Each week, Feeling Beachie lists four statements with a blank for you to fill in on your own blogs.
- Having too____makes me_____
- When it is____, I _____
- Chocolate is ________
- How do you feel after______
While I’m aware that public transport was invented to meet the very real needs of urban commuters, when you’re the parent of a city child you can be forgiven for taking an entirely different view of things. Simply put: subways were created for the sole purpose of amusing children. How else to explain the fun maps, bright colors, and awe-inspiring bits of machinery? We already knew that kids loved trains. Now put those trains underground. That’s just awesomeness redoubled. Here in New York City a certain level of excitement about subway trains is almost required of our kids. Yet when it comes to books about the subway system, it’s often disappointing. Either it’s too young, too old, or like Count on the Subway by Paul DuBois Jacobs it gives the subway lines the wrong colors. Sure Subway by Christoph Niemann is the gold standard, but what can you offer older metro fans? Lost in NYC by Nadja Spiegelman hits that sweet spot for the 6-10 year old crowd. Visually stunning (to say nothing of its accuracy) with abundant factual information wriggled into every available crevice, you don’t have to be a New Yorker to enjoy this book (though, boy, does it sure help).
When you have a father that moves your family all over the country, it can be easy to disconnect from the places you briefly live. So when Pablo enters Mr. Bartle’s class on the first day of his new school, he rebuffs cheery Alicia’s attempts at friendship. On this particular day the class is taking a field trip to the Empire State Building. Pablo learns about the subway system that will take the class there alongside everyone else, but when he and Alicia are inspecting a map on the subway he’s briefly confused and takes her with him onto the express 2 train and not the local 1. Now separated from their class, the two kids start to fight and next thing you know they have to find their way back to their classmates entirely on their own. Backmatter and a Bibliography of other subway resources appear at the end.
I’m an adult so after reading this story several times you know whom I feel most sorry for? The teacher, Mr. Bartle. Here the man is, taking his class on a routine subway trip, and along the way he loses two of them at the very first stop. A common New Yorker nightmare is the idea that you might lose your child on the subway. Yet in Spiegelman and Sánchez’s hands it’s a nightmare turned into an adventure. It’s the same reason From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler continues to be read. For children, the thought of being independent in a city as vast as NYC is as enticing as it is horrific. Spiegelman does give Pablo a native guide for the first part of his journey, but pretty soon they two are separated and he has to make his way on his own to his group. This is by no means an interactive book, but I had to withhold a scream when Pablo jumped the 7 train at 42nd Street. He’s lucky he asked for traveling advice as early as he did, else he would have ended up in far distant Queens relatively quickly.
Spiegelman’s writing holds up for the most part. It’s a slim story, clocking in at a mere 52 pages which is only slightly more than your average picture book. Some of that is rounded out with the backmatter too. Filled with history and brimming with photographs, engravings, and other stunning images, Spiegelman outdoes herself with the information found there. For certain subway buffs, the info included (with sections like “Why Are There No H, I, K, O, P, T, U, V, W, X, or Y Trains?”) will be particularly pleasing. However, when we look at the story in this book by itself, it does come to a rather abrupt halt. Pablo spends the greater part of the story declaring that he doesn’t need friends. He parts from Alicia on angry terms, yet when the two are reunited they act like the best buddies in the world. I wasn’t quite sure where the switchover on this relationship occurred. Otherwise, everything seems pretty certain and consistent.
Not all subway books are created equal. I remember years ago encountering a NY subway picture book where a normally elevated stop was pictured in the book as underground. Certainly the cover of this book gave me hope. It seemed to be acknowledging from the get-go that the 1 and 2 trains both stop at 96th, 72nd, and 42nd Street (we will ignore the peculiar inclusion of a “33” since we can assume artist Sergio Garcia Sánchez meant 34th Street). As it happens, Mr. Sánchez is a resident not of one of the five boroughs but of Spain. You wouldn’t know it. The New York found within these pages feels so real and so contemporary that I have difficulty understanding that I’m not going to run into the man on the street when I leave for work tomorrow morning. Artists could learn a thing or two from his attention to detail. From the color of the painted columns to the diversity of the city streets, this is indeed the New York I know and love.
