Friday, May 31, 2013

Fourth Grad School Reading List of Second Semester

Well, it hasn't quite been a month since I finished this reading list, so I'm counting getting this posted as a success. Only a few more weeks until the end of the semester, so I really should get back to homework.

Double Crossed by Ally Carter: If you want to write a contemporary YA romance, Carter is one of those must-read authors. She just gets the teenage voice.

Dirt on My Shirt by Jeff Foxworthy, illustrated by Steve Björkman: While some of it was entertaining end even at times endearing, Foxworthy makes a much better stand-up comic than poet for children. While "unsophisticated" isn’t necessarily a bad way to describe children’s humor, it’s not a great term to use in conjunction with poetry for children.

Music Over Manhattan by Mark Karlins, illustrated by Jack E. Davis: It's the little details of this book that make it special. Lines like "the laundry was dancing in time" and that Bernie practiced "even in the bathtub" reminds me of what music was like as a kid. I also like the very real family relations intermixed with the fantastical imagery of music flying.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwon, narrated by Grayce Wey: I wanted to like this book, I really did. But it lacked focus, and the timeline cast such a wide net that I got board. Plus, the epilogue at the end seems so contrived that even if that kind of success has come to some people, it's totally unbelievable in the context of the story. (I also had a MAJOR ethical issue with the information Kimberly keeps hidden even after becoming an adult.) I felt kind of manipulated by the entire thing, which is sad, because more immigration stories—especially modern ones—really do need to exist, and young people could really benefit from knowing that this kind of struggle didn't end after WWII. But my biggest issue was the use of dialect. The main narrative was told in plain English, but even after getting into Yale, Kimberly still speaks in stilted English in all of the dialogue. So much potential—and even a decent narrative voice—wasted on an unfocused plot.

Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry by David Orr: There are some great treasures in this book, especially the chapter on the personal nature of modern poetry. But it was all a little too...pseudo-intellectual for my taste. Don't get me wrong, Orr really knows what he's talking about—it would be difficult to get to his level of prestige if he were just blowing hot air—but his sarcasm and (at times) insulting humor gets old fast. If he's trying to make poetry loves out of the common man, he missed his mark.

Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook by Beverly Patt, illustrated by Shula Klinger: I enjoyed this book, as I do many books of mixed medium. The scrapbook concept was fun, even if I have been seeing a lot of it recently, and the topic was interesting, even if I've read better books (both fiction and nonfiction) about the topic. Although I will admit, it did make me a little more excited to see George Takei's new play, Allegiance.

The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck, narrated by Dylan Baker: What's not to love about Richard Peck? His books are witty, fun and fast-paced, and I don't care how old he is or what time period his books are set in, he always manages to capture childhood so perfectly.

Skippyjon Jones Cirque de Olé by Judith B. Schachner: These books are always fun to read aloud, although this one wasn't my favorite of the Skippyjon Jones books. They're always worth picking up for a quick read.

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare, from The Riverside Shakespeare: Shakespeare is also the perfect source material when studying the place of poetry in storytelling, and he always has the most fascinating young adult characters. I know some people are highly critical of this play. It has been called a failed psychological drama and a formulaic pastoral play. It's not quiet a romance and though it's been cataloged with the comedies, there's nothing funny about it (unless you think the "Exit, pursued by a bear" stage direction is humerus rather than a Greek-style fulfillment of Antigonus' failure to carry out his promise to the king). While it has veiled elements of the fantastical, it's not really a fantasy. In fact, entire passages and themes in this play are cast-offs form earlier plays. But to me, it is truly "a sad tale best for winter." I get angry at Leontes, my heart break for Hermione, and I grieve at the death of Mamillius. But I also admire the intelligence of Paulina, cheer for the goodness of the Shepard and stand in awe of the strength of Perdita. And every time I read the final scene where Leontes stands a humbled man before the image of the wife he has wronged, I weep with Hermione. Is this play as beautiful as The Tempest, as magical as A Midsummer Night's Dream, as lovely as Romeo and Juliet or as moving as Hamlet? No. But it is a beautiful example of the power of time to heal and the enduring love that binds a family. This is a play that fills you with hope by the master of all storytellers. So I love it for what it is—flaws and all—and I will continue to count it as my favorite of the Bard's plays.

Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Mélanie Watt: As with Skippyjon Jones, this wasn't my favorite of the Scaredy Squirrel books, but it did come at a fun time. I'm getting ready for a big camping trip, and I've afraid I'm a little more like Scaredy than I care to admit. Unfortunately, I don't think all of those electronics and safety supplies will fit into my hiking pack.

That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems: Another great picture book with a fun twist. (But I have such a major author-crush on Willems that I'd probably love it if he based a picture book on the phone book, so maybe I'm not the best judge of this one.) One part melodrama, one part Mystery Science Theater, and one part Brothers Grimm, these chicks will really cook your goose.

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