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Results 26 - 50 of 77,607
26. Vincent's Starry Night and Other Stories: A Children's History of Art by Michael Bird, illustrated by Kate Evans, 336 pp, RL 4

Vincent's Starry Night and Other Stories: A Children's History of Art perfectly pairs writer, art historian and radio broadcaster Michael Bird with the London based Laurence King Publishing, one of the world's leading publishers of books on the creative arts, acclaimed for their inventiveness, beautiful design and authoritative texts. From a cave in Germany 40,000 years ago to 21st century artist Ai Weiwei, Bird divides the history of art into eight periods, traveling the world from Cambodia to Egypt, Europe, China and New York City, featuring the stories of more than 68 artists. The photographed art of featured artists is paired with illustrations by Kate Evans that help tell the stories that Bird uses to tell the stories of the art and the artists.

Vincent's Starry Night and Other Stories: A Child's History of Art can be read from cover to cover, the narrative is so entertaining and engaging. I could easily see this book being bedtime reading for many families. After all, art is a form of visual story telling. Bird has a way, sometimes playful, of putting the reader in the room with the artist. Chapter 33, which features Diego Velázquez and his 1656 painting The Maids of Honor, begins, "'Boo!' Diego Velázquez jumps. His brush leaves a black smudge on his forehead - that is, the forehead of his own portrait, which he is painting just here, to the side of his enormous painting of the royal family. He turns to see five faces looking up at him." The little Princess Margarita Teresa and her maids of honor, along with their companions, the dwarfs Maria and Nicolas. In the part Revolution! 1750 - 1860, Bird puts readers on the dangerous streets of Paris when Jacques-Louis David learns of the murder of his friend Marat and how he comes to compose his famous portrait of the radical journalist and Revolutionary politician. From David, we find Goya in Spain and his decision to paint the violence, suffering, and helplessness of his people amidst the chaos of the time.

Occasional maps place the artists and their art as well as give a feel for the time period. His narratives also help make sense of some modern art, the meaning and important of which might escape many of us. Chapter 54 finds Marcel Duchamp, sitting on a park bench in New York City as World War I raged on, reading a letter from his sister, a nurse in Paris. She is cleaning out his studio and he wonders what she has done with his piece, Bicycle Wheel. Interestingly, the original was lost in 1913 and what we see today are replicas. The rest of Duchamp's story about what he thinks defines art and the ways in which his ideas challenge those of most others. Vincent's Starry Night and Other Stories: A Children's History of Art ends with Ai Weiwei and his Sunflower Seeds installation. For his final story, Bird imagines a brother and sister visiting the work in 2011. Told not to touch the porcelain seeds by a guard, the older sister decides to research the artist and make her own seed. The story ends with a Google search and a view of Weiwei on CCTV as he opens the front gates of his home in Beijing, where he is still on house arrest. A poignant ending to a marvelous book that should sit on the shelf of every child's room. If you take nothing else away from Vincent's Starry Night and Other Stories: A Children's History of Art, even if we don't understand a work of art, ultimately art helps us understand what it means to be human.

Source: Review Copy

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27. Movie Month, day 15

So Kailana (The Written Word) and I really LOVED participating in Jenni Elyse's 30 Days of Books.  We thought it would be fun to do a movie-theme list of questions!

Today's question: A movie that disappointed you...

Into the Woods

I love fairy tales. I love musicals. So why didn't I even like this one?! I still don't know this one really didn't work for me. It just didn't.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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28. Thinking about Writing Strategies-Inspired by Jennifer Serravallo

Last week, I attended the Connecticut Reading Association’s convention, and I was lucky enough to hear and see some of my literacy heroes. Jennifer Serravallo presented about writing instruction, and her presentation made… Continue reading

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29. The Plot to Kill Hitler

The Plot to Kill Hitler. Patricia McCormick. 2016. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The Gestapo would arrive any minute.

Premise/plot: Patricia McCormick tells the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for elementary-aged readers. It is subtitled pastor, spy, and unlikely hero. Young people likely haven't heard of him at all. So this is a great introduction. The prologue starts at the climax. The first chapter takes us back to his childhood days where we learn that he is a thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent dreamer. This one is very family-focused for the conspiracy to kill Hitler involved many of his family. Year by year, readers learn the how and the why. Notably, readers learn of many opportunities that would have kept him safe and out of the war and the dangers and risks of being in Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer rejected the easy way out believing that no action was still an action. In other words, failure to rebel and speak out against Hitler was to support him. Silence and escape were unthinkable.

