Sunday, January 30, 2005

Author: Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt

A book review in the Press Herald today discusses the book, The Dreaming Game, A Portrait of a Passionate Life by Philip B., Jr. Kunhardt. Kunhardt's book is a tribute to his mother, Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt who is best known for the best selling children's book, Pat the Bunny. Dorothy was a also a published Lincoln scholar and student of the Civil War. Carl Sandburg was a friend. She was collaborating on a book about Matthew Brady when she passed away in 1979.

Her first book, "Junket Is Nice," was published by Harcourt Brace & Co. in 1933 and delighted reviewers such as Franklin P. Adams of the New York Herald Tribune and Katharine White of The New Yorker. She said it was "exactly what children like."

Five more of Dorothy's books for children were published before the multimedia "Pat the Bunny" became the most sought-after juvenile title of 1940. It was based on eight simple activities her daughter Edith adored and the reader could interact with. There was a bunny to pat, a peak-a-boo cloth, a squeaky ball, a mirror, Daddy's scratchy face, a tiny book, Mummy's ring, and waving "Bye bye."

Hobbit Name Generator

Mental Multivitamin pointed us to the Hobbit Name Generator. I do not know how THIS family of Hobbits missed this site but it is great fun. There is also an Elvish name generator. Two of my daughters are holding out for elf-hood.

Daisy Sandydowns

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Author: Mo Willems

Check out his website. Love the Q&A.

John P. McGovern Stella Link Branch Library

This photo from the article "THE 'WOW' FACTOR" in the Houston Chronicle took my breath away today. The new John P. McGovern Stella Link Branch Library was built with funds from many sources.
Houston officials have far less money to work with, but they've embarked on a plan to create libraries that are more people-friendly and Internet-accessible. Their new Stella Link branch, which incorporates bookstore, cafe and shopping-mall features, is the prototype.

Library officials asked Ray Bailey Architects for an edgy design. The firm responded with a striking modern building whose undulating roof dips in the middle and edges upward to the north. The entire north side is a floor-to-ceiling wall of glass that provides a wonderful view of an adjoining park, allowing natural light to stream into the building.
"We wanted it to feel like the park comes into the library," says project manager Pam Vassalo, a Ray Bailey Architects principal.

The areas for young folks sound wonderful.

The teen center exudes hipness. Computer monitors are scattered throughout (a patron can also check out a laptop from the front desk), and spongy red stools spring up and down. Other cool features: A chain-mesh circular curtain surrounds one bank of computers, and a glass-block igloo provides a private tutoring space.

The children's area is awash with color: Its artificial trees look amazingly real, and wavy yellow and orange panels suspended from the ceiling simulate clouds.

Discussing the badly needed renovation of the downtown central library, writer Clifford Pugh comments, "...compared to the new library gems in other cities, the downtown renovation seems paltry."

He asks the best question of all at the end of the article:

In a city that's built two state-of-the-art downtown stadiums in recent years, wouldn't you think we could put as much effort into first-class library facilities?

Friday, January 28, 2005

ALA's 2005 Notable Children's Recordings

As a relative newcomer to audio books I was pleased to see that Brendan Fraser's reading of Dragon Rider received recognition. As noted here earlier, Funke must have been pleased because she wants Fraser to play Mo in the movie version of Inkheart.

The rest of ALA's picks are here.

Heir Apparent

Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, 2002

I should have written this book. It is exactly the kind of book I like to read. It is smart funny fantasy and very much in touch with the way MY daughters play video games. For years I have watched them play one game or another, including the best game ever, The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.

