Though no one would call their lives similar, this book immediately reminded me of how I felt after reading Chuck Close Face Book. I was struck by the...moreThough no one would call their lives similar, this book immediately reminded me of how I felt after reading Chuck Close Face Book. I was struck by the fact that both artists overcame serious physical disabilities in order to paint. Chuck Close was already an established artist when he had a seizure and was confined to a wheelchair. But after "the event" (as he calls it) he made up new ways to paint that are arguably better and more innovative than before. It's similarly amazing that Horace Pippin created his best work after he was shot in the arm and lost the use of it. He still painted with his right hand, but guided it with his left. They say artists must struggle--that struggle creates fodder for art. And Pippin's life is a testament to that.
This book stands as a shining example of how a picture book illustrator can lovingly pay tribute to an artist. This is both kid-friendly and masterly work. I had a bit of a quibble with another picture book about a famous artist, Georgia in Hawaii because, though it was beautiful, it never really showed O'Keefe's work. A Splash of Red doesn't have that problem. There are lots of little examples of Pippin's work throughout. (less)
As I was reading this book, I couldn't stop telling people about it. A casual, "How's it going?" would lead to, "Oh my gosh, I'm reading this book abo...moreAs I was reading this book, I couldn't stop telling people about it. A casual, "How's it going?" would lead to, "Oh my gosh, I'm reading this book about a wild boy, like Mowgli or Tarzan, but REAL." So, yeah, I was completely drawn into the story and I found the subject matter fascinating.
I did some really quick research on feral children and found out about a French book published in 2007 called "The Enigma of Wolf-Children" that claims nearly all supposedly true cases of feral children were actually hoaxes or misunderstandings. It made me wonder about the amount of speculation in this real-life story, but the author clearly did her research. I'm willing to put aside harsh skepticism and believe that the boy probably did survive alone in the woods for at least some of his young life.
This is a quick read with a compelling plot, interesting characters, solid writing, and an exciting premise. Highly recommended. I will probably re-read it later in the year to consider for our mock Newbery. And I can't wait to see the art, which was missing from my ARC. (less)
I think this book hits an awkward spot in terms of recommending it to kids. It doesn't have enough information to satisfy older readers, but the vocab...moreI think this book hits an awkward spot in terms of recommending it to kids. It doesn't have enough information to satisfy older readers, but the vocabulary and sentence structures would be really challenging for a younger reader. I suppose I'd put it in the 3rd to 5th grade range.
The story is a very basic outline of the life of oceanographer Sylvia Earle, covering briefly her childhood on a farm, her family's move to Florida near the ocean, her love of exploring ocean life, and some of her professional feats (mostly how deep she dove and how long she stayed underwater).
There's a lot more information in the Author's Note that follows the text. I wish more of it had been integrated into the story. There's a sad message in it, too, about how poorly humans treat the oceans: "...we have dumped lethal nuclear waste, industrial waste, pollutants from underwater mining, and just plain garbage... Are we thinking the sea is vast and deep enough to take all this and more?"
The real treat of this short biography is the art. Each page charmingly conveys the vastness of the oceans and the variety of life found there, as well as Earle's immersion (literally!) in her studies. (less)
This is a beautiful book about a stubborn artist who refuses to paint what she's paid to paint (a pineapple for Dole). I liked it a lot up until the e...moreThis is a beautiful book about a stubborn artist who refuses to paint what she's paid to paint (a pineapple for Dole). I liked it a lot up until the ending. The last page of the story reads, "And Georgia painted a pineapple!" but it doesn't show the painting of the pineapple. Anticlimax to the max. I had to google image search "Gerogia O'Keefe pineapple" to see it, and it doesn't really look like a pineapple. Then I saw that the illustration on the Author's Note page does indeed show a partially obscured version of Georgia's pineapple painting, but there's no way a young reader would know that without first knowing what the pineapple painting looked like.
So, a great fun book, with an ending that leaves the reader hanging. (less)
I'm about halfway through and so far I think this is a very distinguished contribution to American literature for young adul...moreMy mock Newbery thoughts:
I'm about halfway through and so far I think this is a very distinguished contribution to American literature for young adults. Not children, though. (I'm willing to concede that it may just hit the very end of the Newbery age range, which goes up to 14, but I do so grudgingly because, in my humble opinion, the spirit of the award is to recognize a book written primarily for children--being able to imagine one bright 14-year-old for whom this book will work technically makes it eligible, but that doesn't mean the book has "excellence of presentation for a child audience"). Though it starts when the main character is just a boy, NCS is primarily about adults and adult issues. It also takes for granted a good deal of American history is known by the reader (for example, the state of race relations in 20th century America, and who Malcom X was). I can't help comparing NCS to We've Got a Job which is much better suited for a child audience.
