Visit Teach Mentor Texts to participate in this weekly meme or to see what others have been reading.
I read Octavia Butler’s vampire novel, Fledgling, for a class I’m co-teaching on Vampires & Wizards in Film, TV, and Literature. I can’t say that I enjoyed the book or found it particularly entertaining as I was reading it. The premise is promising: a ten-year-old African-American girl finds herself naked in the forest, craving flesh and blood, more than capable of killing a deer with her bare hands, and unable to remember anything that’s happened to her. Although there is a lot of action in this novel, there is very little suspense, mostly, I think, because of the matter-of-fact tone of Shori’s first-person narration which reads more like the driest of dry news reporting: and then this happened, and then this happened. But the more I thought about the book and what I think Butler was trying to do, the more I appreciated it. There is an interesting reworking and rethinking of slave narratives here, told from the perspective of the master, who happens to be an African-American female child. The novel is quite suggestive and provocative on issues of sexuality, race, and power. Ultimately, I’m not sure it really works as a novel because it just isn’t that engaging (or wasn’t for me or anyone else who read it in the class), but we had a great discussion about it and I would teach it again.
I have mixed feelings about Robin LaFevers’s Grave Mercy. Great concept (ninja nuns), interesting historical setting (14th-century Brittany), blah writing. I think Ana from BookSmugglers is right in everything she says in her review, and I did almost stop reading several times. In the end, though, I’m glad I persisted, because I do think the story gets better toward the end. I might even pick up Book 2.
It’s Hilary McKay. Do I really need to say anything else???
This is my second time reading Page by Paige, which I included this semester on my syllabus for Adolescent Literature. I loved it even more the second time. It’s just the kind of story I like about being and becoming–in this case, an artist. Paige, newly transplanted to New York City from Virginia, buys a sketchbook, determined to start a regular practice as an artist. She sketches what she sees and even more importantly, what she feels. The art is frequently gorgeous: Gulledge comes up with rich concepts and metaphors to express Paige’s struggles and insecurities. It’s also a strong story about friendship, first love, and family, but I think what sets this graphic novel apart is its thoughtful exploration of what it means to be a creative person.
I also read several picture books this week:
My favorites were two rereads by authors I love, Cynthia Rylant and Marla Frazee. I never get tired of Mr. Putter and Tabby books (and neither do my kids!), and the illustrations in Boot and Shoe are genius. The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy was also surprisingly good, a clever sibling rivalry story.
What did you read this week?