On the Books, with Jacqueline Jules

SarahLaughs Welcome, Jacqueline Jules! Jacqueline is the author of Sarah Laughs, a picture-book retelling of the biblical story of Abraham's wife Sarah, who had a child late in life. Sarah Laughs just won a Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the younger-readers category. (Named for the author of All-of-a-Kind Family, the  Sydney Taylor prizes recognize Jewish literature for children and teens.)

I'm quite pleased that the Sydney Taylor Book Award blog tour brings Jacqueline Jules to Chicken Spaghetti, especially since it's an "On the Books" day. "On the Books" is a series in which writers and other aficionados answer one question:

What are you reading these days? 

Let's hear from Jacqueline.

What a fun question! It reminds me of an in-house school television show we once did for “Read Across America” day at the Northern Virginia elementary school where I work as a library media specialist. Our physical education teacher made a video of himself reading from morning until night. I would have made the video myself, but our students needed a male role model. Thanks for the opportunity to report when and what I’m reading this particular week.

 6:30 a.m. On my exercise bike. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, by Wendy Mass. I am enjoying this because of the existential questions it examines and its New York city setting.

7:00 a.m. At the kitchen table, eating my 200-calorie breakfast. Queen of a Rainy Country, by Linda Pastan. Next to Billy Collins, Linda Pastan is my favorite poet.

11:00 a.m. At my desk in my school library office, I read School Library Journal while chomping celery and rice cakes during the one break I have from classes which allows lunch.

9:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. I teach library classes to students in grades preschool through sixth grade. Lots of read-alouds. This week the most memorable one was Duel: Burr and Hamilton’s Deadly War of Words, by Dennis Brindell Fradin. My sixth graders, who are studying the formation of our U.S. government, were fascinated to learn that the man on the ten-dollar bill and a bona fide founding father died in a senseless duel. I hope they will be as interested next week, when I share my new book from Charlesbridge, Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation

4:00 p.m. Apple snack time at my computer. I like to read the poem posted daily on Garrison Keillor’s "The Writer’s Almanac."

7:30 p.m. After-dinner research: Biblical Images, by Adin Steinsaltz, and Legends of the Bible, by Louis Ginzberg. High from seeing Sarah Laughs win a 2009 Sydney Taylor Honor Award, I am doing research to find another child-friendly story for a fifth book in this bible series. Benjamin and the Silver Goblet was just released this month, and Miriam in the Desert (tentative title) is with the wonderful illustrator Natascia Ugliano. My stack of bible reading material is likely to grow higher and higher in the coming months.

Thank you, Jacqueline—and congratulations! By the way, Natascia Ugliano, the illustrator of Sarah Laughs, stops by Write for a Reader today. The entire schedule for the Sydney Taylor Book Award tour is here, and the Sydney Taylor Book Award's own blog is here.

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On the Books, with LD Podcast's Whitney Hoffman

288_Horizontal-Logo  "On the Books" is a series that asks one question, "What are you reading lately?" I'm so pleased that Whitney Hoffman pops in with her answer today. An attorney and the mother of two sons, Hoffman produces LD Podcast, an informative Internet radio show about learning and learning disabilities.

As the home page states, the focus of LD Podcast is on "parenting children who are struggling in school, but you'll find many of the topics we discuss applicable to any child. You'll hear a lot about how to emphasize your child's strengths, while helping them find ways to minimize their deficits." Interviewing experts in their fields, Hoffman covers an array of topics, including handwriting problems, ADHD, dyslexia, and homework.

Let's hear from Whitney Hoffman. The mike is all yours, Whitney.

I started the podcast after finding it hard to figure out what I "should" be reading. I wanted to know what was happening in education, especially as it affected kids who didn't fit perfectly into the system as it stands. My list is fairly representative of the types of books I usually read—a mix of books on education, personal development and strategies, and business books, with fiction mixed in for fun. 

I should tell you my very best book secret: the business books about management and marketing can be applied in different circumstances. After all, if you learn how to get your message across in an advertisement, those same skills are equally applicable to getting your ideas across to your children and students. The business section sometimes has better parenting books than the parenting section. Shhhh—don't tell!

The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success, by Marcus Buckingham. A great book with an accompanying DVD that is more than just a gimmick—it's definitely worthwhile. I shared the disk with my children. Great messages about identifying and capitalizing on your strengths.

Wired for Speech: How Voice Activates and Advances the Human-Computer Relationship, by Clifford Nass and Scott Brave. The authors examine how people are mentally wired to process speech sounds and what this means for computer programs and design. (Totally geeky.)

ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says
, by Russell A. Barkley, Kevin R. Murphy, and Mariellen Fischer. I will have a chance to attend a seminar with Dr. Barkley in November, and will be interviewing him for the podcast at that time, so reading his book is important prep.

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On the Books, with Elisha Cooper

PastedGraphic.jpg-1 (2) Picture-book people know Elisha Cooper as the creator of such gems as A Goodnight Walk, Beach, and Magic Thinks Big. Parents could relate to Crawling, a memoir of his first year as a dad. Now young-adult readers are getting acquainted with this versatile writer's work in ridiculous/hilarious/terrible/cool: A Year in an American High School. Reported with a wry sense of humor, the "literary documentary," as Bookslut says, navigates the hallways with eight students at Chicago's Walter Payton College Prep High School; small illustrations by the author run throughout the book.

I invited Elisha Cooper to stop by and visit, asking him, of course, about what he's reading lately. Take it away, Mr. C.
I’m reading too much now, and not in a good way. In the morning, I’m swearing my way through The New York Times. Throughout the day, I continue to read The Times and salon.com online for the latest election coverage. Though, maybe this shouldn’t be considered reading. Gorging?
But I am reading with my daughters, and that’s good. I just bought Old Bear, the new picture book by Kevin Henkes, and have been looking at it with my four-year-old. With my six-year-old, we’ve been reading Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And I’ve been reading them both Castle, by David Macaulay. I loved this book as a boy, and it’s been fun rediscovering it (“It’s déjà vu, all over again!” as Yogi Berra said), sharing cool stuff about drawbridges and battle axes with my two girls. They seem to like it.

Once the girls are in bed, I’ve been reading Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (with one eye on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart). I’ve read it twice before (I guess I have a habit of rereading books I love), and it may be one of the most fascinating best-written books ever. It’s about, well,… read it.

It’s so good, but the problem is that it’s keeping me up late. I’m up until two in the morning, bleary-eyed, chin-dropping my way through another amazing chapter. Great books sort of kill you.

And then it’s morning again, and more election-coverage to suffer through in The Times. I’ve got to stop reading.

P.S., don't miss Elisha Cooper's funny piece in Publisher's Weekly about the awkwardness of writing the author's note. The dynamic blogging duo at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast features a lengthy interview with Mr. C. today, too. Last summer Chasing Ray talked to the author about how he wrote ridiculous/hilarious/terrible/cool.

Previously in "On the Books":

Marc Tyler Nobleman
Betsy Howie
Susan Taylor Brown
Nathaniel Lachenmeyer
Janet Halfmann

On the Books, with Janet Halfmann

517nhxkm2gl_sl500_aa240_robt smalls I'm happy to welcome Janet Halfmann to Chicken Spaghetti's "On the Books" series. She is the author of many books for children, including Little Skink's Tail  (illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein) and Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story (illustrated by Duane Smith). The blog A Wrung Sponge called the award-winning Little Skink's Tail "a charming picture book that introduces the lives and habitats of real animals." Seven Miles to Freedom received a starred review from the book-trade journal Kirkus, which noted "[t]he daring Civil War escape of a slave, his crew and their families in a stolen Confederate supply boat receives appropriately inspirational treatment..."

Let's hear from Janet. What are you reading lately?

Every so often when I visit my local library in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I stop at the bookshelf holding new children’s releases and read just about every picture book there. Some of the recent gems I found are:

Hurry! Hurry! by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Jeff Mack, is a wonderfully simple book about the excitement of a new birth—and my 4-year-old grandson loves it!

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry, is a fun, rhyming story about a plucky little truck that always has time for others, even a self-important dump truck. And the little truck’s friends always have time for him. The book is full of animal and truck sounds that are fun for kids to repeat.   

Fartiste by husband and wife Paul Brewer and Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Boris Kulikov, is another rhyming story, this time a mostly true story. It features Joseph Pujol, who learned early in life that he could control his farts. Later, with ten children to support, he perfected his farting and took his act to Paris’s famed Moulin Rouge. There, he played to sellout crowds—farting animal sounds, sneezes, and songs by Beethoven and Mozart—all without creating a stink. This story is a rip-roaring treat.

Also, the Fall Writers Retreat of the Wisconsin chapter of SCBWI [Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators] is coming up October 17-19 so I’m reading the new books of my fellow Wisconsin authors and illustrators. The stack is very high! Both the spring and fall 2008 lists of books by Wisconsin creators can be found here.

