Thursday, August 31, 2006
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
The Vile Videos. "12 Books in 120 Seconds," the first in a series of three panic-stricken videos leading up to The End, to summarize the first twelve books.
Narrated by Tim Curry and with music supplied by the Gothic Archies, it is a treat for someone like me who intends to listen to the books very soon.
The End will be available on Friday the 13th, October 2006.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
We were watching The Sands of Iwo Jima this afternoon on TCM. Having just read the book Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story I was very interested in the scenes of the fighting on Iwo Jima. The film used real war footage, intercut with the movie scenes.
As John Wayne and his men arrive at the summit of Mount Suibachi, Wayne's character calls for a detail to find a standard and raise the flag. The shot where Wayne hands them the flag is perfectly framed to include three men receiving the folded flag. On a hunch, Treebeard checked the oracle, Wikipedia, for me.
Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, and John Bradley, the three survivors among the five Marines and one Navy corpsman who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi, appear briefly in the film just prior to the re-enactment. Hayes was also the subject of a film biography, The Outsider, and Bradley the subject of a book by his son, Flags of Our Fathers.
Rewinding and doing the freeze frame thing, I was struck by a small detail in the scene. The two men on the left are looking directly at John Wayne as he hands them the flag. Their faces are fully visible. Ira Hayes is on the right and looks up briefly but for the short time they are on screen, he keeps his chin down, not looking toward the camera at all.
Nelson's book makes a point of describing Hayes's very shy nature. Without knowing anything about their involvment in the film, I was interested at the body language of a man, ill at ease in the limelight.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, the wholly original picture book by William Joyce will be a movie. Chris Wedge of "Ice Age" fame will direct. Joyce will assist in production and design of the movie, as he did for the movie, Robots.
Author, Cornelia Funke has her wish for the movie version of Inkheart. Brendan Fraser has signed to play the role of Mo.
Funke has championed Fraser for the role for years in interviews. Fraser reads the audio version of Funke's Dragon Rider and Inkspell, the sequel to Inkheart.
Update: Paul Bettany is also signed for Inkheart. He will play Dustfinger. Very cool.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Now I get rather bored with any complaints that contemporary prejudices about what's worthy influence which books (or movies, or cheeses, or anything) win awards, rather than (a) what people most enjoy, or (b) what people turn out to most enjoy twenty years later. That's like complaining about the second law of thermodynamics. It's just how the world works.
So true, times and tastes do change and awards are often indicative of their times.
The question that I ponder is how curriculum planners and teachers arrive at their required reading picks today. Rick Riordan's son had to read Ginger Pye this summer. Why is a book that won an award over 50 years ago a good choice for kids today? Why Ginger Pye and not The Tale of Despereaux (if it HAD to be a Newbery?) If the Newbery sticker was not the criteria, what was the reasoning behind this reading choice?
The last time we were driving across the USA we stopped (as we always try to) at Lemuria Books in Jackson MS. As I scoped out the children's section, I ended up talking to a mother who was there with her daughter to pick up their required summer reading. The girl was entering 3rd grade. The list they had to choose from was the Newbery Award list. None of the honor books were allowed. It had to be a book with the golden sticker.
What Newbery title would you have recommended to a child who had just finished second grade?
Tale of Despereaux? Shiloh? Sarah Plain and Tall? The Whipping Boy? (These were my suggestions.) Most of the books on that list are really pitched at older readers, in my opinion.
How are kids and parents to compare Sarah Plain and Tall with Kira-Kira just by looking at a piece of paper? At least they were being offered a selection of titles to choose from.
I know curriculum committees fall back on these lists because they are supposed to be "good literature" and consider them safe picks. I wonder though if they actually read these books before they assign them?
Happily, most of my kids' reading assignments have all been worthy (not that they enjoyed all of them but we could understand why the book was selected.)
As the new school year begins, smart schools and educators will be prepared to explain (maybe at back to school night?) why certain titles were selected and have alternative choices at the ready.
Monday, August 21, 2006
The Pulitzer Committee in 1945 described the photo as "depicting one of the war's great moments," a "frozen flash of history."
Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story (2006) by S.D.Nelson, tells the story of one of the six Marines who raised the flag that day. Hayes was from Arizona and a Pima Indian. Sent to the government run Phoenix Indian School as a teen, Hayes was a shy and lonely young man. He joined the Marines following Pearl Harbor and was sent into the Pacific war theater. Nelson recreates the historic flag-raising and subsequent media frenzy when the three surviving Marines returned home. Felix de Weldon's statue of Rosenthal's photograph became the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Va. Hayes faced great difficulty adjusting to life following the war and died within ten years of the flag-raising. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery.
This is a book that will be of great interest to those kids with an interest in the military and WWII. The illustrations make the book accessible to kids of all reading levels. An author's note at the end includes photographs of Hayes, the island of Iwo Jima as well as Rosenthal's famous photograph. A bibliography is also included which is an excellent way to demonstrate how authors cite their sources.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Little did I know when I first read the books as a grad student in library school that Tolkien's work would become such a touchstone for my life and my family's.
Book you have read more than once: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Book you want on a desert island: The Lord of the Rings. Maybe I would FINALLY read all the songs and the poetry.
Book that made you laugh: All the Jack Henry books by Jack Gantos.
Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade
Jack's New Power: Stories from a Caribbean Year
Jack's Black Book: What Happens When You Flunk an IQ Test?
Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of Fifth Grade
Jack Adrift: Fourth Grade Without a Clue
Book that made you cry: Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
I had to read this book for my children's literature class to become a teacher. As I finished the book I cried boo-hoo great big (and totally unexpected) tears.
I was already a real librarian, ALA accredited MLS -- but I was NOT a certified, sanctified, pasteurized, beatified teacher so I could not be a school librarian until I did the teacher certification thing. I loved the children's lit course. My only regret was I took it as a summer class. I would have loved a full semester listening to Richard Abrahamson at University of Houston.
Book you wished had been written: The Search for the Cure to Type 1 Diabetes: How they did it! by brilliant researchers and doctors to be announced...
Book you wished had never been written: Can I get back to you on that? See Here in the Bonny Glen
Book you're currently reading: Pond Scum by Alan Silberberg
Book you've been meaning to read: A Series of Unfortunate Events -- I've read book one and part of book 2 but just never got around to reading the rest.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
I know that the Newbery Award is not assigned to the most popular titles; otherwise Captain Underpants would be sporting a gold sticker on its cover. Committee assigned book awards are sorta like the Oscars. Most of the time my favorite movies are not even nominated (exception of course, Lord of the Rings.) They are tremendous fun to talk about and ultimately I am happy for the author and feel some satisfaction if I liked the book.
I know the committees are very earnest and serious about their work but sometimes their picks just make me go,"hmm..."
I've pointed out before that the winner of the Newbery Award in 1953 was that world-famous, often-cited, wildly popular classic:
Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark.
Huh? Who? What book?
One of the honor (sorry-you-only-rate-a-silver-sticker-on-your-cover) books that year was an obscure little title called Charlotte's Web by some guy named E. B. White.
If you check a library with an older collection you will find Secret of the Andes with a faded blue cover and the spine perfectly intact having NEVER EVER been cracked. I had copy in my collection that I kept for lessons on award winning books.
"How many of you have read or heard of this book?" (holding up Secret of the Andes) [crickets chirping]
"How many of you have read or heard of THIS book? (holding up Charlotte's Web) [wild exultations and cheers and waving of hands.]
My whole raison d'être for starting Book Moot over two years ago was based on that question EVERY school librarian gets from kids. The kids come in and look around the library and then walk over and in a half-whisper, ask "Where are the GOOD books, Mrs. P?"
That question always cracked me up because it implies there is a secret stash of books BESIDES the gleaming tomes on the shelves. Sometimes I would be tempted to answer, "Oh yes, I keep the GOOD books back here in the office. Thanks for asking."
Of course what the kids are really asking is "are there any books here I would REALLY like?"
(the answer to that question requires knowledge of your students and your collection.)
Honestly, besides Holes and The Tale of Despereaux there are not too many with gold stickers that would fill that bill with the kids I know.
