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Today’s blog post is by Brenda Berg, who loaded her family into an RV and spent over half a year traveling across the country. They called their adventure the Gump Trip, and along the way they distributed 6,000 brand-new books to kids in need at local schools and community programs in the First Book network.
Have you ever sat in the carpool lane and dreamed about your next vacation? Last year, I decided to make it a reality. The plan – before my daughter entered middle school– was to go from music lessons and organized sports to something real.
Brenda Berg and her children at Glacier National Park
After months of getting things in order, my kids and I set off on an adventure of a lifetime, traveling to 49 states and two Canadian provinces. (We were also joined by an exchange student from Sweden and my husband joined us about once a month.) In seven-and-a-half months, we traveled over 35,000 miles.
Instead of guitar lessons, we visited the Fender guitar factory and attended live concerts. Instead of indoor climbing classes, we climbed in Alaska and hiked in dozens of national parks. Instead of textbooks, we visited dozens of historic and interesting sites. We definitely got real!
Our commitment to ‘return to real’ extended beyond national parks and factory tours. We were also committed to education and service. In order to reach hundreds of children across the country in a real way, we partnered with First Book to give new, high-quality books to kids in need.
The Berg family and First Book volunteers with local children in New Orleans
Of the 200 stops we made along the way, the six First Book events – where we worked with local First Book volunteers gave away new books to kids in need – were our favorite experiences, ones that will change our lives forever. We gave away over 6,000 books and met with hundreds of children to talk about traveling in our amazing country. The smiles from those children were better than the sunrise over the Grand Canyon (and that’s a sight that is hard to beat!).
Most of us look for ways to give back in our communities, but I encourage people to consider giving back as they travel. There are isolated and other under-supported communities all over America that will benefit and you will gain a whole different perspective on America at the same time. And, just like your efforts at home, you will get back far more than you will give.
Inspired? Visit First Book on the web to find out how you can volunteer or raise funds to help kids in need get the brand-new books that will change their lives.
Ol’ Bloo’s Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble by Jan Huling Henri Sorensen, illustrator Peachtree Publishers 5 Stars . Inside Jacket: Ol’ Bloo Donkey has always dreamed of retiring from the cotton field to become a honky-tonk singer. But when he overhears the type of retirement plan Farmer Brown has in mind for him—of the permanent …
Southern debutante Vivienne LaBlanc can’t believe bad-boy rock star Connor Mansfield is back in town for the New Orleans annual Saints and Sinners pageant. He has a reputation as wicked as his devilish smile, and Vivi has no intention of becoming one of his latest groupies! He once crushed her high school heart, so playing the saint to Connor’s sinner should be easy. But how can Vivi get those less-than-angelic thoughts out of her head-especially when Connor’s so good at tempting her to be bad?
I struggled with The Downfall of a Good Girl. I never felt a connection with Vivi, the story’s protagonist. She is everything that I am not. She comes from one of New Orleans’ oldest and wealthiest families, she is a former beauty queen, and now she spends her days running an art gallery and volunteering for various charitable causes. I am fortunate to run a brush through my hair and pull it back into a ponytail on a daily basis, so a former pageant competitor was difficult from me to relate to. The plot revolves around the annual Saints and Sinners fund-raising competition, where Vivi is pitted against her childhood nemesis, Connor Mansfield. Connor and Vivi have been at loggerheads forever, and Vivi is dismayed to discover that Connor, now a successful rock star, will be her competition. She had never considered that he would be chosen to be the Sinner, and she’s not happy about it at all. She is extremely competitive, she hates to lose, and for a majority of the book, she is a poor loser just at the thought of losing. If I met her, I don’t think we would ever be buds.
Connor is reeling from a scandal, and though he proves that the gossip about him is false, he’s still reluctant to put himself in that kind of position again. When he meets Vivi again, he thinks he’s safe. He doesn’t even like this woman, and she hates him. Ever since that flash of temper when they were teens and she publically slapped him, they have been like oil and water. What Connor doesn’t know is that Vivi once carried a torch for him, but after realizing that he was only using her to get to know her friend better, she can’t find it in herself to forgive him. Worse, her family and Connor’s are very close, and they have been thrown together since childhood. Forget that gentle, Southern belle non-sense – she doesn’t want to be nice to him, so she usually isn’t.
While I did enjoy the sparks between them, Vivi’s personality grated on me. She determines from the beginning that she is going to win the contest by raising the most money, but when Connor is unveiled as the opposition, she gives up before things even begin. Instead, she charges herself to be a better person than Connor, though even that’s a struggle for her. Why is he back in town, stealing her thunder? This was supposed to be her moment to shine, not Connor’s! This thought process annoyed me, because it is the charity’s moment to shine, and the fact that Vivi was allowed to participate should have been honor enough. She’s been denied few material things in life, but in terms of personal accomplishments, she is lacking. She was runner up in the Miss American pageant, and she is steamed to be second best again.
