Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What I Read: September 2013

What I Read in September 2013

Most of the reading this month was for one of my classes, Multicultural Resources for Youth. I haven't read any children's books since I was the target audience and I have to say that I was a little taken aback. I don't remember what I was reading in grades 1 - 6, but I know that I was reading. I vaguely remember the Sideways Stories from Wayside School and Teacher from the Black Lagoon and The Stinky Cheese Man. These books that I read for class didn't feel like how I remember those books that I read when I was a kid.

The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier

Two fraternal twins -- one with dark skin and black hair and one with light skin and red hair -- from an interracial marriage are entered into Miss Pre-Teen Black Pearl beauty pageant.

This story just felt so painfully contrived. I wish this book had just been a story and that the lesson had come out of it rather than having a lesson in mind and then a book written to teach it.

How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay by Julia Alvarez

Miguel moves with his mother and his little sister from New York to Vermont after his parents' divorce. His great-aunt Lola comes from the Dominican Republic to stay with them, despite not knowing any English, to help out and ends up teaching Miguel valuable lessons about himself.

I think maybe this book tried to tackle too many issues (divorce, otherness, moving, little sisters, absent fathers, family, embarrassing relatives, friends, new school, growing up...) and that's why I felt so scattered while reading it.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

The narrative of this graphic novel is broken into three sections.
1. Jin Wang's parents are Chinese who moved to the US to study and work. One of three Asian students in his school, Jin sticks out and not in a way that he likes.
2. The Monkey King, a traditional Chinese character, learns Kung Fu to attempt to be like the gods.
3. Everybody Ruvs Kin Chee is drawn as though it is a sitcom on television, complete with laugh track. Kin Chee is Caucasian Danny's Chinese cousin who comes for a visit and embarrasses him with his ridiculously stereotyped behavior -- lusting over American women, speaking with a comical accent, playing inappropriate tricks on people.

I loved this. I am a big fan of graphic novels anyway, but I thought that Yang did a fantastic job introducing three separate storylines and twining them together to make a rather poignant observation about what it was like growing up as an American Born Chinese. The art was great; the dialog was accessible and still interesting for adults. I am on the lookout for more work by Yang after this.

The Blacker the Berry by Joyce Carol Thomas

A series of poems about shades of skin color. Illustrated.

The illustrations were beautiful and the poems were nice. This is exactly the kind of book that I would have hated when I was a kid. Nothing happens and the pictures are just too pretty. As an adult, I liked it fine, but thought it was interesting that the majority of the time reading was spent looking at the pictures rather than thinking about the poetry. I'm looking forward to when we talk about the role of visual elements in books for kids in class since that is what really dominated in this book for me. I liked the structure of the collection and how inclusive all of the poetry was. I just felt good while I was reading it.

What did you read in September?

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