Friday, September 30, 2005


What is it with Renée Zellweger playing British women? Zellweger has signed to play Beatrix Potter in a new movie about the author's life.

I would feel more kindly toward Zellweger if she had not said such nasty things about her "hometown" of Katy, Texas a few years ago. Hopefully by now Rene has remembered that old Texas saying,"You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You."

Chicks with Sticks: It's a Purl Thing

Chicks with Sticks: It's a Purl Thing
by Elizabeth Lenhard, 2005

This book is sort of a "sisterhood of the traveling yarn" and a very enjoyable read.

Scottie cannot sleep. She has lost her beloved aunt and is grieving deeply. At the funeral a relative hands her a pair of knitting needles and teaches her to knit. Scottie is initially put off by the idea but soon finds the yarn calls to her. She finds a wonderful little knitting shop run by a remarkable woman who has a gift for matching up yarn and people. By the end of the evening three other girls from her high school have arrived at the shop and a circle of friends, "Chicks with Sticks" is born.

The girls come from very different backgrounds and are trying to find their place in high school. Both of Scottie's parents are consumed by her mother's art career and seemingly oblivious to their daughter. Amanda is the homecoming queen type but suffers from learning disabilities which undermine her confidence and her academics. The other two have their own problems and issues but they all find help and support through their knitting friendships. Despite their resolve it takes great courage for them to pull out their knitting at lunch time in the school cafeteria.

Lenhard obviously knows her knitting. She lovingly describes beautiful yarns including the colors, textures and even the smell. The girls struggle with dropped stitches and projects that go horribly wrong but their fingers have the knitting itch.

Lenhard has included knitting patterns at the end of the book. By the time you finish you will be yearning to pick up some knitting or learn how to knit.

This book sent my daughter and me to the store yesterday. We bought knitting needles and squeezed yarn balls until we found the ones that "called" to us. We have big plans.

Children's Literature on Floods and Natural Disasters

Lynn Blinn Pike, Ph.D. at University of Missouri has an excellent site for Children's Literature on Floods and Natural Disasters for grades K-high school.

Library Recovery

Folks are working to repair and rebuild the public, school and personal libraries that were lost in the hurricane season this year in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.

Texas Library Association
The Texas Library Association's Disaster Relief Fund has been expanded to collect donations for libraries in the Gulf Coast area as well as for libraries providing support for the evacuees. One hundred percent of your donated money will be sent to the state library agency or library association in the state of your choice.

TLA has also partnered with the Texas Association of Mini Storage to accept recent issue books that are new or in good condition for shipment to the affected states at an appropriate time.

American Library Association

The site is collecting news on library needs and damage across the Gulf Coast. They also have a link to the ALA HURRICANE KATRINA LIBRARY RELIEF FUND and the Adopt A Library Program.

Colleen Mondor of Eclectica Magazine & Bookslut is drawing attention to a program at Parkview Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, LA .
I am trying to build support for donations down South. I am currently working with a group in Baton Rouge to help some children displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Josh Causey and his group at Parkview Baptist Church are spending their time with children sheltered with their families at Southern University. They are doing arts and crafts, playing games and reading books. The program is expanding to other shelters and includes after school tutoring. I have set up wishlists (games & books) for the kids at Amazon, but I'm hoping that authors, illustrators, reviewers and comic creators and publishers will also consider donating a few titles. The children cover all ages and all interests - at this point, I think they would be thrilled with any gift.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Graphic novels for the younger set

Goddess of YA Literature, Dr. Teri Lesene is talking about a new series of graphic novels for younger readers. Finding graphic novels for elementary libraries is an ongoing challenge. I adored Jennifer Holm's Our Only May Amelia. She and her brother are the creative team behind the books.

