Monday, January 31, 2011

Philip Pullman and Libraries

I read an article today that has the text of a speech given by children's author Philip Pullman in England.  Pullman was speaking at a meeting to try and keep 20 out of 43 libraries in Oxfordshire from closing.  It is an interesting article but I especially liked this quote:

"I still remember the first library ticket I ever had. It must have been about 1957. My mother took me to the public library just off Battersea Park Road and enrolled me. I was thrilled. All those books, and I was allowed to borrow whichever I wanted! And I remember some of the first books I borrowed and fell in love with: the Moomin books by Tove Jansson; a French novel for children called A Hundred Million Francs; why did I like that? Why did I read it over and over again, and borrow it many times? I don’t know. But what a gift to give a child, this chance to discover that you can love a book and the characters in it, you can become their friend and share their adventures in your own imagination."

Libraries.  Let's keep them open.  

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Just across the Washington DC border in Kensington, MD is a quaint one room children's library.  The Noyes Library was built in 1893 and is older than the current Library of Congress by four years.  The library is filled with children's books, dvds, puzzles, toys and a coloring station.  This is our favorite library to frequent because it is so inviting for young children.  My daughter loves to color a picture and then ask the librarian for a book about dogs, or horses or fairies.  The librarian helps her find the books while explaining to her how the library is set up and how to find books.

Libraries (and librarians) are such an important resource for children.  Libraries offer a wide selection of books, and librarians can supply a vast amount of knowledge on which ones a child may like.  I know that with budget cuts many libraries are struggling and facing shorter hours, possible closure and fewer new books.  This week a lot of the books I will feature in my posts will be books that we have found at the library either by chance or by a suggestion from our librarian.
Do you have a library you love to frequent?

image from Noyes Library Foundation

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

You Are My I Love You

A few years ago my close friend's dad passed away.  I wanted to give her something to let her know I was thinking about her.  I decided to try and find a children's book that captures the relationship between a child and her father.  This proved a little difficult as it seemed like most books had mothers or were specifically about fathers and sons.  But then I found You Are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano and illustrated by Satomi Ichikawa.
I loved it.  It is about the parent child relationship and since it is illustrated with bears it is gender neutral (although I personally think it looks like a dad and a daughter).  It begins with 

"I am your parent;
you are my child.
I am your quiet place;
you are my wild."

And it continues in this manner - I am . . . you are . . . . It shows the parent as the steady, loving influence that is always there for his child and the child as the fun, puddle jumping, exploring - give meaning to life - influence on her parent.  It is a very sweet book and a great gift for many occasions - father's (or mother's) day, graduation, birthdays . . .

Monday, January 24, 2011

Library Lion

A favorite picture book at our house is Library Lion written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.  One day a lion wanders into the public library and falls asleep on a pillow in the story corner.  "No one was sure what to do.  There weren't any rules about lions in the library."  He is very well behaved until story time ends and he wants more.  He roars.  Very loudly.  Miss Merriweather informs the lion that there is no roaring in the library and that he must be quiet - but if he is quiet he can stay.  The lion becosme a regular at the library - listening to story time, licking envelopes and helping patrons reach the hard to reach books.  Everyone loves the library lion.  Everyone that is, except for Mr. McBee.

This is a charming story about a library, lions and when to, and when not to, follow the rules.  The illustrations are fun and I love the story.  I love libraries and Knudsen's text and Hawkes' illustrations combine together to create an especially enchanting library.

If you are in New York City you should stop by the Public Library on 5th Avenue between 40th and 42nd Street.  There are lions.  Outside of the library.  The building is beautiful and I hear the children's section is amazing.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Interrupting Chicken

For my birthday, my sister sent me one of this year's Caldecott Honor books - Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein. 

I am not sure this is a book I would just pick up off of the shelf - simply because of personal preferences.   However, after reading this with my three-year-old son I really liked it and thought it was a very fun and creative book.

The story is about little red chicken and her papa and bedtime stories.  Papa reads bedtimes stories to little red but she keeps on interrupting the story with alternative, and less dangerous, endings.  Out of stories, little red must make up her own to get the bedtime story she, and her Papa, needs to fall asleep.

