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I post what I think about books, children's and adult's, and what is going on in my life as a librarian and a storyteller.
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1. Picture book title brainstorm

I am brainstorming picture book titles here and I have come up with a template:

(Name), the brave little (animal, household appliance, vegetable, shape or person) who (verb past tense) to find a (place or group)

So here how it works.

Choose a name - like Hortense.

Then choose a thing, preferably non-human but... well, anyway, how about plunger?

Then insert a past tense verb - how about tabulated?

And last but not least, a place or group.  Usually this is something cuddly but not always.  Let me riffle through my dictionary here.    Hmmmm, pride.

So the title of my picture book will be:

Hortense, the brave little plunger, who tabulated to find a pride. 


That will generate a lot of excitement in the publishing world.  I will just wait for the offers to pour in.

You can change the template, too.  Maybe your brave little whatever went on something.

Hortense, the brave little plunger, might go on a mop.  Or, your brave little something-or-other could learn something.  Hortense, the brave little plunger, who learned to sleep.  Awesome!

Yep.  Hortense and I are going to RULE the picture book market.

(Obviously, I am at a loose end, today.  I think I'll take a walk.)

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2. Patterson's Latest and KBWT

Homeroom Diaries

Jame Patterson - whew!  When does that guy sleep?  I bet he has electrodes attached to his brain to transcribe his dreams so when he wakes up, he has new ideas.

In July, his latest book series begins, The Homeroom Diaries.  Margaret "Cuckoo" Clarke, back from a brief sojourn in a mental hospital, tries to get all the warring factions of her high school to bury the hatchet.  Really, that's all you need to know.  The possibilities for mayhem that exist in that premise are infinite, indeed.  Patterson's great-grandchildren will inherit this franchise when all high schools will be virtual - but the problems will be the same.  Sigh.  Unless "Cuckoo" is successful and real teens use her stories as a model of peaceful behavior.  Hope springs!

Kids Book Website Tuesday!!!
1.  Cops 'n' Kids  Last Wednesday, I visited the Cops'n'Kids Reading Room on the Southside Northampton Community College campus.  What an inviting - and exciting - place!  While I was there talking to Bev Bradley, who manages this organization, two children came in with parents and walked out with FREE their-very-own-to-keep books.  Studies have shown that children who grow up with books in their homes, books that STAY in their homes, have an advantage in education.  As a librarian, I worry about the unintended slight to libraries a little bit.  I know and understand the deep attachment that children have for their very own books and I applaud Cops-n-Kids for making book ownership a possibility for everyone.  If you live in the Lehigh Valley, visit the Reading Room on Wednesdays or Saturdays.  If you live elsewhere, look at what they do to copy, or find a similar group near you.

2 Slimekids   So this site just might KBWT extinct.  Andy Fine, the creator of SlimeKids collects book review sites, book trailers, links to authors websites and more on this one website.  Thanks, Andy.  Now, what will I do on Tuesdays?

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3. KU Addendum

 Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference  The official logo of the Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference.

My KU Addenda ( or "um", I can't remember which) is up on the Lists page.  But here is the link if you need immediate gratification.

And here is the link to the list I handed out at the KU Children's Literature Conference on Saturday.

Thanks.  Stay tuned for more book stuff.

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4. KU Children's Lit Conference

The Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference occurred today and it was, as always, wonderful.  Thanks so much to all the people who pull this conference together.  The keynote speakers, Frank Serafini, Jim Murphy and David Wiesner, were amazing and the book reviews were, too.  (She lowered her eyes, modestly.)  The problem with being a book review presenter is that you can't see what the other reviewer is doing.  I put out a booklist.  I wonder if she does, too. My booklist is up on the Lists page but check back in a day or two to see The Titles That I Forgot!

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5. Stories - April 6th

My accordion is ready with her very own mustache and so am I.

Ready to sing (badly), play (loudly) and tell lots of fun stories.  I have stories about people with mustaches and animals without mustaches.  I have songs and games to play.

So bring your mustaches with you tomorrow - real or fake - to Godfrey Daniels at 2 pm for the LAST Children's Series Storytelling event of the year.