The design of Lost in NYC is also a delight to the eyes. Good graphic novels for children are rare beasties. Half the time you’re left wondering if the editors or artists ever took the time to look outside the standard panel format. If Mr. Sánchez feels inclined to use panels in this book, you can bet it’s a strategic decision. The very first page is almost entirely open, only settling into panels when the kids are approaching the rigid format of a school setting. As the teacher, Mr. Bartle, begins to introduce subway history, we see the characters on a massive topographic map. It’s a visual approximation of the cut-and-cover technique used to create subways in a city chock full of hardened bedrock. Once the kids go underground the panels shift to full two-page spreads, and lots of individual vertical panels like the cars on a subway train. When called upon to render the city blocks in such a way where you can see the characters all converge on the Empire State Building from different directions, the artist either shrinks the buildings and blows up the characters, or he overlaps a subway map onto a street map and you can see the kids meet up that way. Then there are the perspective shifts. The view up into the Empire State Building, a wall or two cut away so that you can get a visual sense of some of the seventy-three elevators in the building, is dizzying. I can say with certainty that even if a child were incapable of reading English (or Spanish, since this book is being simultaneously translated) they would still be able to be moved and stirred by this story.
He’s also filled the book with inside jokes. I was so pleased that I took time to read the “Behind the Scenes: Sergio and the Cop” section at the back of the book. In it, Sergio describes a time he visited NYC and was photographing all the details at the 96th Street subway stop when a cop started paying a little too much attention to him. As a result, if you look in the book you can find Sergio and the cop on “virtually every spread.” Once you see it, it cannot be unseen. It also creates a kind of touching secondary story as the two go from antagonists to, finally, taking a selfie together.
Accuracy in illustration, even (or should I say especially?) in fictional stories, is imperative. You have to make the reader inhabit the setting presented, and the best way to accomplish this is through rigorous research and skill. Mr. Sánchez has both and by pairing with Nadja Spiegelman he may well earn himself an Honorary New Yorker decree. Though filled to its gills with accurate Manhattan details, you don’t have to live anywhere in the five boroughs to recognize the fear that comes with having to navigate an unfamiliar public transit system. Particularly if you’re just a kid. An adventure tale wrapped around a nonfiction core of subways subways subways. What’s not to love?
On shelves April 14th.
Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.
Like This? Then Try:
Professional Reviews: Kirkus
Interview: Comic Book Resources spoke with Nadja Spiegelman and she reveals a lot of behind-the-scenes information about the book.Add a Comment
Write. Share. Give.Add a Comment
It's Day 6, Classroom Slicers!Add a Comment
I'm very excited to announce my second picture book, Onesie Mumsie (written by Alice Rex), is due for release April 2015. That's only a few weeks away!
Above is a video showing my illustration process in fast forward from pencil drawing to final colour illustration. The illustration took just under two hours to complete in real time. I scan my pencil drawings and watercolour washes, then complete the rest in photoshop using custom made brushes.
Well, guess what?
After a (very!) brief foray into the 20s, we're back to zero degrees! But at least it's not (currently) snowing :) And it's not BELOW zero! It's important to keep sight of silver linings :)
Thank goodness for Perfect Picture Book Fridays, where we can enjoy lots of great titles and ignore the weather!
My choice for today is on a more serious topic, but the book is well written - on a level that kids can understand and appreciate without it being scary/upsetting in any way - and I hope you'll enjoy it and find it a useful addition to your libraries.
Shelf-employed and I are once again co-curating Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month, a celebration of books for young people which celebrate notable women. Despite the progress that has been made, schools still spend comparatively little time on women throughout history; fortunately many books have been published for young people of all ages on a range of fascinating figures which can be used by teachers to supplement the curriculum or by parents at home. I hope you will check out this year's blog contributors, who include everyone from African-American ballerina Misty Copeland to award-winning nonfiction writer Sue Macy. You can "follow" the blog, subscribe by e-mail, and also follow the posts on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, if you prefer! A complete list of this year's contributors is available on the blog as well.
They say that what you don't know can't hurt you. They're wrong.Writing
David Dryden, pastor of a high-profile church in London, is admired for his emphasis on the Christian family.
But all is not well in his own family. He and his wife, Fiona, have been glossing over his son Colom's erratic behavior. Then, when a commitment to die is discovered in Colom's room after the suicide of a school friend, David finds himself out of his depth--and Fiona, in panic, takes Colom and flees.
A wonderful, intelligent, and searching novel about the toxic nature of secrets, and the possibility of starting again.
People understand that it takes creativity to write fiction. But many don’t understand that it also takes creativity to write nonfiction. As a nonfiction author I write true stories-but they are still stories. When teaching students or teachers how to write nonfiction, I explain it like this:
Module 001 | I have made paper spheres using square modules, but I wondered what would happen if the modules were rectangular. I was able to make a sphere with a rectangular module as shown in the image above. It takes 30 modules to create a sphere as shown above.
