Caldecott Musings 2014

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A small but enthusiastic group met this afternoon to discuss potential 2014 Caldecott honorees. We read and shared what we liked about the twelve books pictured before voting, with Journey the unanimous winner. Honor books were The Mighty Lalouche and A Splash of Red. In online voting on the library website, Journey and Mr. Tiger tied! And paper votes over the last week at the library gave the nod to Mr. Wuffles.

More than potential winners, the time for sharing and close examination revealed so many things that we appreciated about each individual book. We peered under book jackets to look at covers, and discovered a few additional surprises in addition to Locomotive‘s different, and moving, artwork. Have you discovered the bold orange tiger stripes on Mr. Tiger Goes Wild? Or the starry sky and galaxies that seem like an inside joke once you have poured over Mr. Wuffles? Look at the endpapers of The Mighty Lalouche and those of Nino Wrestles the World? I didn’t expect to like books about boxing and wrestling so much, but there is so much going on in both of these. Though very different, they do have some interesting parallels — touches of humor, phrases in foreign languages, sports.ninoendlaloucheend

Have someone hold up Flora and the Flamingo and read it to you — wow! what a difference a change in perspective can make. I felt like I finally *got* this one.  And we listened to Daniel Beaty reading his poem on which Knock Knock is based: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eYH0AFx6yI. So very powerful and moving. And we are all looking forward to Monday morning at 8 am! Tune into the ALA Youth Media awards announcements here: http://live.webcastinc.com/ala/2014/live/

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Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyTonight Annie Barrows speaks for Westerville’s One Book, One Community event, so I was looking back at my thoughts on this book. I loved it, recommended it widely, bought it for friends and family of all ages (this one works for that!) and my book club read it, with one member even making a potato peel pie. Love the last quote below — I had forgotten that Pride and Prejudice was specifically mentioned, but it brought back how much this book is about books, the power of reading, and the connections that readers make — connections with the books, and to one another. No wonder it is one of my favorites! It must have also been one of the first books I put on Goodreads . . . in 2008!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the best books I have ever read. I’ve seldom enjoyed a book this much as I was reading it — it’s funny, tender, enlightening (I learned about a part of history I knew nothing about), compelling, tragic, romantic. But probably the reason I like it so much has to do with the underlying theme of books and the power of reading. How powerful books can be — they can help us escape in the midst of difficult situations, they have the power to connect people, to become friends, beloved companions, and help us make those connections.

Some favorite quotes:

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive — all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” – Juliet Ashton, p. 10-11.

“We began to meet — for the sake of the Commandant at first, and then for our own pleasure. None of us had any experience with literary societies, so we made our own rules: we took turns speaking about the books we’d read. At the start, we tried to be calm and objective, but that soon fell away, and the purpose of the speakers was to goad the listeners into wanting to read the book themselves. Once two members had read the same book, they could argue, which was our great delight. We read books, talked books, argued over books, and became dearer and dearer to one another. Other Islanders asked to join us, and our evenings together became bright, lively times — we could almost forget, now and then, the darkness outside. We still meet every fortnight.” — Amelia Maugery, p. 50-51

“What on earth did you say to Isola? She stopped in on her way to pick up Pride and Prejudice and to berate me for never telling her about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Why hadn’t she known there were better love stories around? Stories not riddled with ill-adjusted men, anguish, death, and graveyards! What else had we kept from her?/ I apologized for such a lapse and said you were perfectly right, Pride and Prejudice was one of the greatest love stories ever written — and she might actually die of suspense before she finished it.” from Juliet to Sidney, p. 200

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Review: Applesauce

Applesauce
Applesauce by Klaas Verplancke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

translated by Helen Mixter.
Originally published in Belgium, 2010.

Wonderful depiction of a loving relationship between a father and son — with all it’s ups and downs. There are times dad’s “breath smells like cauliflower” and there are times when dad “blows away the hurt on my knee and catches my dreams when I’m sleeping.” There’s much humor in the illustrations, which remind me a bit of Tedd Arnold (it’s the eyes, I think). The illustrations are exaggerated to convey emotion . . . especially when dad is a Thunder Daddy and the boy decides he needs a new one. Fortunately, thunder daddies don’t last, and all is well in the end.

Illustrations in color pencil and acrylic.