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6. The Winnah! SLJ's Battle of the Books

Winner final whole The Big Kahuna Match: Between Boxers & Saints, P.S. Be Eleven, and Eleanor & Park

Nuff said.  Another great contest, another astonishing result!  Whoo Hoo!

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7. Children's Book Review

The Children's Book Review is 6 years old today.  Check out their Happy Anniversary Win-a-Kindle Contest.

Good luck, everyone! 

Panel 0  PS.  If you win, let me know!

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8. We Were Liars E. Lockhart

Reading about the shining Sinclairs and their private island reminded me of the joys of summer when you live on a large property and you have the run of the land.   My cousins, my sibs and I -not RICH at all, just always together - we had the golden summers that Lockhart describes in her latest book "We Were Liars".

I was swept up in that sense of belonging, of knowing that we would always have each other.  Idyllic.

Of course, even in fiction, life must intervene.  Lockhart takes great pains to dole out the pieces of that intrusion and so, out of respect for her craft, I can't tell you much.  Life crashes into the Sinclairs' lives, like a tornado.  That's all I can say.

So read it.

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9. Beekle trailer

  I dare you not to have some emotional response to the music for this trailer - to say nothing of the artwork or the book's idea.

By Dan Santat.  I am looking for this the next time I step into a bookstore.

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10. How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks

The trailer is pretty awesome.  And the book is not too shabby either.  Birdie tells the story of how she and her boss, Alfred the Bogler, rid London of child-snatching demons.  Small and fair, Birdie has an angel's voice.  She sings.  The bogle comes out to snatch her.  (Some are slimy; some are smoky.  All are evil.)  Alfred does what he must.

Two things happen almost simultaneously in this novel.  First, the woman who runs the largest band of child pickpockets and beggars in London asks Alfred to look into the disappearance of several of her lads.  More boys are disappearing than usual.  Then, a learned gentlewoman wants to accompany Alfred and Birdie on their jobs because she has studied every book she can find about these demonic beings. She makes it worth their while - at first.

Well, that's all I can tell you without spoiling the book for you.  Just know that there are some evil doings in here and some treachery - of the human kind.  And Birdie and Alfred get their world shaken up and thrown around.

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks  Check a library or bookstore near you.  I hope the next book in this series comes out soon.

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11. Vacation in Tupelo Landing - with ghosts

 The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing

A good book is like a mind vacation.  And that's what reading The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing was like.  Mo Lebeau, Miss Lana, Dale and the Colonel are back with a local history assignment, a new kid in class, and an auction at the abandoned inn.

Miss Lana and Grandmother Miss Lacy conspire to purchase the inn. (The other bidder was despicable!)  And the inn comes with a ghost - in the fine print of the deed.

The members of the Desperado Detective Agency (Mo and Dale) decide to unmask that ghost with terrifying and edifying results.

I love fiction - because it's not fact.  There are kids out there as quick-witted - or quick-mouthed - as Mo.  We just don't run into them all that often.  There are friendships like Mo and Dale's, too.  Still, Mo's mindfulness about Dale's thinking ("rhetorical" "social skills") and Dale's just plain niceness work to warm the reader's heart. ( Of older readers, anyway.)

There is a little incident toward the end of the book.  Dale has visited his dad, Macon, in jail and Dale's older brother, Lavender, asks about the visit.  "Same dog, same spots,"  Dale says (mixing up the leopard/spots thing.).  Mo notices that Lavender's face goes soft, the way that Miss Lana's face looks sometimes when Miss Lana looks at Mo.  And the reader knows that Lavender truly loves - no, cherishes - his little brother.

Yeah, I wish Tupelo Landing was a real place.  I wish I could visit with the Colonel and Mo and Miss Lana.  And I hope that there's another book about this cozy, folksy little town.

And the ghost part?  It's intriguing and, in the end, it's the stuff of fairy tales and happy endings.  Pan from the strings of lights to the twinkling stars, please.  Fade.

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12. Storytelling, Books, and stuff

This morning, Larry and I met to plan our storytelling workshop at the Bethlehem Area Public Library on Wednesday (March 26th) evening from 6 to 8 pm.  If you live anywhere near the library; if you are at least 12 years old and younger than 18; if you like to tell stories, contact the library and sign up.  OK?  It will be F-U-N! 

