Saturday, December 15, 2007

Harry Potter Halloween Party

I just realized that I only posted about my Halloween party on my personal blog, but some of you might be interested in reading about it because this year's party theme was Harry Potter. You can read all about it here, and here are a few pictures to get you interested.
Our party invitations:

Our family costumes (I was Dolores Umbridge, Larry was both of the Weasley twins and every time he left the room and came back he alternated introducing himself as Fred or George and getting annoyed that people kept getting him mixed up with his twin, then our baby was a Mandrake)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Have you seen LookyBook? It's a web site that lets you view whole children's books from cover to cover. The point of the site is to help you make informed purchases. The site is only in beta form, but it's pretty cool (not sure how it's legal or feasible, but it's very cool).

The Castle Corona - by Sharon Creech

Sharon Creech is one of my favorite authors so I was prepared to fall in love with her latest book, The Castle Corona, but I just couldn’t. Creech takes a far departure from the realistic fiction in present day settings of her other novels. The Castle Corona is tale set in Midieval times, full of peasants and royalty.

The book itself has torn edges and the illustrations are made to create the feel of an illuminated manuscript, in fact, the cover even says, “Illuminated by David Diaz”. Diaz, known for his multi-cultural illustrations in books like Smokey Night and The House that Juan Built, is also trying something new with the flourishes framing his bright illustrations. Each chapter begins with a half-page illumination, but many readers have expressed their disappointment that the illustrations repeat throughout the novel so they are not getting all of the artwork that they bargained for when they purchased the book.

My disappointment was not in the illustrations, but in the storyline. The chapters alternate between the lives of the spoiled royalty, and two orphaned peasants, Enzio and Pia. Enzio & Pia spend their days working and dreaming of how wonderful it would be to be royalty, while the royal family spends their time thinking about how tough it is to have royal responsibilities. One day Enzio and Pia discover a pouch stolen from the castle, which leads to a series of events that intertwine their lives with the royal family. In the end, the puzzling mystery falls flat and the ending wasn’t satisfactory. I totally agree with one review that I read that said, “the BIG REVELATION was neither big nor a revelation nor even remotely interesting.”

The book feels a bit more like an allegory than a fairytale so of course everyone grows and learns in the end. The book is more about growing up than exciting adventures, and I suspect it will be a hard sell to many young readers.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

No Talking - by Andrew Clement

Andrew Clements has done it again. Those who like Frindle or the Landry News will also enjoy No Talking; in fact, they may even like it more. War of the sexes is going on among the fifth-graders at Laketon Elementary School and Dave and Lynsey suddenly become the generals when they make a bet as to whether the boys or girls can manage to say the fewest words for two days.

It all started when Dave was working in his report on India and read about Gandhi and came across the statement, “For many years, one day each week Gandhi did not speak at all. Gandhi believed this was a way to bring order to his mind.” Dave decided his mind could use a little order so he tried to go a whole day without talking, which went really well, until he had a run-in with Lynsey. Their run-in sparks the bet, and suddenly all the fifth-graders are thinking of language in a whole new way. They decide if an adult in school asks them a question they can answer, but they can only use three words and contractions will only count as one word.

I really enjoyed the unbiased, all-knowing narration that said things like, “It’s also a shame to have to report this, but Lynsey was just as proud and stubborn as Dave.”

If this book is used in a classroom, I’m sure it would inspire a lot of thought debate about language and gender.

I think it’s also going to cause some debate among teachers because it doesn’t exactly portray them favorably. The principal HATES the competition because she likes complete control so she does not appreciate that the kids she’s been trying to shush for years are quiet because she was not the one to quiet them. Another teacher, Mr. Burton fights for the kids’ right, but merely as a matter of self-interest because he thinks it will be a good topic for his thesis. Meanwhile, Mrs. Marlow fights to stop the contest from disrupting her lesson plans, but then gives up because, “demanding that they all go back to being noisy, self-absorbed chatterbrains—it simply wasn’t logical.” OUCH! While the principal comes around and learns her lesson, the other teachers don’t and I was a little disappointed by how selfish they were. On the other hand, kids will probably appreciate the portrayal of teachers who are out to get them and love the book all the more for it.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Elijah of Buxton - by Christopher Paul Curtis

Elijah is the first child born into the town of Buxton, Canada, a community of free blacks and escaped slaves. He’s been sheltered from the realities of slavery because of his “fragile” nature, which he is often teased about. As we follow Elijah through his adventures escaping from snakes and chunking stones, he tries to prove to his parents that he’s growing up. Hi new strength prods him to face his fears in order to help others gain their freedom.

