“It’s always the other one!”
English is such an annoying language when it comes to spelling. The rules are so inconsistent and unfair (says this spelling-challenged person). Ghoti for fish is the exemplar of how impossible it all is. And then there are homonyms/homophones. I actually think I’m more prone to them the more I see errors of this sort done by my students. And so I just adored this past week’s 30 Rock episode with a few quick takes of their fake game show Homonyms. I think my favorite was their use of “au pair” with the winning phrase having something to do with a pear which, of course, the hapless contestant didn’t get. Here’s a taste:
I was delighted to see the CCBC list, “Between Fact and Fiction: Selected K-5 Books about History to Encourage Critical Reading/Thinking” for several reasons. First of all, they are addressing straight on for educators the point that there are books that straddle the two genres, books that are mostly, but not totally nonfiction for various reasons. Secondly, they are letting teachers concerned about using more informational books as required by the Common Core Standards know that these books work. They write:
The new Common Core Standards emphasizes the importance of informational, non-fiction texts from the earliest grades. But many books for elementary-age children related to history fall into the genre of creative non-fiction–authors and illustrators take some degree of artistic license as they interpret real events and lives for young audiences.
Thirdly, I personally am a big fan of many of the books on their list. And finally, selfishly I’m delighted because my forthcoming book Africa is My Home: The Memory Book of Sarah Margru Kinson, a Child of the Amistad, is one of these — a fictionalized account of something true. I’ve been hoping it would be something that would work with the new Common Core informational book requirement, but wondered as it is fictionalized. So I’m very glad to see this list with its focus on books like mine that straddle the border between fiction and nonfiction.
This was a rather longer-than-planned-when-I-started-writing-it comment on Nina Lindsay’s Heavy Medal post on Karen Cushman’s WILL SPARROW’S ROAD and Grace Lin’s STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY. Figured that it might be of interest for those who read this blog, but not theirs, so here it is. That said, I serve notice that the following aren’t reviews as much as some scattered thoughts about the two books (hence the title of this post).
I was glad to see these two books thrown into the mix. In WILL SPARROW’S ROAD I thought Cushman did a terrific job with her first male protagonist, delighted in her deft and rich rendering of Elizabethan England, and admired the skill with which she had Will deal with his own ignorance about those different from himself in a way that felt both accessible to 2012 young readers and sufficiently of his time as well. I could imagine some finding the plot a bit spare, but to my mind it was a case of enjoying the journey. A most delightful read.
And I also took a great deal of pleasure in STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY. For whatever reason, perhaps the fact as Nina suggests that Lin is becoming more skilled and confident in her particular form, but I enjoyed this book more than the previous one. I was engaged immediately, curious about this boy called Rendi and his refusal to let us in on his back story. In fact, while he isn’t exactly an unreliable narrator, he exhibits some of those characteristics that make you the reader wonder if you can trust him. The ending worked for me — somehow by then I had completely bought in to all aspects of the book and so just went with the final bits.
And though it doesn’t “count” for Newbery, the design and art for the Lin book is extraordinary. And more and more this inability for the Committee to recognize this is frustrating me. (They are only allowed to consider illustration and design when it hinders appreciation of a book, not when it is an asset*.) The book is not eligible for the Caldecott as it is not a picture book, nor something in the vein of HUGO CABRET and that is too bad. I have railed many times about the “design thorn” which keeps Newbery Committee members from being able to bring to the table this aspect of the books they are considering when these have so much to do with advancing the story. Growl.
* From the criteria: “The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.”