Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Author: Charlie Higson

Fun profile of Young James Bond author Charlie Higson. I have Silverfin on my "to be read" stack.

"I'm very pleased adults are enjoying them as well, but I write them for boys, for my three boys - the sort of books I read as a kid."


Higson's said his biggest fans - and critics - are his sons. "I read each chapter as I go along to my children," he said.

"Kids love gore in a book. My second son Jim is particularly bloodthirsty.

"When a new character appears, he says 'kill them off, push him off a cliff, under a train.' I think kids like a bit of that."

An author of four novels, Higson was selected by the Fleming family to write the series.

He based the Young Bond series on scant details of 007's early life in the original Fleming books - a boy orphaned at 11 and sent to Eton.

The college assisted in Higson's research into life there in the 1930s. Higson said: "The first rule is to get rid of the parents.

You can't have a young James Bond going off on adventures, if his mother turns up and tells him to tuck his shirt in.

"I'm pleased Fleming killed James Bond's parents and I didn't have to."

"I wanted to show a fairly ordinary boy becoming the James Bond we know later on."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Adventures of Commander Zack Proton

The Adventures of Commander Zack Proton and the Red Giant
by Brian Anderson, Illustrated by Doug Holgate, 2006

I am wondering if Brian Anderson is a fan (as I am) of Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

Zack Proton is a brave and gallant space ranger patrolling the universe and on his way to deliver mail to the outermost star of the outermost galaxy when he accidentally opens, the wrong door on his spaceship and finds himself alone and adrift in space. Luckily, a nameless spaceship captained by a simian astronaut named Omega Chimp rescues him. Omega Chimp has learned to survive on his own after being abandoned by Mission Control, (“They wouldn’t dare pull that on Buzz Aldrin.”) Together they must stop a red giant named Big Large who is swallowing whole planets.

The book's nutty humor will particularly appeal to boys. The font is large and easy to decipher with lots of white space framing the text. Doug Holgate's illustrations cleverly underscore the storyline. As Zack searches for the spaceship restroom, he ignores at least nine very funny signs warning him that he is about to open the wrong door. Flashbacks are explained in comic book style. Robot recall notices, a banana pancake recipe and clever lists such as, "Omega Chimp's Top Ten Ways to get a Space Hero Off your Ship" interject more humor as the story unfolds.

This will be a fun series to share with kids who have worn out the Flip-O-Ramas in their Captain Underpants books. The mix of text and pictures works well to support emerging and reluctant readers. I would put this series on my “buy list” right away!

The Official Zack Proton Genuine Intergalactic Web site

Illustrator: Helen Oxenbury

Nice story on Kate Greenaway medal winner, Helen Oxenbury in The Age.

"I love stories that have different layers - it's a bit more interesting for the adults who have to read them. I remember my own children being obsessed with the same story every night and I'd think 'Please! Not again. It's terribly boring'."

Asked about her relationship with the authors whose work she illustrates, Oxenbury hunches her shoulders.

"I don't have one. Everyone wants to know about that but I never meet them and if I have any questions or if they have questions, they ask my editor."

It suits her best this way.

"I'd find sitting down with an author very inhibiting. He or she has to trust me to visually enhance their words."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Little Sap and Monsier Rodin

In the interests of full disclosure, I must tell you I was a French major in college and spent a year based in Strasbourg soaking up glorious art in museums everywhere I traveled.

This is a book every school library needs to own. Open your Titlewave or BTSB or Mackin account and put this book on your "To be Purchased" list right now.

Little Sap wins a spot in the royal dance troupe of Cambodia. She trains for many years, learning through hard work to dance and pose with grace. In 1906, King Sisowath takes his dance troupe to France to perform. In the audience, the artist Auguste Rodin is inspired by the dancers and asks for the chance to sketch them.

In an interview at Cynsations, Texas author Michelle Lord recounts how her discovery of these drawings served as inspiration for the story.

Illustrator Felicia Hoshino has exquisitely evoked the colors and spare style of Rodin's work. Her pictures move the story along with the grace and pacing of a dance.

This book will hit so many areas of your library collection, Art, Multicultural, Dance, History...

