As I mentioned at the end of last month's posting, I traveled to Glasgow, Scotland in September to attend an international symposium on picturebook research. What a thought-provoking meeting it was! I want to share some of what I learned as it relates to the September postings on Booklights.
One very interesting presentation dealt with the end papers of picture books. As you are reading to your children, be sure to talk about the entire book....the cover, the title page, but also notice the end papers. More and more frequently, illustrators are using the inside of the front/back covers to tell part of the story.
For example, in Mircea Catusanu's new picture book The Strange Case of the Missing Sheep, Catusanu includes hands for counting sheep.This serves as a preface to the actual story. A book created for children ages three and up, the humorous text and illustrations will also keep the adult reader entertained
You may remember that Susan T. included in her introduction her latest favorite book, The Chicken - Chasing Queen of Lamar County, by Janice N. Harrington, pictures by Shelley Jackson.The end pages of this book cleverly lead the reader to know that feathers will fly as the chickens are being chased.
Another picture book with fabulous end papers is Peter Sis' Madlenka's Dog. Madlenka's neighborhood is "in the universe, on a planet, on a continent, in a country, in a city, in a house on a block where everyone is walking a dog." The end papers start narrowing the story in by showing the view of the universe, with the planet. Sis then zooms in closer on the page opposite the book's title page. So the end papers actually start to establish the book's setting.
When reading this book with your child, also be sure to remove the cover and look at the front and back illustrations. Sis has even used the covers to help describe the setting for Madlenka's search for a dog.
This month's postings have provided many great suggestions for books to read aloud to older children. A book by Brazilian author Ana Maria Machado that would be an ideal read aloud for sixth/seventh graders is From Another World. The book won the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2000. It reminds us all that the horrors of slavery were not limited to the United States. Brazil shared many of the same brutalities toward African slaves that our own history includes.
Finally, I can't help but add a penguin book from South Africa to Pam's September 3rd Thursday Three. Peter, Pamela and Percy in the Big Spill relates the oil slick off of Cape Town that harmed many sea birds in 2000. I think that reader Terry who posted a comment and must enjoy nonfiction will also like this link that supports the story told in picture book format.
Happy Reading, Ann
P.S. It is not only our nation's capitol with a fabulous fall book festival; Nashville has many of the same authors visiting us the weekend of October 9-11. I hope that all of you in the area will come visit us for the Southern Festival of Books! And like Pam, I'd love to host you.
For a book that was originally published in 1964, Harriet the Spy, written by Louise Fitzhugh, remains remarkably relevant and readable. Nate Eagle, a designer for PBS KIDS Interactive and unabashed book (and movie and philosophy) aficionado, says this about his favorite children's book:
Harriet is one of the greatest characters in young fiction. She's a spy: insatiably curious and brutally honest. And she writes down everything she sees and thinks. When her notebook gets discovered by classmates, they banish her. Harriet has to wrestle with how and when to be honest, and how and when to compromise that honesty for the sake of friendship. Seeing Harriet pass through this gauntlet is heartbreaking in many ways -- the compromises of relationships are frequently painful -- but it's also movingly human. Above all, the story's a reminder of what tremendously complicated, fascinating inner lives all children lead, inner lives that adults sometimes forget or dismiss.
What is your favorite character from children's books? Or does Harriet take the cake?
One of the great riches of our country is its people. For five centuries people of different cultures have come to the United States, bringing with them experiences and traditions that enrich our communities.
One way to share those experiences is through stories. Before there were books, history and customs were shared through storytelling. You may have even heard a story or two from a favorite relative. Within these stories you can find the history, traditions, customs, and beliefs of a society or group of people. Thankfully, authors and illustrators have collected generations of these histories, folktales, myths, and legend in children's books.
In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15, I pulled together some of my favorite picture book tales. Some are oral histories; some offer original interpretations of well-known stories; and still others show the universal tradition of myths and legends.
by Terri Fields / Illustrated by Sherry Rogers
Now that the corn was tall enough to make tortillas, a burro called his friends coyote, bobcat, and jackrabbit to help him. This picture book builds Spanish words into a story, which offers a twist on the Little Red Hen.
