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Historium is the second (wonderfully oversized) book in Big Picture Press's Welcome to the Museum series which started with Animalium. More than an encyclopedia, the Welcome to the Museum books are about organization and exploration. Readers "walk" through galleries, but not before a preface that introduces readers to the creativity of humanity. Next, an introduction from the curators lets readers know how the items in the book/museum were chosen then answers the question, "What is archaeology?" Africa, America, Asia, Europe, The Middle East and Oceania make up the galleries/chapters in Historium. From there, each continent is divided into three to five smaller galleries with a paragraph or two about each civilization, most which are defunct. Rather than photographs of the 130 artifacts, Richard Wilkinson, using photographs as resource material, draws them in minute detail. They are then reproduced on smooth, not shiny paper, and presented on a solid, colorful background.
Featuring items that range from the sacred items to the everyday tools, Historium is invaluable for the way in which it encourages readers to look at and think about the things that humans have created throughout the centuries.
Don't miss the first book in the Welcome to the Museum series:
Source: Review Copy
Priness Magnolia, Frimplepants, the Princess in Black and Blacky are back! And all my favorite things are in one place again - princesses, unicorns, masked avengers, and sumptuous feasts! In book three, we find Princess Magnolia and Frimplepants headed to brunch in the village with Princess Sneezewort. In anticipation of the soft rolls, cheesy omelets and "heaping platters of sugar-dusted doughnuts," the two have skipped breakfast. Just when the village is in sight, Princess Magnolia's glitter-stone ring rang - the monster alarm!
The Princess and her pony zip into a secret cave to become their super selves, the Princess in Black and her steed, Blacky, ready to fight monsters. And what monsters have emerged from the monster hole this time? A horde of hungry bunnies! Pham does an excellent job making these little purple puffballs cute and potentially menacing at the same time. These bunnies have grown tired of Monster Land, having nibbled all the monster fur, toe-nail clippings and lizard scales in sight. They have discovered the fresh green grass of the goat pastures and are not looking back!
At first, the Princess in Black is charmed by the hungry horde of bunnies, but when they eat up all the grass, a nearby tree and then begin nibbling on Blacky's tail, she knows she must pull out her best Princess in Black moves to take them on.
It's touch and go for a while, but the Princess in Black always prevails! Sadly, she and Blacky arrive at the café just a hair too late for brunch - but not too late for brunch with Princess Sneezewort!
Don't miss the first two books
in this fantastic series!
Source: Review Copy
Please welcome to the blog author Suzanne Nelson, winner of the Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Teen Readers Category for her novel Serendipity's Footsteps.
What inspired you to write Serendipity's Footsteps? Did you plan from the onset to tie various plotlines together through a pair of shoes, or did the characters' individual stories come to you first?
There were so many inspirations for Serendipity's Footsteps. Versions of Ray and Pinny had been in my mind for over a decade, and I'd even tried once, years ago, writing a vastly different rendition of their story where they were biological sisters. Sixty or so pages into that story, though, I realized it wasn't working and shelved it. Then, a few years ago, I saw a single red slingback sitting atop a boulder in my town. It spurred a conversation with my sister about lost shoes. We tried to unravel the mystery of all the shoes we spotted hanging in trees or laying abandoned on roadsides. What were their stories? Who'd left them behind? It was my sister who asked me to write a novel about lost shoes. She's always loved shoes and told me, "Just write it for me." Because she's my best and most loved and trusted friend, I began writing for her. Then, as I wrote, without me even being fully aware of how pieces were falling into place, Dalya and her story were born. Once Dalya came to me, Ray and Pinny appeared beside her. Maybe they'd been waiting for her the whole time. Needless to say, I knew that these three heroines needed to come together. They each needed families and love, and the story's pale pink shoes became the key to their unbreakable bond. Really, writing the book was as much about serendipity for me as it was for my three heroines. I love Dalya, Ray, and Pinny and consider them kindred sisters and family. They exist for me, real as any other people, and so do the shoes they love.
Dayla, Ray, and Pinny have distinct personalities and voices. Is there a little piece of you in each of them? My Knopf editor and dear friend Michelle Frey tells me that she sees some of me in each of my three heroines, so it's probably true. I can't say with confidence that I could ever possess Dalya's resilience, because I've never experienced anything like her tragedies. Still, I admire her strength of spirit, her loyalty to her faith, culture, and family, and her deep capacity for love. I'd like to believe I carry some of those traits within me, too. I'm as passionate about writing as Ray is about her music. As a teenager, I sometimes wished to escape my life like Ray does. But who doesn't dream of running away at some point or other? The idea of reinventing yourself in a new place and starting fresh without obligations to anyone or anything can be appealing, until you start thinking about how lonely it would be. I have some of Ray's selfishness and outspokenness, too, although maybe I've learned to temper those shortcomings through the years (only my family can tell you how successful I've been in my efforts.). As for Pinny and her quest for the "More of Life," the joy she finds in so much of the world around her--I strive to find "More" joy and love in my life each and every day. I'm not as much of an optimist as she is, but I believe in magical thinking and sucking the marrow out of every moment life has to offer.
Did you model any of the characters after people you know or admire?
None of the characters are based directly on people I know personally. However, the emotions Dalya experiences in the wake of her losses, and the decisions she makes in her personal life to preserve and honor her family and her Jewish heritage and identity, were informed by some close friends who shared their family's Holocaust survival stories with me. I have such great admiration for these friends who continually work to protect their family's histories and faith and I hoped to convey some of this with Dalya's character. Pinny's character and story, as well, were influenced indirectly by an experience I had as a teen. My senior year of high school, I tutored a three-year-old boy who had Down Syndrome. The afternoons I spent with Troy were some of the most memorable and rewarding of my adolescence, and I've stayed in touch with the Drake family through the years. Troy and his parents opened my eyes to the challenges so many people with special needs face in finding meaningful employment and independence. It was so important to him and to his family that he work in a field he truly loved. Troy is in his twenties now and has his own Etsy business, Doodle Duck Design. Talking with the Drakes about their journey to find ways for Troy to live his "More of Life" helped me develop Pinny's story. I hope Pinny's search to find fulfillment in her life and work reflects that.
What are the biggest challenges - and rewards - when writing and researching historical fiction?
Research is one of the most fascinating parts of writing historical fiction. I love it so much that for me, the biggest challenge of researching is knowing when to stop! Then there's the problem of having to choose which pieces of research to include in my story, and trying to glean what facts will hold the most interest for readers. It's a time-consuming process, but one that I truly enjoy.
What resources did you use while writing and revising Serendipity's Footsteps?
With Serendipity's Footsteps, I read letters, diary entries, and first-hand accounts from Jewish children and teen refugees who came to the United States prior to and during World War II. From the mid 1930s to the early 1940s, one thousand Jewish children were brought to our country from Europe as part of an American kindertransport. All of those one thousand children left their parents behind in Europe and many never saw them again. They were placed with foster families around the country. Many of the children didn't know English when they arrived, were placed in school classes with younger students, and struggled with loneliness and coping with the grief of the terrible losses of the families they left behind. Learning about the obstacles they overcame and the strength and courage they had in such tragic circumstances helped me portray the difficulties Dalya faced in her transition to America.
