This week on my blog, I wrote about the last class of the semester in my Methods course, gave my Methods students some advice for continuing their professional development, and used the Internet for what it’s really made for: posting cat photos. I also shared my favorite online articles of the week in Sunday Salon.
Paul Janeczko collects some great poems in The Place My Words Are Looking For. Some poems are accompanied by a photo of the poet and a brief piece of autobiographical or reflective writing. There are a few silly-rhymey poems that are more appropriate for little kids (or for readers who like silly-rhymey poems, which I don’t), but for the most part, this is a collection that’s perfect for all readers, though perhaps especially well-suited for middle or high school. I discovered a couple of new poets whose work I really like (Jim Daniels and Siv Cedering) and was inspired to purchase a collection of Paul Zimmer’s poetry (which I’m reading right now).
I decided to reread Number the Stars since I put it on the syllabus for my Children’s Literature course next semester. It’s a bit of an odd Newbery, I think. I understand why it won and why it continues to be popular, but I don’t think it’s as rich, complex, and nuanced as many other Newberys I’ve read. There is something a bit thin to me about the story, but it’s hard for me to put my finger on what it is. The setting and characters never quite feel true to me. But I still think it’s a good book for this particular course.
Lenore Look’s Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things is also back on the syllabus for Children’s Lit. I read it aloud to my older son this week, and we really enjoyed it. I love Look’s writing and I really love LeUyen Pham’s illustrations.
Little Red Writing, written by Joan Holub and illustrated by the incomparable Melissa Sweet, is quite clever. I previewed it and decided it was going to be too difficult for my older son to follow (so much vocabulary he doesn’t know), so I read it by myself, and I did have a hard time imagining any but the most precocious children enjoying it. I think I will have to try it out on him after all, just to see.
I simply loved Rebecca Dudley’s wordless picture book, Hank Finds an Egg. A sweet story with some mesmerizing pictures.
We continued working our way through the Caldecotts with Juliet Kepes’s 1953 Honor Book, Five Little Monkeys. Yeah. I don’t know what to say about this one except we read it. The monkeys are super weird looking. The story is super anti-climactic and also weird. The fact that it has a quagga in it did redeem it somewhat.
We also read Salt, written by Harve Zemach and illustrated by Margot Zemach. That was another well, we read it book. I did like the illustrations, but the story, an adaptation of a Russian tale, leaves something to be desired.
Daredevil by Meghan McCarthy tells the true story of Betty Skelton, who led an absolutely fascinating life: learning how to fly an airplane and becoming a stunt pilot, then racing cars, then training to become an astronaut. The boys were riveted by the end notes as well–and especially by the description of Betty’s sparkly gold Corvette with solid gold buckles.
What a wonderful book! Papa’s Mechanical Fish, written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov, tells the almost true story of Lodner Phillips, an inventor whose inventions never quite work. Phillips becomes obsessed with building the first submarine, but his first few tries are spectacular failures. Told from the point of view of his daughter, whose questions also provide the inspiration for his inventions, this lively story captured the imaginations of both my boys and provided a wonderful example of FAIL as first attempt in learning.