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This blog is about teaching, my life’s work; literature, especially that created for children; history, especially as it is taught to and learned by children; Africa, especially Sierra Leone where I was a Peace Corps Volunteer; and other sundry topics as they come to my attention.
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1. Five Children on the Western Front wins Costa Award

How awesome that days after I read and posted my admiration for Kate Saunders’ Five Children on the Western Front it won the UK Costa Award. More about the award, the author, and the book here.  Also, I’ve just finished the author’s Beswitched and was totally charmed by it. Now off to read more of her books.


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2. Kate Saunder’s Five Children on the Western Front

I learned about this title when it was shortlisted for the UK Costa Award and immediately ordered it from the UK. I’ve now read it and here is what I wrote on goodreads:

I’m a fan of Nesbit’s original FIVE CHILDREN AND IT, but I’m not sure it is necessary to be familiar with it to enjoy this intriguing and elegantly crafted sequel.

Nine years after their last meeting with the Psammead (a grumpy sandfairy), he suddenly shows up in his old gravelpit. Cyril, Robert, Anthea, and Jane are now young adults, the Lamb an active eleven-year-old, and there is now one more — Edith, age nine. World War I has begun and is the center of this tale. It turns out that their old magical friend has an old history that he needs to resolve, most of all feel some sort of regret. The young people’s involvement with the war twisted around the Psammead’s not-so-pleasant behaviors of the past is moving, exciting, and sometimes sad. There are references to their earlier experiences, the nature of wishing, and how to consider the past. Beautifully written, this is a tale that I hope sees publication and promotion in the US.

 

 


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3. Families in Books

The Guardian has a lovely series on families in literature. My favorites:

I was a 26-year-old living by myself when I first read The Mouse and His Child. I spent my evenings reading on an old, yellow sofa my mother gave me when I left home. It was uncomfortable and covered in stains, but it was a fixture in family pictures of the house I grew up in – a grainy bit of furniture in the background, sat next to a bookshelf and a little wooden seesaw. It reminded me of living with my sisters, of the posters on the wall and the dusty globe on the shelf. As I sat on it and read Russell Hoban’s book, I thought about my family.

I’m with Robert Freeman, Russell Hoban’s The Mouse and his Child is absolutely about family. It is lyrical, beautiful, melancholy, witty, demanding, and wonderful.

All of this makes Tove Jansson’s adorable Moomin family a joyous anomaly. There is a nuclear family at the centre – the boyish Moominpappa, the serene Moominmamma (who, wonder of wonders, encourages children to smoke) and Moomintroll, gullible and guileless, intending to do good and invariably getting into trouble….Yet it’s the fringes of these Finnish hippopotami-things that is intriguing. Moomintroll’s on-off girlfriend, the Snork Maiden, seems to live in the house with them at some point. Is she and her brother the Snork even the same species as the Moomins? …Why do they have that lucre-loving weaselish creature, Sniff, as a semi-permanent houseguest?

considers Tove Jansson’s delightful non-traditional Moomin family.

I didn’t like the March household at seven, when they were pressed on me as a warm refuge from my own family’s ungenteel poverty …. There are a few glimpses of a harsher world outside, as in the opening, when Marmee inspires the girls to give their Christmas breakfast to the children of a destitute immigrant (three of whom later die of scarlet fever offstage), but Alcott pulled a quilt of cosiness – a comforter, as the Americans say – over the Marches. As a child, I couldn’t have explained exactly why they felt phoney, but I was sure there was something much darker to Marmee/Abigail Alcott, and that Jo/Louisa faced more than trivial tribulations.

Veronica Horwell on her difficulties with Louisa May Alcott’s March family.

Dickens and Christmas are so intertwined that those of a literary disposition often think of them together. It is usually Ebenezer Scrooge and the Cratchit family who spring to mind, as we make our yearly return to A Christmas Carol and the otherChristmas Books. In contrast to these tales of hope and good cheer, Bleak House is, to use a phrase from the first chapter, “perennially hopeless”. Instead of the small and close-knit Cratchit family, we have the infamous Jarndyces: not so much a family as a disparate group of ill-matched individuals whose only real connection is their involvement in the never-ending legal dispute of Jarndyce v Jarndyce.

That’s Daniel Gooding on my favorite Dickens’ novel, Bleak House.