More importantly, kids MUST find themselves in their school library. Newly arrived students (and long-time ones) will look for books about their former home whether it is another city, state of another country. Children look for books about their faith and about their cultural background. These books act as an anchor as they navigate their new (or familiar) environment.
You have Gotta Have this book.

Mirette & Bellini Cross Niagara Falls

Mirette & Bellini Cross Niagara Falls
by Emily Arnold McCully, 2000

Before our trip to the Niagara region, I requested any children's books I could find about the area. Sadly, this one did not come in until I returned. I would have enjoyed imagining Bellini (or The Great Blondin) crossing the falls.

This sequel to Mirette on the High Wire begins with Mirette and Bellini befriending a young orphan on the ship bringing them to New York. When Jakob's uncle does not appear to claim him at Ellis Island, Bellini assumes responsibility for him.

As the trio arrives at Niagara Falls to prepare for a wire walk across the falls they hear that another walker, Patch, will also be making the crossing. Jakob uncovers sabotage but cannot get the information to his friends in time.

McCully's research into the real Blondin's crossing of the falls is evoked in her illustrations and plot elements. One illustration of Mirette on Bellini's shoulders is an accurate echo of this photo of Blondin's real crossing.

Her depiction of Table Rock, at the top of the falls beautifully captures the water as it approaches the drop at Horseshoe Falls. I felt like I was standing there again.

As I learned from the latest Alex Rider, ArkAngel, wire walking is equal parts of nerve and physics. With the noise and wind and updraft from the water though, I can only marvel at their bravery (or foolishness.)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Author: Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman has updated his website for May. He says his book The Scarecrow and his Servant will be a movie.

Another film that will be made in due course is ''The Scarecrow and His Servant''. Aardman Animations, who made the great Wallace and Gromit films, will be doing it, though not in plasticine, I think. I'm very fond of the Scarecrow, and I shall look after him; but Aardman have safe hands and I'm not worried.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

London Calling

London Calling
by Edward Bloor, 2006

I was standing in a booth at TLA clutching the ARC of this book when The Goddess of YA Literature arrived. I felt like I was in the presence of a rock star. I just wanted to follow her around the booth saying, "I'll have one of everything she is taking." We started talking and I was pleased when she asked me what I had and I was able to point her towards Bloor's new book which, she reviews today.

I love time travel books; I love WWII stories; I love stories set in England. I was also predisposed to like Bloor's book because one of my students told me that Tangerine was one of the best books he had ever read.

In the static between stations, on an old Philco radio, Martin hears a voice asking for help. The radio is a bequest from his grandmother. Suspended, unfairly, from All Souls School, Martin is living in the family basement where, he realizes, the other failed men of his family have taken refuge. Martin uses the glow from the radio as a night light and is listening, again, to the static when a boy named Jimmy appears and transports Martin back to London 1941. Jimmy needs Martin's help and in a series of visits, Martin tries to understand what is being asked of him.

In the present, Martin must confront truths about his family. Vowing not to return to All Souls where the wealthy legacy students are cosseted and given a pass, Martin throws himself into independant study projects about London during the Blitz and the workings of Philco radios.
His research and his trips back in time clarify his belief that he has a mission from God to fullfill.

Bloor evokes London during the Blitz with such clarity; you can hear the bombers and smell the smoke. This is a story of redemption. Bloor thoughtfully explores elements of religion, faith and spirituality, which are uncommon topics in YA books.

When I read the last word and closed the book, I felt tears in my eyes and I could only say, "Wow."


This news item made me laugh because it is a convergence of my fandom of Star Trek and Harry Potter.

Actor Patrick Stewart lamented at a press conference for X-Men III:
"Every single actor over 60 in England is in the Harry Potter movies," he replied when asked if he wanted to continue doing fantasy films. "I am still smarting from the fact that Ian McKellen starred in Lord of the Rings and apparently there was no part in it for me."

Thank you, Arthur

In most schools, children with diabetes struggle alone to manage their blood sugar. School nurses are often the only source of knowledge and many schools do not have a full time nurse.
What a great opportunity to educate kids and grownups about this chronic disease.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingFrom the Joslin Diabetes Center:

“And now a word from us kids!” is a familiar line for anyone who has ever seen the popular animated series Arthur produced by WGBH Boston and Cookie Jar Entertainment that airs daily on PBS KIDS GO! And on May 17, those words will introduce a segment about healthy eating and diabetes management featuring 11-year-old Corinne, a patient with type 1 diabetes at Joslin Diabetes Center.

