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26. Poetry for Summer

I just got back from a fun TASLA conference meeting with school library administrators from around Texas. What a fun group and productive meeting. I always enjoy being a "groupie" at their functions learning more about what school librarian leaders are doing-- always so innovative and engaging. I spoke about my experiences sharing poetry with students in Guam and debuted my new poetry dress-- photos to come. :-) They also loved the pocket poems I brought of Tricia Stohr Hunt's "Summer Melon" poem-- here-- and also available on Pinterest.

Meanwhile, it feels like summer has truly arrived with hot temperatures across the country. I know it doesn't officially begin till next week, but I thought I might share a handy list of summer-themed poems featured in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations as well as my list of poetry books about summer from my Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists.



And here's my list of poetry books about summer from my Poetry Teacher's Book of Lists.

Poetry Books about Summer

Summer time is the perfect time to catch up on all kinds of poetry reading of course, but we can kick off our summertime events and gatherings with poems written specifically about summer and typical summer activities. Here are a few examples to get us started.

Alarcón, Francisco X. 1998. From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems/Del Ombligo de la Luna y Otros Poemas de Verano. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press.
Appelt, Kathi. 2004. My Father’s Summers: A Daughter’s Memoirs. New York: Henry Holt.
Brown, Marc. 2013. Marc Brown’s Playtime Rhymes: A Treasury for Families to Learn and Play Together. New York: Little, Brown. 
Bruchac, Joseph. 1995. The Earth under Sky Bear's Feet: Native American Poems of the Land. New York: Philomel Books.
Carlson, Lori M. Ed. 1998. Sol a Sol: Bilingual Poems. New York: Henry Holt. 
Dotlich: Rebecca Kai 1998. Lemonade Sun and Other Summer Poems Honesdale: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Dotlich, Rebecca Kai. 2004. Over in the Pink House: New Jump Rope Rhymes. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Esbensen, Barbara Juster. 1984. Cold Stars and Fireflies:  Poems of the Four Seasons. New York: Crowell. 
Fletcher, Ralph. 2001. Have You Been to the Beach Lately? New York: Orchard Books.
Florian, Douglas. 2002. Summersaults: Poems and Paintings New York: Greenwillow Books.
Fogliano, Julie. 2016. When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons. Macmillan/Roaring Brook/Porter.
Frank, John. 2007. How to Catch a Fish. New Milford: Roaring Brook Press.
George, Kristine O’Connell. 2001. Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems New York: Clarion Books.
Giovanni, Nikki. 1981. Vacation Time: Poems for Children. New York: Morrow.
Graham, Joan Bransfield. 1994. Splish Splash. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Grimes, Nikki. 2004. Tai Chi morning: Snapshots of China. Chicago: Cricket Books.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 1993. Beat the Drum, Independence Day has Come: Poems for the Fourth of July. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. Ed. 2005. Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More. New York: Greenwillow.
Hopkins, Lee. Bennett  Ed. 2010. Sharing the Seasons. Margaret McElderry.
Janeczko, Paul. Ed. 2014. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Katz, Alan. 2011. Mosquitoes Are Ruining My Summer! And Other Silly Dilly Camp Songs. New York: McElderry.
Lansky, Bruce. Ed. 2009. What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Kids' Favorite Funny Summer Vacation Poems. Minnetonka, MN: Meadowbrook Press.
Latham, Irene. 2016. Fresh Delicious: Poems from the Farmers' Market. Highlights/Wordsong.
Lessac, Frane. 2003. Camp Granada: Sing-Along Camp Songs New York: Holt.
Levy, Constance. 2002. Splash! Poems of Our Watery World. New York: Orchard.
Lewis, J. Patrick. 1994. July is a Mad Mosquito. New York: Atheneum.
Michelson, Richard. 2014. S is for Sea Glass: A Beach Alphabet. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press. 
Mora, Pat. 1998. This Big Sky. New York: Scholastic.
Schnur, Steven. 2001. Summer: An Alphabet Acrostic. New York: Clarion.
Shaw, Alison, comp. 1995. Until I Saw the Sea: A Collection of Seashore Poems. New York: Henry Holt.
Siebert, Diane. 2006. Tour America: A Journey through Poems and Art. San Francisco: Chronicle.
Singer, Marilyn. 2000. Fireflies at Midnight. New York: Atheneum. 
Singer, Marilyn. 1992. In My Tent. New York: Macmillan. 
Singer, Marilyn. 1989. Turtle in July. New York: Macmillan.
Spinelli, Eileen. 2007. Summerhouse Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 
Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2001. Sidewalk Chalk; Poems of the City. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. 
Wissinger, Tamera Will. 2013. Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Wong, Janet. 2008. Minn and Jake’s Almost Terrible Summer. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 
Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. 2005. Sketches from a Spy Tree. New York: Clarion.

