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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Marsha Qualey

Pigs Galore

This past September, after years of writing and teaching the writing of realistic YA fiction, I was pleased to launch into the world a set of four early chapter books. Not surprisingly, the challenge of telling a story in 1000 words instead of 60,000 was huge. It was not the only challenge.

Instead of focusing on a teen girl in turmoil, I was now writing about a talking pig. An athletic one, to boot: Gracie LaRoo, the youngest member of a championship synchronized swimming team. I can just hear the younger writer me: Anthropomorphism? You’re really gonna go there?

While developing Gracie and while writing her stories I was keenly aware she was joining a crowded field. There are a lot of pigs in children’s literature, and many of them have reached one-name celebrity status. Okay, Piglet, Freddy, Wilbur, Babe, and Olivia only ever had one name, but since their arrival on the scene have they ever needed more than that?

Character is everything in literature, and I was delighted to discover some fine new and new-to-me pigs. Like almost all the books I read and reread, my list can be divided into two types of books: farm pigs and pigs-as-people (i.e., full-blown anthropomorphism).

Pigs Might Fly  

Pigs Might Fly
written by Dick King-Smith

(Mary Rayner, illus; Puffin, 1990)

I loved this novel by the author of Babe: The Gallant Pig, and not just because the protagonist Daggie is a swimming pig like my Gracie. There’s a lovely balance of realistic farm life and talking-animal whimsy. Like most of the farm-story pigs, Daggie appears destined for the breakfast table. How can he avoid that fate? Daggie is a wonderful character; his delight in cooling off in a stream on a hot day is visceral. And does he ever fly? You think I’d tell you?

Adventures of a South Pole Pig  

The Adventures of a South Pole Pig
written by Chris Kurtz

(Jennifer Black Reinhardt, illus; HMH, 2015)

An outdoor survival story with a female protagonist–what’s not to love? Okay, Flora’s a pig, but still. Perhaps because the novel begins on a farm, I had no hesitation in accepting that what happens later in the story is precisely what would happen were a pig shipwrecked at the edge of Antarctica. One warning: the shipboard rats are very frightening.

 

The Pirate Pig

 

The Pirate Pig
written by Cornelia Funke

(Kerstin Meyer, illus; Yearling, 2015)

Funke is of course the imaginative author of many middle grade and YA novels. This story about a treasure-sniffing pig who is shanghaied into labor by two evil pirates is great fun; also, how can you resist a pig pirate named Julie?

Poppleton Has Fun  

Poppleton Has Fun
by Cynthia Rylant

(Mark Teague, illus; Harcourt School Publishers, 2006)

Animals of all types abound in stepped-reading sets and series, and pigs are especially well-represented. I pored over many and quickly tossed some aside. Thanks to Newbery winner Rylant’s deft characterization and pitch-perfect language, Poppleton emerges as the best, and in this book he quilts and takes a nice bath. Fun, indeed.

 

Did I miss your favorite pig? Please comment!

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Skinny Dip with Marsha Qualey

 Joni MitchellWhich celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

Joni. And I’d come prepared with questions about her painting, not her music, because then, just maybe, she’d see beyond the gobsmacked fan. Maybe she’d draw something on a napkin for me.  

If she didn’t show, I’d be okay because I’d have a back-up date with Louisa May. 

buttered toastWhat’s your favorite late-night snack?

Buttered toast, but I can’t indulge that often now. Once upon a time, though, it was a nightly thing. Then when I was diagnosed with celiac disease I went years without it because the bread I made or could find in stores just didn’t cut it. And then along came Udi’s.

Most cherished childhood memory?

I had the best best friend any quiet, introverted, bookish girl could have. Mary was just the opposite of me, and when I was with her, adventure wasn’t just something that happened in books, it was something we made together.

earthwormsOne first grade day we were walking the six to seven blocks home for lunch. It had rained all morning and we were excited by all the earthworms still on the sidewalks. What if we gathered them all and sold them as bait? We began collecting the liveliest ones and putting them in the pockets of our raincoats. The pickings were grand and we didn’t notice the time pass. When we neared our houses, conveniently across the street from each other, something made us realize how late we were (A beckoning family member? Church bells? Kids returning to school? This detail is lost.).  We rushed to our respective homes for a quick lunch and met up again at her family car for a ride back to school—we were that late.

The sun was shining and we were in a car and neither of us wore a raincoat. The sun prevailed for many days thereafter. Only when at last we again needed our raincoats, did either of us remember the grand plan to make a seven-year-old’s fortune by selling worms.

The worms were dust in the pockets of our size 6x raincoats. There’s an old woman’s somber metaphor about dreams in there somewhere, but it wouldn’t have registered with Mary and me.  We laughed then and we still laugh about it now.  

Morning person? Night person?

Night, now and forever.

What’s the strangest tourist attraction you’ve visited?

Mary Nohl HomeI love environmental art—the concrete and bottle constructions that an individual artist builds over the years on his or her property. Thanks to the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and the Kohler Foundation several such installations in Wisconsin have been preserved. Any one of these would qualify as strange, and they are all worth a visit.

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From the Editor

by Marsha Qualey

ph_redbirdHere in the upper Midwest most of us are waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’ve had a hint of winter, and we all suspect the real thing will arrive soon.  Meanwhile, the landscape is brown, with the occasional flash of color from holiday trimmings, birds, blaze orange outerwear. 

The National Book Awards were bestowed last month at what’s probably the fanciest book event in the U.S.  While the book award season is now on hold until January, the end of year “best” or “best bets for gifts” listing is in full swing. These commercial lists have a lot in common with those announced in conjunction with an award: They’re all about the new books.

