On the blog:
- Some links to online reading that stuck with me last week
- A celebration of book talks, soundtracks, and air kisses
- A list of 10 books about creativity for Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10
- Three TED Talk recommendations
- A Top Ten list of bookish problems
I also guest-blogged about one of my favorite books, The Day I Became an Autodidact, at Bookish Illuminations.
How I love Jason Reynolds’s debut novel, When I Was the Greatest, which recently won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. This is a young adult novel that does everything right–believable characters, sharp dialogue, compelling plot, richly developed setting. And voice. Especially voice. It’s a story about kids in a tough neighborhood, but there is also always a sweetness and hopefulness here. There is so much humor and warmth in this book, even as it addresses difficult situations. I especially loved the strong parents in this story–such a rarity in YA fiction. Neither of Ali’s parents is perfect, but they are working hard–in very different ways–to provide Ali and his little sister with a good home and strong values. Ali’s mom, Doris, is such a great character: she doesn’t have much actual “screen time” in the story, but her voice has gotten into Ali’s head to such a degree that he imagines what she’s going to say in every situation. Her influence is there on every page. She’s also the one who gets to save the day, and I really love it that Reynolds gives her that role and creates such a strong mother figure in this story. This is a book that kids need to read, and thanks to that crazy gorgeous cover, it will practically sell itself.
I’m glad I read In Real Life, but it fell flat for me. Anda, the main character, is a gamer who is recruited by a guest speaker at her school to join an online massive multiplayer game in an effort to get more girls playing. The gender and privilege issue is interesting but quickly dropped in favor of Doctorow’s real target: world economics. Anda discovers that real workers in China are paid to play the game and collect game gold, which is then sold for real money to wealthy western gamers who want to cheat and skip ahead in the game without going through the whole process to earn their levels. Anda begins chatting with one of these real-life Chinese workers and is appalled to learn of his working and living conditions. She urges him to collectivize and protest–which has disastrous results for him. I get what Doctorow is trying to do here, but in an effort to call attention to the plight of non-white workers, he falls into another stereotype trap: the white savior who tries to rescue and speak for the non-white oppressed person. This is a really tiresome narrative that further silences the oppressed. I appreciate a graphic novel with thematic ambition, but the characters are not well-developed, and the storyline often feels forced. Jen Wang’s artwork, however, is really strong–gorgeous coloring and memorable images, especially in the gaming sequences. In Real Life is a very quick read and will no doubt appeal to teens, but I found it problematic.
Ms. Marvel, the first comic in a new superhero series, is a delight. Kamala Khan, the daughter of Pakistani Muslim immigrants, is shocked to find herself with new superpowers. How did she get them? What does it mean? What’s she supposed to do with her superheroic self? And how is she supposed to balance saving the world with her parents’ strict curfew? There is some surprisingly rich thematic material here focused on gender, ethnicity, and culture, but it’s also a fun, funny, fast-paced adventure story.
Why did it take me so long to read Mark Pett’s exquisite wordless picture book, The Girl and the Bicycle? I’m going to have to agree with Carrie’s student who stuck a star on this book after their Mock Caldecott: “Not a winner but the best book ever.” Really, really good.
I have a feeling that Lizi Boyd’s Flashlight would reward a very slow, careful look to find all of the differences between spreads, but the story moved at an excruciatingly slow pace for me and I didn’t find the images interesting enough to want to linger.
So bittersweet! My son and I have finally finished reading all of the Mr Putter & Tabby titles. The plot of Mr Putter & Tabby Dance the Dance will be familiar to those who have read other titles in the series: Mrs Teaberry finds something exciting and new to do, Mr Putter tags along somewhat reluctantly, and Zeke is ultimately the star of the show. Now I really want to go back to the first book, Mr Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea, and read the whole series over again.