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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

You Be Thelma, I’ll Be Louise

by Lisa Bullard

pit stopIt’s best to bring a bud­dy when you hit the high­way.

With a trav­el­ing com­pan­ion along for the ride, the guf­faws are loud­er.  The adven­tures are grander. The late-night soul-search­ing is more soul­ful.

Then there are times like the morn­ing I woke up mid-road trip with severe food poi­son­ing in Myr­tle Beach, a day before need­ing to catch a plane in Raleigh. Do you know how long it takes to dri­ve from one Car­oli­na to the oth­er when you have to make an emer­gency pit stop every ten min­utes? My friend “Thel­ma” does. She drove the entire night­mare trip while I lay curled around a buck­et in the back­seat.

I line up lots of peo­ple to ride shot­gun when I set off on writ­ing road trips.  These writ­ing com­pan­ions are often dif­fer­ent peo­ple than my rid­ing com­pan­ions, but they’re just as impor­tant to my cre­ative jour­ney. My writ­ing group alter­nates between tough-love cri­tiques and cheer­lead­ing ses­sions. My oth­er writ­ing friends let me despair over rejec­tion let­ters, and then offer encour­age­ment  and advice. There’s always some­body will­ing to take the wheel when my writ­ing life hits a back-seat-and-buck­et moment.

And a writ­ing cri­tique group is a two-way road: I not only receive feed­back for my work, but I learn an enor­mous amount from eval­u­at­ing oth­er writ­ers’ man­u­scripts.

You can build sup­port­ive writ­ing rela­tion­ships in your class­room by offer­ing peer review oppor­tu­ni­ties.  Mod­el con­struc­tive feed­back for stu­dents; show them how to strike a bal­ance between feed­back that is kind, but too vague to be use­ful, and feed­back that is over­ly neg­a­tive. As a start­ing point, you can down­load my peer review hand­out.

If you haven’t tried it before, I think you’ll find that the bud­dy sys­tem can be a real writ­ing boon.

 

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Middle Kingdom: Dartmouth, Massachusetts

The books that most delight mid­dle school and junior high read­ers often strad­dle a “Mid­dle King­dom” rang­ing from upper mid­dle grade to YA. Each month, Bookol­o­gy colum­nist Lisa Bullard will vis­it the Mid­dle King­dom by view­ing it through the eyes of a teacher or librar­i­an. Bookol­o­gy is delight­ed to cel­e­brate the work of these edu­ca­tors who have built vital book encamp­ments in the tran­si­tion­al ter­ri­to­ry of ear­ly ado­les­cence.

This month’s jour­ney takes us to Dart­mouth Mid­dle School in Dart­mouth, Mass­a­chu­setts, where Lisa talks with teacher librar­i­an Lau­ra Gard­ner.

Lisa: What are three to five things our blog read­ers should know about your com­mu­ni­ty, school, or library/media cen­ter?

Lau­ra: Our school library is busy. There are often three class­es in at a time get­ting and read­ing books, doing research, cre­at­ing mul­ti­me­dia projects using iPads/green screens. We have a game cor­ner, lots of com­put­ers, the begin­nings of a Mak­er­space, and space for col­lab­o­ra­tive work. All our stu­dents are required to have a free read­ing book at any giv­en time and we are big believ­ers in choice. Even our sum­mer read­ing require­ment involves choice.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often?

Lau­ra: Pop­u­lar series this year include the Maze Run­ner and Eye of Minds series by James Dash­n­er, every­thing by Sarah Dessen, the Spir­it Ani­mals series by Bran­don Mull, and every­thing by Rick Rior­dan.

Lisa: What book(s) do you per­son­al­ly love to place into stu­dents’ hands?

Lau­ra: I per­son­al­ly love to put good (some­times sad) real­is­tic fic­tion into kids’ hands. Some new favorites include Fish in a Tree by Lyn­da Mul­laly Hunt (One for the Mur­phys was on our sum­mer read­ing list last year and is very pop­u­lar), Absolute­ly Almost by Lisa Graff, Count­ing by 7s by Hol­ly Gold­berg Sloan, Four­mile by Watt Key.

Lisa: What do you like most about work­ing with mid­dle school stu­dents?

Lau­ra: Mid­dle school stu­dents are the best! They change so much in the three years we have them, which I love. It’s so fun to see who they become by the time they leave us. Many of my stu­dents are often still com­fort­able being goofy on tech projects and I have lots of stu­dents who love to help out in the library. Here’s an arti­cle I wrote for SLJ on my stu­dent vol­un­teer pro­gram.

Lisa: Could you share some infor­ma­tion about your most popular/successful/innovative pro­gram for pro­mot­ing books and read­ing?

Lau­ra: Our sum­mer read­ing pro­gram has been huge­ly suc­cess­ful over the last few years. Our stu­dents have a choice from 10–15 pop­u­lar, fun books from four cat­e­gories: real­is­tic fic­tion, mys­ter­ies, his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, and fantasy/science fic­tion. Our PTO and the dis­trict pay for the books and every stu­dent gets his/her choice before school ends. This sum­mer we are even buy­ing books for all the 7th and 8th grade teach­ers, and when we return in the fall we will have book club dis­cus­sions for each book on the sec­ond day of school.

 

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Skinny Dip with Will Hobbs

Never Say Die coverWhat ani­mal are you most like?

Sea tur­tle.

Which book of yours was the most dif­fi­cult to write or illus­trate?

Bear­stone, my first book, had six drafts writ­ten over an 8-year peri­od. It even had sev­er­al dif­fer­ent titles, includ­ing Pride of the West. When I wrote the sixth draft I knew it was a quan­tum leap.

Which of your books would make a good movie and who would be the star?

Crossing coverI’d love to see a movie of Cross­ing the Wire. The star would be an unknown Mex­i­can teenag­er. Are you lis­ten­ing, Hol­ly­wood?

What’s your favorite line from a book?

The last line of John­ny Raven’s let­ter in Far North: “Take care of the land, take care of your­self, take care of each oth­er.”

What book do you tell every­one to read?

The Wind in the Wil­lows. Mr. Toad is one of my all-time favorite lit­er­ary char­ac­ters.

 

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Interview with Sonny Liew

Shadow Hero coverThe Shad­ow Hero
writ­ten by Gene Luen Yang
illus­trat­ed by Son­ny Liew
First Sec­ond, 2014

Grow­ing up in Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore, what were the pop­u­lar com­ic books?

Well in terms of what you’d see at the news­stands , there was Old Mas­ter Q or Lao Fu Zhi from Hong Kong. In schools, there’d always be some­one read­ing Tin Tin, Aster­ix or Archie. Myself, I also read a lot of Beano, Richie Rich and, a bit lat­er on, Mad mag­a­zine. That last one prob­a­bly turned me into a life­long dis­si­dent.

How old were you when you start­ed draw­ing or paint­ing? What were your fre­quent sub­jects?

I think draw­ing comes very nat­u­ral­ly to kids, it’s just an instinct to pick an pen or cray­on and scrib­ble away. But I sup­pose I con­tin­ued draw­ing at an age when a lot of peo­ple stop—the ear­ly to mid-teens? By that stage I was very caught up with role-play­ing games like Dun­geon and Drag­ons and Drag­on War­riors, so a lot of it was fan­ta­sy art fea­tur­ing bar­bar­ians and elves.

What deci­sions took you on your life path from Cam­bridge [Uni­ver­si­ty] to the Rhode Island School of Design?

I start­ed doing a com­ic strip for a local Sin­ga­pore­an news­pa­per whilst I was still in Cam­bridge, and that whole process—thinking up ideas, finess­ing a punch line, draw­ing the final art—it just felt like some­thing I could be total­ly engaged with. So I was pret­ty sure I want­ed to do some­thing arts-relat­ed after grad­u­at­ing, though it took me a while longer to fig­ure out that I ought to go to art school, to learn every­thing from paint­ing to sculpt­ing, col­or the­o­ry and com­po­si­tion.

p. 60 illustration excerpt

p. 60 illus­tra­tion excerpt

At what point did you decide that you’d like to be a comics artist?

Look­ing back at it now…I guess dis­cov­er­ing works by cre­ators like Chester Brown and Charles Burns—they opened up my mind to a dif­fer­ent kind of comics then what I’d been used to—complex, per­son­al sto­ries that took the medi­um to whole new places. I sup­pose I had a sense then that engag­ing with the medi­um could be a lifetime’s endeav­our.

How does it work in the comics world…how did you get signed on to The Shad­ow Hero as the illus­tra­tor?

Heh, I actu­al­ly think that’s the wrong term, “illus­tra­tor.” Comics is a com­bi­na­tion of text and images, there’s no real way to divide the two in the way the sto­ries are told. It’s more a case of sto­ry­telling as a whole, with the writ­ing and art­work being han­dled by dif­fer­ent peo­ple in some cas­es. It’s a minor detail maybe, but per­haps does have some sig­nif­i­cance in the way books are clas­si­fied or con­ceived in some places, espe­cial­ly those more  used to prose nov­els, where illus­tra­tions are seen as sec­ondary, an add-on rather than an inte­gral part of the sto­ry.

In any case…Gene and I had worked togeth­er on a short sto­ry for the Secret Iden­ti­ties anthol­o­gy a few years a back, and his sto­ry is that I was the first per­son he thought of when he had The Shad­ow Hero script ready. I’d like to believe that’s true! On my end, it was a no-brain­er to get the chance to work with Gene again on the project.

The col­or palette you chose for The Shad­ow Hero goes from a fair­ly neu­tral gray and brown palette to vivid­ly intense reds, greens, and golds. How did you choose those col­ors?

Top: from p. 3;  Bottom: from p. 87

Top: from p. 3;
Bot­tom: from p. 87

It’s usu­al­ly a mat­ter of tri­al and error, tweak­ing the palette until it looks right. It’s always a func­tion of sto­ry­telling, and in the this case, we need­ed dif­fer­ent palettes to mark out the past from present, as well as a look that evoked the feel of the orig­i­nal Green Tur­tle comics.

Did you con­fer with Gene Luen Yang while you were draw­ing the sto­ry? If so, did parts of the sto­ry change based on your dis­cus­sions?

Only minor things like lay­outs, rather than any deep­er struc­tur­al or the­mat­ic con­cerns. Gene’s scripts are won­der­ful­ly clear-head­ed, and the changes I sug­gest­ed were most­ly to add a lev­el of visu­al dynamism where pos­si­ble. Or maybe just to jus­ti­fy my pres­ence on the project.

Did you refer to Chu Hing’s Green Tur­tle comics when you were doing your sketch­es?

