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1. Video Sunday: Happy Easter!

Normally I don’t advertise author/illustrator contests and challenges but this one has something I like.  Namely, Rube Goldberg machines.  Actually, I also happen to like Lisa Graff.  And I happen to like her new book which I finished yesterday and includes the aforementioned Rube Goldberg thing.  The first to ever appear in a children’s book?  You decide.

Next up, I’ve heard the movie news but if we’re gonna do Hobbit then we’re doggone gonna do Hobbit.  Just maybe not the version you’ll be seeing in theaters soon.

Thanks to Hark! A Vagrant for the link.

Next up, grants plus The Eric Carle Museum plus copious Raul Colon?  There is nothing about this that I do not like.

Thanks to Sandy Soderberg for the link!

Now these days everyone’s talking about nonfiction.  Thanks to the Core Curriculum the subject is hot as hot can be and nonfiction’s been getting a real leg up.  I can’t tell you how many people have recently asked me if I knew any librarians that are specifically knowledgeable in the realm of elementary informational texts.  With that in mind, the interest in quality nonfiction has never been greater.  That’s why it’s nice to see new biographies out there, like the recent Twice As Good by Rich Michelson which tells the tale of William Powell.  But, as LeVar Burton might say, you don’t have to take my word for it.

And since we’re dealing with Easter here, it’s only fair that we end with bunnies.  Bunny bunny bunnies.  It was a toss-up between this, the bunny who eats the flower, and the bunnies in the cups.  In the end, I figured you go with the sure-fire crowd pleaser.

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2. Review of the Day – Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand

Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina
By Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
Illustrated by Raul Colon
Marshall Cavendish
$19.99
ISBN: 978-0-7614-5562-2
Ages 8-11
On shelves now

When I was a kid I took a fair amount of ballet. I liked it. Kept me on my toes (yuk yuk yuk). I retain fond memories of that time in my life, but don’t be fooled. I’m just as likely to groan when I see a children’s biography of a ballerina as anyone. “Not another one!” I’ll kvetch. Never mind that ballerina bios don’t exactly stuff my shelves to overflowing. Never mind that when artists like Raul Colon are involved the end result is going to be magic. Never mind that author Carmen T. Bernier-Grand has attempted to sate my unquenchable thirst for original biographies of people never covered in the children’s sphere before. It was only when my fellow librarians repeated the phrase, “No. Really. It’s incredibly good” to me in about thirty different ways that I finally picked the dang thing and cracked it open. Fun Fact: It’s incredibly good. Who knew? [Aside from all those children's librarians, of course.] From the pen of Ms. Bernier-Grand comes a biography that tells the balanced, nuanced story of a woman pursuing the art form she loves in the face of personal tragedies, political upheavals, and worldwide acclaim/blame.

A child named Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martinez y del Hoyo dances in her Cuban home. “Like light, / she’s barely aware / of the floor beneath her dancing feet.” Few could suspect at the time that she would grow up to become perhaps the greatest Cuban ballerina in the world. After years of practice she marries at fifteen to a fellow dancer and moves to New York. It’s there that she is discovered, just in time for her retina to detach. But even blinded she dances in her head and when she comes back to the stage her toe shoes are glued to her feet with blood. Back in Cuba she starts a dance company that suffers under the dictator Batista and does better under Castro. When the decision comes to dance for Cuba or the U.S. she stays with her roots, to the admonishment of the exiles. To this day she dances still. A final author’s note, list of ballets she’s performed, awards received, a Chronology, Glossary of terms, Sources, Website, and Notes appear at the end.

Books for children that deal with Cuba make me wish I had been a better student in school. My knowledge of the Cuban Revolution comes in bits and pieces, fits and starts. Recently we’ve seen quite a few titles concerning this moment in history but often I found them strangely black and white. In books like “The Red Umbrella” for example, characters were portrayed as incredibly black and white. When one starts to join with Castro, she becomes evil near instantaneously. Sometimes historical choices and moments have bits of gray in there, though. Part of the reason I liked Alicia Alonso as much as I did had to do with these gray areas. First off, it was one of the few books to speak about Dictator Batista. Next, here you have a woman who chose to stay in Cuba. As the Author’s Note explains, “Alicia had

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3. Catch This Bus

Kittinger, Jo. S. Rosa’s Bus: The Ride to Civil Rights. Illus. by Steven Walker. Calkins Creek, 2010. Ages 6-9.

