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The Coffee-Table Stack, July 31st

Multiple editions of the Garfield books, bought at a library sale.

A book of stories by Katherine Mansfield. Why did I ever say these were funny? Maybe one was, but the rest are not. Sure, she writes with humor on occasion, but there's a undercurrent of sadness, if not tragedy, that runs through the collection. I am reminded of both Chekhov and Edith Wharton. For grown-ups, by the way.

Once Around the Sun, by Bobbi Katz, a joyful picture book of poems about the months of the year. Love this book! Great for an early-elementary classroom or the home bookshelf. In LeUyen Pham's large, beautiful illustrations a young African American boy is the lead kid experiencing all the glory of the seasons. Winner of a 2007 "Growing Good Kids" award.

Japanese Children's Favorite Stories, compiled by Florence Sakade. A third edition of a 50-year-old collection of folk tales. Charming watercolor illustrations (by Yoshisuke Kurosaki) and good stories, including "Peach Boy," "The Magic Teakettle," and "Why the Jellyfish Has No Bones."

The Seaside Switch, by Kathleen V. Kudlinski. Nonfiction picture book about the changing tides. Right up our alley. Reviewed by Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader.

Shells! Shells! Shells!, written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. A cheerful introduction to sea shells and mollusks. (There is no reason not to be cheerful when introducing mollusks; don't tell me otherwise.) Presented as a dialogue between mother and son Teddy bears on a beach walk, the book uses photographs and cut paper collage for the pictures. For children aged four to eight.

One Small Place by the Sea, by Barbara Brenner. This informative picture book about tide pools features vivid colorful pictures in a "scientific folk-art style," as the jacket flap says, by Tom Leonard. Although there are, at most, only five sentences per page, I still learned a few new things.

Lightship, by Brian Floca. Pen and ink and watercolors render life on a particular kind of ship, a kind of floating lighthouse, that is not in service any more. This picture book was reviewed by David Elzey at the excelsior file. David E. said it's "strangely compelling." I agree. (Am I the only one thinking Caldecott honor for this one?) David E. also wrote,

Very simply what Floca does is show us the bits and pieces that made up the routines of a crew aboard a lightship. While there is no story there is still a sense of being taken along for a tour with everything from the mundane oiling of the engine to the near-misses with larger ships in the fog.

D'Aulaires' Norse Gods and Giants (Doubleday, 1967). Stories of Odin, Loki, the Valkyries, Thor, et al. Junior refuses to have anything to do with this lovely old book (same with Harry Potter), so I am going to read it myself. A classic. (Note: In 2005 the New York Review Children's Collection reissued it as D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths.)

Saturday Morning Coffee Talk, July 28

Earlier this week the New York Times Fashion & Style section reported on some parents' dislike of the Junie B. Jones series: "Is Junie B. Jones Talking Trash?" I have seen similar articles in the past in other newspapers; none of them seems to deter sales of the popular books. For a good defense of the books, see Pam Coughlan's piece in The Edge of the Forest archives.

Amanda Craig reviewed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in today's Times (of London, not New York). (Thanks to Big A, little a for the link.) Craig wrote,

... Rowling’s imagination has changed the perception of an entire generation, and that is more than all but a handful of living authors, in any genre, have achieved in the past half-century.

Speaking of Harry, the Wall Street Journal looked at some Potter reviews over the years. The Journal doesn't put many articles online for free, but this one is.

Poetry Friday: Fairy Tale Follow-up

Today's Poetry Friday selection is "Beauty and the Beast: An Anniversary," by Jane Yolen. I found the poem in the archives of The Journal of Mythic Arts at The Endicott Studio. Told from the point of view of Beauty, the poem checks up on the famous pair some years after the tumultuous events (and imagines a different ending for the original story).

I came to "Beauty and the Beast..." in a roundabout way. Lately I've been reading aloud from a book of Japanese folk tales. My son studied Japan in second grade last spring, and he is still keen to hear more about the country. Digging around on the Internet for more folk- and fairy-tale information, I re-discovered the SurLaLune Fairy Tales web site, which has been re-designed since my last visit. This is one comprehensive site. Wow. If you have any interest in the genre, SurLaLune is a must-see.