Once Vivi loosens up a little and finally lets go, jumping into an affair with Connor, the pacing of the book picks up significantly. Their competition becomes fun, and they both focus on doing their best to raise as much money for the charity as they can. Vivi is having the time of her life, until Connor starts thinking about making New Orleans his home base. Suddenly, their temporary affair isn’t such a good idea anymore. She doesn’t want to risk her heart to him, and as long as their arrangement was temporary, there was no threat to her emotions. Her attitude about trying to stick with Connor permanently pissed me off. Instead of gambling on that ever elusive HEA, she decides that it’s not worth the effort. If I had been Connor, I would have been furious. It’s okay to have a fling, but not okay to try to make things work out permanently? If Connor had walked away at that point, I wouldn’t have blamed him.
I loved the setting for The Downfall of a Good Girl, and the book would have made my TBR pile just because of that. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t click with the heroine, and that some pacing issues at the beginning of the story prevented my from feeling engaged in Connor and Vivi’s romance.
I swear that every time my computer goes on the fritz I feel like I’m walking underwater for days on end while it’s in the shop. I can’t do email effectively, I can’t update Goodreads, I can’t do anything without feeling like it’s all fake until that little laptop is returned to my knees where it belongs. It’s a sickness, man. Not healthy in the least. But now that it’s back I can’t help but be thrilled! Woot and woo-hoo and other “woo” related forms of cheering. Now on to the news . . .
First off, I’m pilfering this next link from the always amusing and informative Jennifer Schultz. Because I am a member of PEN here in New York I’ve been vaguely aware of the efforts to help New Orleans rebuild post-Katrina (the Children’s/Young Adult Book Authors Committee helped move an elementary school library from St. Joseph’s School in Greenwich Village, New York City, to the Martin Luther King Jr. School in New Orleans and have continued to aid that school ever since). The New Orleans public libraries themselves haven’t been on my radar as much. Jennifer filled me in on the matter:
“Yesterday’s Times-Picayune (New Orleans’s newspaper) had an excellent article about the rebirth of the New Orleans Public Library system, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Ever since they started to rebuild the libraries, their motto has been “Building Back Better.” The NOPL libraries were okay—they’ve always had strong community programming, but there was a lot of room for improvement—but drastic improvements were never going to be in the city’s finances, until Katrina came and they had no choice but to literally start over with many of their libraries. They didn’t want to just rebuild what they had—they wanted to take this unusual and tragic opportunity to make a strong and community-oriented system for the city. They wanted to make them public transportation-friendly, since many residents rely on it, technologically savvy, environmentally-friendly—you name it. This is their website: http://nutrias.org/ (The nutria is a pest —they are great at destroying wetlands-and a source of humor in Louisiana-Louisianians can have a dark sense of humor. They had a rather colorful governor years ago who suggested that folks should hunt and eat the nutrias in order to cut down on their numbers, and they’ve been sort of a joke ever since. Nutria fur is marketed as “guilt free fur,” etc).”
Thank you, Jennifer! Fantastic info. I can’t wait for ALA to return and to get to see the city (and it’s libraries!) firsthand.
29 days ago, I challenged myself to read only books written by or about people of color. This challenge was partly inspired by Black History Month, and partly due to a realization that since leaving my classroom in Baltimore, I had pretty much stopped looking for books that reflected the faces of "my" students.
I can almost guarantee that I would not have read most of these books without taking on this challenge, and boy-oh-boy would I have been missing out! In an effort to summarize this month of reading, here are a few awards and a few "similar interest groups" for quick reference.
Favorite YA Read of the Month: Tie between Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis and Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena (these two couldn't be more different, but I'll remember them both for a long, long time)
Favorite New-to-Me Author: Ashley Hope Perez - I thoroughly enjoyed What Can't Wait and am eagerly awaiting The Knife and the Butterfly. I can't help but feel a TFA bond with Ms. Perez and I'm so thankful that teachers like her exist!
The American Girl 1853 series: Cecile and Marie Grace by Denise Lewis Patrick and Sarah Masters Buckey, American Girl, 2011
Recap: Cecile Rey is one of the "gens de couleur libres" or "free people of color" living in New Orleans in 1853. Together, she and her friend, Marie Grace, experience all that the diverse, busy city has to offer: Mardi Gras parades and costume balls, outdoor French markets, helping to fight a yellow fever epidemic, volunteering at a local orphanage, and performing at a city-wide benefit for the orphaned children.
Review: Happy Mardi Gras, book lovers! In honor of the holiday, today I'm featuring a series set in New Orleans, and the first two books take place during Mardi Gras!
