I was so excited to discover Ann Cameron’s The Stories Julian Tells, the first in a series of chapter books for young readers starring African-American characters who are regular, everyday people (as opposed to great heroes opposing slavery or fighting for Civil Rights. Again, not that there’s anything wrong with books about slavery and Civil Rights. But I don’t want to give my two African sons the impression that the only time American writers feature black characters in books is when they want to write about slavery and the struggle for Civil Rights). We’ve been reading a lot of new series lately, and this is definitely one of my new favorites. The characters are interesting and quirky, the story engaging, and the writing is quite strong. Our favorite chapter was about the catalog cats: Julian tells him gullible little brother, Huey, that catalogs are places where you get cats, lots and lots of cats. (We have six cats, and all of us enjoy books that features lots and lots of cats.) Huey is devastated when the gardening catalog he’s been waiting for arrives and there are no cats anywhere. I wouldn’t have solved the problem as their father chooses to solve it, but my sons and I were quite satisfied by how things turned out. (The illustrations are also great.)
I was significantly less delighted by Captain Awesome vs Nacho Cheese Man. This was one tedious read-aloud for me. My kids, however, seemed highly entertained, and in fact promised to bring home the rest of the series this week. Oh, joy. While there’s nothing exactly wrong with this book, I didn’t find it special in any way. It did seem to have plenty of elementary-school boy appeal. I think this is one series I may have to ask my husband to read to them. Poor man, he only gets to read the books I don’t want to read. (Froggy, anyone?)
We’ve been on a bit of a George & Martha kick lately. I’m surprised by how much my kids enjoy these stories. My older son, especially, is a very literal child who likes to have all the dots connected in a story, but for some reason, he loves George & Martha, and I am so glad. I can see the wheels turning as he tries to make inferences and figure things out. My younger son laughs uproariously at these stories, while my older one sits with his face scrunched up, trying to figure out what’s funny. He never laughs, but he always asks for more George & Martha. Weird!
What a wonderful book! The Wednesday Surprise has a twist at the end which surprised all of us, and it resonated especially with my older son, a struggling reader who sometimes says he believes he will never learn how to read. We are really enjoying our journey through Eve Bunting’s picture books. Thanks again, Carrie!
Believe it or not, our first Scaredy Squirrel book! Looking forward to reading more.
Finally, My Happy Life (written by Rose Lagencrantz and illustrated by Eva Erickson) is a book I’d never heard of before spotting it on the shelf last week at the library. It’s about a little girl who counts her happy times when she can’t sleep at night. She remembers making a best friend at school and other small school incidents, the pain of having her friend move away, the happiness she finds in her relationship with her father, in apologizing when she hurts another kid at school, in getting two pet hamsters. It’s a quiet story, without a lot in the way of plot, though there is enough going on to keep a reader turning pages. We all enjoyed this story (especially the illustrations), and quiet, sensitive kids would probably enjoy it even more.
What have you been reading this week?