A Celebration of Reading….

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It may be too early to think about holiday gifts, but if there’s a passionate young reader in your life, consider a set of three new picture books, all of which celebrate the joy of discovering the world through books.  Teachers – each of these books is an excellent jumping-off point for a conversation about the power of words, an especially important discussion in this environment of divisive rhetoric.


A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

A young girl shows a new friend around her imaginative world made of stories.  “I can show you the way,” she tells him, before they travel “over a mountain of make-believe”…..and lose themselves “in forests of fairy tales.”  Their path is made up of words. Every element – the tree branches, the mountain, the monster – all of it words.  It is beautiful and inspiring.


One of my top five favorite picture books of all time is Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers.  I can barely read that one without crying – it is a perfect gem.  A Child of Books is more lyrical, but equally moving. Meeting Oliver Jeffers is on my “If I had three wishes list!”


I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino

I always forget how much I love Dan Yaccarino’s work and then he releases a new book, and I enthusiastically discover him again!  Years ago, during a school book fair, I fell in love with Unlovable, Yaccarino’s picture book about an “unlovable” little pug.  And then I went through a thing with Every Friday, a picture book about a father and his son’s weekly walk to their favorite diner.  I need to pull that one back out!  Next, there was The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau which went right on to Inly’s summer reading list.


I Am a Story goes into the Dan Yaccarino Hall of Fame.   It’s the story of a story: “I am a story,” the book begins.  “I was told around a campfire…then painted on cave walls.”  The story continues its journey through the various ways it has been printed and acted out and ultimately, of course, how it can be read on a screen.  Most of all, Yaccarino’s book reminds us that stories are what connect us.  Without stories, who are we?


How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex

On a lighter note!  How This Book Was Made tells the story of how this book was made – the one you are reading.  It’s full of jokes, some of which kids won’t understand, but that doesn’t detract from the fun.  I read it with a group of students, and they enjoyed the “inside joke” vibe. From the opening page in which the author addresses the reader by saying:  “At first this book wasn’t a book. It was an idea,” the book takes the reader on a journey through drafts, illustrations, and printing, and waiting – until at last there is the book you are reading.  Good fodder for a conversation about how long it takes a book to go from idea to tangible object!

Happy Reading….



Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books

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I saw it across the room and it was love at first sight. Naturally, it was a book, and I decided to buy it without cracking the spine!  That’s rare, even for me. But I knew from the cover that I would love it, and I do – so, so much. The book is Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books. The cover is so beautiful that I want to walk around holding it. This book is definitely an argument for physical books. I would not enjoy this on my Nook.

Since buying it about a week ago, I’ve been treating myself to looking at one author’s book shelves every day. It makes the day sweeter just knowing that the book is waiting on my nightstand. Edited by Leah Price, Unpacking My Books is a peek at the bookshelves of 13 authors, including Philip Pullman, Junot Diaz and Alison Bechdel. The first line of Price’s introduction is this: “As a teenaged babysitter, I went straight for the books.”  Oh my gosh – Price is a soulmate! When I was a teenage babysitter, the car would not be down the driveway before I was looking at the parent’s bookshelves and writing down books I wanted to read.

Years ago, when I lived in Washington,D.C., I used to babysit for the children of a Congressman (from Ohio, of course) and his wife. I recall taking lots of notes about their bookshelves, thinking that whatever the Congressman was reading contributed to his success.  His young children used to tell me their dad “helped the President.” 

Back to Price’s book. There are so many fun things to look at. For example, each author is asked to name their Top Ten Books. Two (out of 13) name a Tintin book.  James Wood includes Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop which may (on some days) make it into my personal Top Ten. Philip Pullman has a cute old teddy bear on one of his shelves.  

Unpacking My Library is the perfect book for the bibliophile on your list. The pictures are stunning. The short interviews with each author are interesting. And most of all, since looking at what people are reading is much harder since the advent of e-readers, Price’s book allows us to, as she says, “read over the shoulders of giants.”

A Basket of Books – About Books!

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Each fall I look forward to putting together a basket of children’s books on a different theme.  This “basket of books” is a contribution to a local charity, and befitting a school – Inly gives books.  Last year’s theme was the City of Boston and this year I thought it would be fun to collect ten books about reading.  This is what’s going in the basket:

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn

Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles by J. Patrick Lewis

Quiet! There’s a Canary in the Library by Don Freeman

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter

Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates

Miss Brooks Loves Books by Barbara Bottner

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills

It’s a Book by Lane Smith

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter

Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty

I know there are two books about Alia Muhammad Baker, the librarian in Basra, but her story is so inspiring that I couldn’t choose between them.  Both Winter’s and Stamaty’s books tell the story of how Baker protected more than 30,000 books before bombs hit the library.  This story of bravery puts a human face on war and celebrates the importance of knowledge and reading.

Take a Dip…

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AnitaSilveyI found a new book to “dip into” when I have a few minutes or need something inspirational to read to a class: Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book by Anita Silvey.

I guess on some level, this could be said for the majority of people in the world.  Most of us learned to read from children’s books, and that was the starting point for everything else we have learned.  But…that is not the point of Silvey’s terrific book.   It’s a 230 page collection of small essays by people from across the professional spectrum about how they were inspired by a  favorite children’s book.  The emphasis is on how the book continues to resonate in their lives today.

It’s interesting to see what people chose to write about.  So far, my two favorite essays are Gregory Maguire’s on The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton and Sherman Alexie’s comments on The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

My only complaint is that I wish there was one line at  the bottom of each essay identifying the writer.  I knew most of them, and of course, they are all identified in the back, but just flipping through and stopping to see that Stan Lee was inspired by the Poppy Ott books was tricky.  With all respect to Mr. Lee, I did not know who he was.  I do now.  He is associated with Marvel Comics.  But I had to flip to the back of the book to find that out.  I wish there had been a quick identification under his name so I didn’t have to keep flipping back and forth.  No problem though.  It doesn’t take away from this wonderful book.

I was especially excited to see that I share a favorite book with two distinguished people.  Before looking at Silvey’s book, I thought about what book I would choose.  That took two seconds: Charlotte’s Web.  And it turns out that both Louis Sachar and Eric Rohmann felt the same way!

I thought it would be fun to ask some of my colleagues at school to do the same so I asked them to choose their own book.  Coming up in tomorrow’s post: their answers…