On my blog:
- A curation of last week’s online reading with several interesting links to ALA Youth Media Awards reactions
- A celebration of leapy cats, ALA Youth Media Awards, and picture book love
- Mini-reviews of several Orbis Pictus Awards winners
- A Top Ten list of Newberys I haven’t read yet
I had started The Crossover a couple of days before it won the Newbery (can I just say again how I admire the wonderfully bold choices of the 2015 committee?) and I finished it up right after the announcements were made. And I’m just so excited about this book. I love that verse novels are quick reads (so great for meeting book goal quotas at the end of the year!), but I often struggle with them as poetry. All too often, it feels like the author has simply decided to click the return key a whole bunch. The line breaks don’t seem intentional or meaningful. But The Crossover is a highly crafted, intentional, meaningful verse novel. And there’s a page-turning story about two brothers who are struggling to understand each other as they grow up, a wonderful family that always feels real, and a passion for a really great sport, basketball. I didn’t think Alexander was going to go where he did at the end (that was a lot of event to burden the reader with at the very end of a story), but though I was shocked by it, I wasn’t unsatisfied. This is a book that kids need, and now that it’s got the shiny gold stamp of approval on the cover, it’s a book that’s going to be placed in their hands.
I reread Gaston this week in the hopes that I would like it more. But I didn’t. I still think Christian Robinson’s art is fun, though nowhere near as distinguished as his work in Josephine or Last Stop on Market Street. The book has a really great cover. But DiPucchio’s writing often fell very flat for me. I’m still mystified by the popularity of this title.
Much as I love cute cat books, I don’t think I would have read I Am Pusheen the Cat if it weren’t for The Hub Reading Challenge. This book was named a Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers title. And quick it is: I think I read the whole book cover to cover in about 6 minutes. Apparently Pusheen is one of the Internet’s most famous cats. Not only does she have a website: she has merchandising. There are Pusheen calendars, stuffed animals, pencils, cards, even hoodies. Since I love the Internet and I love cats and I especially love cats on the Internet, I’m not quite sure how it is that I don’t know about Pusheen. But there you go. This book is cute, and there are some very funny moments. It’s a collection of Belton’s web comics and gifs featuring Pusheen (with appearances later in the book by Stormy, another cat). You can view some of the comics on the most popular posts page on Belton’s website. Just remove the jiggly bits and you’ve basically got the book. Pusheen is pretty cute: she’s fat and fluffy and lazy and Belton gets quite a bit of expression out of very simple shapes and designs.
Last Stop on Market Street is picture book perfection! Matt de la Pena’s lovely words find just the right artist to express them in Christian Robinson. I loved this book. It’s a fairly quiet story: a boy and his grandma take the bus on a Sunday afternoon. But there is so much more going on in the language and the illustrations. It’s really a story about finding beauty, connection, and meaning in unlikely places, about paying attention, about being fully present.
Lenore Look’s Brush of the Gods is the story of Wu Daozi, a great Chinese painter who lived in the eighth century. Young Daozi can’t seem to follow the rigid rules of calligraphy; when he follows his own path, he creates paintings so vivid and real that they come to life. Or do they? A lovely title about art and inspiration, about artistic vision and perseverance, energetically illustrated by Meilo So.
The newest Mr Putter and Tabby title won a surprise Geisel Honors last week, and after reading it, I’m even more surprised. Mr Putter and Tabby is my all-time favorite early reader series, and Mr Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea is one of my all-time favorite books. The writing in that book is exquisite. The writing in Mr Putter and Tabby Turn the Page is not exquisite. I feel ridiculous to nitpick about Rylant’s use of coordinating conjunctions to transition through the plot and the page turns, because that seems so minor. But I was brought up short three times turning the page and finding an out-of-place “but” or “so” to start a sentence when there should have been no conjunction or the conjunction should have been “and.” There is a certain magic to the best Mr Putter and Tabby titles, and I didn’t feel it here. This felt like the 23rd entry in the series. Is it a nice story? Sure. Should you read it if you’re a Mr Putter and Tabby fan? Absolutely.