Yolen, Jane. 2000. Color Me a Rhyme: Nature Poems for Young People. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press. 

Let the summer fun begin! 

See you over at Carol's Corner for a lovely gathering of Poetry Friday posts.

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27. Saturday book humor and Father's Day favorites

Here's a little fun for the day and two great dad books.

If you're on Twitter: In honor of Father's Day, Barnes and Noble @bnbuzz  is using the hashtag #DadBooks to solicit groan-worthy puns and corny dad jokes based on well-known books. Be sure to check it out or join in the pun. 

Here are a few (with links to their posts):
Oh, the Places You'll Mow
The Girl Who's Certainly not Getting a Dragon Tattoo
Gone Grill
 If you're on Pinterest, check out my board, "Comic strips featuring books."  I've been collecting comic strips that feature books and libraries for the last several years. If you have a good comic strip that I've missed, please feel free to send it to me and I'll pin it.

And lastly, since Father's Day is tomorrow, I'll share two of my favorite "dad" picture books.

  •  My Dad by Anthony Browne (Macmillan, 2010) is a funny, homage to the classic jack-of-all-trades kind of dad.  On each page, tribute is paid to the bathrobe-clad dad's many great qualities. The illustrations are wonderful - even as he is depicted as a fish or an owl, he retains his brown, plaid bathrobe.  You can see them here [http://us.macmillan.com/mydad/AnthonyBrowne].

  • Tell Me a Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler (Chronicle, 2016) is lovingly written and illustrated.  A young tattooed dad weaves a tale for his son using his tattoos.  A sweet story that should appeal to many young families.

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28. 30 Days of Books: #21

 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.

Today's prompt: Your favorite book from your childhood

Favorite picture book that was read to me: UMBRELLA by Taro Yashima.

Favorite learning-to-read book: Ann Likes Red by Dorothy Z. Seymour

Favorite chapter book: Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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29. Bleak House

Bleak House. Charles Dickens. 1852-1853. 912 pages.  [Source: Bought]

It has been almost six years since I first read Charles Dickens' Bleak House. Did I enjoy it more the second time? Yes, I think so. I really, really liked it the first time I read it. Though to be honest, there were a few times I almost gave up on it until I discovered a good adaptation of it. But the second time around, I really LOVED IT.

Read Bleak House
  • If you enjoy Charles Dickens
  • If you enjoy reading classics
  • If you enjoy reading LONG books
  • If you enjoy Victorian literature
  • If you enjoy classic mysteries, Inspector Bucket is one of the first fictional detectives
  • If you enjoy stories about law and inheritance
  • If you enjoy understated romance
  • If you enjoy guardianship stories
  • If you enjoy stories with angelic heroines
  • If you enjoyed watching the miniseries
Read my first review for the particulars of the plot

One sentence summary: Bleak House is about a long, often-thought-hopeless, law case that seems to doom all involved with it, perhaps with the exception of John Jardyce and his favorite ward, Esther Summerson.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. Respect, React, and Write–My Three Reflections

Three important reflections inspired by teaching poetry to fifth-grade writers

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31. praxis and passports – Two very different talks in one long day

Now that I’ve stopped being webinar-resistant (I thank lots of meditation and more free time), I’ve been enjoying getting to give a lot of different types of presentations. Thanks to the oddness of scheduling, I did two very different talks on Wednesday. The first one was for NCompass Live who does great continuing ed stuff, all of it available online for free. I talked about the Passport to Vermont Libraries program (program website) in depth for about an hour and took questions. Small crowd, maybe 14 people. No live-tweeting. Fun. They put their recordings up on YouTube and you can watch mine here.

shot of the inside cover of 2015's passport

The second talk was for the SJSU-sponsored Library 2.016 Worldwide Virtual Conference. Michael Stephens was putting this one together and I was one of five people on a joint keynote thing, so I had about eight minutes. To me eight minutes means “One big idea” and so I decided to take a critlib angle and talk about how the library just IS a classroom and what it means to learn in a less-structured environment. There were maybe 400 people logged into a somewhat hectic Blackboard environment. You can listen to the recorded talks here, but I extracted mine into an eight minute (somewhat clunky-sounding) video if you just want to check that one out. As always, my notes and slides are available on my website. This was a particularly good looking set of slides if I do say so myself. This image is the catchphrase that seemed to scoot around the Twitters.

the library is the classroom where we learn to be human

As always, it was really fun to get to interact with listeners (in both situations) and get to see what other people are jazzed about and talking about.

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32. Book Review: The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

Author: Terry Pratchett
Published: 2015
Source: Local Library

Summary: The fairy nation is set on invading our world, and the witches who would normally stand in their way have just lost their not-a-leader. It's up to her presumptive heir, Tiffany Aching, to defend the Discworld from them just as she's struggling to cement her place among the witches and among the community.

