Monday, December 31, 2007
I have been reading and rereading lots of Cybils titles. The shortlist for the fiction picture book category will be announced tomorrow, January 1, 2008.
Other Picture Books:
Patience Wright: America’s First Sculptor and Revolutionary Spy by Pegi Deitz Shea, illustrated by Bethanne Andersen
Jabberwocky reimagined and illustrated by Christopher Myers (my review here)
Pezzetino by Leo Lionni
Water Dance by Thomas Locker
Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson by Sue Stauffacher, illustrated by Greg Couch
Sweet Land of Liberty by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins
The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale by Grace Lin
Cowboy and Octopus by Jon Scieszkca, illustrated by Lane Smith
Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells
How to Write Your Life Story by Ralph Fletcher (my review here)
Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff (a reread for me right before the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie came out)
The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles (a review forthcoming)
The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Jr. Edition by David Borgenicht and Robin Epstein (review forthcoming)
Edward’s Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan
Iron Thunder: The Battle Between the Monitor and the Merrimack by Avi (review forthcoming)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexi (my review here)
Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine
Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific, Ninety Days by Judith Viorst (my review here)
Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell
What’s to come: Tomorrow I'll post the Cybils fiction picture book shortlist, which I am VERY excited about. I'll also post my favorite books of 2007.
I’ll be teaching a class in children’s literature and taking a graduate class in postmodernism in children’s literature, so much of my reading for the next 5 months will be geared toward those two classes. I hope I’ll be able to post on some of my reads.
I've already posted about my favorite new-to-me authors of 2007 and my favorite illustrations of 2007.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Picture book authors/illustrators (BTW, these three also have VERY cool websites)
David Ezra Stein
Trenton Lee Stewart
Jodi Picoult (mostly adult, but many crossover YA titles)
Jennifer Donnelly (also wrote a picture book)
I feel like I really grew as a reader in 2007. I tried to branch out and read across more genres and age levels than in the past. I'm looking forward to the authors and illustrators that I will discover in 2008.
The Incredible Book Eating Boy
Written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Henry is a book-loving fanatic. He loves books so much he eats them. It started out with just a few words, then a few pages. But soon it became a bad habit and he was eating books, mostly red books, left and right.
Henry finds that his book eating habit makes him very smart. He eats books and his body absorbs the knowledge. But soon, book-eating, as one might imagine, makes him very sick. Everyone encourages him to quit. But it's hard.
Finally, he decides to stop his book-eating binge and READ them instead.
The paper on which the illustrations are done makes this book all about books. The illustrations are done on pages of old books which the author/illustrator Jeffers found were being thrown out. Egads! Well, these pages shine once again—recycled into a new book. This book’s illustrations make it hilarious! The author writes words to caption some of the pictures in addition to the actual text of the book. My favorite touch is the bite mark on the back cover corner.
A great book for book-lovers. And I’ve put in a request at my local library for more of Irish author/illustrator Mr. Jeffers’ other books.
The Boy Who Was Raised By Librarians
Written by Carla Morris
Illustrated by Brad Sneed
If you are a librarian, you will probably like this book because you probably know a kid like this main character. If you are a kid who spends a lot of time in the library, you will probably like this book because you know what it’s like to love the place so much you want to hang out there.
Melvin is a curious little kid. In fact, curiosity is what brings him to the library. He wants to know about everything so he goes to the local library and the local librarians to find out more about everything. These little ladies help him find books to satisfy his own interests, to help him with research for school projects, and they even feed him a steady supply of books for the summer reading programs.
The librarians love helping Melvin. “They couldn’t help it. That’s how librarians are.” And these librarians make such an impression on Melvin with their books that Melvin becomes a librarian himself.
When the Shadbush Blooms
By Carla Messinger, with Susan Katz
Illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden
Tricycle Press, 2007
This book celebrates the Lenape Indians and the cycle of life in one year’s time. Each spread eloquently tells what goes on during this time of the year.
“When the air hums with the wings of bees, my brother and I chase the crows from our garden. Together we gather honey. My brother ducks when a bee buzzes too close. I lick from one finger a drop as sweet as summer.”
On the left side of each page the traditional Lenape family is shown performing the task of the season. In the top left corner the name of the moon is written in traditional language. On the right side of the spread a contemporary Lenape child is shown with her family performing the same tasks in modern day. In the top right hand corner the name of the moon is written in English.
