It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 11/12/19

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On the blog:

In reading:

sheets

Sheets has been making the rounds in my Theory & Practice of Teaching Reading class, and I was glad to get my turn to see what the fuss was all about. It’s a good pick for middle school and high school classroom libraries. It’s about Marjorie, whose mother has died and whose father is too caught up in his own grief to tend to his two children. So the responsibility for making sure the family laundry business and the family itself keeps going falls on Marjorie. It’s also about Wendell, who is a ghost. Their stories are told through separate plot lines which are helpfully drawn and colored differently, but the two plots eventually converge. The art is really beautiful here with a stunning color palette that’s unusual to see in a graphic novel. The story is not as strong or compelling, though I appreciate its ambition. The quiet, introspective moments are handled so well, but then there is a cartoon villain whose machinations to seize the laundry and turn it into a resort are so over-the-top and ridiculous that it feels like you’re suddenly reading a totally different graphic novel.

speakGN

I wanted to love the graphic novel version of Speak, but I didn’t, and I’m still trying to figure out why. Compared to the tight intensity of the novel, it felt much too long. I even found myself beginning to skim at about the halfway mark. I thought the graphic novel struggled to capture what works so powerfully in the novel: Melinda’s voice, her interiority. The graphic novel was very wordy, and I would have liked to see a fuller transformation of the story into the visual, without so much reliance on text.

But maybe I was just set up for a cranky read by the words on the back cover: “I said no.”  Part of the horror of Speak is that we know something terrible happened to Melinda, but she is not able to tell us what for a very long time. It’s not that Anderson is trying to pull a tricky plot on us and keep us guessing. It’s that Melinda herself cannot speak about what happened; she cannot find language to share her trauma. This is the major plot and major theme of the book–how to find language to speak about this horrific experience. To have her speak on the back cover and name the trauma undercuts the entire premise of the book. And so I was irritated before I even opened the book because I felt like the publisher so didn’t get the point or power of this story.

rogue protocol

I wanted to read Rogue Protocol, the third entry in Martha Wells’s Murderbot series, slowly and savor every page because I love this series and this character so much, but the books are such page-turners. Once the plot clicks (and it was a bit of a slower start in this book), it’s very difficult to put it down. So I read this in a couple of hours and now am eagerly awaiting the 4th book. Murderbot continues to be one of my favorite characters, and if you’d like to try sci-fi but aren’t sure it’s for you, I’d highly recommend the first book in the series, All Systems Red. Tight pacing and writing, humor, compelling plot, and such an unexpectedly charming main character.

noodleheads find something fishy

This was my first Noodleheads book, and I enjoyed its charm and goofiness. I didn’t think two characters who are literally pasta heads had much potential as stars of their own series, but this book really worked for me. It’s kind of like a kinder, gentler Stupids plus a lesson.

I also read several picture books this week that were all really enjoyable.

niblet and rlaphnight job

steamboat schoolrot the cutest in the worldgrumpy monkeyhookedwe are brothers

 

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20 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 11/12/19

  1. I can’t remember if I told you that I finally purchased All Systems Red when it was on a major sale a couple months ago. So I’m excited to dig into that one very soon. And on your comment about using picture books to teach all concepts, of course I agree. 🙂 It’s just hard to see how music can be easily overlooked in collection development since it’s not historically an academic subject taught in the regular classroom. We’ve pretty much separated music/art from “learning in schools, which is a shame since it could be naturally integrated. Have a great week, Elisabeth!

    • I ordered a couple of new sci fi novels to take to NCTE with me this week. So hard to figure out what to travel with! I need something long in case I read a lot on the flight, but in case I want to leave the book, I want to be sure it’s something I probably wouldn’t use in my classes, so middle-grade and YA is out. I just got a new picture book about Vivaldi–hoping it will be good!

  2. I’m finding Exit Strategy, fourth book in the Murderbot Diaries, a bit slow. I haven’t found it as compelling as the first three books in the series. A book I did find compelling was Aliette de Bodard’s In the Vanishers’ Palace. Exquisite language and descriptions; story with unexpected twists. I loved a house that once was by Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith. My interest in picture books was also enlivened by Yuyi Morales’ Dreamers, Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Blue, and Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat. Each is so beautiful. A question. With the exception of picture books, do you re-read books? I read so slowly that I rarely re-read. I’m also still recovering from my college experience of exhaustive analysis of books. What is your experience?

    • I read Drawn Together a couple of weeks ago–one of my favorites of the year. I have Dreamers in my stack–planning to read it tomorrow to my preservice teachers, and I am excited about that one. I am ready for Yuyi to win the Caldecott gold! I don’t reread books very often either. I feel like there are so many new books that I haven’t read yet, it’s hard to justify spending time rereading. I totally understand being in longterm recovery from the exhaustive overanalysis of books in college. I think I will be in lifetime recovery from grad school! I *think* I enjoy rereading favorite books, but I so rarely do it that I’m not totally sure! Might be something I try out sometime–a little more rereading.

    • I think I’m going to have to get one too. My campus library doesn’t have much for early readers, so I usually purchase some of those myself. Would love to have entire series but can’t justify the expense. So one will have to do. But this is a great series to introduce to kids and pre-service teachers!

  3. Is it ok to say that I have been afraid to read any version of Speak?
    All Systems Red is on my list of want to read books, but I keep hoping my library will bring it in as an audiobook so I can ‘read’ and do other things at the same time. Sigh.
    I appreciated your comments on Sheets. I’m trying to read as many graphic novels in preparation for being a judge in the new year, but it’s impossible to read them all!

    • I think that’s absolutely ok! But I would still recommend the novel, because it’s really well-written. I’m a first round Cybils GN judge and oh my gosh, there are like 120 GNs nominated! I am reading as fast as I can! All Systems Red would be a very short audio–maybe two hours? I find the sci in sci fi kind of hard to follow and often have to reread passages to understand what the heck is going on, at least at first, so I don’t think I could do the audio. But it’s such an exciting read that I imagine it would be great in that format too.

  4. I understand what you mean about the graphic “Speak” and wonder if anyone considered what it would do to the read to place that on the back cover? I don’t know any of the MurderBot books, will see about number one! Thanks, Elisabeth. I enjoyed Night Job, too!

    • The only thing I can think is that they assumed everyone knew what the story is about and that wasn’t giving anything away. But it’s just such a misunderstanding of Melinda’s character and the themes of the novel for her to say anything on the back cover of the book! I think All Systems Red is a fun way to try a little sci fi if it’s not a genre you read often, as it’s so short.

  5. I have been meaning to find a copy of the first Murderbot book for a while. I also appreciate your comment about both graphic novels. It seems that the words and the art are two such different things that it is really is something special when someone can get both of those things right (at least right for me). Thanks for the great post!

    • The first Murderbot book is so fun! I have enjoyed the whole series, though the first and second books are my favorites so far. I think graphic novels adaptations are tricky. Very difficult to get the balance right between art and text!

  6. This is the first time I’m hearing of the Martha Wells’ series, and immediately put it into my to-read stack on Goodreads – sounds exactly like my type of read. But perhaps I’d wait until the entire series is out before starting it?

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