Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Cynsations has an excellent (as usual) interview with Texas Bluebonnet Award winner Lisa Wheeler. She talks about her book/operetta, Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta, illustrated by Mark Seigel, 2004.
I get to hear her speak at the Texas Bluebonnet Luncheon in April!
The 7 Professors of the Far North by John Fardell, 2005
Young Sam Carnabie is staying Professor Ampersand and his great niece and nephew, Zara and Ben for a few weeks while his parents attend a conference. Professor Ampersand's home is filled with crazy Rube Goldberg inventions and "labor saving" devices.
Late one night an old friend of the professor's arrives, exhausted and fearful with news that an old enemy has returned. In the course of the evening, Professor Ampersand tells the children about an earlier part of his life when he and six other professors founded a university on Nordbergen , a remote island in the far North, only to be betrayed by one of them. Roderick Murdo was discovered to have kidnapped a baby for some ghastly genetic experiment. The baby was saved but Murdo left the professors to die in the wilderness of the Arctic and disappeared.
Ampersand summons the other professors to let them know that their nemesis has returned to Nordbergen. As they plan how to thwart him again, Murdo's goons arrive and kidnap the professors. The children are left to follow the few clues they have in order to rescue them and save the world.
A secret subterranean railroad (very cool,) snowmobiles, and submarines convey the kids to Nordbergen. Murdo is a "James Bond" style villian whose human shaped high rise headquarters is a super complex of high tech gadgetry and evil.
The kids must figure things out but they are helped by adults along the way.
I liked the small detailed b&w drawings that are sprinkled throughout the text. Fardell is also a cartoonist. The book had an old-fashioned feel that got better as the story progressed and the action ramped up. I will be interested to see how kids go for it.
Fardell lives in Scotland with his family.
(I seem to be on a Scotland trek these days.)
Monday, February 27, 2006
To those with ears to hear libraries are really very noisy places. On their shelves we hear the captured voices of the centuries-old conversation that makes up our civilization, or any civilization. Here is the most convenient, most portable, and, in many ways, the most durable carrier of speech we have ever found: the book.
"Libraries and Learning," by Timothy S. Healy; The Bookmark; page 200; Spring 1990.
Rev. Timothy S. Healy was president of the New York Public Library and the namesake of Healy Hall at the NYPL. Healy died in 1993.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
For six weeks starting March 1, a printable jacket cover of one of the six Harry Potter books will be posted here each week. After participants have collected all six, they can attach them to an entry form and mail them in for a chance to win.
“We know how passionate Harry Potter fans are and we wanted to give them something new and exciting to expand their reading experience,” said Suzanne Murphy, vice president of Scholastic Trade Marketing.
During the sweepstakes, Scholastic’s website will also offer new Harry Potter downloads, including printable posters and desktop wallpaper. “While old fans will love the online activities and the interactive features,” Murphy said, “readers new to the series can be introduced into the magical world of Harry Potter.”
Three winners, who will be announced May 1, will receive the Hogwarts iPod, audiobook editions of all six Harry Potter books and a deluxe copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, with a signed bookplate by J.K. Rowling. Six runners-up will receive two Harry Potter hardcover boxed gift sets—one for the winner and one for a friend.
J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Rings. You are entertaining and imaginative, creating whole new worlds around yourself. Well loved, you have a whole league of imitators, none ofwhich is quite as profound as you are. Stories and songs give a spark of joy in the middle of your eternal battle with the forces of evil.
Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
Thanks so So Many Books for the link.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Sky Boys: How they built the Empire State Building, by Deborah Hopkinson & James E. Ransome, c2006
We've seen King Kong scale it, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra sang from its rooftop in On the Town, Tom Hanks found Meg Ryan there in Sleepless in Seattle. The Empire State Building is a symbol of American hope and pride.
This is one of the books commemorating its 75th anniversary. The book opens with beautiful b&w photos on the endpapers. Hopkinson's text describes a young boy on the streets of NYC looking for firewood. He finds a pile of wood that marks the remains of a hotel which has been torn down to make way for a new building that will be the Empire State building.
It is the Great Depression and the building provides jobs and hope for the city. The sky boys work high overhead moving the beams into position. The water boy brings the men a drink. The step by step process of driving the rivets is nicely detailed. There are lunch stands and a restaurant high up in the girders.
Ransome takes the reader up into the building's bones. The time period is evoked as we look down on joblines and newsboys.
The final triumph is the young boy's ride to the observation deck when the building is finished. The wonder of being up so high is one I recall from my own childhood visit there.
One year and forty-five days,
seven million man-hours,
More than three thousand men--
a triumph of speed, safety, and efficiency,
and something else, too: beauty.
This is a lovely and informative book.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
George Washington's Teeth by Deborah Chandra, Madeleine Comora, 2003
This is a wonderful book to share with kids and adults. I learned so many things about Washington from this book. The clever, rhyming verse recounts the lifelong problems George Washington had with his teeth. It is possible that chronic gum infections led to Washington's death.
The story is well researched and the humorous illustrations by Brock Cole lend a lightness to Washington's serious health condition. The end of the book has facts and information about Washington's life. There is also a great timeline.
Happy Birthday Mr. President!
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
For now, she's waiting "for the thing that makes the divining rod tremble." She began writing the Mercy Watson books after a pig named Mercy popped into her head on a plane and "bewitched" her. "Despereaux," about a brave mouse, was the result of a friend's son telling her he wanted a story about "an unlikely hero" with exceptionally large ears. "The Miraculous Journey" came about after a friend gave her a china rabbit named Edward, and the author dreamed the doll was lying at the bottom of the ocean.
Monday, February 20, 2006
The Casson's are such fully realized characters. I confess I have wondered if there was a real family that was the inspiration for them.
McKay ... explains that these characters are not based on her own experience growing up in England as the oldest of four sisters. Rather, her novels' entertainingly eccentric family members come "entirely and utterly from my imagination, I am sorry to say! I suppose they were the families I would have liked to have."
McKay describes how Saffy's Angel came to be and the kinds of feedback she gets from readers.
I have yet to encounter any kids who read her books. I wonder if they strike a chord here in the USA. I love them but I am an affirmed Anglophile.
[School librarians: If you are viewing this at school, sorry, you will not be able to see the cover picture. Images on Blogger are being blocked by the filter. At least you can see blogs though.]
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Horned Toad Canyon (pair it with The Horned Toad Prince by Jackie Mims Hopkins,) Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers, Susanna of the Alamo by John Jakes (yes, that John Jakes) and so many more.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
I am intrigued with her new book, Mama's Saris. I recently had an occassion to visit a store that sold saris and fabric. The colors and textures were extraordinary. We wanted to pick out some fabric but found choosing almost impossible. As the fabrics unfurled, the colors and metallics fell into glowing swags and ripples across the tables. I do not think I ever fully appreciated the term "riot of color" until that visit.
Since sci-fi is a genre, this fits Book Moot's mission.
We are sci-fi fans. We've read and watched sci-fi always and forever: Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Star Trek in all its permutations, Space Above and Beyond, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, even Lost in Space (the original series with Zorro as the dad.)
When Entling no. 1 sent me the link to this quiz I could not resist.
Here's my crew (yippee!):
You scored as Serenity (from Firefly).
You like to live your own way and do not enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you that you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Veronica by Roger Duvoisin, c1961, 2006
Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
Veronica frets about her anonymity amidst her fellow hippopotamuses. She longs to be noticed. She leaves her familiar riverbank and walks for many days until she reaches a city. Here she is "conspicuous" but after the initial novelty has worn away, she is left with no where to sleep, nothing to eat and finds herself in jail. Thank goodness for little old ladies in these stories. As in Babar, one rides to the rescue and sees to it that Veronica is returned to her old home where the hippopotamus is a legend for her exploits in the city.
Roger Duvoisin originally published Veronica in 1961. The book has been reissued.
Duck & Goose, written and illustrated by Tad Hills, 2006
This is a whimsical story about two young birds who argue over the ownership and care of an "egg" they find. "I saw it first" -- I touched it first." The reader is immediately in on the joke because the "egg" is larger than either one of them and is perfectly round and colored white with large polka dots. Of course it is a ball but neither one of them realizes this.
The illustrations are bright and the characters' faces are so expressive. Their bickering will be familiar to children's ears as will their reconciliation in face of the truth. This book is gentle fun.
Another book that highlights the "me first" in all of us is Helen Lester's Me First, c1992.
Pinkerton Pig wants to be first all the time. His rush to the front of the line is almost his undoing when he meets a Sandwitch.
Watching kids in elementary school line up is so instructional. We are all walking in a line to the same place. We will all pass through the doors within a few seconds of each other but kids will always squeeze in, step in front, and make a dash for the head of the line. Inevitably, there is a wail from someone in line, "Hey, he cut!"
We never outgrow it as my commute down a major Houston artery just proved.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Here in the Bonny Glenn is hosting the First Carnival of Children's Literature. There are links to blog posts from all over the web. Contributors include authors, enthusiasts, readers--young and old, parents and librarians. It is a great way to see who is blogging about children's books on the web today.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Gail Gauthier must have been hanging out with middle schoolers. She has perfectly captured the academic, mental and emotional state of that no-man's land we call Junior High in her new book, Happy Kid. I love this book, I am going to nominate it for the Texas Lonestar list.
Kyle is an average kid just trying to survive at Bert P. Trotts (is the gateway to Hell) Middle School. The previous year, Kyle's tech ed. school project results in him being accused of bringing a weapon to school. His innocence is established but the fallout over the incident carries over into the new school year. In an effort to help him improve his attitude and get him off on the right foot his mother has purchased a self help book for him, Happy Kid: a young person's guide to satisfying Relationships and a Happy Meaning-filled Life!
Kyle is mortified but accepts his mom's offer to pay him a dollar for every chapter he reads. His goal in life is the prayer of every middle schooler, he just wants to blend in and maybe have a good friend.
As the school year gets underway Kyle wonders why the book keeps opening to the same chapter and only changes once that chapter's issue has been dealt with in his life. How does the book seem to always know what help he needs?
Gauthier has perfectly recreated the environment of high-stakes state student assessment testing. Here they are called (wonderfully) the SSASies. I chuckled as SSASie review sheets are passed out in every class the first day of school. As one student says, "The schools are being tested but we are taking the tests?"
She has also accurately captured the strange social world and tension that develops between A-students (honors, advanced,) the regular kids, and the small scary underclass of soon-to-be-criminals. Finding the right place to sit at lunch the first day of school is a real crisis and having the campus bully think you are one of his posse is serious.
Like many junior high faculties, the teachers at Trotts are slightly odd. (I have always wondered do the teachers get that way by teaching middle schoolers or are they already slightly nutty and therefore drawn to junior high?) Kyle's teachers are achingly familiar. He has a great family complete with an obnoxious older sister. His mom is so anxious for him to have a good year, she thinks a book can help him. His dad is slightly bewildered and trying to understand the two teenagers under his roof.
As I read Happy Kid, I was rooting for Kyle all the way. He is struggling to succeed in his advanced A-classes where he has been mistakenly placed by clerical error and to find some friends and time for any fun outside of school. He is faced with a huge ethical dilemma and he wants to do the right thing but he risks losing everything he has gained by doing it.
The entire story is told with so much humor I was laughing aloud. My youngest entling is just out of junior high having entered high school this year. She (and I) found so much truth in the pages of this story. As she read parts of it aloud to me we were absolutely limp from laughter.
I could go on and on about all the aspects of this book that I loved. Just read it.
Gail Gauthier blogs at Original Content.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
What were your three favorite children's series?
1. Nancy Drew
2. The "shoe" books by Noel Streatfield (I read all of them, multiple times. A librarian at the International School, The Hague,NL introduced me to them.) Ballet Shoes, White Boots, The Painted Garden were my favorites.
3. Mary Poppins
What were your three favorite non-series children's books?
1. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge (I loved Maria's bedroom so much, I still want a round room with a fireplace and a midnight blue ceiling with silver stars painted on it.) Ever since JKR said this was one of her favorites as a child I have felt a real connection with her. She is the only other person I ever "knew" besides me who had read that book.
2. Shadow Castle by Marian Cockrell (I still have my copy of this book. The cover is half off but I remember reading it so many times. A young girl follows her dog into a mysterious valley where she discovers a castle where the inhabitants live as shadows in the walls.
3. Little Witch by Anna E. Bennett - Minx is the daugher of a nasty witch, Madame Snickasnee who turns kids into flowerpots. She wants to make a fairy appear so she experiments with different potions when her mother is away. It was easy reading but I loved this book.
I have always loved fantasy it would seem.
What are your three favorite children's book characters?
1. Anne Shirley
3. Winnie the Pooh
Bonus Round #1:
Q. Who wrote your least favorite childhood books?
A. I'm trying to think of any books I read that I really disliked. I read almost anything I could get my hands on. I really became a reader in 4th grade when we lived in Holland and (in those days) there was not much television to compete for my time.
I was never a fan of "sad" animal stories.
Bonus Round #2
Q. What was the saddest moment in your childhood reading?
A. The scene where Black Beauty sees a dead horse (Ginger) her tongue dripping with blood, being carted away. That scene put me off animal books forever which is why I missed the exciting Black Stallion books that I probably would have enjoyed.
Bonus Round #3
Q. Which adult book scared the bejeezus out of you?
A. I read Leon Uris as a jr. high student. Mila 18 really scared me. The Warsaw Uprising, the bravery of the Jews fighting to survive in the Warsaw ghetto and the fact that no one would help them. Horrific then and now.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
The Potter Index has been programmed with every word and every phrase in every Harry Potter book. The site does not display any part of the Harry Potter books in any way. However, it allows site visitors to enter specific search criteria and tells them exactly where this text can be found in the Harry Potter books.
"Hill & Wang, a nonfiction imprint at the distinguished literary house Farrar, Straus & Giroux, will publish a series of nonfiction comics works this fall, led by a comics adaptation of The 9/11 Commission Report as well as biographies of Malcolm X and Ronald Reagan. The line of books
The Conch Bearer by by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 2003
A young man must return an item of immense power to its place of origin. He is accompanied by a loyal friend and helped along the way by a old man who has amazing powers. An evil being is also seeking the item so the young man must keep it safe on his person but is warned NEVER to use it even though the urge to take it out will be overwhelming at times. He develops a bond with the item.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to The Conch Bearer. Alan Cumming's reading is perfect with a gentle Indian dialect that is never overdone. I eagerly dialed up the story, each time I got in the car and finally carried the tapes into the house because I just had to hear what happened next.
As the story progressed I found myself thinking...I know this story...Anand is Frodo!
Anand's father has disappeared leaving him along with his mother and sister in terrible poverty. Anand is working for an abusive tea seller when he encounters Abhaydhatta, a seemingly old man with magical healing powers. Anand desparately wants to help his family so he is torn when Abhaydhatta asks Anand to accompany him on a quest to return a mystical conch shell to its home with The Brotherhood in the Silver Valley. Abhaydhatta heals his little sister so his mother allows him to go. Nisha, an abandoned girl of the streets, accompanies them. The evil Surabhanu who will stop at nothing to acquire the conch is hunting the trio.
Set in India, the story's settings are glorious. I could hear the sounds of Kolkata, see the colors of the marketplace, feel the crisp air of Silver Valley and almost smell and taste the amazing food.
Unlike the Tolkien's Ring of Power, the Conch is a force for good and Anand's link to it is a happy one. All happiness comes with a price however and Anand must make a hard choice about the direction his life will take.
I loved this story and I am thrilled to know there is a sequel, The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming in this series, the Brotherhood of the Conch.
Although it did not win the Texas Bluebonnet Award this year, 4092 kids voted that it was their favorite book. It is terrific.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Just in time for the Winter Olympics, there is a new Tacky the Penguin, Tacky and the Winter Games by Helen Lester. This hilarious bird always delights students AND teachers.
Karen MacPherson also also reviews Freeze Frame (National Geographic). These would be must haves for an Olympic collection.
Book World is blogging on the National Portrait Gallery's quest into the authenticity of their Shakespeare portraits. Good links to several articles on the subject including this overview in the Times. The NPG is going to open a Searching For Shakespeare exhibit in March.
Monday, February 06, 2006
The winner is Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Mark Siegel. Approximately 150,000 youngsters voted across the state for their favorite Bluebonnet book.
Seadogs was the top dog with 16683 votes, but a couple of other books were nipping at its heels. First runner-up was Gregor the Overlander (Collins) with 15564 votes, and 14240 voters picked The Boy on Fairfield Street (Krull) as their favorite.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Tana Hoban, an accomplished photographer of children who turned her photography into an innovative kind of illustration for books for the youngest audiences, died on Jan. 27 at a hospice in suburban Paris. She was 88 and had been living in Paris for the last 23 years.
Her books were filled with photographs of joy. They are a gift to teachers, librarians and of course, children.