This book does not go through spring, summer, fall, and winter alone, but rather through each moon. Each season is mentioned in the text, but there are more than four stages that they go through. The moons include When the Shadfish Return Moon, Grass and Geese Moon, Planting Moon, Heartberry Moon, and more.
The Illustrations in this book are done in acrylic paintings and have a tremendous amount of detail.
The back of the book has information about Lenni Lenape people, the Lenape Seasons, and more about the Lenape culture.
The Growing Story
By Ruth Krauss
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
This book also celebrates the seasons and the growth of things in nature, but the focus is on a little boy. The little boy has small chicks and a puppy. He watches the seasons change as he helps his mother with the yard work. He watches the chicks and his puppy grow and he wonders if he is growing too.
“The days grew longer. The nights grew shorter. The grass grew faster. The flowers grew higher.” The reader knows what season it is from the clues in the text and the pictures. The pictures show the animals and the plants as they go through changes.
The little boy wants to know if he is growing like everything else. He stores his warm clothes for next winter. As the seasons change the chicks and puppy he is raising grow up. He doesn’t realize he too has grown until he tries to put on his clothes from the previous winter. He celebrates as he realizes that he has grown too.
In this story the focus is the little boy, but the seasonal changes are central to the story as that is how the little boy marks time. It also is a celebration of all the things that are important about each season—picking pears at the end of the summer, watching the leaves turn colors, and feeling the air turn cooler.
This book was first published in 1947, but it has been rereleased with new illustrations.
Written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein
G.P. Putnam, 2007
This celebration of the seasons focuses on a baby bear. He doesn’t know what to do when the leaves begin to fall off the trees. In fact, he is so worried that he tries to put them back on. But he can’t. He doesn’t understand. But he knows he must hibernate, so he does. The winter has arrived and bear is safe in his hole. But soon the spring arrives and so do the new leaves. The bear crawls out from his hole and celebrates the new leaves.
This is a simple, short book, but so much is celebrated in the few words that are in the book. The bear has the excitement of a young child discovering something for the first time.
David Ezra Stein’s illustrations are playful, simple, and perfect for this story.
Lily Brown’s Paintings
By Angela Johnson
Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Orchard Books, 2007
Lily Brown loves to paint. When she paints, her world transforms. Lily Brown goes from the security of her loving family to a free spirit flying through the air. The subjects of her paintings speak to her and she responds by painting them. Lily even becomes part of her paintings. The text is written with Angela Johnson’s poetic words.
“In Lily Brown’s paintings,
the colors of people,
places, and things
change with her heart.”
The illustrations are all done in watercolor, but E.B. Lewis changes the style with each painting to celebrate favorite artists. Some paintings are in exquisite detail, others look very much a young child created them. The book is a celebration of an artist’s world and how an artist goes into another world to create masterpieces.
Hugo and Miles in I’ve Painted Everything
Written and illustrated by Scott Magoon
Houghton Mifflin, 2007
Roadblocks, artist’s block, writer’s block. We’ve probably all experienced these in our lives. Kids say, “I don’t know what to draw” or “I don’t know what to write.” What do you do when you experience a roadblock? Why, you go to Paris, of course!
Hugo is an elephant who is an artist. He thinks he has painted everything there is in the world to paint and feels like he has run out of ideas. He goes to his friend Miles for help. Miles suggests that Hugo go with him to Paris on a business trip to get some inspiration.
In Paris they see the famous sites, go to museums and look at paintings by famous artists, and have a picnic. It isn’t until he goes to the top of the Eiffel Tower that he gets his inspiration. He feels like he immediately need s to go home and get to work. He realizes it’s not what he paints, but how he paints it. It’s all about perspective. When he climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower he realized that he saw the city in a whole different way than he’d seen it the last few days.
Magoon plays with the name Hugo too. Hugo realizes he can paint a really large picture: “Hugomongus”, paint only in different shades of the same color: “Hue-go”, paint something in the style of another artist like Van Gogh: “Van Hugo.”
This book is a fun way to look at perspective and how it affects the creative side.
Go to Bed, Monster!
By Natasha Wing
Illustrated by Sylvie Kantorovitz
Lucy couldn’t go to sleep, so she decided to draw—and she drew a monster. The monster wanted to play. Lucy drew everything they would need. Soon Lucy was tired, but the monster wanted to stay awake. In order to get the monster to go to bed, she drew him a bed, blankets, pajamas, a teddy bear, and even a book.
