Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Books as Therapy

FrindleI con­fess to using books ther­a­peu­ti­cal­ly. When my kids were lit­tle and the day had gone wonky and none of us were at our best, a pile of pic­ture books was a sure-fire way to reset us all. It was part­ly the snug­gles, but most­ly the shared expe­ri­ence of read­ing the sto­ries we loved. As they’ve grown, I’ve been known to read them hap­py books when they are sad (and some­times sad books, just to help us lean into it) and sil­ly books when anger and tears have had their way with us. I’ve picked “top­i­cal” books when it seemed that approach­ing an issue at a “slant” might be the way to go.  And I’ve picked up books and insist­ed we read when I didn’t know what else to do.

Recent­ly, I heard Andrew Clements talk about his writ­ing life and his books at the Fes­ti­val of Faith & Writ­ing. I reread Frindle, my favorite of his books, on the plane on the way to the con­fer­ence. Pre­dictably, it made me cry, just as the flight atten­dant came by with pret­zels and juice. I was a lit­tle afraid Mr. Clements him­self would make me cry just by, you know, being up there on stage; but he talked about his child­hood and his ear­ly mar­ried years and find­ing his way as a writer…. And it was delight­ful! He was exact­ly as you expect­ed Andrew Clements to be while pre­sent­ing to a group of teach­ers, writ­ers, librar­i­ans, and read­ers (most­ly adults, some kids).

And then, at the end he rifled through some papers, say­ing he wasn’t sure if he’d talk about this next thing…. But he did. Or rather he read it. He’d been pre­sent­ing for an hour extem­po­ra­ne­ous­ly, but now his eyes were glued to the page and he read us pre­pared remarks. He wasn’t even a full sen­tence in before we under­stood why he was read­ing and not telling the sto­ry “off-the-cuff.”

Not long after the Decem­ber 2012 school shoot­ing at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary in New­town, Con­necti­cut, Clements was con­tact­ed with a request he both could not refuse and could not imag­ine. While the world watched and prayed, the school and com­mu­ni­ty worked hard to piece togeth­er life for the kids, teach­ers and staff, and their fam­i­lies. Some­one float­ed the idea of an all-school read — some­thing for all ages, some­thing they might enjoy  togeth­er, some­thing besides the tragedy to help re-define them.

They need­ed a book that took place in a school. A book that both chil­dren and adults who were rid­dled with shock and ter­ror and grief could focus on. A book that was maybe a lit­tle fun­ny — in spots, at least. A book that did not con­tain the names of any of the vic­tims of the vio­lence that had torn apart their school com­mu­ni­ty. They need­ed a book that could bring hope and light to their lives again.

They chose Frindle. They asked Clements to come and so he and his wife went. He told us how he was led through the police check points in the park­ing lot and at the school doors…. How he was escort­ed into the school gath­er­ing by the library work­er who had shield­ed eigh­teen kids in a clos­et in the library dur­ing the shoot­ing…. How they explained the impor­tance of not mak­ing any loud nois­es or sud­den move­ments…. 

And then he read Frindle to those kids and teach­ers. He said he and his wife agreed it was one of the holi­est spaces and times they’d ever expe­ri­enced.

There wasn’t, of course, a dry eye in the audi­to­ri­um. Those of us in the audi­ence could hard­ly breathe while he read this account. I can’t imag­ine the strength it must have tak­en for this beloved author to read his work to those chil­dren and their teach­ers. Such an hon­or, such a priv­i­lege.

Books can be so ther­a­peu­tic — and the read­ing of them togeth­er even more so. I think the idea of an all-school read at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary was bril­liant, the choice of book and author inspired. Read your way into some holi­ness with a kid (or a whole group of them) today if you can. When­ev­er and wher­ev­er we can gath­er over books…holy time and space is found.


Garlic Beef Enchiladas

Garlic Beef Enchiladas

Yum­my home-made enchi­ladas with a sub­tle kick of fla­vor.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Serv­ings: 4


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medi­um onion chopped
  • 2 Tbsp all-pur­pose flour
  • 1 Tbsp chili pow­der
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp gar­lic pow­der
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp rubbed sage
  • 1 can 14.5 oz stewed toma­toes


  • 4 to 6 gar­lic cloves minced
  • 13 cup but­ter
  • 12 cup all-pur­pose flour
  • 1 can 14½ oz beef broth
  • 1 can 15 oz toma­to sauce
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp chili pow­der
  • 1 to 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 to 2 tsp rubbed sage
  • 12 tsp salt
  • 10 flour tor­tillas 7‑inches round
  • 2 cups 8 oz shred­ded Col­by-Jack cheese


  • In a large saucepan, cook beef and onion over medi­um heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in flour and sea­son­ings until blend­ed. Stir in toma­toes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cov­er and sim­mer for 15 min­utes.
  • Mean­while, in anoth­er saucepan, sauté gar­lic in but­ter until ten­der. Stir in flour until blend­ed. Grad­u­al­ly stir in broth; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 min­utes or until thick­ened. Stir in toma­to sauce and sea­son­ings; heat through.
  • Pour about 1−1÷2 cups sauce into ungreased 13“x9“x2” bak­ing dish. Spread about 14 cup beef mix­ture down the cen­ter of each tor­tilla; top with 1 – 2 Tbsp cheese. Roll up tight­ly; place seam side down over sauce in the bak­ing dish. Fin­ish fill­ing, rolling, and plac­ing all 10 tor­tillas. Top with the remain­ing suace.
  • Cov­er and bake at 350 deg for 30 – 35 min­utes. Sprin­kle with remain­ing cheese. Bake, uncov­ered, 10 to 15 min­utes longer or until the cheese is melt­ed.


Adapt­ed from Jen­nifer Stan­dridge, Taste of Home

How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird

by Melanie Heuis­er Hill

Our house­hold has been patient­ly (and not so patient­ly) stuck in a long sea­son of wait­ing for deci­sions around some impor­tant and excit­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. Every­one has some­thing up in the air. Appli­ca­tions, inter­views, tests, hopes, and dreams are all out there, and now we watch for the mail, check mes­sages com­pul­sive­ly, and try to make friends with the sus­pense…. Not all the news is in yet, but slow­ly we’re hear­ing of deci­sions. There’s been cel­e­bra­tion and dis­ap­point­ment both. We busy our­selves mak­ing the cor­re­spond­ing choic­es and plans while we await oth­er news.

How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird

Jacques Prévert, Illus­tra­tions and Trans­la­tion by Mordi­cai Ger­stein

More than once I’ve pulled a favorite pic­ture book off my shelves to read to myself — a reminder to take a deep breath and remem­ber that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all man­ner of thing shall be well,” (Julian of Nor­wich). The book, How to Paint the Por­trait of a Bird, was a gift from wise women in my life. I’d nev­er seen it before and I shud­der to think I might nev­er have come across it had they not giv­en it to me — although maybe the uni­verse would have con­spired to get it to me anoth­er way. I am a fan of Mordi­cai Ger­stein’s work, after all, and I des­per­ate­ly need this book in my life.

This is a spare book — few words, beau­ti­ful illus­tra­tions. It speaks to sus­tained hope, fate and faith, hard work and luck, and events hap­pen­ing in their own time. Writ­ten in a gen­tle “how-to” for­mat, we are shown how to paint a bird.

First, paint a cage with an open door. Then, in the cage, paint some­thing for the bird, some­thing use­ful and beau­ti­ful, but sim­ple.

The young artist takes the paint­ing and puts it under a tree, hid­ing him­self behind the tree. Sea­sons pass with the boy and his paint­ing under the tree, the paint­ed bird cage emp­ty.

If the bird doesn’t come right away, don’t be dis­cour­aged. Wait.

We’re remind­ed that it doesn’t mean our picture/future/chance won’t be good — just that good things can­not be rushed. For many things, there is a sea­son.

If the bird comes and enters the cage, we are told to “gen­tly close the door with [our] brush.”

 And then — oh then, we have the deep, deep wis­dom of the book! The young artist demon­strates how to erase the cage, one bar at a time, tak­ing care not to harm the bird’s feath­ers. Once the bird is left in all of her sweet glo­ry on the blank can­vas, the boy paints the tree, “with the pret­ti­est branch for the bird.”  He paints the green leaves, the sum­mer breeze, the smells of a sum­mer day, the songs of the bees and but­ter­flies.

Then wait for the bird to sing. If it doesn’t sing, don’t be sad. You did your best.

 The grace in this pic­ture spread does my heart such good. Don’t we all need the occa­sion­al reminder that changes can be made if things do not work out as we hoped, that often they don’t, and that any num­ber of paths might be good? We tend to for­get these truths in the wait­ing and the wor­ry.