I was first inspired to cover this American Girl series after seeing a feature on author Denise Lewis Patrick on The Brown Bookshelf. I'd never given a thought to the authors behind my beloved American Girl books, and reading the story of how Patrick was asked to author the Cecile series piqued my interest. The Cecile series is unique from that of the other American Girls because she shares her books with a girl named Marie Grace. I read "Meet Marie Grace" and then all of the Cecile books in the series, and it's very clear that the two authors plotted the stories out together. Between the two "Meet ____" books, some lines were actually word-for-word the same. I'm really not sure why they chose to have two main characters this time. If any of you know, please fill me in!
On the surface, the Cecile/Marie Grace series follows the same "formula" as every other in the AG line. We "Meet" the girls, they go through some "troubles" but eventually save the day, and everyone ends up stronger and wiser. A little didactic, yes... but these characters are brave, self-confident role models for little girls today. I really like the fact that each book includes a chapter of nonfiction in the back, explaining how the events in the story are a reflection of real events from the past.
Today is Friendiversary, when we celebrate the anniversary of our friendships. Think of one of your oldest and dearest friends. When did you first meet? How did you meet? That story is the story of your Friendiversary.
First Book is celebrating Friendiversary this week by providing 7,000 new Elephant & Piggie books to second-graders at Title I schools in Louisiana and Massachusetts. The Elephant & Piggie series is written and illustrated by our friend Mo Willems, whose support makes it possible for First Book able to provide these books. Every book includes a special Friendiversary note from Mo, and his publisher, Disney Publishing Worldwide, is also providing activity kits, stickers and posters free of charge to each classroom.
There are Friendiversary parties happening in classrooms and programs all over today … or tomorrow, or last weekend. We’re pretty flexible on when you actually celebrate Friendiversary.
The biggest party we’ve heard about so far took place in New Orleans, at James Singleton Charter School. (Mo grew up in New Orleans, and has a special place in his heart for New Orleans kids, so making sure they all had copies of his books was important to him.)
Lynetta Rhodes, the chair of the local First Book volunteer group in New Orleans, helped put the party together. She sent us some great pictures, and filled us in on all the details:
Every student got two copies of Mo’s books to keep, including There’s a Bird On Your Head, Are You Ready to Play Outside?, Today I Will Fly and Should I Share My Ice Cream?. (“I can’t believe I got two books!” one of the students told Lynetta).
There were all kinds of local celebrity guests on hand to read with the kids, including New Orleans city councilmember Susan Guidry, children’s author Robin Washington, Louisiana State Rep. Wesley Bishop and TV reporter Rosa Flores.
There was plenty of ice cream.
“The children looked adorable in their ‘Elephant and Piggie’ ears and the costumed characters made the kids shout with glee,” said Dianne de Las Casas, who hosted and helped plan the event. “Friendiversary at James Singleton Charter School was a great success.”
Happy Friendiversary, everyone!
If you work with kids from low-income families, you can be a part of Friendiversary and other great events and opportunities throughout the year. Sign up with First Book to find out how we can help you get new books for your kids.
0 Comments on Happy Friendiversary! Mo Willems and First Book Join Forces to Bring New Books to New Orleans Kids as of 1/1/1900
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy"-
Dr. Martin Luther King
In my title, Our City of New Orleans, I'm referring to all of us in America. New Orleans is the soul of our country, and thanks to the help of our great citizens all over America and the rest of the world, she will rise again.
I live eighty miles north of New Orleans in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and due to the fact that we were out of utilities for weeks after Hurricane Katrina we didn't realize the extent of the damage until our power was resorted.
After which, thousands of New Orleans citizens began to pour into Baton Rouge, particularly after the city was hit again by Hurricane Rita, only a week later.
One of the greatest and oldest city in America resembled a war zone...It's impossible to explain unless you saw it with your own eyes.
