It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Two of our blogging friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have inspired us to join this vibrant meme.
Last Week’s Reviews and Miscellany Posts
Click on the image below to be taken to our book reviews from the previous week.
It’s been quite awhile since we joined Nonfiction Monday and I am excited to share a picture book biography that is in keeping with our “Stream of Stories and Whispering Water Tales” theme until the end of December this year. Head on over to The Miss Rumphius Effect to check out more nonfiction links.
I have seen this book around in our libraries and finally I have another chance to feature a Van Allsburg book. Queen of the Falls is a picture book biography of an intrepid, adventurous, risk-taker named Annie Edson Taylor – a retired 62 year old matronly teacher who offered classes in”dance and fine manners” – a charm school at the turn of the nineteenth century.
Not exactly what one would imagine as the daring thrill-seeker who is capable of conceiving something so foolhardy, that it actually seemed to make perfect sense. Our grandmotherly retired teacher decided that she would go over Niagara Falls while inside a wooden barrel built exactly according to her specifications. Rather than live in a poorhouse after her retirement which she thought of as “an unhappy place where old people without money or a family to care for them went to live out their years” – Annie Taylor was resolute in conquering the Niagara falls – a feat that was unprecedented and was not even remotely considered [perhaps by any sane individual] at the time.
While everyone around her thought of the idea as madness, she managed to convince a few workmen to execute her blueprint of an extraordinarily-sturdy barrel that she hoped would allow her to survive the fall without any major injury. She was also fairly strategic in the sense that she hired a Bay City man named Frank Russell to be her manager. She wanted to be rich and famous from this feat of hers, naturally she would need someone to ruffle a few feathers, deal with publicists, and create a wave of interest about her death-defying adventure.
The book has left me feeling amazed, sad, and wistful all at the same time. Somehow it reminded me of the saying ‘be careful what you wish for, you just might get it’ – but with a few unexpected twists and turns here and there. I leave it to you to discover whether Annie Edson Taylor was indeed able to conquer the Niagara Falls and how the undertaking alone changed her life drastically.
For teachers who wish to use this in their classroom, here is a downloadable document file created by the Library of Congress that might prove to be helpful. This weblink by The Classroom Bookshelf shares an incisive review of Queen of the Falls alongside a comprehensive list of ‘teaching invitations’ across all grade levels and online resources that teachers could also explore. I also found this video clip of Chris Van Allsburg talking about this lovely book of his.
Love for Amulet and Upcoming Book Reads
My ten year old daughter looooved this series. She finished all four books in two days’ time. She simply devoured all of them. While I was able to finish Book One: The Stonekeeper, I have yet to read the remaining books in the series. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I am not really that big when it comes to graphic novels. I enjoy it, yes, but there’s just way too much sensory stimulation – I don’t know whether to pay attention to the expressions on the characters’ faces, the text – it’s just too packed for me.
I understand my daughter’s fascination with the narrative. The prologue alone in the first book is filled with so much action and movement and, yes, tragedy – that one can not help but continue reading. I finished the book in less than two hours’ time, I think, before bedtime. I can tell that the characters would grow on me, and admittedly I am excited to read Books 2-4 which I borrowed from our public libraries here in Singapore. I also have a feeling that this would prove to be very popular among a lot of reluctant readers who may be intrigued by the promise of a fantastical adventure.
Currently Reading and Upcoming Reads
I am still trying to finish Walter Moers’ Alchemaster’s Apprentice. It still is as riveting a read as the first two Moers books that I read (check out my review of The City of Dreaming Books and The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear). My reading of this one, though, is admittedly slower than my first two Moers books. It’s actually way past my due date in the library, so I’d have to pay a fine for this one. I’ve also read a few pages from Book 2 of Amulet, so hopefully I finish the entire series this week.
How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?
The New York Times Notable Children’s Books of 2011, Middle Grade
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 119 (