As a reader and reviewer I am a practical sort. Other reviewers and academic types might evaluate and speak eloquently about the literary quality of the works or how it engages the process of language acquisition or... challenges the commonly held ideals of... or ... or ...
I read children's and YA books because I love them but I am also aware of an internal dialog that goes, "Oh wow, I know 5 boys who would love this book," or "hmmm...my fantasy kids need to read this one or "this would be so good for a social studies teacher." On occasion I am thinking, "I could not PAY a kid to read this!"
Riordan is singing my song as he winds up by saying,
"...And please God, grant me the wisdom to remember that I am writing for children, not golden stickers. If children don’t enjoy my books, I haven’t done my job."
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Things hoped for by Andrew Clements, 2006
It has always seemed to me that one of the amusing and painful contradictions of teenage-hood is the intense desire to blend in to the crowd and be like everyone else -- pitted against the fear of not being noticed or being socially "invisible." In Things Not Seen, Andrew Clements cleverly played on this mindset when his protagonist, Bobby, wakes up one morning and discovers he is invisible. The clever plot spins out the problems and freedoms that result from Bobby's condition. Things Not Seen one of my favorite books to recommend to YA readers.
In Things hoped for we hear the first person narrative of Gwen, a gifted violinist who has moved to NYC to attend a private high school for the performing arts on the East side. She lives with her grandfather in his brownstone home. As a senior, she is preparing for her auditions to Julliard and the Manhattan School of Music when her grandfather disappears. Grampa has written her a letter explaining that he has to go away for a little while. He details instructions for writing checks and using the ATM card when she needs money and then asks/begs her to keep his absence a secret from everyone.
So, Gwen continues to attend class and practice her music while keeping this strange turn of events from her family in West Virginia and from her grandfather's scary and menacing brother who keeps turning up and demanding to talk to Grampa.
Although she is very self sufficient and spends most of her time practicing, the sense of "alone-ness" is beginning to get to her when she meets Robert in a coffee shop. Robert is a trumpet player and they recognize each other from the previous summer's Tanglewood Institute. A senior like Gwen, Robert is in NYC for his own round of auditions to music school.
As Gwen shares the secret of her grandfather’s disappearance, Robert shares a secret from his own past with her. Together they realize that mysteries will not leave you alone especially when your only desire is to practice, practice and practice for your auditions.
The storyline pulled me in completely. I also thoroughly enjoyed the knowledgeable discussions of music. Aspiring musicians will enjoy the book and its view of life in NYC as a music student. As a parent who has paid for a barge full of music lessons, I applauded Gwen’s and Robert’s work ethic and practice schedule! This is a gotta-have-it for fans of Things Not Seen.
This is the Oasis by Miriam Moss, illustrated by Adreienne Kennaway, 2005
The end papers of this book set the tone with edge to edge ripples of sand. Life in the Sahara dessert is described in lovely language:
This is the place where dust evils, like whirlwinds,
dance spirals of sand dust
high into the air.
The art work is servicable and illustrates the information.
A glossary of terms at the end of the book explains concepts such as the Tuareg, Sandstorms, trading salt and more.
Perfect book for study of biomes.
Why? by Lila Prap, 2005
Kane Miller Book Publishers brings us challenging and imaginative titles from around the world. I adore this book from Slovenia. Humor and facts work together in this animal book. Silly and factual answers to questions are the framework.
Why do whales spout water?
They're watering the sea grass.
It's their runy noses! They always have colds.
* Whales don't spout water but from a distance it might look as if they do...When they come to the surface of the the water, they blow the moist air out fo their nose--the blowhole on top of their head.
The illustrations are chalk or pastel and will inspire the artist in all of us. This is a book I would want to share with art teachers.
It is also an excellent model for a research or Big 6 product. Animal reports are a staple of research skills lessons. Students could illustrate their animal and surround it with facts they discovered through research.
George Crum and the Saratoga Chip by Gaylia Taylor, illustrated by Frank Morrison, 2006
I enjoyed the story of George Crum, who in 1853 invented the potato chip while working as a chef at the prestigious Moon's Lake House in Saratoga Springs.