First Impressions: Sniff. Last Terry Pratchett ever. I think it was a good one to go out on, especially with Granny Weatherwax, but others were better.

Later On: Tiffany is still working out how to be a witch of the chalk, how to belong someplace and bear responsibility toward a whole community. While she's battled the queen of the fairies and the hive mind and all sorts of other monsters, she's absorbing the lesson that has been built over the series that people are the most complicated of all.
The death of Granny Weatherwax seems oddly prescient. Where Pratchett has faked us out before, this time he went for it, and the way that Tiffany feels rudderless and lost after the loss of her second major matriarch figure (the first being her own grandmother before the start of the series) serves to bookend this series and emphasize that you never quite get there to that magical place where you just always know what you're doing at all times, but you can get a little further along.

My love for the Tiffany Aching series comes from the realism of her growth over the series. Where she started as a young girl (albeit a ferocious, clear-sighted, and competent one), this Tiffany is wobbling on the edge of adulthood, and it's as good a place as any to leave her.

As has been stated in many places, this book is essentially unfinished. Oh, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, but it doesn't quite have all the flourishes that make up about 75% of the enjoyment of a Terry Pratchett book. He died during the editing process, so this unfinished feeling is completely valid. Still, it feels like a Pratchett book (an early one, maybe, before he really developed his powers) and I enjoyed it as such.

More: Book Nut

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33. Book Review: Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown

Title: Velvet Undercover
Author: Teri Brown
Published: 2015
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: After her father disappears, Samantha Donaldson is conscripted to spywork in Germany during WWI.

First Impressions: This felt very WWII to me, perhaps because I've read so many more WWII spy stories in the last few years, so any detail that screamed WWI tripped me up a lot. Not particularly memorable honestly.

Later On: Yep. I still don't remember it very well. Everything sort of fades into a wartime mush in my head.

More: Both Bookshelves of Doom and Ms. Yingling liked it rather more.
Bookshelves of Doom for Kirkus
Ms. Yingling Reads

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34. Fusenews: Trotsky, Harriet the Spy, A.A. Milne and More

Farm copyYou know what’s even better than serving on an award committee?  Having someone else write about it.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, I was on the judging committee for this year’s Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards alongside Chair Joanna Rudge Long and Roxanne Feldman.  It was Roxanne who reported on our discussion, and even took photos of where we met (Joanna’s gorgeous Vermont farmhouse), what we ate, and more.  There is also a particularly goofy shot of me that is impressive because even without knowing that there was a camera pointed in my direction, I seem to have made a silly face.  I am nothing if not talented in that respect.


Speaking of listening in on committees and their discussions, ALA is next week (she said, eyeing her unfinished Newbery/Caldecott Banquet outfit nervously) and that means you have a chance to sit and listen to one particular committee talk the talkety talk.  I am referring, of course, to the ALA Notables Committee.  This year they’ve released the list of books on their discussion list online for your perusal.  A lot of goodies there, as well as room for a lot of books I hope they get to eventually.


 

I was very sad to hear about the passing of Lois Duncan. Like many of you, she was a staple of my youth.  When Jules Danielson, Peter Sieruta, and I were writing our book Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature we initially had a section, written by Peter, on why Lois stopped writing suspense novels for teens.  It’s a sad story but one that always made me admire her deeply.  She was hugely talented and will be missed.


BloodRedSpeaking of Wild Things, recently I was sent a YA galley by Marcus Sedgwick called Blood Red, Snow White.  But lest you believe it to be a YA retelling of the old Snow White / Rose Red fairytale, it ain’t.  Instead, it’s about how Arthur Ransome (he of Swallows and Amazons) got mixed up with Trotsky’s secretary and a whole lotta Bolsheviks.  What does this have to do with Wild Things?  This was yet ANOTHER rejected tale from our book.  Read the full story here on our website where we even take care to mention Sedgwick’s book (it originally was published overseas in 2007).


 

As I’ve mentioned before, my library hosts a pair of falcons each year directly across from the window above my desk.  I’ve watched five eggs laid, three hatch, and the babies get named and banded.  This week the little not-so-fuzzyheads are learning to fly.  It’s terrifying.  Far better that I read this older Chicago Tribune article on the banding ceremony.  They were so cute when they were fuzzy.  *sigh*


 

In other news, Harriet the Spy’s house is for sale.  Apparently.


 

Sharon Levin on the child_lit listserv had a rather fascinating little announcement up recently.  As she told it, she’d always had difficulty finding a really fast way to catalog her personal library.  Cause let’s face it – scanning every single barcode takes time.  Then she found a new app and . . . well, I’ll let her tell it:

“Shelfie is a free app for iOS and Android (www.shelfie.com) where you can take a picture of your bookshelf and the app will automatically recognize your book spines and generate a catalog of your library. In addition, the team behind the app has made deals with over 1400 publishers (including HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Hachette) to let you download discounted (usually around 80% off) or free ebook or audiobook edition of your paper books (right now these publisher deals cover about 25% of the books on an “average” shelf). The app also lets you browse other readers’ shelves. Shelfie will also give you personalized book recommendations based on how readers with similar taste in books to you organize the books on their shelves. The founder of Shelfie is named Peter Hudson and he’d love to hear any suggestions about how he can make the app better. Peter’s email is peter.hudson@shelfie.com.

