Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

I dialed up Amazon today and lo and behold:

The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Collector's edition will be released on
December 4, 2008.

Only seven copies of the original book were created and the single copy available to the public was auctioned at Southeby's for £1,950,000. The winner was Amazon.

The cost for the collector's edition will be $100 and the net proceeds from the Collector's Edition and the Standard Edition support the Children's High Level Group. The standard edition will cost considerably less at $7.79.

This will probably not satisfy Hank Green's desire for a Book 8 but now we all get to read The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

Tardy Thursday

Entling no. 1 asks: "So, what happened to Whip Cracking Wednesdays?"
Me: "Well, your sister got a job. Ha! Besides I posted one last week.
Entling no. 1: That was on a Tuesday.
Me: "Yes, well, I messed up on the scheduled post date on Blogger. It posted early, sort of a Timely Tuesday?"
Entling no. 1: "Sad, Mom. Really sad."
Me: "It's summer. At least I'm managing Facts First Monday!"

Disgusted with her maternal unit's inability to post on any kind of schedule, entling no. 2 wanted to share her enthusiasm for her beloved Terry Pratchett.

She looooves Terry Pratchett's books.
Her thoughts:
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

To begin, let us look at a simple analogy:

Terry Pratchett : Fantasy
Douglas Adams : Sci Fi
Monty Python : British comedy

Understand? Good.

On this joyous occasion, we shall be looking at not one but two Terry Pratchett novels.

Terry Pratchett is the British author of the acclaimed Discworld series, a series set on a rotating disc that sits on the shoulders of four great elephants, who stand upon the shell of the great A'tuin, a gigantic cosmic turtle swimming slowly and steadily towards the center of the universe. No one knows why or what exactly is going to happen when he (she?) gets there.

And while Pratchett has written several YA Discworld books (the Tiffany Aching series and a few others), he has also branched out into new stories with universes of their own.

Nation by Terry Pratchett, HarperCollins, September 2008

Mau is leaving the Boys' Island. He has left his child soul behind and upon his triumphant return to the Nation, his small island home, he will receive his man soul.

Daphne (her real name Ermintrude but it's not one she'll admit to it if she has to) is journeying on the Sweet Judy to unite with her father, her grandmother's words, "Always remember, that it only needs one hundred and thirty-eight people to die and your father will be King! And that means that, one day, you might be Queen!" echoing in her mind.

In a single night, Daphne and Mau's worlds are utterly shattered. With only crude pictographs as a common language, these two children must survive on a storm swept island with an ancient mystery buried at its heart.

Pratchett's characteristic humor (and footnotes "of an educational nature"), while present, has stepped to one side to make room for an additional thoughtfulness about what it means to come of age and what makes up both a person and a society.

An avid Pratchett fan myself, I was heartbroken when I saw called to the dinner table with scarcely 10 pages left. Pratchett has once again created a compelling, driving story that entertains, educates and pokes fun at anything and everything in its path.

The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, Book One: Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett, HarperTrophy, Originally published 1992

Only-child Johnny Maxwell is undergoing a period of change in his life. His parents are moving towards divorce and the television keeps showing a map of a far off desert country with lots of arrows and soldiers.

And when standing with his sort-of friends of other casts offs such as Stephen "Wobbler" Johnson (who dreams of becoming a nerd even though the nerds won't let him in), Simon "Bigmac" Wiggley (slightly asthmatic would-be gang member who is also brilliant at math) and Yo-less (so nicknamed because he doesn't say "Yo!"), poor Johnny simply fades into the background.

To escape from the difficulties of the world, Johnny literally disappears into the computer game "Only You Can Save Mankind". Or does he? Video games aren't supposed to talk back. The aliens in them aren't supposed to surrender and beg for a truce.

In his dreams, Johnny is the prophesied one who will lead the aliens to their Promised Land and away from the humans that keep trying to kill them. As they fly through space, they pass the ruined ships of the Space Invaders and other defeated video game tribes. In real life, the aliens have disappeared from the game all over the world. But surely this is just a dream…isn't it?