So, I DID read more books last week.

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell.  Sophie and Charles find each other after a shipwreck.  She's a baby floating in a cello case.  He's a young man.  He decides to raise her as his own. He lets her wear trousers at a time when girls and women never wear trousers.  He uses toast as a bookmark!  She climbs trees and eats off the covers of large books.  Then a child welfare organization becomes "concerned".
Charles and Sophie flee to Paris in hopes of finding Sophie's family and they find a family of a totally different sort in the garrets and on the flat roofs of the most romantic city in the world.
 There is an airy quality to Sophie's pre-child welfare life and a fantastic feeling to her life in Paris.  And it makes a lovely, lyrical story.

Jessica Darling's IT List by Megan McCafferty.  Well, here is another engaging book about How to Be Popular in Middle School.  Jessica's big sister hands Jessica a card with just 4 rules on it.  The card is titled "Bethany Darling's IT List - the Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Perfection and Prettiness". 
Well, Bethany has been VERY popular and VERY pretty all through middle and high school so, of course, Jessica wants to follow these simple tips.  But her attempts to join the Cheer Squad and pick her first boyfriend end in a variety of humorous disasters.  Jessica has to find new friends and new interests in order to survive.  Readers my age will find the book comforting in its predictability.  Middle school readers will find Jessica's survival comforting.  Fun, light and sure to please readers in grades 5 and up.

And last but most definitely not LEAST....
 Seeing Red by Kathy Erskine.  Whoa!  The setting is the early '70s in Virginia.  Red Porter just lost his Dad and now may have to pick up and leave behind the family garage and everything he ever knew because his Mom wants to move back to Ohio.  In his attempt to make the family property unattractive to buyers, he gets involved with teenage racist thugs.  He finds out more than he ever wanted to know about his family's shady past.  One of his best friends outgrows him and the other has family crises that seem insurmountable.  He disappoints a lot of people and has to face his mistakes.  He grows up. 
This is a fast-moving book that treats some BIG issues with sensitivity and grace.  For kids in grades 6 and up.  Mature fifth graders may be able to handle it but there is a graphic description of the Emmett Till story that is very disturbing.

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13. Equilibrium returns

  When one parent has to travel for work and the other parent has to go to his/her daily job, too, babysitting opportunities multiply for all grandparents.  It was a whole week of babysitting opportunities (not every day) including a trip to the local science center and a visit to ducks at the park. 

Still, toddlers make it hard to do things like blog, write, clean - except shoveling up the building blocks -, laundry, and think.

That said, within ten minutes of the toddler leaving, we - Hub and I - looked around and said.  "We miss our grandchild."  Are humans ever satisfied?  I think not.

Now we can get back to other things:

Tomorrow - March 23rd - at 2 pm, Dave Fry has a CD release party for "Playground", his new kids' songs CD with guest stars like Robbi Kumalo and Wendi Bourne on vocals, Kevin Soffera on percussion, Ansel Barnum on harmonica and Rob Stoneback kicking back some brass.  I can NOT wait for this show.

Books I have read this week:  (both for grades 5 and up)
The Water Castle  by Megan Frazer Blakemore.  (I like that author's name!)  Electromagnetism, Peary and Henson and Cook and polar explorations, a little bit of Tesla and some back and forth-ing between time periods - plus kid style adjusting to new people and stressful situations and forming friendships.  I liked it.  I'd give it 3 1/2 stars though because I thought it went on a little long.

The Center of Everything by Linda Urban.  Ruby's story is framed by the events of the Bunning Day parade.  As she waits to read the Bunning Day Essay - she won the competition - the author takes us through the loss of her grandmother, Gigi, and how her grandmother's last day has affected Ruby's life and friendships.  Ruby deals with her loss and the guilt that comes with a loved one's death.  (I relate, Ruby. )  The mood of Bunning day is so ebullient that the reader just knows that everything is supposed to be all right.  And it might be.  There's hope anyway.  This one gets 5 stars because I relate, because it is hopeful and because everything is not tied up in a pretty package at the end - just almost.  I also really wanted a donut after reading this book.  Hmmm, maybe thatmake it 4 stars.

I think I read at least one other book this week.  So check back later for another review.

