Sunday, October 31, 2004

Author: R.L. Stine

Fun article in the Bradenton Herald by Donna Hartman about R.L. Stine. His Goosebumps series remains consistently popular with young readers. He describes his early career and his other books. He made me laugh with this comment about his own child:
Interestingly, his son Matthew, 24, has never read any of his books. In the mid-1990s when the "Goosebumps" series was at its peak, Matthew was at the right age to enjoy them.

"I made my son the star of one of my 'Fear Street' novels and he didn't read that," Stine said. "I'm convinced that if you're an author, your kid will be a non-reader. It's an easy way to get to Dad. He read only Garfield comics."

But, Matthew turned out OK. He majored in English, read James Joyce in college and now works as a sound designer and a sound studio manager in New York.

Stine knows many authors of other children's books:
He is friends with Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler, the author of the children's series titled, "Series of Unfortunate Events")."He grew up reading me," he said.

Parents thank him:

Despite a world of electronic distractions, Stine believes children still make time to read.

"I can't tell you how many parents come up to me and thank me for getting their children interested in reading," he said. "Parents should let children read what they want to read."

JKRowling site: The Door will Open!

The Do Not Disturb sign is off the door at

Happy Halloween!

I am trying to figure out the clue behind the door...I think I know the answer to the riddle...I just can't seem to find the right word it to fit the space.

Update: It is ONE word. My husband is so clever.

Look out the daughter realized those are pumpkins on the hill. The seasons change on the site. I love how the watch on the desk shows the correct time. The scene outside the window changes when it is night. The creators of this site are so inventive and keep new things popping up all the time, clever, clever people.

Is this library haunted?

From Library Link of the Day:

Willard Library is the oldest library in Evansville, Indiana, opening in 1885. Legend has it that the library is haunted. In 1937, the library janitor saw "a ghostly veiled lady dressed in glowing grey" in the library basement. Additional sightings and manifestations have since been reported. As a result several "ghost cams" have been set up in the library and they are available for viewing here via the Internet.

Read about the legend and click on the cameras and see what you decide. Great fun!

Just seven plots since storytelling began?

The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, by Christopher Booker

Interesting to ponder...
The reports on a study reviewing seven basic archetypal themes or plots that make up all fiction across all cultures and time periods.
RAGS TO RICHES -- Story of an ordinary person who finds a second, more exceptional, self within.
Examples include Cinderella, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Jane Eyre and Hollywood films such as The Gold Rush and My Fair Lady

THE QUEST -- A long, hazardous journey to reach a priceless goal far away. Examples of this include The Odyssey, Jason and the Golden Fleece, King Solomon’s Mines, Around The World in Eighty Days and Raiders of the Lost Ark

VOYAGE AND RETURN -- Story in which some event — a fall, crash, shipwreck — propels the hero or heroine out of their familiar surroundings into a disconcerting and abnormal world. Examples include Alice in Wonderland, Robinson Crusoe, The Ancient Mariner, The Time Machine

COMEDY -- Not just a general term, but an identifiable form of plot which follows its own rules. Examples include Tom Jones, the novels of Jane Austen, The Importance of Being Earnest, Fawlty Towers, Some Like It Hot

TRAGEDY-- Is an archetypal plot, with a five-stage structure culminating in destruction and death. The main character is overcome by a desire for power/passion, which destroys them or they become monstrous. Examples include Macbeth, Doctor Faustus, Lolita, and King Lear

REBIRTH -- Someone falls under a dark power or a spell that traps him or her in a state of living death. An miraculous act of redemption takes place and the victim is released and brought into the light. Examples include Sleeping Beauty, A Christmas Carol, The Sound of Music

OVERCOMING THE MONSTER -- A hero or heroine confronts a monster, defeats it against all odds and wins treasure or a loved one’s hand. Examples include David and Goliath, Nicholas Nickleby, Jack and the Beanstalk, Dracula, James Bond stories, Jaws
Author Philip Pullman makes the case for eleven plots that also include:
“beauty and the beast” category, where the monster is transformed by the love of the pure, innocent one (Jane Eyre), a Shane plot, named after the novel turned film, in which a stranger arrives, settles a problem and rides on, and “the ugly duckling”, where the overlooked, downtrodden girl or boy is transformed into a winner (The Tortoise and the Hare, David and Goliath).

Friday, October 29, 2004

Charlotte's Web--a new movie

Charlotte's Web is going to be a "live action" + CGI movie directed by Gary Winick.
From a BBC interview:
It's going to be a combination of the three [live-action, CGI, animatronic], and it's quite fascinating. We had a meeting with the animal trainer, the animatronics people and the computer effects people, and between them they've done every movie that's ever been done this way. And to just hear about the challenges of this movie... the big thing with this particular film, for me, is that the animals have to look really real. It's an intimate story, and people know what spiders, rats and pigs look like.

The movie will be filmed in Australia according to The

Greendale, in rural Victoria, has been chosen by Paramount Pictures as the location for a major Hollywood movie - Charlotte's Web....For the picturesque community, about half way between Melbourne and Ballarat, it's going to mean jobs and a chance to sell its tourism assets to a vast market that would otherwise have been well beyond its reach.

And with orchards, deep gorges and forests to draw people in, Mr Cutler is hoping the film will prove a tourism bonanza for the area...."They decided on this one simply because of the picturesque lay of the land and the ideal situation for what they wanted to recreate."

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Author: Debbie Dadey

How many times have I been asked, "Where are the Bailey School Kids books?" Too many to count.
Answer: FIC DAD
This series is a perfect fit with elementary school kids. Readers from grades 2 and up LOVE these stories. It is one of those book series that make kids want to read every single title. I love series books because series readers become life long readers.

