This weekend is the Fall Conference at the Mazza Museum (International Art from Picture Books) in Findlay, Ohio. I’m very excited to be attending! And here is why:
How amazing is this???!!!
Here is the display I created for picture book month:
Yes, it’s heavily focused on Caldecott winners, since I have Caldecott on the brain as I’m planning my first mock Caldecott discussion this January. And Chris Raschka’s A Ball for Daisy is right up on top as he led off the discussion of why picture books are important on the Picture Book month website. Living in Ohio (or Swing State Hell, as Jon Stewart puts it), it’s hard to keep the election off my mind, hence So You Want to be President? is right up there too!
Yesterday (November 3) we celebrated International Games Day @ your library. The indoor hopscotch board was very popular. It was great to see so many children (and adults) trying it out, and stopping to play a game.
It was great to hear a dad explaining how the game of checkers works to his son (if you start on the black squares, you have to stay on the black squares), to see a mom demonstrating how Twister is played to her toddler, to see families engrossed in the game of Life. All in all, a very fun day to be @ the library!
We started visiting and climbing lighthouses a few years ago on our annual visit to St. George Island. First at Cape San Blas, then the St. George Lighthouse, and today the Crooked River Light near Carrabelle.
In the keeper’s house museum next to the light (a replica; the original house is nearby but privately owned), there is a library box.
Did you know that there were rotating library boxes in the late 1800s? A small collection of books was kept in a wooden box and these were exchanged on a regular basis. What kind of books did they contain? According to the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy “the books were carefully selected from books of a good standard appropriate to the families who would use them. While largely fiction, other classes of literature were included in reasonable proportions including technical books when requested.” Their website (http://www.michiganlights.com/lhlibrary.htm) gives more details including a list of actual books circulated. The library box I saw wasn’t full, but they re clearly trying to find the original books. I saw the beautiful embossed blue leather cover of A.T. Mahan’s The Gulf and Inland Waters. In the photo below you can see the strikingly decorated cover of Paul Du Chailly’s My Apingi Kingdom: with life in the Great Sahara, and sketches of the chase of the ostrich, hyena, &c. from 1870.
In 1876 portable libraries were first introduced in the Light-House Establishment and furnished to all light vessels and inaccessible offshore light stations with a selection of reading materials. These libraries were contained in a portable wooden case, each with a printed listing of the contents posted inside the door. Proper arrangements were made for the exchange of these libraries at intervals, and for revision of the contents as books became obsolete in accordance with suggestions obtained from public library authorities.” (Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy).
The life of a lighthouse keeper and his family could be extremely isolated. I’m fascinated that reading was offered as a means of relief/compensation. What excitement must have accompanied the arrival of a new box! What books would children have looked for among these contents? Mine certainly enjoyed climbing the lighthouse!
A new book by Rebecca Stead. Fabulous review by a friend on Goodreads lucky enough to have an ARC. Finding out ARCs will be available at ALA and begging a colleague to search for it while there (though didn’t have to beg to hard because she’s also a fan.)
Could any book live up to this hype?
I gave it my ten year old son, a voracious reader, who has not yet read When You Reach Me. I said as little as possible, hoping not to bias him, but to get a real feel for the book.
The title is a winner. He noticed that right off the bat: spy, huh? Binoculars hanging off the S in the title . . . cool.
Here’s his review in his own words:
Liar and Spy is good because you never know what’s going on until the end. There is a LOT of suspense but not too scary. You can guess who the spy is but not who the liar is. The taste test is strange but cool. It is awesome how every one’s name is unique.
I wasn’t disappointed. What would you expect from someone who has a “Sir Ott” on the wall of her house? Georges is named for the famous French painter, but the “s” at the end of his name, though silent, is a source of teasing at school. Georges’ family is struggling economically, so they have sold their house and are moving to an apartment. Georges is struggling at school to cope with changing friendships and bullying behavior . . . typical middle school stuff. When his dad signs him up for the “Spy Club” via sign in the building basement, he meets Safer, who trains Georges into being more observant. Despite it’s slim size, this book is a school story, family story, and friendship story all fully realized, plus with a satisfying bit of mystery interwoven throughout.