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4. X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon

Fictionalized history is a tricky business. On the one hand, the past is a wealth of fascinating material for use in creating imaginary worlds. On the other hand, those doing that creating can’t go wild, they must honor the historical truth the best they can, especially when they are writing about real people from not so long ago. And so we come to X: A Novel, a gritty and glorious rendering of Malcolm X’s youth by his daughter Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon.

Friends tell me trouble’s coming. I ease out of the restaurant onto sidewalk, gun in my pocket. Hand in there, too, keeping it close for good measure. I gotta get back to my pad, and quick now. One foot in front of the other. Keep my head down, hope no one sees me.

These first tense sentences introduce readers to the young Malcolm. It is 1945 Harlem and he is clearly in trouble. Big trouble. By the next page we know more about the trouble and more about Malcolm. He’s shrewd, clever, and at this moment very scared, rueing the direction his young life has taken. And then we are taken back to 1940 Lansing, Michigan where we see a younger Malcolm setting out on his new life. The novel goes on, fluidly moving back and forth in time, filling in elements of the young man’s history. There is family: a tragically lost father, sad mother, and supportive siblings. After a childhood of profound poverty,  Malcolm leaves for the city, exploring exciting and darker places, girls, drugs — a very different world from that of his childhood. Settings are remarkably evoked, the dire poverty and horrific racism of Lansing swirling in and out amidst the jittery jazz environments of Boston and New York. Shabazz and Magoon do a remarkable job generating atmosphere, balancing family love in the face of dire circumstances against the pulsating energy of a self-assured young man swaggering through Harlem streets in a fine zoot suit and a conk. At times the language is blunt and challenging, appropriately in this fierce rendering of  the youthful development of an iconic figure of America’s past.

The story of a reckless young man finding himself, X: A Novel is historical fiction at its best — an artistic exploration of a part of a renowned person’s life , one that stays true to his time and place.


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5. Jean Merrill and Ronni Solbert’s The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars

I’ve served notice here and elsewhere over the years of my devotion to Jean Merrill’s The Pushcart War and am now beyond delighted that the wonderful new York Review Children’s Collection has brought it back in print.  Along the way I came across another of her books, The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars and, guess what — they’ve brought it back in print too! I adore this book and recommended it wholeheartedly. So much so that I was invited to provided this quote to the publisher. Too cool to be able to blurb one of their books and this one most of all!

From bubble wrap to bugs, the urge to smash and smush seems to be a part of the human condition. Just think of that group of four-year-olds building towers of blocks and then merrily knocking them down. Or those older kids bashing into each other during recess. Here’s a wonderfully subversive little book that captures the joy of that impulse and highlights the results. A perfect read aloud for all ages.
—Monica Edinger, author of Africa Is My Home and proprietor of the blog Educating Alice


0 Comments on Jean Merrill and Ronni Solbert’s The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars as of 12/27/2014 7:04:00 AM
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6. Jean Merrill and Ronni Solbert’s The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars

I’ve served notice here and elsewhere over the years of my devotion to Jean Merrill’s The Pushcart War and am now beyond delighted that the wonderful new York Review Children’s Collection has brought it back in print.  Along the way I came across another of her books, The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars and, guess what — they’ve brought it back in print too! I adore this book and recommended it wholeheartedly. So much so that I was invited to provided this quote to the publisher. Too cool to be able to blurb one of their books and this one most of all!

From bubble wrap to bugs, the urge to smash and smush seems to be a part of the human condition. Just think of that group of four-year-olds building towers of blocks and then merrily knocking them down. Or those older kids bashing into each other during recess. Here’s a wonderfully subversive little book that captures the joy of that impulse and highlights the results. A perfect read aloud for all ages.
—Monica Edinger, author of Africa Is My Home and proprietor of the blog Educating Alice


0 Comments on Jean Merrill and Ronni Solbert’s The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars as of 1/1/1900
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7. Ayn Rand Reviews the Charlotte’s Web Movie Among Others

“Charlotte’s Web”

A farmer allows sentimental drawings by a bug to prevail over economic necessity and refuses to value his prize pig, Wilbur, by processing and selling him on the open market. Presumably, the pig still dies eventually, only without profiting his owners. The farmer’s daughter, Fern, learns nothing except how to become an unsuccessful farmer. There is a rat in this movie. I quite liked the rat. He knew how to extract value from his environment. —Two stars.

