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Anne's House of Dreams. L.M. Montgomery. 1919. 227 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: “Thanks be, I’m done with geometry, learning or teaching it,” said Anne Shirley, a trifle vindictively, as she thumped a somewhat battered volume of Euclid into a big chest of books, banged the lid in triumph, and sat down upon it, looking at Diana Wright across the Green Gables garret, with gray eyes that were like a morning sky.Premise/plot: Anne Shirley marries Gilbert Blythe in this oh-so-lovely, oh-so-charming book by L.M. Montgomery. Technically, it is the sequel to Anne of the Island! Anne of Windy Poplars was written in the 1930s, decades after Anne's House of Dreams. In this Anne book, the happily married couple settle down in their first home together near Four Winds Harbor and Glen St. Mary. Anne's House of Dreams introduces many new characters--some of my favorites I admit--Captain Jim, Miss Cornelia, Leslie Moore, Owen Ford. Marshall Elliot. Susan Baker. Who would ever want to forget their stories? Captain Jim's life-book. Leslie Moore's tragic past but enduring spirit. Miss Cornelia. She's got to be one-of-a-kind. Just a truly spirited character with so much heart and full of gumption. Practically everything out of her mouth is quotable. She sure is great at banter!My thoughts: I love and adore this one!!! I love how emotionally satisfying it is. The Anne books may have sweet moments, but they pack in reality as well. No one can make me cry like L.M. Montgomery.Quotes:
“Stoutness and slimness seem to be matters of predestination,” said Anne.
Jane was not brilliant, and had probably never made a remark worth listening to in her life; but she never said anything that would hurt anyone’s feelings — which may be a negative talent but is likewise a rare and enviable one.
“I’ve heard you criticise ministers pretty sharply yourself,” teased Anne. “Yes, but I do it reverently,” protested Mrs. Lynde. “You never heard me NICKNAME a minister.” Anne smothered a smile.
Their happiness was in each other’s keeping and both were unafraid.
“Miss Cornelia Bryant. She’ll likely be over to see you soon, seeing you’re Presbyterians. If you were Methodists she wouldn’t come at all. Cornelia has a holy horror of Methodists.”
“I know we are going to be friends,” said Anne, with the smile that only they of the household of faith ever saw. “Yes, we are, dearie. Thank goodness, we can choose our friends. We have to take our relatives as they are, and be thankful if there are no penitentiary birds among them. Not that I’ve many — none nearer than second cousins. I’m a kind of lonely soul, Mrs. Blythe.” There was a wistful note in Miss Cornelia’s voice.
“Were you able to eat enough pie to please her?” “I wasn’t. Gilbert won her heart by eating — I won’t tell you how much. She said she never knew a man who didn’t like pie better than his Bible. Do you know, I love Miss Cornelia.”
“Our library isn’t very extensive,” said Anne, “but every book in it is a FRIEND. We’ve picked our books up through the years, here and there, never buying one until we had first read it and knew that it belonged to the race of Joseph.”
A woman cannot ever be sure of not being married till she is buried, Mrs. Doctor, dear, and meanwhile I will make a batch of cherry pies.
“I wonder why people so commonly suppose that if two individuals are both writers they must therefore be hugely congenial,” said Anne, rather scornfully. “Nobody would expect two blacksmiths to be violently attracted toward each other merely because they were both blacksmiths.”
The p’int of good writing is to know when to stop.
There’s only the one safe compass and we’ve got to set our course by that — what it’s right to do.
Logic is a sort of hard, merciless thing, I reckon.
“Since you are determined to be married, Miss Cornelia,” said Gilbert solemnly, “I shall give you the excellent rules for the management of a husband which my grandmother gave my mother when she married my father.” “Well, I reckon I can manage Marshall Elliott,” said Miss Cornelia placidly. “But let us hear your rules.” “The first one is, catch him.” “He’s caught. Go on.” “The second one is, feed him well.” “With enough pie. What next?” “The third and fourth are — keep your eye on him.” “I believe you,” said Miss Cornelia emphatically.
Cats is cats, and take my word for it, they will never be anything else.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
I received some nice emails about the Bug game our class designed, so I wanted to share what we played this past Friday. I call it The Mysterious Box of Mystery.
Worst name ever.
I know, but my students loved it. Well, the game, not so much the name. Surprising, since they all lost! But they see the potential for winning, so they're psyched about playing it again.
The game is simple. Find a box, tissue-box size or somewhat larger, in which you can hide an object. Ask students to number a page one through eight, and then prompt them to ask questions about the hidden object that can be answered yes or no. Each time you provide a yes/no answer, students write a new guess, or rewrite the one they've previously recorded if they feel it's correct.
Simple, right? Perhaps you've probably played something like this before. But to increase the "mystery" of it, I created a rhyming script
that I read for each of my three classes, and I never deviated from the script. One student mentioned that it made Mystery Box "really scary," and another students mentioned that it built the suspense.
Cool. But the script was truthfully designed to achieve the first objective of the game: to build better listening skills.
By sticking to the script, the game proceeded without interruption, and students were incredibly attentive throughout.
When students failed to name the object in each of the classes, I revealed the objects to them: a spork for Period 1, a candle for Period 5, a clothespin for Period 7. Each time when I asked, "Was it possible for you to actually guess this with just eight questions?" students reluctantly admitted yes.
"Possible, but not probable..." mused one student.
"Not with the dumb questions we asked," responded another unhappily. "We needed to ask better questions."
"We did waste a couple of guesses," added another.
And there it is, the second and more important objective of the game: to learn to ask better questions.
For example, one student asked, "Is the thing in this room?" and the answer, of course, was yes. But what she meant was, "Is this thing observable to our eyes anywhere in the classroom right now?" That question would have cut down many possibilities and likely caused all students to change their guessing strategies.
So while students were disappointed, none complained that the game was unfair or impossible. Instead, many began discussing strategies for the next time the game was played. I did promise students that I would never use an object that was rare, unique, or unknown to them;
they did fear, after all, that I would make the objects harder to guess as they became better guessers.
