Reading About Reading: A Link Round-up

It seems like link round-ups are things that are done on Fridays, and there are a few book/library-related posts lately that have been floating around in my brain, so I thought I would share. Have you read anything good on the internet lately? Leave me a comment with the link(s)!

Genre blocks
Are there genres or themes that you never like to read? What are your reading blocks? I really liked this post and the subsequent comments about what we choose to read (and what we never pick up).

Highbrow media’s sexist blind spot: Romance novels
Why doesn’t the media talk about the best selling segment of the publishing industry more?

“The typical excuse for that exclusion is genre, not gender. But those two words have a common root, and are intertwined in many ways. Romance is seen as unserious and frivolous because women are seen as unserious and frivolous, and romance is written largely by women, for women, about concerns traditionally seen as feminine.”

This is What a Librarian Looks Like
I’m a sucker for any project that celebrates the diversity of librarianship.

“I realized I had a stereotype in my mind of what a librarian looked like, which is one of the reasons I wanted to do this project. Whenever I think something is true, I’m often wrong,” Cassidy said. “I tend to think of librarians as the ones I know from my public library and from school. But there are librarians who are researchers and archivists doing extraordinarily technical work. There are librarians who work in specialized fields who have to know about archaeology, for example, or medicine or research science. The field was broader than I had gone in there thinking.”

This Map Shows The Most Famous Book Set In Every State
I strongly disagree that The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown is the most famous book set in DC.

“Why are they always white children?”
I have been thinking about race and children’s picture books since NPR did a story on the topic last year. That story is also worth a read, but I really liked this more recent post.

“Children living in one of the most diverse countries in the world need to be exposed to people who are not like them. Otherwise they grow up to be the kind of person that freaks out when Coca Cola airs a commercial during the Super Bowl in which “America the Beautiful” is sung in language other than English.”

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Reading About Reading: A Link Round-up

1987 Caldecott Medal: Hey, Al

Hey, Al

Hey, Al, written by Arthur Yorinks and illustrated by Richard Egielski, is the somewhat odd tale of a janitor (Al) and his dog (Eddie) who are taken by a large tropical bird to a lush island in the sky. At first this seems like a wonderful escape from their hum-drum life, but over time Al and Eddie begin to turn into birds and decide that they must escape.

Egielski’s illustrations are realistic and detailed. The drab browns of Al’s everyday life give way to the bright, tropical colors of the island. The visuals really make the story.

Richard Egielski has illustrated over 50 books, 8 of which he also wrote. He collaborated with Arthur Yorinks on 9 different children’s books, starting in 1976, but Hey, Al is his only Caldecott Medal (or Honor) book.

This book is probably most appropriate for elementary-aged readers, although the illustrations might be enough to capture slightly younger kids. Overall I find the tone of the book to be just plain weird, rather than charmingly quirky. Not my favorite of the Caldecotts I’ve read so far.

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One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my fifth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.

1987 Caldecott Medal: Hey, Al

Toddler Reads: Snow!

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Millions of Snowflakes. Written by Mary McKenna Siddals. Illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles. (1998).
A sweet, rhyming, counting tale featuring a young girl and her dog playing in the snow. The small book is perfect for tiny hands. The pastel illustrations start out small as well, but slowly expand to use the full page. Just lovely.

Pip & Squeak. Written and illustrated by Ian Schoenherr. (2010).
Pip & Squeak are headed to a party for Gus on a very snowy day, but they forget to bring their gift (of delicious cheese) with them. They look around them for another present to pick up along their way. Short sentences, colorful full-page illustrations, and cute mice make this a hit with toddlers!

Red Sled. Written by Patricia Thomas. Illustrated by Chris Demarest. (2008).
A simple book, told in short rhymes, about a father and son sledding trip. This would be a good book for for early readers to read themselves as well.

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Snow. Written and Illustrated by Uri Shulevitz. (1998).
On a cold gray, day, a young boy spots a falling snowflake. Everyone tells him it won’t really snow (“No Snow, said Radio.”), but he believes. Frances loves to find the individual falling snowflakes, and the eventual white-out will give the fervent Snow Day wisher hope! This book was a (well-deserved) Caldecott Honor Book in 1999.