Terry Pratchett Website

Match It For Pratchett

Help match Terry Pratchett's $1 million ( £500,000 ) donation to Alzheimer's Research.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

NonFiction Monday: Texas Rangers

Dewey: 976.4

Texas Rangers: Legendary Lawmen
by Michael P. Spradlin, illustrations by Roxie Munro. Walker & Co., 2008

Here in the Lone Star State, the social studies curriculum calls for teaching Texas history in fourth grade and seventh grade. I have spent many an hour in the exhibits at TLA searching out related nonfiction. For the most part there are a "specialty" publishers who feature biographies of heroes of Texas independence, governors, and journalists.

ften these books are "one size fits all" attempts that they hope to sell to junior high and elementary schools. Many of the titles are written on a grade 6 reading level, splitting the difference between fourth and seventh grade? This is not helpful to elementary school librarians.

When I saw Michael Spradlin's profile on JacketFlap, I noted this new book and sought it out at the TLA library conference this past spring.

Spradlin's story of the Texas Rangers progresses chronologically, from their origins as Texas "Minute Men," through the days of the Republic to the oil boom of the early 20th century through today. I did not know that the Texas state legislature mandates the number of Rangers serving, there are only about 120 at any given time. A single vacancy can attract over 100 applicants.

Much of the history of the Rangers is founded in the personalities who wore the badge. John B. Armstrong, Lone Wolf Gonzaullas, Frank Hamer were responsible for the capture of some of the most notorious outlaws in American history, including John Wesley Hardin and Bonnie and Clyde.

The picture book aspect might discourage junior high librarians from adding this title to their collections. Do not make that mistake.
Spradlin's writing is concise but not simplistic.

Roxie Munro's clear, bright illustrations depict the daring-do of the Rangers. Her distinctive style commemorates the landscape and the personalities who shaped the state.

Many libraries here own her Inside-Outside Texas, 2001.
I have to believe Spradlin must have done a happy dance when he heard she was to be his illustrator. The layout and even the typeface evoke the history that shapes the Texas outlook today.

I would urge publishers to follow suit with more lovely, full color Texas nonfiction. I am thankful to Spradlin and Munro for this gift.

I believe they will sell a copy to every library in Texas. As iconic as the Texas Rangers are, there is a place for the title in American history collections across the country.

Now, will someone, please, offer a similar treatment for Stephen F. Austin a.k.a. "the father of Texas?"

Michael P. Spradlin website
Roxie Munro website

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Author: Alan Silberberg

Clever lad, that Alan Silberberg.
He is the 2008 Thurber House Children's Writer in Residence. He will be writing and teaching there, in Columbus, Ohio for four weeks. He (and Milo) look so happy!

His novel Pond Scum is a treat for middle grade readers.
Congratulations to Alan!

Friday, July 25, 2008

BookMoot update

Here in the entwood, home improvements have consumed our every waking moment (along with the unsuccessful hunt for bridesmaids dresses that don't look like like beach wear since the wedding of the year is in January and even in Texas it gets c o l d in January.)

Barely have I had time for thoughtful introspection on my favorite topic, kidlit, except to expound (...hey, she asked...) to a young friend, just graduated from high school, who is reading The Secret Garden for the first time, and didn't see why the book rates "classic" status.

But...this morning I almost choked on my morning java reading this tremendously funny account of a day in the life of our esteemed National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature. His report on his diplomatic efforts on behalf of Mo Willems fully demonstrates why he is such an exemplary choice for this exalted title.

Outstanding opening line:

Got an emergency call at the embassy last week.
Kid Lit Code Red.
Author Mo Willems was in trouble. Big trouble

Quick, go click, you must read it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Now it's time to say good night...

I love "go to sleep" books. To this day, I can recite Goodnight Moon from memory because it was such a favorite with my entlings before bedtime. It is still my gift of choice as a baby shower gift.

Am I right in my feeling that children's bedtime rituals are being left behind these days? I hope not but frequently, in schools, I meet kids who live almost separate from their families. Each child has a cell phone for individual communication/texting and a computer and television in their bedroom. On different schedules, families often do not even eat dinner together, much less, share bedtime stories and tuck-ins.