Jennifer Holm (Newbery Honor medalist for OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA) and her brother have teamed up with this nifty set of stories about BabyMouse and her arch enemy Felicia Furrypaws. Graphics are mostly black and white with touches of pink, BabyMouse's signature color, and rather reminiscent in this way of Olivia by Ian Falconer. BabyMouse loathes mornings, math, and mean people, and her homeowrk eating locker at school. She fears dodge ball and not being invited to Felicia Furrypaw's slumber party. Her best friend is Wilson the Weasel who manages to comfort her when she is down. This book contains two stories in format similar to traditional graphic novels: back to front. BabyMouse, Queen of the World and BabyMouse, Our Hero will delight young readers with their wit and wackiness.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


The sun is shining and the air is still. Rita dropped very little rain on this side of town but the wind blew off and on in bursts yesterday. Our power would be ON then OFF, ON then OFF, then ON then OFF. We turned off everything electric except for the AC. It is new and the condenser is still under warranty so if it died I figured we could get a new one. It was strangely quiet and actually pleasant after listening to the Rita-Rita-Rita news 24/7 for the last few days.

I used the time to read two books, The Perilous Gard and Chicks with Sticks (It's a purl thing) which was a luxury and a relief. When we looked at all the projections Wednesday night, Rita was headed straight for us as a cat 5. I am grateful it moved away from us even though it has meant misery for others.

The evacuation was agonizing and we WILL do better next time. The officials will learn much from this experience. The resounding theme here was, "We are NOT helpless" and "We will NOT be like New Orleans."

Here in Katy, our school district took in 1100 people who were stranded along the Katy I-10 freeway and housed them in the recently completed Merrell Center. Katy Christian Ministries fed them and housed all the pets next door at the FFA barn.
One woman with a son on a ventilator said, "They have treated us like kings and queens." Local people rising to the challenge, it makes me proud. [Petrified Truth links here & here]

So ultimately, that is Houston, it not always pretty, it is not always elegant but we get the job done.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Reading: The Perilous Guard

Hmmm...timely passage--

The morning was no better. The storm had risen higher during the night turning to gales that ripped along the roofs and sent tiles and chimney pots crashing down in fragments over the stones of the courtyard. By noon they were having trouble with all the fires, and dinner was a matter of bread and cheese and lukewarm broth and yesterday's roast duck cold. Pages and menservants with errands to do stood huddled in the doorways eyeing the sky like uneasy animals before they pulled their cloaks over their heads and darted out into the rain.
--The Perilous Guard, Chapter 5, The Redheaded Woman

Things to do before a hurricane

Here is what we have been doing to prepare:

  1. Do ALL the laundry
  2. Do ALL the dishes
  3. Eat meltable freezer stuff, such as... (I think I feel sick now.)
  4. Pick up and sort all new quilting fabric into stacks--novelty--cowboy--Americana
  5. Bag quilting fabric in ziplock water-tight bags
  6. Secure quilts and recently completed quilt tops in the "important box" to be grabbed in an emergency
  7. Place the nativity set I painted in "important box"
  8. Find dog's vaccination records and place in "important box"
  9. Secure all fine editions of Lord of the Rings, first edition Silmarillion and (thanks to email alert from entling #2) green bound edition of The Hobbit. Also, Book of Common Prayer with needlepointed cover, family bible, passports, papers of importance.
  10. Print-out list of contact information of family and friends
  11. Tell the lads (hobbits,) Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, and Gollum (cardboard standups of LOTR characters) they are on their own if wind and water come. Suggest to Gandalf that the use of his staff to turn back Rita would be helpful.
  12. Secure flag of Rohan in "important box."
  13. Pick up every little rock pebble, flower pot, wind chime and bricks from back yard so it will not become a missile in the wind.
  14. Fill bathtub with water and check water level to make sure it is not slowly draining out
  15. Check status of ice and cold packs to keep insulin cool and make sure insulin pump supplies are in "important box."
  16. Stack books to read in the dark and place LightWedge nearby.
More stuff will occur to me but it is a start.