It’s nice to see Christopher Paul Curtis return to historical fiction, don’t get me wrong, his other novels are fun, but teachers across the country applaud The Watsons go to Burmingham and Bud, Not Buddy because they manage to teach about history through really funny, endearing, male main characters between the ages of nine and eleven. So yes, Curtis published ANOTHER historical fiction novel narrated by a young, black male; but this novel still manages to be fresh and original. How does he do that?

This book does contain some violence, but it would hard to portray slavery without it. The other matter some teachers are having a hard time with is Elijah’s dialect. I recently attended a book talk where the speaker brought the debate about dialect up and said that some teachers are worried that it will be too difficult for some young readers who might otherwise enjoy this book. She questioned whether or not it’s too much and I can see where she’s coming from.

I think Curtis really deserves some praise for the gentle ways he explains how slaves must have felt when they escaped. It provided some really beautiful interesting moments in the book. Elijah explains that escaped slaves who reach Buxton alone and are spotted hiding in the forest have to be approached very carefully. Elijah says:
“Even if they ain’t seeing no white people they still caint bring theirselves to show who they are. We learnt a long time ago to make no big commotion when we first seen ‘em. We learnt that all the running they’d been doing, all the looking their shoulders and not knowing when they were gonna eat again or where they were gonna sleep or who they could trust made ‘em skittish and even dangerous and not likely to take to no one running at ‘em. Not even if you were smiling and waving and showing how happy you were that they got through. Afore you’d reach ‘em they’d just melt back into the woods and you’d be standing there wondering if you’d really seen anything atall. If a bunch of us went charging at ‘em whooping and raising Cain they might disappear back into the forest for another two, three days. And that was two, three days that they were free but didn’t know it, which Pa says is tragical ‘cause you ain’t never gonna know how much time you got here on earth and each day you’re free is precious.”
Wow! They end up sending a young girl wandering the way of newcomers so they don’t feel threatened and run away. I think that’s really eye-opening.

There’s just so much in this book that I never thought about and I learned from. Like instead of playing cops and robbers or Indians and cowboys, the kids in Buxton played abolitionists and slavers. Another instance is when Elijah mentions his friend’s grandmother is about 50 so she’s so old and frail they are afraid to leave her alone even a moment. And any kid who ever even thinks about using the N word should read what happens when Elijah almost says it; Mr. Leroy explodes and explains what it means and why it should NEVER be used. He says, “Ya’ll young folks gotta understand that’s a name what ain’t never called with nothing but hate . . . You saying that word aitn’t showing no respect for no one what’s had that word spit on ‘em whilst they’s getting beat on like a animal.” Elijah’s father later goes on to tell him that he needs to be especially careful around people who used to be slaves because, “They’ve seen people acting in ways that caint help but leave scars and pecularities.”

And without spoiling anything, this book didn’t end the way that I wanted it to, but it ended the way that it had to. Anyone who picks it up will really learn a lot from it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Crooked Kind Of Perfect - by Linda Urban

Bloggers all over the kidslitosphere have been shouting praises of A Crooked Kind of Perfect, and I should have known that they would be right. It wasn’t love at first sight (although I do love the title and the cover is beautifully simple). During the first few pages, I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but boy am I glad that I picked this book up. It’s definitely one of my favorites of the year.

Zoe Elias had big dreams of recitals on grand pianos in front of audiences that proclaim her a child prodigy, instead she got a Perfectone D-60 organ with a vinyl seat and music to the hits of the sixties. Her dad doesn’t leave the house and spends all his time on correspondence courses like “Make Friends and Profit While Scrapbooking” and “Golden Gloves: Make a Mint Coaching Boxing”. Her mom is absorbed in her work. Her friend just informed her that Zoe has been replaced with a new best friend. And Wheeler, the class bully, has started following her home to hang out with her dad every day. Sounds a little depressing, doesn’t it? But oddly enough it's not; it’s brilliantly funny!