Giannine Bellisario receives a gift certificate from her father for 30 minutes at the Rasussem Enterprises Virtual Reality Arcade. When she arrives the business is being picketed by the Citizens to Protect our Children who are protesting all entertainment that is supernatural, violent or scary. The protesters eventually storm the building and damage the computers while Giannine is "in" the game and she must play her way through in order to survive. Sure this plot sounds like a Star Trek Holodeck malfunction but it is great fun. Like any video game, when she "dies" she gets another life and has to start over again. Her repeated returns to the starting point are hilarious. In between the action and the humor there are some genuinely poignant moments. As she leaves her "virtual" family at the beginning of the game, over and over again, she muses:

Maybe the people at Rasussem need to develop a new game called Happy Family, where there's no gathering treasure or fighting hostile warriors or solving puzzles, just nice people who speak kindly to you and don't make you feel like one of these Christmas trees you see by the curb on December 26. I bet other people, besides me would be interested. Maybe.
This book is on this year's Texas Lonestar Reading list. Good call committee! I hope lots of girls are reading it! It is in the vein of Tamora Pierce's books Pierce describes her heroines as "girls who kick butt."

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Black eye for Houston, Texas

The city of Houston achieved a real milestone today. Mayor Bill White has assured us a place on the list of "broadminded" cities that ban or restrict books. The Houston Chronicle reports:
White recently ordered that the library's dozen copies of Jameson's best-selling "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale" be removed from open shelves.

In making his decision, White sidestepped the committee process that Houston's libraries typically use to evaluate complaints about items in their collections.

I've never seen this book; I know it is on the NYTimes best seller list. I don't know if this is a book that should be in a library or not. By ordering this book to be locked away in the closed stacks, he has insured that we will never have that debate. No committee will have a chance to discuss or review this title.

Council Member Pam Holm has done the city a serious diservice by asking for the book to moved without going through the reevaluation process, although, according to the Chronicle, Holm "did not know there was such a process." Great to know this council member is so well informed.

If a book goes through the reconsideration process, I may not agree with the decision of the committee but I can be confident that the implications of keeping or pulling the book have been weighed.

Their excuse?
"We're trying to take action quickly, and we didn't see a need to go through a long bureaucratic process," said White's spokesman, Frank Michel.
Maybe I don't like the "long bureaucratic process" of having my car $AFEcleared if I have a flat tire on the Katy Freeway.

They have couched their "concerns" about the book in terms of its accessibility to children. Hey guys, let ME monitor my kids' reading ok?

Why not restrict Harry Potter books, or Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, or My Life by Bill Clinton, or... or...there is something deeply offensive in every book to SOMEONE.

The mind of Daniel Handler

Psychology Today has an interview with Daniel Handler.
Best lines of the interview:

You have a 1-year-old named Otto.

It's a palindrome. We want our child to know himself inside and out.

Do people predict that your books will change now that you're a father?

For [years] people have said that, as if not having a child somehow made me completely indifferent to the process of child rearing. I certainly haven't said, "I can't believe I was putting fictional children in dire circumstances. What was I thinking?"

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Asteroid Douglasadams

Via SciFi Daily
MSNBC reports:

The week he died, science-fiction humorist Douglas Adams was honored with an asteroid named after one of the characters from his classic "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Now, almost four years later, Adams has his own name in the heavens as well — thanks to a campaign in which played a part.

Asteroid Douglasadams was among the 71 newly named celestial objects announced Tuesday by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass.

The article has an interesting description of the naming process. SciFi Daily wants AsteroidShatner.

It is timely as the movie "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is due May 5, 2005.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Lost Library of Rome

A carbonized scroll from Herculaneum (from

Jack Stephens at Conservator points out an amazing article in the Sunday Times: "The search for the lost library of Rome."

When Vesuvius erupted in AD79 it buried "one of the greatest villas in the Roman world."

Although 1,800 papyri were recovered in an excavation of the villa in the 1700s, schlolars believe an additional library exists and must be located soon. Calls for the reopening of the excavation are coming from all corners.

Even in our age of hyperbole it would be hard to exaggerate the significance of what is at stake here: nothing less than the lost intellectual inheritance of western civilisation. We have, for example, a mere seven plays by Sophocles, yet we know that he wrote 120; Euripides wrote 90 plays, of which only 19 survive; Aeschylus wrote between 70 and 90, of which we have just seven.

As a book lover and librarian I agree with Stephens about the poignancy of this line:

It also appears that slaves were in the act of carrying crates of books to safety when they were overwhelmed by the eruption.
More info:
The Philodemus Project
Villa of the Papyri: to dig or to not to dig?
How did the Villa of the Papyri get into this state?
Pompeii: The Last Day

Posted by Hello

Oscar Nominations

There is no Lord of the Rings this year so, who cares?