I would also like to extend this post, and my heart, to the Mississippi Gulf coast, whose citizens were also affected by the devastating effects of these natural disasters, in addition to the man-made horror the entire gulf coast is dealing with today-
However, if there is a region and a country that will pull through this, it is the deep south, and the United States of America~
He’d been alone a lot. Not lonesome in the sad sense of the word... he was used to it. There was that woman, once. She stayed for a while but, eventually, she drifted away. There were the two dogs, of course, so he wasn’t really alone. Just no people around regularly. He wasn’t sure if he owned the dogs or they owned him. He didn’t think about it like that, anyway. Ownership, laws, rules. Like the soldiers and media types in the boat who came by. They were so sure that it was necessary, mandatory, even, that he leave. They tried to convince him to join the rest of the evacuation. They could shout and roar and threaten but they’d never catch him. They wore gloves and masks and worried when they got a bit of water on them. And here he was, paddling, belly down, his inner tube and plastic container, to the grocery store. The water stank and there were turds floating by, but he’d seen the kids of Bangkok swimming in the filthy canals when he was there on R&R from Nam. They survived. In fact, the Thais were some of the strongest. Some of the toughest. He paddled with his right hand to turn left. Up to the park where the tops of the swings were still visible and across the submerged boulevard to the mall. All but the hardiest and most determined had given up shopping here. It wasn’t really shopping, you didn’t pay for anything, most of the valuable stuff was gone, looted. What were they going to do with the electronic appliances and games, anyway? There was no power. He drifted in the door of the grocery store. There were a few pet owners still making regular trips to the store but he doubted that many, if any, had tried the dog food. He found that it didn’t taste so bad. The cans were safe and the dried stuff, though it was hard to get down from the top shelf without wetting it, was tolerable. Full of vitamins and raw protein. Not processed to taste good for humans like everything else. The dry stuff made up for the lack of vegetables in his diet. He arranged the bags of dry dog food on top of the cans in the container. He pushed it up the aisle in front of his inner tube. The Saint Bernard breeder was struggling with a large bag, trying to squash it into the bow of her canoe. He stopped to help the woman. They exchanged nods without words. There had been nothing to talk about after the first few days. The latest gossip and rumours had become meaningless. Especially when they realized that they were stuck with the bodies. Some neighbours didn’t get along with each other, but to see them like that. Talk became trivial, unnecessary. He nodded goodbye to the Saint Bernard breeder, paddled up the aisle, out the door. The sun was hot as he headed for home. The dogs’d be waiting. It was kind of ironic, he mused, as he paddled along. There was Eric Clapton explaining his long fascination with Robert Johnson. That had been the DVD on in the living room when the water started rising. The hurricane caused more damage than usual. The generator he’d hooked up conscientiously after the last hurricane, was doing fine, until the flood. An earnest guy from England, an ex junkie, probably one of the best white blues players ever, sitting in a deserted building in Dallas, fifty or sixty years after Robert Johnson recorded there. Max wagged his tail in time with the drumbeats. Brutus perked up his ears, howled along with the song when the guy accompanying Clapton launched into the electric slide solos. Then the generator quit because of the rising water. Darkness enclosed them until he found some candles and lit them. The dogs knew right away. They appeared more anxious every time he looked at them. From the moonlight reconnoitre, the water first approaching his knees, then rising to his hips, things started looking very
Earlier this week, I found myself wandering the rainwashed streets of New Orleans with U2′s “All I Want is You” playing on the soundtrack in my head. Cut to sitting at the French Quarter’s hippest bar, sipping cocktails mixed by a beautiful actress bartender. Chatting beside me was a local gallerist* and, along from him, a couple of artists he represented. In front of me was the notebook open at the final chapter of Johnny Mackintosh: Battle for Earth and a copy of Mark Kermode’s autobiography, It’s Only a Movie.
The gallerist wanted to talk science fiction, notably Iain (M.) Banks and Dr Who. We had similar views on both and I could recount the time where I accidentally got the Scottish novelist a little drunk in a bar before a book reading, buying him whisky and telling him he’d inspired my own novels. It took a little while for the bartender to fess up to being an actress (it turned out a show of hers was even on HBO when I returned to the hotel), but once the fact was divulged she was reciting Shakespearean sonnets and having me recreate a scene from Austin Powers with her. After which I could even tell her how I once worked with Mike Myers!
I know I’m incredibly lucky, but it often feels as though I’m living inside a wonderfully entertaining movie in which I’m director, screenwriter, cinematographer, location manager, head of casting and leading actor. And that’s exactly the conceit of Dr Kermode’s autobiography. It’s already the third book I’ve read this year so I figured it’s time to get busy reviewing or get busy dying. Choose life.
A damn fine bfi book I published with Jonathan Ross
Ever since I noticed there were film critics, Kermode has been my favourite. He’s risen through the ranks to be the nation’s favourite too, with regular slots on The Culture Show and a weekly movie roundup with “clearly the best broadcaster in the country (and having the awards to prove it)” Simon Mayo that’s so entertaining it’s been extended to two whole hours on a Friday afternoon. Possibly the highlight of my time as publisher at the bfi (British Film Institute) was receiving a very lovely email from Dr K. It goes without saying he wrote the bfi Modern Classic on The Exorcist, but this is also the man who made On the Edge of Blade Runner.
Today is the first annual First Book Friendiversary! We are very excited.
A Friendiversary, of course, is the anniversary of a friendship. Think of one of your oldest and dearest friends. When did you first meet? How did you meet? That story is the story of your Friendiversary.
To celebrate Friendiversary, First Book teamed up with Mo Willems, the author of some truly terrific books for kids and a good friend of ours. Mo wanted to do something special for some of the kids in New Orleans (where he grew up) and Springfield, Mass. (near where he lives now). So today, thousands of 2nd-graders in those two cities are getting their very own copy of one of Mo’s ‘Elephant & Piggie‘ books. They will also be having Friendiversary parties in their classrooms.
