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.
We are also happy to join Nonfiction Monday once again after being absent for quite awhile. The host this week is Wendie’s Wanderings.
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.
Congratulations to Storyquill for your review of The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin. You have just won this month’s book prize for the Award Winning Books Reading Challenge courtesy of Pansing Books. Please email me your mailing details and contact number at gatheringbooks (at) yahoo (dot) com so Pansing can send your book prize over.
Click on the titles/images below to be taken to our reviews last week.
Academic Nook: And the Freak shall Inherit the Earth: Random Thoughts on Living on the Borders by Professor Tuting Hernandez
Arts Corner: Landscape of Thoughts and Images – Beyond the Mind of an Artist by Danny Castillones Sillada
Until the end of this month, we will be sharing tales of oddballs and misfits, the surreal and the peculiar, and beautiful strangenesses with you. I thought that these two lovely books fit the bill perfectly.
Story and Illustrations By: Levi Pinfold
Publisher: Templar Books: An Imprint of Candlewick Press, 2010.
Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos taken by me.
I discovered Levi Pinfold with his recently-published picture book Black Dog which has been shortlisted for Cybils Fiction Picture Book Award for 2012. I immediately fell in love with his gorgeous artwork and his whimsy and subtle narrative. And as brought about my researcher’s instincts, I began searching for other books that he has published so that I’d get to know his style and his works further – and that’s when I learned about The Django which is the very first book that he published in 2010.
The tale of The Django is loosely based on the life of jazz-banjo player named Jean “Django” Reinhardt. This legendary musician was born to a French-speaking Romany/gypsy mother and the entire story highlights the caravans, the banjo, the constant movement from one town to the next and the transient and fleeting lifestyle that Reinhardt must have been accustomed to since his childhood. The fact that gypsies are historically perceived to be in the fringes and are considered to be ‘outsiders’ made this book quite appealing to me.
What I also found to be particularly interesting in the book is the supposed presence of the Django, a mythical figure who is engaged in constant mischief – somewhat like the trickster in most folktales and legends. In psychological terms, he may be perceived as the individual’s alter ego – the uninhibited ‘other’ personality who is able to do things that the ordinary self is unable to do – perhaps out of embarrassment, remorse, or a sense of propriety.
And so in this story, the young Jean is constantly blamed for the things that the Django (who is conveniently invisible to everyone except himself) does: wrecking Father’s banjo and frightening the horse Wilfred out of its wits. The Django is even able to put strange and horrible words into Jean’s mouth which he spews out quick as a wink, even moving his feet about in a silly jig across an entire farm leaving all the animals in a frenzy.
Naturally, Jean gets blamed for everything as can be seen in this gorgeous illustration. How Jean eventually (if at all) clears his name, I shall leave for you to discover. I have fallen even more in love with Levi Pinfold’s artwork – it’s fresh, experimental (I love the panels, the little cards) – the overall presentation of the book and the way everything is laid out is simply awe-inspiring. For those who would like to get a feel of Jean Django Reinhardt’s music, here’s a youtube clip that you might enjoy.
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams
Story by: Jen Bryant
Illustrated by: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Eerdman Books for Young Readers, 2008. Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos were taken by me.
This is the first Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet collaboration that I have read – and I am simply astounded by the visuals and the storytelling. I learned about this book through Monday reading enthusiasts, and I knew I just have to find the book for myself.
While I am familiar with a few of William Carlos Williams poetry, I did not know that he was a medical doctor. This picture book biography shares the story of Williams’ life in a way that would make it accessible even to a very young audience and make the older ones marvel at how one’s passion would find a way to make itself manifest despite one’s best intentions and seemingly-predictable and structured lifestyle.
The book begins with a description of Willie Williams as a typical child from Rutherford New Jersey, born in 1883. Like all the other children, he loved to play outdoors with his friends. However, there is something quietly-odd with this young boy with the sharp eyes – he could spend hours just listening to the gurgles of the Passaic river and words soothed his shifting soul like music:
The gentle sounds and shifting rhythms of the poems were like the music of the river. As the teacher read each line, Willie closed his eyes and let them make pictures in his mind.
There was an ache in his soul and a compulsion to write. He easily grew frustrated with rhyme and meter (I could totally relate with that) and he felt a desire to write about ordinary forgotten everyday things often taken for granted.
So Willie tried writing a new way. Instead of counting the beats or making the end-words rhyme, he let each poem find its own special shape on the page.
There is a bird in the poplars!
It is the sun!
The leaves are little yellow fish
swimming in the river.
However, this dreamy man had to make pragmatic choices as keenly-felt realities urge him to make the responsible choice to take better care of his family. His mother told him stories about her brother, Willie’s Uncle Carlos, a medical doctor who managed to provide for the entire family when his grandfather died. Even while Willie studied medicine at the university, he naturally gravitated towards artists who have sensitive souls such as Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle, and Charles Demuth.
As a social scientist who is deeply fascinated with children’s literature, young adult fiction, and poetry – this little book with the amazing pastiche scrapbook type of illustrations spoke to me like no other. It is a reminder that dreams and words and figure five in gold and red wheelbarrows can be more real than real itself, if given the chance.
Teachers would also be happy to note that this gorgeously created picture book comes with a detailed timeline of not just Williams’ life but the world events that were also currently happening at the time and his poetry publication dates. This one’s a keeper. My absolute favorite illustration from the entire book would be this one. I hope you do find this beautiful book and be inspired by it.
The moon, the dried weeds
and the Pleiades
Seven feet tall
the dark, dried weedstalks
make a part of the night –
a red lace
on the blue milky sky.
I needed to return Laura Amy Schlitz’ Fire Spell (Splendours and Glooms) in the library since it’s way overdue – I shall be borrowing it again so I can finish the book, hopefully before our bimonthly theme ends. I have also not been making much progress with Miss Peregrine since the books that I own usually take a backseat as I go over the books I borrowed from the library. Ah. The bibliophile’s dilemma: so many books, so little time. This week, I have been avidly reading Ascending Peculiarity: Gorey on Gorey as edited by Karen Wilkin. I am also stealing time to read Bradbury’s short stories – particularly from A Sound of Thunder. I am a certifiable addict when it comes to Bradbury’s strange tales – appears I can’t go long without reading his stories.
How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?
The Django was shortlisted for the 2011 English 4-11 Best Children’s Illustrated Book award.
Awards for A River Of Words: Caldecott Honor Book 2009
Christian Science Monitor Best Children’s Books of 2008
CLN Chapter & Verse Book Club Selection
Cooperative Children’s Book Center Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award 2009
Cybils Award Finalist 2008
Junior Library Guild Selection
Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books of 2008
NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts 2009
NCTE Orbis Pictus Award 2009
New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2008
Parents’ Choice Award Recommended winner 2008
School Library Journal Best Books 2008
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 20, 21 of 35
68, 69 of 150