Thursday, August 04, 2005

I think I might be able to find the top of my desk before Monica, Louis, and Ally get here on the 13th! Finally got the syllabi and course calendars finished for my YA Lit classes. I still need to get into WebCT and update all of that, but I am taking a break to Blog! It is such an overcast and gloomy day that I really don't mind being at this desk all day. The sooner I get this all done, the sooner I can relax for a few days before Fall semester beings.

I am always willing to read a novel that appears to have a twist to it. I am now on my second novel in the Watson-Guptill Publications Art Encounters Series. I read the first one, The Spirit Catcher: An Encounter with Georgia O'Keeffe by Kathleen Kudlinksi about a year ago. I liked the concept - introducing young teens to famous artists through a novel with the artist as a main character interacting with a teen who enters the artist's life. A young teenage boy finds himself homeless and hallucinating in the desert and becomes O'Keeffe's assistant. But, the writing was a bit choppy and as much as I love O'Keeffe I just didn't get into the story. But, when I saw that Laban Carrick Hill, the author of Harlem Stomp!, had written Casa Azul: An Encounter with Frida Kahlo, I figured the series was worth a second try. And was I right! His writing is deliciously crisp, yet delicately weaves Kahlo's eccentric lifestyle into a story that can be read by young teens and even shared with younger children. The section at the end of the novel, "Frida Kahlo's Life and Art" goes into more detail about her exotic personal life and her relationship with Diego Rivera, but it is the delightful story of a 14-year-old Mexican girl and her little brother traveling to Mexico City to find their mother that will have middle school reader appeal. The naive brother and sister are immediately taken advantage of by a thief, but Kahlo's talking monkey (all things in Kahlo's house talk, even the candy skeleton head) helps them find their way to Casa Azul, where they help bring back to life the depressed and suicidal artist. Maria's wonderful storytelling about the Mexican wrestlers will delight the reader as much as it does her little brother Victor. But, it was the interaction, often bickering, between the cat, the monkey, and the skeleton that had me laughing out loud.

Also read Tonya Bolden's photograph laden Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl - a 2005 Abrams title. The illustrations are mainly reproductions of the photographs and documents that were found in the family archives. The text is based on an Maritcha's unpublished memoir. An intriguing look at the North during the time just before and during the Civil War through the eyes of a young woman who had never dealt with slavery. Her family runs a boarding house for black sailors until the Draft Riots of 1863 destroy their home and the family eventually move to Rhode Island where Maritcha petitions the legislature to change the law so she can attend the public high school. The text is easy enough to be shared with elementary age students, but middle schoolers will find themselves focusing on the excellent reproductions of portraits and other art from the time period. The extent of the research that went into these 47 pages is very evident by the quality of book and from the lengthy end notes and illustration credits.

Okay - back to WebCT!