The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
The third, the final, and my favorite installment of the Magician’s trilogy. A total love song to traditional children’s fantasy stories for grown-ups who have still yet to grow out of being enchanted completely by those tales (me). Thankfully, Quentin finally stopped being the annoying whinny young man that he was in the first two volumes, so my irknedness level was way down, making the reading experience a complete delight from beginning to end. Lots of quotable little observations about fantasy story-making and world-building and about being a creative and self-reflective and forgiving (to self and others) human being.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
I can easily understand why my 4th grade students have raved about this one: there’s the thrill of watching a complex puzzle being solved, the excitement of exploring new friendship, the coziness of strengthening old friendship, and the novelty of discovering inventions of a high-tech, but still story-filled, library. Plus a little bit of safe scare: facing down and defeating villains that really aren’t that threatening from beginning to end. This is old school children’s mystery fun.
Sharing articles on literature, diversity, and other topics that came to my attention this past week:
A former student shared this article by Jef Rouner, “NO, IT’S NOT YOUR OPINION. YOU’RE JUST WRONG” on facebook and I reshare this here.
It is definitely a quick and worthwhile read, especially for those who are in the profession of educating young minds and often struggle with how to guide young people toward more fact-based opinion forming, something that I have to face frequently. As mentioned in the article, young children often believe that what they know is the totality of certain area of facts (about dinosaurs, about Star Wars, about the Civil Rights movement, etc.,) and thus they easily believe that their opinions, based on all that they know, are 100% accurate and valid, even sacred, and cannot be challenged: by peers or teachers whose knowledge bases are a lot bigger.
But my students are in their pre-teen and early/mid-teen years and are still quite flexible in becoming better informed. I just have to keep pointing out (and sometimes bursting) the bubbles they find themselves in. In fact, we all operate within our own knowledge/information/social bubbles. All our knowledge bases have to have some sort of limitation, even when we are well-informed. In order for me to be less limited, I need to keep identifying the boundary of each bubble and see how to expand the size of that bubble to include more facts and thus strengthen or even alter my opinions. I hope I can continue modeling this behavior in front of my students so they can accept when their bubbles are being challenged or burst!
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
The young urban teen characters in this novel feel and sound authentic — they are the artsy crowd and use their talents to navigate their lives. Mural art is highlighted and so is spoken word poetry. The blend of the real world with the spiritual/ghosty world also feel convincing with much respect paid to the cultural traditions and family ties with some vividly creepy scenes. This is not a epic fantasy but a story of urban magic, much like a fairy tale where chance meetings and helpful beings are common devices to advance the plot and solve the protagonist’s problems. And thank goodness we have a wonderful strong young woman, who is not white, whose full face is shown to the readers on the beautifully designed cover!
Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman,
illustrated by Scottie Young
A fun and funny romp into the land of wild imagination with a warm, Where the Wild Things Are ending. The father-children relationship is full of heart, too. I can see it being read aloud in many classrooms as a way to insert entertaining moments during a stressful day.
The Marvels by Brian Selznick
In this third installment of a loosely connected (by form, by theme, and by narrative progression) literary trilogy, following the previous two marvelous titles: The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick once again pours his artist’s soul and a writer’s heart into the tome and brings readers a moving tale. Much like the other two picture-novels, The Marvels features instant and fast friendship among two young characters, a cross-generational relationship that grows from suspicion and uneasiness to faithful loyalty, and the deep and palpable connection a person can have with history.
I had a grand time looking through the pictures and reading the story and was unbelievably moved (to a whole lot of tears) as the truth of the story of the Marvels family was revealed. And also by the fact that Brian’s portrayal of the gay characters is without additional fanfare: subtle and yet you can’t misinterpret.
I imagine the book an instant hit with all my students when it’s published on September 15! Can’t wait to hear their reactions!