The weekly kidlit meme, It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, is co-hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. Visit their blogs to find out what others have been reading or link to your own blog.
I had a bad reading week and didn’t manage to finish anything—or even start anything new, even though I have a huge pile of books from the library right now that I really want to read. My usual reading routine was interrupted by lots of kitten play: during all the times when I’m usually reading, I was entertaining Frances. The other cats have more or less accepted that we now have a Frances kitten, and Abby is no longer contemplating killing her (in fact, Abby is now playing with her a couple of times a day), so she’s needing much less supervision when she’s out playing than she needed last week. I’m hoping that I’ll get more reading done this week.
But even though I haven’t made time to read for myself, I have made time to read with my son. We read a few dozen picture books over the week. We’ve been reading some favorite authors from my childhood: Arnold Lobel, Russell Hoban, James Marshall, Bernard Waber, Tomie DePaola. I’m surprised at how inconclusive and kind of bizarre some of the Lobel stories are. I like them a lot, but I don’t think my kids quite know what to make of them.
We read a few stinkers this week. When you’re trying to read 1000 picture books in one summer, you aren’t always that choosy about what you grab from the library. And also, when my kids pick out books, they often pick out recognizable series that aren’t necessarily quality children’s lit. I’ll read just about anything to them, but I do have a short list of series books I simply cannot tolerate and will not read: the Froggy books; the Clifford books; the Berenstain Bears books. My kids love some of these books, but my poor husband has to read them. (“Oh! Wasn’t that thoughtful of you to get a Froggy book! Dad loves Froggy stories! You need to save this book to read with him because he’d be soooo disappointed to miss out on Froggy’s Halloween!”) And to that list, I have now added any Amelia Bedelia book not written by Peggy Parish. I nearly lost my will to live while struggling through the 64 pages of Amelia Bedelia Talks Turkey.
But we also read some excellent books:
We’re rereading all of Cynthia Rylant’s Mr Putter and Tabby books, which is probably Temesgen’s and my favorite series for early readers. This week, we read Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea. It’s a quiet story of how the old man and the old cat found each other and the simple daily pleasures they enjoy together. There’s a page in it that brings tears to my eyes every time I read it: “Tabby loved Mr. Putter’s tulips. She was old, and beautiful things meant more to her.”
We read two books from my children’s lit shelf of shame this week. It’s embarrassing to admit this, but I had never read The Very Hungry Caterpillar before (and I teach a college-level course in children’s literature. I know, I know!). We all liked it very much. (We also read The Story about Ping, which was also pretty good.)
Ralph Tells a Story is a book I’m thinking about using in my freshman comp class this fall. I’ve never read picture books to them, but this is a wonderful story about a boy who thinks he doesn’t have any stories to write–and discovers that he has plenty.
We’re trying to read entire oeuvres by the best children’s authors. This week, we started on Tomie DePaolo. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of his (many!) books.
And then we have a new favorite, Paul Fleischman’s Matchbox Diary with absolutely incredible illustrations by Bagram Iboutilline. I read this book to Temesgen while he was eating lunch, and even though he had been very hungry when I started reading, he didn’t take a single bite while we were looking at the book. His review? “I liked that book too much to eat while you were reading!” A glowing endorsement from a teen appetite! Really powerful story, and I don’t even have words for how beautiful the art is. Temesgen wants to look at all the books Iboutilline has illustrated now, so I have to make a list and start making some requests at the library. Temesgen’s response to this story was really interesting to me, because it was clear that he appreciate this book on every level: the narrative, the art, the book itself as an aesthetic object. I love finding books that make Temesgen eager to read more, and I especially love it when a book as artful as Matchbox Diary does that. (As opposed to the usual kind of books recommended for “reluctant readers”—Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, that sort of thing.)