Saturday, April 29, 2006

Benjamin Franklin's Library

Kathy Matheson of the Associated Press writes about the effort to reconstruct a list of the books that were in Benjamin Franklin's personal library. Franklin's grandson, William Temple Franklin, sold the 4,276 volumes for cash. Scholars lament that no catalog of the book titles has survived.

Franklin's collection was one of the largest private libraries in America at the time and took up the entire second floor of an addition he built on his Philadelphia home, Green said. When Franklin died in 1790, the books were scattered among a number of institutions and relatives. Most were bequeathed to Temple Franklin.

The grandson, though, had no interest in the library and "looked on it as an asset to exploit," Green said. By 1794, Temple Franklin had sold his volumes to a man who ended up going bankrupt four years later.

The books then ended up in the hands of bookseller Nicholas Dufief, who sold them off between 1801 and 1803 to buyers including then-President Thomas Jefferson. A deal fell through for the Library of Congress to acquire the remainder of the collection. Though Dufief had published catalogs of the titles, those lists were lost as well.

Researchers are slowly reconstructing a picture of the collection thanks to a penciled shelfmark. Read the whole fascinating article!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

My Shining Star

(English) (Spanish)

This has to be the best TLA conference I have ever attended. So many of my favorite authors are speaking, I have been in Heaven listening to them. Anthony Horowitz, Garth Nix, K.M. Grant (who is hilarious,) Rick Riordan, Denise Fleming and Rosemary Wells have all spoken with fervor about their writing and their readers.

Wells is known for her commitment to children's literacy. Her "Read to your Bunny" campaign rolled out across the country a few years ago. Today she passionately discussed and laid out the education challenges facing our schools and our nation. Young children are struggling more than ever in school. The reasons are numerous and familiar to most of us. Rather than continue to bewail the whys and wherefores of the issue, she used a brilliant analogy to explain what we need to do.

She pointed out that if a building was on fire and hundreds of people needed to be saved it would take the clear voice of a fireman, issuing simple commands to evacuate everyone to safety. Instead of dithering about discussing why the fire started and how fires really are a problem for certain kinds of structures, the important thing is to get safely away.

Her book My Shining Star: Raising a Child who is Ready to Learn was written with input from teachers and librarians all around the country. Wells lists ten virtues which parents should promote to prepare their child for the most wonderful adventure of all, education.

She addresses parents in the preface:

All children bring to school what they learn at home.
This book is about creating a home full of harmony
and the preparation of a successful child.
You are your child's first teacher.

Her virtues include Respect, Listening, Patience, Trust, Work, Honesty, Time ("Children spell love T - I - M - E,") Reading, Writing, and Habits.

This little book is only 13 pages long and only has about 25 words (at most) per page. Wells's lovely rabbit drawings warmly illustrate each virtue. She lays out a path for raising a child who is ready for school. It seems so simple and so obvious but so many children arrive in Kindergarten ill-equipped to learn.

If you know a family with young children, present them with a copy of this tiny treasure.
This little book is going to be my gift to new parents along with Goodnight Moon and a Mother Goose book.

Wells related a story about a principal she knows who works tirelessly to awaken parents to the needs of their children. He tells them to "Grow up! Pay attention! Be Responsible for your child!" I did not know that, nationally, only 26% of all parents attend their kids' Open House or Back to School nights.

The alarm has sounded and Rosemary Wells has given us ten simple steps to help children get ready to learn.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Texas Library Association Conference

Today was day one of the Texas Library Conference here in Houston, Texas. Julie Andrews Edwards opened the conference. Although she acknowledged that she is a "celebrity author," she proudly pointed out that she started writing children's books over 35 years ago. She loves working with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton on The Julie Andrews Collection imprint for HarperCollins.

A film overview of her career introduced her. It included film of Julie as a very young girl, performing and singing and her early broadway roles in The Boyfriend, My Fair Lady and Camelot. Scenes from her movies and her shows with Carol Burnett followed. (They did not include her role as Mia's grandmother in The Princess Diaries which was a pity. The scene were she dances with Hector Elizondo would have been perfect.)

