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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: reading to children, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. The comfort of bedtime stories

The saddest story I've ever heard about the importance of reading to your children came from someone who told me that the happiest times of her childhood were when her mother was in hospital, because she would be sent to stay with neighbours - and the neighbours read her bedtime stories. She has remained grateful to those neighbours for introducing her to books being read at home, the power of a shared story, the comfort of being read to, the establishment of a bedtime routine - or maybe all of the above. She went on to become a teacher, specialising in reading.

So if you don't have children to read to, remember that you can still share it with other children (even if they have parents who read to them!) You never know how that book, or that warm feeling of being read to, may go on to influence a child's life.

And if you'd like me to read to your child, or children you know, let me know by commenting on this post, tweeting or emailing me directly through my website. Today is the last day to enter, but tomorrow, for National Reading Hour, (6 pm Tuesday 19 August) I'll be reading to a child or group of children. It'll be over Skype or even phone if you don't happen to live nearly next door, but that's still a great way to share the love of books around the world.

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2. National Reading Hour - Would you like me to read you a story?

Australia’s National Reading Hour is fast approaching: 6 pm on Tuesday August 19: a time when we celebrate the act of reading with children. Reading is one of the most important things in my life. Stories take us into new worlds and teach us something more about ourselves, all at the same time. 

But reading to a child is an even greater gift than this. Sharing the story enhances the enjoyment; undoubtedly it deepens the child’s understanding of a more difficult text – and most importantly, it’s an expression of caring. Most of us lucky enough to have grown up with bedtime stories remember them as a time of warmth, safety and love; most of us who read bedtime stories to our children will remember them in the same way. What better way to lay down the association between pleasure and learning; to give your child a resource for difficult times?



As an author who grew up with those feelings for bedtime stories, and attempted to pass them on in the same way to my children, it’s very special to me to hear of my own books being part of this interaction.

So if you would like to celebrate the National Reading Hour by having me read a pre-bedtime story to your child or children, over Skype or phone if you don’t live next door, just comment on this blog, email or tweet. Tell me why you’d like it, or what reading means to you, because that’s fun for me to hear, though I’ll choose the winner by random drawing, because it would be just too hard to choose the best reason for sharing a story!

Here’s what some author friends and I said about reading a couple of years ago:



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3. Why Don't Boys Read

A children’s author friend of mine is writing an article for a local newspaper about getting boys to read. In her research for the article, she posed a few questions on a forum of local published children’s authors that I participate in. Below are my responses to her questions.

1. A lot of people who work with kids will tell you that it's harder to get young boys to read than it is to get young girls to.  If you agree, why is this the case?

I agree, and I believe one of the main reasons is that so often at school (even at home) books are pushed onto boys that just are not interesting to them. Every boy is different, and every boy will have different tastes, but most boys want books that are fast-paced, exciting, adventurous or humorous, which typically does not fall into the same category as the more literary types of books that they are assigned at school. If all the books they are made aware of are books that bore them to tears, they will have the sentiment that all books are boring.

In some cases boys will find books that do appeal to them, only to have teachers or parents turn their nose up at those books or tell the boy that those books are trash, a waste of time or aren’t real books. At times, those who can play a role in inspiring a boy to read, unknowingly turn the boy off of reading by their attitude towards the books a boy wants to read, whether it be fantasy, comic books/graphic novels, or whatever.

2. How do you get boys to read?

The best way to get a boy to read is to read to them when they are very young. After that, it’s to let them choose the books they want to read – give them options and help them find books that might be of interest to them. An indirect way to get boys to read is for them to see male role models reading and enjoying reading. Sometimes boys might get the feeling that reading is not cool, but seeing a positive role model reading helps dispel that notion.

3. What titles would you recommend?
It’s a little over a year old, but on my blog I have a list 70 books to help get boys reading. You can take a look at it at New Books to Get Boys Reading.



I have also written few posts in the past on getting children to read. Check them out below;

# 1 Way to Get Children to Read
# 2 Way to Get Children to Read
# 3 Way to Get Children to Read
# 4 Way to Get Children to Read
# 5 Way to Get Children to Read


Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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4. Getting Children to Love to Read

In one of the social networks that I participate in, I asked the question, “How do you get children to read?”

A little more than 40 people responded with the suggestions that worked for them. I’ve listed them below in the order of the most frequently mentioned suggestions with the percentage of how many people mentioned that particular suggestion.

