Friday, April 30, 2010

Celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day

Today, April 30th, has been set forth as a day to celebrate reading and books–and here’s your chance to enjoy this special day in English and Spanish.

BOOK FIESTA! A bilingual picture book by Pat Mora, illustrated by Rafael Lopez. Harper Collins 2009.

Strong, vibrant art crosses all language barriers in this festive picture book. Everyone is obviously having a great time. This book, on a child's lap, is an invitation to read and read again, skipping through the fun and practicing new words along the way.

Both writer and illustrator are award winners.

Illustrator Lopez’s art has been described as “a fusion of a strong graphic style and magical symbolism.” To learn more, see his website,

Pat Mora is not only an award winning author but also founder of the family literacy initiative. Her home is in New Mexico and her website is: A book fiesta is an idea she’d like to see families add to their calendars along with birthday parties. Ask each family member, “Where do you like to read and tell stories?” It won’t be long before favorite books and stories pour forth.

Queue up some rollicking dance music and read through Mora’s full page of suggestions about how to host a book fiesta. April 30th is a great suggested date–it’s Children’s Day–but a celebration of reading is the goal. Choose any language(s) or date. Be creative. Make it a family celebration of reading and books.

Pick a day, plan a book fiesta with family and/or friends, and get ready for surprises.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Changing Can’t to Can

Ever hear those words, “You can’t do that!”?
Did you think, “Oh, yes I can!”?
And then what happened?

You Can’t Do That, Amelia by Kimberly Wagner Klier, illustrated by Kathleen Kemly, Calkins Creek, 2008.

Amelia Earhart may have imagined pictures in clouds, but she wanted to fly through the clouds.When someone told her that girls or women “couldn’t,” she showed them they can by doing it herself.

There are many stories about Amelia Earhart. This is the one Kimberly Klier chose to tell. Klier and illustrator Kathleen Kembly bring the charming heroine to life as a perky little girl who steps from the pages and leads the reader from the adventures of building a roller coaster in a Kansas yard to flying alone across the Atlantic Ocean and landing in a field of surprised cows in Ireland.

As a record setter, as a women’s studies consultant to Purdue University, as a writer, and as a courageous example of how to smile and move forward no matter the obstacles, Amelia Earhart is always flying above us in books and movies. We just can’t let her rest. The fascination is endless. Along with a brief history and a chronology, author Klier lists books, web sites, DVDs, and museums where we can pursue Amelia as someone we wish we could have known personally and as a legend.

Introduce your daughter to Amelia.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Celebrating Earth Day

Earth Day is 40 years old today. Can you picture pink flamingos sprouting up in yards across your neighborhood? Maybe not. You might be surprised at what is sprouting in your yard, however. Or in the cracks of a weathered sidewalk or a tumble down building, or as a little boy named Liam discovered, atop an elevated railway that was shut down more than a quarter of a century ago.

THE CURIOUS GARDEN by Peter Brown, Little, Brown and Company, Books for Young Readers, 2009

Author/illustrator Peter Brown says “nature can thrive in the unlikeliest of places.” In his tribute to small surprises in forgotten places, he leads Liam and the reader from discovery to realization of what one small curious gardener might accomplish.

Take your young and future gardeners on a curiosity walk. How many surprises do you see?

Happy Earth Day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

All the World

It’s still Poetry Month and this week is TV Turnoff Week. What better book for a family to enjoy than this evocative poem illustrated by a Caldecott Honor medalist.

ALL THE WORLD by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee, Beach Lane Books, 2009

Life spills across each page inspiring cloud gazing and deep ponderings of the greatest what-if's. Share it with a toddler on your lap or at the dinner table if your family still gathers there. Or treat yourself to the pleasures of an afternoon on a garden bench.

“All the world has got its sky.”

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Monsters at the Library Door

Our frazzled economy is threatening libraries when we need them the most.
Skilled, trained, caring librarians need all of us to speak up and make sure our libraries continue.

Heroes Needed

Sound off! Tell your local, state, and national leaders you support libraries.

Join the Friends of your Library.
Be a volunteer, a donor, a buyer, even a browser. People attract people. Word spreads.

Ask your librarian, “Do you write, too?”
You might discover a budding author or a published one.
This week I featured books by several librarian/authors. Mary Downing Hahn, Toni Buzzeo, Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer.

Read the comments on Shelli Johannes-Wells's blog,
Shelli started this week of library thank-you’s with an invitation to link to her blog and share our library celebrations.

Champions to the Rescue!

Larry Dane Brimner, acclaimed author of over 150 books says “Libraries are the heartbeat of every community. If the library is vibrant, so too is the community. If weak, it follows that a community’s sense of self, its sense of identity is absent.

“My personal feeling is that libraries provide places of refuge and shelter, and they offer unconditional acceptance in the form of book-bound friendships in a world that is often unaccepting and cold.”

The National Council of Teachers of English notes in its resolution on supporting school and community libraries that credentialed librarians are the special people to help you get the best out of all those resources.


See you at the library.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book Launch, Author Interview--Larry Dane Brimner

A Book Launch Lunch

Gabrella is a restaurant located in the heart of the Birmingham Civil Rights Historic District. From its sidewalk tables, you can see the marquee of the Carver Theater, home of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) is a two block walk, and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church sits across the street from BCRI. In between BCRI and Gabrella’s is the famous Kelly Ingram Park, where peaceful protesters gathered to pray before marching for equal rights in a deeply divided city. Sculptures and markers dot the park, recalling those difficult times in the 1960's.

It was this restaurant that Larry Dane Brimner chose as a setting for the launch of his latest book, BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY, reviewed here yesterday. The invitation read, “...join us for some of the finest Southern cooking in Alabama and books, books, books.”

Attendees enjoying a buffet topped off with peach cobbler included the publisher’s editorial director, archivists, librarians, teachers, historians, and writers. The author thanked each one for helping to place this book, so close to his heart, in the hands of children.

After lunch, the author met with future leaders, ages 10-14, members of the Birmingham Cultural Alliance Partnership, an after school magnet program based at Hudson K-8 School. The students had read BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY. They arrived prepared to ask excellent questions.

A student used the bio on Larry’s website to introduce him. She noted his growing up years on Alaska’s Kodiak Island, that he’d written 150 books, and quoted him as saying,” I enjoy writing because it lets me try on other lives, in the case of fiction, or to delve into topics about which I’m curious, in the case of nonfiction.”

Then came the questions.
1) Why would a man who grew up in faraway Alaska want to write about something that happened in Birmingham, Alabama?
2) Had Mr. Brimner experienced discrimination?
3) Why is the book titled BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY?
4) What do the words Ku Klux Klan mean?

Larry’s answers:
1) My family lived in Birmingham many years ago.
2) My mother was Jewish and yes, she knew the stings of persecution.
3) The title is taken from a Joan Baez song.
4) I don’t know. That would be a great research project for YOU.

Prior to his visit in Birmingham, Larry graciously consented to an interview with Book Log. Pull up a cyber chair, and sip a glass of Gabrella’s popular peach tea while you learn even more about this former teacher turned award winning author.


MIGRANT FAMILY which dealt with the lives of Mexican migrant workers was the first civil rights book written by Larry Dane Brimner. Years later he wrote WE ARE ONE, the biography of Bayard Rustin, who organized the March on Washington.

For historical perspective, the March on Washington took place in August 1963. Only weeks later the tragic September bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, the central event in BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY, received global attention. Hatred infected the country. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November.

When I asked Larry what led him to write BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY, he said the book was
“the result of belonging to lots of different library and reading associations–something I encourage all writers to do. In one of their publications I read a librarian’s call for biographies of the four young girls who were killed in Birmingham. I did some preliminary research...and discovered there were two other children killed that day that few people outside of Alabama knew about. Also, I share a birth year with three of the victims of the church bombing; had those children lived, they would be my age. ...this struck a personal note, and the realization that I didn’t know a great deal about the incident made me want to find out more. I mentioned the topic to my editor (Calkins Creek Editor Carolyn Yoder) and she said ‘Go for it.’”

