Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Bard and the Book and Not-So-Simple Question

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare! We don't know the exact day, but it's frequently given as April 23. What better way to celebrate than to pick up this new book about him? 

Bausum, Ann and Sevilla, Marta. The Bard and the Book: How the First Folio Saved the Plays of William Shakespeare from Oblivion 
April 2, 2024 by Peachtree
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

How DID the plays of Shakespeare get saved, when the practice four hundred years ago was not necessarily to print out the entire play? Actors might get just their own parts, and there were some quartos for sale, but plays were meant to be performed, and not necessarily read, so not everything got written down. ey are carrying around a book about The Bard. Over the years in middle school, I've seen a LOT of these students; I finally deaccessioned the thirty pound Collected Works because while it wasn't getting read very much, it was being hauled about. This book is perfect for those readers, but despite the snark is highly informative!

With easy to follow overviews of various historical facts and book processes (Wouldn't it be cool to put your OWN binding on books? Why isn't this still a thing?) made even more engaging by lovely illustrations by Sevilla and top notch book design, this book told me everything I needed to know about Shakespeare's world and work, and how it was preserved. Of course, now I need a similar treatment of Homer, and possibly Virgil. I especially enjoyed the photographs of various print versions, and Bausum's notes at the end about why she chose this topic. 

Have to say that I'm not personally a fan of Shakespeare, especially as something for middle school students to read (That unit a long term sub did with 8th graders? So painful!), but this was a fascinating book along the lines of Bryant and Sweet's Roget and His Thesaurus. I will purchase it because it is an appealing, small book along the lines of Schanzer's 2011 Witches! that my students will pick up for fun, OR to look smart because they are reading about Shakespeare. I would also buy this for high school because of the extensive source notes, which I could see be very helpful for research. 

Matula, Christina. The Not-So-Simple Question (Holly-Mei #3)
April 23, 2024 by Inkyard Press
Copy provided by the publisher

In this final book in the series (The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly Mei and The Not-So-Perfect Plan), we return to Hong Kong. Holly-Mei has settled in to life at Tai Tam Prep, and has gotten used to having a housekeeper and driver, something the family did not have back in Toronto. She misses Ah-Ma, her grandmother, who has stayed behind while Holly's mother has her new job. Millie, Holly's younger sister, is still obsessed with social media and fashion, while Holly just wants to hang out with her friends. Now that Gemma is planning a couple's party for her thirteenth birthday, the friend group is obsessed with dating and boyfriends. Rosie, Holly's cousin, is devastated when Henry breaks up with her because his parents think he is too young to date. Holly agrees, and does NOT want to have to think about asking a boy to Gemma's party. There are plenty of other things to keep her occupied, like practicing her rowing for the dragon boat races and going to Taiwan for her Experience Week Trip. She is interested to travel to Ah-Ma's childhood home, which has been turned into a museum, but comments from people like Jenny, who is also going to Taiwan, make her question her identity. While her mother's side of the family is Taiwanese, her father is from England, and Holly doesn't speak any subgroup of Chinese very well. Jenny is critical of the fact that Holly is only "half", and Holly worries about this. The trip is interesting, with the Tai Tam students going to a school and traveling to different locations. Holly gets to meet cousins, who make comments about her grasp of the language and her appearance. It's helpful to talk to her parents when she gets home, and they help her process her feelings about her heritage. With Gemma's party coming up, Holly and her friends debate whether or not they really have to take dates. Snowy is especially pushy about this, but it turns out that she is just trying to deflect attention from the fact that she likes girls, since she feels that this admission might ruin her social media presence. Millie, who has been struggling with acne and who also has to get glasses, is very concerned about losing Instagram followers because of the changes in her appearance, but Holly helps her see that if people don't like the real her, they aren't worth Millie's attention. In the end, Holly and her friends are able to enjoy Gemma's party and feel good about embracing their true selves. 
Strengths: I didn't get to travel anywhere for spring break, so reading this was a great vicarious trip! There are so many details about places to visit in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and LOTS of descriptions of snacks and food! Of course, Holly is not on vacation; even the trip to Taiwan requires her to write a paper about what she has learned. The friend and boy drama will appeal to many middle grade readers, and the idea of having birthday parties at Disneyland (like Holly does) or other upscale venues will be mind blowing to my students. Of course, there are serious issues to be faced as well, and Holly struggles with her identity, feeling torn between her Taiwanese and British heritage, and never feeling enough of either. Matula does a great job of bringing her own background to a middle grade novel and making all of Holly's experiences very vivid and exciting. I'm curious to see what she will write next now that this series is complete. 
Weaknesses: My students might have a hard time believing all of the details about what would be considered a VERY posh life here in Ohio, but this is a great way for them to broaden their horizons! 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who like all of the private school drama of Russell's Dork Diaries, or who want a good look at what it is like to attend school in a different country. I'm always on the lookout for books set in other countries, written by authors who can include all of the details about daily life, travels, and local cuisine!

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I've got to check out that Shakespeare book. I'm not a giant fan of the plays, but knowing more about his life and works has real appeal for some reason. :)