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1. TEST star placement in rev of week

Jimmy the Greatest by Jairo Buitrago Jimmy the Greatest!
by Jairo Buitrago; illus. by 
Rafael Yockteng; trans. from 
the Spanish by Elisa Amado
Primary Groundwood 48 pp.
5/12 978-1-55498-178-6 $18.95
e-book ed. 978-1-55498-206-6 $18.95
What happens when a boy from a nondescript small town grows up to be a talented boxer? Most would dream of bigger and better places, but not young Jimmy. When gym owner Don Apolinar encourages him to start running (despite his missing shoes), Jimmy decides he will become a boxer, inspired by a box of clippings and books about Muhammad Ali. When his trainer leaves to make his fortune, Jimmy makes a poignant and surprising decision to stay and support his little town with a library and a fixed-up boxing gym. This town could be anywhere in the tropics, but the (Colombian) author and illustrator do not identify it, giving the book more universal appeal. The background colors of the illustrations—the brilliant blues of the sea and the tempered beige of the sand—highlight the stylized brown villagers, including lanky Jim and bearded Apolinar. Understated poetic language permeates the whole story, but the last page soars. “There are no elegant houses / or fancy things. / But we’re really great. / We dance and we box / and we don’t / sit around waiting / to go someplace else.” In a world where so many must leave their homes to find work, it’s inspiring to see Jimmy able to do a truly great thing, right where he wants to be.

 

LR thinks star looks best when there is no box around it.

To make this happen, first place star as you normally would (i.e. default alignment: left, full size)

It will look like this in post (hit Preview to see it with white box):

Title etc.

Then back in draft, click on art and select icon for editing (little landscape picture)

In Advanced Settings tab (below) under Image properties type 0 (zero) after Border and Horizontal space. When you hit Update, this will automatically change the code in the Styles box to what you see in the screenshot here.

Now when you hit preview it should look like this:

Title etc.

Finally, put the cursor between the star image and first letter of title and add a space:

Title etc.

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2. Early books, late books, and books that fade from memory

alksdfjalk

Next post about books that made a splash at the beginning of the year but fade by the end. Horn Book stars that don’t make it onto Fanfare (and some that weren’t starred but grow on us and DO find a place on the Fanfare list). In the next few weeks Robin and I will concentrate on the books that are still being discussed and that seem like very good contenders. Or that others are discussing but we don’t think should be on the list.

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3. ALA, the Sunday version

Here are a few pictures from my day. I did not take pictures at the publisher breakfast. It was a tad crowded and I was balancing a coffee cup on my knee. But I did get to hear about a bunch of new books. Always a good thing. Some librarians had volunteered to help out in the presentations. There was storytelling. At 7:00 AM. I am not really a storytelling sort of girl at any hour, so that was a little rough on me. However, I did love thinking about that new Brian Pinkney book.

I am having some issues with these silly pictures…so I will just caption them and hope for the best!

I visited the Horn Book booth for a bit.

 

I ran into two of my favorite guys. One is Roger Sutton. The other is my husband, Dean Schneider, fresh off his book committee work.

 

The Notables Committee members have a LOT of books to consider…and they cannot have a list of four hundred books…

 

Here they are, talking about Notable books.

 

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4. An Evening At Ford Street Publishing



It's been a long time since Booktalkers ended at the Centre for Youth Literature. I've missed it. You would come to the State Library(before that there were three other venues - I went to all of them)and meet friends and make new friends, mostly teachers and librarians, as well as would-be librarians like Kevin Lee, a bank worker who loves children's books(he's now studying librarianship in line). You'd have nibbles and chat. Then you'd go into the ANZ Theatrette and listen to guest speakers, usually writers and sometimes publishers, and buy their books from the Little Bookroom stall. It happened four times a year, with a wonderful end of year event where publishers talked about what was coming out next year and you got a goodie bag of free books. 

That ended when someone decided that it was just too expensive, especially the food. So no more Booktalkers. They do still have the end of year event, though no free books and some of the "new books" promoted are old books that have been around for several years - perhaps a reprint? Anyway, it's still enjoyable and I go, but it's not the same. 

For the last few months, Ford Street Publishing has been running something very like Booktalkers at its Abbotsford office, only much smaller because the room is about the size of the average classroom. I haven't been able to go before, because I just don't want to go after dark to a place in the suburbs and wait for public transport afterwards, but my lovely publisher Paul Collins told me that this time a friend of mine who lives in my direction would be there, so I emailed him and he kindly agreed to drive me home.

