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I post what I think about books, children's and adult's, and what is going on in my life as a librarian and a storyteller.
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The Prologue of the first book in the Family Tree Quartet
warns us that sometimes, as the title says, it is Better to Wish
than to know what is in the future.
Abby's story starts in 1930 when she is 8. We learn that times are tough but that her father works hard. Abby's mother still grieves for the two children she lost. Abby has a good friend, Orrin, that her father doesn't want her to play with. This first chapter sets the stage for the challenges Abby faces as a girl coming to age in the Depression. Her father's intractable ideas about people and their worth, her mother's inability to stand up to her husband, the fact that under it all these are people who are just trying hard to do their best, all these things make Abby's choices hard but understandable.
This book sees Abby from childhood through adulthood, from carefree days to brave decisions. It's a lot for one 200+ page book to do. Martin does it well. Her language does not burden young readers with all the concerns that an adult reader will glean. The book has just enough introspection for the audience which is girls between the ages of 11 and 14.
I look forward to reading the other books in the quartet.
It's Children's Books Week! Kids' books are awesome. Go to the Children's Book Week Kids site. There is a project there where you can print out the stories started by excellent children's book authors and you get to finish the story!! This is a great classroom activity and a fun activity for story-minded children everywhere.
Vote on your favorite children's books. Check out Children's Book Week events around the country. Print out bookmarks. Check out the latest list of Best Books.
Go to your local library and check out some books! Children's Books are for every day, not just one week a year.
Just so you know, when I feature a publisher's website I get no remuneration. I just feature those websites because I like them.
Today, for Kids Book Website Tuesday, I offer you the HMH Books for Young Readers Blog. This is a book review blog touting the latest and greatest of HMH's offerings. You can watch book trailers. You can choose to view only Teen titles or Kids titles or both and there are categories among all these books for you to choose from. The blog is colorful and a teensy bit interactive. I like it.
I also want to feature an author today. I just finished Jessica Day George's Wednesdays in the Tower, and my reaction to the ending was WHATTTT!!!??? Because we are left hanging and that is almost exactly what happens. Read the book - or if you hate suspense - wait until ALL the Castle books are written and read them in one fell swoop. Or, and this is my choice, read them one by one and THEN in one fell swoop. Anyway, I checked out Jessica's website and, from there, her blog. If you liked Tuesdays at the Castle, you will thoroughly enjoy Wednesdays in the Tower. Check out the pages!
Years ago, when I was a young mother and babysitter, I rode the bus with my son and my young charge - everywhere. What else do you do with two five-year-old boys with endless imagination and energy? We rode downtown, to libraries, to parks, to the next town over, to visit friends. We also walked and later, in the summer, we rode bikes.
Everywhere we went, we told stories. After reading William Steig's The Amazing Bone, we came up with a story about a talking donut. Every bus trip for a month or so, we added adventures about the donut and King Rupert, the donut's best friend.
And then there were the tales of Llewellyn the Lion, who worked as a late night radio host and rarely went out in the day. He rode a motorcycle and had a tab at the butcher's. He lived in fear that people would realize that he was not just a gravelly voiced, hairy recluse but a lion - a real lion. As time went on, Llewellyn told us of his friends - all graduates of the Philadelphia Zoo's secret Animal Intelligence project - and we met Llewellyn's teacher, Professor Freeman. The animals were tricked into a reunion and were drugged and kidnapped to become stars in a traveling animal act. Fortunately, one of Llewellyn's friends was a dainty gorilla. Along with the Jaguar, ocelot, rhinoceros, several lions, a seal and a rhinoceros, they all managed to escape.
I wrote that story up and shoved it into the glove compartment of my old black Impala. When the car broke down and we had it hauled to the junk yard, the story was lost forever. The rhinoceros - or was it the seal? - was a poet and some of her poems were in that story. They were haunting and surprised me. Stories can be pieced together. Poems evaporate.
And then there was Super Anders and his sidekick Critter Man. These stories were made up bit by bit of the things that my boys suggested, cartoon characters that they enjoyed. Danny Dunn and his friends got tossed in there, too, since we read every Danny Dunn book we could find. I liked these stories best of all. The boys were always trying to save Little Annie, the Orphan Apple Selling Girl from danger. But Little Annie just as often had to save our heroes.
I miss Llewellyn and his friends. I miss Critter Man, who ba-a-a-a-rked! And I miss King Rupert and his talking donut.
