Saturday, January 19, 2008

The semester-long project begins

Ok, I have to read 70 young adult and children's books for my Materials for Youth class. Other than assignments, that's about all I'm reading now, so I'm totally blogging them, 1) to prove that grad school didn't devolve me into an illiterate mushy-brain (although that's how I feel sometimes), and 2) because what I have to record for my reading log does not let me express my full thoughts and feelings about what I've read. I'm heavy on the picture books today.

Shredderman: Secret Identity, by Wendelin Van Draanen; illustrations by Brian Biggs. The premise behind the book-- that you never know who is watching what you are doing or saying, so you should watch yourself-- is, theoretically, a good one to establish in young children: it's why we act one way in society and another way at home, say PC things at work but not with friends, etc, and that lets society run mostly smoothly. However, the idea that a 5th grader took it upon himself to blog about all his evil classmates' bad actions struck me as really Baby-Big Brother. When we worry about someone else censoring us, we censor ourselves.

The Greatest Power, by Demi. The book was really good up until nearly the end, when it started talking about the strength of the power in the space inside the seed. I think kids will have trouble with some of the concepts. I loved the detailed drawings, though.

Gus and Button, by Saxton Freymann. Mushroom people! A sea of cabbage leaves! I love these books! Dr. Pompo's Nose, by Saxton Freymann. See above! And with a twist at the end that made me laugh out loud in my living room!

Fast Food, by Saxton Freymann. See above! The detail is amazing! Dog Food, by Saxton Freymann. See above! The expressions and emotions are so clear on the characters' faces! (Sorry for all the exclamation points. I'll stop that now.)

DaWild, DaCrazy, DaVinci, by Jon Scieszka; illustrated by AdamMcCauley. This book is apparently from the middle of a long-ish series. Fortunately, it explained all the important bits as it went along. I have no strong feelings one way of the other.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, by Kevin Henkes. The detail and the colors in the illustrations are quite awesome. I like how there was a moral, which kids should be able to pick up on, that wasn't spelled out word-for-word by some well-meaning adult character.

Pockets, by Jennifer Armstrong; illustrations by Mary GrandPre. This is not a picture book for children. Don't get me wrong, it's an amazing book. If I could find a copy for myself, I would tear the pictures out and put them on my walls, they are so gorgeous. But I don't think it's the kind of beauty kids are likely to appreciate. Also, the language, though also lovely, is going to go right over their heads... and over the heads of most middle-schoolers. Plus, there were a few words I would be hard pressed to pin down a definition for. This is not a recipe for success with your 4-year-old.

I Love Going Through This Book, by Robert Burleigh; illustrations by Dan Yaccarino. Glad someone does, because none of the readers will. I think this is trying to show young readers that books can take them to any place, but it kind of fails at that in that it is pretty boring. Love the paints, though.

A Pickpocket's Tale, by Karen Schwabach. This chapter book will probably keep young readers satisfied for a while. It didn't exactly stand out from the crowd for me, which not only means it wasn't amazing, but more importantly means it didn't suck. More of the character's growth or emotional maturing process could have been shared with the reader to make her evolution feel more natural. In fact, more detail all around wouldn't have been bad.

Llama Llama, Mad at Mama, by Anna Dewdney. Does reading about characters who throw temper tantrums make kids more likely to throw them themselves? I dunno. Loved the paints and character expressions.

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