Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolve to Read!

Happy New Year!  I hope you all had an amazing holiday this year.  For those of you who have resolved to read more or be just a tad more bookish, here are some events in January.

Los Angeles

January 16
* Melissa de la Cruz celebrates the release of her final book in the Blue Bloods series at Mrs. Nelson's, 6 pm

January 19
* Susan Bernardo & Courtenay Fletcher sign Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs, Chevalier's Books, 10:30 am

January 24
* Young adult authors Jeff Gottesfeld (Robinson's Hood), Leslie Margolis (One Tough Chick), and Lauren Strasnick (Then You Were Gone). Hosted by Cecil Castellucci (The Year of the Beasts), Los Angeles Public Library, Central Library, 6:30 pm.

January 10
* Newbery Award winners Jerry Spinelli and Clare Vanderpool present their new books at the Needham Library, 7 pm

* Porter Square Books celebrates the recent release of Anita Silvey's print version of her amazing blog.  Come pick up a copy of her Children's Book-A-Day, 7pm.  So bummed to be missing this!

January 14
* Brookline Booksmith hosts its first Young Adult Book Club, 5 pm, open to teens age 12 - 18.  For the first meeting, read any of John Green's books. (I recommend The Fault in Our Stars!)

January 20
* Pinwheel Books publisher presents it's annual showcase featuring authors and illustrators at Brookline Booksmith, 2 pm

January 22
* Discuss writing and books with young adult author Gayle Forman at Wellesley Books, 4 pm.  For information on the writing competition she will judge (submissions due Jan. 15) click here.

Washington DC
January 7
* Newbery Award winners Jerry Spinelli and Clare Vanderpool present their new books at Politics & Prose, 10:30 am

January 15
* John and Hank Green (John is the author of The Fault in Our Stars), Carnegie Hall, 7 pm

January 24
* Kadir Nelson, two-time Caldecott winner, presents his book I Have a Dream, in honor of MLK Day, Politics & Prose, 10:30 am

January 26
* Young Adult Author Panel with Victoria Schwab, Jenn Rush, Jessica Spotswood, Miranda Kenneally, and Tiffany Schmidt moderated by Diana Peterfreund, One More Page Bookstore, 4 pm

January 30
* Amelia Bedelia turns 50!  Author Peggy Parish's nephew, Herman, celebrates the anniversary at Politics & Prose, 10:30 am

January 31
* Rachel Cohn presents her YA book Beta, Politics & Prose, 5 pm

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I hope you all had a fantastic holiday!  Did you get some good books for Christmas?  Did you give any of our suggestions?  We would LOVE to hear about them!

 Just a few of our suggestions this year...

For you e-readers out there...if you would like to download and carry a bunch of books around with you, independent bookstores now have their own e-reader, the Kobo.  I'm waiting for an after Christmas special to get mine.  Boston folk, head on over to Porter Square Books to pick one up.  Angelinos, my favorite local store is Skylight Books and you can get one there!  For the rest of you, check out this link with other independent stores selling the Kobo.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Merry Christmas!  I hope you have enjoyed our 12 days again this year.  It is always fun searching for just the right book to give someone.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... pop-up books.

Come on, these are the coolest books ever.  And if you put them in the hands of a child they will probably be well-loved, and well-destroyed.  So maybe these are "for the kids" when really, they are for you!

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Pop-Ups by Robert Sabuda
Staying faithful to the original text, and using the classic John Tenniel illustrations, this edition of Alice's Adventures is simply...wonder-ful.  (I know, I know...I couldn't resist!)  I remember the pop-up books from my day.  There were some pretty cool effects.  However, Robert Sabuda is simply the man.  Both his pop-up books made me gasp as I turned each page.  You know the story, so take a look for yourself!

One flap says to pull up and look inside...

And this is what you see! Down the rabbit hole!

Even the flaps with the story have pop-ups!

My favorite page

Encyclopedia Mythologica: Fairies and Magical Creatures - Pop-Ups by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda
What are the origins of fairies and magical beings?  Who are the most famous fairy-tale-ers? Where do elves, gnomes, and unicorns fall into all of this?  All of your biggest wonders about the realm of magical fairy land are explored in this, another amazing pop-up book by Robert Sabuda...with Matthew Reinhart of course.  Using flaps, pop-ups, and maybe a bit of magic as well, Fairies and Magical Creatures is a treat to behold.  Plus, it comes highly recommended from my student Amaya.  When she heard I would be reviewing pop-up books for the twelfth day, she brought this book in and said I simply MUST include it!