The story is funny and very reminiscent of reading stories to my own three-year-old where the story is interrupted with questions throughout.  The illustrations are very creative and are what make this story so fun and humorous.  When Papa is reading a story the two page spread will be the book (for example, Hansel and Gretel) with pictures of the story and the text - as though you are reading the book.  When little red interrupts it is depicted by her being placed inside of the drawn story with her interruptions in big bubbles over what the text of the story should be.

I really enjoyed this book and thought that they way it was put together was very imaginative and funny.   My son also loved it and especially enjoyed the ending.  This book reinforced the old adage for me of "Don't judge a book by it's cover."  I need to pull out more books to read where I am not initially drawn in by the style of the cover.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Night Fairy

My 5-year-old daughter LOVES fairies.  She draws them, talks to her friends about them, and believes in a host of fairies I had never heard of as a child.  (She is on constant watch for a full moon so she can leave her shoes out for the full-moon fairy to fill with candy.)  She also loves to read about fairies, but unfortunately all fairy books are not created equal.  Her favorite for quite some time has been Fairytopia:

Needless to say, Fairytopia is not my favorite. 

But we came upon a great fairy book - The Night Fairy - written by Laura Amy Schlitz (who won the 2008 Newbery Medal for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!) and illustrated by Angela Barrett.  

Flory is a young night fairy whose beautiful wings are destroyed by a bat.  Not knowing what to do without the ability to fly, Flory is fierce and determined to survive.  She ends up making a home in an abandoned bird house in a cherry tree in the yard of a "giant."  She befriends (or rather, bosses around) a squirrel named Skuggle and together they explore the yard and find food.  Flory's desire to fly on the back of a hummingbird takes her on an adventure that helps her to overcome her fears and come to better know herself.  

Schlitz is a great writer and master storyteller.  The story really comes to life through her words.  The periodic illustrations by Angela Barrett are beautiful and show a magical, feisty Flory.  I have seen this book advertised for ages 9 - 12.  There is certainly some emotional development that would be better understood by a little older children, but I read this to my 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son and they both loved it.  It is full of action, and Flory is a fairy that explores the world around her.  While much of the pre-teen angst was lost on them, they loved Flory and her relationship with Skuggle (the squirrel) and the other animals in the yard.  

You can find out more information about the book, author and illlustrator at The Night Fairy website. There is a gallery with some sketches and pictures by Angela Barrett, an excerpt you can read of the first chapter, and more information from both Schlitz and Barrett. 

This is a fun story that I would recommend as a read-aloud for a younger audience or a challenging chapter book for a little older reader.  I am happy to have found a fun fairy book that my children and I both enjoy.  Any other suggestions?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Author blogs

Blogs are ubiquitous.  From blogs about our families, to design or literature blogs - there is a blog out there for everyone to read.  Included in the blogging world are many authors.  And if authors aren't blogging they almost certainly have a website.  In my posts on this blog, I will always include a link to the author or illustrator's blog or website if they have one.  I do this because I think there is a lot to be gained from viewing an author's blog or website:

1.  A lot of authors will blog about books they have read and liked.  If you have an author you like you may also like the books they suggest. 
2. Some authors write about the writing process and how they approach it.  This can give you greater insight into their writing process as well as help you if you want to write.  
3. Author's websites can have elements that kids enjoy and will get them excited about reading their books.  

Here are a few examples - 

- Shannon Hale has a very fun blog to read.  She is funny and discusses lots of current literary topics and gives book recommendations as well.  
- Kate DiCamillo has one of my very favorite "On Writing" Sections and I love her monthly (ish) writing posts as well.  
- Mo Willems has a very fun website for kids.  My kids enjoyed the games - Elephant and Piggie Dancing was a hit but the hot dog dress up game was their favorite.  With options like a bowling ball and dirty socks on a hot dog they were laughing hysterically.