My thoughts: I knew of him as a Christian writer and thinker. I have read The Cost of Discipleship. I knew he died during the war at a concentration camp, I did not know that he was there not just for preaching and proclaiming against the regime, but was in fact an actual spy and co-conspirator. So I learned something!

This one was a quick read.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. Movie Month, day 12

So Kailana (The Written Word) and I really LOVED participating in Jenni Elyse's 30 Days of Books.  We thought it would be fun to do a movie-theme list of questions! Feel free to switch "favorite" to "least favorite" if that is more applicable to you!

Today's question: If you could change one thing about any movie, it would be....

Unbroken is a movie that I really enjoyed. What I found frustrating about the ending was that the book had a very strong, very powerful, very emotional ENDING where you learn about his coming to faith in Christ, and how he lived the rest of his life. His testimony was so good, so very, very good. That for a bio-pic to completely ignore the most important part of his life was just really disappointing. Not surprising. But disappointing.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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31. Review of the Day: Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

fivechildrenwesternFive Children on the Western Front
By Kate Saunders
Delacorte Press (an imprint of Random House)
ISBN: 978-0-553-49793-9
Ages 9-12
On shelves now

Anytime someone writes a new prequel or sequel to an old children’s literary classic, the first question you have to ask is, “Was this necessary?” And nine times out of ten, the answer is a resounding no. No, we need no further adventures in the 100-Acre Woods. No, there’s very little reason to speculate on precisely what happened to Anne before she got to Green Gables. But once in a while an author gets it right. If they’re good they’ll offer food for thought, as when Jacqueline Kelly wrote, Return to the Willows (the sequel to The Wind in the Willows) and Geraldine McCaughrean wrote Peter Pan in Scarlet. And if they’re particularly talented, then they’ll do the series one better. They’ll go and make it smart and pertinent and real and wonderful. They may even improve upon the original. The idea that someone would write a sequel to Five Children and It (and to a lesser extent The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet) is well-nigh short of ridiculous. I mean, you could do it, sure, but why? What’s the point? Well, as author Kate Saunders says of Nesbit’s classic, “Bookish nerd that I was, it didn’t take me long to work out that two of E. Nesbit’s fictional boys were of exactly the right ages to end up being killed in the trenches…” The trenches of WWI, that is. Suddenly we’ve an author who dares to meld the light-hearted fantasy of Nesbit’s classic with the sheer gut-wrenching horror of The War to End All Wars. The crazy thing is, she not only pulls it off but she creates a great novel in the process. One that deserves to be shelved alongside Nesbit’s original for all time.

Once upon a time, five children found a Psammead, or sand fairy, in their back garden. Nine years later, he came back. A lot has happened since this magical, and incredibly grumpy, friend was in the children’s lives. The world stands poised on the brink of WWI. The older children (Cyril, Anthea, Robert, and Jane) have all become teenagers, while the younger kids (Lamb and newcomer Polly) are the perfect age to better get to know the old creature’s heart. As turns out, he has none, or very little to speak of. Long ago, in ancient times, he was worshipped as a god. Now the chickens have come home to roost and he must repent for his past sins or find himself stuck in a world without his magic anymore. And the children? No magic will save them from what’s about to come.

A sequel to a book published more than a hundred years ago is a bit more of a challenge than writing one published, say, fifty. The language is archaic, the ideas outdated, and then there’s the whole racism problem. But even worse is the fact that often you’ll find character development in classic titles isn’t what it is today. On the one hand that can be freeing. The author is allowed to read into someone else’s characters and present them with the necessary complexity they weren’t originally allowed. But it can hem you in as well. These aren’t really your characters, after all. Clever then of Ms. Saunders to age the Lamb and give him a younger sister. The older children are all adolescents or young adults and, by sheer necessity, dull by dint of age. Even so, Saunders does a good job of fleshing them out enough that you begin to get a little sick in the stomach wondering who will live and who will die.

This naturally begs the question of whether or not you would have to read Five Children and It to enjoy this book. I think I did read it a long time ago but all I could really recall was that there were a bunch of kids, the Psammead granted wishes, the book helped inspire the work of Edgar Eager, and the youngest child was called “The Lamb”. Saunders tries to play the book both ways then. She puts in enough details from the previous books in the series to gratify the Nesbit fans of the world (few though they might be) while also catching the reader up on everything that came before in a bright, brisk manner. You do read the book feeling like not knowing Five Children and It is a big gaping gap in your knowledge, but that feeling passes as you get deeper and deeper into the book.