And so I went and it was delightful. The speakers this month were Gary Crew, author of a lot of grim and scary books, and Judith Rossell, author of the delightful novel Withering-By-Sea, which was shortlisted in the Aurealises(yes! It was one of the books I read and loved) and is now shortlisted for the CBCA Awards(not that it will win, CBCA Awards, alas, tend to go to deadly serious books, not sure how this one got on the list!). 

Gary has written two picture books for Ford Street that I have read and reviewed here. He has a new Ford Street novel coming out, Voicing The Dead, based on the story of a boy who was adopted by a Torres Strait Islander tribe of headhunters in the 19th century and wrote a book about it when he finally got back to England. So his talk was about the theme of castaways in fiction over the centuries, only mentioning his book towards the end, in connection with what he had been saying. And very enjoyable it was too; so many other writers would have begun with their novel and just mentioned where they got the ideas. 

After intermission, filled with people drinking and nibbling, we heard Judith Rossell speak. I had spent some of the intermission buying a copy of her book and having her sign it for young Nicholas, a book club member and student at my school who simply adored it and asked when she was writing another book. Well, he asked if there was anything else of hers he could read(there isn't - it's her first novel, though she has wide experience as an illustrator), but will be delighted to hear there will be another book in the series, hopefully next year. She was surprised to hear that a boy had enjoyed it, but was pleased. Nicholas will also be pleased when I give it to him next week! 

She did talk about her book, but in a fascinating way. For those of us who think of the Victorian era as stuffy and behind the times, she pointed out the huge number of things that had been invented or first happened in the 1880s, when the novel is set(eg the typewriter, the lightbulb, the telephone, Coca Cola, words such as "dude") She also showed us a picture of a Victorian era hotel in the US which she used as the basis for her hotel in Withering-By-Sea. It burned down many years ago, but there are still photos of it, even a postcard showing it burning down!

On the way home, I shared a back seat with another friend of George's, Vicki Petraitis, whom I know vaguely through Sisters In Crime and who writes true crime, a wonderful chance to chat about that genre. 

On the whole, a very enjoyable evening and I do recommend these sessions for any YA/children's booklover in Melbourne. You can find out when they are by subscribing to the Ford Street newsletter.

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5. Rural juror

The Morning News started its tournament of books yesterday with a match between Louise Erdrich’s The Round House and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I thought the critic, Edan Lepucki, did a great job of assessing each book’s strengths and shortcomings and coming up with a winner. Today, the match between Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son and Maria’ Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette is judged by a more milquetoasted Elliot Holt, but I found a useful link in the commentary. I seem to have missed Jacob Silverman’s “Against Enthusiasm” when it appeared in Slate last August, but I hope every member of the kidlitosphere reads it.

 

Our sis School Library Journal begins its Battle of the Books on Monday Tuesday and I’ll be over here critiquing the judges in brackets of two and allowing one to “move forward,” where, eventually (and if I’ve done the math right) one shall face the BoB’s Big Kahuna judge, Frank Cottrell Boyce. I’m not doing this to be mean–unless somebody drives me to it–but to test my frequent assertion that there’s too much diplomacy in children’s book discussion (again, see the Silverman essay linked above). I am also interested in exploring what kind of criticism these non-professionals will employ: will they argue from personal taste, moral significance, reader appeal, aesthetic value? Each or all of these can work; what matters most in this contest is that the judge is able to express a clear preference for one book over another and say why. The prize is two one-year subscriptions to the Horn Book Magazine, one to the winning judge and another to the library of his or her choice.I’ll be judge and jury (shades of SLJ’s Lillian Gerhardt: raise your hand if you’re old enough to remember her infamous Billy Budd Button and Huck Finn Pin!)

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6. Bully for you and you and you

Aside from one dinner with a college friend and another with MVP and Barbara Bader, I spent ALA Midwinter in the exhibits drumming up business and listening to publishers, who had mostly two things on their mind: the Common Core and bullying. Wait, am I being redundant?

As far as the Common Core goes,

 

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7. Each Kindness

Each KindnessDarn you, Charlotte Zolotow committee! You beat me to the punch, awarding this fine book your award last week! The CCBC website explains, “The Charlotte Zolotow Award is given annually to the author of the best picture book text published in the United States in the preceding year….The award is administered by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, a children’s literature library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Each year a committee of children’s literature experts selects the winner from the books published in the preceding year. The winner is announced in January each year. A bronze medallion is formally presented to the winning author in the spring during an annual public event that honors the career of Charlotte Zolotow.”  If you have never attended the Zolotow celebration, you are really missing out. First, you get to go to Madison, Wisconsin, and second, you get to be with people who love children’s books, and third, the lectures are always terrific. 

So, this lovely book won an award for the text. Do the illustrations hold up as well as the words?

If you have not read Each Kindness, please do. I just gave a talk to 80 or so second graders at a local school and this (along with Island) was the book they appreciated the most. This school does a fantastic Caldecott exploration each year, and by the time I drag in with my little dog-and-pony show, they have some strong opinions about current picture books. I get to tell the story of how I got to be on the committee…blah blah…but then I get to sneak in a few questions about what they are liking and not liking. When I held up Woodson’s book, there was a collective intake of breath and a murmur of oohs and ahhs.

Second/third  grade might be the perfect age for this one. Somewhere around this time, kids start to notice things like clothing and wealth and what makes kids fit in or not. These are the same grades where teachers find themselves reaching for The One Hundred Dresses, a book which deals with a similar theme.

Let’s look at the art, shall we? Lewis’s watercolors never disappoint, do they? The first spread is a lovely school shot– rural school,  snow-covered. A lone child walks up the front steps. Turn the page and Lewis captures the perfect feel of a New Kid. Maya’s eyes are cast down, the teacher is holding her hand, and the perspective lets us know that she is not comfortable. Her clothes reflect the text–her clothes look a tad ragged, especially for the first day. Turn the page and we see the other main character, the narrator Chloe, looking out the window at the reader, a sour look on her face. Maya is faded in the background, but she has a little smile, a little hope on her face. The playground page is almost too painful to look at–three little girls, holding hands, while Maya walks with her hands behind her back. Lewis puts a bit of sunlight around the girls and has the rest of the group looking at Maya. No one is including her.

The art goes on, gently documenting the social strata of this classroom. Chloe rejects Maya and sets the tone for the rest of the class. The seasons change, Maya keeps trying to fit in, but Chloe and her friends do not allow it. We see her in her fancy (but used) dress and shoes or holding the wrong doll and her eyes always remind us of her pain. Even while she skips rope, she skips alone.

The story and illustrations change once the teacher (finally, I say) gets involved. Maya is absent when the teacher presents a lesson on kindness that finally gets through to Chloe.  We see the faces reflected in the ripples of the bowl of water–a nice change of perspective. The art now highlights Chloe. First, her somber face stares at that stone that stands in for the idea of kindness. Then, her eyes are cast down (like Maya’s) on her way home, slowly walking how from the school with the backpack seeming to drag her down. The next page is the only dark page in the book–Maya’s empty desk which will stay empty. The last two pages let us know the truth–that Chloe will never get a chance to make it better. Chloe looks sad and sorry, her body slightly slumped as she contemplates what has happened. She becomes smaller on that final page turn, less powerful, but with a hopeful shaft of light pointing to the future. 

This is a true teacher’s book–with plenty to talk about in a classroom. Will the committee find it too teacher-y or a new classic in the literature of bullying and kindness?

What say you?

 

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8. #712 -If You Were a Dog by Jamie A. Swenson & Chris Raschka

cover lg.
If You Were a Dog
Written by Jamie A. Swenson
Illustrated by Chris Raschka
Farrar Straus Giroux BYR        9/30/2014
978-0-373-33530-4
40 pages              Age 3—6

“If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be? Would you be a sod that goes ARRRROOOOOOO? Or maybe you would be a sharp-toothed dinosaur that can CHOMP, STOMP, ROAR! Perhaps you might want to be a hopping frog that goes BOING, BOING, RIBBET! But maybe you would want to be the best kind of animal of all. Can you guess what that is?” [inside jacket]

Review
Using sparse text, including exuberant onomatopœia, and characteristics specific to the animal on the spread, Swenson asks young children how they would act if they were a dog, a cat, a bird, a bug, a frog, and a dinosaur. Each two-spread animal begins its question with a recognizable formula:

“If you were a . . . would you be a . . . ?”

For example, the first animal is the dog.

dog am combo “If you were a dog, would you be a speedy-quick, lickety-sloppy,
scavenge-the-garbage,
frisbee-catching,
hot-dog-stealing,
pillow-hogging,
best-friend-ever sort of dog?”

The following spread always asks one final question:

dog 2  combo“Would you howl at the moon?  Some dogs do.”