Perhaps, I will ride the bus for nostalgia sake and remember small boys, stories and a time when I was young.
When my Thursday night dinner guest opened my screen door, she found an ARC of The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau resting against my front door.
I actually hopped with excitement. I DID score an e-galley during the week of StoryFUSION. Guess what didn't get read in time? So having a 3 dimensional paper copy in my hands - Wow. I was not disappointed.
Definitely worth the hype! A solid addition to the dystopian kids-against-the-pretty-weird-government trope. (Is "trope" even a word??? Make that "genre" instead.) Except in this case the government is trying hard to help - or at least that's what the kids who get chosen for The Testing think.
The beginning of the book shows a very functional community of like minded colonists doing their best to survive and thrive after the Seven Stages of War. The heroine's family is loving and hard working. When the heroine is chosen for the Testing - the only route into the University - her father offers her vague warnings and advice based on dreams he has had about his own Testing. Everyone who is Tested has their memory of the event erased.
That's all I can tell you without spoilers. Once the heroine hits the city the suspense builds and never ends. Book Two comes out early in 2014.The Testing
is being recommended to fans of The Hunger Games
with good reason. The purpose for the Games and the purpose for the Testing are far apart. President Snow designed the Games to punish and threaten the Districts in The Hunger Games.
The Testing is designed to sift out the best of the best to insure the country's continued survival. "Good" intentions aside, the designers of the Testing have some pretty ghastly things planned for our young friends. And the young test-takers provide the rest of the suspense. After a slow start, the pages just flipped themselves.
It's Tuesday!! Time for a Kids' Book Website.
Check out Grace Lin's website. Grace wrote Starry River of the Sky, which was a Battle of the Kids Book contestant. I loved it. But I have liked Grace's picture books and chapter books for several years. Her Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was a Newbery Honor Book.
Her website offers activities based on her books, Chinese lessons, a link to her blog and a bio.
And here is a book trailer for her novel for 3rd and 4th grades, Dumpling Days,
the third novel about a Chinese American girl named Pacy.
E. L. Konigsburg died on Friday. The author of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The View from Saturday, both Newbery Award winners, and countless other great books, will be sadly missed.
Good-bye and thank you so much!
StoryFUSION was so much fun. All you people who did NOT attend, well, too late now. You will have to wait until next year.
There is a chance...just a chance...that Antonio Sacre will be in the Lehigh/Berks County area next year. He is clever, amusing, touching, dramatic, and engaging, among other things. I saw his Children's Show - funny and enthusiastic. He had 200+ 4th and 5th graders eating out of his hand. I saw him interact with high school students. Antonio was so respectful and encouraging of the teens' storytelling efforts.
And then I watched his short presentation on Friday night and his Feature Performance on Saturday and I am a true Antonio-ite, now. Today, I took a workshop from him that concentrated on how to become a successful working storyteller. This man WORKS for his money. He is relentless in pursuing storytelling excellence. So, see what you missed? So Like him on Facebook, please
. He deserves it.
I am telling tonight at StoryFUSION. (Northampton Community College's Lipkin Theater at 7 pm.) I will tell the first story of the night. I admit to being nnnnnnnnn-nn-nervous, a lll-l-little. So come out and give me friendly faces in the audience, please.
Also my Kutztown University Favorites of 2012 (and the very beginning of 2013) Book List is up on my Lists page. Check it out.
Must practice. Once upon a .... no, that's been done. A Little Old....no, maybe I should just do a little aside about domestic tranquility. But I only have 15 minutes to tell my story. Whewww.
StoryFUSION begins soon, very soon. Go to the StoryFUSION page for all the details but it is fabulous stuff.
Check my Storytelling page - above - for the Guerrilla storytelling events on Tuesday, April 16th and Wednesday, April 17th. These events are FREE and out in public places near you.
On Thursday, NCC and the members of the LVSG are offering FREE workshops at Northampton Community College. I am offering "Story in a SNAP", a workshop that will use improvisational exercises to combat both writer's block and stage fright. It will be a lot of fun and it would not be possible without the help of Professor Susan Petrole.
Story in a SNAP workshop - Thursday, April 18th at 11 am at Northampton Community College, in Room CC 165. (CC stands or College Center - the BIG building in the middle of the main campus.) FREE and open to everyone. Please join me.
To keep us all in the storytelling mood, I must share this video from just a year and a half ago. Kelly will be telling on Wednesday. Look for her.