From the NYTimes:
"My books are about everyday things that are so ordinary that one tends to overlook them," Ms. Hoban once wrote about her work. "I try to rediscover these things and share them with children. But there is more to each picture than a first look reveals. I always try to include something new, something to reach for."
Friday, February 03, 2006
B For Buster by Iain Lawrence, 2004
B For Buster is a WWII story of courage and duty. Kak has lied about his age and traveled half way around the world from Canada to be part of a Bomber Command squadron in Yorkshire. His excitement and anticipation are viewed with weary dismay by the veterans.
The Halifax bomber, B For Buster is battered and patched together. Nobody can tell them what happened to the previous crew, the flight engineer landed the plane and then died in the cockpit; the rest of the crew just vanished. In one of the eeriest scenes, Kak visits the plane at night and suddenly encounters the ghosts of the previous crew.
Their first op over Germany is a flight into terror. As in all young-man-at-war novels, Kak comes to fully understand the horror of war and has to face the draining fear that overtakes him on every operation.
As the wireless/radio operator, Kak is responsible for the crew's pigeon. Homing pigeons were carried on the planes as a "last resort" communication device. Bert, the disheveled and generally despised pigeoneer takes a liking to the boy and Kak finds refuge from fear working with him in the pigeon loft. His special bond with Bert's prize pigeon, Percy, becomes his salvation when Bert allows him to take Percy along on their missions. In his mind, Percy is a talisman of good luck that will protect the crew and Kak is able to do his duty and fly.
Lawrence accurately captures the danger, the fear and the anguish the fliers faced with each sortie. We can only respect their real bravery as they did the job that was asked of them.
As a librarian, I would want to make sure my WWII guys found this book.
In the excellent author's note at the end Lawrence gives additional history on Bomber Command and the uneasy choices that had to be made trying to balance the safety of the crews against the accuracy of the bombing runs.
I learned also about the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Thirty two pigeons have received this award. I did not realize the animated film, Valiant, was about these homing pigeons.
There is a fascinating series, the Animals' VC, on BBC 4 about the medal. If you are an animal lover, do not miss this program. The stories of these animals will leave you with a smile and a huge lump in your throat. The story about a guide dog who got her partner out of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 is moving beyond belief. Oh my! Needs RealPlayer.
This information would be good to share with students reading Letters from Wolfie by Patti Sherlock, a book on this year's Lonestar list.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
John J. Miller writes:
But the challenges of adapting Curious George are in fact a bit more complex. Earnest literary types have interpreted the first book as a barely disguised slave narrative. Have you considered that the man's weird outfit could be a send-up of a colonial officer's uniform? Or that George is brown and lacks a tail? (Lots of monkeys are brown and most species have visible tails.) Or that he is abducted against his will from Africa and brought across the sea to a foreign land where he engages in high jinks when the master is away?
This interpretation--surely the subject of many half-baked teacher-college lectures--was not on the mind of the Reys as they fled from the Nazis. Perhaps it is helpful to remember something that Margret once said of her books: "I don't like messages. . . . These are just stories."
Except that this isn't really true. The final Curious George book actually authored by the Reys--"Curious George Goes to the Hospital"--was written to convince children that they needn't fear the patient ward. It's closer in spirit to a plainly therapeutic book such as "The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor" than the original tale in its own series.
Even earlier than that, however, the books displayed a form of social consciousness: In the 1942 British edition, Curious George was renamed Zozo. The publisher objected to the monkey's name because George VI sat on the throne and, in London slang, "curious" meant "gay."
Thanks very much to Jen at Jen Robinson's Book Page for pointing me to Rick Riordan's blog. He has a heart-felt and moving post about ADHD and his son. His son's struggle served as the inspiration for his terrific book, The Lightning Thief. The book has been picked for many "Best" books lists including the Texas Bluebonnet List for 2005-2006.
The best review of this book I have heard was from a 7th grader at the big junior high I was subbing at recently.
Lad: "I am turning in this book (Lightning Thief) and I need the next one."
Me: "Oh, I am so sorry, the next one is not out yet..."
Lad: "Noooooooo...what? Really? I NEED the next one... oh man, when is it coming out"
He slumped over the circulation counter in despair and I administered ("Hey, try this") Kenneth Oppel- Airborn therapy but I don't know if it took.