A Year-End Mix….

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One of the most common questions we hear in the Inly Library is about recommending books to young readers who can read beyond their age level. It can be challenging to identify good books for an eight-year-old who has the reading skills – but not the emotional maturity – of a twelve-year-old. This article from last Sunday’s NYT Book Review has some good suggestions:

Another topic that parents regularly ask about is rereading. Some kids love reading the same book over and over again – it can be confusing to their parents, but makes perfect sense to the new reader. Children alternate through periods of reading things that are very familiar and comfortable before being ready to move into new kinds of books and more challenging material. That back-and-forth is completely age appropriate and important to their growth as readers.

The book I’m currently reading, Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan, includes this paragraph:

“But for children, rereading is absolutely necessary. The act of reading is itself still new. A lot of energy is still going into (not so) simple decoding of words and the assimilation of meaning. Only then do you get to enjoy the plot – to begin to get lost in the story. And only after you are familiar with the plot are you free to enjoy, mull over; break down and digest all the rest. The beauty of a book is that it remains the same for as long as you need it. It’s like being able to ask a teacher or parent to repeat again and again some piece of information or point of fact you haven’t understood with the absolute security of knowing that he/she will do so infinitely. You can’t wear out a book’s patience.”

Finally….one of the best parts of working in a school library is finding notes like this one – a reminder of how important this work is and how lucky we are to be part of the journey…

This blog will return in February 2019. Until then, I wish you a Happy New Year and lots of good books!

 

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My Year in Reading

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As regular readers know, I’ve kept a list of every book I read since 1992. No comments. No thumbs up or down. Just the title and author. I looked at Volume One (1992-1998), and the first book I recorded was Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. I loved that book!  In December 1998 I read The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle. That was a good one too.  Here are four of my five notebooks. One seems to be missing – and I will turn the house upside down to find it!

My average is about 60 books per year, give or take. During the school year there are lots of Inly-related books (for classes or summer reading) and books I’m reviewing for School Library Journal. The summer break is obvious because the titles become things from my own “to read” list. This year, Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, is #58 so I’ll be able to reach #60 by the time Ryan Seacrest is in Times Square counting down to 2019.

My ten favorites among the books I read this year are:

99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

Up at the Villa by Somerset Maugham (I didn’t plan to read this and absolutely loved it. It’s a novella set in 1930s Florence about a woman caught up in a scandal. So good and a quick read)

Love to Everyone by Hilary McKay

There There by Tommy Orange

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg

Calypso by David Sedaris

The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake Smith

Educated by Tara Westover

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Technically I have not finished reading one of the books on my list. There are about 50 pages left, but from the opening chapter, I knew Love to Everyone was special. Reminiscent of novels like Anne of Greene Gables and The War That Saved My Life, the setting of McKay’s novel is WWI-era England where Clarry Penrose lives with her widowed father and brother. Clarry is born at the beginning of the 20th century, and the novel spans the course of her life which is rich in both happiness and heartbreak. Much of the heartbreak comes during WWI which initially feels “vague and distant” to Clarry. Of course, it lands on her doorstep.

McKay’s beautiful writing is part of the pleasure of reading Love to Everyone. I love this passage about the seasons:

“The long cold winter was passing. The light grew brighter, even in the Miss Pinkses’ fume-filled classrooms. The air was wet and salt-tanged from the sea. There were birds above the chimney pots and daffodils to be spotten on Miss Vane’s chilly walks, and it was spring with summer on the horizon. Summer was shining bliss. Summer was opals and topaz and lapis and diamonds flung down from the sky. Summer was Cornwall.”

A few days ago I was in Boston waiting for a friend who texted to say she would be late. No worries. My book was in my bag and I was standing in front of a Starbucks. I started reading and soon enough, the lights beaming from all of the laptops and phones faded away, and I was back in Cornwall with Clarry.

And now the books to read in 2019 begin to stack up. Last night we were at the Coop in Harvard Square and, although my “to read” list is completely unrealistic, I could not leave the store empty handed.  I remember seeing something about David Litt’s memoir of working as a speechwriter for President Obama, but a combination of two things made me buy it:

1 – I finished Becoming a few days ago and was forced to re-enter the real world. The contrast proved too great, and I wanted to jump back down the rabbit hole and return to less chaotic days.

2 – The recommendation that a staff member at the Coop wrote about the book. Those staff notes are really persuasive!

Of course, now I want to listen to David Litt on The Moth.

But first….I need to return to Clarry’s story.  Happy Reading….

 

 

 

Notes from the Inly Library….

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Every so often, when the kids least expect it, I “close” the graphic novel section.

I love graphic novels as much as they do, but after a few months of watching our Lower Elementary students making a bee-line for the graphic novel section every time they walk in, I thought the rest of the library may be feeling ignored.   That’s the joy of being a teacher-librarian, rather than working in a public library where this action would not be an option. The “teacher” part of my work means I have a responsibility to introduce kids to all kinds of books and to create an environment that encourages curiosity and browsing.

After the anticipated moans and groans, the kids begin exploring areas they haven’t visited in a while: the Who Was series, stand-alone early chapter books, and even picture books. The graphic novels will be available for check-out next week, but truthfully, I think the kids kind of enjoyed the chance to venture beyond Dog Man.

Some of the students had fun trying to persuade me to change my mind. It didn’t work.

Our Lower Elementary students have been talking about race and skin color. There are a number of excellent age appropriate books to spark meaningful conversations with young children. Here are four of my favorites:

Skin Again by bell hooks

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz

Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin

The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler

If you’re looking for good information about how to talk with kids about race, check out this resource from the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association.

https://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2018/05/talking-with-young-children-0-5-about-race/

As part of their work, the children in one classroom used a lens to look closely at their hands and then “made” their hand using multicultural construction paper. Here are three especially wonderful results:

After reading another glowing review of Inkling, Kenneth Oppel’s new middle grade novel, I read it last week.

It’s wonderful, and will definitely be added to my Best of 2018 list. From the novel’s opening pages, it felt like something fresh and new. Inkling is the story of…..an inkblot. Not your typical protagonist, I know, but this inkblot has personality. The human at the center of the novel is Ethan, whose father is a famous graphic novel artist. Naturally, Ethan’s friends think Ethan must be just like his dad so they make him the artist for a joint school project.  But then he meets Inkling who can draw, among other talents. One of the many cool things about this book is that the pages themselves have ink blotches on them, giving the reader an immersive experience. This is the perfect book for a graphic novel fan or a budding artist.

My list of middle grade and middle school novels to read is long, but I’m now reading Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming. I’ve been looking forward to it for months, and I’m finding it to be a relief from the daily onslaught of unsettling news. It’s a good choice for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Happy Reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

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!

 

 

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:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2018/06/14/what-indian/2GsJ8G2XHSo6YRYUZq72IL/story.html

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:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/parents-and-teachers-please-stop-discouraging-boys-from-reading-books-about-girls/2018/10/09/f3eaaca6-c820-11e8-b1ed-1d2d65b86d0c_story.html?utm_term=.44edd6a6e635

More next week –

Tommy Orange visiting Inly on Thursday!

Book Fair, Book Buying, and Jarrett Krosoczka…

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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….