Crum was confident of his cooking skills but as a person of color, part African American and part Native American; he faced difficulty finding a position as a chef. Hired by Moon’s Lake House, Crum’s menu soon brought the rich and famous to the restaurant in droves.
He felt great frustration and chafed at the pettiness of wealthy restaurant patrons. After one customer complained about the thickness of some French fries, Crum, in retaliation, sliced the potatoes wafer thin and fried them at a very high heat. The rest is history.
This book works well for kids on many levels. It is a skillfully told story from history. Morrison's illustrations are bright and engaging and evoke the time period. In the dining room of the restaurant, the patrons are white and the waitstaff is black.
Readers will applaud George Crum’s independent spirit and his determination to follow his own path. This story of one of our favorite snack foods is a terrific read to share with students.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
This is your school library.
This is a library you can get to by yourself. You do not have to wait for you parents to take you and you do not have to fill out an application for a card.
This is the one place inside the school where you don't have to walk in a straight line.
This is where you can stroll, meander, mosey, walk, amble and saunter as you search the shelves for a book. Check out the magazines too!
This is where you can find out everything about one thing or one thing about everything.
Here is your library card. I hope you have another one from the public library but if not, don't worry, you have one here.
These are new books that came in over the summer. See how the book jackets glow? Have you smelled them? They are lovely!
Remember to love these books. Handle them carefully. You are their protector. Dogs love to chew on school library books so keep them somewhere safe. Water bottles like to spill on library books so keep them in a plastic bag when they are in your backpack.
When you take a book off the shelf to look at it, remember to mark the spot with a shelf marker in case you need to put it back. ALSO -- this is important-- a shelf marker is NOT a sword, or a light saber, or a tennis racket or a golf club, or a baseball bat or a drum stick or a librarian's shoulder tapper.
Choose what you want. Read what interests you. If the library does not have a book on your favorite subject, tell the librarian. A librarian will go to the ends of the earth to find books for you.
If you don't like the book you borrowed, bring it back. No biggee. The library has lots more.
Come to the library as often as your teacher will let you. A week is a long time to wait when you've already finished your books.
If you learn to use your library then no one can stop you from learning. You will be a master of information!
Monday, August 14, 2006
Parents must be in charge of their children's education. To put it plainly: The success or failure of your child's education is up to you.
We spend a lot of time talking about "fixing" schools. The truth is that few are broken. The much bigger problem is parents who have forgotten their vital role. When that happens, schools struggle.
Teachers have a hard time discussing this. It sounds like they're making excuses. But it's true.
As a parent, you have the power to make a complete failure of the very best teacher or finest school. How? Easy. Just say bad things about the school to your child. Tell how unfair teachers were to you. Criticize a lot. Or simply take no interest at all. Trust me, your attitude will quickly be your child's attitude.
On the other hand, if you are excited about school, chances are your child will be, too. Make it clear how important education is to you. Set high goals. Volunteer at school if you can. At least introduce yourself to the teacher. Don't hesitate to make an appointment as soon as concerns arise. Working as a team is everything.
At home, talk about school. Make it fun. Praise. Encourage. Turn off the TV for a while each night. Make that homework time. Or reading time.
If you didn't love school, that's OK. You're still the key to your child's success. Visit a school counselor to learn ways of helping.
If big, big problems arise, consider moving your child to another school. Learn your options. Sounds drastic, but remember: You're in charge.
Real school reform begins at home.
The day before school starts
Flurries of last minute photocopying, small wails (screams and roars) of frustration as teachers frantically search for yet another paper jam in the copier. Stacks of handouts still cover the library. Constant announcements over the intercom. Vacuum cleaners and equipment still dot the hallways. Teachers constantly ask each other "Are you ready?" and “Is the laminator fixed?"
The First Day of School
The hallways are swept and clean. The principal is greeting the teachers as they hurry in extra, extra, extra early ("so I could get a parking spot.") Teachers constantly asking each other, "Did you sleep last night? No? Me neither."