Let's get specific. The first part of the book is about how young Lewis was a troublemaker and everyone thought his brother Lightfoot was the golden child. This is great stuff because we know the book is about how Lewis is going to make history. However, I feel like this is the high point in terms of child appeal. Lewis Michaux is an adult and running gambling rings by page 19 (that's 19 pages out of 165).
I see a lot of potential for confusion when a child dives into a narrative like this without knowing the historical context. There are so many things in NCS that pass without explanation. Why would Lightfoot want to marry somebody because she's light skinned? Why do so many characters keep saying black people don't read? The ideal reader for this book has knowledge of the history of racism in the United States, from slavery up through the 1960s. This is why I see this as an excellent novel for young adults. Nelson herself said in an interview that she set out to write a biography for teens.
But in the same interview she also said, "[Don't] underestimate what kids can handle. They’re smart and beg to be challenged. I hope my writing stretches them." I want to take that to heart. I'll write more when I finish the book. (less)
There are eight stories that make up this graphic novel about a little girl growing up in China in the 1970s. The one that struck me the most was abou...moreThere are eight stories that make up this graphic novel about a little girl growing up in China in the 1970s. The one that struck me the most was about the mother's memories of the Great Famine (of 1958-61). It was harrowing, but also couched in the familiar experience of the child who doesn't want to finish her dinner.
The thing about this book is that the material was so unknown to me. How many children's books tackle what life was like for an average Chinese girl during that time? Indeed, the author clearly states at the end of the book that she wanted to capture the stories of her youth because knowledge of that time seems to be fading. I'm so glad there's a book that fills in this experience for young readers.
Though our protagonist is very young, ranging from four years old to maybe eight, this is a book for middle-grade readers. I think it's a great starting point for talking about late 20th century Chinese history. It could be followed up with a biography of Mao Zedong or compared to Red Scarf Girl. Red Scarf Girl is so scary that this offers a balanced view and casts the time in the neutral POV of a young child who sees the positive (New Year traditions and celebrations) with the negative (visiting dirt poor relatives in the country). (less)
Way stuffier than I expected. You'd think a book by a rock star would be rockin', but this is meditative, academic, kind of dry, and full of reference...moreWay stuffier than I expected. You'd think a book by a rock star would be rockin', but this is meditative, academic, kind of dry, and full of references that went totally over my head. I didn't love it, but once I let go of my expectations, I was impressed by Smith's gravitas. You can tell that she isn't fooling around here; she takes her art seriously. I'm still skeptical that this deserved the NBA, though. Maybe the judges were all coming of age in the 60s and 70s too. (less)
"When you were paralyzed, were you afraid you wouldn't be able to paint again?"
These are some of the questions artist Chuck Close answers in his new autobiography for children. Filled with his portraits of mostly ordinary people, this book let's readers into Close's extraordinary life.
Born right here in Washington state in 1940, Close began taking art lessons at age 8. His severe dyslexia and prosopagnosia (face blindness) made school difficult, and so he put the full force of his attention into art. Over the years, Close developed his distinctive portraiture style featuring giant canvases filled with neutral faces, including many self-portraits. One great feature of this book is a section of Close's self-portraits divided horizontally into thirds so readers can mix and match his different works (you can see an example of this on the book's cover).
For 8- to 12-year-old budding artists and art lovers, there's no better non-fiction to read this summer. It's an inspirational story of an artist who overcame significant hardship to achieve success and fame. (less)
You know, I've never thought much about the Girl Scouts. I buy their cookies, I was a Brownie when I was little, I occasionally help scouts find mater...moreYou know, I've never thought much about the Girl Scouts. I buy their cookies, I was a Brownie when I was little, I occasionally help scouts find materials at the library for projects, but until I read this book I didn't fully appreciate the feminist roots of the Girl Scouts. It makes me wish I had stuck with it.
Also, I may start saying "Bosh!" when something is nonsense.