I hope this is not indicative of a wider trend because there is something so important and cozy and meaningful about seeing a child safely off to dream land.

In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa, Harcourt 2008

A mother patiently and tenderly sees her little one off to sleep with fragrant flowers on the nightstand, a cozy quilt , and wind chimes. The little girl only likes the color blue and protests at each offering of tea, the quilts, flowers because they are not blue. When the mother turns off the light though, the moon fills the room with a beautiful blue light that Tricia Tusa renders in a soft blue wash.

Averbeck's text rocks as gently as a lullaby as Tusa's scenes grow quieter and quieter.
What a treasure.

Jim Averbeck website

Wynken, Blynken and Nod by Eugene W. Field, illustrated by Giselle Potter, Schwartz Wade Books 2008

I hear my mother's voice when ever I read this poem as it was in my childhood copy of The Bumper Book: A Collection of Stories and Verses for Children. Illustrated by Eulalie (Platt & Munk, 1946.) that she read to us when we were small. The imagery of the wooden shoe remains a vivid childhood memory. Giselle Potter illustrates this classic of childhood using the lines of the poem as part of the action as the young fishermen toss their nets "in the twinkling foam."

Potter includes a note about Eugene W. Field and the history of the poem at the end of the book.

Be sure to read the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast interview with Potter here.
Giselle Potter website

The Sandman by Ralph Fletcher, illustrated by Richard Cowdrey, Henry Holt 2008

A tiny little man named Tor cannot sleep. One day he finds a dragon scale. As he files down the scale's sharp edge, a breeze blows the scale dust into his eyes which results in "a great wave of sleepiness." When he awakens, he determines that the dragon scale sand can be used to help wide awake children fall asleep. Alas, he needs a supply of them to stay in business so he must go to the dragon's lair to get them.

Richard Cowdrey's illustrations called to me the moment I saw the cover. Tor's tiny home furnishings include a thread spool end table, pencil stub window frames, a thimble cup and a soup ladle bathtub. Cowdry was inspired by Tolkien's Smaug for his double page dragon illustration. Dragon lovers will rejoice at his rendering. The dragon scale sand gleams like emeralds and Tor's mouse-drawn cart is just too adorable. There is warmth and a bow to tradition in Cowdrey's artwork. He is the talent that paints the Guardians of Ga'hoole covers.

The Sandman, (like Jack Frost--see The Stanger by Chris Van Allsburg) does not have many stories told about him. In fact, I cannot think of one. This is a nice addition to bedtime canon.

Ralph Fletcher website
Richard Cowdrey website

Sunday, July 20, 2008

NonFiction Monday: Old Penn Station

Dewey: 385.3

Old Penn Station
by William Low, Henry Holt 2007

In the forward,
William Low decries the passing of Penn Station in New York City when landmarks like Grand Central Terminal have undergone a rebirth and are thriving. While working on his masters he took the opportunity to research and paint the story of the Pennsylvania Railroad's "palace" that would become Pennsylvania Station. The station thrived until after WWII. Then the decision was made to tear down the building. Low documents the destruction as statues are hoisted away and the rubble is dumped in the the New Jersey Meadowlands.

He takes us under the Hudson river as workers tunnel in the yellow glow of lamps. Sunlight streams through the arched glass while the metal gridwork shadows the passengers as they hurry for their trains. Within the book's height of only 32 cm., he pulls the reader into the magnificent space as porters carry luggage, passengers dine in a fine restaurant by candlelight or get a haircut. From different perspectives, we sense the soaring ceiling and the spacious but crowed concourse. Then, having experienced the space and the beauty, we feel the frustration and sadness as the station is torn down around us.

Hear and see William Low describe the project.
This book is a tribute to a building and the people who built it and a lament for an opportunity, lost.

Monday, July 14, 2008

NonFiction Monday: Uneversaurus

Dewey: 567.9

Uneversaurus: Change the Way you look at Dinosaurs Forever!
by Professor Potts, David Fickling Books, 2006

This book uses humor and science to speculate about the coloration and appearance of dinosaurs. What did these creatures look like? That is the gazilllion dollar question and why this clever and insightful book intrigued me. The title itself is a play on words, you-never-saw-us/Uneversaurus...

