A Cozy New Book, the Book Fair, and a Rainbow….

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I’ve long admired Cynthia Rylant’s work, particularly because she does everything well: picture books, early chapter books, middle grade novels, and poetry. Think of how many kids have learned to read with Henry and Mudge or Mr. Putter and Tabby. Her picture books, especially The Great Gracie Chase and The Relatives Came are crowd-pleasing read alouds.

Rylant also won the 1993 Newbery Medal for Missing May, a quiet novel about a young girl who discovers that love is more powerful than grief. Her books are gifts to children, parents, and teachers.

When I read that Rylant’s new middle grade novel, Rosetown, was being published this spring, I began poking around for an advanced reading copy – and I was finally able to read it yesterday. Once again, she has written a gem.

Rosetown is the story of Flora, a ten-year-old girl, who is experiencing lots of changes: her beloved dog has died, her parents have recently separated, and she is starting fourth grade. The place where she’s happiest is in a purple chair in the used bookstore where her mother works. There, Flora, can relax and curl up with an “extra-vintage” story. She also enjoys spending time with her close friend, Nessy, and Yury, a new friend from Ukraine. Although Flora is facing challenges, her parents are loving and supportive, and starting with the arrival of a new cat, things begin to turn around.

Rylant is especially good at taking a simple premise and making it meaningful.  She gently leads the reader like a wise and beloved guide and helps them navigate change. Taken together, from Mr. Putter to the Cobble Street Cousins, Rylant always keeps her focus on what’s most important: family and friends.

Here’s one of my favorite passages from Rosetown:

“And this is the story of any proudly owned used-book shop: that someone, at some time, has stumbled upon a kind of buried treasure within its shelves. But unlike shiny gold, which is taken instantly, the treasure – a vintage book – in a used-book shop is often left behind, to linger at the back of the mind for a while. Then there arrives the day when it becomes clear that the vintage book should belong to a certain someone.”

Rosetown won’t be in stores until May 8 so it was not available to purchase during last week’s Inly book fair, but many wonderful books were – thanks to our partnership with our own beloved bookstore, Buttonwood Books and Toys. The big sellers were: The Bad Guys, Dory Fantasmagory, Lucky Broken Girl, Like Vanessa – and brightly colored squishies. I knew squishies were popular – and it’s truly hard to resist “squishing” them, but we had a run on penguins and sleeping kittens….

Here are some pictures from the week:

This is my favorite scene from the book fair:

This picture – taken by one of the book fair volunteers – nicely captures the mood of the week:

It’s always nice to close with a reference to Charlotte’s Web, this one courtesy of a second grade student who used string and push pins to make this wonderful project:

Happy Reading!

 

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A Cure for the “February Cranks”

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Each February our head of school tells the story of her college roommate who didn’t leave their room very often during the month of February. When she did, she wore black. Although I understand this reaction to the “February Cranks,” I think Henry’s parents have a more constructive answer. I’m referring to Henry of Henry and Mudge fame.  I don’t know what number this delightful “new-reader-friendly” series is up to now, but my favorite will always be number 11 – Henry and Mudge and the Long Weekend. When my now 16-year-old son was young, we would always pull this book out during President’s Day weekend. It’s the perfect antidote when everyone is bored by the cold weather, and the games that were fun during December and January have lost their luster.

In this story, Henry has a bad case of the “February Cranks,” but his parents happen to have a refrigerator box that would make a perfect castle. But here’s the great thing about this book. You don’t need to have a big box to turn into a castle for it to turn the cranks into smiles. The book is about a family having fun together – without a television or a computer game or any other electronic device. We may have built something out of blocks or Legos instead of a box, but this is the story that inspired us to hang in there, start thinking about spring, and like Henry and his parents, order a pizza!