Thanks to Sharon Levin for the heads up.


 

I leave NYPL and its delightful Winnie-the-Pooh toys and what happens?  The world goes goofy for the story of A.A. Milne and Christopher Robin.  Now we just found out that Domhnall Gleeson (a.k.a. Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter films) has just been cast as Milne in an upcoming bio-pic.  Will wonders never cease?


Double TroubleAre you familiar with the works of Atinuke?  An extraordinary storyteller, her Anna Hibiscus books are among my favorite early chapter books of all time.  They do, however, occasionally catch flack of saying they take place in “Africa” rather than a specific country. Recently, K.T. Horning explained on Monica Edinger’s recent post Diversity Window, Mirror, or Neither that Atinuke did this on purpose so that kids in Africa could imagine the stories as taking place in their own countries.  That makes perfect sense.  The ensuing discussion in Monica’s post is respectful, interesting, and with a variety of different viewpoints, all worth reading.  In short, the kind of talk a blogger hopes for when he or she writes something.  Well done, Monica.


 

Big time congrats to the nominees for the Neustadt Prize.  It’s a whopping $10,000 given to a children’s author given on the basis of literary merit.  It may be the only children’s award originating in America that is also international.  Fingers crossed for all the people nominated!


 

Hooray!  The Children’s Book Council has released their annual Building a Home Library list.  I love these.  The choices are always very carefully done and perfect for clueless parents.


 

In other CBC news, I got this little press release, and it’s worth looking at:

“For the second consecutive year, the Children’s Book Council has partnered with The unPrison Project — a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to empowering and mentoring women in prison — to create brand-new libraries of books for incarcerated mothers to read with their babies at prison nurseries. Fourteen of the CBC’s member publishers answered the call by donating copies of over 35 hand-picked titles for children ages 0-18 months for each library. The books will be hand-delivered and organized in the nurseries by Deborah Jiang-Stein, founder of The unPrison Project and author of Prison Baby. Jiang-Stein was born in prison to a heroin-addicted mother, and has made it her mission to empower and mentor women and girls in prison.”


 

You know who’s cool?  That gal I mentioned earlier.  Julie Danielson.  She’s something else.  For example, while many of us might just say we were interested in James Marshall, she’s actually in the process of researching him.  She even received the James Marshall Fellowship from The University of Connecticut’s Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. As a result she spent a week looking through the James Marshall Papers there. Their sole stipulation?  Write a blog post about it.  So up at the University’s site you’ll find the piece Finding the Artist in His Art: A Week With the James Marshall Papers. Special Bonus: Rare images you won’t find anywhere else.


 

Daily Image:

I take no credit to this.  I only discovered it on Twitter thanks to Christine Hertz of Burlington, VT.  It may constitute the greatest summer reading idea I’ve seen in a very long time.  Public libraries, please feel free to adopt this:

SummerReadingDisplay

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35. 30 Days of Books #22

 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.



Today's prompt: Your favorite book you own

I'm still not sure I understand the exact question. If it's a 'favorite' of mine, I almost certainly own a copy of it. But if it's about which particular copy of a book you love most...then I'll go with my first copy of Gone With The Wind. This book originally belonged to my great-grandmother and grandmother before being mine.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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36. Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales

Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales. John Gardner. Illustrated by Charles J. Shields. 1975. 73 pages. [Source: Bought]

Love fairy or folk tales? You should definitely seek out John Gardner's Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales. This book has four original stories with magical, fantastical elements. The four stories are "Dragon, Dragon," "The Tailor and the Giant," "The Miller's Mule," and "The Last Piece of Light."

I can honestly say that I enjoyed all four stories. I'm not sure which story is my most favorite and which is my least favorite. Probably my least favorite is The Tailor and The Giant. Don't expect it to have a lesson or moral, and you may find it intriguing. It's certainly a spin on the theme of courage. As for my favorite, that would probably be Dragon, Dragon or The Miller's Mule.

Dragon, Dragon features a kingdom being terrorized by dragons--or a dragon, I can't remember if there's more than one. The king offers a reward, of course he does, and one by one three sons attempt it. But who will kill the dragon? Perhaps the one that actually follows his father's advice. Just a guess!

The Miller's Mule grew on me as I read it. It certainly kept me guessing as I read it. A miller decides to shoot his old mule; the old mule speaks--begs for his life. The miller spares his life--for better or worse. The mule promises to make him a wealthy man IF and only IF he follows his instructions carefully. The miller agrees...and it seems the mule is out to kill him in revenge....who will best who?

