Showing posts from June, 2013

Thunderstorm, written and illustrated by Arthur Geisert

Arthur Geiserthas long been a favorite of mine - ever since my oldest son and I discovered his books at the library more than 10 years ago. Since then, I have done my best to buy, read out loud and review as many of Geisert's books as I can get my hands on, although some, sadly, are out of print. A few years ago, Geisert's books, which are made from etchings and can take three years to create (for an incredible visit to Geisert's home studio, scroll down for two different clips, one is less than two minutes and one is almost fifteen and either are worth your time) found a home with the amazing Enchanted Lion Books and it seems like he is getting a bigger share of the attention he deserves. Recently, Rebecca Hersher visited Bernard, Iowa (population 98) where Geisert lives and works in the renovated bank that he bought a few years ago for her piece on Geisert for NPR's All Things Considered. Geisert's book launch for Thunderstorm at Coe's Bar in Bernard resulted…

Pomelo's Opposites, written by Ramona Bădescu, illustrated by Benjamin Chaud

With Pomelo's Opposites, Ramona Bădescu and Benjamin Chaud's charming little pink garden elephant is back! These two have a way with taking something seemingly everyday, like a book of colors or a book of opposites, and making fun and funny and unexpected. We first met Pomelo in Pomelo Begins to Grow, then again in Pomelo Explores Color, which included the "always different yellow of wee-wee," the "mustard-yellow pang that goes up your nose" and the "speeding orange of shredded carrots." There is also the "promising red of ripening strawberries" and the "mysterious blue of dreams." And, like Pomelo, the trim size of these books is small and square and just right for little hands and for tucking next to car seats or into tiny backpacks.
Pomelo's Opposites includes those opposites we usually think of: black and white, far and near, high and low, striped and polka-dotted. Anticipated as they may be, they still manage to takes …

THE DIVERSITY GAP IN CHILDREN'S BOOKS : An infographic from Lee & Low Books

This infographic from publisher Lee & Low Books, an independent book publisher focusing on diversity, has been making its way around the kidlit blogs and I felt the need to share it here, mostly because it, and a story that recently aired on NPR, has made me think about what I choose to read and what I see on the shelves. Elizabeth Blair's story, As Demographics Shift, Kid's Books Stay Stubbornly White featured a mother who grew up in Texas with family from Mexico and Cuba, who makes a concerted effort to assure that her daughter reads books with Latino characters in them, the kind of books she never read as a child. Explaining her efforts, she says, "I think children today are told, 'You can be anything.' But if they don't see themselves in the story, I think, as they get older, they're going to question, 'Can I really?' " As a middle class white woman, I've never had to worry about this, as a child or as a parent. The most up-in-…

The Willoughbys written and illustrated by Lois Lowry 157pp RL3

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry is in paperback!

For me and other adult readers of children's books, The Willoughbysis a tasty little treat. For young readers, I am not sure what they will make of it. And it matters to me what they will make of it.
The Willougbys is, from start to finish, a playful joke, a parody that pokes fun at "old fashioned" children's stories while at the same time referring back to them by name and character. Lowry even provides a bibliography with brief descriptions as well as a glossary that defines all of the big vocabulary words (words that are used regularly in classic children's literature) in the back of book. This, in an of itself, is wonderful. As a child and as an adult, I love it when a book I am reading leads me to discover another book. I can only hope that kids who will read this book will be inspired to read Anne of Green Gables, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Little Women, Pollyanna, James and the Giant Peach, and Th…

Stealing Magic: A Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure, written by Marianne Malone with illustrations by Greg Call, 246 pp, RL 4

Stealing Magic : A 68 Rooms Adventureis now in paperback!  And Book 3, The Pirate's Coinis out!