As told to Shelley Dale / Illustrated by Shelly Dale
A young boy asks his grandfather to tell him the story of Juan Quezada, a famous potter. Quezada comes across some clay pots. Curious, he wants to learn how they were made and he begins to experiment. Eventually he figures out how to replicate the process. The entire village helps make the pots. Quezada becomes a famous artist, and his pots are displayed in museums. This bilingual picture book biography introduces kids to primary sources, as Juan Quezada tells his life story.
Nacho and Lolita
By Pam Muñoz Ryan / Illustrated by Claudia Rueda
Nacho, a rare pitacoche bird, lives in a mesquite tree at the Mission San Juan Capistrano. He is a lovely but lonely bird; so when the swallows arrive in spring, he enjoys a wonderful life. In the fall, his friends must fly south, and he is lonely again, uncertain that they will return. He wants to do whatever he can to assure they come back to the Mission. This is a picture book built around a Mexican legend.
Paco and the Giant Chile Plant / Paco y Planta de Chile Gigante
By Keith Polette / Illustrated by Elizabeth O. Dulemba
When Paco's mother runs out of money, she sends him to the market to sell la vaca (the cow). On the way, Paco meets a man who trades him a bag of magic chile seeds for the cow. Paco plants the semillas de chile and waits. When the plant erupts from the ground, Paco immediately grabs some chiles and climbs to the top ... only to be discovered by el gigante terrible. This is much more than a Spanish-added version of the classic story.
The Miracle of the First Poinsettia: A Mexican Christmas Story
by Joanne Oppenheim / Illustrated by Fabian Negrin
It is Christmas Eve (la Noche Buena). Everyone is happy ... even Papa, who just lost his job. Juanita is sad. True, there are no extra pesos for toys or candy, but more importantly, she doesn't have a gift to bring to church for the Baby Jesus. When everyone went in for services, Juanita stayed outside. A stone angel in the garden helps her find the perfect gift. She is skeptical of carrying weeds into church, but she does as the angel suggests. Will people laugh at her? This is a picture book story with a folk legend about how the Poinsettia became part of Christmas.
There are a number of wonderful online resources for exploring Hispanic culture through books. One of my favorites is Colorín Colorado, a PBS-affiliated website that provides resources, ideas, and activities that bridge the Spanish-speaking and English communities with bilingual resources. I regularly use their Books and Authors page and the underlying booklists to help me discover new books to share with my daughter.
Picture books give us an opportunity to visit places and learn new things without the inconveniences of luggage fees or jet lag. Through these stories we can immerse ourselves in the rich traditions of our personal, family, or community's heritage. Where have your picture book travels taken you? Leave a comment to share your journey with us!
Last fall, inspired by a post at Charlotte's Library, I wrote about my Five Favorite Fictional Rooms from Children's Literature. That post remains one of my favorites, because it makes me happy just thinking about these favorite fictional rooms (like the chocolate room from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
This weekend, I got to thinking about some of favorite fictional towns from children's literature. These are towns described so perfectly on the page that they feel real. Town that stand out in my memory, and that my childhood self would have loved to visit. Some of my favorites are realistic towns. The only magic that you'll find there is the magic of community. Others are clearly fantastic, from a town for wizards to an underground city to a city in the clouds. But they're all special, in one way or another. Here are my personal top five fictional towns from children's literature, with a couple of honorable mentions at the end.
#1: Avonlea, Price Edward Island, Canada. Avonlea is home, of course, of Anne Shirley of Green Gables. Avonlea is a fictional community, albeit one closely based on the towns of L. M. Montgomery's childhood (or so Wikipedia says). Avonlea features Green Gables, Mrs. Rachel Lynde's farm, the school where Anne was first pupil then teacher, and Marilla's church. Avonlea really shines in Anne of Avonlea, as you might expect. Remember the village improvement society, and their mishap with the wrong color paint? I think that my fondness for Avonlea is a side effect of my general fondness for Anne, Marilla, Matthew, Diana, and, of course, Gilbert. When I started thinking about favorite towns from literature, Avonlea was the first to come to mind.