Youngsters will love the questions, especially each of the activity-type characteristics in If You Were a Dog. While not written in rhyme, the text flows nicely. The individual characteristics are ordered such that the similar suffixes following each other. Raschka’s illustrations are child-like in form, yet lively, and capture the text and the reader’s (listener’s), imagination. Young children will not only contemplate how they would act based on the given charactersitics, but are bound to come up with their own. I like anything that activates and stretches a child’s imagination and If You Were a Dog fits that bill nicely.

The final three spreads in If You Were a Dog acknowledge that we cannot become any animal we want, but we can imitate those around us. Besides, kids are told, the best animal to be is yourself.

IF YOU WERE A DOG. Text copyright (C) 2014 by Jamie A. Swenson. Illustrations copyright (C) 2014 by Chris Raschka. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers—an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, New York, NY.

Purchase If You Were a Dog at AmazonBook DepositoryiTunesMacmillian Children’s Publishing Group.

Learn more about If You Were a Dog HERE.
You can find the CCSS-Aligned Discussion and Activity Guide HERE.

AWARDS
Junior Library Guild selection

Meet the author, Jamie A. Swenson, at her website:  http://www.jamieaswenson.com/
Meet the illustrator, Chris Raschka, at his twitter page:  @ChrisRaschka
Find more children’s books at the Farrar Strauss Giroux BYR website:  http://us.macmillan.com/mackids
Farrar Strauss Giroux BYR is an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Review section word count = 225

Full Disclosure: If You Were a Dog, by Jamie A. Swenson & Chris Raschka, and received from Farrar Strauss Giroux BYR, (an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book Tagged: animal traits, animals, being oneself, Chris Raschka, creativity, Farrar Straus Giroux, If You Were a Dog, imagination, Jamie A. Swenson, self esteem

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9. Distracted

From the Profile Picture Project, by Patrick Girouard

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10. Some Special Eateries in Braga

                                                                                                                                                             Well this post is mainly about some of our favorite eateries, but a later one will hit the highlights of some special places to see. (And then we'll move on to our nephew's wedding last week.)

One of our favorite hangouts when we go to Braga is Café Vianna, a café overlooking Praça da República (Republican Square). There are tables inside and out, but we sit at an outside table under one of their giant umbrellas sipping wine and people-watching.
Café Vianna used to be a
hub of political activity in
the years before Salazar.

Now it's just a popular place
for tourists to enjoy.


It's almost always busy.











The square is dominated by an immense circular fountain, and on a hot day it's refreshing just to watch the streams of water shoot up and splash down. (It was hot in early June!) The square was being decorated while we were there (as was the city) for the coming Festa de São João (St. John the Baptist), a very popular festival that occurs mid-June.

I was surprised by a rainbow!
The arches are part of the decoration
for the coming Festa de São João 
Two gracious women at
the tourist office, Márcia
and Cristina, have helped
me a lot with my research.











The eating places in Braga are quite interesting. Each of them has a unique flair. And I don't mean just what kind of food they serve. They combine ideas about eating. For instance, on our last trip, we discovered a wine bar called Copo. But Copo isn't just a wine bar. or a tapa bar, although that, too.
It's several things rolled into one. Here we are enjoying our favorite small table by the corner window. But this building -- which is really two -- is full of nooks and split levels. The room next door is a wine and gin bar (with an actual horseshoe bar.) Up a flight from that is a cocktail lounge. A stairwell off of that leads to a small restaurant area. From where we are sitting in this picture, stairs lead down to a little champagne nook, which leads up to another restaurant area, and also down to yet another restaurant area. Surprises abound everywhere. And Copo does serve great tapas.

A little dining hall.
Unless you prefer the garden.
Art on the wall, food on
the table, books to read.
What's not to like?






A favorite lunch place of ours is Centésima Página, The Hundredth Page, a unique bookstore and café housed in a Baroque building on Avenida Central. I can't begin to tell you how inviting it is. These pictures may help. There are numerous little side rooms, small indoor tables, a garden patio. And books, books, books, everywhere! They also offer art exhibits and guest speakers, and special kid programs at various dates and times. But the books and snacks are irresistible.


Exterior: The bookstore/cafe is on
Avenida Central, not
far from Praça República.
Books, books, books! What's not to like?

















