Mark Twain is by far my favorite canonical author of American literature. Or just literature in general. He is so incredibly quotable and subverts the...moreMark Twain is by far my favorite canonical author of American literature. Or just literature in general. He is so incredibly quotable and subverts the status quo so his larger than life persona is certainly a biographer's dream. I enjoyed this book for the most part. I did, however, think it was hard to distinguish whether this was a book for kids or adults. Yes, I found it in the juvenile section of the library, but there were many occasions where I thought to myself that this book would fare better marketed to adults than kids. There are, however, snatches of text that I would use with students either as close readings or mentor texts. So there's that.
Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
"Mark Twain was born fully grown, with a cheap cigar clamped between his teeth." (That's a way to start a story!)
"He changed literature forever. He scraped earth under its fingernails and taught it to spit. He slipped in a subversive American sense of humor. He made laughing out loud as respectable as afternoon tea." (6)
"His name went up in lights even before Edison invented the lightbulb." (161)
He was so quotable that a critic styled him 'the American Shakespeare, only funnier.'" (174)
"When Mark Twain published [The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County] in book form, he dedicated it to John Smith. He didn't know any of the multitude of John Smiths at large. His playful theory was that anyone to whom a book is dedicated would go out and buy a copy." (181)
William Carlos Williams is one of my favorite poets and this book really captured the spirit of his poetry. The collage illustrations are stunning and...moreWilliam Carlos Williams is one of my favorite poets and this book really captured the spirit of his poetry. The collage illustrations are stunning and I loved how Melissa Sweet incorporated snippets of Williams's poems into the collages. This would be a great supplement to use while doing a poetry unit.(less)
I completely understand Allen Say and his grandfather's feeling of having your heart in two countries and feeling a sense of longing for the other cou...moreI completely understand Allen Say and his grandfather's feeling of having your heart in two countries and feeling a sense of longing for the other country whenever you're not there. (less)
Never in a million years would I imagine Jimi Hendrix to be the subject of a children's picture book, but strangely enough, this was quite an inspirin...moreNever in a million years would I imagine Jimi Hendrix to be the subject of a children's picture book, but strangely enough, this was quite an inspiring piece of writing. Gary Golio tells the story of a young Jimi Hendrix and what sparked his passion for learning guitar how he became such a legend. Told through vivid writing and mixed-media illustrations, this picture book is a must-have for any budding guitarist.
Nowhere in the actual story itself does the author address Jimi's substance abuse issues, choosing instead to keep the tone of the story inspirational, but there is quite an thorough author's note at the end that addresses how Jimi died and lists quite a few resources that explain the dangers of substance abuse. Anyone who admires Hendrix as a rock 'n' roll legend cannot overlook the tragic way in which he died, so it's unfortunate that this can't be a book about what inspired Hendrix to become a great guitarist and leave it at that. (less)
This biography of Mark Twain is not like any other biography you'll ever read. It is told from the point-of-view of Twain's most famous fictional character, Huckleberry Finn. Narrated in Huck's distinctive, unlearned voice, this book is sure to surprise and delight big kids and little kids alike. I might be so bold as to say that I don't think I've enjoyed a piece of nonfiction text more than this one. I spent most of my time reading this book laughing out loud and sharing entertaining passages with my husband who was watching TV and had to pause the DVR on many occasions just so I could read out loud to him.
Despite the fact that Huck is telling the story of Mark Twain and trying to showcase Twain's accomplishments, Huck is really stealing the show here with his humor and lack of learnin'. With passages like this, it's no wonder this book is rife with teachable moments, whether it's real-life grammar lessons or a lesson on voice in writing:
Livy was always askin' Sam to talk about his days on the Mississippi. Maybe it was this that got his rememberies up. There's no knowin' for certain, but in the end his famousest book is about times when he was a boy.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (wherein I plays a very important part myself, if it don't seem like peacockin' to say so) tells about the doin's of a boy, sorta like Sam was way back.(less)
This is the story of when Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin lived together in Arles. They were both very different personalities and argued frequently...moreThis is the story of when Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin lived together in Arles. They were both very different personalities and argued frequently, culminating with the night both men got in a heated confrontation and Van Gogh ended up cutting off his own ear.
The writing itself didn't compel me to read so much as the beautiful illustrations did. I thought the story made light of both men's inability to get along with each other. Given how much conflict they both seemed to cause each other, I felt this book was rather lacking in conflict.(less)
In the heart of a decrepit neighborhood in Detroit, Tyree Guyton started what has now been called The Heidelberg Project out of frustration for the ri...moreIn the heart of a decrepit neighborhood in Detroit, Tyree Guyton started what has now been called The Heidelberg Project out of frustration for the riff raff that had moved into his neighborhood. Painting a crack house with bright-colored polka dots kept the criminals at bay and started an art movement that would divide residents of the city and of Heidelberg Street. Some people saw it as trash, others art. Twenty-five years later, the Heidelberg Project is still going strong, and is its own visitor's destination in a city that rarely gets visitors.
Using collage art, Vanessa Brantley-Newton has captured the spirit and the soul of the Heidelberg Project in this book's scant pages.