The Great Snake: Stories from the Amazon (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2008) is a fascinating collection of nine stories interwoven with factual details of author Sean Taylor’s travels through the Amazon rainforest. The inclusion of these elements sets the stories in context and makes the book work as nonfiction as well. Taylor’s descriptions convey an intense sense of place, detailing the flora, fauna, smells, and the environment of the rain forest and the people he meets and swaps stories with. Taylor’s source notes are a joy, listing the individual from whom he heard the story, the place, and often other versions. An endnote from the author explains the current destruction of the rain forest and the risks this environment is facing. The only additional thing I would have liked was a map of the locations mentioned.
Taylor has visited the rainforest multiple times and is married to a Brazilian. Illustrator Fernando Vilela lives in Brazil and his work has won awards from the Brazilian branch of IBBY. Villela’s woodcut and print illustrations wonderfully complement the text, often weaving around it, enclosing the text, or becoming part of the story. You can get a sense of their intricacy and vibrancy by viewing the Google preview of the book: http://books.google.com/books?id=hDodnFV7LjcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=great+snake+stories+vilela&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ozPeT-OjLYbq8wSTosH0Cg&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
Here is an excerpt of one of the factual notes, to give you a feel of the sensory descriptive language Taylor uses:
The river is a great brown mirror. In it I can see the blue of the sky, the white of the clouds, and, far off, the green of the forest. Perhaps a quarter of all living species in the world live here in the Amazon. There are spiders as big as baseball caps. There are monkeys which weigh little more than chickens’ eggs. There are frogs which moo like cows. There are fish which jump two metres out of the water to snatch beetles off branches. There are butterflies so bright that you can see them a mile away.
Sometimes I think people here tell so many extraordinary stories because they are surrounded by so many extraordinary creatures. Sometimes I think it is because so much mystery lies in the water and the rainforest. (p. 12)
I especially appreciate the combination of factual information with stories from the people of the rain forest. A book which will help cultivate a sense of wonder.
For more great non-fiction recommendations, check out Nonfiction Monday.
Another voyage of the imagination from the author of Redwoods. This time a little girl picks a book off the library shelf on Coral Reefs, and as she begins to read, coral begins to grow on library tables in the Reading Room of the New York Public Library. The ceiling mural even features fish, and water seeps across the floor at first, then flows in with a tidal wave on the following pages. Now she is swimming, book still in hand, around the coral reefs, exploring the amazing variety of life that makes a home here along with the reader. The text is factual, and while the illustrations do support the text, they also extend it in a whole other narrative as well. Predator relationships, like those of the whale shark and reef fish, as well as symbiotic partnerships, like that between the coral and the algae that makes the reefs possible, are highlighted.
The details in this book are extraordinary, from pencil sketches of different species of coral and reef inhabitants on the endpapers to the adjacent books on the library shelf (including Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and The Voyages of the Beagle, among others). An endnote explains the very real dangers that threaten these stunning parts of our ecosystem today, along with a list of things you can actually do to help. A stunning non-fiction picture book that elementary age children will enjoy. Older readers can delve into the details and hopefully be inspired to read more about coral reefs.
See the artist/author’s website for a preview: http://jasonchin.net/books/coral-reefs/
A wonderfully designed board book by janik coat (appleseed books, 2011). A static red hippo illustrates basic and not-so-basic concepts in this large, sturdy board book: small/large, light/heavy, and one of my favorites: opaque/transparent. It’s also a touch and feel book, with textures used to illustrate soft and rough. Though I’m not sure if dotted is actually the opposite of striped (a point I can hear my eight year old debating with me), I am sure that this is one of the most innovative and appealing board books I’ve seen in a while.