Additions: Tapestry map of Middle Earth (thanks to alert from entling #3)

I do appreciate the kind comments from you all. It is great to think of the connections with this community that loves and reads childrens books.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

More Rita

The computer models are still showing a more easterly landfall. That is good for us on the west side of Houston. I'm thinking of Jamie at Once Upon a Story. She lives out here too. Hope her family is tucked in and hunkered down.

Know-Nothing Alert!

Author: Chris Crutcher
We have not had a Know-Nothing alert in a while.

Limestone County Schools officials this week stopped the author from speaking to an assembly of Clements senior high and junior high students.

Well, how special, these towering intellects have decided to protect the fragile and tender psyches of secondary students by canceling a visit and talk by YA author Chris Crutcher.

Thank heavens these purveyors of education and knowledge have acted in the best interests of kids -- (From the Limestone County Schools website, Motto: "Committment to Children")

These brave guardians of morality certainly would not want the students to hear from the author himself on the subject of censorship and his books because they might figure out that the Limestone County school board members who banned his book "Whale Talk" are MORONS!

Honestly, he was going to talk with secondary students NOT kindergarteners! I would give anything for my 9th grader to hear him talk. What a treat! What an amazing experience that would be! I heard Crutcher speak at TLA this spring. His talk was inspiring and full of humor and empathy for the challenges kids face every day.

Crutcher said,

"This whole idea that we can keep kids safe by keeping them ignorant is something that I think needs to be addressed every time it comes up," he said. "Originally, I was going to come and go to the (Moulton) library, and I said as long as I'm there, I might as well talk to anybody who will listen. From what I understand, the (Limestone County) school board wanted it (the appearance) to go away. They got ahold of the superintendent and told him to make it go away."

You know, I always wonder what happens to property values in school districts that ban books. I imagine it would NOT be an asset in the realtor listings.

Hobbit Day

Something to do while we're waiting:

Today is Hobbit Day
September 22
Hobbit Day
, Middle Earth - On this date in the year 3001 of the Third Age, Shire Reckoning, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins celebrated their shared birthday. Bilbo was eleventy-one (111) and Frodo was thirty-three.

As Rita approaches I consider what is in my "emotional must grab before fleeing" box. Besides a few quilts I have made and some photos, we all agree the "red" copy of The Lord of the Rings and the first edition of The Sillmarillion would have to go in the box.

Go North, Rita

Lovely Rita meter maid.
Please jog a little more North, please.

It was looking terrible last night. The eye of the storm was plotted to move directly over Katy but this a.m. it has made a tiny little jog that may mean it will go in north of us.

That would be a better thing for us as we would then be on the "clean" side of the storm.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Go South, Rita

Lovely Rita meter maid.
Please go away!

Collage artist: Dar Hosta

I Love the Night by Dar Hosta, 2003

I received two lovely books by Dar Hosta from Brown Dog Books. The colors are bright and the book jacket and pages are satiny. Her medium is collage and both books are lovely examples of that technique. Art teachers are often looking for examples to share with students besides Eric Carle and Ezra Jack Keats. She also uses oil pastel, colored pencil and digital effects to complete her work. The staring eyes of the animals in the books are digital.

I enjoyed I Love the Night. Her words flow creating a gentle, quiet, night-time atmosphere. Teachers can use the books to teach adjectives, adverbs, and alliteration. Each page is full of them.

Beneath a crescent moon, floating on a night breeze over a stand of stary-leaved sweet gum trees, a magnificent lime-green luna moth makes her way across the sky.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tales of the Otori

Across the Nightingale Floor, Episode 1 & 2 - (Tales of the Otori, Book 1) by Lian Hearn, 2002

KidsLit and Chicken Spaghetti have linked to this very interesting NYTimes article about manga for girls. The article does a good job of explaining (to me) the hold this medium has on young imaginations. I loved the genre description "big eyes save the world."

Knowing and living with young folk who are fascinated by all things Japanese, I was very interested in Lian Hearn's fantasy series, Tales of the Otori. The Guardian has a profile of Hearn which describes the series and the personal aspects of her life that have influenced the stories.

