Saturday, December 28, 2013

January Book Events

I met Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett
at Mrs. Nelson's! 
The holidays are moving behind us and 2014 brings with it a whole year of possibility, hope, and rejuvenation.  Sadly, one special bookstore in my bookstore world is closing its doors. Mrs. Nelson's, outside of Los Angeles, is closing shop after 28 years.  This is a sad loss for the children's book community.  You have until the end of January to hop in to say your goodbyes!

I hope your 2014 brings you a little more happiness, a little more love, and a few more good books!  January is a little light but here are a few bookish options for your new year!


January 12
* Anna Staniszewski presents her YA book The Dirt Diary, Brookline Booksmith, 2pm

January 14
* Enjoy an evening of dark fantasy with YA authors Cassandra Clare, Joshua Lewis, and Holly Black, Wellesley Books, 7 pm
Los Angeles

January 7
* Lissa Price presents and signs her YA book Enders, Vroman's, 7 pm

January 17
* Nick Bruel, of Bad Kitty fame, will appear at Children's Book World to sign his latest Bad Kitty book, 4 pm 

January 18
* Salina Yoon presents and signs her picture book, Penguin in Love, Vroman's, 10:30 am

Friday, December 27, 2013

DANCE FRIDAY!!!! Christmas Style

Mostly we watch White Christmas so we can
sing a-long with this scene.
Sisters! Sisters!
One of the things my mom, my sister and I love about Christmas is watching White Christmas.  We haven't done it yet this year because our movie watching has consisted of other classics such as Sharknado and The Other Guys.  However, I am going to do my Christmas duty and play a little clip from White Christmas for y'all.

God bless the internet, for mashing hip hop and classic dance scenes.  Merry Christmas and get your boogie on!!

*Side note - my mom came down while I was playing this video, she had no idea what it was, just heard the music, and started dancing around the living room.  I would say that makes a winner for Dance Friday!!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays!

One of the best parts about being from the Buffalo area of the world is that we are pretty much guaranteed a white Christmas every year.  No matter where I have roamed in this world, I always seem to make it back, and I always get to sit in front of a fireplace for about a week.

We are getting ready for our final day of traditional celebrations in the Howe family.  Christmas Eve is always with my aunts, uncles, cousins and Grandma.  Christmas Day is celebrated with my brother and his kids and wife. And, because we are Canadian, we also have a Boxing Day party at my parents' house every year.  That celebration begins in just a few hours. Tomorrow...the pjs stay on, the wine gets poured, and the resting begins.

I hope wherever you are this holiday season, you are able to share happy memories with the people you love the most.  Merry Christmas from us at Alice, Ever After to you and yours!

Monday, December 23, 2013

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...a gift

Three years ago, my favorite teacher in the world passed away.  It was way too soon, as all those who knew and loved him recognized.  For the past three years, I have celebrated Mr. Nuthall Day in honor of him and to pass on his legacy to my own students.  This year, Mr. Nuthall Day fell on a weekend over Thanksgiving vacation so I wasn't able to celebrate.

However, I am celebrating because today on this Twelfth Day of Books, I have a gift for Mr. Nuthall.  I recently came upon this new release by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Marla Frazee.  It is a collection of poems called God Got a Dog.

The poems talk about all the different life experiences God has while on earth.  God, in the form of a man, goes to beauty school and opens a nail salon and calls it, "Nails by Jim," because he was "...afraid to call it Nails by God.  He was sure people would think he was being disrespectful and using His own name in vain and nobody would tip."  God does a lot of other things too.  God makes spaghetti, but, "She didn't have a ceiling so she tried to make it stick to Jupiter but that just vaporized the noodle, so god decided to HAVE FAITH it was cooked al dente."  God also takes a bath, gets arrested, and writes a fan letter.

God gambles
God gets a dog

God gets cable

Mr. Nuthall would have loved this book.  I really would have liked to give it to him for Christmas this year.  So I'm sending this post your way, Mr. N, and thanks for sending it my way too.  I knew it was from you when I read the first poem, because there you the pictures and the words.

