Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oh So Pleasant

The Spider and the Fly
Today I celebrated the life of Mr. Nuthall, my high school English teacher, who passed away a year ago.  He left behind an amazing wife, who also happens to be my high school Spanish teacher, and three spectacular children.  He also left a legacy.  When he passed away a year ago, his Facebook page erupted in memories, good byes, quotes, pictures, and videos.  Even now, a full year later, his page is continuously updated by students who remember what he taught them.  So today, I celebrated Mr. Nuthall Day.  I wore my Hawaiian shirt, played Jimmy Buffett for 4th graders, and we read his two favorite children's books.

Letting the kids take over...Owl Moon
One of the things Mr. Nuthall taught me was just what an educator should be.  He didn't just teach us what was mandated.  He taught us how to be people and care for each other.  He showed us how to advocate for what we believed in.  I remember when he explained to me how he had gone for years teaching the same thing to every class when it dawned on him that he needed to make a change.  So he gave more power to the kids, he let us take over and perform and have input into what we learned.  And guess what, I don't think he left a single child behind.  About 5 years ago, 4 years short of his retirement, he was still working on his craft.  He sent me an email about a new program he was thinking of trying called Capturing Kids Hearts. "I went through the training of a program called Capturing Kids Hearts.  It is very kid centered, very empowering, and just generally wonderful (I hope)...I thought of you immediately and wanted to let you know...I can't wait to try it in September," he wrote me.  Extraordinary for most people...ordinary for Mr. Nuthall.  I know for a fact that he kept in touch with most of his former students, always offering suggestions, new ideas, and remembering just what they would be interested in.

Mr. Nuthall was a person of great conviction.  I hope to be someone who can be so passionate about what I do...even after 30+ years.  One of Mr. Nuthall's favorite movies, and a play he landed the lead role in, was Harvey.  In the movie Harvey, there is a line in which the main character Elwood explains advice his mother once gave him.  " 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me."

Mr. Nuthall was both.   I am sorry you all don't get to know him.  Here is his speech at my graduation from high school, just a small glimpse at a wonderful person.  Cheers, Mr. Nuthall!

Monday, November 28, 2011

In Thanksgiving

A still from Hugo
I should have blogged more over the holiday break but I was just way too wrapped up in some good books that I couldn't find time!  This week, I swear, you will get reviews!  Here are the three books I devoured in the last 4 days: Summer Island: A Prince in Peril by Robin Russell, Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson, and Ida B... and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan.   On deck is Inside Out & Back Again, which recently won an award for Young Adult Literature. 

Oh!  I saw Hugo as well.  How do I even begin??  GO SEE IT!  There, that should do for now! The book will always be better but this was a great movie that I think honored the book as well as any movie can.

And I nearly forgot...Happy Un-Birthday to Alice, Ever After and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  Alice, Ever After was created last Thanksgiving after a Thanksgiving breakfast of waffles and the Macy's Day parade with my friends Mas and Walter.  This year they had their beautiful baby boy Oliver to keep them company.  And the famous book this blog is named after also celebrated it's birthday yesterday, but it is slightly older than my blog.

So, a lot to be thankful for.  Lots of events coming up too.  Keep checking back.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Daily Horoscope

I visit my favorite local coffee shop, Cafecito Organico, every Monday and Friday...and sometimes in between.  I LOVE their coffee.  But they also post the daily horoscopes right by the register so I am forced to read them.  Ok, I'll be honest.  I get a kick out of 'em.  Sometimes they are eerily spot on but I always remind myself to believe it is all just fun.  Today's horoscope, which I glanced over ever-so-briefly, said something about following my passions.  Vague enough to apply to just about any Aries who walked through the door.

I just got home from a long day at school and started to catch up on my passion...children's books.  New books were honored, this time by the New York Times (Check those out here!)  But in addition to that, I found a link to an impromptu speech given by Ann Patchett at the opening of Parnassus Books, a partnership between Ann and Karen Hayes.  I hope this little snippet is a glimpse into my own future...

A Laundry List

I had a long list of authors to visit in the last two weeks and only made it to one.  Progress reports, parent-student conferences, my family visiting, and getting ready for the holiday kept me from attending. My crazy schedule also kept me away from blogging!  If you haven't been following me on Twitter, definitely find me @EverAfterAlice.  It is much easier for me to post updates there when I don't have time to blog. Twitter has been a huge help in updating me on the latest and greatest events in the children's book world.  Here are a few of the big updates:

*  Publisher's Weekly announced the National Book Award winners last week. Thanhha Lai won for Young People's Literature for her book Inside Out & Back Again.

* Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline and The Graveyard Book,  was featured on The Simpsons tonight!  I didn't watch but the literary world was all a-twitter.

* Anne Patchett, author of Bel Canto, opened an independent bookstore with a partner in Nashville.  She was featured on NPR this week and I sat in my car in a parking lot for ten minutes to listen to her tell about the importance of the independent bookstore.

Frazee and her new book Stars

And finally, today I made it to my only "author" visit.  It was actually an illustrator, Marla Frazee, two time Caldecott Honor Award winner and winner of numerous other awards for her beautiful work.  The best part of this visit is the fact that the bookstore, Once Upon a Time Bookstore in Montrose, CA, is her local bookstore! She mentioned that when she first decided to become an illustrator for children's books this is where she visited.  She knows the owner, her parents were in the audience, and the owner's daughter was the model for one of Frazee's characters in her version of Hush Little Baby.  Joey is not the little girl featured in the book anymore, she is now a Junior in college and she was there too!  We had a rare, rainy, grey day here in Los Angeles. It was the perfect background to snuggle up in this cozy bookstore with Frazee and her book family.

With all the craziness, I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday.  I have acquired a long list of books to read.  I am finishing A Prince in Peril, I have a couple of books to read for a pre-teen girl book club I am leading, and I am dying to get my hands on Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick.  Phew! Lots to blog about!  Stay tuned!

Me and Marla Frazee!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Best of 2011?

Publishers Weekly has announced their list of the best children's books for 2011.  There are a bunch on there that I still need to read but some that I really enjoyed this year made the list.

My fave of the bunch is I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen.  This seemingly simple picture books tells of Bear looking for his hat.  He asks all the animals if they have seen his red hat, even rabbit...who is wearing the hat!  Rabbit denies it and it takes a couple of pages for Bear to realize he has been bamboozled.  Well, watch out Rabbit because we all know how bears solve their problems!  A very subtle ending.  Bonus for all you Twitter fans or those who have no interest in the Twilight teams.  You can choose Team Bear or Team Rabbit and add a little icon to your Twitter account! Me, being a hat lover, obviously chose Team Bear.
Another winner on the list is The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales. The original book, as I blogged on Halloween, is a series of illustrations and the reader gets to make up whatever story he or she chooses.  Now, some of the best of the best children's authors have written their interpretations.  (It really is an amazing line-up...if children's literature had a fantasy team like baseball and football, these would all be on my team!) I was excited about this so I read the one by Jon Scieszka, one of my favorite authors.  And even though I LOVE his story, I have to say, I liked it better when it could be whatever I wanted it to be.  I liked that each time I opened the book I could make a new story for each illustration.  Now I imagine his story, which is fabulous, but will always be the same.  Publishers Weekly addresses this in the list saying, 

"Some might dismiss the idea of creating stories for the enigmatic illustrations in Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick as literary heresy. But really, that sort of imaginative extrapolation is the whole point of the earlier book, an exercise formalized in this volume with creepy, funny, and provocative entries from the likes of Sherman Alexie, Kate DiCamillo, Gregory Maguire, and Van Allsburg himself."

I don't know, what do you think?  To read the entire list, click HERE

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dear Oliver,

I love being read to, don't you?  I don't care how old you are, nothing beats being read to.  My book buddy Mas just had a baby boy, Oliver.  I know she is going to be reading a lot to him.  I wish I could be there to listen or to read to them both myself.  But since I can't, here is Oliver Jeffer's, her favorite, and certainly one of mine, reading to them his latest book Stuck.  Happy birthday Oliver Rodriguez! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Once Upon A Time...

Today, I had lunch with a hummingbird.  Daisy, a student in my storytelling class, was having lunch with me when we heard this chirping noise.  We looked up to see a hummingbird!  After failed attempts to coax it out of the room, we decided to just have a relaxing lunch with it.  We decided a hummingbird would probably like Corinne Bailey Rae, so we put on some tunes.  The bird hung around and then floated out the door.  My friend suggested this would make a great children's book!  What do you think?  I'll post your story if you send one!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

And the Award Goes To...

Here are some of the children's book characters from Halloween.  Awesome!

Ok, not from a book...but there I am!  Pippi Longstocking!

Yay Alice in Wonderland!

Clifford the Big Red Dog
Kid's book, kid's cereal...close enough!

Where the Wild Things Are

DW from Arthur