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14. First rule of BoB

I neglected the first rule of BoB.  Consider carefully the judge.  Care-ful-ly.  Knowing the judge of each match may very well change a prediction.  Yesterday, I gleefully proclaimed the winner for today without even noticing who the judge is.  Sarah Mlynowski writes books with edge, even when writing for middle graders. If I considered that carefully, I may have guessed that she would pick Far, Far Away as the winning book in this match.  ***strikes forehead with palm!****  Duh.

That said, her praise of both books convinced me that she chose wisely and well.

No more predictions for me.  My arrogance is justly punished.

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15. BoB Gloat

Eleanor & Park has moved on to Round 2 of the Battle of the Books.  Did I not call it?  I did.  And this success has given me enough arrogance to think I can predict tomorrow's winner.

Far, Far Away goes up against the Newbery-winner, Flora and UlyssesOne is about the ghost of Jacob Grimm.  The other is about a squirrel who has a life-changing run-in with a vacuum cleaner.  Hmm, ghost?  Or Squirrel?  Ghost...squirrel...ghost...squirrel.

Before I cast my prediction into InterSpace, let me say I found both books to be great reads.  The language in Flora and Ulysses is delicious.  Far, Far Away is populated by people who appear to mimic stock fairy tale characters... and then, they don't.  One is a romp through family dynamics and poetry.  The other takes breath-taking twists through grief and loss into depravity.  It's pretty much like deciding between a flashlight and a coil of rope.  Both are useful but pick the wrong one and you are stranded.

There.  My weighty analysis is done.  I pick the SQUIRREL!!!!!!!!  (Full disclosure here.  I am a big fan of stories about squirrels.)  And for those who didn't read either book, that would be Flora and Ulysses as tomorrow's winner.

Thank you.

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16. It Started!!!! Battle of the Books

SLJ's Battle of the Books started already.  I missed the first two matches. The results of Round 1, Match 2 are here:  Round 1, Match 1, click here.

BoB2014 MG R1 M2 Round 1, Match 2: Boxers and Saints vs A Corner of White
Here's Match 2.  Just guess which one wins.
 Sometimes, the best part of each match is the anticipation.  In these cases, since I haven't even had a chance to look at one of the entries in each match, the judge's comments will help me a lot.

Check out the brackets below.  I am ready for the next Match and I predict..... Eleanor and Park will win!  Except that Doll Bones was awesome, too.  Glad I'm not a judge!
3 9 BKTS 1RND alljudges The Brackets

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17. A story by me

My name is Karen Maurer.  I tell stories.

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18. Ingrid at Godfrey's!

Ingrid Bohn will tell stories at Godfrey Daniels on March 2nd at 2 pm.  Prepare to be amused! Amazed! and Awed!

Here's snippet of Ingrid's storytelling from StoryFUSION 2013.

See you there.

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19. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

So, with my afternoon plans shot to heck, I picked up Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee.  The opening reads like a fairy tale about a boy who is imprisoned by a cruel and beautiful queen from the North. 

Then we meet Ophelia, her father and her older sister, Alice.  They have moved from London to a place where it always snows.  Wait!  Haven't I read this somewhere before?  Does Ophelia find a magic door?  Was this written by a Danish folklorist?

Foxlee takes the story of Andersen's Snow Queen and twists it just enough to make a enjoyable read.  Ophelia and her family are grieving the loss of Ophelia's mother.  It is days before Christmas and Ophelia's father, Mr. Whittard, has taken a temporary assignment in a huge museum in a frozen city.  He must catalog and arrange an impressive collection of swords.  His daughters, teenaged Alice, and 11 year-old Ophelia, are to keep each other amused.  Alice can't seem to rise above her grief to watch Ophelia.  Alice's misery makes her a victim later on.

Ophelia is a practical child and knows magic doesn't exist.  So when she finds the door and looks through the keyhole, she can't believe the boy she sees trapped inside.  She doesn't believe the story he tells her.  And yet, she feels compelled to help him.  This sudden display of bravery frightens Ophelia more than the adventure itself.  And it is quite an adventure.  Releasing that boy may save the entire world!