In the live-action segment following a brand new animated Arthur story “Desert Island Dish,” which is about healthy eating habits for children, Corinne tells viewers about glucose monitoring and shows how she uses her insulin pump to manage her type 1 diabetes. She and her friends also whip up some healthy after-school snacks before heading outdoors to shoot some hoops.

“Desert Island Dish” premieres nationwide on May 17, 2006, on PBS KIDS GO! and will repeat regularly as part of the Arthur schedule, including an encore on June 7.

Another blog

Oz and Ends is the blog of Child_Lit contributor, J. L. Bell. Interesting writing here.
My list of child lit blogs continues to grow.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Comics: Foxtrot

By all means, take the time to decipher Jason's tap dance in today's (Sunday's) Foxtrot comic!

Bill Amend is a genius. Jason has a tap dance audition for the talent show but does not make it because one of the judges understands Morse code. My entling and I just had a great time looking up the code.

Author: Rick Riordan

At TLA, I saw Rick Riordan speak during a panel discussion (along with Anthony Horowitz, Garth Nix and others) and was impressed again by his thoughtful answers to questions and approach to writing his Percy Jackson novels. He is a true "gentleman."

Today at Myth and Mystery he reports on BEA (very funny) and gives us an update on The Lightning Thief: The Movie.

He is traveling so much. I hope he gets some down time now to spend with his family and to write.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Alice Alone

Alice Alone
by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, 2001

Reading this book reminded me of how much I LOVED reading Nancy Drew books as a kid. I could not read them fast enough. When I tried to read one recently as an adult I found I could not make my eyes advance from one word to the next.

Similarly, the adult in me finds Alice's self-absorped 14 year old tunnel vision a little hard to take but that is what makes it a perfect read for those young readers who are experiencing the daily ups and downs of teenagerhood. They identify with her happy moments and the tragedies in her life.

This is the first Alice book I've read but the book quickly establishes that Alice is a well adjusted teen who loves her father and older brother. Her mother is dead.

Alice Alone
begins as Alice starts her 9th grade year, her first year in high school. Her relationships with her friends are changing and she experiences a break-up with her longtime boyfriend, Patrick.

As the Alice books are frequently, the target of censors, I was curious to understand what is so dangerous and threatening about the series. Risking the mental, physical and emotional health of my own family I brought this book into our home.

Early in the story, Alice wants to host a co-ed sleepover. My heart went out to her father. He is trying to be a supportive but responsible single parent. It reminded me of family friends who have recently lost their mom and how bewildering it is to be the father of teenagers when you don't have another person to talk to about the kids.

Alice is a conscientious student. She struggles in algebra and forgoes a trip to the movies so she can complete her homework and studying. She is compassionate and cares about her family and her friends. She reaches out to people in need at Thanksgiving and ends up inviting three ex-cons to dinner with hilarious results.

Naylor addresses the subject of child abuse when Alice's good friend Elizabeth shares a secret she has carried since she was eight years old. With her friends' encouragement, Elizabeth tells her parents. Naylor handles the subject honestly and demonstrates that help is available. The novel offers the hope and promise of recovery.

Sadly, there are kids who are suffering from abuse in our schools today. Removing a book from a school library, that could point a child towards some options for getting help, is essentially sending the message that abused kids' problems are not fit for junior high and they should wait until high school to get help. After all, that is more "developmentally appropriate," n'est-ce pas?

I have just polled the family and SO FAR, they report no ill effects from the presence of the Alice books in the house. No one has suffered any pain or illness; no one's grades have plummeted. Everyone's cognitive and physical abilities seem to be operating within established parameters.

The Edge of the Forest

The May edition of The Edge of the Forest is out! There are great interviews with authors, Chris Abouzeid and Mitali Perkins. Anne Boles Levy is reviewing books about the sea and Allie has a nice list of summer reads. Jen Robinson has a review of Eoin Colfer's new book, (hopefully a new series?) Half Moon Investigations. You will enjoy reading the whole issue.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ode to Monet

Very interesting article in the NYTimes today about the renovation of the Musée de l'Orangerie à Paris. As many times as I have been there, I never knew the history of the building. They faced their share of challenges during the renovation.

