On the blog:
- A curation of weekly online reading that I liked
- A new regular feature, Window into My Classroom, focusing on the first week of Special Methods
- A starter kit of 10 nonfiction picture books for K-16 teachers new to reading nonfiction PBs
- A Top Ten list of books I’d put on a syllabus for a class in Therapeutic Parenting
I’ve read so many books about Jane Goodall, but for some reason, I never get tired of her wonderful and unlikely story. And Anita Silvey’s lavishly illustrated middle-grade nonfiction title is one of the best I’ve read. It’s packed full of information with dozens of full-color photos, quotations, and scientific facts about chimpanzees and other animals. What I find so interesting about Goodall is the way that her work and life interconnect. Interconnect isn’t really a strong enough word: Goodall’s life is her work. This is an informative and incredibly inspiring story: I even got teary-eyed at certain points. Highly, highly recommended.
I’ve seen First Day Jitters show up on so many teachers’ lists of picture books they enjoy sharing at the beginning of the school year. I finally broke down and purchased a copy and found it to be the perfect title to share in my Methods course last week. There’s a fun twist at the end, which probably won’t be a surprise to most adult readers. A fine title for acknowledging and soothing first day nerves for students and teachers.
I’m trying to become a completist with illustrator Giselle Potter’s books. If you’re looking for versions of fairy tales from different cultures, The Orphan might be one worth looking for, but this was not my favorite Potter book. On many pages I felt there was far too much text (not her fault), and I found the use of white space perplexing. I did like the full-page spreads, but the pages with floating figures in white space really didn’t work for me.
But I did adore Shrinking Violet. Potter has collaborated on several titles with author Cari Best, and I really need to get my hands on the rest of them. Shrinking Violet is the perfect story for introverts like me. Violet has personality to spare, but she really can’t stand being the focus of attention. Instead, she’s an observer: “She knew the fast swimmers from the slow ones. And exactly what everyone brought for snack. She knew the second someone sang off-key. And who always stepped on whose new shoes.” There’s actually a lot going on in this story as Violet finds a way to shine in the school play (thanks to a clever and observant teacher who knows her students) and deals with Irwin, the creepy bully, in her own unique way. There’s a powerful message here about embracing yourself just as you are, just as you’re supposed to be.
One of my readers recently commented that My Best Friend is her favorite E.B. Lewis-illustrated picture book. When I saw that cover, I knew I had to buy this one. And it’s absolutely gorgeous. I freely confess that I bought it for the art, but there is also a strong story here about a little girl who is so busy longing to be friends with a snotty older girl that she doesn’t even notice the girl her own age who’s trying to be her friend. An excellent title to initiate conversation about friendship, teasing, and how we want to treat others.
I’m still mulling over Ted Kooser’s House Held Up by Trees, magnificently illustrated by Jon Klassen. I really do think this is some of Klassen’s finest work. And Kooser’s text is, naturally, poetic in that clear nouns and verbs style that I like so much. But it’s a bit of an oddball story, and I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to get from it. It left me feeling like I might be on the verge of an existential crisis. Of course, I’m often on the verge of an existential crisis so that’s nothing new. But this is definitely not the book to read if you’re angsting over the meaning of life. There is something stark and sad to me in the disappearance of people from the story, though perhaps there is also something perpetual and calming in the strength and presence of the trees.
This week’s reading plan?
My son and I are still reading the first book in James Riley’s fractured fairy tale trilogy, Half Upon a Time. I started reading Maggie Nelson’s meditation on art, gender, identity, and motherhood, The Argonauts. I need to reread Shaun Tan’s The Arrival before teaching it tomorrow. And I’d really like to start a new YA or middle-grade novel.