You don’t see a lot of books aimed at this age group that include parents dealing with a mental illness. It was so nice to read about a father with anxiety issues who still manages to be a loving and supportive dad, and while their relationship is important to the book it’s not the main focus. The characters all have their quirks, but they are believable and I quickly bonded with them and hoped for the best.

The chapters are short, Zoe’s narrative is witty, and the book goes so quickly, you’ll be left wanting more. This book earned the title, it truly is A Crooked Kind of Perfect.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac - Gabrielle Zevin

I really fell for Gabrielle Zevin’s first book Elsewhere so even though her second novel, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, had a plot seemingly plucked straight from a soap opera, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.

This book is a far departure from Elsewhere’s science fiction premise. 16-year-old Naomi falls on the front steps of her school one evening and when she wakes up, she can’t remember the last four years of her life. Another teenager, James, discovered her on the steps and accompanies her in the ambulance to the hospital. Naomi is disappointed to discover that athletic Ace is her boyfriend, not James. In fact, there are a lot of things that surprise her about how her life has changed since sixth grade, like her parents’ divorce and the birth control pills in her nightstand drawer.

While the premise of amnesia may seem a little too cheesy, and the crush on a dangerous boy was also a little too soap opera for me (I could have done without James in the novel at all because I don't really get the bad boy appeal), the reader really connects to Naomi’s experience and can’t help but ask themselves if they would be happy with who they’ve become if they were in Naomi’s situation. Would you be happy with your friends or would you wonder why you chose them? Would you love the things you’d committed yourself too, like the yearbook and playing tennis, or would you take the opportunity to go in a different direction? When your memory of the last four years comes back, would you be happy with most of it or would you want to try to permanently forget it?

Zevin created a believable teenager’s voice in Naomi and I hypothesize that most teens who pick up the book will be able to predict most of the plot, but they will still enjoy the novel. It’s not as fresh and Elsewhere, but it’s still thought provoking.

Book of a Thousand Days - by Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale is one of my favorite authors so I was thrilled to see the glowing reviews rolling in for her latest book, The Book of a Thousand Days. I picked it up at the library, and I’m sorry, but it must be said, this is my least favorite of Shannon Hale’s novels! Of course her other books meant for the young and young-at-heart were so wonderful, that to say this is my least favorite doesn’t mean that it was horrible or even bad; I just won’t rush out to buy my own copy to highlight and cherish. I hesitated to review the book because I thought maybe it was just me, but the reality was confirmed when three other bookclubbers agreed it was definitely their least favorites too.

It’s loosely based on the Grimm fairy tale Maid Maleen (and if you’re saying, “Huh?” you are not the only one). The best I can explain it is part Rapunzel, part Cyrano De Bergerac, part Little Red Riding Hood set in country loosely based on Mongolia.

The main character, a fifteen year old girl named Dashti, approaches the castle seeking a job after being orphaned. Because Dashi knows the healing songs of muckers (a nomadic people) she is hired to be the maid to Princess Saren. Unfortunately for Dashti, she finishes her training and approaches the Princess the same day the King declares the Princess must live in a sealed tower without light for seven years as punishment for refusing to marry the suitor he selected for her. The Princess convinces Dashti to volunteer to be imprisoned with her and their solitude and boredom begins. As you might imagine, it’s hard to describe a few years of tedium without becoming a little tedious. While in the tower, two suitors visit Saren, Lord Khasar, who strikes fear in both Dashti and Saren; and Saren’s secret betrothed, Khan Tegus. Saren is “tower-addled” and forces Dashti to talk with Tegus while pretending to be the princess, and Dashti falls for Tegus’s tenderness.

After a few years they manage to escape from the tower only to discover the King’s land has been conquered by Lord Khasar, and all the people have fled or been slain. Dashti resorts to dragging the Princess to Tegus’s home, where she refuses to identify herself as royalty so they resort to finding work scrubbing pots in the kitchen.

This is one of those books where everything would be quickly solved if everyone was just honest and open in the beginning instead of avoiding the truth, a premise that drives me nuts! If Dashti would reveal that she wasn’t the princess and the princess was posing as a dishwasher, she would avoid much heartache. If Saren would tell Dashti the truth about who Lord Khsar is, she wouldn’t seem crazy and wimpy and he could be easily conquered. But of course neither will share their secrets and the book goes on and on.