I want to make it clear from the beginning: my 5-star rating of this book is not indicative of how I feel about Steve Jobs personally. From learning a...moreI want to make it clear from the beginning: my 5-star rating of this book is not indicative of how I feel about Steve Jobs personally. From learning about him in this biography, I'd have to say he was a colossal jerk (I want to use a stronger insult here but since some of my students read my reviews, I will refrain).
My reasons for giving this biography such high praise then, is due to how engaging the narrative is. It is a fascinating look inside the mind of the man who created Apple, and left me feeling conflicted. I want to dislike him intensely after reading about the terrible way he treated people. At the same time, he was more of an artist than a business man and while being an artist is no excuse for being a giant tool, it is common for artists to be temperamental.
Despite not liking him personally, what I admire most about Jobs is his desire to build quality products over making money. He has proved again and again that giving the customer what they want was never something he cared about. As he so aptly put, if Henry Ford had listened to what people wanted, they would've said a faster horse. What made Jobs such a genius was that he was able to create products that "the people" didn't even know they wanted until they saw it.
This book holds nothing back and gives us a look inside his professional, family, and love life. Even though Jobs commissioned Isaacson to write this biography, he also knew that a biography about him would include unflattering details as well as exalting ones. However, it was more important for him that the narrative be honest than whether or not it made him look good, so by giving Isaacson unprecedented access to his life and the lives of the people he touched (whether positively or negatively), it was just another way for Jobs to maintain control. Still, knowing that Jobs approved of everything Isaacson would write helps the reader better settle into the writing and feel content with the accuracy of the narrative. (less)
This book was just awkward and uncomfortable to read. I don't feel like kids would ever get a sense of who Josephine Baker was by reading this book. T...moreThis book was just awkward and uncomfortable to read. I don't feel like kids would ever get a sense of who Josephine Baker was by reading this book. They'd just think it was about some strange lady who liked to dance. (less)
I love when books make me want to learn more about something. I've always known the name Alivn Ailey was related to the dance world and that he was Af...moreI love when books make me want to learn more about something. I've always known the name Alivn Ailey was related to the dance world and that he was African American, but that's pretty much where my knowledge of him ended. I will definitely be seeking out more books (and videos!) of him and his work because this book showed what an amazing and inspiring man he was in the world of dance. (less)
This charming picture book details the life of "The French Chef" Julia Child in a format similar to a graphic novel. A few people have mentioned that...moreThis charming picture book details the life of "The French Chef" Julia Child in a format similar to a graphic novel. A few people have mentioned that the format and font is a bit confusing, but I found it no more confusing to read than a graphic novel. Yes, a tad cluttered in places, but overall put me in mind of Julia's lovely memoir, My Life in France.(less)
Told from Galileo's perspective as an old man looking back on his life, Bonnie Christensen captures Galileo's accomplishments and struggles with simpl...moreTold from Galileo's perspective as an old man looking back on his life, Bonnie Christensen captures Galileo's accomplishments and struggles with simple words and beautiful pictures that are almost stained-glass-like.(less)
The Acerra family is big. Sixteen children big. And with twelve sons, big enough to form their own baseball team. Which is ex...moreOriginally reviewed here.
The Acerra family is big. Sixteen children big. And with twelve sons, big enough to form their own baseball team. Which is exactly what they did. From the 1930s-1950s, this band of brothers played semi-pro ball and competed all throughout New Jersey.
Despite the fact that from the 1860s - 1940s, there were 29 known all-brother baseball teams, the Acerras made history by playing longer than any other. Audrey Vernick tells their story with great care and admiration for their accomplishment.
Truth be told, I don't even really like baseball that much. I picked up this book because I adore Audrey's writing. She has shown time and again that for her, it's not just about the story. She works really hard to craft a narrative full of voice: whether it's silly humor in her Buffalo books, or quiet respect and reverence as with her nonfiction picture books like She Loved Baseball and now Brothers at Bat. And to write such a brief narrative full of voice is no simple task, but Audrey is a master at it.
From the opening sentence, Audrey sets the perfect tone to help the reader settle in and enjoy the journey. Often when I read picture books to my sixth graders, not everyone enjoys the stories. There's always a handful of students who have something critical to say. But with every Audrey Vernick picture book I have read, each one of my students have always written glowing responses. Brothers at Bat was no different.
As far as the illustrations go, Audrey Vernick manages to luck out with amazing illustrators for all of her books. While my favorite illustrator of her books continues to be Daniel Jennewein for my own biased reasons, Steven Salerno is no slouch either. He captures the endearing and friendly qualities of the Acerra family in his illustrations and after reading the author's note about Freddie inviting Audrey over for dinner to interview him for this book, and reading the end of the book where even a broken down bus doesn't get them down, I don't doubt the Acerra family is anything but delightful.(less)
The words and illustrations succeed in allowing readers to feel the joy and peace of Stevie Wonder's music. What I was hoping to get more out of this...moreThe words and illustrations succeed in allowing readers to feel the joy and peace of Stevie Wonder's music. What I was hoping to get more out of this book, was to learn more about his life and career than I did. This book was more about setting a mood than giving readers information about a person's life. (less)