#2: Gone-Away from Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Lake books. I wrote about the second Gone-Away book, Return to Gone-Away, recently at Booklights, and also reviewed it here. Gone-Away is a former summer community, located on the shores of a lake degenerated into a swamp, populated by two elderly residents. Here is the reader's first glimpse of Gone-Away: "They both climbed up on the little hulk and looked out over the tops of the reeds, a sea of reeds, beyond which, and around, grew the dark woods. But that was not all. Portia and Julian drew in a breath of surprise at exactly the same instant, because at the northeast end of the swamp, between the reeds and the woods, and quite near to them, they saw a row of wrecked old houses. There were perhaps a dozen of them; all large and shabby, though once they must have been quite elaborate, adorned as they were with balconies, turrets, widows' walks, and lacy wooden trimming. But now the balconies were sagging and the turrets tipsy; the shutters were crooked or gone, and large sections of wooden trimming had broken off. There was a tree sticking out of one of the windows, not into it but out of it. And everything was as still as death." (Chapter 2, Gone-Away Lake). Of course the children learn that Gone-Away is far less forbidding than it first appears. Gone-Away epitomizes summer for me. It will always have a special place in my heart.
#3: Hogsmeade from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Hogsmeade is a magic-filled town, located adjacent to Hogwarts. It includes the Three Broomsticks pub, Honeydukes sweetshop, Madam Puddifoot's tearoom, and, of course, the Shrieking Shack. Hogswarts students aren't allowed to visit Hogwarts until their third year, and even then they need permission from a parent or guardian (a sore spot indeed for a boy with toxic guardians). Millions of children around the world would go to the same lengths Harry does, if it meant that they could drink some butterbeer, or pick up magic tricks at Zonko's joke shop. Happily, they'll have a chance to visit a theme park version of Hogsmeade at Universal Studios next spring. I'm sure that's going to be a huge hit. Though me, I always picture Hogsmeade in the snow.
#4: Ember from Jeanne DuPrau's The City of Ember (with an honorable mention for Sparks, location of the second book in the series). Ember is an underground city, built as a last-ditch effort to protect humanity from a nuclear holocaust. The people living in Ember don't know that there ever was an outside world, and are completely dependent on light bulbs. Here's the opening description of Ember: "In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark. The only light came from great flood lamps mounted on the buildings and at the top of poles in the middle of the larger squares. When the lights were on, they cast a yellowish glow over the streets; people walking by threw long shadows that shortened and then stretched out again. When the lights were off, as they were between nine at night and six in the morning, the city was so dark that people might as well have been wearing blindfolds." (Chapter 1, The City of Ember) Who could read that, and not want to know more about Ember?
#5: Green Sky from the Green Sky Trilogy by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Green Sky is a city build high up in the branches of an enormous forest. The people there wear "shubas", which are garments with wide, wing-like panels. The shubas allow them to glide gently downward in Green Sky's heavy atmosphere (they use ladders and stairways to climb back up). Here's a hint of what Green Sky is like: "He stood on the narrow grundbranch, looking down hundreds of feet, through vast open spaces softly lit by filtering rays of greenish light, bordered and intersected by enormous branches, festooned with curtains of graceful Wissenvine. Shaking out the wing panels of his shuba, the long silken robe worn by all except the youngest infants, he launched himself downward into space." (Chapter 1, Below the Root) I've never forgotten Green Sky, first encountered when I was probably 10 years old. I reviewed the Green Sky Trilogy here.
And finally, here are a few honorable mentions: L. Frank Baum's Emerald City, Astrid Lindgren's Noisy Village, and Laini Taylor's Dreamdark. My fondness for these fictional towns is a testament to the power of literature.
How about you? What are your favorite fictional towns from children's literature? What other "favorites" should we discuss here at Booklights?
I've got a sore throat and sniffles, but I refuse to get sick because I am not missing the National Book Festival this year. If I have to wear the swine flu mask - so hip this season - or if my family has to bring me in on a stretcher, I am going this Saturday.