She said that as a girl, she was traveling and performing so much that her education was limited until her parents hired a tutor. She always loved writing stories so the teacher would allow her to write AFTER she finished with her math and history and science. Words are important to Julie Andrews Edwards. The tag line for her imprint is "Words Wisdom Wonder." She pointed out that as a singer, the most beautiful melody needs the words to sell the song. She discovered the word "whangdoodle" in a dictionary and after reading the definition decided The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles would be the title for her second book.

Her new book, The Great American Mousical, was inspired by a mouse infested theater on Broadway.

As she discussed the importance of reading, she expressed concern that broadcast media today is only showing "manufactured slices of life" in so-called reality television shows. As much as she has loved performing in movies, it is still "filmed storytelling" and it can never replace reading which requires the active participation of the reader and the engagement of the imagination.

She was lovely and eloquent. (Funny to hear she wrote her first book, Mandy, as a forfeit for her excessive swearing.)
I grew up enjoying her movies so it was a treat to see her in person.


Monday, April 24, 2006

The Movie: Hoot

The entling and I went to Walden's preview screening of Hoot on Good Friday. We got there very early and managed to get the last two seats that were not directly beneath the screen. I wished my oldest entling was there, with her press card as an entire row of seats was blocked off for the Press.

As folks got seated, scenes from the movie were showing on the screen in a slideshow but the soundtrack was from Return of the King. I had to laugh when we walked into the theater and withing 2 seconds, my daughter identified Aragorn's grunt as he blocks the sword of the King of the Dead. I think this family knows every exhale and sword klang in the LOTR movies.

Hoot was enjoyable. I think they were trying very hard to be true to the material. The hapless Officer Delinko displayed the comic cluelessness from the book and also the basic decency and doggedness of the character. The one weakness, in my opinion, was Mullet Fingers. I could not see Cody Linley as the mystical Mullet Fingers who is as much spirit of nature as kid. Brie Larson was very good as Beatrice and Logan Lerman as Roy was excellent. The character of Curly played by Tim Blake Nelson, was not nearly mean or weird enough.

Florida is on beautiful display. In a live Q&A following the movie, Jimmy Buffet and Carl Hiaasen along with the director and producer persons, talked about making the movie. The questions were interesting but after the 4th question about the environmental message of the movie we got restless and moved toward the exits, without hearing Jimmy sing. Could someone say, "He has answered that question 12 different ways now, can we move on?" Hiaasen did say (and repeated) that he wanted to write a book were the owls he remembered from his boyhood won against the developers for a change.

Possibly the most intelligent comments came from Brie Larson who shared that she is an avid reader. She commented that kids at school are always asking her "Why do you read so much?" not being able to imagine reading for pleasure instead of just for an assignment. Her comment resonated with my entling who fields that question on almost a daily basis.

It was fun. The owls are very dear.

Travel Team

Travel Team by Mike Lupica, 2004
I am becoming a solid Mike Lupica fan. I have never seen him on ESPN and I do not read sports writers usually but I may start in this case. I think Travel Team and Heat are two of the best books I have read this year.

Danny Walker loves basketball. Danny understands the game to the very core. He understands that a key to the game is getting the ball to the shooters. Danny is a great passer. Danny is also the shortest player on court.

For the first time in his life, Danny has not made "the" team. The coach of the travel team is looking to repeat the town's run to the national championship and is selecting players by size not ability.

Danny is devastated and thinking of giving up on basketball when his mostly absent father, Richie Walker, turns up. His dad was a professional NBA ball player and the player who led the town's travel team to televised glory in the national championship years before. Richie's career is over due to an injury but he sees a way to have a second chance with his son and at life when he starts a team made up of the other 'also ran' kids.

Lupica creates realistic, full-rounded characters. His descriptions of the action makes you feel as if you are running down the court looking for the pass along with the characters. This book will strike a chord with kids and grownups as it reminds us that playing is supposed to be fun. Hard work, smart players and heart are what make a team.