The book ends in cel­e­bra­tion with the bird singing a riot of a song, but I appre­ci­ate that it is acknowl­edged that this is not always so. And yet…all shall be well, all shall be well, all man­ner of thing shall be well! This I believe — this I want our kids to believe. What comes, comes; what doesn’t, doesn’t. As long as we’ve done our best, chances are we will find our way. Often our way, if not the des­ti­na­tion itself, turns out to be a joy­ful sur­prise.

It seemed too obvi­ous to gath­er every­one in our indi­vid­ual and famil­ial angst and read this book. So I’ve just left it lying about…. I’ve seen them pick it up, turn the pages and smile, then gen­tly put it back down for some­one else to find.

This is a pic­ture book you don’t out­grow. I’ve been very grate­ful for its gift dur­ing this sea­son of our family’s life.



Middle Kingdom: Hartland, Maine

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 the Hart­land Pub­lic Library in rur­al Maine, where Lisa talks with librar­i­an John R. Clark.

Lisa: What are three to five things Bookol­o­gy read­ers should know about your com­mu­ni­ty or library?


Hart­land Library

John: Hart­land is very rur­al, eco­nom­i­cal­ly depressed, and isn’t close to any city with a book­store. That means the library assumes a much larg­er role in terms of offer­ing access to juve­nile fic­tion than a city like Port­land or Boston. We’ve tried to address this in cre­ative ways, like swap­ping books online at Paper­Back Swap, using rev­enue from books sold online to add to the col­lec­tion, and trad­ing with oth­er librar­i­ans in Maine when we get recent dupli­cates. Maine is big in size, but very close in terms of library coöper­a­tion. It helps immense­ly that we have a statewide inter­li­brary loan van ser­vice. That makes encour­ag­ing younger patrons to feel com­fort­able using inter­li­brary loan an easy process.

Lisa: I’ve heard that you’re retir­ing, so I have a cou­ple of con­nect­ed ques­tions I real­ly hope you’ll address giv­en your valu­able in-depth per­spec­tive: How have books for mid­dle king­dom read­ers changed dur­ing your tenure in the library? And have the types of books that read­ers this age ask for changed in any key way?

YA area

The new YA fic­tion cor­ner

John: There has been a major shift in both juve­nile and young adult fic­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the past few years. I attribute this to two things. First, J.K. Rowl­ing stood the pub­lish­ing indus­try on its ear and sud­den­ly every­one real­ized that there was one heck of a mar­ket for books that involved fan­ta­sy and kids who weren’t ‘aver­age.’ The sec­ond was 911. I don’t think adults (except for writ­ers and librar­i­ans, maybe) had a clue how scary that made the world for every­one. Escape into books became a very healthy and pop­u­lar part of life. In the past few years, we have seen a sec­ond wave begin, that of address­ing all sorts of social/mental health/family issues in lit­er­a­ture. This is more pro­nounced in young adult, but things like divorce, gay par­ents, sib­ling loss, and bul­ly­ing are being addressed, very excel­lent­ly I might add, in juve­nile lit­er­a­ture. In fact, one of my blogs at Maine Crime Writ­ers recent­ly was about this phe­nom­e­non, which I think is a hip ver­sion of what we used to call bib­lio­ther­a­py when I worked in the men­tal health field. Kids have respond­ed very well to these books and I read them myself because I enjoy see­ing how dif­fer­ent authors address the top­ics. Juve­nile read­ers have respond­ed to these new top­ics and I often see them come in and ask specif­i­cal­ly for a book a friend read that they think will be inter­est­ing because of some­thing going on in their life.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often by read­ers in the Mid­dle King­dom age range?


  1. any­thing by Rick Rior­dan
  2. any­thing by John Flana­gan
  3. the Sara­nor­mal series by Phoebe Rivers
  4. Any­body Shin­ing by Frances O’Roark Dow­ell
  5. The Ques­tion of Mir­a­cles by Elana K. Arnold

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


  1. Half a Chance by Cyn­thia Lord
  2. A Hitch at the Fair­mont by Jim Aver­beck
  3. The Secrets of Tree Tay­lor by Dan­di Daley Mack­all
  4. A Mil­lion Miles from Boston by Karen Day
  5. The Junc­tion of Sun­shine and Lucky by Hol­ly Schindler
  6. Siz­zle by Lee McClain
  7. Count­ing by 7s by Hol­ly Gold­berg Sloan
  8. Lost Boy by Tim Green

Lisa: If you had a new staffer start­ing tomor­row, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them about work­ing with read­ers in this tran­si­tion­al age?

John: That’s easy, read in the genre if at all pos­si­ble because you can’t beat real, first­hand expe­ri­ence when it comes to talk­ing about books with teens and tweens.

Lisa: What do you like most about work­ing with mid­dle-school­ers?

John: They’re real­ly excit­ed when they real­ize you under­stand their inter­ests and treat them as intel­li­gent human beings. It’s dou­bly reward­ing when they come in wav­ing the book you sug­gest­ed and say, “You rock! What else should I read?”

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

car photo

The car.

John: Sev­er­al years ago, I won a street-legal ver­sion of Kasey Kahne’s Dodge from Gillette. It includ­ed a trip to meet Kasey at the Citizen’s Bank 400 in Michi­gan. The staff of the pro­mo­tion com­pa­ny was real­ly inter­est­ed in my sum­mer give­away pro­gram for kids who read. They got var­i­ous NASCAR dri­vers and teams to send me a ton of posters, shirts, and ban­ners to use as read­ing incen­tives. I added in a bunch of stuff like MP3 play­ers and new DVDs we’d got­ten for Pep­si points and we gave away over $1,000 worth of prizes for a com­bined read­ing and writ­ing pro­gram. Kids were beyond thrilled.




Skinny Dip with Liza Ketchum

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

cover imageMy non-fic­tion books required the most intense peri­ods of research, but the YA nov­el, Blue Coy­ote, was the most per­son­al­ly chal­leng­ing. How could I, a straight woman, take on the char­ac­ter and voice of a young male teen who was explor­ing his sex­u­al­i­ty? Yet a num­ber of read­ers who had read the novel’s pre­quel, Twelve Days in August, had writ­ten to ask, “What about Alex? What hap­pened to him?” They also asked the ques­tion I couldn’t answer myself, with­out writ­ing the book: “Is Alex gay — or not?” I felt these read­ers deserved answers. As I worked through many drafts, I received won­der­ful insights and sug­ges­tions from my writer’s group, as well as from a cou­ple of gay friends who read the man­u­script in draft form. Writ­ing the sto­ry in a third per­son lim­it­ed point of view also gave me some need­ed dis­tance. When stu­dents in schools ask me which book I’m proud­est of, Blue Coy­ote is at the top of the list.

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

cover imageNews­girl—because it is an adven­ture sto­ry with plen­ty of action, an excit­ing set­ting (Gold Rush San Fran­cis­co), and a diverse cast of char­ac­ters. Amelia should be played by a feisty, deter­mined 12 or 13 year old girl who can hold her own in a gang of boys. And since she goes fly­ing off in an unex­pect­ed bal­loon ascent, she shouldn’t be afraid of heights.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

I will cheat and cite three. The first is the famous open­ing line from One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude, by Gabriel Mar­cia Mar­quez: “Many years lat­er, as he faced the fir­ing squad, Colonel Aure­liano Buen­dia was to remem­ber that dis­tant after­noon when his father took him to dis­cov­er ice.”

I also love the open­ing sen­tence of M.T. Anderson’s nov­el, The Aston­ish­ing Life of Octa­vian Noth­ing, Trai­tor to the Nation: “I was raised in a gaunt house with a gar­den; my ear­li­est rec­ol­lec­tions are of float­ing lights in the apple trees.” This is fol­lowed by six more breath­tak­ing sen­tences that intro­duce the narrator’s amaz­ing voice and set the tone for the sto­ry that fol­lows.

The last sen­tence of Eliz­a­beth Bowen’s nov­el, A World of Love, has stayed with me for­ev­er. While many final sen­tences wrap up a sto­ry, this one opens the reader’s mind to a whole new begin­ning for the pro­tag­o­nist, who has been through a dif­fi­cult time: “They no soon­er looked but they loved.”

What book do you tell every­one to read?

cover imageA tough ques­tion, when there are so many great books out there! I often men­tion Philip Hoose’s mag­nif­i­cent non-fic­tion book, The Race to Save the Lord God Bird (Melanie Kroupa books, Far­rar, Straus and Giroux). It is one of the few non-fic­tion books that I have reread a num­ber of times; I even read and stud­ied the foot­notes at the end. It’s a true sto­ry with the dra­ma, pac­ing, and char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the best fic­tion. I learned a lot about birds, avid bird­ers, and about the inter­con­nect­ed­ness of com­merce and the envi­ron­ment. Who knew that the dis­ap­pear­ance of the ivory-billed wood­peck­er in Louisiana was linked to the rise of the Singer sewing machine? I cer­tain­ly didn’t.

