Sunday, July 30, 2006

Movie: The Spiderwick Chronicles

J. L. Bell at Oz and Ends has details on The Spiderwick Chronicles: the movie.

A superior group of folks are working on it: John Sayles, Mark Waters, actor Freddie Highmore

Friday, July 28, 2006

Speaking of Tolkien...

LOTR fans have probably already seen this Stephen Colbert bit following June 6, 2006.

It makes me chuckle.

How to Introduce the Classics

Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy has a tremendously thoughtful post on how she came to read the "classics." Her thoughts on what worked for her are spot-on and echo my own experience.

What my parents read: I know my kids (and I) became interested in Tolkien because of their dad's, Treebeard's, love for the books. He read aloud every evening and we would tidy up the kitchen and then settle in for the next installment in the lives of our dear hobbits.

The fact that the books were so important to their father made an impression on them (they were still very young) and gave The Professor's story the opening it needed to work its magic on all of us.

Entling #3 even gave Wuthering Heights a read this year because I suggested she read the Brontes. She almost NEVER reads something I suggest so this was a pleasant surprise. She was reading Wuthering Heights while waiting at the doctor's office and the nurse practitioner asked with some surprise, "Do you have to read that for a school assignment?" She could not imagine reading it, otherwise.

Comic Book versions: There are new editions of the classics in graphic novel format. I have not been able to determine if these are well received by kids or not.

I have been hoping that living-at-home-entlings (1 college, 1 high school) might read some Jane Austen but so far -- no sell. I am attempting to lay some groundwork with another of Liz B.'s ideas: Watching the movie/TV version. I offered a screening of Sense and Sensibility the other evening and challenged them to count the Harry Potter cast members (there are TONS!) in the film. They really enjoyed it.

So now I am wondering, should I offer up the BBC Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth or do the Keira Knightley version? I love the former and have not seen the later.

I think the best I can hope for is that they will read Austen at some point in the future but will never admit it to me. I am probably just guaranteeing that they will NEVER EVER read Jane Austen as long as they live. Alas.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mind your Manners

As the school year begins anew, a bright new crop of young ones will pass through the school doors to acquire new knowledge.

Attempting to quell their natural instincts to bash each other on the head is one of the first orders of business. To this end, teachers and librarians and principals will be reading to them.

I always get a kick out of most "manners" books because the only way children will pick them up on their own is if a beloved and familiar character is on the cover. A host of renowned and seasoned characters exhort kids to say please and thank you in these titles:

Clifford the Big Red Dog tries in Clifford's Manners by Norman Bridwell.

The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners
by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain is next up to bat. (My middle entling loved these books although I found the "self-improvement" titles to be some of the most tiresome reading-aloud I ever did. I do love reading The Spooky Old Tree and The Big Road Race though.)

Dora the Explorer takes a swing at it in Dora's Book of Manners by Christine Ricci and Susan Hall.

Disney steps up with a double header of Winnie the Pooh in Winnie the Pooh's - Book of Manners by Judy Delton and Disney Princess: Pretty Please: A Book of Manners by It-doesn't-really-matter.

When I opened Marc Brown's D.W.'s Guide to Perfect Manners, 2006, I was expecting the same ole' same ole' and the book does cover familiar ground as D.W. strives to be perfect at home and at school following a dare from her brother, Arthur. The familiarity of the Arthur franchise "helps the medicine go down" but there are some fun bits too, especially coming from D.W.

"I pick up my toys to make my room perfect. I can even make my own bed. You can too. It's no big deal--and, besides, it freaks out your a good way!"

The book works well as a read aloud. This will be the money line:

"Perfect people say "I'm sorry"if they mess up or if they hurt someone. They don't say mean words like "shut-up," "poopy" or"doo-doo head," even when bad things happen."

We all know the word "UNDERWEAR" is the funniest work in the English language to an elementary age kid but "poopy" is right up there too.

There is a "Are you perfect yet?" test to round out the book. The lowest score rates a "you need a lot of work. Please read my book again."

Without a doubt the most sublime of all manners books are the classic What Do You Say, Dear? and What Do you Do, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin with sly and witty illustrations by Maurice Sendak. No matter how improbable or bizarre the circumstances, good manners should always prevail.

