A Children’s Book Miscellany….

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If you know a child who loves the outdoors or a teacher who enthusiastically shares an appreciation for nature with her students, a new book of poetry may be the perfect gift. At $40.00, Sing a Song of Seasons is not an impulse buy, but it is an investment in beauty, both natural and written. With a poem for every day of the year, this is a book that should “live” in a central place. I’m tempted to make it a New Year’s Resolution and start each day with reading the poem of the day – rather than the headlines. It would also be a good way for teachers to begin the day with their students.

Sing a Song of Seasons, edited by Fiona Waters, includes all kinds of poems – funny and celebratory and reflective. Taken together, this book may will instill an appreciation of natural world at a time when we need to work together to protect it.

Here’s the poem for yesterday, November 11:

The Fog by F.R. McCreary

Slowly the fog,
Hunched-shouldered with a grey face,
Arms wide, advances,
Fingertips touching the way
Past the dark houses
And dark gardens of roses.
Up the short street from the harbour,
Slowly the fog,
Seeking, seeking;
Arms wide, shoulders hunched,
Searching, searching,
Out through the streets to the fields,
Slowly the fog-
A blind man hunting the moon.

Another book that celebrates the outdoors….

I ordered a copy of The Forest after seeing it on the 2018 New York Times list of the Best Illustrated Children’s Books. This book surprised me from the minute I opened the package. At 72 pages, it is not a traditional picture book. The illustrations by Violeta Lopiz and Valerio Vidali are vivid and spectacular, but I’m not sure who the audience is – maybe art students. The book is a journey through life in the form of the forest, but it’s the paper engineering that is most striking. The embossed pages and gatefolds make The Forest a fascinating piece of book making, but not an easy book to describe.

A book to look forward to….

Matthew Cordell, the author and illustrator of the Caldecott winning picture book, Wolf in the Snow, has a new project. Cordell is going to write and illustrate the authorized picture book biography of Fred Rogers. The book’s title will be….Hello, Neighbor!  A little bit of a wait – the book will be published in 2020.

Barnes and Noble News…

There’s been lots of speculation about the future of Barnes and Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the U.S. I’ve read about struggling stores, the revolving door of CEO’s, and their efforts to diversify by becoming a “lifestyle” store rather than a traditional bookstore. You can see the result of their move into toys and games by walking into any Barnes and Noble and trying to find books among the Funko Pop figures that, at least in the Hingham store, claim a lot of space. Yesterday I read that the British retail chain, W.H Smith, expressed interest in buying Barnes and Noble, but the deal fell through. Like many readers, I hope Barnes and Noble stays in business. It’s good for publishers and good for readers. I love Buttonwood, my local independent bookstore, but sometimes I enjoy getting a pile of magazines, ordering a mocha, and sitting in the cafe at Barnes and Noble. Print sales are rising and independent bookstores are succeeding. Barnes and Noble should be able to make it.

The picture at the top….

is a teacher at Inly reading a book to her students. It was one of those perfect moments that I had to capture…Happy Reading!




Picture Books and Little Books

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List season has begun!  The New York Times named its Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2018 last week, Publishers Weekly has released their picks for 2018, and I see lots of “best of” lists when scrolling through my email.

The NYT list is especially interesting. The books are chosen, in their words, “purely on the basis of artistic merit.” I can always count on finding one or two new books that completely escaped my notice and several that I expected to be on the list. The book I am happiest to see included is Florette written and illustrated by Anna Walker. It was published in February and we read it to several classes, but tomorrow morning, it is going back on display. Florette is a beautiful book.  Here’s a link to the whole list:

I’ve been looking at lots of picture books to prepare for my annual Best Books of the Year program at the James Library in Norwell. It’s scheduled for Sunday, December 2 at 3:00. Here are a few recent favorites:

Mapping Sam by Joyce Hesselberth

Mapping Sam is a book that teachers are going to want to have in their classrooms – and the perfect gift for kids who love to figure things out. Sam is an orange cat who, after she “puts her family to bed,” goes outside to explore. As Sam travels, Hesselberth includes all kinds of maps to describe where Sam is going: anatomical maps (of Sam, of course), diagrams, the solar system, blueprints, charts, and more. Given that maps are not a part of our daily existence in the way they once were, this book is essential. It shows how maps work and encourages kids to see patterns in their daily lives. And Sam is an awesome guide!