Posted by Hello

Monday, January 24, 2005

Author: JK Rowling

Update from JK's daughter's name is Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray

Thanks to HPANA and
From BBC

JK Rowling has given birth to a baby girl. The girl, who hasn't yet been named, was born on the evening of 23 January. A spokesperson for JK told CBBC Newsround Online that "both parents are thrilled" about the birth. Both JK and the baby are said to be doing well.

The Times reports Rowling has also donated £20,000 in funding to establish the Scottish Centre for the Children’s Book in Edinburgh.

“Scotland has a long history of producing children’s writers of exceptional quality from Robert Louis Stevenson to JM Barrie. Today we have a huge range of wonderful children’s authors including JK Rowling, Joan Lingard and Keith Gray.

“This is about providing an institution that is specifically concerned with bringing more books to children. Writers, who will also have a direct input, will develop workshops and plans for the centre.”

The centre will be based in Edinburgh’s “literary quarter”, which houses several publishers and the Scottish Poetry Library. The new Netherbow storytelling centre is being built nearby.

Beatrix Potters's High Yewdale Farm

In 1943 Beatrix Potter bequeathed High Yewdale Farm to the National Trust "believing it would preserve the style of hill farming she so loved." The Telegraph reports that Jonny Birkett who has held the tenancy of the farm for 35 years is accusing the National Trust of betraying the author's legacy with its plan to break up the farm.

"Beatrix Potter will be turning in her grave,'' he said. "I've always given the National Trust top marks for trying to save farms, but now they're just going against what they're meant to be about.

"It's a disgrace. This is one of the best farms in the Lake District and we've looked after it as if it was our own.

"Now they've just come along and said, 'That's it'."
A visit to the farm's website shows that although it is a working farm a bed and breakfast stay is possible.

Mr. the decision has been made by "college boys who've never gathered any sheep off a fell". He added: "There was no discussion. Three fellows came in two weeks ago and just told us. They seem to have decided that the farm isn't viable because we haven't changed our Land Rover and don't buy big tractors. But what do we want with a new Land Rover if the old one works well enough? We've had such a happy life here. When I was young there was not a day too long. Now we feel we've worked for nothing.''

Posted by Hello

Friday, January 21, 2005

Schneider Family Book Award

ALA gave a new award this year, the Schneider Family Book Award, which "which honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences." I am not familiar with the winners of the young child or middle school category but the teen category winner is one of my favorite books, Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements, 2002.

All teens think they are not listened to. The character Mia, in The Princess Diaries, complains that she is invisible. What if you looked in the mirror one morning and really could not see yourself? That is what happens to Bobby. He can see the towel he is holding but not himself.

A great scene follows when he goes to the kitchen and talks to his parents who do not even realize he is invisible for a few minutes. Worried about what might happen if his condition is found out, his parents tell him to stay home while they figure out what to do. When his parents are in a car accident Bobby has to fend for himself. He begins to move around the city, relishing his invisible and "au natural" state. He visits a library and makes friends with another teenager named Alicia who does not know he is invisible because she is blind.

It is a terrific and imaginative story. Clements has a fine ear and feel for the sometimes edgy relationships between adults/teachers and kids. It is wonderful to see him receive this recognition.

One reason people want to write children's books

BBC reports British author Michelle Paver will earn £2m for the film rights to her book Wolf Brother. Director Ridley Scott is supposed to direct the movie (woah!) Earlier this year Paver earned a £2.8m advance for the title.

I need to get my hands on a copy and read it. Hmm...just checked online. It will not be available in the States until March 2005.

I was subbing at a school library earlier this week and the kids and I were talking about all the movies coming out that are based on children's books. We decided that children's books have the BEST stories and are already very well written so Hollywood is drawn to them.

Update: The Times has this story and an interesting comment from Paver:
Scott said yesterday: “Wolf Brother is an enchanting book. Michelle has created a world that we have not seen before in any previous film.” Casting is yet to begin, but A-list actors are always drawn to Scott.