This book is about imagination—what a young artist can do with her drawing and where the drawings can take her. Lucy realizes that her imagination keeps her up at night—the monster will not go to bed. Then Lucy finally gets her rest when her monster drawing finally gets sleepy.
The illustrations in this book are playful, fun, and very child-like. This is a great book for young artists and young monster-lovers everywhere.
Written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman
This is another art-related book with kids drawing. I recently wrote a more extensive review of it here.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Just in Time by Rachael Ray
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook by Martha Stewart
My favorite gift was a set of haiku notecards.
One of the aides at my school got them for me. She said she saw them and knew I had to have them since I write haiku with the kids all of the time. I was thrilled! They are gorgeous!
My wonderful husband bought me new notepads and sticky notes.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
By Sherman Alexie
Art by Ellen Forney
I don’t read and review a lot of YA books. However, I try to read the National Book Award winners and other YA books that I see several people recommend. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian was well worth my holiday reading time.
It is a story of Arnold, a Spokane Indian teenager. He gets advice from one of his reservation school teachers that he should get off the reservation in order to have a life. So he does. He leaves his school on the rez and moves to a neighboring white school. His whole life changes. He isn’t accepted by the white students at the new school, and his old friends see him as a traitor.
Arnold’s thoughts, raw emotions, and deep honesty are revealed through this diary-of-sorts. I would highly recommend it to any teen, especially reluctant teen boy readers.
You can view Sherman Alexie’s National Book Award speech here.
The moment I carried the tree out the door, my daughter (age 3) started sweeping up the needles. Awesome child! She must not be able to stand the mess either. We had the needles up in no time.
Then it was time to weed through old toys, pack up ones that don't get played with to make room for the new ones. I also went through the mail that had been piling up while we had guests, paid the bills, went to Wal-mart, reorganized my pantry, and finished reading a book. I felt like I was productive! More to do tomorrow.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Three of the Cybils fiction picture book nominations tell about the things that happen when all are asleep.
Angels Watching Over Me by Julia Durango and illustrated by Elisa Kleven (Simon and Schuster, 2007) is a book I reviewed earlier, but it really fits in this category. Even though it is based on a song that says “all night, all day angels watching over me” it emphasizes the guardian angels that watch over the child no matter where he goes. The nighttime scenes are especially beautiful.
Perhaps you wake up in the morning with wild hair, tangled hair, a mess of hair. Perhaps it’s not angels that are watching over you, but a pesky Knot Fairy that visits you each night. In The Knot Fairy by Bobbie Hinman and illustrated by Kristi Bridgeman (Best Fairy Books, 2007), it’s the Knot Fairy’s job to go from house to house and check off her list of boys and girls that she has visited. When she arrives, in the dead of night, she ties each child’s hair in little bitty knots. So if you wake up in the morning and your head is a tangled mess, chances are the Knot Fairy has paid a visit.
If it’s nightmares you have, perhaps you need a visit from Engelbert Sneem and His Dream Vacuum Machine, written and illustrated by Mr. Daniel Postgate (North South, 2007). Engelbert Sneem starts off his career as a dream stealer. He sneaks into bedrooms in the middle of the night and sucks the dreams right out of children’s heads. This part of the book is quite sinister and spooky. Engelbert puts all of the dreams in jugs that he stores in his Dungeon of Dreams. Soon he realizes that he has become a NIGHTMARE! He turns from his bad ways and uses his vacuum for good. He only takes away nightmares from little children.
So, who visits you at night while you are sleeping?
By Patricia MacLachlan
Edward is the perfect kid and Patricia MacLachlan is the perfect writer to tell his story. This story feels so real and so true. But it’s fiction.
Edward is part of a loving family. The family is big and it is about to get bigger with Edward’s mom expecting another baby. Edward loves to play baseball and is really good at it. Edward loves to speak French and can’t wait to teach French to the new baby. Most important of all, Edward has the most beautiful eyes imaginable. The entire book is set up to introduce you to Edward, make you love Edward, make you imagine you are looking into Edward’s eyes, make you feel like Edward was your brother, and then to let Edward die.
I knew that Edward was going to die, but I just couldn’t quite grasp it, until he did. His family donates his organs and his corneas so that part of him will live on and help someone who really needs it.
The prologue gives you the ending first, but it all doesn’t make sense until the end.