I have to admit that I’m not surprised by many of the suggestions. We used most of the suggestions with our own children and have had great results (* indicates those we’ve used in our family.) That said, I think it takes a multifaceted approach. You have to find what works best for your family, but there are probably multiple things you need to do to be successful in fostering a love for reading in your children.

List of top ways to get children to read or develop a love for reading:
  • Read every day or frequently to your children, starting at a very young age.* – 55%
  • Find books they will enjoy or that interest them specifically. Every child's tastes are different (i.e., Harry Potter, comics, non-fiction, magazines, etc.)* - 21%
  • Let your children see you reading.* - 14%
  • Take children on frequent trips to the library.* - 14%
  • Make reading fun.* (i.e., competition, family read-a-thon, games, flashcards, races, let them create their own books) - 12%
  • Be involved in what your kids read. Know what they're reading. Discuss with them what they're reading.* - 12%
  • Buy them books as gifts or let them pick their own out at the store.* - 10%
  • Leverage fun DVDs, websites, or books that help young children learn to read.* - 10%
  • Limit computer and TV time.* - 7%
  • Make lots of interesting books available to your kids. (adventures, mysteries, classics, biographies, fantasy, encyclopedias)* 7%
  • Find books that match their age or ability. (Librarians can be a great help with this)* - 7%
  • Determine if they have a certain condition that makes reading less enjoyable. (Needs glasses, audio learners vs. visual learners)  - 5%
  • Don't force a book on a child. Let them read what they want.* - 5%
  • Turn on closed-captions when you watch TV, especially for shows in another language, like Japanese cartoons. -  5%
  • Provide them books with lots of interesting or entertaining pictures.* - 5%
  • Listen to audio books.* - 5%
  • Let them stay up past their bedtime to read.* - 5%

Other Mentions of How to get Children to Read
  • Have fathers read to their children.*
  • Encourage children to read books aloud.* (Especially helpful for audio learners)
  • Stay away from mediocre books
  • Read together as a family.*
  • Have a place in your house just for library books so that it's easy keep track of them.
  • Create a special reading nook in your house.

5 Comments on Getting Children to Love to Read, last added: 2/16/2012
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5. 15 Reasons for Reading Aloud to Children

In a follow-up to my interview with librarian and educator, Lisa Von Drasek, I've created a list of 15 reasons why reading aloud to children is important. Some of these come from my conversation with Lisa, others come from different social networks commenting on the interview and subject.

  1. Crucial to a child’s ability to learn to read
  2. Allows children to hear the sounds that make up words
  3. Builds vocabulary
  4. Provides a safe place for children to hear and live the lives of characters in a story
  5. Has a more emotional impact
  6. Positively influences the desire to read
  7. Builds attention span
  8. It's fun
  9. Improves listening skills
  10. Improves retention and learning for auditory learners
  11. Teaches children how to read with emotion, expression and dramatic effect
  12. Enriches child language skills
  13. Nurtures relationships between child and adult
  14. Gives adults insights into a child's world through the questions they ask
  15. Creates opportunities to talk about the book and subjects related to or beyond the book
Feel free to add to the list in your comments.



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6. Book Review: Happy Like Soccer

Last week I read the children’s picture book, Happy Like Soccer by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Lauren Castillo. All I can say is “Wow!” I loved it. It really took me by surprise. It’s not really a soccer story at all, like you would suspect, but rather a very moving and emotionally powerful story of a young girl and her love for her aunt.

Told in a very simple and honest manner, Happy Like Soccer gives a brief, yet poignant glimpse into a young girl’s difficult, but happy life. Yes, there is a soccer element to the story, but it has many other more intriguing layers to it; new friendships, loneliness, hardships of a poor family struggling to get by, overcoming disappointment, a young girl’s initiative and courage to change a tough situation into a positive one, and the dedicated love between a young girl and her aunt

The ink and watercolor art enhance and fit the mood of the story perfectly. Happy Like Soccer is a great story and read-aloud between parent and child!

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7. How to Stop Kids from Reading

Once a child gets hooked on reading, it’s hard to get them to put a book down. They won’t come to dinner. They stay up late. You can’t get them to watch TV or play video games. On road trips they stop asking “Are we almost there?” They smuggle books into the bathroom, creating long lines, impatient siblings and unfortunate accidents. The problems are endless.

One method that has had limited success in our household is to simply ground them from books when they sneak a read when they’re not supposed to. However, I’ve heard there are much more effective ways to stop kids from reading. High on the list is, if they ask you to read to them, refuse. Tell them you don’t have time. Put them off until you’re done watching your favorite TV show and hope they’ll get tired of waiting. Better yet, tell them books are dumb.


Other top ways to kill a child’s interest in reading is forbid trips to the library. Don’t let them choose what books they want to read. Only let them read books you like. Of course, that’s not a good idea if they like the books you like. So, better yet, force them to read only books that they hate. That will really convince them that books have nothing to offer.

If you’re lucky enough that none of your children have caught the reading bug, be sure to never let them catch you reading. That would be a catastrophe. They might get the idea that reading is fun, educational and even interesting. Then before you know it, they’re addicted to reading and the battle to get them to stop begins.

3 Comments on How to Stop Kids from Reading, last added: 2/7/2013
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8. Read Across America: from Australia to Yonkers


The teachers in a Yonkers school have extended Read Across America a little this year: I’m reading to their Grade 3 and 4 classes from my home in Australia. But since the time difference meant I’d be reading at 1 am here for them to hear it at 9 am, I’ve cheated a little and pre-recorded it. 


I thought it would be fun to do it outside, since it’s such a different environment to where they live. Naturally a wind picked up as soon as I started, but I hope dancing gum trees make the occasional crackles worthwhile.

I read  from STOLEN: A Pony CalledPebbles, illustrated by Patricia Castelao, and promised to tell them a bit about the story behind the story. 

When I was aged eleven to thirteen, we lived on the edge of a new suburb outside Colorado Springs, in the foothills of the Rockies. Apart from that group of scattered houses, there was rolling, empty prairie all around us. (Empty of people, I mean; there were plenty of birds, ground squirrels and rattle snakes!) The best thing about it was that it meant we could have a horse, and I could go out riding and exploring as much as I liked. 

One summer I was riding near a ravine when I found a horse and a pony in a wire corral. I’d never seen the horses or the corral before, and there were no houses or signs of people anywhere in sight. I rode out there to pick them grass every day, because it was a small corral and they were getting hungry. The pony would crawl out under the fence to graze, and even followed me home one day. (My mother made me take it back! I don’t think she quite believed that it had really just followed me, and maybe I did encourage it a bit… ) The day after that the horses and the corral were gone. 
I never did find out what happened, but that means I was free to go on wondering and make up my own ending. And so, many years later, Pebbles was born. 

All the Rainbow Street Animal Shelter series are available from the publisher
from amazon.com

(Or your local bookstore can order them in for you if they don't have them.) 


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9. ‘Mummy, don’t do the voices’ – the perils of reading aloud

Peppa Pig’s school roof needs repairing. Again. And poor Daddy Pig ends up having to buy his chair back at a fundraising fete. That was the gist of our daughter’s latest bedtime story. I’ve read “Peppa Pig’s Daddy Is Made … Continue reading

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10. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

For my husband’s birthday, I purchased tickets for us to go on an architectural tour based on Devil in the White City.  Jon had read it, but I had not gotten around to it.  Well today was the day of the tour and I, of course, waited til the last minute to read the book and was only halfway through the book by the time we went.  However, I did finish it tonight and feel now like I had a day full of the greatest event Chicago has ever seen. (The tour was quite interesting by the way and I would recommend it, though it did have to stretch the tie-ins to the book.)

I was very impressed with the book.  IT is written in a very conversational tone which is often lacking in non-fiction books of this nature.   I am ashamed to admit that I knew little of hte world’s fair before reading this despite the fact that I am a Chicago (suburbs) native.  Yet, now I feel, if not an expert, at least marginally more informed.  I feel like I don’t need to go into plot summary because hasn’t everyone heard of this book?  But mayhap not.  It tells the tell of the building of the White City as the Chicago Columbian Exhibition was dubbed.  Built for the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s landing, it was to rival that of the French world fair from a few years before.  It also tells the tale of the 1st serial killer in America.  The stories are interwoven and tell the tale from many different viewpoints.  What amazed me was that Burnham (who essentially ran the building of the fair) had only 27 months to design, build, and open this place.  It is truly amazing when you realize that the fair covered a square mile.  Larson really depicts what life was like back then and all the trials and tribulations that happened before the fair began.  It is an engrossing read (probably why it is still si popular despite having been published over 4 years ago.  I strongly recommend it, especially if you live in Chicago and want to get a behind the scenes look at one of the city’s claims to fame.  You won’t be disappointed. 

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11. Minx Double Feature - Clubbing, Good As Lily

First off, we have Clubbing, by Andi Watson and Josh Howard.


The cover will be your first clue at why I was interested in this book. Lottie is a spoiled gothy London girl, who gets busted trying to use a fake ID, and shipped off to her grands in the Lake District. Not exactly her scene. And it's not only the rain. Her grandparents live on the grounds of a country club, and have plans for Lottie's days of banishment. She will be working in the pro-shop and helping her gran out with her ladies club activities.


It seems that things couldn't get more boring when a body shows up in the water with an occult symbol carved into her arm! And what's more, Lottie saw her grandfather arguing with the woman just that morning.


Now Lottie, and local boy Howard are investigating the crime, which turns out to have a supernatural bent. Ritualistic sacrifice, anyone?


Fun, fun, fun!



Next off is Good As Lily, by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm.

Lily is turning 18, and her friends throw her a party in the park. Lily's a pretty lucky girl. Her friends are loyal, and they do love her. After she opens her presents, the ice cream lady in the park manages to convince Lily that she needs a pinata and not cones. Soon Lily finds herself with the pinata lodged on her head.

Then, the weirdness starts.

Upon revisiting the park, Lily finds a crying young girl, a drowning 29 year old, and an ornery old lady! And they are all her.

Imagine coming face to face with your child self, almost 30 self, and senior self. More importantly, how is Lily going to get through her last semester of high school with all of these Lily's hanging around. Especially when her 29 year old self keeps hitting on her drama teacher!


A wonderfully different story about family, friendship, loyalty and love.

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12. Bloodfever by Karen Marie Morning

MacKayla Lane used to be a pretty southern belle with happy thoughts of the husband and family she would one day have filling her head.  Now she is a woman changed.  Haunted by the death of her sister, Mac has changed her life of pretty in pink to punk rock so that she can avenge her sister’s death.  Oh and did I mention she can see Fae?  After coming to Ireland to find her sister’s killer, Mac has learned that her entire life is a lie and that she is blessed (or cursed) with strange abilities.  No one is her friend, and she has many enemies, but she is determined to succeed.  This is a dark, brooding book that takes the stories of the Fae and casts them in an eery modern light.  Mac is a lovable character whose whole life has been turned upside down in a short period of time.  I look forward to seeing what Moning cooks up next for our feisty heroine. 

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13. Fanged and Fabulous by Michelle Rowen


If I had known this was the second book in the series, I would never have picked it up first, but, alas, I did not.  Luckily it was easy to catch onto what had happened previously.   Meet Sarah Dearly, a recently turned vampire who is dating a master named Thierry.  Do to an unfortunate incident with a gun in which she kills a vampire hunter, Sarah is now known as the Slayer of Slayers.  Unfortunately, she has no special abilities and no way to defend herself against hunters that now want to prove they can take down the Slayer of Slayers (did I mention that her killing the other hunter was just pure dumb luck?)  So Thierry gives her a couple of bodyguards to watch over her.  But that is not the worst of Sarah’s problems.  Her apartment is bombed, Thierry is pulling away from her, and her friend Quinn keeps hitting on her.  Surely Sarah has it all under control, right?  Well if not she can act with the best of them.  This is a fun beach read type book (unless you are a vampire of course) and was cute if not wholly engrossing.  I may pick up the others in the series to see what happens, but it is not a series that I think I will become obsessed with.

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14. The Professor's Daughter



It's 19th Century England, and the Professor's daughter Lillian has gone and fallen in love with the handsome mummy of Imhotep IV. Not exactly the best match, hmm? After Imhotep gets loopy from taking tea and smashes up the tea room, police come calling. Lillian doses the tea she offers to the police, thinking that she will be able to get Imhotep out of her father's suit, and put away before any more trouble ensues. Alas, she ends up killing the officers, and what follows rivals many an action film.

From long lost fathers, to kidnapping, to noble sacrifices for love, Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert have put together a graphic novel that zips along. The far-fetched story did not grab me as much as the GORgeous illustrations. From the sepia tones of early panels to the bright red coats of the palace guards, The Professor's Daughter is a visual stunner.

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15. Life Sucks


Dave Miller is stuck in his dead end job at the Last Stop convenience store. Really stuck. Ever since he applied for the job and the owner turned him into his own personal vampire wage slave. The only bright spot in his nights is when the goth girls leave the local juice bar and come into the store to pick up snacks. Dave is particularly taken with the beautiful Rosa, but feels destined to be "just friends". Especially since there are other gorgeous vamps like Wes around, who are ready to make girls like Rosa who think they want to be vamps into their vampire brides.

