Sunday, April 27, 2008

Agate by Joy Morgan Dey and Nikki Johnson

This came to me by way of Pixie Stix. I couldn't find it anywhere to get a closer look at it, so I special ordered it at the store. It is gorgeous! The text is fine- perhaps a bit message-driven, but the artwork is just fascinating. You can see some of it at, but the reproductions don't really do it justice. The flap copy says the art is watercolor, but it has a drippy, smeary quality that I associate with mixing oils and water, like when you marbleize paper. I'd love to know about her method. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this artist.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Every Book Its Reader by Nicholas A. Basbanes

I picked this up on a whim at the Harvard Book Store sometime early last spring when I was feeling like I wasn't reading enough grown-up books. I read the first half and really enjoyed it, but then got distracted by some other book that needed to be read. I picked it up again when I needed something to read while I waited for the next group of requests from the library. I picked up where I left off a year ago, and slipped right back into it.

I particularly enjoyed the first few chapters, which discussed some of the earliest known literature and how our relationship to it changes over time. I made a lot of notes in the margins about the correlations to my own ideas about the cultural history of fairy tales.

This book made me even more aware of the gaping holes in my knowledge of literature. I wasn't an English major in college because I didn't want to have to read all those Dead White Males (and after reading chapter 10, I have a better understanding of where that came from), but now I realize how much I've missed out on. Of course, it would take most of a lifetime to get caught up, but I may have to try to tackle one each summer, or something like that.

I was really, genuinely sad when I reached the last chapter, and I wanted to immediately start it over again. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in cultural studies or the history of literature.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

I picked this up because one of my sixth graders is reading the series, and I wondered if it was entirely appropriate. Also, the fandom is rather intense, and so it seems worth checking out.

I think Meyer's greatest strength is her ability to capture 17-year-old-girl-ness- the passion of first love, the unavoidable inanity of high school- without giving over to the melodrama completely.

One thing that struck me about the fandom is the numbers of teenage girls professing their love for Edward. I was intrigued to find out more about this guy who has stolen so many hearts. It's so amusing to me then, to discover what a flat, empty character he is. His only defining characteristics (apart from the vampire thing) is that he's extraordinarily attractive physically and he loves Bella. The reader is then free to project whatever personality they like onto him.

As I finished the book, I really had no intention of continuing with the series. It was an enjoyable enough diversion for vacation week, but there are lots of books on the to-read pile. However, I made the mistake of reading the preview chapter for the next book, and now I am curious to see what happens. Drat. I hate when that happens. Maybe I'll try the audiobook.

As for the appropriateness, I do think it's a bit much for sixth grade; save it for the eighth and ninth grade crowd.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nim's Island by Wendy Orr

Again, I have no idea why this was on my to-read list. It appeared with many others at the library with my name on it, so I figure I read about it somewhere. Perhaps because the movie came out this month. I haven't seen the movie, but it's getting bad reviews, so I'll probably wait for the rental. It could be a contender for Pages & Popcorn because it's fairy short (125 pages) and easy to read.

I enjoyed the Swiss-Family-Robinson-like setting and the adventurous plot once I let go of all my grown-up logic and needs for literary quality. Wendy Orr reportedly began writing this story as a nine-year-old, and it retains that childlike sense of adventure, even if it is a tad predictable and nonsensical. I can see imaginative kids internalizing the settings and using it for their own creative play.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Three and Many Wishes of Jason Rid by Hazel Hutchins

I don't remember what I was looking for, but I found Nancy Keane's extensive website of themed book lists. Since I'm always looking for wishing stories to go with my first grade unit, I fished this oldie (1983) out of the library.

What I liked about it was that the kids were aware of traditional wishing stories and how wishes usually go wrong, and they used that knowledge to try to make responsible wishes.

It's pleasant enough, although the wishing-for-three-more-wishes loophole is a bit dubious, and even young readers will see the solution long before the kids in the story. But the baseball content is attractive, and the length (87 pages, with some pictures, but not too many) will be great for those looking for short chapter books.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Catch Up

These are books I've read recently but haven't had a chance to write up.

February 19 – Frog Princess by E.D. Baker
February 23 – Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

March 1 – Ever by Gail Carson Levine
March 7 – The Ruby and the Key by Lisle
March 12 – The Calder Game by Blue Balliett
March 28 – Erak’s Ransom by John Flanagan

April 2 – visit to see John Flanagan
April 7 – Oggie Cooder by Sarah Weeks
April 8 – Tashi by Anna Fienberg
April 12 – Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins