Monday, February 27, 2012

Thanks for the Bears!

Today was a sad day in the world of children's literature. Jan Berenstain, co-author of the beloved series The Berenstain Bears, passed away at the age of 88.  Her husband, Stan Berenstain, passed away a few years ago.  In this article, her son says she was still working on books up until the day before she passed away.  They may not have been flashy and never won a Caldecott Award, but I remember reading and rereading these books as a kid.  How else would I have known what to do when I was afraid of the dark, or if I was having trouble telling the truth?

Jan suffered a stroke, according to the article, but lived a full life.  I spoke with one of my students today, who just returned from his grandfather's funeral.  "Are you ok?" I asked.  "Yeah, I guess," he said. "The good thing is, my grandpa is in a much better place, don't you think?"  I did a double-take at the mature understanding this nine year old had for the passing of a life.  Jan Berenstain, I hope you and Stan are enjoying your better place.  Thanks for making ours one too!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Guest Blogger!

I just spent a lovely long weekend away with some of my best lady friends.  I knew I wouldn't have a chance to write computers allowed! So, I asked one of my students to review a book I recommended. Whenever I finish a good book, I bring it in to school and tell my kids all about it.  After I finished reading A Prince in Peril by Robbin Russel a few weeks back, I did just that.  Arianna, one of my 4th graders, swiped it up.  Here is her review.  Happy Presidents Day!

Summer Island: A Prince in Peril Review
by Arianna

I think that the book Prince in Peril is the best book I read in my life. The author of this book gave a lot of details.  One of my favorite parts is when Greta mistakes her grandmother with another lady.  And when they showed a lot of details of the house, they said they had a music room!  They mention a lot of my favorite instruments.  Her friends are really funny, too.  I thought this book was the best book ever! 
Also, a reminder to all of my students who read this blog...feel free to send me your reviews any time!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

One Potato, Two Potato

I just arrived home from a lovely afternoon in the Garden.  This is technically month number three of Children's Stories in the Garden at the Micheltorena Elementary School Garden. (The first event was rained out.)  Children's Stories in the Garden involves myself and a few friends leading an activity and read along for kids while their parents help garden.

Planting Potatoes
Today my friend Rick led the activities.  We read Brave Potatoes by Toby Speed.  In this book, the Potatoes lead a revolt against an evil chef.  The kids loved it and we ended up reading it three times!

Rick also showed us how to grow our own potatoes.  We used an old tire, a mixture of dirt and compost, and sliced up some potatoes.  It was lots of fun! 

Our next event is Saturday, March 10th.  I hope you can join us!

Rick reads Brave Potatoes

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Curled Up

I am reading a lot of books right now and they are all fantastic.  I can't even explain how escaping into these books the last week has been a welcome gift.  Well, apparently my furry roommate decided he would try one out.  I had tossed my copy of Winnie the Pooh on the bed when I finished reading.  I left to do some work and when I came back in the room, Nikolas James Pumpkinhead was all curled up with it.  Oh, the life of owning a literary feline...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Hello Children's Book Lovers!

We have some amazing upcoming events.  Check 'em out!

Los Angeles

Saturday, February 11
* I will be at the Micheltorena St. Garden doing Children's Stories in the Garden!  Storytime will be from 12 to 1.  Stop on by!

Friday, February 17
* Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and co-author Raymond Obstfeld present What Color is My World at Vroman's in Pasadena at 7 pm.  (Tickets are free, but you do need tickets!)

Tuesday, February 21
* Katherine Applegate, author of The One and Only Ivan, will be at Mrs. Nelson's at 5 pm.

Wednesday, February 22
* Bridge to Books Schmooze with Katherine Applegate at Once Upon a Time Books.  Tickets are $5

Friday, February 24
*  Marissa Meyers, author of Cinder, will be at Mrs. Nelson's at 5 pm.

Sunday, February 19
* Kadir Nelson, author of We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, will lead a special gallery tour of his exhibit at the Eric Carle Picture Book Museum in Amherst.  (For a sneak preview, tickets are available for an event on Saturday, February 18th on the website.)

Also, Boston/Cambridge folk!  Just got this article from my friend Rachel.  Curious George is coming back to Harvard Square in the Spring!  It will be a little different but worth celebrating for sure!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Girls and Books

This past quarter I have had the pleasure of leading an all-girls book club.  We read two stellar books, Ida B. and Pictures of Hollis Woods.  I can't even begin to describe how much this group has meant to me.  Every week I left this book club feeling like I learned something that I could never have learned without these thoughtful, lovely young ladies.  Today was our last day of the first round and next quarter we will be joined by even more girls.  We celebrated with cupcakes, bubbly apple juice, and our stuffed animals. 

Although I can't wait to start the next round, today I would like to say cheers to some fabulous 4th and 5th graders! You are some pretty spectacular ladies!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

One Last Thing...

Before I head off to my first Super Bowl Party, ever, I have one last plug.  (BTW, did you know The Hunger Games is promoting the pre-game show? Um, yeah.)

World Book Night is an opportunity for you to get 20 free copies of an amazing book and give those books away to people who should read them.  The "Night" is April 23rd.  All you have to do is register on that link and BAM, people get books.  The organization will send the books to a pick up site near you just before April 23rd.  Then, you go out and give away books!