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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37. My Thoughts On And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None (based on the novel by Agatha Christie)
2015, 3 episodes
Set in 1939
Link to the score

Reasons for watching: Not because it's Agatha Christie. While I enjoy *most* of her novels. This one is near the bottom for me. I just don't like it. So why did I watch? Short answer: Aidan Turner. Long answer: LOOK AT THE CAST. If you've seen any period dramas or BBC dramas over the past few decades, you'll recognize most of the cast.

Three I recognize from Bleak House. Charles Dance. Anna Maxwell Martin. Burn Gorman. (Mr. Tulkinghorn, Esther, and Guppy)

Toby Stephens was in the 2006 Jane Eyre. Aidan Turner was in the Hobbit movies and Poldark. Miranda Richardson was in Belle, Testament of Youth, The Young Victoria, Merlin, Enchanted April).

Spoiler-Free Section. The premise is ten strangers are invited to an island for a house party. Opening scenes show the letters of invitation being typed. Viewers see them traveling to the island. Eight of the ten arriving by boat all at the same time. The host for this house party is mysteriously absent. But they continue on with dinner all the same. After dinner, a record is played. The contents of the record are shocking and scandalous....

Content Advisory?!?! I was disappointed with this one. This one had a good bit of profanity. Including the f-word. And it was all so unnecessary. You expect BLOOD AND VIOLENCE from Agatha Christie but not foul language. This one also had drug use, drinking, smoking, and sex. So all around I'd say if you're looking for a 'clean' miniseries, this one is probably one to skip.

Worth watching? It depends on what you like in a movie. If you love blood, gore, violence, creepy, thriller type movies that are dark and ultimately depressing....then yes.

S
P
O
I
L
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This one had me shouting at the TV. What was I yelling, you ask, DON'T TRUST MR. TULKINGHORN. Now I don't blame most of the strangers for not knowing what was going on. But two of them KNEW MR. TULKINGHORN was bad news already. There is no excuse for Guppy and Esther. 


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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38. 30 Days of Books: #24

 I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.

Today's prompt: A book you wish more people would read

The Light Princess by George MacDonald.

Once upon a time, so long ago that I have quite forgotten the date, there lived a king and queen who had no children. And the king said to himself, "All the queens of my acquaintance have children, some three, some seven, and some as many as twelve; and my queen has not one. I feel ill-used." So he made up his mind to be cross with his wife about it. But she bore it all like a good patient queen as she was. Then the king grew very cross indeed. But the queen pretended to take it all as a joke, and a very good one too.
"Why don't you have any daughters, at least?" said he. "I don't say sons; that might be too much to expect." 
"I am sure, dear king, I am very sorry," said the queen.
"So you ought to be," retorted the king; "you are not going to make a virtue of that, surely."
But he was not an ill-tempered king, and in any matter of less moment would have let the queen have her own way with all his heart. This, however, was an affair of state. The queen smiled. 
"You must have patience with a lady, you know, dear king," said she.
She was, indeed, a very nice queen, and heartily sorry that she could not oblige the king immediately. (1-2)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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39. James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant Peach. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1961. 146 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Here is James Henry Trotter when he was about four years old.

Premise/plot: James, our hero-orphan being raised by two horrid aunts (one horribly fat, one terribly skinny), finds his fortune changing quickly one day when he meets a complete stranger--an older man--who promises to show him something wonderful and then pulls something out of his pocket...a small white paper bag filled with tiny green almost-glowing things. He's given instructions on how to use these green things to have a super-wonderful life. But. On his way home, he trips and the green things are lost...on the ground....but that is not the end. The title should give away the rest.

My thoughts: This one was weird and silly and unexpected and unique. I didn't hate it certainly. It is very Dahl. But I didn't love it. I find Dahl's lack of characterization annoying in some ways because instead of characterization we don't get more action or more adventure, we just get cruelty. Cruelty seems to be one thing all Dahl books have in common.
Aunt Sponge was enormously fat and very short. She had small piggy eyes, a sunken mouth, and one of those white flabby faces that looked exactly as though it had been boiled. She was like a great white soggy overboiled cabbage. (6)
I liked this one better once James enters the giant peach and meets all the insects who have been effected by the mystery green things.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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40. Literacy Coaches: Three Ideas for Next Year’s Goals

Are you a literacy coach? Here are three ideas to try next year.

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41. Get Ready for Summer Reading!

Summer is right around the corner and that means it is almost time for summer reading 2016. Don't forget to sign up for summer reading starting on Monday, June 20th. Come to the children's room and ask a children's librarian to register to receive a summer reading packet.


More details are to follow.....


