It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 8/15/16

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On the blog:

In reading:

cloth lullaby

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois is a gorgeously written and illustrated biography of artist Louise Bourgeois. I so appreciate picture book biographies that do more than report the facts from birth to death, that try to shape a life and work thematically. Novesky weaves a particular set of symbols and themes (the river, textiles, Bourgeois’s mother) into a rich narrative that explores the origins and meanings of Bourgeois’s art. Novesky’s sentences are exquisitely crafted: I identified sentence after sentence that I would enjoy sharing with students in a mentor text study. And Arsenault has outdone herself in the illustrations for this book. The strongest picture book biography I have read in quite awhile.

lost in nyc

Lost in NYC is such a fun graphic novel. It’s a little short on plot and characterization–new kid Pablo and his partner Alicia get separated from the other students on a field trip to the Empire State Building–but there is so much to entertain and dazzle that it really doesn’t matter. The artwork captures the glory and overwhelm of urban public transportation, and there is much interesting informational material about New York’s subway system (including incredibly cool archival photos) and the Empire State Building.

out of the woods

Rebecca Bond’s Out of the Woods recounts a true story about the author’s grandfather, who grew up in a hotel his mother ran in the woods of Ontario. The story is quiet, leisurely paced, full of rich historical detail–and then comes that dazzling climax, when a forest fire sends all of the people and all of the forest animals into the lake. Hunter and prey wait in the water, mere feet apart, until the flames die down and they can all return to their homes. There is an interesting end note with further information. Bond’s delicate illustrations are old-fashioned, but I found them appealing.

enchanted air

I have only read one other book by Margarita Engle, but Enchanted Air has convinced me I need to read them all–and quickly. Enchanted Air is an exquisite verse memoir of growing up Cuban-American in the 50s and 60s during the breakdown of Cuban-American relations. As a child, Engle spent summers visiting her mother’s family in Cuba, and although I enjoyed the entire book, the poems about Cuba are especially vivid and powerful. This is also the portrait of an artist as a young girl, and we can see the poet Engle later becomes in her childhood observations, habits of mind, and sensibility.

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22 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 8/15/16

    • I was wondering how young readers in the wild would respond to Out of the Woods. Really good writing–as I was reading, I was thinking what a good read-aloud it would make. Might force it on my son before I return it to the library. He’s still off PBs, sadly.

  1. I can’t wait to go get a copy of Enchanted Air. It sounds fabulous. We are always looking for great memoirs for our 5th graders. Is it good for that grade level? Thanks for your post.

    • I’m never very good at figuring out appropriate levels for books, as I think so much depends on the individual students and their interests and abilities. There is a lot of description, a lot of focus on interiority, and I think it would be difficult to appreciate fully without some knowledge of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War. It’s a book I probably would have loved in maybe 6th or 7th grade, but it would have been a stretch for me in 5th, I think.

  2. I recently recommended Enchanted Air to a friend going to visit Cuba. She said that reading it while she was there made the trip profound. I love her work and also need to read more of it. I had Cloth Lullaby on my for later shelf, but your review has encouraged me to change that and put a hold on it. I have no idea what I will do when everything arrives at once!

    • I have long wanted to visit Cuba, and this book only intensified the desire! A couple of professors at my institution teach a course on Cuba and take the students there on a trip–I so want to stow away in a suitcase!

  3. I’ve seen so many rave reviews of Cloth Lullaby, but I did not love it. Not sure what I missed. I did read it at the book store, so maybe I didn’t get to appreciate it as much. It may need a second read!

  4. I loved Enchanted Air! The first book club of the year I’m creating is free verse novels centered on “Identity” so Enchanted Air is definitely going to be an option for the kids.

  5. Thanks for the pic book bio plug. Cloth Lullaby sounds great, and after Ada’s Ideas this week, I am thinking about using these types of books more effectively. I will add that one to my list!

    • So glad you wrote about Ada’s Ideas. I read and enjoyed Laurie Wallmark’s Ada Bryan Lovelace and the Thinking Machine and would love to read more about Ada (also I love that cover so much!). I really like sharing PB bios with my students.

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