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!

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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:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/an-evening-with-tommy-orange-novelist-and-author-of-there-there-tickets-50535648485

Grace Lin, Fred Rogers, Anne Frank, and a Little Bear…

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This past Friday was a gold star day – literally – when Grace Lin visited Inly.  She was there to talk about her beautiful new picture book, A Big Mooncake for Little Star, wearing a sweater full of stars in a library our students had decorated with shiny moons and stars. It was especially wonderful to see our students so excited to meet a favorite author. One of them made a sign to welcome her, one of her biggest fans introduced her, and she signed lots of books.

After talking with our younger students about her picture book, she talked with a group of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders who recently read her middle grade novel, Dumpling Days.

It was one of those special days in the Library and a wonderful way to begin a new year of reading.

Beyond the Mooncake….

On Friday, the Google banner was a tribute to Mr. Rogers on the 51st anniversary of the first episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Most of our students have never seen an episode of Mr. Rogers, but there was a group of 3rd graders in the Library, and I called them over to watch Google’s short animated video.

I wondered if it would hold their attention. Here is what I saw:

Scrolling through Instagram last week, I saw this post from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. I love what Anne’s father said about Anne attending a Montessori school:

There’s a new book on my “to recommend” list, especially as we get closer to the holidays and parents of young children ask me for gift ideas. Stories of the Night by Kitty Crowther is described as a “modern fairytale storybook,” and it is certainly magic. It looks like an old fashioned story book that you might be thrilled to discover in a used bookstore. But there’s also a freshness and brightness to it that makes me keep looking at it. Look at this drawing on the back cover. The colors are so interesting – that blue moon!

The premise is that Little Bear asks Mother Bear for three stories before going to sleep. Mother Bear obliges with three distinctive stories that are a bit quirky, but comforting. My favorite is the story about a man who goes swimming with his clothes on before he can sleep. You have to read it.

And finally – my favorite library picture from last week:

 

 

My Favorite Books About….Friendship

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One of the best parts of a new school year is meeting new students. As I talk with them, I’m doing all of my “remembering names tricks” so the next time they visit the library, I can greet them. New students are wonderful. They change the social dynamic and bring fresh energy and experiences into their classrooms. The teachers are wonderful about integrating new kids into their rooms, but I’m sure the primary “work of the child” (to use a Montessori term) is to make friends. That work, learning how to interact with other kids, must take up most of their energy during these first few weeks.

Kids don’t want manuals about how to be a friend. They deserve stories about kids with real emotions, not didactic books about “what to say.”  The ten books listed below show the power of friendship:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead (Amos is a reliable zookeeper who makes time to play chess with an elephant. When he gets a cold, his devoted friends visit Amos and care for him. This is one of the most perfect evocations of friendship in any book for children. A must-have in every child’s school or home library.)

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers (Everything Oliver Jeffers does is wonderful, but this one is my favorite. A penguin gets lost in quite dramatic fashion. Supposed to be on the South Pole, he ends up on a boy’s suburban doorstep. The boy finds a way – through storms and waves – to bring his new friend home.)

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel (Nearly 50 years since they appeared, Frog and Toad remain essential to any collection of stories about friends. My favorite story is “Ice Cream” which appears on page 30 of Frog and Toad All Year.)

Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems (Hands down, the most popular books in Inly’s Library, kids between the ages of 4 and 12 are happy to read them – multiple times!)

Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant (This series of easy-to-read chapter books is not as well known as other books on this list, but the Poppleton stories have a special kind of magic. Poppleton is a pig whose best friends are Hudson, a mouse, and Cherry Sue, a llama. Throughout all eight books, Rylant is making a case that loyal friends are the secret to a good life!)

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald (For a little older reader, My Two Blankets is a picture book about a girl named Cartwheel who is forced to leave her home and move to a safer place. To remind her of home, Cartwheel wraps herself in an imaginary “blanket” of memories. After meeting a new girl in a park, she creates a new “blanket” weaving together her old and new lives.)

Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo (A series of short chapter books, Bink & Gollie are like child versions of Elephant and Piggie. They are opposites in appearance and temperament, but loyal to one another and always ready for a new adventure. Kids love these books because of Bink & Gollie’s funny and energetic dialogue, but also because the cartoon-style drawings make them almost like graphic novels.)