Begins: Monday, June 20
Ends: Friday, August 12, 2016
















posted by Miss Meghan

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42. Review of the Day: Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari

CoyoteMoon1Coyote Moon
By Maria Gianferrari
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Roaring Brook Press (an imprint of Macmillan)
$17.99
ISBN: 978-1-62672-041-1
Ages 4-7
On shelves July 19th

I feel as if there was less nature out there when I was a kid. Crazy, right? But seriously, as I grew to be an adult I was appalled at the discovery that other people in the United States had to deal with stuff like ticks and chiggers and painful jellyfish and worse. Me? The worst encounter I ever had with something stinging or biting were a couple of sweat bees on my knuckles. But the critter that seemed the most impossible in terms of everyday encounters has been, and continues to be to this day (until the moment we come face-to-face) the coyote. Coyotes were always the heroes of Wild West tales of Native American folklore. They didn’t just wander into your Michigan backyard or anything . . . did they? Now, thanks to books like the beautiful Coyote Moon I learn that coyotes live in every American state except Hawaii. Best that I get as much information as possible about them then. Thankfully, I’ve lots of help. Maria Gianferrari and Bagram Ibatoulline ratchet up the realism to eleven, making it hard to walk away from this book without considering the modern coyote’s plight.

The sun has set and the moon is on the rise. What better time for a coyote momma to leave her den and search for tasty morsels for her kin? Slipping in and out of the shadows of a suburban neighborhood, the coyote attempts to secure a mouse, a rabbit, and even the eggs of Canadian geese, all to no avail. As the sun begins to rise in the east, however, the coyote smells, seas, and hears a flock of turkeys. There is no hemming or hawing now. Without another thought she secures a big one for her family. Of course, before she returns home, she howls. A potentially dangerous act to perform so close to humans, but fortunately the one person who hears her is the one person who understands why she would howl in the first place. Backmatter consists of Coyote Facts, Further Reading, and Websites.

CoyoteMoon2 copyThe book is not written in verse or rhyme, but there’s something inherently rhythmic to Ms. Gianferrari’s text. Listen to how she begins the book: “Moon rises, as Coyote wakes in her den, a hollow-out pine in a cemetery. Coyote crawls between roots. She sniffs the air, arches her back, shakes her fur.” That’s beautiful, that is. Gianferrari’s text is like that from start to finish and it all gets particularly interesting near the end. What an interesting choice it was to switch into the second person near the story’s end. “You open your window… You watch as Coyote slips under the fence painted pink by the sun.” Interesting too that the coyote gets her name capitalized throughout the story. She’s the heroine, no bones about it, and refusing to give her a name keeps her appropriately wild. Capitalizing the word “coyote”, however, gives just the slightest personal bent to an otherwise impersonal descriptive name.

Which brings us to the art. I’ve been a big time fan of artist Bagram Ibatoulline for years. He’s one of those artists that are so good he’ll never ever win any American illustration awards. Such people exist all the time and this is particularly true of artists who truck with realism. Ibatoulline’s challenge here is twofold. On the one hand, he has to render the coyote and her environment in a nighttime setting without sacrificing detail. On the other hand, without giving his character any anthropomorphized tendencies, he also needs to make her sympathetic in her quest to provide food for her babies. The end result is fascinating to watch. With the aid of a full moon, Ibatoulline believably provides just enough light to justify seeing every single solitary hair on the coyote mama’s pelt. Often her eyes are the most colorful things on the page, aided in part by the streetlights as well. He even manages to give the sky that odd pink/grey color it sometimes takes on thanks to light pollution. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it so perfectly rendered in a picture book before. Then there’s his ability to accurately render the light of an early dawn. We see the light striking the trees, the day beginning on the houses, and silhouetted against the lake the mama coyote. And even then, every single hair on her head is present and accounted for. How does he do that?

CoyoteMoon3 copyI read almost every picture book I review to my kids at some point or another, and I’m glad that I do. Even after all these years, they have the ability to surprise me. For example, if you’d asked me if this were a tense or scary book in any way I’d have initially said no. Yet clearly the book is capable of touching a nerve. My staid stoic five-year-old daughter, who recently informed me that The Walking Dead couldn’t possibly be all that scary a show, was positively petrified by the image of the coyote making her first pounce. No wolf attacking Little Red Riding Hood has ever made such an impression on her as that shot. Fortunately, it’s almost as if Mr. Ibatoulline and Ms. Gianferrari anticipated this. As a parent I was able to smoothly flip back three pages and show the baby coyote cubs near the den and explain that this was their mama. The explanation went a far ways towards alleviating her anxiety. Later, when the coyote gets a big mouth of turkey, Ibatoulline frames the shot in such a way as to display minimal carnage. All you get is, on one page coyote’s face ending just under her nose and on the other the tail, drifting feathers indicating the turkey’s dire fate.