Adam Benson of the La Junta Tribune-Democrat describes a author visit at La Junta Intermediate School. Dadey describes how she began writing her series.
Every day for a year and a half, Dadey - then a teacher in Kentucky - and [Marcia] Thorton would draft stories at a lunch table before finding success with "Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots," the first of what would be some 50 books in "The School Kids" series.

"I was so excited when I got a call from an editor in New York City telling us they wanted to publish our story that I danced on the table top of my library," Dadey said.

That book went on to sell more than 250,000 copies and kicked off Dadey's new career as a writer.

In addition to visiting with the students she gave them advice on writing.

"It's a lot harder than you think it is" to write children's books, Dadey said.

Dadey also encouraged the students to read their stories aloud to get a better feel for flow and structure.

"It's a simple trick that's guaranteed to make your story better," she said.
Planning is also a key ingredient, the author says.

"When I write a story, I actually do plan it out. I outline every chapter before I start writing," she said.

Wow! Sequel to Holes!

AP Story--Thu Oct 28, 3:05 PM ET
Louis Sachar is working on a sequel!

NEW YORK - Armpit and X-Ray are back at Camp Green Lake. Louis Sachar, author of the million-selling, award-winning "Holes," is writing a sequel to his beloved children's classic. Delacorte Press Books will publish Sachar's "Small Steps," at a date still to be determined.

"`Holes' is a phenomenon that raised the bar for measuring publishing success — and it is all due to the creative genius of Louis Sachar," Delacorte publisher Beverly Horowitz said Thursday in a statement.

Published in 1998, "Holes" has sold more than 5 million copies, won the Newbery Medal and National Book Award and was made into a popular film last year, with Sachar writing the screenplay.

Author: Meg Cabot

Fans of The Princess Diaries, All-American Girl and Teen Idol will want to read the interview with Meg Cabot in The Guardian Unlimited. The interview is fun, just like her books.
Cabot kept diaries as a girl and has plundered them ruthlessly for the series. "My diaries are, like, sooo funny," she giggles. "Like, one day I write, 'I've got the most enormous zit, and grandma's gone into hospital today.' And you know, both things are equally important."
When asked about the Princess Diaries movies she says:
... she was still sitting at her desk at NYU - although it wasn't exactly a fairytale. Her agent thought the first Princess Diary had movie potential, and Disney optioned it. First came a $4,000 cheque (laughable now), and then the phone-calls.

" 'We're really sorry, but in the movie we're going to kill off the father, cos Julie Andrews wants to play the grandmother, but she doesn't have enough lines so we're going to kill the dad and give her all the dead dad's lines. Is that OK?' And I was like, Julie Andrews, yeah, you can kill the dad, whatever you have to do!"

Authors: Holly Black and Tony DeTerlizzi has an interview with Holly Black and Tony De Terlizzi, authors of The Spiderwick Chronicles.

De Terlizzi says Arthur Rackham's illustrations have influenced his work.

...Arthur Rackham's imaginative quality really struck a chord within me, and his work always comes to mind when I think of an old fairy tale. That's what I wanted the Spiderwick books to look and feel like. There were beautiful things in his world, and there were grotesque things… I always keep that in mind when creating characters and a world.

Black talks about her writing and her books. She and DeTerlizzi discuss how they collaborate and some of the themes in the Spiderwick books...

Spiderwick kinda works on those different levels. There are very real problems Jared has to deal with at home, at school, and with his family. Then there are the problems he encounters in the faerie-world. The important thing here is that he does not solve them all at the end of the story. I think the ending is satisfying but it certainly doesn't tie every loose end up with a bow on it… but that's the way life is, isn't it?

I have not read all these books so I was intrigued by this exchange:

DHBks[reporter]: My nomination for the best sentence in all five of the books is this one, to be found in the fifth book: “There, lying on a carpet of corrugated metal, was a cow.” My jaw dropped. Did the two of you brainstorm that sentence – and the interesting images that ensue from it – jointly?

HB: Glad you liked that one! We didn't actually brainstorm sentences, although we went over things together many times. I'm not sure how that particular sentence evolved -- what I do remember was thinking that it was the most surreal cliffhanger I'd ever written.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Author: Matt Christopher

Sports books by Matt Christopher have been favorites with kids for years. Boys especially seem to gravitate to his sport centered books. The Sartogian has an interesting article about the author who died in 1997. His series continue to be popular in bookstores and libraries today.

...his books and their simple, yet valuable lessons are still very much alive. 'The Kid Who Only Hit Homers,' published in 1972, sold more than 2 million copies.

'The message is, you can't give up on yourself,' Dale Christopher said. 'You've got to keep trying; you've got to keep practicing. Even though you might have failures, you've got to believe in yourself.'

His son, Dale has written a biography of his father, Behind the Desk with Matt Christopher. A teacher himself, he also visits schools to keep his father's work alive in children's hearts. He describes his dad's early writing career.

'He would work during the day, and he would write at night,' Dale recalled. 'Day after day I would go to the mailbox and see what letters were out there. He would open them up, and I could see the look on his face that it was another rejection. But once in a while he got that letter and maybe it was a check in the mail for $50. That just spurred him on.'

Eventually, he submitted a children's short story that struck a chord with a publisher. In the early 1950s, there weren't many sports books on the market, so Christopher combined both elements, which resulted in his first book, 'The Little Baseball Bat.'

This year marks the golden anniversary of its debut, published by Little Brown Co.