Due to circumstances beyond my scheduling control, I have had to miss the last two years and it was torture each time to know that celebrated authors were hanging out in my backyard while I was not. This time the weekend is clear, the weather looks good, the author list is golden, and I have to be there.
So what's got me so excited, other than the fact that its free, fantastic, and festivalicious?
1. The Children's Tent
During the day I can attend readings of children's authors Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, Kate DiCamillo, Shannon Hale, Craig Hatkoff, Lois Lowry, Megan McDonald, Sharon Robinson and Kadir Nelson, Charles Santore, Jon Scieszka and David Shannon, and Mo Willems. Let me repeat that last one. MO WILLEMS! I'm sure many of these other folks are wonderful speakers, and I am in awe of many of them as writers and/or illustrators. But if you haven't seen Mo Willems speak, then you have missed something pretty special. I'm a huge fan of his books and kinda him personally - though I've been trying to stay on the right side of the stalker line for a few years now. I can't help it if I keep running into him - accidentally, I swear! - at Book Expo America or the previous National Book Festival. (Probably my favorite author story ever.)
2. The Teens and Children's Tent
Here's where I'll find Teens & Children authors Judy Blume, Pat Carman, Paula Deen, Carmen Agra Deedy, Liz Kessler, Jeff Kinney, Rick Riordan, James L. Swanson and Jacqueline Woodson. These readings run at the same time as the ones in the children's tent so I'm going to have to make some tough choices. At this point I'm pretty sure that I'm going right from the Mo Willems' reading (could I ask for a photo op first? Not sure.) and going for the Rick Riordan, Jeff Kinney, and Judy Blume line-up. Yeah, you read it right - JEFF KINNEY! Kidding, all three of them are superstars in children's literature and I'm stunned that I'll be in their presence. I do have a fondness for Jeff because I've actually met him before and have my own Jeff Kinney Story. (Okay, I have two favorite author stories.)
3. The PBS Raising Readers Pavilion
Hello? Cause that's who I'm blogging for! Apparently PBS is featuring Elmo, so it looks like I'll be meeting him before my Booklights colleague Susan. They'll also have celebrity readings all day long, to which I was not invited. Okay, I'm not a celebrity but they should only hear my rendition of How Chipmunk Got His Stripes. They will also feature Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Between the Lions, plus book-based PBS KIDS favorites Clifford the Big Red Dog, WordGirl, Curious George, and Maya & Miguel
Oh, The National Book Festival also has amazing authors of adult books too. You know, ones like John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, Julia Alvarez, John Irving, Nicholas Sparks, Azar Nafisi, Michael Connelly, Gwen Ifill, Sue Monk Kidd, David Baldacci, Mary Jane Clark, and James Patterson. And I mentioned that this was all free, right? If you are in the area - and by that I mean a two hour radius - you should not miss it. Actually, forget that two hour radius guideline. If you live farther, stay with a friend. Bring some homemade chicken noodle soup and you can stay with me.
In my town, Miss Annie has a following. A big following--of babies, chess players, chapter-book readers, and parents who can chant "Alligator Pie" along with her.
Miss Annie (her real name is Annie Reuter) works in the children's department at the Westport (CT) Library. Some years back, my son and I took part in many of her toddler story times. A fifth grader now, he stops by to chat with her. So do I.
Recently, after she finished up supervising the Wednesday junior chess club, I asked Miss Annie for her latest read-aloud recommendations. Here's her list. Each book works for a group or one-on-one.
For first and second graders: Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers
For kindergartners: The Moonglow Roll-O-Rama, by Dav Pilkey
For three and four year olds: Preschool to the Rescue, written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
Miss Annie is one of a fabulous staff of book lovers in the children's section of our library. They all know information like this!
What are your local librarians recommending these days? Stop by and ask. You'll get lots of good ideas.
P.S. The full text of Dennis Lee's poem "Alligator Pie" is online at the University of Toronto Library. Click here to read it.
Stay-at-home dad Charlie, a former library assistant, shares his love of books and music with his toddler daughter. His pick is This Jazz Man, written by Karen Ehrhardt and illustrated by R.G. Roth.
