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Susan Thomsen is the author of Elvis: A Tribute to the King (Andrews McMeel), which was once in the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian gift shop, that is. Susan's work has also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times (a Metropolitan Diary entry after years of submissions), and the anthology Girls (Global City Press). She was an editor of Global City Review's humor issue, and served as a theater reviewer at ye olde online guide New York Sidewalk. Susan and her family live in New England. You can reach Susan at c_spaghettiATyahooPERIODcom
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1. Libraries, Peanut Butter, and Bears

School has started, and with it, I'm back in the classroom once a week, reading to second graders. So far we have read these picture books:

Tomás and the Library Lady, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raul Colón. A friendly bookseller at Manhattan's charming La Casa Azul recommended this one, which is sprinkled with Spanish words. Tomás, the child of migrant Texas farm workers, find a place of refuge in an Iowa library and enjoys the attention of two mentors in the "library lady" and his grandfather. It's based on the childhood experiences of Tomás Rivera, who went on to become a university chancellor.

Peanut Butter and Homework Sandwiches, written by Leslie Broadie Cook and illustrated by Jack E. Davis. A silly tale of a kid who just can't get it right, homework-wise, through no fault of his own.

The Three Bears, written and illustrated by Paul Galdone. Before hearing Mo Willems' parody Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, the second graders needed some familiarity with the fairy tale, and Galdone's is a straight-forward rendering. Of course some knew the story already, but the discussion afterward was our longest so far. Among the kids' contributions were Destiny's keen observations about the illustrations and Miguel's announcement of his birthday. Oh, and Huynh will soon have a baby brother or sister.

Some years ago I found Galdone's work through the recommendations in Esmé Raji Codell's How to Get Your Child to Love Reading. Along with Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook, Codell's guide is a must-have resource for people who share books with young children.

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2. Second Grade: Thumbs Up for "The Incredible Book Eating Boy"

Another June, another school year coming to a close. Up here in New England we keep 'em in class until almost the end of the month. I've been a volunteer classroom reader for a while now, and I love it, even the unpredictable nature of the last few weeks of the academic year. I read in the afternoon, and sometimes the second graders are almost sleeping, exhausted from the heat (no a.c. at this school) and other times they are buzzing around the room like bees in a hive. They are always ready to listen to a read-aloud, though.

Earlier this week I shared Oliver Jeffers' picture book The Incredible Book Eating Boy because the kids asked to hear something funny. Until it dawns on him to read books, the protagonist, Henry, eats them. Things get out of hand, naturally, before Henry's epiphany. The back cover and last few pages are missing a bit-sized chunk, and we readers talked a lot about that. I had to walk around the room and show everyone. Henry really bit it! Or did he? I'm going to buy one for the class so that the kids can pore over all the fun details. (I had to return my copy to the library.)

Other books that the group enjoyed include Harry Allard and James Marshall's Miss Nelson Is Missing!, Meg Medina and Claudio Muñoz's Tia Isa Wants a Car, Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri's Dragons Love Tacos, and Dav Pilkey's wacky Dogzilla and Kat Kong. Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin's Giggle, Giggle, Quack garnered the most guffaws.

I run into alumni—third, fourth, fifth graders—all the time at the school. "Remember when you used to read with us?" they ask. The kids grow up so quickly. What a gift I've been given to be able to spend time with them and talk about books.

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3. Bloggers Choose Children's Book Award Winners

Announced this morning: the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards, a.k.a., the Cybils. You'll find many ideas for good reading in the lists of winners. 

Take a look.

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4. Norman's Best Books of 2013

Today I'm turning over the space to my husband, Norman Trepner, an avid reader and an all-around good guy. Take it away, Norm. Susan

Once again Susan has asked me to share with her Chicken Spaghetti friends my favorite books I’ve read this past year, and once again I’m more than happy to comply!

9780670026630LThree of my top ten books were stories about teens and tweens. A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki, is the story of a 16 year old Japanese girl who writes in her diary about her 104-year old Buddhist nun great-grandmother, and the book also tells of a woman in a remote British Columbian island who finds the diary. At times laugh-out-loud funny and at times disturbing, this book, which was short listed for the Man Booker Prize, is a must read. Another powerful book that was short listed for the Man Booker Prize is We Need New Names, by NoViolet Bulawayo. This excellent debut novel follows the protagonist, named Darling, from her life as a 10 year old in Zimbabwe to her teen years living in Michigan. The third book, Brewster, by Mark Slouka, is the story of two teenage boys from troubled homes who become close friends. Set in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s in working class Brewster, New York, this hard-to-put down book is storytelling at its finest. 

Four other fiction titles that made my top ten were: Someone, by Alice McDermott; The Sound of Things Falling, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean); TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann; and The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride. I could think of no better way to describe McDermott’s extraordinary novel about an ordinary woman than Janet Maslin does in her October 6th review for the New York Times, “…quietly exquisite…a wonderfully modest title for such a fine-tuned, beautiful book filled with so much universal experience, such haunting imagery, such urgent matters of life and death.” Set in Colombia, The Sound of Things Falling centers on a law professor who investigates the life of a man shot down on the streets of Bogotá. This deeply affecting book stayed with me long after I read the last page. TransAtlantic and The Good Lord Bird are both enjoyable novels that are based on historical events and figures. I found the 2013 National Book Award winner for fiction, The Good Lord Bird, to be the more imaginative and creative of the two, but I recommend both books. 

Three nonfiction books made my top ten list.

