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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. Treehouse series

This is NOT Mary Pope Osborne's Treehouse.  You will see what I mean when you visit this site.
This series is so BOY that I - not being a BOY - had trouble reading the first book.  Andy and Terry started with a 13-story treehouse.  Then they added 13 more stories in the second book, The 26-Story Treehouse.  Can you guess the title of the forthcoming book?*

This treehouse does not have magic time-traveling powers.  It DOES have the scariest roller coaster in the world and a baby dinosaur petting zoo, 2 or more swimming pools, and an anti-gravity chamber.  Among other things.

Check them out.  Click here.

* Here's a hint:

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2. BoB Battle Plan










It distresses me that the books I have read already in this year's SLJ's Battle of the Kids' Books are toward the end of the battle.  No fair!  I DID read Brown Girl Dreaming.  But not another title until The Madman of Piney Woods in Round 5.  And then, I skip to Round 8, where I read both titles, We Were Liars  and  West of the Moon. I had better start reading aggressively.  There are trips to my local libraries and bookstores in my future.BattlePlans2015_SLJcom

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3. Mister Max!


 The Book of Secrets (Mister Max Series #2)

I told my mother - age, 80 plus - about all the books I read while away and she asked, "Have you read any more books about that boy who starts a detective business?"  Um?  I honestly could not remember the series she was referring to.  It had to be a book I lent to her but...

Then she added, "His parents were in the theater.  And he called himself something like a solver."

Bing!  YES!  Mister Max by Cynthia Voigt.  And, no, I had not read the second book in the series.  But, now I have!!!  I am so lucky my mother has a good memory.

Mister Max : The Book of Secrets  continues the story of Max Starling, or Mister Max, Solutioneer.  The problems Max must solve range from a schoolboy's concerns about the boy's father, to the mayor's problems with arson in the Old City.  There is a possible romance, a coded letter from Max's missing parents, and some spatting with his self-proclaimed assistant, Pia Bendiff. 

Max's grandmother has some secrets of her own that Max has to unravel as well. 

Voigt travels into dangerous territory here, as in, Max finds himself in peril, tied up and blindfolded.  And, the coded letter makes his parents' plight all too real.  Max and his grandmother have to do something to bring Max's parents home.

Max is an astonishingly perspicacious 12-year-old.  He is able to phrase questions and offer solutions in the most convincing and subtle ways.  When it comes to his personal life and the people closest to him, he does not see things that clearly.  Whew!  I was afraid he was going to be a super-teen.  I enjoy his stubborn streak and I want to shake him all at the same time. His insistence on being independent, even though he found the money his father hid in their house, is a little maddening. He's lucky his grandmother is so understanding!

 I think I will pre-order Mister Max : The Book of Kings so my mother doesn't have to remind me of the books I want to read.

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4. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

I loved Rundell's book, Rooftoppers. Cartwheeling has a much different setting.   Rooftoppers began and ended with the scent of magic realism.  Cartwheeling, on the other hand, hints at an all too concrete tragedy even while the heroine is enjoying her wonderful life.

The villainess in this book is smarmy and manipulative. (Do those two words mean the same thing?)  So, I skipped a few pages and got into the meat of the story.  Wilhelmina Silver has been a wild girl on the farm her father manages in Zimbabwe.  She rides, runs and fights as well as the boys, if not better.  Her life is one long adventure.  And everyone loves her - her father, Captain Browne who owns the farm, all the workers and their families and especially her best friend, Simon.

Then disaster strikes in the form of a new, pretty wife for Captain Browne.  In a trice, Will is orphaned - (these are the pages I skipped so I can only guess that Mrs. Browne did not do her best to nurse Will's father back to health) - and shipped off to Boarding School in England.

Much catty bullying and impotent glaring and despair follow and then Will runs off into a brand new wilderness, London. 



One of the best things about this book is the balance in the characters.  The bullies end up having good points - well, ok, reluctant remorse.  The teachers are not all bad.  And the boy who befriends Will has his limitations.  People are people - spotty and real.

