A Reading Rumpus

It’s been a reading rumpus here.

The other day I spent a good long time at my local AMAZING library (Curtis Memorial Library) with our incredible Youth Services Librarians and my Goodreads TBR list. Of course my eyes are way bigger than my metaphorical reading stomach can handle. The mathematical equation of my relationship with library books looks like this:

Check out time allowed – my reading speed = not enough time for everything I took.

Sometimes that doesn’t matter because truthfully, there’s nothing like the feeling of walking out of the library with a massive pile of books and more on the way from Interlibrary Loan (A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl).

After the library, I finally (how did it get to be August) excavated my patio chaise lounge from the back of the garage (still haven’t gotten to my bike *covers head in shame*), dusted off the cobwebs, and set it in the Maine sunshine to read.

The picture book haul was excellent. For me, Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin (Random House Kids) was a delight. It is wordless and uses sequential art and framing as in a graphic novel. Reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, the blue-grey monochromatic palette gives way to full color as the main characters travel from the real to the fantasy world through an topiary archway.  I was “reading” the book to my man-children and they were frustrated with my narration of the silent story. (Mom. We can see what’s happening.) Perhaps the book is best for consuming on one’s own or allowing the child to tell you what is happening.

My review of Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes on Goodreads. More to come. I will renew books if necessary by golly.

Escape
by Anna E. Jordan

Consuming story
The pile never shrinks
More hours in the day please

 

 

 

Happy Multicultural Children’s Book Day! #readyourworld Book Reviews

Happy Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom teamed up in late 2013 to create an ambitious (and much needed) national event. Today, January 27th, 2015, they are hosting yet another Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books.

While #weneeddiversebooks focusses on changing the face of children’s literature by encouraging writers and illustrators from a variety of backgrounds to submit their work and urging changes in the publishing industry, #readyourworld seeks to get multicultural books into classrooms and libraries.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

Here are some ways you can celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day:

  • Visit The Multicultural Children’s Book Day website and view the booklists, reading resources and other useful multicultural information.
  • Visit the Multicultural Books for Kids Pinterest Board for more reading ideas.
  • Have children bring in their favorite multicultural book to school on this day and all this week and share it with the class.
  • Watch for the #ReadYourWorld hashtag on social media and share.
  • Visit MCCBD sponsors Wisdom Tales Press, Satya House Publications, DARIA (World Music with DARIA, Rainbow Books and others to discover new books to read.
  • Create a Multicultural Children’s Book Day display around the classroom or library.
  • Visit The Multicultural Children’s Book Day website on January 27th to view and participate in our huge blogger link-up, multicultural book reviews, giveaways and more!

MCCBD team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

Today, I’m happy to share with you three of my favorite multicultural picture books to read and share.

First up, the Ezra Jack Keats Award winning, YESTERDAY I HAD THE BLUES by Jeron Ashford Frame, illustrations by R. Gregory Christie (Tricycle Press, 2003). A boy starts by exploring his “deep down in my shoes blues, the go away, Mr. Sun, quit smilin’ at me blues,” and goes on to explore other feelings as they relate to colors. His Daddy has the grays, his friend Sasha has the pinks, Talia has the Indigos, Gram the yellows and Mama the red. The author uses a jazzy string of strong and active nouns and verbs to describe each feeling and color. “Sasha says she got the pinks. The shiny tights, ballet after school, glitter on her cheeks pinks.” Jeron Ashford Frame’s poetry is toe tapping and R. Gregory Christie’s illustrations, while uniquely his, reminds me of Romare Bearden and William H. Johnson.

Next, OUT OF THE WAY! OUT OF THE WAY (Tulika Publishers, 2010, Groundwood Books, 2012), words by Uma Krishnaswami and pictures by Uma Krishnaswamy. One day, a boy finds a baby tree on a well worn path. He protects it with rocks and the path and people curve to avoid it: the bullock-cart man, the bicycles, people and animal feet. As the tree grows and spreads wider above creating a home for birds and small animals, the traffic and the town below it grows too. Krishnaswami captures the constant movement of people, carts, tires with the phrase “here to there and back again.” Soon the path is a lane and then a paved road. Krishnaswami is a master of refrain with her “Out of the way!” phrase.  The illustrator, Krishnaswamy, gives us a glimpse into the bustle of Indian culture with a lovely combination of line work and bright color.

