MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Upcoming Events for Children's Librarians
Longtime ACLers will be particularly happy to know about former member Kathleen Odean's new nonfiction blog, available at www.greatcommoncorenonfiction.com/ For newer members, Kathleen is the author of four guides to children's books: Great Books for Girls, Great Books for Boys, Great Books about Things Kids Love, and Great Books for Babies and Toddlers. She now lives on the east coast and presents all-day workshops on young adult books. She is also working with author Marc Aronson and other "champions of nonfiction literature for children and young adults" at the blog The Uncommon Corps , which is a good source of information about nonfiction AND the new Common Core Standards that have been mentioned at recent meetings.
Author Jean Merrill Dies:
Jean Merrill died on August 2 at the age of 89. Merrill, well known for her classic The Pushcart War (Scott, l964) also collaborated with her lifelong companion Ronni Solbert, the original illustrator of the classic Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks (HarperCollins, 1956). For more information, see: www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/books/jean-merrill-childrens-book-writer-dies-at-89.html .
Illustrator Jose Aruego Dies:
Jose Aruego, illustrator of several popular picture books, died on August 9 - his 80th birthday. Many of his books were collaborations with his wife Arianne Dewey; he also illustrated several popular picture books by Robert Kraus including Leo the Late Bloomer. www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=jose-aruego&pid=159169803 .
Remy Charlip Dies at Age 83:
Remy Charlip died at the age of 83 in his longtime San Francisco home. He was the author and illustrator of several picture books, including Fortunately (1964), Sleepytime Rhyme (1999), and Handtalk (1974). He was also a prominent choreographer, founder of the Paper Bag Players theatre company, and model for illustrations of Georges Melies in Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret. www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/obituaries/article/53602-obituary-remy-charlip-.html.
Author Nina Bawden dies, age 87:
Author Nina Bawden, who wrote the novel Carrie's War as well as more than 40 other books for children and adults, has died at age 87. Published in 1973, Carrie's War was her most famous work, based on her World War II evacuation to south Wales. She was also nominated for the Booker Prize in 1987 for Circles of Deceit. Born Nina Mary Mabey in Ilford, Essex, in 1925, Bawden was evacuated at the age of 14, first to Ipswich and then south Wales. Bawden was made a CBE in 1995 and received the prestigious ST Dupont Golden Pen Award for a lifetime's contribution to literature in 2004. For more information, see: m.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/aug/22/nina-bawden-author-carries-war-dies?cat=books&type=article . .
Author Shirley Climo Dies at Age 83:
Shirley Climo, author of many folktales and picture books, has died at age 83. The resident of Los Altos, California, is known for her many adaptations of Cinderella tales from around the world. For more information, see: www.losaltosonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=43961&Itemid=114 .
PEN Awards Announced:
PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship ($5,000): To an author of children's or young-adult fiction, who has published at least two books, to complete a book-length work-in-progress. Judges: Daniel Handler, Lyn Miller-Lachman, and Neal Shusterman.
PEN/Steven Kroll Award Honoring the Author of an Illustrated Childrens Book ($5,000) To a writer for an exceptional story illustrated in a picture book published in 2011. Presented for the first time in 2012. Judges for the inaugural award: Carmen Agra Deedy, Susan Kuklin, and Vera B. Williams.
From time to time, we will reread classics or award winning children's books from the past to see how they might be viewed in our current day.
Merrill, Jean. The Pushcart War. Scott, 1964. 223p.
When I read Jean Merrill's obituary a few weeks ago, I immediately knew the title The Pushcart War even though I had never read it. The book was often requested by 3rd and 4th grade teachers to use as a classroom readaloud, and it was part of the curriculum in some of the local elementary schools. So I checked it out of the library to read it for myself.