I did find in interesting that Hales continues her theme of the strength of language. The Goose Girl could speak to the elements, in Princess Academy, they could communicate through stone, and Dashti can heal people through song. While I didn’t love this book, I did enjoy it and I hope Hale continues to entrance us with her lyrical language.

Monday, November 05, 2007

November - Mysteries

Here are the books that we are reading this month along with some questions to get your thinking. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
These questions are from Wendy's site, and they contain some major spoilers!
  1. What three items did Jeremy and Lizzy need to deliver for Mr. Oswald?
    Discuss the significance of each item (in relation to the respective
    owner, in relation to Jeremy, etc.) What “life lesson” did Jeremy take
    away from each encounter?
  2. “I have named the hour between eleven and midnight the Hour of
    Jeremy (H.O.J. for short).” (p. 27) During the H.O.J, Jeremy reads, does
    research on the Internet, etc. If you had a specific time allotted just for
    yourself, what hour would you choose? What would you do during that
  3. In a conversation between Jeremy and Lizzy, she asks “So what’s your
    strength?” “Good question, replies Jeremy. “What is my strength? Do
    I even have a strength?” (p.18) Ask students how they would answer
    that question. Then read aloud the story about the fight between two
    wolves on page 271. Discuss the concept of good vs. evil and the notion
    that the wolf you feed can be considered your strength. Ask students to
    write a list of their own strengths.
  4. Jeremy has an internal battle with himself over the difference between
    fate and bad luck. (p. 82) Conversely, Lizzy sees the fact that they
    missed their stop as “a good sign for sure.” (p. 83) Do you believe in
    fate? Do you think there is such a thing as bad and good luck? Many
    people think that the number 13 is unlucky, as Lizzy and Jeremy discover
    when the 13th floor is missing (p.86). Do you think there is any truth
    to this custom? As an extension activity, have students research the
    mystery of the number 13.
  5. Mr. Randolph defined the meaning of life as finding one’s potential and
    embracing it. (p. 156) And Dr. Grady is referring to life in his statement,
    “It’s the journey, not the destination.” (p. 186) How are these two
    declarations related, if at all? Would you agree with Mr. Randolph and
    Dr. Grady? Does the letter written by Jeremy’s father reflect these
    sentiments? How?
  6. There is a central theme of loss in this novel: the death of Jeremy’s
    father and the abandonment of Lizzy’s mother. Do you think that
    is what draws Jeremy and Lizzy together as friends? Describe their
    relationship. When Samantha moves in, Lizzy begins acting strange
    and all of a sudden becomes concerned with what Samantha may
    think of her. Why do you think Lizzy is behaving differently? Does it
    impact Jeremy and Lizzy’s friendship? Cite several examples of the bond
    between Jeremy and Lizzy.
  7. Were you surprised to discover that Jeremy’s father had planned this
    entire adventure and that everyone was in on the plan? What lifelessons
    did Jeremy learn? How has this experience changed him? Do
    you think that the summer’s events helped Jeremy better deal with his
    father’s death? Describe the transformed Jeremy?
  8. Jeremy spends the entire summer trying to discover what is in his
    Meaning of Life box. When he finally gets it opened, his father informs
    him “…that’s all life is, really, a string of moments that you knot
    together and carry with you….The trick is to recognize an important one
    when it happens.” (p. 272) And within the box are numerous rocks—
    each one representing an important moment. Think about your own life, what meaningful items would you save and what would you write in your letter?

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Start off by checking out the book's website
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret has almost as many pictures in it as words. How did the art affect your experience of reading the book?
  • How is the book like a movie or how does it remind you of movies?
  • Did you learn anything new from reading this book?
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret takes place in Paris in the 1930s. Do you think this story could have taken place somewhere else or at another time? If so, where and when?