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

This is a new picture book adaptation of the 1934 novel by P.L. Travers, and it is perfectly timed to read before the release of a new movie, Mary Poppins Returns (with Lin Manuel Miranda) in December. This new picture book, with bright and happy illustrations by Genevieve Godbout, is an introduction to the classic (while necessarily leaving some things out), but I’m thinking about a holiday gift: this book, a copy of the original Julie Andrews movie, and tickets to the new movie.  As Mary Poppins might say, it would be “practically perfect.”

Night Job by Karen Hesse

I love everything about this book: the relationship at the story’s center, the writing, and Brian Karas’s muted illustrations that complement the text. Told from the point of view of a young boy whose father is a school custodian, Night Job follows father and son through their Friday night routine. As his father sweeps and polishes, his son shoots baskets in the gym and reads aloud to his father in the school library. They also take a break to enjoy egg salad sandwiches before the boy falls asleep while his father finishes his work. For teachers, this book provides a spark to conversations about the work people do and “hidden” jobs that happen at night. It’s also a lovely portrayal of love and affection between father and son.

I usually skip right past the business section of The New York Times. I move directly from the front section to the Arts. But something caught my eye this past Tuesday: an article about the introduction of mini books.

The first time I saw the little horizontal books was at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. I was intrigued by the novelty, but did not buy one because it was felt awkward to flip the pages up rather than over – and because I don’t speak or read Dutch. But now….they are being issued here. I began reading the NYT story which explains that Julie Strauss-Gabel, the president of Dutton Books, also saw them at an airport in the Netherlands. According to the article, she “started a mission to figure out how we could do that here.”  Dutton is releasing four novels by John Green this month.

If you want to learn more, here’s the link to the article:

I just ordered one. It will be fun to show my middle school students. Perhaps, less stuck on the traditional book format, they will be open to a new way of reading. I’m curious to hear their reaction. The $10.00 was worth it to start a conversation about how they read.

Don’t forget to vote!

Tommy Orange Visits Inly

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Tommy Orange, the author of the novel There There spoke at Inly last Thursday evening.

There There, longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the Carnegie Medal is the debut novel by Orange, a member of the Cheyenne tribe. The novel took him six years to write, but it has made the author a new literary star. “Yes, Tommy Orange’s New Novel Is Really That Good” reads the title of the New York Times review of There There. Another New York Times article about Orange’s describes There There as a “new kind of American epic.”  Maureen Corrigan, reviewing the novel for Fresh Air, said:

There There is distinguished not only by Orange’s crackling style, but by its unusual subject. This is a novel about urban Indians, about native peoples who know, as he says, “the sound of the freeway better than [they] do rivers … the smell of gas and freshly wet concrete and burned rubber better than [they] do the smell of cedar or sage…”

The Inly program was a conversation between Tommy and Nina McLaughlin, a columnist for the Boston Globe whose first book, Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter was published in 2015. Nina wrote the Globe’s review of There There which is linked here:


The conversation was rich and meaningful, mostly because Tommy and Nina were natural and genuine. It truly felt like a conversation.

Nina began by asking Tommy about the explosive end to his novel. “I knew the end before I knew the beginning,” he told her. “I knew the characters’ lives would converge at a powwow.”

Talking about his polyphonic novel, Tommy described his writing process as “auditioning voices to see who felt convincing.” Over the six years it took him to write There There, Tommy estimates that he “tried 40 or 50 characters.”

Especially lovely was the way Tommy talked about novels, which he said “can do anything.” He was moved by A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and the work of Sylvia Plath. He described their work as having “sadness with levity.” Their writing, he said, “transcended their own sadness.”  Discussing his love of polyphonic novels, he mentioned, among others, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

Nina also asked Tommy to talk about the many mirrors and reflections in There There. “Growing up,” he responded, “Native people don’t see themselves very often. We aren’t in sports or movies or television.  The mirror lets you see how you’re native.”

I’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed many happy days at Inly, but this was one of the best. Tommy Orange radiates kindness and thoughtfulness from the second you meet him.  If you haven’t read There There yet, add it to your “to read” pile.

Happy Reading….



