Friday, April 27, 2012

Wordless Caldecott Winner

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
Caldecott Medal, 2012
The Caldecott medal went to this book for 2012. The Randolph Caldecott Medal is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children

A Ball for Daisy is a story of loss — a little dog loses her favorite red ball to a much larger dog. Check out this book to find out what happens! (It has a happy ending). 
Chris Raschka does an amazing job of drawing every nuance of this little dog's emotions. You can tell when she is happy (perky ears), sad (droopy tail)...simply delightful.
Here are some selections from this adorable picture book:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Favorite Book of All

“Who is Alice?" asked mother.
"Alice is somebody that nobody can see," said Frances.
"And that is why she does not have a birthday.
So I am singing Happy Thursday to her."

Frances in A Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban

Monday, April 23, 2012

Don't Take Away the Choices - Help Children to DISCERN Good Literature

Summed up in one word, sign me up as AGAINST!

Some days I shelve books that I roll my eyes at, some days I see books being checked out that I think, "why would you waste your time?" But as much as I think a major part of my job is to help students find GOOD books, and to help direct them toward literature that I believe is worthy of their time, in no way do I think the other books don't also deserve a place.

I read some books that others might find boring, or cutting edge. I allow my child to have access to some materials others would not choose, and vice versa. I've worked in libraries where we buy and shelve some really crappy books (pardon the language). I've worked in libraries where many materials were "hidden" from student access - one in particular where DK Eyewitness books on Ancient Greece were hidden away because of naked statues, such as Michelangelo's David....sigh....

I'm not a fan of the Urban Fiction genre - I don't think children need to read books about abuse, teen pregnancy and drug abuse. On the other side of the coin, I really dislike the Left Behind series of "End Times" stories for teens - another ugh.

Being in the library and looking for a book is very similar to being in the world. In both there are many choices, some are fabulous, some are mediocre, some are only silly but fun, and some are not great choices. Learning to discern good literature is a good way to begin to use discernment in other areas of life. Small choices of choosing wisely will hopefully lead to continued wise choices in bigger areas of life.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"He used often to say there was only one Road;
that it was like a great river:
 its springs were at every doorstep,
and every path was its tributary.
'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,'
he used to say. 'You step into the Road,
and if you don't keep your feet,
 there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'"

- Frodo Baggins, quoting Bilbo Baggins
in The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Life's Choices

“It is our choices, Harry,
that show us what we truly are,
far more than our abilities.”
― Albus Dumbledore in  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
by J.K. Rowling

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Joyful Display -- The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola

 The Clown of God
by Tomie dePaola

The Clown of God is one of my all time favorite books. No matter how often I look at the illustrations, or read the story aloud, it never ceases to deeply move me. This llustrations are classic Tomie de Paola. Again you can see his influence of liturgical and classical art.

In the beginning, Tomie includes the note on the origins of the story:
The French legend of the little juggler who offers the gift of his talent and the miracle that occurs is well known. The version I loved as a child was the one told by the master storyteller Anatole France. In the oral tradition, storytellers through the centuries have told and retold tales, changing them often to fit their own lives and mores. Following this tradition, I have lovingly retold this ancient legend, shaping it to my own life and experience, and called it by its oldest known title.

The story begins long ago in Sorrento, Italy with a young beggar orphan. He can juggle and does so to earn money and lodging from the fruit vendor.

One day a traveling group of players comes through town and Giovanni (the orphan) is amazed and asks to join them on their travels, using his juggling talents to perform.

Giovanni joins the show and soon is performing on the stage to enraptured audiences.

As the story continues Giovanni become famous and performs around the country,
even for royalty.
One day he encounters two Little Brothers who he shares his food with.
They tell him they travel through out the land to spread the joy of God.
They tell Giovanni that he gives glory to God
by giving happiness through his performances
to his audiences. He laughs at this and says, "if you say so".
He travels for years continuing to provide joy and happiness to his audiences.

Over the years he would continue to perform but people would turn away and say, "It's only the old clown who juggles things. We've all seen him before".
As he grew older, the crowd only laughed and mocked him.
Giovanni decided to put away his costume and quit juggling forever.
He became a ragged beggar, just as he had as a child.

He knew it was time to go "home" and returns to Sorrento. He arrives on a winter night and sees the monastery church of the Little Brothers. He sneaks inside to sleep. He is awoken to the church lit with candlelight and filled with people singing, "Gloria, Gloria!" The service is the procession of the gifts to the Holy Child.
He too wants to give a gift to the Holy Child, but all that he has is his gift of performance.

The ending is awe inspiring and grips my heart. You'll have to read the book to see what happens next. I don't want to spoil it for anyone.
It is a wonderful book, haunting and profound.
Please, read this book!
Here is a link to Tomie dePaola's blog where he discusses this book and the legend.

Tomie's Blog
“Dad always says to me,
 ‘Marco, keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see.’”

And to Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street
by Dr. Seuss

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.png

Side Note: I love this quote. My favorite high school teacher wrote this on a card for me
at graduation. I still have the note.