Not far from Centésima Página is a remarkable place called Casa do Professor, a home for retired teachers -- at any level: elementary to university level. It houses a library and a restaurant and bar, among other features. The goal is to make the teachers feel at home. But the restaurant is also open to outside guests and parties. We didn't take any picture of it, but here is a website that can tell you more about it . There is a buffet dining room at street level, and both a cafeteria and a menu restaurant down a few stairs to the next level. The food was delicious and so reasonably priced. Being vegetarians, we had a vegetable-filled pastry for lunch that was so good I could swoon over it. And a party of teachers were at a group of tables near the far window, having a wonderful time.

Last spring, visiting the Museu Imagem for research, (Image Museum), a unique photography gallery, we were privileged to meet the director, Rui Prata, who introduced us to both the fabulous three day photography exhibit last fall, and also Casa do Professor, as well as two other noteworthy restaurants. The names of those two wonderful restaurants elude me, but we found two more in a little square (Largo da Praça Velhanear the museum: Taverna do Felix, and Anjo Verde.

Anjo Verde means Green Angel, and it's all vegetarian food that must be cooked by angels! Last fall we enjoyed a memorable lunch of eggplant parmigiana cooked just right. We split an order, and their portions are so generous we still were quite stuffed. I only have one picture to share, but this website can show your more of the interior, as well has samples of their wonderful food :

Right next door, in the same largo was a restaurant I'd been intrigued by online while doing research -  Taverna do Felix (Felix's Tavern). I want to place a scene in my book there. These pictures should give some idea of it's distinct ambience, which is both elegant and cosy.
A great selection of wines. 

Gray lace on white linen.
Combined with Marilyn!
There was a homey quality to this restaurant, established by all the antiques placed here and there, I suppose, and the soft lighting.

Little tables were also in clusters, here and there. We were among the early guests, but were welcomed in, and "Nina" the owner, explained the wonders of Port to me as she and a warm and friendly waitress named Sandra set things in place: White Port is an appetizer, and red Port is for dessert. (I knew about the red, but not the white, did you?) In the course of the evening, she gave us a sample of each. Here's a video that gives you more information about the restaurant and owner, and you'll encounter the beautiful Portuguese language as well. And here are some photos of the food: as well as more pics of the restaurant. Our meal was lovely. We do eat fish, and we had broiled sea bass beautifully presented.
Meanwhile, the restaurant had started filling up, and there were couples at various tables from all parts: Netherlands, Belgium . . .

The man from Belgium recommended a hotel to us, and it turned out to be where we were staying: Hotel Senhora a Branca, reflecting the name of the church - Igreja Senhora a Branca - and the name of the square  - Largo Senhora a Branca, where the hotel is located. We have stayed there all three trips and will again. It's a comfortable hotel, reasonably priced, with beautiful rooms and a friendly staff. And we made friends with a young intern who has received her Masters in cultural tourism and who took us on a tour of her Braga the last evening we were there. (Thank you, Ines!)

And then there is the mysterious young woman who is always playing her violin on one street or another: 

who is she? 

Her playing is haunting. 



Next blog will be about the Churches, Gardens, and Museums of Braga. Stay tuned. 

Meanwhile, what is the best restaurant meal you've ever had? Do you like to read while you eat? Are you a vegetarian? If so, what kind? (I have learned that there are quite a few classifications.) 



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11. June 2015 Insight

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12. Originality and "nods" to other works?

I had a couple of questions regarding the originality of content. I've got two examples which I'll try to keep brief. Firstly, my current project features

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13. July 2015 Insight

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14. The Millions' 'Second-Half 2015 Book Preview'

       The Millions' Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview is now up -- "at 9,100 words strong and encompassing 82 titles, this is the only second-half 2015 book preview you will ever need" they claim .....
       It's a nice overview of (mainly) the bigger titles due out over the next ... eight months (it actually goes through February 2016 ...) but far from comprehensive -- and it's particularly disappointing regarding fiction-in-translation, with almost none that's not published by the big(gest) houses included; a rare exception is Krasznahorkai's 'reportage', Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens (see the Seagull Books(' distributor's) publicity page, or pre-order your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).

       (Especially for those interested in books in translation, Typographical Era's The 2015 Visual Guide to Translated Fiction and the 2015 Translation Database at Three Percent (latest version here) are far more useful. Caveat and warning: the visual guide really is visual -- arranged by book covers -- rendering it enervatingly busy/near-unusable for some of us (all I want/can bear is text !), while the Translation Database is an 'Excel Worksheet' which, sigh, has to be downloaded (i.e. you can't open it directly in your browser).)