Monet's eight large waterlily paintings are housed here.

Mr. Brochet, the architect, said unexpected problems arose because, despite the Orangerie's elegant neo-Classical exterior, it was in fact constructed shoddily. "It was thrown up quickly, without proper foundations," he said. "I have just been in Shanghai. They would have torn it down and rebuilt it properly. But that would not be possible here."

A fresh complication was posed by the discovery of remnants of a 16th-century city wall in the area assigned to the new Walter-Guillaume galleries. This led to a prolonged bureaucratic squabble over how the wall should be treated: in the end, a 30-foot section has been preserved and is now incorporated into the design.

Books I would need in my library about Monet

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Author: Denise Fleming

I am a real fan of Denise Fleming's books and art. When I heard she was speaking at TLA I made a beeline for her session.

Fleming is a savvy and funny speaker. She shared photos from her childhood and of her home. She draws inspiration from nature and her garden. Her garden echoes throughout her books such as, In the Tall, Tall Grass and In a Small Small Pond. You can see many of these photos on her website.

Her medium is papermaking and indeed the whimsical and glowing images emerge from the pages themselves.

She focuses on verbs in her text (<--Teachers, note!) and she sweats the small details including the style and size of the typeface, making them part of the design. She did say something that would make today's art teachers gasp. She admitted to loving coloring books as a kid and pointing to the display of her books said, "Coloring books did not hurt me." She loves googley eyes and puts them on everything as inspiration for characters and story ideas. She views picture books as small plays and has patterns of characters from her books to use in reader's theater or storytime presentations on her website. She is very proud of her website, which she has put together with her daughter, Indigo. (What a great name for an artist's child.) There are dozens and dozens of activities including word finds, crossword puzzles, hats, masks. Grab a supply of googley eyes and go nuts!! Sadly, she does not do school visits any more as she suffered non-stop strep and ear infections following school visits a few years ago. She was a warm and generous presence and I feel lucky to have heard her. Denise Fleming Website


Anatopsis by Chris Abouzeid, 2006

Chris Abouzeid has written a smart fantasy that is an interesting mix of Greek mythology and magic-as-corporate-business.

Anatopsis is in line to take over the family business at Amalgamated Witchcraft Corporation. Her mother, Queen Solomon is the current CEO. Sadly, the queen's mothering instincts are focused on protecting the succession rather than real maternal love for Ana. Sir Christopher is Ana's father. He is a distracted but loving mortal, who is away on quests more than he is home.

Her one true friend is the human servant Clarissa. Clarissa regards Ana as an equal, not a "royal" as they plan practical jokes and get into trouble.

As Ana prepares to take her Bacchanalian exams, she finds out that a scary demigod named Mr. Pound will tutor her. He has prepared generations of rulers for the tests. She also discovers Prince Barnaby, the son of a rival family, will join her in the classroom. Barnaby is hopeless at magic but a gifted craftsman and engineer. He views his stay at Solomon Castle as an escape from his own father's disappointment and threats. His witty and loyal St. Bernard dog, Uno, accompanies him.

Though they start as rivals, the kids soon band together when they discover the gruesome remains of murdered prisoners in the queen's dungeons. They suspect Mr. Pound is responsible and seek to expose him.

Amalgamated Witchcraft is damaging the environment and experimenting on humans.
Mr. Pound's obsession with the Os Divinitas threatens the entire planet. Can Ana learn to control her strong magical powers and use them to save her friends and her world?

My 15 year old enjoyed this book immensely. I am looking forward to sharing it with more readers.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Author: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Nice interview with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor in the Washington Post on Sunday. Reynolds talks about the mail she gets from the readers of her Alice books.

...I get about 20 to 30 letters a day. Most of these kids have read the Alice books and ask very personal questions. They tell me things that they can't ask their parents. I hear from girls that have been having sex for a long time, girls who are 17 years old and never been kissed, never gone on a date, and are afraid that they'll never, ever get married. One girl wants to go with an Indian guy, but she's doing it behind her mother's back.

