It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
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.
A Tribute to One of the Greatest Animated Films of All Time: Grave of the Fireflies by Isao Takahata
[Book Hunting Expedition 63] Feeding my Love for Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, Haruki Murakami, Patrick Ness, and Clive Barker Among Others
These two picture books tackle issues that are often overlooked but are nonetheless startlingly real. I put them together because I felt that they essentially deal with the same heartbreaking struggles and themes. What I love about these two books though is that rather than dwell on the pain and the difficulties that life can bring, they celebrate flights of fancies and quiet discoveries and the magic a child is able to weave in his life when one’s realities are way too painful to even comprehend.
Fly Away Home
Story By: Eve Bunting
Illustrated by: Ronald Himler
Publisher: Clarion Books, New York, 1991
Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
“My dad and I live in an airport. That’s because we don’t have a home and the airport is better than the streets. We are careful not to get caught.”
And so the story begins in this lovely picture book. The young boy who narrates his story with his father candidly speaks about some of the important rules of living in an airport – the first rule is to make sure that one does not get noticed: “Not to be noticed is to look like nobody at all.”
My frequent travels have brought me to quite a lot of airports from different parts of the world and I have noticed quite a number of homeless individuals bringing little plastic bags with them rummaging through the trash.
They look surreptitious as they bring knapsacks with them, giving the illusion that they are travellers – but what ultimately gives them away is how gingerly they go through the garbage bins to collect various treasures that they would add into their disposable bags. And the fact that they do have a random-wanderer vibe about them as compared to the focused and directed energy of real travelers who have an actual place to go.
In this picture book, one witnesses an alternative way of living that invites the reader to reflect on what it means to ‘fly away home’ and what ‘home’ truly looks like. It speaks of resentment (“Sometimes I get mad, and I want to run at them and push them and shout, ‘Why do you have homes when we don’t? What makes you so special?”), of child labor and resourcefulness, and the transient nature of life in general.
As can be seen in the image below, this is how father and son clean themselves up in airport toilets:
This particular line in the book also caught my heart:
Once a little brown bird got into the main terminal and couldn’t get out. It fluttered in the high, hollow spaces. It threw itself at the glass, fell panting on the floor, flew to a tall, metal girder, and perched there, exhausted.
“Don’t stop trying,” I told it silently. “Don’t! You can get out!”
Whether or not the little bird managed to rise and fly home, I leave it to you to discover.
Interestingly, the images of the young boy do not often show his face – he has either his back turned or his face in profile. While I was not that keen about the illustrations, Bunting’s subtlety tackles a complex issue with the right amount of delicacy and sensitivity. For teachers who wish to make use of this book as a resource in the classroom, here is a downloadable pdf link created by tresasury books of Eve Bunting’s picture books including Fly Away Home.
Tuwing Sabado (Every Saturday)
Story By: Russell Molina
Illustrated by: Sergio Bumatay
Publisher: Lampara Books, 2009
Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
This was one of the picture books that inspired me to do our research project that looks into narrative themes of Carlos Palanca award-winning stories for children. I have shared this book in several international conference presentations including the Children’s Literature Association Conference in Simmons College, Boston in 2012 and the Arts in Society Conference in Budapest this year; and our key findings published in our book Beyond Legends, Folktales, and Myths: A Rediscovery of Children’s Literature in Asia, the inaugural AFCC publication.
I am also very proud to feature this gorgeously-illustrated picture book as both author and illustrator are our featured guests in GatheringBooks for our current bimonthly theme – the amazing tandem of Russell Molina and Sergio Bumatay III.
Two white undershirts.
Three cans of sardines.
Four face towels.
Mother’s bag is stuffed. “Everything’s here!” We’re ready with what we have to bring. This morning is a busy one for us. It’s Saturday – a special day.
From these first four lines I already know that I will fall in love with the story. I valued Russell’s specificity and his keen eye for tiny details that make up a day in the life of an excited young boy that he is literally transformed into a lightning streak every Saturday. As the story continues, it becomes readily apparent why this day is so important for him – it is the only day when his family is complete as he and his mother make time to visit his father.
This young boy’s father is a convicted felon and his family only gets to see him during the weekend.
One, two three… one, two, three. My father plants three kisses on each of my cheeks. “You’re a big boy now!” He gives me a very tight hug. One, two, three… four! There are now more lines on his forehead. “They serve as a ladder for dwarves,” he would jokingly say. “At night, they color my hair white.” He already has a lot of white hair. It’s hard to count them.
“You’re so tall! Do you play basketball? How are your grades? Are you number one in class?” I can’t reply anymore, because he asks so many questions. I don’t know how to start telling him about what happened to me the whole week.
This is one of the narratives that inspired me to come up with our research presentation title: “Finding Magic and Marvel in Ordinary Things.” As the story progresses, one could see how this young boy’s father is transformed from being a teacher (“Try counting the stars tonight”)
…to being a master magician, a famous wizard: (“Ako si Maestro Mahikero! Sikat na salamangkero!”)
… to a wondrous chef brimming with culinary secrets and delight.
One Saturday, Father surprised us again. In front of a stove made from a biscuit can, he showed us a different kind of magic. Slice-dice-mix! Sauté-pour-boil! Father was cooking! His ingredients twirled like acrobats at every flourish of his ladle. Flames danced as he sang:
Onions and tomatoes
A handful of corn
All for soup! Hurry and get cooked!”
This story, told with quiet simplicity, heartfelt subtlety – matched by gloriously-surreal artwork that could only come from the one, the only, Sergio Bumatay III – is one that unfailingly brings unbidden tears to my eyes. My only hope is that this story would remain to be told through the ages and read by as many children from all over the world as possible. It does not dwell on life’s bitterest moments, but teases out ‘magic and marvel’ in the most untoward, the most unfortunate, the most devastating of circumstances. It captures perfectly the indomitable spirit and amazing resilience of disadvantaged young children, the capacity to find humour in the strangest of situations, and the ability to always find the beautiful and fantastical in the sordid and miserable. I hold this book close to my heart. Find it, dear friends and share the love and magic.
During the past weeks while on vacation, I was able to finish a few novels: David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy, John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories. I started reading The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, a novel by Reif Larsen when I was on the beach last week. I am hoping I get to finish this soon. One of the most brilliant novels I’ve read this year.
How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 35 of 35
Read-a-Latte Challenge Update: 156/157 (150)