Author: John Archambault

John Archambault is known for his popular children's book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. He and musician David Plummer have joined forces to create a new series of books that "incorporates musical CDs with read-along and sing-along styles to help early readers develop fluency and intuitive association with print while making the experience fun." Their theory:
"Rhythm, rhyme and repetition are the keys to getting children to enjoy learning."

From the Observer Reporter

Ted and Gloria Rand

There is a delightful article by Cecelia Goodnow about Ted and Gloria Rand in the Seattle Post Intelligencer. It describes how the illustrator/author couple met and their warm, loving relationship. There are too many great parts to share so you must read the whole thing.

Ted Rand has an upbeat outlook on life. From the article,
"I'll be 90 years old next year," he says in his strong, melodious voice. "How could I possibly squawk? Imagine getting to live this long and have this much fun."

Rand studied briefly at the Cornish College of the Arts and: 1938 he had saved enough for a 13-month trip around the world. He sailed to Europe on the legendary liner Normandie; tramp steamers carried him to Egypt, India and the Dutch East Indies. The world was on a precarious edge, and he arrived at the tipping point."I saw Hitler speak in Munich," he says, "and I saw Mussolini speak in Rome. There were youth marches at night and parades in cities. You had to feel something was coming (but) I was too dumb to be scared."

The Rands have lived in the same house on Mercer Island for 55 years. A picture of the couple in front of the fireplace is with the article.:
... ringed by lush trees and flower-edged patios. They might have moved years ago if not for the mural Ted painted on the white-brick fireplace wall -- a parade of Chinese horsemen that dominates the room. "We tried to sell the house once," Gloria said, "and a woman (buyer) said, 'Oh, that'll have to go -- I hate horses.' We took the house off the market."

It describes how he came to illustrate his first children's book, "The Ghost-Eye Tree"at the age of 65 and tells the story behind Gloria's book, "Salty Dog."

If you didn't already love their books, you can only cheer and feel worry as Ted's battle with cancer is described. The couple's loving and upbeat outlook are captured by this story:
But many will long cherish the sight of him and Gloria strolling in for a reading, "welded at the hip," in the words of writer-illustrator Laura Kvasnosky. Haslet at All for Kids says she lost her heart to the Rands on one such visit. "They were walking into the store," she says, "and he gently brushed a piece of lint off Gloria's shoulder."

Instead of recoiling, Gloria looked up at him and said lovingly, "Oh, Ted. How could I ever get along without you?"

"Please," he said. "Don't even try."

Friday, October 22, 2004

Interactive Workshop with Chris Van Allsburg

From Stockwatch:

All Aboard With Chris Van Allsburg
will be simulcast to 97 Regal, United Artists and Edwards movie theatres nationwide beginning at 9:30 a.m. PT / 12:30 p.m. ET on November 9, 2004. Van Allsburg will share stories about his writing and inspiration, as well as answer pre-selected questions live from students in the theatres. Allsburg will also talk about how his book, The Polar Express, was transformed into the new movie. More information on Chris Van Allsburg is available at the Houghton Mifflin Eduplace website.

The event is recommended for kids in grades 3-6, and tickets for the workshop
cost $6.00 per student. Teachers and educators may order group tickets.
More information about the event is available at BigScreen

Cities/theaters across the country are participating. Texas cities that will host this event include:

901 Little Texas Lane, Austin, TX

11801 Mccree Road, Dallas, TX

8301 Ederville, Fort Worth, TX

6100 N. Freeway, Fort Worth, TX

7620 Katy Freeway, Houston, TX

2828 Cinema Ridge, San Antonio, TX

Elections & Democracy

With the election just over a week away, the Children's Book Council has a comprehensive list of children's books about the presidency, democracy and elections. There are excellent titles for very young children through high school.

If the Walls could Talk by Jane O'Conner, 2004 is an entertaining look at the presidency and historic events that occured at the White House. Children are intrigued by the charicatures of the U.S. presidents. The Caldecott winner, So You Want to be President? by Judith St. George and illustrated by David Small has been revised and updated this year.

My very favorite book on the topic of elections this year has to be Duck for President! by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin, 2004. A teacher friend of mine wondered if this book was for children or grown-ups so I know it is a perfect book. I read it to a group of 8th graders recently and they were drawn-in to the story in spite of themselves. Running a farm is hard work so Farmer Brown (from Click Clack Moo Cows that Type and Giggle, Giggle, Quack) assigns chores to all the animals. Duck tires of his daily grind and decides he could do a better job of running things so he runs for "farmer."
"VOTE DUCK! For a Kinder, Gentler Farm!" Hmm...being a farmer is hard work too, so why not try for governor or president? Vote recounts and playing the saxophone on late night television are just some of the topical references that make the story work on many levels. Lewin's illustrations give the whole story an additional hilarious edge.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Books for Soldiers is a non-profit corporation, operated as a ministry of a non-denominational church in North Carolina.

Books For Soldiers is a soldier support site that ships books, DVDs and supplies to deployed soldiers and soldiers in VA hospitals, via our large volunteer network.

If you have old, but usuable books or DVDs sitting around, collecting dust, why not send them to a soldier for a big morale boost?

The founder explains how BFS began.

During the first Gulf War, several of my friends from school were in the reserves and were activated to fight the Iraqis. CNN reported that once the soldiers were deployed,they were faced with massive downtime and were restricted to their base due to the travel limitations set by the Saudi government.

I am a voracious reader and at the beginning of the Gulf War, I had a closet full of paperback books. Books that were not being used. So instead of selling them at the used book store, I packed them up in small care packages and sent them out to all the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen I had addresses for.

Within a few weeks, I ran out of books before I ran out of addresses. Friends and family members began donating their paperback books and in the end, over 1000 books were sent to the Gulf.