From its inception, Bookology has not been about new books. Yes, a number of our Bookstorm™ books have been new releases, but month-to-month we aim our focus on and use our platform to herald the vast catalogue of books published in previous years.  The perfect book to place in the hand of a young reader might not be the one generating all the current buzz, and that’s why so many titles in our columns and ‘storms and Quirky Book lists have a few miles on them and deserve to be talked about once again.

Firekeeper's SonOur Bookstorm™ book this month is The Firekeeper’s Son by Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park. A picture book set in 19th century Korea, it’s the story of a boy who is suddenly swept away from playtime with his toy soldiers and challenged to “step up” when his father is injured.

We’ll have interviews with both Linda Sue Park and, later this month, the illustrator, Julie Downing. Also coming soon: a Quirky list and an end-of-year slide show honoring the children’s book creators who have died this year. And of course we’ll have the usual columns from the bookologists and authors who show up regularly in Bookology. Today: author Elizabeth Fixmer shares how children’s books deepened her work as a psychotherapist.

Thanks for visiting Bookology.

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From the Editor

by Marsha Qualey

Welcome to Bookology.

Thank you for coming back, or checking us out for a first look, or for pausing if you landed here by accident.

Chasing FreedomReturning readers know that each month much of our content is connected to the magazine’s monthly centerpiece: the Bookstorm™, a bibliography of books and websites compiled and written by our chief Bookologist, Vicki Palmquist, which has at its starting point a single book. This month that book is Chasing Freedom by Nikki Grimes, in which the author imagines a conversation that might have occurred had Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman sat down for tea. Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman’s “paths frequently crossed one another’s,” Grimes says in our interview with her, but she could find no documentation of an actual shared tea.  Still, “[t]he fact that these historical powerhouses knew one another was exciting.”

The September Bookstorm™ focuses on the 19th century and the early 20th century and the political and social environments and institutions in which Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman lived and worked: slavery, war, Reconstruction, the advent and dawn of Jim Crow, the new century.  If you don’t have time now to look over the bibliography, our Bullet Point Book Talks offers a quick look at some of the books in the ‘storm.

On the lighter side, today we also celebrate the back-to-school season with a Quirky Book List of books involving classroom pets. Cautionary reading for our teacher friends? Perhaps.

Catch You Later, TraitorDon’t forget to return after today, because, as usual, throughout the month you can join us for some skinny dipping and read what our regular book-loving contributors have to say about their latest forays into children’s literature. Want to be alerted to Bookology updates? Please subscribe.

And finally: We have a winner. Last month we encouraged our readers to comment on our articles, and we offered a signed copy of that month’s Bookstorm™ book, Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi as the prize for a drawing for which all commenters would be eligible. Linda B. from Colorado took a moment to comment on our August Literary Madeleine, and it was her name we pulled out of the Bookologist Hat. Congrats to Linda, and thank you to all who commented.

That’s enough. Time to explore Bookology. Thanks for stopping.

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From the Editor: Welcome

by Marsha Qualey

Welcome to Bookology.

WelcomeWhat began almost a year ago as a conversation among colleagues has now taken shape and arrived on your virtual doorstep: an e-magazine dedicated to nurturing the essential conversation about the role of children’s books in the K-8 classroom.

That meeting was convened by Vicki and Steve Palmquist, owners and founders of Winding Oak and perhaps more familiar to many of you as the founders and heartbeat of Children’s Literature Network, an organization they rolled up last year after providing 12 years of leadership as well as an unparalleled online platform for communication between children’s book creators and the adults who love those books.

Vicki and Steve wanted to create a similar online presence, one that would not only highlight the work of Winding Oak’s many clients, but which would also invite a larger network of readers, writers, illustrators, teachers, and librarians into the conversation.

A quick guide to what you’ll see each month:

A Bookstorm ™.  Each “storm” begins with one book. From there we spin out a cross-curriculum array of subjects and provide titles for each category. Common Core, STEM/STEAM, state standards—any curriculum structure will be served by the Bookstorm™ bibliography. But we also go beyond a simple list, and each month much of the Bookology content we present will emanate from the Bookstorm™ titles.

Columns.  Whether written by one of our regulars or a guest writer, these posts are intended to share the voices of people immersed in the world of children’s literature. We are especially delighted to launch “Knock Knock,” a blog collective from Winding Oak’s many clients that will appear on alternate Tuesdays. Heather Vogel Frederick gamely accepted the assignment to write the inaugural column; she’ll be followed up later this month by Melissa Stewart and Avi.

Interviews and articles. We will be visiting with illustrators, writers, teachers, librarians and others in order to expand what we all know and understand about children’s literature. We’ll also be offering a lighter, more humorous getting-to-know-you interview venue: Skinny Dips, in which we ask about almost anything except the creative process.

We will scatter about the magazine features and incidentals we hope will be of interest, such as Literary Madeleines—discoveries that even the veteran readers on the staff savored—and Timelines, quick at-a-glance looks at seminal books in a genre or subject. Contest, quizzes, and book-giveaways will also appear throughout the month.

What you won’t see are book reviews. While many of our articles and columns will of course discuss and recommend books, those recommendations will always be in context of a larger topic. There are plenty of book review forums available, and we weren’t interested in adding to those voices.

And for now you won’t see “Comments” sections. This is ironic of course in view of our stated mission of nurturing a conversation; we’ll open those, and soon. In the meantime, should you have a comment or suggestion or request, send me a note.  marsha.qualey@bookologymagazine.com

Thanks for your time and interest. Now please go explore Bookology.

 

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Alongside the Books We’ve Loved: Venom and the River

This week, join me as we continue to look at books that orbit the constellations of children’s series books much-loved by adults: Louisa May Alcott’s books, the Little House books, the Anne of Green Gables books, and Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books. A brand new novel, Venom on the River, is now available from my favorite […]

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