Book Fair Wrap-Up

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Today was the fourth and final day of Inly’s spring book fair. As always, there was lots of entertainment if you listened closely. Where else would you get to hear a conversation like this:

Two seven-year-old girls. One girl says to her friend: “Don’t show me anything that isn’t pink!”  I hope she’s willing to look beyond her rose-colored view later, but for now, her parameters help narrow her choices!  Her options were Pinkalicious (the picture book) or Pinkalicious (the early chapter books) or Sleeping Cinderella (which is actually pretty funny), or The Magic Kitten.  Not sure where she landed.


Moments like this one are the best part. A colleague e-mailed to tell me that she was with some preschool kids when she noticed a group that was unusually quiet. Here’s what was going on:

IMG_6969Clearly, they had visited the book fair.

One of our most passionate young readers observed that she has decided to trust all books with fish on the cover. The last three books she’s read are: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Fish In a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt, and Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. All excellent books. She has a point.


An 8th grade student came in and, as we talked about the book fair, it occurred to me for the 3,379th time, the power of books and reading to change lives. This student’s eyes lit up when she talked about The Selection series by Kiera Cass. We talked about Jennifer E. Smith’s smart and engrossing romance novels. And then she picked up The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies, and she said it was that book that made her realize how important books are to her.

The book fair’s top 10 sellers?  Here they are:

Poisonous Animals by Emily Bone


Minecraft Construction Handbook


Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen


Who Is George Lucas? by Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso


Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo


Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (One student said she was jealous of everyone who hasn’t read it yet because it will be new for them in a way it can never again be for her.)


The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck by Emily Fairlie (I bought this one!  Based on good reviews and a friend’s recommendation, it’s on Inly’s summer reading list, but I started reading during a few quiet moments during the week and now I’m hooked!)


Wonder by R.J. Palacio


Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper


On a completely different note, I was in Kohl’s last night and happy to see that their spring Kohl’s Cares campaign features books by Philip Stead and Erin Stead….










The Great Wave and the Great Bookfair….


So much happening!

Over the weekend, my husband and I went to the Hokusai exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. Hokusai is, of course, best known for his iconic woodblock: The Great Wave from his series, Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji.  It wasn’t hard to find – it was the print with people gathered around  taking cell phone pics.  I’m embarrassed to admit that, until taking the audio tour, I had never noticed the smaller wave (under the big one on the left) that echoes the shape of Mt. Fuji.


It was especially interesting to see all of the Wave merchandise in the museum shop. Check this out…..






After visiting the MFA, we decided to stay with the day’s theme and eat lunch at a Japanese restaurant. When we sat down, this was my view:


The Wave was with us!

Today is the start of Inly’s spring book fair – four days of playing store!  This one is by Book Fairs by Book Ends, and it is excellent. So many good choices that my own “to buy” stack is already kind of high. An avid 5th grade reader just came in and bought 3 excellent books for summer reading – Counting by 7s by Holly Sloan, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  Awesome choices!

Here are three scenes from Day 1:




Two boys are talking as I write this. One of them just said: “I wonder what it would be like if Bobby Orr still played for the Bruins.” I just checked Wikepedia, and Bobby Orr is 67-years-old. I don’t think they realize that. The Magical Thinking of children!

Babies and Candy!


It’s baby season!  There are new babies in my family. Friends expecting babies. And friends with new grandchildren!  It’s all very exciting because babies are awesome, but also there are so many wonderful books for babies that it’s fun to buy gifts. A friend with her first grandchild recently asked for some suggestions. If I could choose 10 books for a new baby, here’s what my package would include:


Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers and illustrations by Marla Frazee  (Ten-years-old and still one of my go-to gifts. Frazee’s expressive little people make this one for toddlers to enjoy when they are ready for board books)


Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and illustrations by Helen Oxenbury (No one draws cuter, rounder, or sweeter babies than Helen Oxenbury. I’ve looked. No contest.  Groups of multicultural babies in small groups – but all sharing “ten little fingers and ten little toes.”)


Global Babies by The Global Fund for Children (I love this book because it’s made for actual babies to enjoy. Babies like to look at other baby faces. This book has 17 sweet little faces. Lots of board books are reprints of picture books for older kids. That’s why many of them don’t work. This one does.)


Where’s Spot by Eric Hill (Spot has proven his staying power. My son had Spot books when he was a toddler and opening the little flaps got us through many restaurant meals!)


More More More, Said the Baby by Vera Williams (Three stories featuring babies and the people who love them. The names of the babies are great: Little Guy, Little Pumpkin, and Little Bird)


Black on White and White On Black by Tana Hoban (There are lots of high contrast books for babies, but Tana Hoban is the master of the category!)


We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury and illustrations by Michael Rosen (There’s Helen Oxenbury again – in a childhood classic!  I can still memorize this one: “We can’t go over it. / We can’t go under it. / Oh, no! / We’ve got to go through it!” So fun!)


Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrations by Lois Ehlert (I could probably ask the 10 or 11 kids currently in the Library to recite the book and would hear: “a told b, and b told c, I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree”  It’s catchy. And those colors are so bold!)


The Maisy Books by Lucy Cousins (cheating a bit here because I can’t choose just one. Colors, number, farm animals, bedtime, nursery rhymes – every baby deserves the world of Lucy Cousins!)

Listing only 10 is impossible. I haven’t included Goodnight Moon or Pat the Bunny, but I’m assuming the new parents received 5 copies of each book already. So the tenth slot on this list will go to….

UnknownFreight Train by Donald Crews (not an easy choice, but the combination of bright colors, movement, shapes and trains make this a baby-pleasing classic!

About candy…..

First, an admission. I have a long-time obsession with York Peppermint Patties. In fact, sometimes looking at the dessert menu at a fancy restaurant, I wish I could just have a York Peppermint Pattie. Luckily, I usually have a small one in my bag!

So you can image how happy I was to meet this man at the grocery store recently.


Initially, he was kind of taken aback at my enthusiasm for his work, but we had a nice conversation and he gave me the box!  Which now makes a perfect bookshelf for candy-themed books!






Pam Munoz Ryan and Elizabeth Partridge


The past two weeks were book-ended by two of my favorite authors of books for young readers: Pam Munoz Ryan and Elizabeth Partridge.  Ryan is the author of award-winning novels, including a classroom standard Esperanza Rising. Partridge is an equally honored writer, but she is best known for her nonfiction, especially her biographies of Woody Guthrie, John Lennon and Dorothea Lange.


At first, I thought of all kinds of reasons to avoid Ryan’s new novel, Echo. Lots of school work. A plane ride on which I didn’t want to carry a hardcover. So many books to read for Inly’s summer reading list.  But those were only excuses. I knew exactly why I put it off for too long: 592 pages!  Of course, I had read the glowing reviews, including Christopher Paul Curtis’s statement that Echo is “a masterpiece.” But still the sheer size of the book kept me away. After seeing another reference to Echo as a 2016 Newbery contender, I picked it up and started reading. I finished it a few days ago and literally can’t get it out of my mind. I think only about the kids and adults I know who will treasure this magical novel.

Echo contains four interconnected stories about a harmonica. It opens with a fairy tale about a boy named Otto who gets lost in a forest. Like all good fairy tales, there’s a curse. In this case, Otto meets three young girls who have been taken by an evil witch. The curse is that the girls can never return to their real lives until a magical harmonica saves three lives on the brink of death. What follows are the story of three musically gifted young people whose lives are saved by the harmonica. Of course, the harmonica is a thread that connects their stories to one another. Echo is a book about power of music over discrimination and fear. It’s also a rich and memorable novel that reminds the reader of the power of stories to inspire and transform our lives.


I also had the pleasure to hear Elizabeth Partridge speak at the John F. Kennedy Library’s conference, Sources of Inspiration: History Through the Arts and the Lives of Artists. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to participate in the whole program, but I was grateful for the opportunity to hear Partridge speak about her work.


Partridge is from a family of artists. She is the granddaughter of the photographer Imogen Cunningham, the daughter of a respected photographer, and the goddaughter of Dorothea Lange.  In fact, she referred to her family’s relationship with Lange as a “blended family.”  Lange died when Partridge was only 14-years-old, and Restless Spirit, Partridge’s book about Lange’s iconic photographs of migrant farm workers and Japanese Americans who were placed in internment camps during WWII, was, she said “my attempt to get to know her.”


In the case of John Lennon, Partridge said that she “chose a person to hold a time.” Lennon, she said “was a genius but also crazy. He was right on the cusp.” She went on to describe how Lennon’s Aunt Mimi (with whom he lived from the time he was four-years-old), Paul McCartney, and finally, Yoko Ono each served crucial roles in helping Lennon to, as Partridge described it, “manage his brilliance.”

Partridge’s next subject is the Vietnam War Memorial. “I’m trying to get enough information to really get to the heart of something,” she said.

Traveling West (Part Two)

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Traveling West Part One focused on our time in New Mexico, but after leaving Santa Fe we traveled to Denver which is a book-lovers paradise.

Before arriving in Denver we made a stop that turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. As we drove towards Colorado and marveled at the snow-capped mountains around us, we began to see signs for Fort Union, New Mexico.  Fort Union, we discovered, was the largest 19th century military fort in the region. As we walked around the adobe ruins, I kept picturing what it was like when hundreds of people made this a bustling village where people were married, played in bands, and went to a hospital that was considered the best medical facility on the Santa Fe trail. The Fort Union web site says that in 1868, 44 tons of bacon were brought into Fort Union in 22 wagons – that gives you an idea of how busy it was.

Kind of quiet now….



But this is where we got into “bucket list” territory. The very nice guide told us that there were wagon ruts made from covered wagons right up the street from the Fort. Wagon ruts!  Ever since reading the Little House books, I’ve wanted to see real wagon ruts. Not pictures. Not a reenactment of a wagon train. But a true connection with people who traveled in a covered wagon. My husband knew we would be spending time staring at the ground and was very patient while I tried to channel all of those pioneers who took that bumpy journey. I was very happy.


After I pulled myself away from the wagon ruts, we made our way past Pikes Peak and into Denver. As much as I love Boston, I have to admit that we were kind of shocked to see so many good bookstores in Denver. I know Boston is the Athens of America, but my we kept discovering excellent independent bookstores in Colorado – and were reminded about the bookstores that have closed in the Boston area.

Of course, the mother ship of Denver is the Tattered Cover. They have three locations in the city plus an airport shop. We visited all of them!  At the store on Colfax Avenue, I met Barrie in the children’s department and it was one of the happiest experiences of the trip – along with wagon ruts. We shared favorite books, talked about what we’re reading, and exchanged recommendations for certain types of young readers. Barrie is incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about middle grade fantasy novels so I came away with some good ideas for Inly’s summer reading list.




At the store on 16th Street, Cory Doctorow was describing the internet as “the nervous system of the 21st century.” At the Union Station store, we saw Tattered Cover chapstick. Of course I bought some – it was dry out there!




One of the unexpected joys of the trip was the afternoon we drove to Boulder and found the Boulder Bookstore. Oh my gosh. If there’s a heaven, it must be like this store. Three floors. Comfy chairs. Awesome setting. Amazing restaurants on the same street.



For the cookbook lovers out there, the largest collection of cookbooks I’ve ever seen is at Peppercorn, a food and kitchen store on the same pedestrian mall as the Boulder Bookstore.



We also visited the Denver Public Library – a Busman’s Holiday!



Our trip to the Library was made more special by the kindness of the children’s room librarian and the others we met on our impromptu tour. For example, without their guidance, we would never have seen this spectacular structure designed by Michael Graves:



Being in Colorado, we also saw books like this:


Although I didn’t purchase these cookbooks, they certainly reminded me that we weren’t in Kansas (or Massachusetts) anymore!



Traveling West (Part One)

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IMG_6501It’s been too long since my last post, but we were on the road in New Mexico and Colorado so there are lots of fun book-related adventures to share with you. Our ultimate destination was a wedding in Denver, but we began our week in Albuquerque, spent a few days in Santa Fe, and then drove six hours to Denver. Lots of bookstores along the way…..

We began our journey in Albuquerque, and although our visit with my aunt and uncle was too short, we did fit in a trip to their local independent bookstore, Page One. I didn’t take any pics there, but it was fun to browse their selection of new and used books. We also visited the BioPark where real live flowers were blooming!  The contrast with our still snow-covered yard was dramatic and it took my eyes a few minutes to adjust to such bright colors!



When we arrived in Santa Fe, we dropped our suitcases in our room and walked directly to Collected Works, a beautiful store near the Plaza. Of course, restaurants, museums, and stores selling pueblo pottery were right outside the door, but my husband and I were in full agreement that the bookstore was the most relaxing and welcoming gateway into a few days surrounded by adobe and kachina figures.

Here’s a look at what they’re reading in Santa Fe….






The list above is kind of hard to read. Here’s the list:

Nasario Garcia, author of Hoe, Heaven, and Hell: My Boyhood in Rural New Mexico

David Morrell, author of Inspector of the Dead

Kirstin Valdez Quade, author of Night at the Fiestas, which was reviewed in this past Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. Here’s the link:

We also went to the New Mexico Museum of Art where these frescoes caught my attention.



The artist’s name is Will Shuster, and admittedly my first thought was of Will Schuester, the character from Glee. But the real Will Schuster is far more interesting. Born in Pennsylvania in 1893, Schuster developed tuberculosis in WWI – which led him to the dry air of the desert southwest where he connected with a group of artists.

As part of the Federal Emergency Relief Agency (a project of FDR’s New Deal), Shuster painted a series of frescoes for the courtyard of the New Mexico Museum of Art in 1934.

In the next post, I’ll tell you about the wonderful bookstores we discovered in the Denver area…




Three Books and Two Paintings….


It was a strange reading week. Not bad, just unexpected. I had the week off from school so my expectations (and my “to read” pile) were high!  As it turns out, I read one young adult novel, two excellent picture books, and lots of magazine articles that were beginning to collect dust.

Here are the highlights – and two paintings….


Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares

I work in a school library in Greater Boston so of course, this new picture book was on my list.  Tavares’s new book is as much about the love between Pedro and his older brother, Ramon, as it is about baseball. The book opens in 1981 in the Dominican Republic where Pedro “sits in the shade and watches the older boys play.”  It’s Ramon, a pitcher, who is the baseball star of the Martinez family, and when he moves to Los Angeles to play for the Dodgers, Pedro is motivated to practice harder and join his big brother. Of course, he does – and he gets to play alongside Ramon for a few seasons. But Pedro, becomes the bigger star – a member of the Hall of Fame, an eight-time All Star, and three-time winner of the Cy Young Award. This is a warm book about the love between two brothers with big dreams. My bet is that this one will be checked out within an hour of putting it on display!


The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

This is a book with very few words – and it is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. It’s about everything – the passage of time, the seasons and growth, and above all, the rewards of friendship. There is a page with nine words that made me feel genuinely heartbroken. As the title says, the story is about a lion and a bird. It’s a fall day and Lion is working in his garden when he sees a bird with a hurt wing. “Let’s bandage you up,” says Lion “That will help.”  During the bird’s convalescence, his flock leaves, but the Lion invites him to stay for the winter. After one of the coziest picture book winters I’ve ever seen on the page, the birds return and that’s when the sad scene takes place. There is a happy ending so no worries about a sad child (or adult). But here’s the best part of Dubuc’s book – as spare as it is, it’s one to return to again and again. I definitely will.


Mosquitoland by David Arnold

This is the young adult novel I read this week – and although I didn’t read as many books as I planned, I picked the right one. Wow – this one will stick with me.  Mosquitoland is a road trip novel. The traveler is sixteen-year-old Mary Iris Malone who goes by Mim. She is traveling from her father’s house in Mississippi (Mosquitoland) to her mother in Cleveland.  Mim is convinced that her father and stepmother are keeping something important from her so she hits the road. Of course, there are bumps along the way and some shady characters. There is also humor, a bit of romance – and life lessons. To be clear, there are some serious issues addressed here: sexual assault, intellectual disabilities, depression and violence. Overall, Arnold’s novel is bighearted and generous and Mim’s journey is one of self discovery, but I recommend it to mature teens.

And the art….

I took these pictures at the Cape Ann Museum. They are both by Charles Hopkinson, a Boston painter who lived between 1869 and 1962.

This one looks like the cover of a Henry James novel….


And this one could be the cover of a Louisa May Alcott book…