Although my visit to Dachau Concentration Camp took place years ago, that visit has always haunted me. I drew on my memories of it when writing the novel. I also contacted two lovely professors, Dr. Buser and Dr. Ley, in Germany who were experts in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and its history, and they answered my numerous questions about that specific camp. Dr. Joselit, Professor of Judaic Studies and History at George Washington University, also gave me wonderful insight into Jewish life and culture in 1930s and 40s New York City. In the end, I was fortunate to have a number of knowledgeable people, here and overseas, guide my research and am so grateful to all of them for their help.
Your modern day romantic comedies include Cake Pop Crush, Hot Cocoa Hearts, Bacon Me Crazy, and Macarons at Midnight. Did you always plan for these stories to be a connected series?
This series started out as a single book, Cake Pop Crush. My Scholastic editor and I were so thrilled to see how popular that book became, and the other companion books followed as a result. Even though the books all have some fun baking theme, they each have different characters and a distinct plot, so they don't have to be read in any specific order. There will be a fifth foodie romance book coming in 2017, titled Donut Go Breaking My Heart. The style of writing for this series is very different from the style of Serendipity's Footsteps. The baking series is lighter and geared towards a younger, middle grade audience. It's fun writing the baking books because it gives me a break from the more serious topics and themes I'm drawn to in my other novels for older readers.
Do you like baking? If so, what are your specialties?
I am giggling at this question, because the honest truth is that I am not as much of a baker as my Cake Pop series might lead readers to believe. When I was experimenting with cake pop recipes for Cake Pop Crush, I actually set a bowl of candy melts on fire in my microwave. I had to run out onto my back porch with the flaming Tupperware to extinguish it under the pouring rain! My family thought it was hilarious.
Cake pop mishaps aside, I do enjoy baking with my three kids. I have a particular weakness for gooey brownies and white chocolate chip cookies and gobble them warm straight out of the oven. My five-year-old daughter is especially passionate about baking, and her love for it rubs off on me. We made some cupcakes a few weeks ago that had mountains of fluorescent icing so high they could've rivaled Mount Everest.
You have also worked as a book editor. How did your work as an editor inform your writing, and vice versa?
I don't think I ever would have become a published author without having been an editor first. Learning the ins and outs of the publishing process and working with other authors on their manuscripts was the best education I received as a writer. Because I was able to see what needed to be revised or reworked in other people's manuscripts, I learned how to view my own writing with a more critical eye. I also learned that you have to write what you're passionate about but also what fills a need in the current book market. Being a writer as well as an editor also gave me great empathy for other struggling writers, and when I had to reject a submission I tried to do it as nicely and encouragingly as I could.
Describe your current favorite go-to pair of shoes for daily wear.
Right now we're in the depths of winter here in Connecticut, and I have this enormous pair of brown fuzzy boots that I wear to wade through the snow and ice. They're so comfortable and warm. For the most part though, because most days I work from home, I keep my feet toasty in some snug slippers. Boring? Maybe, but absolutely essential for my creativity and productivity!
How about your most fun pair of shoes?
I have a pair of glam handmade shoes that are decorated with peacock feathers and another pair of glossy, cherry red peep-toe heels that make me feel beautiful inside and out every time I slip them on. Walking in them feels akin to teetering on a tightrope, but they're absolutely worth it!
List ten of your favorite books. Any genre, any style.
Disclaimer: This is an eclectic mix of classical, contemporary, adult and children's literature. I could easily add another hundred titles to this list (there are so many incredible books in the world!), but these ten are stories I turn to again and again.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (And really anything written by Kate DiCamillo!)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Holes by Louis Sachar
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Congratulations to all of the recipients of The Sydney Taylor Book Award! Follow the blog tour featuring the 2016 gold and silver medalists all this week, February 8th-February 12th, hosted at a variety of blogs. Click here for the full blog tour schedule.
Learn more about the Sydney Taylor Honor Award.
Visit the People of the Books Blog.
Visit Suzanne Taylor's website.
Henry Cole is the author and illustrator of many picture books and the superb, generously illustrated novel A Nest for Celeste that features a young John Audubon as a character. Now, three years later, Cole is back with another illustrated novel, Brambleheart: A Story About Finding Treasure and the Unexpected Magic of Friendship.
The trim size of Brambleheart, small and almost square, is perfectly suited for the story inside, and there is an illustration on almost every page. And it is completely engaging - I read it in one sitting. Brambleheart feels a little familiar at the start, but it takes an unexpected and exciting turn almost a quarter of the way in. Twig lives on the Hill, a jumble of detritus that provides homes for the rodents and small animals who live there as well as parts for their creations. Young Twig attends classes where his skill (or lack thereof) will determine his future career, a career that will be bestowed on him at the Naming Ceremony. Unfortunately, it seems that every class is a challenge for Twig. In the Weaving Burrow, Professor Fern, a beaver, teaches knot tying. The Snape-like Professor Burdock teaches Metal Craft, where his nephew, Basil, is the star pupil, despite Twig's best friend, Lily, who seems to excel at everything she touches. Things take a very big turn for the worse when Twig almost burns down Professor Dunlin's welding class. Just when it looks like he is doomed to the lowliest position of Errand Runner, Twig decides to run away and this is where the story takes off.
Twig heads past the boundaries of the Hill and into the surrounding forest where he finds something that changes his life - an egg. The contents of this egg, seen in the illustration below, created all kinds of problems and opportunities for Twig. He discovers, with the help of the baby dragon, that his is a gifted welder and metal worker. But, it's hard to keep a baby dragon hidden - and fed - for long and soon questions are being asked. And, it seems, that Char, short for Charcoal, a name given to the dragon by Lily, is growing sicker by the day. The two decide that Char needs to return to the place where Twig found the egg and the adventure - and the next book - begin!
Source: Review Copy
Sleepy moths fluttered
In her dark eyes,
And her lips grew quieter
Swaying with the reedgrass
Over the stream
Lazily she lingered
Cradling a dream.
- the final stanza of The Awakening of Dermuid by Austin Clarke
Read the poem in its entirety.
View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.
View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.
Learn more about Poetry Friday.
Since I started working as an elementary school librarian I have not bee reading as much YA as I used to. As a bookseller, I shelved in the teen section and set the displays and was always reading the blurbs for the books - even the ridiculous fantasy titles I knew I'd never read. I have a few favorite authors like Publisher's Weekly invites publishers and editors working in the kid's book industry to share their favorites, which is where I learned about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, winner of the William C. Morris Debut Author award this year! What draws me to the works of David Levithan and Rainbow Rowell over and over are the unforgettable characters and narrative voices they create along with the engaging, sometimes breathlessly so, sometimes achingly so, romances that unfold over the course of their novels. In Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Albertalli hits all these marks and more. Using first person narrative, emails, texts and tumblr posts, Albertalli creates Simon Sphere, an articulate, witty, occasionally carless, sometimes impulsive, and frequently self-absorbed high school junior who evolves over the course of the story, taking the occasional step outside the out of the inevitable bubble of narcissism that envelops most teenagers. The audio book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, is narrated perfectly by Michael Crouch.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda begins, "It's a weirdly subtle conversation. I almost don't notice I'm being blackmailed." But the story really begins at the start of school in August when Simon sees a post on the creeksecrets tumblr, a gossip (and bible quotes and bad poetry) feed where students from Creekwood High post anonymously, and he responds to it. The post is only about five lines long, but it was grammatically correct (something that most posts on creeksecrets aren't) and "strangely poetic." Blue, the poster, wrote about feeling both hidden and exposed about the fact that he is gay, and the "ocean between people," and how it seems like the "whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to." The two begin a fast, intense correspondence, fueled by the fact that they don't know each other's identities. The beginning stages of their crush are exhilarating and Albertalli captures the flirtations and intimacies perfectly in their emails and Simon's eagerness and anticipation around them.
