I missed last week’s reading post because it was the first day of classes, and the first week of school is insane, no matter how prepared you are. I was disappointed to miss because I had actually finished something besides picture books. So this week will catch up two weeks of reading.
Karen Hesse is one of my favorite children’s authors. I often include Out of the Dust on the syllabus for my Children’s Lit course, and Music for Dolphins is one of my all-time favorite novels. (Bring the Kleenex!) Phoenix Rising was due back at the library; I hadn’t read it and decided I didn’t have time for it right now. But then I opened it up to the first page, intending to read just a paragraph or two to get a sense of what it was about before returning it–only to get hooked and end up reading the whole book in an afternoon. It’s about the aftermath of a nuclear power plant accident on a small farming community in Vermont. I loved the setting and found the story compelling.
You know a book by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon has to be good, and Odd Duck is. I love reading books to my kids about how awesome it is to be different and do your own thing. My oldest son is definitely an individual, and he appreciated the message of this story. Also, it just makes me happy to read books by Cecil Castellucci. First of all, they’re really good (everyone needs to read The Queen of Cool right now) and second of all, she’s really, really nice and super nerdy cool.
I am still not quite sure what to think about Heaven. I wanted to love this book as much as I love another novel by Johnson, The First Part Last. But I didn’t. I found it hard to get a handle on the characters or setting. Often, the story felt like it was taking place in the 1960s, but plenty of contemporary references made it clear that it’s not supposed to be a historical novel. But there’s something very nostalgic, even old-fashioned, about it.
I listened to Clockwork Angel on audio, read by the wonderful Jennifer Ehle. It’s a page-turner, but I’m really not sure if I’ll read more in the series. Clare’s great gift as a writer is in character creation, but then she stuffs her novels with so much plot the characters hardly have space to breathe. There were enough climactic scenes and epic battles to furnish three novels. I had the same problem with City of Bones. I still remember the interesting people in that novel years after I read it–but I also never continued with the series.
Even though this book is written by the object of my teacher girl crush, Penny Kittle, and even though the subtitle is “A Life in Teaching,” for some reason (the cover?) I thought The Greatest Catch was a childhood memoir, and childhood memoirs kind of bore me. So it’s been sitting on my shelf for years, unread. But that’s okay, because that meant I got to read it for the first time last week, and it was wonderful. It’s a collection of teaching stories, of the “what the teacher learned” variety. I always feel like my own high school teaching career was too long ago to write about with any detail and sharpness, but Kittle’s book convinces me otherwise. The piece I wrote yesterday, “First Day,” was inspired by this book. What I find interesting about Kittle’s essays from a writer’s standpoint is how she balances reflection and story. I couldn’t get that right at all in “First Day,” so I chucked the reflection and wrote the story, but now it’s missing something essential. So I will keep working on it.
Paris In Love has been my bedtime read for about a month now. It shouldn’t take anyone else that long to read because it’s engaging and fun, but I’ve been very tired at night and haven’t been reading for very long. This turned out to be the perfect book for reading in 5- or 10-minute increments before falling asleep, since it’s a travel memoir written almost like a series of Facebook status updates: little paragraphs of observations, vignettes, dialogue. I’m rather fascinated by James–a Shakespeare scholar (her scholarship is published under her real name, Mary Bly) and prolific best-selling romance novelist. As someone who finds it difficult to even keep up regularly with my blog, I find Bly’s management of herself and her different full-time jobs (parent, academic, novelist) quite impressive, and even though I haven’t read a romance novel since 1988 or so, I think I’m going to check out one of her romance novels.
Thanks to Carrie Gelson, I have finally remedied my Eve Bunting Children’s Lit Shelf of Shame. I have several Bunting books on request from the library right now, and Fly Away Home is the first one I was able to get my hands on. And what a good one it is! Beautiful language and a heartfelt story about a homeless dad and his son who live at the airport. My oldest son liked this one so much, he wanted me to read it twice.
Just finished reading Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie to my kids: huge success. So grateful for my PLN where I constantly discover new books.
Ira Sleeps Over showed up on one of the #pb10for10 lists a couple of weeks ago. Another huge success as a read-aloud. I loved the Lyle stories when I was a child and had no idea Waber had written other things. What a great discovery!
Both of my kids declared Infinity and Me to be “weird.” They are very literal children, and they are also both English Language Learners who don’t have enough command of abstract vocabulary and concepts at this point to appreciate this book. But I loved it, and the illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska are especially fine.
Those Shoes was another #pb10for10 find and just the book for my oldest son, who is deeply neurotic about shoes. This book got him right where he lives in many different ways.
And finally, another #pb10for10 find, Alice McLerran’s Roxaboxen, a powerful story about imagination and memory. This is one I’d like to use in my classes.
There were many other excellent picture books we read over the past couple of weeks but these are the highlights. Hope everyone has a wonderful week of reading!