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Reading – we all recognise it as a core skill. By ‘intelligent reading’, I mean reading with a level of comprehension commensurate with the child’s experience of the world they inhabit. Fortunately, reading to children is now encouraged as being supportive of reading literacy and as a sound foundation for future learning.
Not that long ago, children were seen as passive recipients of the eager parent’s input via the quality time spent in ‘read to me’ and ‘bedtime story’ sessions.
I always felt sure my children were taking in much more than the professional opinion allowed.
Her children had a smorgasbord of stories proffered continuously, both Dr Lowe and her husband being librarians who were passionate advocates of children’s literature. The children’s reactions to and responses concerning elements of story and illustrations provide a wonderfully insightful peek into the psyche of the child. Both Lowe children clearly had a blessed and privileged childhood, but being ‘read to’ is within the reach of most children. Public libraries and school libraries are accessible to most families. Even if parental work commitments make a nightly ‘reading’ impossible, there are weekends and visits to grandparents when a ‘storytelling’ session can be included in the agenda.
And online resources such as “Ripple Reader” and “A Story Before Bed” provide a way for even absent grandparents and parents to read to their children. In the USA and Israel, ‘bedtime stories’ are part of official early education policy. Programmes like “Reach Out and Read” and “Read to Me” do a monumental job in promoting literacy and the power of storytime to be a deeply meaningful and bonding time in families.
There are not many books which give me nightmares but Snow Bear by Piers Harper is one. It was a favourite of both girls when they were toddlers, even though I couldn’t stand the sight of it (you can read more in my review here). But months, even years, after I last read that book, it recently came back to haunt me with a vengeance.
Piers Harper’s Snow Bear is about a young polar bear who has lost his mum. A young Inuit girl helps to reunite mother and cub and all live happily ever after.
Snow. Being lost and then reunited. Cuddly animals. All good. At least for my kids.
But can you imagine that sinking feeling in my stomach when last month a new book arrived for review, a book about a polar bear cub who has lost his mother, but who is reunited with her thanks to a young girl?
Not only that, it too is called The Snow Bearand it’s by an author I associated (without every previously having read anything by her) with soppy, girly stories full of fluff and nonsense?
Uh-uh. No Way. Hide it to the back of the cupboard. Give it away to some unsuspecting soul.
I was not going to go through another round of polar bear hell.
But then the twinkling stars conspired against me. M needed a new book to read (when J has ballet lessons on a Saturday morning we have a little routine going whereby I wrap up a new-to-M book/comic and give it to M to read – a Saturday morning treat instead of sweets) and I had nothing in the house that I could offer. Well nothing other than a book I didn’t want to share.
But aren’t I a book champion? Don’t I believe that all reading is good reading? Don’t I try to be that sort of gatekeeper where the gates are always open allowing a flood of variety through rather than thinking I know best about what ought to be locked up and kept from prying eyes? Don’t I believe, on some level, that every book has a reader somewhere out there for whom it will be just right?
All this as preamble to get to the point where I let my personal demons out of the wardrobe and gave M The Snow Bear by Holly Web.
And of course, M devoured this book. She LOVED this book. She was so excited and happy to read this book. M loves reading, but even I was a little taken aback by the enthusiasm with which she talked about this book and INSISTED that I read it.
So I read it. I read it on my own.
It looked like I was going to have to admit I was wrong. It looked like I was going to have to do that hardest of things and change my opinion.
To be doubly sure, I read it again, this time aloud as a bedtime read to J.
J adored the book, and even on a second read I still thought this book was really rather good.
It’s about people being kind and thoughtful, it’s about family bonds and tensions, it’s about love, loss and longing, and it’s got a real air of authenticity about it.
From the historical / geographical / social details of Inuit life to the emotional world of a young child, Holly Web has written a story which rings true (even in that final moment when you have to decide has it all been a dream or not).