Vegetarian (re blood bank drinker) Dave challenges Wes not to use his powers over Rosa, and to try to win her the old fashioned way. Will the good guy win?

The amazing team of Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria and Warren Pleece have created a fabulous vampire story that takes away some of the romance and makes readers see that life as the undead isn't as glamorous as it seems. Eternity is, after all, just that. The panels on page 139 brilliantly portray this.

Now as a former goth girl, I am a little particular about the portrayal of that segment of our population. I think that Life Sucks hits it spot on. From the clothing and style of the goth kids, to the reactions of those outside of the circle, it all felt right. The illustrations themselves are rich and defined, and the reader seems somewhat unaware of the fact that everything is taking place at night.

Do yourself a favor and pick it up. A great and different take on the vampire story.

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16. High Heels and Homicide by Kasey Michaels


In a move I don’t quite understand, Kensington Books changed Michaels’ Maggie series from hardcover to trade paper and then started renaming them titles like this current one.  Maybe they have not been doing well or maybe they wanted to appeal more to the chick lit genre.  I am not really sure, but it makes it rather confusing.  I had read the first few a long time ago and just recently re-read the first one which made me want to read the rest in the series (which had not been out the last time I read the books).  So in this current book, Maggie, writer extraordinaire, is off with Saint Just and Sterling to England to be on the set while a movie of her book is being made.  There is, of course, a murder which Maggie and Saint Just end up solving together.  What is intriguing about this series is that Saint Just is actually not real.  He has sprung from Maggie’s head fully formed and is in actuality the main character from her mystery series.  Maggie likes him, he likes her, but he could go poof at any moment so she doesn’t act on it.  These are fun mysteries…I’m always surprised by who the killer is.  The only thing I have a hard time with is the fact that they run across so many murders.  I know that is the nature of mystery books, but it is so implausible.  I think maybe that is why I don’t read too many mysteries.

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17. High Heels and Holidays by Kasey Michaels


Maggie and Saint Just are back from England just in time to find out that a fellow writer has committed suicide…..or has he.  It turns out it is murder and with dead rats showing up on other writer’s doorsteps, including Maggie’s, things are about to get crazy.  Meanwhile, Sterling becomes a Santa for Silver in an effort to embrace the holiday spirit.  And FINALLY, Maggie and Saint Just hook up.  I mean it took ‘em long enough, but we’ll have to see where the relationship goes after this.  This was another good mystery, but I don’t quite get why they have coined it with the title they did since we don’t even get to Xmas in this book and in fact barely touch on the holiday season.  Ah well, who knows.

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18. Talking Point: Reading and Being Read to

Illustration by Elizabeth GómezIssues of literacy, post-literacy and how words and pictures fit into children’s lives nowadays are frequent topics of discussion in the blogsphere this year, including on our PaperTigers Blog. Since we began blogging some 9 months ago, Marjorie’s Books at Bedtime has been suggesting ways to make reading a vital part of children’s lives. Janet’s The Tiger’s Bookshelf also weighs in on the subject periodically. Readers share their views, and with nary a naysayer to date: it’s not likely that our PaperTigers community would deny the countless benefits of being exposed to books and stories from a very early age!

We can’t teach babies and toddlers language by putting them in front of the TV. Children learn language, and learn to love language, by being spoken with. Words come to have meaning in the context of important relationships (with parents, grandparents, teachers and/or other caring adults.) After a young mind, and (if we are lucky) soul, has been touched in this safe, nurturing context, a love of reading usually follows naturally. Reading aloud to children is a concept most of us espouse. But at the end of the day (quite literally at the end of the day, in many cases), it can be hard to make the time. It is one thing to know the benefits from a daily dose of books and reading and another altogether to see these benefits in action, translated into kids begging to stay up late to finish a book, or to be read “just one more page!” What a joy it is to hear those words! They are a good indicator that a love of language has been born and will keep on manifesting itself into and throughout adulthood.