After the war, we received many thank-you notes from soldiers who got one of our books. Unless it was time for them to fly back home, mail-call days were one of the most anticipated events of deployment. Regardless of why the military is deployed, the men and women of our armed services are there for us. They deserve our support and if we can make their deployment easier, then all the better.
Operation Paperback
Another group that sends books to our military personnel is Operation Paperback, a non-profit, grassroots program of family, personal friends and web friends who collect gently used books and send them to American troops deployed overseas

Posted by Hello

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

"New" Shel Silverstein book

Runny Babbit; A Billy Sook; Poems and Drawings by Shel Silverstein
HarperCollins Children's Books is touting a "new" book by Shel Silverstein.
Completed before his death in 1999, this collection of poems and drawings was a work in progress for over 20 years and is as ground-breaking, insightful, witty, and wondrous as Shel Silverstein's imagination. Runny Babbit is destined to be a classic for readers of all ages.

It sounds like the rhymes are in the form of spoonerisms.

Named for the Rev. W. A. Spooner, of New College, Oxford, who was inordinately guilty of this mistake, a spoonerism is a form of malapropism in which there is an accidental transposition of the parts of two or more words. For example, "Runny Babbit" for "Bunny Rabbit," or "Toe Jurtle" for "Joe Turtle." Silverstein extends this concept to create a magical new language, rich with layers of humor, meaning and playfulness:
So if you say, "Let's bead a rook
That's billy as can se,"
You're talkin' Runny Babbit talk,
Just like mim and he.

It is Teen Read Week. The theme is, "It's Alive@your Library" Vote for your favorite books at the ALA site. You can vote for three titles. I would have a hard time choosing just three. Posted by Hello

Monday, October 18, 2004

Sean Astin: National Center for Family Literacy

Sean Astin has recorded three PSAs for the National Center for Family Literacy. In two of them the book he is reading is, of course, The Hobbit.

Texas cowboy author

Lonn Taylor of The Desert-Mountain Times has a great article about Texas author, John R. Erickson. Taylor reviews Erickson's book The Modern Cowboy, first published in 1981 and revised last year. It details and explains modern ranch life and is a terrific introduction to Big Bend.
The book is salted with examples from Erickson’s own experience as a working cowboy and ranch manager in the Texas Panhandle (he was born in Midland and raised in Perryton) and is full of sharp insights into the cowboy’s character and attitudes as well as his work. Listen to him on cowboy talk: “The good, natural cowboy humorist makes up his language as he goes along, twisting it into odd shapes that can be delightful and highly descriptive. To the basic information and dry facts, he adds embellishment, exaggeration and extravagant comparisons, and makes the simple act of talking a pastime and a form of entertainment.”
Erickson is a unique voice.

He is not your average cowboy or even your average cowboy writer. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1966 and then put in two years at Harvard Divinity School and a couple of years working in New York and Dallas before he came back to Perryton in 1970, “when city life started to get on my nerves,” he says.

This author is well known to children for his Hank the Cowdog series. "Erickson has been quoted as saying that when he started out writing them, the dog worked for him; now, he works for the dog."

I love his book, Moonshiner's Gold which won the Lamplighter Award for 2003-2004. It is a wonderful family story and exciting mystery set in the 1920's during the Texas oil boom. He has written a sequel, Discovery at Flint Springs which will be published in October 2004.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

His Dark Materials is home base for fans of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. These books are The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

An interview with Chris Weitz, the director of the upcoming HDM films is on the site. Trying to imagine this amazing series on the screen is difficult but New Line supported the fine Lord of the Rings trilogy, a feat I thought I would never see. Weitz has great respect for Pullman and his work.
As well, I have a tremendous resource in Philip Pullman. Part of the reason that I am writing this now is that Philip saw my treatment for the film and liked it, and we’ve been in constant and very fruitful conversation, and I hope to continue that correspondence and collaboration. This is possible in large part because he is a very amiable and reasonable man. It takes a great deal of fortitude to watch someone adapt your work, but I believe he knows that I will do my very best to see his creation to the screen. He also knows that I am the first person to go to if there is any aspect of the film that violates his sense of the work's meaning.

In 2003 the National Theater in London presented a stage version of the His Dark Materials trilogy. They will presenting the play again in two parts from November 20, 2004 to April 2, 2005.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Gorillas of Gill Park

The Gorillas of Gill Park
by Amy Gordon, 2003

I liked this book so much! Once I started reading it, I did not want to stop.
Willy Wilson does not seem to fit in with his family. He feels like he never lives up to his parents expectations. When he is offered the chance to spend the summer with his interesting and fun Aunt Bridget he jumps at the chance. Aunt Bridget is sewing an order of 30 gorilla costumes and recovering from the death of her husband. Willy settles in to life in her apartment which is across the street from Gill Park.

Music is an underlying theme to his stay and the book. Music plays continuously in Gill Park and the different styles become the rhythm of his life. One day the music suddenly stops and the news spreads that the eccentric owner, Otto Pettingill is going to sell the park to shopping mall developers.

The book has a great cast of characters who are determined to save the park. Willy grows and gains confidence in the events that follow. Baseball games, an elevator to a tree house, gorilla masks, a wild girl, violins--this is a very unique story line with an upbeat message about the difference individuals can make in their community.

This is a book on the 2004 Texas Bluebonnet Reading list.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Peace work-a lovely story

Blueberries for the Queen, by John & Katherine Paterson, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, 2004

This is a true family story from John and Katherine Paterson. In 1942 everyone in William's family is helping with the war effort on the homefront. William dreams of helping as a brave knight but his older brother chides him for being too young. When the news arrives that Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands has moved in down the road, he tries to imagine what a real queen looks like and acts like. The royal family had to flee from Holland when the Germans invaded their country.