At the New Yorker, of course (where she takes on a bunch more, among them”Mary Poppins and Willy Wonka” —that last she likes).


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8. Ayn Rand Reviews the Charlotte’s Web Movie Among Others

“Charlotte’s Web”

A farmer allows sentimental drawings by a bug to prevail over economic necessity and refuses to value his prize pig, Wilbur, by processing and selling him on the open market. Presumably, the pig still dies eventually, only without profiting his owners. The farmer’s daughter, Fern, learns nothing except how to become an unsuccessful farmer. There is a rat in this movie. I quite liked the rat. He knew how to extract value from his environment. —Two stars.

At the New Yorker, of course (where she takes on a bunch more, among them”Mary Poppins and Willy Wonka” —that last she likes).


0 Comments on Ayn Rand Reviews the Charlotte’s Web Movie Among Others as of 12/25/2014 2:50:00 PM
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9. A New Short Story from Philip Pullman and Some News about The Book of Dust

I was very excited to read about a new short story by Philip Pullman, featuring the nefarious and fabulous Mrs. Colter, that is being released today in the UK as an Audible.uk exclusive. Unfortunately and frustratingly “The Collectors” is not available in the US and Audible, when I asked, had no information as to when it would be. So for now we Americans have to make do with the below tantalizing excerpt read by Bill Nighy.

But wait, Pullman fans, there’s more; this in the Guardian article about The Book of Dust:

He said today: “It’s three pages longer this morning than it was this time yesterday, and … I’ll do another three pages today. It’s going steadily. But it’s a big book and it’s spreading out in the way I discussed, and I keep having to discover which ways are fruitful for the story to go in, and which are not. It’s a long process.”

Pullman promised: “I’m aiming to finish this next year. Then it’s a fairly lengthy process of editing. But I’m well on my way and proceeding steadily.”

Be still my heart!


0 Comments on A New Short Story from Philip Pullman and Some News about The Book of Dust as of 12/17/2014 6:50:00 AM
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10. A New Short Story from Philip Pullman and Some News about The Book of Dust

I was very excited to read about a new short story by Philip Pullman, featuring the nefarious and fabulous Mrs. Colter, that is being released today in the UK as an Audible.uk exclusive. Audible US has informed me that “The Collectors”will be available for those of us on the other side of the pond on January 12th. Until then we will have to make do with the below tantalizing excerpt read by Bill Nighy.

But wait, Pullman fans, there’s more; this in the Guardian article about The Book of Dust:

He said today: “It’s three pages longer this morning than it was this time yesterday, and … I’ll do another three pages today. It’s going steadily. But it’s a big book and it’s spreading out in the way I discussed, and I keep having to discover which ways are fruitful for the story to go in, and which are not. It’s a long process.”

Pullman promised: “I’m aiming to finish this next year. Then it’s a fairly lengthy process of editing. But I’m well on my way and proceeding steadily.”

Be still my heart!


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11. Neil Gaiman Does Jabberwocky


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12. Neil Gaiman Does Jabberwocky


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13. In the Classroom: This Blog’s on a Top Ten List!

Thank you, Teachability Lounge‘s Mary Graham, for including this blog among your “Top Ten Teacher Blogs.’  With all the blogs now out there, I sometimes wonder how many teachers read this one. After all, I’m pretty eclectic. So, I was thrilled with this affirmation.


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14. In the Classroom: This Blog’s on a Top Ten List!

Thank you, Teachability Lounge‘s Mary Graham, for including this blog among your “Top Ten Teacher Blogs.”  With all the blogs now out there, I sometimes wonder how many teachers read this one. After all, I’m pretty eclectic. So, I was thrilled with this affirmation.


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15. Corporate Storytelling

Andrew Linderman tries to teach people how to find that balance. A story coach, he works with companies including American Express, PBS and Random House, charging $1,800 to $3,500 for workshops and $500 to $5,000 for one-on-one training (less for nonprofits and start-ups). For $40, you can also take one of his two-hour classes,Storytelling for Entrepreneurs.

“The specifics of storytelling are relatively easy to articulate,” he said. “It’s the nuances that make a story distinct.”