Lupica's books would be great to promote to Matt Christopher and Dan Gutman readers. The poignant stories resonate with heart and give readers a front row seat to terrific sports action.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Ptolemy's Gate

Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud, 2006

I finished this book earlier this week. I sat very still for a moment and then closed the book to get on with my life when suddenly my lower lip started trembling and the tears began flowing. I do not think I have had such an emotional reaction to the conclusion of a book since Frodo left the Shire for the last time.

To tell you much about the plot would deny you the profound enjoyment of discovery that Stroud's fine writing provides. It is not spoiling anything to say the story picks up about three years after the conclusion of The Golem's Eye and Nathaniel, aka John Mandrake, is now part of the top tier of magicians that run the country. Kitty has assumed a new identity and is working as an assistant to a minor magician. Nathaniel has kept the djinni, Bartimaeus, on Earth for too long. Denied a return to The Other Place, Bartimaeus’s powers are weakening and he is losing his essence.

Stroud brings all the threads of the story together as the events unfold. His character, Bartimaeus is a voice for all time. His humor, insight and heart are unforgettable.

The door is open for a sequel. I understand he wants to write in other directions but it is my profound hope that he will pass this way again.

A definite "gotta have it."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Boy who Loved Words

The Boy Who Loved Words
by Roni Schotter, illustrated by Giselle Potter, 2006

As a school librarian, I have certain shticks that I utilize as the occasions arise. Today as a group of fourth graders burst, vaulted, ran, stormed and catapulted into the library where I was subbing, I deployed my standard entreaty to "amble, saunter, meander, mosey, roam, walk, dally, wander, perambulate, drift, or stroll but PLEASE do NOT run!" If I am lucky, about half of the kids stop in their tracks just to stare at me ("This sub is so weird!") and that leaves a managable number to corral and refocus.

Roni Schotter echoes my own affection for lovely words in The Boy Who Loved Words. Giselle Potter's illustrations have an whimsical Chagall-like quality as the boy decorates a tree with his favorite words. The book includes an abundance, a profusion, a plethora, and a heap of language that will expand, enlarge, embellish and enrich the word choices of all readers.

Mabel O'Leary Put Peas in Her Ear-y

Mabel O'Leary Put Peas in Her Ear-y by Mary Delaney, Illustrated by Kathy Couri, 2006

I shared this book with a group of kindergarten children who were suitably impressed with the huge pile of peas on Mabel O'Leary's plate. Mabel will not eat her peas and her mother orders her to sit at the table until they are gone. She decides to hide the peas in her ears. The sight of Mabel pouring the peas into her ears evoked loud "eeeeeeeeeuuuwwwwwwws" from my classes. Sadly, the peas obstruct Mabel's hearing and chaos follows in her wake as she tries to follow her mother's misheard instructions.

Peas are flying everywhere in Couri's illustrations. One of the my students asked why she didn't just feed the peas to her dog who seemed to being enjoying them in the beginning. As the kids lined up to go back to class, another student told me that she thought it was a very funny story. Recently a teacher recounted her own childhood horror of having to sit at the dinner table until the vegetables were gone. Delaney has touched a memory in kids and adults with this book.

Author: Lois Lowry

Quick post this a.m. from the Houston Chronicle about Lois Lowry.
She describes her inspiration for The Giver:

Inspiration for The Giver came when Lowry realized her elderly father had forgotten the death of his eldest child.

"I was thinking a lot about how that must be kind of nice for him not to have to remember the worst thing in his life," said Lowry, whose 20-something sister died of cancer in 1962. "But, of course, that's what goes into making us what we are."

Lowry is blogging at Lowry Updates. She will be in Houston this weekend.

Her website.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The week ahead

I'm going to be bookin' up to Sherman, TX tomorrow to hear my entling play Benny Goodman. While on the road, I hope to finish listening to Capt. Hook by J. V. Hart. I am a Pan-fan but not sure how well this story is playing with me. Twice now while listening to the story that I thought the ending had arrived but it continues.

Then it will be a fun week with my annoying sidekick subbing in a local school library.

In other local news, Marvin Hoffman reviews Lois Lowery's new book, Gossamer in the Houston Chronicle today. They report that Lowery will be reading from Gossamer, here in Houston next Saturday at 11:00 a.m. in Cullen Theater, Wortham Theater Center. Admission is free for this Family Literary Event!