Ms Paver hopes that Sir Ian McKellen, who recorded the audiotape of the book, may take the role of a character called Walker.

The "other" Potter reports that Cate Blanchett (Galadriel) will star in a new movie about writer Beatrix Potter.
The film will follow the famous children's author's lonely life, which was beset by isolation and illness. These circumstances resulted in her empathy with animal and the natural world as well as developing her imagination. The film will also highlight her battle against the norms of the day as a woman writing in 19th-century England and her eventual triumph.
Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 20, 2005

ALA List of Notable Books for 2005

ALA has released its list of Notable Books for 2005. Some of my favorite books of the year have made the list: Airborn, Star of Kazan, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, The Cats in Krasinski Square, Walt Whitman: Words for America, and Science Verse.

If you are looking for a list of good books, this is a great place to start.
I have got to get busy. I have many more books to read.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Author: Cynthia Kadohata

Cynthia Kadohata found out at 4:26 a.m. Monday morning that her book, Kira-Kira had been awared the Newbery Medal. USA Today reports:
Kadohata, 48, says she "jumped up and down like an idiot, like Phil Mickelson did when he won The Masters. Only he jumped once. I keep jumping."

She even woke her 17-month-old son, Sammy, "who was cranky the rest of the morning."

Author: Kevin Henkes

Kevin Henkes, called his parents at 6 a.m. to tell them his book Kitten's First Full Moon had been honored with the Caldecott Award.
Lee Roberts in the Journal Times has an interview with them. Their happiness and pride in his achievements are apparent.

It isn't just Kevin's artistic and literary talent, however, that his parents are proud of. It is also his attitude toward life, his willingness to help others and the way he cares for his family, especially his two children, Will and Clara.

"He reads to them each day at breakfast and at bedtime and he has a way of doing so that is so natural and relaxed - everything he does seems so natural," she said.

And whether its the neighborhood kids near his Madison home, or folks attending a book signing at a store, people everywhere are drawn to him when he reads, Bea said: "Even the adults. I love to watch the expression on people's faces, they really get into it."

What makes his mother most happy, however, is that Kevin really loves his work.

"I'm so happy he can support his family by doing what he loves," she said. "It must be wonderful to wake up every morning and really love your job.

"I think he got that from his dad. My husband loved his job delivering mail to people."

Henkes's website features the "story behind the book" where he discusses his inspiration for the award winning story. His mother also reports that he has finished a new Lilly book that will be out next year.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Award Winners

ALA announces that the 2005 John Newbery Award goes to Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata. Kitten’s First Full Moon, authored and illustrated by Kevin Henkes, has won the Randolph Caldecott medal.

Newbery Honor Books

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary D. Schmidt,

Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko

The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights, by Russell Freedman

Caldecott Honor Books

The Red Book, by Barbara Lehman

Coming on Home Soon, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, written by Jacqueline Woodson

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, by Mo Willems

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Caldecott / Newbery contenders

The Toledo Blade has an article about the Caldecott / Newbery contenders. Interesting to children's books fans, sort of like trying to guess the winners of the Oscars. The favorite for the Caldecott is Kitten's New Moon by Kevin Henkes. We will see who is right on Monday.

Mock medal groups are notorious for choosing the "wrong" book as the medal winner. But Ms. Horning stresses that "we're really not trying to predict the winners. We see the discussions as a teaching tool to help people understand how the Newbery and Caldecott award winners are chosen."

So, where does that leave Henkes' Kitten's First Full Moon? It's the top choice this year of just about every mock group that has posted "winners," and is a unanimous favorite with children's books experts.

"Kitten's First Full Moon has the feel and structure of a classic,'' says Leonard S. Marcus, a children's book reviewer and historian.

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Nice interview with Kate DiCamillo in the Miami Herald. With the movie adaptation of her book, Because of Winn-Dixie, arriving at theaters near you soon, I imagine there will be more articles and interviews with her. The best news is more books are on the way.
Despite all the distractions brought on by her phenomenal success, DiCamillo has finished a fourth novel, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which will be published in 2006, as well as a series of short chapter books for beginning readers, and two picture books.

