Sunday, October 30, 2016

BOO! Happy Halloween!

Some of my favorite books as a child were about friendly, happy ghosts and cute, adorable witches. It was a different time. I remember ordering these titles from the Scholastic Book Club and being SO EXCITED when that box of books arrived and my teacher unpacked them.
I wish I'd kept all those books from back then as most of these books are out of print, or hard to find - but I'm sure you can locate a copy at your public library. Check them out and tell me that you don't see how these adorable little "Halloween" creatures are not the same as ones in books today.

The Georgie books by Robert Bright which he wrote beginning in 1944.
These are the most adorable ghost books. There is a series of  titles but these are the ones I remember (and own) and am most fond of.

Georgie is a gentle ghost, and also quite shy. He lives in the attic of the Whittacker family in New England.

(published in 1944)
Georgie is a sweet ghost that lives in the Whittacker family attic. He thoughtfully creaks the steps and the door each evening and other ghostly duties. Everything changes though when Mr. Whittacker fixes the step and the door and Georgie think he needs to find a new purpose. It is adorable!

Georgie's Halloween
(published in 1958)
Sweet little Georgie follows his family to the town costume contest. Halloween is a night that he can be out and not be noticed as out of the ordinary. He is too shy to enter the costume contest, however once home in his attic his friend the owl and the cat give him an award for the best costume.

Georgie and the Robbers
(published in 1963)
Some foolish robbers break in to the Whittacker home to steal their antique furniture, but they are no match for Georgie, the cat and the owl. Good fun!
Image result for gus was a friendly ghost
Gus the Friendly Ghost
by Jane Thayer 
(published in 1962)
Another friendly little ghost. He lives in the summer home of the Scott family. When they leave the house for the winter he gets quite lonely and befriends a mouse (a bad idea in my book). They have a lovely winter together but things go wrong when the Scott family returns the next summer.

I could digress and say this book could have an alternate title such as
Why You Shouldn't Make Friends with Rodents or something like that but Gus was a Friendly Ghost will do.

Another great series is by Patricia Coombs who wrote the Dorrie books.
Sweet little Dorrie has a hard time keeping her hat straight and her socks up. She lives with her mother, Big Witch, and her cat, Grink.
Image result

Dorrie's Magic (Dorrie the Little Witch, #1)
Dorrie's Magic
(published in 1962)
Dorrie tries to use magic to clean her room and the results are not at all what she expected!

Image result for dorrie the witch
Dorrie and the Blue Witch
(published in 1964)
While Dorrie is home alone having a tea party with Grink, her cat, the bad Blue Witch comes to her house and Dorrie manages to capture her and win a prize.
Image result

Dorrie and the Goblin (Dorrie the Little Witch, #9)
Dorrie and the Goblin
(published in 1962)
Dorrie has to babysit a young goblin and finds out how hard babysitting the young can be.

What the Witch Left
What the Witch Left
by Ruth Chew
I loved this story and it made such an indelible imprint on my mind that I had to try to pick readers brains to remember the title. Once I did I quickly re-bought a copy and reread it!
The story is of two children who find a locked cabinet with mysterious objects that seem ordinary but quickly find out they are not.

One of the items is a pair of old red, rubber boots. These are the fabled Seven-League boots and this item alone made me want to have a pair of these for myself!

Another Ruth Chew book is
The Wednesday Witch
The Wednesday Witch
She rides a vacuum cleaner instead of a broom and stops at a house and accidentally leaves her cat, Cinders, behind.

Ruth Chew's books have since been republished but I prefer the more simple, less comic style of old.
What the Witch LeftThe Wednesday Witch (A Matter-of-Fact Magic Book)

The Little Leftover Witch
The Little Leftover Witch
by Florence Laughlin
Felina is a little witch whose broom breaks and she gets stuck in a tree outside of the Doon family house. She has to wait until the following Halloween when she can fly through the sky again and so the family takes her in. It's a sweet little story.

Also republished but the cover above is better (to me) than the new one.

Boo! Happy Reading!

