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 reviews last week.
BHE 47: Moers, Gorey, ‘My Tattooed Dad’, and Douglas Adams – a mashup of the spectacular, the weird, the odd
Until the end of this month, we will be sharing tales of oddballs and misfits, the surreal and the peculiar, and beautiful strangenesses. I am excited to finally be featuring Anthony Browne and immensely glad that I found these two books from the library. I hope to review more of my own books by Browne in the coming weeks.
Story and Illustrations By: Anthony Browne
Publisher: Red Fox, 1994
Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos taken by me.
I first learned about Anthony Browne when I attended the Asian Festival of Children’s Content for the first time in 2010. It was John McKenzie’s session on postmodern picture books that made me borrow most of Anthony Browne’s books that I can find from our libraries. It took me quite awhile to really get to most of them and since our bimonthly theme highlights the surreal and the peculiar, now is the best time as any to feature most of Browne’s works here.
The narrative appears fairly simple enough with a family of four (mother, father, two brothers) spending the day at the zoo on a Sunday. Yet Browne managed to include layers of complexity to the story through his borderline-bizarre images that tell a story of their own. Not only is Browne the craftsman of the peculiar, he is also a master of subtlety – the strange images bring a more textured awareness of what the children may have experienced during this supposedly-exciting and promising family day.
The father struck me as a boorish kind of man who demands obedience from his entire family – just because. He is depicted to be quite the insufferable fellow who tells atrocious jokes that only he finds to be funny. Mother, on the other hand, is characterized to be a quiet, unassuming woman who is overshadowed by this gorilla of a man who, as can be seen in the book cover, takes up most of the frame in the picture. The boys, on the other hand, are shown to be scampering, climbing, restless little tykes who would continually pick on each other. The eldest boy is the narrator of the story.
What was especially powerful to me, however, was how the animals were portrayed vis-a-vis the human beings. You wouldn’t find anything didactic in this picture book about the atrocity of people in keeping these creatures in a cage or the presumptuousness of humans in even thinking that they are on top of the food chain, commanders and patriarchs, veritable masters of the universe.
Rather, it makes the reader reflect about the nature of humanity and what it means to be an animal and the cages that keep our atavistic urges in check. I would recommend pairing this picture book with the film Planet of the Apes for older readers. For teachers who wish to use this in their classroom, here is a Teachers’s Notes (a downloadable pdf link) created by Scholastic that you may wish to check out.
Me and You
Story and Illustrations by: Anthony Browne
Publisher: Doubleday, 2009
Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos were taken by me.
I have what you would call a special affinity with fractured fairy tales. We even had it as our bimonthly theme two years back. Me and You has been described as a retelling of the classic Goldilocks and the Three Bears with an urban, modern, haunting twist (Wall Street Journal, Kirkus).
There are two parallel stories going on. There is the text-narrative as told from Baby Bear’s perspective. It rings true and familiar with the bear family going out for a walk as their meal (naturally it has to be porridge) cools down. They come home to find their house broken into, Baby Bear’s porridge eaten up, the chairs messed with, and the bed occupied by a golden-haired girl.
Then there is the story in the left hand side of the page – absolutely wordless, mostly in monochrome (except for the little girl’s hair). It is the story of a little child who got lost as she follows a balloon trailing away into a deserted alley, bringing her to Baby Bear’s world. I found it infinitely curious and interesting that it was only a few pages later that the reader realizes that the kid (who was wearing a hood) is actually a girl – with golden locks no less.
This book challenges the reader to revisit and reimagine a familiar and well-loved tale, as Browne spins a classic story, turning it over in its head – and transforming it into a moving sepia-toned bespectacled Goldilocks lost in an urban jungle. For teachers who wish to use this in the classroom, here is a downloadable .doc file created by southwarkheads.org which contains suggested activities for independent reading of students and possible student responses to the story.
YA Read: Fire Spell (aka Splendours and Glooms) by Laura Amy Schlitz
I already finished reading Laura Amy Schlitz’ Fire Spell (Splendours and Glooms). It may be a challenging book to reluctant readers, but I could understand how it won the Newbery Honor. Absolutely riveting book edged in dark magic. Adult readers may want to pair this with Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. While there is a taste of the sinister with a cursed witch controlled and enraptured by her own stolen power and dreams of burning fire, and a cruel and heartless puppet master who is not averse to using his own beauty and charm to manipulate the people around him – there is also deliverance and surprising vulnerability in the face of evil. There is a distinct after taste of the macabre that is just right – not too overwhelming for a young reader, but enough for them to sink their teeth into it without being poisoned.
I have also finished reading Ascending Peculiarity: Gorey on Gorey as edited by Karen Wilkin and will do a Nonfiction review of this one. Nearly done with A Sound of Thunder and plodding through a few of the stories from the exceedingly-thick Bradbury’s 100 stories.
How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?
Me and You is a CCBC Choice (Univ. of WI), Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens
Zoo won the Kate Greenaway Award in 1993
Fire Spell won the Newbery Honor.
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 22, 23, 24 of 35
75, 76, 77 of 150