I heard DiCamillo's acceptance speech when Because of Winn-Dixie won the Texas Library Association Bluebonnet award. She is an engaging and thought provoking speaker.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Writing children's books is IN

Everyone wants to write books for kids.

The Poughkeepsie Journal reports First Lady of New York Libby Pataki writes children's books too.

I predict that, now that she is a mom, actress Julia Roberts will have a children's book deal before long.

ALA creates new award

The American Library Association has created a new award for children's literature that will be named after Dr. Seuss. "Named for the world-renowned children's author, the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award joins ALSC's prestigious family of awards recognizing the most distinguished children's literature published each year."

"There is a true magic to Geisel's work, which is clear in the enduring power of such classics as 'The Cat in the Hat' and 'Green Eggs and Ham,'" said ALSC President Gretchen Wronka. "This new award honors that spirit and the authors and illustrators that delight and engage children in reading."

Friday, January 14, 2005

Author: Eoin Colfer

Tip from Achockablog

The Times Who's Who has a nice profile of Irish author, Eoin Colfer.

Like his other books, Artemis Fowl was written in the evenings in 2000 after teaching at Coolcotts National School in Wexford town. This time, however, his wife told him he had done something different. He sent the manuscript to Sophie Hicks at Ed Victor, not expecting it to sell any more than the 3,000 copies he was used to selling in Ireland. Colfer was on playground duty when he learnt that three Hollywood studios had bid for the rights, and that it had gone to Miramax for a sum rumoured to be a million dollars.
About his writing:

...he is an intensely moral writer...
There are a lot of ideas about art, communism, religion and physics subtly woven into the action, as well as a strong environmental consciousness. But it is Colfer’s sense of humour which, even more than his dazzlingly inventive imagination, has earned him a place in children’s hearts.

The Supernaturalist

The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer, 2004

Sci-fi or fantasy readers will be interested in this story set in a dystopian future. Colfer has so many layers to his stories. On one level this is a mystery-save-the-world adventure. On another, we ponder the value of human life and what makes it worth saving?

Cosmo Hill was named after the place he was found as a baby. An orphan, he lives at the Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys. The "institute" uses the boys for all kinds of horrible government and industry product testing. Cosmo dreams of escape (no matter how unlikely) before his life expectancy of 15 years is up.

When his chance comes he escapes but is terribly hurt. In his wounded state he has his first vision of tiny blue creatures that seem to be feeding off his life force. He is rescued by a band of misfits who call themselves the Supernaturalists because they alone can see these energy parasites and are committed to destroying them. Cosmo joins their group and devotes himself to their cause but all is not as it seems. What are these strange creatures and what politics and dynamics are at work in his new family?

Colfer is terrific at plotting fast-paced action-packed stories. He has a real gift for dreaming up amazing techno-gadgetry. His Artemis Fowl books are full of technical wonders. Even in his book The Wish List he has St. Peter and Beelzebub talking on very high tech cell phones.

A former student who saw me looking at this book at the library made a point to tell me it was one of the best books he had ever read.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Name generators

Fun with names. We've been playing with name generators like the Cyborg Name Generator. There is also the Captain Underpants Name Changer. This is a computer version of a paper and pencil game that has been aroung for a few years.

C.A.M.I.L.L.E.: Cybernetic Artificial Machine Intended for Learning and Logical Exploration
Buttercup Hamsterbrain

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne Shirley's creator, Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up on Prince Edward Island but wrote Anne of Green Gables and her other books while living in Ontario and Toronto, Canada. The Toronto Star has a very interesting article about Montgomery's life and her home, Journey's End, the only house she ever owned.

The house she fixed her gaze on was brand new. So new, that the For Sale sign sat on the lawn and the builder/owner met her on the path and took her through the place.