The opening end papers suggest a colorwheel of dinosaur scales and the first page states the fact that "no human has ever seen a dinosaur." Taking clues from nature, colors and patterns are suggested in the finely drawn and colorful illustrations. Were the creatures camouflaged? Were they patterned with strips or spots?

Speech balloons give the dinosaurs a chance to talk and comment. A double spread coloring pages on the closing end papers, invite the dinosaur lover to color in their own ideas. As a librarian, I like this warning:
"if this book does not belong to you please do not color in this page. It would be a shame to ruin it for everyone else. Instead, photocopy the picture or trace the outline and create your own super-duper-saaurus amargasaurus.

Monday, July 07, 2008

NonFiction Monday: Sea Queens

Dewey: 910.4

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Christine Joy Pratt, Charlesbridge, 2008

I have had a soft spot in my heart for pirates. I loved reading Frenchman's Creek by Daphne Du Maurier as a teen. Then there was the Dread Pirate Roberts of The Princess Bride and any version of Treasure Island but especially, the Muppets Treasure Island. I always loved the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and all three movies about Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner.

Jane Yolen's new book details the true stories of women throughout history who have sailed the seas as pirates and privateers. She shares the history of piracy, the pirate code and the kind of "treasure" pirates were likely to capture (not so much the chests of jewels and gold.)

She covers the careers of several "not so famous" women such as Artemisia of Persia , who sailed from 500-480 BC. Alfhild of Denmark, Jeanne de Belleville of Brittany, Grania O'Malley from Ireland, and Pretty Peg from Holland. The American colonies and USA is represented with Anne Bonney, Mary Read and Rachel Well.

A list of 'helpful websites' and an index are included.

Pratt's woodcut style illustrations and book design evoke an earlier time.
With a nice balance of fun, high interest and facts, the chapters are short enough to keep the attention of readers. I would love to hand this to a student who needs a "biography" to read but wants something a little different.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Hobart Shakespeareans

The Hobart Shakespeareans, 52 minutes, New Video Group, 2006

I said, "The Hobart Shakespeareans are the stuff of legends. Their annual play must be something to behold."

I finished reading Rafe Esquith's Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire last month. While talking about the book over lunch recently, some teaching colleagues told me they had seen this student group at a convention and had t-shirts signed by all the kids. I was so jealous.

The Hobart Shakespeareans
was originally a documentary on the PBS POV program.
It is really quite amazing to watch what Rafe Esquith does in his 5th grade classroom with kids from one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The kids begin their day early (long before the official start of the school day) and attend on a year-round schedule. The classroom motto is "No Shortcuts." Esquith admonishes some kids who have been sharing answers in a straight forward manner.

They work on the play after school.

The interviews with the students themselves are enlightening. One boy recalls his fourth grade teacher's impatience with his inability to understand certain points and contrasts Esquith's willingness to explain and reteach it over and over again. The kids call him "Rafe" not "Mr. Esquith."

Living in a school district where To Kill a Mockingbird, Huck Finn and Shakespeare are not taught until high school, I can hear the question about matching these works with fifth graders but Esquith knows his kids may never make it to high school and he is determined to touch their lives with this literature. Watching tears roll down the cheeks of kids who are moved by the lines of Shakespeare or the predicament of Huck Finn made me a believer.

College pennants from Yale, Harvard, USC, UCLA cover the walls of the classroom as proof of what his former students have achieved and as encouragement for his current students. Esquith's attitude and classroom personae are uplifting but he is realistic. While talking to a group of teachers in Houston, he discusses "No Child Left Behind" and the effort that is required from the kids, themselves, and the fact that some of them are unwilling or unable to give that effort.

Classroom visits from Michael York and Ian McKellen have the students rapt and wide-eyed. I loved hearing York tell the kids that in Shakespeare's time an audience attended a performance to "hear" a play, NOT "see" a play.

If you are connected to schools as a teacher, an administrator, or as a parent, you must see this program.

Just get it.