On the blog:
- Some thoughts on bookmatchmaking and the art of the readalike
- A review of Pernille Ripp’s professional development book, Passionate Readers
Educated is not the kind of book I usually read. It’s harrowing, for one, and tells a survival story so strange and so unique to the author’s family and situation that it’s hard to know what might be learned from her experience. I understand why extreme stories like this appeal to many readers, but I generally like gentler books and books that have a broader relevance. But I also like well-written books, and Educated is beautifully written. I had to stop time and again just to reread Westover’s perfectly crafted sentences. There is such attention to craft and detail throughout. Even though the story is often too much to sit with comfortably, the rich descriptions of her family’s mountain in Idaho and her careful character development kept me reading.
I have the ultimate treat planned for myself for my birthday this year: a day spent volunteering at the Best Friends Sanctuary in Utah. I’ve always wanted to visit but never thought I’d be anywhere near Kanab, Utah. It turns out to be not that far of a detour off an upcoming road trip, and the timing worked out just perfectly to spend my birthday with 1,600 animals! (Seven hundred cats!! 700 cats!!) I’ve been reading up on Best Friends so I’ll have heartwarming stories to inspire my human companions who aren’t perhaps as enthusiastic as I am about this little side trip. The Cats of Kittyville describes the sanctuary’s work with cats and shares inspirational stories of individual cats and what they had to overcome to become healthy, socialized, and adoptable. There are lots of photos. Of course I LOVED it!
As part of my prep for a new course I’ll be teaching in the fall on The Theory and Practice of Teaching Reading, I reread Stephen Krashen’s The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research. It manages to be both dense with research (reviewing dozens of studies from across the global) and a quick and easy read. Thankfully, the research powerfully supports what our common sense should already confirm: “free voluntary reading is the only way to develop adequate levels of reading comprehension, writing stule, vocabulary, grammar, and spelling.” Krashen’s research identifies several keys to building literacy, all of which will be comfortably familiar to workshop teachers: “a print-rich environment,” a quiet, comfortable space to read, access to books, read-alouds, experience reading, models who read, time to read, and encouragement to do “light reading” that’s pleasurable.
Are children going to love All the Animals Where I Live as much as I do? I don’t know, and I wish I could kid-test this one with a crowd. My son did glance over my shoulder a couple of times when I was reading and said, “I love the art.” That’s a good sign. What I love about Philip Stead’s picture books is that I can’t tell if they were written in 1948 or 1978 or 2018. They somehow belong to all eras. I love how associative this one is, how one memory or observation carries him to the text, and how deeply grounded the book is in observations from daily life.
Another winner from Peter Reynolds. The Word Collector is one I need to own so that I can share it with my classes each semester.
A clever and funny interactive bedtime story where the reader is promised they can skip bedtime if they can just get through this story without blinking.
I love Gianna Marino’s picture books, but I have to confess that I didn’t quite understand Splotch at the very end. The illustrations and humor are strong, however, and if your young readers can handle the fish going belly-up at the beginning of the story and the mom repeatedly lying to/tricking her child, this might be a funny one to share.
Such a variety of tone in Marino’s picture books. The lovely Following Papa’s Song couldn’t be more different from Splotch. Here, we have heartwarming comfort as fathre and son whales travel together and explore the ocean. Little Blue gets lost but finds his way by listening for his father’s song.
Beautiful artwork and a strong story about exploration, curiosity, and imagination.