Martin Addison, fellow drama student and subtle blackmailer, has let Simon know that he forgot to log out of his gmail account while using the library computer. Martin has taken a screenshot and, in return for deleting this image, he would like Simon to "help him talk to Abby," the new girl in school who has bonded with Simon. This sets the story in motion, Simon struggling to protect Blue, who has not come out yet, and juggling his friends and their individual turmoils and his own evolving sense of self. Alebrtalli does an amazing job making the supporting characters fully formed, believable and integral to the story while also having their own story lines. From Simon's closest friends, the classic rock loving soccer jock Nick and the moody, anime obsessed, self-conscious Leah, to Simon's older sister Alice and younger sister Nora, and his almost-too-cool and possibly over-involved parents, these characters feel real and their struggles have meaning. And there is no extra baggage in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. As much as I love Simon's voice and Albertalli's writing and probably could have happily read/listened to an additional 50 to 100 pages of this book, I have the greatest respect to Albertalli and her editor for keeping it tight.
While the plot of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda hinges on Simon not wanting to be outed, the story is more about Simon and Blue's burgeoning relationship and the mistakes and missteps Simon makes along the way, than it is about coming out and being openly gay. That said, Simon's story subtly makes some points and asks some important questions. At one point Simon asks, "Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another and it shouldn't be this big, awkward thing whether you're straight, gay, bi or whatever." As a straight person, Albertalli's novel allowed me a deeper understanding of how it feels to be in the minority, to have people assume something personal and intimate about you. Like all brilliant books, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda allowed me to feel what it's like to be someone else.
I can't wait to read Becky Albertalli's next book, which features Molly, a chubby Jewish girl who lives in the suburbs of Washington DC. Molly is the cousin of Abby, the new student at Creekwood High School and her story takes place the summer after Simon's. With this connection, Albertalli has promised appearances by some familiar faces! For more details, read this fantastic interview
Source: Purchased Audio Book
I have a serious problem. I love to buy books like I Like to Write / I Like to Draw by The Small Object and then, overwhelmed by the creativity and charm of the book itself, along with the frightening permanence of what I am supposed to put on the page, I never, ever make use of the amazing, gorgeous, fantastic book in my hands. But, I have a two-fold strategy for I Like to Write / I Like to Draw: I am going to coax myself into actually using this brilliant book by telling myself that I can use these prompts with my students during the 90 minutes a day each grade spends with me AND I can also nudge myself into using it as a way to fulfill my goal of drawing every Saturday and sharing it on my new Instagram account where I am posting every day about a different book that I read or am reading. So, why do I love I Like to Write / I Like to Draw? Writing and drawing in one book, for starters. For elementary school kids, and myself as well, I find that these two things go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Sarah Neuberger, the multifaceted creative mind behind this book, is an illustrator, designer, wedding cake topper maker (see below) and stamp maker. In 2009 she started working with Chronicle Books on en ever-gorwing collection of gift and paper products that are worth checking out. For I Like to Write / I Like to Draw, Neuberger, devised categories for each half. In I Like to Draw, these include, Picture This, Imagine That, Create Here, Nature Observations, Personal Perspective, Dream Big and Pattern Play. Sometimes a sentence or two will appear at the bottom of the page, giving artists further ideas. A Complete the Scene page with golden swirls on it invites readers to "Draw more golden clouds and imagine how it would feel to walk through them." Enjoying this book is definitely an immersive experience!
The writing portion is happily, wonderfully visual, with a sketch or two on every page. The nice thing about I Like to Write is the nice combination of story writing and other writing exercises. One page with two word bubbles invites writers to create a conversation. Another invites writers to pretend that they work at a paint company and are charged with coming up with the names of twelve different swatches on the page, with the instructions to use two words per name. "A Taste Bud's Story" includes a reproduction of a "guest check" that a waitperson uses in to take orders and invites writers to write down items from a favorite mean and what made it so memorable on the check. There are the backs of postcards with writing prompts, a page of mostly blank fortunes from fortune cookies, rebus puzzles as story prompts, free associations with words like, "whistle, tree, magnetic, chair," and map the connection prompts with words like "notebook" and "library." There are so many more super cool prompts I want to share here, but really, just go out and buy this book. Buy two - one for yourself and one to give to a creatively minded kid in your life!
Sarah Neuberger has also been creating personalized Wedding Toppers since 2008!
Eric Luper's website has a brand-new look!
Eric Luper is an author for young readers. In addition to two series with Scholastic Books called Key Hunters
and The Chocolate Lab
, Eric writes for Cartoon Network
for shows including The Amazing World of Gumball, The Regular Show, and Teen Titans Go! He also has written titles for Scooby-Doo, Star Trek, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as well as young adult novels, including Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto and Big Slick
Babies love to look at babies. And even though there are no more babies in my family, every few years or so, there is a book that comes along that reminds me of how much babies love to look at babies and how wonderful the perfect book filled with babies can be. Little Bitty Friends, written by Elizabeth McPike and illustrated by Patrice Barton is one of those books. McPike and Barton also created Little Sleepyhead, which is due out in board book this spring. Both books pair repetitive, mellifluous rhymes with equally charming illustrations of toddlers that pop thanks to crisp white backgrounds. In Little Bitty Friends the setting moves from bedtime to the natural world, which, after babies, is the second greatest thing babies love to look at.
A trail of ants, a fuzzy caterpillar, a field of flowers and a snail leaving a trail fill the pages of Little Bitty Friend along with a diverse array of adorable, bright eyed, big headed babies. The sneeze of a cat, the chitter of chipmunks and the nibble of a mouse are the sounds of Little Bitty Friend. As the cadence of the book winds down, a basket full of baby rabbits, "nuzzle while they nap," and a toddler and a puppy snuggle on a blanket under a tree. The final spread, above, has to be one of the sweetest I have seen in a long while and one that will always make me smile and remember when my own babies were small enough to tuck their heads under daddy's chin.
Little Bitty Friends, and Little Sleepyhead, are the perfect gifts for anyone welcoming a baby into the world, from moms and dads to grandpas and grandmas, and anyone lucky enough to have a baby in their lap!
Source: Review Copy
If English is your native language, there is a very strong possibility that can sing the first few lines of the nursery rhyme lullaby Rock-a-Bye Baby without even thinking about it. If you can do this, then you know how strange the words to this 250+ year old song are. With Rock-a-Bye Romp, Linda Ashman not only reclaims this song, she manages to give this updated version a classic nursery rhyme feel - without the original Mother Goose strangeness. Add to this the patterned, playful, painterly mixed media illustrations of Italian artist Simona Mulazzani.
Rock-a-Bye Romp begins with these adorable endpapers that really need to become a textile - be it bedding or jammies for babies. Ashman begins with the question, "Rock-a-Bye, Baby, in the treetop. How did you ever get so high up?" as if she's addressing the weirdness of the original and moving onward and down, into a crow's nest. As baby bounces down from the nest to the barnyard, then from pig to sheep to duck Mulazzani's illustrations almost evoke a Tuscan farm with rolling golden hills and a lapis colored night sky.