And for some really great questions, go to this site:

Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb by Kirsten Miller
  1. Kirsten Miller has further developed some of the irregulars in this book. Which one of the Irregulars do you most relate to and why?
  2. What is so appealing about Kiki Strike?
  3. This novel continues to introduce us to more young geniuses. What is Kirsten Miller trying to say about geniuses?
  4. The novel ends with Kiki headed to claim her home and Ananka revealing her secrets to her parents. Is this the end of the irregulars or do you predict a sequel?
  5. Not only are the Irregulars diverse, but so are their families. Describe the different parent/child relationships. Why do you think Miller chose to set the families up the way she did? (and on a side note, why no siblings?)
  6. Kirsten Miller keeps track of all sort of odd real life occurrences like underground cities, and stories of haunted houses. I think these intriguing stories that are interwoven into the Kiki Strike novels are part of what making them so intriguing, they leave you with a feeling that this might actually be possible. She chronicles many of them under Ananka's Diary on her web site www. Can you think of any real life oddities that might fit perfectly into a Kiki Strike novel or maybe inspire a novel of your own?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Did you know?

So the other night I was watching Meet the Robinsons, a movie based on the picture A Day With Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce, and I remembered a conversation that I had with my sister when she mentioned that she saw William Joyce on Martha Stewart a few year ago. If you're like me, you're wondering why on Earth William Joyce would be on Martha Stewart. I picked up a copy of The World Of William Joyce at the library to show you the answer.

Joyce says that some of his favorite childhood memories are related to the holidays and family traditions and he wants the holidays to be a magical time for his own kids so he goes all out. He even repaints his house for the holidays! He takes the whole month of October off to decorate for Halloween, his favorite holiday. Here's a picture of his mantle set for Halloween.

Spooky, right? He paints the black walls with snowflakes to convert the room for Christmas.And can you imagine Easter eggs hand painted by William Joyce? That would be an amazing site to behold! Every year, besides taking a month to decorate for Halloween, he throw a huge Halloween party. One year everyone dressed up as characters from his books. Can you identify this couple?And every year his nephews receive a handwritten letter from Santa. One year no letter arrived, but the next year a fat letter came explaining Santa's crazy adventures that had prevented him from writing the year before. The letter gave Joyce the idea for writing Santa Calls. Funny how the doodles on Santa's letters look a little like Joyce's doodles. Hmmmmm . . .

There is surprisingly little about Joyce on the Web (do you hear that William Joyce? We'd love a blog or a better web site!) but you can pick up a copy of The World Of William Joyce to learn more about him and you can see a Reading Rockets interview with him here. (Did any of you know about Reading Rockets? I just discovered them and they have some great author interviews!)

Friday, November 02, 2007

We Met Mo Willems!

We just happened to be visiting family in Irvine, CA when Mo Willems was there doing a book signing there at A Whale of a Tale for his latest picture book, Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity. We flew into Burbank and took our time driving down so we missed the beginning of his talk and reading, but we did get to catch him talking about the next pigeon book. It's being released on April 1, 2008 and mo announced that the title will be five words long. He even shared the first four words with us, The Pigeon Wants A ________. He's leaving it to kids to fill in the blank for now and he says that on April 1st children every where will rush to their local bookstore to be greatly disappointed that he didn't choose their title!
He was just as funny and as personable as you would expect. He's my very favorite picture book author so I felt a little like I was meeting a rockstar. While we were waiting in line to get our books signed I mentioned to my husband that I hoped that I didn't have a MotherReader moment (another kidlit blogger who says that she gushed to the point of embarrassment when she met mo). Mo overhead me and asked if I was a blogger and proceeded to tell me that he LOVES the kidlit bloggers! Then he was even more animated and friendly. (ok, and as if that didn't win me over enough, he oohed and awed over my son and commented on how gorgeous his blue eyes are, and what mom wouldn't love that?)
On April 1st, I will be lined up at my local children's book store to pick up the new pigeon book. I can't wait! Want to know more about Mo? You can view his web site here.
And because he says that he's phasing that out, you can see his blog here.

And his pigeon site here.

A few highlights? On his blog Mo has pictures of a teacher with a pigeon costume (and I thought that I was a big fan!)
And under Mo's Stuff he has a link to info on Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus the Musical, which looks fantastic!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

It's Cybils Time!

I've been meaning to tell you that nominations for Cybil Awards have started so head on over to and vote!

Here's the official press-release from co-founder Anne Boles Levy:

Will Harry Potter triumph among critical bloggers? Will novels banned in some school districts find favor online?

With 90 volunteers poised to sift through hundreds of new books, the second annual Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards launches on Oct. 1 at Known as the Cybils, it’s the only literary contest that combines both the spontaneity of the Web with the thoughtful debate of a book club.

The public’s invited to nominate books in eight categories, from picture books up to young adult fiction, so long as the book was first published in 2007 in English (bilingual books are okay too). Once nominations close on Nov. 21, the books go through two rounds of judging, first to select the finalists and then the winners, to be announced on Valentine’s Day 2008.

Judges come from the burgeoning ranks of book bloggers in the cozy corner of the Internet called the kidlitosphere. They represent parents, homeschoolers, authors, illustrators, librarians and teens.

The contest began last year after blogger Kelly Herold expressed dismay that while some literary awards were too snooty – rewarding books kids would seldom read – others were too populist and didn’t acknowledge the breadth and depth of what’s being published today.
“It didn’t have to be brussel sprouts versus gummy bears,” said Anne Boles Levy, who started Cybils with Herold. “There are books that fill both needs, to be fun and profound.”

Last year’s awards prompted more than 480 nominations, and this year’s contest will likely dwarf that. As with last year’s awards, visitors to the Cybils blog can leave their nominations as comments. There is no nomination form, only the blog, to keep in the spirit of the blogosphere that started it all.

See you Oct. 1!

For further info:
Anne Boles Levy
anne (at) bookbuds (dot) net

We're Famous

Sam Riddleburger made a wordfind of children's literature bloggers and The Children's Literature Book Club made it in! Check it our here!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Big Changes

Ok, I've had a few people ask questions, and I feel I need to clarify a few things. Yes, this blog belongs to a real book group that meets in person. My name is Stephanie Ford. I have a MA in children's literature, and several years ago, two of my friends who happened to be take time off from teaching to stay at home with their kids told me that they wanted to keep up on the world of children's literature even though they weren't currently teaching. The three of us came up with the idea to start a monthly book group to discuss children's literature because we get so much more out of books after discussing them. Somehow I ended up in charge and here we are a few years later, still going strong.

I want all the members to have a say in what we read so about every six months we vote on potential topics and then a different person hosts each of the topics we've selected and chooses a booklist accordingly.

What does this mean to all of you reading this, who may not be members of the book group? Well, we seems to have lots of outside readers (which I LOVE) and several members have moved away and follow along through the blog, and I want all of you to get something out of this blog too. ANY OF YOU ARE WELCOME TO READ ALONG WITH US. IN FACT I ENCOURAGE YOU TO! This is where the change comes in to play: from now on, I won't just be posting our monthly reading lists, I will be posting at least a few discussion questions so even if you can't be present at our meetings, you can use the questions to prod some deeper thinking or you could even use them to start a discussion with your own children's literature book club. Hopefully the questions will also help the member who do come to our meetings be prepared.

So without further ado, here are some questions prepared by our wonderful host this last month, Amy, for our Linda Sue Park author study:

Something to think about while reading:
Throughout the books, Park seems to dwell a lot on the idea of traditions: the good, the bad, what’s changing, what’s not. Another big theme for her is family.

Kite Fighters (2000)
  • Do you think it was honorable to use the cutting line?
  • What did you think of the boy king as a character?
  • What did you think of the relationship between the brothers? The brothers and their father?
A Single Shard (2001; 2002 Newbery)
  • What makes this one worthy of the Newbery?
  • Why is it so easy to identify with/care about Tree-ear?
  • How does Park bring the time period alive for her readers?
  • I learned a lot by reading this book (and by reading When My Name Was Keoko) without feeling like I was reading a history book. How does Park use the history to enhance the story and the story to teach the history?
When My Name Was Keoko (2002)
  • Was it easier to identify with Sun-hee or with Tae-yul? Why?
  • What did you think about the family relationships in the novel? Between Sun-hee and Tae-yul? Between the children and their father? Between their father and their uncle? The uncle and the children?
  • How does Park bring the time period alive for her readers?
  • How does this book compare with A Single Shard? Which do you like better and why?
Points of interest on this novel: Park’s father told her about receiving the rubber ball, gathering the pine roots, tasting gum given from soldiers. Her mother was in the same situation as Sun-hee: Father vice-principal, best friend Japanese son of principal. Her Japanese name was Kaneyama Keoko.

