Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Inside, Outside–Halloween is Everywhere!

It’s almost Halloween 2010. While you struggle with the decision of whether to celebrate on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, here is a haunting book to read to the most timid reveler. The desert setting and language are Southwestern and add spice to this celebration of ghosts and goblins out on the scary town (with parents bearing flashlights standing by in the shadows.)

TRICK OR TREAT, OLD ARMADILLO by Larry Dane Brimner, illustrated by Dominic Catalano, Boyds Mills Press, 2010

Inside: Warm and cozy as the hot chocolate in Old Armadillo’s mug.

Outside: As surprising as Roadrunner, Peccary, Coyote, Snake, Tortoise, Bear, and Raccoon, wibbling, wobbling, tumbling, toddling, creeping, swooping, swaggering, shimmying, and shaking in the dusk surrounding Old Armadillo’s casita.

Inside, Old Armadillo reads a book of ghost stories.
Outside, his costumed friends plan treats.

Inside. Outside. Your little listener will giggle at the friends on both sides of the door, because he is in on all the surprises, almost.

As they did for Merry Christmas, Old Armadillo, author and illustrator team up to set scenes to engage and intrigue both reader and listener. How many voices can you create?

Larry Dane Brimner is the author of more than 150 books, including Birmingham Sunday which just won a few more honors, so many in fact, that I’ve decided to do a separate blog on honors and awards.

In the meantime, iQuiero Halloween!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Don’t Look Back!

Just in time to set the scene for Halloween, here is a book to engage young trick or treaters multiple times.

ON A WINDY NIGHT by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by George Bates, Abrams BFYR 2010

This rhyming picture book captures attention on many levels.

Art and text combine to keep the mood somber, dark, and spooky, BUT cloud pictures in the sky also provide a good counterpoint to the spookiness.

The refrain grows louder with each recitation and soon the listeners are chanting along. Totally engaging!

"Clicklety-clack, bones in a sack. They could be yours--if you look back."

Scary, but not too much.
This is like riding a roller coaster while holding Dad’s hand. Your heart races, but you know, deep down, you will survive to beg, “Read it again!”

The author has surely read zillions of books to children, including her daughter who grew up to become a children’s librarian. On her website, www.nancyrainesday.com, the author lists tips to make Halloween less scary here.

I can’t wait to share On a Windy Night with a group of wiggly pre-schoolers.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rescuing Halloween

You may not know Halloween needs rescuing. Contrast your own Trick or Treat days with today. Did you spend hours pondering, deciding, and creating your own costume? Did you and your friends scurry the length and breadth of your neighborhood loading down your decorated grocery bags with all sorts of chocolate and caramel rewards for your scavenging?

You might miss the creativity or the freedom, or maybe your own childhood. It’s enough to make a person put up posters: Missing! Halloween!

CALLIE’S RULES by Naomi Zucker, Egmont, 2009.

“Only Callie can save Halloween...if she can figure out the rules.” shouts the blurb on the cover of this introspective middle grade novel. Callie (Calliope Jones)is in 6th grade. Although the cover leads the reader to think this is a Halloween book, and it is, it is really about middle school relationships and conformity and thinking for one’s self

Callie’s mother is a free spirit, an artist who welds metal sculptures. Her dad is a lawyer. There are 7 kids in the lively household. Callie is beyond bright and is exempt from the pre-tests the other students must take. She has extra time to read and her current choice is Jane Eyre, a novel which provides Callie with a few well timed references. At the end of each chapter Callie summarizes her observations as rules. She grows, the plot advances, and the conclusion is both chaotic and warm hearted.

Did Callie save Halloween? Your 4th-6th grade readers have time to find out before the 31st.

Memo to parents and kids: This is a treat.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Building Sturdy Kids

Bullying hurts. ALL bullying hurts. Sticks, stones, and words hurt. Some experts say words hurt the most. Scars are deep and hidden. What can parents do? How do you arm a child against a bully without turning him into one? Where can you begin? Is it ever too early? A picture book I read last year keeps coming to mind. It’s a great family book, lending itself to discussion on several levels.

LOOKING LIKE ME by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers. Egmont.

Have you ever made an “I Am” list?

Who you are, who you are becoming, and especially who you are to others, pulses through this energy filled picture book.

This is a build-up book or a motivational book for kids. Sometimes hearing a book read to a young child catches the attention of others who benefit, too. Read this book to young listeners in the presence of anyone starting out, starting over, feeling blue or in danger of giving in to a battered ego, and who knows what positive thinking will result?

Picture books are not for babies only.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Just Plain Fun

All teens are not wallowing in angst. I know at least one who is not. OK, so he’s a main character in a novel, but that’s not the point. He’s a teen boy who gets caught up in mishap after mishap while tripping over his own feet. The reader pulls for him because the reader could be that boy. He’s my nomination for Everyboy.