TOON Books offers 11 of their titles for FREE online viewing. AWESOME for young readers, these books have a Read to Me option for younger kids, too. I love TOON.
The TOON library is all part of Professor Garfield's website
. (That's Garfield, as in the orange cat?) Check it out. It looks like fun.
I have two passes to StoryFUSION!!! They can be used on Friday, April 19th OR Saturday, April 20th to hear Antonio Sacre - who is every bit as much fun to hear as he is to see! Honest. If you want these tickets, comment below.
|You totally want to see this guy! Honestly!|
I also have the COMPLETE hardbound works of Tom Angleberger, including Art2-D2's Guide to Folding and Doodling.
However, I am giving these away at my Book Review session at the Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference
ONLY. That's this Saturday, April 13th, at Kutztown University. So, sign up NOW! You will not only get a chance to win awesome books, you will also hear presentations by these great authors: Suzanne Fisher-Staples,
illustrator Christopher Soentpiet
and Janet Wong
I have to go read more books. Good luck.
April 6th is National Pillow Fight Day. Is that not awesome??? Truly. Grab a couple of pillows and swat away - on Saturday. You might want to practice beforehand.Caterpillow Fight by Sam McBratney
Here are some picture books to share in preparation for - or during - National Pillow Fight Day.
. When little caterpillars start a pillow fight, the big caterpillar has a creative solution.What! cried Granny by Kate Lum.
Patrick stays overnight at Granny's house where Granny has to make him a bed, a pillow, a blanket, a teddy bear, all from scratch.Good Night, Pillow Fight by Sally Cook
. Look inside a block of apartments as parents try to get their children to sleep. And then, someone yells "Pillow Fight!" Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
. Little Red Chicken interrupts every bedtime story her father begins.Once upon a time, the end : asleep in 60 seconds / by Geoffrey Kloske and Barry Blitt. Here is a collection of the shortest bedtime stories - ever. Piggies / written by Don and Audrey Wood ; illustrated by Don Wood. A finger counting rhyme ends up with a kiss goodnight. Charley's first night / Amy Hest ; illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. A little boy is eager to be the best puppy owner ever and spends the whole night with his new dog.Snoozers / by Sandra Boynton. Seven short bedtime stories from a favorite picture book author.So fluff up those pillows! Ready, set, go!
offers some of the liveliest picture books out there. Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas
by Philippe Coudray is just one of the colorful comic style books put out by TOON. Each page is divided into several panels and tells a complete story. Watch above to see how easily the stories can fit in with Common Core standards. (Warning: Since this video is "educational", the presentation is much more static than the book.)
Benjamin's adventures are sometimes funny, sometimes head-scratching, but all delightfully illustrated with a slightly retro vibe. The stories are designed for early readers and budding logicians ages 4 and up.
March 23rd, 2013
Today, finally, we say goodbye to our Dad, Franklin J. Chiles. Wish me luck that I don't stumble, sob uncontrollably, hiccup, or otherwise mar this solemn day.
March 24th, 2103
|Dad right before he is ordained as a deacon in the Catholic Church|
I started this post yesterday. I did just fine at the funeral. My brothers and sisters who read managed to get through their readings with hardly a hint of a sob. My older brother wrote and delivered a moving eulogy. There were more clergy, including the Bishop, all decked out in gold and red vestments, than I have ever seen gathered in one place.
And the follow-up luncheon went well.
By late afternoon, we all needed naps.
Today is another story. I was fine until my teeth started to hurt. And, suddenly, I felt very, very, very sorry for myself. Very, very, very, very... So I turned my hand of Hand and Foot over to my Mom. (Who can concentrate on cards with a toothache?) And I started home. I called Hub for a ride and when he picked me up - I dissolved. It was a me-sized puddle of pitiful, pain induced tears that crawled into bed. I am not as devastated as all that wailing implies. Sometimes weariness, stress, and pain induce a huge physical need in me to howl. It's like a dam breaking.
My teeth still hurt. I am still sad. But I don't feel so very, very sorry for myself. I had my Dad for a good long time. He loved me all my life and that love is with me still. I'm a lucky woman.
Okay, this post is based on how I remember things, not on how they actually were.
So, back a little past the very break of the dawn of time, I studied Children's Literature. I wasn't much older than a child myself, but I had missed reading It's Like This, Cat by Emily Cheney Neville and other books of that ilk. Judy Blume may or may not have been on the scene back then. This was, after all, a LOOONNG time ago.