Judy Blume and Shannon Hale

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I’m reading a book to review for School Library Journal this weekend so I don’t have a book to share this week, but there is movie news…

It’s been 48 years since the publication of Judy Blume’s classic novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, was published, and it’s finally being made into a movie. As it did for many young girls, Blume’s coming of age novel answered so many questions I was afraid to ask out loud when I was twelve. Today there are more and better resources for young people to learn about changes in their bodies and their emotions, but Blume’s book stood alone in the 1970s, and it was there when I needed it most. Girls have the same concerns today, but now the issues are discussed openly on television and social media so it will be interesting to see how Blume’s book connects with girls today. I have high hopes.

Last year, a good friend of mine visited Key West where Judy Blume now owns a bookstore called Books and Books. While there, she met the author and sent me a souvenir of her visit:

As I wrote about Are You There God?, I was aware that this was – and is – a book primarily read by girls. Most books are not gender specific. I tell kids at school all of the time that there is no such thing as a “girl book” or a “boy book.”  A good story always prevails. There are books, though, that might directly address a question a girl or boy has about their changing bodies and it’s important to have a place to look for that information – especially when there is no one to ask.

Shannon Hale, the author of Real Friends and the Princess in Black series, recently published an important essay on this topic for the Washington Post called “What Are We Teaching Boys When We Discourage Them from Reading Books About Girls?”

Here’s a link:


More next week –

Tommy Orange visiting Inly on Thursday!

Book Fair, Book Buying, and Jarrett Krosoczka…


On Friday, at 3:55 p.m., I rang up the final sale of Inly’s fall book fair, began to clean up, and then I noticed a stowaway…..

Hiding among the racks, I didn’t even know this student was in the library until it was quiet, and then it struck me that this was the perfect book fair scene: oblivious of the time, she was truly “somewhere else.”  There were lots of happy moments during the book fair. Some kids were overwhelmed by the choices….

Other kids enjoyed negotiating, like the two girls I heard planning to buy different books and share them. The best part of the book fair is seeing how excited the kids are about new books. We are lucky to be in a school with a rich reading culture that leads to enthusiastic conversations and lots of recommendations.  Another fair is scheduled for April!

On the topic of buying new books, I feel a bit squeamish. Sometimes I feel a bit ashamed about bringing too many new books into the house when there is a wonderful public library about two miles from my house. That feeling passes rather quickly though. I like owning the book I’m reading. I can loan them to friends or shelve them with books on the same topic, but truthfully, it’s the convenience I value. Library due dates (except for the Inly library where I have some flexibility) make me feel pressured. I bring a book home from the library, feel the clock ticking, and then a new topic might capture my interest. I like my books in the house, where I can see them, and know that the voices in the book are right here competing for attention or resting comfortably.

But earlier this week, scrolling through Instagram, I stumbled about this excerpt from an essay that appeared in today’s New York Times Book Review:

I recognized the writer as someone who Anne of Green Gables would refer to as a “kindred spirit!” The Japanese word – tsundoku – is lovely. I just read on the BBC News site that the word was first used in text in 1879, and that “the word does not carry any stigma in Japan.”  I’m happy to add tsundoko to my word bank.

The full essay by Kevin Mims, which I’m going to display over my “to be read” stack, is here:

In the spirit of embracing my book buying, here’s a picture of my most recent book purchases:

Yesterday I read Hey, Kiddo, Jarrett Krosoczka’s powerful new graphic novel about his childhood in Worcester. It is heartbreaking, honest, and absolutely unforgettable. Krosoczka’s best known for the Lunch Lady books, his series of graphic novels for young readers, but this memoir is for older readers. He was the child of a mother who suffered from addiction and a father he knows nothing about. Raised by his grandparents, Jarrett showed signs of artistic talent from an early age which gives him a chance to shine among his peers and to navigate his complex feelings about his family. Hey, Kiddo is one of the best books I’ve read for young adults. The pictures and text are equally compelling, and Jarrett’s story will help readers understand the impact of addiction on families, especially children.

Fall is here – lots of new books to read and buy!  Happy Reading….

Winnie-the-Pooh in Boston – and Two Notable New Books

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When Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring A Classic was at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in early 2018, I was sorry to miss it. It was winter, and a trip to London was not in the plans, but I was desperate to see the exhibit and ordered the catalog as a beautiful – but not quite the same – substitution. Later, when I read that it was being shown at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I was thrilled.  In fact, I was quite possibly the first person to order member tickets the day they became available!