The book is written for middle grade readers - 4th through 6th grade.  Fairy tale lovers of all ages will enjoy it.  The "lost in a museum"  setting is always fun.  Who knows what we might find in this gallery, or down this hallway?

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20. Crochet mustache

I put crochet directions for this mustache on the Let's Make Stuff page.  It's not hard at all.  I must apologize to all seasoned crocheters out there.  I have never written crochet directions before so I hope you can decipher these directions.   If you don't know how to make the varying stitches, About.com has a directory of stitches here.  Curious.com offers video lessons here.


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21. Cancelled-Postponed-Whatever

I cancelled my performance.    The venue has been closed all weekend.  Parking is not good on that side of town.  Folks are still digging their cars out.  These are my reasons for cancelling. 

But, the sun is shining for the first time in days.

Everyone I discussed this decision with thought it was a good decision.  As a matter of fact, I hardly had to convince them at all.

Still, I feel awful about cancelling.  Whatever happened to the "show must go on"? 

Well, there.   A little bit of venting on a sunny icy day.

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22. Mustaches!

Mustaches!  And more in the works.  If I ever figure out how I crochet them I will post the directions on the Let's Make Stuff page.

Anyway, can you guess why I am producing these fake facial hair products???  Because I will be telling stories at Godfrey Daniels on Sunday at 2 pm - and my stories will have mustaches in them!!!  So I need some samples, see?

So pray for sun and warmth.  Right now, it feels like we will be housebound til April (3 to 6 more inches on the way, they say, bringing our total for the day to what? 14 inches? 18 inches?).  

Time to make some more mustaches!

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23. Guest Teller - ME!!

I'd like to introduce the featured teller at Sunday's Children's Series Show at Godfrey Daniels.

ME!  Karen Maurer :
 Come out and hear me fumble around on the accordion; tell stories about mustachioed people; offer a prize for the best mustache so please bring one along; get people up on stage to march and mug and sing.

The date: Feb. 16th, 2014
The time: 2 pm
The Place: Godfrey Daniels
Admission: $4.50 for people 5 years old and older.  And Cops'n'Kids will be there to hand out free books.
See you there.

It was a long time ago.
I've always been fond of mustaches!  
My first accordion.  I will play the new one on Sunday.
I'm giving last minute instructions to the Reader Theater troupe at Nazareth Library here.

This photo speaks for itself!
I told stories when I was just a youngster - on long car trips after we sang every round my mother could teach us.  Dad ruled the car radio and classical music made us kids itchy.  So I was radio Karen, making stories up, telling stories from memory.

It just followed that I would tell stories as a "profession".  Books and stories; stories and books...we know that stories came first but books were sure to follow.  And I love both of them.

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24. A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Saturday Review:
A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Madeleine lives in Cambridge, UK, with her mother after running away from their former jet set lifestyle and their respective father/husband.

Elliot lives in the Kingdom of Cello where his father has been carried away - Elliot believes - by a high level Purple attack.  Colors are dangerous in Cello.

When Madeleine finds a note shoved into a broken parking meter slot, she replies.  Why not?  Could be fun!  And her new hand-to-mouth existence needs a little pizzazz.

Elliot finds Madeleine's reply.

Set against the backdrops of Madeleine's first romance with one of her homeschooling partners, and Elliot's plans for returning to the Magical North to find his father, this correspondence opens both teens' eyes to empathy and self-awareness. 

I had trouble getting into the book.  There seemed to be a slew of details added for whimsy.  As the book continued whimsy gained purpose and the ending left me wanting more.  I will have more!!!

This book is a contender in SLJ's Battle of the Kids' Books.

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25. Robbi Kumalo at Godfrey Daniels

Join me on Sunday, February 2nd, at 2 pm at Godfrey Daniels as I absorb the wonderfulness that is Robbi Kumalo.  She has a voice like honey.  No lie. And she gets the kids up and moving.  Alone, or with her family of musicians, Robbi is a spellbinding performer.

So, if you live in the Lehigh Valley, or Southeastern or East Central PA or western NJ, get your self over to Godfrey's on Sunday.   Admission is $4.50 for anyone 5 years old and older and free for the littles!  And all children get free books from Cops'n'Kids.  This concert is made possible by the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild and the Eastern PA Arts Alliance

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