Yep.  The ending is quite satisfying.  Rundell's writing does not disappoint.

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5. Storytelling

Skip over to the Storytelling Page for news of our Winter events!!!

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6. BoB

I went away.  Internet was expensive and spotty.   I am back.

So, it seems, is Battle of the Kids Books.   Here are this year's contenders.  I have only read FOUR of them.  Oh MY!  I must get some eye drops and those clips that keep your eyes open and hire a house minder so that I can read, read, read.

What I Read While I Was Away:

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - best book of the batch!
Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones - so good, sigh!
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud - can NOT wait for the next book in this outstandingly fun and creepy series

Three adult mysteries - one set in Singapore (Aunty Lee's Delights), another featuring crossword puzzles (The Crossworder's Delight) and a short story starring Hercule Poirot.  All a lot of fun.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel - surprisingly good and suspenseful

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp - galloping adventure

I started The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett.  Not quite done with it yet.  Considering that the first version was written - and published - when Sir Terry was 17, it's pretty darn good.  I am, I confess, a Pratchett fan.

Still in pjs - retirement is awesome! - now I must get moving or the day will be done before I know it.


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7. Bits & Pieces

Displaying


Book Expo has opened registration for their 2015 event.  May 27th through May 30th - Wednesday through Friday.  No Saturday.  I wonder if Saturday will be BookCon and only BookCon.  We will see.  Anyway go to www.bookexpoamerica.com for the latest Book Expo news.

I read Way Down Deep by Ruth White.  I read the sequel first so this felt like catching up.  Still, very good.
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin.  I am so in awe of Ann M. Martin.  Period.
Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen.  What is not to like about a baby centaur and a community that tries to protect one?
I started The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.  It has no trace of hope in it and that creeps me out.  BUT, I did just start the book.

BTW, for some strange reason, Blogger will not let me add links today.  So you will have to search for these books online yourselves.  Sorry.  (Except for Book Expo.  That link works.)

And that's all, folks!

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8. Cookbooks!!!!

Do you - or someone you know - love cookbooks?  Check out today's Shelf Awareness for Readers.  Oh my! YUM!
Crown: Portlandia Cookbook by Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein

Seriously!  Everyone who is anyone in the cooking world - well, a lot of them anyway - has a new book coming out.  Even Portlandia (see above)!

Even if cookbooks leave you lukewarm, check out Shelf Awareness for Readers for the most current book releases.

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9. Thankful for....



OK, books I have read recently that I have to review.  (Not all in one day, although I read one yesterday and one today.)

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata

Dangerous by Shannon Hale

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

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10. Happy Thanksgiving

The pumpkin pie is done and so is the rhubarb strawberry crisp.  Soon I will start chopping onions and celery for the stuffing.  The bird is thawed and, for non-traditionalists, there's a ham in the fridge as well.

Tomorrow, I will clean and set up and get down my mother-in-law's china - which is now mine. 

And family and friends will gather.  We will eat and chat and laugh and maybe even quarrel, but I hope not.

Snow has been falling all morning.  I feel warm, full, and grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, today and every day.

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11. Story Cabaret 11/14/2014 8 pm

Oh, you lovelies!  Come out on a dark November night to the warmth of Touchstone Theatre's cafe for Story Cabaret, an event for adults.

The date is Friday, November 14th.
The time is 8 pm.
The place is Touchstone Theatre, 321 East 4th Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015.
The cost is $10 - which includes a glass of wine.
The featured tellers are Chaz Kiernan - and Karen Maurer. 
 

Yep. ME!  No wait, that's Chaz.

Hey, it was a hot day!!  The things I did for my job!
 That's me, right there is an outrageous getup.  (You should see me with the paper crown.)

And you, too, can tell stories about anything you like.  The theme is "In Celebration of......"  All those dots mean, "Pick something".  Easy, right?