Beginning to finish, the game took ten minutes. The script was especially helpful in keeping me, the facilitator, from veering off course. In the future, when students are allowed to facilitate the game using their own objects, the script will likewise keep the class focused.
Give it a go, and let me know how it works out for you.
If you're looking to get more games into your reading and writing classroom, I highly recommend Peggy Kaye's Games for Reading
and Games for Writing
. I've used both books extensively in one-to-one instruction, but many of the games can be played with little planning in the ELA classroom. These games are also a huge help if you're seeking activities that a substitute can implement that will be highly engaging for your students.
Audio Book: Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm
Easy Reader: Moo Bird by David Milgrim
Early Chapter Book: Posy the Puppy (Dr. KittyCat #1) by Jane Clarke
Middle Grade Speculative Fiction: The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels
Board Book: Cityblock by Christopher Franceschelli
Picture Book (Fiction): Miracle Man by John Hendrix
Elementary/MG Graphic Novel: Alamo All-Stars by Nathan Hale
Young Adult: March: Book Three by John Lewis
Middle Grade Fiction: Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction: Breakthrough by Jim Murphy; Fashion Rebels by Carlyn Cerniglia Beccia (one of these got moved from a different category)
Juvenile Nonfiction: Let Your Voice Be Heart by Anita Silvey
Elementary Nonfiction: Nadia the Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still by Karlin Gray
Poetry: Echo Echo by Marilyn Singer
Young Adult: Savaged Lands by Lana Kortchick
Young Adult Speculative Fiction: The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
2016 Nominations by category:
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Ernie Pyle in England. Ernie Pyle. 1941. 215 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: A small voice came in the night and said, “Go.” And when I put it up to the boss he leaned back in his chair and said, “Go.” And when I sat alone with my so-called conscience and asked it what to do, it pointed and said, “Go.” So I’m on my way to London.
Premise/plot: Ernie Pyle in England was first published in 1941. It gathers together Ernie Pyle's newspaper columns from his time--three or so months--in England (and Ireland and Scotland). (He was an American journalist.) At the time the book was published, America had NOT yet entered the second world war.
My thoughts: WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS BOOK EXISTED?! Seriously. I've gone all these years of my life not knowing about Ernie Pyle?!?!?! This one was a PERFECT fit for me. I love to read about England. (I do. I really do.) And I love to read about World War II. If you love history, this one may prove quite satisfying. And if you love human-interest stories, then this one will certainly satisfy!!!
I found it fascinating, entertaining, compelling, charming.
A ship carries people out of reality, into illusion. People who go away on ships are going away to better things.
Our bathtub has three faucets, one marked cold, and two marked hot. The point is that one is a little hotter than the other. I don’t know why it’s done this way. All I care about is that one or the other should give off hot water; and they really do — plenty hot. But our radiator does not have the same virtue. It is a centuries old custom not to have heat over here. All radiators are vaguely warm; none is ever hot. They have no effect at all on the room’s temperature. I’ve been cold all over the world. I’ve suffered agonies of cold in Alaska and Peru and Georgia and Maine. But I’ve never been colder than right here in this room. Actually, the temperature isn’t down to freezing. And it’s beautiful outside. Yet the chill eats into you and through you. You put on sweaters until you haven’t any more — and you get no warmer. The result is that Lait and I take turns in the bathtub, I’ll bet we’re the two most thoroughly washed caballeros in Portugal. We take at least four hot baths a day. And during the afternoon, when I’m trying to write, I have to let the hot water run over my hands about every fifteen minutes to limber them up. I’m telling the truth.
My new English friends wanted to know what America thought; and they told queer bomb stories by the dozen. “You’re a welcome sight,” they said. “We’ve all told our bomb stories to each other so many times that nobody listens any more. Now we’ve got a new audience.”
London is no more knocked out than the man who smashes a finger is dead. Daytime life in London today comes very close to being normal.
Some day when peace has returned to this odd world I want to come to London again and stand on a certain balcony on a moonlit night and look down upon the peaceful silver curve of the Thames with its dark bridges. And standing there, I want to tell somebody who has never seen it how London looked on a certain night in the holiday season of the year 1940. For on that night this old, old city was — even though I must bite my tongue in shame for saying it — the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. It was a night when London was ringed and stabbed with fire. They came just after dark, and somehow you could sense from the quick, bitter firing of the guns that there was to be no monkey business this night.
And Big Ben? Well, he’s still striking the hours. He hasn’t been touched, despite half a dozen German claims that he has been knocked down. Bombs have fallen around Trafalgar Square, yet Nelson still stands atop his great monument, and the immortal British lions, all four of them, still crouch at the base of the statue, untouched.
Londoners pray daily that a German bomb will do something about the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens. If you have ever seen it, you know why.
Apparently the national drink in England is a beef extract called Bovril, which is advertised everywhere, like Coca Cola at home. Yesterday I went into a snack bar for some lunch. I asked the waitress just what this Bovril stuff was, and in a cockney accent that would lay you in the aisle she said: “Why sir, it’s beef juice and it’s wonderful for you on cold days like this. It’s expensive, but it’s body-buildin’, sir, it’s very body-buildin’.” So I had a cup. It cost five cents, and you just ought to see my body being built.
If I were making this trip over again I would throw away my shirts and bring three pounds of sugar.
You can hardly conceive of the determination of the people of England to win this war. They are ready for anything. They are ready to take further rationing cuts. They are ready to eat in groups at communal kitchens. Even the rich would quit their swanky dining rooms without much grumbling. If England loses this war it won’t be because people aren’t willing — and even ahead of the government in their eagerness — to assume a life of all-out sacrifice.
Don’t tell me the British don’t have a sense of humor. I never get tired of walking around reading the signs put up by stores that have had their windows blown out. My favorite one is at a bookstore, the front of which has been blasted clear out. The store is still doing business, and its sign says, “More Open than Usual.”
One of the few things I have found that are cheaper here than at home is a haircut. I paid only thirty cents the other day in the hotel barbershop, and since then I’ve seen haircuts advertised at fifteen cents. I’m going to get a haircut every day from now on — enough to last me for a year or two.
