[Nonfiction Monday Reading] Artwork, Shared Lives, and Touching the Skies: Judith Kerr’s “My Henry” and Tejubehan’s “Drawing from the City” and May/June Winner of AWB Reading Challenge

Myra here.

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 Review and Miscellany Posts

Here are a few of the reviews we have done last week. We are also inviting everyone to join our Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge. We hosted the AWB Challenge last year and we are thrilled to be able to host it again. Do sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles/images below to be taken to our blog posts.

Congratulations to our following participants:

May winner for the AWB Reading Challenge: Holly Mueller of Reading, Teaching, Learning for her review of Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up.

June Winner: Joyce Ray of Musings for her review of Drawing from Memory.

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[Photo Story/A-Z Photo Story Challenge] A is for Arts Conference in Budapest

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[Illustrator Sketchpad] Susanna Goho Quek’s Creative Journeys and “God is Hu”

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[Illustrator's Sketchpad] An ‘Artful’ Being: Susanna Goho Quek, the National Geographic, and The House of Suzie Wong

Image courtesy of Naomi.

Image courtesy of Naomi.

[Meet the Storyteller] Naomi Kojima’s Pathways to being a Children’s Book Artist

Naomi's work desk.

Naomi’s work desk.

[Meet the Storyteller] A Day in the Life of a Children’s Book Artist

Poetry Friday: Deliver Me

[BHE 60] Launch of Bimonthly Theme for July/August: Loss, Heartbreak, and Coming of Age

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NonFictionMonday

We are also joining Nonfiction Monday today. The host this week is Abby the Librarian.

IMG_7229Drawing from the City

Based on the Oral stories of: Tejubehan
Original Tamil Text: Saalai Selvam English Text: V. Geetha & Gita Wolf
Published by: Tara Books, 2012 Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me. 

This picture book is a beautiful tribute to Tejubehan and her husband Ganesh who were described at the end of the book as belonging to a community who are traveling singers, wandering the streets, singing devotional songs. In return for the the beautiful music they create, they were provided food and clothing and a little bit of money. When times got more difficult though, Ganesh was forced to find other livelihood choices. Things changed when he met Haku Shah in Ahmedabad who encouraged Ganesh to draw. And wonderful husband that he was, Ganesh also encouraged his wife’s Teju’s talent “disregarding what was considered appropriate for women in the community to do.” Sadly, Ganesh passed away when this book was being completed.

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This book shares Teju’s life story narrative from the time that she was a little girl in her village, one with nature:

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.. to Teju’s gradual realization that she belongs to a poor family with hardly enough to eat. Work is a given, an expected thing even for very young children who are expected to help around the home. Teju also shares how they traveled from her village to the city through the train that she longed to ride from when she was a young child, and how she was matched to a groom with kind eyes (Ganeshbhai) when she became of age to marry. Like her father, Ganesh also sings for a living – until the time that an artist encouraged Ganesh to try his hand at drawing.

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After discovering the joys of art, Ganesh also encouraged the initially-reluctant Teju to give it a try. She described her experience as such:

It is like magic. I sit in one place with paper and pen, and it is my hand that starts to move. Lines, dots, more lines, and more dots, and you have a picture. I can bring to life things that I have seen and known, but also things that I imagine. I can even bring the two together. I have been moving all my life, looking for ways to survive, but this is a new direction. My heart is full.

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I enjoyed how the story telling is very similar to a stream of consciousness, with one thread of thought leading to the next and the next, with a continuity that flows naturally from the striking black and white artwork of Teju. While haunting, it is never truly very sad as it speaks of a shared life between a couple who was able to transcend life’s travails to an elevated artform. In the latter part of the book, Teju asks herself whether she would draw her women characters as floating or flying forever like birds, because they do not ever seem to stay still (very much like her). I hope you get a copy of this book so that you will likewise be touched by Teju’s life, and how through pencil and paper, she was able to touch the skies.

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Story and Illustrations By: Judith Kerr
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2011.
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

While the characters’ names are different, multi-award-winning author/illustrator Judith Kerr created this book in honor of her husband who passed away, Nigel (Tom) Kneale. In contrast to the earlier book that is in monochrome, My Henry is illustrated in soft pastels, its gentle hues possibly reflective of the disposition of the artist and her thoughtful, temperate, tender strokes and shades.

This book shows how the power of a lovingly-shared life can transcend the boundaries of death and dying. Through the old lady’s short naps and brief snooze during the day, she gets to spend time with ‘my Henry’ as they go on unprecedented adventures together such as riding a dinosaur

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or water-skiing with a dolphin

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or simply being together in a suspended state between waking and sleeping where psychedelic dreams make absolutely anything possible. While it still tugs at the heartstrings, the book produces a beautiful ache that celebrates a life well-lived, and the waiting, the anticipation of that moment when the couple’s lives would be one again.

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Truly a beautiful gift to be able to share an entire history with another human being. Time, distance, even the boundaries of life and death do not truly matter in the face of such overpowering affection. Kiss someone you love today, dear friends.

Currently Reading…

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My eleven year old daughter and I are continuing to read The Giver. While it is a re-read for me, I am rediscovering my love for the book.

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?

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8 Comments on [Nonfiction Monday Reading] Artwork, Shared Lives, and Touching the Skies: Judith Kerr’s “My Henry” and Tejubehan’s “Drawing from the City” and May/June Winner of AWB Reading Challenge

  1. Ah, The Giver. I’ve been so tempted to read the other books in that quartet. Plus, be sure to check the Newbery Film Festival submissions for The Giver!

  2. Aww, My Henry looks adorable. I intend to read The Giver. Someday. I loved Lowry’s Number the Stars.

  3. My Henry looks like it’s a lovely book. We lost a staff member this year to cancer, and our guidance counselors were looking for books that deal with death in a gentle, non-scary way. I’ll be sure to pass this title along to them.

  4. Drawing From the City sounds remarkable, Myra. I actually remember singers like these, wandering in temple villages. I must try to find a copy. The Giver isone of the best YA books I have ever read – and Lowry’s sequel to it, Son, is equally brilliant.

  5. Great reading week! I’ve wanted to re-read The Giver since SON came out! I’ll get around to it one of these days. :-) Thanks so much for the May win! :-) How would you like me to contact you with my address?

  6. You are always so good about sharing picture books that are perhaps not on our radar. I know I will always find titles that are new to me on your posts! I loved rereading The Giver last summer, and how wonderful for your daughter to share the experience with you. I talk to so many kids in middle school that are reading it and not enjoying it. Thoughtful discussions are such an important part about reading a book like this! Happy reading week!

  7. Recently used the Giver for my library’s Tween Book Club. It was a reread for me, and I discovered so much more on the second time through. SUCH a rich, rewarding book.

  8. The Giver has been my favorite book for 20 years now. It is so amazing. Enjoy! And the other three books int he series are well done as well.

    Thank you so much for participating in IMWAYR and happy reading this week :)
    Kellee (http://www.unleashingreaders.com)

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