But there are rules.
Rule #1.  The stories must be personal.
Rule #2.  The stories must be true or very, very, very close to truth.  I mean, no one expects you to remember exactly what your physics prof said when she caught you sneaking the spectrometer out the window.
Rule #3.  No notes allowed.  Um, except I think I broke that rule last time.  Because I read a whole book.  It was a picture book, written by Neil Gaiman. Come on!  Neil Gaiman!!! I agree.  That, alone, is worth breaking a rule for.  (And it was only the last five minutes.)

I promise you 30 minutes of true or almost true stories about......... something.   It will be a great evening.  Join me - and Chaz - and that nice glass of wine.

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12. The Death of Bees



Any book that opens with teen girls burying their dead parents in the garden is going to be a page turner.  Marnie (whose fifteenth birthday is the day of the secret interment) suspects her 12-year-old sister, Nelly of suffocating their father, Gene.  Nelly suspects that Marnie is the culprit.  Neither of them are overly concerned since all they want to do is stay together.  Hence the hiding of the dead bodies.  (Mom's death was something else entirely.)  Gene and Izzy were NOT model parents.

Lenny, the aging neighbor watches the girls from his window, missing his dead partner, Joseph, and wondering where the parents have gone.

The girls struggle through school, and with friends and boys (Marnie) and social ineptitude (Nelly), until a crisis forces them to seek refuge with Lenny.  They find a safe place there.  But nothing lasts forever.

Sex, drugs, violence - this book may be about teens but it is written for adults or New Adults as 20-somethings are now called in the publishing world.  Marnie and Nelly are both very smart.  As they alternate telling the story, with some help from Lenny, they uncover what a truly neglected life they have led.  All the reader really wants is for them to have a home with Lenny - he's so lonely and he can really cook! - and get on with their lives.  But murder is not a victimless crime.  Someone always has to pay.

I can't get this book out of my head.  Some of the observations attributed to Marnie and Nelly are so apt, so well-put, that I want to memorize them.  Or post them on a sampler on my wall.

When Marnie catches her bible-thumping grandfather swigging whiskey from a bottle she reacts this way:
"I go back to my room afraid, because people like Robert T. Macdonald carrying righteousness like a handbag are dangerous and I never considered him dangerous before and now that I do I am scared."

"People...carrying righteousness like a handbag are dangerous."  We see them every single day.

Click for Lisa O'Donnell's NPR interview here.

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13. Almost missed this! Ivy and Bean

It's still October 18th!  So we can still celebrate those friends-to-the-end, Ivy and Bean.
Check out all the fun here.

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14. Craft Fair again????

Oh, dear friends (and Friends), the Lehigh Valley Friends Meeting Craft Fair approaches. (Oct. 18th) I should be planning the arrangements of all the tables, setting out yard signs, contacting the crafters and making sure they all show up, sending emails to all the bake sale donors and volunteers.  But instead I want to:
- read
- play the accordion, or the piano, or the kazoo
- bake muffins for me and mine and NOT for strangers
- write another adventure of the Advent Avenger, or the Halloween Hero, or the Thanksgiving Titan; (Titan?? where did that come from?)
- doodle
- do 6 or 10 or 15 sudoku puzzles and a few crosswords
- take down the wash
- make supper

ANYTHING!!!  ANYTHING but what I should be doing.  It is an affliction - this tendency of mine to ignore my responsibilities and just fritter.    Puttering is guilt-free.  Frittering is fraught...just totally fraught.

Anyway, if you are in Bethlehem, PA on October 18th - stop by the Lehigh Valley Friends Meeting and spend money.  I will be the heavyset flustered woman in the weird hat.  You will have fun.

10 am to 3 pm. 4116 Bath Pike, Bethlehem, PA 18017  And there will be homemade soup and bread, fresh pressed cider and music, sweet, sweet music.


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15. Lyrics

I have a problem.  I long for days with no to-dos in them - just puttering.  I like puttering.  BUT - but, I have so many things I want to do.

