Daddy Reads: 3.18 and 4.18

I’m a little behind in my posts on what me and my littlest have been reading. March was a busy month with our spring break trip to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, and April always has the typical busyness of the season, so here’s a two-for-one.

The Tower of the Elf King; The Quest for the Queen; The Hawk Bandit of Tarkoom; Under the Serpent Sea; The Mask of Maliban (The Secrets of Droon #9-13) by Tony Abbott
We continued to work through The Secrets of Droon series, although at a slower rate than in the past. Some of that reduced speed was due to my efforts to move us on to something more interesting, and some of it was just due to our trip and a few other things, that reduced our reading. In any case, we continue! We completed five more books in the series in these past two months.

We’ve reached the end of the books we own and so it’s the library from here on out. I suppose it’s a wonderfully good thing that she likes something as much as she does this series, and that it motivates her to check out more books from the library (even if neither one of those has been a problem for us to begin with). In any case, I’ll remind myself to be glad about it while I bemoan the content of what it is we read.

For those who are interested, the books took a slightly more interesting turn with the temporary defeat of the book’s main evil doer Lord Spar. It had to be done, in order to shake up what had become a rather repetitious story format. We’ve now moved on to a series of other ne’er-do-wells, the introduction of each offering new (and convoluted) information expanding what we know of the land of Droon. This is becoming it’s own repetitious format, which was further interrupted by bringing some closure to one of the overarching stories, the quest to free Queen Relna from an evil spell and reunite her with her magical daughter Keeah. Spoiler alert: evil Lord Spar has returned in the thirteen book. Alas, it was only a matter of time.

Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley
In an effort to connect my little to something of a higher quality, we also read Remarkable, by Lizzie K. Foley. This is a real deal chapter book. It’s got lots of characters; it is written and high level (probably suited to late elementary/early middle school kids); and it has 43 chapters. This is the first time we’ve read a book of this length and complexity.

I love this book. It’s odd, funny, and deeply intentional when it comes to the messages. My favorite part is the way she develops girl/women characters; they are central to everything in the book, and they are diverse and interesting and exceedingly human. This is the best young people’s book breaking the traditional gender bias of young people’s literature that I have ever read.

You want proof of my love and admiration for Remarkable? This is my third time reading the book. I read it to my son and, later, to my second daughter. Each of them has also read it once or twice on their own afterwards, too. It’s a testament to the quality and creativity of the book.

It looks like Remarkable has been a game changer for my little one. She was reluctant to read it because it was taking us away from Droon. We started mixing in a chapter a night while we read a reduced load of our latest Droon book. In time, we started skipping Droon now and again to read more Remarkable. She got hooked pretty early, and it started to become something she looked forward to doing. Once we finished, she took pride in the fact that this is the longest book she’s ever “read.” She also had that satisfaction that comes with reading something that you just know is meant for kids older than you.

Today we will begin reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I’m so excited to do so, in part because I’ve never read it myself.

Advertisements

Daddy Reads 1.18

My wife and I have been avid readers with our kids since birth. Our youngest (7) has recently started preferring chapter books to the straight story book. This has partly arisen from the fact that both her sister (10) and brother (12) don’t read much else. But it’s also due to the great Beverly Cleary (101). Last year we inherited a box of old books from my folks (ages redacted), mostly stuff my sisters grew up reading. Among them were several of the “Ramona” books. Needless to say, she fell in love with the fact that the stories were told from the perspective of a little girl like her. And, so, we’ve been on chapter books ever since.

Anyway, I (45) thought it’d be fun to keep track of what she and I have been reading this year. So here’s the first month of Daddy Reads:

Runaway Ralph (Beverly Cleary)
We read The Mouse and the Motorcycle late last year. She didn’t like it that much at first–after all, the protagonist is a preteen boy–but she warmed up to Ralph and Cleary’s writing style. This is the sequel. It’s not as good overall but there are lots more kids and animals, and several scenes of tense suspense, all making for a good first read of the year.

Coco
I’m not going to go searching for this to find the author, but this is one of the junior novelizations of the hit Disney movie. We loved the movie. These novelizations are never as good, but the kids tend to like them at a certain age if they loved the movie enough.

Mary Anne Saves the Day (The Baby-Sitters Club #3) Raina Telgemeier
These are graphic novel adaptations of Ann M. Martin’s famous book series. My older daughter got one of Telgemeier’s original graphic novels a year ago and then devoured everything else she wrote over last year. I can see why. The characters are real and empathetically developed. They deal with young girls’ lives in serious (and positive) ways. I enjoyed this one more than I expected.

The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet; Journey to the Volcano Palace; The Mysterious Island (The Secrets of Droon #1-3) Tony Abbott
Some years ago, when we were still in our first house, one of our neighbors–a teenage boy–gifted us a bunch of his childhood books. Among them were the first dozen or so of this series. I had never heard of it but apparently it’s been successful. The first book came out in 1999 and the last–the 44th!!–came out in 2010. As you might imagine, when they’re written this quickly, there’s not much to appreciate for the grown ups. That said, the kids love them. They’re predictable, derivative, and poorly described, but the adventurous Eddie, Julie, and Neal discovering the mysteries of the land of Droon–including Princess Keah, the Wizard Galen Longbeard, and the evil Lord Sparr–are more than enough to entertain them. We’re on #4 right now.

A Chicano and his Books

Every once in awhile, a young student will walk into my office and immediately be struck by the number of books s/he sees on my shelves.

“Have you read all of these books?,” they’ll ask.

“Yes,” I’ll say.  “It’s what they pay me to do.”

In actuality, I really haven’t.  As a historian, many of the books I have are for reference while working on a  lecture for a class, or a book or an article.  I have “covered” almost every book I have on my shelves, that is, I have read substantial parts of it to identify the argument, sources, perspective, and various elements of the proof.

It might seem odd, but I’m actually not a voracious reader.  I don’t love books they way other academics do.  I love History.  I LOVE Chicano/Latino histories.  I am obsessed with the evolving, scholarly understanding of us and our collective past.  I am also obsessed with California history, the history of social movements for change, and the history of racial inequality in the US.

When you put it all together, I’m not much for a novel, but I intellectually salivate over a new book on the the history of the Chicano Movement, or the UFW, or some other kindred topic.

In any event, every once in awhile I think it is important for those of us who read and write in these fields to remind others that we exist.  What’s better, we know and have books.  Whoever you are, if you’re ever interested in learning more about the varied pasts of the Chicano/a and Latina/o people, I’d be more than willing to point you in the direction of a great book.

Pictured above are some of my shelves of books in the office related to: California history (closest section, all shelves), Chicana Feminism (farthest section, top two shelves), and Chicano/Latino History (the whole middle section, and bottom shelves of farthest section).