Ashman brings Baby and her book home on the wings of a hawk and into the nursery where Mommy is rocking Baby to sleep in her arms beneath a mobile made up of the animals Baby encountered. As Mommy tucks Baby into the cradle the illustrations shows a tree painted on the nursery wall that mirrors the original tree the cradle was stuck in at the start of the book. And the blanket Mommy tucks Baby in with? It's the same pattern as the endpapers!
Rock-a-Bye Romp is a wonderful new book - a much needed update of a curious classic paired with gorgeous illustrations that make it a beautiful, perfect gift for a new baby.
Source: Review Copy
Today is the one year anniversary of the day the 2015 Caldecott committee announced our winner and honors.
Things I have learned in the last year:
-You can walk into a windowless hotel room with fourteen acquaintances and walk out two days later with fourteen lifelong friends.
-The only people who truly understand what you went through are the ones who were in that room with you.
-Forever- which is the length of time that you will be keeping your mouth closed about exactly what happened during the deliberations- is a really long time.
-Getting to be on a phone call where you hear someone's life change is the most incredible experience.
-It is challenging to go from one of the most intense experiences of your life, and a crazy press conference full of celebration to driving a carpool the next day.
-Reading a New York Times article announcing the winner is enough to make you cry because you were in the room where it happened.
-You should never read the comments section of anything that discusses your winners.
-The generosity, graciousness and appreciation of the winners will overwhelm and humble you.
-Fifteen minutes during lunch is not enough time to tell a group of fifth graders about the experience of being on the committee.
-Having the ability to give away hundreds of books to a school that needs them is a wonderful feeling.
-Sitting in the front row at the banquet, seeing your name on the big screen and hearing your committee being thanked by the medal winner standing at the podium is a goose-bumpy and teary experience.
-Everyone in the children's book world is best friends with Dan Santat and was super happy that he won the Caldecott Medal. (Seriously. EVERYONE has told me that they are a close friend of Dan's. Is there anyone who only has a casual acquaintance with Dan?)
-The first Midwinter after you've been on the committee is hard. You know everything the committee is doing, and what time they are doing it, but you're not doing it too.
-If there are people left in the world who don't know you were on the Caldecott committee, your friends will make sure they find out.
-Being able to simply read and appreciate a beautiful picture book and not have to read it over and over and analyze it and tie yourself into knots writing a nomination for it is a nice thing.
-As overwhelming as it is to see your porch covered in boxes of submissions, you will miss them when they stop coming.
-Watching your winners have success in their careers is fantastically exciting.
-There is nothing like the thrill of seeing a Caldecott Medal on the cover of a book, and knowing exactly how it got there.
-Figuring out how to be vague in a blog post like this one is hard work.
Originally published in 1972, Princeton Architectural Press has brought The Brownstone, a fantastic classic, back to the shelves in a beautiful new edition. Written by Paula Scher, graphic designer and partner at the international design consultancy Pentagram, The Brownstone is her only book for children. Illustrations are by cartoonist Stan Mack, who's work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine and Adweek. The Brownstone definitely looks like it's from the 70s, but the story and illustrations are timeless. I read this book over and over to classes of all ages and they were enthralled!
The story in The Brownstone is simple, but the solution to the problem the residents of the brownstone face is not... As he is walking home from work one day, Mr. Bear "noticed a familiar chill in the air." It is time for the Bear family to take their long winter nap. But, the theatrical Miss Cat is howling away at her baby grand, making any kind of sleep impossible, let alone hibernation.
A climb to the third floor apartment of the landlord, Mr. Owl, seems to bring about a resolution - and a move for more than a few residents. But, as you might expect, a move for one tenant means an upset for another. One thing that I learned right away from the teachers that I work with is to encourage students to make predictions when reading a story, and The Brownstone is the perfect book for this kind of endeavor.
Every other page turn presents a new situation, a new combination of tenants with different hobbies and needs and it is so much fun to pause and ask listeners what they think will happen next - will this be a good move with everyone happy or will someone have another complaint? The kids love guessing and The Brownstone is a treat to read out loud and a great lesson on the complexities and rewards of living in harmony!
Source: Review Copy
I hesitated in writing this- because what is there to say about a show that is already a hit? What is there that has not been said? I've tried to stay away, as much as possible, from all the hyperbole. I didn't listen to the cast album. I only read one review of the off-Broadway production. I wanted to find out about it for myself. My favorite class in college, which I took my first semester because I couldn't wait any longer, was a history of American Musical Theater. We talked about landmark shows such as Showboat, Oklahoma, West Side Story and Company. If I was taking that class now (or better yet, teaching it), I would add Hamilton to that list of game changers.
Why? It's not enough that it's a hit.
It's easier to like a show when the lines at the box office go down the street and the tickets take a year to get... just as it is easier to like a book that already has a Caldecott or Newbery Medal on the front. Someone else has already told us that this is something extraordinary. The stamp of approval has already been given. What Hamiltonhas done is to bring the rhythm of popular music back to the theater. The kind of music that is playing in clubs and on the radio is now playing on Broadway. How wonderfully refreshing. Broadway, which in recent years has been criticized as elitist and apart from popular culture, is now being brought back into it. But, Hamiltonis not all hip-hop or rap. It combines so many musical styles, often within the same song, that it is mesmerizing. It would probably be a shorter list to say which musical traditions are not in Hamilton, rather than the ones that are. And the lyrics are brilliant, incredibly tight, interwoven and multi-layered. And Hamilton is not a regular book musical, where there's a song and then a scene, and back and forth. It's an opera. There are only a few lines that are spoken without a beat or rhythm behind them. Call it a hip-hop opera if you like, but an opera it is nonetheless. If Hamiltonreminds me of anything, it's of another landmark show that is currently playing only a few Broadway theaters away. Les Miserables. Also an opera. Also about a revolution, the difference between the rich and the poor, and breaking into the ruling class. Also based on a very, very long book. (Hamilton is based on an 800 page biography.) Also with a turntable- although Hamilton has a double one. And there are echoes of the melodies of Les Miserables sprinkled throughout Hamilton. Plus, if The Story of Tonight doesn't thematically make you think of Red and Black, then I don't know what does. The difference between the two shows is that when I listen to Les Miserables, I always feel as if I’m hearing the same song over and over. It seems as though there is a melody that has been written to be used between major numbers, and the words change but the tune stays the same. Hamilton isn't like that. There are 17 songs in each act (which is unusual, because the second act is typically shorter) and each of these 34 songs are distinct, unique and complex. There are musical patterns and phrases that are repeated, but not whole songs and melodies. Compare that to when I saw Andrew Lloyd Webber's show Whistle Down the Wind during an out of town tryout. All but one song in the second act was a reprisal of a song in the first act. The Hamiltonsubject matter is incredibly intriguing as well. Here's a musical told from the point of view of an often-overlooked Founding Father. Having been fascinated with Alexander Hamilton since ninth grade American History, I was happy to see him finally get his due. But while telling the story of someone who has been marginalized, it also has a go at people such as Thomas Jefferson who are typically lionized. What an interesting change of pace. There is one historical question that the musical doesn't address, however- was Hamilton eligible to be President since he was born outside of the United States?