This is one of my favorite novels of the year. Simply, quiet, beautiful, sad. MacLachlan tells a story like no other.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
By David LaRochelle
Illustrated by Richard Egielski
Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic), 2007
Have you ever wanted to read a story from ending to beginning? Well, here’s your book. This story starts with the end and works its way to once upon a time. The story tells how the prince and the princess fell in love and then tells the reason for all of the things that come before it. The story is a chain of events—some events hilariously ludicrous, as many fairy tales are. For example, a group of bunnies in the story are running away because a large tomato is rolling down the hill after them. The illustrations make the story even funnier. There are flying blue pigs in the illustrations and trees with expressions.
This would be a fun book to study cause and effect—this happened because of this. The whole story is set up this way. And what a romp of crazy events it ends. The book, of course, ends with the title page.
This book was nominated for the Cybils fiction picture book category.
Written and illustrated by Melanie Watt
Kids Can Press, 2007
Chester the cat wants his own book so badly, he takes a big red marker and marks up the original book that Melanie Watt wrote about a mouse. He plays a big of a game of “cat and mouse” (ha!ha!) with the author’s story. He draws all over her pictures with his red marker. He keeps interrupting her story with his red marker. They fight back and forth until the author finally agrees to give Chester his own story. But she makes it up HER way, which doesn’t make Chester very happy—but at least he gets his own story.
This story really does look like a regular book with red marker all over it. Chester even crosses out the author’s name on the front of the book and writes his own, crosses out her dedication and dedicates the book to himself, and doodles on the author’s picture at the back of the book. From cover to endpapers, Chester leaves no part of the book untouched. It’s a laugh-out-loud funny book because a character tries to tell the author what to do, instead of the other way around. Young children will get a kick out of this cat!
This book was nominated for the Cybils fiction picture book category.
Written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman
This book starts out with two little girls drawing. Emma, the older sister, draws a beautiful princess asleep. Lucie, the young sister, draws a cat. Her big sister says it looks like a Scribble. Well, Lucie retaliates and really does draw a scribble all over Emma’s drawing. A fight ensues. When Lucie finally draws ears on her cat, the cat begins to take over the book. He wonders what the princess from the other drawing is up to. The cat drawing leaps from his picture to the princess’s picture. Finally, the princess and the cat connect and fall in love, much to the astonishment of their creators.
The illustrations begin in a comic strip fashion with several small boxes of action on each page. Even speech bubbles show the children’s conversation. Once the cat decides to let his curiosity take him to the princess, illustrations become a mass of pink and yellow. The cat was drawn on large yellow paper and the princess was drawn on pink. The scribbles that were once drawn in anger by Lucie, become a rope she swings on through the picture trying to catch up with the cat. In many ways this book reminds me of Wiesner’s Three Little Pigs because the illustrations take over the pages in such strange angles and the pigs wander in and out of the different stories, just like Lucie flies through the drawings as the cat wanders off.
This book is so entertaining. The story line just takes a typical moment of two sisters who get mad at each other, but this story has a unique twist in that the drawings take on a mind of their own. The illustrations clearly separate the girls’ story from the drawings’ story, so it makes it a feast for the eyes.
This book was nominated for the Cybils fiction picture book category.
By Judith Viorst
Free Press, 2007
I have laughed many times at Judith Viorst’s books about Alexander, Anthony, and Nicholas. Her sons, or at least the ones she portrayed in her books, were stubborn, clumsy, and full of childhood mischievousness. So, when I read Viorst’s memoir of the ninety days that Alexander and his family moved in with her, I expected it to be like her children’s books.
It was, and it wasn’t. First of all, I felt out of breath reading the book. The sentences move at frenetic pace, but it made me understand the way she felt. When her son, her daughter-in-law, and her three young grandchildren moved in, she and her husband had been living alone for many years. Then all of the sudden, their way of life changed. Out came diapers, goldfish crackers, sippy cups, and car seats. Out came the chaos of a family with two working parents who are trying their best to raise a family in a big city.
Viorst is shamelessly honest about her own idiosyncrasies—what bugged her, how her compulsion to give advice and keep things neat bothered her new housemates. She comments on how chaotic her life became, but she is very careful not to criticize how her son and his wife parent their children.
The book made me laugh, and made me grateful that I didn’t have to move in with a mother with velvet couches and breakable things on her coffee table, who gasped in horror every time a child jumped down the stairs. Yes, she did all of these things. And she is not afraid to tell her readers how she felt.
