The blog continued to be busy last week as I write a poem every day for National Poetry Month. It’s been a week of forms: nonet, prose poem, elevenie, Pleiades. I also wrote about my new method of choosing books to read based on the color of their cover. Hey, whatever works.
One good thing about pandemic reading is that I have to read the books that are actually on my shelf, and it turns out that some real gems are waiting for me to finally get to them. I am sorry I waited so long to read Joyce Sidman’s biography of artist Maria Sibylla Merian, because it is perfection. It’s exquisitely designed as an object, which seems fitting for its subject, since she took such care to make sure that her own books were beautifully designed. It’s absolutely packed with examples of Merian’s art: insects and butterflies practically fly off the page. And the writing…. maybe poets always need to be the ones writing biographies. So many gorgeous sentences. And I loved how Sidman used the metaphor of the transformation of the butterfly through its life stages to describe the trajectory and direction of Merian’s life.
Malaka Ghraib’s I Was Their American Dream is an engaging exploration of identity, culture, and what it means to be an American and a child of immigrant parents. Big questions are centered here, but it’s a breezy feeling book, which makes it a quick, fun read but also means that some of the deeper questions and concerns get a superficial treatment. It’s a good title for a high school classroom library, though.
Jeanette Winter’s Sisters, a picture book biography of Venus and Serena Williams, did not work for me. I could not get past the stereotypical portrayal of the Williams’s neighborhood in L.A.–dirty, graffitied, with the constant sound of “gunfire” accompanying their workouts. Winter is trying to cover the Williams’s careers from childhood through adulthood in this book, which is a lot to cover in 32 pages and not much text. Does she really have enough space to mention gunfire TWICE?
This was a reread for me, and I think I found it even more charming the second time around. Since the rhymes were stretched across several pages, I found it a little more palatable than I usually find rhyme. Basically I could read each two-page spread and pretend there weren’t any rhymes, which worked so much better for me as a reader. VanDerwater’s text is simple but resonates, and Dylan Metrano’s cut paper illustrations are so beautiful. I thought it was quite clever to focus on common birds that children will be able to spot in their own environments.
What’s the plan for this week’s reading? Hopefully finishing the sci-fi novel I’ve been reading forever, making progress on Robert Macfarlane’s lush Underland (it’s big and fat and due back in the library in 2 weeks and it’s also orange-ish, which fits my current reading challenge), rereading Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and dipping into the stack of poetry picture books I had checked out for my students in anticipation of National Poetry Month. Sadly, I never got a chance to share any of these books with them, but I may as well read and reread myself since I have them here.