The fruits and vegetables in the summer garden grow and William finds a way to do "peace work" and touch the heart of Queen Wilhelmina and her family. Susan Jeffers illustrations are beautiful and carry the reader through the story. This is a book and a story that any age will enjoy. It reminded me of Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot with the positive message.

I lived in Holland as a child so Queen Wilhelmina, Princess (later Queen) Juliana and her daughters, Beatrix (the present queen of the Netherlands) and Irene were familiar points of reference to me.

The Legend of Spud Murphy

The Legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer, 2004

What a funny book! Marty and Will have been sent to the library because it is educational. They are horrified because they have heard the stories of Mrs. "Spud" Murphy, the librarian and her gas-powered spud gun. Their worst fears are confirmed when Marty tests the library limits by moving off the carpet in the children's section. "She appeared without a sound, like a ninja librarian." Her revenge is total and she wields her library stamps with flair.
This will make a great read-aloud, I can hardly wait to hear the reaction to the stamp on Marty's arm.
Boys, especially will enjoy it. It sounds like this is the first of a new series.
Colfer is best know for his Artemis Fowl and fantasy books. His humor is always wonderful. It made me laugh-out-loud. I had to buy it, it's a keeper.

The Cats in Krasinski Square

The Cats in Krasinski Square
by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Wendy Watson, 2004

Writing for children about the Holocaust takes a special gift. It can be difficult to communicate the horror of those years to young readers without delving into atrocities and concentration camps. Gifted writer Karen Hesse has brought us a true story that can be shared in picture book form.

The opening lines of the story set the scene, “The cats come from the cracks in the Wall, the dark corners, the openings in the rubble." The "Wall" is the wall around the Warsaw Ghetto. In 1939, the German Gestapo crowded Jews into this area of the city where the horrible conditions caused starvation, disease and death.

The young narrator of the story has escaped the ghetto and is "passing" as an Aryan on the other side of the wall. She fears for her friend Michal who is still inside the ghetto. Her sister, Mira is part of the Resistance and they have a plan to smuggle food to the people behind the wall. When the Germans find out about the plan and move to thwart it, the Resistance turns to the abandoned cats of the city to save the day and the food.

Wendy Watson's illustrations are lovely. Her style and color palette take us back to this time period. Seeing the pictures of the merry-go-round and the holes in the wall was especially evocative having just read Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli.

A Story from the Holocaust

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli, 2003 (recommended for jr. high and older)

This is a story from the Holocaust. Spinelli has been able to do something quite remarkable in this novel. We read the book with our own knowledge of the events of the Nazi invasion yet we see the events through the eyes of a young boy.

The only name he knows to call himself is Stopthief because he survives by stealing. He does not have a family nor does he know who his people are. He is a child utterly and totally alone. He is given the name Misha by another boy named Uri who befriends and protects him. Misha’s community becomes a group of homeless orphan boys scratching out a life on the streets of Warsaw.

Misha is totally innocent, ignorant and naïve so he only lives in the present. As we read of the Nazi invasion we know the horrors ahead. Misha, however, sees the “Jackboots” as something wonderful; he perceives their mocking salutes as a mark of respect. Their parade entering the city is a marvel to him. Events he witnesses lead him to slowly understand that being a Jew is dangerous though his innocence and desire for kinship lead him to join his Jewish friends as they are moved to the Warsaw ghetto. There his kind heart and small size allow him to sneak out of the ghetto and smuggle food back in. He feeds a young Jewish girl and her family, an orphanage and his friends. The reader fears for Misha though he feels no fear for himself.

Spinelli allows the reader to hear, see and smell the insanity of the Holocaust. This is a book everyone should read. This story is timely, important and compelling.

Lewis and Clark and Me

Lewis and Clark and Me: a dog's tale by Laurie Myers, illustrated by Michael Dooling, 2002
The first thing that caught my attention was the beautiful design of this book. The size, the cover design, and the gorgeous illustrations make this book a delight to hold in your hand. The story is told by Seaman, the Newfoundland dog who accompanied the Corps of Discovery on their journey across the continent. Seaman's story is echoed in entries from Meriwether Lewis's journals.

The book is not long; at 64 pages it would make a great read aloud. I loved the story where Seaman is dubbed a "bear-dog" by the Indians. His nearly fatal encounter with a wounded beaver is very exciting and invests the reader emotionally in the story.

This book is not a history of the expedition but would be a wonderful introduction to the Lewis and Clark journey. Sacagawea and York are part of the dog's story but Lewis is the center of Seaman's world.

The book would not be the same with out the rich paintings by Michael Dooling. Dooling is one of the best "realistic" illustrators working today. His painting of Seaman and Lewis looking out over the Pacific captures the sense of the entire expedition. We see them from behind looking toward the future of a new land, open and wild, with more to discover.

Bluebonnet Books BookTalk site

BookTalk is an interactive student website that reviews the current list of Texas Bluebonnet book nominees. Sagebrush Education Resources has worked with the Texas Bluebonnet committe to provide information on the books as well as activities and links to related websites. Students can read about the authors and illustrators, review and rate the book, and find other books to read, ("if you liked this book, you might like to read...")

Even if you are not participating in the program, the lesson extensions and activities are well worth a look. The book Lewis and Clark and Me by Laurie Myers has links to sites about the Corps of Discovery and Newfoundland dogs, among others.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Barry the Book

From Library Link of the Day:
The Manchester News reports on Barry Anderson a former debt collector who has turned instead to retrieving long overdue library materials. His official position is "library stock recovery officer."
Barry, 55, from Radcliffe, near Bury, said: "Everyone who I know around here calls me Barry the Book! It's a great job, although I have had to collect from people I know. I have heard all the excuses imaginable, from illness to holidays and more exotic ones.