And the real Alexander must be a good sport to have a book be written about him again. If you want to have a good laugh about intergenerational living, scoop up this short adult memoir.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
One of the things I noticed the other day is that some of my favorite illustrations in picture books are books that do not necessarily have original text. In other words, the illustrator has taken a song or poem and illustrated it. In other cases, the text is an adaptation of another work.
I love the illustrations in Angels Watching Over Me adapted by Julia Durango and illustrated by Elisa Kleven (Simon & Schuster, 2007). In this case, Durango has taken the African American spiritual “Angels Watching Over Me” and used it interspersed between original text. The text compliments the beautiful illustrations that make me want to fly. There is watercolor, collage, and more. It’s stunning.
Ashley Bryan’s Let it Shine (Atheneum, 2007) illustrates three African American spirituals, “This Little Light of Mine”, “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In”, and “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands”. He illustrates using construction paper cut-out. The colors are bright and hopeful. The people in the book are all colors, but the only detail on the people is silhouette. The animals, flowers, and buildings all have more detail done by cut paper. The music and words are all printed in the back of the book along with an author’s note about the songs. Truly a beauty to hold!
Another favorite of mine is an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood (Little, Brown, 2007) retold and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, which I reviewed here. The illustrations are done in pencil, watercolor, gouache, and ink. Every picture is so painstakingly detailed that I could spend an enormous of amount of time taking in all of the details on each and every page. The entire story is told in a winter setting, so Pinkney’s beautiful snow scenes add to my amazement of his illustrations.
Another book which I reviewed recently is Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal (Henry Holt, 2007) by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis. This one is a retelling of several versions of Cinderella, but Fleischman really made all of those versions come together and "sing". Paschkis' illustrations are phenomenal, and just as beautifully as Fleischman weaved the stories together, Paschkis was able to seamlessly illustrate the same story, with many different versions. GORGEOUS!
Last, but certainly not least, is Christopher Myers reimagined and illustrated version of Jabberwocky (Hyperion, 2007). I have always been a big fan of the poem Jabberwocky, and I read it to my 4th graders every year. I have a version illustrated by Graeme Base that I usually show them, then I read the “meaning” of the words out of Through the Looking Glass. This year, I’m adding Myers’ version to my repertoire. This is a basketball “version” of Jabberwocky. But what I find so fascinating is that Myers just didn’t decide to do a basketball illustration on his own. During his research for the book he thought he was writing, he was reading Carroll’s (Dodgson’s) journals. Carroll had written a word that referred to an ancient game that was very similar to basketball. All of this is explained in detail in the author’s note. So, the basketball “version” is rather symbolic of Carroll’s studies and original meanings of some of the words used in the poem. Even more interesting are Myers’ larger-than-life illustrations that go with one of my favorite poems.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
1) I read a book a day (or more) as a kid. I didn’t grow up watching a lot of TV. I lived in Thailand from age 9 to 16 and there was little TV programming available at the time. So, I played outside or with friends until dinner. After it was dark, I read a book, at least one, before bed.
2) I go to the library at least once a week. I can’t afford to buy every book I read. I log on to their website, order all of the books I want and pick them up as they come in. It saves me a LOT of money. I do buy a LOT of books, perhaps even thousands of dollars a year, but I don’t buy anywhere near what I read.
3) I always have stacks of books everywhere. I have a stack by my bed, a stack of Cybils books that are already read, one stack to be read, and one stack to be reviewed. I often have a stack of poetry books, books I’m reading for school, and books I’m reading for a graduate course I teach. My husband is building me bookshelves for Christmas to get the stacking off the floor.
4) I’m obsessive about my “to be read” list. I have a list of books that I keep on the computer of books that are available at our library that I want to check out, a list that’s not available at the library yet, and a wish list on Amazon.com of books that I want to purchase for my own collection. I realize I will never get to all of these books in my lifetime. It doesn’t stop me from keeping an obsessive list though. I recently started writing down all of the books I read too. Am I obsessive compulsive?
5) I almost exclusively read children’s books. I know, if you read my last month’s book log, you would see that I read several adult books, but that was unusual for me. I have favorite adult writers that I do read (Patricia Cornwell, Jodi Picoult), but other than that, I read children’s book exclusively.
6) I read a lot of magazines and journals. About the only adult literature I do read is magazines. I read a lot of foodie magazines and educational and children’s literature journals.
7) I read across all children’s lit genres, but mostly middle grade fiction, picture books, and poetry. I dabble in graphic novels and YA.
