Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Board Books

My number one question at a baby shower is: "Do you have a bookcase in the baby's room yet?" An emphatic, "yes" is heartening. Alas, more often, I get a puzzeled look as they try to figure out if this is a trick question. Personally, I cannot imagine a child's room without a bookcase. It can be something very simple, a shelf or a cubby but there has to be something and it has to be a part of a child's life from the very start

Board books, with their strengthened bindings and tear resistant pages are usually well sized for small hands. Board books should be on every young child's bookcase. I am old enough to remember cloth books for babies. Their sizing infused, starched pages, though impervious to tearing were utter failures as a substitute for traditional books. They flopped, they folded and rolled and were usually found waded or rolled up in the bottom of the toy box/basket.

Goodnight MoonI dislike some translations of classic children's books to the board book format. Goodnight Moon was shortened to fit the story to the smaller board book page count. Pages from the original are dropped which ruins the book for me and denies the glorious, quiet pacing of Margaret Wise Brown's masterpiece.

When a book is designed as a board book from the beginning though, the design and the format can work together nicely.

These are some titles that publishers have shared with me.

Have You Ever Tickled a Tiger? by Betsy Snyder, Random House, 2009
This descendant of Pat the Bunny invites little finger to touch a penguins's spft tummy, fluff the feathers on an ostrich and wiggle the whiskers on a walrus. Visually, Snyder's collages of smling animals with tactile surfaces are full of brilliant color on very easy to turn pages.

Betsy Snyder's website

Mommy Calls Me Monkeypants by J. D. Lester, illustrations by Hiroe Nakata, Random House, 2009

Lester celebrates the nicknames that mothers use for their children in traditional rhyming stanzas . Ladybug mothers, mama horses even rhino mommies use endearments like Polka Dot, Giddyup, and Funny Face for their babies. Hiroe Nakata paints reassuring smiles on the mothers' and babies' faces.

How do Lions Say I Love You? by Diane Muldrow, illustrated by David Walker, Golden Books, 2009

Another book to reassure the little tykes that they are loved. Birds, lions, bears and elephants are some of the softly drawn creatures that are depicted affectionately playing and singing and nuzzling. Nice rhyming text and colorful illustrations succeed as a book for little ones.

ABC U Later
by David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim, Random House, 2009
1 2 3 4 U by David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim, Random House, 2009

I have not experienced the Uglydolls toy franchise personally so I am unable to testify to the extent of its popularity.

These two Uglydoll board books require a higher level of language development than is usually found in the target audience for board books. Still if the little guys are already inculcated into the Uglydoll universe they might have an appreciation for familiar characters. I can imagine an older brother or sister sharing this book with the younger sibling and enjoying the the homonyms and humor. The counting book is the most accessible for the very young. Very countable characters and items on each two page spread reflect the featured number.

Duck & Goose Board books by Tad Hills, Schwartz & Wade, 2008-

Duck & Goose and board books are a perfect match. These two friends have an endearing, childlike outlook as they count, look for a pumpkin, and learn about life. Their expressive and winsome faces draw the reader in and Tad Hills has a humorous touch whicch is perfect for youngsters and the adults who will enjoy reading these books to them.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Babymouse 2009 Holiday Video!

So much FUN!

Read a book, read a book, read a book!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fat Cat

Fat Cat by Robin Brande, Listening Library, 2009 // Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009

Dear Fat Cat,
You are a delight from page one to the last punctuation mark on the last page!
There is so much to love in your story.

While listening to Kirsten Potter narrate your audiobook version, I had to curb the impulse to snap "Look, I can't talk right now," when I answered the phone.

I had to restrain myself from holding up my hand with an exasperated, "SHUSH!" when people spoke to me.

I was so enthralled in your storytelling that I practically lived with my earphones until the end.

I have now finished it.


Thank you so much.