Merry Christmas everyone!
This IS Mr. Nuthall. First page of the book

This is Mr. Nuthall's poem

I just know he would love it

Sunday, December 22, 2013

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas...Nonfiction

The institute at Simmon's College really opened up my world to a lot of new spectacular books.  Here are some nonfiction books for your eager learners.  We also have a late submission by a former student.  It didn't really fit with the theme but I didn't want it to be forgotten!
Redwoods by Jason Chin

Really, anything by Jason Chin is worth picking up.  He did another beautiful book about the Galapagos and one about the ocean.  I chose Redwoods, however, because it reminded me of my trip to Sequoia National Forest last winter.  While they are different trees, their beauty is astounding and something I won't quite ever forget.  In Chin's books, he starts with a young child reading the book that you are currently holding in your hand.  As you read, the child reads, and soon you are both whisked away to the world you are reading about. In Redwoods, the young boy learns all about these amazing trees.  Chin says for each book, he travels to the place he is writing about so he can make the reading experience as real as possible.

Lemons are Not Red by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Your littlest reader will love learning through this concept book about colors.  She will love it even more when she learns their are cutouts on every page.  I LOVE cutouts in books almost as much as I loved them when I was little.  Seeger also wrote Green, which I got last year for my nephew...another beautiful book with cutouts!

12432220The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen, recommended by Eòin (6th grade)
I recommend Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The False Prince because it is full of twists,…and I like twists. It tells the story of an orphan boy who is forced to compete in a series of competitions against three other orphans.  What they don’t know is that whoever wins becomes the prince. The story is set in medieval times in a made up country where everyone seems to know where the nearest orphanage is. But in the end it’s a really good book with a dramatic dialog. I think that the author did a good job making the characters and the plot exciting.  It’s the first book of a series, so if you like it, there’s more! 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

On the Tenth Day of Christmas...Friendship!

I have the best, best, best friends in the whole wide world.  Really.  I can't believe how lucky I am to have them.  In honor of all of them, and all your friends, here are some best friend books.  These are also great for helping little ones learn all about being a bff.

The Complete Adventure of the Mole Sisters by Roslyn Schwartz

This collection of all the Mole Sister books is a sweet little read for you and your littlest new friend.  The two sisters have many adventures together, all seen through a graphic novel style of illustration and storytelling.  If you loved the Frog and Toad books, you will adore the Mole Sisters.

Friends by Eric Carle

This is Eric Carle's latest and greatest story.  Based partially on a friendship from his past, and partially on his wife, Friends teaches us to go to great lengths for a friend.  The book just came out, however (bragging alert!) I won an advanced copy back in October at the Eric Carle Gala.  Just sayin'...

Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile

This trilogy of adventure won me over when it first came out.  Bink and Gollie are best friends but have a very big sister/little sister friendship.  They love adventures, socks, pancakes, and each other.  When they have a little hiccup in their friendship, it is always worked out because they realize how much they miss each other.  I own all three.  My sister, my one personal Gollie, has them too.

Jessie and I...the original Bink and Gollie

Elephant & Piggie by Mo Willems

Willems wins every time with this series.  Yes, I love Knuffle Bunny and the infamous Pigeon just as much as everyone else.  However, Elephant and Piggie take the cake.  I love their friendship.  I love the way they think. I love the way they care about each other and do stuff together.  I love that Elephant's name is actually Gerald in the books which makes him Elephant Gerald (say it real fast.  let me know if you don't get it.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

On the Ninth Day of Christmas...Shane Evans

Mr. Evans and I in our hats.  Kindred spirits for sure!

This summer when I attended the Simmon's College institute in children's literature. Throughout the weekend we were immersed in the best author talks, break out sessions, and mingling.  The weekend boasted some of my favorite authors, including Lois Lowry and Jack Gantos.  Our first presenter, however, was a man by the name of Shane W. Evans.

Shane is a young, African-American poet, writer, illustrator, and musician.  He started his presentation by recording himself performing different parts of a song, layering those on top of each other, getting us to sing with him, and then putting it all together.  It definitely got our attention.  In an industry that is seriously lacking in characters of diversity, Evans is one person leading the change. Through his children's books, his multimedia Dream Studio, or his ongoing project Africa Dream, Evans is making big waves in our world.  He is an inspiration for children everywhere to make their dreams come true and to grow up to become writers themselves.  Here are just a few of my favorites from this summer.

Chocolate Me! by Taye Diggs, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
My kids love this book because in 32 pages, it addresses the hurt young kids feel when their friends ask them why they look so different.  And in those 32 pages, kids will see that they should be proud of their diversity.  Yes, it is written by a celebrity and I usually don't like to promote those.  However, Taye Diggs happens to be Shane W. Evan's bff.  They went to college together in Rochester, NY and wrote this while they were there.  It is based off of Taye's own life experiences, and Shane is amazing, so I brought it to you anyway!

Art from Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Shane Evans really is a master at illustrations.  The folk art of Clementine Hunter is brought to life through his illustrations.  Whitehead tells the not-so-often heard story of Clementine (pronounced Clementeen) Hunter.  She was a descendent of slaves and worked as a laborer on a plantation in the late 1800s.  Hunter  began painting with left over supplies from a guest at her owner's plantation.  As she gained popularity, she was rewarded with her own gallery show.  However, due to segregation laws at the time, she wasn't able to attend.  For your readers who have been inspired by movers and shakers of the past, but are looking for a new voice to be heard, check out Art from Her Heart.

Underground: Finding the light to freedom, written and illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Underground, in a few words and stunning illustrations, captures your heart immediately.  We see the transformation from dark to light as Evans tells the story of the underground railroad.   It also captured the attention of the Coretta Scott King Award, in 2011, when it won for illustrations, as well as the attention of School Library Journal, when it won for best nonfiction in 2011.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

On the Eighth Day of Christmas: Picture Poetry/ABCs (also, books about whales)

On the Eighth Day of Christmas we have for you...  Picture Poetry and ABC Books!

Our first recommendation is:

If You Want To See a Whale by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

This is a beautiful book (both words and pictures) with instructions about what to do if you want to see a whale.  Here's a peek at both:

"if you want to see a whale
be careful not to notice
something inching, small and green
across the leaf, just nibble scoot
because things that are smaller than most things
can't be as giant as a whale"

Another excellent poetry book about whales is The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

My son and I were introduced to this book at a "Sea Squirts" baby class at our local aquarium (thanks Ms. Ashley!).  There is something about the rhythm of the words that makes me want to read this book to my son over and over again- try reading it out loud:

"This is the tale of a tiny snail
And a great big, grey-blue humpback whale.
This is a rock as black as soot,
And this is a snail with an itchy foot.
The sea snail slithered all over the rock
And gazed at the sea and the ships in the dock.
And as she gazed, she sniffed and sighed.
'The sea is deep and the world is wide!
How I long to sail'
Said the tiny snail"

I recognized the illustrator, Axel Scheffler,  from another of my favorite picture books: How to Keep a Pet Squirrel- a tricky one to find at a bookstore but if you see it, check it out!

Moving on to ABC books, we have Alpha Block by Christopher Franceschelli, illustrated by Peskimo. (Thanks, Cecily Kaiser and the folks at Abrams Appleseed Publishing for sharing this book with us!)

This is THE ultimate baby version of an illustrated encyclopedia- it is a thick, heavy, sturdy board book that  features cut-out letters and beautiful illustrations.  My son can look through this book, picking out all the pictures and words he knows for a LONG time.

...although he spends most of it staring at his favorite page:

In case you were wondering, this is my favorite page:

And the last picture book recommendation for this year is... drumroll...  Line 135 by Germano Zullo, Illustrated by Albertine.  (Thanks, Afton, for Oliver's birthday gift!)