For a young independent reader it’s a wonderful book. It looks and feels lovely to hold – a proper hardback, with a little bit of sparkle. Black and white illustrations every few pages help draw you in and then the magic of the tale takes over. There’s the adventure of making a real igloo and camping out in it, there’s the delight of listening to your grandpa tell what seem like impossible tales. There’s the reassurance that whenever you’re lost, you will always end up being found and reunited with those that matter to you.
Given the season, we decide we’d make some Christmas tree ornaments to remind us of Holly Webb’s Snow Bear. Like the hostess with the mostest I was able to conjure up out of General Supplies some wooden die-cut polar bears (bought several years ago from Hobbycraft) which the girls painted and then covered in sparkles.
Some drilling and thread later our first tree decorations were ready:.
Whilst making our polar bear decoration and banishing nightmares we listened to:
Taking inspiration from the always inspirational Betsy Bird and making decorations based on children’s book illustrations using shrinkies. I can’t get onto Besty’s blog at the moment, but here’s basically the same idea on Craftster.
While I am thrilled that reports of the death of the picture book were greatly exaggerated, I have been wondering of late if there will ever be room for another William Steig or Bill Peet in this world? Is there space on the shelf of the bookstores for this kind of book, a publisher willing to go with a picture book that does not feature a "character" sure to spawn a series and, above all
image from Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie written by Laurie A. Jacobs, illustrated by Anne Jewett
Laurie A. Jacobs, author of Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie, participated in the Project Sunshine Book Club on March 7 at a Manhattan hospital. Laurie channeled the silly playful spirit of Grandma Tillie and did an art project with the children. 25 copies of Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie were donated by Flashlight Press to the young patients.
Project Sunshine is a nonprofit organization bringing programming – recreational, educational, and social service – to over 60,000 children facing medical challenges in 150 major cities across the United States and in five international satellite sites: Canada, China, Israel, Kenya and Puerto Rico. For more information, visit http://www.projectsunshine.org.
Sticks are super… but how to broaden our horizons when we’re out exploring? What else could we and the kids look for? How do we learn to identify what we find? Today I’ve once again got one fiction picture book and one non-fiction book that go together really well, and which could help us answer these questions.
Having packed a rucksack full of sandwiches they launch themselves into the sort of knowing pretend play that my girls adore, imagining that ordinary objects in the garden are actually terrifying and dangerous safari animals. There is the croco-logus emerging from the pond, the snake-pipe slithering across the lawn and the hippo-potta-compost at the end of the vegetable patch, and young and old delight in scaring and being scared by the fates that might befall them if they were to be captured by these wild animals.
The adrenalin filled safari is going thrillingly well until the clothes-lion roars and sends Lollipop and her grandfather rushing back to the safely of their home. With all the familiar, delicious relief that readers and listeners feel with We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, Lollipop and her Grandfather do reach their house just in time, but then comes an unexpected twist – will they actually be safer inside?
Lollipop and Grandpa’s Back Garden Safari is great fun! All about entering into the spirit of things, relishing imaginative play, safely being frightened, and the sheer enjoyment that’s possible when playing outside, this book has become pretty popular in our home. This book really invites you to play the story, to play by the book. My kids think it’s such a hoot when they “see” threatening animals (the apple tree, the water butt, the bamboo sticks) and I act terrified. All powerful M and J have conjured up these creatures which have the power to scare me – the girls just can’t get enough of this!
Cate James‘ textured illustrations have a child-like quality to them, with lots of scribbles, and people with straight arms and legs rather like stick men. For a book which is all about really entering the mind of a young child, this style of illustration works really well.
Pretend safaris (also possible indoors!) are fab! And they complement “real” safaris too. Not, unfortunately to see lions and tigers, of which there are very few roaming the streets in central England, but to explore the animals and natural environments which are on our doorstep.
Sometimes this blog gives the impression that life in our home is idyllic, that I’m some sort of super mum and that our house gives off a continual pleasant, warm and loving glow.
Well. Let me assure you that this is not the case.
In order to get the material for this post I caused my kids to weep and scream at me. I even took photos of them yelling at me.