For sure! I don’t own any phys­i­cal copies of the com­ic, but for­tu­nate­ly these days you have access to dig­i­tal ver­sions.

Who was your favorite char­ac­ter to draw?

Uncle Wun Too. There was a won­der­ful eccen­tric­i­ty about him, and I got to draw him in a cos­tume that paid homage to Old Mas­ter Q.

Art of Charlie Chan coverWe’re look­ing for­ward to The Art of Char­lie Chan Hock Chye (Pan­theon, ear­ly 2016). What can you tell us about your work on that book?

The book con­tains three main strands, I think—the life of a long-for­got­ten comics artist, the sto­ry of Sin­ga­pore, and the sto­ry of comics. The main chal­lenge was to try to bring them togeth­er in a nar­ra­tive that would be both for­mal­ly inter­est­ing and com­pelling. It’s the most chal­leng­ing thing I’ve ever done, and it’s been called mul­ti-tex­tured and lay­ered… but I’m going to go with the blurb Gene wrote for the book: “A joy to read…masterfully weaves the his­to­ry of Sin­ga­pore with the his­to­ry of comics into some­thing you’ve nev­er expe­ri­enced before.”

 

 

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Interview with Gene Luen Yang

Shadow Hero coverThe Shad­ow Hero
writ­ten by Gene Luen Yang
illus­trat­ed by Son­ny Liew
First Sec­ond, 2014

What qual­i­fies a comics char­ac­ter as a super­hero?

You’ve asked a ques­tion that lies at the very heart of geek­dom.  I don’t know if there’s a sol­id answer.  Most super­heroes have super­hu­man abil­i­ties, but not all.  Most super­heroes wear col­or­ful cos­tumes, but not all.  Most super­heroes have goofy alias­es, but not all.

Maybe a char­ac­ter just has to make her­self into a sym­bol of some­thing big­ger, some­thing more.

The Shad­ow Hero is an ori­gin story—you and artist Son­ny Liew cre­at­ed a back sto­ry for a char­ac­ter and series that had a brief, four-issue life back in the 1940s. You knew your end point: The Green Tur­tle would end up help­ing the Allies’ war effort dur­ing WWII, and because you want­ed to make the super­hero Asian, you had a start point. With those two points pinned on a board, what was the next step in writ­ing the sto­ry?

Lots and lots of think­ing.  I debat­ed how old the pro­tag­o­nist should be, where he should come from, who should be in his sup­port­ing cast.  Hav­ing pre­de­ter­mined begin­ning and end points actu­al­ly made things eas­i­er.  Often, I’m frozen by inde­ci­sion.  Those “pinned” points nar­rowed my options, at least a lit­tle bit.

I knew I want­ed the char­ac­ter to be of Chi­nese descent but raised in the West, like me.  I researched the his­to­ry of the Chi­na­towns in San Fran­cis­co and New York, and found some good sto­ry fod­der.

The pro­tag­o­nist, Hank, is con­tent to work at his father’s side in the fam­i­ly store when he’s thrust into extra­or­di­nary events.  He’s not born with his super­pow­er and he nev­er dreamed of being a super­hero. Why did you choose to work with this dra­mat­ic path?

Often, immi­grants’ kids are born into dreams.  We’re born into a set of expec­ta­tions.  I want­ed that to be a pri­ma­ry ten­sion of the book: Hank’s mom wants one thing for him, Hank him­self wants anoth­er.

Super­heroes are deeply Amer­i­can.  They were invent­ed in Amer­i­ca, they’re most pop­u­lar in Amer­i­ca, and at their best super­heroes express Amer­i­ca at its best.  Hank’s mom sees “super­hero­ing” as a way of becom­ing Amer­i­can, a way to final­ly be accept­ed by her family’s new coun­try.  Hank could care less, at least in the begin­ning.  He just wants to be com­fort­able.

Shadow Hero illustration

You’ve stat­ed in inter­views that The Shad­ow Hero is about the immi­grant experience—about being the child of immi­grants, espe­cial­ly.  Could you dis­cuss this for our read­ers, many of whom teach and oth­er­wise work with chil­dren of immi­grants?

Almost every major super­hero was cre­at­ed by chil­dren of Jew­ish immi­grants: Super­man, Bat­man, Spi­der-Man, the Hulk, Cap­tain Amer­i­ca, Iron Man, the X-Men.  Con­scious­ly or not, they embed­ded their life expe­ri­ence into their cre­ations.

Immi­grants’ kids often grow up with one name at home and anoth­er at school, one set of expec­ta­tions at home and anoth­er at school.  We nego­ti­ate between two iden­ti­ties.  That’s a con­ven­tion in the super­hero genre.  Super­man isn’t just Super­man, he’s also Clark Kent.  Bat­man is also Bruce Wayne.  Spi­der-man is also Peter Park­er.

I some­times won­der if that’s why I loved super­heroes so much as a kid.  I saw myself in them.

Chinese in America coverPlease say a bit more about the research involved in writ­ing about pre-WWII Chi­na­town and oth­er set­tings or ele­ments.

 I read about ear­ly Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ties in San Fran­cis­co, New York, and Hawaii.  Iris Chang’s The Chi­nese in Amer­i­ca was par­tic­u­lar­ly help­ful.

Have you ever made your own super­hero cos­tume?

I haven’t, but my friends have on my behalf.  For my bach­e­lor par­ty, they dressed me up as a char­ac­ter they called Wein­er Man –cape, under­wear on the out­side, an absurd and slight­ly inap­pro­pri­ate chest insignia.

My friends are mean.

You are also a vet­er­an high school teacher. Your grad­u­ate-school work focused on the val­ue of comics as an edu­ca­tion­al tool, and you’ve list­ed on your blog some comics that are a per­fect fit for a  S.T.E.M. cur­ricu­lum. On anoth­er site, Comics in Edu­ca­tion, you list pro­fes­sion­al resources to help teach­ers learn to inte­grate comics into the class­room. If you were to tell an uncon­vinced teacher the sin­gle­most rea­son to include graph­ic nov­els with­in the cur­ricu­lum, and not just as inde­pen­dent read­ing, what would that be?

Sim­ply put, cer­tain types of infor­ma­tion are bet­ter com­mu­ni­cat­ed through pic­tures.  I love words.  I read words for fun and I read words for work.  Words are incred­i­bly, incred­i­bly impor­tant to me and I nev­er want them to go away.  But words can’t do every­thing.  Can you imag­ine putting togeth­er a Lego set by fol­low­ing words-only instruc­tions?  So many con­cepts can be bet­ter explained with pic­tures: osmo­sis, the bina­ry num­ber sys­tem, fac­tor­ing.

I don’t see comics as a replace­ment for prose—I see comics as anoth­er tool in the tool­box.  Teach­ing is such a dif­fi­cult pro­fes­sion.  Shouldn’t teach­ers have access to as many dif­fer­ent tools as pos­si­ble?

Secret Coders coverYour forth­com­ing Secret Coders, Book 1 (illus­trat­ed by Mike Holmes) will be pub­lished this fall by First Sec­ond Books. Could you briefly tell us about this book and the series it launch­es?

I’m very, very excit­ed about Secret Coders.  This is my first explic­it­ly edu­ca­tion­al graph­ic nov­el series.  It’s also my youngest – it’s mid­dle grade.

Secret Coders is a bit like Har­ry Pot­ter – our young pro­tag­o­nists find a secret school.  How­ev­er, instead of teach­ing mag­ic, the secret school teach­es cod­ing.  Mike and I hope that, as our char­ac­ters learn to code, our read­ers will too.

A final ques­tion about The Shad­ow Hero: If you hopped into the way-back machine and land­ed in sev­enth grade and had to give a very short report on The Shad­ow Hero to your class­mates, what one thing about the book would you want to share with them?

It’s got punch­ing in it!  And mahjong!

 

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In Which the Boy Cleans His Room …

by Melanie Heuis­er Hill

We’re at the one-month mark before #1 Son leaves for his first year of col­lege. This is big for our fam­i­ly. (I real­ize it’s a big thing for every fam­i­ly, but it’s feel­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly per­son­al for us right now—indulge me.) It’s entire­ly right, he’s absolute­ly ready, and he’s going to a place that’s a good fit for him. But my heart squeezes to think of it. (I’m try­ing pos­i­tive visu­al­iza­tion for the good-bye.)

ph_RRB_bedroomThis week, he’s clean­ing his room—a parental man­date. His room will remain his room when he goes, but long over­due is this clean­ing out of the sci­ence projects from ele­men­tary school, the soc­cer medals from the same era, the dusty cer­tifi­cates and papers and binders, the mess and detri­tus of a boy’s life well lived and now out­grown. He’s doing the clos­et today—he won’t fin­ish. It’s like an archae­o­log­i­cal dig with its lay­ers. He says he’s sav­ing his book­shelf for last. “It’s not so bad,” he says.

bk_Frog_and_toad_coverLast week, I sat on his bed and looked at that book­shelf. It’s one of the first my hus­band built. Floor to ceil­ing, near­ly as wide as the boy’s wingspan. Or his wingspan a few years ago, any­way. It’s stuffed and it exhibits a pecu­liar com­bi­na­tion of clut­tered and orga­nized stor­age. It’s obvi­ous he once alpha­bet­ized his fic­tion by author. This astounds me—among all of his awards, there is nary a one com­mend­ing his orga­ni­za­tion­al skills. But he likes to find the book he’s look­ing for quick­ly, and so at some point he gave it a go, I guess.

Many of the pic­ture books have moved on. A few favorites remain: Caps for Sale, an anthol­o­gy of Thomas The Tank Engine sto­ries, Clever Ali, The Vel­veteen Rab­bit, The Quiltmaker’s Gift, Frog and Toad, sev­er­al books about inven­tors, sci­en­tists, and explor­ers, Win­nie-the-Pooh 

And then there are the glo­ri­ous chap­ter books that con­sumed weeks and months and years of his life. Some we read togeth­er, but many he devoured on his own. The well-worn Har­ry Pot­ter books in Eng­lish and Span­ish both, all of the Swal­lows and Ama­zons series, most any­thing Gary Schmidt has writ­ten…. There’s a sec­tion or two of math books—cool math, not text­book math—and there’s every­thing from sto­ries of drag­ons and wiz­ards to the biog­ra­phy of Mark Twain.

bk_SwallowsThe boy has always read wide­ly. His­to­ry is mixed in with sci­ence, which is mixed in with his banned books col­lec­tion and var­i­ous works of Shake­speare. Con­tem­po­rary nov­el­ists sit piled under ancient clas­sics. He has the entire col­lec­tion of Calvin and Hobbes sit­ting next to The Atlas of Indi­an Nations, and var­i­ous graph­ic nov­els are shelved in the midst of an exten­sive col­lec­tion of Peter Pan pre­quels and sequels. I see both books he was required to read and books he could not put down.