Ah, Random House — the irony!  From “Storytelling Your Way to a Better Job or a Stronger Start-up.


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16. Corporate Storytelling

Andrew Linderman tries to teach people how to find that balance. A story coach, he works with companies including American Express, PBS and Random House, charging $1,800 to $3,500 for workshops and $500 to $5,000 for one-on-one training (less for nonprofits and start-ups). For $40, you can also take one of his two-hour classes,Storytelling for Entrepreneurs.

“The specifics of storytelling are relatively easy to articulate,” he said. “It’s the nuances that make a story distinct.”

Ah, Random House — the irony!  From “Storytelling Your Way to a Better Job or a Stronger Start-up.


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17. Ten (or so) Great 2014 Kid Books for Gift-giving

I have read and loved a ton of books this year; among my many favorites are the following suggestions for great gifts this holiday season.

1, For a book that will be fun for a wide range of middle-grade readers and is also a great book to read aloud as a family, check out Jennifer L. Holm’s The Fourteenth GoldfishThis deceptively spare book (comes in at just under 200 pages) packs quite a punch. It offers a clever take on a trope that is not unfamiliar in children’s books — that of an older person suddenly contending with being young again. In this case it is the protagonist’s scientist grandfather who gets to try teen life once again and his grumpy response is spot on hilarious. But mixed-in are warm and sensitive considerations of growing old-growing up, new-old friendships, familial love, the passion-pleasure of scientific research, and relationships overall. For more read my New York Times review.

2. A book that absolutely demands to be read aloud is B. J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures.  The title says it true — there are no pictures at all. What there is is lots of silliness that is all designed to push the poor adult reading the book aloud into more and more awkwardness. And what kid doesn’t like seeing an adult put him or herself into the silliest position possible? While my 4th graders got a kick out of this one, I would guess it would be especially beloved (and demanded over and over) by younger kids. Novak plays with the whole methodology of reading aloud in a very entertaining and clever way.

3. A picture book that may begin as a book to read aloud, but will send young readers back to it to examine over and over on their own is Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Sam & Dave Dig a Hole. Be forewarned, grown-ups, the ending of this one has a Twilight Zone, The Sixth Sense, Cabin in the Woods vibe where things-turn-out-not-to-be-quite-what-you-thought. After I read it to them, my 4th grade students went wild coming up with theories for this; my blog post featuring them is here.

4. Another favorite picture book of mine is one on the guy who invented the thesaurus, Jen Bryan and Melissa Sweet’s The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus. For kids who love words and book with illustrations full of words, look no further. This one is absolutely gorgeous and fascinating. For the end papers, illustrator Sweet replicated all of Roget’s original set of words! My blog review here.

5. One of the most lyrical and moving books of the year is Jacqueline Woodson’s National Book Award winning memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. Intertwining stories of her childhood in the South and Brooklyn, Woodson manages to bring a lens to race and racism, friendship, and what it is to grow into a writer and poet. One to give to an introspective young reader and emerging writer as well as one to read and discuss as a family.

6. Another memoir that probably would be great as an individual read is Cece Bell’s graphic novel  El Deafo, a moving and at times quite funny memoir of her youth. I’m planning to have my 4th grade class read it later this school year and am confident that they are going to love it. While Bell doesn’t shy away from issues dealing with her hearing loss, doing so with wit and a refreshing lack of self-pity, it is the search for a good friend that will resonate most with young readers.

7. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is a powerful verse novel involving twelve-year-old African-American twins, both of whom are gifted basketball players. A student of mine last year who was serious about basketball and writing absolutely adored this one and I was thrilled to be able to get a copy signed for him by the author. The poetry is energetic and the story compelling — a sure-fire hit for a wide range of readers.

8. I was completely charmed by Dana Alison Levy’s The Misadventures of the Family FletcherThis episodic novel of a family of two dads and four adopted boys of various races is a delight. The boys are so real and their experiences funny, tender, and relatable. I’ve had it at school debating when to read it aloud to my class and am confident that it will be a success when I do. Here’s a quote from my Horn Book review: ”Levy provides a compelling, compassionate, and frequently hilarious look at their daily concerns. By book’s end readers will want to be part of (or at least friends with) this delightful family.”