It was amazing and touching the way the Christmas spirit was kept up during the holidays. People banded together and got up Christmas trees, and chipped in to buy gifts all around. I visited more than thirty shelters during the holidays, and there was not a one that was not elaborately decorated.
I probably wouldn’t have slept a wink if it hadn’t been for the bathroom. I discovered it after midnight, when everybody else had gone to bed. The bathroom was about twenty feet square, and it had twin bathtubs! Yes, two big old-fashioned bathtubs sitting side by side with nothing between, just like twin beds. Twin bathtubs had never occurred to me before. But having actually seen them, my astonishment grew into approval. I said to myself, “Why not?” Think what you could do with twin bathtubs. You could give a party. You could invite the Lord Mayor in for tea and a tub. You could have a national slogan, “Two tubs in every bathroom.” The potentialities of twin bathtubs assumed gigantic proportions in my disturbed mind, and I finally fell asleep on the idea, all my fears forgotten.
It is hard for a Scotsman to go five minutes without giving something a funny twist, and it is usually a left-handed twist. All in all, I have found the Scots much more like Americans than the Englishmen are. I feel perfectly at home with them.
Pearl Hyde is head of the Coventry branch of the Women’s Voluntary Services. It was Pearl Hyde who fed and clothed and cheered and really saved the people of Coventry after the blitz. For more than a week she plowed around in the ashes of Coventry, wearing policeman’s pants. She never took off her clothes. She was so black they could hardly tell her from a Negro. Her Women’s Voluntary Services headquarters was bombed out, so she and her women moved across the street. Her own home was blown up, and even today she still sleeps in the police station. Pearl Hyde is a huge woman, tall and massive. Her black hair is cut in a boyish bob. And she has personality that sparkles with power and good nature. She is much better looking than in the film. And she is laughing all the time. She was just ready to dash off somewhere when I went in to see her, but she tarried a few minutes to tell me how good the Americans had been with donations.
It is against the law to leave a car that could be driven away by the Germans. You have to immobilize your car when you leave it, even though you might be walking only fifty feet away to ask a policeman for directions. In daytime, just locking the doors and taking the key counts as immobilization, but at night you have to take out some vital part, such as the distributor.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
I’ve grown a bit fond of the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe lately. Coming to it a bit late (I believe we’re on season 4 now, yes?) it took a Pop Culture Happy Hour episode to explain to me why the series was as groundbreaking and important as it was. This is advantage of having a five-year-old. When something like this comes up you can pretend you’re watching a new series for them when, in fact, you’re just curious for yourself. If you’re unfamiliar with Steven Universe I’ll try to sum it up quickly: In this world there are superhero female characters called “Gems”. Steven, our hero, is half-Gem, half-human, which is unique. The show then proceeds to upset stereotypical notions of gender and love.
If you pay any attention to the New York Times bestseller list, you might have noticed this book on the Children’s Chapter Books list a week or two ago:
It’s a Steven Universe book. There are a couple of them out there, written for kids to wildly varying degrees of competency. This one I intend to read soon. It got me to thinking, when I discovered it. After all, children’s literature and Steven Universe fuel one another in a more direct manner. The world of SU has television shows, movies, and bands that are unique and often very funny. They also have their own literature. For example, a common romance/scifi novel might look like this:
And children’s books are particularly interesting. When Steven is banned from television for 1,000 years he finds that he really likes reading. Two series in particular catch his attention: The No Home Boys and The Spirit Morph Saga. I just want to take a look at these books because I’m always interested in how children’s books are portrayed in works of pop culture.
The No Home Boys series is written by Dustylegs Jefferson. The original series apparently came out in the 1930s and was about two boys on the run, solving mysteries along the way. Sounds a bit like The Boxcar Children meets Hardy Boys. You might throw The Black Stallion in there as well, though, since there was also apparently a “disastrous graphic novel adaptation” of the book as well. One of the characters on the show writes this review of it:
“Some fans turned up their noses at the new adventures of the No Home Boys. The old series was a down to earth travelogue – a gritty portrayal of growing up during the Great Depression. The new series was full of magic demons, talking animals and ninjas. Sure it didn’t have the same campfire charm, but the expanded “Hoboverse” had much more character development and backstory for readers to sink their teeth into.”
To me this sounds like what happened with more recent Black Stallion books, though the graphic novel adaptation throws it squarely into the Hardy Boys camp as well. Whatever the case, I love the thought put into the series.
The Spirit Morph Saga is a bit different. It’s a multi-book series about a girl who discovers that she is a witch, gains a familiar (a talking falcon named Archimicarus), and attempts to rescue her father, who was kidnapped by a one-eyed man. Though some folks online compare the book to His Dark Materials, it bears far more similarities to Harry Potter and, in a strange way, Twilight. An entire episode of Steven Universe is based on the fact that at the end of the series the falcon turns into a man and marries Lisa in a big multi-chapter sequence. Connie, Steven’s best friend, is incensed by this. It’s rather delightful to watch.
Alas, Steven was granted his television rights again (though the set seems to be destroyed on a regular basis) so no new book series beyond these two have come up recently. There was, however, a trip to the local library. It was pretty standard stuff. A librarian was shushing the kids all the time. Computers were minimal. It looks like nothing so much as a library that has failed to get additional funding (which, considering the economy of Beach City, is not unbelievable). Ah well.
Here’s hoping for more faux children’s books series in the future. In the end, they say more about perceptions of children’s literature than anything else. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Title: Grayling's Song
Author: Karen Cushman
Summary: When her hedgewitch mother is attacked and turned into a tree, shy Grayling must venture out of her hometown for the first time and journey to find the person who's attacking all the magical folk in the land. Along the way she's joined by a crew of misfits who are all that's left.
First Impressions: This is a quieter book, for all there's a magical threat. Grayling grows into her own power and courage convincingly. The true identity of the villain, though, was a little bit of a bait and switch and I'm still not sure I like it.