...At first I thought, I can't handle this. But then I thought, I'm getting as much from them as they are from me. It just tells me what topics are important to them.

I am embarking on a read of the Alice books. Apparently the mere presence of these books on some library shelves sends certain parents over the bend. I am anxious to see what is so d-a-n-g-e-r-o-u-s about the series.

To believe these folks, the books are the root of all e-v-i-l. Hard to believe a book sitting quietly on the shelf in a middle school will cause a boy in tech ed to cut his finger on a band saw or cause vocabulary words to fall out of students' brains before a test but apparently some parents believe these books have mystical powers that will ruin the lives of all chidren.

Well, I'll see. I will bravely risk the lives of my family in this endeavor.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Author: L. Frank Baum

John J. Miller has a nice article about L. Frank Baum today in The Opinion Journal. This year is the 50th anniversary of the movie's television debut and the sesquicentennial of Baum's birth.

Baum was an imaginative spirit.

The concept of the Internet wouldn't have surprised him: In the 1880s, he imagined a future for "Baum's Hourly Newspaper," which would report on events as they happened in a 24/7 news cycle.

It never occured to me that the book could be a parable of the Populist movement of the 1890s.

This is a very interesting article.
I love Robert Sabuda's version of the story.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Highly recommended

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada:
Orchards and vineyards, peach and cherry trees blooming everywhere. Almost every home has at least one cherry tree in their yard and the limbs are thick and heavy with cherry pink blossoms. All the vintage buildings date from 1820 (rebuilt from the time American forces burned the town in 1812.)

Niagara Falls: The majesty of the natural wonder oddly contrasts with casinos, The Hulk/ Spiderman/ Frankenstein, Dracula/ Ripley's Believe It or Not/ horror houses, and the Hard Rock Cafe across the street.

Friendly and helpful folk, delicious food. Lots for families to do in the area.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

All Hail Babymouse!

Received the best present ever today [happy dancing all around the house and jumping for joy.]

Book Moot is off for the weekend, in search of quilt stores and children's book stores in the Niagara Falls area.
Happy trails!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I Can Do It!

I can do it! by Jana Novotny Hunter, illustrated by Lucy Richards, 2006

Little Guinea Pig is fast and arriving at school on time. This is a typical day at preschool with play and work and music. In light of my Rosemary Wells epiphany, this book became more than a "have-no-fear-off-we-go-to-preschool book."

Hunter and Richards are showing us the skills children need to get ready to learn. Little Guinea Pig is fast, busy, strong, careful, helpful, quiet and clever. Richards's softly painted illustrations show children creating a collage, working with clay, building with blocks, pretending to be a bus driver, listening quietly to a story, and cleaning up the toys. All these activites fit into Wells's virtues. Little Guinea Pig is a normal kid, running and making noise but that is the work of children too.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Author: Gail Carson Levine

As a Gail Carson Levine fan, I truly enjoyed the interview with her at Cynsations today. Cynthia Leitich Smith's interviews are the gold standard for author interviews.
Gail's new book, Fairest, is one of the ARCs I scored at my conference.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Celebrate: Connections among Cultures by Jan Reynolds, 2006

Through photographs and well-designed text placement, Jan Reynolds demonstrates the common ways we celebrate. We gather together, we eat and drink, we play music, we dance, we use fire!

Children will recognize themselves dressed-up in Halloween costumes then admire the Inuit boy in a real wolf skin and the Sami girl in beautiful reindeer hide shoes. They will appreciate a view of a familiar birthday cake decorated with candles and then, connect the use of fire to burn a ceremonial mandala painting in a Tibetan celebration.

Reynolds examines Tibetans and Sherpas from the Himalaya, Aborigines in Australia, the Yanomami from the Amazon rain forest, the Balinese, the Tuareg of the Sahara, the Sami who live above the Artic Circle, and the Inuit! A well-designed map helps place these cultures on the globe. Her photographs are rich with color and life.

I usually do not like books that scream, "Buy me because I am multicultural!" as so often, they are preachy-teachy. Celebrate is just a terrific book and it rejoices in how similar the people of this planet are.

TLA Haul

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
A partial stack of books and fun from TLA!
New Ember book!
New Edward Bloor! Autographed editions!
William Shakespeare for the English teacher!