There was a vestibule, a proper panelled hall, and a living room with a fireplace and big casement windows at either end. There was a breakfast nook, a bright, tiled kitchen, and a dining room with another big window. Upstairs there were two bathrooms — one of them in the big bedroom — and downstairs there was a recreation room. And everywhere there were lots and lots of closets. It might have looked like a bit of old England from the outside, but inside it had everything 1935 could offer. For one thing it was just full of electrical outlets for appliances, such as they were at the time.

But for Maud it was the trees and the valley behind the house that sealed the deal. There were oaks in the front and pines in the back. The back yard tumbled westward into the valley of the Humber River where in summer the ferns grew up to your waist. Maud's beloved cats could roam the valley to their hearts content, she could garden, write, live.

Even though she was a well known figure in her community and had received the Order of the British Empire, her last years were difficult. An interesting look at an author who created an unforgettable character in Anne.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Movie: Because of Winn-Dixie

Kate DiCamillo has only written 3 books and all of them have won awards. Her first book, Because of Winn-Dixie will be a movie in February, 2005. The trailer is here.

There is an interesting article in Urban Dog Magazine: get in touch with your inner dog about the dog(s) and their trainer for the movie.
To find the perfect canine to play the title character in Because of Winn-Dixie, director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club, Maid in Manhattan) turned to the folks at Birds and Animals. “He wanted a unique look in the dog,” Forbes says. “Something people hadn’t seen before but something that resembled the dog on the front of Kate DiCamillo’s book.” ...
Forbes and Wang sat down with a dog book and Wang picked out several different breeds he wanted to see. Forbes got to work finding breeders for all the different types of dogs, including the very rare Picardy Shepherd. The Picardy, a large breed named after the region in northern France where it first developed, had been almost wiped out during World War I. Forbes found a handful of breeders in Europe and had an associate working in Britain send over five dogs. From those five, Forbes chose two dogs named Laiko and Scott to train for the film.

Willo Davis Roberts leaves a legacy indeed

Willo Davis Roberts died November 19, 2004. There is an informative article about her life and achievments in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Roberts ... sold about 100 books and won three Edgar Awards, a Mark Twain Award and a Washington State Gov.'s Writers Award..
It has a great quote from her about the essence of writing for young readers:
"Do not make the mistake of thinking that writing for children is easier than writing for adults. It's actually much more challenging," she wrote for the Children's Book Council Web site. "Unlike adults, children will not continue to read a story that does not maintain a high interest level."

Most touching though is an interview with her husband, David Roberts, in the Herald.

His wife had no college education, but "came from the college of hard knocks," he said. A child of the Depression, Willo grew up entertaining two little sisters by telling stories...

"She never sought the limelight," David Roberts said. Once, he said, a child in Alaska told his wife, "We like your books because you talk about kids just like us."

"To her, that was the epitome of a compliment," he said.

In Granite Falls, the house is quiet, but not empty.

Willo Davis Roberts' biggest fan has work to do. David Roberts held a letter from a librarian in the Bahamas. He is answering his wife's fan mail and having trouble keeping up.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Military Librarians

The interesting thing about librarianship to me has always been the amazing number of places you find libraries. From Fortune 500 companies to small churches, from universities to small elementary school collections, librarians answer to many titles and have many roles in their organizations. The basic underlyling aspect to their jobs is "service."

The State in S.C. ran this very informative article about military librarians.
A Marine in Iraq wants a database search for information about terrorist suspects. A lonely child with a deployed military parent needs a few good books to help pass the time. A sailor deployed for months at sea wants to study for college entrance exams.

As the war on terror continues, America's military librarians serve readers who range from warriors in the field to the families they've left behind.

"Last year, we had 20,600 people sign up to use our services," said John Vassallo, director of the Thomas Lee Hall Library at Fort Jackson, the Army's largest training installation.

The number of military libraries is amazing:
Army officials say there are about 82 such Army libraries at installations around the world. In all, there are about 230 libraries in the Army system, which includes academic, technical, legal, medical and military unit libraries.

Air Force officials say their service has 109 libraries worldwide; Navy officials said their branch has 32 general libraries on bases and book collections on some 322 active vessels.