Module 01 | the proportion of a small playing card (1.25 in x 1.75 inches).
What if? | This is my favorite question and so I began building with the modules to see what else besides a sphere could be created and came up with a paper vase.
M001 | Side View
M001 | Top ViewAdd a Comment
We all know that when it comes to stories, children need both mirrors and windows to understand their place in the wide world.
This never ending winter has given my life a different pace. Curtailed from Saturdays scheduled with errands and voice lessons, sewing lessons and play dates, my children and I have been reading aloud. They are both independent readers and have been for some time. My son is 16 and my daughter turns 11 this month but the joys of reading aloud are even richer than when they were little. Our options are more varied and their views of the world are wider. As librarians we have always known and advocated for reading aloud to older children but at least for me, making the time has been a challenge.
My pledge is that after the snow melts, I will still suggest and make space for Saturday morning readings that start our day with ideas, passion and a look into other worlds. This ability to glimpse into other worlds and gain greater empathy for others is the kernel of our concern and commitment to diversity in all its forms in our profession. While this is a personalized call to action and one I tend to avoid, having time to share books with my children in this amazing and profound way, reading aloud, makes me grateful for our public library and all its offerings. I really have everything I need in our literary backyard.
For our families, El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), celebrates the stories in our communities. Our libraries are the perfect place of acceptance, inclusion and harmony. While we celebrate Día on one special day, April 30th, its name also stands for Diversity in Action and through this work, we reaffirm our daily commitment to ensure that all families have access to diverse books, languages and cultures. Without access to stories from other cultures, places and passions, we are a lesser world.Add a Comment
A couple of weeks ago Yale professor Wai Chee Dimock wrote about A Literary Scramble for Africa, occasioned by the annual MLA-centered hiring-ritual.
Dimock reported that:
To our surprise, almost one-third of the people we ended up interviewing were again working on Africa, and not even the usual suspects: Chinua Achebe, J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer. The field seems to have grown up overnight and turned into something no one had foreseen. Here and there we ran into some vaguely familiar titles -- Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Wizard of the Crow, NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names, Helon Habila's Oil on Water -- but, for the most part, people were writing about authors we had never heard of: Senegal's Boubacar Boris Diop, Tanzania's Ebrahim Hussein, Congo's Sony Labou Tansi, Uganda's Monica Arac de Nyeko, Mozambique's Mia Couto, Malawi's Shadreck Chikoti.You may have heard my anguished cries -- though at the time I only tweeted a few initial reactions. But it's good to see that there's now a more comprehensive, measured response: Aaron Bady writing about Academe's Willful Ignorance of African Literature -- well worth a look.
Sadly, the passage of time has not made this one any less accurate... Happy Thursday! This work is copyrighted material. All opinions are those of the writer, unless otherwise indicated. All book reviews are UNSOLICITED, and no money has exchanged... Read the rest of this postAdd a Comment
The Children’s Book Review | March 6, 2015 Enter to win all three Berenson Schemes books, written by Lisa Doan: JACK THE CASTAWAY, JACK AND THE WILDLIFE, and the newest release, JACK AT THE HELM. One (1) winner receives: All three Berenson Schemes books, written by Lisa Doan: JACK THE CASTAWAY, JACK AND THE WILDLIFE, and the […]Add a Comment
Natasha Marshall and Neil Fullerton first launched their textile studio Natasha Marshall Ltd at 100% Design in 2009. Their initial fabric and wallpaper collections combined Natasha’s expertise in textiles and Neil’s skills in graphic design to produce designs, which embodied their signature simple, modern, graphic feel. These designs were then distributed under license for the next fourAdd a Comment
I loved Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie so much I was a little worried that I might be disappointed by Ancillary Sword. I began reading, holding back just a little, expecting disappointment and not wanting to invest too much but before I knew it I was in deep and happy as a clam. When I turned the last page I didn’t want it to be done. More please! There will be more. In October Ancillary Mercy will be published. I fear that will be the conclusion to the story and I will be bereft.
Ancillary Sword picks up right where Ancillary Justice left off. Breq, who is an ancillary and used to be a ship called Justice of Toren, has been given the command of Mercy of Kalr. She was given the command by the Lord of the Radch herself. Mercy of Kalr no longer has an ancillary crew, though the previous ship’s captain required all her crew to behave as if they were ancillaries. An ancillary is basically a human who has been implanted with all kinds of equipment and forced to become part of the ship’s AI. The ancillaries are soldiers but also the eyes and ears and mobile bodies controlled by the ship.