One particular element that Ms. Saunders struggles with the most is the character of the Psammead. To take any magical creature from a 1902 classic and to give him hopes and fears and motivations above and beyond that of a mere literary device is a bit of a risk. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve not read “Five Children and It” in a number of years so I can’t recall if the Psammead was always a deposed god from ancient times or if that was entirely a product from the brain of Ms. Saunders. Interestingly, the author makes a very strong attempt at equating the atrocities of the Psammead’s past (which are always told in retrospect and are never seen firsthand) with the atrocities being committed as part of the war. For example, at one point the Psammead is taken to the future to speak at length with the deposed Kaiser, and the two find they have a lot in common. It is probably the sole element of the book that didn’t quite work for me then. Some of the Psammead’s past acts are quite horrific, and he seems pretty adamantly disinclined to indulge in any serious self-examination. Therefore his conversion at the end of the book didn’t feel quite earned. It’s foolish to wish a 250 page children’s novel to be longer, but I believe just one additional chapter or two could have gone a long way towards making the sand fairy’s change of heart more realistic. Or, at the very least, comprehensible.

When Ms. Saunders figured out the Cyril and Robert were bound for the trenches, she had a heavy task set before her. On the one hand, she was obligated to write with very much the same light-hearted tone of the original series. On the other hand, the looming shadow of WWI couldn’t be downplayed. The solution was to experience the war in much the same way as the characters. They joke about how short their time in the battle will be, and then as the book goes along the darkness creeps into everyday life. One of the best moments, however, comes right at the beginning. The children, young in the previous book, take a trip from 1905 to 1930, visit with their friend the professor, and return back to their current year. Anthea then makes an off-handed comment that when she looked at the photos on the wall she saw plenty of ladies who looked like young versions of their mother but she couldn’t find the boys. It simply says after that, “Far away in 1930, in his empty room, the old professor was crying.”

So do kids need to have read Five Children and It to enjoy this book? I don’t think so, honestly. Saunders recaps the originals pretty well, and I can’t help but have high hopes for the fact that it may even encourage some kids to seek out the originals. I do meet kids from time to time that are on the lookout for historical fantasies, and this certainly fits the bill. Ditto kids with an interest in WWI and (though this will be less common as the years go by) kids who love Downton Abbey. It would be remarkably good for them. Confronting issues of class, disillusion, meaningless war, and empathy, the book transcends its source material and is all the better for it. A beautiful little risk that paid off swimmingly in the end. Make an effort to seek it out.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Other Blog Reviews: educating alice

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32. They All Saw A Cat

They All Saw A Cat. Brendan Wenzel. 2016. Chronicle. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws...and the child saw a CAT, and the dog saw a CAT, and the fox saw a CAT. Yes, they all saw the cat.

Premise/plot: Have you ever wondered how a mouse sees a cat? how a dog sees a cat? how a fish sees a cat? how a bird sees a cat? Brendan Wenzel's picture book plays with young readers' concept of perspective.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I did. Each spread is unique and interesting. Each reveals how a creature--a flea, a bee, a skunk, a bat, a child--sees a cat. Though it is the same cat, ever creature "sees" a different cat. I'll be honest, the illustrations steal the show. That plus the premise. I would definitely recommend this one.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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33. Movie Month, day 13

So Kailana (The Written Word) and I really LOVED participating in Jenni Elyse's 30 Days of Books.  We thought it would be fun to do a movie-theme list of questions! Feel free to switch "favorite" to "least favorite" if that is more applicable to you!

Today's question: A movie that makes you think about the world differently....

Inside Out comes to mind. Not that I believe that there are five emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, Anger) living inside my head sitting at a control panel. But still. I was reading Anne of Green Gables at the time I first saw Inside Out. And it made me re-think the breaking-the-slate scene.

The Drop Box is a very good movie. It it a foreign film with subtitles. And you do have to be willing to follow it closely. But this one is very compelling! 

Big Hero 6 is another great movie. I really wish I had my own Baymax.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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34. Movie Month, day 14

So Kailana (The Written Word) and I really LOVED participating in Jenni Elyse's 30 Days of Books.  We thought it would be fun to do a movie-theme list of questions! 

 Today's question: A movie that you can't stop quoting....

The movie that I find most quotable is BABE.

The TV SPEcial I find most quotable is GARFIELD'S THANKSGIVING.