The two teenagers at the centre of the books are very much alone, unprotected by any nurturing adults. This is from Hearn's own background. "My sister and I had to grow up very quickly because in the space of about three years our parents separated, and both married again, and my mother and stepfather went out to Nigeria to live, and my father was killed in a car accident six months after they went. My sister was 15 and a half, and I was 14." Generally a soft, dreamy speaker, she tells this in a rush, the early, brutal shock still unresolved. Even now, she says, when she is over here to nurse her mother, the old issues stay undiscussed.

The girls were at boarding school in England, and were called in to the headteacher's office to be given the news of their father's death. The next morning, Rubinstein's history teacher couldn't understand why she was unable to deliver her homework assignment. "It was that sort of boarding school," she says. "We were just supposed to carry on as if nothing had happened."

In Book one, the reader meets Tomasu, a young man who must leave his true identity behind when his village is overrun by an evil warlord named Iida. Tomasu is found and adopted by Lord Shigeru who changes the the boy's name to Takeo and provides him with an education and instruction in the martial arts.

The story line shifts to another castle where a lovely young woman, Kaede is being held as a hostage in the political wars of the feudal Japanese type era. Takeo and Kaede's paths cross when she is betrothed to Shigeru in exchange for peace with the nasty Iida. There are several subplots that come into play including the truth of Takeo's parentage, a secret Christian-like religion whose followers called "the Hidden" are persecuted for their beliefs, and a clan called the Tribe who have amazing fighting skills as well as the ability to become invisible.

The paperback versions are beautiful little editions, (only 6 inches high) that fit in my hand perfectly. The story is a page turner. I would certainly recommend these books to high schoolers who are interested in Japan as well as readers of historical fiction. Though the story is fantasy this is NOT Lord of the Rings "à la japonais." I enjoyed the story and am anxious to see what happens next to these young people.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Advancing Rita

Well, the current track for Hurrican Rita (which is rarely correct) shows the hurricane ploughing into Texas just west of Houston. That would be right over the top of MY HOUSE!

Life just got even more exciting.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Author: Christopher Paolini

In case you have not read enough about Paolini, the AP has an article about him. Knowing his story by now I am always interested in the readers' reactions at the end of the article.

My personal focus on kids' books (aside from enjoying them immensely) is connecting readers with books they want to read. My approach is as a practitioner more than a "literary critic."

"I was reading 'Eldest' at 10:30 on a school night, and I was like, 'Oh, must go to sleep. But I must read more!'" Stanley said.

His best friend, Aadi Tolappa, said he thinks it is "really cool" that Paolini started writing the books when he was just three years older than Tolappa is now.

"It makes you want to keep reading because of how it ends each chapter pretty suspensefully," said Aadi, carrying both "Eldest" and "Eragon" to have signed.


Just a side note:
Don't care about the Emmys at all, not planning on watching the broadcast. (Go Hugh Laurie!) This line in an article about the show made me shiver in fear though. This is just NOT right.

CBS is pushing the Emmys into the realm of American Idol, letting viewers pick their favorite in a singing contest. William Shatner and Frederica von Stade will warble the Star Trek theme. Donald Trump and Megan Mullally will tackle the Green Acres song.

That is just wrong, wrong.

Young Captain Hook

As a long time fan of all things "Pan" I am looking forward to J.V.Hart's new YA book, Capt. Hook.
The book is reviewed today in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Brett Helquist is the illustrator of the early life of James Matthew or King Jas as he calls himself.

In the hands of a good writer the villain's back story is usually great reading. Over the years I have loved George McDonaldFraser's Flashman stories. Flashman was the bully who made Tom Brown's days at Rugby School a misery.

Like Fraser, J.V. Hart is a screenwriter whose movie credits include Hook, Tuck Everlasting, Contact and Muppet Treasure Island.