Mo Willems's Time to Say Please! should be mentioned in the same breath as the Joslin books. Willems is pure gold.

There's cake?

I love "theme" cakes. Tripped over this link to and their birthday and celebration cakes. The Campout Cake is too cute!

Hmm...match the cake with a children's book! That would be a fun party.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Movie: The Little White Horse

Kelly at Big A little a pointed me to this article of the The Ten Best Books for Children ages 8-12. It was there I learned that they are planning a movie of The Little White Horse.

I read that book many times as a kid but I had never met another person who had read it until I heard JKR talk about it in the early HP days.

I attribute the book's new glamorous and glossy cover, to her interest. It is a curious choice for a movie. They better get Maria's bedroom right.

The Little White Horse website--there is even jewelry!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Guys Read

Guys Read
, edited by Jon Scieszka, 2005

I almost got to hear Jon Scieszka talk about this book in person in 2005 but the fire marshal closed the large auditorium at the San Antonio convention center and a huge number of librarians were left staring at the closed doors. The overflow attendance at his talk highlighted the level of concern there is about boys and reading (or their lack thereof) today.

Guys read is a jump-in-anywhere you-can't-go-wrong-read for guys. An A-list of authors and illustrators contributed to this book. As Scieszka explains in the forward, the book is NOT required reading.

"It is reading to find what you like. And I know you are gong to find something in here, because these things are funny, action-packed, sad, goofy, gross, touching, stupid, true and all very short."

The short length of each offering fits any attention span, read one, read five. I am still reading my copy. Jack Gantos and Gordon Kormon have made me laugh out loud. Matt Groening's "Any Questions, Class?" will strike a chord with every student on Earth.

Many of the articles center on what reading meant to the writers when they were kids, others celebrate "guyness."

The briefest bit of biography is offered at the end of each piece including where the writer grew up, where they live now and a random fact. A short bibliography of their other works also follows. (Hey, if you like this short bit, try one of their books.)

My sister told me my fifth grade nephew loves this book. I think most guys would too.


Oh boy,
Animaniacs Vol. I and Pinky and the Brain will be released on DVD TODAY!

In honor of the excellent Houston Gilbert and Sullivan Society productions of Trial by Jury and H.M.S. Pinafore that we enjoyed yesterday, I offer Yakko Warner's G&S sendup: "I Am The Very Model Of A Cartoon Individual" in celebration.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Children's Lit of South Asia and the Pacific Rim

I have intended to point my library friends to Kahani Magazine for some time.

Kahani is an award-winning literary magazine dedicated to empowering, educating and entertaining children of South Asian descent living in North America. It is an alternative publication that reflects their unique life experiences not found in mainstream literature.

If you are a school librarian Paper Tigers should also be a regular stop on your internet meanderings. Paper Tiger is:

A website for librarians, teachers, publishers and tall those interested in young readers' books from and about the Pacific Rim and South Asia.

Pooja Makhijani has also sent along a link to her insightful paper, Here to Stay: South Asian Literature for Children and Teens.

As a new school year gears up here in the Lone Star State, librarians will again face the need to balance their collections to serve their students and faculty, to support the curriculum and offer pleasure reading so kids will actually find books they are interested in to practice their developing reading skills.

To this end, kids have to find themselves on their library shelves. Makhijani eloquently makes the case:

In seventh grade, while sliding my favorite book - Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre - off a library shelf, I stumbled upon a book titled Dancing Princess by Jane Bothwell. I pulled the volume towards me and was floored to see an Indian princess, in a traditional North Indian dance outfit with bells encircling her ankles, on the cover.

Dancing Princess was a historical novel set in 16th century India during the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar. Although Allaedi, the main character, wasn't exactly like me, she was close enough. We were both brown haired, brown eyed, brown skinned girls and we both loved to dance. I renewed that book again and again, carefully scrawling my name onto the index card pasted on the inside back cover each week.