The Navy and Marine Corps also have more than 50 specialized libraries for academic, technical, medical and legal matters, according to Carole Ramkey, head of the Grey Research Center at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Va.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Last Treasure

The Last Treasure by Janet S. Anderson, 2003
This book is featured on the Texas Bluebonnet Reading list for 2005-2006. Like Chasing Vermeer, the book is about a puzzle that must be solved, in this case there is a treasure to be found.

Thirteen year old Ellsworth lives a nomad life with his father and his fish, Hugo. He receives a birthday card from "some kind of cousin" named Elizabeth who invites him to visit for the summer. All that he knows about his father's family is that his dad does not want anything to do with them. Never the less, he is intrigued by her reference to the puzzle of the "last" treasure and despite his father's misgivings leaves for the Square in Smith Mills, NY.

As Ellsworth gets to know more about his family he also learns more about his parents and especially his mother. With a distant girl cousin his age named Jess he tries to solve the puzzle of the last treasure house. My favorite part of the story is where Ellsworth and Jess read the journal of their great grand...something and get to know him by hearing his story in his own words.

I did enjoy the story but I was overwhelmed by the number of names and relationships. There is a family tree and a map of the Square in the front of the book; I should have referred to it.

An interesting read but I am not sure how many kids will embrace the story. It is interesting for kids to think about family histories, genealogy and even recording their own family stories.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Einstein Centennial

2005 is the Einstein Centennial. Harvard has an interesting site about the celebration called Inside Enstein's Universe.
In his column today, George Will discusses Einstein's Cosmos by Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York. I found Einstein's comparison of the universe to a library particularly helpful:

Einstein's theism, such as it was, was his faith that God does not play dice with the universe -- that there are elegant, eventually discoverable laws, not randomness, at work. Saying ``I'm not an atheist,'' he explained:

``We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is.''

Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Whitbread Prize

The Whitbread Prize is one of Britain's top literary prizes and awards the "most enjoyable" books by writers based in the UK and Ireland. Reuters reports the 5 winners of the categories, Novel, First Novel, Biography, Children's Book and Poetry.

Eve Green by Susan Fletcher for First Novel
My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots by John Guy for Biography
Small Island by Andrea Levy for Novel award
Corpus by Michael Symmons Robert for Poetry
Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean for Children's Book (the Biblical tale of Noah's ark, featuring a young girl who sets into motion a chain of events that affects God's plan)

The grand prize, the Whitbread Book of the Year will be announced January 25 and will earn the author a 50,000 pound prize. Tbe panel of nine judges includes one name I've heard of: actor, Hugh Grant.

Humphrey Carpenter

Author Humphrey Carpenter has died. He wrote the Mr Majeika children's books but is best know in our house for his biographies of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. He is also known for the Oxford Companion to Children's Literature. BBC News has a nice tribute to him.
In an interview, Carpenter once said: "The nice thing about being a writer is that you can make magic happen without learning tricks.

"Words are the only tricks you need. I can write: 'He floated up to the ceiling, and a baby rabbit came out of his pocket, grew wings, and flew away.' And you will believe that it really happened. That's magic, isn't it?"
Obit from The Times

Monday, January 03, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The Boston Globe reports that Scholastic is pondering the size of the first run of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I had not know this about the Order of the Phoenix:

Scholastic spokeswoman Kyle Good said the publisher has not yet determined the size of the first printing, but is mindful of what happened with "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." The first printing was 6.8 million, but the publisher had to rush back to press for another 1.7 million copies before the release date, and added 800,000 more almost immediately, for a total of 9.3 million within the first few days of publication. Five million books were sold in the first 24 hours.
A post at Godric's Hollow speculates about the cover design:

Anonymous writes: "When the Scholastic (US publisher) website was updated for the Half-Blood Prince release date announcement, a generic, purple cover was used to signify the book. It is not the official cover, of course, but it is significant because they used the exact same design to stand in for the not-yet-completed Order of the Phoenix cover, but that one was blue, just like the real cover turned out to be.

Purple is the color of royalty, so it would be quite appropriate considering the title of the book. Purple also happens to be a color that JKR seems to favor.

