New Halloween Stories!

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Halloween picture books are a special category of children’s books. Even more than Christmas books, tales of ghosts and witches hit that sweet spot with kids – a celebration of the one night they can ring a neighbor’s doorbell and be guaranteed a mini Kit Kat or something equally yummy! Over the past few years, I’ve begun hiding the Halloween books away (in a scary dark closet with a creaky door) until the first of October – so we can build some anticipation during September.

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We have lots of tales of goblins and jack o’lanterns, but the most popular Halloween book continues to be The Hallo-Wiener by Dav Pilkey, the story of Oscar the dachshund, who is not happy that his mother wants him to wear a hot dog costume, complete with mustard, to go trick-or-treating. For those of you planning to read aloud to a group of young kids during the Halloween season, The Hallo-Wiener is a surefire hit. I actually kind of look forward to getting this book out of Halloween storage – Oscar looks really cute dressed as a hot dog!

There are also some wonderful new books this season…I like the cute (but not too scary) Halloween stories. Admittedly, I am not a fan of truly frightening costumes (like the Scream Mask) and when my son was young, I encouraged him to dress as a fireman or an explorer. It didn’t seem to bother him – one year he dressed as Edmund Hillary complete with a tin foil-covered ice axe!

For a fun Halloween story time, check out:

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Ghost in the House by Ammi-Joan Paquette – A counting book with a twist… I like this book because of the cover. Have you ever seen a cuter ghost?

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Little Boo by Stephen Wunderli – The story of a pumpkin seed who wants to be a little more intimidating and have the ability to scare his friends. After a season of growing (and sprouting some orange flowers), he turns into a jack o’lantern. This is a fun way to talk about the life cycle of a pumpkin.

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Not Very Scary by Carol Brendler – A counting book “dressed up” as a Halloween book, this is perfect for preschoolers. Not Very Scary is the story of a cute little monster who is invited to a Halloween party. As she walks to the house, she realizes she’s not alone – there are all kinds of creatures following her. This is a cumulative tale with winning illustrations and a festive ending.

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Dog and Bear: Tricks and Treats by Laura Vaccaro Seeger – In this fourth installment of Dog and Bear’s adventures, the friends go trick-or-treating and have some funny encounters. My favorite scene is Bear looking in the mirror at the costume shop and seeing a bear that looks “exactly like me!”

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Bramble and Maggie: Spooky Season by Jessie Haas – The combination of horses and Halloween is just too perfect – I expect high demand for this one. The third Bramble and Maggie book finds them confronting fears, both real and imagined. Give this one to a horse-loving reader who is looking for a “chapter book.”

Two side notes – completely unrelated to Halloween….

First, I love this picture:

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A friend who participated in this past weekend’s Climate Change March in New York City sent this to me. Despite being in a crowd of over 300,000 people, this young woman found a place to read.

I spent the weekend in Charleston attending a family wedding. We also spent some time in Charleston’s beautiful Historic District where we walked by a fire station….

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The dog is, of course, not real. Everyone who walked by stopped and took a picture – a fire department with a sense of whimsy!

 

 

Dumplings, Dots, and News….

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Monday was International Dot Day at Inly – and in many other schools around the world. Named for Peter Reynold’s now classic picture book, The Dot, Dot Day is a celebration of creativity and dots!  Our students made lots of colorful dots….

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For information about Dot Day, here’s the link:

http://www.thedotclub.org/dotday/

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We are also celebrating dumplings!  Over the summer, our 4th, 5th and 6th grade students read Dumpling Days by Grace Lin.  It was selected because this is a world culture year at Inly, and Lin’s book about a young girl going to Taiwan to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday was the perfect way to begin a discussion about life in different countries. As always, Inly’s art teacher had a fun idea to extend their reading – festive paper dumplings. She gave them different colors of paper to represent shrimp and lemon grass and noodles. A few kids even filled their dumplings with candy!

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I was interested to read in Tuesday’s New York Times about plans for a Maurice Sendak Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut where Sendak lived before his death in 2012. Many of the drawings that the new museum will display are now in the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, but according to the NYT article, the materials are now the property of the Sendak Foundation.

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I have always wanted to visit the Rosenbach’s rare book collection, and they are probably disappointed to lose the Sendak drawings, but I’m kind of psyched about a future Ridgefield road trip!

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On Monday, the finalists for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature were announced. So happy to see that two of the books I recently read and loved are on the list: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith.

Here’s a link to the complete list:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2014/09/15/longlist-for-the-national-book-award-for-young-peoples-literature/

On a completely different note – I just took a walk in Scituate Harbor and saw this….

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Someone told me they are filming a movie with Zooey Deschanel and Ashley Judd, but I didn’t see either of them!

 

 

Magical New Picture Books!

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Last week was memorable on the picture book front…new books to recommend during the upcoming holiday season and even a few to add to my list of go-to books for story time!  I ordered each book based on strong reviews and/or the author’s proven track record, but I didn’t expect to love them as much as I do…

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Madame Martine by Sarah Brazen

The story of a lonely woman who finds a little dog that changes her life is not new. There are many children’s books about the life altering qualities of cute dogs and cats, but Brannen’s book is a genuinely lovely and affecting story of how our lives are enriched by love. “Madame Martine lived alone in a little apartment in Paris. She took the same walk every day. She shopped at the same stores. She wore the same coat. That was how she liked it.”  (The opening lines immediately brought to mind another of my favorite books, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli – which, if you don’t know, add it to your list.)

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One thing Madame Martine has decided is that the Eiffel Tower is a tourist trap. “She had never climbed it.”  But then she meets a “small, very wet, very dirty dog.”  It’s a familiar story, but the payoff is worth it.  I’ll just tell you that Madame Martine does finally visit the Eiffel Tower and the two-page spread of the view from the top view is breathtaking.  I also love how the colors get brighter (check out Mr. Hatch!) as Madame Martine’s heart opens to the little dog.

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Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Like Madame Martine, Amy Rosenthal’s new book is about the power of friendship. This book will make my unicorn-loving readers very happy. Looking at the book right now, I am anticipating the waiting list drama that will accompany putting this book on display tomorrow morning. What is it about unicorns? I think it’s a new thing – I don’t remember friends with this obsession when I was younger, but I’m asked at least once a day for a unicorn story and the choices are limited.  The cover makes me think of Mary Blair, the Disney artist who drew pictures of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland – and illustrated the Little Golden Book, I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss. Not surprisingly, the illustrator of Uni the Unicorn, Brigette Barrager, spent time working for both Pixar and Disney.

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Five Trucks by Brian Floca

Whenever I’m on a plane that’s sitting on the runway, I’m always mesmerized by all of the trucks driving around the plane. As I look out the little window, I’m usually speculating about the lives of the people driving those trucks and checking to see if my luggage is on the belt, but I sometimes wonder what’s happening down there. Brian Floca’s new picture book, Five Trucks, answers those questions in a fun and engaging way.  This is the perfect book for the preschool-age truck lover in your life.

Floca is the author and illustrator of the 2014 Caldecott Award-winning-book, Locomotive, as well as Moonshot and Lightship. Five Trucks is for a much younger audience than those masterful books, but it’s a good gateway to Floca’s transportation-centered collection. The story begins on the title page as a boy and his father carry a heavy plaid suitcase into the airport and then the action turns to the “five drivers for five trucks.” The following pages convey what all of those trucks are doing, but there’s another story to follow – watch the plaid suitcase!  As a side note, I noticed the drivers are drinking coffee from Dunkin Donuts.

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Who’s Next Door? by Mayuko Kasher

A charming and funny story – with a bit of a mystery – for young readers. Chicken, the main character who lives in the house with a red roof, knows he has a new neighbor, but can’t figure out why he never sees any activity in the blue house.” All day long, Chicken paces back and forth in front of the house with the blue roof. But no one comes out.” Kids, however, will get what’s going on pretty quickly. I’ll just tell you there’s a perfectly logical reason Chicken isn’t running into his neighbor more often, but after the mystery is solved, the two new friends come up with an ingenious plan to stay in touch.

Pair Who’s Next Door? with Marla Frazee’s Boot and Shoe, another story about things getting all mixed up!

Happy Reading…

 

 

 

 

Summer Reading Flags, Stoner, and 100 Sideways Miles…

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If I look up, there are book titles floating around the Library ceiling…..and with the windows open today they are fluttering like sunny yellow and orange flags from the Land of Inly Summer Reading. Our 1st through 6th grade students were asked to name the best book (or books) they read this summer. Interesting to see what our kids were reading on the beach….some expected titles like the Wimpy Kid and Percy Jackson series. But also A Tangle of Knots, The One and Only Ivan, Spy Camp, Rooftoppers, When You Reach Me (see third picture down), and many others.

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I didn’t fill out a summer reading “flag” yet, but I just read two excellent books….

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The other day I finished Stoner by John Williams. Written in 1965, but recently “rediscovered” with fanfare and glowing reviews, Stoner is a novel about a man who is an academic at the University of Missouri. The novel follows his  life – from childhood on a small farm to his death at the end of his teaching career. It is a story about life – disappointment and love and most of all, the power of literature.  I love this book so much that I had trouble deciding what to read next. It’s a feeling I both love and hate. Love because when I am stunned by a novel it reminds me how much my life is formed by reading. But the “hate” part is because the follow up selection is especially challenging.

Anyway….around this time I received a package from Parnassus Books in Nashville. As I’ve written before, as a member of their Young Adult First Editions Club, I get a new signed book from them six times per year. I love the “surprise” in the mail and am happy to support an independent book store. In fact, each time they send an e-mail announcing their most recent selection, I delete the email without reading it – on purpose. There are so few unknowns and I order so many books based on reviews, that the best part of the First Editions Club is opening the package without any knowledge of what’s inside.

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So after reading Stoner, I received a mystery package from Parnassus. Opening it revealed…..100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith. I knew Smith’s name as the author of Winger and Grasshopper Jungle – two books that I’ve meant to read, but have been lost in my “to read” stack. Thinking I would read a few pages of 100 Sideways Miles while I figured out what to read next, one page led to another and now I’m almost done. An honest, offbeat, and hilarious novel, this one is as stunning – in its own way – as Stoner.  Finn Easton, who is almost 17, lives with his father (an author of popular science fiction novels) after a freak accident kills his mother. Cade Hernandez, is Finn’s funny, loyal and risk-taking partner. Their friendship reminds me a bit of Theo and Boris’s relationship in The Goldfinch. No heavy drug use or violence in 100 Sideways Miles, but the same level of irreverent and spirited antics that sometimes result in dangerous situations. Finn and Cade use a lot of what they refer to as “f-bombs,” but it feels absolutely genuine to the characters and they are “deployed” in original and hilarious ways. Finn also falls in love with Julia, a new girl at school, and his stress about the relationship is heartbreakingly real.  100 Sideways Miles is a moving and memorable novel, but now….I don’t know what to read until the mail arrives!

Quote of the day:

A first grade student walks into the Library. He looks around, turns to me, and says:

“Can I stay here and help you run this place?”

The Perfect Place by Teresa Harris

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Over the summer, I read The Perfect Place, a debut novel by Teresa Harris. Here’s my review which appears in the September issue of School Library Journal:

“In this moving and insightful debut, 12-year-old Treasure is tired of moving from place to place every time her unreliable father leaves the family. At the opening of the novel, Treasure’s father is gone and her mother leaves her and her younger sister, Tiffany, with their Great-Aunt Grace in the small town of Black Lake, Virginia. Treasure does not want to be there, and her introduction to her no-nonsense relative only strengthens her resolve to stay detached during her mother’s absence. Great-Aunt Grace does not mince words. Among the first things she tells Treasure and Tiffany are her rules: “I don’t take no sass,” she says before pulling out her ever present pack of cigarettes. While working in Grace’s small candy store, Treasure begins to meet other memorable residents of Black Lake, including Terrance, a boy with whom she tentatively establishes a friendship, and Jaguar, a wealthy girl who purposely causes trouble for the protagonist. It is Great-Aunt Grace, however, who steals the show. While readers expect that she is concealing a kinder heart than she’s willing to expose, the development of the genuinely warm relationship between Treasure and Grace is memorable. Harris weaves humor, a light mystery, and a tender coming-of-age story in this unforgettable novel. Each of the characters, including minor ones, are well-drawn with distinctive and authentic voices. Like Dorothy in Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, Treasure learns that she was already in the “perfect place,” but her journey to that realization is rich and rewarding.” (Grades 5-7)

Harris’s book will be released on November 4, but if you know a thoughtful young reader, add it to their list. The Perfect Place would also be a good read-aloud for a 5th or 6th grade classroom. Many well-defined characters and funny situations that kids will enjoy.

This is my favorite image from the first week of school. Our middle school students went camping and while there, they read Paul Fleischman’s short novel, Seedfolks.  This student seems to have found a “perfect place” to read….

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For those of you who teach students in grades 5 and up, Seedfolks is an ideal book for this time of year.  The story of a vacant garden that becomes a meeting place for a diverse group of characters, it emphasizes the value of working together to create something beautiful, gardens as places of growth and renewal, and hope.

 

Story Time for Preschoolers….

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Some of the best new books in our library are for our preschool patrons. These are stories that will delight the child in your lap or the young children at story hour:

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Countablock by Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo. This is the perfect book to share with either a child learning about numbers or your favorite graphic designer. A chunky “blocky” book with thick pages, Countablock counts from 1 to 10 and then moves up in increments of 10. The book does more than count…there’s a cause and effect game happening at the same time. For example, 20 caterpillars become 20 butterflies. Cucumbers turn into pickles. I think kids will actually enjoy the cause and effect element of this book more than the numbers themselves.

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Diggers Go by Steve Light. This brightly-colored book is one of a series of four books about things that go. The author also created: Planes Go, Trucks Go, and Trains Go – all of which convey their “sounds” by Light’s use of varying type size. To be honest, I’m not a big truck fan. The only truck I really care about is the one that makes deliveries to Starbucks, but Light’s series captured my attention with its ingenious design. Each volume has thick pages and an oversized horizontal trim size – fitting the dynamic subjects.

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Giant Vehicles by Rod Green and Stephen Biesty.  The transportation theme continues in this book illustrated by the master of the cross section, Stephen Biesty. I wish this book had been around when my son was young. I could have showered, loaded the dishwasher, and started the laundry while he was busy poring over all of the details. One of the highlighted vehicles is the Airbus A380 which, I was interested to learn, is larger than 2 blue whales!

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Jack by Tomie dePaola. Jack has the potential to become a “read it again” book. Jack, who wants to see the world and live in a city, is on a quest of sorts – to see the king and see if he can offer some assistance. On his way he collects a group of animal friends(like Silly Sally by Audrey Wood) who join him and ultimately help Jack to renovate a house in the city. Familiar characters (look for Red Riding Hood) make cameo appearances!

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Penguin and Pumpkin by Salina Yoon. Just in time for fall, a story about pumpkins! This is such a sweet little story. I know that sounds cliche but it’s the only way to describe this winning book. Penguin and his friend, Bootsy, want to go on an adventure to see what autumn looks like, but like little brothers everywhere, Penguin’s brother, Pumpkin, wants to join the fun. He’s not too happy when Penguin tells him he is not welcome!

School starts tomorrow – and I will have a delivery of new books for our Children’s House teachers…

 

 

End-of-Summer Reading….

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The teachers are back in school, but since the kids don’t start until after Labor Day, I’m trying to squeeze in as much “summer reading” as I can.  One of the best books I’ve read in the past few weeks is Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff.  After Graff’s most recent middle grade novel earned starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, I moved it to the top of the stack. A good move. Absolutely Almost centers on Albie, a fifth grade boy who lives in New York City, struggles in school. He means well and he really tries, but things don’t come easy. At the opening of the book, Albie has left private school and is the new boy at the local public school. At his new school, he wants so much to “be cool”  that he makes some believable and heartbreaking mistakes – including hurting the feelings of a girl who could be a true friend. The best part of Albie’s new life is his awesome new tutor, Calista, a college-age art student who Albie’s mother hires to hang out with her son and help him with his homework. Albie and Calista form a solid and genuine friendship that helps them both through some “sad days.” I love this thoughtful and funny book. School is starting just in time for me to share it with our 4th and 5th graders.

I’ve also ordering books – the most fun part of life in a school library. This is a World Culture year at Inly so I’ve been looking at books that encourage kids to be empathetic and responsible citizens who want to make the world a better place. With the papers full of news about violence, inequality, climate change and war, the importance of school libraries as a source of inspiration and a window on the world seems especially vital. To that end, here are three of the books I’ve purchased this month:

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International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World by Mark Kurlansky with his daughter, Talia.  I heard an interview with father and daughter about their Friday night dinners – that were based on the spin of the globe.  The result of their culinary adventure is this cookbook that includes 52 recipes from appetizers to desserts. Looking through the book, I thought I could probably manage the cantaloupe juice from Provence; the only ingredients are a cantaloupe, water and honey. But even as someone who is less than skilled in the kitchen, I enjoyed the “armchair traveler” experience of looking through this book and reading the short essays that accompany the recipes. The book will definitely inspire adventurous eating and possibly some travel plans.

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Photos Framed by Ruth Thomson. For our middle school library, I purchased this collection of some of the world’s most culturally significant photographs. Each of the 27 photos includes a note about the photographer and questions to initiate conversation and thought.  For example, the well known picture of the “Afghan Girl” by Steve McCurry asks the viewer to consider how “the girl’s direct stare makes you feel.”

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Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus. A compelling picture book based on the author’s childhood memory of a lesson the older man taught him about the nature of anger: “Anger can strike, like lightning, and split a living tree in two,” Gandhi tells 12-year-old Arun. The beautiful mixed-media illustrations give the book texture and vibrancy that extend the story’s message.

A few other notes….

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Taking “a page” from Keith Richards book, Bruce Springsteen has turned one of his songs into a picture book. Based on his 2009 song, Outlaw Pete, the book version (illustrated by Frank Caruso) will be published on November 4.

Earlier this summer, driving to meet a friend at a beautiful ocean view restaurant, I was listening to a report from Ferguson, Missouri which was followed by a story about Syrian refugees. The contrast between my pleasant outing and the news made me feel uncomfortable. Yesterday I saw this illustration by Christoph Niemann. That’s it, I thought with an achingly sad feeling….

Here’s the link:

http://www.christophniemann.com/news/