Cat is an extremely bright, focused, hard working and academically gifted high schooler. She is also is overweight and candy bar dependent. She wants to win the science fair with every fiber of her being, in large part, so she can beat Matt McKinney, the guy that broke her heart in junior high school.

Her project, to live, as much as possible, like a hominid woman means Cat is walking everywhere instead of riding in a car. It means no computers, no telephone, and eating an approximation of a hominid diet. Before too much time passes, Cat is noting weight loss and improved fitness in her science journal. Her slim and toned figure begins to attract the kind attention from guys that she has never experienced before.

Author, Robin Brande does not stumble nor hit one false note in this story. I loved Cat's family who embraces her project. She has the kind of best friend that everyone yearns for and the project brings her closer to her younger brother. Brande does not quantify the amount of weight that Cat is losing. The focus is on the achievment NOT a specific number of pounds.

I was very intrigued and inspired by the vegetarian blueprint that is offered. Cat begins her new lifestyle under the supervision of a dietitian. She loves to cook and the healthy food she prepares is mouth-watering and savory and delicious. I could almost taste it. I did laugh as her supportive family gives a thumbs down to the tofu turkey at Thanksgiving.

Fat Cat is funny, honest and a sweet romance. This book celebrates families, healthy eating, exercise, friendship, hard work, home cooking, demanding teachers, teenage hormones and first love.

I am telling librarians, friends, relatives who are emailing me for suggestions for gift ideas, even strangers in doctor's waiting rooms about this book and I have it poised for homecoming college kids.

It is simply grand.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sherman Alexie on Colbert

I have so many books to talk about but as I craft my thoughts I will digress with this excellence.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sherman Alexie
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

'Hail Freedonia'

Thanks to Joe Craig @ Turkey On The Hill - The Joe Craig Blog

Today is "Duck Soup Day"

in honor of the Marx Brother's classic Duck Soup which was originally released 17 November 1933.

Celebrate as you see fit!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle

A beautiful story for Veterans Day

Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle by Major Brian Dennis, Kirby Larson, Mary Nethery, Little, Brown, 2009

What a terrific story! So happy Major Brian Dennis and Nubs appeared on the Tonight Show this week. Conan gave him a nice block of time.

I really loved this part of the story. (Not an exact transcript)

An Iraqi came up and he asked me why we were so interested in the dog...
[when Major Dennis speculated about what had happened to the dog's ears the man said--]
"Yeah, I cut his ears off."
"You're the one who cut his ears off?"
"Yeah, I cut his ears off

"I had my battle gear on me and my big KABAR knife and I asked him, through my translator, how would he feel if I cut his ears off?"

...and the tonight Show audience applauded.

Me too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Debut Picture Book Cover

100 Scope Notes Covers Week Challenge, Nov. 9-13


1 – Go to “The Name Generator” or click

Click GENERATE NEW NAME. The name that appears is your author name.

2 – Go to “Picture Book Title Generator” or click

Click CREATE TITLE! This is the title of your picture book.

3 – Go to “FlickrCC” or click

Type the last word from your title into the search box followed by the word “drawing”. Click FIND. The first suitable image is your cover.

4 – Use Photoshop, Picnik, or similar to put it all together. Gettin’ creative is encouraged.

5 – Post it to your site along with this text.

If you create a cover, let 100 Scope Notes know by leaving the link in the comments.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

NonFiction Monday: Winter's Tail

Dewey: 639.97

Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned To Swim AgainWinter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again told by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Craig Hatkoff. Scholastic, 2009 (publisher supplied review copy)

The Hatkoffs' Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship was a popular choice for school libraries with its theme of survival and friendship between two unlikely companions, a baby hippo and a giant tortoise.

Like Owen the hippo, Winter the baby dolphin, was also in distress when she was found, entangled in the ropes of a crab trap. Although she was rescued and well cared for, Winter eventually lost her tail because of her injuries. Kevin Carroll and the experts from Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics worked to design a prosthesis for Winter so she could swim properly and avoid damage to her backbone. The need for the prosthesis was medical, for Winter's health--not for appearance. I appreciated that this point was emphasized

Winter has generated a great deal of interest among children and veterans who have prostheses or other medical devices. Whether the need for these devices is the result of accident, illness or a grievous war injury, coping with the aftermath can be challenging and emotionally difficult.