Reading all of the Newbery Award Books - 5 Hits and a Miss

I've had the goal of reading all of the Newbery Awards for some time. I own almost all of them which has been a feat unto itself. Many of them from about 1955 back are out of print, and some are extremely rare and I cant find them...even at my public library.
However I've always held the Newbery Award to a standard that I assumed was a mark of excellence and that even if I didn't LOVE a book, I would at least find merit and enjoy it (which I've since found out to be untrue).

An interesting thing for a book nerd like me, is to read some of the winners in chronological order and I get a glimpse into the mind of the committee and what they perceived as excellence, as well as the factors of culture and time. But most people won't care about that I know.

Here are a few of my summer Newbery reads that I loved:

Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out & Back Again
by Thanhha Lai
I loved this book so much that I've been itching to read her latest book but have been "pacing" myself:
Listen, Slowly
Listen, Slowly

This novel, Inside Out & Back Again, written in verse, has won all sorts of awards and accolades. It is based on the author's own experience of coming to the United States as a Vietnamese Refugee at the age of 10. She and her family arrive in Alabama from Saigon and the family struggles to adapt and meld into American life. It is beautiful and lyrical and full of love and happiness and a wonderful account of the immigrant experience.
Eye opening for me.
In one scene in the book, Kim Hà (the young girl) returns to school from Christmas break wearing the new warm plaid dress she received as a gift from a neighbor. All the students giggle and laugh because it is a nightgown. One girl explains to her that she should have realized it was a nightgown because of the small flower applique at the neck. She rips the flower off and then tells the kids that now it is a dress.
Some portions are quite memorable, such as Kim Hà's difficulty with English.

“Whoever invented English
should have learned
to spell."

I cannot recommend this book enough!

A Single Shard
A Single Shard
by Linda Sue Park

First of all this is a good example of bad cover art versus good cover art. I've owned this book forever, and frankly it never stood out to me as a Newbery I was excited to read. I owned this title:
That cover maybe works for you but to me it said "boring". In my book purchasing I saw the paperback version at the top and was intrigued and purchased it. The paperback cover, with those wonderful green tones, captivated me and made me want to read it. I talk about the various cover art on a book and how it can pull a child in or push a child away much more frequently than we as adults even consider. This for me was a good example. But I digress...

This story is set in 12th Century Korea, a time I knew nothing about. Tree-Ear is an orphan who lives in a small village known for their celadon pottery. He spies on a master potter wishing to learn the trade. Through a course of accidents and interactions he become the worker for the master potter and eventually embarks on a long travel to bring the master's work to the Emperor.  The books is quiet and very well written.

Heart of a Samurai
Heart of a Samurai
by Margi Preus

Author Margi Preus is a native Minnesotan, so I was glad I liked this book.
The story is based on the true account of a young Japanese boy who is considered the first Japanese to ever set foot in America. He is shipwrecked in 1821, with other poor fisherman from his village and picked up by an American ship and brought to Hawaii. He eventually is taken in by an American sailor who bring him to Massachusetts. He eventually returns to Hawaii and works his way to return to Japan where he is immediately held as a spy for a foreign country. This is during the time of the Shogunate when Japan had isolated itself from the outside world and any Japanese that left and returned would be put to death as a traitor. However the Emperor recognized the knowledge and wealth of information in young Manjiro and brought him in to tutor his children. He eventually taught Math, English, and ship building in Japan and introduced the whaling industry. He also translated the American Practical Navigator, written by Nat Bowditch (which was interesting as I'd just finished reading
Image result for carry on mr. bowditch
Carry On Mr. Bowditch right before I read this. An EXCELLENT story as well, and a book that has one of the absolute worst covers ever!).

This all sounds dry and dull, factual and not very enticing for a young read, but it isn't. It's exciting and has some wonderful suspense-filled moments. The fortitude and resilience of Manjiro is quite compelling, especially considering how young he was through all of these events.

A great read aloud!