We are big fans of both Mo’s award-winning work and his generosity, and we were proud to be able to help him get these books to the kids in those schools. To mark the occasion, we even had a Friendiversary celebration of our own. You can see some photos below. The ‘Pig’ team won the dance competition, but the ‘Elephant’ team has vowed to practice hard and take the prize next year.
We’ll share some stories from the kids as soon as we hear them. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your own Friendiversary stories. We know you have some good ones. Share them with us in the comments section below, or on our Facebook page.
A family celebrates Mardi Gras Nola style on St. Charles Avenue
Call it a coincidence that Letting Go is the theme at the Wild Lotus Yoga Studio in New Orleans. When I’m in town, I benefit from blissful moments at Wild Lotus, although yesterday’s class left me slightly crippled (what I get for taking a vacation from exercise as well). During the crazy carnival season, ‘letting go’ is an important reminder. Simple errands, such as making groceries (as they say in New Orleans), can be impossible if you lose a good parking spot or are in a hurry to see the next parade.
I began the carnival season with the intention of forgoing the idea of experiencing carnival in Panama.My sister used last year’s dates for carnival when she booked our airline tickets, an easy mistake if you don’t celebrate Mardi Gras or Easter regularly. I told her that I would be spending Mardi Gras in New Orleans with friends and family. She assured me that Carnival in Panama was different than Carnival in New Orleans or Brazil or the rest of the world celebrating the Catholic festival. The calendar mix-up ensured we had a more authentic experience and enjoyable trip to the Panama. She didn’t realize that Mardi Gras and Easter are dependant on the ever wavering cycles of the moon. The festivities last for weeks on end, before Fat Tuesday and the ensuing fast for lent. However, New Orleans will certainly break the lent fasting shortly after Mardi Gras for the St. Patrick’s Day parade next weekend. Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday, March 8. Mardi Gras can occur as early as February 3 and as late as March 9. This year leaves very little wiggle room for the lent respite of the St. Patick’s Day and St. Joseph Day celebrations.
As someone who has experienced Mardi Gras for seven years, since before Hurricane Katrina, I know that the city’s people population seems to double in size. Dining at a favorite restaurant like Jacques-imo’s can be a challenge, sometimes impossible the weekend before Mardi Gras day.This year HBO has decided to make things on my block a little more interesting. The Episode Manager left a flyer on my doorstep, “Filming Night Parade, Muses, in Your Area.” The all-female krewe has been a favorite parade for over a decade. Add HBO to the mix and I must be homebound and parade bound for the evening. Although the letter assured us the cable show’s “footprint” would be small, I let go of the idea of accomplishing anything other than parading that evening with the cast and crew of Treme, my neighbors, and all the tourists from the North Shore crowding for a chance to catch some girly throws and plastic beads made in China. I had high hopes of going to yoga today, but I let go of that idea as well.
Next week, Mardi Gras gives way to lent and the St. Patrick's Day parades. I will be driving back to California. On Sunday, March 13, I join the Hitched: Writing in Political Oppression Poetry Series at Beyond Baroque, along with Sholeh Wolpe, Alicia Partnoy, Ramon Garcia, and Bilal Shaw, hosted by Xochitl-Julissa Bermeo at 4pm, 681 Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
On our third day in New Orleans, we took a taxi from our hotel to the Garden District and embarked on a walking tour.
The area was originally developed between 1832 to 1900. It may be one of the best preserved collection of historic southern mansions in the United States. The 19th century origins of the Garden District illustrate wealthy newcomers building opulent structures based upon the prosperity of New Orleans in that era. (National Trust, 2006) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_District,_New_Orleans
The homes and yards were beautiful, and as a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll let them speak for themselves.
After our walking tour of the Garden District, we stopped in at the local bookstore located in "The Rink" and purchased some books, which I'll list in a future post. Throughout the neighborhood are beautiful large oak trees and a wide variety of other plants and flowers. Many of the homes have ornate fences and metalwork on the balconies as well as beautiful columns and architectural details. I also loved looking at the paint colors; some houses had subtle variations of colors and others were very bold in their use of color. And everywhere, beautiful trees!
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While in New Orleans, Mark and I visited three bookstores. If you've followed my earlier posts, I'm sure you are getting the sense that I really loved New Orleans. It surprised me in so many ways; and of course for me a perfect vacation always includes books. When I visit a new-to-me place, I must find the perfect books to enrich the traveling experience.
Crescent City Books (where I practically tripped and fell into the glass-windowed door): We didn't buy anything in this shop, but it's a nice store located in the French Quarter, not far from the Marriott where we were staying (see sign at left).
Beckman's Bookshop: Located at 228 Decatur Street, don't be put off by the unassuming storefront (see photo above). With not only a wonderful collection of new and used books, the proprietors entered into a discussion with us on Trotsky (when they learned Mark had written The Prophet of Sorrow.) In this wonderful shop, I purchased Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American Cityby Jed Horne. Here's Beckman's Facebook page so you can like them too.
