It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 5/11/15

IMWAYR

Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to participate in the kidlit version of this weekly meme.

On the blog:

In reading:

roller girl

A graphic novel about roller derby? I’m in! And Roller Girl is every bit as delightful as the reviews would have you believe. I was expecting a fun, enjoyable story, which I got. What I wasn’t expecting was such a thoughtful look at the complexities of gender, gender roles, and identity. Jamieson is especially strong on friendship and mother-daughter relationships. The text and the graphic elements work together brilliantly to tell this story. It’s funny, sweet, and thought-provoking. One of my favorite books of 2015, and a really impressive debut.

displacement

Displacement is a travelogue by Lucy Knisley about a cruise she takes with her elderly grandparents. Her grandparents are seriously failing–to the point where it seems dangerous for them to travel. Knisley is anxious and stressed as she feels like she has sole responsibility for their safety and happiness on this trip, and her narrative shows just how challenging it is to keep her grandparents safe and happy. There is kindness and love in Knisley’s portrait of her grandparents, but there is also a sharp and dispassionate writer’s and artist’s eye observing and reflecting on this experience. I finished the book feeling a bit like I felt after reading Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?–though not wrung through the ringer in quite the way Chast’s book wrings you. Though there are moments of humor, Displacement is not an easy read. Knisley makes an interesting decision to close each chapter with excerpts from her grandfather’s World War II memoir. At first, I wasn’t sure where she was going with this: the contrast between her grandfather in his 90s and her grandfather the dashing and thoughtful war vet was so great. But I think that was the point. She’s looking for connections between the grandfather she knows now and the man he was long before he became her grandfather. Knisley is never heavy-handed with her philosophical musings, but this is a book that can’t help asking questions about how we should live.

blowout

I first fell in love with Denise Duhamel years ago when I was a high school teacher Googling lesson plans on teaching poetry. I came across Bill Moyers’s very good “Fooling With Words,” and there was Duhamel’s brutal “When You Forget to Feed Your Gerbil,” which still slays me. A little more Googling turned up “Snow White’s Acne” and her Barbie poems (be sure to read Buddhist Barbie). I love sharing these poems with high school students. “Wait, you can write poetry like this?!” Yes, you sure can. There is a clear autobiographical narrative thread to Blowout, which tells the story of the end of Duhamel’s marriage and its ugly aftermath. I always find Duhamel a brave writer, willing to turn a very critical eye on herself.

the boy who was raised as a dogBruce Perry’s The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook is a must-read for teachers and others who work with traumatized children. I had to read this book in short bursts with frequent breaks because the content is so difficult. Perry writes about some very extreme cases of child abuse and neglect. But he is always focused on what we can learn from these cases and from children’s capacity to heal. As the mother of a child who experienced serious trauma, I found this to be an incredibly hopeful book that helped me understand my son a little bit better and also understand why certain therapeutic interventions have worked so well with him. Perry makes some big arguments in this book about what children need from parents and other caregivers. The most interesting, to me, focused on the need for extended family.

My son and I continued our nightly picture book reading, and there were quite a few books that I enjoyed this week, but I’ll only highlight a few of my favorites.

by mouse and frog

A new book by Deborah Freedman is always cause for celebration. by mouse & frog is a delightful metafiction about a mouse who is trying to write and draw a story that keeps getting interrupted by the very exuberant Frog, who has clearly been highly influenced by his reading of children’s literature.

abuelo

I love Raul Colon’s art for Arthur Dorros’s Abuelo, which contrasts a boy’s outdoor adventures with his grandfather with the boy’s new life in the city, where his memories and the lessons he’s learned from his grandfather sustain him.

ladybug girl

I have no idea how I missed David Soman’s Ladybug Girl series until now, but I made up for it by reading four books in the series this week. They are often beautifully written with strong themes. Jacky Davis’s illustrations use white space very effectively, and the matching expressions on Ladybug Girl’s and Bingo’s faces are often hilarious.

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20 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 5/11/15

  1. Wow! So many good books this week. I really want to read Roller Girl–I’ve been hearing so many good things about it. One day, I want to go watch a roller derby, too. Blowout, By Mouse and Frog, and the Ladybug Girl books sound good, too!

  2. Roller Girl is such an amazing books on so many levels, as you have pointed out here. I dragged my partner off to a derby this weekend and we fell in love with it. It is so much fun! The boy who was raised as a dog sounds like a powerful read: one that I’m not sure I’m ready for yet. I have never heard of the Ladybug Girl series, but I’m going to track them down now. Thanks for letting us know about them. I love Deborah Freedman and since By Mouse & Frog isn’t in our library, I’ve added it to my shopping car. Sigh.
    PS Thanks for these fabulous links.

    • I love it that you were able to get to a roller derby this weekend! Your recent review made me move this one to the top of the pile, and I’m so glad I did. I know just what you mean about adding to the shopping cart when the library doesn’t have a book.

  3. I loved By Mouse & Frog. It made me giggle. I’ve also heard good things about Roller Girl. Thank you for sharing such a fun review.

    Your slice of life post made me cry. You are such a brave, powerful woman. Your passion for your son is palpable. Sending a big hug your way.

    • I just love Deborah Freedman. I don’t know if any book will ever be as great to me as Fish & Snail, but I also enjoyed Mouse & Frog. You will love Roller Girl, so be sure to get a copy of it. Just a wonderful graphic novel! Thanks for your comments about my slice of life. I love writing about my son!

  4. Ladybug Girl titles are so delightful – I agree. I think I should read this book about traumatized children. But I am sure it will require many brave breaths.

    • It’s a tough read, Carrie. I was thinking today that I might write a longer review of it because I’d really like to think more about his suggestions for helping children heal and explore how schools and teachers might implement some of these ideas.

  5. I too loved Roller Girl this week – and went to see a bout this past weekend as a result. Loved it. I adored Knisley’s Relish so will have to check out Displacement for sure!

    • I wish we had roller derby here in western SD! Of course, maybe we do and I just don’t know about it! Sounds super fun, though. Displacement is a bit on the slight side–for me, one to check out from the library rather than purchase to own. (Unlike Relish!)

  6. Fats, one of the GatheringBooks ladies swears by Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant. If Displacement is anything like it, then I am definitely in. I will have to find this graphic novel. I love this new sub-genre in graphic novels. It’s my first time hearing about the mother-daughter relationship in Roller Girl – sounds like a perfect read for me and my 13 year old girl. Will really have to find that one soonest.

    • The mother-daughter relationship is central to plot and character development in Roller Girl. It’s a warm, loving relationship that also has its issues. Interesting stuff to talk about there! Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant is definitely one of my top 5 reads from 2014. I’m still thinking about it–though sometimes I wish I could forget it! So bleak and brutal. I really don’t think I want to live to be in my 90s. Only if I could be guaranteed a bionic body and mind!

  7. Roller Girl–love it! I predict it will be the next Smile. Scholastic should pick it up and sell pb’s at their book fairs. They would make a mint, and more importantly, tons of kids would get to read it!

  8. Roller Girl and By Mouse and Frog have been two favorites this year. I really really wished there wasn’t that one little bad word in Roller Girl. Since I’m in a K-4 school, I’ve been pretty much told I cannot have it in my room. Frustrating.

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