What am I Reading Monday – February 10, 2014

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

The year started, the semester started and I think I finally have a handle on things. I’m starting this years blogging – yes it is February, don’t judge me – with a What Are You Reading.

The children’s and YA literature class I teach at Boston University School of Education is under way. I visited a bunch of new books to read with the class over the last months and now I am re-visiting books I included but need to reread for teaching. So, today I give you a mixed bag of old and new, graphic novels and print-dominant novels.

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Tangle

This complex story is perfect for challenging what “3rd grade reading level” means. It is solidly an elementary read and it is highly compelling, fun, dramatic, confusing, and wonderful.

One student of mine, upon rereading, said she was going back to make a family tree. Another student  reached her bus stop right before “a climactic moment” and exclaimed, “Noooooooo!!!” and I knew exactly what she meant.

The point I am making is that these women are successful, accomplished, dedicated readers who are challenged and enthralled with this book.

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 E and P

I finally got around to reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I felt like my heart was breaking from about page 50 onward. This book amazed me because the characters, including the minor ones, were well constructed and felt authentic.

This love story centers on Eleanor who is a classic weird new kid, and Park who is trying very hard to just fly under the radar. Neither asks for a relationship, but it builds almost despite them.

One of my favorite words when it comes to realistic fiction is verisimilitude which refers to the realness of the book. These characters, the plot, the setting, all of it were painfully present and real.

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photo 1How did I forget this series???? This series by the guy who illustrated the Harry Potter covers, Kazu Kibuishi, is a terrific thrill ride. The main character, Emily, along with her brother Navin and their mom have moved to the ancestral home. The family discovers all kinds of spooky, weirdness that only gets worse as mom is kidnapped by something with tentacles!

The best thing about this first book is the realization that when you end it, there is another to pick up. There are 6 in all and each one is great.

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Boxers and Saints

I have read this set once so far. I began rereading last week and I am in awe. Also, I find myself in need of an historian! Stat!

I’m not sure if it belongs in YA-land, but I would love to see and hear from anyone who uses it to teach the Boxer rebellion. There are no simple heroes and villains. Instead there is a textured interplay between the protagonists and antagonists that, in the end, compelled me, as a reader, to return to page one.

Yang’s style is more sure handed in these books then in American Born Chinese. He uses muted tones for everyday life, with quiet backgrounds, and highly representational images of rural China. But, when the violence of war break out, so do his illustrations. The pallet changes to bright colors, frenzied overlapping lines and backgrounds that are vibrant and energized. I plan on writing a full post about these books soon.

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3 thoughts on “What am I Reading Monday – February 10, 2014

  1. Boxers is making the rounds in my Adolescent Lit course right now. I sometimes include American Born Chinese on the syllabus for that course too, but I didn’t this semester. Will “hand sell” to several students, tho. I really did like Tangle of Knots. Hoping to catch up on Graff’s other titles sometime soon, but the TBR stack just never ends. I keep waiting for that feeling that I’ve got a handle on the new semester, but I’m starting to think this is just the new normal–the feeling of NOT having a handle on it!

  2. My 12 year old daughter and I enjoyed the Amulet series. I love Kibuishi. My daughter breezed through Boxers and Saints and connected it some of the things that they’re learning in Geography about China and its history. There’s your historian (haha). Gene Luen Yang is brilliant! 🙂 Have a great reading week.

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