Project Mulberry (2005)
  • This is Park’s only contemporary setting so far. What did you think?
  • What did you think of the breaks in which Park converses with Julia?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ballet Shoes Movie

Many people became familiar with Noel Streatfield's shoe books after they were mentioned in the movie You've Got Mail. Those who missed it then, might become familiar with Ballet Shoes soon because it's being made into a movie starring Emma Watson (Hermione in the Harry Potter movies). Right now it's scheduled for Britsh TV, but let's hope it's released here in the states too!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Robert's Snow 2007

Robert Mercer, the husband of author/illustrator Grace Lin and cofounder of Robert's Snow, died on August 27th after fighting cancer for five years. His good efforts continue as Robert's Snow goes on raising money for cancer research. The snowflakes decorated by illustrators are up for viewing now so you can check out the site and drool of them here.

October - Linda Sue Park

This month we're doing a Linda Sue Park author study. We are reading:

A Single Shard
When My Name Was Keoko
Project Mulberry
The Kite Fighters
If you finish all of our selections and are looking for more to read, pick up some of Linda Sue Park's other books:Archer's Quest, See-Saw Girl, The Firekeeper's Son, Bee-Bim Bop, Yum! Yuck!, Mung-Mung!, What Does Bunny See, Tap Dancing On The Roof, and Click a chapter book with each chapter written by a different author which will be released next month.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Things Hoped For - by Andrew Clements

So we all know that Andrew Clements can right for fifth and sixth graders, and he does it well. Who doesn’t enjoy a little Frindle now and then? I was totally surprised when I picked up a copy of Things Hoped For ( the sequel to Things Not Seen) in the library, and it was aimed at kids a little bit older. I found myself wondering if Clements can write something most ninth graders would enjoy. I had to pick up the book and find out.

Truthfully, the whole book is a conundrum to me. In the beginning it starts out as your average middle grade fiction Gwen lives with her grandfather in New York where she is preparing for a Julliard Audition. Then her grandfather disappears and only leaves her a mysterious phone message telling her not to worry and I find myself thinking, “ok, so it’s a mystery.” After that she meets Robert and the romance part of the novel begins. It’s a lot to fit in a novel, right? So I was totally thrown when Robert confides in Gwen that one morning he woke up and he was invisible. He was invisible for a whole month and now even though he’s visible again, other dangerous invisible people are following him trying to find out the secret of how he became visible again. WHAT? I did not expect the book to go there. Suddenly halfway through the novel Clements got all Sci-fi on us! But wait there’s more! It turns into a bit of a horror novel when Gwen discovers what really happened to her grandfather. Oh, and did I mention that Gwen and Robert manage to solve a major crime that doesn’t involve any of the main characters in the meantime? As you might imagine trying to fit all that into a novel made things seem a little bit disjointed and added up to an ending that wasn’t completely satisfactory. I do have to say that it made things unpredictable at times. Maybe it all would have fit together a bit more if I had read Things not Seen, but then again, maybe not.

I'm still a huge fan of Andrew Clements's books aimed at slightly younger readers. I just picked up his newest, No Talking, and I can't wait to dive into it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

American Born Chinese - by Gene Yang

Normally Printz Award winners tend to be a bit too ronchy and edgy for my taste, but my curiosity was peaked when American Born Chinese, a graphic novel by Gene Yang, won the award. A graphic novel winning a major children’s literature award is unheard of. As the genre grows, so does the variety and quality. I’m a huge fan of the Babymouse graphic novels for younger kids so I had to check out American Born Chinese, and I was well rewarded for my curiosity.

I heart American Born Chinese! It begins by alternating chapters between three different storylines (they are probably not called chapters, but I’m not up on my graphic novel lingo). There’s the story of the Monkey King who wishes to be accepted and respected by the other Gods, the story of Jin Wang the only Chinese American in his class who is soon joined by another Chinese American student who is unashamed of his strong accent and black hair, and the story of All American Danny who is embarrassed by visits from his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee, a portrayal of the racist stereotypes of Chinese Americans.