Are you a night owl or an ear­ly bird?

I’m an ear­ly bird. I raised my sons in Ver­mont, where the school bus came ear­ly, and we had ani­mals to feed before start­ing the day (a small flock of sheep and a goat or two to feed and milk). My sons were also ear­ly ris­ers, so I got into the habit of being up with the sun. In good weath­er, I love to walk or gar­den first thing in the morn­ing. When I was teach­ing at Ham­line Uni­ver­si­ty, I was lucky to room with Jack­ie Brig­gs Mar­tin. We woke up at the same ear­ly hour dur­ing the July res­i­den­cies and explored Hamline’s St. Paul neigh­bor­hood, admir­ing the gar­dens, but­ter­flies, and birds as we walked the qui­et streets.

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

cover imageI hat­ed school from the mid­dle of kinder­garten — when we moved from Ver­mont to Wash­ing­ton, D.C. — to the end of third grade. I had stom­ach cramps every day. When I com­plained of pain, my teach­ers sent me to the principal’s office. She was a fierce old­er woman who scold­ed me and accused me of invent­ing my symp­toms. When I was grown and liv­ing in Ver­mont years lat­er, I learned that a close writer friend had attend­ed the same school, a few years ahead of me. She, too, suf­fered from repeat­ed stom­ach trou­ble. “It was because of recess,” she said. “Remem­ber how the boys played war?” I had for­got­ten, but it all came back: the gangs of boys on the play­ground, who tor­tured and bul­lied us girls. They chased us until we fell and skinned our knees; they yanked our hair and called us names, while the staff — who were sup­posed to be watch­ing — ignored the whole scene. When we moved to New York State — where I attend­ed a won­der­ful pub­lic school — the stom­ach aches dis­ap­peared, and so did my trips to the principal’s office.



Graphic Novels: A source of inspiration and mentor texts

by Mau­r­na Rome

Slacker illustrationFlash­back to the first week of school … we were pass­ing the micro­phone around our large cir­cle of 29 third-graders. It was easy to see that many stu­dents were shy and ner­vous, but one young man was appar­ent­ly look­ing for some shock val­ue. He began with “My name is Michael” then non­cha­lant­ly added, ”I’m a slack­er.” Huh? Most of the class mum­bled and mur­mured about that intro. Many were obvi­ous­ly not famil­iar with this unique adjec­tive.

I made note of the kid’s atti­tude and advanced vocab­u­lary, and put him at the top of my list for a one-to-one read­ing con­fer­ence. A few days lat­er, I dis­cov­ered that Michael devours books, has excel­lent com­pre­hen­sion and is actu­al­ly a very moti­vat­ed read­er. He became quite ani­mat­ed when telling me all about Greg, the main char­ac­ter from Diary of a Wimpy Kid (who no doubt was Michael’s cur­rent role mod­el). In the weeks to come, my clas­sic under-achiev­er proud­ly and often pro­claimed to his peers how much he enjoyed being lazy. I was deter­mined to help Michael find a new iden­ti­ty by fig­ur­ing out how to tap into his obvi­ous love of read­ing.

cover imageThanks to an insight­ful book called Of Pri­ma­ry Impor­tance by Anne Marie Corgill (Sten­house, 2008), I am com­mit­ted to immers­ing my stu­dents in authen­tic lit­er­a­cy learn­ing. Pub­lish­ing “real” hard cov­er books in my 1st grade class­room proved to be a suc­cess­ful strat­e­gy. How­ev­er, now that I was begin­ning my first year in a 3rd grade class­room, I knew I need­ed to change things up a bit. Find­ing the best men­tor texts and sim­ply get­ting kids to want to read vora­cious­ly was the first order of busi­ness.

I quick­ly learned that this group of 8- and 9‑year-olds could be reeled in by read­ing graph­ic nov­els. Since our class­room inven­to­ry of graph­ic nov­els main­ly con­sist­ed of Squish, Bone, and Lunch Lady, I did some research and over the next few months added more titles to our class­room library. Baby Mouse, Zita the Space­girl, Card­board, Knights of the Lunch Table, The Light­en­ing Thief, and Sea of Mon­sters (graph­ic nov­el ver­sions) became all the rage. Library check­out of high demand titles has includ­ed Amulet, Smile, Sis­ters, and all of the titles from our class­room col­lec­tion, since they are lim­it­ed in num­ber.

cover imageI’ve learned that a pow­er­ful approach to moti­vat­ing kids to read is to be selec­tive when sug­gest­ing a new book to stu­dents. Some­times, I share whole-class “book talks” but, more often, I pull a stu­dent aside and con­fide that I thought of him (or her) the minute I turned the first page. I am sin­cere when I say that I am inter­est­ed in his opin­ion, and would real­ly appre­ci­ate hear­ing if he would rec­om­mend the book after read­ing it. Kids care much more about what their peers are say­ing or think­ing, so it makes sense to drum up busi­ness for spe­cif­ic book titles in this way.

Giv­ing kids access to what they want to read and find­ing ample time for inde­pen­dent read­ing dur­ing the school day (usu­al­ly 30 – 40 min­utes dai­ly) was just the first half of my strat­e­gy to con­vert my smug slack­er and inspire the rest of the class as well. The dis­cov­ery of blank com­ic books on the Bare Books web­site ($15 for 25 books, just 60 cents each); was the gold­en tick­et. Offer­ing choice and no judg­ment (or at least very lit­tle) about what kids are read­ing com­bined with encour­age­ment to explore their own inter­ests in writ­ing, became the per­fect com­bi­na­tion.

Kids were eager to cre­ate their own ver­sion of graph­ic nov­els and soon, our class­room library grew to include such inter­est­ing titles as The Day Lady Lib­er­ty Came to Life and Bacon Man and Pig Guy, both of which became series, each with 5 vol­umes! The adven­tures con­tin­ued with a line-up of Pigeon titles; Don’t Let the Pigeon Ride a Uni­corn and Don’t Let the Pigeon Play Five Nights at Freddy’s along with a fun and frol­ick­ing set of books enti­tled Par­ty in the USA!

Here is one of the graph­ic nov­els cre­at­ed in the class, Bacon Man and Pig Guy, by Ian Clark.
Click on the four-head­ed arrow sym­bol to view in full screen mode.

No flip­book found!


Stu­dents in my class are encour­aged to use lit­er­a­cy choice time to con­tin­ue read­ing or writ­ing inde­pen­dent­ly, with a part­ner or a col­lab­o­ra­tive group. This type of peer mod­el­ing and men­tor­ing has led to an explo­sion of self-pub­lished graph­ic nov­els and short sto­ries in 3MR. Kids actu­al­ly cheer when I announce that we will have time to write in both the morn­ing and after­noon. They are “pub­lish­ing” their own graph­ic nov­el series, ask­ing each oth­er to write reviews of their books and they are wait­ing patient­ly for their turn to read a classmate’s lat­est offer­ing. Best of all, they are sign­ing up in droves to do a “Book Share” on Fri­days, a new addi­tion to our “Book Talk, Book Shop, Book Swap” Fri­day activ­i­ties (see my pre­vi­ous arti­cle on that top­ic!).  

cover imageFast for­ward to the end of Decem­ber. Stu­dents were once again intro­duc­ing them­selves, this time to a vis­i­tor in our class­room. How­ev­er, when it was time for my “slack­er” to take cen­ter stage, he offered this: “Hi, my name is Michael and I’m a car­toon­ist.” My heart did som­er­saults! To real­ly seal the deal, this same stu­dent recent­ly approached me with a delight­ful idea. Tak­ing the lead from our “Card­board L.I.T. Club” – an after­school book club designed to Link Imag­i­na­tion Text, he pro­posed a “Car­toon­ing L.I.F.T. Club”, adding “F” for FUN to the acronym! This one-time slack­er had actu­al­ly jot­ted down all the infor­ma­tion need­ed for the invi­ta­tion­al fly­er, com­plete with a catchy expla­na­tion about the club’s pur­pose, a sched­ule, and con­test ideas. Despite the crazi­ness of the last few weeks of the school year, how could I say no? 20 aspir­ing “Car­toon­ing L.I.F.T. Club” mem­bers will be div­ing into our newest men­tor text, Adven­tures in Car­toon­ing, for three after-school ses­sions in May.