Many children’s books relate the story of Rosa Parks and her refusal to vacate her seat for a white man. This picture book, however, zooms in on the actual bus — #2867, which began its journey in 1948 on the assembly line in Michigan and ended up getting restored and displayed in the Henry Ford Museum in 2003. Kittinger keeps the story rolling along, undeterred by superfluous details. Walker’s colorful oil paintings, especially those of the bus, add to the kid appeal. After Rosa’s arrest, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the bus boycott, which “went on and on. No dimes jingle-jangled in the coin box. Day after day, week after week, month after month, Bus #2357 rode down the street with plenty of empty seats.” After 382 days, the boycott ended with the Supreme Court ruling that outlawed race-based discrimination. Use this book to enhance children’s understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and their appreciation of the perseverance of those who participated. The bibliography provides noteworthy sources for those who want more details.

Shelton, Paula Young. Child of the Civil Rights Movement. Illus. by Raul Colon. Schwartz & Wade, 2009. Ages 5-9.

This first-time author is a daughter of Civil Rights leader Andrew Young and a first-grade teacher, experiences that enrich her engaging, child-friendly true story. Using simple, rhythmic language, she describes how her family moves from New York to Atlanta to work for the end of “Jim Crow, / where whites could / but blacks could not”). Famous leaders in the movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr., are not cast as distant gods but as folks who ate and laughed and prayed together. Colón’s soft-colored pencil-and-wash illustrations evoke the affection shared among the activists. Children will laugh upon learning of Shelton’s first protest: She sat on the floor and wailed when a Holiday Inn restaurant in Atlanta refused to serve her family.  One aspect that particularly recommends this book to children is its hopeful, positive tone, with its emphasis on community and respect. The story’s triumphant end shows Paula and her family joining the world-changing march from Selma to Montgomery. A brief bibliography and biographical notes provide additional information.

Other Recommended Titles for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Michelson, Richard.  As Good as Anybody:Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom. Illus. by Raul Colón. Knopf, 2008. Ages 6-10. Michelson provides an interesting perspective in this 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner. He focuses on two peaceful heroes: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and an ally, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Michelson invites readers to consider the parallels between the two leaders and their experiences. Both experienced hostility and prejudice in their homeland. Both overcame it with love, faith, and wisdom. Colón’s iIllustrations illuminate both the individual exper

3 Comments on Catch This Bus, last added: 1/15/2011
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4. Fusenews: Hunting the snark

After posting a video from the episode of Community where Troy meets his hero LeVar Burton I got a penchant for a little Reading Rainbow.  The universe, it appears, was happy to oblige.  First off you have a woman that I would love to meet one day.  If the name Twila Liggett fails to ring any bells, know only that amongst her many accomplishments she was the founder and executive producer of Reading Rainbow back in the day.  In the article Just Read Anything! she writes a message to parents and teachers that’s pretty self-explanatory.  If you can’t think of Reading Rainbow without the aforementioned LeVar, however, the same website Happy Reading has a lovely interview with the man.  I’d love to meet LeVar myself, but I think my reaction would be a shade too similar to Troy’s.
  • Mmm.  Critical reviews.  They’re important.  I don’t do as many of them these days as I used to, but I try to work in at least a couple per year.  Some bloggers don’t do them at all, and while I understand that I think it’s important to have a critical dialogue in the children’s literary blogosphere.  That nice Justine Larbalestier author recently wrote a post called I Love Bad Reviews that covers this.  She’s a gutsy gal, that one.  I hope she writes a middle grade book one of these days (How to Ditch Your Fairy came close but wasn’t quite there).  And if the research author Elizabeth Fama found in the Sept/Oct 2010 issue of Marketing Science is true, then “negative reviews of books of relatively unknown authors raised sales 45%.”  So there you go, oh first time authors.  It’s win-win!
  • Along similar lines is this other snarky link.  Personally I’ve nothing against Cassandra Clare.  She was a lovely person that I got to meet at a Simon & Schuster preview once.  Of course, I’ve never read a one of her books (she’s a YA writer) but bookshelves of doom gave a positive review to her City of Bones and I trust Leila.  That said, I enjoyed Part One of the podcast Read It and Weep’s series on that same book (Part Two isn’t out as of this posting).  Read It and Weep is a couple dudes and their guest host talking about books and various pop culture icons they dislike.  I wouldn’t recommend the podcast for fans of the series, but if you’re curious about the book it can be amusing.  Particularly since they will mention things they enjoyed, like the cat-related paging system.  I think I’ll have to seek out their thoughts on Percy Jackson soon.  Not Twilight, though.  It’s been done.
  • Everyone and their mother emailed me the amazing Aaron Renier