After nearly 50 years in publication, The Pushcart War still resonates. It is an allegory about war, and set in New York City, about a fictional "war" that occurred in 1986. Once the reader accepts that this is an "old" book about a fictional war in the future (sort of like Orwell's 1984), it is easy to follow the story. The pen sketches that decorate the chapters add interest - I wish more novels for tweens featured illustration, the way the books of Roald Dahl always have. In writing style, this reminded me of Norton Juster's Phantom Tollbooth (which has great cartoon artwork by Jules Feiffer); it is told as a news report with elements of a fable, which gives it an engaging quality.
The plot concerns an historic war between pushcart operators and the truck drivers who blocked the streets, making it difficult for pushcarts to sell their wares. A reader doesn't have to know what New York City is like - a similar scene could take place in San Francisco's Chinatown or other urban area. The story has humor, and surprisingly, no child as a major character. It is the rare children's book that features all adults as the regular characters.
One chapter concerns a small group of unnamed children who participate in the war, shooting pins at truck tires to sabotage them. It is a little like the U.S. Civil Rights movement, when children marched and participated in boycotts.
It is also a story of the small worker against "big business," which should make a certain political party angry. Recently, the film "The Muppets," released in 2011, drew the ire of some right wingers who felt the plot was "anti-business;" the Muppets battle a big oil tycoon (named Richman) for ownership of the Muppet Theater. The Pushcart War could draw the same criticism for those who don't grasp the point of the book. Or maybe by a few super-rich who do get the point - that the little guy should have a chance to do business as much as "big business."
It is a great novel for the reader to experience allegory and symbolism, because it is funny, so it doesn't come across as heavy-handed. And in many ways, it is very timely. Young people who have seen parents and neighbors participate in the Occupy movement will certainly relate to this story.
Origen, Erich, and Gan Golan. Don't Let the Republican Drive the Bus: a Parody for Voters. Ten Speed Press, 2012. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-60774-392-7.
Using Mo Willems' popular Pigeon character, as well as his style of artwork with dialogue balloons, this is a satire on the Republicans who want to "take back" the government even though they created a huge deficit, started two wars, and put the U.S. on the brink of an economic depression. It is not a spoof of Willems' books, but uses his books as a format for spoofing Republicans - especially the Tea Party people.
The pigeon, dressed like Uncle Sam, implores the reader to let him drive the bus, even though he hates public transportation. The pigeon is a racist as well as a Tea Partier, and references religion and Fox news to justify his opinion. He'll use the bus to run over unions, gay people, and women.
The pigeon wants to get rid of public transportation, libraries, parks, and almost everything else "public". This reminds me of the truck I saw recently in the library parking lot, sporting a Ron Paul for President bumper sticker. There are a few things to admire about Paul, but he would be the first to say the government shouldn't fund libraries because he is a libertarian. At least Paul is consistent; the owner of that truck is not.
The book concludes with an afterword spelling out the intent of the authors, which readers will know from the dedication: "for the 99%". Teachers could use this with older students, to inspire a writing assignment on satire, but of course some Republican parents might object. A fun book you can give as a gift to your favorite librarian.
"Vampires are out - Zombies are in!" Or so I was told by a tween recently. Here are some Zombie programming ideas, probably best suited to those 10 years old and up, as most Zombie books fall into the Young Adult area of the library. Some of these ideas came from Jennifer Lawson of the San Diego Public Library and some are my own. The topic of Zombies is great for a Halloween program but of course you can use this at others times of the year due to the popularity of the subject.
Start the program with make-up tables so everyone who attends can get their "Zombie" on! Have older high school volunteers help with the Zombie make-up - try recruiting the local high school drama club. You can purchase make-up from a Halloween supply store.
Try "brain cake" - chopped up white cake, decorated with raspberry jam and pink frosting, with a few gummy worms thrown in for fun. For a beverage, serve berry juice drink, decorated with ice cubes in which you have frozen plastic bugs.