Author: Kwame Alexander
Source: Local Library
Summary: Nick is having a rough time. His parents are splitting up, his best friend is on a different soccer team, his dad is trying to get him to read more (blech! yuck!) and he's kinda sorta maybe in like with a girl.
First Impressions: This was pretty good! There were so many elements (soccer, parental relationships, luuuuurvvve, divorce) that it should have felt overstuffed but everything wove together very realistically.
Author: Donna Freitas
Summary: Living a virtual life in the App World, Skye longs for the day when she can disconnect and see her family, left behind in the real world. When the government announces that the borders between the App World and the real world have been closed permanently, she fears it might never happen - until a celebrity offers her the chance to sneak across the border. But the real world isn't quite what she expected, and neither is her family.
First Impressions: Yay no love triangle! In fact, there's very little romance, and female relationships are more important to the plot. On the other hand it really ran out of steam when she moved to the real world. This is the first in the series and I really wish it had been all one book because all the scenes in the real world felt like they were mostly treading water.
Halloween is almost here and it's the perfect time to read a spook-tacular Halloween themed books.
Here are a few not too spooky Halloween books for our young readers:
Go away, big green monster! by Ed Emberely
Die-cut pages through which bits of a monster are revealed are designed to help a child control nighttime fears of monsters.
Does a cow say boo? by Judy Hindley
Children on a farm want to know which creature says "boo," and learn about animal sounds as they search.
Room on the broom by Julia Donaldson
A witch finds room on her broom for all the animals that ask for a ride, and they repay her kindness by rescuing her from a dragon.
Otter loves Halloween! by Sam Garton
Otter and Teddy celebrate Halloween.
Big pumpkin by Erica Silverman
A witch trying to pick a big pumpkin on Halloween discovers the value of cooperation when she gets help from a series of monsters.
The little old lady who was not afraid of anything by Linda Williams
A little old lady who is not afraid of anything must deal with a pumpkin head, a tall black hat, and other spooky objects that follow her through the dark woods trying to scare her.
For our older readers looking for a scary story to tell in the dark:
Scary stories to tell in the dark by Alvin Schwartz
This spooky addition to Alvin Schwartz's popular books on American folklore is filled with tales of eerie horror and dark revenge that will make you jump with fright.
In a creepy, creepy place and other scary stories by Judith Gorog
A collection of scary stories with unpredictable events and bizarre characters.
By: Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski,
Blog: TWO WRITING TEACHERS
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, argument writing
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, Kylene Beers
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My time at the New York State English Council (NYSEC) Conference through snapshots!
I Am A Story. Dan Yaccarino. 2016. HarperCollins. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: I am a story. I was told around a campfire, then painted on cave walls. I was carved onto clay tablets and told in pictures. I was written on papyrus and printed with ink and woodblocks, then woven into tapestries and copied into big books to illuminate minds.
Premise/plot: The story's autobiography. The concept of 'story' is personified and communicated in very simple, basic terms that readers of all ages can appreciate.
My thoughts: LOVED it. Loved, loved, loved, LOVED it. It's so simple yet so brilliant. Would recommend to anyone and everyone who loves stories and storytelling. It's not just for people who love books and libraries, but, for anyone who celebrates storytelling and communities.
Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total; 9 out of 10
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
I’ve made my share of confessions here on this blog. I wrote about my struggle to keep a notebook here and here. There’s more. Now that school is in full swing, making time… Continue reading
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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Good morning! I’d like to begin today by thanking the good people of Foundation 65 for allowing me to moderate a panel discussion last night with Duncan Tonatiuh, Grace Lin, Matt de la Pena, Janice Harrington, and Steve Sheinkin. Foundation 65 has created this cool program where these authors are visiting every single child in the Evanston, IL public school system this week. I helped kick it off, which was lovely. In this image you’ll see me in a rare moment of not lolling all over the podium (there was no seat high enough for me to sit on, and my heels were killing me).
Travis just offered a fascinating look at the recently released Follett statistics of what children around the country are checking out. It’s simultaneously unsurprising and disheartening. If you’re into that feeling, check the list out here.
Gotta hand it to Bookriot. When they came up with a list of 9 Kids Books That Should Be In Print, they did their due diligence. No mention of Hey, Pizza Man, but otherwise impeccable. I have a copy of Trouble for Trumpets of my very own, so I can attest to its awesomeness, and The Church Mouse should definitely find a new audience. Well written, Danika Ellis.
Two Harold and the Purple Crayon related posts appeared around the same time last week. The first was from The Ugly Volvo (a.k.a. my replacement for The Toast) called Harold’s Mother and the Purple Crayon. The other was Phil Nel’s piece How to Read Harold in which he reveals the possible subject of his next book. There are also some pretty keen links at the end. Go to it!
This one’s neat. Middle school teachers Julie Sternberg and Marcie Colleen have collected short audio clips in which storytellers share memories from their childhood. They write,
“For each memory, we propose writing prompts for students as well as questions for classroom discussion. Topics range from moments when storytellers have experienced bullying or been bullies themselves; to the first time they remember doing something they knew to be wrong; to difficulties in their home lives; to the effects of keeping secrets. We hope each story helps kids think through issues that can be difficult to address but impossible to avoid.”
The site is called Play Me a Memory and contributors include everyone from Sarah Weeks and Kat Yeh to Michael Buckley and Matthew Cordell. If you’re looking for writing prompts to share with kids, this site may prove inspirational.
This is neat:
It’s like fanart for a really recent picture book. Cool stuff, Migy.
I know Dana Sheridan says that artist Aliisa Lee’s illustrations of classic folktale characters are “manga characters”, but I think the adaptations go a bit further. These creations look particularly Pokemon-esque. I could see me capturing one in a public space. Couldn’t you?
Now for a double shot of espresso/adorableness:
Thanks to Marjorie Ingall for the link.
I outsource some of my knowledge of children’s literature to those better suited than I. For example, if you were to ask me what the best Christian books series out there might be, I’d probably hem and haw and then excuse myself to the ladies room where I would attempt to climb out the window. Author/illustrator Aaron Zenz, however, knows his stuff. Recently he said that the best series is Adam Raccoon and that the books are now officially back-in-print. FYI, Christian reader type folks!