I love this book as a multicultural substitute for that other tree book. (You know the one with the tree who tells the boy to go ahead and cut it down for his own purposes.) This one respects the interaction and connection between tree and human. It suggests that while humans grow and need, they can give space and respect to each other and to nature.

Set in old Peking, THE ELEPHANT’S PILLOW (Frances Lincoln, 2003) by Diana R. Roome and illustrator Jude Daly, tells the story of a spoiled merchant’s son named Sing Lo. Never satisfied with what he has, Sing Lo asks his rickshaw man, “What is the greatest sight of all?” Thus begins Sing Lo’s quest to see the Emperor’s elephant and to cheer him up. In the process, Sing Lo must rise to various challenges (through three tries) and transforms into the hero we knew he could be. The illustrations find their roots in the triptychs of Asian scrolls with saturated reds, blues, and oranges offset by pale yellows. It is a wonderful read aloud that is sweet and relatable. In the end, the elephant behaves much like a content puppy when it wants to be rubbed behind the ear.

You can bring books like these to children who need them by donating to First Book! 

Through First Book, MCCBD is having a virtual book drive.

A special thank you to the Children’s Book Council (CBC) for their support with Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD)!

Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, Gold SponsorsSatya House,  MulticulturalKids.com,   Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Silver Sponsors: Junior Library GuildCapstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books,  The Omnibus Publishing. Bronze Sponsors:Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing,  Rainbow Books,   Author FeliciaCapers,   Chronicle Books   Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.

Our CoHosts: We have NINE amazing Co-Hosts. You can view them here.

2014 BOOKLIST ROUNDUP

This time of year I get a lot of requests for great gift suggestions for children’s and Young Adult books. The thing is, this year has been incredibly busy. My reading has included more nonfiction, personal, and adult titles (read: self-help) and my reviewing ground to a sad halt around Valentine’s Day of 2014. However, there is no need to despair. Below please find a round up of some of the best lists for children’s book in the #kidlitosphere and beyond! (If you have a favorite list that I don’t mention here, please note it in the comments.)

#weneeddiversebooks: Find a plethora of postings about books with diverse characters from characters of color, to those facing disabilities, to characters who are questioning or identify as part of the GLBTQ community.

The Brown Bookshelf: is always my go-to website when I’m looking for books with characters of color. Thanks to Don Tate and others for keeping this blog current and relevant!

Pragmatic Mom: Mia Wenjen is another amazing blogger with incredible multicultural lists. Don’t miss her list for children’s books that feature Asian Americans. She also has nonfiction, biography, and age specific lists.

Sporty Girl Books: Well of course I’m going to mention my group blog. This year, we are soliciting best sporty girl books of the year so add your own suggestions in the comments of yesterday’s post. We always have tabs on the blog menu for books that are age specific.

At Brain Pickings: Maria Popova has gathered a Best Children’s Books of 2014 that focuses on “Intelligent and imaginative tales of love, loneliness, loyalty, loss, friendship, and everything in between.” She has a very extensive post that shows interior illustrations and thoughtful commentary.

The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature: Gave us a long list, a short list, and a fabulous and lovely winner, Jacqueline Woodson for BROWN GIRL DREAMING. Take a look.

Stuff for the Teen Age: The New York Public Library has lists upon lists for teen readers and if you don’t trust the lions in Manhattan, who can you trust?

Bank Street College of Education: Also in New York, this well-known and trusted program posts a link to their BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR PDF. They also sort the books by age.

The New York Time’s Best Illustrated Books: Also and again from New York…read: maybe I should move to Brooklyn… School Library Journal is reblogging this list on their own site.

Buy Books for Black Friday: Ingrid Sundberg has a great post at INGRID’S NOTES that features a number of my good friends and fellow alumni from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Fabulously written books. Enough said.

The ALSC List: The Association of Library Services to Children division of the American Library Association creates a list of Notable Titles each year. Award winners are in this list as well. Don’t miss the YALSA (young adult) titles or the Graphic Novels appropriate for teens either. Just be aware that these are chosen at the 2014 Midwinter (January) conference so they focus on books pubbed in 2013.

Whadya think? Enough? I’d love to see more graphic novel lists. If you have or love a “best of children’s and YA books of 2014” let me know.