Thanks to Jen Robinson for the idea.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
By Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Bangram Ibatoulline
If you are looking for a quiet, beautifully illustrated Christmas story, then you will like this book. Frances watches a homeless man on the street outside her apartment that plays music for people and has a monkey. Frances is heartbroken when she realizes he stays out in the cold all of the time.
She watches the man from her window. He even waves at her at night. Her mother doesn’t want her to associate with him, despite Frances’ pleas to invite him over for dinner. She invites him to her Christmas play where she will say the infamous line that Christmas angels say, “Behold! I bring you tidings of great joy!”
I like Kate DiCamillo’s chapter books much better, but this story is a soft, enchanted Christmas story.
This book was nominated for the Cybils fiction picture book category.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
By Emily Gravett
Simon and Schuster, 2007
When I first read Wolves by Emily Gravett (review here), I thought she was brilliant! Now I think she is even more brilliant. I wish I was able to write so few words and make it mean something that kids would love.
This book has only five words, and one of those words is only on the last page. The other four words (the words that are in the title) are repeated over and over again but in different sequence with different punctuation and different pictures.
What makes this book fun for young kids is that they could “read” this book very quickly. If they learn to pay attention to the pictures and learn the four words that make up the book, they could read it in no time!
Gravett’s watercolor illustration create a lot of white space on the page so the reader focuses solely on the simplicity of the words and the objects the words are illustrating. No one but Gravett could reuse the same objects and the same words over and over again and make them interesting each time.
This book has been nominated for the Cybils fiction picture book category.
Friday, December 7, 2007
by Michael Driscoll
illustrated by Meredith Hamilton
Black Dog and Levanthal Publishers, 2003
I'm not sure why it has taken me four years to find this book, but it has. I stumbled across this in a bookstore while I was doing Christmas shopping. I made this purchase for myself. This is a poetry anthology chock-ful of good information. It is almost a history of poetry with samples along the way.
This anthology is broken up into two sections. The first section talks about different types of poetry, explains them, and then gives lots of examples. If the poetry contains difficult words, definitions are included in a sidebar. There are little bubbles that tell which poems are located on the accompanying CD and which track they are on. This section covers nursery rhymes, nonsense verse, haiku, limerick, narrative verse and more.
The second part of this anthology is a history of a different sort. It contains biographical information about famous poets and prints some of their poems. It includes poet greats the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, William Blake, Emily Dickenson, Walt Whitman, and more.
While it's picture book "look" might turn older readers away, this poetry anthology would really be a good resource for poetry readers of all ages. It has so much information packed into its two covers that might even help older poetry readers understand poems they read in school. It might even inspire older writers to try their hand at some various forms of poetry that are not as widely known today.
This book is going to make its way to school where I'll use it for my Poetry Fridays and as a general poetry reference.
In honor of Poetry Friday, I give you a limerick by Edward Lear:
There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, "It is just as a feared!--
Two owls and a hen,
Four larks and a wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard."
Poetry Friday roundup is at Becky's Book Reviews
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
written and illustrated by Adam Rex
Adam Rex must be a master of titles and intrigue. His latest title The True Meaning of Smekday makes me say HUH? And this book's title makes me say HMM! His book Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich made me order it the title alone.
Pssst! is such an interactive, fun book to read. A little girl takes a trip to the zoo, and as she goes to each animals, they say PSSST to her. In some places it reads like a comic strip with several little boxes on a page and speech bubbles to indicate who is speaking.
The little girl is shocked when each animal makes a special request for items. The items seem strange, so she sometimes questions why they need these things. For example, the bats ask her to bring them flashlights. She wonders why bats need flashlights if they love the dark. It's the hippo that lives near them that doesn't really like the dark. The turkeys ask for corn. They don't want to eat the corn, they want to use it for clean burning fuel.
The book is filled with text in speech bubbles as the animals and the girl talk to each other. But even more intriguing is the text that occurs in signs in the zoo.
This is a romping good read aloud. Young children will want to say PSSST along with you every time a new animal appears. Older kids will get more of the clues along the way and also enjoy reading the writing that is in the signs.
What's even more surprising is what the animals do with all of the items that they requested. The little girl brings the items back and they make a get-away vehicle with the items! Even my 3 year old "got it" when I turned to the last page. We've spent a lot of time laughing over this book.
PSSST! This would make a great Christmas gift for children 3 and up!
PSSST! Adam Rex has a blog!