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (I’m including three middle grade novels at the end of this list because they are central to a list of books about friendship. The story of a captive gorilla, Ivan, and the sacrifice he makes for Ruby, a baby elephant, is guaranteed to both break – and fill – your heart.)

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (Sometimes a parent will ask me to recommend a book that will encourage empathy in their child. White’s book is a master class on empathy, friendship, and of course, writing. “Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”)

Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, especially Chapter 5, “Dulce Domum” There are so many excellent books about being a good friend that to include a book written in 1908 may seem an odd choice, but Chapter 5 of Grahame’s classic novel is one of the most beautiful passage about what it means to be a friend ever written. “Dulce Domum” takes place in December, and it opens with Rat and Mole walking through a village where people are celebrating Christmas. Mole starts to realize that he’s near the home he has left to be near the river with Rat, and he feels homesick: “He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither. Home! That was what they meant, those daft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all in one way!”  Rat, realizing his friend’s sadness, changes course and they return to Mole’s little house where a cozy scene awaits. It’s the perfect chapter to read on a winter evening.)

Links of interest:

It’s Sunday morning, and I just finished reading today’s New York Times. There are three things I thought worth sharing:

An excellent essay about the importance of public libraries:

A request for good children’s books focused on American history at a time of, in the words of someone looking for a baby gift: “I’d love to give the new baby a few children’s books that illuminate our pre-Trump democracy: how it came into being, who the founding fathers were….”

And for parents of very young children, a good round-up of new books for new people in the world:

Happy Reading!

Two New Books and Ten Toddler Picks

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I have two new books to recommend this week….

Blue Rider is a picture book by Geraldo Valerio. This is a wordless story, told in double page spreads beginning with an opening cityscape of blue and tan buildings. On the following page, a girl is looking out from one of those buildings, but she blends so seamlessly into the picture that you may not see her at first. When she steps outside, though, she becomes “bluer.” The people on the sidewalk, many of whom are looking down at their phones or wearing headphones, remain muted, but as you move further into the story, the blues begin to pop. The girl finds a blue book on the sidewalk, and like Max’s bedroom window in Where the Wild Things Are, the book is a portal to an unfamiliar and dazzling world. The pages of her new book literally explode into color – into pictures that start as what are clearly horses and buildings. But as you turn the pages, the images are deconstructed – they seem to fly apart. The more I look at it, the more magical it becomes. It’s definitely a book that belongs in every art teacher’s classroom.

I also read Front Desk by Kelly Yang this week. The middle grade novel is collecting starred reviews so it moved to the top of my list – a good move. Yang’s book, based on her own childhood experience, is wonderful and timely. Mia Tang is a ten-year-old who immigrated from China with her parents, the managers of the Calavista Motel in California. Since Mia’s parents are busy with cleaning rooms and fixing broken machinery, Mia has sort of taken over the front desk responsibilities – greeting guests and talking to the hotel’s long-term regulars who quickly become friends. From there and from her desk at school, she witnesses racism, cruelty, and straight-out lies, that hurt her and her financially struggling parents. Mia is a hard-working, honest, and determined young girl who begins to discover the power of her voice – and her pen. I strongly recommend Yang’s novel to kids between the ages of 9 and 12.

As I was working on this summer’s school reading list, it occurred to me that I’ve never included a dedicated list for of new books for our toddler community. That needed to change – and this year’s school-wide list begins with a list of books perfect for sharing with a toddler.

TEN FOR TODDLERS

Good Day For a Hat by T. Nat Fuller

This is the “official” Inly toddler book of summer. Get your sun hat and enjoy the story of a bear who can’t figure out which hat to wear!

 

Grains of Sand by Sibylle Delacroix

After a day at the beach, a little girl and her brother imagine what would happen if they planted sand.

Ducks Away! by Mem Fox

A counting book featuring adorable ducks who keep falling into the river. Of course, they are all reunited with their mother.

The Tiptoeing Tiger by Philippa Leathers

Little Tiger desperately wants to scare someone, so he tiptoes through the forest….

Baby Bear’s Book of Tiny Tales by David McPhail

Four short – and very sweet – stories about a little bear who finds things, including a book, a flower, a baby bird, and a friend.