The Snowy Day. Written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. (1962).
The classic children’s book about young Peter’s adventures in the snow. Great, colorful collage illustrations, simple, perfect storytelling. This is one of my absolute favorite children’s books – and it won the Caldecott Medal in 1963.

This Place in the Snow. Written and Illustrated by Rebecca Bond. (2004).
An appealing tale of the elaborate snow world a group of neighborhood children created after a big storm. I love Bond’s swirling, curvy illustrations and lyrical text. This is the wordiest of all the books I’m suggesting. Nothing crazy, but if you have a toddler with a short attention span for books, try the others first!

Toddler Reads are aimed at children 0-3. All of these books have been Frances-approved.

Toddler Reads: Snow!

1957 Caldecott Medal: A Tree is Nice

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A Tree is Nice was written by Janice May Udry and illustrated by Marc Simont. This is a pretty simple book – if you’ve read the title, you know what this book is about: trees and all their good qualities (Who can argue with that?). The book definitely grew on me though. It has a quiet charm. It was Udry’s first children’s book, quite the impressive debut!

The illustrations alternate between full-color and black and white. There are great details, but the drawings aren’t crowded. Simply lovely. The book is narrow and tall, which helps it stand out. There is a good mix of boys AND girls in and around those very nice trees.

Marc Simont’s illustration career spanned 6 decades. In addition to winning the medal in 1957, he had Caldecott Honor books in 1950 (The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss) and 2002 (The Stray Dog, which Simont both wrote and illustrated)! He illustrated over 100 children’s books, collaborating with many well-known authors. Simont just died in 2013. He had an interesting and illustrious life (he and the illustrator Robert McCloskey were once roommates!) His obituary in the New York Times is well worth a read.

This book is probably most appealing to early elementary school readers, but Frances enjoyed it too. It would be a perfect read-aloud for Arbor Day.

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One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my fourth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.

1957 Caldecott Medal: A Tree is Nice

DCPL Love: Petworth Neighborhood Library

We are lucky enough to live equidistant between two neighborhood libraries – Lamond-Riggs and Petworth. Both are just over a mile from our house, the perfect distance to walk on a nice day. The library originally opened in 1939, and had a full, gorgeous renovation in 2011. It’s a big branch – three stories tall with separate spaces for young children, elementary aged kids, teens, and adults. There is a huge community room in the basement and a good sized Story Time room on the second floor.

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Petworth has recently begun doing a story time at 10:30 on Saturday mornings, which is perfect for working parents! We’ve been several times and it’s always great fun. Petworth also has my favorite toddler “stacks”. The books are all in low-level bins, which makes it so easy for an adult to browse for books to pick up, while also keeping an eye on a kid. (It is definitely easier to find a “known” book in traditional stacks, but I never realized, until I had my own mobile kid, how incompatible those are with supervising a young child). There are always crayons and scratch paper on one of the tables, to encourage coloring.

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In “other things that Carrie loves”, Petworth also has several fireplaces, and the most amazing floors. There are great cork floors in the reading rooms and a terrazzo mosaic map of the neighborhood in the entry.

On our recent visit, Frances and I enjoyed a story time (focused on African-American soldiers in the Civil War. Definitely the first book my kid has heard where someone got shot!) with a “Make Your Own American Flag” craft. Frances was SO proud of her flag!

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We picked up 3 books to read together: Round Is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, What can you do with a paleta? by Carmen Tafolla, and Harriet, you’ll drive me wild by Mem Fox.

One of my life list goals is to visit every library in the DCPL system. There are 26 libraries total, and I’ve been to 6 so far. You can read the other posts here.

DCPL Love: Petworth Neighborhood Library

What I Read: January 2014

I read 6 books in January – 1 non-fiction, 5 non-fiction. 4 were in print, 2 on Kindle.