Friday, April 14, 2006

More Joey! Yippee!

The Book Standard reports that a surprise 4th Joey Pigza book is on the way!

Gantos said:
“I was writing one novel in the front of my journal and yet every day I was jotting down odd notes about Joey in the back of my journal,” Gantos said in a press release. “After a few months the random notes began to form a cohesive story and I came to realize I had an unforeseen Joey Pigza story on my hands. I’ve since flipped the journal over and have turned my full attention to Joey.”

I am a tremendous Jack Gantos fan. I was so happy to hear this news. He deserves the money.
In addition to the upcoming I Am Not Joey Pigza, Farrar, Straus & Giroux has signed a high-six-figure deal with Gantos for a new four-book series, set to launch in Fall 2008. The audience for the new series is younger middle-grade. FSG will also release Gantos’s The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs, in May.


Today is the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The ship struck an iceberg at 11:40 PM on April 14, 1912 11:40 p.m. at 41° 46’ north latitude , 50° 14’ west longitude. It sank about three hours later.

When THE movie came out, it was my first year as a school librarian. The library had the Robert Ballard books and a picture book biography on Mollie Brown but that was about all. Over the course of that year I decided there would never be enough books on earth about that subject to meet the demand. It was a veritable frenzy each day as kids scoured the shelves for some reading on the subject. I have not seen any topic seize their collective imaginations in the same way since.

The publishers jumped on the bandwagon immediately. At my first TLA convention that year, Little Brown came out with Inside the Titanic : A Giant Cut-away Book. The book was on display at their booth. On the last day of the convention, the sellers put the books on super sale. I was near the Little Brown booth at the appointed hour and saw so many hands reaching for the book that it looked like basketball players going for a rebound. I don't know if it got down to hair-pulling and shin-kicking because I quickly retreated. Librarians are usually such refined creatures. I did understand the excitement and desperation those folks felt.

Luckily there are lots of books for us to read today.

The Magic Tree House kids visit there in Tonight on the Titanic and felt the frustration of knowing what was going to happen and try to prevent it.

Eve Bunting's novel, S.O.S. Titanic, mixes a touch of romance with well researched facts.

Barbara Williams's Titanic Crossing describes thirteen year old Albert's happiness and pride in having graduated from short pants to new long pants for the trip to New York on the Titanic. Those long pants prevent him from entering a lifeboat however in the final desparate hours of the ship's life as they denoted the passage to manhood and it was "women and children first."

882 1/2 Amazing Answers To Your Questions About The Titanic
by Hugh Brewster is a terrific book for fact browsing.


DK Eyewitness Books does their excellent take on the tragedy.

Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady

I'm not reader of Dear America books because they are so dreary but lots of girls read this one.

Exploring the Titanic by Robert D. Ballard

Ballard's account of his discovery of Titanic's resting place will be the reading favorite in school libraries for all time.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Books for the Birds

The True Story of Stellina
by by Matteo Pericoli, 2006

One of the honors of being a school librarian is the opportunity to be there for some of the small but very important moments of your students lives.

Reading The True Story of Stellina reminded me of an early morning visit from a student who came in before school and asked "Do we have any books on birds?" Well, what do you want to find out about birds? Is this for a report? Is there any special type of bird you are looking for?

She was clutching a shoebox and slowly lifted the lid and began to explain how she had found this baby bird on the sidewalk on the way to school and she had run all the way back home to find a shoebox and now she had it in the box and see the sticks and leaves she had added? She needed to find out how to take care of the bird so she had come to her library to get help.

We ended up enlisting the help of our school nurse who, as a professional 4H mom, had raised just about every kind of animal imaginable. I cannot remember now what happened to the bird but my young friend would have been enchanted by this gentle story.

The author's wife hears a "cheep" and finds a baby bird on the noisy streets of Manhattan. She takes the little bird home and manages to feed it and care for it. Stellina lives and thrives and repays the couple with companionship and love for eight years. The drawings are light and delicate like the bird whose story they are telling. I am looking forward to sharing it with kids. They will be charmed.