  • Wave is Sonali Deraniyagala’s memoir about the loss of her family in the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. The author’s direct and brave telling of this devastating event and the impact on her life makes this otherwise too-sad-to-read book not only readable, but outstanding.
  • Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, by Andrew Solomon, was a highly acclaimed, 2012 book that I initially had no interest in reading due in part to the length of the book (900+ pages) and in part due to the subject matter (families of individuals affected by a spectrum of cognitive, physical or psychological differences). Then I heard an interview with the author on NPR and this became a book I had to read. Solomon writes with compassion and intelligence about people with differences and parenting to these people, and the book comes to a wonderful full circle as the author talks about his own challenges and feelings and his longing to be a parent.
  • Compared to Wave and Far from the Tree, George Packer’s book The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, was practically light reading…yet it wasn’t. In alternating chapters Packer follows the lives of several individuals struggling to make it, and profiles various political, economic, and cultural figures (including Newt Gingrich, Colin Powell, Oprah, Sam Walton, Jay Z, and Andrew Breitbart). The result is a fast-moving socioeconomic history of the United States from the late 1970’s to 2012, and it is a warning about our country’s future if we can’t move toward a more just and balanced society. Last fall The Unwinding won the National Book Award for nonfiction.

9781594488399LBeyond my top ten, there are many books I read this past year that I would recommend. In no particular order they are as follows: The River Swimmer: Novellas, by Jim Harrison (two strong stories, with the title story being the more engaging of the two); the comic Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls: Essays, Etc., by David Sedaris (a pleasant change from some of my more intense books!); The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (descriptions of the individuals and families of Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Greenwich Village more than compensate for an unbelievable story); Memories of a Marriage, by Louis Begley (a great dissection of a marriage between a socialite and her working class-turned successful husband); The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer (I really liked this book that follows the lives of a group of friends who meet at a summer camp in the 1970’s even though at times I found myself playing Match the Character to the Real Life Person—think Steve Jobs, Alex Kelly); The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri (not Lahiri’s best but still a worthwhile read); Harvest, by Jim Crace (if my top 10 list were a top 11 list, this book would be on it); Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight (the story is told in short chapters, texts, e-mails, and blog postings --- yes, it’s a gimmick but the plot and characters pulled me in and kept me engrossed); andIndiscretion, by Charles Dubow (high society, beautiful people, Manhattan, Paris, the Hamptons, betrayal, loss, and heartbreak; okay, I’ve sunk that low…and I loved it!)

Siege13-webI won’t list all of the all the books I managed to read this past year, but instead I’ll end by mentioning three good short story collections and my winner of the Stick with It & You Will Be Rewarded Award. The best short stories I read were Damage Control, by Amber Dermont; Siege 13, by Tamas Dobozy; and Tenth of December, by George Saunders. And the winner of the Stick with It Award is...drum roll please...The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton. I felt compelled to read this book because I wanted to read all this year’s books that were short listed for the Man Booker Prize. For the first 350 pages of this 848-page book I had to push myself to keep going, but then something clicked and the book got better and better and better. Should The Luminaries have won the Booker Prize? In my humble opinion, no, but nevertheless it was very good book that I’d recommend to people with patience...and time!

Happy reading to us all in 2014!

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5. Thank You, Readers

J10062In the book What W.H. Auden Can Do For You (Princeton University Press, 2013), Alexander McCall Smith writes,  "[The poet W.H.] Auden reminds us to be grateful, and that is something that we increasingly need to be reminded of in a culture of expectations and entitlement."

McCall laments a consumerist culture in which we're pushed to complain rather than express gratitude. But "Why not say thank you?" McCall Smith asks.

He goes on to say that Auden's work points us in a appreciative direction because the poems after 1940 "tend to be poems of celebration, written with great charity and with love for the ordinary pleasures of life." 

McCall Smith's lovely book is a good one for this season, and reminds me to say thank you, readers, for continuing to visit Chicken Spaghetti. I hope your holidays are grand.

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6. Chicken Spaghetti's Best Kids' Books 2013: A List of Lists and Awards

6a00d834516d9569e200e550070a188834-150wiYippee! It's "best books of the year" season. Once again I'll be gathering the online lists of best kids' books right here. The Chicken Spaghetti compilation features books published in 2013, no matter when the list or awards are announced. Readers can expect to see this post amended many times, especially over the next few months.

Looking for older titles? Since this blog has been around a while, you'll find more Chicken Spaghetti lists at the following links: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Don't miss Largehearted Boy's amazing annual roundup of all the best-book lists.

And please do give me a holler if you see any I've overlooked, via Susan_Thomsen on Twitter or c_spaghetti AT yahoo DOT com.

*****

AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books: Finalists and winners

Air & Space magazine/Smithsonian: Aviation- and space-themed children's books

Alex Awards

Amazon: Ages 0-2 (board books)
Amazon: Ages 3-5
Amazon: Ages 6-8
Amazon: Ages 9-12
Amazon: Editors' picks, including teen and young adults

Amelia Bloomer Project (feminist books for children)

American Indian Youth Literature Award

Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) Awards

Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC): Tween Recommended Reads (PDF file; books from 2012 and 2013)

Band of Thebes. 92 writers recommend best LGBT books of the year, including a couple of YA titles. (Some older books on this list, too.)

