The Week in Reading #imwayr 5/11/20

On the blog:

In reading:

My new favorite professional development book! I’m going to try to write a longer review later this week, but briefly: Dr. Muhammad introduces the Historically Responsive Literacy Framework she developed to address ongoing inequity and racism in the education of Black children. The Framework has four parts–Identity, Skills, Intellect, and Criticality–and Dr. Muhammad argues that our curriculum and pedagogy must be designed to incorporate all four aspects of the framework. There is a lot of interesting history here as well, as her framework is grounded in and emerges from a study of the robust practices of nineteenth-century Black literary societies. This is really a vital book for teachers to read and be guided by.

Of course I bought this Rebecca Stead novel the day it was published–and then it sat unread on my shelves. But I’m glad I didn’t get around to it then, because it was such a treat to read now. I was curious what others readers made of it, and I do understand the criticisms about the chapters written in second-person that withhold the identity of the character they’re about. But I’m such a fan of Stead that I’m willing to go wherever she wants to take me in a novel.

Wow. I read Pet in one sitting, which I never have the attention span to do. But I could not put it down. The writing, the concepts, the characters, the world… I love that this was published as YA. I feel like it suggests so many possibilities for what YA could be and do. I knew basically nothing going into this novel, except that it had won a gazillion awards and Jason Reynolds recommended it on one of my favorite podcasts, The Stacks. And I’m glad I knew nothing. I don’t think plot summaries can do any kind of justice to this unusual story. And now I need to get my hands on Akwaeke Emezi’s other books, both novels for adults.

I would prefer more nonfiction picture books to be #ownvoices, which this is not, but Barb Rosenstock and Claire A. Nivola are a dream team of author and illustrator, and this book about Indian artist Nek Chand is beautiful and so incredibly interesting. The fold-out spread with photographs of Chand’s “hidden world of art” is so powerful. I always know I’ve read a good nonfiction picture book when I finish reading and have to run straight to my computer to learn more, and that’s what happened here. I am very grateful to now know about Chand and his art.

Thirty Minutes Over Oregon is another nonfiction picture book introducing me to a history I knew nothing about. It was news to me that the Japanese dropped bombs in Oregon during World War II! This book is really more about the surprising and touching relationship that pilot Nobuo Fujita develops with the town of Brookings, Oregon, and it centers themes of reconciliation and forgiveness. Which is nice and all. It’s definitely a feel good story. But I felt like a lot is being erased to create this particular narrative, and I couldn’t help but compare these small forest fires that quickly extinguished, hurt no one, damaged nothing, with atomic bombs that devastated entire cities and annihilated hundreds of thousands of civilians. I did love Melissa Iwai’s illustrations.

A reread for me, and just as engaging the second time around. Gorgeous art and animal poems that entirely worked for me (even though there is rhyme! But it’s unpredictable and often surprises and it’s never sing-songy and it always enriches the meaning. Apparently when rhyme does all of that, I love it!) But in keeping with my #ownvoices wonderings this week, I did ask a lot more questions on this rereading than I did the first time I read it. What does it mean for a white English-speaking woman, who describes herself in the author’s note as not a poet, to publish a bilingual book with Spanish-language poems? Where does cultural appropriation fit in here? I don’t know where I land on those questions. When there is such a need for #ownvoices titles and a limited number of poetry picture books published each year and an even more limited number of bilingual poetry picture books published each year, I wonder about which poets and artists might be silenced or overlooked so that a white author and illustrator gets to do this project. I love these poems, and I love these pictures. But I do have questions.

Amy Ludwig Vanderwater is just so wonderful. Forest Has a Song was also a reread this week, and I thought it was such a good idea for a book of children’s poetry. All aspects of the forest find life here. I began to think of mentor text possibilities, inviting students to write their own sequence of poems about their place. And Robin Gourley’s illustrations are so delicate and charming.

Up this week: I’m rereading possibly the most important book about teaching that I’ve ever read, bell hooks’s Teaching to Transgress. I started Sara Zarr’s and Tara Altebrando’s YA novel, Roomies, which is fine and mildly engaging. I still have a few picture books from the library. And I need to do a deep dive into grammar because I’m teaching an online summer course in Grammar & Linguistics that just started today.

What are you reading?






9 responses to “The Week in Reading #imwayr 5/11/20”

  1. Juliana Ellington Avatar
    Juliana Ellington

    I’m so glad you mentioned Nek Chand because I have never heard of him (not that weird since my art education is pretty shallow). I also looked him up online, and his work in the Secret Garden is just amazing!!

  2. cweichel Avatar

    I am a Rebecca Stead fan and will read and laud everything she writes.
    Thanks for the pulitzer link. I’ve bookmarked Nikole-Hannah Jones’ article and plan to get back to it sometime later today.
    I just put a hold on PET as an audiobook. I hope it works in this format.

  3. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    I fully admit I struggled mightily with Goodbye Stranger, but I still love Rebecca Stead. Pet is one of those books that I want to get to, but just haven’t been able to get it to the top of my TBR pile yet.

  4. lindabaie Avatar

    I’ve read others who are praising Cultivating Genius, am glad to read about other ‘education’ books coming out that are new voices, at least new to me! For some reason, I don’t remember that Stead book at all, so have bookmarked it, Elisabeth. I remember loving The Secret Kingdom & Amy LV’s Forest Has A Song. Chand’s life was amazing and a new story for me. Thanks for all! Good luck with the grammar work!

  5. Completely Full Bookshelf Avatar
    Completely Full Bookshelf

    These books all sound great! I’m so glad you enjoyed Goodbye Stranger—I didn’t enjoy it on my first read (especially those second-person chapters), but it grew on me, and I now love it and have reread it at least five times (which might be too many)! Pet sounds intriguing, especially considering all the medals on the cover! I also appreciate your thoughts about Flutter & Hum. Thanks for the great post!

  6. Kellee Moye Avatar

    Cultivating Genius sounds like it is going to be my PD book this summer. It sounds inspiring and needed!
    Secret Kingdom and Forest are both PBs I’ve enjoyed!
    I haven’t read the others yet; thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Happy reading this week 🙂

  7. Shaye Miller Avatar

    Absolutely agree about plot summaries not doing justice for PET. I was astonished with what Emezi did that that story. I also knew nothing about the Oregon bombing and was so glad to find a local copy of Thirty Minutes Over Oregon. And I just checked out Goodbye Stranger from Overdrive, so we’ll see if I can squeeze that one in before they make me give it back. My middle grade stack feels overwhelming right now, but it’s been a while since I’ve read Rebecca Stead and I’ve heard good things about this one! Thanks for these shares, Elisabeth!

  8. aaroncleaveley Avatar

    Like you I was surprised about bombings in Oregon during WWII and I knew very little about Pet. I enjoyed reading about the other books here. I was a fan of Goodbye Stranger. It is not my favourite Rebecca Stead book, but that is too high a bar for most books to jump. Thanks for the post!

  9. Crystal Brunelle Avatar

    I am definitely interested in your PD books Cultivating Genius and Teaching to Transgress. Thanks for sharing and I appreciate your comments about the erasure of a narrative in Thirty Minutes Over Oregon.

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