Elizabeth Verdick: A Look at “Autism Fiction”

by Eliz­a­beth Verdick

I spent the month of April read­ing children’s fic­tion fea­tur­ing char­ac­ters with Autism Spec­trum Dis­or­der (ASD). April was Autism Aware­ness Month, but that wasn’t my only moti­va­tion. I love children’s lit­er­a­ture, I have writ­ten non­fic­tion about ASD, and I’m rais­ing a son who’s on the autism spec­trum. I won­dered, Which mid­dle-grade sto­ries could I hand him, say­ing, “I think you’ll real­ly like this”?

bk_AutismSurvivalI read the books with zeal — and grow­ing dis­com­fort. Why did many por­tray­als of char­ac­ters with ASD lack the authen­tic­i­ty one yearns for in fic­tion? Why did the plots include so many tropes? Why did the nar­ra­tive voice often rely on devices: inter­jec­tions of ran­dom facts, unusu­al uses of cap­i­tal­iza­tion and/or ital­ics, or an arti­fi­cial­ly dis­tant tone in moments of emo­tion? Such rep­re­sen­ta­tions, though well inten­tioned, may leave read­ers with an over­ly sim­pli­fied impres­sion of the autis­tic expe­ri­ence.

Again, I thought of my son, who’s not a col­lec­tion of quirks or a social mis­fit lack­ing empa­thy or emo­tion. He’s not a bud­ding detec­tive, a genius in one sub­ject, or some­one who refus­es to be touched (com­mon por­tray­als). I didn’t want to give him books that sug­gest his autism is a source of deep con­flict, that he’s a bur­den to his fam­i­ly. Or ones that depict sen­so­ry-over­load behav­iors as bar­ri­ers to social inter­ac­tion. I sought sto­ries with three-dimen­sion­al char­ac­ters he might relate to — per­haps look up to — and remem­ber for years to come.

Two books shone bright­ly.

bk_AnythingButSixth-grad­er Jason Blake in Any­thing But Typ­i­cal by Nora Raleigh Baskin is a pro­tag­o­nist with heart, a boy who strug­gles with the issues many mid­dle-grade and pre­teen read­ers do: iden­ti­ty, fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships, a crush. Yes, Jason has ASD but his sto­ry isn’t about “over­com­ing” his dis­abil­i­ty or becom­ing more, as we say in the autism com­mu­ni­ty, neu­rotyp­i­cal. Jason is kind, forth­right, curi­ous, cre­ative. He stays true to him­self as the plot unfolds, show­ing read­ers the ways in which the neu­rotyp­i­cal world can be dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate, espe­cial­ly when oth­ers aren’t kind or open in return.

The sto­ry is writ­ten in first-per­son, which gives read­ers insight into how Jason thinks and feels as he goes about his every­day, yet excep­tion­al, life. He’s an aspir­ing writer, spend­ing much of his time on the Sto­ry­board web­site, where he posts his own sto­ries and can com­ment on the work of oth­ers. Here Jason finds a com­mu­ni­ty, but he’s put to the test when his par­ents offer to take him to the Sto­ry­board con­fer­ence in anoth­er state. Attend­ing the con­fer­ence means Jason can’t hide behind writ­ten words or a screen — he will be out in the open where every­one, includ­ing a girl he’s trad­ed sto­ries with online, will see him for who he tru­ly is. Jason’s growth as a char­ac­ter doesn’t arrive in one big moment in which he “dis­cov­ers” an abil­i­ty to feel emo­tion or make a social con­nec­tion. The author’s focus on real­ism and authen­tic­i­ty allows read­ers to expe­ri­ence her character’s incre­men­tal growth, which is more sat­is­fy­ing in the end.

bk_RealBoyAnne Ursu’s The Real Boy takes a dif­fer­ent approach but arrives at a sim­i­lar des­ti­na­tion: deep respect for her ASD char­ac­ter and an authen­tic emo­tion­al por­tray­al. In this mid­dle-grade fan­ta­sy, an eleven-year-old orphan named Oscar is a magician’s helper who lives in the cel­lar among the cats, where he stud­ies herbs and the mag­ic they bring forth. Read­ers look­ing for enchant­ment and mys­tery will find both here, but what cap­tured my heart was Oscar him­self. He’s smart, earnest, qui­et, thought­ful, self-doubt­ing, and brave. He wants to do what is right (if he could only fig­ure out how) in a world that’s becom­ing increas­ing­ly strange and dan­ger­ous.

The sto­ry uses third-per­son, told from Oscar’s view­point, with a sub­tle empha­sis on his dif­fer­ences: his com­fort in rou­tines, his spe­cial inter­ests, his con­fu­sion about social expec­ta­tions. The word autism nev­er comes up because the sto­ry takes place in anoth­er world, one of the imag­ined past. Yet, read­ers sense Oscar’s ASD through and through. That’s a cred­it to the author, who weaves Oscar’s dif­fer­ences into his char­ac­ter and the sto­ry­line, rather than high­light­ing ways in which he doesn’t fit the norm. When left to tend shop dur­ing his pow­er­ful master’s absence, Oscar gains greater inde­pen­dence and con­fi­dence, despite how the towns­peo­ple treat him. He forms a friend­ship with a healer’s appren­tice named Cal­lie, and togeth­er they set out to dis­cov­er what is mak­ing the town’s chil­dren ill and what answers can be found deep among the trees of the wiz­ard woods.

Oscar is an unsung hero. Jason is an “untyp­i­cal” boy in a world where ASD is large­ly mis­un­der­stood. Their sto­ries open doors for kids on the autism spec­trum — and those who want to learn more about what life there is like.



Collecting Souvenirs

by Lisa Bullard

Author's snow globeNot all writ­ers can claim the vast and var­ied assort­ment of sou­venir snow globes I’ve acquired on my trav­els. But most writ­ers I know are con­stant­ly col­lect­ing oth­er things: sto­ries, words, images, emo­tions, quirky char­ac­ters, new expe­ri­ences, and odd­ball facts. These “writ­ing chachkas” clut­ter the rooms of our imag­i­na­tions until we need inspi­ra­tion

Then we pick one up, shake it, and watch to see what lands in our writ­ing.

A big part of the writ­ing act is seden­tary — soon­er or lat­er, you have to set your butt in a chair and focus on a page or a screen. But move­ment is cru­cial too: you have to get out into the world and find new sou­venirs to add to the mix, or your imag­i­na­tion can quick­ly grow stale. Even a sim­ple “road trip” to a coffee shop or the park can pro­vide fresh mate­r­i­al or a new per­spec­tive on old mate­r­i­al.  I’ve learned to val­ue these times away from my writ­ing chair as an impor­tant part of my writ­ing process.

I’ve met many kines­thet­ic learn­ers who hate writ­ing because they hate to sit still. And even stu­dents who have a knack for sit­ting qui­et­ly can benefit from a change in per­spec­tive.  So I’ve worked hard to build move­ment into my writ­ing ses­sions with stu­dents.  One of the most pop­u­lar activ­i­ties is a sim­ple poet­ry-writ­ing Trea­sure Hunt.  (Down­load a descrip­tion here.)

Why not get your stu­dents start­ed on col­lect­ing their own word sou­venirs by sim­ply send­ing them on a writ­ing road trip across the land­scape of your class­room?



Skinny Dip with Nancy Loewen

cover image

 illus­trat­ed by Sachiko Yoshikawa Two Lions Pub­lish­ing, 2011

What keeps you up at night?

At var­i­ous times: Panera’s iced green tea; the sound of my 18-year-old daugh­ter raid­ing the fridge; play­ing Sudoku on my phone; and, as with every­one, a head full of this-and-that.

What is your proud­est career moment?

I’m going to reach way back for this one, more than 20 years ago. I had just pub­lished my first book with Cre­ative Education/Creative Edi­tions. It was a biog­ra­phy of Edgar Allan Poe, illus­trat­ed with beau­ti­ful and haunt­ing pho­tographs by Tina Muc­ci. One day I was work­ing at home and I received a fax from the mar­ket­ing direc­tor at Cre­ative. I watched the fax come through, bit by bit, and was elat­ed to find that Poe had received a starred review from Publisher’s Week­ly. The first line said, “Call­ing upon her sig­nif­i­cant sto­ry­telling skill, Loewen adds large mea­sures of dra­ma and pathos to her inter­pre­ta­tive biog­ra­phy of Edgar Allan Poe.”

cover image

Pho­to­graph­ic inter­pre­ta­tion by Tina Muc­ci Cre­ative Edu­ca­tion, 1993

I had nev­er real­ly thought of myself as a sto­ry­teller before. To me, sto­ry­tellers were those peo­ple who could spin a good yarn off the top of their heads, who could effort­less­ly keep young chil­dren — and any­one else — enter­tained. My mind doesn’t work that way. I’m more of an arche­ol­o­gist: dig­ging cau­tious­ly, then slow­ly piec­ing arti­facts togeth­er. But that starred review made me real­ize that just as there are count­less sto­ries to be told, there are also count­less ways to bring them into the world.