One of the things I want to do is write more song lyric-y poetry.  I even want to write more songs.
So I signed on to a FB group that challenges the members to write one song a month using a prompt suggested by members of the group.  And by write, the group doesn't expect a handwritten score that can be played by a quartet.  No, all the group wants is a YouTube, or an mp3, or an iTunes of the song.  Your phone can record the song, even.

Except my phone can't.  And after the first three or four months, I stopped trying.

Here are the prompts I missed:
one perfect day
an antique photo in a shop
tattoo
something to love about everyone
glimmer

I decided to cheat!  I decided to roll all those themes into one song.  Here are the lyrics I wrote:

 On a perfect day, one spent with you,
I chanced upon a scene
Of an old farm house in a dusty frame
So gray it was almost green.

And you smiled as if you had a thought
You had to keep from me
You bought me that dusty frame
Since that old house spoke to me.

There is something to love about everyone
You whispered that night in our bed.
That old farm looked like a promised land
to that farmer when he wed.

There is something to love about everyone
Was your mantra from then on.
That farmer’s work,  or my strange love
for a place that was long gone.

That frame is safely packed away
with the other things you left
When you knew that your time on earth was done
and I found myself bereft.

And your mantra I’ve etched into my skin
A glimmering tattoo
There is something to love about everyone
Because I once loved you.

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16. Story FUSION 2014

The tellers are coming!  The tellers are coming!

Frantically, I try to absorb all the research on stories and learning and then I must put all that stuff into context and condense it into sound bites. And then I have to provide adult learners with activities that will make them feel easier about  incorporating storytelling into their work lives.  And then I have to organize all this stuff so that it makes sense.  And THEN, I have to NOT blank out when presenting.

So here's my to-do list:
Create the certificate of participation - because it's the thing I would forget to do if I don't do it NOW.
Make an enlarged resource list - which I will make available here.
Collect definitions of the word story.
Collect quotes from studies to support the research.
Organize how I hope to present this stuff.
Practice it - so I don't blank out when someone takes me down a shady tangent.

Oh, did I tell you?  I'm leading a workshop for teachers and librarians about telling classrooms and storytelling clubs.  On Saturday.  From 9 to 12 noon.  At StoryFUSION.  JOIN ME!

Also, I am the MC on Saturday night - for Mary Wright and - TA DAH!!!  Jennings and Ponder!

This is the MOST wonderful time of the year!!!



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17. Telephone


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18. Storytelling AGAIN!!

Yup.

On Saturday, I will lead a family workshop on storytelling for kids 7 and up.  Younger kids can attend if their parents come along.  The workshop will be at Cops'n'Kids Lehigh Valley at the South Campus of Northampton Community College.  Click on the link to find a complete list of CopsnKids events.

I am reading Story Proof by Kendall Haven.  The subtitle is The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story. Haven has studied thousands of pages of reports in brain and cognitive science and they unanimously agree.  Humans need stories.  Humans learn best through stories.   As Rudyard Kipling is purported to have said,

"If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."

That is the truth.

I keep promising myself that I will make a list of the odd little facts, household tips, and attitudes that I have picked up from stories - either oral or written.

For instance, I learned that if you put your cream in the cup before pouring the coffee you don't need to stir.  And it's true.  I read that in a YA novel about a boy whose mother was a wandering diner waitress.

I learned the best way to clean up a shattered glass from a book.  The book was about a boy whose father was the headmaster at the lad's school.

Things stick in your head when your hear them, or read them in a story. 

So join me on Saturday and hear a good story or two.


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19. The Cracks in the Kingdom

Late on Monday night, I finished The Cracks in the Kingdom with a loud moan.  How could Jaclyn Moriarty do this to her readers?  What about the Queen of Cello?  How can Elliot and his father return?  Is Belle really having a mental breakdown?  Will Madeline's mother be ok?  And is Princess Ko as unfeeling as she appears?


I mean, really!!!!  This wild, whimsical fantasy trilogy (I hope it's a trilogy because I want answers SOON if not immediately) keeps me guessing.