There is reassurance in a story of adults who will go to extraordinary lengths to care for these animals. A child can see themselves in both roles, the child needing help and the kind and caring expert who provides it.

I was interested in reviewing this title because of my library "dolphin girls." Every year there are one or two girls who want ot read and reread every nonfiction book in the school library on dolphins. This book is an excellent choice for them. It includes facts and information about these mammals, their physiology, their care, socialization and training.

The story is well reported and there is no anthropomorphizing of the dolphin. In fact, Hatkoff emphasizes that humans cannot know what Winter is thinking. Winter's story is well documented with full color photos including some very interesting photographs of the prosthetic tail.

Additional background on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Kevin Carroll and Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics is included. Interestingly, Hanger was founded in 1861, during the American Civil War.

The Hatkoffs have found a nice publishing niche here with true stories of animal rescue. The focus on the use of prostheses in this one could be timely for children whose relatives are injured veterans. Doing whatever is necessary to help these heros is the very least we can do.

This week’s Non-Fiction Monday Round-Up is at Abby (the) Librarian.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear

The Legend of Ninja Cowboy Bear by David Bruins; illustrated by Hilary Leung, Kids Can Press, 2009 (review copy supplied by publisher)

As I approached the school where I was to do a storytelling gig last week, I noted that the school's marquee was featuring the character program trait for October, Individuality. This book came to mind and it occurred to me that this is a perfect book to share that message.

The Ninja, the Cowboy and the Bear are good friends but they argue and face off against each other in a series of contests. Each one has a strength or ability, unique to them. Bear can build the tallest pile of rocks. Cowboy is sharp eyed and can gather the most berries, Ninja's quickness allows him to herd the most rabbits. They come to appreciate each other's abilities which are unique to them. A game of Ninja, Cowboy, Bear, which is played like Rock, Paper, Scissors, is described at the back of the book. This game is a whole body workout.

The illustrations distinguish this story. Hilary Leung's simple but winsome characters bring Japanese chibi designs to mind. The books is also sized to rest comfortably in a child's lap.

Lots of nice subject headings can be tagged to this book, Friendship--Fiction, Individuality--Fiction, Competition--Fiction.

Ninja Cowboy Bear Website

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Keys, keys, keys

100ScopeNotes tweeted me over to BookEnds at BookList -- Keyed into Cover Controversy

Look at all the keyed up covers!

All I can say is that when Tiffany & Co. starts selling them, it is officially a trend. Thanks to entling no. 1 for the heads up to these little gems.

Tiffany Key Pendants

Monday, November 02, 2009

NonFiction Monday: Texas Bluebonnet List Picture Book Biographies

The Texas Bluebonnet List for 2010-2011 was announced by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett at the Texas Book Festival this past weekend.

Not one, but, TWO picture book biographies are on the list which is unusual and acknowledges the excellence of the books and the import and novelty of their subjects. Interestingly both books are about two men who made mark on the world via the oceans!

Surfer of the Century by Ellie Crowe, illustrations by Richard Waldrep, Lee & Low Books, 2007

Duke Kahanamoku was an Olympic gold medalist, the father of modern surfing, and an icon of Hawaiian culture. popularized surfing and promoted Hawaii all his life.

Richard Waldrep perfectly illustrates the book with wondrous, glowing illustrations that evoke vintage art deco travel posters.

My full BookMoot review is here.

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino, Knopf, 2009

With every line and every stroke of color, Dan Yaccarino tells the story of the life of Jacques Cousteau. The text rounds out the story but, truly, the illustrations do all the heavy lifting here.

To my baby boomer eyes, his style is retro or modern in the sense that it evokes graphics and cartoon style of the 1960s but it is also wholly fresh.