I’m almost as proud of this book­shelf as I am the boy—it stead­ies me to look at it. With just a few weeks left until he heads out, I catch myself with pan­icked thoughts: Will he wash his sheets? Does he know the details of our fam­i­ly med­ical his­to­ry? Is the sal­ad bar in the din­ing ser­vice nice enough to tempt him to eat his veg­eta­bles? Does he know the signs of a con­cus­sion? Frost­bite? Will he call home before he makes Big Life Deci­sions? WILL HE READ? 

That last one pops up a lot for this Eng­lish major Mama. He wants to be an engi­neer. That cur­ricu­lum does not fea­ture much in the way of lit­er­a­ture cours­es; though I’m impressed they have an all-cam­pus-read that plays a sig­nif­i­cant part in ori­en­ta­tion. Will our boy read for fun, or be so con­sumed with engi­neer­ing and math that he won’t have time for sto­ries? If he decides to have a beer, will he pick up a new nov­el or an old favorite to enjoy with it? (A mom can dream.) Will he find a banned book to read in Sep­tem­ber dur­ing Banned Books Week, like we’ve always done? Will he lose him­self in the stacks of that fan­cy cam­pus library and maybe car­ry a pile of books back to his dorm room? If he stays up much too late, will it be—please let it be—because he’s fall­en into a sto­ry and can’t get out?

And then he shuf­fles into my office, laugh­ing at anoth­er arti­fact he’s uncov­ered in the deep dark recess­es of his clos­et. We agree it can be “passed on.”

Hey Mom?” he says. “What do you do with your books when you go to col­lege?”

I tell him there’s not much room in the typ­i­cal dorm room to house books out­side of those you need for your stud­ies.

Maybe I can just take a few favorites?” he says.

I ask which few those would be.

I’ll have to think about it,” he says. “I’ve got a lot of favorites.”

Oh, I’m going to miss that boy.

 

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Classic Children’s Comics

by Vic­ki Palmquist

No one I knew ever picked up Archie or Lulu or Den­nis the Men­ace because it was Required Read­ing. We read comics because we want­ed to see what was going to hap­pen. We want­ed to take that unex­pect­ed turn.” — Jon Sci­esz­ka

Toon Treasury of Classic Children's ComicsWhen I was in high school, I went on a hunt to find as many old comics as I could, learn­ing about the his­to­ry, the con­tro­ver­sy, the artists, and the love affair that swooped up so many kids and showed them that good sto­ries exist in many forms.

If you’d like to share clas­sic comics with your kids or your stu­dents, you’re in luck. Art Spiegel­man and Françoise Mouly, those folks behind Toon Books, sought out the fun, wacky, and adven­ture­some sto­ries that will have them turn­ing the pages for their next comics encounter. Spiegel­man and Mouly aimed for fun­ny and they found it—bullseye—in The Toon Trea­sury of Clas­sic Children’s Comics (Abrams Comi­cArts, 2009).

You’ll find comics that may be famil­iar to you such as Lit­tle Lulu, Pogo, Den­nis the Men­ace, Heck­le and Jeck­le, and the Lit­tle Archies (not the teenage ver­sion, but the young kids). You’ll read sto­ries and find char­ac­ters that I believe will be new to you as well.

Toon Treasury

I par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoyed Ger­ald McBo­ing Boing in “Boing Boing” by Theodore Seuss Geisel and P.D. East­man. The graph­ic line, the col­ors, the poet­ry, the sto­ry … I won’t ruin the end­ing but it’s com­fort­ing to know that there’s a place for every­one in this world.

In Melvin Mon­ster “Mice Busi­ness” by John Stan­ley, a fam­i­ly of mon­sters has a mouse prob­lem. This is the­ater of the absurd. Your chil­dren (and you) will howl over the antics of Mum­my and Bad­dy and their son, Melvin.

Little Lulu Five BabiesIn Lit­tle Lulu “Five Lit­tle Babies” by John Stan­ley and Irv­ing Tripp, the boys trick Lulu into look­ing fool­ish but she gets the best of them in a clever and iron­ic way.

Believe it or not, in Uncle Scrooge “Tral­la La” by Carl Barks, this high-ener­gy sto­ry lets us in on the secrets of cap­i­tal­ism and utopia.

Did you know that Walt Kel­ly of Pogo fame also did a series of comics called Fairy Tale Parade? “Prince Robin and the Dwarfs” is fast-paced, excit­ing, and fun­ny … and also a rip­ping good yarn. I par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoyed study­ing his Map of the Fairy Tale Lands.

I don’t know if you can say these are favorites when I’ve list­ed so many of them, but “Cap­tain Mar­vel in the Land of Sur­re­al­ism” by C.C. Beck and Pete Con­stan­za is a true high point of the Trea­sury. When I start­ed this arti­cle I was going to say that there are no super­heroes in this col­lec­tion but they includ­ed Cap­tain Mar­vel in a sto­ry that will have you ques­tion­ing real­i­ty. (And there’s a sto­ry about Super­mouse, too.)

These six sto­ries are just a frac­tion of what’s avail­able in The Toon Trea­sury of Clas­sic Children’s Comics. There’s at least one sto­ry that will tick­le every reader’s fun­ny bone and I’m will­ing to bet you’ll have a hard time keep­ing your own favorites to a list of six.

Map of the Fairy Tale Lands

How lucky kids are today to have such ready access to a book that col­lects the best of an era when comics were new and exper­i­men­tal and, in the case of this Trea­sury, appro­pri­ate for child­hood.

As Mr. Spiegel­man and Ms. Mouly write in their intro­duc­tion, “But as par­ents we’ve des­per­ate­ly want­ed to keep our kids safe on the ever-shrink­ing island of child­hood, pro­tect­ed from the dan­gers of, say, Inter­net porn and the hor­rors of the night­ly news, while still prepar­ing them for the Real World. As evi­denced in so many of our select­ed sto­ries, adults can act very child­ish­ly, kids can be remark­ably clear-eyed, and the bat­tle between the ratio­nal and the irra­tional is more like a dance.”

I’m glad to have been invit­ed to that dance. I’ll pull this tome (it’s 1−1÷4” thick) down from the shelves when I need a book to light­en the mood. Thanks to my good friend Amy who knew this would be a cher­ished birth­day present.

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Skinny Dip with Debra Frasier

ph_orangesWhat is your favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion:

When I was four­teen years old I assumed the role of Christ­mas Ambrosia Mak­er in my south­ern-nov­el of a fam­i­ly. I was the youngest appointee, ever, and sur­pris­ing, as it requires weld­ing a very sharp ser­rat­ed knife, but I had a knack for it. We were a “fruit-rich” fam­i­ly due to a small, scrag­gly orange grove west of Vero Beach, FL. You need­ed to be fruit-rich because my fam­i­ly ambrosia method requires cut­ting deep into the naval skin to not only remove the white pith, but to also cut into the tiny juicy orange cells, leav­ing a lit­tle rib­bon of actu­al orange on the spi­ral skin. This is why our ambrosia is bet­ter than any oth­er you will taste. Ever. But. You need a lot of oranges for this method.

When I was six­teen, and had faith­ful­ly repeat­ed the recipe for two years, I removed the tra­di­tion­al canned pineap­ple. Scan­dal! There were arched eye­brows from my grand­moth­er. When I was sev­en­teen, I removed the coconut, and my moth­er raised her eye­brows. But once the knife had been passed, it turned out you can do what you want, my first taste of fam­i­ly matri­ar­chal pow­er. Now we have ambrosia just how I like it: plain, un-doc­tored naval oranges in a brim­ming bowl. And I now add fine­ly chopped mint. My daugh­ter will prob­a­bly remove it one day.

Long answer to a short ques­tion.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s chal­lenge?

My teach­ers loved me because I was a per­fec­tion­ist amid a pack of wild Flori­da boys. In those days we received paper report cards where teach­ers could write, in gor­geous script, com­ments for each child. A reoc­cur­ring com­ment was: “Deb­bie is an excel­lent stu­dent how­ev­er she is very hard on her­self.”

Lit­tle did I know that this would be the report card for my life…

What was the first book report you ever wrote?

bk_YearlingI don’t remem­ber my first book report but I remem­ber Book Reports. I always drew the cov­er and an illus­tra­tion in a care­ful­ly mea­sured box. My favorite book was read aloud in the fourth grade by a long-term sub­sti­tute. It was a des­per­ate attempt to con­trol an unruly class—and it worked mirac­u­lous­ly well: The Year­ling, by Mar­jorie Ken­nan Rawl­ings, trumped 25 Flori­da ruf­fi­ans com­mit­ted to ruin­ing a substitute’s life. My report on the book was filled with pic­tures of fawns, curled in the Flori­da scrub, and bound­ing in the cab­in yard. This book changed my life for­ev­er, as hear­ing it kept the divorce–wracked world at bay, and I real­ized that sto­ries were the ulti­mate mag­ic, some kind of med­i­cine for the heart.

Do you like to gift-wrap presents?

When I was grow­ing up wrap­ping presents was con­sid­ered An Art. I was taught to care­ful­ly fold tucked in cor­ners, and to make sure the scotch tape was per­pen­dic­u­lar to the gift’s base line. My moth­er, some­how, got on the mail­ing list for the Neiman Mar­cus Christ­mas cat­a­log. She could nev­er have afford­ed to order any­thing but she stud­ied the wrap­ping meth­ods in the over-the-top sec­tion. I remem­ber one par­tic­u­lar wrap­ping that she showed me with such amaze­ment: Take ten cash­mere sweaters, each a dif­fer­ent bright col­or. Find a very tall glass con­tain­er, prefer­ably shaped like a foun­tain soda glass. Lay each sweater in the glass so as to appear to be a lay­er of ice cream. Add a bow to the base, and save a white sweater for the whipped-cream top.

So, yes, I grew up lov­ing to wrap presents, wrapped at a depart­ment store for a teen job, and now…am the worst present-wrap­per you ever met. Slop­py, I use recy­cled paper and bags, and nev­er match my cor­ners. What hap­pened?! But I STILL often think about my mother’s delight in the ice cream glass filled with cash­mere sweaters—

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?

Laugh more. I was a seri­ous child, and had this thing for doing every­thing too, too per­fect­ly. The report cards were right: Light­en up, for heaven’s sake, Debra! But I could tell myself that TODAY, too!

What 3 children’s book authors or illus­tra­tors or edi­tors would you like to invite to din­ner?

OK, defy­ing The Rules of Time my guests would be: Mar­jorie Kin­nan Rawl­ings, after orange sea­son so she is relaxed and she can bring Max Perkins as her date, Ursu­la Nord­strom, after fin­ish­ing Car­rot Seed with Ruth Krauss so she is pleased as punch, and Ursu­la LeGuin, so things are always look­ing for­ward with her remark­able mind and its insis­tence on rec­og­niz­ing the fem­i­nine in us all.

Let’s make the din­ner in NYC, some­where street lev­el, with red leather booths but we take the round table in the win­dow, beneath the tied back drapes…Candles on the table, wine ordered.

bk_spike_228Where’s your favorite place to read?

My favorite place to read has more to do with time than place—I most like to read wher­ev­er I feel there is space, psy­chic space, I mean. I love to read, for exam­ple, when trav­el­ing, espe­cial­ly in the air if it is not bumpy. There is a lot of psy­chic space in an air­plane, unteth­ered to all those strings below. I also have a lit­tle sleep­ing loft in a North Car­oli­na cab­in that you get to by a rope sus­pend­ed ladder—perfect read­ing space, and once again, up high, always sum­mer, always unteth­ered. But if I wait­ed for an air­plane or sum­mer, I’d nev­er read, so I squeeze read­ing into a lot of odd spaces: before sleep, wait­ing in lines, over lunch, in my studio…In lat­er life I have devel­oped a severe addic­tion to nar­ra­tive so I have to ration myself or I will stay up all night try­ing to find out the age old question’s answer: What hap­pens NEXT? At night I have to read only cook­books because it does not mat­ter so much what hap­pens next and I can turn the light off at a sen­si­ble time and go to sleep. Seri­ous­ly. It’s a prob­lem.

 

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Lisa Bullard: My Superpower

When I do school vis­its, the stu­dents treat me like a super­hero. The time with them is exhil­a­rat­ing, and it would take a much more hard­ened heart than mine to resist the curios­i­ty and imag­i­na­tion these young peo­ple exhib­it. But my class­room days also leave me bone-deep exhaust­ed. One after­noon, mid­way through a week­long res­i­den­cy, I lay down in my front yard when I arrived back home, too tired to tack­le the Mount Ever­est that had replaced my front steps.

orange starThat’s one of the rea­sons I stand in awe of class­room teach­ers. The degree of patience and endurance that they require to show up day after day for an entire school year astounds me. I also have a secret the­o­ry that edu­ca­tion majors are trained in super-human blad­der con­trol. For my part, I need to stay ful­ly hydrat­ed to sur­vive school vis­it days—which means I devel­op an ear­ly aware­ness of the restroom lay­out for any school I vis­it. That’s how I got to be par­tic­u­lar­ly friend­ly with one young writer who I’ll call Jake. In his par­tic­u­lar school, there was a handy fac­ul­ty restroom just off of the nurse’s office. Between class­es I’d duck in, and more often than not find Jake sit­ting on the nurse’s bed.

Hey, Mrs. Writer Lady,” he’d invari­ably greet me, and we’d exchange pleas­antries and chat about the activ­i­ties I had planned for his class­room that day.

After sev­er­al more restroom vis­its, I became wor­ried about Jake. The lit­tle guy seemed to spend a good part of his school day in the nurse’s office, and I imag­ined an array of chron­ic dis­eases that might be the cul­prit. I final­ly caught a rare moment where the nurse was present but Jake was not, and under­stand­ing that she couldn’t reveal con­fi­den­tial med­ical infor­ma­tion, I told her of my con­cern for Jake’s health. She laughed, wav­ing a hand.

gr_ZapJake’s not sick,” she said. “They just stash the sent-to-the-prin­ci­pal stu­dents in here when the prin­ci­pal is away.” In oth­er words, Jake was That Kid: the one who spends a good part of his edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence get­ting into trou­ble, dis­rupt­ing oth­er stu­dents, and being sent to the principal’s office. Yet this side of his nature was com­plete­ly for­eign to me—when I worked with his class, he was enthu­si­as­tic and engaged, cheer­ful­ly cre­at­ing a high­ly imag­i­na­tive piece about a polar bear who McGuyver-ed bub­blegum to solve his story’s con­flict.

Jake was my first hands-on evi­dence of some­thing I’ve observed time and again dur­ing my class­room vis­its: sto­ries can have the pow­er to reach That Kid in a way that few oth­er things can. I’ve now had many teach­ers seek me out after class to tell me about That Kid in their class­room: how, to the teacher’s great sur­prise, That Kid was able to focus, to behave, to show enthu­si­asm, for my sto­ry-writ­ing activ­i­ty in a way That Kid sel­dom can for oth­er class­room activ­i­ties. Sto­ries cer­tain­ly aren’t the mag­ic fix for every strug­gling kid, but I now believe strong­ly that they can some­times work won­ders for That Kid.

blue starMost super­heroes need a super­pow­er: mine is sto­ries. I work real­ly hard to make my school vis­its fun (hence the need for all that hydra­tion!). But the truth is, I’m not an enter­tain­er by nature—I’m a writer who spends most of my work days alone with imag­i­nary char­ac­ters and a cat. So the cred­it for the abil­i­ty to reach some of those hard­est-to-reach kids should right­ful­ly go to the pow­er of sto­ry rather than to me. That means that any class­room that allows time for plea­sure read­ing and cre­ative writ­ing can tap into that pow­er, too.

You just need to stock up on good books, sharp pen­cils, and not-emp­ty-for-long note­books, and Kapow! Zap! Boom! It will be super­hero time in your class­room (or liv­ing room) before you know it.

 

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Shifting Drivers

by Lisa Bullard

Take TurnsIf you go road trip­ping with enough dif­fer­ent peo­ple, you dis­cov­er anoth­er way that human beings sort them­selves out: into the dri­vers of the world, and the pas­sen­gers of the world.

The dri­vers are only com­plete­ly hap­py when they have con­trol of the steer­ing wheel. But, on every trip, there comes a point where they tire out and lose their con­cen­tra­tion.  Then it’s nec­es­sary to shift dri­vers. Even a short break can bring the orig­i­nal dri­ver back to peak dri­ving abil­i­ty.

This is true of a writ­ing road trip as well.  At some point, we tire out and lose our con­cen­tra­tion.   When my stu­dents have been focus­ing on a longer writ­ing ses­sion, I’ve dis­cov­ered that tem­porar­i­ly “shift­ing dri­vers” works as a quick and effec­tive break.

Here’s how it works. Ask stu­dents to shift their writ­ing uten­sil to their non-dom­i­nant hand, and to try writ­ing two or three sen­tences with that hand. Some­times I use the board to mod­el the “crazy ax mur­der­er” results that my left hand pro­duces when I shift dri­vers this way.

This gives stu­dents a chance to shake out their dom­i­nant hand, which has like­ly grown tired of grip­ping a pen­cil. It pro­vides stu­dents a chance for a quick laugh over their attempts to write with their non-dom­i­nant hand. And I’ve read infor­ma­tion that sug­gests that shift­ing hands this way re-engages the oth­er side of our brain, which enlivens the writ­ing process.

So when you’ve assigned a longer writ­ing project, remem­ber to fol­low the road signs in today’s pho­to at some point: First, STOP. Then, TAKE TURNS.  It’s a lit­tle trick to bring your stu­dents back to peak writ­ing abil­i­ty.

 

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Two for the Show: Three Books on the River

by Phyl­lis Root and Jacque­line Brig­gs Mar­tin

Sum­mer­time. And whether we live by water or only dream of liv­ing by water, read­ing about riv­er adven­tures is fun. We are for­tu­nate to have a num­ber of won­der­ful books that take us out onto the water. We are unfor­tu­nate that only one of the books on today’s list can eas­i­ly be found at a library.

We two blog­gers dream of a library that does not “weed,” but keeps books on the shelves because they are time­less and will always appeal to chil­dren. Per­haps that’s what we are try­ing to do with this blog: cre­ate our own “library” of books that nour­ish won­der, grow sym­pa­thy, fill brains with pos­si­bil­i­ty.

What bet­ter place to do all that than the riv­er? Let’s shove off.

Mr Gumpy's Outing coverMr. Gumpy’s Out­ing, by John Burn­ing­ham. Some library copies of Mr. Gumpy’s Out­ing look like they are one hun­dred years old, not mere­ly forty-five. It is such a good sto­ry that it deserves not to be over­looked because it looks worn. Time to sum­mon the library angels of our nature to donate new copies. As you all may know, “Mr. Gumpy owned a boat and his house was by a riv­er.” When he goes out in his boat var­i­ous char­ac­ters come up to the riv­er bank and ask to go along. He says yes to all but there are some rules. The chil­dren are not to squab­ble, the rab­bit not to hop about, the cat not to chase the rab­bit, the dog not to chase the cat, the pig not to muck about, the sheep not to bleat, the chick­ens not to flap (it’s hard not to list them all because the verbs are so won­der­ful), the calf not to tram­ple, and the goat not to kick. For a while all goes along well, but life is life. And we know they will do what they are not to do. …So the boat tips over, but no lec­tures from Mr. Gumpy. That may be the best part of the book. He says, “We’ll walk home across the fields…It’s time for tea.” Mr. Gumpy knew some­thing like this would hap­pen. It’s in the nature of chil­dren to squab­ble and calves to tram­ple. We can still drink tea and eat sweets. This book is sure to please, whether being read or act­ed out by young actors. It’s a joy.

Three Days coverSo is Vera B. Williams’ Three Days on a Riv­er in a Red Canoe a joy. Though this book is not avail­able in any of three east­ern Iowa libraries, an Ama­zon check shows it is still being pur­chased and loved by read­ers. Pub­lished in 1981, it is writ­ten as a child’s jour­nal of a canoe trip that takes place after the nar­ra­tor, walk­ing home from school, notices a red canoe for sale. She, Sam, Mom and Aunt Rosie “pool” their mon­ey and buy the canoe. Mom and Aunt Rosie come up with a three-day trip. They buy sup­plies and then “drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove.” What child does not have that mem­o­ry of a long car trip?

The book includes so much—Mom and Aunt Rosie low­er­ing the boat over a water­fall, camp cook­ing, instruc­tions on how to tie a half hitch, a recipe for pan­cakes and fruit stew, and dumplings, sketch­es of fish and fowl. It is as if we were on the trip.

The tone also con­tributes to the spe­cial-ness of this book. Vera B. Williams has cap­tured the leisure­ly feel­ing of a riv­er trip: let’s stop to swim, tell sto­ries at night, watch a muskrat. And there’s the unspo­ken car­ing. When Sam stands up and falls out of the canoe, he gets towed to shore. “Mom doesn’t say much, but she looks upset. Aunt Rose looks scared. Sam changes to dry clothes and we canoe on.” Vera B. Williams doesn’t need to say how much Mom and Aunt Rosie love the kids. That love and car­ing infus­es the sto­ry, as in all of Williams’s work—and that’s why we keep going back to it.

