Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Sunday Salon: On Re-Reading

Ahh yes, it's that time of year again. Time to get ready to get back to work! I've been saying I need to re-read the novels for my Children's Lit class, and this morning I finally got down to business.
Since I enjoyed it so much the first time, I couldn't resist starting with Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese. This excellent graphic novel was a finalist for a 2006 National Book Award and won the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award. While it really rides the line between Children's and Adolescent literature, I think it'll be a great book to bridge the gap between our study of picture books and novels in the Children's Lit course. Many of my college students have never read comics or graphic novels before, and this one is a really quick, engrossing, and sophisticated bit of storytelling. I won't bore you with a rehashing of the plot since I've reviewed it before, but do take a look if you're at all interested in graphic novels, childrens/adolescent lit, or identity politics.

Yang's story reminds me of Art Spiegelman's Maus insofar as he employs stereotypes in order to critique stereotypes. Chin-kee (left) is probably my favorite character in the book because he is soooo over the top. In one panel his luggage is actually shown as Chinese take-out boxes. My hope now is that my online students will be able to tune into the ironic tone of this particular storyline without my having to tell them straight out. It's definitely a conversation starter either way!

I have several books left in the re-read stack including:

The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Skellig, by David Almond
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Parvana's Journey, by Deborah Ellis
The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis

We'll also be reading lots of picture books and fairy tales. It's been the longest since I read the fairy tales, so I'll probably tackle those soon. The versions start to run together after a while, so I need a refresher!

I haven't decided what I'll focus my efforts on for the rest of the day. I'm really getting involved in The Hour I First Believed now, but I'm also trying to stave off a slump, so I might stick with short, quick reads. I have a copy of Dear Julia, by Amy Bronwen Zemser, on the nightstand that I started a while back. I think that one wins!

Happy Sunday Salonning everyone!


  1. American Born Chinese went back to the library yesterday. I was really looking forward to reading it. But those pesky things called due dates deterred me. I think it is a fairly fast read so I hope to get to it again soon. Or just have a copy magically appear on my doorstep as I am trying to collect all the Printz books.

    I really love The Giver but I will not be rereading it for a while. I have this fear of rereading a book and destroying what I have with it. But I do want to reread this one some day, just not yet.

    I will never reread Jacob Have I Loved because it is one of my most favorite books EVER.

    I am making it one of my 2009 goals to read classic YA, most of which I have never read before. I am using a book of essays by Alison Lurie called Boys and Girls Forever as a sort of guide to decide what to read. I will be reading one essay a month and reading one of the books featured in the essay.

    I have never read any Frances Hodgson Burnett books but I really do need to.

    Right now I am trying to finish Stranger in a Strange Land.

  2. Megan, definitely try to snag it again soon if you can. I read it in an hour or so. Although, the magically appearing on the doorstep option is a great one! lol

    I've read The Giver so many times I can't see straight (this will probably be 4 or 5), but I need to mark specific pages/passages to discuss with my class.

    And sadly, I've never read Jacob Have I Loved! I need to though. I can't wait to find out which classic YA you go with in 2009! I'm sure you'll read some great ones. I've read The Secret Garden, but the Burnett novel I really want to try is The Little Princess. I have it here on the stacks somewhere.

  3. The only book that I have read on your list is The Secret Garden, which I think I read about 8 million years ago. You always give me such wonderful book ideas that take me out of my normal choices.

    Right now, I am surprisingly enjoying Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris. Too many people recommended her, and she is speaking at our library in a couple of weeks.

    Happy New Year!

  4. Enjoy your re-reading :)
    I have The Hour I First Believed in my TBR.

  5. I'm so jealous of your reading plans! :) But I'm rereading The Giver myself-it's been one of my very favourite books since elementary school (and one of the three books from that time I have on my shelf right now). I've probably read it at least ten times! lol

  6. I forgot to add-thanks so much for joining my challenge! :D

  7. What fun to reread some of these children's lit/young adult lit titles! Like you, I've read The Giver bunches of times (I used to teach it when I taught 6th grade) and it never lost a thing in the rereading. Have you tried Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian? It's my newest very favorite young adult novel and would have a ton to discuss.

  8. KnittingReader, enjoy the Harris talk! I haven't read any of her stuff yet, but so many people recommend them I think I just might have to give 'em a go!

    Thanks for stopping by, Naida! Looking forward to your thoughts when you get to The Hour I First Believed!

    Eva, it's very re-readable isn't it?! I notice something new every time, and it ever loses its impact. And thank YOU for hosting your challenge!!! I already read in some of the categories, but others will be a stretch for me...*cougheconomicscough*

    Tammy, I haven't read the Alexie book yet, but you and others I trust (Susan, former prof) all recommend it. It sounds like one that would be very interesting for teaching purposes, especially!

  9. I know when I've re-read fairy tales as an adult I've been surprised at how non-Disney they are. Terrible, horrible things happen and people are cruel and nasty. Maybe those lessons are supposed to prepare children for later in life, I don't know! I hope all the fairy tales and picture books go well!

  10. Thanks, Beautiful Witch! That's one of the things we discuss in my children's lit classes actually. Those fairy tales were written at a time before there was really a specified "children's" literature. It was just literature for everybody. And you're right, the mortality rate was so high that it prepared kids (and everyone else) for the very real possibility of an early death. Happy, eh? lol

  11. A great list of books. The Secret Graden is one of my mother's favorites. I am a writer of books for young readers and so I love checking out books that are written by other young reader authors.

    Tony Peters
    Author of, Kids on a Case: The Case of the Ten Grand Kidnapping

  12. I enjoyed American Born Chinese, but I thought it was pricey considering how long it took me to read it. I know all of the drawings took a lot of work.

  13. I've heard such great things about American Born Chinese - I really must get my hands on a copy!

  14. Thanks, Tony! I'll have to visit your link.

    Bermudaonion, I feel that way about most graphic novels. Most of the time I only buy the ones I know I'll re-read for pleasure or teaching purposes. I own almost all of the Fables series, some of the big omnibus collections (Watchmen, etc.), and I have a few leftover unreads from a class I was supposed to take a couple of years ago. For the rest I rely heavily on interlibrary loan and/or used bookstores and gift cards!

    Stephanie, I think you'll LOOOOVE it!

  15. Thanks so much for your comments on my blog! Ali from Worducopia/Diversity Rocks! linked me up to your review today and I about passed out in joy that you recognized how Yang uses stereotypes in order to shed light on how silly and ignorant they really are.

    If you don't mind me asking, did you go to TWU for your Library Science degree? I saw that you live in "Dallas-ish" and TWU is one of the few ALA-accredited LS programs here in Texas, I think. I'm actually looking into enrolling in the program with the 100% online option so I can work and go to school at the same time, so if you have any comments about the program let me know! Great blog, and keep up the excellent work! Would you mind if I linked you up on "Burning Leaves?"

  16. Hi, Meredith! I would be delighted if you linked me. I'll do the same with your blog and Ali's.

    I'm attending the University of North Texas, so right next door to TWU practically. I'm only about 3 classes into the program, but so far I've been very pleased with the online structure. I work from home as an online English instructor for various colleges, so the only MLS is perfect for me. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions!

  17. And that should say "online MLS" instead of "only MLS." My fingers hate me today.


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