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15. Curiouser and Curiouser

I’m a bit put out at Canada right now. They’ve got some nasty forest fires burning and all the smoke is blowing down here to Minneapolis. It is so bad that when I left work this afternoon it looked like a fog had settled over the city. It also smells terrible. While standing outside for 20 minutes waiting for my late bus, it became harder to breathe and my eyes began to burn. Now, indoors, I’m fine but for a headache that will not go away. The state has declared an air quality emergency and is discouraging people from going outdoors. I like you Canada. You are a good neighbor and I know a number of people who were born and raised Canadian and some of my favorite authors are Canadian. But, really, keep your smoke to yourselves! Get those fires out, won’t you? It’s hard to breathe down here! Your consideration is much appreciated.

And maybe I am only using it as an excuse to put off writing about The Art of Daring by Carl Phillips yet one more day because it is such a good book I don’t know what to say about it. Or maybe it’s just because it is Monday and it was a long and busy day at work following my full and glorious three-day Independence Day holiday weekend. Or maybe I’m just extra tired because Dickens has been an annoying cat lately, yowling at 3 a.m. for attention and even though he doesn’t get any, he keeps trying. I purposely did not have children and have enjoyed many years of good sleeping as a result. Dickens is swiftly reversing this and I don’t exactly know why.

I am behind on my internet and blog wanderings so it is quite possible all of you already heard about the latest development in the Harper Lee Go Set a Watchman saga. Apparently, the manuscript was found in 2011, not last year. And supposedly it was found in Harper Lee’s Safe Deposit box at the bank, not attached to an old manuscript of To Kill a Mockingbird in the publisher’s files.

The whole thing just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser, doesn’t it? I’m not sure what to think or who to believe. By a number of accounts, Go Set a Watchman has always been considered a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. Why then, would Harper Lee, who has said she will never publish anything else, want to see this book published? Is she in need of money to pay her medical bills and nursing home care? Are the publishers pulling a fast one? Go Set a Watchman has the most pre-orders of any of the publisher’s books, ever. It is likely going to be a bestseller the day it goes on sale July 14th. Everyone involved is going to make a pot of cash. How much will Harper Lee get of it I wonder?

I have not pre-ordered the book. I have no plans to buy it or wait in line at the library for it. I am not entirely certain I want to read it. The whole thing smells fishy and I don’t feel comfortable reading the book because of that. Maybe one year, five years, ten years from now I will change my mind, but at the moment, I just can’t. Plus there is the hype which turns me off. And then of course, there is the fear that the beauty that is To Kill a Mockingbird might somehow be tainted if this new book is nowhere near as good.

What about you? Do you plan on reading Go Set a Watchman? Did you pre-order it? And what do you think of all the controversy swirling around it? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill and should just get over it already?


Filed under: Books Tagged: Excuses excuses, Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

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16. "sitting pretty"....

on a Monday night! :)

this little sweetie goes by the name Sunshine (well, she is bright, cheery and yellow like the sun....) and is one in a small series of cute little birds.

ORIGINAL PAINTING FOR SALE HERE and PRINTS and other goodies FOR SALE HERE!

{an adorable little bluebird is up next....}

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17.

“Deep in the Meadow”

Mockingjay: “The Hanging Tree”

The Hobbit: “The Misty Mountain Cold”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

James and the Giant Peach

The Unicorn

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18. 'Round the Bend

When your life is going smoothly,
It’s so simple to pretend
That no negatives are waiting
To assault you ‘round the bend.

Don’t succumb and get complacent,
Thinking joy will never end,
For its opposite is lurking
And it’s right around the bend.

It’s much better if you’re ready,
Which is why I recommend
Never flaunting jubilation;
Sorrow’s skulking ‘round the bend.

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19. Mock Caldecott techniques

My Caldecott Committee in January 2005, soon after our final vote. Caffeine and snacks are an important part of any deliberation.

My Caldecott Committee in January 2005 soon after our final vote. Caffeine and snacks are an important part of any deliberation.

Robin posted yesterday, asking for the titles that won your own mock Caldecotts. Today I want to hear how you organize your mock award deliberations. We’ve asked this question before, but I think it’s worth asking again.