The Fifth Carnival of Children's Literature

The indefatigable Kelly at Big A little a is hosting The Fifth Carnival of Children's Literature. Her Shakespearian witches artfully present each post. I always find a new blog to read at the carnival.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Here's Lookin at Me

Here's Looking at Me: how artists see themselves by Bob Raczka, 2006

The way an artist presents him/herself in a self-portrait tells us a great deal about them. This book includes self-portraits of painters and photographers including Jacob Lawrence, MC Escher, Albrecht Durer, Norman Rockwell, Henri Rousseau, Cindy Sherman, Chuck Close, Vermeer, Goya, Velazquz and Artemesia Gentileschi. Facing each full page picture is a discussion of the portrait.

Ultimately the reader can ask themselves how they would present themselves in a self-portrait? Would you show just your head or your whole body? Would you dress in your fanciest clothes or would you wear your everyday duds? Where would you place yourself? Would you want anything in the picture with you?

This is a very engaging and accessible book for art teachers or anyone who wants to explore this most personal of art forms.

Sneak Peeks

Rockstar Rick Riordan has announced the title of Percy Jackson #3 and is giving some hints about the story. It should be released Spring 2007!

Katie Grant (K.M.) is also offering a "small taster" about her new series. She will revisit the time period of the Crusades.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Another virtual vacation for your summer reading pleasure

Junie B., First Grader: Aloha-ha-ha! by Barbara Park, 2006

Junie B. Jones is back and she is so excited she is spinning in her seat because she is going on a vakashum vacation to Hawaii.

Her teacher tells her she will have to keep a photo journal of her trip which seems like homework to Junie B. ("Teachers and children do not have the same kind of brains.")
Sandwiched between two grumpy ladies on the plane she keeps up with the hilarious exchange from her backpack, between her stuffed elephant Philip Johnny Bob and her new Hula Barbie aka Hula Delores.

Some aspects of Hawaii are great (pineapple and coconut pancakes) and others are not to a first grader's taste (tour buses.) Entries in her photo journal cleverly chronicle events and Junie B.'s mood.

Barbara Park taps into the child's psyche with these books because they ALL know a kid like Junie B. (or they ARE a kid like Junie B.)

Her humor also reaches grown ups as she demonstrates that sly knowledge that makes Junie a favorite read aloud in classrooms. After negotiating a truce with Junie B., her teacher, Mr. Scary, re-orients yet another student and Junie B. reflects, "Teachers spend a lot of time adjusting people."

Park wryly evokes the joys of vacationing with children:

Those two have lazy bones. Only I am not allowed to jiggle them awake anymore.
Or else Mother turns out cranky.

I kept waiting real patient for their eyes to open.
Then finally, I tippytoed next to Daddy. And I blew air in his face.
He opened one eyeball.
I waved very pleasant.

Hello. How are you today?" I said.
"Look. I am already dressed for breakfast."
Daddy closed his eyeball.
I opened it up again.
"Whoops. I lost you there for a second, " I said.

This is one of my favorite Junie B.s

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


by Michael J. Rosen, 2006

Baseballs, basketballs soccer balls, footballs, tennis balls, hand balls, golf balls, volley balls ping pong (er..table tennis) balls and odd balls are all described, dissected, and detailed. Do you know how footballs are made? Do you want to understand the dynamics of a golf ball?

The book is well written with an easy to read and well designed layout.

Many of the chapters have a "Ball of Fame" section. "Wilson" from the movie Cast Away is featured in the volleyball section. The book invites browsing and the large clear photos invite the reader into the book.

This is a nonfiction gotta have it!

Did you know there are three types of tennis balls that may be used in a tennis match?

Sunday, July 16, 2006


I love to watch C-span Book TV.

Today, David Oshinsky, the winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for History, was discussing his book, Polio: An American Story, 2005. His talk was fascinating. He describes the fear that haunted parents during the summer months when polio stalked children and young adults. The extraordinary efforts a new kind of philanthropy organization, the March of Dimes, resulted in funding for research and a race for the vaccine between Jonas Salk and Albert Bruce Sabin.

Oshinsky thoughts on how FDR caught the disease were very intriguing.