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Four Feet, Two Sandals
By Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed
Illustrated by Doug Chayka
In the middle of the War on Terror, there are stories that need to be told. But not about war. But about hope in the middle of the fear. Four Feet, Two Sandals is such a story. It is set in a refugee camp, in Peshawar, a city on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. It is a fictitious story, but one that represents the friendship and hope in refugee camps worldwide.
In the refugee camp, clothing is being distributed to the masses. Little was left by the time Lina arrived. She managed to get one sandal, but she couldn’t find the match. But she wore the one she had. Soon she meets Feroza, the wearer of the other sandal. They become fast friends. Feroza offers the matching sandal to Lina. Instead of each wearing one sandal, they decide to share them, each wearing the set every other day. The sandals bring these two girls together and they stay friends.
Lina soon finds out her family will be relocating to America to start a new life. They have been given a fresh start. Much like a friendship necklace, split apart in the middle, where each friend wears one half, the girls each take a sandal, hoping to meet again.
The paintings in this book are not full of detail, but almost hazy—like the desert sun. But they depict the landscape well. An author’s note at the back gives more detail about the refugee camp.
Karen Lynn Williams co-authored this book. She is also the author of another favorite of mine, When Africa Was Home.
This book has been nominated for in the fiction picture book category for the Cybils.
Teachers Guide available
I have read over 20 of the Cybils books that have been nominated. For the full list, go here.
Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis (my review here)
I Lost My Tooth in Africa by Penda Diakite
Little Red Riding Hood retold and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (my review here)
Pictures from our Vacation by Lynne Rae Perkins
Early Chapter Book
Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything by Lenore Look
Middle Grade Fiction
*While I didn't manage to do reviews on any of these books, I would highly recommend them all.
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Nonfiction for Kids
Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine (my review here)
E. E. Cummings: A Poet's Life by Catherine Reef (my review here)
Keeper of the Night by Kimberly Willis Holt
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (my review here)
What to Eat: An Aisle by Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating by Marion Nestle
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant
By Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Henry Holt, 2007
This picture book is like none I have ever seen. Paul Fleischman takes Cinderella stories from 17 countries and weaves them into one. Each story contributes a paragraph, or a few lines, but the story continues, moving from version to version. The illustrations are done with the same style, in an almost tapestry-like story telling style. However, each culture’s unique flavor is represented in the paintings, just like in the story itself. The illustrations contain the name of the culture or country of origin.
Retold and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Little, Brown, 2007
I spotted this picture book retelling of Little Red Riding Hood on a recent trip to a used bookstore. It was in perfect condition, and obviously wasn’t very used since it was just published this fall. I knew as soon as I saw the illustrations, I wanted to buy the book. Jerry Pinkney’s detail in his illustrations is second to none. I purchased his version of Noah’s Ark for my daughter when it first came out.
The story itself is very close to the Grimm Brothers version—including the woodcutter cutting open the wolf who had swallowed the grandmother. Some children’s versions I have read have not included this gruesome detail, but I like that Pinkney kept this detail.
Pinkney has made his Little Red Riding Hood an African American girl. What makes this unique is that the story is still true to the Grimms’ version. Other versions I have read with non-Caucasian Red Riding Hoods have also been different versions of the tales (for example, Lon Po Po by Ed Young). Pinkney’s retelling and illustrations would make an excellent addition to any fairy tale collection.
Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly
By Gail Carson Levine
Levine, the queen of princess stories, encourages young writers to practice their craft and SAVE EVERYTHING. This book is full of writing exercises that she encourages young writers to try and SAVE. There is nothing new or earthshattering in this book. If you have read many writing books before, you will hear some of the same advice. But it’s worth hearing (or reading) again. In fact, the good thing is, Levine gives some of the advice I learned in graduate school and provides it to young writers.
Her first chapter includes Rules for Writing and The Writer’s Oath. She wants young writers to take their writing seriously.
Here is some of my favorite advice she gives:
-Writing: “The best way to write better is to write more.” p. 5
-Details: “The right details plunk us down inside the story and put us in our characters’ shoes.” p. 37
-Your brilliant words: She mentions that sometimes we write beautifully, but it doesn’t always make the story better. She says you should cut even the brilliant words because: “Do not do not DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT bend your story to accommodate your brilliant words.” P. 93
I loved this book, but I must admit, it probably won’t appeal to many adolescent boys. However, adolescent girls who want to write, or love Levine’s books, will probably pour over this book and try her many exercises.