9. For older children with a predilection for history, look no further than Candace Fleming’s The Family Romanov. Balancing the over-the-top lifestyle of the last Russian royals with firsthand accounts of the rest of the populace, Fleming provides a fascinating and highly readable version of this tragic story. Handsomely designed and full of photographs, this volume seems uncomfortably timely when considering today’s 1 percent, those who currently have the bulk of the world’s wealth.

10. Finally, I’m going to cheat and give you some more favorites without commentary that I’ve reviewed elsewhere:

Also at the Huffington Post.

 

 


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18. Ten (or so) Great 2014 Kid Books for Gift-giving

I have read and loved a ton of books this year; among my many favorites are the following suggestions for great gifts this holiday season.

1, For a book that will be fun for a wide range of middle-grade readers and is also a great book to read aloud as a family, check out Jennifer L. Holm’s The Fourteenth GoldfishThis deceptively spare book (comes in at just under 200 pages) packs quite a punch. It offers a clever take on a trope that is not unfamiliar in children’s books — that of an older person suddenly contending with being young again. In this case it is the protagonist’s scientist grandfather who gets to try teen life once again and his grumpy response is spot on hilarious. But mixed-in are warm and sensitive considerations of growing old-growing up, new-old friendships, familial love, the passion-pleasure of scientific research, and relationships overall. For more read my New York Times review.

2. A book that absolutely demands to be read aloud is B. J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures.  The title says it true — there are no pictures at all. What there is is lots of silliness that is all designed to push the poor adult reading the book aloud into more and more awkwardness. And what kid doesn’t like seeing an adult put him or herself into the silliest position possible? While my 4th graders got a kick out of this one, I would guess it would be especially beloved (and demanded over and over) by younger kids. Novak plays with the whole methodology of reading aloud in a very entertaining and clever way.

3. A picture book that may begin as a book to read aloud, but will send young readers back to it to examine over and over on their own is Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Sam & Dave Dig a Hole. Be forewarned, grown-ups, the ending of this one has a Twilight Zone, The Sixth Sense, Cabin in the Woods vibe where things-turn-out-not-to-be-quite-what-you-thought. After I read it to them, my 4th grade students went wild coming up with theories for this; my blog post featuring them is here.

4. Another favorite picture book of mine is one on the guy who invented the thesaurus, Jen Bryan and Melissa Sweet’s The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus. For kids who love words and book with illustrations full of words, look no further. This one is absolutely gorgeous and fascinating. For the end papers, illustrator Sweet replicated all of Roget’s original set of words! My blog review here.

5. One of the most lyrical and moving books of the year is Jacqueline Woodson’s National Book Award winning memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. Intertwining stories of her childhood in the South and Brooklyn, Woodson manages to bring a lens to race and racism, friendship, and what it is to grow into a writer and poet. One to give to an introspective young reader and emerging writer as well as one to read and discuss as a family.

6. Another memoir that probably would be great as an individual read is Cece Bell’s graphic novel  El Deafo, a moving and at times quite funny memoir of her youth. I’m planning to have my 4th grade class read it later this school year and am confident that they are going to love it. While Bell doesn’t shy away from issues dealing with her hearing loss, doing so with wit and a refreshing lack of self-pity, it is the search for a good friend that will resonate most with young readers.

7. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is a powerful verse novel involving twelve-year-old African-American twins, both of whom are gifted basketball players. A student of mine last year who was serious about basketball and writing absolutely adored this one and I was thrilled to be able to get a copy signed for him by the author. The poetry is energetic and the story compelling — a sure-fire hit for a wide range of readers.

8. I was completely charmed by Dana Alison Levy’s The Misadventures of the Family FletcherThis episodic novel of a family of two dads and four adopted boys of various races is a delight. The boys are so real and their experiences funny, tender, and relatable. I’ve had it at school debating when to read it aloud to my class and am confident that it will be a success when I do. Here’s a quote from my Horn Book review: ”Levy provides a compelling, compassionate, and frequently hilarious look at their daily concerns. By book’s end readers will want to be part of (or at least friends with) this delightful family.”

9. For older children with a predilection for history, look no further than Candace Fleming’s The Family Romanov. Balancing the over-the-top lifestyle of the last Russian royals with firsthand accounts of the rest of the populace, Fleming provides a fascinating and highly readable version of this tragic story. Handsomely designed and full of photographs, this volume seems uncomfortably timely when considering today’s 1 percent, those who currently have the bulk of the world’s wealth.

10. Finally, I’m going to cheat and give you some more favorites without commentary that I’ve reviewed elsewhere:

Also at the Huffington Post.

 

 


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19. NCTE

I had a terrific time at NCTE. It was the third of four trips for me this November. First was DC for the Children’s Africana Book Awards followed by FILIJ in Mexico. The final one starts tonight when I head to Rome, Italy for Thanksgiving. (Unlike the others, this is for pure personal pleasure.) But back to NCTE. I arrived Friday evening in time to take a quick jaunt around the exhibits before heading off to a dinner. The National Harbor Gaylord Resort had the requisite light show, but it didn’t seem quite as over-the-top as those at the Opryland Hotel where I spent several unforgettable NCTEs (unforgettable not in a good way, mind you). Well..except for its nightclub, the Pose Ultra Lounge and Nightclub where I felt I’d wandered into something from the 60s, maybe a James Bond movie? There were a few people at the glittery bar, a few more moving about singularly alone on the dance floor, and some absolutely blasting music. I’m afraid I didn’t last long.

I was up bright on Saturday starting for the ALAN breakfast where I was thrilled with Andrew Smith‘s speech. This was followed by a signing of Africa is My Home at the Candlewick booth. I always assume no one will come so it was wonderful when quite a few did show up. I then wandered the exhibits some more meeting many friends as I did so. Lunch was with a Dalton colleague and then the afternoon involved more networking until my session with Susannah Richards and Peter Sis. A small, but enthusiastic audience made it a very agreeable experience. After another lovely dinner with various publisher and book creator friends, I was abed at a reasonable hour and home by midday Sunday. A pleasant, if brief NCTE for me this time around.

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Signing my book for last year’s Caldecott winner, Brian Floca.

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With my fellow presenters Peter Sis and Susannah Richards.

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Looking at art for Laurel Snyder’s forthcoming book with John Schumacher.


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20. Africa is My Home: 3 Reasons why children’s books about Africa matter

Monica Edinger, author of “Africa is My Home, A Child of the Amistad,” is a former Peace Corps volunteer who began writing children’s books during Sierra Leone’s Civil War. “Sierra Leone and its people were being represented in the media in this really horrendous way,” Edinger said.

She felt it was important to share stories that showed there was more to Sierra Leone than conflict. “Real stories, about real people, make a big difference. But unfortunately that isn’t the standard narrative in children’s books.”

From this article celebrating the Children’s Africana Book Awards.


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21. All Lives Matter

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.”
—DR. PAUL FARMER, Chief Strategist & Co-founder, Partners in Health

Ebola was on the US media radar when a tiny number of people came to this country with the illness. There were government officials saying that anyone who had been anywhere near the affected countries would be quarantined. Fear-mongering was rampant here and not a whole lot of compassion. And when those sick individuals either recovered or died, interest waned. Although the disease has not. It continues to rage in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Yet for too many Americans, those African lives don’t matter.

Tack that on to Ferguson.

Add on the Eric Garner decision.

The above quote from Paul Farmer says it all.


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22. Africa is My Home: My Visit to the Capitol City Public Charter School

During my time in DC for the Children’s Africana Book Award I was honored with an invitation to speak to the Capitol City Public Charter School fourth graders about Africa is My Home by An Open Book Foundation, a fabulous organization that describes themselves thus:

Founded by Dara La Porte and Heidi Powell, An Open Book Children’s Literacy Foundation was created to promote literacy among disadvantaged children and teens in the greater Washington, D.C. area by giving schools and students book and access to authors and illustrators. We excite children and teachers about reading and send every child home with a signed book.

I was so impressed and moved by the experience. Being a fourth grade teacher myself, it was delightful to speak about my book to a different group and population from my own students.  As I wrote in my earlier post about the weekend:

It was a really wonderful experience. The children were eager, interested, and had wonderful questions. I was most moved by two children from El Salvador. I sign my books “Never forget your home” and one of these two children spoke with tremendous excitement of returning soon to her home of El Salvador while the other came around to tell me privately that he would not be returning to his home of El Salvador because “bad things had happened there.” I told him that his home should be wherever he felt safe and happy. It was an important reminder to me — someone who has, for different reasons, no childhood place to call home —  that home is not necessarily where you originated.