The Cow Who Fell coverPer­haps it’s not the same as a parent’s love for a child, but how can we not love Hen­dri­ka, the Dutch cow, envi­sioned by Phyl­lis Krasilovsky and illus­trat­ed by the won­der­ful Peter Spi­er? The Cow Who Fell in the Canal was first pub­lished in 1957. Accord­ing to Krasilovsky’s obit­u­ary in the New York Times the book became so pop­u­lar in the Nether­lands that the author was fet­ed by the Dutch Con­sul in New York. The book begins: “Hen­dri­ka was an unhap­py cow. She lived on a farm in Hol­land, where it is very flat. All sum­mer long she ate grass. All win­ter long she ate hay. All win­ter and all sum­mer she did noth­ing but eat.” She’s learned about the city from Pieter, the horse, who comes to pick up the milk. One day while out eat­ing grass she falls into the canal. Of course she con­tin­ues eat­ing and then stum­bles upon a raft. Spi­er shows us the entire process of push­ing and maneu­ver­ing and final­ly falling onto the raft. Then the adven­ture begins! Hen­dri­ka is the mis­chie­vous child in all of us. She runs, she tram­ples, she wears a straw hat and final­ly she goes home, where “she had so much to think about.” If this book had no words it would be won­der­ful because Peter Spier’s illus­tra­tions are so full of detail and ener­gy. But the words tell us of a great adven­ture that left the wan­der­er changed—as all good adven­tures do, as all good books do.

Oth­er riv­er pic­ture books:

Give Her the Riv­er, by Michael Den­nis Browne illus by Wen­dell Minor. Atheneum, 2004. A father’s thoughts about his daugh­ter.

Riv­er Friend­ly, Riv­er Wild, by Jane Kurtz, illus­trat­ed by Neil Bren­nan. Aladdin Reprint, 2007. A sto­ry inspired by the flood­ing of the Red Riv­er.

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A Trip to the Art Museum

by Vic­ki Palmquist

Arlo's Artrageous Adventure!  

Arlo’s Artra­geous Adven­ture!

David LaRochelle
Ster­ling Children’s Books, 2013

When Arlo’s grand­moth­er drags him to the art muse­um, he can’t imag­ine how he’ll be inter­est­ed. Some­thing odd catch­es his eye and he soon real­izes the paint­ings have things to say that sur­prise and delight him—and the read­er. Fun and quirky, with illus­tra­tions that will make you smile and flaps to lift that will reveal nuances in much the same way you dis­cov­er some­thing new in a paint­ing each time you look at it … this is a good choice to pre­pare a child for a trip to the muse­um.

Art Dog  

Art Dog

Thacher Hurd
Harper­Collins, 1996

When the moon is full, Arthur Dog, secu­ri­ty guard at the Dogopo­lis Muse­um of Art becomes Art Dog, a masked artist paint­ing mas­ter­pieces. When an art heist occurs, Arthur must find the true crim­i­nals. Your read­ers will have fun rec­og­niz­ing the works of Pablo Poo­dle, Hen­ri Mutisse, and Vin­cent Van Dog.

Behind the Museum Door  

Behind the Muse­um Door:
Poems to Cel­e­brate the Won­der of Muse­ums

Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins, ed.
illus by Stacey Dressen-McQueen
Har­ry N. Abrams, 2007

An ide­al read-aloud to pre­pare for a  class trip, this col­lec­tion of poet­ry will be use­ful when dis­cussing art and artists. The poems are ener­getic and infor­ma­tive while Dressen-McQueen’s illus­tra­tions do an admi­ral job of visu­al­ly rep­re­sent­ing each poem.

Chasing Vermeer  

Chas­ing Ver­meer

Blue Bal­li­ett
Scholas­tic, 2004

Petra and Calder, 11-year-olds, become friends when they team up to solve the theft of a Ver­meer paint­ing which was en route to a muse­um in Chica­go, where they live. The thief leaves clues in the news­pa­per and our clever duo work hard to solve the puz­zles and mys­ter­ies that result. Your read­ers will learn about art while play­ing detec­tive.

Dog's Night  

Dog’s Night

Mered­ith Hoop­er
illus by Alan Cur­less
Frances Lin­coln, 2006

With a set­ting at London’s Nation­al Gallery, this is a tale of that one night a year when the dogs in the museum’s paint­ings are set free to come to life and play. A good way to intro­duce young peo­ple to fine art.

Eddie Red Undercover  

Eddie Red, Under­cov­er: Mys­tery on Muse­um Mile

Mar­cia Wells, illus by Mar­cos Calo
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2013

Edmund, an 11-year-old boy with a pho­to­graph­ic mem­o­ry and a tal­ent for draw­ing, is hired by the NYPD to help them look for thieves plan­ning a major art heist. Filled with humor, inter­est­ing char­ac­ters, and a lot of clues to a sat­is­fy­ing mys­tery.

Framed  

Framed

Frank Cot­trell Boyce
Harper­Collins, 2006

When Dylan’s father leaves because their busi­ness, Snow­do­nia Oasis Auto Mar­vel, is fal­ter­ing, Dylan’s fam­i­ly tries to improve their cir­cum­stances. At the same time, paint­ings from the Nation­al Gallery are being moved to stor­age near Dylan’s Welsh town. Filled with art his­to­ry and col­or­ful, charis­mat­ic char­ac­ters, this book is sure to hook read­ers.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler  

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er

E.L. Konigs­burg
Atheneum/Simon & Schus­ter, 1970

A clas­sic in which Clau­dia plans care­ful­ly for a week’s stay in the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art to break the monot­o­ny of her life. She invites her younger broth­er, James, because he has mon­ey. A new sculp­ture in the muse­um is pos­si­bly a mar­ble angel cre­at­ed by Michelan­ge­lo, but no one knows for cer­tain. Clau­dia and James are deter­mined to help solve the mys­tery.

 

Going to the Getty  

Going to the Get­ty

Vivian Walsh
illus by J. Otto Sei­bold
J. Paul Get­ty Muse­um, 1997

The cre­ators of Olive, the Oth­er Rein­deer have cre­at­ed a pic­ture book that intro­duces young vis­i­tors to the Get­ty Muse­um in Los Ange­les, includ­ing art­work, gar­dens, and behind-the-scenes work spaces.

Katie and the Sunflowers  

Katie and the Sun­flow­ers

James May­hew
Orchard Books, 2001

When Katie vis­its the muse­um, it’s an adven­ture indeed! She finds she can reach into the paint­ings, such as Van Gogh’s Sun­flow­ers, while oth­er paint­ings come to life. There are a num­ber of Katie books in which she learns more about fine art, but this par­tic­u­lar title fea­tures Gau­g­in and Cezanne, the Post-Impres­sion­ists. Back mat­ter helps elu­ci­date more infor­ma­tion in a friend­ly way.

Masterpiece  

Mas­ter­piece

Elise Broach
illus by Kel­ly Mur­phy
Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt, 2008

An excel­lent mys­tery weav­ing togeth­er the world of art and the world of art theft. Mar­vin is a bee­tle who lives under the sink in James’ apart­ment. Mar­vin has a mar­velous tal­ent for draw­ing in minia­ture. So mar­velous that his draw­ings become a media sen­sa­tion … for which James receives the cred­it. Art forgery is required but the friend­ship between Mar­vin and James, nei­ther of whom can speak to the oth­er, is test­ed.

Matthew's Dream  

Matthew’s Dream

Leo Lion­ni
Ran­dom House, 1995

When Matthew the mouse goes on a field trip to the art muse­um with his class, he is over­come with the beau­ty and pow­er of the art­work hang­ing there. Inspired, he returns to his dusty and unin­spired attic and cre­ates art with things he’s nev­er rec­og­nized as hav­ing beau­ty, cre­at­ing paint­ings “filled with the shapes and col­ors of joy.”

Mrs Brown on Exhibit  

Mrs. Brown on Exhib­it and Oth­er Muse­um Poems

Susan Katz
illus R.W. Alley
Simon & Schus­ter, 2002

A book of poet­ry is writ­ten in the children’s own voic­es about their exu­ber­ant teacher, Mrs. Brown. She loves field trips to art exhibits and oth­er exot­ic muse­ums. A good book to show the breadth of col­lec­tions encom­passed by muse­ums.

Museum  

Muse­um

Susan Verde
illus by Peter H. Reynolds
Har­ry N. Abrams, 2013

On a vis­it to the muse­um, a young girl reacts with dif­fer­ing emo­tions to each paint­ing she sees, express­ing her­self with move­ment and sound and facial expres­sions. Drawn in a car­toon style, this book will help kids move beyond that feel­ing of rev­er­ence that muse­ums some­times inspire to exam­ine the works for a per­son­al con­nec­tion.

Museum ABC  

Muse­um ABC

New York Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art
Lit­tle Brown, 2002

An alpha­bet book intro­duc­ing chil­dren to the col­lec­tion of the New York Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art, includ­ing Roy Lichtenstein’s Red Apple and Degas’ bal­leri­nas. It works well as a dis­cus­sion starter about art and as a guide to the museum’s trea­sures.

Museum Book  

Muse­um Book: a Guide to Strange and Won­der­ful Col­lec­tions

Jan Mark
illus Richard Hol­land
Chron­i­cle Books, 2007

There are anec­dotes, his­tor­i­cal facts, and invi­ta­tions galore in this book to look at muse­ums from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. Top-notch.

Museum Trip  

Muse­um Trip

Bar­bara Lehmann
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2006

When a boy gets sep­a­rat­ed from his class on a field trip to a muse­um, won­drous things hap­pen when he stops to tie his shoe and gets sep­a­rat­ed from his class. He goes on an adven­ture that will have read­ers ask­ing, “Is that real?” Well, look for clues in the illus­tra­tions. It’s a word­less book, so your chil­dren will have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to tell the sto­ry in their own way.

Norman the doorman  

Nor­man the Door­man

Don Free­man
Pen­guin, 1959

In a book that has not aged, a dor­mouse is a door­man at the Majes­tic Muse­um of Art. He leads tours of small crea­tures to mar­vel in the paint­ings and sculp­tures stored in the museum’s base­ment. Inspired by a com­pe­ti­tion, Nor­man cre­ates his own entry out of mouse­traps set to catch him by the Muse­um guard. Filled with puns both ver­bal and visu­al, this is a must-have for your col­lec­tion.