"The funniest had to be the chap who had taken out a book about how to improve your memory. I knocked on his door and told him that he obviously hadn't read it!

He says the difference between repossessing televisions and library books is the people are "really genuinely sorry" about the books.

He is so good at his job that he has recovered a staggering haul of 10,500 books, 600 VHS videos, 300 CDs, 71 DVDs and 33 CD-Roms in five years - worth more than £55,000.

Tippy Lemmey

Tippy Lemmey
by Patricia C. McKissack, 2003
Patricia C. McKissack always has a story worth telling. This is a lovely little tale about three children who are trying to cope with a mean neighborhood dog. Tippy Lemmey is a dog with a first AND last name and he is chasing them and snapping at their heels as they pass his turf. I loved the kids inventiveness as they try to out think and out run the dog. The children do not wish the dog harm even though he is making their life a misery. The story has a nice resolution, which is a relief--I always worry about "dog" stories (à la No More Dogs by Gordon Korman) With only 64 pages this is a perfect book for those children transitioning to "chapter books."

This book is on the 2004 Texas Bluebonnet Reading list. In this election year, participating in the Texas Bluebonnet election would be very empowering for a young reader. It is an election where their vote REALLY does count. Readers in grades 3-6 may participate by reading 5 of the books and then voting for their favorite title at their school library or participating public library.

The books range in interest and genre. There are some books on the list each year that are aimed at specifically at the older readers. This reading list always challenges me to expand my reading horizons. Left to my own devices I would only read historY, mysterY and fantasY. Tippy Lemmey is a nice read for all ages.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Science Verse

Science verse by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith, 2004.

This book is laugh-out-loud funny! The verses brilliantly cover many science concepts. Written in the style of Edgar Allen Poe ("Once in first grade I was napping/When I heard a scary yapping"), Lewis Carroll (Jabberwocky becomes "Gobblegooky"), Robert Frost ("Astronaut Stopping by a Planet on a Snowy Evening") and others, Scieszka's clever rhymes and rhythm offer a unique take on science AND science teachers.

Lane Smith's zany illustrations of the subject matter (including the food chain, black holes or "twinkle-less stars", combustion, viruses, the Big Bang) are wonderful. This is a must purchase for every library!

Science teachers in all grades will be rejoicing. A CD with the book read by Scieszka and Smith is included.

Scieszka and Smith are the creators of Math Curse which has been a must read for students in elementary to high school. Jon Scieszka is also the energy behind Guys Read, a website that focuses on boys' reading habits or lack of them...
From his site:
A lot of boys aren’t too crazy about reading

I grew up with five brothers. I taught elementary school for ten years. I’ve been writing books for kids for fifteen years. And I think I have an idea why boys might not like reading.

Boys often have to read books they don’t really like. They don’t get to choose what they want to read. And what they do like to read, people sometimes tell them is not really reading.

I think boys need to:

Choose what they read.

Pick from all different kinds of reading – not just school novels.

Find out what other guys like to read.

Books for children of military personnel is a site with a focus on children of deployed military personnel. Their books, Daddy, you're my hero! and Mommy, you're my hero! written and illustrated by Michelle Ferguson-Cohentell, tell the story of military families from the child's point of view. Books can be viewed online or purchased on the site.

Some grammar fun

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss, 2004
If you have been intrigued by this book, try the Eats, Shoots & Leaves Punctuation test.

Fun and entertaining children's books on the subject of grammar include:

Punctuation takes a vacation
by Robin Pulver ; illustrated by Lynn Rowe Reed
Punctuation power : punctuation and how to use it
by Marvin Terban
Miss Alaineus : a vocabulary disaster written and illustrated by Debra Frasier.

Parts of Speech

written and illustrated by Ruth Heller:
Behind the mask : a book about prepositions
Kites sail high : a book about verbs
A cache of jewels and other collective nouns
Fantastic! wow! and unreal! : a book about interjections and conjunctions
Many luscious lollipops : a book about adjectives
Merry-go-round : a book about nouns
Mine, all mine : a book about pronouns
Up, up and away : a book about adverbs

by Brian P. Cleary ; illustrated by Brian Gable
Dearly, nearly, insincerely : what is an adverb?
I and you and don't forget who : what is a pronoun?
Hairy, scary, ordinary : what is an adjective?
A mink, a fink, a skating rink : what is a noun?
To root, to toot, to parachute : what is a verb?
Under, over, by the clover : what is a preposition?


by Marvin Terban ; illustrated by Giulio Maestro
In a pickle and other funny idioms
Mad as a wet hen! : and other funny idioms
Guppies in tuxedos : funny eponyms

There's a frog in my throat! : 440 animal sayings a little bird told me by Loreen Leedy & Pat Street ; illustrated by Loreen Leedy.


written and illustrated by Fred Gwynne.
A chocolate moose for dinner
The king who rained
A little pigeon toad

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Author: Tomie dePaola

Kim Roberts-Gudema, Omaha World-Herald staff writer, has a delightful article about Tomie dePaola and his new book, Guess Who's Coming to Santa's for Dinner?
In his newest book, "Guess Who's Coming to Santa's for Dinner?," dePaola imagines a gathering of Santa Claus' closest relatives at his home. Like any reunion, the Claus family has its eccentric members, including an opera-singing sister, an uncle with a pet polar bear, a kleptomaniac aunt and a flaming plum pudding.