Friday, April 13, 2012

- Max in Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak
1964 Caldecott Medal

The Wheel On the School

The Wheel on the School
by Meindert DeJong
Newbery Award Medal, 1955

Let me start by saying that I just read this book. I've been slowly trying to read through the list of all the Newbery Award books. This one, from 1955, seemed promising. The blurb was that it was about school children in The Netherlands who wondered why storks no longer returned to their town, and how they set out to resolve this. I thought this sounded sweet and delightful, yet only now got around to reading it.

I began to read it and immediately they ascertained that to lure the storks they needed trees and wheels on the roofs of their buildings, neither of which they had. I thought that since now we know why they don't come, why could we possibly have 280 more pages to go? I was worried this book might be a yawn. 

As it turns out, the stork and nests are only the framework for the real meat of the story. As events unfolded, I became completely enraptured with this story. The school children (all six of them) are all focused and determined to bring storks back to their village of Shora. Inevitably, they end up uniting their small community, and creating wonderful relationships with the elders of the village, as well as a disabled recluse. Throughout the story we see relationships fostered, problem solving handled, crisis averted, and other wonderful situations of life all while hoping to bring the storks back to Shora.

It isn't easy to have a hope and a dream, and to try to realize how to bring dreams to fruition. This story has a wonderful, happy ending, but doesn't come to it in a quick, nor easy way.  This story is really lovely, and would make a wonderful read aloud with younger children.

I realized I didn't really know too much about storks, nor about this remote island area of The Netherlands along the North Sea. It's always wonderful when a book stirs our desire to learn more about new things. This book would be a great tool to jump off to do a unit study on birds and their migration, or on the Netherlands.
maurice sendak the wheel on the school
The author, Meindert DeJong is the award-winning author of many classic books for children. DeJong was born in Friesland, the Netherlands, and immigrated to the United States in 1914. He served in WWII in China. This book was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1955. The Newbery recognizes the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children each year.

Another bonus is the wonderful illustrations by Maurie Sendak (of Where the Wild Things Are). Six of DeJong's books were illustrated by Sendak.


Below is a photo of a diorama a child made while studying the book. Links below.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One of My Favorite Book Quotes...

“(Frances has gotten out of bed again
and come to her parents' room...)
'How can the wind have a job?' asked Frances.
'Everybody has a job,' said Father.
'I have to go to my office every morning at nine o'clock. 
That is my job. You have to go to sleep so you can be wide awake for school tomorrow. That is your job.'
Frances said, 'I know, but...'
Father said, 'I have not finished. If the wind does not blow
the curtains, he will be out of a job. 
If I do not go to the office, I will be out of a job. 
And if you do not go to sleep now,
 do you know what will happen to you?'
'I will be out of a job?' said Frances.
'No,' said Father.
'I will get a spanking?' said Frances.
'Right!' said Father.
'Good night!' said Frances, and she went back to her room.”    

--Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban
“Patience, he thought.
So much of this was patience - waiting,
and thinking and doing things right.
So much of all this,
so much of all living
was patience and thinking.”   

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

The Sorely Trying Day..Who hasn't had one of those?

Sorely Trying Day
The Sorely Trying Day
by Lillian & Russell Hoban
1964 (recently republished)

First of all, let me begin by saying that Russell Hoban is one of my favorite authors. Most noted for the Francis books...

 Bedtime for Frances

A Birthday for Frances

 A Baby Sister for Frances

 Bread and Jam for Frances

I love Frances, and love those books. They are still funny and delightful after countless readings. Frances wasn't the only books he wrote though, sadly several other great titles were out of print.

One of them, The Sorely Trying Day, is now back in print! Yeah!!
The story begins with Father arriving home from a sorely trying day (who can't relate to that?). Father would like a little peace and quiet, but no, he comes home to consternation and confusion! The cat is atop the grandfather clock, the dog barking, and his four children squabbling and hitting each other. Mother is being ignored by all.

Father attempts to sort out the situation. A bevy of recriminations ensue; each blames the next in line, and the children are punished for their various misdeeds.

And the punishment for behaving so badly to each other? They will not be allowed to press flowers in their scrapbooks for a week. But flower-pressing is their favorite activity! These are good children at heart who just happened to be having a bad day. A surprising twist to the blaming ensues when the mouse decides that "All this suffering must end somewhere"...  "Let it end with me, since I am the least of the least." He prepares to die, but the cat exclaims, "You are insufferable, and I refuse to let you die a hero's death." The cat then apologizes to the dog, and each continues on and on to take responsibility and apologize. 

This is a wonderful moral lesson. It works because it never gets preachy. Plus, most children easily recognizes themselves in the story. As a parent, one of my favorite aspects of this story comes after everyone has taking responsibility for their part and apologized, the children hope that they will no longer need to suffer a punishment, However, Father says, "Every action has its consequence, and bad acts must be punished so that they will not be repeated."
Alas, still no flower pressing. Father does note that there are only three days left of the week so that they only have a little punishment to endure.


What Happens In Bookstores At Night - The Joy of Books

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


“You can’t help respecting anybody
who can spell TUESDAY,
even if he doesn’t spell it right;
but spelling isn’t everything.
There are days when spelling Tuesday
simply doesn’t count.”

- Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

Be Careful Choosing the Wind that Takes the Ship From a Safe Port

“A sailor chooses the wind
that takes the ship from a safe port.
Ah, yes, but once you're abroad,
as you have seen,
winds have a mind of their own.
Be careful, Charlotte,
careful of the wind you choose.”    

Not Every Good Book is Great for Your Child

When I was a middle elementary child, all the girls were reading, Blubber and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret., by Judy Blume. They were rather controversial and a bit scandalous for the times. I read them too, but not because my mother wanted me to. In fact I remember bringing Blubber home and having my mother take it and read it first, and then talking to me about the themes of the story. I think I honestly snuck the second book home and read it on the sly (I was a dream child like that).

Truthfully neither book is quite scandalous in comparison to other books published for children of today. Neither book is also commonly read by children today. But at that time, everyone was reading them, and they were not appropriate for all children. In context of popular books of today, and considering that so many books have low reading levels that include content appropriate for older teens, you often find a child who is capable of the text of a book, but not appropriately ready for the content. Young adult means young "adult" – teens and up.

Recently at Christmas, I observed several young children receive books for gifts (yeah!), but was a bit concerned when they showed me the titles. Great book, yes. Good for a 9 year old? No! Without going into lengthy discussion of what those titles were or what age I think particular popular titles are appropriate for, I will extol parents to be the guide with your child when they pick out literature. I believe a good librarian will also try to steer children into appropriately good books.
This past fall I read To Kill a Mockingbird with my fourteen-year old. One of my favorite books. He was at the perfect point to deal with the themes of the book, but I still flinched a bit in discussing the purported rape of Mayella Ewell (Atticus also "sighs" when Scout asks him what rape is). We read it together and it opened the door to some great conversations. I recently spoke with a parent of an eleven-year old that asked me if they thought this would be a good book for their child to read? Did I know their child could handle reading the text, yes, but I didn't think the content was appropriate for that age child. The best part though, was that the parent was thinking about what their child was reading, could read, and what they'd like for their child to read.

Parents are the gate keepers to their children's minds. You know what your standards are, and what you feel is appropriate for YOUR child. When in doubt, read it yourself to make an informed decision.

I'm saddened when I see the push for children to enter into the world of adults and adult issues and problems. The general shifting in young adult novels to stories of trauma, abuse, sex, violence, cursing etc. has become prevalent. Can't we allow children to remain children for awhile longer? There are so many WONDERFUL stories for children, let's choose some of these books for them to read first. Allow the older themed titles for when your children are older.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Beauty of Love

“The world is indeed full of peril
and in it there are many dark places.
But still there is much that is fair.
And though in all lands,
love is now mingled with grief,
it still grows, perhaps,
the greater.”
Haldir of Lorien in The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Good Friday and Aslan

“It means,” said Aslan,
“that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic,
there is a magic deeper still which she did not know.
 Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. 
But if she could have looked a little farther back,
into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned,
she would have read there a different incantation. 
She would have known that when a willing victim
who had committed no treachery
was killed in a traitor’s stead,
the Table would crack
and Death itself would start working backwards.”

--from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

Tomie dePaola on the Saints and Other Religious Books for Children

Considering this is Holy Week, I thought I'd mention some books I love by Tomie dePaola.

He's most famous for his bookCover Strega Nona, but has written and illustrated more than 200 books.

DePaola went to art school and then decided to became a Benedictine monk (Benedictines specialize in art and liturgy). However, he only spent a few months at the Priory before he decided not to continue his pursuit. Never-the-less, he has specialized in liturgical art and has written and illustrated many wonderful books for children.

He has two collections of stories about Jesus, including the miracles of Jesus, and the the parables of Jesus.

The Miracles of Jesus
The Miracles of Jesus
Beginning with the baptism of Jesus, dePaola brings the New Testament to life with this collection of twelve miracles. DePaola writes that his illustrations are inspired by Romanesque art. The illustrations are lovely.

Front Cover
The Parables of Jesus
An illustrated retelling of seventeen parables of Jesus . Great collection.
Mary: The Mother of Jesus
Mary: The Mother of Jesus
This is a beautiful book telling the story of Mary from her childhood to her assumption into Heaven.
DePaola has also has written some wonderful books on Christian Saints.
 Francis: The Poor Man of Assisi
 Francis: The Poor Man of Assisi
Tells of the life of Saint Francis.
 Patrick: Patron Saint Of Ireland
 Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland
Retells the life and legends of Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Tells of his missionary years and some of the stories attributed to him (driving the snakes from Ireland, and using the clover to explain the Holy Trinity).

The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica

 The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica    
One additional title, yet not by Tomie dePaola, which includes stories of Christian Saints is  Saintly Tales and Legendsby Lois Rock

Saintly Tales and Legends

Includes seventeen stories and legends of Saints from all over the world. A wonderful resource for reading aloud with children (I read aloud with my child when he was eleven).
This collection really bring history and Christian tradition together fabulously. This also includes a section with faith lessons drawn from each tale which are a good resource to use while reading with your child.