Well, I may score good marks on the glitter and glue front but I’ve failed utterly and totally when it comes to my kids and food: M is the fussiest eater I know, and J loves to copy her big sister so she too eats a hugely self-restricted diet (M will only eat 4 cooked things: sausages, egg noodles, fish fingers and, at a push, beefburgers. Yep, that’s it…).
So when along came a really lovely picture book about being a fussy eater I was delighted. Might it provide the breakthrough I’m constantly looking for?
One day Katharine Quarmby and Piet Grobler‘s Fussy Freya decides all the food she used to like is no longer yummy. She simply refuses to touch it. Her parents try to keep their cool but when the food they’ve lovingly prepared gets thrown on the floor they despair and decide to call on Grandma’s help.
When Freya throws down the gauntlet and tells her granny that she want to eat giraffe and other wild animals, Grandma calls her bluff and prepares precisely what Freya has requested. Warthog stuffed with cheese, grilled giraffe with cheese or mashed monkey, any one? Will this revolting food be a hit with Freya, or will she realise that what her parents offer her is actually rather yummy and so much more appealing than the exotic dishes her grandparents prepare for her?
Katharine Quarmby’s rolling, rhyming tale of a fussy eater is great fun. There’s a lovely little refrain that kids will quickly pick up on and join in with, and the mixture of humour, naughtiness and rather shocking dishes (most kids love a little bit of squeamishness, especially if it’s safely at arms’ length in the pages of a book) are great ingredients combined to make a satisfying tale. Piet Grobler’s illustrations are full of gorgeous colour and perfectly match the slightly grotesque story, being both full of love and warmth, and seasoned with a sharp edge.
One final aspect I really like about Fussy Freya is that Freya’s family is a mixed race family. This isn’t commented upon at all in the story – her’s is just a normal, “unremarkable” family. It’s great to see this in a picture book as it doesn’t happen often.
In the spirit of Fussy Freya I thought I’d offer my girls some really ghastly food in the hope that they’d realise that my offerings of “normal” food were actually quite ok.
For starters I gave them a bowl of snot. (Can you think of a child who doesn’t pick her nose?)
Cream cheese with a bit of food colouring, and bread st
My grandfather, Billy, hears the talk of birds. He leans out the open bedroom window with his head tilted to listen in the warm prairie morning.
Kindred Souls is the kind of children's book I have come to appreciate as an adult, but, the kind of book that I would NEVER have wanted to read as a child. In other words, it's one of those books. You know, the kind, the kind that introduces you to a wonderful old man AND a dog. And you have every right to be suspicious that the end will destroy your emotional well-being.
Jake, our narrator, is ten and confident; confident that everything will stay the same, confident that life is good and will stay that way. Sure, his grandfather, Billy, is eighty-eight, sure he's moved in with them. But he will live FOREVER. Don't ask him how he knows, it's enough that he believes. The novel begins with the two going on their usual walk. Billy is talking--again--about the sod house where he was born. He is wishing--again--that it hadn't fallen into such horrible condition. He is telling Jake--again--about the old days. This time Billy seems extra-sad, so Jake asks him a simple question: "How hard is it to cut a brick of sod?" And so the idea is born that a new sod house will be built...
And then there is the arrival of Lucy, a stray dog, that seems to be the perfect companion for Billy. Billy and Lucy seem to be best, best, best friends from the very first moment they meet.
One of the truly great discoveries for me this summer has been the Swedish author Ulf Stark. Last week I couldn’t resist telling you about his bittersweet exploration of identity, Fruitloops and Dipsticks, likely to be enjoyed most by kids in their early years at secondary school or there abouts.
Today, however, I want to tell you about a trio of books that will delight slightly younger children, all of them about a young boy, Ulf, his friendships, school and family life. Each is packed with humour and acute observations about relationships, between friends and enemies, and children and adults. They share an unpatronising approach to their readers, mirroring aspects of their own lives in a honest and yet thoughtful, nearly always funny, and sometimes heartbreaking manner. They struck me as the next step up from the naughty and adorable Nicholas books by Goscinny and Sempe – perfect for slightly older kids, who still love getting in to trouble but who can also appreciate meatier issues.
