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July 2006
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September 2006

Blog Rec: Wordswimmer

Wordswimmer is Bruce Black's blog about writing for children. In an e-mail, Bruce told me a bit about his site. He writes,

Mostly, I hope to explore different ideas about how stories come to the page... and what's necessary to keep a reader's attention. There are weeks when I'll dive into craft books and share insights (my own and others), other weeks when I might examine a  work of fiction myself and share my response. At some point I began asking writers to contribute their thoughts on their own writing process...

Go visit Wordswimmer. It's different from some of the other blogs about children's literature in that the focus is on the writing process. You will find some neat pieces on craft (points of view, plot reversals, and so on) and interviews, including a chat with Cynthia Leitich Smith. Bruce features lots of helpful links in his articles, too.

Singing in the Back Seat

"Hi - Hi! We're your Weather Girls - Ah-huh
And have we got news for you - You better listen!"

Astute musicologists will recognize the above lyrics as, no, not a Poetry Friday offering, but as the opening words to  "It's Raining Men," the enduring disco anthem by the Weather Girls. Said anthem is my son's favorite song, along with J. Lo's "Let's Get Loud." He requested the tunes on a CD after he heard the first one on an oldies station. (Is it Junior's interest in barometric pressure? The dramatic lightning crash that starts the song? I have no idea.)  I used to like "It's Raining Men" when I heard it once a year, but to say I have now grown weary of the song is an understatement. I'm not so happy with "Let's Get Loud," either. No offense, Miss Lopez.

What to do (besides losing the CD)? Well, I am going to go check out the recommendations on the following children's music blogs. I have mentioned a couple of these before, but that was pre-Weather Girls. "God Bless Mother Nature/ She's a single woman, too." (See? The song is so stuck in my head.)

The Lovely Mrs. Davis Tells You What to Think
Children's Music That Rocks

Between the three of them, I know I'll get some ideas for new music that Junior will enjoy, too.

Arts, Here and There

New York Times art critic Grace Glueck digs the new Wizard of Oz show at the Eric Carle Museum in western Mass. I keep planning to see this museum and visit Emily Dickinson's house, too,  but never quite get there. Hmm. Road trip?

Meanwhile, Times reporter  Laurel Graeber writes about a cool-sounding new hands-on art exhibition for the under-5 crowd, which opens in September at the Children's Museum of Manhattan. That place I've been to. It's a lot of fun. Oh, and my son had a good time there, too.

Link to the Wizard of Oz article
Link to Children's Museum of Manhattan piece

Dusting Off the Shelves

On Saturday I delivered some 200 books to a local thrift shop, the same store where more than one Chicken Spaghetti book-shopping bonanza has taken place.  But the twenty grocery bags that I dropped off were full of books for grownups, and past thrift-shop sprees there have been mostly kid-lit related. If you are reading this blog, chances are that you know about having 200 extra books lying around and needing to cull the shelves on occasion. I do it all the time, but Saturday's haul had to be some sort of personal record. I finally admitted that I was never going to read some of what I'd been saving forever. That means, of course, that tomorrow I will come across some fact that I absolutely need from The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley. It's happened before.

Quite a few of the 200 were reference books, and outdated ones at that. So much of what I used to look up in them is available on the Internet, which doesn't gather dust or make me sneeze. I'm lucky, too, that the local public library boasts a terrific collection, and what it doesn't offer can almost always be ordered through inter-library loans. So, now in the main book case, we have one whole empty shelf and no double stacks. Hold it just a second. Maybe I only needed to get rid of 180. Nah. Too late now. If I ever decide I'm going to re-read Pale Fire (fat chance), I'll just head to the library.

Belated "Vamos a Cuba" Update

In case you missed the latest update (as I did) on the Miami-Dade School Board and their attempt to ban the kids' book Vamos a Cuba/Visit to Cuba, go read "Cuba Libro Libre, for the Moment" at Read Roger. That's the blog of the Horn Book's editor, Roger Sutton. The federal law suit continues, but a judge ordered the books returned to school libraries.

Also interesting is the Horn Book Guide's original take on the now-controversial Visit to... series.

Armadillos and Other Recommendations

The Toledo Blade offers some titles of books that will "widen young people's world." (Shouldn't that be "worlds"? Maybe I'm just being picky this morning.) Of all that are mentioned, I'd like to get a copy of Move!, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, since it features armadillos, among other creatures. Earlier armadillo books, Jan Brett's Armadillo Rodeo and Bianca Lavies' It's an Armadillo!, proved quite popular around here. I'm linking to Amazon especially for the last one so you can see the terrific cover. (Armadillos leap into the air when they're scared.) Update 12/7: After finally reading Move!, I can report that I much prefer It's an Armadillo!, a work of far greater originality. You won't be disappointed with Lavies' books; her photographs are amazing.

Plant a Seed, Write a Book

The winners of the 2006 "Growing Good Kids: Excellence in Children's Literature" awards were announced over the weekend by the Junior Master Gardener Program and the American Horticultural Society. The following books were honored.

  • Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert
  • Earth Mother, written by Ellen Jackson and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
  • Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers, by Kathi Appelt; illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein
  • Our Apple Tree, by Gorel Kristina Naslund; illustrated by Kristina Digman (The U.S. version of this Swedish book hits the shelves next week.)
  • The Tree Farmer, by Chuck Leavell and Nicholas Cravotta; illustrated by Rebecca Bleau

For complete descriptions, go to the Junior Master Gardener web site, hyperlinked in the first paragraph. Also, check out the fine list of gardening/planting classics for children. Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius leads the way.

Blog from the Windowsill just reviewed Our Apple Tree. Great timing! She maintains a gardening-related book list, too.