Mocking birdies by Annette Simon, 2005

Wikipedia explains that mockingbirds are "best known for the habit of some species of mimicking the songs of other birds, often loudly and in rapid succession." The Mockingbird is the state bird of Texas. Kids understand that copycatting is a sure way to get under someone's skin. The book flap reminds us that "stop copying me" is a frequent childhood refrain.

The bright primary colors and geometric shapes of the birds prepare the readers for a bit of fun as they read this book. The birds sit on lines that resemble a music staff and then later, telephone lines. The text varies in size and color, which would make the book interesting to share as a choral read with a class. I would put the book under an Elmo so the whole class could see the colors and read the words. One group could read the red lines, another, the blue lines, and the purple lines together. The echoing quality of the text would make all students feel successful. This is also a good book to share sitting side by side with just one special reading friend.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Author?: Katie Couric

Dare we speculate that Katie's return to "hard" news may signal the end of her career as a children's book author? Blessings abound for us all!

Ark Angel

Ark Angel
by Anthony Horowitz, 2006

Oh the places you will go, Alex Rider!

Ark Angel is the latest chapter in the saga of Alex Rider. I do not want to give away too much in case you have not read the previous books but be warned, "spoilers" follow. If you have not read Alex Rider vols. 1-5 then hie yourself to a library and begin now.

Book 5 ended abruptly and very "Ian-Fleming-ly" with Alex on the ground, hit by a sniper's bullet. Ark Angel picks up soon afterwards with Alex recuperating in the hospital. There he befriends another patient, the lonely son of the multi-millionaire, Nikolei Drevin. Drevin is the developer of the Ark Angel space hotel project.

As usual, Alex is embroiled in the events that follow against his will. Only Alex, however, has the unique skills and talents to combat the evil plot and danger that unfolds.

Horowitz is at the top of his game in this sequel, the action is nonstop. The book actually contains several mini lessons in physics which make some of the predicaments almost believable. They are always fun.

While booktalking with some 5th graders, I mentioned that I had read this book and a young fan asked fearfully, "So, is Alex alright?" He cannot wait to get this book.

This is going on the "Gotta Have It" list.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Chaucer's Blog

Thanks to Child_Lit for this link to: Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog


by Polly Shulman, 2006

I was intrigued by this book because of the story's opening premise: Julie's favorite book is Pride and Prejudice. She is dismayed when her best friend, Ashleigh discovers the book and adopts it as her latest passion. Ashleigh assumes the speech patterns, dress and mannerisms of Jane Austen's heroines and integrates them into her daily life. When she decides she wants to search for her "Mr. Darcy" she enlists Julie to help her crash a dance at the nearby private boys' school. Julie thinks of it as the "Snoot School Dork Dance" but they search out period dresses, learn to dance the quadrille and plan to get into the dance.

At the dance Julie meets her "Mysterious Stranger," the boy she has seen around town, who is a student at the school. Parr is a really nice guy and Julie is smitten. Unfortunately, Ashleigh has decided Parr is her Mr. Darcy and she keeps trying to convinice Julie that Parr's friend, Ned, is Julie's Mr. Bingley. Julie is torn between her interest in Parr and her friendship with Ashleigh.

I liked Julie very much. An only child, she lives with her mother and visits her father who left to marry the "IA" or Irresistable Accountant. Julie is like so many kids who are the victims of divorce. She is trying to keep some semblance of a relationship with her dad so she keeps her feelings to herself.

Shulman writes with a eye to Austen with her use of capitalization and tongue-in-cheek humor. This is a very lighthearted read. Entling no. 3 told me it was really "fun."

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Foxtrot on an Odyssey

I read Foxtrot every day. This week, Peter is studying for a test on The Odyssey by listening to it while he sleeps. He is having very interesting dreams.


The Lady Rona remarked recently that she recalls the names of the 50 states by singing the Animaniac's 50 States and Capitals song (.wav file here.) I have complained, frequently and often, that my favorite cartoons were only available on VHS.

Now I read that "Animaniacs - Volume 1 will escape from the water tower on July 25th." Also Pinky and the Brain - Volume 1 will be available.