    5 Comments on Fusenews: Hunting the snark, last added: 3/9/2011
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5. El día de los niños/El día de los libros

This year is the 15th anniversary for El día de los niños/El día de los libros! Happy birthday to this wonderful celebration of children and books from all linguistic and cultural backgrounds!

There are lots of celebrations going on and one I’m particularly excited about is the Pura Belpré Celebración at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans this June.  Organizers tell us that they’re going to celebrate it as a Quinceañera with a traditional promenade.  It’s going to be fabulous – we only hope we can sneak away from our booth long enough to participate!

For your collections, here are some Spanish and bilingual books to consider for your Día celebrations:

This list is by no means exhaustive (many of these authors and illustrators are prolific with rich and beautiful books in their backlist), but hopefully it’ll help get you started.

And make sure to check out the Día website – there’s a wealth of information about hosting your own Día event, events going

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6. Children’s Illustrators and The New Yorker

Drooker 223x300 Childrens Illustrators and The New YorkerMy husband Matt pairs well with me for a number of reasons.  Amongst them is our mutual inclination to collect things we love.  As such, Matt has systematically been holding onto all his issues of The New Yorker ever since he got his subscription in college.  Over the years these issues have piled up piled up piled up.  I was a Serials Manager before I got my library degree and one of the perks of the job was getting lots of lovely magazine holders. For years these holders graced the tops of our bookshelves and even came along with us when we moved into our current apartment a year ago.  Yet with the arrival of our puir wee bairn, we decided to do the unthinkable.

Yes.  We ripped off all their covers.

Well, most anyway.  We have the complete run of New Yorker text on CD-ROM anyway, and anything published after the CD-ROM’s release would be online anyway.  Thus does the internet discourage hoarding.

In the meantime, we now are the proud owners of only three boxes worth of New Yorker covers.  They’re very fun to look at.  I once had the desire to wallpaper my bathroom in such covers, but that dream will have to wait (as much as I love New York apartments and all . . .).  For now, it’s just fun to flip through the covers themselves and, in flipping, I discovered something.  Sure, I knew that the overlap between illustrators of children’s books and illustrators of New Yorkers was frequent.  I just didn’t know how frequent it was.  Here then is a quickie encapsulation of some of the folks I discovered in the course of my cover removal.

Istan Banyai

Zoom and Re-Zoom continue to circulate heavily in my library, all thanks to Banyai.  I had a patron the other day ask if we had anything else that was similar but aside from Barbara Lehman all I could think of was Wiesner’s Flotsam.  Banyai is well known in a different way for New Yorker covers, including this controversial one.  As I recall, a bit of a kerfuffle happened when it was published back in the day.

Banyai Childrens Illustrators and The New Yorker

Harry Bliss

Author and illustrator of many many picture books, it’s little wonder that the Art Editor of The New Yorker, Ms. Francoise Mouly, managed to get the man to do a TOON Book (Luke on the Loose) as well.  And when it comes to his covers, this is the one I always think of first.