Life of a Newbery jurist

Writer, Abigail Tucker has a profile of Ruth Anne Champion who is serving as a jurist on the Newbery committee. She is a librarian and has read over 400 books so far. It is very interesting to get a glimpse of the "behind the scenes" work that goes on in the committee.
"Books at work, at lunch, when I get home, always before bed, sometimes in the evening," said Champion, who selects new children's books for the Pratt collection. "Sometimes, I read before I get up."
Comments from former jurists:

"I'm still trying to catch up from that year," said Debbie Taylor, the library's coordinator of school and student services, who judged in 2002. She recalls reading at the car wash, and while soaking in the bathtub.

"You brush your teeth and you read," said Selma Levi, the supervisor of the children's department and a former Newbery judge. "I still read books going down the stairs."

... In August 2002, the Association for Library Service to Children elected Champion to the committee. Imagining the task ahead, she charged off to Target to buy a new bookcase.

She bragged to a friend about her far-sighted purchase, but that friend had once judged the Newberies. Her advice to Champion: "Better buy two."

Champion did. Now they're overflowing.

Norton Conyers House

Curiosity made me search out some photos and history of the "real Thornfield Hall" in Yorkshire. I blogged an interesting article about the connection to the house and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre earlier in December.

The house was built in medieval times, with later additions being added at various times. The house is best known for the visit made by Charlotte Bronte in 1839. A family legend concerning a madwoman confined in an attic is said to have inspired the mad Mrs Rochester in Jane Eyre. The house is also an original of Thornfield Hall.

The house also has an 18th century walled garden with Orangery and herbaceous borders.

In season, you can pick your own fruit, raspberries, red currants, blackcurrants and gooseberries. (Please check beforehand). Teas are served when the garden is open for charity events. Plants, especially unusual hardy plants are available for sale from Easter to September.

How to Get There
Norton Conyers is 4 miles north of Ripon on the road to Wath and 3.5 miles from the A1: turn off at the Baldersby Gate flyover onto the A61 to Ripon and turn right at the road signposted "Melmerby."

The fireplace via
Exterior photo of house and garden via

Posted by Hello

Movies: Lemony Snicket & Finding Neverland

I have seen two movies during the break. Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events was a great deal of fun and perfectly captured the tone and feel of the books. I may get around to reading the rest of them now.

Finding Neverland is a movie that is staying with me. It is a lovely story and beautifully acted. Johnny Depp gives James Barrie a quiet dignity, Kate Winslet is a mother devoted to her sons' happiness, and the boys are wonderfully played. Watching Barrie create the play Peter Pan was fun. His friendship with the Llewelyn Davies family is the inspiration for his play. The opening night scene was very touching. It is fun to imagine what it must have been like to have been in the first audience to see a "classic" like this. (My favorite part of the movie Shakespeare in Love is when they perform Romeo and Juliet for the very first time. )
Finding Neverland is a low key and gentle film but very moving.
Interesting interview with Johnny Depp about the movie in the Northern Territory News.

Dustin Hoffman is Barrie's producer and he also appears in a cameo in the Lemony Snicket movie.

The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck

From NPR:

NPR's Jacki Lyden reads from Nobel prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck's children's book The Big Wave -- a story of a tsunami and its aftermath, set in Japan.

Lyden comments that "children are on the front line of fraility" and children know this. Resilience and the conquering of grief are themes of this novel.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Illustrator: Quentin Blake

The Prime Minister's recommendations to The Queen for the Honours List include Professor Quentin Saxby Blake, illustrator, for services to children's literature. Blake is known for his illustrations of Roald Dahl books and many many more. One of my favorite books of his is Cold Feet by Cynthia DeFelice. Blake has a website which is fun to look through. BBC News story is here.

Via Achockablog

Children's book on tsunamis

In August I reviewed Peg Kehret's latest book, Escaping the Giant Wave. It is about a tsunami that hits the Oregon coast. I had never realized that tsunamis were a such a factor of life there. My daughter had recently visited Cannon Beach, OR (before I read the book) and mentioned the prevalence of tsunami warning signs and instructions everywhere.

Kehret's book would be an interesting read for young people who are seeking books related to the news of the day.