This second entry into The Colors of Madeleine series returns to the Kingdom of Cello - where colors can create havoc and the entire Royal Family except for Princess Ko has been abducted.  Elliot Baranski is on the Royal Youth Alliance, an initiative supposedly designed to find ways for the Provinces of Cello to better work together.  The RYA is really dedicated to finding the Royal Family and returning them to Cello before war breaks out.

Since the Royal Family is in the World (That's us, folks.  We are the World.), Elliot needs Madeleine. 

Madeleine in turn needs her Worldly friends, Jack and Belle.  And the reader needs a neck brace from swiveling back and forth from Cello to the World to Cello to the World.

And it all gets scientific, and romantic and then, just like in the first book, A Corner of White, incredibly suspenseful.  WAAAAAAAHHHHHH!  I can't take this.  I need to know.

Who are these Wandering Hostiles who besiege the government of Cello?  Where the heck is Madeleine's father?  Why is the WSU determined to keep traffic between Cello and the World closed?  Can Elliot ever return to Cello?  Will Samuel survive? 

This review does NOT do this book,- the writing, the research, the fitting together of the smallest puzzle pieces,- justice.  Not since the Chrestomanci books of Diana Wynne-Jones have I read fantasies as intricate as this series.  Moriarty's mood is so much lighter that Wynne-Jones, (whom I miss every passing day), that it is easy not to notice how every detail is necessary to tell this story.  WOW!  Just plain wow!  Read these books.

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20. The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham


The Luck Uglies

I finished The Luck Uglies last night and I was satisfied to see that it promises a sequel.

When the (evil, disgusting, arrogant, cruel, etc.) Earl of Longchance captures a young Bog Noblin, he invites doom and terror to the village of Drowning.  Rye, her friends, Folly and Quinn, her mother, Abby and the mysterious tattooed man, known as Harmless, must save the village.  Spells, magical beasts, potions, and incredible escape acts, most occurring in the dark of night, keep the pages turning.

I admit I skimmed.  I often skim through battles because reading about swordplay and how the characters avoid decapitation or mangling makes me itchy.  (I am not an 11-year-old boy.)  I took the time to read one such scene and it was cinematically presented - the type of action/adventure sequence that the target readership will LOVE.

I love the cover and chapter illustrations.   I thought that one or two scenes were dragged out for suspense and action's sake.    Even the villains - except for the Earl, who is beyond the pale - have their not-so-awful moments.  So, yes, I think fantasy and adventure fans, boys and girls alike, will enjoy this book.

ASIDE:  Is there a running around the rooftops meme circulating through kids' fiction right now?  This is not the first, or even the second, book that I've read this year in which city rooftops are used as escape routes or roadways.  Just wondering.



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21. Chomping on the bit





Two sources have alerted me to some awesome soon-to-be-published books.  Over on Fuse#8, Betsy Bird mentioned titles from a librarian's preview from HarperCollins.  I am drooling.

And PW Children's gave stars to the books they reviewed in today's online edition.  Since I am receiving this e-newsletter after retirement, I won't link directly to the reviews.  I can tell you what the books are, though.

1.  Is this a dream?  I must pinch myself.  Jen Bryant teams up with Melissa Sweet to bring us a picture book biography of Peter Mark Roget, the creator of Roget's Thesaurus.  The book, The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus  is published by Eerdman's and will come out in September.  Bryant has authored some awesome non-fiction and Sweet's illustrations win me over every time.  But the subject matter, a man obsessed with words, a life-saver to writers and puzzle-solvers alike, is so mind-expanding.  Fascinating people don't just climb mountains and rescue tiger cubs.  They solve equations and explore words. 

2. Nuts to You by Lynn Rae Perkins (Greenwillow, 978-0-06-009275-7) comes out in August and it's about SQUIRRELS.  Yes!  Yes!  Squirrels are everywhere my friends.  When a squirrel is carried away by a hawk, his friends go on an adventure to find him.  Isn't that cover so pretty?

3. Gregory Maguire of Wicked fame is back with a Russian folktale styled story that features a futuristic Baba Yaga and a reversal of roles plot.  Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire will be published by Candlewick in September

4.  Last but not least is Meg Wolitzer's "debut" YA novel, Belzhar, brought to us by Dutton and due out in September.  (Wolitzer's The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman, a masterpiece about Scrabble must have been meant for a younger audience.)  A broken-hearted teen who is incapable of recovering from her failed romance is sent to a special school where she is given a journal that takes her back in her own life to before her heartbreak.

There are so many books and there is so little time.  I think I ONLY have 24 ARCs to work through, along with the one library book on my bedside bookshelf.  I will tell you about that, later.



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22. Confession




classic-winnie-the-pooh 4_720x960

I do not want to read books written for teens.  I do not want to read new books.  I want to snuggle down with Winnie-the-Pooh and Uncle Wiggily.

 I want to revisit the flood in which Piglet is entirely surrounded by water and the boat made of an overturned umbrella.

I can not get interested in road trips made by fledgling adults, or the struggles of young people whose best friends have all moved away.  I want to to find Goldbug on every page.  I want to meet Anne Shirley again for the first time.

And I want to sail on the pirate ship with Obadiah, the Bold, chant "Not I!" with the dog and the mouse and the cat - or is it a rooster?

It is the waning of summer, a time of nostalgia and I want to go back, go back, go back to the first time I opened Little Men.

This, too, shall passToddlers turn to school children.  Tigers turn to butter and I will turn to new books some time.

But not right now.

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23. Storytelling Workshop


9780812993882

How do you teach storytelling in one and a half hours?  It's a trick question because you can't teach storytelling in one and a half hours.

All I can hope to do tomorrow is introduce a group of kids to story structure (the very basics) and the fun of using your whole self to tell a story. 

The workshop will be at the Upper Macungie Community Center - all the heck the way over in Breinigsville, PA and it happens at 10 am.

If you are in that neck of the woods, stop by.

BTW, I am reading two books right now, How We Learn by Benedict Carey.  Whoa!  This book is an eye opener into the workings of memory and into the workings of Learning Scientists.  Non-fiction always takes me longer to digest.

Show Me a Story by Emily K. Neuberger is about teaching storytelling to children.  A lot of the activities in this book are about creating stories, rather than telling stories that you have heard or read.  Still, the crafts are open-ended enough to appeal to a wide age range of children.  And the games are great for sharing tales and getting creative juices flowing.

I have downloaded a couple of e-galleys that I am excited to get into soon.  I still have some ARCs from BEA to which I should give my attention. 

Any suggestions on how I can share these ARCs?  Let me know. 

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24. Fangirl

Why did I wait so long to read this?  It is awesome.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell    

Fangirl    More later.  I have to finish this book.

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25. Pop Goes the Page - stories

Over at Princeton University, at the Cotsen Children's Library, Dr. Dana Sheridan posts several times a week about the programs she does.   Her blog is Pop Goes the Page and it is truly worth a look.

Today's post is about kamishibai, a Japanese form of storytelling with colorful picture cards.  Check out this link to read her post.

She mentions Allan Say's touching book, Kimishibai Man, about an aging storyteller whose livelihood is lost to television.  At the end of the book, he decides to take his bicycle and his little stage and look for an audience.  He finds one.  Happy ending.


Kamishibai Man 

  Live storytelling thrives today, whether it is tellers with microphones,or story hours with books.  One person using her voice to tell a story, read, recited or woven from memory is so much more evocative than people acting out a scene.  A spoken story - even with pictures as aids - leads the listeners into their own imaginations where they can depth and detail.  Television and movies, and even theater to a smaller extent, leave little to the imagination.  Well, we can still imagine what the scene smells like.  We can imagine how it feels to hold that little piglet.  But not much else.

I will introduce storytelling to a group of youngsters and their parents on Sept. 6th at Cops'n'Kids in South Bethlehem.  Stop by!  and we can talk about the importance of sharing stories in person.

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