So, we approached books that dealt with parents fighting, divorce, any kind of abuse, any kind of economic struggle or family difficulty - dead or dying parents, alcoholism, (gasp!) drugs!!!, even sexual awakening as if the books dealt with "problems". That's what we (or maybe just I) called them, "problem novels".
As opposed to what? Dull boring, diaries of someone's life in which they never have problems? Who would even read a book like that? Look at Nancy Drew!!! Her books are teeming with snaky problems.
My granddaughter's favorite lift-the-flap book, Where's Spot? BEGINS with a problem. Spot didn't eat his food and Mom Dog can't find him. Huge problem.
Anyway, even today when doing reader's advisory, I approach some titles with the caveat, "This is a problem novel. The main character has some really gritty issues to deal with."
And most of the books in this category of mine, fall into the deeply dramatic, heart-wrenching, oh-my-gosh how-will-this-poor-kid-survive description. Think of Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers , a cross-over title, whose main character barely survives foster care, homelessness, and a surprise pregnancy before a hopeful ending.
But SOME problem novels approach their subjects with sympathy and a sense of hope. Almost Home by Joan Bauer saddles poor Sugar Mae Cole with an absent, gambler father, a fragile - though not at first - mother and homelessness. And yet, because this is Joan Bauer who is writing, we know that Sugar will find friends wherever she goes and that the people who help her will be genuinely helpful, not ineffectual or snakes in disguise.
In Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan, the 16 year old heroine has a problem growing in her belly and the problem's father, her now husband, is an even bigger problem. All the prospective grandparents, in their attempt to...actually I don't really know what they thought they were doing. I learned that prospective grandparenthood can be a problem in and of itself. - Anyway, they didn't help much.
That said, this book was fun to read and it had an upbeat ending.
I know that real life is gritty and painful. I know that kids suffer; some die. I also know that these books are written to open young readers' eyes to the problems that others suffer; and to show those young readers who are suffering that help is out there. Both kinds of "problem" novels are needed - the ones that hit hard and make us gasp with the cruelty of life; AND the gentler books that show us the wounds and then offer a salve that will leave the smallest scar.
Right now, I want the latter. Death has become all too real to me. I want my tales of woe with a huge serving of hope on the side.
Did any of you refer to certain teen books as "problem novels" or did I make that up? Let me know.
What an odd book... A coming of age story that incorporates math, mythology, a smattering of mid-20th century history, and backwoods adventure. About two thirds through the book I flipped to the end. I was afraid that one thing was going to happen. Sigh, something else happened and I could continue to find out how.
In Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool, Jack is the new kid at a boarding school on the coast of Maine. He comes from Kansas but his father is stationed in Maine. His mother has just died. His father is a stranger having been in the service during the War (WWII). Jack has never seen the ocean - ever.
Somehow, the weirdest kid in school, Early Auden, catches Jack's imagination. Early doesn't bother to come to classes and when he does, he often leaves in the middle. But he doesn't bother anyone so no one bothers, or bothers with, him. He doesn't seek Jack out but he does help Jack. So when Jack's father has to cancel a visit during Spring break, Jack joins Early on a quest to follow the Early-created mythical journey of the number Pi.
Pi's story reminds the reader of the travels of Odysseus, with shipwrecks, weird old women, pirates and more. And Early's quest into the north Maine woods is every bit as exciting. There are some strange people out there in Main lumber country.
The ending was not what I expected. Early was not what I expected. Even Jack surprised me a time or two. Good book, good adventure, good writing. I approve!
Over at Battle of the Kids' Books, Bomb has (insert your explosion related verb here) to victory! I have already used one incendiary pun. I can not in good conscience use more.
I had a sneaking suspicion that this would happen but since I have not even been able to get a look at the cover of the winning title, I could not make a reliable prediction. I WANT to read this book.
(Person, who is reading it from my local library, please return it, NOW. Waiting is hard.)
was a gasp-producing masterpiece of enlightenment and consciousness-raising. I may have chosen it,
Tomorrow, though, fiction will win out. Titanic
is a gripping revisit to the most famous maritime disaster of all time. But Code Name Verity
is ...I have no words to accurately convey this book's power.
I have not read tomorrow's contestants in The Battle of the Kids' Books. They are Endangered! by Eliot Schrefer and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. The judge is Kathi Appelt.