I enjoyed too meeting and working with Janet Zwick of An Open Book Foundation who guided the children to read and discuss the book during my visit and generally (along with another wonderful person from the foundation and the school’s librarian) saw that the whole event went off without a hitch. (Even the fire drill didn’t cause a problem, believe it or not!) . Afterwards Janet treated me to a tasty pho lunch with some really wonderful conversation. Here are photos Janet took off the event. My great thanks to everyone involved in making this a special event for me. (The photos are courtesy of An Open Book Foundation.)

IMG_3082 IMG_3144 IMG_3139 IMG_3138 IMG_3127 IMG_3079 IMG_3072 IMG_3130 IMG_3109 IMG_3106 IMG_3100

0 Comments on Africa is My Home: My Visit to the Capitol City Public Charter School as of 12/6/2014 9:01:00 AM
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23. Africa is My Home: My Visit to the Capitol City Public Charter School

During my time in DC for the Children’s Africana Book Award I was honored with an invitation to speak to the Capitol City Public Charter School fourth graders about Africa is My Home by An Open Book Foundation, a fabulous organization that describes themselves thus:

Founded by Dara La Porte and Heidi Powell, An Open Book Children’s Literacy Foundation was created to promote literacy among disadvantaged children and teens in the greater Washington, D.C. area by giving schools and students book and access to authors and illustrators. We excite children and teachers about reading and send every child home with a signed book.

I was so impressed and moved by the experience. Being a fourth grade teacher myself, it was delightful to speak about my book to a different group and population from my own students.  As I wrote in my earlier post about the weekend:

It was a really wonderful experience. The children were eager, interested, and had wonderful questions. I was most moved by two children from El Salvador. I sign my books “Never forget your home” and one of these two children spoke with tremendous excitement of returning soon to her home of El Salvador while the other came around to tell me privately that he would not be returning to his home of El Salvador because “bad things had happened there.” I told him that his home should be wherever he felt safe and happy. It was an important reminder to me — someone who has, for different reasons, no childhood place to call home —  that home is not necessarily where you originated.

I enjoyed too meeting and working with Janet Zwick of An Open Book Foundation who guided the children to read and discuss the book during my visit and generally (along with another wonderful person from the foundation and the school’s librarian) saw that the whole event went off without a hitch. (Even the fire drill didn’t cause a problem, believe it or not!) . Afterwards Janet treated me to a tasty pho lunch with some really wonderful conversation. Here are photos Janet took of the event. My great thanks to everyone involved in making this a special event for me. (The photos are courtesy of An Open Book Foundation.)

IMG_3082 IMG_3144 IMG_3139 IMG_3138 IMG_3127 IMG_3079 IMG_3072 IMG_3130 IMG_3109 IMG_3106 IMG_3100

0 Comments on Africa is My Home: My Visit to the Capitol City Public Charter School as of 12/23/2014 12:27:00 PM
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24. All Lives Matter

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.”
—DR. PAUL FARMER, Chief Strategist & Co-founder, Partners in Health

Ebola was on the US media radar when a tiny number of people came to this country with the illness. There were government officials saying that anyone who had been anywhere near the affected countries would be quarantined. Fear-mongering was rampant here and not a whole lot of compassion. And when those sick individuals either recovered or died, interest waned. Although the disease has not. It continues to rage in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Yet for too many Americans, those African lives don’t matter.

Tack that on to Ferguson.

Add on the Eric Garner decision.

The above quote from Paul Farmer says it all.


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25. Africa is My Home: 3 Reasons why children’s books about Africa matter

Monica Edinger, author of “Africa is My Home, A Child of the Amistad,” is a former Peace Corps volunteer who began writing children’s books during Sierra Leone’s Civil War. “Sierra Leone and its people were being represented in the media in this really horrendous way,” Edinger said.

She felt it was important to share stories that showed there was more to Sierra Leone than conflict. “Real stories, about real people, make a big difference. But unfortunately that isn’t the standard narrative in children’s books.”

From this article celebrating the Children’s Africana Book Awards.


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