The references are so far reaching and varied as to be astonishing. There's not a lot of people who can quote the Lovin' Spoonful and then the Declaration of Independence a few sentences later, as seen in the song "The Schuyler Sisters." And as it takes Broadway a little further, it also refers back to it. Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance is directly quoted, as is Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. Also, Shakespeare, the Bible, Socrates, fairytales, and nursery rhymes. It's a brilliant homage to what has come before.
I can't quite remember when I first heard the name Lin-Manuel Miranda. I feel like I've known about him for a long time. Obviously, through In the Heights and the publicity and Tonys for that. But the thing that made an impression is this video from his actual wedding which was circulating around on social media.
This knocked me back. Here was a talented Broadway actor who had gone to the trouble of recreating one of Broadway's most famous songs, and a rather complicated one at that, at his own wedding reception. Weddings are stressful events, with lots of built-in craziness. He had clearly gone to a lot of effort while the events of the wedding were swirling around him, to find time to rehearse, with his future father-in-law, his father, with the bridesmaids and groomsmen. And managed to keep it all from the bride. And it came off brilliantly. And paid homage to Broadway.
Then I watched the 2011 Tony Awards with the fantastic Neil Patrick Harris. What struck me the most was the closing rap at the end, which summed up all the events that had just occurred during the show. The performance by Neil Patrick Harris was incredibly impressive, but I was amazed by the writing, which had great rhyming, solid rhythm, funny jokes and heartfelt thoughts about Broadway tying it all together. And it had clearly been done on the spot. I later read that Lin-Manuel Miranda had been the one in the basement during the Tonys writing the closing number.
A musical has three parts that have to be written: the music, the lyrics and the book. The division of labor varies depending on the creators. For Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, for example; Richard Rodgers wrote the music and Oscar Hammerstein wrote the lyrics and the book. Stephen Sondheim writes the music and the lyrics for his shows (with the exception of his first two), and has collaborated with several different book writers during his career. Usually, there is then another composer, called an arranger, who adapts the music for different instruments in the orchestra.
There are only a handful of all the creators of musical theater who have been able to write the book, music and lyrics all themselves, and have produced a hit musical in the process. Meredith Wilson (The Music Man) is one. Jonathan Larson (Rent) is another.
One of the many things that made West Side Story a landmark musical is that it required the chorus to sing, dance and act. Before then, there were two different choruses: the singing chorus and the dancing chorus. But now, performers have to be triple threats, that is they have to master three separate disciplines.
For Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda has written the book. And the lyrics. And the music. And collaborated on arranging the music. Plus, he's the lead in the show. He acts. He sings. He dances. He's a septuple threat. SEVEN disciplines. I can't think of anyone in the history of musical theater who has done this before. Not even him- for In the Heights he didn't write the book or work on the arranging.
Who is this guy?? And why is he writing like he's running out of time?
Something else impressed me about him. I've been to a lot of Broadway shows and seen a lot of stars. I've seen them race out of the theater after the show into waiting cars with police protection. Or sign a few programs of the people standing at the front and then call it a night. Not this guy. Lin-Manuel Miranda went the length of the entire line of people waiting to see him, in freezing weather, shaking hands, having conversations, and taking pictures with every single person including me and my husband. My camera jammed at exactly the wrong minute, he waited for us to fix it while everyone else was clamoring to talk to him and then took the picture himself. I imagine that he must go through the line after every show. What a mensch.
WHO IS THIS GUY???
Whoever he is, he's extraordinary. There's no doubt.
As amazing as Lin-Manuel Miranda is, and it is obvious that the MacArthur Foundation made an excellent choice, this is not a one man show. The ensemble work is fantastic, with every actor and actress making memorable performances. The off-stage talent is crucial, and the collaboration of the director, designers, musical director, and choreographer comes together to make the whole show a success. A perfect example of this are King George's songs. If you only heard the cast album, you would think the songs were funny, catchy and enjoyable. To understand how truly hysterical they are, you would have to see Jonathan Groff's deadpan performance, Paul Tazewell's elaborate costume, Howell Brinkley's lights that come in at the right moment and Thomas Kail's great direction.
Even the marketing and publicity in Hamilton is notable. The primary logo is black- which means our eye is drawn to a lack of color. The color is completely contained in the gold background. Hamilton stands on the top of an iconic star from the American flag, which is missing its fifth point. Hamilton's body creates not only the star's final point, but also the letter A, his first initial. The images of Hamilton are everywhere. Not just on the marquee like most shows, but on the walls of the theater and the stage door. All over Penn Station. Inescapable, convincing us that Hamilton is the show to see.
If I could say anything to the people involved with Hamilton, or to someone who has won a Newbery or Caldecott Medal or otherwise achieved great success, it would be this. Try, as hard as you can, not to be encumbered by past success. Success can be just as paralyzing as failure. They don't all have to be life-changing hits. Just keep doing work that you're proud of. That's all anyone can ask.
I hope you get a chance to see it. Do not throw away your shot.
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The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley came out in January of 2015. In January of 2016 it won the Newbery Honor, the Schneider Family Book Award for the "artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences," and the Odyssey Award for best audio book, with narration by Jayne Entwistle. A couple of months back, Bradley's book came to my attention when I saw it on several end of the year "best of" lists and Newbery prediction lists. After fantasy, historical fiction a very close second favorite genre of mine and without a doubt, The War the Saved My Life is one of the best works of historical fiction I have ever read. In narrator Ada, Bradley has created powerful narrative voice, an unforgettable character and a deeply moving story of survival, both physical and emotional, during WWII England.
Ada is not sure how old she is. She has never been to school, in fact, she has not left the tiny apartment she shares with her mother and younger brother, Jamie, in ages. She is crippled by a club foot and a widowed mother who never wanted to be one. Deeply suspicious, ignorant and filled with anger and hatred, Ada's mother abuses her physically and emotionally, filling her with shame and fear. Ada's only pleasure comes from tending to her little brother Jamie. As he grows older and starts school, his independence leaves her feeling like she should get some of her own. Used to crawling on her hands and knees, Ada slowly, painfully teaches herself to walk. When she learns from Jamie that the children are being evacuated from the city - and that her mother has no intention of letting her go - she sneaks out of the house and joins the evacuees. Upon arriving in Kent, Ada and Jamie, filthy, louse ridden, sick with rickets and impetigo, find themselves unwanted once more. The iron faced Lady Thornton, head of the Women's Voluntary Service, packs the children into her car and takes them to the home of Susan Smith, who refuses to take them, saying she didn't even know there was a war on.
Susan is mourning the loss of her dear friend, Becky, and in her near catatonic state of grief she unthinkingly says that she never wanted children in front of Ada and Jamie. However, Ada catches sight of a pony in the field behind Susan's house and determines to stay. With Susan, Ada faces a new set of challenges, the biggest being trust. Even if she hadn't heard Susan say that she never wanted children, the task of being able to trust Susan would be overwhelming. And this is where Bradley's superior narrative skills shine. With Ada's voice, Bradley conveys the isolation, fear and ignorance that have been her life. So many of the words that Susan says to her mean nothing, from "soup," to "sheets," to "operate," the reader quickly gets a strong sense of disconnect with which Ada moves through the world. This disconnect is expressed most powerfully when Ada is in distress, when her foot hurts or when people are talking about her or touching her. When she was home with her Mam, Ada would retreat, mentally, when the agony of her physical situation - like being locked in a dank cabinet under the sink - was too much to bear. She relies on this relief with Susan, too, imagining herself with Butter, the pony she saw in the field that she teaches herself to ride.