Garden District Bookshop is a well-organized shop located in The Rink in the Garden District on Prytania Street. I purchased New Orleans: A City Named Desire, by Todd and April Fell (I wanted a book with text and cool photos, like the "Eyewitness Books" series, and this filled the bill. Also in my shopping bag: Jumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen and The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story by Julia Reed.
I want to share with you a few photos of people and animals. I realized that while it is easier and I am more drawn to take photos of buildings and landscapes and beautiful trees that, as a writer, it would be good for me to spend more time looking at people. How they are dressed. How they hold themselves. How they interact with others. What does their body language say? This new travel camera Mark gave me has a "discreet" setting (no flash and no "click"). I found that in crowds no one is really paying attention to me; I can get some good photos.
In one case, where musicians were involved, I felt hesitant to draw close for the photo I wanted (and couldn't get at night using the zoom feature...I had to be close). But then I realized that musicians who play on sidewalks in tourist centers probably aren't worried about having their photo taken.
The photo at the top of this post was taken while we were sitting at Cafe Du Monde. A group of uniform-clad schoolkids was milling about and this young lady on the left and her posture were interesting to me. I wondered what sort of books she liked to read. Would she like Lucky Press's latest YA novel, My Beginning? (By Melissa Kline) She sat on the bench a while, then got up and these young men came in and sat down and I loved their posture.
Here is my guy at Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse.
I loved the view from our table into the kitchen at Emeril's. Here is a waiter, waiting.
First Book is deeply grateful to have been part of “Oprah’s Surprise Spectacular.” We were overwhelmed when 13,000 people at the United Center stood in tribute to Oprah Winfrey and the power of reading – each holding a brand new children’s book to be donated to a child in need through First Book. Surprises don’t get much better than that!
But the story doesn’t end there. Thanks to the audience’s generosity, more than 25,000 new books in total will be given to children in low-income communities throughout the country, including a donation of over 1,100 books for the children at KIPP Believe College Preparatory Academy in New Orleans, the school that was featured in the broadcast.
Honoring The “Oprah” Show’s 25-year legacy with a donation of 25,000 books for kids in need makes for a pretty spectacular surprise. Even though the guest of honor may not like surprises much, we could tell she liked this one.
Everyone at First Book thanks The “Oprah” Show’s audience for supporting our work and sharing the love of reading with children who need books in their lives.
First Book also thanks the fabulous people at Harpo for tapping us for this remarkable opportunity. You are an inspiring group, and we are honored to have worked with you.
ALA Annual is around the corner and we’re knee-deep (okay, maybe higher…) in planning. Want a sneak peek at the treats in our booth? Check this out:
SHARK FANS!!!!! These are to celebrate Bob Shea’s super-fun picture book I’M A SHARK…and heaven knows that you’ll need a fan in sultry New Orleans. Check out the back of the fan:
We’ll have these in the HarperCollins Children’s Booth #1315 (while supplies last) so come by and ask for one while checking out this storytime-ready picture book (try making your own shark fans as a storytime craft!).
We’re in ALA Annual Countdown Mode here in the office – it’s only one week away! Dozens of boxes have been filled with galleys and we can’t wait to share them with you. However, while galleys are certainly a huge incentive to come by Booth #1315 to say hi, we also want to offer up our OUTSTANDING list of authors and illustrators signing in our booth during the conference:
We arrived in NOLA yesterday and have already had an amazing time. First, check out this cup I found in a kitschy gift shop yesterday:
It says: “Proud to be a public serving, friendly, book stamping, soft spoken, helpful, well-read librarian.” And I couldn’t help but chuckle (and be a little annoyed). As a former librarian, I never stamped a book in my ten years as a librarian – everything had gone automation by then. And most of the librarians I know are anything BUT soft spoken. What say all of you about this mug???
And here’s a sample of what waited at our booth at the convention center:
This is only one of about FIVE pallets of books waiting for us. Or, shall I say, waiting for YOU?
Stop by and see us (HarperCollins Children’s) in booth #1315. Look forward to seeing you!
Just back from ALA, that great gathering of 25,000 people devoted to archiving and disseminating the best of the best of our culture. Walking around the massive exhibit hall, it is a bewildering and humbling mixture of businessmen hawking library furniture or the latest software, the old-timers and the newcomers signing books with the hope of generating interest in their project amidst the thousands of new books, the authors meeting–pressing the flesh–of the gatekeepers to vast audiences out there somewhere in the US, the editors and marketers and salespeople hoping that decisions made months earlier were the right ones which will give their publisher–not to mention their individual careers–a boost.
Rainbow over the Mississippi River
You get a sense of the vast reach of publishing industry, of how the latest new piece of technology can excite–and yet how Greek mythology can be made new for a new generation. It’s both about innovation and about rebirth of old stories, about the newest author and about the venerated pro.