As much as I love A.A. Milne’s stories, it was the iconic drawings by E.H. Shepard that I most looked forward to seeing. I have admired Shepard’s work for many years. His drawings bring The Wind in the Willow’s characters to life – when I picture Mr. Toad in his fancy driving clothes or Ratty and Mole talking by the fireside, I am thinking of this:

The Winnie-the-Pooh stories are so deeply entwined with Shepard’s drawings that when most of us think of Pooh, Piglet, and Eeyore, we are imagining the humorous, warm, and emotionally honest drawings by Ernest Shepard. Piglet could not be Piglet without his small frame next to Pooh’s cozy and round body.


The exhibit was lovely. We were in line at 9:30 for the 10:00 opening, and it was relatively quiet. As we left the museum, there was a sign announcing that tickets were no longer available for that day. If you plan to go, I strongly recommend consulting the MFA’s website for information first.  (https://www.mfa.org/exhibitions/winnie-the-pooh)

This fall’s new and notable books for children include two that are among the best in their categories – and books I will recommend regularly to kids and teachers:

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee is a picture book by one of the smartest and most creative people in the children’s book world.

I remember reading The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau, one of Agee’s early picture books for the first time and beginning to look for everything by him. Since then, I’ve been a big fan of all of his books, especially Milo’s Hat Trick and Life on Mars.  His new book is funny and intelligent – and timely. A small knight is determined to fix a wall that runs down the gutter of the book. He’s certain there are dangers on the other side of the wall: “The wall protects this side of the book….from the other side of the book.”  But it soon becomes clear there are dangers on his side of the wall of which he’s completely unaware.

There are lots of opportunities for discussion with this book. Younger kids will enjoy it, but older students might be encouraged to ask about perspectives and perceived dangers.

Last week I wrote about a picture book by Kallie George called Goodnight, Anne. The author was clearly inspired by Anne of Green Gables because she has also written the first installment of a new early chapter book series: Anne Arrives. The plot follows Anne’s story of arriving at Green Gables making it a lovely introduction to the classic novel. The illustrations by Abigail Halpin are beautiful and capture the spirit of L.M. Montgomery’s novel perfectly. This would be a lovely gift for a young reader who is ready for a new – and special – series.

Next week is the fall book fair so I’ll see lots of happy book shoppers in the week ahead. With the help of our dedicated volunteers, we set everything up on Friday. All is ready for Tuesday morning at 8:00:


Finally, a tribute to the classic picture book, Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, by the students in one of Inly’s Upper Elementary classrooms….


Happy Reading!


Two Radiant New Picture Books….

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I’m sometimes tempted to add picture books to my stack of favorite art books – they are that beautiful. The two that arrived this week belong in that category, both of them gentle and absolutely stunning.

Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a companion to Green, Seeger’s 2012 Caldecott Honor Book. Beginning with the spectacular cover, Blue is drenched in various shades of blue – sometimes the vivid colors feel like they could come off on your hands. Beyond the color, there is a sweet story of a boy and his dog. As the pages turn, the two of them grow older together until, inevitably, the boy is “blue” at the loss of his friend. There is a sweet ending though, as the boy meets a new friend – and her dog.

Goodnight, Anne by Kallie George and illustrations by Genevieve Godbout is inspired by Anne of Green Gables.  The story is simple: Marilla asks Anne to go to bed, but Anne has other plans: “I always say goodnight to everyone I love.” She then finds all of her favorite people and places in her life: Matthew, Diana (her “bosom friend”), and Gilbert among them. At first, I wondered if this book would mean anything to a child who has not read Anne of Green Gables, but I don’t think it matters. I love Goodnight, Anne because I love the novel that inspired it, but Godbout’s illustrations so beautifully capture Anne’s joy that it will appeal to any child getting ready for bed.

On a completely different note…..

Tommy Orange, the author of There There, is coming to Inly on October 25

Tommy Orange, author of the New York Times bestselling novel There There, a multi-generational, relentlessly paced story about a side of America few of us have ever seen: the lives of urban Native Americans. There There, Orange’s debut novel is on the longlist for the 2018 National Book Award.

Open to the public, the event will begin with a reading by Tommy. There There tackles issues of identity and belonging for Native people living in urban environments and battles against the monolithic stereotype often applied to Native people and their culture. The reading will be followed by a conversational-style interview, hosted by Boston Globe Correspondent, author and carpenter, Nina MacLaughlin, and will explore issues of Native struggles, the Native renaissance, what it means to be Native today and Tommy’s own experiences growing up Native in a big city.

For more information and tickets: