So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be by Maureen Corrigan

So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan (Little, Brown and Company, September 2014) is a tribute and examination of the often-named Great American Novel, The Great Gatsby. Ms Corrigan is a true fan of the Fitzgerald’s slim novel, and in her tribute to the work, she reviews not just the content of the book and the context in which it was written, but she goes beyond to ask the question: why did this novel become so popular today, when it was so unimpressive to the first reviewers and readers?

It’s obvious that Ms Corrigan enjoys reading and rereading the work. As an avid reader myself, I too have found myself drawn back to Gatsby many times since my first read of it in my Junior year in high school, during which time I spent an extended amount of time researching and writing about Nick Carraway’s relationship to the text. I had to revisit it in college at least once, and I’ve reread it a few times in adulthood as well. I can’t say that I love Gatsby, though, and I cannot imagine spending the time in a theater listening to an actor recite the entire book from memory. What is about Gatsby that draws me in, even though I can’t say that I even like it?

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Ten Ships that Rocked the World by Gillian Richardson

I really loved reading the juvenile nonfiction book Ten Rivers that Shaped the World when I reviewed it earlier this year. It seemed to be a history of the world as captured through the rivers of the world! So I was excited to see Ten Ships that Rocked the World by Gillian Richardson (Annick Press, August 2015) added to the “Ten” series as well.

I did not love this one quite as much but I still really enjoyed it. Ten Ships has a different feel to it, partly because, as the title indicated, it focuses on a different “ten” from the history of the world, it is written by a different author, and it about things that influenced the world, not necessarily shaped it. The ships that were highlighted were almost all foreign to me, so by reading the book I felt I was learning much that I had been unfamiliar with: ships and eras and countries that made a difference even though I did not know about them. Continue Reading

A Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston

A Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long (Chronicle Books, 2012) is a lovely illustrated book about rocks. I never thought of rocks as alive or lively and yet, Ms Aston has a good argument for it.

In an elegant cursive font, the text tells us that rocks “bubble” (with an illustration of molten rock), for example. The cursive font on each page gives a simple statement of what the rock is or does, and a print font gives details to expand upon the idea. Thus, “A rock is mixed up” discusses how different minerals are a part of each rock. I loved the contrasts given for rocks. They are “galactic” and “old” and both “huge” and “tiny.” The rock cycle “A rock is recycled” is also illustrated in the text, and the ways humans use rocks (“useful” and “creative”) also appear as headlines.

In addition to the educational value found on each page of the text, A Rock is Lively provides stunning watercolor images of the rocks discussed, with layer details and labels so the true rock enthusiast can know just what rock the illustrator captured. I’m most in love with the page “A rock is surprising” because it shows the gorgeous insides of geodes. The jewels sparkle on the page, and I almost feel like I’m looking at the true rocks themselves.

I must admit that I know very little about rocks. That’s why this book was so impressive to me. By capturing the essence of rocks in both a picture book simple headline and in the facts in the margins, the young reader and the older reader alike can learn and enjoy rocks as they may never have before. I felt I’ve learned as I read and reread the book, and the gorgeous illustrations have also let me feel like I’ve walked through an art museum of nature.