On the blog:
- The usual collection of links from last week’s online reading
- A celebration of the unexpected ways we’ve learned about family from watching the NBA playoffs
- The first post in a new weekly series on #summerPD for pre-service teachers
- A review of Susan Goldman Rubin’s group biography of the Wyeth family of painters
- A slice of life about what my son learned in sixth grade
Calling Dr. Laura is a graphic novel memoir in the vein of Fun Home or Stitches—an adult artist looks back at a dysfunctional childhood and explores issues of abuse, family, identity. I was really impressed by Georges’s art, but I found the story underdeveloped. Georges often seems unaware of just how disturbing some of her revelations about her childhood are, and she never adequately connects her adulthood choices and struggles to her childhood, family history, and experiences of abuse and dysfunction. I felt like there was much more processing and reflection that needed to happen before this story was ready to be told. But then again, maybe that’s the point: so much of our baggage is ultimately unresolved.
Jenny Offill’s novel about motherhood, marriage, and art is going on my list of favorites of 2015. I’m not sure how to describe this book, as it’s quite different from most contemporary literary fiction I’ve read. It’s told in fragments and it’s almost collage-like, as Offill incorporates quotations, snippets of conversations, and philosophical musings into the narrative about a wife, mother, and writer struggling to balance her roles. It reminded me a bit of a commonplace book. The main character, never named, is a novelist whose second novel is much delayed after she has a baby and finds herself overwhelmed by caring for her colicky daughter. It’s a short book that packs a big punch.
Keeper of Soles by Teresa Bateman is the quirky story of a shoemaker who outwits Death. Keeper of soles is pitted against keeper of souls, and the shoemaker reigns supreme through his superb shoemaking skills and artful persuasion. He manages to entirely confuse Death, who keeps visiting him to glean his soul but keeps leaving with a purchase order for a new pair of shoes.
How did I miss Lori Nichols’s Maple last year? A perfect picture book about family, love, and companionship.
The most boy-pleasing book we read this week was Fartiste, a nonfiction (believe it or not!) story of a 19th-century French performer whose great talent was farting. Joseph Pujol was one of the most popular acts at the famous Moulin Rouge. He could fart snippets of classical music and animal sounds. He could blow out candles with his farts. And he was so popular that he got paid 20,000 francs a night to perform (by contrast, actress Sarah Bernhardt earned 8,000 francs a night for her performances.) I’m not generally a fan of rhyming text, especially in a nonfiction story, but Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewster’s elegant verse is a comic foil for the subject matter.
I was admit that I picked up Charlie the Ranch Dog with very low expectations. I enjoy Ree Drummond’s food writing, but writing well about food doesn’t necessarily translate into an ability to write picture books. But Charlie the Ranch Dog is a clever and pleasing story. Charlie, the lazy basset hound, narrates the story, and his words–extolling his own alertness and work ethic—are thoroughly contradicted by the illustrations, which show the other ranch dog, Suzie, doing all the work. Charlie is clearly deluded, but everyone loves him anyway. I was glad to see that there are several sequels, and I’m hopeful that at least a couple of them will be just as good.
Loved the way the inside front and back flaps are part of I Don’t Like Koala. Loved Koala’s creepy wandering eye. Loved the use of white space and minimal text. Didn’t love the turn at the end where the boy very suddenly decides he loves Koala.
I’d already read and fallen in love with Wolfie the Bunny, but this was the first time I read it aloud, and wow, is it a great read-aloud. Such economy of language, such clever use of repetition. And Zachariah OHora’s illustrations are simply brilliant—incredible use of color and perspective.