SurLaLune highly recommended The Endicott Studio, where I came across the Yolen poem. I've already seen familiar faces and fellow bloggers there: both Gwenda Bond and Colleen Mondor are contributors to the current issue of The Journal of Mythic Arts.

While I didn't find anything on Japanese folk tales, I found fascinating diversions. Yay for the Internet! (Update 7/28: As it turns out, SurLaLune contains the text of the 19th-century book Tales of Old Japan; I just missed it on the first go-round.)

For more Poetry Friday offerings, see Jone, at Check It Out. She has the roundup.

Words in Play

Bollywood, crunk, microgreen, and telenovela. What do they have in common? They are 4 of 100 new words added to the 2007 update of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, which will be in stores in the fall. (M-W tantalizes us by naming only 20 of the new words at its site.) I missed this news a couple of weeks ago (I guess I had my head under a ginormous rock), but caught it today on WNYC's "Leonard Lopate Show," where grammarian Patricia T. O'Conner (Woe Is I Jr.) was a guest.

I also learned that O'Conner maintains, as part of her web site, The Grammarphobia Blog, where she answers questions. There you can read about CamelCase style (think PhotoShop, HarperCollins, MotherReader) and other matters. O'Conner says that CamelCase "describes a spelling with a dromedary-like bump or two in the middle..." So, there you go. I love that phrase; I'd never heard it before. I should ride around in the car and listen to the radio more often.

Book Sales in CT

Summer is library-sale season in this corner of New England. Two big book sales at local libraries are coming up. I've been to the Pequot's in years past, and it's a doozy, with books both inside and out (under tents). This year Junior is planning to hunt for Calvin & Hobbes anthologies when we go. The sale at the Pequot, which is situated in Southport, Connecticut, starts this Friday, July 27th, and runs through Tuesday, July 31st.

Another big book bonanza happens over Labor Day weekend. Redding, Connecticut's Mark Twain Library sponsors a sale from Friday through Monday, August 31st-September 3rd. (Open only in the morning on that last day.) I'd like to see this one. In our town, school starts before Labor Day this year; maybe by book-shopping at the Twain, we can pretend it's still summer. Like Southport, Redding is a picturesque New England village.

In addition to the books that the libraries no longer need, these sales feature loads and loads of donated books. You never know what will turn up.

"Growing Good Kids" Book Awards 2007

The Growing Good Kids—Excellence in Children's Literature Awards were announced last Saturday. Sponsored by American Horticultural Society and the Junior Master Gardener Program, the prizes honor "engaging, inspiring works of plant, garden and ecology-themed" books for children.

The 2007 winners are A Seed Is Sleepy, Josias, Hold the Book, and Once Around the Sun.

The Growing Good Kids list of classics is also an excellent resource, with such titles as Miss Rumphius, The Carrot Seed, Too Many Pumpkins, and I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato.

The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County

Imagedbcgi Set in the rural South, Janice N. Harrington's new picture book stars an African-American scamp who looks to be around six or seven. She takes in every word that her grandma tells her ("Big Mama says you can do anything you put your mind to...") except for the directive not to chase the chickens. "I try hard to be good," the little girl says, but the loud squawkkks and flying feathers prove impossible to resist. The chicken who's hardest to catch is the wily Miss Hen, and that's, of course, who the girl sets her sites on.

Shelley Jackson's multimedia-collage illustrations provide wonderfully dramatic images to accompany the story; the pictures of the chickens, with their patched-together quality (painting, snips of photographs, found paper and fabrics), evoke the rural tradition of quilting, and in fact the book is a kind of crazy-quilt homage to life in the country and the love between a grandmother and her grandchild, as well as a growing-up tale.

I guessed from the text that the author is both a storyteller and a poet—a person who is used to painting pictures with words—and I was right. Harrington, who is also a librarian, wrote the poem that I chose for yesterday's Poetry Friday. In The Chicken-Chasing Queen, there's a heavy reliance on similes and metaphors, which works well in a read-aloud; "Miss Hen looks at me steady and hard, her eyes knife-bright, her beak raised like a sharp question." I also loved the little details of Big Mama's farm, like the "peckity-scratch-peck" of the chickens, Big Mama's wheelbarrow, the silver dipper of the water pail, the well house, and the cool shade of the porch.

With its joy and good humor, The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County tops the charts at my house these days.