DePaola said he got the idea from a Christmas card he received one year from his travel agent. The card had a vintage photo of an opera soprano wearing a Viking helmet. The greeting read something to the effect of: "Christmas greetings from Ulga Claus, Santa's less popular sister."

"I got hysterical," dePaola said. "I thought, 'Of course, Santa has a family. Of course, they're a weird family like mine is.'"

dePaola is a Caldecott and Newbery award winner who has an optimistic outlook on life.
These days, the author receives more than 100,000 pieces of fan mail each year. Children tell him how much they love the book. Teachers and parents write to thank him for the impact he has on their students and children.

He says he delights in writing for young children.

"Books and art meant so much to me growing up," he said. "I want to be a part of that legacy."

25th anniversary of "Days With Frog and Toad"

Karen MacPherson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that this year marks the 25th anniversary of Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad series. This first book in the series, Frog and Toad Are Friends, won a Caldecott Honor in 1970.
When he was asked how he came up with the idea for the characters, Lobel, speculated that his inspiration came from a summer his family spent in the Vermont countryside.

Lobel, who died in 1987, wasn't much of a nature-lover, but his two children reveling in roaming around outside and bringing home treasures, such as frogs and toads.

In her book, "100 Best Books for Children," Anita Silvey writes that, by 1968, after several years of writing and illustrating, Lobel personally felt that he had been writing at children, rather than for them.

"Then as he thought back to the Vermont summer ... he wrote the line 'Frog ran up the path to Toad's house.' From that moment on, the story seemed to pour forth, [and] hones fragments of Lobel's feelings about himself and his children."

Lobel used a limited color palette for his illustrations that "manages to create a cozy world of country walks." Leonard S. Marcus, a children's book critic and scholar summarizes,
"Everyone can relate to Frog and Toad because they don't exist in this world," Lobel once said.

"Frog and Toad belong to no one, but they belong to everyone, every sector: rich children, poor children, white children, black children."

This is a lovely article, be sure to read the whole thing!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

New books to read

Just visited my wonderful elementary school and my generous successor and friend let me bring home a pile of new books. I have not read the Texas Bluebonnets this year so I am going to dive into them. I still have People of Spark to listen to on tape and need to finish Dragon Rider by Funke. So many books -- but a librarian-on-hiatus does have some time to read them. I still have Seabiscuit and The Amulet of Samarkand rattling around in my head though.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Robert's Snow for Cancer Cure:an online charity auction of artists' snowflakes

Robert's Snow for Cancer's Cure

From the website:

Grace Lin, a popular author/illustrator of children's books, happily married Robert Mercer, a promising architect, in the spring of 2001. Less then a year later, Robert was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer. During Robert's long months of chemotherapy and surgery, Grace created stories to amuse him. One of those stories was Robert's Snow.

After seven months of treatment, the future brightened for Robert and Grace. Robert was cancer free and Grace's story Robert's Snow was accepted for publication.

However, just as Grace finished the artwork for Robert's Snow, fate dealt them another devastating blow. Robert's cancer had returned.

While she was confident for Robert's remission, Grace wished to do something to help insure a better future. Using her book as a catalyst, Grace rallied her collegues to make this, Robert's Snow: for Cancer's Cure. Illustrators from all over the country (and overseas) will create original works of art to be auctioned online and the proceeds will be given to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute for Sarcoma research, in honor of Robert.

These snowflakes are exquisite. A Who's-who of children's literature talent has participated. This is a wonderful cause and just looking at the snowflake gallery is a treat!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Book Cart Precision Drill Team

LM-Netters have already checked this out but for the rest of the WWW...
The Marin County Free Library Book Cart Precision Drill Team is a highly precise group of library staff who march in formation with their book carts in parades and festivals, spreading the word about the library. We're ambidextrous, march in both directions, and know the Dewey Decimal System!

Watch a video of the drill team by clicking here!

Soul Surfer

Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board by Bethany Hamilton, Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh, 2004

The Today Show hosted fourteen year old, Bethany Hamilton, the young teen who lost her left arm to a shark while surfing last year. She was talking about her book, Soul Surfer.

She shared the process that brought the book into being saying...
I hope it inspires and motivates people to tackle any obstacles in their lives. I hope it helps people find faith in God and in their own strength and ability. I hope it motivates someone going through a tough time right now to keep on fighting until they rise above it. You can and will get through it. I'm living proof that where there's a will, there's a way.
I found her next words very inspiring. I am going to get this book.

I don't pretend to have all the answers to why bad things happen to good people. But I do know that God knows all those answers, and sometimes He lets you know in this life, and sometimes He asks you to wait so that you can have a face-to-face talk about it. What I do know is that I want to use what happened to me as an opportunity to tell people that God is worthy of our trust, and to show them that you can go on and do wonderful things in spite of terrible events that happen. I don't think it does any good to sit around feeling sorry for yourself. I made myself a promise: I'm not going to wallow or walk around moaning, "Woe is me!"

One other thing you should know: this book really doesn't have an ending yet because I am still learning how to cope every day.

Mt. St. Helen's volcano is in the news. Does that mean kids will be looking for volcano books? Kids are ALWAYS looking for volcano books. Disaster books in general are always popular books in a library collection.

When it comes to information books on disasters no one does it better than Seymor Simon. For great photos and facts check out his books: Volcanoes, 1988 and Danger! volcanoes, 2002. Also see: Eruption -- The Story of Volcanoes (Level 2: Beginning to Read Alone, a DK Reader), 2001 written by Anita Ganeri and Eyewitness: Volcano & Earthquake (Eyewitness Books), 2000 by Susanna Van Rose.

