Thanks to Lorna at Not for Lunch, I got back to my Newbery Challenge this week. When I started this challenge late in 2012, I thought I could easily finish by late 2013. But given that I have spent almost no time in 2013 reading Newbery winners, this isn’t one I will come close to completing this year. My hope is that I can keep working away at it, perhaps trying to read 2-3 Newberys per month. That seems like a reasonable goal.
This week, I read Strawberry Girl. I posted my thoughts earlier in the week.
Lorna has also inspired me to start a Caldecott Challenge. I have read almost all but four of the winners since 1970, but almost none of the winners before 1970. I thought this might be a fun challenge to include my kids in, since my older son really likes trophies, champions, rings, medals, and shiny stickers. Things that win inspire him. He definitely notices when I bring home a book with a gold sticker on it. Neither one of them can quite learn the name of the award, however. So in our house, it’s called a “Caldecotter.” I have no idea why that’s easier for them to remember than Caldecott, but whatever. I would never be able to get my kids to sit still for a read aloud of pretty much any of the Newbery winners, but they consider themselves connoisseurs of the picture book, and I think they’ll be interested in reading all the Caldecotts.
A few picture book highlights from our week:
Anthony Browne is apparently obsessed with gorillas. We have now read three of his books, all of which are lavishly illustrated and feature gorillas. Voices in the Park is quite clever, telling the story of a trip to the park in four different voices. This is one I would definitely want to use in the elementary classroom to teach voice and point of view.
A Packet of Seeds, written by Deborah Hopkinson and beautifully illustrated by Bethanne Andersen, was exactly my kind of story. I love books about traveling West and settling on the prairie. I spent my childhood fantasizing about sod houses and wagons and buffalo and locusts (I read the Little House books way too many times). I never intended to live permanently in South Dakota, but there is a part of me that gets a thrill pretty much every day as I drive across the rolling plains to work. But back to the book at hand. This is an exquisite and sensitive story about a family who moves west. The mother suffers from depression, and her daughter gets the idea to create a garden to help her mother feel happier. Hoping to find more Deborah Hopkinson books this week at the library.
More Alex and the Cat, written by Helen V. Griffith and illustrated by Donald Carrick, is one I picked up on a whim at the library. It was first published in 1983, and I cannot find any link to supply for it, which is too bad, because it was quite a good story. Alex is your typical dopey dog–super enthusiastic and excitable–and his companion, the Cat, is your typical jaded cat. Griffith captures the dynamic between a cat and a dog who are friends (I am pretty sure my pit bull, Roxy, and my tuxedo cat, Wilhemina, have had very similar conversations), and Carrick’s illustrations are special. There’s a great scene where Alex decides he’s going to go through a phase of cat-chasing and the Cat disabuses him of this notion very quickly.
We also read Julie Sternberg’s chapter book, Like Bug Juice on a Burger, this week. In this book, Ellie goes to camp and finds herself very homesick. The story was fine, the writing good, but this book didn’t capture my interest in the way the first book in the series, Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, did. Not sure why we didn’t like it nearly as much. There was something special about Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie.
Then I finished two more books on my own:
David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary is a very clever but also moving study of the ups and downs of a romantic relationship. It is set up in dictionary form and uses definitions to tell a non-linear story about these two lovers. I read one review that described this book as “cute”. That doesn’t seem remotely accurate to me. The concept is kind of cute, I guess, but this is a raw and realistic story of love. David Levithan is the co-author of three of my all-time favorite YA books (Will Grayson, Will Grayson; Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist; and Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares); The Lover’s Dictionary is for adults.
I finished my audiobook reread of Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen of Attolia. So. Satisfying. If you haven’t read this series, get The Thief right now and start. I’m now listening to The King of Attolia, which is my favorite of the four books, so every commute is an absolute joy right now. The Queen of Attolia is an ambitious novel, and at times, for me, it gets bogged down in the larger politics and schemes of the world Turner so meticulously creates. At times, the plot focuses so exclusively on the movement of nations that the reader loses sight of the people and the stories that make that movement so compelling. Still, the final chapters are incredibly stirring and suspenseful, and I did enjoy the book more on this reread than I ever have before, I think.