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April 2007
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June 2007

Poetry Friday: Songbooks

Robert Hass was U.S. Poet Laureate from 1995 to 1997; during that time, he wrote weekly newspaper columns about poetry, which were later collected in the book Poet's Choice: Poems of Everyday Life.  Most of poetry in the book is for grown-ups; you'll find works by Galway Kinnell, Jane Kenyon, Gary Snyder, Langston Hughes, and many others.

But there's also a thoughtful short essay on building poetry collections for young children. Hass first talks about Mother Goose, mentioning that "part of the pleasure of the poems is that they are also a kind of archaeology of the language." He goes on to say,

So a child's library begins with Mother Goose, and, I think, right next to it should be a songbook. For a couple of reasons. One is that it's as much a pleasure for parents and children to sing as to read together, and another is that there is more American folklore in the songs and so it adds our own historical experience to the English world of Mother Goose. And the logic of the songs belongs to the same magical world.

I haven't seen the songbook that Hass recommends—Go In and Out the Window, published by Henry Holt and put together by the Metropolitan Museum of Art—but, with some sixty songs,  it ought to be well-worth seeking out. I have read Poet's Choice and highly recommend it.

You'll find links to other poetry-related posts at the blog HipWriterMama, who is rounding up the rhyme talk among the children's book bloggers today.

What Books Are You Reading?

Now that spring is here, I have been reading a lot more. Over at her blog, A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy, Liz B. (who was just elected to the Printz Award committee, yahoo!), asks , "What books are you reading?"

1. The Ghost in Allie's Pool. Written by my friend Sari Bodi, this novel (for ages 10 and up) concerns the waning friendship of two eighth-grade girls. But there's a great twist! A ghost appears to comfort one of them, and the ghost is none other than a Mayflower passenger. I loved the combination of history and contemporary kid problems in Sari's book.

2. So Long, Jackie Robinson, by Nancy L.M. Russell. A Canadian spin on America's favorite pastime. The year is 1946, Matthew, an Ontario kid and die-hard baseball fan, has just moved to Montreal with his mom and  his new step-dad. He's not so happy about the move or the step-dad. But summer of 1946 is when Jackie Robinson plays minor league ball in Montreal, and Matthew lands a job at the ball park. I just started this one yesterday, and would highly recommend it to young baseball fans. Well-written and evocative of a historic era in major league sports. For ages 9 and up. Toronto's Key Porter Books send me a review copy, and I've enjoyed the Canadian perspective.

3. Of Farming & Classics, by David Grene. The memoirs of an Irish-born classics scholar at the University of Chicago who was also a farmer. The Complete Greek Tragedies, ducks, and cows. Cool combo, eh? (for grown-ups)

4. Strange Mr. Satie, by M.T. Anderson. A 2003 picture-book biography of the avant-grade composer Erik Satie. With wonderfully quirky and funny illustrations by Petra Mathers. One of the best author-illustrator-subject matches I've seen in ages. Since checking this out from the library, I've read it many times to my son, and I love the story of the strange man so committed to his art. At the end, Anderson includes helpful suggestions for reading and listening.

5. Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community, by H.C. Flores. When I plant tomatoes and squash in the flower beds, I'm going to blame it on this radical guide written by a friendly, urban-guerilla-gardening Miss Rumphius. Lots of advice here about leaving a smaller footprint on the earth. (for grown-ups)

So, what books are you reading? How about it, Bartography, Redneck Mother, BookLust, and Liz In Ink?

Jane Addams Children's Book Awards (Plus Review Links)

Somewhat belatedly, here are the winners of the 2007 Jane Addams Children's Book Awards, which were announced at the end of April; all were published in 2006. "Books chosen effectively address themes or topics that promote peace, justice, world community, and/or equality of the sexes and all races. The books also must meet conventional standards of literary and artistic excellence," according to the Jane Addams Peace Association, the awards' sponsor.

The books, along with some links to blog and journal reviews:

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow (brief review at A Year of Reading)
Weedflower (review at Fairrosa's Reading Journal)
Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom (review at Kids Lit)
Night Boat to Freedom (review at The Edge of the Forest)
Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (review at Snapshot)
Counting on Grace (review at HipWriterMama, in "Sunday's List...")

Ezra Jack Keats Book Award 2007

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation announced the 2007 prizewinners. (I'm not exactly sure when it did, but the award ceremony takes place this week.)

