Monday, January 22, 2018

I Love LOVE!

Though a blizzard blows outside, this hyacinth gives me hope for spring, and LOVE is here!

I feel as if I have a little inside track on this book because I first heard about it when I heard de la Peña talk about it at the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival in 2016. Then he gave an amazing session about it at last year's Picture Book Summit.  And now the book is out in the world!

This book for all ages is actually a poem about what love is in its broadest definition. Matt de la Peña's beautiful language ("A cabdriver plays love softly on his radio/while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city...") married to Loren Long's sensitive illustrations demonstrate the many ways love manifests itself in one's life through good and bad. Diverse scenarios, races, religions, and persons show that we all experience--or hope to experience--love. And it's love that gives us the confidence and hope to keep going and giving. This is a book I will read and re-read and re-read and give to others. Recommended for everyone of every age.

Here's a video to give you a taste of the book and more about the author and illustrator:

I had thought about saving this post for Valentine's Day, but to quote the song, "What the world needs now is love, sweet love." Will you share it, LOVE, the book, and love the emotion?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Snow Globe Magic with Melissa Stoller

Snow globes do seem magical. Shake them, create a blizzard, and watch the flakes fall on the scene inside the globe. But what if the globe is really enchanted? Such is the premise in Melissa Stoller's Enchanted Snow Globe Collection, chapter books for young readers, illustrated by Callie Metler-Smith. The first book, Return to Coney Island , is based on a story from the author's family.

In the book, twins Emma and Simon enjoy hearing the story of how their great-grandmother and great-grandfather met at Coney Island. Soon, the magic of their grandmother's snow globe takes them there in the year 1928! The twins must think on their feet as they see similarities and differences between then and now. They experience the roller coaster, board walk, trolley, and other Coney Island attractions as they follow their great-grandmother as a young woman and make sure she meets her mate. What a fun way to make history come alive, and get kids thinking about their own families' pasts! The story is enriched by author Stoller's Family Book Club guide in the back, which includes discussion questions, a recipe, a craft, and family connection ideas. She also lists research links for readers who want to know more. I'm looking forward to the next in the series--The Liberty Bell Train Ride, coming in Spring 2018. Watch for Stoller's debut picture book in 2018, too!

For more about Stoller and her writing, see this interview with kidlit blogger and author, Vivian Kirkfield.

If you know me, you know I'm not a fan of winter, but here it is, January first in North America, so--

Monday, November 6, 2017

You Had Me at "Hello": Therapy Dogs and Reading

Who doesn't love a good dog story? And who doesn't love "hello" more than "goodbye"? That makes Hello Goodbye Dog by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Patrice Barton, a winner! And I was a winner of this book, via an online entry.

Moose, Zara's beloved dog, loves "hello"--"Hello was a ride in the car...Hello was having a book and someone to read it to you...Hello smelled like homemade cookies...." So when Moose insists on running away from home to join Zara at school, you can imagine the chaos that caused. Barton's illustrations capture all the messy antics. Well, we all know that dogs don't belong at school--or do they? Moose was miserable and hated the word "goodbye," which Gianferrari defines as poetically as she defined "hello." Fortunately, Zara has an idea she can act upon, and before long, Moose becomes a therapy dog who comes to school and lets kids read to him. That made everyone happy, well summed up in Barton's final cozy illustration.

An author note tells more about therapy dogs as non-judgmental listeners. As Gianferri says, "It's the perfect combination: tales and tails!"

Thank you, Maria, for this wonderful story and the gift of this book!

Another recently published book about a therapy dog is Madeline Finn and the Library Dogwritten and illustrated by Lisa Papp. For Madeline Finn, reading is hard, and the teacher is always telling her to read. Reading out loud is even harder and embarrassing. Ugh. Madeline tries. She sets a goal to achieve a gold star, but that result is not forthcoming. And then--at a trip to the public library, Madeline is introduced to Bonnie, a big white dog. Madeline reads to her and with Bonnie's calm presence, Madeline gains confidence and reading fluency. Madeline gets her gold star at school and goes to the library to give it to Bonnie, who had been absent the week before. Papp ends the book with a lovely surprise and more opportunities for Madeline's reading. The soft, warm illustrations support the story and the tone of the book. I especially like that Madeline's reading progress was not an overnight success, but a process.

Finally, please click this link and meet Roxie, one of the friendly Tail Waggin Tutors therapy dogs that visits the library where I work and lets kids read to her. Watching kids interact with Roxie, whether they read to her or not, is always fun. They usually start out hesitant, especially if the child is much smaller than the dog. But when Roxie seems to like their attention, they are happy--and so is Roxie.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Halloweensie Fun

Ladies and Gentlemen!

The contest is fun and offers an opportunity to win great prizes. You, too, can enter--IF YOU DARE!
Basic Rules: Write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children using the words candy, monster, and shadow. Full info on the contest link above. MUST be posted by midnight 10/31.

So--here goes, folks. We all know this is not great literature, but I tried. Did you?

The Monster’s Regret

The monster crept
Behind the kids,
As they went trick or treating.
The monster leapt
Upon a bag
Of candy corn for eating.
The children wept
For loss of sweets
And fear of monster beatings.
The monster swept
Away a tear
Of sorrow that’s defeating.
The monster stepped
Up to the kids,
His candy swipe deleting.
The monster kept
No candy corn.
To keep it would be cheating.
The monster slept
Quite well that night
In shadows and clean sheeting.