For the first time this spring, I plan to do mock award sessions (Caldecott, Geisel, possibly Sibert) with my adult students at a school of education. One problem I’m facing is that this process will happen just a couple of months after the actual award is announced, AND we have no budget for extra books. I will need to use books that the school already owns or ones I will lend them. I thought about using library books, but I want them to have access for the nominated books for the six weeks leading up to Mock Award Day. Has anyone else tried something like this? — you choose 15 or 20 books that you think are exemplary or otherwise worth discussing, and then just let them go at it, guided by the actual ALSC guidelines.

I think this is going to work, but I’d love to hear your advice.  We also want to use these comments for you to provide a rundown of how you all have run your own mocks. Be sure to tell us what ages you were working with, what kind of time-frame you used, etc.

 

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20. Ruby Needs to Know: Do You Remember Training Bras?

Welcome guest blogger, Ruby Gold. Ruby lives in a small town in Indiana. Lately, she's taken to blogging to try to understand her niece, the universe, and how she can get a good pastrami sandwich in rural Indiana.
When my ten-year-old niece wanted a training bra (she begged for a hot pink strappy thing to cover her breast buds), I shrieked. “A training bra! For Pete's sake, why do your boobies need to be trained? I mean, c'mon! What are they going to do compete in the Olympics to see which ones stay up the highest and the longest?I hope you're not planning to show them someday to Hugh Hefner, heaven forbid!”
She told me I was nuts, which she does at least twice a day, and which I may very well be. Que sera sera!
But, seriously,who ever invented training bras to begin with? And really, please, please, can anyone tell me what is their mission?
Like many other weary aunties, I turned to the modern day Guide for the Perplexed: Google. And I found the aboutparenting website. Here's what it had to say: “A training bra helps protect the nipple from chafing against clothes. A training bra also helps give the girls a flattering shape.” Protect the nipples from chafing? Tell me, women of the world, who out there has ever suffered from chafed prepubescent nipples?
If you have, I'm very sorry and hope that they've healed.
But, excuse me for pointing out the obvious, men have nipples and most of them aren't wearing bras!
Then, the article goes on to say: “A training bra is necessary when a girl begins to develop, as girls may be teased about their changing bodies.” Ha! That's the clincher, I thought. Women of the world, who has ever been teased about their changing body? I see millions of hands going up around the globe waving, madly.
Okay, that's sad. But the article gets sadder: “A training bra does not train the breasts, rather it helps girls adjust to wearing a bra and it provides a small amount of shaping and protection.” Well, so that's it, huh, we're training girls to be adjusted to the life-long discomfort of bra wearing. Think wires sticking under your boobs. Please don't tell me the wires are more comfortable when they're padded. Or that brassieres are a joy to wear when they have straps digging into your shoulders. Think of all the ways these boob contraptions can drive a woman berserk. Scratchy lace ones. Silly snappy spandex ones. Madonna's cone bra. Thin ones, padded ones, ones to shape, mold, and lift like your breasts are aching to take off and orbit to outer space.
Remember the girdle? Yeah, glad we got rid of those!
Bra burners of the world where have ye gone? So I wrote to Gloria Steinemto see if women were still burning bras. She didn't answer.
But I took my niece's bright pink training bra to the backyard and threw it into a roasting bonfire. It smoked up nicely.
The next day, my niece was despondent when she came home from school. “Auntie, now my nipples are chafing against my T-shirt and the school bully said he could see them. Like he could actually see my nipples!!!! How could you have burned my bra, you Cruella De Vil!”
So, should I back down? Should I buy her another training bra? Years later she'll probably accuse me of starting her on a path of bodily confinement, fleshly tortures, and heaven only knows what else. What's an auntie to do? I want to say don't wrap and strap in the girls until you really need to.
I'd love to hear your two cents on training bras. Does anybody remember wearing them? Please feel free to share your experiences and advice. Ruby Needs to Know!

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21. A Pizza a Day Diet: Gino's East

A few years back, when Cyn was teaching at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children and Young Adults residency, I decided to conduct a culinary experiment: a comparison (and blog report) of various pizza joints around Austin during the course of about ten days.  I also made a couple pizzas of my own.

The rules were these: aside from a dinner salad prior to the pizza, my meals were pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  For the record, the first time I did it, I lost five pounds; the second time, two and a half.

Here's the inaugural post from 2009:  A Pizza a Day and Other Weird Activities.  To view the entire 2009 line up, just click the "pizza a day" label.

I tried this again January 2015, but posted only to my Facebook account (I'll probably reproduce the posts here soon).  So, this summer, as Cyn heads off to the summer residency, I decided to try it again, with a whole new pizzeria lineup.  (The number of pizza restaurants in Austin has expanded dramatically in the past six years).