Thanks to Brain Pickings (my new favorite blog) for pointing this one out! http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/05/17/hippopposites-janik-coat/
Eidi was translated by Kathryn Mahaffyin 2009, and Tink was translated by Elisabeth Kallick Dyssgaard in 2011. The first two books were recognized as Batchelder honor books.
The series is set in an unstated historical period, a pre-industrial age, as the characters eek out a subsistance living, travel to market town to sell goods, walk or travel on horseback. The setting of ocean, cove, fields of Denmark are beautifully described. All three include themes of identity and self-discovery, finding family, finding a place to call home.
Each book focuses on a different character, beginning with Myna, who is called “Crow-Girl” and not given a name until the end. She lives in a cove with her aging grandmother. After her grandmother dies, the Crow Girl sets off into the world. She meets people who take advantage of her, then others who desparately need her help. And eventually she finds a place and the beginning of a new family. And a name.
Eidi is the story of a young girl, a minor character in the first book, who feels displaced upon the birth of a new sibling. She, like Myna before her, sets out to seek her own place in the world, and eventually finds her way home. Along the way she rescues an orphan, Tink, who is featured in the third story. Emotions are deeply felt, but understated in the text. Serious issues, including alcoholism, are dealt with. The overriding themes of finding home and family are powerful in all three.
For fans of historical fiction, especially works like A Midwife’s Apprentice and Avi’s Crispin books.
During Thanksgiving week, I shared a feast of stories and songs. Food-related storytimes are almost always crowd-pleasers (in my experience anyway!). We started with Anne Shelby’s Potluck (Scholastic, 1991) in which friends with names from A to Z bring dishes (alphabetical, of course) to a potluck. I began by asking who knew what a potluck was — and neither the group of first graders nor the all-ages group knew. So that was fun to explain. We sang “Jelly Jelly in My Belly” from Sharon, Lois & Bram’s The Elephant Show. It’s a cumulative song, with new foods being added with each verse, then returning to the chorus of “Jelly, Jelly in My Belly, hip, hip, hip, hooray!”
Song: “Jelly Jelly in My Belly” from Sharon, Lois & Bram’s The Elephant Show
A family story as much as a food story, with phrases in Spanish sprinkled through the text. Each day of the week a family member is missing (for various reasons — sister is practicing dancing, grandfather is in the middle of telling a story) and each day the mother sighs, “Que pena!” I had the children repeat the mother’s phrase so they were ready on Saturday, when the mother is absent, to fill in for her, just as the boy in the story does.
Action Rhyme: Peanut Butter and Jelly
Peanut, peanut butter and jelly
Peanut, peanut butter, and jelly
First you take the peanuts and you pick em, pick ‘em, pick ’em,
Next you take the peanuts and you smash ‘em, smash ‘em, smash ’em
Then you take the peanuts and you spread ’em, spread ‘em, you spread ‘em out (slowly)
Now you take some grapes and you pick em, pick ‘em, pick ’em,
Next you take the grapes and you smash ‘em, smash ‘em, smash ’em
Then you take the grapes and you spread ’em, spread ‘em, you spread ‘em out (slowly)
Now you take the sandwich and you bite it, you bite, you bite it, bite it, bite it
Next you take the sandwich and you chew it, you chew it, you chew it, chew it, chew it
Then you take the sandwich and you swallow it, you swallow it, you swallow it all.
Repeat chorus last time – but hum it this time!
This bilingual poem makes making rice pudding seem like an adventure. There are milk waterfalls, singing rice, dancing salt stars and sugar snow, and “foamy waves and clouds” that “turn the pot into sea and sky.” The language is lovely and the illustrations by Fernando Vilela, in muted tones with interesting perspective and bold outlines did capture the children’s attention.
Song: “Spaghetti Legs” by Jim Gill
Other fun food books are Mouse Mess by Linnea Riley (Blue Sky Press, 2007) and One is a Feast for A Mouse, by Judy Cox (Holiday House, 2008). What are your favorite food related songs and stories?