From baby... beast, in a quick flick of the wrist!

My favorite page

From another angle

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
This book doesn't feature pop-ups, however, it cleverly uses cut-outs on every page to illustrate a different type of green.  Each page is beautifully displayed and green is highlighted in a unique and vibrant way.  My two favorite pages are jungle green and khaki green.  Seeger uses the plants and rocks in the background to spell out the words jungle and khaki so when you turn the page, the cut-out highlights only the word for the new shade of green!  This book is gorgeous!  Your little one will learn the concept of green in an artistic and delightful way.

Jungle green

Khaki green.  Can you see the word jungle too?


Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Eleventh Day of Christmas!

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Books by Taro Gomi!  (Hey, that rhymed!)

Taro Gomi is a Japanese artist/author/illustrator and many of his books have been translated into English and other languages.  I learned about him when I stumbled upon some of his original work at an art show in Japan, and now we have his books in English, Japanese, and Spanish around our apartment.  You might know him from the famous Everyone Poops, but he has many other beautiful books.

I am not usually a fan of coloring books, but his coloring books are unusual and wonderful- instead of coloring in the lines, children are prompted to add to the existing drawings, creating their own art:

Either of his coloring books, Doodles or Scribbles, along with a set of crayons would be a great gift for either children or adults!

Two beautiful board books by Gomi are Bus Stops and Spring Is Here.

I just found out that the translation of Bus Stops might as well have been done by someone just looking at the pictures (it does not line up with the original Japanese at all!) but it's still a good book.  It follows a bus and its passengers as they go through the day visiting movie sets, beaches, hospitals, and other interesting places.

Spring is Here is a sweet book about the cycle of the seasons, and the illustrations are particularly clever- look at the cow's coat!:

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Tenth Day of Christmas

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...classics.

Are you still here?  Phew!  Today is supposed to be our last day on Earth. Today's impending doom inspired me to suggest Comet in Moominland, and I guess I needed a category to go along with that so I went for obscure classics!  These books have returned to bookshelves in stores everywhere and are just as wonderful as we remember.  Both were recommended to me by parents of students and I am so thrilled to have read them.

Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson
Moomintroll is a white, hippo looking creature.  He lives in Moominland.  He and his pal Sniff are out for a walk when they see a picture in a cave predicting that a comet will crash into Moominland and destroy it. They decide they need to venture off to find the observatory in the Lonely Mountains to ask the Professors if this is true.  Along the way, they come across many adventures and plenty of danger!  Does the comet hit Moominland?  Well, I'll let you know tomorrow!

The Freddy Anniversary Collection by Walter R. Brooks, illustrated by Kurt Weiss
The Freddy books were originally published between 1927 and 1956.  The stories revolve around Freddy, a pig on the Bean farm in rural New York State.  The animals and farmers round out the cast of these happy stories that would make great bed time read alouds.  Read along as Freddy leads the farm on adventures to Florida, the North Pole, and as a detective. Anyone who is a fan of Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte's Web, or Babe the Gallant Pig (other great classics) will welcome Freddy into their family as a new hero!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On the Ninth Day of Christmas...

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Books for grownups about how to make things for (and with) children!

Somehow, once you have a baby, there seems to be no more time for things like crafting and sewing and knitting...  But my new year's resolution is that I will FIND the time.  Somehow.  And my pre- New Year's resolution is that I will finish my son's sweater by Christmas.  And now that I've said it here, it will have to get done.  Isn't that how it works?

**Update: it is done!  Just writing this post kicked my butt in gear! The pattern is from Knitting for Baby by Melanie Falick, an excellent knitting book!

Anyway, here are a few books that I picked up this year that inspire me to find more crafting time.

The first is Craft-A-Day by Sarah Goldschadt.