Charlie says, "My soon-to-be three year old and I have fallen for This Jazz Man, a clever riff on the "This Old Man" nursery rhyme (you know, "This old man he played one...") Karen Ehrhardt's lively text offers great opportunities for kid participation, and R.G Roth's beautiful collages, in a cool, "Mad Men"-era style, feature portraits of real jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Little capsule biographies of each of the musicians portrayed close out what is surely the grooviest counting book out there!"
Do you have a favorite book about music, or even one where the words just sound musical?
Pam and Susan K. have both written recently about reading aloud with kids (here and here). Pam asked readers about their favorite read-aloud chapter books, and received some excellent suggestions. I thought that this would be a good time to talk about the E.B. White Read Aloud Awards, another great source for family reading titles.
The E.B. White Read Aloud awards are awarded by the Association of Booksellers for Children. Here's the description from the ABC website:
"The E.B. White Read Aloud Awards, established in 2004, honor books that reflect the universal read aloud standards that were created by the work of the author E.B. White in his classic books for children: Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. In the first two years of the award, a single book was selected. In 2006, in recognition of the fact that reading aloud is a pleasure at any age, the award was expanded into two categories: Picture Books, and Older Readers. Books are nominated for their universal appeal as a "terrific" books to read aloud."
The books are selected and judged by ABC Booksellers. And I, for one, think that they've been doing an excellent job. Here are the recent winners (note that the award is given for books published during the previous year, so the 2009 winners were published in 2008, etc.):
The 2009 Award for Picture Books: A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (Candlewick). A Visitor for Bear is one my all-time favorites. It's about a grumpy bear, dragged reluctantly into friendship by a determined mouse. I reviewed it here. I said: "what really made me LOVE the book is the tremendous read-aloud potential. By the second page I was reading aloud to myself in an empty house. The use of repetition, the presence of informal asides, and the varying font sizes to indicate emphasis all contribute to what is nothing less than a compulsion to read this book out loud."
The 2009 Award for Older Readers: Masterpiece by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Henry Holt). I read Masterpiece in part because it had won this award. It's about an unlikely friendship between a boy named James and a beetle named Marvin. While Masterpiece is about art forgery, and Marvin's adventures out in the wide world, at it's heart it is a story of friendship. My review is here. I said "Masterpiece is wonderful! It's the type of book that ought to become a classic over time, set alongside The Borrowers and A Cricket in Times Square... This is a must-read title for children and adults."
The 2008 Award for Picture Books: When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach, illustrated by David Small (Simon & Schuster). This one, I must confess, I have not read. But fellow Cybils organizer Kerry from Shelf Elf reviewed it back in 2007. She said: "All kids love free stuff. A lot of kids love dinosaurs. So, for many kids, a world where dinosaurs came free with everything would more or less equal total bliss. A picture book that is cute, clever and charmingly illustrated is for me, more or less total bliss." It sounds fun, doesn't it? I'll have to give this one a look.
The 2008 Award for Older Readers: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers). This book is an exciting adventure story, filled with puzzles, for middle grade readers. It's about a group of talented children recruited to work as investigators for a mysterious benefactor. As I noted in my review, the book has a bit of an old-fashioned feel, but it's also funny on multiple levels. My review of this title is here, and of the sequel is here. I am eagerly awaiting book 3.
The 2007 Award For Picture Books: Houndsley and Catina by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay (Candlewick Press). I haven't read this title, but another book in the series, Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time, was shortlisted last year in the Easy Reader category of the Cybils, for which I was a judge. I liked it very much. Cybils panelist Andi from A Wrung Sponge reviewed it, saying: "Howe's language is so poetic in spite of the limited vocabulary and concrete imagery that beginning readers require... I find this book to be a gem that will hold readers of all ages in the magic. It's as sweet as a read-aloud as it is a beginning reader. You must find this and snap it up!"
The 2007 Award For Older Readers: Alabama Moon by Watt Key (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). I read Alabama Moon earlier this year, because one of my blog readers recommended it to me. It's about a 10-year old boy named Moon who is raised alone in the woods by his survivalist father. When his father dies, he has to learn to interact with other people. It's an excellent adventure story, great for boys, one that is also genuinely moving. I think that what makes this book a good read-aloud title is the strength and uniqueness of Moon's voice. My review is here.
