Literary Reviews (Matt’s Thoughts About Texts)

A year and a half ago I had this hair-brained idea that I would read all of the Newbury Award Winners. Originally, I thought I’d begin at the beginning, reading the very first one “Story of Mankind” (1921) and work my way to the present, chronologically. I wanted to accomplish this because I recognized that some of my favorite books are award-winners. If the most literate people on the planet chose to award a text, it is probably pretty good. Although I had read many, there are plenty I hadn’t touched… yet! And so, I began. As it turns out, I lost some steam, and I didn’t keep to strict chronological order. Also, some books deserved more than one blog!

I am picking this mantle back up. The texts will not be explored chronologically. And breaking with the original goal even more, I am going to add books that did not win Newbury Awards to this “review page.” Finally, I do not intend to produce reviews in the traditional sense. You can get those elsewhere. I am going to apply my take on “class” to these texts. What makes the book classy? Are there elements that are not classy? Those are my driving questions when writing. Without further ado, here are my most recents.

downloadWhere does Inspiration Come From?

This is a blog about one tiny thing, an image, a feeling, a word, inspiring a whole novel. It contains a CLDC-format review of “Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventure” by Kate DiCamillo, written for Kutztown University, Department of Library and Learning Technologies, LLT 520 “Resources for Children and Young Adults” course.

“Circus Mirandus” and Light-Bending

A “speculative novel” is science fiction, fantasy, time travel, dystopia, etc. Here is a blog inspired by the book “Circus Mirandus”. I love this book because is makes you think; not just calculate-think, but wonder and imagine-think. The story focuses on belief in magic, as in it is real if you believe it. This reminds me of Christmas magic and blind faith.

Off-The-Page Artwork by Caldecott Winner, David Wiesner

imagesFor a class at Kutztown University I revisited some of my favorite texts of David Wiesner. I begin the year with one of his wordless books, “Tuesday”, and I use “The Three Pigs” when teaching fractured fairytales. Wiesner’s artwork is beautiful and imaginative. He thinks outside of the box… In the case of “The Three Pigs” his creativity leaps right off of the page… literally! If you are unfamiliar with this author, check out the blog. There is a book review for “Tuesday” within it.

Appreciating the Past is ClassyFeatured Image -- 1049

In true form, I will begin this thing with a blog that wasn’t so much a review about the book, but a way to use a classic in the class. This is a call to arms, as you will, defending the use of old books. The ballet is beautiful, but what is the story behind “The Nutcracker”? That question prompted me to pick up and read the original text several years ago. Now, I read it to my students every year.

Interesting thought not mentioned in the blog: This past year, I realized that the movie Inception, where Leonardo DiCaprio travels deeper and deeper into people’s dreams is a literary element! The Nutcracker has a story within a story within a story describing where the nutcracker came from. It’s not the best classic, but so much of Christmas culture is infiltrated by this nut-cracking character that it seems valuable to visit its origin. Classics are classy by definition.