This is great news! Narf!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Fair enough

Odd how close these goofy internet quizzes can be.

You are a Black Coffee

At your best, you are: low maintenance, friendly, and adaptable

At your worst, you are: cheap and angsty

You drink coffee when: you can get your hands on it

Your caffeine addiction level: high

The Third Carnival of Children's Literature

When I started Book Moot about two years ago, I could not find many blogs about children's literature. Now just look at the length of the blogroll! It seems like every day I find a new one. My newer additions are GottaBook, Students for Literacy Ottawa, Magic of Books, Wands and Worlds and Farm School.

Today also sees The Third Carnival of Children's Literature hosted by Sherry at Semicolon. The focus this month is Poetry. Sherry has done a great job of organizing the submissions!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Poetry and the very young

As I pondered a submission to the Third Carnival of Children's Literature, I realized that I do not talk much about poetry. That is so odd because there is nothing more pleasant or pleasing to read with kids than poems or rhymes. My keenest memories of my own mother reading to me are when she read poems. Poetry just flows off the tongue and I always enjoyed reading it aloud to my own kids.

We recently gifted a new mother-to-be with My Very First Mother Goose by Iona Opie, illustrated by Rosemary Wells. When we asked her if there was a bookcase in the baby’s room, she said there was one in the closet. We told that met the minimal standard but she needed to acquire one to be placed in plain sight, ASAP.

I wonder how many folks think of a bookcase as required "baby room" furnishings along with a changing table and crib? Were Treebeard and I just odd?

A while back, to go with a family member's nursery “theme” of Winnie-the-Pooh, I found some letters, decorated with the Shepard Pooh characters (not Disney) that sit on a dresser to spell out the child’s name. Only, I did not buy my niece’s name.
I bought four letters, R – E – A – D.
It is such a pain having a librarian as an aunt.

I loved reading Mother Goose to children. It stood me in good stead when I started as a school librarian because I could recite them from memory, all of them, even the obscure ones. I always felt like the kindergarteners who could say them along with me were going to be AOK with reading. The children I worried about were the ones who had the “Jack and Jill, who? / Humpty Dumpty did WHAT? ” look on their faces.

Goodnight Moon
flows like poetry. That is a book that always invited a, “read it again, please?” and I never minded. I can recite that one from memory too.

Music and children's literature

Read Roger: Singing Our Song
Roger Sutton is pondering popular songs with allusions, lines, imagery etc. from children's books. The comments are full of suggestions. I love blogs and the community of ideas they attract.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Reading aloud is fun!

I've spent the past three days subbing at a local elementary. I had fun with great kids and some great read alouds.

The Wolf who Cried Boy by by Bob Hartman, illustrated by Tim Raglin, 2002

This twist on the fable, The Boy who Cried Wolf, is great fun to share with kids. The young wolf does not appreciate his mom's cooking. He is tired of sloppy does, three-pig-salad and lamburgers. He really wants some "boy" for dinner but his dad tells him they are hard to find in the woods these days. Over the next two days, little wolf cries "Boy!" in an attempt to get his parents to comb the forest for the non-existent meal and therefore delay dinner. Later, when an entire boy scout troop comes marching through the forest, the little wolf cannot get his parents to look, even as one creeps into their cave and sits on their sofa.

I Wanna Iguana by by Karen Kaufman Orloff, illustrated by David Catrow, 2004

Teachers can look to this story as a great example of persuasive writing. Young Alex is trying to pursuade his mother to let him adopt an iguana. In a series of hilarious notes between Alex and his mother, a negotiation of the terms and conditions of pet ownership is hammered out. There is a "money" page (the point where the whole class bursts out in raucous laughter.) David Catrow illustrations are wonderfully comic. One young listener observed, "That kid is really weird looking." The last page evoked a class wide, arm pumping "Yesssss..." along with Alex. Great fun!

Gator Gumbo by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Sally Anne Lambert, 2004

This Cajun-style version of the little red hen has a real twist at the end of the story. There are wonderful rhythms and repeats that invite listeners to chant along with the story. Kids who are used to "happy, clappy" endings were open-mouth when has some of the characters come to a very bad end! I love cautionary tales!