Breq in the singular is rather lonely. She could become an ancillary of Mercy of Kalr but she would then no longer be Breq. Because Breq used to be an ancillary she can communicate with Mercy of Kalr in a very different way than a human captain would be able to. All of the humans on the ships have implants that gives the ship access to their eyes and ears as well as their body’s functioning (heart rate, blood pressure, etc). The job of the ship AI is to take care of her humans. Because Breq is an ancillary, the ship can actually show her what the crew is doing through their eyes and ears. It is a small comfort to the lonely Breq.
Mercy of Kalr is sent to guard Athoek Station. On this station is the sister of the lieutenant Breq loved when she was Justice of Toren. So there is an interesting plotline there. We also have Lieutenant Tisarwat who is brand new and only seventeen, assigned to the ship by the Lord of the Radch. But Breq figures out pretty fast the Tisarwat is actually an ancillary of the Lord of the Radch and the ancillary bits are not working out so well in that body. There is also another ship, Sword of Atagaris which does still have ancillaries. The Radch empire is falling apart and there is a question about whose side Sword of Atagaris and her captain is on.
Toss into all this the continuing questions of identity that began in the first book. But add in another question — what is justice and what does it mean?
‘What is justice Citizen? […] We speak of it as though it is a simple thing, a matter of acting properly, as though it’s nothing more than an afternoon tea and the question only of who takes the last pastry. So simple. Assign guilt to the guilty.
Of course it is never simple and perfect justice can never be truly dispensed.
The writing is great. The pacing excellent. Since Breq can see and hear through the eyes of her crew (they have no idea she can do this) the perspective is constantly changing but is never confusing. It works really well for keeping all the balls in the air and all of the plotlines moving ahead together at the same time, there is no “meanwhile back at the ranch” kind of thing. Leckie does a good job of giving depth to even minor characters. And it’s just an all around great romping story. Ancillary Justice won a Hugo and a Nebula. Ancillary Sword is currently up for a Nebula. I can hardly wait for Ancillary Mercy!
Lisa Doan | The Children’s Book Review | March 6, 2015 When I began writing The Berenson Schemes, a middle grade series in which responsible Jack Berenson is repeatedly lost in the wilderness of foreign countries by his globe-trotting parents, I gave some careful thought to creating the settings. The books take place in the Caribbean, Kenya and […]Add a Comment
Module 002 | This is a variation of module 001 with a leaf shape cut out of the center of the module. The image above shows the top view.
M002 | Vase
Bottom Closed | I left the vase in the living room over night and when I saw it in the morning my daughter had made a new variation by closing the vase and turning it over.Add a Comment
Orhan Pamuk (The Museum of Innocence, etc.) was at the Cairo Literary Festival a couple of weeks ago, and in Al-Ahram Weekly they have a Q & A Mona Anis and Youssef Rakha conducted with him there, Ottoman culture in disguise.
Lots of interesting stuff -- including:
There are readers who are following my books, but say in the United States I am most famous for Snow, while they don't care about that book in China. They definitely care about My Name is Red there [...] These are issues I like, and these I think for example Chinese or Korean, Asian readers care about while American readers don't care much about the issues we have with individuality. American readers want to know about political Islam, or they care about My Name is Red in the sense of artists, drawing, they did this kind of miniatures, very interesting, but not as an issue of today. Or, for example, in Spain my bestselling book is IstanbulAnd, amusingly:
That's the problem with interviews. You do an interview and you define a certain situation that's resolved in two years' time, but 16 years later they're still quoting.Add a Comment
At this time of year, weather is the perfect multidisciplinary study. Weather is on everyone’s minds, whether you’re facing winter storms or signs of spring. There are perfect literature options like mythology about weather gods or parables and poems about the wind, plenty of science topics connect with weather and each one brings in math, and weather phenomena have inspired music, too.
Here’s a lesson that makes a great introduction to any unit on weather.
Visit Tag Galaxy to begin. You’ll have a place to type in your first word: weather.
Soon you’ll see a swirling collection of planets labeled with related words.
Click on the “sun” to see images from FlickR brought together to create an amazing graphic.
You can bring in more images, and you can also explore each of the “planets” in this way, discovering more words and more images. You can click on any picture to see it more closely — here’s a beautiful image from “rain”:
Tag Galaxy can be mesmerizing, and it rewards exploration. Show it first on your class projector and let everyone ooh and ahh for a while. Then let students explore the tool on their own computers.
Here are some ideas of what to do next:
At this point, your class should be excited about weather and ready for some learning!Add a Comment