Unfortunately for me, the two largest public libraries close to me do not own Endangered! Yeah! I know! It's a National Book Award Finalist, for golly sakes! They both own Three Times Lucky, but obviously the word is out that this is an awesome book because it is on hold at my hometown library and out at the "other" library.
(And, with huge apologies to all the booksellers out there who do such awesome work keeping literature alive, I only buy books that I have learned to love. It's a cheapster thing.)
So I have read a few reviews and I have investigated the judge. And, even though I am totally unqualified to make a prediction, I will! I predict that the small-town girl will beat out the orphaned chimpanzee.
| Who can resist a message in a bottle?|
I predict that tomorrow, Three Times Lucky
will move on to the next round. I predict this for three reasons.
Reason 1: Kathi Appelt's own work leans toward small-town and rural characters.
Reason 2: Sassy orphans beat out orphaned animals most of the time.
Reason 3: The American South is more appealing than the Congo, especially now.
But the New York Times review of Endangered!
gives me pause.
There just might be a surfeit of small-town mysteries in children's books right now. The suspense and tension of Sophie's attempt to save her small bonobo friend may tip the scales in Endangerd!'s
|He looks so frightened. I want to save him, myself.|
I wish I had a chance to read just one of these books!!!
I have nothing to lose! I stand by my prediction. Three Times Lucky
will win tomorrow. (maybe
To predict tomorrow's Battle of the Kids' Books winner I need only my "incredible powers of book discernment". But first I must cogitate.
Both titles reference the stars: Jepp, who Defied the Stars vs Starry River of the Sky.
Neither book's action is from around these here parts - geographically or chronologically.
Both books champion hope.
Hmmmm, yep, I think that's about it.
Jepp is historical fiction and describes the indignities suffered by people who appear different from the norm. The writing avoids being ponderous even when considering the time period and the weight of Jepp's indignities and difficulties. There is a touch of wishful thinking in Jepp's story that may toss the book overboard in this round. For instance, I found the ending to be anachronistic - far too modern for the time period, even though the main historical character, Tycho Brahe, was famous for his wildly unorthodox behavior and teachings.
Starry River of the Sky is fantasy through and through. The author alternates the main character's story with folk tales that seem to move that character's story along. The audience for this book seems to be younger than the audience for Jepp, Who Defied the Stars. Because of that the plot is simpler and the problems the characters meet are more immediate - the heat, the darkness, grouchy neighbors. The writing is more lyrical. The pacing has more drama. Less happens but more emotional ground seems to get covered.
Oh dear, what have I done? When I started this post, I thought my choice was clear. I must pause here and think carefully. If I was the esteemed judge, truly, which would I choose? (Note to BOB organizers: I NEVER want to be an esteemed judge.)
(Deeeeep breath). I stand by my initial inclination. I choose Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh. The books have different purposes and both purposes are worthwhile.
teaches us about a swatch of scientific history and gives us insight into the constant battle of all human beings to be treated with respect. Jepp
also encourages the reader to look inside for his or her own talents and pursue a path that is meaningful and satisfying. Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
is about anger, betrayal but most of all, this book is about forgiveness. How Lin gets there is a journey worth taking. The stories are like pearls disbursed on a strand with earthen beads. Did I love this book? Oh, yes, yes, I did.
And still, I choose small and sturdy, young and indomitable, clever, sometimes clueless, but eventually courageous Jepp
as the winner of this battle.
How many titles are formed by two nouns connected by "and" or "or"? How many titles use a verb that ends in "ing"? Sometimes titles follow patterns. Take the titles for today's competitors in SLJ's Battle of the Kids Books. Splendors and Glooms and Liar and Spy. See what I mean?
Do you need help coming us with a superb title? Check out this Title Generator from Fiction Alley. Do it for fun. Do it for profit. A good title can encourage sales - I think.
Just for fun, I entered ten random words. Here are my results.
Title One: frivolous barns through windswept tantrumsTitle Two: the windswept pieTitle Three: the fern through frivolous barnsTitle Four: frivolous pieTitle Five: the turning fernTitle Six: whispering tantrumsTitle Seven: turning barnsTitle Eight: windswept whisperingTitle Nine: whispering for tantrumsTitle Ten: turning and whispering
I like Frivolous Pie, Turning and Whispering and The Turning Fern. Have fun.
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Today, Wednesday, March 20th, is The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day! Such an amazing book, it deserves its own day.
Visit Penguin Book's Hungry Caterpillar page
for a video of Eric Carle, printables, activities and a listing of Eric Carle's other books.