Bank Street Children's Book Committee Awards

Barnes and Noble

Batchelder Award (for books in translation)

Bellingham (WA) Herald

Belmont (MA) Public Library Children's Room

Blue Peter Book Awards shortlist (UK)

Boing Boing Gift Guide: Books (some YA and kids' titles in a longer list)

Book Diaries: Picture books

Bookie Woogie

Booklist: Arts
Booklist: Audiobooks
Booklist: Black history
Booklist: Crafts and gardening
Booklist: Religion and spirituality
Booklist: Science and health
Booklist: Sports

BookPage

Brain Pickings

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Annual gift guide (PDF) includes 2013 titles and older books. Also, Blue Ribbons (best-of-the-year books).

BuzzFeed Books

CONTINUED AFTER BREAK

Caldecott Medal

Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children's Video

Carnegie Medal nominations (UK)

CBCA [Children's Book Council of Australia] Tasmania Blog

Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature . Via CBC (Children's Book Council) Diversity

Charlotte Zolotow Award. Honors picture-book text. (PDF file)

Chicago Tribune: Books as gifts

Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (Cybils). Finalists and winners.

Children's Book Review: Board books
Children's Book Review: Elementary and Middle Grade
Children's Book Review: Picture books
Children's Book Review: Series books
Children's Book Review: Young adult novels

Christchurch City Libraries: Best covers of New Zealand books, including a few kids' titles (New Zealand)

Christchurch Kids Blog (New Zealand)

Christian Science Monitor: "New" picture books

Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch

Cool Mom Picks: Another list of lists!

Coretta Scott King Awards

Costa Book Awards: Shortlists (scroll down on a PDF list for the children's book category) UK

EarlyWord: Best Preschool and Family Books to Give to Kids You Don't Know Very Well

Edgar Award nominations Honors mysteries; categories include juvenile and YA.

Edmonton Journal (Canada)

Ezra Jack Keats Book Award

Financial Times (Children's and YA books are toward the end.) UK

Flowering Minds: Picture books

A Fuse #8 Production, at School Library Journal: 100 Magnificent Children's Books 

Geisel Award

Globe and Mail (Canada)

Goodreads Choice Award: Graphic novels and comics (adult titles on this list, too)
Goodreads Choice Award: Middle Grade and Children's
Goodreads Choice Award: Picture books
Goodreads Choice Award: Young adult
Goodreads Choice Award: Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction

Governor General's Literary Awards. A number of categories, including some for children's books in French. (Canada)

Gransnet (UK)

Greenaway Medal nominations (UK)

Guardian (UK)

Horn Book: Fanfare

Huffington Post: Picture books
Huffington Post: Halloween books

Hudson Booksellers. Scroll down for the children's books.

Imagination Soup (gift books)

Independent (UK)

Indigo Books (Canada)

Inky Awards: Winners and shortlist (Australia)

International Reading Association (IRA)/Reading Today Online blog: Picture books

Iowa Public Radio

Irish Independent (See also Sarah Webb for an expanded version of this list.) Ireland

January Magazine (Canada)

Kirkus Reviews: Children and teens

KPCC public radio, Take Two

L.A. Times Book Prize finalists. A number of categories, including YA.

Latinas for Latino Literature

Los Angeles Public Library

Metro UK

Metro US: John Green's favorite 2013 YA novels, also James Dashner's favorites

Mingling with Words

Morris Debut YA Award

National Book Award for Young People's Literature Scroll down on page.

National Outdoor Book Awards. Including a children's book category.

National Parenting Publications (NAPPA) Awards

National Science Teachers Association: Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12

Nerdy Book Club

New Statesman: Critic Amanda Craig's picks (UK)

New York Public Library: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing (PDF), also in an interactive list
New York Public Library: Graphic novels

New York Times: Best Illustrated Children's Books
New York Times: Notable Children's Books

New Zealand Listener (NZ)

Newbery Medal

Nonfiction Detectives: Nonfiction

Noodle

NPR: Comics and graphic novels (titles for adults on this list, too)
NPR: Kids
NPR: Young adult

Odyssey Award (audiobooks)

Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children

Parents Magazine

Printz Award

Publishers Weekly: Children's fiction 
Publishers Weekly: Children's nonfiction
Publishers Weekly: Children's picture books

Pura Belpré Awards

Quill and Quire (Canada)

Rainbow Project: GLBTQ books for children and teens

Reading Rockets: Books as gifts (PDF file)

Readings (bookstore): Junior & middle fiction (Australia)
Readings (bookstore): Picture books (Australia) 
Readings (bookstore): Young adult novels (Australia)

ReadKiddoRead

Redbook

San Francisco Chronicle

Sarah Webb (Ireland)

Schneider Family Book Award

School Library Journal: Adult Books 4 Teens
School Library Journal: Audiobooks
School Library Journal: Fiction
School Library Journal: Nonfiction
School Library Journal: Picture Books

School Library Journal's Top 10 Graphic novels (chosen by the Good Comics for Kids bloggers) and Latino-themed books

Sibert Informational Book Medal

Sidney Taylor Book Awards, sponsored by the Association of Jewish Libraries (PDF file)

Slate: Dan Kois' favorite books (list includes titles for grown-ups and kids)
Slate: Science books for kids

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books: YA Romance

Society of Illustrators: Best children's book art

Stonewall Book Awards

Tablet: Jewish books for kids and teens

Telegraph: Older children (UK)
Telegraph: Young children (UK)

TimeOut London (UK)

TimeOut New York Kids: Pop-up books

Toronto Public Library: Best books for children under 5 (Canada)

Washington Post
Washington Post: New science books

Wall Street Journal: Gift books

WAMU/Kojo Nnamdi Show

What Do We Do All Day? Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Words Without Borders: Holiday Reading List (2013 books in translation and older titles; a few kids books on the list)

YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association): Amazing Audiobooks nominations and Top Ten
YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
YALSA: Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA) nominations and final list
YALSA: Morris Award finalists 

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7. Alice Munro, Nobel Prize Winner. Yeah!