What’s ahead for you now that BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY is successfully launched?

“Writers not only have to worry about researching and writing whatever project is current, but also with making certain that the new child can make its way in the world. The publishers, of course, will do their part by sending the new baby to review sources–oodles of them–and awards committees. And authors, in this competitive business, need to do their part, too.

“I’ve been busy since the publication of BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY (and even before) with making sure people are aware that it is available by featuring it on the home page of my website, along with a few of its reviews...Soon I’ll head to Chicago for the annual conference of the International Reading Association where I put together a panel of authors and illustrators to talk about research as a means to ‘putting flesh on the bare bones of fact.’ In August I may be in Honesdale, PA for a nonfiction workshop. In the fall I’ll be in Denver for the annual conference of the National Council for Social Studies.

“You can see that the launch of BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY will be a year in the doing. Some of your readers who are writers will think ‘Gosh, what a lucky guy to have his publisher’s support’, and they would be right. I am lucky to have my publisher’s support if not always the publisher’s dime. They should know that much of the (publicity/promotion) effort has been self-funded or only co-funded by my publisher and done while I am also trying to work on making the next baby–a biography of Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, a project that grew out of BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY–and have a life apart from my keyboard.

“Too many writers think that publishers should do all the work of promotion, and it would be great if they would or could. The fact is that writers need to think about the business of writing, and every business I know of invests in the products that business creates. A writer’s business is books and if he or she wants to sell to a larger audience than simply friends or family, he or she really needs to give thought to investing time, energy, and money in the success of that creative product.”

What do you want your literary legacy to be? What idea or concept would you most like your readers to make their own?

“I don’t think in terms of a literary legacy. What I do think about is what I hope my readers will take away from my books in the here and now.

“What I hope readers take away from my nonfiction, especially my civil rights books, is the great sacrifice that individuals–often anonymous–made and, indeed, the danger they put themselves in, for the greater good of society. I want them to understand that no movement starts with thousands of people demanding change; it starts with one voice–and that voice can belong to a young person.

“In the case of my fiction, ... when a second grader was asked why he thought I write, he answered, ‘to make children smile.’ If that’s a literary legacy, then let it be mine.”

What would you say to young authors as they learn the research process? In a recent American Library Association article the point was made that kids today are educating themselves online but lack the skills to evaluate the information they find. As a former school teacher and as an author who makes many school visits every year, how do you assess this?

“I advise students, when I’m speaking to them, to consider the source of the material before believing it is true or factual. ... I always suggest to teachers that that they require children to use multiple resources for any research project, allowing only one of them to be internet based. I suggest that if they live in a community--and this is just about everyone--with an historical society or archive...that they require at least one documented resource come from material held at these locations. (Even the little town of 150 where I spend my summers has an historical society and museum.) I suggest that they require children to have at least one resource that comes from an archived copy of a newspaper, a medium soon to be extinct. Whether college-bound or not, because not everyone needs or should go to college, I believe the true mark of an educated person is not necessarily what he or she knows but that he or she is familiar with how to find the information they do not know.”

Larry’s website is reader friendly for both kids and adults and includes his bio and how to schedule school visits with him. WWW.BRIMNER.COM.

What better way to celebrate National Library Week than to speak with a writer who lauds research facilities and the librarians and archivists who know how to utilize them. Tomorrow I’ll wrap up the week and tell you what Larry has to say about the importance of libraries.

Happy Friday. Here’s hoping your weekend includes a good book, a comfortable porch chair, and a glass of peach tea.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

If Facts Had Feet

Once upon a time, Larry Dane Brimner wrote a book for very young readers titled IF DOGS HAD WINGS. After listening to him speak yesterday at the book launch for his most recent book, BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY, it struck me that if facts had feet, they wouldn’t get far if they tried to run and hide from this author of award winning nonfiction books. This writer can boast of over 150 books with his name on the spine, but he isn’t content to sit back and count the titles on his shelf. His book launch was held in Birmingham for two reasons: to bring the published book home to the place it began and to research the next book.

BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY by Larry Dane Brimner, Calkins Creek, 2010

The recipient of starred reviews in prestigious review journals and already in its second printing, BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY honors the memory of four little girls and two boys who were killed on a Sunday in Birmingham, September 15, 1963. The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church is known around the world. The tragic story of the four little girls has inspired novels and documentaries. What is not well known is that two boys were also killed on that fateful day. Who the six children were and how the community and the world reacted to these horrendous acts are chronicled in this meticulously researched book. The author’s source notes, picture credits, and acknowledgments indicate hours of delving into archival materials, slogging through musty court records, and sleuthing out the most difficult to find oral histories and interviews.

BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY fits into the history of our country between the March on Washington and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. These were dark and troubling times, but the mission of so many did not go unrecognized or unfulfilled. The concern of those activists who put their bodies at risk is that children are growing up unaware of the price paid by others for the rights they enjoy today. How will they know? Who will tell them? This book has answers.

Some books should be read by parents first and then shared with their children. Some books open doors for discussions among generations. BIRMINGHAM SUNDAY is a book families can depend upon to present our shared history of a turbulent time that no one wants to repeat. Readers of all ages will understand how important it is to keep liberties operating by using and respecting them.

Fortunately, author Brimner understands how to keep readers turning these pages of our history. If facts had feet, he’d make sure they wore interesting shoes.

Tomorrow: an interview with Larry Dane Brimner and more about his book launch.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

National Library Week–Day Three

From Bookmobiles to a Packhorse Library

Today is National Bookmobile Day. We honor the dedication of librarians who, since the 1920's, have delivered books and magazines to those who live too far from libraries to jog to the neighborhood library or stop by after work. These determined librarians loaded books into trucks and jounced off to far flung places, up and down winding country roads, around wooded curves, carrying and sharing the very library materials we take for granted. Some still do. Applause and cheers, please. Outdoor voices are fine when you see the bookmobile rounding the bend.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, it ushered in the Great Depression. Poverty and hunger turned poor conditions into desperate situations. Most hard hit were areas like the Cumberland Mountains in Kentucky. Folks who lived there reached their homes by trudging down a dry creek bed or following a trail through the woods. No bookmobile could travel those rocky hills. 4-wheel drive wasn’t available in the 1920's. No one could predict it, but pack horses would soon become a new kind of bookmobile.

In the mid-1930's President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the New Deal, a relief program, and under it he established the Works Progress Administration. In 1939 this was renamed the Work Projects Administration. Putting both men and women to work was the goal. The most innovative job creation program was Kentucky’s Pack Horse Library Project.

DOWN CUT SHIN CREEK: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer, Harper Collins, 2001.

Spend a day with a pack horse librarian and your appreciation for your neighborhood library will soar. Authors Appelt and Schmitzer, who is a librarian and webmaster of “Pack Horse Library,” open their thoroughly researched chronology of the Kentucky Pack Horse Library with a chapter titled, “An Ordinary Day. The Way It Might Have Been.” These talented authors take you there. Feel the cold seeping through thin clothing, the sting of sleet against your face, the hunger gnawing at you as you make your rounds and deliver the prized and welcomed but already worn books and magazines, donated for you to deliver to eager readers on your route. You are one of these people. You live in these hollows. For your pre-dawn to dark delivery route, you are paid the grand sum of $28/month. This job feeds your family. It feeds minds too.

Pack horse libraries were considered one of the most well-liked rural outreach services. The librarians not only introduced many to books, they inspired a love of reading. It’s possible that a pack horse librarian inspired a young Kentucky teacher who in turn played a part in making our library system what it is today. In 1956 United States Representative Carl D. Perkins from Kentucky sponsored the Library Services Act. This act made the first federal appropriations for library service and helped provide funds to establish new libraries, build branch libraries, purchase bookmobiles, buy library collections, and hire new librarians.

Now is a good time to contact your representative and ask him to continue what Mr. Perkins started. Today is a good day to contact your senator and ask him to sign the Appropriations letter circulating in the Senate. Read yesterday’s blog for more on this. Hurry! The best thank-you to librarians today is to say and do this often: Support library funding.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

National Library Week-Day Two

Dragons in the Library!

Dragons can be very useful. A dragon can guard. A dragon can guide. Leave it to a gifted librarian and a renowned storyteller to show the true worth of these mighty beasts.

NO T. REX IN THE LIBRARY by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010

Tess’s mother puts her in time-out in the library. This child is out of control. Then a rampaging dragon leaps from the pages of a book Tess toppled to the floor and takes Tess on a wild ride through the stacks. Children recognize beastly behavior when they see it in others, just not in themselves. Author Toni Buzzeo is a children’s librarian. She’s seen beastly behavior that would frizzle your curls. Her verses bring out the worst in the rip-roaring T. Rex and Tess cheers him on–but, “Watch out!” Tess shouts. “The books...” Her concern grows amidst knights and pirates, cowboys and cattle. Where will it end? At last Tess shouts the magic words, “Time out! You’re out of control!” What fun illustrator Yoshikawa must have had with this riotous romp through books come to life! Anyone who yearns to instill a love of libraries in children but respect a bubble of quiet for other patrons will love Tess’s line: “No beastie behavior with my library books.” And no beastie behavior in the library, either. Your young readers will get it. Ahh...

More About Dragons

Here’s a classic beloved by children’s librarians everywhere. How honored are those whom their students call, “The Library Goddess.” I know one! So do you. Be proud.

THE LIBRARY DRAGON by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Michael P. White, Peachtree Publishers, Ltd. 1994

The very thought of sticky small fingers smudging book covers and pages gave Miss Lotta Scales, school librarian, heartburn. Almost everything that happened in her library had that effect on Miss Scales. Because, you see, Lotta Scales was a real dragon. The kids at Sunrise Elementary School knew it. The principal and teachers knew it. Parents knew it. But nobody knew what to do about it. And then along came a child with a storyteller’s heart. Could the author see herself in little Molly Brinkmeyer? What do you think? If you’ve read this before, enjoy it again. After all, it’s National Library Week. Why not Library Dragon Day?

We the Dragons

Librarians also guard and guide. They and all library workers are honored with their day today, but they work for us all year. Now it’s time for US to be the dragons. Breathe some fiery impassioned words about libraries and librarians in an email or letter or phone call to your representatives in Congress. Tomorrow is the deadline for being heard regarding budget requests.

Support library funding!

Read details at this American Library Association site:
or call Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

Monday, April 12, 2010

National Library Week--Day One

A Ghost Story for Summer Reading

Truly a ghost story. If you get the shivers when things go bump in the night, you may not want to read this. Your kids will.

ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES by Mary Downing Hahn, Clarion, 2008.

Both boys and girls will enjoy reading this chiller. Antics of a rambunctious brother and sister duo, 13 and 12, earned them such a reputation at the summer camp where their parents usually send them that the camp leaders pulled in the welcome mat. The kids were not allowed to return.

Their parents–who must have been frantic, although we are not given access to their behind the scenes string pulling--manage to get them invited to spend the summer with their grandmother at her inn in Vermont.

Old inns in Vermont have ghosts. Don’t they? Apparently this one did once upon a time, but not since Grandmother bought it. Grandmother likes it that way. She doesn’t believe in ghosts and the undercurrent about them, the looks exchanged by her staff, the rumors in town, barely earn a pooh, pooh, piffle from her. The setting is perfect for two mischievous tweens eager to stir up excitement. Trouble is, they wake the real spirits on the grounds and that’s where the spirited adventures begin. (Sorry about the pun. No, not really).