This book has 365 small crafts, organized by weekly themes and assigned to certain weeks of the year (so that hearts line up with Valentine's day, etc.).   I've been doing some of these crafts with one of my 4th grade violin students as a treat for the last few minutes of her lessons.  All the crafts require a trip to a craft store, but are fairly cheap, and very fast, and satisfying. Some of them are already on my Christmas tree!  The hearts are from the book (I know, it's not Valentine's day, but hearts can be for Christmas too!) and I added the little hand.

I have not attempted to try anything from Growing Up Sew Liberated by Meg McElwee yet, but how cool would it be to fashion one's own Hideaway Play Tent (also known as a TIPI)!  I'm trying to convince my parents to make one for their backyard, since I don't know where one would fit in our tiny apartment.  There are plenty of other adorable sewing projects (shirts, bibs) in this book that I hope to get to in the next few months!

Finally, we have Oliver + S Little Things To Sew by Liesl Gibson.  My favorite project in this book is the penguin backpack, but I also want to try the messenger bag, bento box carrier, and play town.  Better get started!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Eighth Day of Christmas

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...Middle Grade Books!

Right now, all the "cool kid" in children's literature are writing YA books.  YA is ALL the rage.  Think Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, and many other greats.  Don't get me wrong, I love YA literature.  However, those books target an audience that is usually leaning toward a high school crowd.  The popularity of young adult fiction often causes kids in middle school to pick them up waaaaay too soon.  So, here are some "MG" books (think more 4-6 grade) for those kiddos in your life who need a book that is just right for them

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Brian Selznick wowed us all when he wrote The Incredible Invention of Hugo Cabret (which wowed us all again when Martin Scorsese made it into the movie Hugo last year.)  In his second, very thick, book, Selznick tells the parallel stories of a young girl, Rose, who is deaf and a young boy, Ben, who is searching for his long lost father.  Just like in Hugo Cabret, Selznick combines the story with pages and pages of illustrations that are as much a part of the story as the words are.  For those kids who like Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck is a sure win! 
The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman by Meg Wolitzer
One of my students, and then one of my colleagues, told me about this fantastic book.  It tells the intertwining tale of 3 youngsters who all come together through...Scrabble!  Duncan Dorfman learns that he has a power, that of being able to read via his finger tips.  When he decides to let the kids at school know about his secret, despite his mother's warning, adventures abound.  I have a bunch of kids who are really into Scrabble and they were so excited to see their hobby represented in this book.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
You will laugh, you will cry, you will want to read this again and again.  This is one of the most read and loved books by my students in the past year and it is the book I will be reading with my Girl's and Books Book Club in the new year.  Ivan is a silverback gorilla kept in a cage in the middle of a mall.  His owner got Ivan when he was just a baby but when he could no longer keep Ivan in the house, he decided Ivan would become the center attraction in a shopping mall.  Ivan is eventually joined by other animals, like the elephant Stella who tells Ivan lots of stories. Told from Ivan's perspective, in poetic form, The One and Only Ivan will open your heart and soul as the quest to save Ruby, a new elephant, becomes Ivan's mission.  This story is based on a real silverback gorilla named Ivan who has spent the last 18 years in the Atlanta Zoo.  Sadly, the real Ivan passed away just a few months ago but you can read about his real life incredible journey here.

Here are some other great MG books that I highly recommend (and my 5th graders obsess over):
The Warrior Series books, written by Erin Hunter (the pseudonym for the 3 real authors)
Wonder by R.J. Palacio (my FAVORITE book of 2012)
Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
Savvy by Ingrid Law
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood, illustrated by Jon Klassen
The Summer Island Series by Robin Russel
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
The Time Warp Trio Series by Jon Scieszka

The seventh day of Chrstmas

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

Books for the bath!

When looking for a good book, one does not always consider the degree of water repellency to be an important factor, unless you are shopping for either a) a drooling, teething, baby who puts everything in his/her mouth, or b) a child who enjoys a good read in the tub.  If you are shopping for either, here are a few good waterproof book recommendations!

The first is a series of books called Indestructibles.

These books seem to be made of the same material that fed-ex letter bags come in: tear-proof, waterproof, and papercut-proof!  Babies can chew on them, wrinkle up the pages, throw them out of the stroller, into the road, and under cars, parents can wash them in the sink- and they hold up beautifully.  More importantly (of course) they are actually good books!  The two that we have, Hey Diddle Diddle, and Frere Jacques both illustrated by Jonas Sickler, feature fun, updated illustrations to classic children's rhymes.  Hey Diddle Diddle is set in New Orleans, and Frere Jacques is set in a magical candyland-like Paris.  Yum.