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Building Our House

By Jonathan Beanbuilding

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013

Words and pictures work together to tell the story of how a family (“a strong crew of four”) build their house. Based on the true story of how the author/illustrator’s family did build their house . . . over a period of 5 years with very young children (amazing!)

This is an excellent picture book in the true sense of words and pictures working together. The text is matter of fact, yet with touches of humor (as above) and even poetic moments:

“One wall will face north to ward off the wind, one east to welcome the morning, one south to soak in the sun, and one west to see out the day.”

The pictures illustrate all the details of the work that goes into building a house, from the rocks and laying of the foundation to marking the beams. I love the additional details of how the children are helping (with measuring, etc.) or being entertained (swimming as the parents work on a hot summer day, bringing a flower to a grandmother (?) on a day with the whole extended family plus neighbors and others from the community gather to raise the frame of the house.)

Altogether a very fine picture book.

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Preschool STEM Storytimes

are so much fun! You can catch me blogging about a recent STEM storytime on wind today over on the Westerville Public Library Kids Blog: Feel the Wind http://blog.westervillelibrary.org/kids/?p=2957

You can also find out about some of other preschool STEM themes on the kids blog. They include:

Trees (Trees in the Library! http://blog.westervillelibrary.org/kids/?p=2917)

Bones (The Foot Bones Connected to the Ankle Bone: http://blog.westervillelibrary.org/kids/?p=2866)Reserve It!

Building/Constructionhttp://blog.westervillelibrary.org/kids/?p=2777

Birdwatching (This one’s for the birds! http://blog.westervillelibrary.org/kids/?p=2743)

Bridges (Marshmallow Bridges & Building Fun: http://blog.westervillelibrary.org/kids/?p=2484)

Shapes: Circles (Round in a Circle: http://blog.westervillelibrary.org/kids/?p=2317)


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Review: The Last Dragon

The Last Dragon
The Last Dragon by Silvana De Mari
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Translated from the Italian. The prose is beautifully done; I’d love to be able to read the original Italian. A story in two parts. Yorsh (short for Yorshkrunsquarkljolnerstrink) is a little elf – “one born lately”- alone in a world where elves are persecuted. Indeed, he is the last elf. A young woman and a hunter gradually befriend him, helping him follow his father’s last instructions and make his way to the last dragon. They find him in a cave filled with books — the accumulation of the world’s knowledge. Turns out it was the “great library of the Second Runic Dynasty. It was a time of knowledge, and people treated this place as though it were a temple: in silence, and no spitting, with clean hands, and the dust wiped from their shoes. And to be quite certain that nobody misbehaved, dragons have always been here, and that’s why there are signs that say ‘Here Be Dragons.’ This was the biggest collection of knowledge that had ever existed. Then men lost writing. They forgot how to read. Barbarism flooded the world. the very memory of this place faded away. Many people never believed in its existence, but with my wings, I finally found it. And when I reached this place, great was my joy. All the books in the world were for me.” (103)

The second part of the story begins about thirteen years later. Yorsh has read all the books and kept the last dragon company all these years, though the dragon grows more irascible and grumpy. Turns out he/she was brooding. When the young dragon hatches, Yorsh cares for it, even teaching it to fly. But he also longs for companionship and needs new clothes, so he sets out to find Sajra and Moser, the humans who had helped him before. In their village he finds desolation, but evidence they had a child. Robi’s story is told in parallel, and eventually they come together. There is a fair amount of adventure and danger set in both tales, but the overall mood is more introspective. The varying perspectives of the elf, humans and dragon are convincingly portrayed. Elves do have some magic, but they are capable of great empathy — they literally feel other’s pain, so they don’t make great warriors. The writing is beautiful, often infused with humor as characters misunderstand then get to know one another. It’s lovely to watch characters that grow and change — even when they were already perfect, as in the case of the dragon.

For readers who enjoy fantasy and stories about dragons. Fans of Cornelia Funke (Thief Lord, Dragon Rider), Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, will enjoy this book.

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Review: A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A completely wonderful book. Interestingly written, rhythmic text, detailed collage illustrations with vivid quotes from Pippin himself incorporated into the drawings, and meticulously documented research (hurrah!).

Examples of the rhythm of the narrative:
“Horace put his big hands to work. He fetched . . . He sorted . . . He played . .. He piled . . . and arranged. . . he drew . . .”

“Horace loved to draw. He loved the feel of the charcoal as it slid across the floor. He loved looking at something in the room and making it come alive in front of him.”