Describe your favorite pair of paja­mas ever.

Nick and Nora light blue flan­nel paja­mas cov­ered in sock mon­keys. At one point my whole fam­i­ly had match­ing paja­mas — me, my two kids, my then-hus­band, even my broth­er and sis­ter-in-law. Made for some great fam­i­ly pic­tures!

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

gymnastProb­a­bly gym­nas­tics. (Every­thing but the bal­ance beam — that just does not look like fun.) I was bare­ly able to mas­ter a cart­wheel as a kid, so this is strict­ly in the fan­ta­sy realm. I don’t see how it’s even human­ly pos­si­ble to do all those flips and spins and rolls and twists. But what a joy it must be, to be air­borne of your own will!

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

Some­times our bravest actions are also pri­vate ones. I’ve done a num­ber of brave things in recent years, but what I want to tell you about is some­thing brave — and very pub­lic — that I did way back as a sopho­more in high school. It was 1980 and I was on the Mt. Lake (MN) speech team in the cat­e­go­ry of Orig­i­nal Ora­to­ry. I chose a dif­fi­cult top­ic that was just start­ing to edge onto the pub­lic radar: incest. I had only three sol­id sources, but I made the most of the infor­ma­tion I had. I some­times look back in won­der at that 15-year-old small-town girl who knew that just because a sub­ject was uncom­fort­able didn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it.

At that time, my broth­er was attend­ing col­lege in Kansas. The night before Regions, he was in a seri­ous car acci­dent. My par­ents left for Kansas imme­di­ate­ly, but I stayed with my grand­par­ents and went through with the com­pe­ti­tion. All I knew was that my broth­er had head injuries and wasn’t con­scious. I walked around in a daze, but some­how, when I was stand­ing in front of the judges, I was able to focus. I took first place, and lat­er took first place at state as well. My broth­er even­tu­al­ly made a full recov­ery. But what a chal­leng­ing spring that was, for all four of us.

I’ve also wrest­ed can­dy bars and slimy plas­tic bags right out of the mouth of my very bad bea­gle, Dorie. And I once pulled a tick off my son’s leg, bare­hand­ed!

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

cover imageI’m pret­ty sure it was Pep­per­mint by Dorothy Grid­er, illus­trat­ed by Ray­mond Burns. It’s a great sto­ry about a white kit­ten who lives in a can­dy store. His broth­ers and sis­ters find homes, but no one wants scrawny lit­tle Pep­per­mint. Then Pep­per­mint final­ly does get adopt­ed and his new own­er pam­pers him and wants to enter him in the Best Pet con­test at school. Pep­per­mint acci­den­tal­ly dyes him­self blue — but still wins the con­test. Love that book!

What TV show can’t you turn off?

One of the perks of work­ing at home much of the time is that I get to watch TV while I eat lunch. The Dai­ly Show with Jon Stew­art is what I watch most often, now that The Col­bert Report is off the air. Recent­ly I binge-watched the sec­ond sea­son of Orange is the New Black. I was hooked on Break­ing Bad and the British Sher­lock. But if I am to be com­plete­ly hon­est, there are times when I give in to the temp­ta­tion of the TLC line­up: Say Yes to the Dress, What Not to Wear, or 19 Kids and Count­ing. I draw the line at My Big Fat Amer­i­can Gyp­sy Wed­ding, though.



When a Prince Needs a Mechanic

by Vic­ki Palmquist

Interstellar CinderellaWith a deft sto­ry and oth­er­world­ly art, Deb­o­rah Under­wood and Meg Hunt bring us Inter­stel­lar Cin­derel­la, a fresh and wel­come take on the famil­iar fairy tale with a bit of Andro­cles and the Lion and The Jet­sons thrown into the mix.

In this ver­sion, Cin­derel­la loves fix­ing any­thing mechan­i­cal. She has her own set of spe­cial tools, all care­ful­ly drawn and named on the end­pa­pers for the kids who love iden­ti­fy­ing things. Her com­pan­ion is a robot mouse, small and seem­ing­ly insignif­i­cant but he saves the day when the wicked step­moth­er tries to keep the Prince from see­ing Cin­derel­la.

The illus­tra­tor used “gouache, brush and ink, graphite, rubylith, and dig­i­tal process” to cre­ate a world that is read­i­ly iden­ti­fi­able as being set in the future, with touch­es of Ara­bi­an Nights and super­cool space­ships, which Cin­derel­la dreams of fix­ing when they break down.

When her fairy godro­bot (don’t you think she’s a nod to Rosie on The Jet­sons?) gives her a brand new space­suit and a pow­er gem to join the Prince’s Roy­al Space Parade, the Prince’s space­ship springs a leak and Cin­derel­la is there to fix it.

I took a “Pow­der­puff Mechan­ics” class when I was in col­lege (I didn’t name the class, folks), and I was mighty proud to be able to work on my own car. I know the thrill of fix­ing a leak and fig­ur­ing out how to get bet­ter per­for­mance out of an engine, so Cin­derel­la is my kind of gal.

I’m espe­cial­ly fond of the way this book ends. No spoil­ers here. Let’s just say that this isn’t your grandmother’s Cin­derel­la sto­ry. In a rhyming pic­ture book, the author cre­ates a hero­ine who is tal­ent­ed and wise. The book sparkles and crack­les with the pow­er of the stars. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed.

Inter­stel­lar Cin­derel­la, writ­ten by Deb­o­rah Under­wood, illus­trat­ed by Meg Hunt, Chron­i­cle Books, 2015



Quirky Book Lists: Go Fly a Kite!

by The Bookol­o­gist

Curious George coverCuri­ous George Flies a Kite

H.A. Rey
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 1977 (reis­sue of 1958 edi­tion)
Ages 5 – 8

First George is curi­ous about some bun­nies, then about fish­ing, and then about his friend Billy’s kite. All’s well that ends well. Ages 5 – 8.


cover imageDays with Frog and Toad

Arnold Lobel
1979 Harper­Collins
Ages 4 – 8

Five sto­ries with the two famous friends, includ­ing “The Kite,” in which Frog’s opti­mism and Toad’s efforts pre­vail over the pre­dic­tions of some nay-say­ing robins. 



cover imageThe Emper­or and the Kite

Jane Yolen and Ed Young (illus­tra­tor)
Philomel, 1988 (reis­sue)
Ages 4 – 8

Princess Oje­ow Seow is the youngest of the Emperor’s chil­dren, and no one in the fam­i­ly thinks she’s very spe­cial. But when the emper­or is impris­oned in a tow­er, the princess’s kite-build­ing skills prove every­one wrong. 1968 Calde­cott Hon­or book. 

coverimageKite Day

Will Hil­len­brand
Hol­i­day House, 2012
Ages 3 – 7

Bear and Mole decide it’s the per­fect day to fly a kite, but first they have to build one. 

cover imageThe Kite Fight­ers

Lin­da Sue Park
Clar­i­on, 2000
Ages 9 and up.

A sto­ry about three friends in 15th Cen­tu­ry Korea: a boy who builds beau­ti­ful kites; his younger broth­er, who is an expert kite fly­er and kite fight­er; and a boy who is the king of Korea. 



cover imageKite Fly­ing

Grace Lin
Knopf, 2002
Ages 4 – 8

Every­one has a job to do when a fam­i­ly builds a drag­on kite. Includes cul­tur­al and his­tor­i­cal notes on kites and kite fly­ing. 

cover imageKites for Every­one: How to Make Them and Fly Them

Mar­garet Greger
Dover Pub­li­ca­tions, 2006
Ages 8 and up
Easy-to-fol­low, illus­trat­ed instruc­tions for cre­at­ing and fly­ing more than fifty kites. Includes his­to­ry and sci­ence of kites. 



bk_KiteTwoNationsThe Kite That Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Nia­gara Sus­pen­sion Bridge

Alex­is O’Neill, Ter­ry Widen­er (illus­tra­tor)
Calkins Creek, 2013
Ages 8 – 11

True sto­ry of 16 year-old Homan Walsh, who loved to fly kites and espe­cial­ly loved to fly kites over the mag­nif­i­cent Nia­gara Falls that sep­a­rates New York from Ontario. 

cover imageStuck

Oliv­er Jef­fers
Philomel, 2011
Ages 3 – 7

Floyd’s kite is stuck in a tree! What can he throw that will knock it free? What can he throw that won’t get stuck? 





Princess of the Midnight Ball

by Melanie Heuis­er Hill

Princess coverMy twelve-year-old daugh­ter is inhal­ing books these days — a stack at a time out of the library, every book­shelf in the house pil­laged, major insid­er trad­ing at school, etc. There’s no way I can keep up, but when I move a book from here to there I often flip through or ask her opin­ion. When she start­ed read­ing Princess of the Mid­night Ball, I assumed, based on the PBS Mas­ter­piece The­ater-like attire on the cover’s princess, that it was “just-anoth­er-princess book.” I did­n’t even ask about it — I’m not a huge princess book fan and she reads whole series of them.