The New Illustrator Award goes to Kristen Balouch for Mystery Bottle, which she wrote and illustrated, and For You Are a Kenyan Child won Kelly Cunnane the New Writer prize.

Named in honor of the author/illustrator of The Snowy Day and many other books,

[t]he Ezra Jack Keats Book Award was established in 1985 to recognize and encourage authors and illustrators new to the field of children's books.  Many past winners of the EJK Book Award have gone on to distinguished careers creating many books beloved by parents, children, librarians and teachers across the country.

The Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Awards are given annually to an outstanding new writer of picture books for children (age 9 and under) and are presented jointly by the New York Public Library and the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

The above information is from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation website, which is sporting a spiffy new design. (New to me, at least.)

Who's Reading?

When I visit the Maple Street School as a volunteer reading buddy, I usually tote along a couple of books to share in addition to the levelled readers that the teachers send along with the kids. (I read with two or three children at a time in the hallway. Actually, I mostly listen.) The short books provide practice with the sounds and words that the students need to master before the end of first grade.

Recently two students, Alicia and Jeffrey, read a good one about mysterious happening at a campsite. In only 12 pages, a boy investigates and discovers that a bear has been by. Good picture clues help out with figuring out the words. The book ended with a safety lesson, which I wasn't crazy about, but in all was a lot more truthful than the levelled reader about the guy visiting the dentist where the shot (of novacaine) doesn't hurt a bit.

This week I took to the school Who's Hiding?, a picture book with bold graphics of various animals. Huge hit! Each two-page spread has only one line of text, so there's no word-sounding-out burnout halfway through. Alicia and Jeffrey laughed as they figured out who was crying, hiding, and angry. They counted. They figured out who had horns. They discussed colors. They named all the animals, and learned the word "rhino." Who's Hiding?, an easier book for them to read than the camping one, gave them more time to have fun.

I have to get my hands on the May/June issue of The Horn Book, because it evidently agreed with Alicia and Jeffrey's assessment and gave Who's Hiding?, which was written by Satoru Onishi, a starred review. (No online link available.)

Extra! Extra! Hot Off the, Er, Blog

Several major newspapers recently reduced their book-review sections, and book critics are upset. Okay, so are a lot of other people, too, like the writers whose books the book critics criticize.

There has been anti-blog sentiment expressed by, among others, people who don't read blogs. 

(How do the advertisers figure in this? Where are advertisers choosing to spend their money? They have always chased after the demographic.)

Monica Edinger, who blogs at Educating Alice, says that we are in the middle of a paradigm shift. I agree.

I like book-review sections. I would never argue for their demise. But some could use some livening up.

Motoko Rich sums up the issues at hand in today's New York Times, and GalleyCat's coverage is thorough, too. (Check the site's May 2 entries, and look for A. Fortis's awesome cartoon.)

Looking Forward to...

Cdc_greenbean1. One of the books I'm looking forward to reading is Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It's nonfiction (for adults), described by Powell's bookstore this way:

"For one year, the author's family pledged to eat only what it could procure from within an hour of its home. Meats, vegetables, grains, you name it.

After eleven previous books — bestselling novels, short stories, essays, and even a volume of poetry — Animal, Vegetable, Miracle marks yet another departure for Kingsolver. Her first full-length nonfiction narrative, and it's a family project besides. Husband Steven Hopp contributes informative sidebars that supplement Kingsolver's narrative and point out sources of additional information. Daughter Camille pens a short personal essay at the end of each chapter, offering seasonal recipes and weekly meal plans. Third-grade Lily starts an egg and poultry business."

You can read an interview with Kingsolver at Powell's site.

2. As an Edith Wharton fan, I'm not sure I have the stamina to get through Hermione Lee's new 880-page biography of the author, but I do hope to at least spend some time with the book. If you ever get a chance to visit Wharton's summer  "cottage" (we should all have such cottages) in Lenox, Mass., do visit. Quite cool. The estate, known as the Mount, even has a web site. While you're up that way, you can drop in on Herman Melville's home in Pittsfield,  Arrowhead, and see where he wrote Moby Dick.

3. DVDs are on my list, too. I still haven't caught up with one of my all-time favorite documentary series, Michael Apted's "7 Up." Starting in the mid-sixties, filmmakers have followed a group of British school children from a range of economic and social backgrounds, interviewing them every seven years. The latest one, which I have not seen, is "49 Up."