How to Write Your Life Story
By Ralph Fletcher
Ralph Fletcher adds to his series for young writers in this book about writing about your own life. He has written other books for young writers: Poetry Matters, How Writer’s Work, and A Writer’s Notebook. All of his books are written for middle grade readers. This is the age when students know how to write but have the developmental capability to really move their writing to the next level.
Fletcher’s recently published memoir, Marshfield Dreams, is mentioned frequently throughout the book because he shares his own writing experiences of how he went from memories to the published memoir. Marshfield Dreams would be a good companion read if teachers of serious young writers really wanted to study his techniques along with his finished product.
Other famous children’s book writers who also wrote memoirs are interviewed in this book. Jack Gantos, Jerry Spinelli, and Kathi Appelt talk about their experiences writing about their lives.
Memoirs aren’t the only genre that Fletcher talks about. He shows kids different genres they can use to write about their life. He teaches them how to mine their memories through neighborhood maps and heart maps (two techniques that I use every year with my fourth graders that I have read about in other writing books). He also recommends writing poetry about your life (like in "Where I’m From" poem by George Ella Lyon—another idea I do with fourth graders every year).
Fletcher gives practical writing tips to young writers. If you like Fletcher’s previous books about writing for young writers, add this one to your collection. It would be great to study along with some of the memoirs he mentions in the text.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
By Jennifer Donnelly
I mentioned in a previous post that I received a recommendation to read this book from a bookseller at a local used bookstore. When I got home that evening to request the book from my local library, I noticed that it was already on my “to read” list. I just hadn’t read it yet. The bookseller at the bookstore absolutely gushed over this book just telling me about it. She was so moved by it, I knew I needed to read it.
The story is set in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. It is set around the murder of Grace Brown, a well-known murder that took place in the early 1900s. It was also this same murder that inspired An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser—a book I loved in college.
Even though the book is set around this infamous murder, the story is really about Mattie Gokey, a young girl who is raising her younger siblings because her mother has died and her father is emotionally unattached to the family.
What endears the reader to Mattie is that she manages to carry the weight of the family on her shoulders at such a young age, but she also manages to be an excellent student and a promising writer. She excels in her exams in school and has the opportunity to go to college—something her father will not hear of.
In the midst of it all, she falls in love with a childhood friend, and is engaged to be married. As time goes on, she is not sure that she wants to be a wife, mother, and homemaker if it means she will not be able to pursue her dream of being a writer.
Mattie’s love of words and writing are a beautiful thread throughout the whole book. Donnelly titles the chapters with Mattie’s Words of the Day. Mattie looks up obscure words in the dictionary, memorizes their meanings, and then tries to use them in context during the course of the day. We learn her love of language, her love of writing, and her desire to get out of the life she is living.
Mattie eventually goes to work at the Glenmore, a hotel that is the place that Grace Brown and Chester Gillette are staying. There she learns Grace’s story, and begins to have the courage to pursue her dream of being a writer.
Donnelly makes Mattie's struggle honest. She struggles with trying to honor her mother's dying wish--to take care of her siblings. She wants to pursue her dream, but she is also in love, and she knows that once she marries that she'll no longer live her own life. Her struggles are real, and the decisions she makes do not come easy.
I agree wholeheartedly the enthusiasm with which this book was recommended to me. This story will stay with me for a long time.
Awards it has won:
Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Borders Original Voices Award
Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis (I had never read this one before)
Belle Prater's Boy by Ruth White (set in Virginia, so many people have recommended it to me)
Little Red Riding Hood by Jerry Pinkney (this is NEW, but I paid half price for it!! I love Jerry Pinkney's illustrations and this one is phenomenal)
What I loved even more about this store is that the people who work there KNOW books (unlike when you walk into a Barnes and Noble and the sales clerks have NO clue what you are talking about when you ask for A Drowned Maiden's Hair--aah!).
The sales clerk and I struck up a conversation about children's books. She asked if I had read A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. I told her no, but it was on my "to read" list at home-- a list that has become quite lengthy. She highly recommended it, so I bumped it up to priority on my "to read" list and requested it from the library.
What a fantastic recommendation. I just finished reading it last night. It was a wonderful read! Thanks to Too Many Books for a handful of good used books and a fantastic book recommendation!
Sue Corbett of the Miami-Herald has here list out of Best Books for 2007
The Horn Book's Fanfare List of 2007 is up. Thanks to Read Roger for the link.
Kirkus Best Young Adult Books of 2007 is now available.