On my blog this week, I shared:
- A round-up of some of my favorite online reading in Sunday Salon
- A Celebration post featuring recent cat photos
- My plan to participate in two more reading challenges
- A review of an excellent nonfiction picture book, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw
This week, I finished:
Gene Luen Yang’s Saints is the second volume in his two-volume graphic history of the Boxer Rebellion. It focuses on Vibiana, a Chinese girl who converts to Christianity and has visions of Joan of Arc. Boxers is one of my favorite books published in 2013, but Saints didn’t entirely work for me. As a stand-alone, I don’t think I would have found the story interesting, compelling, or perhaps even comprehensible if I hadn’t read Boxers first. And Vibiana is a difficult character to spend so many pages with. Bao, from Boxers, is a complex, mixed, but ultimately sympathetic character. Vibiana, by contrast, seems more one-dimensional and I found her very unsympathetic and annoying. I did like the way Yang brought the two stories together at the end.
The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award is one of my favorite Youth Media Awards because the winners and honor books are always so interesting, and the 2014 Honor book, The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, was no exception. This book, heavily illustrated with photos of Ohr, his family, and his pottery, provides just the right balance of biographical information, art history, and art analysis. It’s a quick and compelling read. I poured over photos of Ohr’s pottery. I loved some of his whimsical shapes and I especially loved the bisque look he experimented with.
Nate Powell is one of my favorite graphic novel illustrators, and his work in March: Book One, the story of Civil Rights activist and leader John Lewis, is really fine. The book’s structure depends perhaps a little too heavily on the device of having two children visit Lewis in the present day at his Congressional office and ask him questions about his past. His answers and his memories form the heart of the book. Book One focuses on his childhood on a sharecropping farm in Alabama, his dedication to church, his struggle to get an education, his meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and his non-violent desegregation work in Nashville. I thought this book captured better than perhaps any book I’ve ever read the challenge of non-violent protest. This is an excellent graphic novel that brings an important period in American history to life.
I liked Chris Barton’s nonfiction picture book, The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors, illustrated by Tony Persiani, but I didn’t love it. I had trouble understanding the science behind what the brothers were doing! I still don’t know how they created those colors.
My older son and I continued our Caldecott Challenge with four Caldecott Honor books.
I found a new-to-me Emily Gravett for us to read (yay! I love Emily Gravett!), but discovered that we’re well past the window for this kind of book at my house:
My son’s disgusted comment when I finished reading the book: “An adult wrote that?”
He didn’t find Jesse Klausmeier and Suzy Lee’s charming Open This Little Book very interesting either. I thought that the element of visual design might intrigue him, even if the story didn’t. But I was wrong! So I think I’m now on my own with books for very young readers.
He did like Cynthia DeFelice’s Old Granny and the Bean Thief, illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith, mostly, I think, because there is a talking cow patty. He still hasn’t outgrown his interest in all things poop, butt, and toiled-related.
For the Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge, we read Tito Puente, Mambo King, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Rafael Lopez. This is an excellent picture book biography for young readers, and we loved Lopez’s vibrant art.
My kids don’t get much device time at home, so they found the story line in Dot, written by Randi Zuckerberg and illustrated by Joe Berger, a bit perplexing. But I think it would be a good story for some kids (and their parents!). I really liked the way the meaning of words like tag and tweet changes as Dot puts away her devices and goes outside to play. The clunkiness of the final lines (“This is Dot. She learned a lot.”) nearly ruined the book for me, however.
I loved the story and the crazy illustrations in The Mixed-Up Chameleon by Eric Carle. I am still working on getting through all of Carle’s books.
Reading Goals Update:
Nerdbery Challenge: 0/12 books
#MustReadin2014: 4/15 books
YA Shelf of Shame Challenge: 0/12 books
Professional Development Reading Goal: 2/12 books
Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 21/100 books
Picture Book Reading Goal: 89/350 books
Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 7/100 books
YA Lit Reading Goal: 12/60 books
Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 5/12 books
Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 37/200