day twelve: midweek booknotes

January 12, 2017 @ 6:24 am | Filed under:



Picture books:

Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack. Chronicle Books. This deceptively simple story is an absolute hoot. The only text in the whole book are variations on “Ah ha!” and “Ahh!” Ah ha! A little boy catches a frog. Ahh, the frog escapes from the jar. Ah ha! Right into the mouth of a predator. Ahh! He gets away again. And so on. For beginning readers, this is about as easy as it gets—you can read a whole book with just two sounds. For kids a bit older, like mine, it’s a fun exploration of inflection. How many shades of meaning can you infuse into those two simple syllables?

When Moon Fell Down by Linda Smith, illustrated by Kathryn Brown. HarperCollins. I’m sad to see this lovely book has gone out of print already. It’s been in regular circulation around here since my former Little House editor—also its editor—sent us a copy many, er, moons ago. Moon falls out of the sky one night, meets an amiable cow, and takes her along on an adventure around town. My favorite part is Moon’s discovery of a hidden side to things he has heretofore only seen from above—shop windows and horses’ knees, for example.




High tide read-alouds:

Story of the World Volume 3: Early Modern Times by Susan Wise Bauer. Rilla, Huck, and I are just beginning this tome this week. I’ll admit Chapter 1 left them a little befuddled. It’s presented in a framing sequence several layers deep: imagine you’re a traveler who’s been all over the known world having adventures; it’s 1600 and there are these two kings you’re going to learn about, but first let’s back up to 1500 to hear about a young man who wanted to be Emperor because of this other emperor several centuries earlier…whew! And at the end of the chapter, both my kids were disappointed because they’d wanted to hear more about that grizzled old two-toothed world traveler from the first paragraph, who never showed back up. Fortunately, I know the text will settle down soon and they’ll be hooked into the historical dramas. But I think they’d rather hear the tale of the seven-toed, two-toothed scurvy man who survived being bitten by a cobra and a water moccasin. (!)

Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin. Oldie but goodie. My favorite way to introduce my small people to classic references like the Sword of Damocles, King Alfred and the cakes, and the famous Laconic “IF.” (Those links will take you to the Main Lesson Project, where you can read the stories for free.)

The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems, edited by Donald Hall.

“Can I keep playing Legos while you read, Mom?”
“Can you play with them quietly enough that you’ll be able to hear?” ”
“Yes, but I need to rummage for some certain pieces first.”
“Okay, you rummage. I’ll pick out some poems. Ooh, Macavity!”
[Fifteen-year-old looks up from her geometry, bursts into song.]




My own queue:

I finished Cat’s Cradle. If you’ll forgive me for getting ultra-intellectual on you for a moment—that is one bananas book. 😉

I got so much, and most mud got so little.

I seem to be rereading two Nick Hornby essay collections at once—Housekeeping vs. The Dirt in print, and More Baths, Less Talking on Kindle. Also in this collection: The Polysyllabic Spree and Shakespeare Wrote for Money. Yes, I will almost certainly have to reread them all before this kick plays out.

One of my favorite aspects of these “Stuff I’m Reading” columns is that Hornby leads with lists of the books he bought that month, and the books he actually read.

“The seasoned reader, accustomed to the vicissitudes of a life spent accumulating books, can probably guess without checking that in any given month, the Books Bought and Books Read lists hardly overlap.”

And later:

“Surely we all occasionally buy books because of a daydream we’re having—a little fantasy about the people we might turn into one day, when our lives are different, quieter, more introspective, and when all the urgent reading, whatever that might be, has been done. We never arrive at that point, needless to say…”

And here he’s speaking to my rabbit-trailing, homeschooling heart:

“And so a lot of adult life—if your hunger and curiosity haven’t been squelched by your education—is learning to join up the dots that you didn’t even know were there.”

(All these quotes are from More Baths, which is more easily quotable simply because I have it on Kindle and can copy-paste from my “Your Highlights” page.)

Some enticing new titles landed on my Netgalley shelf this week, including a new-to-me reprint of a Madeleine L’Engle novel, Ilsa, which has been out of print for some sixty years and is being reissued by Open Road Media next month. More on that to come, surely. And I’ve received a copy of Maud, “a novel inspired by the life of L. M. Montgomery” by Melanie Fishbane, due out in April from Penguin. (Jen of Recreational Scholar expresses some ambivalent feelings about it in this post.)


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11 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Libby B says:

    Another Madeleine L’Engle?!? How exciting!!!

  2. Ellie says:

    Oh! When Moon Fell Down was one of Calli and Josh’s favorites! (Which, you know, they’re teens now so I guess that was a little while ago). Our copy was loved to tatters.

    I saw of twitter you hadn’t known about M L’E’s The Other Side of the Sun either?? That’s an AMAZING book. Truly one of her best. I have loved loved it since I was I’m not sure, thirteen maybe. Calli read it this past year. So good.

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      I’m thrilled to have more L’Engle to search out. I had a vague idea she had older books floating around out there I hadn’t seen yet, but somehow I never did my obsessive ferret-them-all-out thing with hers the way I did with Montgomery, Lovelace, Hanff…

      Ilse’s interesting so far (21% through). Southern family drama. Uncomfortable race elements. Bit of a timeline muddle–I want to tweak things for just a *bit* more clarity. But I’m certainly hooked and wanting to see where it goes.

  3. selvi says:

    Have you liked any of Hornby’s novels? I didn’t finish How to Be Good.
    The L’Engle is exciting. Thank you for the heads up.

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      I’ve read a couple and I’m finding I’m coming up blank in terms of reaction, which is probably telling. Juliet, Naked–all I remember is a feeling of weariness as I read, punctuated with out-loud laughs.

      About a Boy is one of my favorite movies, but I understand the screenplay and novel have a lot of differences. I haven’t wanted to read the novel for fear it’ll color my impressions of the film–which sounds backwards, doesn’t it!

  4. Alice Gunther says:

    I love your thoughts on what you are reading and don’t know how you consistently manage to have a full set of books completely new to me, but you do (except maybe Bauer and the Fifty Famous Stories). Favorite part of the post–the beautiful, smiling girls!

  5. Karen Edmisten says:

    Oh, I should reread some Vonnegut.
    More Madeleine L’Engle to read??? 🙂
    The Hornby stuff is speaking to my soul.

  6. Melanie Bettinelli says:

    I’m loving all the book love. Those picture books sound like fun. And the Hornby. And maybe I need the Baldwin stories.

    We’ve started reading Anne of Avonlea and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate because I couldn’t pick between the two. Ben made me really happy the other day by declaring that he didn’t understand boys who don’t like books just because they’re about girls. He loves Anne and Little Women and the Little House books. It makes me happy. I didn’t know what a joy it was going to be to read Anne out loud. Oh they’re so funny! I love Mrs Rachael so much. Today Anne sold Mr Harrison’s cow. The funny thing is I hear all the voices as the ones from the television series, Diana and Marilla and Mrs Rachel, I think a bit of it creeps into my reading. I can’t wait to show the kids the series. But not until we’ve read the books.

  7. Lindsey says:

    Thanks for all the book love! So funny, my youngest is just just 8 and I too have that feeling that we need to read all the picture books in the house (lots) again…except now I’m getting all these new recommendations and putting holds on at the library. The thing is, my picture book collection has been heavily influenced by garage sales and my mom (now 72) who was/is a huge picture book collector, but our titles kind of stop in the 1990s. So excited to see all these recommendations. I also am trying not to hear what the Caldecott Award is yet, and we’re reading through the prediction lists, but every one I read my son tells me “That one should win for sure mom”. Super fun to snuggle up and read and read and read…