Happily polio is practically a thing of the past now in the United States. He discussed the efforts of Rotary International to eliminate polio by the year 2010 by supplying vaccine to places in the world where polio still exists.

The whole subject has a great deal of personal resonance for me. My father contracted polio when I was two years old. My folks have suggested that I may have even been the carrier although I never developed the disease. (Gulp!) We have a family friend who works for the March of Dimes and family and friends who are involved in Rotary. This is an extremely interesting program!

Two children's books that focus on the subject of polio include:

Children's author Peg Kehret contracted polio as a child and recounts her story in the moving Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, 1996. Kehret describes her illness from the onset to recovery. The emotional and physical challenges she faced make this an engrossing read. Girls, especially, are often fascinated by this title. I highly recommend this book.

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli, 1949

This is one of those books that I always noticed on the shelf of the library when I was a kid but I never picked it up to read until I was school librarian.

Robin's father is a knight and his mother is a lady in waiting to the queen. His parents are away as the story opens and he has been abandoned by his caretaker while suffering from a devastating illness. Luckily a kind friar, Brother Luke, arrives to take care of him. The disease has left Robin crippled and unable to use his legs at all.

Reading the book as an adult it was apparent to me that young Robin has survived polio. Even though the setting is the Middle Ages, De Angeli was writing in 1949. There are images of polio treatment throughout the story: Brother Luke massaging and exercising Robin's legs in a kind of physical therapy, Robin swimming to build strength (like FDR at Warm Springs, GA) and learning to walk with crutches.

Robin discovers he can still serve his country when danger threatens, despite his handicap.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bastille Day

Sherry at Semicolon has a nice list of books for your Bastille Day reading pleasure!

For the Love of Venice

For the Love of Venice
by Donna Jo Napoli, 1998

Seventeen year old Percy was looking forward to a summer full of sailing and preparing for the big race at the end of the summer. Now he is on his way to Venice, Italy with his family for the summer. His father is part of the engineering team that is designing the floodgates the will protect Venice from floods.

His family settles in immediately. His father is busy with the floodgate, his mom is doing her artist thing, even his little brother, who is enrolled at a day camp for young children, is picking up Italian at an astonishing rate. Percy is a at loose ends until he meets the mysterious Graziella who works in the nearby ice cream shop. Discovering that she also works as an animatori or counselor at his brother's day camp, he signs on as an animatori too.

His friendship with Graziella connects him with other teens in the city. He discovers they care deeply about the quality of life in Venice and are fearful of the effects the Expo world's fair will have on life there. The focus on tourism in Venice is at odds with daily life there for ordinary citizens.

When a huge storm threatens the city with flooding, Percy realizes the group will stop at nothing to keep the Expo out of Venice and his father's project is at risk.

Napoli captures the beauty and special light of Venice. The book is a virtual vacation and a entertaining read.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hi Fly Guy

Hi Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold, 2005

"Flies can't be pets! Flies are Pests!" is what Buzz thinks while he is searching for a new pet to enter the pet contest. Then, THIS fly says the boy's name, Buzz. Buzz is delighted and names him Fly Guy. When his parents hear Fly Guy call their son's name they also understand just how smart the fly really is. Now, can Buzz and Fly Guy convince the judges at the pet show?

What a terrific early reader this book is. It is a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book and deservedly so. Ted Arnold's comic illustrations punctuate the story and provide plenty of laughs. I was chuckling at every page. An emerging reader will find the large font very easy to read. The book even has chapters. I think guys will especially crack up at this fly comedy.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Author: Lois Lowry

If you a fan of The Giver and Lois Lowry, do not miss reading her post about the ending of her book.

To be honest, I don't think it is the function of a book (or an author) to answer questions, really. I think a book should CREATE questions. It should make the reader think, and wonder, and worry, and discuss, and imagine.

(Lowry is virtually knocking her head against a wall about folks who use the comments section to ask her questions about her writing and books. Folks just don't read the directions.)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Blood on the River: James Town 1607

Blood on the River: James Town 1607
by Elisa Carbone, 2006

The importance and fun of historical fiction is the ability to live in another time and place and understand something about that point in history. I've purchased fiction and nonfiction books about James Town and I've provided educational videos on the topic. I have studied the settlement along with the Entlings through elementary, junior high and high school, blah-blah-blah.