Book Sense has made it one of their Top Ten picks for Fall 2005.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

New HP Trailer

A new trailer is out for HP & the Goblet of Fire on Moviefone! Wow!
Two more months...

Constitution Day

Listening to NPR one would think the idea of Constitution Day had dropped out of no-where onto the heads of unsuspecting teachers. I know that school librarians have been sharing ideas and resources for several weeks.

Here are some truly wonderful books about the origins of our Constitution.

We the kids : the preamble to the Constitution of the United States
by Catrow, David. - Puffin Books, c2002.

A more perfect union : the story of our Constitution
by Maestro, Betsy. - Mulberry, c1987.

Shh! we're writing the Constitution
by Fritz, Jean. - Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, c1987.

...If you were there when they signed the Constitution
by Levy, Elizabeth. - - Scholastic, c1987.

In defense of liberty : the story of America's Bill of Rights
by Freedman, Russell. - Holiday House, c2003.

A kid's guide to America's bill of rights : curfews, censorship, and the 100-pound giant
by Krull, Kathleen. - Avon, c1999.

Friday, September 16, 2005

National Book Festival

Here's the list of children's and YA authors that are appearing at the National Book Festival this year. I would drive miles and miles just to hear Gantos.

Jerry Pinkney created this year's poster.

The festival is Saturday, Sept. 24, 2005, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

BookTV usually carries the festival but they tend to go for the politicians or David McCullough types. Hopefully they will share their cameras with some of these wonderful writers.

Please, I can see Thomas Friedman or Andrea Mitchell on TV anytime.

Let's inspire the kids!


Buzz Aldrin
Wendell Minor
David Baldacci
Doreen Cronin & Harry Bliss
Hilary Knight
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Laura Numeroff
Mary Pope Osborne & Will Osborne
Linda Sue Park
Gloria Jean Pinkney
Jerry Pinkney
Sandra Pinkney

Teens & Children
Meg Cabot
Lynne Cheney
Sharon Creech
John Feinstein
Jack Gantos
Patricia Reilly Giff
Pat Mora
Walter Dean Myers
Dave Pelzer
René Saldaña
R.L. Stine

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Pride and Prejudice

Book Glutton is marking the tenth anniversary of "Andrew Davies's sublime dramatisation" of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Her link to the BBC site on the production states,
"Of course, Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr Darcy was a key reason why this production has been so memorable."

When I read the second Bridget Jones book, I laughed until I cried during Bridget's "interview" with Colin Firth.

Keira Knightly is going to be in a new movie version of the book. Though I cannot see how the BBC version can be topped, anything with Judi Dench is worth my time. This movie may bring some new readers to Austen's novels.

My favorite Austen movie is still Persuasion. Amanda Root is a perfect Anne, as is Ciaran Hinds as Capt. Wentworth.

Series: The Babysitters Club

The Truth about Stacey by Ann M. Martin, Bsc #03, 1995

This summer we began culling the bookcases to make a few paltry holes for the unending publishing influx that continues to stream into our hobbit hole. Entling no. 2 who is in college, allowed that she could part with her beloved Babysitters Club books. I think we had the complete set. For years I thought she would never move on to any other reading. She did of course. She took off to Middle Earth and in many ways (along with her family) never came back but the books were still a form of comfort food in stressful times.

I find now that I am the one having a hard time parting with these books. I am looking at a box right filled to the top with those distinctive covers. I will always remember my youngest daughter looking at me with horror moments after learning she had Type 1 diabetes and saying, "but Mom, there is no cure for diabetes, I know because I read about it in a Babysitters Club book!"

The local elementary is having a book drive for children affected by Katrina. I think these books have more stories to tell.

When I read that Scholastic is transmorgrifying (thank you Calvin and Hobbes for such a useful word) the series to a graphic novel format with graphic artist Raina Telgemeier I was interested. Telgemeier was a huge fan of the series as a girl.