At first I didn’t see the parallel between the three stories, but they come together in such a beautiful intricate way in the end unified in telling the story of the struggle to overcome the want to fit in, in order to become comfortable with who you are. The perfect graphic novel to share with those who think graphic novels have no literary value.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Picture book Spotlight

I haven't highlighted any pictures books here in a long time (ok, I haven't highlighted anything here lately, but my goal of the month is to get back on track). This month I'm highlighting a few new picture books that are guaranteed to make parents chuckle.

First comes Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt. If you didn't have a chance to read this one during Reba's picture book month you must pick it up because it's hilarious. Ok, technically this one is not new, it came out last year, but I had to mention this title before I highlight it's sequel, Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend. Scaredy Squirrel's plans continue to go awry in this sequel that's even more hilarious than the first book.

I discovered Antoinette Portis's Not a Box awhile ago, but just got around to picking up my copy. This book is delightfully simple in design and text. The book begins with a black and white line drawing of a rabbit playing with a box. Every time the rabbit is asked about its box, it proclaims that its NOT a box, and we're presented with a black and white line drawing of the rabbit and the box with a red sketch over it illustrating all the things the rabbit imagines the box to be. So simple and yet entertaining. A great illustration of what an imagination can do.
I also fell in love with The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers this month. This book is clever and quirky. It's about Henry who loves to devour books (literally, not figuratively live). As he digests them, he absorbs all of their information and become incredibly intelligent, until he eats too many and they get jumbled up inside him and he feels sick. When doctors tell him he must stop eating books he is stricken until he picks up a book and leafs through its pages longingly and starts to read it. He discovers he loves to read books! As a book lover myself, you know I couldn't resist this picture book, but it's Oliver Jeffers illustrations that really make is great. School Library Journal's review says that, "The simple cartoon illustrations twinkle with humor and feeling." I wholeheartedly agree that this book will charm its audience.

And how could I post about picture books this month without mentioning the release of Diary Of a Fly, Harry Bliss and Doreen Cronin's followup to the Diary of a Worm and Diary of a Spider? This book looks into the life of a fly who dreams of being a superhero. Bugs and superheros, what kid wouldn't like this one?

And now if your little one loves these books, you can buy the finger puppets to they can act out the stories on their own.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

September - Sharon Creech

Since we've had so many new members over the years, we've decided to do a few throw backs and redo a couple of our favorite previous topics. The first repeat will be a Sharon Creech author study, because if you haven't read her books, you must! And if you have read them, you know you can't wait to read them again. Since we're all having a busy summer, we only picked a few:

Walk Two Moons

Love That Dog

Chasing Redbird

If you finish those and want to read more there's quite a long list, Absolutley Normal Chaos, Bloomability, Heartbeat, The Wanderer, Ruby Holler, Replay, Granny Torelli Makes Soup, Pleasing the Ghost, and The Castle Corna is scheduled to be released October 1st!

Sharon Creech also has a few picture books: Fine, Fine School; Who's That Baby, and Fishing in the Air

August - New books by Authors We've Previously Enjoyed

Here's the August Reading List:

Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Newest American Girl

So I know a lot of people hate the marketing giant that is the American Girl Company, but I have to admit that I devoured the books when I was little, and I think my parents still have my Kirsten doll stored at their house. There's still a little part of me that gets excited when I hear there's a new American girl.

According to Children's Bookshelf American Girl will be introducing Julie Albright this fall. The books will be set in San Fransisco in the 70's. The coolest part is that the author of the series will be Megan McDonald, the author of the Judy Moody series! But wait, it gets even better; Julie's best friend is a Chinese-American girl named Ivy and the one and only Lisa Yee will be writing a book about her! You can read more about it here.

July - The latest Newbery and Caldecott winners

Since the first Tuesday in July is July 3rd, we've decided to meet on the second Tuesday, July 10th. We'll be discussing the latest Newbery and Caldecott winners/honors:

Newbery medal winner: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

Newbery honor: Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Newbery honor: Rules by Cynthia Lord

Caldecott Winner: Flotsam by David Wiesner

Caldecott honor: Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet by David Mclimans

Caldecott honor: Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford (Illustrated by Kadir Nelson)
And if you finish reading all of those there's one more Newbery honor: Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm. We won't be including it in our discussion, but if you're looking for more to read you can pick this title up.