I have just finished Elisa Carbone's superb Blood on the River.

NOW I get it.

Other books have accurately and factually recounted the history of the James Town settlement but Carbone has brought it to life. Using real characters from the colony's registers, she has recreated a story that is an absolute page turner. We smell the stench of the ships and see the frost on the ground. The distrust between the English and the Wampanoag is palpable. The gnawing hunger, the "summer sickness" and the scent of wood fires is so strong, I felt like I was within the palisade walls.

Samuel Collier is bound as a page to Captain John Smith on the eve of his departure for Virginia. Sam's fierce temper and survival sense will be his undoing and his salvation in the new land. The perils of the voyage at sea and the political turmoil that plagued the expedition from the onset are vividly described. The useless "gentlemen" resent the common sense of John Smith and his lack of respect for his “betters.” Before they even arrive on Virginia's shores, the “gentlemen” have clapped Smith in irons and plan to hang him.

Sam clearly sees the issues confronting the colony and his loyalty to Smith serves him well. Smith teaches him to fight with a sword and how to use a musket. He also makes sure Sam is able to stay with a friendly tribe during the second winter so he can learn their language and survival skills instead of going hungry at the settlement. Sam revels in his time with the tribe, realizing their lifestyle is perfectly adapted to the harsh environment. He respects their traditions and their pride as a nation. It is with great reluctance that he returns to James Town when winter is over.

The reader fumes along with Sam at the stupidity of the Virginia Company. Their reliance on old world ideas of "gentlemen" leaders dooms many settlers to death. It is only when John Smith is voted on, by the colonists, to become their president that the colony's fortunes take a turn for the better. The story of Pocahontas is part of the storyline. Carbone chooses a likely version of her rescue of John Smith and depicts her as the child she really was at the time.

Now that I have traveled back to 1607 I can hardly wait to really visit Virginia someday and see the original site. Carbone includes excellent notes and suggestions for additional reading. She describes her research which was fascinating to read on its own.

I asked teachers and librarians for suggestions. "What would you most like to see a new novel about?" I asked. The answer came over and over: Jamestown.

I thought, "That old story? John Smith and Pocahontas AGAIN? Booooooring!"

In Carbone's hands -- boring? Not at all! This is some of the best historical fiction I have read since The Blood Red Horse. Highly recommended.

Cinderella (As If You Didn't Already Know the Story)

Cinderella (As If You Didn't Already Know the Story) by Barbara Ensor, 2006

This retelling of the Cinderella story offers the reader the traditional story, though slightly updated. Cinderella shares her worries and concerns about her life in letters to her deceased mother. Her father has remarried (but does not die) and her new stepmother and stepsisters are just as unpleasant as in the traditional story. Cinderella's letters to her mother are heartfelt with amusing edits so we know what she is really thinking. The silhouette cutout illustrations added a touch of quirkiness to the story that I enjoyed.

The book was a pleasant and fast read. Entling #3 pronounced it "cute." After reading Bookshelves of Doom's review and the comment by Fuse #8, another reason I liked the book occured to me.

Girls who loved the lush K.Y. Craft fairytales when they were in elementary school are now in jr. high and when I see them at the jr. high library, they still are interested in those stories. In many cases they were NOT strong readers which is one reason they gravitated to the illustrated books in the first place.

One of a school librarian's jobs is to protect the dignity of his or her readers -- (which is why it is nutty for school principals and reading specialists to demand that the school library be organized, labeled, and filed by READING LEVEL. Please! Stop this Madness!)

This book offers students the comfort of an enjoyable, familiar and readable story and which they will not be embarrased to pull out during DEAR time in Reading class. I can already think of at least two kids I want to share this book with.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Quilt Pink

Picked up my fabric for the Quilt Pink block. If you are a quilter, check out this great opportunity!

Quilt Pink

Sadness: Jaap Penraat

"He who saves a single human life saves the entire universe."
-- From Jaapp Penraat's medal, The Righteous Among Nations

Jaap Penraat was the subject of Hudson Talbott's moving Forging Freedom. Penraat died this past week. The Chatham Courier has a tribute to him.