Pignic by Matt Phelan

Bring this story about a family of pigs having a picnic to your own picnic!

New Shoes by Chris Raschka

After a hole is found in a young child’s sneaker, it’s time for a shoe shopping adventure.

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

A colorful celebration of animals, shapes, and colors

Bus! Stop! by James Yang

After a young boy misses his bus, he watches all kind of vehicles go by, including a covered wagon and a boat.

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake

A little boy literally gets stuck in his shirt, but he wants to figure it out by himself. A laugh out loud story!

Happy Reading!

May Miscellany

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Last Sunday, we went to hear John Lithgow speak at the Kennedy Library. I had forgotten how many roles he’s played in movies and on TV: Terms of Endearment, Shrek, Third Rock From the Sun, and most recently, Winston Churchill in The Crown. As you might expect, Lithgow is an engaging raconteur. I especially enjoyed hearing his childhood memories of Yellow Springs, a small village near Dayton. “It was idyllic,” he said, “a midwest idyll.” He recalled trips to the Glen Helen Nature Preserve and Clifton Gorge, places my dad still visits. One of the most interesting things he told the audience is that, as a child, Coretta Scott was his babysitter – before she was Coretta Scott King. Yellow Springs is the home of Antioch College where Scott was a student. Lithgow said that he only learned of his famous babysitter as an adult when he met Mrs. King at a function.

Lithgow also talked about writing children’s books, telling the large crowd that he enjoyed making up stories for his younger sister when they were growing up. Later, when he had his own children, he wrote music for his son which led to a performance of children’s music and stories at Carnegie Hall. Lithgow was honest about capitalizing on his “Third Rock fame” to indulge his many interests, but what came through most clearly was his love of the written word in all its forms.

Yesterday, my husband and I were in Westport, Massachusetts where we found The Partners Village Store, a combination bookstore, gift shop, and cafe. While the bookstore is small, it is carefully curated.

I found a book of essays that is right in my “interest sweet spot.”  Where We Lived is by Henry Allen, who, I learned from the book, was “Intense. Mercurial. Bearded. A Marine veteran of Vietnam.” He was an art critic for The Washington Post for nearly 30 years and won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2000. This book includes short essays about the many places the Allen family has lived, beginning in 1557 in Wales through his family’s 1977 move to Takoma Park in Maryland. I am interested in exploring how place informs our identity, and I happily added Allen’s book to the toppling stack by my bedside.

You may have heard about the upcoming PBS series, The Great American Read. I’ve heard it advertised on NPR, but only checked out the website today. It’s an eight-part series that “explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey).”  I’m all for a program that celebrates books and reading, but the list of 100 novels raises questions for me. There are obvious choices like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Charlotte’s Web, but the list also includes Fifty Shades of Grey and The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.  I can’t wrap my head around Tom Sawyer being compared to Fifty Shades of Grey. It seems wrong for Wilbur and Charlotte to compete with The Shack by William Young.  I plan to tune in and assume right will prevail in the end!

Here’s a link to the whole list:

http://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/books/#/

Last week, I read Bob, the new middle grade novel by two of the most respected and talented authors of children’s books – Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass.

It’s the story of a girl named Livy who, five years before the story opens, left a little creature named Bob at her grandmother’s house in Australia. Now ten-years-old, Livy returns to visit her grandmother and finds Bob in a closet where he has been looking forward to seeing her again. Livy has nearly forgotten the details of her first trip to Australia, but she quickly reconnects with the lovable Bob and agrees to help him figure out who he is and where he’s from. Told in alternating chapters from Bob’s and Livy’s points of view, it’s a sweet story of friendship and magic.

The best new picture book I read last week is Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey. If you know a fan of Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, this would be a good book to check out of the library. Charlotte is a tech-saavy kid. She helps her parents with their devices, and her bedroom looks like she’s planning to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. But Charlotte’s mom and dad begin to be concerned that their daughter is “too techy” so they buy her a doll. The doll seems like any other low-tech doll, but Charlotte makes a few changes that make her – and her parents – happy.

Finally, some of Inly’s younger students have discovered the Dog Man books…..

Happy Reading!