On my blog:
- A curation of some of the best online resources from last week
- A celebration of old dogs, old cats, and fantasy football
- A review of Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney’s excellent nonfiction title, Sit-In
- A slice of life modeled after Amy Krouse Rosenthal
This is my second time reading Gareth Hinds’s superb graphic novel adaptation of Beowulf, which I assign to my British Literature class. There is so much to discuss, and the art is exquisite. Hinds uses different artistic techniques and media for the three different sections of the poem. He perhaps overemphasizes the superheroics of the poem (the battle scenes go on and on!), but he also conveys the poem’s tension between pagan and Christian values and its elegiac treatment of heroism, warrior culture, and the epic itself. Bonus: there’s no nudity! Thank you, Gareth Hinds, for creating an adaptation that high school teachers can use.
Cece Bell’s middle-grade graphic novel memoir, El Deafo, is every bit as good as everyone has been saying it is. Bell loses her hearing after contracting spinal meningitis. For a time, she goes to a special school for deaf children, but when her family moves, she is enrolled in public school. Bell brilliantly captures what it’s like to be different, to long for that one true friend, to long to fit in.
I finally read a Newbery book this year! And ok, it’s an honor and not a gold medal winner, but I’m counting it. It fits my particular version of the Nerdbery Challenge, which is to read the gold medal winners from 1922-today as well as the Honor Books from 1990-today. My 2014 reading goal for this challenge was 12 books, and I am woefully behind, though if I give myself permission to catch up on recent Newbery winners and honor books I’ve missed, I think I could finish the challenge fairly quickly and painlessly. I’m still not sure how anyone completes the gold medal Newbery challenge in a calendar year without losing their will to read because there are so many bad books! But back to Elijah of Buxton which is NOT a bad book. In fact, it’s a very good book. In fact, it’s such a good book that as I was listening to it (brilliantly narrated on audio by Mirron Willis) I found myself arguing with the Newbery committee that awarded it a mere honor status. What other book published in that year could possibly have been better than Elijah of Buxton? Then I went to check the awards list and saw that Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! won that year, and I really can’t argue with that. Say with you will about Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, it has to be the most distinguished book published that year (and one of my personal favorite Newberys–though I have yet to recommend it to anyone else). So, 2008 Newbery Committee members? You totally got it right.
Elijah of Buxton introduced me to a place I didn’t know about: Buxton, Canada, a settlement for freed and escaped slaves. Elijah is the first child in the settlement who was born free, and he doesn’t let you forget it. As always, Christopher Paul Curtis is a genius at creating strong voices for his characters and a genius at mixing funny with tragic. I laughed, I cried, and I did not ever want it to end.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I have a pit bull, Roxy. Roxy’s happy disposition, loving acceptance of all people and cats (she’s a bit more selective about dogs, though mellowing in her old age), cartoon features (big concrete block head, tiny wide-spaced eyes, absurd musculature), perpetual wriggle, and Velcro-like attachment to her people are very fine qualities in a dog, and as Ken Foster’s I’m a Good Dog makes clear, typical features of the breed. The only thing dangerous about Roxy is her tail, which whips around constantly in excitement and happiness. Foster’s book is a wonderful introduction to this special breed, full of great photos and heartfelt stories of family dogs, therapy dogs, working dogs, and rescue dogs.
I bought Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer’s The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny) to donate to my son’s reading classroom library, but of course I had to read it first. Krull and Brewer tell the chronological story of The Beatles’ rise to fame. The focus is how they used humor to keep them going both in their early years of rejection and in the later years of rather frightening Beatlemania. Stacy Innerst’s illustrations are quirky and amusing.
I loved D.B. Johnson’s Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, based on an incident from Henry Thoreau’s life. Henry and a friend decide to go to Fitchburg, a town thirty miles away. Henry decides to walk; his friend decides to work to earn enough money for a train ticket. The friend does make it there first (though not by long), but Henry has the much more meaningful day as he explores the natural world and finds himself enriched by his experiences. I never thought I would say this, but D.B. Johnson’s picture books make me want to read Walden (which occupies a central spot on my Shelf of Shame).
Tuesday Tucks Me In tells the true story of Tuesday, a service dog, and Luis Montalvan, a war veteran suffering from PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). The author and photographer take us through a day in Tuesday’s life as he helps Luis with his daily tasks, navigates the city and subway with him, gets some playtime, and settles down to sleep. Tuesday himself gets to narrate his day, and he presents Luis’s struggles in a child-friendly way. This is an excellent introduction to a very tough subject (PTSD and the effects of war on soldiers) and definitely a story that tugs on the heartstrings. Montalvan has also written a memoir for adults, which I’m now interested in reading. Given that the government can’t even provide adequate medical care for returning soldiers (read David Finkel’s devastating Thank You For Your Service for more on that), I suppose it’s too much to hope that more veterans suffering from PTSD could get service dogs. But this story shows what an incredible difference a service dog can make.
Nerdbery Challenge: 1/12 books
#MustReadin2014: 8/15 books
YA Shelf of Shame Challenge: 5/12 books
Professional Development Reading Goal: 6/12 books
Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 84/100 books
Picture Book Reading Goal: 514/350 books
Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 56/100 books
YA Lit Reading Goal: 30/60 books
Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 21/12 books
Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 121/200