It’s been awhile since my last post, but I was in Ohio visiting family and left my laptop at home – on purpose. I started to put it in my carry-on and then thought better of it. The thought of spending four days in Ohio with no computer was too tempting! And today is the third day of Inly’s fall book fair so there’s all kinds of excitement around here….
In fact, this is how things looked a little while ago:
No complaints. I’m happy our parents support the library and, to be honest, these are my happiest days of the school year. Quite literally, I am spending all day talking about books. It’s great. In fact, as I write this post, several kids are sitting nearby pouring over Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! I don’t quite understand the appeal of a book with pictures of a Spider Nightmare, but there you go.
This is a Scholastic book fair, but I’m very honest with our sales rep. that Inly’s version of a Scholastic event is a very “edited” affair. Scholastic sells some excellent books, but also a lot of stuff that could more accurately be called toys. Most of the non-readable items go into boxes and are hidden behind the sales racks. The kids have no idea of the riches behind those crates! But the parents appreciate that most of what we sell can be read. Of course, there is an exception for very cool pencils and erasers!
Ohio was great, as always. I visited family, ate at restaurants that brought back happy memories, and thanks to long hours in planes and airports, did lots of reading. During one of my flights, an announcement was made. “Only light reading materials allowed in seat pocket in front of you.” the voice said. I was trying to figure out what they meant. Did it mean you could put novels by Danielle Steele in the seat pocket? I assume books by James Patterson or Sophie Kinsella could be put into the pocket with minimum risk. And what about the passenger reading Alice Munro’s short stories? I hope she just held on to her book. Of course, I know the announcement referred to weight, but it was fun to think about the double meaning of their words!
And the Gem I referred to in this post’s headline — Kate DiCamillo’s new novel, Flora & Ulysses. I read it on the flight between Dayton and Boston and the time flew (literally). It’s a magical story, funny and melancholy and wise. Flora is a ten-year-old girl who likes superheroes, but she is understandably sad about her parents’ divorce. But after Flora meets Ulysses, a squirrel who can fly and write poetry, things get interesting, if quite unbelievable! This is a book to treasure – and to give to the young readers in your life. Here are five things I loved about it:
1. It celebrates language. Ulysses writes poetry, Flora’s friend William Spiver uses words that are a bit more elevated than the words we use in daily conversation, and Flora and her father share a love of comic-book hyperbole!
2. The book is funny and action-packed…There’s a Giant Do-Nut restaurant, a flying squirrel and a lamp in the shape of a shepherdess named Mary Ann who has pink-slippered feet.
3. It’s kind of philosophical. Maybe it was the effect of reading the book at 30,000 feet but it made me contemplative, as Kate DiCamilllo’s books usually do. There were times when I felt tempted to highlight a passage so that I could return to it for a life lesson.
4. The supporting cast of characters. Quirky and memorable, each and every one of them!
5. The black and white illustrations by K.G. Campbell. The comic-book style obviously fits the story and one of the final scenes (of a reunited Flora and Ulysses) brought tears to my eyes.
One final note in this long post to make up for missing a few….
The National Book Award finalists were named yesterday, and the five finalists in the Young People’s Literature category are:
1. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt
2. The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
3. Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
4. Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff
5. Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Flora & Ulysses was on the long list for the award, and as much as I admire the five books they selected, I think they should have had six books on this year’s list!