Zombie Tag: Tape lines on the floor at either end of program room and chose three or four kids to be zombies. The zombie kids stand in the middle of the room and are told that they can't move their feet. The other kids then line up on one side of the room. After you blow a whistle, they have to run en mass to the other side without being touched by a zombie. If a zombie touches them they became zombies themselves. Run this game until there is only one survivor left. The survivor then gets to pick two friends to join him in the middle to be the starter zombies for the next round.
Zombie Marco Polo: Rope off a circular area, and be prepared to yell "out-of-bounds!" to your blindfolded zombie. Make sure it's a trip-proof playing area. This game follows the classic rules of Marco Polo. "It" wears a rubber mask (with blindfold) and hands. Everyone has to stay within the circle while he wanders around with his arms stretched out in front, zombie style (this also keeps him from crashing). When "It" groans, all the players must groan back and extend their arms. This is how the zombie zeroes in on his victims. When a player gets tagged, she becomes the next "It" and gets to wear the mask.
Pin the Heart on the Zombie: Create a life-sized cutout of a zombie. Have each person wear a blindfold and try to pin (or tape) a paper heart cutout on the zombie (like Pin the Tail on the Donkey). The person closest to the where the heart should be wins. This is more difficult than Pin the Brain, since the head is easier to find when blindfolded.
Make Zombie purses as shown here: www.itsonrandom.com/2012/03/morbid-zombie-mondays-zombie-paper.html .
ParaNorman is a new film (released in August 2012) featuring a boy dealing with zombies and ther creatures. This animated film comes from the makers of Coraline, but has no DVD release date as of this writing.
Young Adult Fiction::
Board Book Roud-up
Fall is upon us, which means it is time for BayViews semi-annual review of new board books. We have not received as many books to review as we have in the past; let's hope more are submitted as board books are an important area of children's literature.
Kenney, Sean. Amazing ABC. Holt, 2012. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-9464-0.
Kenney has previously published books on how to make Lego creations, including one on castles, and another on robots. But this is his first Lego board book. Each page contains three items: the letter of the alphabet, a figure made of Legos, and the word for the figure. For example, L shows a lighthouse made of Legos, with the letter L and the word “lighthouse” on the page. This is effective in both teaching the letter and even as an early reader, especially for Lego fans. A useful book that will reach a specific audience of emergent readers who play with Legos.
Cowen-Fletcher, Jane. Baby Be Kind. Candlewick, 2012. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5647-8.
Two babies and their cute bulldog pup demonstrate various ways to be kind - say hi, share snacks, take turns, and so forth. The book is a little too sweet but does convey the message without being heavy-handed. Parents are likely to seek out this type of book to help their toddlers make friends. The watercolor and pencil illustrations have abundant white space and are a great match for the story.
Powell, Debbie. Trucks. Candlewick, 2012. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5934-9.
“Brrrm, brrrm goes the digger” begins this simple celebration of trucks, with the added feature of onomatopoeia. At the end, we discover the five trucks are all helping to build a house. The digitally created illustrations have a geometric feel, and use a lightly colored palette and considerable white space. The illustrations contain some raised elements and foil-like shiny painted areas, which add a tactile feel. Certainly this will please transportation fans.
Yoon, Salina. In the Ocean. Feiwel, 2012. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-312-66300-1.
Part of a series of three books, this reviewer only saw In the Ocean. Each page has a cartoon illustration of a sea animal, along with the animal's name. These include jellyfish, sea horse, sea snail, whale, puffer fish, octopus, sea turtle, coral, stingray, and seaweed. There is a die-cut hole in some pages, and colorful foil papers embedded in some of the illustrations, which add interest. If the other two entries, At the Park and At the Beach, are as good as this, libraries will want to purchase the whole series.
Billet, Marion. Noodle Loves to Drive. Nosy Crow/Candlewick, 2012. $8.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-6273-8.
Noodle the panda is the star of this popular board book series, which features “touch and feel” elements such as a foil mirror embedded into the colorful cartoon illustrations. The tactile element adds interest, and Noodle, who plays with various transportation toys in the rhyming story, is very much like the average toddler.