  • Pancakes, pancakes the size of Australia, and coffee, yes, Jon, coffee. We wouldn't be the great nation we are without coffee. So do your patriotic duty, Jon Arbuckle, and fix - me - breakfast!
  • Woe is me, I've been put on a diet and I'm gonna die.
  • Gee, I've been on this diet only ten minutes and I can tell I've already lost something... my sense of humor.
  • I'm free, I'm free, I can eat! Oh, joy! Oh, rapture! Oh, no! 
  • Grandma: Have cooking utensils, will travel.
    Go, Grandma, go. Deep fat fry, deep fat fry, music to my ears. 
  • Skip the piece of resistance, just gimme a piece of pie!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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35. The Slush Pile Myth

Kids who love books sometimes find themselves at a crossroads when it comes to determining their future career.  For some, the choice boils down to librarian or a publisher.  Librarianship lacks the sophistication and potential glory of publishing, but feeds very well into a certain type of person’s need to work on a grounded level with members of the immediate public. We don’t make the big bucks but we have our own levels of influence, often directly, with our patrons.  Publishers, in contrast, often don’t make a lot of money for a very long time, yet they have the potential to shape the hopes and fears and dreams of children through the products they produce.  They get to return home on Thanksgiving and answer questions about what they do by saying, “Oh.  I’m in publishing.”  It just sounds cool.

But there is one aspect of publishing that I no longer envy.  I did once, when I was young.  Foolishly, I would dream of someday digging through one on my own.  It would be like panning for gold, right?  One conveniently forgets how rarely those who pan actually find said gold, of course.

I am referring of course to the infamous “slush pile”.  For publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts, the slush pile is where those manuscripts sit for a while.  It looks a little something like this:


My librarian instincts make me think about how satisfying it would be to cut that pile down, but realistically I know that there’s a reason that the job is often given to new hires and interns.

Still and all, there is a myth that circulates about the children’s book that is plucked from the pile and subsequently reaches hitherto untold levels of success.  I know of only three instances where this happened, and I wanted to just give them a quick glance today.  On a percentage basis, when you compare the number of manuscripts that become hits vs. those that don’t get published at all, the likelihood of a book finding a home in the hearts and minds of children everywhere is akin to that of winning the lottery.  And yet . . . and yet . . .

Here are the three successful slush pile stories:

Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site! by Sherri Duskey Rinker


This book has been on my mind a lot lately.  Not just because my son absolutely adores it, but also because the sequel, Mighty Mighty Construction Site, will be coming out in 2017 (and it’s a proper sequel with lots and lots of female construction equipment characters in it too, I’ll add).  I was at dinner with a friend the other day when she mentioned off-handedly that the original book had been a slush pile find.  What?  Really?  That sounded like a lovely rumor more than anything else.  So I did a tiny bit of internet digging and lo and behold found this Author Spotlight interview with Ms. Rinker.  In it she says the following:

“I guess the great thing about my submission to the infamous ‘slush pile’ at that time was that I honestly didn’t know any better. I made a long (VERY long) list of publishers who accepted slush and just started working down the line.”

Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site would go on to become a hugely successful New York Times bestselling picture book.  All the more impressive when you learn that she submitted the manuscript to only one publisher.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz


One forgets that occasionally Newbery Award winners are slush pile finds.  Yet if I’m going to be completely honest, this is the only case I know of personally.  Before you go about assuming that the book was plucked from obscurity and then immediately won its author the honor that was her due (and rightly!), please remember that, as BookPage reported, it, “was plucked out of a slush pile by an assistant at Candlewick Press in 2000 and finally published seven years after the author submitted it.”  Clever assistant, that.  Between its discovery and its publication Ms. Schlitz would publish other books with Candlewick, like The Hero Schliemann (still one of the more delightful and underrated biographies out there for kids).

And finally, one of the most famous slush stories:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling


In this case we actually know the name of the woman who found Rowling’s manuscript in the pile at the Christopher Little Literary Agency.  Bryony Evens (a name that sounds like it would fit in at Hogwarts rather well) conducted an interview once where she said the manuscript originally caught her eye because it had an unusual “clamp binding”.

This actually doesn’t really fit our trends here, since Rowling was applying for an agent and not sending directly to a publisher, but that’s neither here nor there.

The thing about these stories is that often when they’re reported not much is made of the editors’ contributions prior to publication.  The bones of a great book might have been there, but it was how the book was shaped by multiple hands prior to publication that’s of particular note.  I think it’s safe to say that none of these books would be the classics we know today without that invaluable editorial input.

Any other slush pile stories come to mind?  I’m sure there are some famous books out there I’m just not thinking of.  Lay them on me!


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36. So You Say You’re Not a Writer

Take a sneak peek at our NCTE presentation. We hope to see you there!