Mary Downing Hahn is a former children’s librarian whose novel, STEPPING ON THE CRACKS, won the prestigious Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award while Ms. Hahn was still a working librarian. It was my good fortune to hear her speak about this award at a conference. Asked where she was when she learned her novel had been singled out for this high honor, she answered, “In my laundry room.” This should delight every mom. Mary Downing Hahn is a brilliant writer, and she’s one of us. If I remember correctly, it was another ten years of solid publishing success before Ms. Hahn quit her day job to write full time.

Many of author Hahn’s novels have ghosts and scenes that make the heart race while eyes race down the page. She has mastered the art of holding middle grade readers’ attention–and then some. Look up some of her other eerie tales: WAIT TILL HELEN COMES (my favorite), THE DOLL IN THE GARDEN, TIME FOR ANDREW and more.

Getting to know the work of this author could keep your young readers devouring books all summer long.

National Library Week--Celebrate, Appreciate!

First, an exciting flashback:

Last week was wedding week at our house. My husband and I were delighted to host the rehearsal dinner for the son of very dear friends and his beautiful bride. All last week, writer friends and their spouses joined us in creating a scene of white tablecloths, candles, and tiny sparks of light laced through the trees. Even our white wisteria understood the importance of the special occasion and treated us to cascades of fragrant white blossoms. Our writing for those days became a visual poem in honor of the glowing young couple now living out the many toasts to their future: here's to a life of love, peace, and joy, for many years to come.

And now it is Monday and a new week begins. This week is in honor of librarians and those magnificent spaces they govern: public libraries. They are free in that all can find knowledge there. They are free in the same sense that our country is free. Freedom must be appreciated and protected.

All week this blog and many others will be suggesting ways to support, appreciate, and celebrate librarians and libraries. Let's make this observation last all year.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Words that Giggle

It was my pleasure to hear author/illustrator Bruce Degen speak at a writers’ conference shortly after his classic picture book JAMBERRY was issued as a board book. (Lucky me!) He said he wanted to recreate in art and pictures one of the most joyous times of his childhood. Happily, this book lives in libraries and can still be ordered from your favorite independent book store.

JAMBERRY by Bruce Degen, Harper Festival, 1983, 1995.

The words giggle and wiggle and shout for joy. The duo of a burly bear with contagious smile and a mop headed boy whose confidence grows from picture to picture skips and tumbles and dances in meadows of jam. They travel on boats, ponies, trains, and a hot air balloon. What could be more fun? What a great way to work up an appetite for all the berry feasts ahead!

However berries arrive in your kitchen, from the market or the field (lucky you!), pop a cobbler in the oven and share this book with a toddler you love.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April is for Poets

April is National Poetry Month and it’s also one of those spring months that announces its presence with bouts of severe weather even as it’s gracing the countryside with a delicate tracery of green. What better way to celebrate a month of poems than a book that celebrates storms in verse.

STORM COMING! by Audrey B. Baird and illustrated by Patrick O’Brien, Wordsong, Boyds Mills Press, 2001.

The book’s first verse is the title poem, written for two voices. When a storm is rumbling around your house, your children could recite this one bravely, greeting a storm they’re not scared of,

not really,


maybe just a little.

Poems like “Firebolt” and “Cloudburst” are short and to the point, packing in plenty of energy for young readers and listeners. “Reflections” raises a question for discussion and has that just right feel to it when the thunder has stopped but the rain lingers.

Author Baird will be remembered by writers and illustrators of children’s poems and stories for editing and publishing ONCE UPON A TIME. Many saw their first by-line in this national magazine. Audrey has lowered the curtain on her quarterly creation, but not on her poetry. Her second book of poetry is A COLD SNAP: FROSTY POEMS, also illustrated by the talented Patrick O’Brien and published by Wordsong.

Although it’s hard to choose just one poem as a favorite from STORM COMING!, mine is “My Grandfather’s Toe.”

What’s yours?

Hillview School Library