While Ada is an incredible character, Susan Smith is also remarkable. Oxford educated, she herself is familiar with parental disapproval and rejection. Bradley never states it openly, but she weaves enough threads into the story to lead me to believe that Susan and Becky were in love and were ostracized for it. But, Susan exemplifies the motto from the morale boosting poster created during the war, "Keep calm and carry on." In fact, Bradley quotes another poster made by the Ministry of Information to boost morale in The War that Saved My Life. Seeing the poster in town, Susan reads to to Ada, "Your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us victory." "That's stupid, it sounds like we're doing all the work," Ada replies, saying it should be, "Our courage, our cheerfulness, our resolution, will bring us victory." This is one of the first moments where Susan sees through Ada's defenses. Susan clothes, feeds and educates Jamie and Ada, persistently, but never forcefully. While she expresses frustration, and both children cringe or hide at times when they think they have truly angered her, she never hits them or raises her voice to them. Instead, she explains herself when called for and hugs them when words will not do. She somehow understands the depths of Ada's emotional wounds and is patient with her when she breaks down, wrapping her tightly in a blanket and hugging - or even sitting on her during their first air raid.
While Ada and Jamie's mother only appears in the first and last few pages of The War that Saved My Life, her presence is a constant throughout. Her abuse of Ada is sometimes horrific, but also sparsely and effectively employed by Bradley. Witnessing this abuse allows the reader to be patient with the often unlikable Ada and also helps the reader understand her decisions, like the choice not to learn how to read or write, and her reactions, like the catastrophic break down she has when, on Christmas Eve, Susan gives her a handmade, green velvet dress, telling her that she is beautiful when she tries it on. Her mother's words, "You ugly piece of rubbish! Filth and trash! No one wants you with that ugly foot!" run through Ada's head and her roaring screams and panic are more understandable. It is even almost understandable that, throughout most of the novel, Ada believes that all the new things she is learning, from walking to horseback riding to reading and writing, will prove her worth to her mother and make her love her. With this possibility always out there, letting herself get attached to Susan is almost impossible. Then, there is always the knowledge of what her mother has thought of her and how she has treated her. Halfway through the novel, Ada says, "I wanted Mam to be like Susan. I didn't really trust Susan not to be like Mam."
But, Ada does get attached and she does grow stronger, physically and emotionally, over the course of this very rich and detailed story. And, while at first it seems like the war is a far off thing, it does come to Kent in a shattering way. After the Battle of Dunkirk, Kent finds itself overwhelmed by injured and dying soldiers, Ada heading into the village to help where she can. There is even a triumphant moment where, following the government dictate to say something if you see something, Ada not only must assert herself, but also let a prejudiced, condescending adult know that her foot is very far away from her brain, something she has heard Susan say, in order to be taken seriously. As life grows more dangerous in Kent and Susan refuses to send Ada and Jamie away, Ada thinks to herself, "It was hard enough to cope with Susan. How would I ever cope without her?"
I was in tears and sobbing for the last half of The War that Saved My Life, especially the final pages. Bradley delivers a very satisfying ending to a deeply satisfying book, one that makes me want to turn around and read it all over again. I am so grateful that this book won a Newbery honor, among other well deserved awards, because it means that it's likely to fall into the hands of children over and over for decades to come. I can't wait to get a copy for my library - I usually donate books I buy for myself to read to my library, but I am keeping this one! - and see what my students think of it!
January 2016: 43 books and scripts read
I read a great deal of unpublished scripts and manuscripts this month, so I cannot include those titles on this list. I do have two recommendations: Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson and Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, both full-color graphic novels for kids and tweens. Click the titles to read my reviews.
I whispered my great sorrow
To every listening sedge;
And they bent, bowed with my sorrow,
Down to the water's edge.
But she stands and laughs lightly
To see me sorrow so,
Like the light winds that laughing
Across the water go.
If I could tell the bright ones
That quiet-hearted move,
They would bend down like the sedges
With the sorrow of love.
But she stands laughing lightly,
Who all my sorrow knows,
Like the little wind that laughing
Across the water blows.
- The Sedges by Seumas O'Sullivan
View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.
View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.
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I had never heard of the British author and poet A. F. Harrold before I encountered The Imaginary at a bookstore just before Christmas but I was definitely familiar with illustrator Emily Gravett, a longtime favorite of mine (read my reviews of her picture books here.) Gravett's playful, detailed style is perfectly paired with Harrold's engrossing, creative, slightly creepy story of a girl, her imaginary friend and the fiend who is trying to eat him, making The Imaginary a truly stand out book.
Amanda Primrose Shuffleup has an incredible imagination. And, when she opens up her wardrobe door one rainy evening to hang up her wet coat and finds a boy named Rudger, her imaginary world gets even bigger. From landing a spaceship of alien planets (the thorn bushes in the backyard) to a hot air balloon that lands them in the "sticky, steamy South American jungle" to a "complex of caves, deep and dark, that stretched out for unknown miles underneath the stairs," Amanda and Rudger go everywhere and do everything together. And Amanda's mother, while she can't see Rudger, is perfectly accommodating, serving him bowls of cereal and making room for him in the backseat of the car. And, while Amanda can be careless with Rudger's feelings from time to time and very self-absorbed, Rudger wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
Rudger - and Amanda's - worlds are turned upside down when Mr. Bunting arrives at the front door, claiming to be conducting a survey about, "Britain today. And children." His strange behavior is disconcerting enough, but what's more disturbing is the fact that he has a miserable looking girl with him who can see Rudger. Mr. Bunting and his gloomy imaginary friend are after something, and they seem to turn up everywhere Amanda and Rudger go until their relentless pursuit puts Amanda in the hospital and Rudger Fading from existence and in a strange kind of imaginary friend limbo. This limbo, which the imaginaries call the Agency, is housed in a library - the one place with enough imaginings housed inside of it to keep the imaginaries alive until they can find a new human. Rudger makes a few missteps before he figures out how to get to Amanda and save her and himself, but not before a very harrowing, sinister battle in Amanda's hospital room. It turns out that Mr. Bunting can only be fed by the, "slick, slippery slither of fresh imaginary." For Mr. Bunting, just as "imaginaries needed t be believed in to go on, so he needed to eat that belief to keep himself going." Not since I read Neil Gaiman's Coraline and the Other Mother, have I been so creeped out by a character in a book.
The Imaginary is an absolutely fantastic, unforgettable book. Harrold's writing is superb and the rules by which the imaginary friends exist and cease to exist make sense. He creates a world immediately and efficiently - there is no part of The Imaginary that I felt could have been edited down, which is not the case with most books I read. Harrold is also gifted at capturing the way children think and talk. There is an especially fascinating and funny turn in the book where Rudger, in his efforts to get to Amanda, takes on the job of being the imaginary friend to her classmate, Julia Radiche. However, since Julia is doing the imagining, Rudger is now Veronica, who needs to get used to wearing a dress and having long hair. Emily Gravett's illustrations, which are black and white, mostly, with perfect pops of color here and there, bring to life Harrold's writing in a way that makes this book all the more memorable.
And did I mention what a beautiful book The Imaginary is? From the slightly smaller trim size to the fantastic endpapers to the thick pages, this book calls out to be picked up and enjoyed!
Originally published in the UK in 2014, The Imaginary is newly out in paperback there with this intriguing new cover!
Prolific British picture book author Vivian French teams up with the reigning Queen of the art of the fairy tale, Angela Barrett to create The Most Wonderful Thing in the World, a contemporary story that feels like a classic fairy tale. The story begins, "Once, in the time of your grandmother's grandmother, there was a kingdom." Looking very much like Venice, Italy, the kingdom sits on a lagoon dotted with islands. The king and the queen are very proud of their kingdom and of their daughter, Lucia. Realizing that she will someday rule the kingdom, they determine that they must start the search for a husband who will reign with her. They send a letter to Wise Old Angelo who lives on the smallest island in the kingdom to ask exactly what they should do. Angelo thinks long and hard and tells the king and queen that they must find the young man who can show them, "the most wonderful thing in the world," and has his grandson, Salvatore, hand deliver this missive.
Lucia has also realized that she will be queen one day and asks permission to explore the city and get to know her future subjects and realm. As Lucia is leaving the castle, the first person she meets is Salvatore! Upon being asked, Salvatore says that nobody knows the city better than he does and he will spend "Today, tomorrow and the next day, until you have seen all that you want," guiding Lucia. Meanwhile, suitors from all over the world are arriving with marvels that include airships, pyramids and mermaids in tanks. The king and queen "grew grey with exhaustion," but nothing seemed to be the most wonderful thing. Meanwhile, Salvatore has fallen in love with Lucia, although, he tells his grandfather, his face "wet with tears," that he can never marry her. Wise Old Angelo tells Salvatore to show the king and the queen the most wonderful thing in the world and then he can.
It may seem wrong to tell the ending of The Most Wonderful Thing in the World, but I think that it's very difficult to pull off a believable, successful ending to a contemporary fairy tale - which this book does. Together for their final day touring the city, Lucia and Salvatore are on Angelo's island - the only place she has not yet been. Looking for their daughter, the king and queen head to Angelo's island also. Exhausted by their trip, on top of days and days of looking for the most wonderful thing, the royals stop to rest on a bench. Salvatore approaches and asks if he may show them the most wonderful thing in the world. They agree, even though he is so unlike the others. Salvatore presents to them . . . Lucia!
And, as wonderful as this twist is, I really, really love the ending of The Most Wonderful Thing in the World. Lucia and Salvatore marry with the pomp and ceremony to be expected, "your grandmother's grandmother would remember." As the new king and queen, Lucia and Salvatore walk through their city every day, talking with the people. They are so beloved, that the people of the city build a statue in their honor. In the middle of a fountain, carved out of stone, stand Lucia, Salvatore and their first born child, carved underneath are the words, "The Most Wonderful Thing." The only thing more charming than the ending of this fairy tale are Angela Barrett's Edwardian influenced illustrations that fill every page. A sumptuous story, gorgeously illustrated - The Most Wonderful Thing in the World is a very special book.
Source: Review Copy
Last year, author Courtney Summers posted:
"I write about girls.
"I write about girls because every girl deserves the opportunity to pick up a book and see herself in its pages.
"I write about girls because girls, and their stories, matter.
"It's my way of letting them know."
On April 14th, 2015, she posted this with the hashtag #tothegirls to tell girls all over the world that they are seen, heard, and loved. People all over the world chimed in on social media, posting messages of support and encouragement, sharing thoughts and quotes both funny and profound.
Today, January 21st, it's time to spread the word again. Use the hashtag #tothegirls2016 along with your personal message of support and encouragement on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, your blog, your vlog, wherever you see fit. Write a note on your wipe-off board on the door of your dorm room or stick a Post-It note on your family's fridge or bathroom mirror. Share the message, and share the love.
From Courtney's article today in The Guardian:
Sometimes, I think of my novels as letters to their readers.
The difficult, often hard-to-like female protagonists and the particular set of challenges they face may change from book to book, but the underlying message - the heart of the story - is always the same: whatever you're going through and however you feel, you’re not alone.
One of fiction's greatest powers is its ability to reveal the parts of ourselves we're most afraid to show; both the ugly and the beautiful. When a reader sees their secrets on the page, there's a chance it can make a world of difference for them. It can lessen the weight of those secrets to the point the reader can breathe just a little bit easier and to the point, even, the reader might be able to say their secrets out loud.
Sometimes, saying a secret out loud changes a life.
Sometimes, saying a secret out loud saves it.
I'm not the first person to express this and I won't be the last: a book can be a lifeline.
Read the full article at theguardian.com
For more information, visit http://tothegirls2016.tumblr.com and follow Courtney Summers on Twitter @courtney_s
A few thoughts from me to the girls in 2016 and beyond:
You are awesome.
You can do this.
A year ago saw the debut of The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett, Jory John and illustrator Kevin Cornell. A standout for being laugh out loud funny (not as common a trait in kid's books as you might expect), The Terrible Two began the story of Miles, new kid in Yawnee Valley and master prankster, and his nemesis, Niles, the rule-following, goody-two-shoes, sash-wearing School Helper. The Terrible Two took a terrific turn when (SPOILER ALERT) it turned out that the angelic Niles was actually the secret prankster challenging Miles's status. The two teamed up, repeated the prankster's oath and shared a secret handshake before going on to pull off the greatest prank at Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy ever against their favorite target, Principal Barkin. Niles, Miles, Principal Barry Barkin, and his entitled son Josh are back in The Terrible Two Get Worse, along with Principal Barkin's father, retired Principal Bertrand Barkin.
The new school year seems to be off to a great start for the Terrible Two, who begin by smearing Limburger cheese all over the undercarriage of Principal Barkin's yellow hatchback as he enjoys Sunday brunch with Josh at Danny's Diner. The pranks continue into the school year until Bertrand Barkin decides to put an end to it by forcing his son out of his job and returning to his old job. Even worse, Bertrand Barkin, who sets up a giant sign to show how many prank-free school days have passed, has the personal motto, "It is only a prank if we react." As Principal Barkin the elder continues to refuse to react to Niles and Miles's pranks, the Terrible Two begin to get desperate. Niles even has an existential crisis that causes him to vomit and retreat to his room for several days. But, the Terrible Two are not down for long, and they come up with a crazy plan to take down Bertrand Barkin that includes expanding the Terrible Two to Three...
As before, The Terrible Two Get Worse is hilarious and hard to put down. What I love about Barnett and John's series is that the humor is smart. What other kid's book can throw out concepts like Chekov's Gun and Occam's Razor? And, happily, the presence of two items that seem to be Chekov's guns (a spool of thread and the suspenders-belt combo worn by Bertrand Barkin) are explained by the end of the book. And, in a wry and kind of eerie scene, Ms. Shandy, the social studies teacher, unveils a lesson during which the class will be living in a totalitarian state for two days, divided into groups that will create propaganda and samizdat in the style of Alexei Khvostenko. Of course Miles, Niles and their pal Holly Rash, school body president and a character I hope we see A LOT more of in the next book, decide to create samizdat, that is, until Principal Bertrand Barkin shuts the project down. Also, Cornell's illustrations that show Barry Barkin as he ticks off items on his list of projects to complete while he is unemployed, which begins with, 1. Start a list of projects, 2. Discover who you truly are, through projects.
I can't wait to see what the next book in this fantastic series brings! Until then, I will thoroughly enjoy discussing the pranks of the Terrible Two with my students, who love these books!