Just the loveliest piece was written recently at the Horn Book by Sergio Ruzzier about his time looking at the work of Arnold Lobel and James Marshall at the Kerlan Collection. And though I might take issue with the idea that Marshall’s humans were less charming than his animals, the piece is an utterly fascinating look at the process of the two men.
And for our last image of the day, we turn once again to good old upcoming Halloween:
Reminds me of the time I went to the Dan Quayle Museum and saw the Fabergé Egg that showed him being sworn in as VP (<— all that I just said is true). Thanks to Marci for the link.
This weekend is a four day weekend for schools in our state so we are going to visit my oldest son in college! I will have to be driving, though, so I won't get a lot of reading done in the car. Hopefully I will have time to read while I am away. I am in the middle of reading Scary Out There
and am loving it! I am also reading Shuffle Repeat
because it just came in with our latest order at school. Fingers crossed that I come back having finished both!
Thanks for stopping by the blog. Last week I promised to share student work and my reflections after a week of Getting Kids Excited About Writing. As I listened to teachers, talk about… Continue reading
I absolutely love the concept for Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans! by the genius Gary Northfield! If I had to nutshell it, I'd say, think Terry Deary's Horrible Histories meets 13 Story Tree House. Julius is a hilarious character living in a time period that makes for some crazy adventures. Northfield layers in the history, from using Roman numerals for the page numbers to giving characters Roman names, as well as the names of famous Romans, and using Latin and the historically accurate names for the fights, fighters, arenas and more that appear in this book. There is even a tutorial on how to read Roman numerals and a glossary at the back of the book! Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans! begins in African plains at a watering hole, called the Lake of Doom by Julius, that he does not want to be at. Actually, the book begins with Julius schooling readers about what zebras are really like, burps and all. It stinks (an illustration shows a yak pooping in the lake) is "sooo boring!" and presents the constant danger of being eaten. Wandering off from the Lake of Doom and trying to outrun a lion, Julius and helpful but annoying warthog named Cornelius and . . . a lion.
Never fear, it's not as bad as it seems! The naive Julius hears talk of a circus and caravans, of juggling monkeys and bears dancing with ostriches and he gets pretty excited. Unfortunately, the circus he is going to is the Circus Maximus (well, actually the Colosseum) and he is going to be performing in it, not watching it. This is such a fantastic conceit and I really hope that kids take to this kind of mash-up of history and humor so that Julius Zebra spawns imitators the way Diary of a Wimpy Kid has.
Instead of losing his life to gladiators in the ring, in an effort to keep himself from becoming "someone's fancy carpet," Julius grabs a sword and saves his tail, winning over the crowd and the Emperor, Hadrian. Julius earns himself a spot in the gladiatorial championship in 30 days that will celebrate Hadrian's birthday. As the new "People's Champion," he will get to fight for his freedom, and fame and wealth. Julius, Cornelius and a gang of animals, including Lucia, a vegetarian crocodile, Pliny the mouse, Milus the lion, Rufus a giraffe and Felix, a gazelle, begin training for the battle and also for escape. I don't want to give away the ending, but there is a second book in this series...
Source: Review Copy
It's Tuesday! Time to write, share and give!
Turtle in Paradise. Jennifer L. Holm. 2010. Random House. 177 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafers, but I've lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten.
Premise/plot: Turtle, our heroine, is sent to live with her aunt and her cousins in Key West, Florida. The novel is set during 1935. And the Great Depression is one of the reasons why she's sent. Her mother is a housekeeper, and her new employer does not like children...at all. She needs the job so she sends her daughter away to live with her sister. Turtle's arrival is a surprise! She arrives before the letter does. Turtle brings with her one cat, Smokey. Her cousins are Bean, Kermit, and Buddy. The friends she hangs around with? The Diaper Gang.
My thoughts: What did I love most about this one? Practically everything. I loved Turtle's voice. I loved getting to know her. I loved getting inside her head. I also loved the setting and atmosphere of this one. One definitely gets a sense of time and place and culture. I also loved the characterization and the relationships. Seeing Turtle get to know her grandmother was priceless. Not because the grandma was sweet and lovely. But because she was just as fierce as Turtle herself.
I reread this one because I was excited about Full of Beans. I thought that Full of Beans was a sequel. It isn't. It's a prequel. It's set in 1934. It stars Bean and his family and friends. It's a great book. But I still wish I knew what happened next to Turtle. I don't doubt that Turtle will survive and find a way to thrive--that's who she is--but I do wish to spend more time with all of them.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Oh, where to begin.
So the other day, I got to thinking that my kids have had an insufficient dosage of Tomi Ungerer in their daily diets. Ungerer, if you are unfamiliar with him, has always been the enfant terrible of children’s literature. Having dared to publish children’s books for kids at the same time as his wildly erotic adult art for (obviously) adults, he was run out on a rail from the States, though he continued to make his books. The only story of his I’d ever read the children is Crictor, and I was toying with the notion of showing them No Kiss for Mother (which I don’t think I’m emotionally cohesive enough to tackle at this time) or The Beast of Monsieur Racine. In the end I took the easy route out and borrowed The Three Robbers from the library (partially inspired by that Salon post about the kid who only like to read about “bad guys”).
Next thing I know, Phaidon is republishing eight of Tomi’s books in this new, gorgeous, collection called Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books.
But even better than that is what they’re planning for Tomi’s 85th birthday. On November 28th (and they’re announcing this widely so I guess it won’t be a surprise) Phaidon will hand to the man a virtual birthday tribute “filled with drawing and written messages from friends and fans. The birthday greetings will be displayed on a dedicated page on the Phaidon website — www.phaidon.com/CelebrateTomi — and then printed and presented to Tomi for his birthday.”