And, tonight, I started with the Austin incarnation of Gino's East, one of the great trifecta of Chicago deep dish pizzas (Uno's, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's).

The restaurant just opened and they don't have delivery or carry out yet, but the actual place is charming: a long narrow Sixth Street establishment, with a bar along one side, brick walls and cast iron chandeliers.


The pizza itself was outstanding: the corn meal crust was rich and had a thin bottom with structural integrity that stayed crisp and didn't overwhelm with breadiness. The Gino's East crust is traditionally my favorite of the deep dish pizzas, and this did not disappoint.
I ordered the "Gino's Supreme," with sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers.  The sausage was plentiful, with large flavorful chunks.  The cheese was nicely gooey but not overpowering, and the vegetables were likewise plentiful.  The tomatoes were just a tad sweeter than I typically like, but were a nice contrast to the richness of the crust, and also accommodated the red pepper flakes. 

In sum, it wasn't quite the same as the original, but very good nevertheless.  And the best part?  Leftovers!




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22. Caine Prize

       They announced the winner of the Caine Prize yesterday -- not at the official site yet, last I checked, but see, for example, the report at the Books Live weblog -- and the prize whose: 'focus is on the short story, reflecting the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition' went to The Sack (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) by Berkeley-professor Namwali Serpell (see her faculty page).

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23. Sailor Twain

Sailor Twain

Mark Siegel, editorial director and founder of Macmillan’s graphic novel–only imprint First Second Books

also author/illustrator of Moving House

illustrator of several picture books (Seadogs by Lisa Wheeler, Long Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant) and another graphic novel for children (Boogie Knights by Lisa Wheeler)

my first introduction to Siegel was To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel, his wife Siena Cherson Siegel’s memoir of her experiences as a preprofessional student in the School of American Ballet.

With Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid in the Hudson (First Second, October 2012), Seigel

surreal magical realism

hefty graphic novel

Captain Twain, captain of a steamboat on the Hudson River, rescues a harpooned mermaid and nurses her back to health.

 

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24. Cinesite and Image Engine Merge In Continuing VFX Consolidation

The two companies combine staffs into a worldwide workforce numbering over 525 artists.

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25. How the Grinch stole the show

Every classroom teacher has a special tradition that gets pulled out each holiday season. In devising my own tradition, I fell back on what I know: Dr. Seuss. I spent my senior year of college becoming a Seuss-ologist (a term coined by my now-fiancé) while working on a research project that explored the language use in Dr. Seuss books. One of the primary take-aways from that project was that poetry has a special power to captivate kids, especially when it is shared orally.

And so, for my holiday tradition, I decided to memorize the entirety of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and then recite it to my students to kick off a day of Grinch-related literacy events.

When the Grinch-Day arrived last year, I was nervous that all of those rhymes I’d spent months memorizing would jumble together in my head. Instead, what happened was that my worries evaporated as my students and I reveled in the wonder of word play and language together. Even my most fidgety kids sat still while I shared the story; they hung on every word, despite the fact that most of them already knew the story quite well. No one interrupted, no one turned to talk to a neighbor – it was one of the most engaged moments we experienced in my classroom all year.

And, I don’t think it had much to do with the fact that I had worked so hard to memorize the story. If I had to sum up their captivation, it was 10% “Wow, my teacher is pretty cool!” and 90% “What’s that Grinch up to now?” or “That’s really fun to say!”

Kids seem to have an intrinsic interest in language and words – that’s one reason why I think the Dr. Seuss stories, which epitomize language play, continue to be so popular with readers of all ages. My students always love when our read-aloud is a Dr. Seuss tale, but their reaction to this recitation experience was on a completely different level than their typical responses.

With no pictures to take some of their attention off the words, I believe that my students could focus on the sheer delight of rhythm, alliteration, and all of those other literary devices poets so aptly incorporate into their work. It also allowed them a chance to use their own imaginations to picture the story unfolding, rather than having an illustration present them with “the way the story looks.”

And was it a fluke what happened in my classroom that day? / Well, I repeated the exercise this year in the same way, / to an audience of students who all sat bolt upright, / with expressions on their faces nothing short of sheer delight.

So teachers and parents, here’s a New Year’s challenge for you: memorize a piece of poetry (it doesn’t matter how long) and then recite it to a child you know. Be sure to share your results. As for me? I’ve started memorizing The Lorax.

Grinch stole Christmas

 

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