Don't you love that Twitter announcement! 

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Alice Munro, "master of the contemporary short story." As a fan of Munro's writing, I am marking the following To Read:

"Alice Munro, LLD'76, wins 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature." Jason Winders at the Western News. Good local angle from the University of Western Ontario, which Munro attended. Later she was the writer in residence at the school.

"Editing Alice Munro." Deborah Treisman, at the New Yorker.

"Alice Munro, Our Chekhov." Critic James Wood, at the New Yorker.

"Margaret Atwood: Alice Munro's Road to Nobel Literature Was Not Easy," at the Guardian.

"Alice Munro: AS Byatt, Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín hail the Nobel laureate," at the Guardian.

"Why Alice Munro Won the Nobel Prize in Literature," by Jens Hansegard. Remarks from the press conference following yesterday's announcement, at the Wall Street Journal.

"Alice Munro, Nobel Winner and a Writer's Peerless Teacher." Hector Tobar, at the Los Angeles Times 

"A Beginner's Guide to Alice Munro." A timely re-run of an older piece, by Ben Dolnick, at the Millions.

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8. Catching Up with the "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards, Baby Books, and More

The annual "Growing Good Kids" awards, for children's books with an ecological theme, were announced last summer. You'll find a list of the winners here. The American Horticultural Society and the Junior Master Gardener program are the sponsors.

Catching up on some spring news, I was thrilled to learn that the annual "Best Books for Babies" list is still being compiled. I had thought this list had gone the way of a defunct organization in Pittsburgh. My bad! Yay for the project's organizers, the Carnegie Library, the Fred Rogers Company, and the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children. 

The New York Public Library recently unveiled its list of the best 100 children's books of the last 100 years, which goes along with an exhibit at the library.

Soon to be added to this blog's project "The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards" are the following, some of which were announced quite a while ago. (I go by the year the book is published. Soon I'll start the 2013 list of lists.)

Bank Street College, Center for Children's Literature. Books of the Year.

Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. Honoring titles from both 2012 and 2013.

Canadian Children's Book Centre: TD Canadian Children's Literature Award finalists

Children's Book Council of Australia: Book of the Year Awards.

Children's Choice Book Awards

Emu's Debuts (blog): Best under the radar books of 2012

Ezra Jack Keats Book Award

Jane Addams Children's Book Award 

South Asia Book Award, sponsored by the South Asia National Outreach Consortium

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9. Reading with Second Graders: A Squirrelly Story

Eastern Grey Squirrel

 

School has started and with it my volunteer gig as a classroom reader in a city school. After a year with third graders, I am back with the second grade. I follow the same teacher wherever she goes. If Ms. B. heads to kindergarten next year, I'll tag along.

I'm finding that I need to readjust to a younger group; some of my picture-book selections so far have been too wordy. And too big-wordy at that. But Earl the Squirrel? Perfect! It's one of my favorites anyway. Published in 2005 (fifty years after it was written), the book is by Don Freeman, of Corduroy fame. The young Earl gains some independence after discovering an unusual way to find acorns. The plot involves a bull who sees red.

Since taking a workshop at the Eric Carle Museum, I've spent more class time with the art, talking about a book's cover, end pages, and so on. Actually I try to get the kids talking and thinking about the book's art. They are great observers and always notice things that I didn't. Freeman used scratchboard for Earl the Squirrel, which features only three colors: black, white, and a very important red. The students got a real kick of the different ways the red color was employed.

The story of how the Earl manuscript was re-discovered in Don Freeman's papers can be found here. 

Photograph by BirdPhotos.com (BirdPhotos.com) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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10. Feeling a Warm Embrace from a Tortilla

Every once and a while, I come across some true weirdness in the New York Times. I actually love when the Times gets odd and unpredictable. A phrase from today's paper (online edition) inspired this doggerel poem, which I wrote before reading the article. It was just too delicious to pass up.

 

Feeling a Warm Embrace from a Tortilla

(headline on the front page of the New York Times, web edition, Wednesday, October 2, 2013)

When I hugged a cucumber,

It didn't hug me back

Cold, lifeless, green,

It stared without seeing,

wordless, rejecting, and cold.

I turned to the tortilla,

Soon to become my taco.

And wrapped it 'round my shoulders,

Savoring its warm embrace,

This humble shawl of corn,

Destined for the dinner plate.

A comfort food who

Put the cuke to shame.

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11. Third Grade Picture Book Read-Alouds

The last school year was a good one for reading aloud with third graders. After participating in an online class on the Caldecott Medal and a workshop on the "whole book approach" at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, I feel like both our class discussions and my book choices improved. 

Here are the best of the books I read aloud in 2012-2013. The children were great about drawing connections and seeing parallels, often coming up with things I had not noticed.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, by Mo Willems (Balzer & Bray, 2012) and The Three Bears, by Paul Galdone (Clarion, 1972). Willems' spin on the classic tale tickled me, but the kids especially appreciated the Galdone version and even laughed more at it. The exact opposite of what I expected—which is one reason I love reading with a group like this. You just never know.