Fun fiction reads are: The Volcano Disaster,
1998 by Peg Kehret and Vacation under the volcano, 1998 (a Magic Tree House book) by Mary Pope Osborne.
To watch the real thing go to: Posted by Hello

New Magic Treehouse book

Winter of the Ice Wizard
by Mary Pope Osborne, 2004
A new Merlin Mission is out. Mary Pope Osborne on the Magic Treehouse website says:
On this mission, Jack and Annie visit the desolate Land-Behind-the-Clouds. To save the lives of Merlin and Morgan, they must set out in search to find the missing eye of a cold-hearted wizard.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Illustrator: Peter Catalanotto

Great article about Peter Catalanotto in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today. He will be speaking as part of the "Black, White and Read All Over" series presented by Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Karen MacPherson did an excellent interview with him. He discusses his childhood and supportive mother who provided a creative home.
"She would tell us that human beings are the only creatures who create art on purpose," said Catalanotto, who became a children's book illustrator and author. "Our family wasn't born with a magic art gene. It was nurtured in us."
After working as a freelance artist he got a chance to do some book jackets and then...
Richard Jackson, asked Catalanotto if he would be interested in illustrating a picture book titled "All I See," written by Newbery Medalist Cynthia Rylant.

"I had thought of picture books as being like 'Clifford, the Big Red Dog' and didn't really want to do that kind of art," he said. "But [Jackson] laughed and asked me the last time I actually looked at a children's picture book."

Under Jackson's tutelage, Catalanotto, who lives in Doylestown, Bucks County, discovered the joys of picture books. Unlike book jackets, where Catalanotto had to paint one image to symbolize an entire story, with a picture book he could let a story unfold slowly through page after page of illustrations.

"I really love the way I can tell the story with nuances, with foreshadowing," he said, adding that he discovered his talent for storytelling in pictures when his third-grade teacher allowed him to first draw his thoughts for his book reports and then add words.

The Amulet of Samarkand

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, 2003

Bartimaeus is an ages old djinni who is annoyed to find himself summoned by a scrap of a boy and sent on a mission to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from a very powerful magician. The setting is London and magicians run the country as members of Parliment. The amulet is currently in the possession of one of the most powerful "politicians" in England. Who is this apprentice magician and why is he dabbling with powers beyond his years? Bartimaeus doesn't care, he just wants to fulfill his mission and be released. As the story unfolds we see the story though the kid's eyes and through the wry asides of the djinn in footnotes. In this society magicians may run the government but there are non-magic s who are causing problems.

The reader is drawn into this world. Nicholas is a very young but talented apprentice to a "master" who is a second rate magician/politician. Nicholas has known very little kindness in his young life and is impatient to advance his learning. Bartimaeus is a funny and saavy djinni who admires Nicholas in spite of himself.

Even as the story concludes there are big questions that remain. Who are those street kids who seem to "sense" magic items and remain unaffected by it? Thankfully this is The Bartimaeus Trilogy and book two, The Golem's Eye has just been published, September 2004. I must get it now and see what happens next. This was a great read.

This book has been enthusiastically endorsed by 8th grade and 6th grade reading guys I know.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Germany's favorite work of literature

According to Expatica, a nationwide survey by ZDF television of a quarter of a million viewers found The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein to be the favorite work of literature among Germans.
...the Tolkien novels topped the list by an overwhelming majority.

In second place as the finest published work of all time was the Bible, followed in third place by Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth".

A German work of fiction ranked fourth, Patrick Suskind's "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer".

...French aviator and children's author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry came in fifth with his endearing fairy tale "The Little Prince".

Friday, October 01, 2004

Author: Cornelia Funke

I just picked up Dragon Rider on tape from the public library. I am interested in listening to it because it is read by actor, Brendan Fraser. I have always liked George of the Jungle and Blast from the Past, I guess.
This news from Scholastic is interesting.
Scholastic announced today that it was going back to press for 100,000 copies of its new breakaway best-seller,Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, bringing the total to 250,000 copies in print. Scholastic released Dragon Rider in mid-August with an initial print run of
150,000 copies.

... A best-selling author in Germany, Cornelia Funke made her American debut
in the fall of 2002 with The Thief Lord and became one of the most successful
first-time children's authors in the United States.

Cornelia Funke recently announced a deal with New Line Cinema who will develop her Inkheart trilogy as a potential kid's fantasy franchise. In a Variety article, New Line executive Vice President Mark Ordesky said, "It's the perfect segue from 'Lord of the Rings' to 'Inkheart.' Apart from Cornelia's huge status within Europe, her international popularity is only just beginning to crest."

I liked The Thief Lord but I loved Inkheart. There are so many wonderful allusions it is a perfect book for book lovers. Funke will be doing a web chat Tuesday, October 5 at 1 p.m. ET (12:00 noon CT) at:

Author: Gordon Korman

Nice little article By Callie Clark in the Southeast Missourian about a visit by Gordon Korman to Cape Girardeau's Central Junior High where he spoke to 7th and 8th graders.
He spoke to students about several of his books, including "No More Dead Dogs," which was based around his disgust with the death of dogs in many children's books.

"It was like, 'How come you can't win an award without a dead dog in your book?'" Korman said, referring to books such as "Where the Red Fern Grows" and "Old Yeller."

Korman is a great choice for students (especially boys) who enjoy humor and adventure. I encountered a former student at the public library this week and was tickled when he pushed Korman's Dive series into my hands and made me promise that I would read it. I am usually the one pushing books at kids.

Oh, Joy!

50 More Minutes!

Most fans know this but I must rejoice -- the extended version of Peter Jackson's stunning, Academy Award-winning The Return of the King will contain 50 minutes of additional footage, creating an entirely new film.

It is always so interesting to hear how Howard Shore has re-scored the music for the movie.