His sinuous and linear drawings are simple yet detailed. Yaccarino captures the distinctive Cousteau aquiline nose in every drawing, even the ones of him as a child. The two page spread of his ship Calypso is drawn with simple shapes and flat colors yet the almost indistinct shapes of the sailors on deck are altogether French with their characteristic berets and striped shirts.
The fluid lines invoke the ocean Cousteau is discovering. His color palette with incised designs imparts the look of batik prints.

Eloquent quotations from Jacques Cousteau himself appear in a round bubble on each page.

"The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish"

Elegant storytelling this!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween 2009

And then Night Fell...

...and the winner for the evening is...Twilight, followed by Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, New Moon, Star Wars -- with individual votes for Pendragon, Running Out of Time, Junie B. Cat in the Hat, Goosebumps, Sponge Bob, the Immortals, Warriors, Lightening Thief, Animal Farm, Lord of the Rings, Inkheart, Savvy,and two nonfiction titiles Insects and Trains.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Missing you

Author Anthony Horowitz tweets "In Bungay. The first copy of Crocodile Tears has just rolled off the presses and into my hot and sweaty hands..."

This bit of news made me so happy.

It occurred to me that I have missed Alex Rider.
Odd to miss literary characters, but there it is. I miss Harry, and Hermione and Ron. Every once and a while, I find myself wondering how they are, what they are doing. Did they get a flu shot?

I have many series that I follow with interest but there are some characters that I feel very personally about, like I've spent time with them which, in a way, I have.

Hokey smokes Bullwinkle, as I was writing this a review copy of Crocodile Tears arrived at my front door. Oh happy weekend!!!!

Nice little video from Anthony Horowitz talking about the book. He has a secret door to his office. I've always wanted one of those.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Curse of the Campfire Weenies

The Curse of the Campfire Weenies: And Other Warped and Creepy Tales by David Lubar, Audiobook read by Paul Michael Garcia, Blackstone Audio, 2009 (review copy source: public library audiobook download)

Dear David Lubar,
I confess that I've seen references to books that you have written and I have had the general impression that you were an author whose work I would enjoy. Alas, I never got around to picking up one of your books.

As I listened to story after story in this collection, I realized that I had no idea, not one, zip, zero to the negative 39th power that this splendid, enthralling, original, perfectly paced and balanced assemblage of creepy, odd, and perfectly, wonderfully, strange stories existed.

All these years, all those OPAC searches watching kids type in the keyword "scary" and I could have been handing kids THESE books.

This book includes stories that will make the reader laugh, snort, shiver, gasp, gulp and start with surprise. There are several I've already marked for read-alouds. "The Unforgiving Tree" about a tree with a grudge, has to be one of my favorites so far. Reluctant readers would fight over this book. I can only imagine what the other books in the Weenie series are like.

I stand abashed and humbled. I will, however, now strive to make amends. I cannot think of a better book to celebrate Halloween or to share at the next camp out or sleepover.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

"Hmm...let's see who this wallet belonged to," said the bad guy.

"Uhhh, What is an entling?" his/her stinky, smelly, drooling cohort asked.

"Dunno," said The Brains of the Outfit. "Let's use this stolen credit card and other stuff in the wallet as much as possible and commit as much financial crime as we can get away with for the next few hours."

"Ha, ha, ha. I bet the owner of this wallet we stole is crying now. I am so glad that we have just made life a misery for the entling, what ever that is" he/she said, spitting as he/she talked through his/her un-brushed teeth.

"Yeah, I bet she is tearing her car apart looking for this wallet we just stole. How fun!!!!" He/she brushed the dandruff off his/her shoulders and picked his/her nose.

"Hey, I know, let's go get a DVD from the Redbox store and buy a bunch of stuff from a gas station," the stinky, smelly, drooling cohort said.

"Wow, that was a blast. Now let's go to a grocery store and buy some more stuff," the Brains of the Outfit said, cackling with excitement.