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37. Board Book: There, There

Board Book: There, There. Taro Miura. 2016. Candlewick. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Frog says, "Ribbit, ribbit!" Chicken says, "Cluck, cluck!"

Premise/plot: This may at first appear to be a simple, predictable book. (I think of Bing Bong, Riley's imaginary friend!!!) But it has a twist. After the baby goes "wah, wah!" the animals, well, they mix things up a bit! Can the baby restore order in the world?!

My thoughts: I LOVE the twist in this one. It is probably still a little on the predictable side. (The title may just provide the solution.) But it is FUN. It is newly translated into English this year.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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38. The Crown (My Thoughts)

I watched all TEN episodes of THE CROWN this week. The show is gush-worthy and giddy-making. This Netflix-Original miniseries focuses on the early years of Queen Elizabeth II's reign.

Technically, the first two episodes she is merely Princess Elizabeth. The episode that covers the most time is episode one. That episode begins in 1947 and ends in 1951! Viewers get the chance to see Elizabeth and Philip marry and start a family.

Also viewers get a chance to see the relationship between father and daughter. (Or perhaps I should say DAUGHTERS). Princess Margaret is very much a presence on the show, a bit of a scene-stealer at times.

So I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. It does say 'mature audience' and that typically means a few minutes of every episode are not quite family-friendly. I haven't seen anything so 'horrid' or 'shocking' that would make me stop watching--as a Christian with slightly stricter guidelines in place.

The opening credits are by HANS ZIMMER. The music is by Rupert Gregson-Williams.

Queen Elizabeth is played by Claire Foy. (Look, it's LITTLE DORRIT!)
Prince Philip is played by Matt Smith.
The Queen Mother (Queen Elizabeth) is played by Victoria Hamilton (I know her best from Lark Rise to Candleford)
Peter Townsend is played by Ben Miles (I've about decided he makes every show better.)
Princess Margaret is played by Vanessa Kirby. (This first season has a lot of DRAMA).
King George VI is played by Jared Harris. (His brother, THE DUKE OF WINDSOR, is played by Alex Jennings.)
Winston Churchill is played by John Lithgow. (And oh how well he does in the role!!!!)

EVERYTHING is done so well. It doesn't have a mini-series feel to it. It feels MAJOR MOVIE.  

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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39. It’s Tuesday! Write. Share. Give.

    Writing gives everyone a voice. What will you put your voice to today? Be an advocate. Stand tall. Stand Proud. Share your Voice.         Presentations If you are attending… Continue reading

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40. Anne of Ingleside

Anne of Ingleside. L.M. Montgomery. 1939. 274 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: “How white the moonlight is tonight!” said Anne Blythe to herself, as she went up the walk of the Wright garden to Diana Wright’s front door, where little cherry-blossom petals were coming down on the salty, breeze-stirred air. She paused for a moment to look about her on hills and woods she had loved in olden days and still loved. Dear Avonlea! Glen St. Mary was home to her now and had been home for many years but Avonlea had something that Glen St. Mary could never have. Ghosts of herself met her at every turn . . . the fields she had roamed in welcomed her . . . unfading echoes of the old sweet life were all about her . . . every spot she looked upon had some lovely memory. There were haunted gardens here and there where bloomed all the roses of yesteryear. Anne always loved to come home to Avonlea even when, as now, the reason for her visit had been a sad one. She and Gilbert had come up for the funeral of his father and Anne had stayed for a week.

Premise/plot: Anne and Gilbert have been married over a decade when the book begins. Anne is a mother now, and these are her children: Jem, Walter, Nan and Di, Shirley, and Rilla. (Technically, Rilla is still in womb when the novel opens!) This one has a LOT of narrators. Readers alternate spending time with Anne, Jem, Walter, Nan, Di, and Rilla. (I honestly can't remember if there are any Shirley chapters or not! If there are Shirley chapters, I can't remember one adventure he ever had! I know he's Susan's BABY. But little else!)

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't love, love, love it. I'd never consider skipping it in my rereading. It's just not as dear to me as some of the others in the series!

Favorite quotes:
“Do you know that it costs six hundred dollars a year to feed an elephant?” said Gilbert solemnly. “An imaginary elephant doesn’t cost anything,” explained Jem patiently. Anne laughed. “We never need to be economical in our imaginations, thank heaven.”
“A hand-me-down cap is bound to fit somebody’s head but it doesn’t follow that it was made for him.” 

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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41. I Laughed Until I (fill in the blank): Humor in YA literature

Yesterday, we had a great discussion on #readYAlit Twitter chat about humor in young adult literature.  It's a nebulous genre because humor can mean something completely differently to one person than another. 

Is humor universal?  That was one question that was tackled in our chat.  Genders, experiences, and type of humor are different elements of humor that play an important part in that question.  There is guy humor and there is girl humor.  How each gender approaches it can be wildly different and how authors use it can reflect those differences.  That isn't to say either gender can't read humor that relates more to one than the other...it's just the appeal may lean toward one side more than the other.

And then there's humor that's found in serious books.  One participant wrote that humor is needed in YA literature to balance the realistic lives in fiction that can be dark and dangerous.  I have to be very careful about what I read so that I'm not focused on realistic fiction because of an incident that took places several years ago.  After booktalking, a student mentioned that it was depressing and she wasn't interested in any of them because of the mood I created with the titles I talked about.  And that student was RIGHT....so now I find as many different genres, and include humor in it. 

There are many different places online to find titles about humor that could help out any library and those wanting the "fun" side of YA lit.  If you genrefy, does it have it's own genre or it is part of each major genre (one librarian on the chat had an EXCELLENT answer to that one!)? Would you include humorous titles with those darker novels where humor peeks in every now and then (think John Green)?  Those are questions that I believe are more personal decisions, but the great thing is the exchange of ideas our chat last night held. 

And if you need a title list, never fear!  Here are a few resources you can use:

Ebsco's Novelist of Humorous YA Fiction by Tom Reynolds

YALSA's Genre Guide to Young Adult Humor

Humor in YA Fiction Flowchart

And then there is that often looked over section where you can find MANY humorous titles: Non-fiction (and dewey)!!  Here's my list of non-fiction/dewey I've read that I couldn't help but chuckle and sometimes outright laugh at:

The Stupid Crook Book by Gregory Leland

Cake Wreck: when professional cakes go hilariously wrong by Jen Yates
How They Croaked: the awful ends of the awfully famous by Georgia Bragg
How They Choked: Failures, flops and flaws of the awfully famous by Georgia Bragg
Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And other adventures in the world's most polluted places by Andrew Blackwell
Historical Heartthrobs: 50 timeless crushes from Cleopatra to Camus by Kelly Murphy
I’m Down: A memoir by Mishna Wolff
We Should Hang Out Some Time: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist
Emily the Strange graphic novels by Rob Reger
Happy Bunny Books graphic novels (?) by Jim Benton

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42. BUTTONS - The gift of losing things

Image result for buttons images
I need my button box.  TODAY is National Button Day and the craft I plan for tonight's storytime uses buttons.  When I went upstairs to the attic yesterday, the button box was not where I thought it was.  Our attic is, ahem, less than neat.  I shoved things around and looked on shelves and opened bins.  Nope.

So, today, I gave myself one hour to clean the main attic room and find that button box.  I threw things away!  (It was painful but I hope to be fine in a few days.)  I filled THREE huge black garbage bags with junk.  I stacked bins and reorganized my crafty items and THEN, when I was 99.7% done, I looked at the bottom of a shelf unit in the corner.  There was my button box.  Not lost at all, really.

I have an organized attic room with neatly stacked and labeled bins.  I got rid of junk.  I found my buttons! Losing things is a gift.

Books about Buttons:

Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean.    Pete loses his buttons, one by one, but never loses his cool.  The publisher's website features a video and Pete the Cat songs.

Three Little Firefighters by Stuart Murphy.   Three little firefighters have to get dressed for the parade but they don't have any buttons on their coats!!  This is a great book about sorting.

 The Button Box by Margaret S. Reid.   A little boy loves looking through his grandmother's button box. The book introduces sorting concepts.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback.    Joseph, the tailor, loves his overcoat so much he recycles it into every smaller items until all he has a button.  And, then???  Based on a yiddish folk song, this book has wonderfully colorful pictures.

Dear Levi: Letters from the Overland Trail by Elvira Woodruff.  This wonderful historical fiction book features an orphan boy traveling across the country.  The wagon train's cook collects buttons -  (I am not alone!) - as a way to remember the people he meets.

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43. Board Book: Bum, Bum

Board Book: Bum, Bum. Taro Miura. 2016. Candlewick. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Duck's fluffy...bum bum. Pig's round....bum bum. Elephant's big...bum bum.

Premise/plot: I will be the first to admit that this one is a little lacking in plot. (Not every board book has a plot. Many don't, in fact. So it's not an automatic fail.) It is super-predictable as well. Little ones see a LOT of bums. Mostly animal bums. But also a toddler bum bum there at the end--both diapered and un. If you have a little one that giggles gleefully about bums and buttoms, then, this one may be worth sharing.