The magic (and miniatures) continue to abound in Marianne Malone's newest Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure, Stealing Magic, again with wonderful illustrations by Greg Call. The excitement of finding Mr Bell's missing photographs and the gala opening night for the exhibition of his long lost masterpieces is barely a memory when Ruthie Stewart and her best friend Jack discover a visit to the Thorne Rooms in the Art Institute of Chicago is in order again. On their last adventure, Sixty-Eight Rooms, the two left Jack's bento box with a note in it in the Japanese Room and Ruthie is beginning to think this might have been a bad idea. That, along with the glowing warmth that indicates the magic that stems from Christina, Duchess of Milan, that emanates from a beaded bag that Mrs McVittie, antiques dealer and family friend to the Stewarts. When Ruthie and Jack return to remove the note th…

The Dream Stealer by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Peter Sís, 89pp, RL 3

The Dream Stealeris now in paperback!

The Dream Stealer bySid Fleischman teams up again with Peter Sís, his illustrator for the Newbery award winner, The Whipping Boy. As with The Whipping Boy, Fleischman takes on a story with a fairy tale feel, this time setting it in Mexico instead of a kingdom in "long ago and far away." The Dream Stealer begins with the line, "Muchachos and Muchachas, boys and girls, do you know what happened to the fearless little girl who lives in the pink stucco house behind the plaza?" He goes on to tell the story of eight-year-old Susana, who is sad that she has fought with her best friend, Consuela Louisa, and they have not spoken since she moved away to Guadalajara. And, happily, he continues to use Spanish words and phrases with subtle translations when needed.
Outside the window of Susana's pink stucco house, the Dream Stealer, who goes by the name Zumpango, although it is not his true name, perches in a tree eating mild green pe…

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, 337 pp, RL: TEEN

I never thought I would read a YA novel that was as compelling, harrowing, and memorable as Ruta Sepetys'sBetween Shades of Gray, the story of a family sent to a gulag near the Arctic Circle during Stalin's purge of Lithuania. However, Code Name VeritybyElizabeth Wein, while cut from a different cloth, matches Sepetys's superlative novel. Marjorie Ingall's 2012 New York Times Book Review of Code Name Veritybegins in the exact same place I find myself - a predicament. I want to tell you everything about this amazing, breathtaking (literally - I held my breath at several points over the course of this novel) story of two best friends during World War II. I don't even want to tell you their names because they each have more than one and part of the thrill is discovering - actually realizing - who is telling the story as it unfolds. In her review Ingalls says that Code Name Verityis a, 
fiendishly plotted mind game of a novel, the kind you have to read twice. The first …

Bedtime with Puritans and Wild Things: An Exhibition Review of the New York Public Library's show THE ABC OF IT: WHY CHILDREN'S BOOKS MATTER by Edward Rothstein

All photo credits Credit: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times
Bedtime with Puritans and Wild Things, an exhibition review written by Edward Rothstein, ran in the New York Times yesterday. The exhibition, The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter, opens at the New York Public Library next week and I would give anything to be able to see it since it seems like the closest you can get to actually wandering through a beloved book. The show is curated by Leonard S. Marcus, preeminent children's book historian, critic and author and it is expansive. Rothstein notes that the almost 250 books and artifacts, some from the early 1700s, are "intelligently woven together" by Marcus. Rothstein's article makes interesting connections between the historical, Romantic presentations of the vision of childhood, which makes up the first part of the exhibition, and the second part, which begins in the great green room of Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon, with a display that …

Martha Stewart's Favorite Crafts for Kids: 175 projects for kids of all ages to create, build, design, explore, and share by the Editors of Martha Stewart Living

I know that the name Martha Stewart and all that it conjures up can be polarizing. Some people love her her style, and some people... Well, if you don't, please take note that, in my 17 years as a bookseller and 20 years as a parent always on the lookout, I never once saw a craft book as all-emcompasing, colorfully and simply designed and ultimately do-able as Martha Stewart's Favorite Crafts for Kids. On top of all that praise I add this crucial observation: a good 160 of the 175 projects included in the book are things that your kids and you can actually use! Only about 15 or so of the crafts will ultimately end up as dust-catchers that you are waiting for your kids to forget about so you can recycle them. I can't think of a better recommendation than that for the essential value of Martha Stewart's Favorite Crafts for Kids! While my kids are for the most part past the age for crafts and I am too old and weary to even begin to consider them, I did subscrib to Martha…

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!