...while meeting with the editors of Scholastic about getting involved in the Graphix imprint, they asked her what she had most liked to read as a child. “I mentioned being a fan of The Baby-sitters Club,” she says. “And they said, ‘Why not try doing a sample of that as a comic?’ ” Telgemeier submitted some drawings and layouts, and the editors were immediately won over. “She drew the characters with so much charm and affection, that we knew this was a perfect pairing of artist and material,” says Saylor.

Author Ann M. Martin's comment sounded a chord in my heart for sure.

Martin says she hears from women like Telgemeier quite often. “I get lots of letters now from women who are in their mid-twenties,” she says. “They talk about how much they liked the books and how much they meant to them when they were young. Most of them are still interested in going back to them every now and then, even in their mid-twenties.”

Author: Arthur Ransome

From the Yorkshire Post:

"The Secret Life of Arthur Ransome," will air on BBC2, Saturday. It will detail the author's complicated involvement with MI6 and the Foreign Office and the Bolshevik cause while working as a reporter in Russia. I hope someone picks it up to show here.

By any standards, this period of Ransome's life was remarkable, yet strangely, it was something he played down.
"What's interesting in his autobiography is Arthur Ransome plays down the events of 1919, because it was an extraordinary period of his life.
"And this intrigued me given that he was an adventure writer, it made me question why he hadn't made more of this?", says Jones.

Clever fellow: Barry Cunningham

The Scotsman has an interview with Barry Cunningham, the fellow who discovered JKR.

"I did say to her that she would never make any money from her book," he says, unable to keep the smile from his voice. "But I said it out of the sheer goodness of my heart, honestly! The truth is I was worried about her.

He discusses his years in the children's book business.

"It was my experiences with Roald Dahl and my own kids - I have six - that helped me understand more about what children want from a book," he explains. "There's a big difference between the books you are told to read and the book they hug to their chests and want to keep forever. They almost put them under their pillow, it's that personal thing that kids get from certain books."

The "personal thing" that kids get from books is what interests me so keenly.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The story behind Curious George

Kelly at Big A little a has a great post about Louise Borden's new book, The Journey that Saved Curious George. She has two excellent links to articles on the book. What a story!

A new book, "The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H. A. Rey" (Houghton Mifflin), tells of how George's creators, both German-born Jews, fled from Paris by bicycle in June 1940, carrying the manuscript of what would become "Curious George" as Nazis prepared to invade.

Borden will read from her book at the Museum of Tolerance, the educational arm of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, on Sunday, September 25 at 2:00 pm in Los Angeles, CA.

USA Today -- Curiosity about 'George'
New York Times -- "How Curious George Escaped the Nazis"
Louise Borden's website
The Journey That Saved Curious George Lesson Plan

Shakespeare's Secret

Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach, 2005

Hero and her older sister Beatrice were named for characters in Shakespeare's play Much Ado about Nothing. Arriving in a new town, Hero is facing a school year as a new kid with jokes and questions about her name. Unlike Beatrice, Hero is not socially adept and does not make friends easily. She does become acquainted with their older next-door neighbor, Mrs. Roth who tells her about the Murphy Diamond, a valuable gem that might be hidden in Hero's house. Surprisingly she is also befriended by a popular 8th grader, Danny who is the son of the city's police chief and also fascinated by the diamond's where-abouts.

Hero discovers a mysterious connection between the diamond, Anne Boleyn and Shakespeare's plays which fires her imagination.

This plot is cleverly drawn with historical details and intrigue. Hero and Danny are searching for more than a diamond and the reader is hoping they find their heart's desire.

I truly enjoyed this novel. The mystery is very satisfying. One can hope it would also excite a reader's interest in Shakespeare.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Nice interview on Minnesota Public Radio with the amazing Kate DiCamillo. She is discussing her new book Mercy Watson to the Rescue. She has 4 books in this series finished now.

She understands that as a writer she must be true to the characters and not try to teach a lesson. Of course in her deft hands the deeper meanings shine through.
She just wants to make adults and children laugh.

She is a very funny person and always entertaining to listen to.