Observations During ALA 2011
There are still some family owned publishing companies. Yes, in today’s economy and world, some families still carry on the family business: for example, Lerners, Erdmans, John Briggs of Holiday House. I walked through the aisle of small and independent publishers and wondered if any would rise to this type level? It has happened, it can happen again.
On the other end, the big publishers are big. And diverse. And in that sprawl, they almost lose any type identity. Individual imprints actually have a personal stamp of an Editor in Chief; but most publishers have one marketing department, so that individuality is blurred at a large convention like this, where Macmillan displayed together the books from Feiwel & Friends, Henry Holt, Macmillan Children’s Books, FSG and Square Fish. You can never be sure what you’ll get with a Macmillan book, because there’s so much variety.
How to Get Noticed in New Orleans: Join the Santa Parade
It’s hard to get noticed. 25,000 people attending. Probably 3000+ new books for children and who knows how many for adults. Thousands. And you want to catch the attention of , well, thousands. Impossible. I spoke as part of a 10-person panel, Nonfiction Book Blast, of nonfiction authors. We were given the unfortunate time slot of 8 am on Sunday morning. Still–we drew about 80-90 people. For two hours, those librarians listened to presentations on non-fiction from
these authors: April Pulley Sayre (Rah, Rah, Radishes), Kelly Milner Halls (In Search of Sasquatch), Deborah Heiligman (Charles and Emma), Loree Griffin Burns (The Hive Detectives), Carla Killough McClafferty (The Many Faces of George Washington), Christine Taylor-Butler (Magnets), Shirley Duke (You Can’t Wear These Genes), Darcy Pattison (Prai
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Woods, Brenda. 2011. Saint Louis Armstrong Beach. New York: Nancy Paulsen (Penguin Group)
It's hard to believe that I'm labeling a book about Hurricane Katrina "historical fiction," but to middle-grade readers, that's exactly what it is. While memories of Katrina are still fresh in the minds of New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents, 2005 is a lifetime ago for a 5th grader, born in 2001.
This first-person fictionalized account of 11-year-old Saint Louis Armstrong Beach (named for his grandfather King Saint and the famous trumpeter), tells the brief story of the run-up to Hurricane Katrina, the storm (in which he is trapped with an elderly neighbor), and its aftermath. With freakish good luck and a family with money and decent jobs, Saint will fare better than many, if not most, New Orleanians actually did. However, Saint Louis Armstrong Beach: A Novel (a boy, a dog, and the hurricane that almost separated them) serves as an excellent middle-grade introduction to this important page in American history. The plight of the less fortunate provides a backdrop for Saint's story. When he wonders why others are not evacuating to shelter in other cities, his father reminds him that not all people can leave,
"And who's gonna pay for that? Some people got no jobs, others got no money, and when I say no money ... I mean no money. Some people got nuthin' except the clothes on their backs, Saint." "Money's real important, huh?" "Yep, but what you do with it is even more important. Most a the people who claim money's not important are folks who have plenty of it. You remember that."
If it's a tad didactic and Saint is a tad too saintly, so be it. Sometimes we need the obvious lesson. A short (136 pages) and accessible book for young readers. Light on scientific information, pair this one with an appropriate nonfiction title.
Brenda Woods is a Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner for The Red Rose Box.
we hit the road for Cut and Shoot, TX to meet up with my brother and his family at my sis-in-law's family picnic celebrating the 60th anniversary of her Aunt and Uncle.
Awesome Elvis Impersonator
We had a great time. All her relatives were so sweet to us, so welcoming, and there were at least a hundred people there. Fun to catch up with all that's been going on with Mike and his family. It was Memorial Day weekend, and, in honor of our fallen soldiers, those assembled stood and sang, "Dixie." I only knew some of the words. Such an amazing moment. A Southern moment. Mx had to leave though, the emotion of the day brought tears to her eyes. Her cousin Cody and his good friend David had called a day or two before to let her know that they were being deployed to Afghanistan that weekend.
After the wedding we crashed in our beds in San Antonio, we stayed at The Omni San Antonio, but were barely there twelve hours because we were headed off to Carlsbad, New Mexico the next day. On our pillows were little oval wooden boxes with tiny dolls inside and a note that read:
"Legend has it that the Yanaguana Indians, a peace-loving tribe of native San Antonians, extended their hospitality to Spanish settlers by presenting them with these handcrafted worry dolls. According to tradition, by transferring one worry to each doll before bedtime, and placing them under your pillows your worries would disappear by dawn's light."
We were selling our our house at the time, so I transferred my worries about the sale and Cody's safety to my little dolls knowing full well that the Spaniards of long ago had similar concerns about shelter and survival. Timeless worries, I guess.
NEW ORLEANS – The Crescent City is paying tribute to Cuban culture with the months-long “¡Sí Cuba!” initiative, a collaborative effort among New Orleans museums, universities, galleries and art organizations that will run from early January until late March.