And Pippin’s story is so compelling. A self-taught artist from a strong family but not a privileged background (his father leaves and Horace quits school after 8th grade to help support his family.) The transformative, harrowing experience of WWI in the trenches . . . he survives, but is changed forever and an injury to his right shoulder leaves his arm so weak that he cannot draw. Or work. But he marries and keeps busy, organizing a scout troop, taking kids fishing, delivering laundry for his wife’s business. He misses painting and finally tries again, using his left hand to support his right. And painting helps him to heal.

Sweet’s illustrations depict Horace’s tools as a child (the art supplies he won in a contest) and as an adult. Like Pippin’s own paintings, she uses muted colors . . . with a splash of red. The have a folk art quality well suited to the subject matter. The two page spread of the WWI injury is appropriately dramatically dark, just one example of the very effective use of color. And the hand lettered quotations clearly sets these words off as quotes and allows Horace to tell his own story. And what a story it is!

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12 Rules on Reading by John Cotton Dana

1. Read

2. Read

3. Read some more.

4. Read anything.

5. Read about everything.

6. Read enjoyable things.

7. Read things you yourself enjoy.

8. Read, and talk about it.

9. Read very carefully, some things.

10. Read on the run, most things.

11. Don’t think about reading, but

12. Just read.

Happy National Library Week everyone!

 

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Review: The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This captivating picture book biography of Rousseau is illustrated in a style very reminiscent of Rosseau’s art work, with flat, bright colors and often lush, dreamlike settings. There was so much I did not know: that Rousseau did not start painting until around age 40 (it’s never too late to follow your dreams!), was self-taught as he could not afford art classes, and critics really did not like/appreciate his work. Around the critics Rousseau is a very small figure — they tower over him, and include two animal-like humans in their midst (a dog and a cat.) Happily, a younger group of artists DID recognize Rousseau’s talent later in his life.

I love how historical figures are included in the illustrations; in the notes the illustrator provides a diagram of “who’s who” — including Picasso, Gertrude & Leo Stein, Alice B. Tolkas, among others. I appreciated the carefully chosen, evocative language as well. For example, in answer to “why” Rousseau began painting:
“Because he loves nature. Because when he strolls through the parks of Paris, it’s like the flowers open their hearts, the trees spread their arms, and the sun is a blushing ruby, all for him.”

The facing page is filled with brilliant orange & red flowers, a round orange sun, and purple hued leaves . . . an interesting color combination. Amanda Hall’s illustrations are watercolor and acrylics. A great introduction to Rousseau for elementary age children.

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Magritte and the art of seeing

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Magritte is one of my favorite artists. When I discovered D. B. Johnson’s new book on Magritte a few weeks ago, I was very excited. I remembered Johnson’s picture books about Henry David Thoreau — Henry Builds a Cabin and Henry Hikes to Fitchburg. Magritte’s Marvelous Hat (Houghton Mifflin, 2012) can be used in so many ways . . . to introduce children to Magritte and to get them to look closer at Magritte’s paintings, as Johnson’s illustrations are full of references to Magritte’s works. It would be great for Picture This! our library program that introduces art and illustration to children and has them create books in that style. But first up was a book talk for third graders, so I thought I’d try it. I always include a variety of books, as third graders read at such a wide variety of levels: picture books, non-fiction, short chapter books and longer chapter books. Poetry and informational books.

magritte'smarveloushat

So I read part of this book aloud, and they loved the clear pages. There are several see-through type pages that are used extremely effectively here (not gimmicky!) The children gasped when the painting lands on Magritte’s face as the egg-shaped artwork “unpaints” itself. I showed them Mike Venezia’s biography of Magritte,magritte

and gave a brief description of the Surrealist movement. We talked about how realistic the objects looked, yet something was wrong (size, location, etc.) One of my favorite comments was in regard to the painting of the man with the apple in place of his face, “It looks like he used Photoshop.” Then I showed them L’Empire des Lumieres (The Dominion of Lights), 1954 and asked them whether it was daytime or nighttime. More lively discussion followed.

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I was thrilled that they were actually looking closely!

Later that afternoon I was walking through the library by the art prints — yes, we circulate art prints! And there on the wall was this image. Surely I have seen it before — I walk this way several times a day. But today, this afternoon, I saw. How many things in life are like this . . .  right there in front of you . . . you just have to be able to see them.

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