Children’s authors of tomorrow?

Some eighth graders in Kutztown, PA have experienced their first taste of literary fandom after writing and then reading sci-fi books to local third graders.  Check out the story.  Very cool!

I remember writing my first book for a school assignment…it was an exciting mystery about a mummy’s curse, complete with an illustration! Nobody ever encouraged me to write any more…

—Julie

Early Influences

The Bumper Book written by Watty Piper and illustrated by Eulalie was first published in 1946. The next publication date I could find was 1952. My sister was born in 1949 and I was born in 1951. My mother purchased one of these editions for her girls. The Bumper Book was an anthology of stories, poems, A,B,C’s and 1,2,3’s. This book was one that I claimed as a young adult. I have had it ever since.

Looking at this book over the years has always been a treat. The illustrations just blow me away. As I got older and had my own children I realized that I didn’t want this book to be closed and put away. The illustrations were just too beautiful. I studied the book many times before choosing which illustrations to frame. I really did agonize over my decisions because to choose an illustration meant the picture on the back would never been seen again. Framing would also mean that I would have to dismantle a book! I felt like I was committing a crime. However, the framed pictures are beautiful and I get to see them every day.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss was first published in 1957.  Our Mom purchased it for us. The other books that I still have in my possession are If I Ran the Zoo, Horton Hears a Who, McElligot’s Pool and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I can’t imagine how these books must have been perceived when they first came on the market. My sister and I are still amazed that Mom bought them. Our idea is that Dr. Seuss’s books must have looked fairly radical for the times and our Mom was not radical or whimsical but then again maybe she was! My sister and I cherish them.

To round out our pre-Kindergarten education my parents also subscribed to a children’s music series. The music was recorded on 78’s. Some of them were educational but most of them were just fun. They each had a paper dust cover with appropriate art work on the front. A couple of the covers are embellished with early drawings by my sister which I love. One of those covers will definitely be framed as well. The good news is that a few years ago Restoration Hardware had a suitcase-like record player which plays 78’s, 45’s and 33⅓’s so my kids and I listen to them at Christmas time.

I treasure these artifacts of early childhood and that includes my sister. (She is 60 years old!)

—Janet

Summertime, and the reading is easy…

Well, not easy, but some school districts are sending home books with students to keep as school lets out.  The goal is to prevent the backsliding that often accompanies the hazy days of summer. Especially for children who come from homes where economics means owning books is not possible, much less a priority. Something I’ve taken for granted in my home, where we’ve been very blessed with family and friends gifting us and also passing along their gently used copies of all kinds of wonderful worlds for my daughters to sink into. How amazing that these students will get to feel that excitment of having a book of their very own.

Read more: http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/node/341

— Julie

Maira Kalman

sayonaraI was introduced to the work of author and illustrator Maira Kalman twenty some years ago from my work at a children’s bookstore  – books such as Sayonara Mrs. Kackleman, Hey Willie, See the Pyramids and Max Makes a Million with their quirky, whimsical illustrations and equally quirky writing were immediately endearing.

principlesI rediscovered her a couple years ago when she did an illustrated column/blog for the New York Times musing about a year in her life entitled The Principles of Uncertainty, later turned into a book by the same title. The book includes her observations about family hardships endured, everday humanity, and discovered novelties.  She now has another online monthly illustrated column. This one, entitled The Pursuit of Happiness, is about American democracy. From January to, so far, September, she has written her observations about the presidential inauguration, immigrants, Abe Lincoln, and how the lincolngarbage of New York is handled. Kalman has a particular gift for pointing out the joy, beauty and interest of small and simple things – people’s hats, plates of eggs and sewage plants – and for waxing philosophical on larger issues – the duty of soldiers, the barriers that American women face. She creates these colorful vignettes of image and written word that are expressive and optimistic and that celebrate life and…she makes me smile.

~ Dori

Captain Underpants

captain2I know, I know, the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey is not one of those weighty banned books – but boy is it fun! My son, a typically reluctant reader, was introduced to the series when I brought them home from work. Reading together, we laughed and laughed. Short chapters, lots of pictures and of course, the bathroom humor, kept him begging for more and then, magically, reading them himself. It didn’t hurt that the stars of the series, George and Harold, kids bent more on drawing than academics, beat the bad guys every time.

George and Harold, two clever class clowns who write and sell comic books to their classmates about a caped, undies wearing superhero, also manage to thwart the school establishment with silly pranks. One day, while hypnotizing their crabby principal Mr. Krupp, he accidentally turns into their comic character Captain Underpants.  Together, they fight bad guys named Professor Poopypants or the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space.

The Captain Underpants series has been questioned for violence (due to the clever Flip-o-ramas, live action scenes of our heroes’ close calls), inappropriate language and ‘modeling bad behavior’. Yes, the language can be crass, but is also full of alliteration and wordplay like teachers named Miss Anthrope.  Yes, George and Harold are a bit rebellious, but their pranks are harmless and hilarious. In the end, what’s essential is that kids will read what they like and they like Captain Underpants a lot. And whatever gets them reading is “Tra-la-la” to my ears.

~ Dori

Children’s Books!

Do you remember when I shared one of our many library-type insider secrets? You know, the one where we like to read and we like to share what we read and we thought we’d expand our knowledge base by choosing individual books in a genre slash category to discuss? (If this is only ringing a faint bell, you can go back and read the original post New Year, New Things to Try!)

I’m hoping the title of this post reveals our first genre… Children’s Books! It was a great discussion because there was such diversity in what was selected, a wide range in the publication dates, formats, and story content. And here’s an even bigger payoff for our fellow dedicated readers, everyone wrote a brief summary of the book they read and gave me permission to share! So, this is what they had to say:

Evelyn’s Selection

Trouble Don’t Last by Shelley Pearsall

In 1859, slaves 11-year-old Samuel and 70-year-old Harrison escape Blue Ash, Kentucky and head through Ohio on their way to freedom in Canada.
Thoroughly researched, this upper elementary story is told from the view point of Samuel and details their journey through Ohio to Sandusky and Canada. Written by Ohio author Shelley Pearsall, it is an interesting and compelling read. Makes a great discussion book for classroom situations.

 

Carol’s Selection

The Tale of Desperaux: being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup and a spool of thread by Kate DiCamillo. DiCamillo won the 2004 Newberry Award for this novel which was recently made into an animated film, but more importantly, this quick and sweet read about courage and love won my heart. Loved it!

 

Ann’s Selection

Over The Edge by Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson

The Landon Family travels to the Grand Canyon with their foster child, Morgan to investigate and photograph the condors by the canyon. When Jack and Ashley’s mother receives a threatening e-mail, suspicion falls on Morgan, a computer geek who was in trouble back home for using the computer to “flame” the town’s residents. Part of a series of mysteries set in national parks by a mother and daughter writing team.

 

Emma’s Selection

I read Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman. This is a fictional account of the night 7 devastating tornadoes hit Grand Island, Nebraska, in June of 1980 experienced by a twelve-year-old, his family and friends.

 

Stacey’s Selection

The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber has everything you could want in a book: adventuring, brave men and women, and a satisfying end. In this fairytale the evil Uncle keeps his beautiful niece, Princess Saralina, locked away from the world. The tasks set to win the Princesses hand require brains as well as brawn, so it will take just the right Knight in Shining Armor to solve the deadly challenge. Will it be Prince Zorna or is doomed to defeat?

 

Rosemary’s Selection

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka by John Scieszka is a very funny memoir about growing up in a family of six boys during the ’50s and ’60s.  This would be a great book to read out loud to your kids.

 

Dori’s Selection

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass 

Told in their unique voices, this novel chronicles the unlikely friendship and self-discovery of Ally, Bree and Jack, three teens who find themselves at the Moonshadow campground to witness an eclipse.

 

Julie’s Selection

Rapunzel’s Revenge written by Shannon and Dean Hale (husband and wife), illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation), is a retelling of the classic fairy tale in graphic novel form. Rapunzel is imprisoned in a tower and uses her lengthy hair to rescue herself — as well as a few others along the way. The Hales have created an adventure that will be enjoyed by boys and girls ages 10 and up.

 

Janet’s Selection

Little Audrey by Ruth White is the story of a poor, coal mining family told from perspective of the oldest daughter, 12-year-old Audrey. Although her family circumstances are difficult Audrey tells the story of her family with a fresh voice. An unforeseen tragedy may give Audrey’s family a chance for a better life. This bittersweet story is a small gem of a book.

 

 

 Next up? Romantic reads!

—Stacey