 Although the words might resonate more with older children and adults:

"My mother and grandmother say that I am too small to know the entire world.
My mother and grandmother say that it's difficult enough to know yourself.
I don't always understand my mother and my grandmother"

...train-obsessed toddlers will have more than enough to do just paging through and looking through the detailed pictures of the interesting worlds that the 135 train drives through on its journey.

Some of the pictures remind me a little bit of the Babar and Father Christmas book, where I would stare at the pages for what seemed like hours, trying to figure out what each little elf was doing in all of the tiny scenes.  Remember this one?

Thanks Meg, for having me back to share our favorite picture books from the year!  Hope to see all of you readers back here next Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On the Seventh Day of Christmas: More Animals!

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, we have cute furry animals, a T-Rex, and lots of Hueys!

Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden, illustrated by Renata Liwska


Last week, we ran into this book at Porter Square books, and immediately recognized the illustrator from one of our favorite series of books (The Quiet Book, the Loud Book, The Christmas Quiet Book).  Liwska's pencil and paper illustrations of small furry animals are truly wonderful, and if you check out her website/blog, you can even find photos of her sketchbooks and learn about her process- a real treat for people interested in children's book illustration.  The words are beautiful as well:

 "Does a book remember that it once was a word?"

Tea Rex by Molly Idle

We got to meet Molly Idle at a book signing at the American Library Conference in Chicago, and she was just as lovely as her colored pencil drawings of a T-Rex trying to behave at a tea party.  This book is fantastic- it appears to be an etiquette primer for children learning how to be an excellent party host.  Throughout the book she never refers to the fact that you might be hosting a dinosaur, which makes the illustrations even more funny.

"When everyone is settled, you may serve refreshments.  
Be sure to offer several choices- and cater to the individual tastes of your guests"

The Hueys in It Wasn't Me by Oliver Jeffers

I am not sure if Hueys count as animals, but as they are not quite human, I think they would feel OK being in an animal-themed post.  This is the long-awaited sequel to Jeffers's The Hueys.


So... the main reason we went to the American Library Conference was to meet Oliver Jeffers and we did!  My son and I were both overjoyed to get to meet our favorite author.  Can't you tell?  

Jeffers was there signing a wonderful YA novel that he illustrated (The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas by David Almond) as well as a new picture book (The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt) but we chatted for a while about the Hueys and he told me that there is a third installment coming soon!  In the second book, the Hueys learn how to work through one of their rare arguments.  The Hueys books remind me of the Frog and Toad books in the unique way that conflicts are solved (or otherwise forgotten).  Here's a peek at some of the illustrations:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

On the Sixth Day of Christmas: Books About Some Other Animals

On the Sixth Day of Christmas...let's have a secret pizza party!

Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri:

Rubin and Salmieri, the team behind several other fantastic picture books (Dragons Love Tacos, as well as the Those Darn Squirrels series) have done it again with Secret Pizza Party.  This one became an instant favorite at home, so much so that we had to buy a second emergency copy at Porter Square Books when we lost our first copy at the pediatrician's office. We heard later from a doctor there that the receptionists were very excited about their "new book" so at least our original copy went to a good place!

This book sings the praises of a good pizza pie (yum!), and features a raccoon determined to get a pizza one way or another, without getting caught by the pizza guy or being chased away by people with brooms.   A great read for pizza night or any other night!

After all that pizza, let's wind down with some music with Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon (if you have a second, check out Gus Gordon's website link- it's very cool).

This is our most recent book purchase, and a great one!  My dad described this book as "a Woody Allen movie" and although he wasn't sure it was for kids, I think it's a great one for the whole family.  It's a love story about New York and two musicians who live there and find each other through their music.  As a musician and a former New Yorker, I love this book.  Check out the beautiful collage-style illustrations:

...And let's tuck everyone in bed with Little Owl's Orange Scarf by Tatyana Feeney.

This little book is a must read for anyone who has ever had an itchy scarf or sweater made for them by a loved one.  You can stop scratching- just like any good bedtime story, it ends in cozy happiness.