They’re accepting entries for this right now, librarians, artists, writers, and fans. Do you want to submit? Submit! [looking at you, Sergio Ruzzier] Definitely check out some of the submissions so far. I like the Eric Carle, the Milton Glaser, and the suggestive one from Sarah Illenberger, but the Jean Jullien is my favorite by far.
Full of Beans. Jennifer L. Holm. 2016. Random House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Look here, Mac. I'm gonna give it to you straight: grown-ups lie. Sure, they like to say that kids make things up and that we don't tell the truth. But they're the lying liars.
Premise/plot: Full of Beans is the prequel to Jennifer L. Holm's Turtle in Paradise. Both books are set in Key West, Florida. Full of Beans is set in 1934, and Turtle in Paradise is set in 1935. Bean, a character first introduced in Turtle in Paradise, narrates the book. And WHAT A CHARACTER Holm has given us!!! I wish Bean starred in a dozen books! That is how much I love and adore him.
So what is it about? It's the Great Depression and Bean and his family--the whole community, the whole nation--is in need. Bean does what he can to help his family out while his Dad is off crossing the country looking for any job he can get. But it isn't until the end of the book that Bean's inspiration pays off. Until then, he too is prone to trying anything and everything to bring home what nickels and dimes he can.
Bean has two brothers: Kermit and Buddy. He has a very hard-working mother and a MEANIE of a grandmother.
The book opens with Bean trying to determine if the government's visitor to Key West is good news or bad news....
My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I'm not sure the plot is wow-worthy on its own. But. Because it's BEAN I was engaged start to finish. The characters make this novel well worth reading. Even if you don't love, love, love historical fiction.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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An Interview with Are You an Echo? Author David Jacobson and Translator Sally Ito
by Janet Wong
I am half-Chinese and half-Korean, but my father’s closest friends were Japanese Americans, Nisei. I loved visiting Little Tokyo in Los Angeles when I was a child, picking boxes of mochi at Fugetsu-Do, leafing through paper at Bun-ka Do, stocking up on senbei crackers and Botan candy at Umeya, and listening to taiko drummers at festivals. When I saw Are You an Echo? and its blend of images from traditional and contemporary Japan, I was transported to my childhood and immediately full of questions for author David Jacobson (DJ) and translator Sally Ito (SI).
JW: I’d like to urge readers to order Are You an Echo? in time for Japanese Culture Day, Bunka no Hi, celebrated on November 3rd. Can you tell us about that holiday?
DJ: Though originally established to honor Japan’s Emperor Meiji on his birthday, Bunka no Hi was recast after World War II to promote the arts and scholarship. Today, many schools hold culture festivals and art exhibitions and universities announce new research projects. Also on that day, the emperor announces the Order of Culture award to those who have made significant advancement in the arts or sciences. Which is why it is so appropriate that we celebrate Misuzu Kaneko at this time.
JW: Your book has received glowing reviews, most notably from Betsy Bird in School Library Journal— so I suspect that it is already on the wish lists of many librarians, teachers, parents, and poetry fans. What would you say to convince a person to order the book now, rather than continue to wait?
SI: Well, I am of the mind that if a book appeals to you now, you should get it immediately!
DJ: I think this book offers so much–Misuzu’s wonderful poetry, the story of her life, the rediscovery of her work after the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Moreover, it’s accompanied by Toshi’s beautiful illustrations, which give an accurate depiction of bygone Japan. All this in just 64 pages, which you can read in 10 minutes.
JW: Do you have any recommendations for how a librarian or teacher should approach sharing your book with students? Are there, for instance, certain websites or multimedia resources that you would like teachers to introduce to students before (or immediately after) they read your book?
DJ: I think the book offers librarians and teachers a choice as to whether they share her life story, or just share her poetry. Any of the poems in the latter part of the book can stand alone for use on a “Poetry Friday.” For more advanced students, teachers can read the initial narrative section of the book, then ask their students how the inclusion of poetry within the narrative adds to the effect. How do the poems help you understand Misuzu? Does their inclusion in the story change how you read the poems?
SI: Chin Music has created a website for Misuzu Kaneko and her poetry. In addition to that, I also wrote an essay called “Forgotten Woman” which is on the Electric Literature website.
JW: I enjoyed reading your Electric Literature piece, Sally, and learning about how you discovered Misuzu’s poetry. As you noted, “her viewpoint on the world of living things was unique”; something that her poem “Big Catch” demonstrates well. “Big Catch” might be my favorite poem by Misuzu. Which poems in the book are your favorites?
DJ: One of my favorites is the last poem in the anthology, “Day and Night.” Sally suggested this, as she wanted to include one of the more philosophical and “challenging” poems. In just a few words, Kaneko poses questions that probably occur to many children: Where does day stop and night begin? Does time have a beginning and end? Illustrator Toshi Hajiri complements the poem brilliantly by envisioning a child jumping rope, which divides night and day.
SI: “Stars and Dandelion” is one of my favorites, as well as “Are You an Echo?”
JW: Sally: in your Translator’s Note, you mention that you and your aunt, Michiko Tsuboi, had begun translating Misuzu’s poetry even before David contacted you with the idea of collaboration. How do you think that your book might’ve been different from Are You an Echo?, if David had not been involved?
SI: Well, it wouldn’t be in a book if David hadn’t gotten involved! Michiko and I were translating Misuzu Kaneko’s poetry for ourselves to enjoy her work, sustain our relationship and for both of us, to improve our facility in English (for Michiko) and Japanese (for me). It was David who wanted to create a book about Misuzu Kaneko and her poetry and found us. I think now that Michiko and I have had our translations published in a book, we would like to publish more of our translations in the future. Ultimately, I would like to translate all 512 of Misuzu’s poems into English which have been published in Japanese by JULA publishers in their six volume anthology.
DJ: Though this question is not meant for me, I’d like to mention that one of the reasons I sought Sally and Michiko’s help on the book was because they already knew of Misuzu, and were so enthralled by her poetry that they were translating her poems just for the love it. Turning your question on its head, I’d say the book is very different because of their input. Sally and Michiko helped me extensively with the text of the narrative (which is why they get “editorial contribution” credit on the title page). And I helped them with the translations, though my role was more that of an editor and sounding board. We spent months communicating back and forth debating the tiniest details of the translations. It sounds cliché, but it was truly a work of love, on all three of our parts.