Moon Over Manifest
Moon Over Manifest
by Clare Vanderpool

This is one of the longest Newbery winners out there, and I won't deny that I feel it could have been edited down a bit. However the story is really interesting, and a fun read.  It is set during the depression and is an atmospheric southern small town type story.
Abilene is sent to Manifest, Kansas, to live with her father's friend while he is gone working on the railroad.
She finds a hidden box of mementos, letters and photos and slowly pieces together the mystery of the story they tell and how it involves her father.
It was a fun, floating in the pool in the sun type book.

My caveat is only that pieces of the mystery are put together for Abilene by a local diviner. She's really a kooky old lady, but if you have an issue with diviners etc. that's a component of the story.

The Crossover
The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander

This is the Newbery winner from last year, 2015. It is another story told in verse, a style I haven't always cared for, but this book does it exceptionally well. It truly reads lyrically as poetry in many parts.

The story is of two twin brothers, their life as basketball players as they grown up and drift apart going into junior high. This is not just a sports story, it's a wonderful coming-of-age story filled with family dynamics and life lessons learned. It's also a very good choice for a reluctant reader and can be pointed out that even though the book looks large, the verse style means it reads much quicker that the child may think it will. (This can be a selling point with books as children often like books they think are shortest).

This book was great and Kwame Alexander just released his next novel
Image result for booked

Booked which I haven't read yet, but is short listed for many awards for 2016.

So there are more Newbery books I'll get to later that have been hits for me.
But here is my latest miss. When I say it was a "miss" I don't mean I hated it however I just had higher hopes for the book and expected to really enjoy it. I know this title is absolutely raved by some and so it is still worth checking out.

Brown Girl Dreaming
Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson

This won just about every award it could in 2015. It's another told in verse. It had many aspects that I truly enjoyed, but it just fell apart for me near the end and seemed too long and too specific about Jacqueline Woodson's evolution into a writer. It became a book too specific about books (weird I didn't enjoy that one) about authors, about writing and lost my interest.
It is the author's memoir of growing up as a young black girl in the 1960's and 1970's in South Carolina and then New York. The author is a wonderful writer and portions of this book are lyrical and beautiful. It is a book that many people whose opinion of books I hold in high regard have loved, so it is still a book I would definitely recommend to people to pick up and read and make their own decisions upon.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Return to Blogging and an Update on My Reading of "All the Books"

Even though I haven't blogged for over a year my life still revolves around books. Great books, old books, classic books, and here and there a few I'd like to throw against the wall.

This past fall my one and only child moved on to University. After 18 years of constantly spending time picking up dirty socks and wet towels and responding to requests for a second or third meal, I have found myself at a point of needing to find other ways to fill my free time.

I still live and breathe books, I work in a library and spend much of my free time seeking out books, reading about books, buying books, making lists of books, and often even reading books. I have decided that while my child is away at school that I will read "all of the books". And thus that is what I will return to blogging to write about.

So there...

Initially I have been trying to read all of the Newbery Award and Honor winning books. It's a hefty list and I decided I would return to that goal. Of course I quickly began adding to the goal and soon added other awarded books. Books such as the Printz Award winners (the Printz award is given to "books that exemplify literary excellence in young adult literature" -- some of these have made me realize my idea of "excellence" is very different from others). Also on my list became the Batchelder Awards (awarded for a children's book originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and translated to English for the U.S.). And lastly the Sibert Award which I really enjoy as it is given to outstanding informational texts for children, meaning non-fiction.

Of course my lists have grown, and I chronicle all that I read and rate on Goodreads. I stumbled upon the New York Review Children's Collection which publishes some long forgotten or out of print titles for children to young adults which is right in my wheelhouse. I have a love of older literature, and have a love of the forgotten.

So far since embarking on my goal of reading "all the books" I have read 70 titles with a goal of 30 more by the end of the year. Summertime proved successful at my finishing almost a book a day, back to school time has made it more difficult. If you have any recommendations for me to add to my reading list, please send! You can follow me on Goodreads:

Let me add that I am a touch critic. I see a lot of people star everything 5 stars - excellent! I find very few books to hit that mark, so truly if I've given something 4 stars, it really was quite good to me, and 3 stars are good and I enjoyed them.

After this I will begin to comment more specifically on what I've been reading and what I'd love to suggest to others to read as well.

Happy Reading!