AS EASY AS FALLING OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH by Lynne Rae Perkins, Greenwillow Books, 2010

Who among us had not tried to find the best place for cell phone reception when traveling in the boonies? Ry is 15 and on a train headed to a new summer camp when he discovers by reading mail he saved to read on the train that the camp closed before it opened.

Ry is a responsible kid. He knows he should get in touch with his parents who just left to sail on the Caribbean, or his grandfather who has come to stay with their dogs in the home they just moved into. The train pulls into a small station surrounded by nothing. No town. No houses. Just vast space. Ry is under the impression that he has plenty of time to climb a distant hill where he can get a cell signal. His impression is wrong. The train pulls out without him–but his belongings for the summer are still on board. Thus is the adventure launched.

One thing leads to another, not only for Ry, but for the grown-ups in his life, too. They are off on parallel adventures, even the dogs. Add the characters Ry meets along the way: Del (who must fix everything), Yulia whom Del loves but can’t apologize to for some long ago spat, Carl, an old codger who rescues Ry and Del from the side of the road in a car which, it turns out, isn’t his. And more.

The author’s name may be familiar. Her novel, Criss Cross, won the Newbery. It was full of interesting characters, too, but I didn’t warm up to them they way I do to Ry and his friends.

Author Perkins is also an artist. She illustrates the dogs' adventures in black and white cartoon style art. Threaded throughout the people stories, they are lively and timely.

I won't try to categorize this as young adult or middle grade. Rollicking along like the wheels of the train Ry missed to begin his comic laden travels, the writing is unburdened with language or themes that might offend. Yes,lessons are learned, but they are there for the readers to discover on their own.

Long before the satisfying ending, I was rooting for absolutely everybody and that includes the dogs. This unfolds like a movie. I hope it will become one. It’s definitely one the whole family will enjoy.

Whether teen and tween readers are boys or girls, they'll be wondering, right along with me, what accidents will befall Ry when he gets his driver's license and begins his junior year in high school. Will there be another book?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

From A to Zzzzz

Do you have a plan for your day, but something interrupts? Are you ever in the middle of telling a really good joke when someone interrupts with the punch line? If anyone interrupts you when you read the following bedtime story, you'll identify with Papa. Maybe you ARE Papa.

INTERRUPTING CHICKEN by David Ezra Stein, Candlewick Press, 2010

Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Chicken Little. Ever tell them to your kids as bedtime stories? Little Red Chicken’s Papa has a full repertoire of fairy tales, but he’s told them so often that now when he gets to the scary part, Little Red Chicken rushes in and warns the characters away from the danger they face.

Papa has had enough. He vows not to tell any more stories until Little Red Chicken promises not to interrupt. The poor little chick just can’t help it. How the two resolve this threat to bedtime will have you smiling when you fall asleep tonight.

I listened to an 8 year old read this picture book to her 5 year old brother. What did they like best, the pictures or the story? They both turned every page again, thinking this one through.

"All the stories," the older reader said. Not just the big story about the father and son, but the beginning of the fairy tales. She didn't mind that the author left it to her to finish telling the well known but interrupted tales. After all, (spoiler alert!)Little Red Chicken becomes the story teller before the book ends.

Her brother liked the pictures and he liked the story, but he liked them best "together."

Author/illustrator Stein has many books to his credit. Leaves won an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. It's easy to see why his books are young readers' favorites.

Feathers aside, who are you in this book, Papa or the child? When you know trouble awaits on the other side of the door in a TV re-run, do you speak up: "Don't open that door. Run!"

I do.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Wheels of History

This is the biography of a bus. #2857. Why a bus and why this bus? It’s thought to be the one Rosa Parks rode when she refused to move so a white man could sit. Her arrest set off the Civil Rights Movement. It happened December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, AL.

ROSA’S BUS: The Ride to Civil Rights by Jo S. Kittinger, illustrated by Steven Walker, Calkins Creek, 2010.

Readers hear the jingle of coins as bus riders climb aboard #2857 and pay their fare. The coins jingle alike. But the sameness ends here. Black bus riders must get off and hurry the length of the bus to the back door where they board and sit behind a moveable sign marked “Colored.” A refrain tells readers, surely protesting by this point, “That’s just the way things were.”

As the bus rolls toward its date with destiny, a bit of history is provided so young readers get a sense of the time and how events developed. This is a gentle way to introduce the civil rights movement to young readers without giving them nightmares over the brutal aspects of this battle against Jim Crow laws.

The bus is replicated in different ways in a number of civil rights displays and museums, including the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery. #2857 is much more than a replica. It’s considered to be the actual bus and has been restored as it was when Rosa Parks rode it, right down to the Alabama red clay on the wheels. On permanent display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, Rosa’s bus is a silent witness to one woman’s courage.

Author Jo Kittinger was born the year the Montgomery bus protest began. She grew up in public schools in the South during this turbulent time. Illustrator Steven Walker is a fine artist whose paintings have been exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. As a team, they bring Rosa’s bus to the attention of young readers and remind all of us that “that’s just the way things were” is never a good reason for disrespecting others.

Hillview School Library