Saturday, February 28, 2015

Last Stop on Market Street: Witnessing What's Beautiful

I recently got my hands on a copy of Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and I knew right away I was in for a treat. I fell in love with illustrator Christian Robinson's work when I heard him speak on a panel at Simmon's College this fall.  He illustrated the gorgeous Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker.

Last Stop on Market Street is about a boy, CJ, who takes a bus ride with his grandmother one Sunday morning.  He is not too entirely thrilled about the trip and also a little nervous about all the people on the bus.  Robinson brings to life some really spectacular characters, some I have never seen grace the same pages in a book before.  What we discover is that CJ and his grandmother are on their way to a soup kitchen as volunteers.  CJ shows us the inner insecurities we all have when we see people who are different than us, whether on the bus or on the street.  His grandmother shows us the strength and courage possible when we push beyond those feelings and try on a little empathy.

The people on the bus start piling in.
I love this old lady staring at the tattoo guy!

More people hop on the bus.
What I see in Robinson's illustrations, regardless of the book, is joy, fun, and a little crooked smile. This is not by accident.  In a recent interview on NPR with both the author, Matt de la Peña, and Robinson, NPR asked Robinson about his philosophy on illustrating, "...coming from the perspective of an illustrator, the essential element is fun.  He (Robinson) has found that in books that focus explicitly on diversity, 'there tends to be an element of heaviness - maybe because the history is heavy and serious.' 


In the same interview, de la Peña adds to this notion of diversity in children's literature saying, this book "features characters backgrounds, but it isn't a book about diversity."  He hopes that while this book does feature an African-American boy and his African-American grandmother, it is not just written for that population to read and he would like to see it being read by every kind of person.

Definitely one of my new favorites and sure to be a classic for years to come.  Now go to an independent bookstore and snag one!

The soup kitchen

Sunday, February 22, 2015

And the Winner Is....

Not watching the Oscars tonight.  I caught a bit right after Downton Abbey (yep, that's right!) and I'm feeling a little "meh" about the whole pomp and circumstance this year.

But you know what I am celebrating?  The real winner this weekend?

Balloons to celebrate the new opening!

All tables have outlets and USB ports. Nice!

Prepare to be wowed!

The Boston Public Library.  For about what seems like forever, one wing of the Central Library has been closed for renovations.  This wing just happened to house all the children's/teen books and while the renovations took place, those books have been squished into a teeny-tiny little section.  It was always a mess trying to find a book so I have mastered the fine art of planning ahead and requesting books so I don't have to search endlessly through the chaos.

This weekend, BPL made up for all that suffering.  Yesterday they had a ribbon cutting ceremony and unveiled part of the new section, including new children's, tweens, and teen sections. The new sections have a very modern feel, a contrast to the original building with it's marble floors, lion statues, high ceilings, and Indiana Jones feel.  I totally think it works though.

Mural of the Public Garden in the Children's Library

I spy a duck!  Do you see him?

Lion cubs guard a "you must be this size"

"Brown"stones and a big, amazing chair

Classics for Boston

Flapping books fly above, nod to The Last Bookstore?

The book art and design remind me a lot of The Last Bookstore in LA, one of my most favorite literary places in the world.  The whole thing is riddled with nods to Boston's bursting literary scene.  There is a section featuring Boston authors, a mural of the Public Garden, brownstones along the wall,  and even some ducklings making their way in nooks and crannies.  And in respect to the tradition of the old building, the children's sections has incorporated their own lion cubs.

Massive window

More book art

Boston everywhere!

Media room

Lounge complete with chess boards

LOVE these old typewriters

The Teen Library as you enter

I also love the massive arching windows that look out onto bustling city streets.  When I stopped by it had just started snowing (again, yes) and it was a beautiful view of a small, quiet version of the weather we have had as of late.

If you are in the Boston area, definitely check it out.  If not, hopefully these pictures will tide you over.

Stopped to catch some snowflakes on the way
Might as well enjoy it!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Shhhh, I Have a Plan

This week I took off on a top secret vacation.  I needed to get some sun, some reading time, and some rest.  I took a giant selfish leap by not telling friends I was going to be near them.  (I guess maybe they will know now?)  Have you ever done this?  Man, it was worth it.  Sometimes people talk about being selfish as a bad thing but I really think that you do yourself a favor by being selfish every once in awhile.  This past week I was ridiculously selfish and I feel renewed.

Shhh, I had a plan to catch the sun.
Mission accomplished. 

Basil Pineapple Slushy.  Heaven. 

Who knew, there are still
places where flowers bloom?
Our garden bouquet.

Boston, as you all know, has been clobbered with snow. Before I left,  I reveled in the ridiculousness of it all and read some amazing books on the snow days.  Now my job is to catch up and tell you all about it.

The perfect book to start with is Chris Haughton's Shh!  We Have a Plan.  I picked it up before my secret vacation and about an hour after I got it from the library it was announced that it won a Cybil Award!  Talk about timing!

Haughton lets us in on a group of youngsters (siblings? friends?) who are walking through the woods with nets ready to catch something.  When they see a bird, the smallest kiddo says, "hello birdie."  "shh"  "SHH!"  "we have a plan." the others respond.  As they sneak up on the bird, they flub it up and the bird gets away.  After many failed plans, and many "shhhhs," it is the youngest who has a real plan.

The story is sweet.  It sits right on top of your heart as these companions try to work together and fail, making you chuckle.  I freakin' love the mostly shades of blue in the art work.  The only not-blue is the beautiful birds.  It is a beauty to look at and fun to read.  I can imagine using this in the classroom to come up with your own fan fiction...what would your kiddos have a secret plan to do?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Loving Better

My new fox hat from my mom!
I'm going to blast these storms with
adorable and silly!
My new years resolution this year is to do things better.  This morning as I listened and watched for yet another snow storm to slam into the east coast, I reflected on the fact that I have already accomplished this in so many ways.

One way that I was unprepared for is how much more I have felt love this year.  I always knew that it was possible to love someone more, I mean, it happens all the time in relationships.  (Sadly, the opposite is also true.)  Well, this is the case for my friendships.  On this holiday celebrating love, I am grateful for the friends I have and how much more I love them than ever before.  I think I had just about the best Valentine's Day ever today.  And it has nothing to do with chocolate or dating or flowers.  It has to do with good friends, good conversation, time to spend with people, and a whole lotta love.

Happy Valentine's! I swear I will post about all the fantastic books I've been reading soon!

P.S.  Pray for Boston...we are starting to lose faith that we will ever see our grass again. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

We'll Take the Sun

Snow day #7 here in Boston.  Snow day #8 already called tomorrow.  I read the most perfect title for my snow day today.  The book is gorgeous.  The title is appropriate.  I'm not upset at all that I will be in school forever.

How did you spend your snow days?  No snow for you?  What would you do on a snow day if you had one?

"His soul might be a sun.
I've never met anyone who had
the sun for a soul."

Top paragraph.  Amazing. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Wake Up and Boogie!

Good morning book lovers and dancers!  This morning I have a few rocking grandpas for your Wake Up and Boogie inspiration.  Although, I have to say, the background comments are almost as good as the dancing.  Here's a must for any man I date...when you are 80 you have to still be dancing.
Google celebrates Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthday today!

Four award winners I picked up!
Four more waiting at the library for me!

Have a great weekend!  We have more snow in our future here in Boston, can you freakin' believe it!

Monday, February 2, 2015

And the Winner Is....

Folks, the snow gods must really want me to stay in Boston.

Last week, we were blessed with three snow days.  The third snow day allowed me to see the Hasty Pudding parade, which honored Amy Poehler this year.  That is a Boston tradition I've always wanted to see but it's always on a school day so I always miss it. I thought that was pretty nice of the snow gods.

But then, THEN, we got a snow day today.  This morning, the American Library Association hosted their annual awards for children's literature.  For me, 2014 was a year that reflected the ever growing voices of readers who wanted, and demanded, more diverse books.

Well, the ALA delivered.  I am blown away by the awards this year. (A complete list of the winners here.)  I live tweeted the whole thing, and sorta of live facebooked, and it was waaaaay better than the Super Bowl.  Here are a few of my favorite tweets.

Children's lit took over the trends

Also, I was so thrilled to see that so many books I loved in 2014 won.  I can proudly say that I read more award winning books than I have seen award-nominated movies for the Oscars.  And maybe the folks at the Oscars should take a little hint from children's book readers?  We want diversity because we are diverse!