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June 2008
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August 2008

Book Chatter

Back in May, Charlotte, of Charlotte's Library, tagged me with a meme of questions with five-part answers. I've changed up the format a bit to be all about books. If you'd like to pick it up and run your own answers at your blog, please do! I tag whoever would like to join in.

A. What were you reading five years ago?

  • Five years ago my son was in preschool, and I was reading him books like Jamberry, Freight Train, and "Hi, Pizza Man!"

B. Five books on your library list?

  • for grown-ups
  • 1. City of Refuge, by Tom Piazza (novel about New Orleans and Katrina)
  • 2. Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders, by Eric Etheridge
  • 3. "Ordinary Children," Extraordinary Teachers, by Marva Collins (recommended by Mental Multivitamin)
  • for kids

C. Five foods you wanted to make or sample after reading about them in a kids' book?

  • 1. Thunder Cake (in Patricia Polacco's picture book)
  • 2. Maple candy (in Little House in the Big Woods). We made it!
  • 3. Ruby's angel surprise cake with raspberry-fluff icing (in Rosemary Wells' Bunny Cakes)
  • 4. Be-bim bop (from Linda Sue Park's picture book of the same name)
  • 5. Pumpkin bread (from Too Many Pumpkins)

D. Five literary characters you'd like to meet?

  • 1. Miss Nelson (from Miss Nelson Is Missing)
  • 2. The chicken-chasing queen of Lamar County (from the picture book of the same name) 
  • 3. Lilly (of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse)
  • 4. Jasmine (from Monsoon Summer)
  • 5. (tie) Mr. Putter and Tabby (from Cynthia Rylant's series)

E. Five places you've wanted to visit (or revisit) after reading a kids' book?

  • 1. The Meteor Festival in Union City, Michigan (Patricia Polacco's Meteor!)
  • 2. Chincoteague, Virginia (Misty, of course)
  • 3. The coast of Maine (Bert Dow and so many other picture books)
  • 4. Alaska (from The Inuit Thought of It: Amazing Arctic Innovations)
  • 5. (tie) The Little Red Lighthouse (from The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge), Lightship (from the book of the same name), and the John J. Harvey (from Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey), all in New York

F. What if you had a billion dollars? What would you do with it?

  • You know, I think we can do a lot to help out those in need right now, without being billionaires. Consider becoming a literacy volunteer, whether you're teaching adults, reading with children at a school, or helping someone learn English as a second language. And don't forget the food banks; they tend to run low in the summer.

Reviews and Rocks

Every weekend Sherry at the blog Semicolon hosts a link-fest called the Saturday Review of Books; some of the titles under consideration are for children, some not. I've already spotted a book for my son over there: Byrd Baylor's Everybody Needs a Rock, which was reviewed at Puss Reboots. Earlier this week Junior came home from day camp with the heaviest backpack. Inside were five large stones—and, in a separate compartment, two (live) worms "for the chickens." I suggested that all stay at camp from now on. Junior reluctantly agreed.

Poetry Friday: Edgar Allan Poe

I've never been to Baltimore except to change planes, but I'm ready to go after reading Laura Lippman's In a Strange City, a mystery with the Poe Toaster at its center. For more than fifty years, a visitor has left three roses and a half-bottle of cognac at Poe's grave; he (or she) comes in the wee hours of the morning on Poe's birthday (January 19th). Lippman takes this tradition and runs with it, giving her heroine, private investigator Tess Monaghan, an education in the life of the famous author and encounters with more than one eccentric Charm City resident. Oh, and a murder at the graveyard starts things off.

In a Strange City is smart and witty, and obviously filled with literary references, and I look forward to reading more of Lippman's mysteries. For Poetry Friday I've chosen Poe's "Alone," which figures in the novel's plot.

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then—in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent of the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

The roundup of links to poems and poetry talk posted at other blogs today is at Lisa Chellman's blog, Under the Covers.

Picture Book Art "Almost Violently Impressionistic"? Huh?

In an obituary of the late, beloved author-illustrator Tasha Tudor, the Wall Street Journal's Meghan Cox Gurdon described Tudor's style, "a distinctive, delicately watercolored evocation of all that was tender and lovely in the lives of children of yore," contrasting it with the following:

The vogue now in children's illustration is for harsh lines, garish colors, and almost violently impressionistic figures. It is perhaps an open question whether children really enjoy this trend. They endure it, for sure; children will look at almost any picture book if an adult can be bothered to read it to them.

Setting aside the cranky tone ("if an adult can be bothered..."), what is Gurdon talking about? She gives no examples of this "trend." In the current picture books I've looked at, I notice a wide range of art, from wood-block prints to watercolors to multimedia collage, not to mention oil, acrylic, and computer-generated work. I'd be particularly curious to hear opinions from artists and from the judges and nominating committee from last year's Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (the Cybils).

"The Brook Book"

9780525477167L  Summer is the ideal time to hand this guide over to the 5- to 9-year-old neighborhood (or nature center) explorer. Despite an occasionally cautionary tone ("You need a grownup along for safety"), Jim Arnosky's picture book celebrates the "smallest of streams" that often fascinate children. Resembling a nature notebook, the illustrations in light-filled blues, yellows, and greens highlight such information as the geographic origins of brooks, creatures you'll find in them and nearby, and ideas for investigating such "inviting places."

In an author's note, Arnosky says that The Brook Book (Dutton, 2008) "is organized in such a way as to help you get the most out of your class visit to a favorite brook," but kids don't need to begin their journey at school to enjoy reading and gleaning some inspiration from this one. As the author says, "[A brook] quenches your thirst for nature in its wildest form."

Children's book author Anastasia Suen collects reviews of nonfiction titles on Mondays; see her Picture Book of the Day for a variety of reading suggestions.

Poetry Friday: Lewis Carroll

Happy 4th of July and happy Poetry Friday! Today's poem is "A Boat beneath a Sunny Sky," by Lewis Carroll. Kinda melancholic for a national holiday, but still enjoyable. It's an acrostic poem, by the way. See what the first letters of each line spell out. You'll recognize the name.

            A boat beneath a sunny sky,
            Lingering onward dreamily
            In an evening of July —

            Children three that nestle near,
            Eager eye and willing ear,
            Pleased a simple tale to hear —

Read the whole poem at the Poetry Foundation.

More poems can be found at the Poetry Friday roundup at the blog In Search of Giants. Don't miss the Bad Poetry poem that the crew of Seven Impossible Things wrote. Truly nutty, and inspired. You'll find it at author Lynn E. Hazen's Imaginary Blog.

Train Guys

Christoph Niemann, who wrote and illustrated a delightful picture book called The Police Cloud, also has a monthly illustrated blog, Abstract City, at the New York Times. I highly recommend the latest (first? I'm not sure) entry, "The Boys and the Subway," which is about Niemann's young sons, who are huge enthusiasts of the New York subway.Very witty and fun.

A Velvety Cloak of Words

"When Laurel was a child, in this room and in this bed where she lay now, she closed her eyes like this and the rhythmic, nighttime sounds of the two beloved reading voices came rising in turn up the stairs every night to reach her. She could hardly fall asleep, she tried to keep awake, for pleasure. She cared for her own books, but she cared more for theirs, which meant their voices. In the lateness of the night, their two voices reading to each other where she could hear them, never letting a silence divide or interrupt them, combined into one unceasing voice and wrapped her around as she listened, as still as if she were asleep. She was sent to sleep under a velvety cloak of words, richly patterned and stitched with gold, straight out of a fairy tale, while they went reading on into her dreams."

from The Optimist's Daughter, by Eudora Welty (Random House, 1972)