The CCBC-net listserv’s recent discussion of nostalgia (as a new trend in children’s books) ended up turning, for a few days, into a thread about memories of reading to children and being read to. CCBC librarian Megan Schliesman (quoted here with permission) offers an insight about the apparent change of subject: “I’m struck by how our discussion of nostalgia in books has turned to one in which so many of us are thinking fondly of being read to and of reading to children. I find there is something essentially nostalgic in the idea of gathering around to listen together to a story, but all of us who read aloud also know that it’s an act that transcends nostalgia, which so often places a divide between child and adult. Instead, reading aloud brings together individuals who might be otherwise divided by age or experience or background.”

On the same thread, Megan Lambert, Instructor of Children’s Literature Programs at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, mentioned that candid anecdotes about the reading life are just as important as empirical evidence when it comes to the importance of reading. (She is writing a book about this.) “…I recently heard Vivian Gussin Paley speak on the importance of play in the life of the child, and she put out a call for an army of anecdotes about play to counteract the trend toward No Child Left Behind, standardized tests, etc. We need to document the power of reading aloud in this way too. Studies and data and all the rest pointing to how reading aloud creates strong readers are important, but so too are stories that we can all tell about powerful shared reading experiences.”

Absolutely. We all need stories to tell, to listen to, to share. So let the importance of reading in children’s lives be a talking point. One that will continue as long as there are readers and books.

For up-to-date round-ups of articles and blog posts on the subject of reading and literacy, Jen Robinson’s Book Page is the destination. Here’s her latest.

(Image credit: illustration by Elizabeth Gómez, from the book Moony Luna, written by Jorge Argueta.)

2 Comments on Talking Point: Reading and Being Read to, last added: 3/11/2008
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19. Books at Bedtime: Fairy Tales (2)

Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from ChinaI can’t believe this book was first published 25 years ago: but Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China, retold by Ai-Ling Louie and illustrated by Ed Young, is just as fresh today – and of course, being a fairy-tale, it is timeless anyway. It makes a lovely bed-time story – and would work well, too, as a class story-time readaloud.

The story will be familiar in its essence to most children and this is a lovely variation. Or perhaps I should say that the Cinderella story we all know and love follows the pattern of this lovely story: on the book’s dedication page, there is a salient quotation from Iona and Peter Opie’s The Classic Fairy Tales (now a bit of a classic itself). This dates the story of Yeh Shen to The Miscellaneous Record of Yu Yang, which first appeared during the T’ang Dynasty (618-907AD), about 1,000 years before the oldest European version.

The major elements are all there: the rags and chores, the wicked step-mother, the party and the magic slippers. The main difference is that the fairy god-mother figure in the story is actually a magic fish. The fish is Yeh-Shen’s only friend until it is killed by the step-mother. Yeh-Shen learns of it magic powers and gathers up the bones, which can now grant her special wishes. At first, her requests are bound up with survival as she asks for food to eat; but then, as the party approaches:

“Oh, dear friend,” she said, kneeling before the precious bones, “I long to go to the festival, but I cannot show myself in these rags. Is there somewhere I could borrow clothes fit to wear to the feast?” At once she found herself dressed in a gown of azure blue [and] on her tiny feet were the most beautiful slippers she had ever seen. They were woven of golden threads, in a pattern like the scales of a fish…

The fish is also the motif for Ed Young’s stunning illustrations throughout: each image from the story is set against an enormous, carp-like fish, to the extent that sometimes the characters are even enclosed within its gaping mouth. The backgrounds are starkly white but the pages are divided up into red-bordered, screen-like frames, which also help to convey the magic at work, since the fish’s bulk simply moves across them. His shading is beautiful… and I would love to know how many colors he actually used!

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20. Books at Bedtime: The Blue Sky

Kasmir Promet Booth at the Bologna Book Fair 2008Among the hundreds of publishers from all over the world at the Bologna Book Fair was Kasmir Promet from Croatia. Aline and I were immediately attracted to their booth by the amazing book-sculpture furniture at the front. We liked the posters on display too and bought some postcards. I’m so glad we did as it was only at that point we realised that the artist Andrea Petrlik Huseinović was there and that one beautiful set of her artwork, all in shades of blue, black and white, was from a book which is available in English: and it really is something special.

Plavo Nebo/ The Blue Sky by Andrea Petrlik HuseinovicThe Blue Sky is about a little 10-year-old girl who has lost her parents. There is nobody in the world to love her so she shuts herself away in the high tower she builds around herself and looks towards the sky in search of her mother. First the birds become her friends and then, as she remembers happy times with her mother, she starts to make friends with the different sky creatures her memories conjure up. Finally, a blackbird appears. The bird, which had been rescued as a fledgling by the girl and her mother, has come to reunite them. “Nobody has ever seen her again. The birds that fly in the blue sky say that she is somewhere in the clouds, together with her mother”.

This heart-breaking story has a fairy-tale quality which means that children will find it sad, yes, but not unbearable. The fact that the girl is reunited with her mother (and it is a fact, as far as my children are concerned, for example) means that the outcome is positive. However, this is also a cautionary tale with a stern message made clear from the outset: “Had someone hugged her with care and love, had she only experienced a little warmth, the story would have been different”.

Andrea Petrlik Huseinovic has won many awards for her work, both at home in Croatia and internationally. Her illustrations for Pinocchio earned her a place on the IBBY Honour List in 2002; and in 2003 she was awarded a Biennial of Illustration Bratislava (BIB) Plaque for her illustrations for The Blue Sky and Alice in Wonderland. The original paintings for both these books were bought by the Chihiro Art Museum in Japan for its International Collection. Appropriately enough, the idea for The Blue Sky came to Andrea during a UNESCO-BIB art workshop in Bratislava in 2001. In an afterword she talks about her own background, including “the Andrea Petrlik Huseinovicsaddest thing in my life”: she lost both her parents when she was ten years old. This knowledge, of course, adds poignancy to the story but it is clear that it is not meant to be taken as autobiographical. It remains an allegory for what happens when children are alone and we do not stretch out our hands and hearts to them. It’s an extraordinary book that works on many levels, for children and adults. It’s the kind of book that needs to be read together, whether as a family or as a school group; and it offers scope for enriching and soul-searching discussion. I bought two copies: one for my boys and one for their school library.

You can read it for yourselves straight away here as it is in the International Children’s Digital Library. If it proves hard sourcing a personal copy, it can be ordered directly from the publisher

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21. Children's Literacy Leads to Success

Here's a nice story in a Colorado newspaper about its Lt. Governor visiting an elementary school to promote literacy as a driving force for kids' success. I've always felt that regular daily reading to children from a very young age and up is key to their success in school, work and life in general. This is a nice article that talks a little about that, and coincidentally, Brave Little Monster is one of the books that the Lt. Governor reads to the children to promote literacy. Enjoy! :)

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22. Tess of The D’Urbervilles: Purity or Freedom?

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Rebecca OUP-US

There seems to me to be two ways of interpreting Tess, as “a pure woman” as the subtitle of the novel so clearly states and Tess as impure. I think that I’ve made up my mind and I will state my case below but I hope you will share your opinions with me in the comments section. (more…)

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23. The Mistress of the Art of Death



There used to be a time in my life when I read quite a few forensic style mysteries. This is the first I have read in a while - this title being a choice of our grown-up summer book club.

The year is 1170 and the place is Cambridgeshire, England. Children are disappearing, and the village is up in arms. Surely the town Jews are to blame. Child sacrifice is part of the culture afterall, isn't it?

King Henry needs to keep all elements of his kingdom in line. He needs the tax money from all areas, he needs peace. He tells his tax collector "Peace is money, Aaron, and money is peace." (p.10)

So how to solve these disappearances? Henry calls for one of the best detectives from Italy by way of his cousin, the King of Sicily. Simon of Naples is to come over to clear the name of the town Jews, and to find out what really happend. And to accompany him, a master in the art of death will come as well. This person is schooled in reading dead bodies for clues as to how they were killed. What Henry and Simon do not count on is that this person is a woman. Adelia is the child of professors and a student from the University of Solerno...one of the only places where a woman is allowed an education.

How will she fare in medieval England where the Church rules as well as the King, and women with knowledge are oft accused of witchcraft? And what will happen to those accused when the children start surfacing -- their bodies obviously violated before death in numerous ways?

Ariana Franklin has written quite the page turner. And, I have to say it ... eeewww! Lots of detail that I would have done quite well without. Mind you, the detail is not over-the-top in a gore for the sake of it way. It certainly ties in with the plot. But what made this title so readable for me, were the characters and their development. Adelia herself is complicated, smart, and torn. Little Ulf is utterly charming in his own messy way, as is his grandmother Glytha.

The reader also gets a real sense of the racism, religious fervor, and overall danger of the times. Unless you were a catholic, white man, your very existence could be wiped out with very little consequence.

While this title didn't capture me as much as last summer's The Historian, I did learn quite a bit about the time period, and it has spurred me on to want to read some non-fiction about the times.

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24. Silvia Foti: Interview


Interview: Silvia Foti

Silvia Foti, is a freelancer and mystery novelist. Her first mystery novel, Skullduggery, became available as an e-book with Echelon Press in 2006. Her second mystery novel, The Diva's Fool, will be published by Echelon Press in 2007. She serves as president of Love Is Murder, an annual multi-genre conference for writers and readers held in Chicago. In the anti-competitive ladder of volunteer writing organizations, she was also voted president of Sisters in Crime in Chicago, a local group of mystery writers for the year 2006.

MC: Welcome, Silvia. You had a very interesting and diverse childhood, growing up as the child of Lithuanian political exiles. How has this experience shaped your writing?

SF: It had a profound influence, I always felt as an "other" as a child, living in two worlds, Lithuanian and American. My mind was always on Lithuania, as my parents thought they'd return some day. They never did, even when the country became free, but that longing for it still remains. I turned to books a lot and still do, and an avid reader probably thinks about writing some day. My protagonist is Lithuanian, so I bring much of myself into her.

MC: You have very broad experience in writing manuals on compliance for health journals, designing brochures, freelancing in Argentina for two newspapers and the Polo Magazine. When did your interest turn to mystery stories?

SF: I've always been reading mysteries, even as a child. I loved the suspense and thrill, the spying around. Growing up Lithuanian, my generation felt called to save the country, and in some small way, I always felt like a child-spy in America, looking for ways to free Lithuania from here. It's silly, but at the time I believed it.

MC: How does your business experience and your company, Lotus Ink help in promoting your own fiction writing career?

SF: I have the discipline to accomplish tasks I set out for myself. If something doesn't work as anticipated, I just try something else, and keep doing so without getting bogged down too much.

MC: Skullduggery and the upcoming Diva's Fool are set in Chicago. Are any of your characters or scenarios based on true life?

SF: The protagonist is a journalist on the Southwest Side of Chicago and is Lithuanian. This much is based on my own true life. The rest is imagined, particularly her skill with Tarot cards. For her, they really work.

MC: What is next? Another Chicago mystery?

SF: This is a series of twenty-two, based on the twenty-two Greater Secrets cards. The next will be based on The Magician card. This one begins in Bergamo, Italy, and ends in New York City.

MC: Can you share something funny about yourself for your readers and fans?

SF: I had a huge fear of public speaking. On a whim I answered an ad to teach public speaking at St. Xavier, my alma mater, believing that if God wanted me to improve as a public speaker, I'd get the job. I always put God in the picture with these sorts of things. To my shock, three days before classes began, I received a call to teach the class. The one they really wanted had gotten a better job, and a former professor of mine recommended me. They were desperate. The first day I was so nervous standing in front of the students speaking publicly about improving their own speech. After that experience, I knew I could do anything.

Thanks, so much, Silvia. Your personal story is as fascinating as your mystery books.

The Diva's Fool is available for purchase through Amazon.com. Skullduggery is available for purchase through Amazon or the publisher, Echelon

Read more about Silvia Foti on her website.

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25. Bindy Mackenzie



So. I have been reading, but not blogging. I don't like when I do this, because things get a little fuzzy. I will be working backwards for the next few titles.

This is a book that I have been meaning to read for a while. I loved The Year of Secret Assignments, Feeling Sorry for Celia - not so much. But Moriarty got me back with this title.

Bindy is an intense girl. Competitive. Smart. And frankly... a little above her fellow students. She simply cannot believe it when a new course called FAD falls into her year 11 plans.

Friends and Development. What is that supposed to mean? For Bindy, it means sitting in a storage room behind a concertina wall, with a bunch of kids who she can no longer stand. It means being forced to socialize with teenagers when Bindy perceives herself as so far beyond that.

Year 11 is not turning out as it should. For one thing, Bindy is no longer living with her folks, rather with her Auntie and Uncle and cousin Bella. For some reason she is unable to concentrate like she usually can. She isn't handing in her assignments, and she's feeling quite ill. And this FAD class is just getting in the way of everything. Even Bindy's habit of transcribing everything she hears no longer brings comfort.

The Life (Murder) of Bindy Mackenzie is a far fetched tale of the best kind. Bindy is thoroughly annoying, yet readers have sympathy for her. We want her to to catch a clue! Moriarty has the pacing down perfectly, and has written a fun, fast story that fans of more recent titles like Pretty Little Liarswill want to revisit.

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