Veronica, by Roger Duvoisin (Knopf, 1961, 2006).  A hippo with a big behind at sea in the big city, where she is most definitely "conspicuous." Fun way to teach everyone a new word. As a big fan of Duvoisin's Petunia books, I want to track down Our Veronica Goes to Petunia's Farm. I didn't realize that the two had ever met.

The Funny Little Woman, written by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent (Dutton, 1972). Winner of the 1973 Caldecott, this Japanese folk tale and another, The Furry-Legged Teapot (Marshall Cavendish, 2007),  provoked long, on-topic conversations. Tim Myers wrote the latter, and Robert McGuire illustrated it. The class loved the oni (ogres) in The Funny Little Woman and the tanuki (raccoon dog) in the other. 

Library Lion, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick, 2006). The kids pointed out that I favored books about animals who don't fit in at first. Hmm. Little therapists in the making?

Dragons Love Tacos, written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (Dial, 2012). Wonderfully funny.

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems That Squeak, Soar, and Roar, edited by J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic, 2012). I read five or six short poems, then left it in the classroom for a few weeks so that everyone got a chance to read as much as he or she wanted. Very popular. Large color photographs of animals enhance the book's appeal. 

Me and Momma and Big John, written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by William Low (Candlewick, 2012). Momma is a stone cutter at New York's unfinished Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I chose this one because it was an honor book for the Charlotte Zolotow Award, which recognizes picture book text. The Zolotow winner, Each Kindness (written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis), was also on our list. There was not a huge conversation about it the day I read the book. Months later, though, someone brought it up in regard to another story, and several kids chimed in with details. They really remembered this picture book and its lessons on inclusion well. Each Kindness (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2012) also won a Coretta Scott King Award author honor.

Owl Moon, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr (Philomel, 1987), is a beautiful book; in fact, it won the Caldecott Medal. This selection was the biggest surprise to me in that the class did not respond to it much. Too quiet? Too outdoorsy for the screen-time generation? Maybe it works better one-on-one. I remember my own kiddo liking it.

It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw (Lee & Low, 2012). I wrote about our delightful experience with Don Tate and R. Gregory Christie's book earlier back in January.

Broken Beaks, written by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and illustrated by Robert R. Ingpen (Michelle Anderson, 2003) A touching story about a homeless man and an injured sparrow who befriend each other. It provides an gentle opening for talking about mental illness, too.

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team, written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Steven Salerno (Clarion, 2012), made a fun start to spring. The boys and girls had just read Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates (written by Jonah Winter, with art by Raul Colon; Atheneum, 2005) in class, so they had a lot to say.

Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing, written by Judi Barrett and drawn by Ron Barrett (Atheneum, 1970). I brought something really fun and silly for the last reading of the year, and told the third graders that this was the kind of book they could read to younger siblings, cousins, or friends. After all, it contains many hilarious visual jokes. I reminded the students that they were role models. We talked about what that meant, and everyone piped up with an idea of whom he or she could read to over the summer.

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12. Good Morning, and Happy 4th

Yawn. Stretch. Um, good morning.

It's March 16th, right? Snow still on the ground?

(My last post was on March 15th.)

What! It's July 4th? So, that's what all the noise is about. 

Oh, dear. I have missed a day or two a few months. We're all fine, the chickens are fine (and sassy), and the summer is really fine. My son, J., and I are listening to an audiobook of The Outsiders, narrated by Jim Fyfe. I cannot remember if I ever read the young adult novel before, but hearing it this way is wonderful. Fyfe does a great job with different voices for all the characters.

My 13-year-old Minecraft devotee must read the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf this summer for school. I refuse to make any comments indicating doubt here. Fortunately, there's an audiobook for that one, too.

I've been reading a lot since I'm taking a Coursera course called "The Fiction of Relationship" and just finished up Kafka's Metamorphosis for the first time ever. Gregor Samsa the bug made me incredibly sad. (Pssst: why don't you join me as a fellow student in the fall for "Modern and Contemporary American Poetry"?)

My year with the sweet class of third-grade rowdies is over, and we had a great time reading together and talking about books. I hope to post about what we read soon. At year's end I was invited to a third-grade pool party. Featuring an in-ground pool, it was noted with pride. The other details—date, time, address—were not spelled out, but I loved the thought nonetheless.

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13. Ides of March Award Roundup, 3.15.13

For all you list-crazy folks, here are some more awards and finalists that I've heard about in the last couple of weeks. 

CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist. This UK award is the equivalent of the Newbery. CILIP stands for Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.

CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist. Similar to the Carnegie shortlist, above, this list includes some American books, too. The prize is similar to the Caldecott.

Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Awards for Children's Books

Bankstreet College of Education Children's Book Committee: Children's Book Awards

Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Award Winners and Honorees, presented by the Society for Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).

Blue Peter Book Awards (UK)

Bram Stoker Award finalists. These prizes, sponsored by the Horror Writers Association, include a YA category. News via Locus Online. (Hat tip: A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy.)

Bologna Ragazzi Digital Prize for Non-fiction. News via Achockablog.

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14. Catching Up

Hey, y'all! I hibernated for a few weeks during the cold weather, and then the robins returned and reminded me that it's almost spring and time to post. This morning, though, whew. We're having quite a wind storm, and a small tree fell on top of the backyard chicken coop. I made a quick dash outside to determine that all was fine. The girls are inside the hutch, most likely complaining and contemplating a rent strike.

Anyway, back to books.

Here are some recent book awards and award nominations.

The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards, a.k.a. the Cybils. Many categories, from book apps to young adult fiction.

Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award

Nebula Award nominees, sponsored by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. This list includes the finalists for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Red House Children's Book Award (UK)

Waterstones Children's Book Prize shortlists (UK)

Stella Prize longlist (Australia). Honoring women's writing. The nominees include at least one YA book.

Australian Independent Bookseller Awards shortlists. Including a kids' book category.

National Book Critics Circle Awards nominees. (Honoring adult books only.) Winners announced tomorrow, Feb. 28.

Scottish Children's Book Awards shortlist

Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year (UK). Funny! All nominated books are for grown-ups, as far as I know.

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15. Newbery, Caldecott Tomorrow

The Caldecott and Newbery Medals, the two most prestigious awards for US children's literature, will be announced tomorrow (Monday, January 28th) morning at a meeting of the American Library Association. Details here

The Caldecott "honors the illustrator of the year's most distinguished American picture book for children," according to ALA's website, and the Newbery goes to the author of "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." 

Author/librarian Elizabeth Bird speculates about who might win, over at the blog A Fuse #8 Production

A number of other prizes for kids' books will be announced, too.

Meanwhile, here are some book-related accolades from other organizations:

CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center) Choices  (PDF file)

Charlotte Zolotow Award. Honoring picture book writing.

Edgar Awards. Sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America. Nominees in a number of categories of books, including juvenile and young adult.

Marsh Children's Literature in Translation Award (UK)

Orbis Pictus Award. For "outstanding nonfiction for children." Sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). PDF file.

Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction

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16. Poetry Friday: Copy What?

I worry
about


copyright.

Do I have 
permission
to post an entire work, a photograph, a painting by
a poet? A lyricist? An artist?
Public domain? What's that?
Fair Use? Who's she?
Is Intellectual Property
really that smart?

Copyright resources
abound.

There's the Cardinal. 
Copyright & Fair Use at the Stanford University Libraries.
And Gov.
US Copyright Office at the Library of Congress
Go, Gophers.
Understanding Fair Use at the University of Minnesota Libraries.
Plus Eff.
Electronic Frontier Foundation, Legal Guide for Bloggers.
Then CC.
Creative Commons.
Not to mention
Google.
Blogger copyright tips.

A college is even offering
a free course on
copyright, but I missed
the deadline.

Maybe next time?

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17. Weekend Poetry: Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Spaghetti 4

Photograph by Saroy. Source: Flickr. Used under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDervivs 2.0 Generic license. 

When I started this blog in 2005, my first idea was to make the whole thing about chicken spaghetti, a favorite casserole of my Southern childhood. I thought about posting variations on the recipe and photos of how they turned out. However, I soon realized that an audience for such a blog would be non-existent tiny. So, instead I turned my attention to kids' books, but kept the name since it seemed child-friendly.

I still think about the dish, though, and, after a Twitter search, have located my fellow casserole people. Like me, lots of other folks like their mom's version, Grandma's, Aunt So-and-So's, and when they're really pleased with their own efforts, they post pictures.

On Twitter, chicken spaghetti = happiness, and these tweets are music to my ears. I removed hash tags, added some punctuation, and stirred some of the short odes into a poem. Here goes:

 

Chicken Spaghetti: A Found Poem from Twitter

Y'all, I can cook.

Sauteeing burns my eyes

but it is worth it

in the end.

My dish!!

Chicken spaghetti.

Remember how excited we got

when we thought about

chicken spaghetti?

Ya girl throws down

chicken spaghetti

                    and garlic bread.

Anna Beth is at it again.

Chicken spaghetti!

Chicken spaghetti, rolls, corn on a cob,

                    kiss the cook.

And on the 8th day

God made chicken spaghetti,

and all was good.

I'm cooking collard greens, 

chicken spaghetti and fried porkchops!! 

Jalapeño cornbread! Boom!

                                                  If you can cook chicken spaghetti, I'll probably

                                                                    marry you. 

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18. "The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap"

Although we take satisfaction in being a safe place for people to tell their stories, please don't get the impression that running a bookshop is all bittersweetness and light. Much of it is dusting and heavy lifting. 

from The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, by Wendy Welch (St. Martin's Press, 2012)

A charming tale of "friendship, community, and the uncommon pleasure of a good book," this memoir is about two newcomers to a small Appalachian town who open a used book shop. Wendy Welch writes with compassion and smart-ass humor as she describes her and her husband Jack's adventures in "being independent booksellers in the face of big-box stores and e-readers." I thoroughly enjoyed The Little Bookstore, and had to finish it in a hurry as my eightysomething mother had already asked me twice to borrow the book.

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19. 2012 Best: NYC and LA Libraries, Science Books, Comics

Every day a new "best of the year" lineup appears, and our wish list grows. Recent addtions to The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards include the following:

 New York Public Library: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing

Los Angeles Public Library:  Children's books and  teen books

New York Times Book Review: Notable Children's Books of 2012

Booklist: Top ten science & health books for youth

Good Comics for Kids' gift guide. New and older titles on this list.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books: Gift guide. (2010-2012 titles on list.)

Geek Mom: Gift guide of books for adults and children

The Guardian (UK)

Tablet Magazine: Best Jewish-themed books for children

YALSA [Young Adult Library Services Association] Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young AdultsFinalists

The Goodreads Choice Awards were announced.

Another timely arrival is Hanukkah Read Up!, a PDF file listing the best Hanukkah books, from the Association of Jewish Libraries.  

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20. 2012 Best: Amanda Craig, NPR's "Backseat" Reads, Pop-Ups, Etc.