Bliss Childrens Illustrators and The New Yorker

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7. it doesn't get much more glamourous


than this.

babysat my 8 month old nephew on sunday. my husband and i. we made him giggle like crazy, eating his toes and playing pop up peek-a-boo from behind the couch. it was a silly time. he had a little cold, too. so we played tag team and constantly swiped his little runny nose and droolie mouth with baby wipes. and then he went home.

last night i dreamed that my eyes were being held shut by monkeys. i was sketching them, in the wild, and they let me play close to them, and they loved grabbing your ears and eyelids. i dreamed this and don't ask me why - stuff just kind of happens up there...i just sit back and watch. :)

and when i woke up, my right eye was swollen and crusted over...PINK EYE. FROM THE BABY. and a whopper COLD from the baby. and this is what it feels like, looks like and uggggh...i just wanna crawl under hippopotamus. until i can open my eye again and breathe through my nose.

pretty glamourous, huh? I know, i know, icccky...but i don't thing blog entries are contagious. i mean, i don't THINK they are. :(

7 Comments on it doesn't get much more glamourous, last added: 10/28/2007
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8. Interview with Raul Colón

His art has graced the New York Times, Time Magazine, The New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal as well as record sleeves, theatre posters, annual reports and advertisements. His most important work, though, has been as an illustrator of children’s picture books.

Raul Colón’s illustrations together with Richard Michelson’s engaging storytelling earned the 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award for their book As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heshcel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom.

Illustrator, Raul Colón, joins me during a quiet moment at the Association of Jewish Libraries 2009 Convention to talk about illustrating the intersection of two lives in one event, getting excited about a book project and striking the balance between fact and fantasy.

MORE RAUL COLON: Click here to listen to Raul Colón talk about arming yourself with inspiration and exercising your creative muscles.

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9. Sydney Taylor Book Award Acceptance Speeches - Richard Michelson and Raul Colon

The talented and inspirational Richard Michelson and Raul Colon accept the Sydney Taylor Book Award for their book, As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March Toward Freedom.

0 Comments on Sydney Taylor Book Award Acceptance Speeches - Richard Michelson and Raul Colon as of 7/21/2009 11:57:00 AM
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10. Tuesday Tales: Orson Blasts Off by Raul Colon

photo by papertygre www.flickr.com

*Picture book, fantasy for preschoolers through second graders
*Young boy as main character
*Rating: Orson Blasts Off by Raul Colon is a great adventure-type picture book that kids will love to read over and over again.

Short, short summary:

When Orson’s computer breaks, he doesn’t know what he’ll do to pass the time. He’s already bored! But then his jack-in-the-box, named Weasel (as in Pop Goes the Weasel), talks to him and suggests he goes outside to play in the snow. Of course, Orson can’t believe Weasel can talk or that it’s snowy in July. But when he looks out the window, that’s just what he discovers. This starts Orson’s big adventure through the North Pole, a terrible storm at sea, and outer space–with Weasel as his faithful companion. Raul Colon’s wonderful illustrations paired with his creative story and cute pictures make this a picture book that boys (and girls, too) will love!

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Children can choose which setting from the story they like the best such as the North Pole, the sea during the storm, or outer space. Then they draw a picture of themselves, enjoying an adventure like Orson. Depending on the age of the child, ask students to write a sentence or short story about spending a day at this place. They can put Orson and Weasel in their picture and story, too.

2. Have any of your students or your children ever felt like Orson when a favorite toy breaks? Or how about if you lose your electricity? Will they survive without the T.V. or video games? Ask students to tell you about a time when they had to find something else to do just like Orson. You can also ask students which seems more fun–the video games Orson likes to have or the adventures that he went on in his imagination? (Or was it imagination? See #3 below.)

3. Here’s a question for debate: Is this a fantasy story where Orson really goes on these adventures OR is this a story about Orson’s imagination? Ask students what they think and ask them to give reasons to support their answers.

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