When we’re first introduced to Ulf, in My friend Percy’s Magical Gym Shoes, we soon discover he is chubby and poor at sports. But when a new boy, Percy, arrives at his school, Ulf finds someone he looks up to, someone he wants to emulate; Percy seems suave and full of self assurance, powers which apparently stem from his magical gym shoes. Ulf is determined to buy Percy’s shoes from him, so he too can be cool and confident. And indeed, once Ulf has the shoes, his life does become much more exciting as he and his new best friend get into all sorts of scrapes and japes. But these adventures are not appreciated by the adults around and Ulf starts to get a bad reputation. Does Ulf want to be known as a bad boy? Does he need to be so wild to gain the respect he wishes for from his peers? Will he and Percy manage to stay friends?
In My friend Percy & The Sheik we learn that Ulf’s father is a ham radio buff, and through his hobby has made contact with a sheik (True Fact: former King Hussein of Jordan was an amateur radio hobbyist and often chatted with ‘regular’ people all around the world). The sheik promises to visit Ulf’s father but will the trip come off? Will Ulf be the laughing stock amongst his friends? This second volume sees Ulf and Percy’s friendship cemented as they deal with bullying, a first crush, and the threat that Percy’s family will have to move away.
By the time we reach My friend Percy & Buffalo Bill the boys are 10, and 3 years into their friendship. They spend one summer together on a Swedish island at Ulf’s grandparents home and it turns out to be an amazing summer, the summer you dream of as a kid, building dens, taming wild horses, fishing and swimming around the island. But at the heart of this story is Percy and Ulf’s relationship with Ulf’s heartbroken grandfather. A curmudgeonly old so-and-so, Percy gains the grandfather’s respect by standing up to him, and gradually a friendship develops that in the end will bring tears to your eyes. I haven’t read many books which focus on male friendships that manage to be laugh out loud funny and also profoundly moving.
Prairie is unhappy when her grandmother up and announces that it's time she moves home. After all, Grammy is much more than simply a grandmother to Prairie; she is her friend and her teacher as well. Especially since they moved up to New Paltz, NY from North Carolina.
Prairie's family inherited the farm from her mama's side of the family. New Paltz is where she grew up, and now the Evers family are trying to make a go of life by living off this small portion of land. Folks in town seem to have lots to say about this whole situation.
When Prairie and her mama are in town to pick up Prairie's new chicks, her mama leaves her in the malt shop while she runs some errands. While Prairie is sitting at the counter top, she overhears some women mention her mama's name. The women go on to talk all kinds of foolishness about her family-- how Prairie probably can't even read and isn't in school -- how her family probably doesn't have two pennies to rub together -- and it is everything Prairie can do to sit put and not give those women a piece of her mind.
One of those insults, however, is soon unfounded. Prairie's folks tell her that she has to enroll in school. Grammy has always taught Prairie before. They were explorers, learning about things that are interesting. How can she ever go to a school where she is trapped inside all day? How can she ever learn to raise her hand when she has something to say? Or not to blurt out an answer?
School is only made bearable by the one friend that Prairie sets on making. Her name is Ivy Blake. She's clearly a loner and a pretty quiet one at that, but Prairie seeks her out and soon they are spending lots of time together, and Prairie actually starts to feel happy. But as she slowly peels back the layers of Ivy's existence, Prairie realizes that things are not always as they seem.
Ellen Airgood has written a story of family, friendship and loss that while sad in measure is buoyed by an overarching feeling of hope. Even though Prairie and Ivy are misfits on their own, together they are strong and they even each other out. Ivy's family story is an intense one and is buffered by the Evers' family's cohesiveness. There is a Southern feeling to this story despite the setting, and while the idea of the importance of making family is loud and clear, the story never gets eclipsed by it. Prairie is a strong protagonist and readers are likely to admire her even as they cringe at her adjustments to school life.
Even though it isn't Grandparents Day any more, it's never too late to celebrate! Join in the fun with these Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie-inspired activities from the Mommy and Me Book Club blog.
Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie by Laurie Jacobs was the featured selection this week for our book-inspired fun! I wanted to feature a book about Grandparents, in honor of Grandparents' Day this weekend in the US. And I ADORE this book. It was a new find for me this summer.
Gathering Activity: Make Hand Print Pot Holders for Grandparents
I was inspired to make these potholders with our hand prints painted on them from an idea on saw at Second Grade Sparkle.
Fabric solid colored pot holders
fabric paint, coordinating ribbon
copies of the poem to attach to the pot holders printed on cardstock
We attached a great poem I discovered at Kindergarten Rocks! Make sure you go there to see all of the words! We will mail these (or hand deliver these) to our grandparents since the next Sunday is Grandparents' Day in the US.
*We read Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie by Laurie A. Jacobs. This is a delightful book about a grandma who comes to babysit for the evening. She brings a bag full of fun and for each activity, Grandma Tillie changes clothes and becomes a very fun and very silly character. For playtime, she wears a pink wig and pretends to be Tillie Vanilly who can stand on one foot and say the alphabet backwards, tell jokes, juggle and dance the Conga. For dinner she is Chef Silly Tillie who wears a lampshade hat and makes yummy food. At bath time she transforms into Madame Frilly Tillie who gives them glamorous makeovers during a bubble bath. But at bedtime, their REAL grandmother comes to tuck them in and read them stories.
My children love this book. It was actually in the top 5 of their favorites from this summer. I love the portrayal of a Grandmother who is fun and playful. I love the sweet relationship the girls share with their Grandmother. I love the illustrations, too! They are delightful. And I LOVED sharing it with our little Mommy and Me friends today.
*We sang a fun song about families. “We are a happy family.” *Then each of the children took turns sharing the special names they call their grandparents. *We did the Conga to the kitchen for our next activity!
Art Activity: Tissue Paper Hats
In the story, Grandma Tillie wears several large and colorful hats. Of course we had to make our own. While searching for a poem to go with the handprints, I also found this great idea for hats at Kindergarten Rocks! What a fun site! Please go there for a complete tutorial.
Supplies needed: several sheets of colorful tissue paper, heavy brown package paper, tape, ribbons, glue, materials to decorate the hats
Creating a customized fit!After finding the perfect fit, the children decorated with stickers, markers, and tissue paper.
We trimmed the edges of our boy hats to make them look more like Grandpa Fishing Hats. I think they turned out so cute!
Snack: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Pickles, and Chocolate Milk with Straws
In the story, Chef Silly Tillie makes the children Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. She gives them pickles and chocolate milk. Of course our little ones were inspired to blow bubbles in their milk, just like the children in the story. So we made sure to give them extra tall cups with VERY little chocolate milk in the bottom. They did an excellent job blowing bubbles until they reached the top, sipping some, and blowing again. Believe it or not, we had ZERO chocolate milk spills!
Lampshade Relay- As Chef Silly Tillie, Grandma wore a lampshade on her head. We used these two fabric baskets and pretended they were lampshades. We allowed them to take turns running with the lamp shade on their head. They returned and gave another friend a turn. (Some of the children enjoyed this more than others).
Bubble Bins- As Madame Frilly Tillie, Grandma gives the girls a bubble bath. I created 3 bubble bins for the children. I included measuring cups, sponges, and small animals they washed with the sponges. The children played for 30 minutes past Mommy and Me time, just enjoying the sensory bubble play.
Grandfather’s Wrinkles illustrator Richard McFarland only began illustrating at 70, but he’s helping others start young. Richard’s series of school presentations teach – and inspire – children to draw.
“How exactly are you able to make eyes like that?” fifth-grader Grace Knudsen asked. Grace tries to shape eyes like lemons, she said. “It just doesn’t look like a real eye.” “You have to be focused,” McFarland said. “It would be helpful to have photographs. … Be patient. Take it slow and easy. You’ll get there.”