More lists for all you list lovers! You'll find another good list of lists at SCC English, the blog of the English department at Dublin's St. Columba's College. The SCC list o' lists is geared toward books for adults.

100 Scope Notes At this fine blog, new to School Library Journal's roster, two school librarians choose the best of the year. 

Amanda Craig. A best list from the Times' (UK) children's book critic. 

Atlantic Wire. YA/Middle-Grade Book Awards.

Booklist's Editors' Choice selections.

Horn Book Fanfare

Ireland's Gutter Bookshop list includes books for children.

Morris Award finalists. Prize honors YA books by debut authors. Winners announced in January.

MotherReader. She knows her picture books.

NPR: "The year's outstanding 'backseat' reads, for ages 9-14"

San Francisco Chronicle. Holiday gift guide for children's books and Christmas books.

Smithsonian.com's Top Books of 2012. Not a list of children's books, but plenty of good gift ideas for teens and grown-ups.

TimeOut New York Kids: Best pop-up books for pre-K and elementary-school kids

Vogue. Good list of books for adults. (My first job out of college was at Vogue. I learned a lot there!)

You'll find many more at Chicken Spaghetti's page "The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards."

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21. Norman's Best Books of 2012

Note from Susan: For the fourth year in a row, my husband, Norman, has written about his favorite books of the year. He's the reading-est guy I know, so seeing him hard at work on his list always makes me happy, knowing that I'm about to read—and sharesome great recommendations. Hit it, Norm.

As the year 2012 comes to a close, I am happy to share with Susan’s readers my list of the best books that I’ve read over the last 12 months. The three most powerful were The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo, and Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman. These books were so well-written and engrossing that they were hard to put down and stayed with me long after I finished them, despite the difficult topics (the effects of war in The Yellow Birds; the devastating poverty of people living in an Indian slum in Behind the Beautiful Forevers; and the hard life of a young girl growing up in a trailer park outside of Reno, Nevada, in Girlchild). The Yellow Birds and Behind the Beautiful Forevers received the wide critical acclaim and recognition they deserved; one was a finalist for this year’s National Book Award in fiction and the other was the nonfiction winner. I hope that over time more people will read and appreciate the excellent writing and unique storytelling in Ms. Hassman’s book.

Adding two more to come up with my top 5 reads of the year is easy: This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz and The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín. Díaz’s collection of stories about love and family is at times moving and at times laugh-out-loud funny, but always smart and entertaining. And Colm Tóibín is just a beautiful storyteller, and this novella about Jesus’ mother is both courageous and thought-provoking.

With the exception of Girchild, I’d expect that most people who like to read will have heard of the above books. So, now I’ll turn to some very good, solid books that were not as widely discussed and publicized. On the top of my “next of the best” list is A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer DuBois. This fascinating book, with a great title, moves between time and place as it tells the story of a young woman in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who, like her father, has Huntington’s disease, and a young Russian chess champion looking to unseat Vladimir Putin. Taking place over a non-linear span of 30 years and two continents, this story is a must read.  Other good novels that took me to less familiar places are Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron (set in Rwanda), The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (set in North Korea), All That I Am by Anna Funder (set in Germany and London, largely in the 1930s), and The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger (partially set in Bangladesh).

Three excellent books with young protagonists are Me and You written by Niccolò Ammaniti and translated by Kylee Doust, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, and The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau. The first was a best-seller in Italy, and with good reason; the second, which came to me via a recommendation from a children’s librarian at the Westport Public Library, is a young adult novel that could be read by anyoneor I should say should be read by everyoneover 15 years old; and the third is a hard-to-read yet hard-to-put-down story of a teenager whose family is killed in an unnamed Muslim country and a mother in the United States who wants to find out about the death of her soldier son. Though not quite as memorable as those three, I would also recommend The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont, which is a suspenseful coming-of-age story set in a boarding school. On the other end of the age spectrum, I enjoyed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, which tells the story of a retired man who walks across England to visit a terminally ill old friend and co-worker, and How It All Began by Penelope Lively, a well-crafted work centered on a woman in her 70’s.

And what would a year be without a few good family sagas and dramas? My top choices are The O’Briens by Peter Behrens, I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits, Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff, The World Without You by Joshua Henkin, The Round House by Louise Erdrich, Heft by Liz Moore, Alys, Always by Harriet Lane, The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, and The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg.

Finally, I’ll pass along some other titles well worth the read:

  • Defending Jacob by William Landay (best crime drama I read all year);
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander (I found the short stories of Englander and Díaz to be far more satisfying that Alice Munro’s stories in Dear Life);
  • Watergate by Thomas Mallon (best historical fiction);
  • Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie and To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through The Civil Rights Movement by Charlayne Hunter-Gault (both excellent non-fiction books);
  • The Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead (a romance and a war story not to be missed); and
  • Gathering of Waters by Bernice L. McFadden (most imaginative book I read in 2012).

As always, I’d like to thank Martha, Maggie, and David, who make up our little book group of four and are three of the most well-read and intelligent people I know; my friends and fellow riders in the Tuesday morning Spinning class at the Wilton Y who arrive before our 6 a.m. class and sometimes stay after class ends so that we can discuss life and books (if only we didn’t have to cycle like fiends for an hour!); and my wife, Susan, and our son, a.k.a. Junior, both of whom share my love for reading and make me realize that life is way more interesting beyond the pages.

 Happy reading to all in 2013!