As you can see, the ABC Booksellers have an excellent track record in picking fine titles for this award. To see the E.B. White Read Aloud Award titles from 2004-2006, click here. What titles do you think will make the E.B. White Read Aloud shortlists for 2010?
When I opened my Email on Tuesday to find Gina' invitation to be a guest author at Booklights, I was giddy. What an honor it is for me not only to be a Booklights blogger, but also to rub (virtual) elbows with the women I consider my blogging mentors and idols.
As you might expect, I love books and have been a lifelong reader. It wasn't until my daughter was born, almost eight years ago, that I rediscovered children's books. More specifically, that special daily connection with my daughter over a story (or two or three). Ironically enough, I don't have any memories of listening to bedtime stories. My first reading memories come from trips to the library. I remember my elementary school library exactly. If the school still existed, I could take you straight to where the Lois Lowry books were! Ditto the Encyclopedia Brown books in the Arbutus branch of the Baltimore County Public Library.
My dad is the book lover, and nearly every room in the house has at least a handful of books. My mom has never been a big reader - though she'll read the newspaper or pick up a magazine. My brothers, like my mom, have always taken a more functional approach to reading: we read because we need to. My brothers didn't like it, and at times they struggled, but they knew it must be important because Mom and Dad said we needed to do it!
Each of those reading personalities are never far from my mind, whether I'm helping a new reader or thinking about the "ideal reader" for a book I just finished reading. Those same experiences are the underpinnings of the Reading Tub, a children's literacy nonprofit I launched in 2003. Learning to read begins at home, so our goal is to help adults engage kids with books even before they recognize their letters.
Literacy and paying forward a love of reading is a rewarding vocation for me. I love volunteering as a reading mentor and sharing news, book reviews, and reading ideas at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, the Reading Tub's blog. While I'm here at Booklights, I will share ideas for helping developing readers; ways to use classroom strategies at home; tips for exploring (or exploiting) the library; and a book recommendation or two. I welcome your thoughts, ideas, and feedback, too.
Thinking about Susan's post on reading to a wiggly preschooler, reminded me that there's an easier time ahead in reading to a snuggly elementary schooler. After a long day at school being a big kid, there's nothing better that getting book time with mom or dad. Picture books remain wonderful choices, but now chapter books become a healthy part of the reading menu. Certainly any book is fine. But there are some that practically beg to be read aloud, especially those where the reading level is a bit high for the intended audience. Here are a few of those classics:
by A. A. Milne
I still hold onto a memory from fifth grade where a teacher saw me reading House at Pooh Corner and complimented me on choosing such a challenging book. These days we think of Winnie-the-Pooh as a preschooler thing, an idea pushed forward by the whole Disneyfication of the characters. It's a crying shame. The watered-down versions of the classic books ruin our appetites for the real thing. Fight back by reading aloud the true version with it's melodious language, gentle illustrations, and sophisticated story-telling.
Jenny and the Cat Club
by Ester Averill
When New York Review Children's Collection republished this book among other classics, I felt like I had found an old friend. I can't say that I had been searching dusty old bookshops for a copy. To be honest, I had forgotten all about this book until I saw the cover. And there was Jenny, the shy black cat with the red scarf. Oh, how I had missed her! The story follows a shy, little cat who wants to be part of the Cat Club and finds friends, adventure, and courage in their world. This book and the other Jenny books are perfect read-alouds for the younger set because the language and plot are simply - yet wonderfully - done.
by Michael Bond
Paddington Bear has also received the Winnie-the-Pooh treatment in recent years (what is it about bears?) with a ton of simplified boardbooks and adaptations. Again, you need to go back to the original to capture the heart of these stories of a bear found at a train station who goes on to make every day into exciting adventures as he bumbles along. The tales are wonderful for elementary school children, but the old-fashioned language and references can make reading the books a struggle. As a read-aloud, however, it's magical.
What are your favorite read-aloud books?