The series of activities is being organized by Tulane University’s Newcomb Art Gallery, that institution’s Stone Center of Latin American Studies and the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Although “¡Sí Cuba!” will not officially get underway until next month, NOMA kicked off its participation in the venture on Dec. 18 with an exhibition of works by Cuban-born, New Orleans-based painter Luis Cruz Azaceta.
Miranda Lash, NOMA’s curator of modern and contemporary art, told Efe that the museum decided to inaugurate the exhibition, titled “Luis Cruz Azaceta: Swimming to Havana,” during the holiday season to add more luster to “¡Sí Cuba!”
The exhibition is made up of 10 recent works by the artist in which he shows the 90 miles of ocean separating Cuba and the United States to be an excruciatingly difficult barrier to overcome and one that thwarts the longings of Cubans on both sides, who are either eager to forge a better life in America or to return to their homeland.
With his paintings, which are both abstract and figurative, Cruz Azaceta hopes to inspire people to imagine their own journey, while also calling to mind the historical links between the cities of New Orleans and Havana.
Cruz Azaceta, a resident of New Orleans since 1992 who has not been back to Cuba since leaving as a teenager in 1960, uses his own experiences as inspiration for his work, which has also been displayed at world-famous venues such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian in Washington.
A second exhibition, a joint presentation of NOMA and the Newcomb Art Gallery titled “Polaridad Complementaria: Recent Works from Cuba,” will focus on recent artistic production on the communist-ruled island.
To be on display until March 14 and overseen by Havana’s Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center, the traveling exhibition features more than 50 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, video and installation art by 27 contemporary Cuban artists, including Rene Peña, Luis Enrique Camejo, Ricardo Elias and Douglas Perez.
The exhibition will be inaugurated simultaneously on Jan. 16 at both NOMA and the Newcomb Art Gallery.
In connection with the exhibit, noted art historian Gerardo Mosquera will give a talk on Cuban art on Jan. 28.
The following day, Mosquera will join a panel of critics, art historians and artists for a discussion on that same subject, part of the Collecting Cuban Art symposium being hosted by Newcomb, NOMA, Tulane’s Cuban & Caribbean Studies Institute and the Tulane Center for Scholars.
Other participants in the panel discussion will include Ricardo Viera, Holly Block, Sandy Levinson, Daniel Cameron and prominent Cuban artist Antonio Eligio Fernandez, better known by his nickname “Tonel.”
Other New Orleans galleries and museums have also joined on to “Si Cuba” and will either host exhibitions of Cuban artists or h
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Mary Pope Osborne, author of the wildly popular Magic Tree House series, and Random House Children’s Books are teaming up with First Book to provide 4,000 books to children in 27 Recovery District schools in New Orleans. On Monday and Tuesday of next week, Ms. Osborne will personally visit with and read to children from six of the schools that are receiving books.
In anticipation of the New Orleans Jazz Festival that begins later that week, Ms. Osborne and Random House will be donating new copies of Magic Tree House #42: A Good Night for Ghosts, in which Magic Tree House characters Jack and Annie travel back in time to meet a young unknown boy named Louis Armstrong and encourage him to share his gift of music with the world.
Mary Pope Osborne said, “When my husband Will and I visited New Orleans shortly after Katrina, we were tremendously moved and inspired by the spirit of the city and its people. New Orleans has always been one of our favorite cities in the world, and on that trip we promised all the kids we met that Jack and Annie would soon visit New Orleans in the Magic Tree House and have an adventure with a young Louis Armstrong. We are now very happy to share that adventure—and the magic of reading—with them.”
Check back next week to hear from Mary Pope Osborne herself!
Mary Pope Osborne reads to New Orleans school children.
Mary Pope Osborne, author of the popular children’s book series, Magic Tree House, and Random House Children’s Books teamed up with First Book to provide 4,000 books to children in need in 27 Recovery School District schools in New Orleans this month. On April 19th and 20th, Osborne visited with and read to children from six of the schools that received books. She also spoke about her enthusiasm for working with First Book and her inspiration for writing on WWLTV Eyewitness Morning News.
Ms. Osborne said, “Working with First Book in New Orleans was an inspiring adventure. Together we visited a number of schools and put new books into the hands of young readers. Our shared belief is that reading provides the path toward greater possibilities for the future — and every child deserves the opportunity to set out on the journey.”
Will Osborne, Marlene Pete (Treasurer, First Book-Greater New Orleans), Lynetta Rhodes (Co-Chair, First Book-Greater New Orleans) and Kyle Zimmer (President and CEO, First Book) cheer Mary Pope Osborne as she accepts a proclamation from the mayor in her honor.
Ms. Osborne donated new copies of Magic Tree House #42: A Good Night for Ghosts, in which Magic Tree House characters Jack and Annie travel back in time to meet a young boy named Louis Armstrong and encourage him to share his gift of music with the world.