As I stood in the hallway of an elementary school on the very first day of school last week, I was awash in the surge of people and emotions that rolled down the corridors. Most of the kids have already attended the "Meet your teacher" evening earlier in the week so they do not stagger in with construction paper packages that weigh more than they do anymore but they are swallowed up by backpacks and lunch totes.
Entire family entourages escort some children toward their classrooms. Preschoolers wail as they bid goodbye to older siblings. Parents who are "dressed for success" have taken the morning off to see their child to class. Moms, dads, and grandparents weave their way down congested hallways. Some are wielding cameras and documenting each footstep. I jump out of the way of oncoming strollers.
Often, it is an older brother or sister who walks little brothers and sisters to the doors of their new rooms. On duty, I observe a big brother with his backpack slung over one shoulder walking protectively with a younger sister. His big brother hand rides lightly on his sister's pink backpack as he gently guides and pushes her toward her classroom door. As the little girl freezes at the doorway, he leans over and says softly, "Do you want me to come in with you?" She nods frantically and they enter the room together.
Some children come in clutching flowers for their teacher's first day and some shyly handed cards to the smiling woman in the doorway. Some are announcing excitedly, "I'm going to learn to read!"
Then there are the small human tragedies. I see a boy who is frantically scanning the doorways. His eyes are wide and his lower lip is trembling. He is alone. Can I help you find your room? Do you remember who your teacher's name? No? C'mon. We will go find out. His lip stops shaking. A grown-up is helping him.
In another part of the building, a little girl does not seem to even know her last name. She came to school on the bus. She doesn't have a name tag. She looks like a kindergartener, but could be a first grader. Don't worry. We will take care of you. We will find your teacher.
Soon, the noise subsides. Teachers' voices float out of doorways, encouraging order, organizing supplies, handing out name tags. A few parents peer in the small windows trying to catch a glimpse of their little one. More than a few (especially down by Kindergarten) are wiping away tears. Time to go.
Another milestone for parents and children.
Then there is quiet.
So much potential energy.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Today, I stand in awe at the popularity of manga. Visit any chain bookstore and the graphic novel aisle is clogged with kids silently reading their favorite series, from back to front. When I try to read one of those series: MEGO--My eyes glaze over.
I might watch Fullmetal Alchemist with the kiddies on TV, (I love Al's voice,) but to read it, I have to physically push my eyeballs to track the words.
:01-- First Second titles are wholly original. The writing has a literary quality and is thoughtful in tone.
FIRST SECOND aims for high quality, literate graphic novels for a wide age-range, from Middlegrade to Young Adult to Adult readers. Toward that end I am endeavoring to upgrade the editorial process and the art direction that go into making book-length comics. I have already begun to sign on talented storytellers, including prize-winning novelists and non-fiction writers, top playwrights and screenwriters. On the artistic side, I'm assembling an inspiring line-up of exceptional talents from all over the world.
Missouri Boy by Leland Myrick, 2006
A quiet and wistful memoir of paper airplanes, fire crackers and swimming in the local pond. The sad and painful moments of life are also shared. Ultimately, Missouri Boy, leaves his home and his twin brother behind, as he strikes out for California to try a new life and begin again.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luch Yang, 2006
Three seemingly unrelated stories make up this tale including the fable of the Monkey King, an obnoxious Chinese stereotype and young Jin Wang who just wants to fit in to his new school where he is the only Chinese American.
J.K. Rowling’s novels tap into another mainstay of kids’ books, says Lerer: the fantasy that unlike adults—whom children’s authors often depict as dull, rule-bound or inept—every child is special, with gifts and talents waiting to be recognized. “All children believe they’re wizards and their parents are ‘muggles.’ ”
Muggles may find it hard to imagine that children get all this out of stories, but Lerer believes some do. “Why do kids re-read books once they know the plot?” When his son was 10, he says, the boy again and again read Louis Sachar’s Holes, about a strange camp in which children must spend their days digging holes in search of who-knows-what. Holes, Lerer says, shows that “being a child is like being in prison,” an idea that speaks to any kid who feels trapped in the role of student or son or daughter. But there’s a treasure to be found, which offers escape.