Richard’s most recent appearance was at Montini Catholic School in McHenry, Illinois. To read more about this visit from the Northwest Herald, click here.
I certainly don't like the word "retarded" when used with people, but this is funny, and it's certainly not the first time around that I have seen it...
"RETARDED"GRANDPARENTS ...Written by a third grader, on what his grandparents do.
After Christmas, a teacher asked her young pupils how they spent their holidayaway from school. One child wrote the following:
We always used to spend the holidays with Grandma and Grandpa. They usedto live in a big brick house with a dog and kitty, but Grandpa got retarded andthey moved to Arizona.
Now they live in a tin box and have rocks painted green tolook like grass and no pets allowed. They ride around on their bicycles,and wear name tags, because they don't know who they are anymore. They goto a building called a wreck center, but they must have got it fixed because itis all okay now, they do exercises there, but they don't do them verywell. There is a swimming pool too, but they all jump up and down in itwith hats on. At their gate, there is a doll house with a little old mansitting in it. He watches all day so nobody can escape.
Sometimes they sneak out, and go cruising in their golfcarts. Nobody there cooks, they just eat out. And they eat the samething every night - early birds. Some of the people can't get outpast the man in the little doll house. The ones who do get out, bringfood back to the wrecked center for pot luck.
0 Comments on Best Internet: "Slow" Grandparents? as of 1/1/1900
McFarland painting Grandfather's Wrinkles in his Huntley, IL art studio
Artist Richard McFarland will demonstrate how he illustrated the picture book Grandfather’s Wrinkles, written by Kathryn England, at the Harvard Diggins Library, on Saturday, February 26th. The event will take place at 2 p.m. at the library, 900 E. McKinley St., Harvard, IL.
McFarland, who used himself as the model for the grandpa in the artwork, will read the book and explain how it was made – from initial concept through finished product. His demonstration of how stick figures become printed art will engage children and adults alike. Participants will learn some artistic secrets plus get an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how a picture book is created.
McFarland’s presentation is appropriate for all ages, and copies of “Grandfather’s Wrinkles” will be available for purchase.
The event is free and open to the public. For information, call the Harvard Diggins Library at 815-943-4671.
“With sensitive and humorous prose, J.R. McRae tells a story of family life, love, and acceptance with beautiful illustrations by Linda Gunn. When Pete finds a furry hero, Ink, to solve his dinnertime woes, a nosey neighbor jumps to conclusions that enlarge as Pete’s grandpa comes to visit. When Mrs. Allan’s mother-in-law, Nanny, and Pete’s grandpa take off for an early-morning drive, the assumptions increase until Ink and Grandpa solve the mystery. Perfect for young readers, this book speaks of a boy and his grandpa, a mother defending her son from gossip, and the surprise of love at any age.” ~Janice Phelps Williams, author, illustrator www.janicephelps.com
Promotional poster, by Tara Hale, for “All in the Woods”, Pixiefoot Press, 2011
MEET ME IN THE STAIRWELL PLEASE READ TO THE VERY END, IT IS BEAUTIFUL!!!
'MEET ME IN THE STAIRWELL' You say you will never forget where you were when you heard the news On September 11, 2001. Neither will I.
I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room with a man who called his wife to say 'Good-Bye.' I held his fingers steady as he dialed. I gave him the peace to say, 'Honey, I am not going to make it, but it is OK..I am ready to go.'
I was with his wife when he called as she fed breakfast to their children. I held her up as she tried to understand his words and as she realized he wasn't coming home that night.
I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a woman cried out to Me for help. 'I have been knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!' I said. 'Of course I will show you the way home - only believe in Me now.'
I was at the base of the building with the Priest ministering to the injured and devastated souls. I took him home to tend to his Flock in Heaven. He heard my voice and answered.
I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer. I was with the crew as they were overtaken. I was in the very hearts of the believers there, comforting and assuring them that their faith has saved them.
I was in Texas , Virginia , California , Michigan , Afghanistan . I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news. Did you sense Me?
I want you to know that I saw every face. I knew every name - though not all knew Me. Some met Me for the first time on the 86th floor.