Seen Art?  

Seen Art?

Jon Sci­esz­ka
illus by Lane Smith
Viking Books, 2005

In a quirky play on words, the nar­ra­tor is look­ing for his friend Art, but he’s direct­ed to the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art by a lady who thinks he’s look­ing for … art. While con­tin­u­ing to look for his friend, he encoun­ters paint­ings by Van Gogh, Licht­en­stein, Matisse, Klee, and more. A humor­ous way to approach fine art.

Shape Game  

Shape Game

Antho­ny Browne
Far­rar Straus Giroux, 2003

In an inspi­ra­tional, auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal pic­ture book, Antho­ny Browne shares his family’s vis­it to the Tate Muse­um in Lon­don that changed his way of look­ing at art. He exam­ines actu­al paint­ings hang­ing in the Tate in a man­ner that encour­ages the read­er to look more inten­tion­al­ly at art. The Shape Game is a fam­i­ly tra­di­tion, one that Anthony’s moth­er shares with him on the way home from the muse­um.

Speeding Down the Spiral  

Speed­ing Down the Spi­ral: an Art­ful Adven­ture

Deb­o­rah Good­man Davis
illus by Sophy Naess
Life in Print, 2012

A some­what longer pic­ture book that frames a look at art­work in the Guggen­heim Muse­um in New York City with a vis­it by a bored girl, her father, and her baby broth­er in a stroller. When the stroller gets away from her and heads down the spi­ral, a group of peo­ple give chase … and look at the art­work along the way!

Squeaking of Art  

Squeak­ing of Art: the Mice Go to the Muse­um

Mon­i­ca Welling­ton
Dut­ton, 2000

Using repro­duc­tions that look some­what like the orig­i­nal works of art, this book teach­es the vocab­u­lary and con­cepts that are so help­ful when one vis­its a muse­um.

Under the Egg  

Under the Egg

Lau­ra Marx Fitzger­ald
Dial Books, 2014

In this nov­el, 13-year-old Theo inher­its a paint­ing after her grand­fa­ther dies unex­pect­ed­ly. Iso­lat­ed by pover­ty and the lack of a respon­si­ble adult, Theo gains friends as she attempts to fig­ure out if the paint­ing is one of Raphael’s and why her grand­fa­ther had it. It’s a charm­ing book with a riv­et­ing mys­tery and fast-paced action.

Visiting the Art Museum  

Vis­it­ing the Art Muse­um

Lau­rene Kras­ny Brown
illus by Marc Brown
Dut­ton, 1986

When a young fam­i­ly goes to a muse­um, there is a great deal of com­plain­ing and expec­ta­tions of bore­dom. Instead they are drawn in by work rang­ing from Renoir, Pol­lack, Cezanne, Picas­so, and Warhol. Repro­duc­tions by Marc Brown of those famous paint­ings make this book acces­si­ble by younger and old­er chil­dren.

You Can't Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum  

You Can’t Take a Bal­loon Into the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um

Jacque­line P. Weitz­man
illus by Robin Preiss Glass­er
Dial Books, 1998

When a young girl and her grand­moth­er vis­it the muse­um, the guard tells them she can’t take her yel­low bal­loon in with her. He ties it to a rail­ing. The two muse­um vis­i­tors view works of wart while the yel­low bal­loon is untied by a pigeon to float through and explore New York City, often in par­al­lel adven­tures.

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Skinny Dip with John Coy

7_15HoopWhat ani­mal are you most like?

I have a strong love for the Gray­wolf.

Which book of yours was the most dif­fi­cult to write or illus­trate?

All the ones that have not yet found a pub­lish­er.

Which of your books would make a good movie and who would be the star?

Lots of stu­dents think Crack­back would. I’d be hap­py with any star.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

Go, Dog. Go!”

What book do you tell every­one to read?

The Wat­son go to Birmingham—1963

Are you a night owl or an ear­ly bird?

I used to be a night owl. Now I’m much more of an ear­ly bird.

Were you most like­ly to vis­it the school office to deliv­er attendance/get sup­plies, vis­it the nurse, or meet with the prin­ci­pal?

I hard­ly ever vis­it­ed the school office for any of these rea­sons. Our ele­men­tary school was so small we didn’t even have a reg­u­lar nurse. We hard­ly ever saw the prin­ci­pal and we had no lunch at school. We all walked home every day for lunch. And the idea of being too cold to go out­side for recess hadn’t been invent­ed yet.

 

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Give me a good mystery

Sum­mer­time is syn­ony­mous with read­ing for me.

My grand­moth­er kept a light blue blan­ket by the back door so I could spread it out under the elm tree and dis­solve into sto­ries. Some­times a lemon­ade, some­times a piece of water­mel­on … but always a book. Some­times a friend would sit next to me absorbed in a sto­ry of their own but most often it was just me, the birds, the sounds of sum­mer, and a hard­cov­er book.

I was remind­ed of that blan­ket under the tree this week­end when we were in Som­er­set, Wis­con­sin. We had to be some­where at 11 am but we were ear­ly. We had brought books with us—of course—and we sat under a tree read­ing.

Eddie Red UndercoverFor me, it was Eddie Red Under­cov­er: Mys­tery on Muse­um Mile. Read­ing mys­ter­ies is a pas­sion and a com­fort for me. This book by Mar­cia Wells, with inte­gral illus­tra­tions by Mar­cos Calo, swept me in and con­nect­ed me to the girl who read dur­ing her sum­mers, as many books as they’d let her check out of the library.

Eddie Red lives in New York City with a dad who’s been down­sized from the library and a moth­er who’s a real estate agent. Although he’s been attend­ing Sen­ate Acad­e­my, a school for gift­ed stu­dents, his family’s finan­cial duress puts him in a state of anx­i­ety over not being able to afford tuition next year. He likes his school but he real­izes he won’t see his best friend, Jon­ah, any­more. Jon­ah is bril­liant but he’s chal­lenged by hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty and a num­ber of med­ical con­di­tions … all of which make him a per­fect side­kick.

You see, Edmund Lon­nrot, our hero, is a 12-year-old with a pho­to­graph­ic mem­o­ry and a star­tling abil­i­ty to draw detailed, life­like por­traits of peo­ple he has seen recent­ly. When Edmund and his dad are drawn into a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion in an alley, Edmund is lat­er able to draw the crim­i­nals for the police. It turns out these par­tic­u­lar bad guys are part of the Picas­so Gang, inter­na­tion­al­ly-want­ed art thieves. The police hire Edmund as a police sketch artist, code name Eddie Red, to observe the com­ings and goings of peo­ple on Muse­um Mile in NYC, any of whom could be a dis­guised art thief.

Plau­si­bil­i­ty? Well, let’s just say that the phrase “will­ing sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief” is apro­pos. I was will­ing to over­look the NYPD hir­ing a twelve-year-old for a stake­out as far­fetched  and get com­plete­ly involved in Edmund’s and Jonah’s sto­ry, a chess game of a plot, and Edmund’s like­able sense of humor. The author does a good job of mak­ing Eddie’s tal­ents feel uni­ver­sal­ly adoptable—if only we had a Jon­ah to give us that extra oomph in the mys­tery-solv­ing are­na.

Eddie Red Undercover - Marcos Calo illustratorCalo’s por­traits are a part of the plot, essen­tial to the sto­ry. They’re as full of char­ac­ter as the author’s sto­ry. At the end of the book Eddie Red offers advice on how to draw a por­trait. That’s per­fec­tion because I found myself itch­ing to pick up a pen­cil and draw the peo­ple around me while I was solv­ing the mys­tery along­side Edmund.

It’s an engag­ing sto­ry, per­fect for read­ing any time, but espe­cial­ly sat­is­fy­ing on a sum­mer after­noon.

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Anne of Green Gables

by Melanie Heuis­er Hill

I received Anne of Green Gables for my tenth birth­day. I fell in love imme­di­ate­ly. Absolute­ly In Love—that’s the only way I can describe it.

bk_Anne120For the next sev­er­al years, I received the next book in the Anne series each birth­day and Christ­mas. I could spot the book in my pile of wrapped gifts—I have the Ban­tam Stare­fire Col­lec­tion, small mass mar­ket paper­backs not quite sev­en inch­es tall—the very size and shape of those books made my heart beat faster. The print is tiny, the mar­gins almost non-exis­tent, which wasn’t in any way a prob­lem when I received them. Now that I’ve added a few decades, I need my new bifo­cals to read them. My hus­band sug­gest­ed I get anoth­er set of the books—one with larg­er print. As if.

For years, through high school and col­lege and young-adult­hood, I re-read the books on the sly. Usu­al­ly in times of stress. I’d rip through the entire series—Anne age ten in #1 all the way through to her youngest daugh­ter, Ril­la, a teenag­er in #8. A cou­ple of years might go by between the readings—but not more than that. Some­times I just read Anne of Green Gables, which remains my absolute favorite, but usu­al­ly if I read it, I read them all.

A bosom friend–an inti­mate friend, you know–a real­ly kin­dred spir­it to whom I can con­fide my inmost soul.”(Anne Shirley, in Anne of Greene Gables)

Sev­er­al years ago now I met my bosom friend. I sat in the back of a small group as she and her hus­band talked about writ­ing and read­ing, fam­i­ly and life. I was so entranced I could not even take notes. I loved her at once, some­how. I sat lis­ten­ing to her and I thought: This woman is a kin­dred spir­it.

A heart­beat lat­er, as a part of a long list of excel­lent books worth re-read­ing, my kin­dred spir­it said “And Anne of Green Gables. I per­pet­u­al­ly read Anne of Green Gables, of course.” Her hus­band nod­ded.

A zing went through me head to toe—why had I nev­er thought to do that?! It was the word per­pet­u­al­ly that got me. And the non-cha­lant of course. I was a thou­sand miles from home, but if I’d had my trusty Ban­tam Starfire Col­lec­tion with me, I would’ve start­ed per­pet­u­al­ly read­ing the Anne books right then and there. As it was, I had to wait until I got home. But I’ve been per­pet­u­al­ly read­ing them—a chap­ter or two most nights before bed—ever since. (Imag­ine my hus­band nod­ding.)

My own daugh­ter is not as infat­u­at­ed with Anne. She’s a lit­tle over­whelmed with Anne’s bois­ter­ous spir­it, inces­sant chat­ter, over-active imag­i­na­tion, and gen­er­al endear­ing exu­ber­ance. (Which is fun­ny, because she’s real­ly quite like Anne Shirley.) She has a cou­ple of copies of Anne of Green Gables—hard­back col­lec­tor edi­tions she received as gifts. I gave her a box set of the whole series for her birth­day last year. (This is what has changed in a generation—I received the books one at a time, but I gave her the entire series at once. But I digress.) They are sim­i­lar­ly sized to mine, and I thought maybe the size would some­how make the dif­fer­ence.

