On the blog:
- A curation of my favorite online reading from last week
How I love Julie Schumacher’s lively, funny, and also sad Dear Committee Members. It’s an epistolary novel with a twist: the entire story is told through letters of recommendation written by a curmudgeonly Creating Writing professor. It’s quite a feat to be able to pull off this structure and have it add up to a heartfelt narrative with well-developed characters. Many of the letters are one-off hilarious performances (I laughed out loud many times), but a more sustained narrative thread develops through the professor’s attempts to secure funding for his one remaining graduate student and through the details we learn about his past. I adore academic satires, and this is one of the best I’ve read.
Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers is quirky and whimsical and exquisitely written. I could barely get through it because I had to keep stopping to reread and admire sentences. On nearly every page, there was a passage I wanted to write down. The plot is a bit thin (the France part didn’t entirely work for me), but characterization, setting, and theme are so richly rendered. And those sentences! I can’t wait to read the rest of her books. I have Wolf Wilder from the library ready to begin this week.
I’ve set myself a challenge to read at least 15 new-to-me picture books by Native American authors and/or illustrators this semester for my Children’s Literature class. Caribou Song, written by Tomson Highway and illustrated by John Rombough, is the first book I’ve read for that challenge. It’s the story of two Cree brothers who use song and dance to call a huge herd of caribou. There is not a lot to the story, but it is well-written and reads especially well aloud, and the illustrations are powerful and unique. I also appreciated that this is a bilingual story written in both English and Cree. The book won the American Indian Youth Literature Award in 2014.
We just finished discussing The One and Only Ivan in my Children’s Lit class, so of course I had to read Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla to my students. Every time I read this picture book, I love it a little bit more. Every line is perfect. I even felt myself getting a bit choked up reading it!
I also read aloud The Totally Secret Secret–with a promise to read Dance! Dance! Underpants! this week. (I just noticed that Dance! Dance! Underpants! has one of those hilarious one-star Amazon reviews that Travis Jonker often features in his One Star Review Guest Who column.) I have no idea if any of my students is as crazy about Ballet Cat and Sparkles Pony as I am, but that’s okay. I think I mostly held it together reading it aloud but seriously: I AM SO OBSESSED WITH THIS BOOK.
Little Polar Bears showed up on my dining room table one day, a library check-out gift from my mom. The photography by Thorsten Milse is incredible. For this project, he traveled to Wapusk National Park in the Canadian Arctic. The park was partly created to protect polar bears, as there are 1,200 dens located within the park where female bears give birth. Because it’s a protected area, only a small number of visitor permits are issued each year and there are strict rules about wildlife observation. Milse captures some amazing moments. There isn’t a lot of text, but what there is is fascinating and informative. This is an out of print book published in 2006 but well worth a look if your library happens to have it.