Some sought Me with their last breath. Some couldn't hear Me calling to them through the smoke and flames; 'Come to Me... this way... take my hand.' Some chose, for the final time, to ignore Me. But, I was there.
I did not place you in the Tower that day. You may not know why, but I do. However, if you were there in that explosive moment in time, would you have reached for Me?
Sept. 11, 2001, was not the end of the journey for you. But someday your journey will end. And I will be there for you as well. Seek Me now while I may be found. Then, at any moment, you know you are 'ready to go.'
I will be in the stairwell of your final moments.God During the next 60 seconds, stop whatever you are doing, and take this opportunity. (Literally it is only 1 minute.) All you have to do is the following:
We began with the friendly, incompetent picture book witches of Julia Donaldson's Room on the Broom, Nick Sharratt's The Foggy Foggy Forest and Laura Owen & Korky Paul's Winnie the Witch...
Once the children were safely tucked up in bed, I went in search of the darker, more malignant witches of the older stories...Hans Christian Andersen's sea witch in The Little Mermaid and the witch queen of The Wild Swans, the old crone in Rapunzel (here beautifully drawn by Jane Ray)...
...and Alan Garner's terrifying Old Witch...
So the old witch went after her; and found her; and broke her bones; and buried her under the marble stones.
by Lane Smith
Roaring Brook Press 2011
A boy fondly remembers his great-grandfather through the topiary garden he has built over the years.
There's something missing here, something I can't quite put my finger on. Or maybe something off.
We have a boy, ostensibly the main character, going through the garden and explaining the meaning behind all the various animals and objects his
THE PRINCESS OF BORSCHT is about Ruthie, who is afraid that her beloved grandmother will die of starvation in the hospital, where she is temporarily bedridden with pneumonia. Grandma, who is a bit of a character, says borscht—beet soup—might prevent this starvation, and when Ruthie and her father (who thinks borscht is yucky) return to Grandma’s apartment, Ruthie searches for the recipe. All the busybody neighbors come by to help and order each other around. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Why is Ruthie a princess? You’ll have to read the book! It’s filled with royalty.
My grandmother, Sonia Broffman (nee Lerman), was a great cook. I remember her faux chopped liver, made from green beans and something (walnuts? Chime in.), and her chicken-in-a-pot. My mother was also a great cook, but she owned her own business and rarely had time to inhabit the kitchen. Not to worry; I always managed to eat and maintain my plumpness.
Though I myself am an only child, I have a whole lot of second cousins who are very proud of being descended from the seven Lerman brothers and sisters. Perhaps I wrote THE PRINCESS OF BORSCHT as an homage to the women in my family, though I’m not sure I knew what it was about until I read a few of the reviews. This is not uncommon with writers, by the way. We need readers!
I first drafted the story in a writing group many years ago. Bonnie Christensen, esteemed illustrator, joined the group and drew me a picture of Ruthie, which I loved to bits and which I treasure. We dreamed of doing the book together, and thanks to Neal Porter, we did! Bonnie included subtle tributes to her family, mine, and to Neal himself. Look carefully. She also messed up her kitchen by throwing borscht around to get the drips just right. Ah, research.
I don’t particularly like to cook, but I do love beets. I plant them every summer and watch them come up. Shortly thereafter they disappear. Is it the dog? A slug? Beetles? Mysterious forces from the universe? Then I go to the farmers’ market and buy some. Roasted, boiled, served in salad or in soup, they can’t be beat. The recipe on the back cover is only one of many possibilities.
Readers, I hope you like the book.
[Above, Bonnie throws borscht around (you can see her reflection). Photo by Bonnie Christensen]
When Jenny Stubbs, Festival Coordinator Extraordinaire, told me I had a slot to launch ”All in the Woods” I was ecstatic! It was my first book to be published in the UK and a launch venue at the Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature, Woodlands, was almost too good to be true. Jenny facilitated a link to Aleesa Darlison who agreed to MC. BRILLIANT! What could go wrong?