His good friend and neighbor, Hudson Talbott, had know him for many years before discovering Penraat's role as rescuer during the Holocaust.

"Jaap started by trying to forge one I.D. card," said Talbott. "Then he did another and another as he tried to get people out of the country (Holland) to safety. He snuck into Paris and asked for work and travel permits. In a year and a half, he got out over 400 people. When he stopped, the British had destroyed all of the railroad tracks and Jaap and the Dutch knew that D-Day was imminent. He had to walk back to Holland from France because there were no more train lines."
As the Nazis dug in for the Allied invasion, they began recruiting Dutch men in droves for slave labor in their munitions factories. Talbott said Mr. Penraat went into hiding for a year in the barn of a country doctor where he survived in part on a diet of sugar beets.

Forging Freedom is a terrific introduction to the Holocaust for kids. The story and illustrations detail the approaching Nazi menace. The first pages show a sky filled with German paratroopers descending over the Dutch landscape. Another page seems to be aflame as book burnings are depicted.

The centerpiece picture, in particular is a great starting place to talk about the subject with kids. Talbott has sketched a map of Europe with tentacles of barbed wire stretching out in all directions. Hitler's head is at the center of the tentacles, in Germany, like a horrific octopus. You can see images from the book here.

Jaap Penraat forged documents for people trying to escape the nightmare.
Thank goodness Hudson Talbott has preserved his story for us all.

Hudson Talbott's website

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Summer subbing

Turns out summer school needs librarians sometimes too! Dragon and I are aving great fun with some preschoolers this week. As one of the classes lined up to depart the library yesterday, one of the young lads asked somewhat plaintively, "Will we ever see Dragon again?"

Dragon is a cheeky, and I suspect, disrespectable fellow but he does leave an impression with kids.

It is even more fun for me to dive into the libarian's box of new books. (She said it was ok, honest. I'm cleaning up the marc records.) Very interesting to see what she is buying multiple copies of. * Lots of Book Moot recomendations too!

There is nothing like the smell of new books coming out of their wrappings with beautiful Bound to Stay Bound laminated covers. Heaven!

ER Vets: Life in an Animal Emergency Room
Alex Rider

Monday, July 03, 2006

Author Visit: Don Tate

Do not miss Don Tate's account of this library visit.
His audience was a group of "10-20 young men ages 12 to 17," each a convicted felon.

One painting, in particular drew the most attention and discussion. It was a painting I created many years ago, a poster for the book Scorpions (Walter Dean Myers). It depicted a scene where one gang member held a gun to another kids head, very graphic. I was shocked to learn that almost all of these young men had read that book. With excitement, they recounted the scene from the story (Backs up what I wrote earlier about needing books that speak to black males; They do read!).

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Lazy 4th of July weekend

I have been reading/listening to some terrific books but need to do them justice when I write about them and this is not the weekend for it apparently.
I have been working on my entling's quilt. I can recommend listening to a book while sitting at the sewing machine.

This is an interesting article about the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio say they based the character of Jack Sparrow on the folktale tradition of the trickster.

Elliott and Rossio came up with the entire Pirates mythology after writing their 1992 hit "Aladdin" and long before co-creating the 2002 animation feature "Shrek." They based their concept for Jack Sparrow on the ancient "trickster" archetype.

"There's a certain moral ambiguity to the pirate genre which seemed perfect for the kind of trickster character you see in folklore all around the world," Elliott says. "You've got the Jack tales (Appalachian folk stories), the Navajo Indians' coyote legends, the spider god from African mythology."

"Shakespeare's Puck is another one," Rossio adds. "Groucho Marx and Bugs Bunny -- those are the two great American tricksters."

"We wrote Jack as a trickster," Elliott continues, "and whether Johnny got that consciously or not, you couldn't ask for better. Having written the character, it's not a performance I could have imagined, but man, it was perfect. In animation, it's called plus-ing: If something ends up on your desk, it leaves in a better state. That's what you're looking for in a movie, where everyone builds on top of each other's work to create the final work."