JW: Can you share with us a small additional nugget of information about the book?
DJ: The town where Misuzu grew up was once one of four major whaling centers in Japan, though its whaling industry had already declined by Misuzu’s time. The folks in that town had a long tradition, based on their Buddhist beliefs, of praying for the souls of the whales who had given their lives for the fishermen’s livelihood. Every year then and since, they conduct a whale memorial service, to remember the souls of the dead whales and perhaps to appease their guilt. That is the service that Misuzu writes about in “Whale Memorial.” But she brings yet another level of empathy, that of the child wondering how a child whale feels after its parents have been killed. The illustrator, Toshi, and I visited the temple where the service is still conducted, which is the one depicted in the illustration. At that temple there is a register of special Buddhist names that were given to the slaughtered whales posthumously. It is thought to be the only such registry in Japan dedicated to non-humans.
Note: Look for Are You an Echo? at Amazon and Indiebound or ask for it at your favorite local booksellers.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Sylvia: Thank you, Janet, David, and Sally, for sharing so many fascinating details about the creation of this book and your deep love for Misuzu Kaneko and her poetry. It's so rare to see any bilingual poetry for young people published, much less Japanese and English poetry, so what a unique and special contribution this is in so many ways!
Now head on over to the Miss Rumphius Effect where Tricia is gathering all our Poetry Friday posts this week.
The Great Antonio is Elise Gravel's loving tribute to Antonio Barichievich, the Croatian born strong man who was a Montreal fixture for many years. The Great Antonio is also yet another superb beginning reader from the fantastic TOON Books. Gravel begins this fanciful story of the life of this giant of a man speculating about his possible parentage and wondering about his childhood in Croatia. This may seem like an odd subject for a beginning reader, but Gravel tells Antonio's story with a playful tone that is immediately engaging.
To show readers just how HUGE Antonio was, she shows his clothes (a cat could sleep in his shoe, but it was quite smelly) and his eating habits. She also shows reader the various opponents he wrestled and the many enormous, heaving things he lifted and pulled.
Antonio was larger than life and stories about him border on the unbelievable. Reading Gravel's author notes at the end of the book helped me get a perspective on this strange - for a beginning reader, anyway - story. Gravel shares that one of her favorite authors is Roald Dahl, who "got her interested in unusual people and animals," saying that she is, "attracted to anyone who is STRANGE or FUNNY." Growing up in Montreal, Gravel was very familiar with this strange and funny man. Like Sampson, Antonio had magnificent hair - long, thick dreadlocks that fell to the ground and were often used to pull buses. Or, Antonio would put metal in his braids and use them as golf clubs and more.
Gravel gives The Great Antonio the feel of a tall tale, speculating about his life and his feats but also respectfully sharing the stranger aspects of it. Near the end of his life, Antonio chose to live on the streets of Montreal, using a donut shop as his office. Gravel tells readers that, when he died, a mountain of flowers was left at his favorite table at the donut shop. Antonio himself may have created this air of mystery about himself, lending to his larger than life persona. In her author notes, Gravel shares that, after his death, many of his "wild stories" were proven to be true!
Source: Review Copy
I am busy preparing for the Quaker Craft Fair tomorrow. (Oct. 22nd, 2016 from 10 am to 3 pm). So I have not posted this week.
This does not mean that I stopped reading. I continue to revisit cozy mysteries from my past with Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity series.
I read Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. I owe you a review. Til then, click through to see what Goodreads folks have to say about this historical middle grade fiction. My opinion? Good read.
Well I have to open up the Meeting House at 7 am. So good night!
Savaged Lands. Lana Kortchik. 2016. 292 pages. [Source: Bought]
First sentence: It was a balmy September afternoon and the streets of Kiev were crowded. Just like always, cars screeched past the famous Besarabsky Market. And just like always, a stream of pedestrians engulfed the cobbled Kreshchatyk. Yet something was different. No one smiled, no one called out greetings or paused for a leisurely conversation in the shade of the many chestnut trees that lined the renowned street. On every grim face, in every mute mouth, in the way they moved – a touch faster than usual – there was anxiety, fear and unease. And only three teenagers seemed oblivious to the oddly hushed bustle around them.
Premise/plot: Natasha Smirnova's world is turned upside down by the Nazi's invasion of her hometown of Kiev in September 1941. Savaged Lands chronicles her life during the war.
My thoughts: I almost loved this one. I did. Why the almost? The love scenes were a bit too graphic for my personal taste. (I like things on the clean side). What did I love about it? The drama and intensity of it. The ugliness of war and the messiness of family life come together in this historical novel. I also thought the author did a good job creating complex characters. Not every single character perhaps. But the main characters certainly.
What did I like about it? The romance. The romance is both the novel's biggest strength and greatest weakness. It all depends on YOU the reader. If you love ROMANCE, if you love romance with DRAMA, with OBSTACLES, then you may love, love, love this one. It wouldn't be a stretch to say this one is more about a 19 year old girl falling madly, deeply in love for the first time than it is a novel about the second world war. If you love HISTORY more than romance, you might feel that too much emphasis is placed on her weak-in-the-knees, heart-pounding romance. Her life is practically unrecognizable, she's lost immediate family members, and all her thoughts are consumed in HIM. All the time it's him, him, him, HIM. (His name is Mark, I believe)
This one has plenty of tension and conflict. Is it good drama? or too melodramatic? I think again this is up to each reader. The conflict between Lisa and Natasha--two sisters--is very real and takes up a good portion of this one. Definitely gives readers something to think about as they keep turning pages.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Patricia MacLachlan is a big name in kid's books. Author of the Newbery winner, Sarah Plain and Tall, a classroom staple, as well as many other novels and picture books, I have reviewed only two of her books. The title of her newest book, The Poet's Dog, hooked me immediately. As did the length of the book. As a librarian at a school where the majority of students are English Language learners who are not reading at grade level, short books like this give them a sense of accomplishment needed to persevere with longer books. As an adult reader, I found The Poet's Dog to be alternately charming and frustrating, not sure what to make of this book. In the end, I decided to read it as a fairy tale and that helped quiet the the questioning voices in my head, allowing me to enjoy MacLachlan's book as I know young readers will.