Now, the good news is that the original deadline of February 1st was pushed back to February 6th.  So you can still do it.  The bad news is The Hunger Games and The Book Thief were so popular that they are no longer available.  But there are still plenty of books!  Do it!  If you aren't sure who to give to, I have a long list of schools that could use donations.  Because of Winn Dixie and The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian are two great books for kids!

Bliss in Bookstore Trips

I definitely made the perfect choice in my outing to Ojai yesterday.  The hour and a half drive north was stunning. Ojai is a small little town with a gorgeous Main Street. There were beautiful adobe and stucco buildings everywhere. I found Bart's Books on a side street.

Bart's is an outdoor bookstore and a smile immediately crept across my face as I pulled up in my car. The first thing you see as you pull up is that the outside walls have bookshelves built in them. If you visit Bart's while they are closed they ask that you pay for these books by slipping money in a box. The "inside" is a maze of shelves, old tables and chairs, and succulants everywhere. I sorta just wandered through the maze smiling a goofy smile before i found the children's book section. It wasn't organized in any particular way, just a bunch of used books on a bunch of shelves. This made it more like a scavenger hunt so I spent a good 20 minutes perusing. I found some good ones, and fairly priced since this is a used bookstore, and made off with my purchases.

On my way home I had to stop in Ventura because of the beautiful pier and beach. As a native east coaster, I can tell you nothing beats reading a good book on the beach in February! A gorgeous 70 degree day, slight breeze, warm sun, and a delicious shrimp taco from the beach taco stand made a grand way to enjoy my new purchases.

As I drove home I also noticed that the harbor for the Channel Islands was in the area. One of the Channel Islands is "the" island in the book Island of Blue Dolphins. I was thisclose to hopping a ferry over but decided to do that on another day. I mean, why not?

For all you LA folk, Ojai is definitely worth the day trip. And for my east coast friends, sorry about the beach photos!
Main Street Ojai

"Inside" Bart's Books
A Perfect Reading Spot

Ventura Pier
My Bart's Swag

Saturday, February 4, 2012

To Ojai

View Larger Map
I read this article earlier this week and I have been waiting to hit the road and check out a beautiful bookstore in Ojai, CA.  (Of course, if I had my pick, the store I would really visit is Shakespeare & Company in Paris.) Ojai is a short hop, skip, and jump from LA and it is the perfect outing for a beautiful Saturday in southern California.   I did a little searching for what else to do while I am there.  I discovered Ojai is a Chumash word meaning moon.  I also read up on Los Angeles Magazine what is going on in the tiny town. So, to Ojai I go!  I am sure I will have an update later this evening.

Happy Saturday folks!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Bedtime Story

Thanks to Stacey for this. I will suggest as she it BIG!

Flax-Golden Tales - Extra Yarn!

When I was in Boston over the holiday, my book buddy Mas and I had a full-on book-nerd session. Her husband Walter and their baby Oliver joined us as well, although Oliver was a silent observer during this trip.  "Have you read? ... Did you see? ...  I just love the new book by...."  We even tried to convince Oliver Jeffers, via his agent, that he should design the logo for this blog.  Alas, that was a failed attempt, but a lovely opportunity to feel connected to the book world we love so much.

Annabelle lives in a cold little town without much color
(Sorry, lil' sis!)

One book we talked about, and couldn't wait to run out and buy, was Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen.  We have both loved the work of Klassen in I Want My Hat Back and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. Well, the release date came and I was ready!  The book was just as lovely as I had hoped!

The Archduke tries to persuade Annabelle
as she knits a sweater for a truck.
The story is about a little girl named Annabelle who discovers a mysterious box with colorful yarn.  She decides to knit herself a sweater.  So she does.  She finds she still has extra yarn so she knits a sweater for Mars, her dog.  She still has extra yarn so she decides to knit more sweaters.  She keeps on knitting sweaters for everyone, except Mr. Crabtree, "who never wore sweaters or even long pants, and who would stand in his shorts with the snow up to his knees."  So she knit him a hat.  After she knits everyone sweaters she still has extra yarn so she knits sweaters for things that don't usually wear sweaters, like trucks and houses and mailboxes.  Her town becomes colorful and people travel from all over to get a sweater.  Then, one day, an archduke travels to try and buy her box of magical yarn but she won't sell it, not even for $10 billion.  He decides to send some bandits to steal her yarn but he opens the box to discover...well, read the book and find out!

Mac Barnett tells a pretty simple story with an oh-so-sweet message.  I love it's fairy tale style, full of magic and an evil archduke.  And Klassen delivers again!  My favorite pages are his line-ups.  Our good friends from I Want My Hat Back even make a cameo appearance!

Annabelle knits for all her classmates and her teacher.

Annabelle knits for the town...even "little Louis" Ha!

Annabelle even knits for...hey! I know those guys!

My latest creation, a pink elephant,
with a mustache my sister knit!
For those of you who know me, you know that I am also a knitter.  This book was extra delightful for me because of how it showed off the beauty of the knitted gift.  Here is the link to the other blog I write with my mom and sister, about knitting!  I loved seeing the faces of the folks who received their sweaters from Annabelle.  Some were delighted, some a little confused.  Yes, this is the gamble a knitter takes when creating a gift for someone.  Extra Yarn is a great book, a great gift, to young readers, and everyone else, that will definitely make you feel all warm and cozy, just like the perfect knitted sweater.