Muslim Author’s Book Named Among ‘100 Greatest Children’s Books’ of the Last 100 Years by New York Public Library

I was so happy to see this wonderful news that I want to share it with all of you. Rukhsana Khan’s book BIG RED LOLLIPOP  is on the New York Public Library’s Children’s Books 2012: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing list. She is the first Muslim author of Pakistani origin to be named on the list. Quoting directly from their press release, NYPL stated that all books on the list have “withstood the test of time at the New York Public Library or are on their way to becoming new classics.”

Ms. Khan receiving the Golden Kite Award. Photo from her website.

Rukhsana Khan is originally Pakistani and learned English as a second language. Her prolific writing and huge success has seen BIG RED LOLLIPOP scoop up a string of coveted awards. The book has been voted America’s ‘best picture book’ twice (The Charlotte Zolotow and the Golden Kite) – now, the New York Public Library has named it as one of the ‘100 greatest children’s books’ in the last 100 years. 

 

In BIG RED LOLLIPOP, Rubina has been invited to her first birthday party, and her mother, Ami, insists that she bring her little sister along. Rubina is mortified, but she can’t convince Ami that you just don’t bring your younger sister to your friend’s party. So both girls go, and not only does Sana demand to win every game, but after the party she steals Rubina’s prized party favor, a red lollipop. What’s a fed-up big sister to do?
Rukhsana Khan’s clever story and Sophie Blackall’s irresistible illustrations make for a powerful combination in this fresh and surprising picture book.

“…It’s an ending worthy of a novella, and once again signals that Khan is one of the most original voices working in picture books today.”
-Publisher’s Weekly Starred review of BIG RED LOLLIPOP

Learning English as a second language has been no bar to Rukhsana Khan’s success. Khan arrived in North America as a child from Pakistan and now, her writing career sees her visit over eighty schools a year across North America, make countless presentations and shatter cultural barriers through a string of awards.

As the author explains, her book is already beloved by many families around the world.

“It’s wonderful to see it listed alongside other classics such as ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ and ‘Charlotte’s Web’.” says Khan. “At a time when the world is becoming increasingly polarized, stories like ‘Big Red Lollipop’ tap into universal themes and are crucial to forging a smooth path toward the growing diversity of the North American landscape. As a practicing Muslim, the road hasn’t been easy. I have done my best to battle xenophobia and terrorist stereotypes with wit and humor. I have also worked diligently to create inroads to cross cultural dialogue and understanding.”

While this particular children’s book has helped Khan further build her name, she frequently tours the world to discuss her other works ranging from gritty teen novels on suicide, Afghanistan and issues of parental abandonment. 

“It’s not just about writing – but about sharing my work with others and using the stories to open up a series of vital dialogues. I’ve also recently launched a free literary resource for educators as part of my popular YouTube channel,” she adds.

With such a unique bibliography and passion for her work, interested readers are invited to visit Khan’s official website for more information: http://www.rukhsanakhan.com

I was lucky to see Rukhsana Khan accept her SCBWI 2011 Golden Kite Award at the New York SCBWI Conference for her book BIG RED LOLLIPOP. I’ve never seen an author as ebullient as Ms. Khan.  She told us the true story that inspired the book. Her love and joy were contagious. Congratulations to Ms. Khan and the others on the New York Public Library’s Children’s Books 2012: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing list.

 

Member Monday: So others may read

Book worship is inherent in all of the posts here at Creative Chaos. The art and craft of the book as object is certainly part of this but more– it is about the unlimited possibilities and pleasure of reading. As many of my blog readers know, I’ve posted before about the  many children and adults around the world who struggle with illiteracy. However, we need not travel far from home to find people who are learning to read.

Very close to my heart and home, at my own Shepherd Elementary school in Northwest Washington, DC, my Mom and a group of volunteers are working with ESL and other early reading students three times a week to bring them one on one and small group read aloud experiences.

Bicentennial Anna. As a proficient reader, I was skipped to 1st grade when I turned six years old.

Because of ubiquitous budget cuts the Shepherd School library is no longer staffed and the books are outdated.  Today I’m calling on all authors and readers out there for book donations. Students in the program are African-American, Asian, Latino, and African and the organizers are especially interested in books that mirror this diversity.

