Saturday, July 31, 2010

How do you know it is a celebrity author book?

PW announced that Disney has signed Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken write a baseball series.  

Ripken, bless him, may be the next Matt Christopher, Phil Bildner, Mike Lupica, authors who write (Christopher died in 1997) engrossing stories, using sports as a frame. 

I hope his series is a success.  Still, how do you know it is a celebrity author book?  

All together now, boys and girls, "when they use the word LESSONS in the publicity. "

Ripken says,
“Connor is a character that I was able to help develop with Kevin based on my experiences as a kid who struggled with his emotions. I hope that the kids reading it find it to be fun and take away a few lessons from it.”
The first book will be titled Hothead.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Any old rubbish?

Thank you to 100 ScopeNotes for directing me here: Twilight Saga: how to write a children's best-seller By Philip Womack.

Read the whole article, it will help with the "cat" thing.

Successful children’s books tap into a child’s hunger for the safe made strange. They rejuvenate ancient folktales of order rising out of chaos. They speak to a child’s subconscious and form its collective experiences. Rowling and Meyer do all this, with enough metaphorical cats killed between them to fill a small cemetery. Whatever their literary merits, the books act as forerunners to a bewildering grown up world, where evil is dressed as glamour and where ordinary people are called to be heroes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Team Shark? Team Train?

Shark vs. TrainShark vs Train by Chris Barton,  illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, Little, Brown, 2010

I loved this photo from the Blue Rose Girls wrap-up of ALA.  Team Shark or Team Train? Who is superior?  That is a question that could lead to an inspired library lesson.  If you need some help, Little, Brown has a Shark vs Train website, with posters and activity sheets to download.

Tom Lictenheld's comic illustrations are delivered with broad, over-the-top humor and subtle nudges which will delight the book's audience of kids and kids of a "certain age," as the French say.    A sly and canny wit underpins the project which comes from  Chris Barton's inspired concept of a shark and a train, trying to out-do each other.  The story is a celebration of children and imaginative play.  

If it is not on your library shelf yet,then this is a must have for your school library's first order of the year.  

In fact if you don't have Barton's 2010 Sibert Honor biography, The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors, illustrated by Tony Persiani, Charlesbridge, 2009, in your library, you best get a copy of it too!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.  Scholastic Audio Books, 2007
As an author, it must be a tricky thing to listen to the audiobook of your work.  You've labored over the voice, the tone, the dialogue, the...the...ellipses.  To hear another voice reading the story could be so odd. 

Then, what if it all goes horribly off track? What if the bright folks at Corporate Audiobook Inc. get it completely wrong?  What if the narrator doesn't work or is a complete mismatch and they bungle the rhythm and dialogue the author so carefully crafted?

Wednesday Wars
Well, I hope Gary D. Schmidt was happy with Joel Johnstone because, it seems to me that Johnstone understood every word, every syllable and even the spaces BETWEEN the words of this Newbery honor book.  

I listen to a lot of audiobooks.  Some are enjoyable, some are bearable and some are un-listenable.    Scholastic Audio has produced a performance here that seems as close to a perfect melding of story and narrator as I have ever heard.

Oh, to hear Johnstone voice the teacher, Mrs. Baker  as she addresses Holling Hoodhood, with her crystalline:  "Mr. Hoodhood" or to experience Holling's lament of  the placement of the feathers on his costume for The Tempest -- these are moments I will long remember. 
I was  a seventh grader during the school year of 1967-68 and could,  totally identify with Holling's "still-too-young-to-fully-appreciate the-times-that-were-a-changing-but-old-enough-to-understand-that-something-was-happening-here"  state of mind.  Author, Gary Schmidt got that part exactly right.

I remember when classrooms had windows that opened, a concept that seem long ago and far away now.  I DO remember when a teacher, like Mrs. Baker,  could cross her arms in such a way that the class WOULD fall silent immediately

The Wednesday Wars
  is a novel with characters so real  and authentic that I found myself missing them between listens.  This book is a celebration of teaching and learning and what students learn from dedicated teachers and what teachers learn from dedicated students.

While all the Jewish and Roman Catholic kids in his class are at religious instruction on Wednesday afternoon, Holling Hoodhood, a Presbyterian, is the only student left at school.  His teacher, Mrs. Baker must also stay, as a result.  Holling is sure she hates him for it.   As Mrs. Baker and Holling embark on a study of Shakespeare on these Wednesdays,  he finds more connections than he could have ever guessed, between his life and the words of the Bard.   He also gains insight into the life of his teacher whose husband is fighting in Vietnam.  

Gary Schmidt is a very clever writer.   I burst out loud laughing as Holling attempts to navigate seventh grade in spite of accidents, death threats, deadly rats, diagrammed sentences, a flower-child older sister and a distant and opportunistic father. 

Glorious story, brilliant audiobook.

I am not sure how many kids have discovered this book. Classroom windows do not open anymore in my corner of the world, but the humor, the quandaries and vagueries of junior high school life are still spot on.  

Memo to self:  Must booktalk this title. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Library of the Early Mind

Ooooooooo!   Ahhhhh!  Wowwww!  This could be splendid.
Library of the Early Mind, a feature-length documentary film about children’s literature directed by Edward J. Delaney and produced by Edward J. Delaney and Steven Withrow. The film is intended for festival release in 2010.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Fancy Nancy

Fancy Nancy: Every Day Is Earth Day (I Can Read Book 1)
Fancy Nancy: Every day is Earth Day by Jane O'Connor, pictures based on the art of Robin Preiss Glasser, interior illustrations by Aleksey Ivanov and Olga Ivanov. Harper, 2010.

This "I Can Read, Beginning Reading" level 1 book is a surprisingly canny look at saving energy and keeping an Earth Day outlook!

Nancy Yancy is helping her family make changes to be more "green."  She reminds her parents to ride a bike when possible, take a tote to the market, wear a sweater to stay warm instead of changing the thermostat and to use less water.  

O'Connor points to another aspect of conservation though.  As in real life, there are downsides to being "green" which Nancy has to face.  Pulling the plug on a computer to save energy, results in the loss of a project that Nancy's mother was working on.  When Nancy saves energy by turning off the light in her little sister's bedroom,  her sister awakens, in a dark room,  which terrifies her.  There are consequences to inflexible green policies.

Common sense tells us we can do a lot by following Nancy's simple rules. I would settle for everyone just picking up their trash at the movies to start.