Happy Reading!

Editor's Note: Don Tate interviewed Duane Smith, the illustrator of Seven Miles to Freedom, at The Brown Bookshelf blog.

Previously in "On the Books":

Marc Tyler Nobleman
Betsy Howie
Susan Taylor Brown
Nathaniel Lachenmeyer

On the Books, with Nathaniel Lachenmeyer

696Horigami Not so long ago my family often read aloud Nathaniel Lachenmeyer's Broken Beaks, about the friendship between a homeless man and a small bird. (I also reviewed the touching picture book for The Edge of the Forest.) The author has a new book out, The Origami Master, illustrated by Aki Sogabe, which the Junior Library Guild called "a tale as simple and elegant as origami itself."

With several more books on the horizon, Nathaniel Lachenmeyer has obviously been writing up a storm, so I invited him to drop by and tell us what he's been reading lately. Here's what he had to say:

I read new picture books every day or two. Most weeks I take 30-40 picture books out of the library, more or less at random. The ones I like I read to my son, who is 5. When I read one that really impresses me, I usually request all the other books by that author in the library system. Most recently, I’ve been reading the picture books of Demi, Frank Asch, and Elisa Kleven. Favorites include The Empty Pot and One Grain of Rice (Demi), Happy Birthday, Moon and Mooncake (Asch), and The Paper Princess Finds Her Way and The Puddle Pail (Kleven). 

In the not-a-picture-book category, I have been rereading some of my favorite plays. I’ve just finished Eugene O’Neill’s "Long Day’s Journey Into Night," which I highly recommend.  I am also reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. I love the Vonnegut books I have read, and would like to read them all. 

Last but not least, I am always reading articles and books as research for whatever picture book I am working on at the moment. Right now I’m reading a lot about “green” architecture. That’s one of the great things about being a writer; reading is a big part of the job!

Previously, in Chicken Spaghetti's "On the Books" series

Marc Tyler Nobleman (Boys of Steel)
Betsy Howie (The Block Mess Monster)
Susan Taylor Brown (Hugging the Rock)

On the Books, with Betsy Howie

ImageDB.cgi  Welcome to "On the Books," a new series devoted to the timeless question, "Whatcha reading?"

Today's guest is author and playwright Betsy Howie, whose first picture book, The Block Mess Monster, was published in May. Illustrated by C.B. Decker, it's a funny story of a mom and daughter who view the disarray in the daughter's room as entirely different things. "The Block Mess Monster does not want me to put him away," the daughter states.  School Library Journal said, "There are many picture-book stories that urge youngsters to clean their room, but this perfect pairing of text and illustrations is irresistible."

Let's hear from Betsy:

What I'm reading... Mudbound, a novel (for adults) by Hillary Jordan.  Actually, I finished  it, last night at 1 a.m.  I didn't mean to keep reading but there wasn't really a choice with the characters behaving as badly as they were.  I had to finish it and see if there was any redemption.  It's a terrible story, beautifully written with incredibly compelling characters,set in the Mississippi Delta just after World War II.  My daughter's first-grade teacher recommended it to me, and I find it's always best to do what the teacher says... which is why we're also reading The Secret Garden, and thankfully, we're only on Chapter 15, so I still have something great to read tonight!


Previously in "On the Books"

Marc Tyler Nobleman (Boys of Steel)

"On the Books," with Marc Tyler Nobleman

Welcome to a new series at Chicken Spaghetti in which people talk about what they're reading: books for children, books for adults, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, magazine articles—anything they'd like to recommend.

Today's guest is Marc Tyler Nobleman, the author of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, an acclaimed new picture-book biography illustrated by Ross MacDonald. Wired's GeekDad wrote in his review, "The book, published in honor of the 70th anniversary of Action Comics #1, is an excellent read, for kids and adults alike. My seven-year-old son read the whole thing in about fifteen minutes, pronounced it 'great,' and then read it again the next day (entirely voluntarily)."

Also a cartoonist, Nobleman blogs at Noblemania, and says, "My current writing interest is picture books on people whose achievement is well-known but whose name and back story are not (i.e. who created Superman?)."

ST: So, whatcha reading these days, Marc?

MTN: What I'm reading right now...truth be told, mostly research for other projects! But I've always got a recommendation. For adults, a favorite of a few years ago is Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The ending was so compelling I had to stand in the middle of Grand Central to finish it. For younger readers, a picture book I really liked was Mack Made Movies by Don Brown. Just the kind of quirky subject we need more of in picture books!