My thoughts: It was okay. To be honest, it takes more than the sight of a bum to make me giggle. I am not the target audience for this!!! I think this may be a more subjective book!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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44. The Power of Tools in Teaching and Learning

Kate brought us in closer to consider the importance of the tools’ accessibility and their effect on learning. Not only do these tools need to be accessible to the students, but students need to understand how and when to use them for learning.

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45. Falling Over Sideways

Falling Over Sideways. Jordan Sonnenblick. 2016. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I'm waiting in the wings, watching all of the fathers dancing onstage.

Premise/plot: Falling Over Sideways chronicles Claire's eighth grade year in a way that only Jordan Sonnenblick can. Claire is upset that a) her friends got promoted to the next dance class level, and she didn't; b) most of her teachers previously taught her older, oh-so-perfect brother, Matthew; c) her home room and most of her classes have more bullies than friends; d) her father has had a major stroke and has lost the ability to talk, write, read. Mid-September family life gets way complicated. All of the complexities of life make for a great coming of age story.

My thoughts: Sonnenblick is one of the best contemporary writers when it comes to characterization. (The one exception might be the mom in this one. Though that might be a case of me not getting her personality.) Claire's relationships with everyone--from her perfect brother to the former-friend turned enemy (Ryder)--are so well done! (I appreciated the fact that he didn't try to squeeze in a romance. This middle grade read was perfect without rushing ahead.)

I really loved this one. It might pair really well with The Seventh Wish. Both heroines are into dance, focus on friendship, and feature a family in crisis coming together.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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46. Announcing the Ultimate End of the Year List Sequence: 31 Days, 31 Lists

The Best Books of the Year lists are beginning to come out right around now. First we saw the Publishers Weekly List. Then the School Library Journal List was presented as part of a live feed on Kidlit TV.  The New York Times released their Best Illustrated list for the year.  Soon enough the other review journals will get on board, as will Brain Pickings with their annual picks of eclectic, original, artistic books.  Marjorie Ingall will do a list of the best books of the year with Jewish themes and characters for Tablet Magazine, the New York Public Library will release their 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, and on and on it goes.

I love lists.  They make me happy. I enjoy few things quite as much as debating the relative merits of one book or another with colleagues. But since I left NYPL I’ve just been making my own little lists.  It’s fun but a little lonely.  To keep myself in the game I also decided to read every single picture book in 2016 and I think I came pretty close.  But what should I do with all this knowledge?  I’m not going to review every single amazing book I saw, that’s for sure.

That when this crazy idea slapped me upside the head with a rubber chicken.

What if I were to do not one list for 2016.  Not two lists.  Not three.  What if I were to do one list for every single day in December?  A list every day!  It would have to be called . . . .

31 Days, 31 Lists!!

Oh yes!!  And here’s how it’ll go.  Each day in December this site will produce one list.  Sometimes it’ll be a list you’d be able to find elsewhere (best picture books, nonfiction, etc.).  Sometimes it’ll be a list you might need but wouldn’t necessarily find elsewhere (picture book readalouds, picture books with photography, etc.).  And sometimes it’ll just be a trend I’ve noticed.  All these books will be 2016 publications.

Sound like fun?  Here’s the schedule:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books

I don’t pretend that these lists will be complete or that they won’t miss some great publications out there.  However, I will at least be able to highlight all those amazing books I’ve seen this year that I wasn’t able to review.  And believe me when I say that 2016 was a doozy of a year when it came to fine and fabulous publications.

I cannot wait.


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47. Thanksgiving

 My sister teaches music in an elementary school.  Half of one of her early elementary classes is made up of first generation Americans.   In explaining the words of "My Country 'Tis of Thee", my sister told those children that they were today's pilgrims.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, let's remember those who come here to find sanctuary from persecution, poverty, and discrimination. We all came from somewhere else, no matter what some people want to believe.

Right now, this is my favorite Thanksgiving book.  Puppets, balloons and pageants - the birth of an American tradition.

Some of my favorite Thanksgiving books, new and old.

Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen.  This classic was turned into an Academy Award-winning short film.  Third grader, Molly, asks her mother to make a Pilgrim doll from a clothespin.  Her mother, who was born in Eastern Europe, doesn't know what a Pilgrim is.  Molly explains that a pilgrim is someone who came to this country to worship freely, and to escape hard times.  Her mama makes a doll that looks like a Russian girl.  Molly's doll helps the teacher explain that America still welcomes pilgrims for all kinds of reasons.