Some folks might make the argument that this book is clearly nonfiction, and you could see their point. If we take the heroine of this story to be an average coyote and not a single one, thereby making this an average situation and not a specific one, then combined with the backmatter (the copious “Coyote Facts” as well as the bibliography for both further reading and websites) you almost find yourself in nonfiction territory. So out of curiosity I decided to see how my library’s distributor, Baker & Taylor, characterized the book. Lo and behold, they call it straight up nonfiction, no bones about it. Personally, I don’t agree. For whatever reason, for all that the book is informative and interesting, I still found the storyline just a tad too fictionalized to count as a purely informational text. Why is this? Compare the book to Hungry Coyote by Cheryl Blackford. In both cases you have average coyote storylines, and both very realistic indeed. Gianferrari has the leg up in this case since her book has nonfiction backmatter, but in both cases I felt like I was hearing a story more than I was learning factual information. Certainly authors can do both, but at the end of the day it’s the librarians who’ll decide where to shelve the puppy. And for me, any picture book collection should be honored to receive this book.

After finishing Coyote Moon I truly believe I have a better sense of coyotes now, and not a moment too soon. Just the other day I was told that the house I’m currently renting is on a little street, dubbed by the neighbors “Coyote Way”. I was told not to be surprised if I see those cheerful souls walking down the road to their destination. And while I have no desire to get up close and personal with the clan, it would be cool to watch from my windows. So thank you, Ms. Gianferrari and Mr. Ibatoulline for giving me the confidence, courage, and curiosity to see this through. I have little doubt that those qualities, to a certain extent the very benchmarks of childhood itself, will resonate with curious young readers everywhere. Lots of younger kids love wolves. These coyotes are about to give those wolves a real run for their money. Beautiful work. Beautiful stuff.

On shelves July 19th.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

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43. Sing Along Saturdays (For Dad)

Today's prompt: songs you jam to with your dad
This meme is hosted by Bookish Things & More.


My first selection is David Bowie's Golden Years. One of Dad's favorite soundtracks is A Knight's Tale. This is my absolute favorite song from that soundtrack. And it was my first introduction to David Bowie. It is probably my favorite song of his--although I like quite a few!



My second selection is Sweet Home Alabama. I don't remember a time when I didn't know this song. It's one of my Dad's favorite songs to play on the guitar.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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44. George's Marvelous Medicine

George's Marvelous Medicine. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1981. 89 pages. [Source: Library]

This was my first time to read George's Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl. My expectations were perhaps a little too high? I'm not sure. I do know that I didn't care for it as much as I'd hoped.

The premise. George HATES his grandmother who lives with them. Every Saturday, he's left to tend to his Grandmother while his mother goes out to do errands. He has to remember to give her her medicine. As I said, he hates, hates, hates her. And it's more mutual than not. The Grandma is depicted as being rude, snappish, unkind, mean. So the premise. One Saturday he decides to substitute a medicine of his own making for her real medicine. I'd say about 90% of his ingredients would have warning labels on them that they are not to be taken internally, that they are dangerous, poisonous. In they all go. George is reckless in his mixing to say the least.

Will Grandma still be breathing by the final page of this one? That would be a NO. Did George's medicine kill her? Essentially yes. Do all the characters rejoice at her death? Again the answer is YES. It is the celebration of recklessness, carelessness and shortsightedness that bothers me. The way George's father WANTS him to make more, more, more so that he can FEED it to all the farm animals and thereby introduce it to the POPULATION. (George's father doesn't think about that at all. That what you feed chickens and cows and pigs MATTER.) I think there are real-life cases where this kind of wacky science has been encouraged and applauded.

Dahl's silliness--wackiness--is fun in other books. This one that essentially ended up in murder with no consequences, in fact ending up with a PARTY of sorts, really unsettled me.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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45. Writing with Emotion: A Review & a Giveaway of Ida, Always

Ida, Always is a gentle and honest picture book for helping young children deal with and talk about loss. It's also an excellent mentor text you can use in writing workshop.

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46. Matilda

Matilda. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1988. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It's a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

Premise/plot: Matilda, our heroine, is an absolute genius. (She's taught herself to read and to do times tables). But her parents are terrible human beings. Mr. Wormwood is a used car salesman who is really dishonest. Mrs. Wormwood, well, maybe her greatest fault is neglecting her children? Both Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood are addicted to television and abhor the written word. Hate isn't too strong a word for how they feel about their daughter. Matilda escapes from her home most every day to visit the local public library. (She's read every book in the children's section and is now making her way through the adult section with a little guidance from Mrs. Phelps.) Another escape soon becomes school. The good news is that Miss Honey, the teacher, LOVES AND ADORES her genius pupil. The bad news is that the headmistress is evil, cruel, abusive. (Was Dahl inspired by Jane Eyre!) Matilda's reaction to injustice is naughtiness and cleverness. How can she use her brains to get revenge on those she sees as being unjust or in the wrong???

