Thursday, May 20, 2010

beautiful art and storytelling

Yesterday I journeyed to Canal street in dirty damp the rain to preview an art show by my friend Serge Bloch. The gallery is Living With Art. 153 Lafayette. The opening is Thursday evening, and the prices are human. Anyone who has been to my apartment knows that I have been collecting Serge's work, but this is the first original piece for me. My friend Vincent Kirsch came, too. Vincent, being the other astonishingly gifted illustrator for whom I keep a shrine in my apartment, helped me pick out a piece called The Baroness. She is reminiscent of William Steig. (I digress to mention there is a show of Jewish picture book illustrators coming to the Eric Carle Museum/Amherst in October! It includes, Serge, Steig, Mordicai Gerstein and the wonderful Simms Taback.)I will pick the Baroness up next week. I will have to ask her where she wants to go. Clearly it's her decision. Just look at her!

I wanted to write about the love affair I experienced a month or so ago when I read The Secret Garden, but I can't because I have moved on to books about boys. But I can recommend that if you haven't read The Secret Garden, you should do it right now. Promise?

I re-read The Giver by Lois Lowry. I read it along with my fifth grader, and we chatted periodically. The book is about a boy who is chosen in his bizarre Utopian community to receive all of the memories from a man called the Receiver. What moved me about the book were the descriptions of experiences the boy has never known. Makes you think. The one that choked me up was the description of Christmas. Maybe because the scene involved grandparents. The boy in the book has never heard of grandparents, but he feels connected to the idea of it. Good for fifth grade and up.

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli surprised me. Being a book about a tough homeless orphan who runs around between and black neighborhood and a while neighborhood and belongs to both and neither, it really made me think about kids today and how it all looks to them. Told as a tall tale, Maniac Magee feels more like a superhero than a regular child. A very clever concept and story. Good for 4th grade and up.

The big winner this month was Skellig by David Almond. This book crosses age ranges. I might read this to my second grader, while handing a copy to my fifth grader to read to himself. (He did, by the way.)David Almond is a favorite writer of Betsy Partridge. Betsy is the third person to whom I have a shrine in my home, but her shrine is photographic. Her new book Marching For Freedom is the story of the kids who marched during the Civil Rights Movement. This is the type of deeply affecting book you can read to your children, and feel you've done your job as a parent for the whole week. Go Betsy! Back to Skellig. I won't say too much about Skellig except for that it's the story of a boy and his baby sister, whose health is bad. His family moves house (yes, it's British) and Michael finds a man or something in the garage. He also meets up with a neighbor girl named Mina, sort of a sassy superego, and of course home-schooled. The little things and big things that happen to them and change them are magic.

Today is Lewis Carroll Day. Two weeks ago, our second grade book club took a retreat to Central Park where the children climbed on the Alice in Wonderland Statue. We had scones and sandwiches, and read parts of Alice in Wonderland out loud. It was a moment. And it was not raining! On the way back, we met some men who were making bubbles with giant nets. The perfect ending to the picnic.