Super talented Caldecott Medal winner Allen Say uses photography, his own art, and the art of others to tell the story of how he became an artist. Bor...moreSuper talented Caldecott Medal winner Allen Say uses photography, his own art, and the art of others to tell the story of how he became an artist. Born in Japan in 1937, Say knew at a young age he wanted to be a cartoonist, but his parents were not at all happy about his interest in art. Then the war came, and his parents got divorced, and Say ended up living alone in Tokyo at the age of 13! He turned his apartment into an art studio, tracked down his cartoonist hero, Noro Shinpei, and asked to be his apprentice, and soon began his career as an artist. Wow. Though the text was a little disjointed at times, the art is obviously awesome and the story is inspiring. A recurring theme is "Let your dear child journey," which is an old Japanese saying.
I was especially touched by the afterward, in which Say confesses that he always wanted to write a book with his sensei, but Noro Shinpei passed away before he had the chance, so he sees this book as a posthumous collaboration fulfilling that dream. (less)
A very sweet book. Maybe a little too sweet, but it certainly took the edge off of rush hour traffic. I listened to the audiobook--speaking of which,...moreA very sweet book. Maybe a little too sweet, but it certainly took the edge off of rush hour traffic. I listened to the audiobook--speaking of which, the narrator pronounced "Vallarta," as in Puerto Vallarta, VA-LAR-TA and it drove me crazy. I actually yelled at the CD "VIE-YAR-TA! VIE-YAR-TA! God bless it!" multiple times. Other than that, I enjoyed it. (less)
Until I read this book, Amy Krouse Rosenthal was known to me only as a children's book author (the really funny, talented author of such gems as Duck!...moreUntil I read this book, Amy Krouse Rosenthal was known to me only as a children's book author (the really funny, talented author of such gems as Duck! Rabbit! and Little Oink). When I found out she'd written a book for adults, I thought it would probably be as irreverent, amusing and creative as her books for young people. I was right!
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life is unlike most other memoirs. It's a reference book about Amy's existence made up of very short entries of completely random Amy-related information. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes poignant. Many times she shares one of those spot-on observations about life that you've never really thought about, but know instantly to be true. For example, from the entry "BOWLING" comes this reflection: "It would be difficult to convince me that leaning has no effect whatsoever on the outcome of my bowling."
I was ready to completely love this book until a colleague pointed out that Sojourner Truth's famouse "Ain't I Woman" speech, which is used heavily in...moreI was ready to completely love this book until a colleague pointed out that Sojourner Truth's famouse "Ain't I Woman" speech, which is used heavily in the book, is now thought to be a very embellished version of the original. I'm a little disappointed that the authors didn't note that at the end of the book, especially since we keep this book in biographies, not fiction.
It's amazing to me that Claudette Colvin was virtually unknown before this book. And what a great thing that the book's turned out to be quite the awa...moreIt's amazing to me that Claudette Colvin was virtually unknown before this book. And what a great thing that the book's turned out to be quite the award magnet. Maybe next year Outkast will write a jam about her. (less)
Relentlessly depressing until the very, very end. Most of the characters were one-dimensional in their villainy, which was the book's biggest failing....moreRelentlessly depressing until the very, very end. Most of the characters were one-dimensional in their villainy, which was the book's biggest failing. I want to say something like, "Just because you had a horrible childhood, doesn't mean you need to turn your pain into a book," but that sounds cold and I really like David Small as an illustrator. So instead I'll just say that it's not nearly as good as Fun Home.(less)
I read the first few pages. The writing is delightfully cheeky at times ("he became the king of the snappy soundbite, always bemused, sort of cuddly,...moreI read the first few pages. The writing is delightfully cheeky at times ("he became the king of the snappy soundbite, always bemused, sort of cuddly, with soulful eyes") and very readable. The author's tone is conversational. Occasional illustrations don't add much, but don't hurt either.
134 pages, with a list of sources and a pretty robust index (there's an entry for the Large Hadron Collider!).
The other books in this series (Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Curie, Isaac Newton, and Freud) have been well-reviewed and I can see why. (less)
I love This I Believe. I first heard the radio show on NPR and then went out and bought the book when it came out. A lot of the statements are memorab...moreI love This I Believe. I first heard the radio show on NPR and then went out and bought the book when it came out. A lot of the statements are memorable, but the one that sticks out for me is by a woman who earned advanced degrees and then decided what she really wanted to do with her life was to be a personal assistant. People at parties treated her like she was dumb or unimportant when they found out what she did, but she learned not to let it bother her. She chose a job she liked over a job that would impress people, even though she could've easily found a job that impressed people. (less)