And then, while I was chop­ping veg­eta­bles for din­ner one after­noon, she looked up from the book and said, “You should read this, Mom.”

Now, she does­n’t say this about every book. She’s hap­py to tell me the plot, cri­tique the writ­ing, acknowl­edge when she’s read­ing what we some­times call M&M lit­er­a­ture (i.e., junk), and admit that a deep dark choco­late book is usu­al­ly more sat­is­fy­ing, even as the M&M books can be fun. We love to talk books togeth­er, but we only rec­om­mend the real­ly good ones to each oth­er.

I said, “Is it an M&M princess sto­ry?” 

Nope.” She gig­gled and turned the page.

Plot sum­ma­ry?” I inquired.

Grimm Broth­ers’ Twelve Danc­ing Princess­es,” she said, not lift­ing her eyes from the page.

Okay, maybe more intrigu­ing. I driz­zled olive oil over the pota­toes.

Who’s the author?”

Jes­si­ca Day George,” she said.

The name som­er­sault­ed through my brain. Why did I know that name?

Tuesdays coverYou know — she wrote Tues­days At The Cas­tle, and Drag­on Slip­pers…”

Aha! Not the usu­al princess books!

Tell me more,” I said, and I start­ed chop­ping broc­coli.

Well, the princess­es are all named for flow­ers — and they’re this great fam­i­ly and there’s the thing about how they’re danc­ing holes into their slip­pers every night and no one can fig­ure out what’s going on…. The guys who arrive to “save” them are such idiots.” She rolled her eyes. “But the one who’s going to save them…he knits.”

A knit­ting hero? Well, there’s some­thing you don’t see every day.

Knits casu­al­ly or as a plot point?” I’m not sure how knit­ting can be a plot point, but I hold out hope.

I think it’s going to be a plot point….” she said in her most beguil­ing way. Danc­ing green eyes peered at me over the top of the book’s pages.

Inter­est­ing,” I said, ever so casu­al­ly.

I’ll be done before sup­per,” she said. “Then you can have it.”

It’s ter­rif­ic. Knit­ting is indeed a plot point. Knit­ting pat­terns are includ­ed at the end of the book, even! Jes­si­ca Day George’s web­site explains — she’s a knit­ter. And she loves men who knit.

Set in nine­teenth cen­tu­ry Europe (which explains the book cov­er — total­ly appro­pri­ate), this fresh retelling of the Twelve Danc­ing Princess­es is full of humor, inter­est­ing char­ac­ters, and fun twists and turns of plot. The princess­es are smart, cre­ative and feisty; the hero a dash­ing, sen­si­tive, knit­ting gar­den­er. (Be still my own princess heart.)

This book is a romp and delight. I did­n’t read it quite as fast as my daugh­ter, but almost. I look for­ward to the oth­er two in the series — I have it on good author­i­ty that they are equal­ly won­der­ful — and Ms. George hints on her web­site that there could be more.



Skinny Dip with Karen Cushman


Will Sparrow's Road coverWhat’s your favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

Phil is Jew­ish so we cel­e­brate Hanukkah. I light the house with can­dles — one hun­dred or so white can­dles of all sizes and shapes. It looks beau­ti­ful but makes the house very, very warm.

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

Oh, teacher’s pet, with­out a doubt. I was too ner­vous to mis­be­have, smart enough to learn quick­ly, and qui­et enough not to show off (see ques­tion #5).

 Do you like to gift wrap presents?

Love it. I dec­o­rate pack­ages with green­ery, rose­mary springs, red berries, what­ev­er is grow­ing out­side that I can gath­er and tie to a pack­age. My career goal as a young teen was to be a pack­age wrap­per at Wal­greens at Christ­mas time. Haven’t made it yet but I have hope.

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

Not to be so ner­vous and qui­et. I don’t know what I was afraid would hap­pen if I ever spoke up but I was too fear­ful to test it.

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

Kir­by Lar­son, Lee Ben­nett Hop­kins, and Sher­man Alex­ie when he’s in a good mood.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

In bed. No con­test.



Ellen Oh: Researching and Writing the Prophecy Trilogy


prophecy trilogyBookol­o­gist’s note: Last month we fea­tured Cather­ine, Called Birdy and an inter­view with the author, Karen Cush­man. In that inter­view, non­fic­tion writer Claire Rudolf Mur­phy asked Cush­man about her research and incor­po­ra­tion of his­tor­i­cal fact into her fic­tion. Con­tin­u­ing that explo­ration, this month Bookol­o­gy vis­its with nov­el­ist Ellen Oh. King, the final vol­ume of her Prophe­cy tril­o­gy, was released in March (vol­umes 1 and 2 are Prophe­cy, Harp­er Teen 2013 and War­rior, Harp­er Teen 2014). A blend of his­tor­i­cal and fan­ta­sy fic­tion, the tril­o­gy is set around 350 AD or CE and weaves ancient his­to­ry from the area now known as Korea into a com­pelling and action-packed nar­ra­tive about a teen girl, Kira, who is a demon-hunter and also the ful­fil­ment of an ancient prophe­cy — the Drag­on Musa­do who would unite the many divid­ed king­doms into a sin­gle nation.

You have writ­ten on your web­site and spo­ken in oth­er inter­views about how your recre­ation­al read­ing of ancient Asian his­to­ry trig­gered your writ­ing. Have you always loved read­ing his­to­ry and/or his­tor­i­cal fic­tion?

Count of Monte CristoYes. I love his­to­ry. As a child my favorite books tend­ed to be the his­tor­i­cal ones. In fact, my all time favorite books were The Count of Monte Cristo and To Kill a Mock­ing­bird. I was that nerdy kid that enjoyed read­ing the school his­to­ry text­book. When I was 13, my par­ents got suck­ered into buy­ing the entire World His­to­ry Ency­clo­pe­dia book set and I am not ashamed to admit that I read every sin­gle vol­ume. And I read what­ev­er inter­ests me, which is how I got into Asian his­to­ry. I was fas­ci­nat­ed by the idea that Genghis Khan had been named Time’s Man of the Mil­le­ni­um and it led me to read every­thing I could get my hands on. And in the process, I learned all about Asian his­to­ry and I was hooked.

When you were first read­ing ancient Asian his­to­ry, you must have encoun­tered many things that rang the “how amaz­ing — should be in a book!” bell. How did you keep track of those bits of his­to­ry and mythol­o­gy for lat­er use?

Yes! So many awe­some things. If the book was mine, I would tab all the impor­tant pages. But I had bor­rowed so many library books that I kept a notes jour­nal filled with all the facts, leg­ends, folk­tales, myths, etc., that I came across. I have sev­er­al expand­able file fold­ers filled with papers and note­books on all my notes.

Can you cite one or two finds that a read­er will encounter in Prophe­cy or the lat­er books?

The most amaz­ing sto­ry I came across was the leg­end of the Rock of Falling Flow­ers, Nakhwa-am. Leg­end has it that dur­ing the Shilla and Tang inva­sion of Paekche in 638 C.E., 3,000 court ladies leapt to their deaths into the Baeng­ma Riv­er. From a dis­tance, the beau­ti­ful, mul­ti-col­ored han­boks of the court ladies looked like falling flow­ers — which is where the place gets its name. The leg­end is so visu­al­ly com­pelling that I knew I had to include it not only in my book, but also in my book trail­er

Can you cite one or two ele­ments in the tril­o­gy that would not show up in a his­to­ry book?

Oh yeah, well it is a fan­ta­sy and I want­ed the scary ele­ments to be real­ly creepy. So in Prophe­cy, you will come across demons that eat your organs and wear your skin like a Hal­loween cos­tume. But the best part is Kira and her tiger spir­it. Kira has yel­low eyes because she has a tiger spir­it that is part of her and pro­tects her. And it is the tiger spir­it that lets her see and smell demons, some­thing that no one else in her world has.

You have a fab­u­lous map on your web­site that shows the 7 King­doms from the nov­els. While you empha­size that your king­doms are not the his­tor­i­cal king­doms that would merge into mod­ern Korea, there is some sim­i­lar­i­ty, and you list those. Geog­ra­phy is so impor­tant in the books — the moun­tains, the rivers, the seas, the loca­tion of the walled cities. How did you keep all of this clear in your head while writ­ing?

I kept a copy of the map and a com­pass by my side the entire time I was writ­ing. Espe­cial­ly in the lat­ter books, where Kira has to lit­er­al­ly zig zag her way across the coun­try, I relied heav­i­ly on my map to course out the road she would trav­el.