Alas no. They just aren’t real­ly her thing. I thought I might be crushed by her indifference—I wor­ried about it for years. My bosom friend (whose daugh­ters are old­er than mine) warned me this could, in fact, hap­pen. But now that it has, it’s okay. Real­ly. My girl has read the hard­back a cou­ple of times, watched the excel­lent movies with me, and I’ve con­vinced her to read Anne of Avon­lea with me over vaca­tion this sum­mer. It’s all good.

My dear bosom friend died quite unex­pect­ed­ly and hor­ri­bly a year and a half ago. The hole left in my life remains large—we cor­re­spond­ed dai­ly and often ref­er­enced Anne Shirley and her adages and escapades along­side our own. Nei­ther of us fit the role of Anne Shirley or Diana Bar­ry, but our friend­ship was deep, even though it start­ed lat­er in life.

bk_AnneRainbow120My per­pet­u­al read­ing of the Anne series has been a gift dur­ing this time. I am so very grate­ful for my friend’s unas­sum­ing words: per­pet­u­al, of course. With­out the zing that went through me that evening, I might not have been bold enough to con­tact her, and our result­ing bosom friend­ship, so rich and so much a part of my life, might not have been.

So I think of her each night as I open what­ev­er book in the series I’m on (just start­ed #7, Rain­bow Val­ley). It’s bit­ter­sweet, to be sure, but it’s been help­ful some­how. My heart is grate­ful.

Also, I’m still hold­ing out hope my girl will become an Anne-girl this sum­mer. We’ll see.…

 

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Skinny Dip with Heather Vogel Frederick

7_8patienceWhat is your proud­est career moment?

I don’t think any­thing will ever beat get­ting that phone call over a dozen years ago from Simon & Schus­ter (edi­tor Kevin Lewis, to be exact) let­ting me know that they were going to pub­lish my first book, The Voy­age of Patience Good­speed. I hung up the phone after­wards and burst into tears. I’d worked so hard on that nov­el, for so many years! I was float­ing on air for weeks. In some ways, I still am.

Describe your favorite pair of paja­mas ever.

I was five, they were leop­ard print, and I thought I was the coolest thing ever. I loved those jam­mies to shreds. I had match­ing leop­ard print slip­pers, too—which met an untime­ly end when I acci­den­tal­ly stepped in the toi­let. But that’s anoth­er sto­ry.

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Curl­ing. Just to see the looks on people’s faces when I told them.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Twen­ty-three years ago, my hus­band and I picked up and moved from the East Coast to Port­land, Ore­gon, sight unseen, no jobs. Friends and fam­i­ly thought we were nuts. We prob­a­bly were, but it was also a fab­u­lous adven­ture. We fell in love with Ore­gon the minute we drove across the bor­der. The Pacif­ic North­west is absolute­ly gor­geous, and it’s been a great place to raise our boys.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

7_8WestWindOn my own? This is a tough one, because my mem­o­ries of read­ing on my own are so tight­ly inter­laced with night­ly read-alouds with my father. I remem­ber him read­ing Thorn­ton Burgess’s Old Moth­er West Wind sto­ries to me, which were his favorites when he was grow­ing up, and I also remem­ber sound­ing the words out myself and read­ing them back to him. As a solo read, though, I think it was either Gene Zion’s Har­ry the Dirty Dog or Vir­ginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mul­li­gan and His Steam Shov­el (both of which I lat­er read to my boys, who also loved them—isn’t that one of the best things about books?).

What TV show can’t you turn off?

Believe it or not, The West Wing. Some­how we missed it the first time around when it aired over a decade ago, and now we’re stream­ing it on Net­flix and can’t pull our­selves away. It’s held up remark­ably well, and in many ways is still top­i­cal and time­ly. And the writ­ing! Don’t get me start­ed on the writ­ing. Sharp, fun­ny, smart, infor­ma­tive. I can’t get enough of it.

 

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Lynne Jonell: Justice in Another World

by Lynne Jonell

Jonell_Lock200I just met a woman who lived through hor­ri­fy­ing emo­tion­al abuse as a child.

I had been told about her his­to­ry some years before; but when I met the woman, we didn’t men­tion it. We talked instead about books, a sub­ject of com­mon inter­est, and teach­ing, her pas­sion.

I made an effort to for­get what I knew about her past; it was awful enough for her to have lived through it with­out my think­ing about it while we talked, like a bystander at a crime scene who keeps cast­ing sur­rep­ti­tious glances at the pool­ing blood beneath a blan­ket-cov­ered mound.

But I couldn’t keep my thoughts entire­ly dis­ci­plined. Most­ly, I was in awe—that she had sur­vived, that she had become a kind per­son, a con­tribut­ing mem­ber of soci­ety with a gen­er­ous heart. And now, days lat­er, I am still think­ing about—let’s call her “Jean.”

I know there are evil things done in this world, but for the most part they are things that one reads about in papers, or hears on the news. To sit across from some­one who lived through what Jean had was some­thing more real, and in the days fol­low­ing our lunch date I went back to it over and over again, try­ing each time to make sense of her sto­ry some­how.

Jonell_CatAfloat200I sup­pose it will end up being worked out in a book. It’s hap­pened before. There are peo­ple in my life I have tried to com­pre­hend, and events and themes that have con­cerned me deeply. I have wor­ried them all like a dog might a bone until they took shape as char­ac­ters and plot points, and then I wrote them down.

In my book Emmy & the Incred­i­ble Shrink­ing Rat, where did Miss Barmy, the world’s most evil nan­ny, come from? I know, but I’m not telling. Why does the man in her life keep going back to her in spite of every­thing? That is some­thing that mys­ti­fies me as well and I try to make sense of it on the page.Jonell_Villain200

In my newest book, The Sign of the Cat, the Earl of Mer­rick is the hero of the nation, uni­ver­sal­ly admired and honored—but this front hides a dan­ger­ous crim­i­nal (and he’s mean to kit­tens, too.) Where did this vil­lain come from? I didn’t know while I was writ­ing the sto­ry, but I am begin­ning to under­stand now.

Why is it so impor­tant to write about vil­lains? Why not just write about good peo­ple, and good choic­es?

Jonell_Shadow-at-Door200Because evil does exist in this world, and chil­dren know it. They may not know it in all its hor­ror, but they get the con­cept; and they’re afraid of the dark. And they pas­sion­ate­ly want jus­tice.

I want jus­tice, too. And I want to tell the truth. So I write fan­ta­sy.

Fan­ta­sy is a time-hon­ored method of speak­ing truth when truth is too dif­fi­cult to face straight on. I can write about child aban­don­ment, abduc­tion, and mur­der, and if I include talk­ing cats, it’s con­sid­ered per­fect­ly suit­able for chil­dren. Fan­ta­sy soft­ens the sharp edges, Jonell_Cat200dis­tances the real­i­ty, so that it becomes pos­si­ble to look at deep truths and deep fears with­out being over­whelmed.

Fan­ta­sy has anoth­er pur­pose, too. It can car­ry read­ers far, far away from the cir­cum­stances of their lives. It can take a lone­ly and abused child, like Jean, to anoth­er world entire­ly; a world where such a child has a chance, and a voice; a world where evil is unequiv­o­cal and called by its name.

Jonell_Hand200Being told from birth that you are less than every­one else takes its toll. Being told you are worth­less can make you feel as if you are drown­ing in a sea of rejec­tion and pain.  But for a few hours in time, as long as it takes to read a book, such a child can for­get; such a child can iden­ti­fy with a char­ac­ter, can put on courage, can hope for a hap­py end­ing.

Jean loved books as a child. I like to think that the books she read helped her make it through. And there are many chil­dren like Jean, right now, today, caught in sit­u­a­tions they feel pow­er­less to change. I want to give them what I can: a world where jus­tice comes at last, be the bat­tle ever so unequal.

***

Illus­tra­tions by Lynne Jonell, from The Sign of the Cat

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The Shadow Hero Companion Booktalks

A 12-pack to get you start­ed on the Book­storm™ Books …

bk_100_5Minute5-Minute Mar­vel Sto­ries, by Dis­ney Book Group, Mar­vel Press, 2012. Ages 3 and up.

  • Per­fect read-aloud length for younger fans
  • Nice intro­duc­tion for new­com­ers to Spi­der­man, Iron­man, the Hulk, the Avengers, the X-Men, Cap­tain Amer­i­ca
  • Oth­er than a few swing­ing fists, lit­tle vio­lence

bk_100_BoysSteelBoys of Steel: the Cre­ators of Super­man, by Marc Tyler Noble­man, illus­trat­ed by Ross Mac­don­ald, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Read­ers, 2008. Ages 8 and up.

  • How two high school out­siders cre­at­ed the most famous super hero
  • Pic­ture book for­mat but text and illus­tra­tions will appeal to inde­pen­dent read­ers
  • Back mat­ter includes the sto­ry of the writer and artist’s super strug­gle to be acknowl­edged and com­pen­sat­ed ful­ly for their cre­ation

bk_100_BrothersBroth­ers, by Yin, illus­tra­tions by Chris Soent­pi­et, Philomel, 2006. Ages 8 and up.

  • The sto­ry of Ming, a Chi­nese immi­grant who arrives in San Francisco’s Chi­na­town in the 1800s
  • A friend­ships sto­ry devel­ops when Ming defies an old­er brother’s orders and ven­tures past the Chi­na­town bor­der
  • Beau­ti­ful, detailed wide-spread water col­or illus­tra­tions on every page 

bk_100_CompleteGuideCom­plete Guide to Fig­ure Draw­ing for Comics and Graph­ic Nov­els, by Dan Cooney, Barron’s Edu­ca­tion­al Series, 2012. Ages 10 and up.

  • Every page has mul­ti­ple tips and exam­ples with very read­able text and clear illus­tra­tions.
  • Empha­sizes clas­sic com­ic book action pos­es and char­ac­ter
  • Back mat­ter includes advice on sub­mit­ting port­fo­lios and a glos­sary 

bk_100_DragonwingsDrag­onwings, by Lau­rence Yep, Harper­Collins, 1977.

  • In the ear­ly 20th Cen­tu­ry, a young boy trav­els from Chi­na to Amer­i­ca to meet a father he doesn’t know.
  • Part of the Gold­en Moun­tain series con­sist­ing of 10 books
  • New­bery Hon­or book 

     


bk_100_FoiledFoiled by Jane Yolen, illus­tra­tions by Mike Cav­al­laro, First Sec­ond, 2011. Ages 8 and up.