Heirs of the Body by Carola Dunn. The latest Daisy Dalrymple mystery (a series I sometimes refer to as Maisie Dobbs, but fluffy), revolves around Daisy’s family’s search for an heir to inherit the Fairacres estate. I love the setting of these stories (1920s England) and Daisy’s life as noble-turned-journalist-who-married-a-Scotland-Yard-detective. Fun read to start the year

The Memory of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family’s Legacy of Infidelities by Katharine Weber. I should really read something else by Katherine Weber, because the very end of this book (dealing with the end of her Grandmother’s life) was really lovely, and I caught I glimpse of Weber’s skill with words. But mostly I didn’t like this book, which I got through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program. Weber’s childhood was hard. The first half focuses on her father who was unfaithful, as the book’s title suggests, but also just a crappy father and husband (and crazy/delusional/narcissistic). It’s hard to read. The second half, focused on her grandmother (she of the long-running affair with George Gershwin) is more interesting, and her grandmother was an impressively accomplished woman. I would have preferred a book focused just on that, but perhaps Weber felt she couldn’t tell one story without the other.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. A sequel of sorts to the amazing Code Name Verity. One of the characters in that book, plays a supporting role in this tale, but the protagonist is Rose Justice, American Air Transport pilot, who is intercepted during a flight in France and ends up in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. The tale draws you in quickly, but doesn’t shirk on the horrors of the concentration camp or Hitler’s “final solution”. This book lacks the “twist” of Code Name Verity, but is still a REALLY good read. If you like historical fiction at all, pick this up.

Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin. This is the first book by Rankin that I’ve read, although he is a very well-known (and prolific!) Scottish mystery writer. This book is from his best known series (Inspector Rebus), and was loaned to me by my neighbor. I almost never read books out of series order, but I really enjoyed this one – the 18th in the series, with the detective retired and working as a civilian in the Cold Case Unit. Rebus is drawn into a current missing persons investigation, when a mother visits the Cold Case Unit, trying to draw the parallels between the recent disappearance and that of her daughter’s a decade ago (and several other women in between). I can honestly say it stands alone – you don’t need to have read the others to enjoy this one.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson. The best word I can think to describe this book is wholesome. 16-year-old orphan, Hattie Inez Brooks, inherits a Montana homesteading claim from her Uncle Chester (who she’s never met). With nothing much keeping her in Arlington, Iowa, where she is staying with distant relatives, she gets on the train and heads out to Big Sky country. If she can set enough fence, plant enough crops and come up with $37.75 by the end of the 3 year claim period (of which only 1 year is remaining when she arrives), the land is hers. Set against the backdrop of World War I, Hattie struggles with the hard tasks of homesteading, but also finds joy and community with her neighbors. This was a Newbery Honor book in 2007 and is a welcome break from the dystopian fiction and supernatural romances flooding the YA market. A good, clean read.

The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak. A fictional look at the making of Catherine the Great, who came to Russia as a 14-year-old to marry Peter, the heir of Empress Elizabeth. Told through the perspective of Varvara, the orphaned daughter of a Polish bookbinder, who works at the Palace and is recruited as a spy by the Chancellor. It’s interesting to look at the life of this famous person (who I didn’t know much about) before she rose to power. The story starts with shortly before her arrival in Russia and ends shortly after she becomes Empress. Not my favorite book ever, but a decent historical read.

What I Read: January 2014

2011 Caldecott Medal: A Sick Day for Amos McGee

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee is the product of another husband and wife team. Philip C. Stead wrote the sweet tale of Amos McGee, an employee of the City Zoo who always has time for his friends (running races with the tortoise, reading bedtime stories to the owl, who is afraid of the dark.) One day Amos is too sick to make it to work – so his friends come to him!

Erin E. Stead is responsible for the charming illustrations, which were made by drawing on top of woodblock prints (You can read about her process here). The colors are muted (with some pops of red) and the images are delightful. The page showing Amos’ animal friends waiting of the bus is a particular favorite of mine.

Impressively, this is the first book Stead ever illustrated. Talk about starting on a high note! She has since illustrated 3 other books, each of which I love. Definitely worth checking out all of her work.

This is the first of the Caldecott books that Frances whole-heartedly embraced. It was a regular part of our bedtime story rotation while we had it out of the library.

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One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my third post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.

2011 Caldecott Medal: A Sick Day for Amos McGee