Map-mak­ing can be a ter­rif­ic writ­ing prompt or exer­cise for uncov­er­ing details. Did you have any favorite writ­ing exer­cis­es that helped you devel­op Kira’s char­ac­ter or world?

I like to use Excel spread­sheets and include all my char­ac­ters in them and list out every­thing I know about them, even to their sor­did and some­times irrel­e­vant back­sto­ries. But by putting togeth­er a spread­sheet, I was able to know inti­mate­ly how every­one inter­act­ed with each oth­er and why they were nec­es­sary in any giv­en scene. It was, in a way, my char­ac­ter map.

Kira’s fam­i­ly gives lov­ing sup­port to her “dif­fer­ent­ness” and unique pow­ers rather than cast her out or attempt to sti­fle her. Can you talk about that writer’s choice?

It was impor­tant for me that Kira had a strong fam­i­ly that she could fall back on. No mat­ter how hard her life is, how hat­ed she is by the out­side world, hav­ing faith and being secure in her family’s love keeps her ground­ed. It is part of what devel­ops her into such a strong char­ac­ter. And being a mom myself def­i­nite­ly played into this deci­sion. You see, I have 3 won­der­ful and very dif­fer­ent girls and it is impor­tant for me to be as sup­port­ive as I can for them. No mat­ter what choic­es they make in life, I’ll always be there for them and love them uncon­di­tion­al­ly.

When you vis­it class­rooms, what sort of ques­tions do you get from stu­dents about the books?

The two most com­mon ques­tions are “Do you have a Jin­do dog?” and “When will it be made into a movie?”

Diverse Books LogoYou are the pres­i­dent of #WeNeed­Di­verse­Books. What’s ahead in the cam­paign for 2015?

So many great things! Our short sto­ry con­test for a spot in our anthol­o­gy is cur­rent­ly going on and we are get­ting a lot of amaz­ing entries! We have begun award­ing intern­ship grants to increase diver­si­ty in pub­lish­ing and we have opened up our Wal­ter Awards for best diverse book. And we are gear­ing up to pre­pare for our Diver­si­ty fes­ti­val which is cur­rent­ly set for July 2016 in Sil­ver Spring, MD.



Marion Dane Bauer: The Power of Novels

by Mar­i­on Dane Bauer

[I]f you are inter­est­ed in the neu­ro­log­i­cal impact of read­ing, the jour­nal Brain Con­nec­tiv­i­ty pub­lished a paper “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Nov­el on Con­nec­tiv­i­ty in the Brain.” Basi­cal­ly, read­ing nov­els increas­es con­nec­tiv­i­ty, stim­u­lates the front tem­po­ral cor­tex and increas­es activ­i­ty in areas of the brain asso­ci­at­ed with empa­thy and mus­cle mem­o­ry. [Read the whole arti­cle.] 
                                           —Jen­nifer Michal­icek on ChildLit

dummy brainIt’s some­thing we all know — all of us who are writ­ers, read­ers, teach­ers know it, any­way — that read­ing fic­tion, engag­ing in the process of inhab­it­ing anoth­er human being, feel­ing our way into another’s thoughts, feel­ings, desires, enlarges our hearts. It teach­es us to under­stand those who are dif­fer­ent from us. Equal­ly impor­tant, if not more so, it lets us know that in the deep­est pos­si­ble ways we human beings are the same.

We don’t need a study to tell us this is so, and yet I am grate­ful for such a study, and I would guess that you are, too. Long ago I knew teach­ers who had to close their class­room doors least the prin­ci­pal pass in the hall and dis­cov­er them “wast­ing time” read­ing a sto­ry. And in these days of renewed empha­sis on non­fic­tion, I would guess that atti­tude sur­faces again more than occa­sion­al­ly.

Not to dis­miss the impor­tance of non­fic­tion. What bet­ter way to gath­er infor­ma­tion, to increase our under­stand­ing of the world than through the fas­ci­nat­ing, expres­sive non­fic­tion avail­able today? But there is a larg­er under­stand­ing we owe our chil­dren — and our­selves, for that mat­ter — than that which can be gained by com­pre­hend­ing facts. It is an under­stand­ing of our­selves as human beings.

How is it that sto­ry reveals so deeply? After all, the folks talk­ing and act­ing, think­ing and feel­ing on the page are fab­ri­ca­tions cre­at­ed in some stranger’s mind. Our Puri­tan fore­par­ents used to for­bid the read­ing of nov­els, damn­ing them as lies! And from a total­ly lit­er­al per­spec­tive, it is so.

But if a writer is cre­at­ing tru­ly, she is cre­at­ing out of her own sub­stance. She is cre­at­ing out of the truth of who she is, what she knows about her­self and about the peo­ple around her. (For­give me for mak­ing all writ­ers female. The he or she dance is bur­den­some.) If she is writ­ing hon­est­ly, she is reveal­ing on the page what she has allowed few oth­ers to know. In fact, she is prob­a­bly expos­ing far more of her­self than she her­self real­izes, because it is part of the mag­ic of the writ­ing of sto­ry that we are seduced into expos­ing even more than we may com­pre­hend our­selves.

And that is the secret of the rev­e­la­tion of fic­tion. Those who cre­ate sto­ries bring their hid­den human­i­ty to the writ­ing. Those who read sto­ries dis­cov­er their own human­i­ty in the read­ing
… and learn to extend that human­i­ty beyond the con­fines of their own skins.

What deep­er learn­ing can there be from the writ­ten word?

A mechan­i­cal study of the brain isn’t need­ed to under­stand any of this. But it’s a mar­vel of our times that such a study is pos­si­ble, that what most of us know in our hearts can now be proven.

I hope this new under­stand­ing makes it pos­si­ble for every class­room door to stand wide open while such learn­ing takes place.


Heavy Baggage

by Lisa Bullard

I wrote in “The Beau­ty of Road­blocks” about how stu­dents some­times for­get to include the crit­i­cal ele­ment of conflict in their sto­ries.

White squirrelSome­times I’m faced with a differ­ent prob­lem: a kid will include painful, intense conflict — some­thing that is clear­ly based on their own expe­ri­ences. Some young peo­ple car­ry around “heavy bag­gage,” and a writ­ing road trip can unex­pect­ed­ly wrench those bags open. In wor­ri­some cas­es, such as descrip­tions of abuse, I’ve cho­sen to fol­low up with teach­ers or prin­ci­pals to let them know that a child may need addi­tion­al sup­port.

Out­side of remem­ber­ing to stamp this heavy bag­gage “han­dle with care,” I haven’t come up with a way to pre­vent the emer­gence of these more com­plex emo­tions and mem­o­ries. Open­ing up about the expe­ri­ences that have moved us in the past can be a pow­er­ful and even lib­er­at­ing part of the writ­ing act. But I do want young writ­ers to feel secure when these tough issues emerge, so I often use a tac­tic that cre­ates a buffer of sorts: we assign these intense expe­ri­ences to ani­mal char­ac­ters.

A stu­dent might write about the Rab­bit fam­i­ly strug­gling through a divorce. Or the death of Grand­pa Eagle. Or the all-white squir­rel who is bul­lied for look­ing dif­fer­ent than his gray squir­rel school­mates. The sto­ries are still emo­tion­al­ly hon­est — but there’s a pro­tec­tion grant­ed the young writ­ers because the trau­mat­ic events are removed from the human world.

This tac­tic doesn’t work as well for old­er stu­dents — by Grades 5 or 6, some kids think it’s too baby­ish to write about talk­ing ani­mals. But until that point, you may find that a squir­rel can come off as sur­pris­ing­ly human when it acts as a stand-in for a char­ac­ter fac­ing one of life’s tough moments.



Skinny Dip with Marion Dane Bauer


Newbery HonorWhat is your proud­est career moment?

My proud­est career moment I sup­pose should be the day in 1986 when On My Hon­or won a New­bery Hon­or Award. But though that was the moment that changed my career more than any oth­er, it’s not my proud­est.

My proud­est was when I was just begin­ning writ­ing, had fin­ished my first nov­el and had no idea whether what I was doing had any val­ue at all. I had no one to read it to tell me. So I pre­sent­ed this first man­u­script — it was Fos­ter Child—at a writer’s work­shop where the New­bery-Award-win­ning author Maia Woj­ciechows­ka read it. She made an announce­ment telling the entire con­fer­ence that “Mar­i­on Dane Bauer has writ­ten a nov­el called Fos­ter Child, and it’s good! It’s going to be pub­lished!”

That’s the moment when I knew for the first time that I could do this thing I want­ed so bad­ly to do, and I’ve nev­er been proud­er. From that moment on I’ve believed in myself and my work.