Books do give kids the chance to stretch their legs and imagine another life or a state of being from the safety of their room or favorite reading chair. This important aspect of children's books is one that I have come to appreciate and revere more and more as an adult.
As Seth puts it: “I want to go where the wild things are, but I also want to be home for dinner.” Children’s books let kids have it both ways.
Quick read and a nice piece!
Troll Bridge: a rock 'n' roll fairy tale by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, 2006
Folklorist, Jane Yolen wrote this second Rock 'N' Roll Fairy tale with her son, Adam Stemple.
Moira is a classical harpist who plays with the
Traditionally, every year, the butter sculptures of the Dairy Princesses are placed on
As Moira and the other princesses prepare for a photoshoot at
Meanwhile, four brothers who make up a popular boy band called The Griffsons are taking a vacation before their next concert tour. By chance the brothers end up at
In Trollholm, Moira alone has evaded the enchanted sleep that has bewitched the other eleven princesses. As she casts about to escape the fate of becoming a troll bride, she meets a mysterious and vaguely sinister fox named Foss who seems willing to help her.
Jakob Griffson awakens in Trollholm only to discover that he and his brothers are soon going to be troll food. Moira and Jakob must work together to rescue all of them from the clutches of Aenmarr the troll and Trollhom itself.
I have not read Yolen and Stemple's earlier book, Pay the Piper but I liked the mixture of traditional folk tales and a teen's world. In this story they have called on The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Twelve Dancing Princesses as source material.
Foss the fox is taken from the Scandinavian trickster Fossegrim but also reminded me of kitsunes in Japanese folklore.
Musical imagery and elements run throughout the story. The beginning page of each chapter is decorated by a faint treble clef and the sections of the chapter are indicated by a fermata. A collection "Songs from
Friday, August 04, 2006
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I listened to AGATB but ultimately decided I had not enjoyed the book, maybe it was the narrator. I've watched girls grab the sequel at book fairs though so I know it has a fan base. Maybe I need to read the sequel -- if I find the time.
I agree, AGATB has a fabulous cover.
BTW, did you know Mel had an uncredited role in the movie FairyTale: A True Story? I loved that movie. I do not remember Mel.
I also just discovered (I love the way things pop out at me on IMDB.com) another actor, Anton Lesser, had a small role in that movie. Lesser is the amazing, fantastic enthralling narrator for the recorded versions of Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart trilogy.
Let's Go, Pegasus! retold and illustrated by Jean Marzollo, 2006
Jean Marzollo (of I Spy fame and more) has started a new series of books about the Greek myths. This is the second one. The first was Little Bear, You're a Star!: A Greek Myth About the Constellations, 2005 and a third, Pandora's Box, is due in September 2006.
With Percy Jackson rocking the house, I cannot think of a better time for a new series of mythology books. I know kids who are flocking to the internet to look up Greek gods and goddesses as they read the Riordan's books. Gifted and Talented kids are also often drawn to mythology as a subject.
The narrative is written in clear language while dialog is set in an easy-to-read font that runs in slightly curved lines above the speaker. A narrow banner of owls as a Greek chorus, runs along the bottom of each page. The chorus addresses the reader with comments and questions about the story along the way. Marzollo instructs us to read the chorus last, before turning the page.
Watercolor illustrations with dynamic inked outlines carry the reader (or listener) through the tale. Marzolla has kept all the important elements of the original story yet it is accessible to many levels of readers.
Perseus must save his mother, Danae from marriage with the king. The king, suspecting this kid might be trouble, sends Perseus off to kill the monster, Medusa.
Luckily, Athena and Hermes are around to lend equipment, help and advice. I did not know the origins of Pegasus so the ending was fun for me.
I am looking forward to seeing more of this series. Bravo!
I'm also thinking Percy Jackson and Pegasus are going to get together at some point.
The Marzollo series will be an excellent addition to the classic (and favorite at this house) D'Aulaires book of Greek Myths by Ingri D'Aulaire and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire,1962. You will recognize this book in any library by its worn cover and pages softened from many, many turnings.
Jean Marzollo's website