It’s Monday, and here’s what I’m reading – July 9, 2012

The NonFiction Picture Book Challenge
It’s Monday What Are You Reading is hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts
Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Camille at A Curious Thing

Some treasures I discovered this week:
I picked up Richard Sobol’s The Mysteries of Angkor Wat because I find this ancient ruin fascinating. Sobol is  an award winning photographer, and (just as I’d hoped) the book is filled with gorgeous pictures along with an informed and entertaining  history of the temple. 

But, what made this book truly delightful was the fact that Sobol’s tour guides were the children who live near the temple and use it as their playground after school, as well as a place to sell souvenirs for extra money.  In fact, much of the book’s photographs  feature children clambering here and there among the  ancient rubble: they harvest shoots and sprouts for meals, hike over moss covered stones with the sure footedness of mountain goats, and finally lead Sobol to the secret treasure they have promised to reveal: a dee no soo.  Well, that treasure blew me away…as it did for Sobol as well. For, carved into one stone pillar was:

A stegosaurus! Amazed, Sobol thanks them:

“I’ve been here for three weeks, photographing Angkor Wat, exploring the abandoned temples, and learning about the ancient Khmer people.  I have read twelve guide books about the temple, and none of them have mentioned this dinosaur. None of the professors or historians or archeologists seems to have written about it, recorded it, or even known it existed.  You are all truly the best guides!” 

This would be another wonderful mentor text for our unit on the photoessay.

Then I chanced upon this book, The Boy Who Bit Picasso and had to read it because of its title – who would bite Picasso and why???! 

Antony Penrose, the author,  was fortunate in that both his artist parents were friends of Picasso.As he writes:

My name is Tony. When I was a little boy, living on a farm in East Sussex, England, I had the most extraordinary friend. He had deep black eyes, a big wide smile, and absolutely amazing hands.  His hands were absolutely amazing because he could make paintings and drawings and sculptures and collages and pots and plates and much, much more.  My friend’s name was Pablo Picasso and he was one of the greatest artists who ever lived.

This enchanting book is filled with wonderful pictures of Tony and his friend –  it is so clear that they enjoyed each others company.  Picasso’s playful energy, his capacity to be curious , his  interest in the world around him, and his genius for seeing possibilities for art in the most unusual (he uses his son’s toy car, for example to create the face for his sculpture Baboon and Young!), all come alive for the reader through Penrose’s stories of time spent with his famous friend.

The author and Picasso,1950’s
The author, today


I could see using this book for so many teaching purposes: in art, most obviously, but also as a mentor text for writing workshop.  As for the story behind the title, I had to laugh when I read that Tony’s naughty bite was returned with great gusto, and Picasso seemed to have enjoyed the experience for he turned to Tony’s astonished mother and said: “Gosh, that’s the first Englishman I’ve ever bitten!”

 Finally, I managed to finish reading Jordan Sonnenblick’s Curveball: The Year I Lost my Grip.  My students love Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie, so I make a point of picking up anything this author has written, with the thought of adding to our Sonnenblick Collection.  Told with Sonnenblick’s trademark humor and knack of getting the YA perspective and dialogue just right, this story about a high school freshman’s coming to terms with  his sports-related injury, his grandfather’s decline into dementia and  falling in love makes for a wonderful read….but not for sixth graders!   The theorizing about  “hormone boot camp” and “chicks’n’babes” is hilarious to read, and sounds like stuff  8th. and  9th. graders will chuckle over and appreciate, but I’m not sure my sixth graders are there yet.    I’ll have to pass this on to my ex-students in eighth grade come Fall – they will enjoy it!

 On my desk now…finally, The One and Only Ivan!!

8 thoughts on “It’s Monday, and here’s what I’m reading – July 9, 2012

  1. I had to visit your blog when you mentioned on the Nonfiction Monday host, a curious thing, that you wrote a post about Picasso. Oh! I've seen this title, but haven't read the book yet. Such a great title, isn't it?! And it looks like a wonderful book. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Wonderful surprise in that Angkor Wat book, Tara! It really makes me wonder why no one has done anything about it. What fun to explore it with your students. And I've heard about the Picasso too-great piece of a special time for the author. I have read one Sonnenblick & you're right, it is for middle school & above, but they are good stories. This sounds good, too. Thank you.

  3. Hi Tara! I've heard a lot of good reviews about the Angkor Wat book – I saw this in our library, and I'd probably borrow it when we return home to Singapore. I've always wanted to visit Cambodia and see this lovely temple. Hopefully, this year, we can get to travel there. I've also heard about the Picasso book, but it's the first time I've heard of Sonnenblick! I should look that one up! I'm envious that you're reading The One and Only Ivan, I've heard so many great things about it. Thank you for sharing all these lovelies.

  4. OK, I HAVE to find THE BOY WHO BIT PICASSO. And I have been reading about Jordan Sonnenblick's books quite a bit recently- he sounds like someone else I definitely need to look for!

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