If you have written a picture book or early reader and you are wondering what to do with your author copies, consider donating them to the Early Readers Program. If you are an MFA student at VCFA, Hamlin, Lesley, Simmons, or any other Children’s and Young Adult Writing/Literature programs, I know you have a shelves of books. Yes, some of them you will love and cherish forever, but some you could pass along to others. If you are just a reader. Just a reader? A wonderful, amazing reader… Please consider donating a book to:

Early Readers Program
1220 East West Highway, Apt 504
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Thanks to all and happy summer reading!

Book Review Wednesday: She Loved Baseball


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The picture book biography is a great way to get kids interested in history. (Previous reviews of PB Biographies here and here.) A good PB biography author needs a hook– a place for a young reader to access the story. This entry point is often hard to find. Audrey Vernick found a great hook, a sister’s desire to play baseball with her brothers, in SHE LOVED BASEBALL: THE EFFA MANLEY STORY.

Effa’s principal discourages her from playing with her own brothers because their skin is dark and hers is light. This scene sets the reader up for the story of Effa’s tenacious resistance to the segregation and bigotry of 1930’s and 1940’s and her love of baseball.

Effa Manley became one of the great business women in the Negro League. She cared for her players in the Newark Eagles and was eventually respected by other owners in the league. Especially interesting to me was the fact that Negro League owners were not always paid for their contracted ball players when the players were finally accepted/hired by white teams. Effa changed that with a press campaign. Later, her letter writing campaign in the 1970’s to the National Baseball Hall of Fame started the induction of Negro League players. She was posthumously honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame for her civil rights work and her work with the Negro Leagues.

Audrey Vernick’s text is well-suited to the picture book format. It is perfect for older elementary students researching on their own or for an adult read-aloud. The text and images are well-matched by illustrator Don Tate. Tate’s gestural figures and expressive faces pull in the reader into the historical period and the narrative.

Neither women’s history (March) or black history (February) need to be relegated to their  honorary months. SHE LOVED BASEBALL can be enjoyed year round.

Book Review Wednesday: Duck Sock Hop

There’s nothing I like better than getting a new book in the mail. Yesterday, I found this…


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DUCK SOCK  HOP
Dial Books For Young Readers (2012)
By: Jane Kohuth
Illu: Jane Porter

I loved it so much I had to write about it right away.

Jane Kohuth engages readers and listeners alike on a variety of levels. First we get the  rhythmic text about ducks who like to wear socks and dance, with playful, spot-on, finger- snapping, toe-tapping rhyme. On second look, the parent reader can point out a variety of concepts: shapes, colors, opposites (right/left, high/low) numbers “three ducks boogie, one duck rocks. Two ducks stop and trade their socks.”

The wonderful thing about this book is that it is a perfect example of how a picture books can include a plot arc with a conflict. (This is something that I often have to mention in editorial situations.) After the ducks boogie and rock, they dance holes in their socks. Kohuth gives enough fun-loving time at the beginning of the story for the readers to fall in love with, and really care for the ducks, so we really feel sad when the dancing is interrupted. The change of mood also adds much needed change-up to the rhyme and rhythm. The adult-reader gets a chance to involve the child listener, “What are the ducks going to do?” The solution– Band-Aids and snacks, make ducks infinitely relatable to the toddler set.

Debut illustrator Jane Porter places the brightly colored ducks on fields of white. In the following video she describes her process. She draws using india ink and often uses a stick as her drawing tool.  Readers of DUCK SOCK HOP can feel the dance-y movement in the gestural quality of her drawing. Next, she layers on color and texture digital. In this book, the duck feathers and the sock details both have a wonderful print feel.

Jane Porter Interview

If your kiddo liked…


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or…

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They’ll love DUCK SOCK HOP!

Book Review Wednesday: At the bookfair.

Well friends, Creative Chaos finally broke the 100 views mark on Monday’s post, The Children’s Book Industry, a gendered affair.  Feel free to keep commenting there about your thoughts and ideas regarding the issue. It is obviously on the minds of many and also obvious that while valuing ourselves and our work is important, we can only go so far when limited by societal structures, budgetary constraints, and national policy that doesn’t support women, children, and families. Vote your interests.

TODAY… The Bookfair!

This week the Scholastic Bookfair visited my child’s elementary school and I volunteered. Yes, I know– therefore taking four hours away from my writing. However, I was able to watch kids and books and that is an eye-opening experience.

