Thursday, December 27, 2012

Blowin' in the Wind

I love Jon J. Muth's illustrations, so anytime I see something by him at the bookstore or library, I pick it up. This illustrated work to the Dylan song Blowin' in the Wind is a perfect text for exploring what might be possible when faced with a great challenge. Dylan's song is a milestone for us as a country, but Muth's additions offer a new lens to wear while considering the message offered in the song. By the way, a cd of the song is included in the book.

Here is a sample of one of the pages from the book:

You may have to enlarge it to see the details available in Muth's work, but believe me, you won't be dissatisfied with this adaption. I can imagine using this book with young readers when I wanted to explore both schema and mental images, although it would be a boon to use it with a group of savvy, well-grounded readers who were eager to dig into their own deep synthesis of a text. Using the song might just take the work into a whole new category of learning. Wouldn't that be a treat-- and something our illustrious leaders of education might benefit from making time to witness.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo enters winter with presence and realism in this lovely picture book published last year. Illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline muted his masterpieces with care and intent, making me want to turn the pages faster. The story of a young girl refusing the settle with the distances we adults create with and without awareness offers readers a sweet chance to enter the world of change during a season when cold and darkness can overpower each of us. Set over one hundred years ago, young Frances notices a man with a monkey on the snowy street corner one day. She watches and inquires about him, only to be rebuffed by her mother and not-so-gentle reminders of how the man is a stranger and not one to approach. Frances and her mother walk by the organ grinder and his monkey, and she quickly invites him to the church to see her performance....I can't tell you more or I will spoil it, but this lovely book is one to seek out. You will really understand the ending. And then you will read it to your children and your students and your friends, and you will find ways to teach with it get the picture. Great Joy truly is a book of the season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Imagine a Place

I am sure you have all come across Imagine a Night with paintings by Rob Gonsalves and words by Sarah L. Thomson. One of my top 100 books of all time, a fave to use with kids and adults, absolutely awesome to use in exploring mental images in my teaching, and an all-time fave to simply dream into, Imagine a Night offers readers a chance to journey into the lands of possibility in a whole new way.  Gonsalves, the artist who creates the pieces first, simply awes me. His use of magic realism simply unseats me, making me totally slow down and live into his work and ideas. I liked Imagine a Day, but LOVE Imagine a Place.

Here are some sample pieces:
 "imagine a place...
...where words shelter you,
ideas uphold you, and
thoughts lead you to the secret
inside the labyrinth."

And this:
imagine a place...
...where the sigh of surf
and the whisper of waves
spill from your suitcase
and drift into your dreams."

And those two are not even close to my favorites in the book. This text is stunning. Gonsalves' work is stunning. And readers reading their work are offered a rare opportunity to enter an imagination that inspires, nurtures, and inquires. Imagine a Place indeed....

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George

So if you read our blog regularly, you know that I am a somewhat impatient reader. I want to get hooked right away. This book caught me in a really different way, less of turbulence and more of curiosity, slow and engaged curiosity. I loved reading through my own awareness.

Becca can listen into the whispers and thoughts of others. She has this nifty box that eliminates her ability to hear those words, aptly referred to as an AUD box.  She is on the run with her mother from some pretty ugly experiences, and then all of a sudden, it is just Becca. And it stays just Becca for a long time (I liked the realism that George used to craft this character's tensions). From the start, folks die at wickedly- timed moments, and friends crop up just in time frequently. BTW: the whole friend thing seems pretty standard issue until later in the book when the author starts revealing a little more about each character, entwining us more in her smart story like the master storyteller she is. Racism, bullying, classism, and the whole experience of American high schools all show up in this book, and being set on Whidbey Island serves us Pacific Northwestern-ers just fine. The end is a perfect set-up for future reads, something I am really interested in and exactly what the author plans. Woo-hoo for us!

Looking for a mystery with a strong female lead, solid male supporting roles, and a terrorizing bully waiting to show up? This might be a good one for you.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Unstoppable by Tim Green

Just finished reading this engaging sports story. I really enjoyed how Green, a former NFL player, captured me within his words and storyline. While I may be a sucker for a good sports story, I have grown a little tentative when I pick up books in that genre. I mean, like with other books, I don't want to waste time getting into the story. I want to grow engulfed right away, not 50 pages in. Seems that a number of sports stories are doing that now-- at least to me. Unstoppable was an attention grabber from the start.

Harrison is a young teen who life has mistreated. His parents disappeared early in his life, and his experience with one foster family left quite the set of scars on his spirit and body. One thing that keeps him centered in the midst of all upheavals is football. His life changes massively when he switches foster homes to live with Coach and Jennifer. Pretty standard fare here with the amazing way they are ready to be parents, and all is well as Harrison finds his way to accept the love and care they offer, even when said dream is indeed upended by a major life illness. Author Green chose the title purposefully, and it certainly works to represent the spirit and dedication of humans when we come together in support of each other and in the spirit of experiencing life. 

I enjoyed the escape this book provided me: I read it for fun and got just that. I can imagine young teens, male and female-- middle school for sure since Harrison is 13 in the book-- who love reading sports books to really appreciate the story line and writing style. I just reserved a few more books from Green. I am eager to see if the others are as solid for me as Unstoppable was.