My thoughts: I like this one. I do. I more than like it actually. Perhaps because Matilda LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to read and there is a lot of dropping of book titles and authors names. Perhaps because Matilda finds the library to be such a wonderful place. Perhaps because two of the nicest people in the book are a librarian and a teacher. Regardless this one is definitely worth reading.


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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47. My Thoughts on the Beatles Anthology

This June my Dad and I watched The Beatles Anthology. (Thank you, inter-library loan system!) I was tempted to say rewatch because we had--as a whole family essentially--watched the television broadcast in 1995. The TV broadcast was six hours--including commercials. The DVD release is about ten hours--no commercials of course. So there was SO MUCH MORE to watch.

When I first watched The Beatles Anthology, I was somewhat familiar with the blue and red albums. (The red album was 1962-1966; the blue album was 1967-1970). I didn't have any absolute definite favorites.

Within a year of watching The Beatles Anthology, I would own all the albums--even Yellow Submarine. I listened to their music--a lot. I watched their movies--some. I read a handful of biographies. I even did a research project on The Beatles in college for a history class. (Another fun 'research project' I did in college was a report on the Teletubbies for a linguistics class.)

This video has a lot to offer fans: interviews with all four Beatles (John's portions being from radio and TV interviews), interviews with others close to the Beatles Derek Taylor, Neil Aspinall, George Martin, Brian Epstein (his portions coming from radio/TV interviews), footage of the group performing, rehearsing, filming, traveling, goofing around. The TV broadcast kept more to the point perhaps in telling a narrative story. There was a beginning, middle, and end. The DVDs allow a lot more messy completeness. A lot more rehearsals. A lot more full performances. What viewers get is a very, very human side to the Beatles.

So there are eight episodes total. The first episode really just gets down to basics. When each Beatle was born. The home life of each Beatle. How each Beatle got interested in music. How each Beatle learned to play music. How they met each other--when they met each other. The early days of performing in public--and getting paid for it. The rest of the episodes really focus on THE BEATLES. Getting discovered. Recording singles and albums. Playing various clubs. Getting fans. Touring and performing, etc. There are a lot of details in this success story. And it's a fantastic, absorbing documentary.







© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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48. 30 Days of Books #23

  I saw this at The Written World--a blog I've been following for most of the time I've been blogging--and I thought I'd join in the fun. I believe the most recent recurrence of this is from Jenni Elyse's blog.


Today's prompt: A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t

 I think I have owned this book [Schindler's List] for about fifteen years. I think I've read the first seventy-to-hundred pages about six times. I never do finish it. Not because I don't *want* to finish it. But because I get distracted, tempted away by lighter, easier reads. And then when I come back to the book after being away two or three weeks. I'm like....I don't remember where I'm at and who all these people are....I guess I'll have to start over again. Do I want to start over again now? Usually the answer is NO, not now. My most recent attempt was in April.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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49. Summer Writing: A Confession and a Goal

All of us at Two Writing Teachers are thinking about and planning for summer writing. Summer writing inspiration for our students and summer writing goals for ourselves. Kathleen wrote this fabulous post about using… Continue reading

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50. My Thoughts on Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth
2014
Set during World War I
link to the soundtrack

I'd heard good things about this one, and I was not disappointed. Testament of Youth is a movie to be experienced not exactly enjoyed.

It is based on Vera Brittain's autobiography. The movie opens with Vera, her brother Edward, and two houseguests--her brothers' friends--Victor and Roland all enjoying each other's company.

Vera has big, big dreams: to study at Oxford. Her immediate ambitions include university NOT marriage. So falling in love with Roland was not exactly in her plans. But the more time she spends with Roland, the more it's feeling like it could very well be love.

The good news is that Vera is accepted into Oxford. The bad news? The good news is essentially interrupted by really bad news--the WAR. Her brother, Roland, and Victor all go away to war. She tries her best to study, but, soon finds herself too distracted to continue on with her dreams since her brother is so far away from fulfilling his. She decides to become a nurse.

Most of the movie is about her experiences during the war. Her experiences as a sister fearing for her brother. Her experiences as a girlfriend and fiancee. Her anxiety and broken-heart. There's a super tragic scene that involves her in a wedding dress and a phone call. Her experiences as a daughter--how to balance doing her part for the war effort and maintaining her own sanity of sorts, and taking care of her parents. Her experiences as a nurse. All of these 'experiences' are intense. One isn't exactly more important than the others.

The movie stars Alicia Vikander as Vera. She did a WONDERFUL job. Taron Egerton stars as her brother Edward. Colin Morgan stars as the adorable Victor. And Kit Harington as Roland. Emily Watson stars as her mother, and Dominic West stars as her father.

Do expect emotion and drama. Don't expect happily ever afters.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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