The Poet's Dog begins with a haiku-like verse, "Dogs speak words/ But only poets/ And children/ Hear." This is the magical premise that sustains the story of Nickel and Flora, siblings lost in a snowstorm who are rescued by Teddy, the dog of the title. Teddy guides the two back to a cabin in the woods belonging to Sylvan, the poet. Slowly, over days, Teddy tells the children about Sylvan, who rescued him from the pound, and the children tell Teddy about the car stuck in the snowbank and their mother leaving to get help. Teddy tells the children about the poetry class held in the cabin and his love of the The Ox-Cart Man, a Caldecott winning picture book written by Pulitzer prize winning poet, Donald Hall, which he hears as a poem. Sylvan becomes ill and Ellie, a student of his, gets him to the doctor and, along with Teddy, becomes heir to his estate when he dies. Teddy refuses to leave the cabin, which is how he is able to rescue the children and keep them safe, but off the grid, until the storm clears.
Like siblings in a fairy tale, Nickel and Flora deal marvelously with the challenges they encounter. They make a fire and tend to it, get wood from the shed and cook with the provisions left in the pantry. Taking the role of cook, Flora explains, "It's not because I'm a girl that I cook. I like it. It's in the herbs. Like science. When I grow up and have twenty-seven cats and dogs and become a horse trainer, I will have a large collection of herbs." Nickel writes in a notebook, sharing his view of life snowed in at the cabin. Teddy says his writing is, "funny, sly, and sometimes poignant. Sylvan taught me the word poignant." Sylvan thinks that poignancy "may be the most important thing in poetry."
And, The Poet's Dog is definitely poignant. Teddy, who, it is revealed, is an Irish Wolfhound, is clearly a reliable caretaker for Nickel and Flora and readers will never worry about their eventual rescue. But, readers will begin to worry about Teddy and what will become of him. Just before Sylvan dies, he tells Teddy that he hopes he will "find a jewel or two." This proves to be a prophetic little mystery that is solved by the (happy) end of the story. So what did I find frustrating about The Poet's Dog? I think I made the mistake of not reading it as a fairy tale from the start, which left me worried and frustrated when I realized that Nickel and Flora's parents must be wild with worry upon realizing they have left the car stuck in the snow bank and that there would be no way they wouldn't be found sooner. I went into this book not realizing that I needed a willing suspension of disbelief, despite the poem at the start! I know that I will return to this book and read it again, maybe even out loud to students. It is magical in the best way, because it's about the magic of words and writing and that, even with a willing suspension of disbelief, is poignant.
One note that I feel bears repeating: I often reading other reviews of books before writing my own, to see what others are thinking and to find a perspective other than my own. I often read the reviews at Kirkus, an industry magazine. In the last year or so, every review (of children's books) makes note of the color of the characters in the book. The review of The Poet's Dog alerted me to the fact that, on the jacket art, the siblings appear to be brown skinned children with black hair while the text describes Nickel as "having blond hair, implying whiteness." Miscue on the part of the artist, Kenard Pak or calculated choice on the part of the art director and editor?
Source: Review Copy
Whenever I pull a small group for a lesson, there are some important guidelines I try to remember and follow.
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Naturally you know what tomorrow is.
You don’t? Doggone calendars. You’d think they’d have the wherewithal to remember that October 21st is Ivy & Bean Day. And now here’s the interesting part. You heard it here first, folks, but Ivy & Bean are going to have . . . AN ELEVENTH BOOK!!
Don’t believe me? Hear it from Ms. Annie Barrows herself:
When I finished Ivy and Bean Take the Case, the tenth book in the series, I figured it was time to take a break from my girls. Why? Because ten books are a lot. Ten books are bigger than my head. Ten books are really heavy. Ten books are enough. Besides, I was writing a novel for grownups. I was busy.
When my novel came out and I toured for it, I couldn’t help noticing that grownup audiences are incredibly well-behaved. No one falls out of her chair. No one pulls his neighbor’s hair. No one cries. No one has to go to the bathroom right now. No one asks me how old I am. But also: no one asks me what my favorite color is. No one wants to hear interesting facts about being eaten by squids. No one laughs so hard she has to go to the bathroom right now.
I missed kids.
One day when I was sick of the thing I was supposed to be working on, I wrote a scene about Ivy and Bean and one of those weird dolls that’s supposed to look like a real baby. I laughed and put it away. A little while later, I wrote another scene, about quicksand this time. I laughed some more. Eventually, it occurred to me that
(a) I was having fun
(b) I missed little kids
(c) A lot of readers wanted another Ivy and Bean book
(d) Why didn’t I just go ahead and write one?
So I did.
Sophie Blackall had her own two cents to add.
The number one question I get asked in school visits is, ‘WHEN will there be a new Ivy and Bean???’ For years, I have left behind a trail of frustrated second graders, shaking their collective fists. Finally I’ll be able to hold my head high and say, ‘Soon, my friends. SOON.’ You have no idea what a relief this will be. Plus I get to work with Annie and Victoria again. Which is so much fun it isn’t really work at all.
In the meantime, Ivy and Bean haven’t just been lying around eating candy. They are hard at work advocating for vaccination against measles and will be appearing in a hilarious (and informative) comic book, in association with The American Academy of Pediatrics and The Measles and Rubella Initiative. 375,000 copies of the books, Ivy and Bean vs. The Measles will be distributed to doctors’ offices across the country this Fall in English and Spanish language editions!
This is, insofar as I can tell, big news. I have never, ever seen a publisher with the guts to take on immunization. I mean, check out these posters:
So there you have it folks. A new Ivy & Bean on the horizon and a very worthy cause. Not too shabby for a Friday, eh?