A Strawbeater's Thanksgiving by Irene Smalls.  Jess, a slave, looks forward to the corn shucking party.  He hopes to be the special boy chosen to keep time for the fiddler by beating on the fiddle strings with a pair of strong wheat straws.  Hopes don't always come true and Jess works hard to make his hope become a reality.  Melodye Rosales provides beautiful illustrations for this story.

A Turkey For Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting.  Mr. Moose is determined to deliver a turkey to his wife for Thanksgiving.  Turkey is equally determined to stay away.  No worries, happy endings abound, all around.  And Diane de Groat's pictures are colorful and adorable.

Balloons over Broadway by Melissa Sweet.  Tony Sarg, a German-born puppeteer, was the artistic genius behind the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  He designed it to mirror the parades and processions of many of Macy's immigrant employees.  This picture book biography, written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is my FAVORITE Thanksgiving book right now. 

Thanksgiving Poems by Myra Cohn Livingston.  If you are looking for something short to read before you stuff yourselves, take a look at this collection.

Over the River and Through the Wood by Lydia Maria Francis Child, with illustrations by David Catrow.  You MUST get the version with pictures by David Catrow.  The poem is lovely but the pictures are hilarious!

There are more, so many more.  I might add to this list in the next week or two.  Just remember to be kind to everyone you meet.  Stand up for people who need defending.   Give thanks for what you have. 

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48. Diversity and stuff

America - the Melting Pot!  That image is sort of wrong.  I don't want the Mediterranean part of me melted into the Germanic part of me - not entirely!  I want to own the Mangia! and the Gesundheit! both - to say nothing of the Pip Pip Cheerio!  and Top o' the morning!  I am proud of every single patch in my patchwork DNA.

At the same time,  America as a Cooking Pot is sort of right.  I love soups and stews - foods where different ingredients blend together but keep their individual flavors.  America is more like a hearty soup.

Hey!  We're all people!  We all share the same home, the Earth.

A good cook doesn't let any one ingredient overpower all the others.

I think I forgot where I was going with this.  Oh!  Right!  Diversity!  Celebrate the differences, everyone!  All the lovely differences!

Here are some book lists to get you started in this celebration of America, the Cooking Pot.  Mangia!

From the Cooperative Children's Book Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, here are 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know.

Reading Is Fundamental has 40 books on their list.

The Center for the Study of Multicultural Literature for Children puts out a booklist for books published in the current year.  2016 isn't over yet. (Sigh.) So, here is their list for 2015.

Scholastic.com puts a LOT of work into their various websites, so here is their little 7 book long book list about diversity.

Here is an interesting list of picture books, from Storytime Standouts, on diversity and empathy.  Some of the titles seem to be off topic.  But, there are all kinds of differences out there.

And No Time for Flashcards put together this list of books about families that don't fit the mother/father/2.5 children/and a dog mold.

Hmm, I think this soup needs a little more of.....YOU!

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49. The Freedom To Create

More and more, I've been recognizing the need to give students some freedom in their writing lives. Can independent writing time be the answer?

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50. Speaking American

Speaking American: How Y'all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide. Josh Katz. 2016. Hougton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Drawing on work from the Dictionary of American Regional English, the Harvard Dialect Survey, and suggestions from friends and family, in the fall of 2013, I set out to develop an online survey to gather date on how Americans talk. The maps that follow are a product of that survey--which collected more than 350,000 unique responses. Enjoy.

Premise/plot: This one is a VISUAL GUIDE to "American" English. Expect maps, maps, and more maps. It is divided into five sections: "How We Live," "What We Eat," "How We Sound," "Where We Go," and "Things We See." Sprinkled throughout the book, there are special profiles for different cities and states. Unfortunately, none of them focus on Texas.

There is plenty of information in this one though. It has plenty of 'did you know' facts to delight skimmers and readers.

For example, 28% of the U.S. says "Y'all;" 10% say "You all;" 10% say "You;" 50% say "You guys;" and less than 1% say "Yins." (30% of people in Pittsburgh would say YINS).

For example, 17% say "Coke," 59% say "Soda," 18% say "Pop," 6% say "Soft drink."

My thoughts: This one was interesting--intriguing--for the most part. It was a very fast read. But I'm not sure how thorough and complete it is. I think it is still missing some gems. This one doesn't really focus on unique phrases and how locals talk in different regions. It's more comparing/contrasting. Like TRASH CAN OR GARBAGE CAN, SNEAKERS OR TENNIS SHOES.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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