Patricelli, Leslie. Fa La La. Candlewick, 2012. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-3247-2.
The diaper-clad baby with one springy hair growing out of his head is this center of this Christmas-themed story. He helps his parents pick out and decorate a tree, wraps presents, visits Santa, and more, all done in a humorous first person text and deeply colored acrylic illustrations. If you have some of Patricelli's other board books (Tubby, Potty), you know this will be popular, too, but probably only during the Christmas season.
Yang, Belle. A Nest in Springtime: a Bilingual Book of Numbers. Candlewick, 2012. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5279-1.
Yang, Belle. Summertime Rainbow: a Bilingual Book of Colors. Candlewick, 2012. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5280-7.
Series Review: I cannot verify the accuracy of the Mandarin, but these board books feature simple stories, illustrated with gouache illustrations. A Nest… features a duck family, with eight chicks and two parents. Summertime…features two rabbits noticing colors in their environment, from green grass to a rainbow. The very brief texts fit nicely on the page, even when done in both English and Mandarin, and will engage babies and toddlers. Bay Area communities will find these popular with everyone, not just Chinese-American families.
Bryant, Megan E. Alphasaurus. Illus. by Luciana Navarro Powell. Chronicle, 2012. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4521-0748-6.
Bryant, Megan E. Colorasaurus. Illus. by Luciana Navarro Powell. Chronicle, 2012. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4521-0814-8.
Series Review: These oversized board books are irregularly shaped - they seemed to have been cut to represent the shape of the dinosaur on the cover. The alphabet book features a dinosaur for each letter, beginning with “A is for Allosaurus and its absolutely amazing appetite.” The alliteration is perfect to read to a preschooler, to help with phonological awareness. The book describing colors also features dinosaurs - of course, we do not know what colors the dinosaurs were, so the text describes yellow sand, an orange sun, green leaves, etc. Both books focus on real dinosaurs, not fictional ones. The full color artwork is also very pleasing, and appears to be done with collage or computer generated artwork. Overall, these will be popular with preschoolers; they are a little too long for babies or toddlers.
Kohara, Kazuno. Ghosts In the House. Roaring Brook, 2012. $7.99. ISBN 978-1596437258.
First published as a picture book in 2008, this reproduces the orange and black illustrations from the original, just in a smaller size. The ghosts are done in a translucent white paint, which adds interest. Overall, the larger version has a much bigger impact, so I would stick with the original picture book version.
Murray, Alison. Apple Pie ABC. Disney/Hyperion, 2012. $6.99, ISBN 978-142316629-0.
The picture book (2010) and board version of this effective alphabet book are the same, except the board is smaller in size. But the story, illustrations, and overall theme work just as well in this smaller size, so this is a solid library purchase. The combination of the alphabet, and the story of the dog trying to steal the pie, is joyful. Be on the lookout for the board version of the companion book, One Two That's My Shoe (2012), as soon as it is released.
Dale, Penny. Dinosaur Dig! Nosy Crow/Candlewick, 2012. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-6270-7.
Dinosaurs are seen driving various large tractors and vehicles, all the build a new swimming pool! The text describes the dinos from one to ten, but only the word for the number is included, not the numeral, so this does not work as a counting book. The watercolor and pencil illustrations are quite detailed, so the larger picture book version (originally published in 2011) is much preferred.
McBratney, Sam. Let's Play in the Snow. Illus. by Anita Jeram. Candlewick, 2012. $4.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-6121-2.
The father and son hares from McBratney's Guess How Much I Love You (1994) are featured in this small board book, adapted from either a picture book or an oversized board book first published in 2007. I searched local libraries for the older version and none had it in their catalogs. Jeram's light pastel colors are pleasant, but they give the illustrations a “greeting card” like appearance. The story has the father asking his son “I spy something that belongs to a…” and the son makes a correct guess. The text is very long for a board book - a paragraph on each spread, so this is not really aimed at babies or toddlers.
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