Baking with Kafka by Tom Gauld
(Drawn & Quarterly, 2017, 160 pages)
This fun collection of comics caters directly to book-lovers and English professors. I enjoy Gauld’s artistic style and dry humor and I’ve already started looking into his past work. There were a number of comics in Baking with Kafka that I wanted to rip out and post around my office and/or send to friends. I’d recommend this to anyone who has an appreciation for literary-based humor. 😉
Just to get a taste for a taste of his work:
Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult
by Bruce Handy
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 307 pages)
Wild Things is a book that’s right up my alley. You want to talk about children’s literature I’m all ears! Handy looks back at some classic children’s books and puts them in context. The breadth of children’s literature makes it impossible for Handy to touch on everything and he acknowledges that early on but he highlights the classics that will hit home for most people.
In addition to deconstructing each story Handy also offers up biographical information about the authors. You come away not only wanting to revisit classics and explore more children’s books, but also wanting to learn more about these authors who have had such an impact on our lives and the lives of our children. I’ve been looking forward to reading some of my favorites out loud to my daughter when she gets a little older but this book only got me more excited.
Wild Things encourages you to appreciate and really explore the children’s books that are in our lives. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone.
Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country: Traveling Through the Land of My Ancestors
by Louise Erdrich
(Harper Perennial, 2014, 160 pages)
“I can’t imagine home without an overflow of books. The point of books is to have way too many but to always feel you never have enough…” (7)
Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite writers and I don’t know how I hadn’t heard of this book. I’m pretty sure I put in a request for it as soon as I learned it existed. This memoir focuses on a road trip that Erdrich takes with her youngest daughter, Kiizhikok, into Ojibwe Country in northern Minnesota and Canada. A big part of the Ojibwe lands are islands interspersed throughout the region. These islands are sacred to the Ojibwe people for a number of reasons, one of which is the rock paintings contained on many of them.
As Erdrich takes us along on this journey we see how important her heritage is to her and also the value she places on books and the role they play in her life. There were so many good quotes that I pulled from this text because I related to so many of the things that she said. Like John Irving, Erdrich is one of those writers I just want to sit and talk with for hours… or just sit and read next to her. Either way, I’d be happy.
Anyway, if you’re an Erdrich fan I certainly recommend this. If you’re a bibliophile, I also recommend this – you’ll be reading along with a kindred spirit.
The Child That Books Built: A Life in Reading by Frances Spufford
(Metropolitan Books, 2002, 213 pages)
Francis Spufford’s memoir of childhood reading is a classic case of “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The American edition features a rather sentimental looking illustration of a child in a nursery setting, idyllically gazing at a picture book. The image sets the expectation (at least to my mind) of warm reflections on charming children’s classics. Well, Spufford has some of those, but this is certainly not the overall tone of the book. The first chapter, “Confessions of an English Fiction Eater,” is a play on Thomas De Quincy’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, and Spufford’s voracious reading bears all the nasty marks of a habit. He describes the way that books served as an escape from a suffocating home life, one which was dominated by the needs of his sister’s debilitating illness. There is no sentimentality in the frustration and lack of sympathy that he expresses for her condition. Books serve as a means of distraction from the claustrophobia of boarding school and ultimately an escape from childhood altogether.
His account begins with his reading of Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit and ends with the erotic novel Emmanuelle. In between, Spufford investigates the psychology of fairy tales, the immersive qualities of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, and the social ethics of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. His discussion of Lewis is particularly good. Spufford’s reading of Narnia really captures the capacity of Lewis’ writing to awaken a desire for the supernatural. Lewis’ stories are treated as stories, not as vehicles for ideas (as is so often the case). Lewis’ judgements about what makes for good reading continue to guide Spufford, even as he moves from reading children’s books to porn (the books he describes as “porn” actually sound a bit highbrow, but it goes well beyond romantic memories of childhood nonetheless).
This is a book that delves deep into the ways that reading shapes us psychologically, intellectually, and emotionally. For those who come to reading as simple entertainment, this whole approach might seem a bit overblown. But if, for you, reading is more of a habit to be supplied than a recreation to be taken up or left alone, Spufford’s reading life should resonate deeply.
Reading Magic by Mem Fox
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008, 208 pages)
As a new mom I’ve wanted to make sure I raise my daughter to (hopefully) be a reader. For this reason I’ve been researching books on literacy and reading to children so I have an idea of how best to introduce my daughter to the amazing world of books and reading. Mem Fox is a well-known children’s book author. I’m not sure where I learned about her adult books on literacy and children, but I’m glad that I did.
In Reading Magic Fox explains the many benefits of reading out loud to your child. She highlights what to look for in books to make sure you keep your child’s interest and encourage them to love language. She also points out the three secrets of reading: the magic of print, the magic of language, and the magic of general knowledge. You want to put all three of these “secrets” together to successfully approach reading in a positive way with your little one.
Fox writes accessibly and regularly emphasizes the key points of reading aloud. She also provides great examples and really just makes you eager to go read with your child. A lot of the book will most likely seem like common sense, but one of the key things Fox talks about is that you can always find the time to read a book with your child. It will be beneficial to you and them.
How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much
by Samantha Ellis
(Vintage, 2015, 264 pages)
In How to Be a Heroine Samantha Ellis takes a journey through the books, and more specifically the heroines, that spoke to her growing up. I’m going to take a page from Theresa’s book and share the Amazon summary of this title below. I enjoyed the book, especially when reading about Ellis’s experience with books that I love (Anne of Green Gables, Gone with the Wind…). How to Be a Heroine is part memoir part literary criticism and it made me want to revisit books from my past to see how I respond to them as an adult.
“While debating literature’s greatest heroines with her best friend, thirtysomething playwright Samantha Ellis has a revelation—her whole life, she’s been trying to be Cathy Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights when she should have been trying to be Jane Eyre.
With this discovery, she embarks on a retrospective look at the literary ladies—the characters and the writers—whom she has loved since childhood. From early obsessions with the March sisters to her later idolization of Sylvia Plath, Ellis evaluates how her heroines stack up today. And, just as she excavates the stories of her favorite characters, Ellis also shares a frank, often humorous account of her own life growing up in a tight-knit Iraqi Jewish community in London. Here a life-long reader explores how heroines shape all our lives.”
From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books
by Kathleen T. Horning
(Collins, 2010, 229 pages)
As a new mom I’ve been all about building up my daughter’s library. With that in mind I’ve made it a priority to learn a little more about what makes for good children’s literature. From Cover to Cover focuses on what you should look for when evaluating and reviewing children’s books. Horning does a great job deconstructing the various types of literature. She explains what you should look for in each format and why it’s important while also providing examples from titles she thinks best demonstrate her point.
This book is a great introduction for people interested in learning how to evaluate children’s books. If you’re interested in writing book reviews Horning provides the foundational elements and gives tips on how a review should read. I have a better understanding of what elements I want to see in books along with a great list of titles compliments of Horning’s source compilation at the end of the book. From Cover to Cover is definitely worth your time if you’re a new children’s librarian, but it’s also beneficial to new parents who take an active interest in what their children are reading.
The Book in the Renaissance by Andrew Pettegree
(Yale University Press, 2010, 440 pages)
In the age of the Renaissance, the book, or codex, was in the process of changing from a painstakingly hand-produced artifact to one of mass production. In The Book in the Renaissance, Andrew Pettegree charts the complexities of this gradual change. It is an extremely readable and interesting history of books – and those who manufactured, sold, and collected them – in an age where both ideas and technology were in rapid flux.
Pettegree offers helpful perspective on the hurried pace of technological change. Continual advances in technology are disorienting to virtually everyone in our culture, and those changes can result in a real sense of instability. What Pettegree does, among other things, is help to show that “normal” print media went through a similar process of upheaval. Even though the process of change was much slower in generations past, it took a lot of development for the codex to become the “normal” mode of distributing written material. Even more upheaval was required to make the printed codex the norm.
This will be a welcome read to those interested in books as physical products, as well as to those with a broader interest in the history of technological development. In fact, for those who simply enjoy the period of the Renaissance, reading an accessible treatment of a narrower topic like this one can give a greater appreciation for what daily life and culture looked like in that period.
Born Reading by Jason Boog
(Simon & Schuster, 2014, 305 pages)
I picked up Born Reading earlier this month because I started amassing a children’s library a *while* ago and want to make sure I raise a reader who will enjoy books as much as I do. Boog’s book is based on his own experiences with his daughter, Olive, and he enlisted a lot of help from various experts (ranging from librarians to app developers) to make sure the advice he’s offering is sound and well-supported. The book is broken down into chapters by time frame from “Before Your Baby is Born” to “Kindergarten and Beyond” so it walks you through each stage in a child’s life and differentiates how you can continue to make reading part of their daily routine while also enhancing reading and critical thinking skills.
An important issue Boog touches on is the notion of “screen time” and having an idea of how much time you’re comfortable with exposing your child to. I hadn’t really thought too much about it until reading this book and Boog makes some interesting points. Each chapter includes a list of suggested titles and apps, which is nice. I also really appreciated that Boog makes a point of saying that the titles he highlights worked well for him and his daughter but that you should pick books that speak to your child’s interests – he consistently references going to the library and working with your local children’s librarian to get help finding new titles.
The book has a “Born Reading Playbook” that consists of 15 “skills” for incorporating interactive reading in each stage of your child’s life. I got a lot of great recommendations and suggestions from this title and I’m glad I picked it up. Some of the things referenced seemed like common sense to me, but by making me actively think about them I hope it will help me to enhance the reading experience for my child. Good read – I’d recommend it to parents-to-be and/or parents of young children who are working to encourage better reading habits 🙂