  • Aliera’s ordi­nary life changes when she meets a new guy, acquires a new sword (she’s into fenc­ing) and one day heads to Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion
  • Man­ga-style illus­tra­tions alter­nate between two-tone (ordi­nary world) and full col­or (the fan­tas­tic), occa­sion­al­ly merg­ing
  • Details of fenc­ing skills and equip­ment pro­vide unusu­al back­ground and good char­ac­ter devel­op­ment

bk_100_MarvelWayHow to Draw Comics the Mar­vel Way, by Stan Lee and John Busce­ma, Touch­stone, 1984. Ages 8 and up.

  • Author Stan Lee is the cre­ator of many comics leg­ends, Busce­ma is the illus­tra­tor of many cur­rent comics
  • Many exam­ples begin with stick fig­ures and devel­op step by step—perfect for novice and expe­ri­enced illus­tra­tor
  • Includes glos­sary

bk_100_LittleWhiteLit­tle White Duck: a Child­hood in Chi­na, by Na Liu and Andres Vera Mar­tinez, illus­tra­tions by Andrés Vera Martínez. Graph­ic Uni­verse, 2012. Ages 8 and up.

  • Graph­ic mem­oir about Na Liu’s child­hood in 1970s Chi­na; wife/husband col­lab­o­ra­tion
  • Divid­ed into 8 short sto­ries
  • Includes glos­sary of Chi­nese words and at-a-glance time­line of Chi­nese his­to­ry

bk_100_PowerlessPow­er­less, by Matthew Cody, Knopf, 2009. Ages 8 and up.

  • Daniel is the new kid in a town—and the only one his age with­out a super­pow­er
  • A Sher­lock Holmes fan, Daniel decides to unearth the mys­tery behind the super­pow­ers his new friends have—and why they dis­ap­pear at age 13
  • First in series of three

bk_SharkKing_extendedShark King by R. Kikuo John­son, TOON Books, 2013. Ages 4 to 8. Asian Pacif­ic ALA’s Lit­er­ary Award.

  • Child-friend­ly ver­sion of a Hawai­ian myth
  • Clean layout—no sen­so­ry over­load from text or illus­tra­tions
  • Includes dis­cus­sion mate­r­i­al for teach­ers and par­ents

     


bk_100ABCSuper­Hero ABC, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Bob McLeod, Harper­Collins, 2008. Ages 3 and up.

  • An alpha­bet book, not a primer on super­heroes, with com­ic-like illus­tra­tions
  • Humor­ous orig­i­nal heroes and hero­ines, such as Bub­ble­man and Fire­fly
  • Good prompt for indi­vid­ual or group super­hero writ­ing or draw­ing project

bk_Zita100Zita the Space­girl, by Ben Hatke, First Sec­ond, 2011. Ages 8 and up.

  • Graph­ic nov­el with a Wiz­ard of Oz sto­ry­line: young girl is trans­port­ed to a strange world
  • Though Zita is try­ing to save an abduct­ed friend, and though the plan­et is about to be destroyed, the text and art are more about fun than fear
  • How many weird crea­tures can you find?

 

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From the Editor

by Mar­sha Qua­ley

ph_catI made my pro­fes­sion­al entrance into the world of children’s books in the ear­ly 1990s when the first of my YA nov­els was pub­lished. One thing that has changed dras­ti­cal­ly since then is the increased media cov­er­age; YA lit is an espe­cial­ly big show right now. While you still run across some ves­ti­gial arti­cles of the “Should Adults Read Children’s Books” nature, gone are the days when a children’s book author would be dis­missed out of hand as not being a real writer, espe­cial­ly by writ­ers of lit­er­ary fic­tion and poet­ry.

My response—most often deliv­ered to unap­pre­cia­tive but patient cats but a few times when face to face with those writers—was always, “Well, where do you think your read­ers come from? Do you think read­ers don’t exist until they dis­cov­er your writ­ing?” #snap!

Okay… #sad­snap. 

Shadow HeroAnoth­er thing that has changed is the preva­lence of graph­ic nov­els in the class­room, libraries, and pub­lish­ers’ cat­a­logues. For the sec­ond time in its short his­to­ry Bookology’s Book­storm™ book is a graph­ic nov­el: Gene Luen Yang and Son­ny Liew’s The Shad­ow Hero.

I’ve had the good for­tune of work­ing with Gene in a writ­ing pro­gram for adults. He is a nat­ur­al, bril­liant teacher. I’ve observed die-hard nov­el­ists and poets emerge from one of his Writ­ing a Graph­ic Nov­el work­shops excit­ed about this new sto­ry­telling form.

Of course it’s not real­ly new, just new to us here in the main­stream US book world. Wouldn’t you love to go back in a time machine to a library con­fer­ence in the 1940s or 50s and tell every­one about comics in the class­room? Can’t you just see the white gloves fly­ing up to smoth­er gasps or cov­er ears?

Lat­er this month we will have inter­views with both Gene and Son­ny. Today we’re rolling out the Book­storm™ and a cou­ple of relat­ed features—storm cells, you might call them (and yes, it’s pour­ing as I write this.) We also have a thought­ful Knock Knock essay by author Lynne Jonell: “Jus­tice in Anoth­er World.” Skin­ny Dip inter­views and our reg­u­lar columns will of course appear through­out this week and weeks to come.

Enjoy—and thank you for stop­ping by.

 

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Bookstorm: The Shadow Hero

Bookstorm-Shadow-Hero-Diagram-655px

In this Bookstorm™:

Shadow HeroShadow Hero

writ­ten by Gene Luen Yang
illus­trat­ed by Son­ny Liew
First Sec­ond, 2014

As we become a cul­ture adapt­ed to screens, visu­als, and mov­ing pic­tures, we grow more accus­tomed to the sto­ry­telling form of the graph­ic nov­el. For some, their com­fort with this com­bi­na­tion of visu­als and text telling a sto­ry sat­is­fies a crav­ing to “see” the sto­ry while they’re read­ing. For oth­ers, the lack of descrip­tive detail and mea­sured, lin­ear momen­tum through the sto­ry feels like a bar­ri­er to under­stand­ing. With the vari­ety of graph­ic nov­els avail­able and the inven­tive ways in which they’re assem­bled, we encour­age you to keep try­ing. Find a sto­ry that intrigues you and per­se­vere … we believe you’ll grow accus­tomed to this form. In time, you’ll add graph­ic nov­els to the depth of offer­ings you eager­ly rec­om­mend to stu­dents, patrons, and friends.

We select­ed Shad­ow Hero for our fea­tured book this month because the super­hero has been present in comics since the ear­ly 1900s and cur­rent films and tele­vi­sion have reawak­ened an inter­est among chil­dren that we believe can eas­i­ly trans­port them into read­ing. Yang and Liew have giv­en a back sto­ry to a super­hero, The Green Tur­tle, orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed by tal­ent­ed com­ic book artist (and fine artist) Chu Fook Hing in the 1940s. There’s plen­ty of action, humor, mys­tery, and sus­pense in this new book … all the right ingre­di­ents for the best read­ing.

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book. For Shad­ow Hero, you’ll find books for a vari­ety of tastes, inter­ests, and read­ing abil­i­ties. Shad­ow Hero will be com­fort­ably read by ages 10 through adult. We’ve includ­ed pic­ture books, nov­els, and non­fic­tion for the pletho­ra of pur­pos­es you might have.

Graph­ic Nov­els About Super­heroes. With the pop­u­lar­i­ty of The Avengers and X-Men, Iron Man and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there are a num­ber of graph­ic nov­els about super­heroes avail­able for dif­fer­ent ages. Some have mature con­tent. Many are acces­si­ble for younger read­ers. Whether or not they’re wear­ing capes, super­heroes are appeal­ing because of the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Graph­ic Nov­els About Mythol­o­gy. The Green Tur­tle is a part of Chi­nese mythol­o­gy. We hear a lot about Greek and Roman mythol­o­gy, but there are com­pelling myths around the world. Graph­ic nov­els make those tra­di­tions and sto­ries avail­able to read­ers who might have trou­ble with straight text.

Fic­tion about Super­heroes. Longer texts, with­out illus­tra­tions, often hold as much attrac­tion for com­ic book read­ers if the sto­ries are engag­ing. And there are pic­ture books that are just right for the read­ers who are too young for graph­ic nov­els but have the inter­est.

Com­ic Books, Non­fic­tion. Whether it’s learn­ing how two boys came to invent Super­man, the super­hero from Kryp­ton, or exam­in­ing info­graph­ics and sta­tis­tics, or lis­ten­ing to a pod­cast with Gene Luen Yang on pub­lic radio about his inspi­ra­tion, The Green Tur­tle, there’s a lot of research and learn­ing to be done with super­heroes.

Draw­ing. For those kinet­ic and visu­al learn­ers, telling a sto­ry through draw­ing, pop­u­lat­ing a page with char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and set­ting and voice is a way to use com­ic book art for devel­op­ing writ­ing skills.

Chi­nese His­to­ry. There are many, many books, some of them quite schol­ar­ly, about Chi­nese his­to­ry. We’ve select­ed just two, both of which are also visu­al his­to­ries.

Chi­nese Art. Chi­na is such a large coun­try, with a civ­i­liza­tion that is thou­sands of years old, that these books orga­nize the infor­ma­tion in order to present the diver­si­ty of arts in a way that makes sense.

Chi­nese Immi­gra­tion. There are fine books about the immi­gra­tion of Chi­nese and Asian Pacif­ic peo­ple to Amer­i­ca, the Gold­en Moun­tain. We’ve select­ed a few, from pic­ture books to nov­els to mem­oir. 

Chi­nese Food. Read­ers learn a great deal about dif­fer­ent cul­tures from the food they eat, their tra­di­tions for prepar­ing food, and the ways they share it with their com­mu­ni­ty. We’ve found cook­books for both learn­ing and eat­ing, for adults and for chil­dren.

Chi­nese Geog­ra­phy. It always helps to have a good map to rein­force the visu­al knowl­edge of a coun­try. You’ll find sug­ges­tions for maps, down­loads, pho­tos, and facts about this large coun­try in Asia.

Tech­niques for using each book:

Downloadables

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Turtles in Children’s Literature

Our Book­stormbook, The Shad­ow Hero, is the ori­gin sto­ry of a super­hero, The Green Tur­tle. While this char­ac­ter is not an actu­al chelonian—though that would be an awe­some super hero—there are many tur­tles and tor­tois­es in children’s lit­er­a­ture. Some might even be, tech­ni­cal­ly, ter­rap­ins. Here are some nota­bles.

TurtleTimeline_July

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