The stinky, smelly, drooling cohort scratched his/her head. "Brains, do you think we should really be doing this? Maybe we should abandon our life of crime and read a good book. That might be more fun than doing all this stuff that is against the law."

They looked at each other for a moment and then burst out laughing.

"Wow, this is so cool. Who cares that we have just ruined the weekend of an entire family. Mwahhhhahahahahah." He/she laughed so hard that tears came out of his/her eyes and ran down his/her cheeks causing streaks on his/her greasy, grimy face. The Brains never took baths. He/she had a bath tub and soap but he/she never used them. Brains just loved to smell rotten.

"Aren't you worried that they might report this finanacial tool as "stolen?" wondered the smelly, drooling cohort.

"Yeah, we better hurry up and get as much stuff as we can here at WalMart," said the Brain.

"I'm hungry, let's use this card to grab some fast food," said the Brain.

Later after eating several Wendy's hamburgers and two Frostys, he/she wiped his/her mouth with his/her shirt and burped. "Isn't this great? The best thing is no one will ever figure out who we are. "

The bad guys drove on for several minutes, speeding down the freeway, at 120 miles an hour. They laughed as terrified drivers swerved to avoid them. No doubt, several accidents occurred and many people were hurt.

A little time passed.

"Hey, has the road gotten very quiet all of a sudden? What is happening?" yawned the nasty criminal who was falling asleep behind the wheel of the car.

The stinky, smelly, drooling cohort looked out of the car window and gasped.

"Uh, Brains of the Outfit?"

"Yes, what is it?"

"Well, we don't seem to be on the ground any more. Some lady riding a gigantic flying green dragon has apparently picked us up from that freeway overpass and is hold our car over her head and we are up in the clouds."

At this point in the story, these despicable criminals used some language that is not repeatable on this blog.

"Hey, lady, what is the deal? Do you have some kind of amazing super powers? How are you holding up this car with just your bare arms? What is the deal with that dragon?" they screamed into the wind

"Well, you vile, dastardly, pieces of financial ruin and woe. I am ...
The Entling Mother
and I am a MOTHER BEAR when one of my kids is threatened. I have tracked you down here at the ends of the Earth," the lady said with a glare of retribution in her eyes.

"Put us down," they yelled, you have no right to abduct us like this. "We are getting airsick from all those hamburgers we illegally purchased with this stolen credit card."

"Ok, I will," she said, "my dragon has just informed me that we have reached cruising altitude of 30,000 feet. Please secure your seat belts as I see you are breaking another Texas law by not wearing them."

"Hey, what the (more inexcusable language) are you doing?" they whined.

"I'm putting you down," she said sweetly. "If you don't mind, I will just drop you off here."

And so, the car returned to the ground.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Boots on the Ground

A day in the life of a substitute school librarian:

Thank goodness all school libraries have a box (or in this case a shelf) where they keep all the random, lost, mislaid, unattached, displaced and abandoned mystery cords and connectors "just in case."

TWO minutes before my first class poured into the library where I was subbing today I found an acceptable power cord for the projector in that clutter. Hard to project your highly entertaining writing lesson without power!!! (Why the projector was missing the power cord to begin with is another mystery.)

Good thing that I am a bona fide, certified, sanctified, dignified, sanitized, applied and surprised if not somewhat fried, true-blue librarian -- able and ready to deal with any reading or library media emergency.

Splendid day.

Another benefit of the short story book, Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things That Aren't As Scary, Maybe, Depending on How You Feel About Lost Lands, Stray Cellphones, Creatures from the Sky, Parents who disappear in Peru, a Man Named Lars Farf, and One Other Story We Could Not Finish So Maybe You Can Help Us Out, Stories by Nick Hornby, Neil Gaiman, Jon Scieszka, Jonathan Safran Foer and more. (Delacourt, 2005) is ... the "Other Story We Could Not Finish So Maybe You can Help Us Out" entry at the back of the book. Perfect for National Day on Writing.