The Ipswich Festival is always an exciting event! It is held at Woodlands, a stunning, heritage listed venue set amongst rural fields, magnificent trees and rolling hills – what a setting for a launch! The lead up to the day, Tuesday, 13th September 2011, was a real buzz! Then the unthinkable happened… The weekend before, my throat started to get that irritating little scratch and that niggly cough that sometime precedes worse. Sunday night it started to hit! Laryngitis!
Friends, good friends can be the saving of such worst case scenarios. I spoke (whilst I still had a voice) to Tara Hale, who designed the promo poster, would she be Guest Artist “Pink” the possum [cousin of "Ink" the animal hero of my book]. Next I contacted Nooroa Te Hira, he has worked as a tour guide so I knew he would ace a reading of my book. Then I rang Christian Bocquee and asked would he help with nitty grittys like directing teachers and students to seats, distributing prizes and being event photographer! Bless them, they all ‘volunteered’ unstintingly!
Result? Fun, fun, fun! We had a ball, the book launch was a total success! The author having to use copious amounts of sign language but, hey, she has 5 kids so she speaks the lingo with hands and fingers!
You can see some of the fun in the gallery below. [Sadly, Pink, being a nocturnal creature, was shy of the camera flash and hid!]
And the book, which was illustrated by wonderful watercolourist Linda Gunn? It had been a truly international effort – written by an Aussie, illustrated by an American and published by a Brit! The icing on the cake was a nomination for the OPSO Award!
My first "review" of 1O1 SECRETS! A KNAPSACK OF INSPIRATION AND HOPE is in, and it comes from a friend who is a very independent thinker. She and her husband Ron retired to Costa Rica. They built a home and turned one of the large rooms in their home into a local library out of the goodness of their hearts. And this is what she wrote about 101 SECRETS!:
I just read your bookand think it is very worthwhile and a book that needs to be read by every “tweenager.”We have sent it on to a couple of teacher friends. Do you see the possibilityof a Spanish translation in your future? I would love to buy one for mylibrary. This book could make the difference in so many children's lives!
Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip. Jordan Sonnenblick. 2012. Scholastic. 304 pages.
The first picture is a wide-angle shot, taken through the chain-link fence of the backstop behind home plate. There's a boy standing on a pitcher's mound in full uniform: green and gold. His cap is pulled low over his eyes, and his unruly black hair sticks out below the brim in all directions. He leans in toward home plate, his throwing arm dangling loose at his side. He must be looking in to get his sign from the catcher.
I expected Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip to be good--really good. Why? Well, Jordan Sonnenblick rarely--if ever--disappoints. He's an amazing writer; he's great at writing characters that I just love. His stories tend to be emotional and compelling. Though almost always they have a lightness to them as well. Curveball The Year I Lost My Grip did not disappoint. While I'm not sure that it is my favorite, favorite Sonnenblick novel--he's written so many that I just love!!! It is easy to recommend this one.
The hero of Curveball is Peter Friedman. The summer before his freshman year in high school, he plays his last baseball game. The injury in his arm is so severe that doctors tell him he'll never, ever be able to play the game he loves so much. So who is he if he's not a great pitcher and catcher? Who is he if he's not a great athlete? Well. He'll have plenty of time to figure that all out.
One of the main characters in Curveball is Peter's grandfather. I just LOVED him. I think there aren't enough--could never be enough--YA books that highlight the special relationship between grandparent and grandchild. Inter-generational stories make me happy, very happy. Even when they're sad. Even when they're bittersweet. Peter and his grandfather are incredibly close. And so it's not all that surprising that Peter's interest in photography becomes all that much stronger. (His grandfather was a professional.)
So Peter's interest in photography leads him to take a class where he meets a girl that wows him...
This YA book has it all. Great characters, good storytelling. It's just an enjoyable read!
Read Curveball The Year I Lost My Grip
If you're interested in baseball
If you're interested in photography
If you like realistic romances
If you're a fan of Jordan Sonnenblick
If you like coming-of-age stories with a strong emphasis on friendship