a child’s experience of a funeral to be like, especially when they barely know the person who has died.
With See Pip Flap, I’m rounding out my reading of the Geisel Award winners for 2019. I do not recommend reading this one out loud to the adults in your family who may cover their ears and begin making loud noises when you get to the page where you have to say the word flap a dozen or more times. Still, David Milgrim is able to do quite a lot in terms of telling a story with a severely limited vocabulary and set of sounds.