Each period, a class of seventh graders set to work finishing Mr. Snicket's story with, mostly, quiet engrossment.

Best question of the day from a young gentleman who inquired, "Can I add zombies?"
Answer: It is YOUR story.

"Have you tried Fibbing?" I asked when the the head of the English department at that campus lamented the lack of fun, inspiring, writing projects for the math and science teachers who were participating in the day of writing. She had not heard of Fibs so I was able to spread the word and send her towards GottaBook's Greg Pincus.

Puppets and other fantastical creatures
The thing that continues to dazzle me about junior high kids is how they can be cool, aloof teens one moment and in the next are asking about and then talking to a 'dragon' with an utterly goofy smile on their faces. Honestly, the annoying creature (Dragon, not the student) is going to need his own Facebook Fan page if this keeps up. His ego knows no bounds at this point.

If I could I would leave him at home when I have a job, but you can't argue with a dragon at 6:30 in the morning so I just let him come along.
I don't like it. His behavior is not reliable. Still, I am amazed that so many kids remember him though. I mean he doesn't even talk. He just smirks and muggs and--

I swear, they screamed and cheered when he came out today. It took us both quite aback. It was ridiculous. I 'heart' seventh graders.

Monday, October 19, 2009

National Day on Writing

I am teaching in a junior high library tomorrow, the National Day on Writing. This is going to be FUN!!

The Resolution:
Expressing support for the designation of October 20, 2009, as the National Day on Writing. (Agreed to by Senate)



1st Session

S. RES. 310

Expressing support for the designation of October 20, 2009, as the National Day on Writing.


October 8, 2009

Mr. CASEY (for himself, Mr. ROBERTS, Mr. SANDERS, Mr. BROWN, Mr. FEINGOLD, and Mr. AKAKA) submitted the following resolution; which was considered and agreed to


Expressing support for the designation of October 20, 2009, as the National Day on Writing.

Whereas people in the 21 st century are writing more than ever before for personal, professional, and civic purposes;

Whereas the social nature of writing invites people of every age, profession, and walk of life to create meaning through composing;

Whereas more and more people in every occupation deem writing as essential and influential in their work;

Whereas writers continue to learn how to write for different purposes, audiences, and occasions throughout their lifetimes;

Whereas developing digital technologies expand the possibilities for composing in multiple media at a faster pace than ever before;

Whereas young people are leading the way in developing new forms of composing by using different forms of digital media;

Whereas effective communication contributes to building a global economy and a global community;

Whereas the National Council of Teachers of English, in conjunction with its many national and local partners, honors and celebrates the importance of writing through the National Day on Writing;

Whereas the National Day on Writing celebrates the foundational place of writing in the personal, professional, and civic lives of Americans;

Whereas the National Day on Writing provides an opportunity for individuals across the United States to share and exhibit their written works through the National Gallery of Writing;

Whereas the National Day on Writing highlights the importance of writing instruction and practice at every educational level and in every subject area;

Whereas the National Day on Writing emphasizes the lifelong process of learning to write and compose for different audiences, purposes, and occasions;

Whereas the National Day on Writing honors the use of the full range of media for composing, from traditional tools like print, audio, and video, to Web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis, and podcasts; and

Whereas the National Day on Writing encourages all Americans to write, as well as to enjoy and learn from the writing of others: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate--

(1) supports the designation of October 20, 2009, as the National Day on Writing;

(2) strongly affirms the purposes of the National Day on Writing and encourages participation in the National Gallery of Writing, which serves as an exemplary living archive of the centrality of writing in the lives of Americans; and

(3) encourages educational institutions, businesses, community and civic associations, and other organizations to promote awareness of the National Day on Writing and celebrate the writing of their members through individual submissions to the National Gallery of Writing.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Miles Between

The Miles BetweenI'm riveted to The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson. Can't blog, must get back to reading this book!!