Sometimes more traditional bath books (the puffy, sponge-between-two-pieces-of-shower-curtain  kind) can be a little lame, probably because they are only a few pages long, and unless we are talking about fine poetry, it's hard to tell a good story in four or five pages.  Here are a few that we actually enjoy reading (every single night!) and that one-year-olds also find hilarious.

Silly Shark by Charles Stafford is a current hit in the tub- each spread has one real shark (Nurse Shark), and one silly shark (Purse Shark) and by looking at the pictures it's hard to tell which one is the real one and which is the funny made-up one.  My only complaint about this book is that they sort of rhyme the word "saw" with "door" but as noted earlier, we are not really talking about fine poetry here.

I Love My Octopus by Anne Wilkinson is another fun book- the words describing the octopus on each page ("twirly whirly arms") lend themselves to lots of splashing and dancing in the tub, and there are fun surprises as well- pages that squeak and squirt water.  

One other thing, book lovers... while researching books to read in the tub I found this product:

on the internet.  Amazing!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Sixth Day of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...nonfiction.

I am obsessed with nonfiction books and for good reason. The folks in the children's book world are cranking out some amazing books that teach us lots.  I didn't realize that all of my selections were about artists in some sense, so I guess these are art books too! From mimes to monuments, here are some great nonfiction books to consider.

Drawing From Memory by Allen Say
Allen Say, author and illustrator of Grandfather's Journey, wrote the story of how he became the well known artist he is today.  Starting with his birth in Yokohama, Japan in 1937, this memoir tells how Say started to read comic books and draw from a very young age.  He yearns to be a cartoonist, makes his way to his hero, Noro Shinpei's home, and starts to make his dream come true.  Among the word are photographs, sketches, old comics, and his own story told throughout in a comic strip style.  This is a great book for all your young artists and comic book lovers!

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
This book won a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King award and it is no surprise why.  Dave was a potter living in South Carolina in the 180ss.  His work and story are one of intrigue and hope.  I am happy to see the history of African Americans come to life in more than just stories of Harriet Tubman.  The diversity of our past deserves more than what we already know.  Also check out Kadir Nelson's Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans for another fantastic history of our country.

Dream Something Big: The Story of the Watts Towers by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Susan L. Roth
I am thrilled not only that Dianna Hutts Aston wrote this book, but that it is getting recognition as well.  Watts Towers, for those of you who don't know, is an amazing structure that was built in the neighborhood of Watts, here in my fine city of Los Angeles.  The neighborhood has always been a diverse community but definitely not one known for art displays.  Yet, among all the trouble surrounding it, these towers are a sign of hope.  I visited the Watts Towers a couple of years ago and they are spectacular.  For you local Angelinos, and for those far away, this is a great find!

A photo of the detail at Watt's I took when I visited.

My class fell in love with Melissa Sweet's work when we read A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams.  I'm thrilled she is taking on the biography of yet another talented person in U.S. History.  I was completely fascinated, and in awe, reading about Tony Sarg, the man who is responsible for bringing us those giant balloons in our holiday parades.  A few weeks back I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that connects me to this amazing man so the book held special meaning.  Your kids will love to learn about Tony Sarg, and will wow your family, with the details of an American tradition. (I picked up my copy from The Los Angeles Public Library!)
Monsieur Marceau by Leda Schubert, illustrations by Gerard Dubois
See what I mean?  The nonfiction coming out is truly amazing!  When I was a kid we had a stock pile of the biographies and histories in the world.  While I do love learning about George Washington, Helen Keller, and Harriet Tubman, I am devouring all the new folks being written about.  Here is another example.  Marcel Marceau, famous mime who kids these days, and I will submit I am with them, know nothing about.  Yet, his story is also one to be told and enjoyed.  With beautiful illustrations that are only necessary for telling the story of a man who performed in silence,  this is a great new find.  Did you know he actually talked a lot in real life?  No?  Well, pick this book up for more interesting facts!