Happy Halloweening!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Curiosity & Electric Ideas!

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it's from curiosity that we learn, invent, discover, and create.

From this premise and author Tory Christie's passion to encourage young people--especially girls--to explore science, The Curious McCarthy four-book set was born. 

Ten-year-old Curious, whose real name is Curie (after Marie, the scientist), is one of seven kids with an English teacher mom and an engineer dad. The family and other characters are introduced with humor in illustrations by Mina Price at the beginning of the books. 

In Curious McCarthy's Electric Ideas, the electricity goes off at the McCarthy home, leading Curious to be, well, curious, about electricity. Where does it come from? How does it work? She develops a hypothesis and tries to beat her trouble-maker little brother, John Glenn, in figuring it out. She also tries to beat a schoolmate in the annual arm wrestling championship. You'll have to read it to find out what happens.

This is a fiction book, yet the author includes footnotes. You say you skip those? Oh, don't! These are full of humor and tangential information. Be careful as you read, though, or you might learn something about electricity. Kids will love the school and family situations and great humor throughout.

Each book can stand alone, but contains the same family of characters. Other books in the set:

 Author Tory Christie, pen name of Victoria Christensen and Dakotas-Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) member agreed to answer a few questions.

Jane: What would you like our readers to know?

Tory: I think science should be fun and I hope that the Curious McCarthy books reflect that. I'd love to see more kids (and adults) approach the world with a sense of curiosity and wonder. 

Jane: I love Curious McCarthy’s Electric Ideas and look forward to reading the other 3 titles in this set!  Which one did you write first and what was the spark (pun intended) for the characters and plot?

Tory: Thank you so much for the feedback. I hope you love the other three titles just as much! I wrote the Power of Observation first. It was based on the true story of when I went to a new school. I don't want this to be a spoiler, so I won't spill the beans on what happens in that first book. You'll just have to read the story! Every book is loosely based on true events and the characters are based on my family. Oh ... wait ... the books are fiction ... really. Let's just say that my childhood and my large family gave me a lot of inspiration for the characters in the Curious McCarthy books. As for the plot, that is based on my quest to become a real scientist, even though I didn't have any science role models as a kid.

Jane: Usually when an author turns a manuscript in to an editor, it takes a year or more before it’s actually ready for publication. Your story is much different! Tell us about it.

Tory: Curious McCarthy started out as a picture book in the spring of 2016, believe it or not. I sent it to an agent who loved the voice, but thought it was better material for a chapter book. So, I spent a few weeks revising. In June of 2016, I brought the book to a SCBWI in Fargo to have it critiqued by editor Julie Gassman of Capstone Publishing. She introduced herself as the youngest in a family of nine, and I knew right then that she would "get" the humor of being part of a large family. She asked for the full manuscript right away. I wrote Family Chemistry and Electric Ideas as I waited for an answer. Before I knew it, I had a four book contract and spent much of the fall of 2016 working with Julie and Capstone's team on editing the first three books and writing the fourth, Not-So-Perfect Pitch.

Jane: Are you working on more science-related books? What should we watch for from you?

Tory: Right now I am working on two children's non-fiction books that are more closely related to my career as a scientist. The first is on Renewable Energy and the second is called Where's the Water? They should be published some time this spring.

Jane: Are you more like Curious McCarthy or like John Glenn? ;)

Tory: Really? John Glenn and I have nothing in common!

Jane: Hmm...I'm curious about that, Tory. I'll have to read the other books and get to know you better to find out if you're telling the truth! I'll watch for your other books, too! Thanks for the interview!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Nothing Gold Can Stay: Happy Autumn!

We spent the second week of September exploring the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (also knows as the North Dakota Badlands), where we saw our first real glimpses of leaves changing color. What a glorious time to be there!

I love fall--the beauty of the variety of colors, the crisp morning air and warm days. But I am all too aware of impending winter, and the constant, slow change of nature. As I walk among the changing leaves, I think of Robert Frost's poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay."

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.

Please read the rest here. Go ahead, click. It's short.

Here's Frost himself reciting it:

and from me, with apologies to Frost,

Make the most of every day,
Grab what's golden on the way,
Knowing that it cannot stay,
Be thankful for the moment.

Happy Fall!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Goodbye Summer!

On this first day of fall, I want to share a few summer tidbits and revisit connections to a couple of books.

We had some great family times, including our almost-five-year-old granddaughter's first bike rides. She invited us to her house to watch her ride because the video on her mom's phone just wasn't enough.

Charles Ghigna covered this in his forth-coming book First Times. I blogged about that book here.
"The first time I help my mother go shopping.
The first time I ride my bike without stopping."

It was a proud time for all of us, and we were pleased to see our granddaughter's grit as she fell and got up again, learning to master the turns.

Another highlight was meeting Andrea Page, author of Sioux Code Talkers of World War II, and hearing her presentation based on her book. She packed our library meeting room, and people even came from other towns to learn more about this important topic. I blogged about the book here.

I'm thankful that Andrea and the family who traveled with her from Rochester, NY, had a great time in my state. You can see her remarks here, here, here, and here. And our tourism bureau did not pay her for any of these glowing reports!

What were some of your great times this summer? Bye, summer, and hello, fall!