These are just a few examples of authors on the internet.  On my sidebar I have added a section with Author Blogs/Websites so you can click through to them easily.  If you have a favorite author blog or website - let me know about it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ruth Sanderson

Periodically I will have guest posts featuring other people's favorite authors and books.  Here is a post from Cara of Paperwhite:
 Ruth Sanderson is one of my favorite storybook authors and illustrators.  Her drawings are absolutely magical.  Her books include Cinderella, Snow Princess, Twelve Dancing Princesses, Rose Red and Snow White.  Her re-telling of classic fairy tales is superb, she consults various versions of the classics, like the Grimm version and the French version of Cinderella, to make her own adaptation of the stories.  While the story-telling is wonderful it is really her illustrations that make her story books magical.
 Ruth Sanderson's collection of children's books can be found on her website which you can access by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

city dog, country frog

city dog, country frog (written by Mo Willems and illustrated by Jon Muth) is a book that garnered a lot of Caldecott medal discussion.  And after reading it I can understand why. It is a story about a city dog who moves to the country and becomes friends with a country frog.  Their friendship begins in the spring and you see them playing in the summer, reminiscing in the fall and city dog searching in the winter for country frog.  Spring time comes again and city dog is seen sitting on the rock waiting for country frog when a new friendship is formed.  

The story is very simple - the illustrations do much of the talking in this story.  And they speak powerfully.  I was sitting in a bookstore reading through this book and was genuinely sad when winter came.  The illustrations are very beautiful and, in connection with the well written text, convey the emotions of the story very well.  

I really liked this book, but do know that it is sad.  However, I think my children would love it as well.  They love animals and would enjoy seeing the friendship between the dog and the frog (and love that their names rhyme).  Also I think this book would elicit a discussion on friendships, emotions, losing friends (perhaps if a child was moving, or starting a new school) and making new ones. 

Mo Willems can be found on the web at   His website deserves another post in and of itself - there are lots of games for kids to play - memory, dancing elephant and piggie, dress the pigeon and coloring.  As well as some packets you can download for a group of kids to play in relation to some of his books - host a kids bookclub! 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

And the winners are . . .

The American Library Association (ALA) announced the book winners for this year yesterday morning.  I have not read most of them - but hope to soon.  I am especially excited though about the Caldecott Winner -

Go pick up a copy - you will not regret it.  

Here is a link to all of the winners.  I hope to review some of them soon!

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

A book I picked up for my daughter this Christmas is A Sick Day for Amos McGee by husband and wife team Philip and Erin Stead.  
The story is simple, charming and well written.  It is the story of the friendship between an older gentleman zookeeper - Amos McGee - and some of the animals at the zoo. Amos plays chess with the elephant, races the tortoise and reads bedtime stories to the owl - who is afraid of the dark.  But when Amos wakes up sick one morning we see the love the animals have for their zookeeper in return.  With language like "Belly full and ready for the workday, he'd amble out the door" the well written story is sure to be loved.

The illustrations match the text in simplicity and beauty.  I love the illustrations and their vintage feel.  Although the story was published in 2010 it feels like you are picking up an old copy of a well loved book.  The illustrations are done by hand and Erin uses pencils and woodblock printing techniques to create her illustrations.  The result is a mixture of black and white with splashes of color mixed in and images that really pop off the page.

I loved this simple story.  You can find the Steads on the web at - - on the front page of this website there are links to a blog by Philip and a website/blog for Erin as well.  And they live in Ann Arbor, Michigan . . . . one of my favorite cities.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Peter Brown

Every Christmas I go to my favorite independent bookstore - Politics and Prose - and browse the picture books for gifts for my children. Last year I picked up for my daughter The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. The illustrations are so beautiful and I love the story. It tells the story of Liam, an accidental gardener, who changes the landscape of the city with a watering can. The story is fun and humorous at times, but the illustrations are beautiful. The story begins dark and dreary with browns and grays and transforms to bright greens accented with other cheery colors. The details are impressive as well - small Liam walking on a street in an illustration of the entire city and pages filled with tiny butterflies, bees and ladybugs. It quickly became one of our favorite picture books this past year.

This year I went back again and perused the shelves only to pick up a book that I realized after reading was also by Peter Brown - Children Make Terrible Pets. This book has a little different style from The Curious Garden but is very fun as well. My children love animals and therefore love the idea of a bear, named Lucy, adopting a little boy as a pet. It turns out little boys are hard to keep under control and the illustrations tell the story of a child pet gone wrong with very funny pictures and a story to match.

Peter Brown's website is: Go find a story by Peter Brown . . . you won't be disappointed.