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22. Bill Traylor & the Third Graders


MainAt the start of the school year in September, I found out that Ms. B. had moved up from 2nd grade to 3rd. Ms. B. was the teacher in the public school classroom where I read picture books aloud for the last two years, and I insisted on following her she invited me along to Grade 3. I happily made the switch. Ms. B. runs an efficient class in which the children seem happy, and she treats her students with respect. There are 30 kids in this year's group, much too big a contingent for the reading rug, which is both good and bad. No more elbow wars among the back-row listeners, but harder for everyone to see the pictures in the book. I try to walk around alot.

Because of weather and consequent half days, delayed report-card conferences, and so on, I've been lucky to read once or twice a month. (As a volunteer, I aim for weekly.) But we've still had a good time. Well, except for the day I read Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats, a Seussian tale of stray felines, when guffaw-inducing descriptions of dog house-training challenges (completely unrelated to the book) overtook the post-reading discussion. It happens.

Several weeks before, the class and I had had the most fantastic conversation about It Jes' Happened, Don Tate's picture-book biography of Bill Traylor. A self-taught artist and former slave, Traylor (1854-1949) began creating his art in his eighties, drawing from his memories of the Alabama farm where he had grown up and lived. The kids were intrigued, and had lots to say about the book. Since they're citified Northeasterners, I explained what a mule was; the donkey-horse crosses and other animals were some of Traylor's favorite subjects. Ms. B. turned to the computer-connected Smart Board projection system and showed some examples of Traylor's work. 

One boy wanted to know about Traylor's wife: "Is she dead?" (A very third-grade response. I remember my 13-year-old at the same age.) Others wondered what happened to Traylor's children. Were author Don Tate and illustrator Gregory Christie his sons? (No, but wouldn't that be cool?) They puzzled over Traylor's living circumstances; he was homeless at times in Montgomery, AL, and sometimes bedded down in a funeral parlor. Many seemed amazed (and relieved) that museums now held many pieces of Traylor's art.

 As I was leaving the class, one of the girls pulled me aside, and quietly asked, "Are mules really real?" "Yes, " I whispered back. "They are." I loved the idea that someone thought that the hardworking farm animals were in the same magical realm as unicorns and dragons. Maybe Traylor thought so, too.

Books

Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats
Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli; illustrated by Joan Rankin
Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2001
(from our personal library of favorite picture books)

It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw
Written by Don Tate; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Lee & Low Books, 2012
(review copy)

For additional information, see  "Guest Post: Don Tate on 'It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw," at the blog Cynsations, and "Jes' a Hit: An Interview with Don Tate," at The Brown Bookshelf.

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23. For Picture Book Fans: Charlotte Zolotow Award 2013

9780399246524HThe Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced the winner of the 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award, which honors picture book text: Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis. 

CCBC also named some honor books: Flabbersmashed About You, written by Rachel Vail and illustrated by Yumi Heo; Me and Momma and Big John, written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by William Low; and Sleep Like a Tiger, written by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Nine additional titles were "highly commended." That's a lot of good reading ahead for all of us picture book aficionados.

I plan to share Each Kindness with the third graders and maybe with a couple of fourth-grade friends whose class is having troubles getting along. Monica Edinger, a fourth grade teacher in New York, reviewed the picture book at her blog, Educating Alice, citing its "exquisitely spare and poetic prose."

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24. Listening to Books, January 2013

Over at Booklist's Audiobooker blog, I came across a great roundup of lists of best audiobooks of the year. In the Guardian I see that there's a new collection of Ian Fleming's first seven James Bond novels. Wouldn't that be cool to listen to in the car?

Right now J. (age 13) likes the audio version of Cornelia Funke's Inkheart, a highly praised middle-grade fantasy from 2003. (I chose it from The Librariest's Top 20 Children's Audiobooks.) But while I appreciate Lynn Redgrave's narration and accents, by turns tony and sinister, sometimes I think that if I hear the word "book" again I may scream. Books, the love of books, book binding, book collecting, book thievery, etc., all figure into the story. Bookbookbookbookbook. Anyway, the plot is about to pick up, so perhaps that will distract me.

A favorite of ours last year was The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, written by Christopher Paul Curtis and read by LeVar Burton. Funny, sad, and thought-provoking, this autobiographical middle-grade novel details an African American family's road trip from Michigan to Alabama during a troubled time in our country's history. The Watsons was a Newbery Honor book back in 1996.

Audiobooks

Inkheart, written by Cornelia Caroline Funke and translated from the German by Anthea Bell
Read by Lynn Redgrave
Random House/Listening Library, 2003
(library copy)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis
Read by LeVar Burton
Listening Library, 2003
(library copy) 

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25. Poetry Friday: Walk This Way

Photo-2

In case you're reading this post on a mobile phone, the above work of art reads,

A poem doesn't do everything for you.
You are supposed to go on with your thinking.
You are supposed to enrich
the other person's poem with your extensions,
your uniquely personal understandings,
thus making the poem serve you.

Gwendolyn Brooks, (1917-[2000]), "Song of Winnie"

The sidewalk on the south side of 41t Street leading up to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue is called Library Way, and contains many of bronze plaques like the one above with quotations about literature and writing. Sponsored by the New York Public Library and the Grand Central Partnership, Library Way stretches from Park Avenue to Fifth, and was created by the artist Gregg LeFevre.

The Gwendolyn Brooks excerpt is about poetry, sure, but it's also an extended metaphor, encouraging an active engagement with life and the world around you. That's why I liked it so much, and took a picture one sunny morning last summer.

For other poetry posts this morning, see the roundup at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

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