What they wanted:
It is true that many of them had five dollars or less and were gung ho to skip the books all together for a chance to purchase a pencil with the animal toppers that bug out their eyes when you squeeze. (huge hit) Diaries with locks for boys and girls also got a lot of touch time.

The money limit meant that they had to skip new releases. The big winners were mass market titles such as tie-in books Star Wars and anything lego was big with guys. Selina Gomez and iCarly, and Bad Kitty with girls. Ellen Miles has a series called Puppy Place that 2nd and 3rd grade girls tended to gravitate towards. The covers are super cute as was the book Little Pink Puppy about a piglet raised by a dachshund.


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The Titanic was represented at the Fair but I didn’t see a lot of kids gravitate towards it.

I did get asked for the Hunger Games more than a handful of times but since this was an elementary fair it wasn’t present. Sort of surprised since Allie Condie’s, Matched series, Legend, and the Patterson Witch & Wizard books were all on hand. 

Overall, the kids were asking for adventure, and animals. Can’t be more succinct than that.

My favorites from the fair:


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From Indiebound: Caroline lives on Meadowview Street. But where’s the meadow? Where’s the view? There’s nothing growing in her front yard except grass. Then she spots a flower and a butterfly and a bird and Caroline realizes that with her help, maybe Meadowview Street can have a meadow after all.

My take: On Meadowview Street, by Henry Cole, is a quiet picture book about the beauty around us when we appreciate nature and don’t try to control it. This PB was a bargain at $2.50 at the fair.


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From Indiebound: Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

My Take: The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate (yes the Animorphs author) is told from the point of view of Ivan, a silver back gorilla. This makes for a visually interesting book with short sentences and paragraphs. Readable and well-designed.


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From Indiebound: A reality-bending adventure from a Newbery Honor-winning author. Siblings India, Finn, and Mouse are stunned when their mom tells them they are flying that night–without her–to their Uncle Red’s home in Colorado. But things take an even more dramatic turn when their plane lands in a very unusual place. A mysterious driver meets them at the airport; when he drops them off at their “destination,” each kid suddenly has a clock with a different amount of time left. If the time runs out, they have to become permanent citizens in a place they don’t recognize or understand. Only if they work together can they call the driver back to help get them where they really belong. Suspenseful, funny, dramatic, and thought-provoking, this is a book that will stay with you long after you read the incredible ending.

My Take: Gennifer Choldenko brought us AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS and its sequel AL CAPONE SHINES MY SHOES. My boys and I were riveted by her storytelling in those books. NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT was on the Spring 2011 Indiebound NEXT list.

Enjoy your reading!

Book Review Wednesday: Mooshka, A Quilt Story

Mooshka. 

Say it aloud. 

Mooshka. 

In that one word Julie Paschkis has captured a hug, and a kiss, and the comfort of a sibling’s love. Mooshka is the name of the unusual quilt who belongs to Karla, a young girl and the main character in the vibrant and cozy book, Mooshka, A Quilt Story. 

Mooshka is infused with the stories Karla’s grandmother told while she sewed the quilt from scraps of cloth called “schnitz.” Mooshka tells these loving family stories to Karla. 

Pachkis surrounds her gentle story with boarders of “schnitz.” Decorative, geometric and organic patterns in saturated, true, primary hues, hug the text of the story just as Mooshka hugs Karla. Each hue: yellow, blue, red… tells Karla the story of its origin on a spread in the book revealing a bit of Karla’s family’s history. 


Images © Julie Paschkis, Peachtree Publishers

The text of this picture book holds its cozy feel until about two-thirds of the way in when Paschkis introduces Hannah, Karla’s baby sister. The author does not elaborate on how long the new baby has been around, instead she gets right to the point.

“One day a little white crib was moved into Karla’s room. Hannah was in the crib.”

The new crib and the crying baby sister silence Mooshka. It is up to Karla to solve this problem on her own. Paschkis shows Karla’s resentment and growth in simple language and spare text. The illustrations mirror this as they loose their decoration and become flat fields of deep blue. 


Images © Julie Paschkis, Peachtree Publishers

Mooshka, A Quilt Story, is part quiet tale for young children, part family history, part color concept book, and part sibling story- but it is all beautifully crafted. Coming to a bed-time near you on March 1st from Peachtree Publishers.