Be sure not to miss the equally hilarious website , which you could spend a serious amount of time pouring - and laughing over. The shop, where you can buy the books, of course, also offers up the Brooklyn Bridge for purchase! There is also a "plog," a blog of pranks, a video of a commercial for the book in Greece and covers of the books in translation in many languages!
Source: Review Copy
There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.
- by Shel Silverstein
View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.
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My young son loves Beekle: the Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat.
And, for the first time, I'm going to be completely honest about why.
It's not the stunning artwork. It's not the incredible multi-layered story. It's not that I was a member of the committee that awarded it the Caldecott Medal. (WHY NOT??!! WHY ISN'T IT ANY OF THESE THINGS???!!)
It's the fact that you can see Beekle's butt.
Now, the casual reader probably only saw this Beekle butt, the main event.
But the true, careful observer can find a lot more than that with a little patience.
Here is a tiny Beekle climbing the tree.
We also get a glimpse at Beekle's tuckus as he hands the paper to Alice, and in a later stylized version.
And it's the final image- on the back cover, as well as under the jacket.
Over the years, I have seen a number of posterior-related titles, starting with Captain Underpants
, and in recent years titles such as Chicken Butt
by Erica Perl and Veggies with Wedgies
by Todd Doodler have crossed my desk. My son thinks these are brilliant works of art. They make him laugh harder than any other books on our shelf. Seriously.
The 2015 Caldecott committee set several records. The most honor books. The first graphic novel. And also, if you were paying attention, the first Caldecott Medal book (that I know of) featuring a butt. My kids are the proudest of this record.
Caldebutt scholars may argue for the inclusion of No, David!
by David Shannon (featuring full nudity, no less!), In the Night Kitchen
by Maurice Sendak and King Bidgood's in the Bathtub
by Audrey Wood which certainly hints, if doesn't downright show anything. Those are honor books, and I'm talking about Medal books.
Now, Travis Jonker has pointed out
, that to some, there is now a second Caldecott Medal winner that features a butt. This one is on the cover, no less. (I see knees). Look at Travis' post for more.
Thank you to Travis, for his post, that freed me emotionally to write this one, and to Angela Reynolds, my fellow Caldecott committee member, for the truly awesome title.
And, whatever the reason, I'm glad my son loves Beekle; no ifs, ands, or butts.
A Tiny Piece of Sky by Shawn K. Stout is set in Hagerstown, Maryland in 1939 at the start of summer. I love a great historical fiction novel and Stout delivers a story that is filled with interesting people, places and events with an omniscient narrator and direct addresses to the reader sprinkled judiciously throughout. While the climax of A Tiny Piece of Sky wasn't quite as dramatic as I had anticipated, it didn't make it any less memorable or enjoyable.
Frankie Baum is the youngest of three sisters with an impressive scab collection that she is hoping to expand over the long, hot summer months. Joan, the second sister, is headed out to Aunt Dottie's farm for the summer and Elizabeth, the oldest, always has her nose in a book. It's up to Frankie to tend to their pony and former rodeo star, Dixie, and hook her up to the cart and take her out for a spin. But, before Frankie can even settle into missing her sister, Mr. Baum has a surprise for the family that will keep them all very busy. He has bought a long vacant, alpine-style (just like Bavaria, where Hermann's parents were from) restaurant on the "edge of Jonathan Street -the three blocks in Hagerstown that are an historically African American neighborhood and the site of the first African American churches, city homes, and businesses in Washington County," as Stout writes in her Author's Note.
Mr. Baum is a hardworking optimist with big ideas for Baum's Restaurant and Tavern, which is heralded as an "Eating Place of Wide Renown" on the fancy color menus he has printed up. Despite this, there are bumps along the way. The manager Mr. Baum has hired, Mr. Stannum, is harsh with the mostly African American kitchen staff and angered by Mr. Baum's refusal to put a second, segregated bathroom in the kitchen. He is even more upset when he learns that Mr. Baum plans a practice-run-pre-opening party for the whole staff and their families on July Fourth. Add to this the fact that Mr. Sullen Waterford Price, Esquire, is about to end his term as the President of the Hagerstown Chamber of Commerce and has plans to segue into the role of Mayor of Hagerstown. Price has run the Chamber of Commerce with a menacing, prejudicial hand that includes after hours visits to new businesses in town to dig up personal information about owners.
When Mr. Baum, who drives a 1937 Studebaker Dictator, doesn't bend to Price's strong arming, Price begins spreading rumors that Baum is a Nazi sympathizer and possibly even a German spy. This is fueled even further by a flyer, written in German, that Mr. Stannum steals from Mr. Baum's office and hands over to Price. Frankie, working in the kitchen, overhears just enough of these dark rumblings to begin to worry and doubt. She starts poking around at home and tailing Mr. Stannum, all the while being bullied by Leroy Price, who parrots his father's words. The night of the pre-opening family party, things come to a head - and fall apart - as waitresses call in sick, the band backs out, family friends don't show up - and Frankie runs away, sort of. She ends up in the town square where the Fourth of July festivities are underway and there she sees the "sick" waitresses, the band that bailed on Baum's playing and fliers telling the townspeople to boycott "German Businesses!" And it's there that Mr. Baum, looking for Frankie, collapses.
A Tiny Piece of Sky feels like it loses a bit of momentum at this point, but ends on a positive note, especially when you read the Author's Note and learn that Stout's grandparents and their restaurant in Hagerstown were the models for the Baum family. In fact, the press kit includes letter of support written to Stout's grandfather, copied almost verbatim in this book. I think I was hoping to see all the pieces of this story fit together with more assertion and deeper meaning than what Stout delivered. In spite of Frankie's mother's nervousness (and despite the fact that she worked in a restaurant since she dropped out of school in sixth grade to help support her family) Baum's reopens. Mr. Stannum, thanks to a secret nudge from Frankie, tries to right his wrong. And a family secret (a secret family) is revealed. All these add up and, as I said, make for a sweet ending. But my heartstrings weren't tugged and there wasn't quite the catharsis - or the downfall of Price - that I craved. Frankie Baum is a wonderful character, but I would have liked to see her develop more over the course of the story, especially after she takes a misguided outing with Dixie and ends up in the African American part of town. The episodes in A Tiny Piece of Sky remind me of the material in the press kit - more like snapshots, or vignettes, loosely tied together. As such, they are lovely and make for a very enjoyable read.
Source: Review Copy
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Anna Banana and her band of stuffed animals are back! And this time, they are hungry. Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion starts off with Pingpong, the penguin, who is as hungry as a bear. And he wants chocolate cake. Of course things get out of control, and quickly. My favorite spread, below, finds Fuzzball energetically, if not efficiently (or cleanly) stirring the batter with verve.
Meanwhile, Pingpong is still hungry. Fortunately, Grizzler has headed into a different room to bake, alone. Intrigued by his process, they sneak after him when he retreats to bake another cake . . .
Only to discover that Grizzler has been visiting the bakery! They all head back to Anna Banana's idyllic house on a tree lined street where they manage to scrape some batter into a pan and bake another cake.
The comic book format of Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion makes the action all the more expressive and the expressions of the characters even more hilarious. Anna and her gang are completely endearing and reminiscent of the Muppets. I love this format and hope that there are more picture books like it on the way, and more from Anna Banana and the gang!
Source: Review Copy