This week is finals week here at Illinois State University. The children’s literature folks in our program tend to get together at least once a month to catch up and relax after weeks of work and personal responsibilities. Last Friday, a few members of our group decided to head to the theater before dinner. The movie we went to watch, of course, was Coco. As ChLit readers, viewers, and scholars, it’s hardly surprising that so many of us were interested in checking out this new children’s movie that has received such great reviews from most people who have watched it (the movie has a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes). I’ve broken down my review into three parts, just like with my book reviews. I do include major spoilers in this review (especially in the “viewer” section), so if you don’t want to know about any major plot points yet, I suggest coming back once you’ve watched the movie.
It’s that time of the semester. No, not the drowning in final exams and papers time. That’s still three weeks away. Nor is it the can’t-see-any-surface-in-my-house because-of-all-the-books time. That happens way earlier on in the semester. No, the time I’m talking about is when you receive an email letting you know what course(s) you’re teaching next semester, and asking you to submit your textbook request form ASAP. As half of my graduate assistantship is currently devoted to my work for our Writing Program, this next semester is likely the last one in which I’ll only be teaching one course. I’ve been assigned my top choice, ENG 125: Literary Narrative, and I’ve decided to use a different design than the one I used last year. Instead of a ChYALit adaptations course, my new 125 class will be a YA literary narratives course. [Update: Here’s the page all about this course.]
The majority of my recent blog posts have focused on school-related topics. As such, I thought this week was the perfect time for another book review. There’s still some pedagogical considerations in this post, but I’m hoping that this review inspires teachers and non-teachers alike to give this children’s classic a chance, if they haven’t already done so. My last review was for a very new and trendy YA novel, but today’s is all about one of my favorite children’s novels: The Phantom Tollbooth. I won’t say this book is perfect, as it isn’t (see: colonization origin-story for the secondary world). However, just because a book has its issues, doesn’t mean it’s not worth a read. This motto is definitely the case for Phantom.
So, if you’re a lover of fantasy novels, allegories, puns, or educational tales, click on the link below to…
Growing up in Miami, Florida, I’ve always had many opportunities to participate in some amazing cultural experiences. We have quite a few museums in town, for example, including the Lowe Museum that is operated by the University of Miami. This summer, this museum is exhibiting the retrospective of award-winning children’s writer and illustrator, Walter Wick. If you can’t place his name immediately, he’s the illustrator of the I Spy series and the writer/illustrator of the Can You See What I See? series and Hey, Seymour! (amongst other works). The exhibit opened on June 22 (an auspicious day, considering it’s my birthday), and will continue on until September 24, 2017. For those who will be in the area during this time, here’s the link to the museum’s website if you’d like more information.
As someone who studies and teaches children’s literature (ChLit), and who has a particular interest in visual rhetoric, having the chance to see the exhibit in person (it’s been showcased in various museums over the past decade or so) was amazing. Having the chance to tour it with Walter Wick himself, though, was even better than I imagined. While I don’t want to give too many details away (definitely go see it yourself if you have the chance), I thought I’d devote this blog post to sharing a few of my favorite pieces from the exhibit as well as a few behind-the-scenes details I learned from Walter* throughout the tour.
*Side note: How I was able to tour the exhibit with Walter is a long story that also ties into why I’m referring to him as “Walter” and not “Wick”, as is usual when talking about authors/illustrators in this context.
When deciding what book to read next, I try to think of ones that I’ve been hearing a lot about and/or ones that I think have potential for future use in my classroom. Adding Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also A Star to my PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge reading list was a direct result of both these considerations. I was originally assigned a fall semester course that provided me with the opportunity to add young adult (YA) literature to my required booklist. While I’ve been assigned a new course that cannot include YA lit, three of the books I’ve completed for my reading challenge were read in consideration for that prior class: The Sun Is Also A Star, The Hate U Give, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. While I enjoyed all three of these novels in different ways (it’s hard to use the term “enjoy” when referring to The Hate U Give), I’ve chosen my favorite of the three for my first book review on this blog. If you’ve read any or all of these three YA novels, though, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them in the comments section below.
One final note before getting to the “meat and potatoes” of this post. I plan for each book review post to have the same elements:
- a brief introduction
- a “basic information” section
- and, a review of the book from my perspective as
- a reader
- an educator
- a fan (as in, someone who takes part in fandom)
Now, on to the main event…(warning: a few *spoilers* ahead)