Describe your favorite pair of paja­mas ever

pinsThey were new­ly made, pink with cheer­ful kit­tens all over them, and they were coör­di­nat­ed with paja­mas made new for my iden­ti­cal-twin friends, Bet­ty and Bev­er­ly.  Their grand­moth­er had made the paja­mas for the three of us and fin­ished them just in time for an overnight togeth­er. The only prob­lem — and this is what makes the paja­mas par­tic­u­lar­ly mem­o­rable — was that their grandmother’s sight was no longer very good, and she sim­ply sewed all the straight pins into the seams and left them there. We spent the whole night, all three of us in the same dou­ble bed, say­ing “Ouch!” every time we moved and pulling out more pins.

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

No ques­tion … hav­ing chil­dren was the bravest thing I’ve ever done and, as well, as being the thing I’m most grate­ful I did. I didn’t have chil­dren because I was con­scious­ly brave but because I had no way of know­ing what lay ahead, all the dif­fi­cul­ties, all the joys. When you have a child you con­nect your­self to anoth­er human being — a com­plete stranger — for the rest of your two lives. No divorce pos­si­ble. And that, if you stop to think about it, is real­ly scary! For­tu­nate­ly, few of us stop to think those thoughts before we bring a child into our lives.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

I’ve for­got­ten the title and have no idea who the author was, but I can still see the fuzzy pink lamb on the pale blue cov­er. It was a sto­ry of a lamb with pet­table pink fuzz who got lost and couldn’t find his moth­er. Things got so bad that on one turn of the page light­ning cracked in the sky and rain fell and the pet­table pink fuzz went away entire­ly. All the col­ors went away, too. That whole spread was done in grays. I remem­ber touch­ing the smooth gray lamb again and again, want­i­ng to bring the pink fuzz back. Of course, anoth­er turn of the page brought every­thing back and the lamb’s fuzzy, pink glo­ry. The lamb’s moth­er came back, too. Such a sur­pris­ing and sat­is­fy­ing end­ing!

What TV show can’t you turn off?

I sel­dom watch TV, but I’ll admit to being in love with Down­ton Abbey. When an hour’s show ends, I always want more!


From the Editor


by Mar­sha Qua­ley

Nancy2Hap­py Birth­day, Nan­cy Drew!

For the last few days it’s been hard to nav­i­gate online with­out stum­bling across some cel­e­bra­to­ry mus­ing about the tit­ian-haired hero­ine turn­ing 85. Which main char­ac­ters from recent YA and children’s lit do you think could be the sub­ject of such atten­tion eight decades down the road?

This month’s Book­storm™ book is a graph­ic nov­el, Lowrid­ers in Space. The hero­ine of the sto­ry, Lupe, gives Nan­cy D. a run for her mon­ey in con­fi­dence, skills, and road­sters. What’s more, Lupe — like Nan­cy — keeps com­pa­ny with two fine friends.  Vic­ki Palmquist, Bookol­o­gist extra­or­di­naire, has done her usu­al ter­rif­ic job of com­pil­ing a storm of good read­ing to enjoy in the class­room or at your leisure.

I’m hap­py to announce three new reg­u­lar addi­tions to the Bookol­o­gy line-up. We sneaked one in a week ago: Mid­dle King­dom, a month­ly vis­it with a mid­dle school librar­i­an. Author Lisa Bullard wran­gles these inter­views, and the first librar­i­an spot­light­ed is Lau­rie Amster-Bur­ton of Jane Addams Mid­dle School in Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton. If you know a hard-work­ing mid­dle school librar­i­an, email us with the info!

Mau­r­na Rome returns, and she’ll now be writ­ing reg­u­lar­ly about her class­room lit­er­a­cy work (and the work of oth­ers) in Teach It For­ward. Green eggs and ham nev­er looked so good.

I’m espe­cial­ly delight­ed to intro­duce two won­der­ful writ­ers to the Bookol­o­gy crew: Jacque­line Brig­gs Mar­tin and Phyl­lis Root. I’m sure many if not most of you are famil­iar with their books. Each month in their new col­umn Two for the Show they’ll dis­cuss two old­er pic­ture books they’ve dis­cov­ered or redis­cov­ered.

And all that (and more) just today — issue launch day, the first Tues­day of the month. Look for even more all through this month as our reg­u­lar columns and fea­tures roll out. 

Thank you for stop­ping in. Now please go explore the third issue of Bookol­o­gy.



Lit Lunches:
Promoting a love of reading one bite at a time!


by Mau­r­na Rome


Ready for Lit Lunch.

I admit that I am some­times envi­ous of my friends who work in the busi­ness world and get to enjoy fre­quent din­ing out excur­sions dur­ing their lunch breaks. A 20 – 25 minute rush to digest school cafe­te­ria food, microwav­able left­overs or a brown bag sand­wich isn’t the most appe­tiz­ing mid-day meal expe­ri­ence. How­ev­er, once a month I do get to enjoy a spe­cial book club of sorts, called “Lit Lunch,” with some of the most thought­ful, deep thinkers I’ve ever chat­ted with about books!

It might be hard to believe that “din­ing in” with thir­ty 9‑year-olds could be such a delight­ful affair, yet this once-a-month event has become one of the high­lights of the year in Room 132. From a kid’s point of view, get­ting to eat with the teacher in the class­room has some kind of mag­i­cal appeal. For this teacher, any­thing that moti­vates kids to think and talk about a good book is worth doing.


The Sand­wich Swap

When choos­ing our lunch book of the month, our cri­te­ria are quite sim­ple. The book must have a con­nec­tion to some type of food item that can be added to the lunch menu with a rea­son­able amount of prep and cost.  It also helps if the sto­ry has a “meaty” author’s mes­sage we can real­ly dig into.

I’ve used “lunch with the teacher” as a spe­cial reward for many years, but this is the first year I’ve real­ized that adding a lit­er­a­cy ele­ment gives it an added pur­pose. An unex­pect­ed result from host­ing the first few Lit Lunch­es was that many kids made it their mis­sion to find the per­fect book for next month. My stu­dents are always on the look­out for a good sto­ry that fea­tures a favorite fare to nib­ble on.  I know the extra effort and small invest­ment in a few ingre­di­ents are more than worth­while. I’m not sure who enjoys Lit Lunch­es more — the kids, our lunch­room super­vi­sor, or me.


A favorite book

Through chow­ing and chat­ting, my stu­dents iden­ti­fied sev­er­al com­mon words of wis­dom from the books we’ve devoured so far this year. “Don’t judge a book by its cov­er” applies beau­ti­ful­ly to The Sand­wich Swap by Queen Rania of Jor­dan Al Abdul­lah, Ene­my Pie by Derek Mun­son, and Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss. Nib­bling on a hum­mus and PB&J sand­wich, slice of pie, or green eggs and ham while chat­ting about the impor­tance of get­ting to know some­one or something before pass­ing judg­ment helped made our first few Lit Lunch­es a suc­cess.

The mes­sage “When life hands you lemons, make lemon­ade” came through loud and clear after read­ing and dis­cussing The Lemon­ade Club by Patri­cia Polac­co. This selec­tion was spe­cial for sev­er­al rea­sons. Sev­er­al of my stu­dents and I have dealt with the chal­lenge of help­ing a fam­i­ly mem­ber bat­tle can­cer. It was also the first stu­dent-select­ed book, thanks to an enthu­si­as­tic young lady who vis­its the pub­lic library often. Aman­da was so excit­ed to share her checked-out col­lec­tion of Polacco’s books. As we swapped our heart­felt per­son­al con­nec­tions, we shared lemon pop­py seed muffins and, of course, lemon­ade.

Green eggs and ham

Eat­ing green eggs and ham.

Our most recent les­son to be learned came from the light-heart­ed best sell­er Drag­ons Love Tacos. “Always read the fine print” was the take away from this sil­ly but fun tale. The food tie-in was by far the biggest hit with kids, though it also proved to be more time inten­sive and cost­ly than the oth­er month­ly selec­tions.

My advice for any teacher who is inter­est­ed in mak­ing lunchtime a lit­tle more inter­est­ing, though per­haps not as relax­ing as a meal out on the town, is to start small. Con­sid­er invit­ing a group of 5 – 6 kids to join you for a Lit Lunch based on a recent read aloud. For your sec­ond help­ing of Lit Lunch, add anoth­er group of kids. When hold­ing a full class Lit Lunch, a hand-held micro­phone that can be passed around is a must. Secur­ing fund­ing through the school par­ent-group, a grant, or grade-lev­el bud­get would be a good way to off­set the cost of pro­vid­ing appe­tiz­ing titles that are paired with some tasty treats.   

Green eggs and ham

A lot of green eggs and ham.

It may take time, prac­tice, and group reflec­tion to make the Lit Lunch feel more like a real book club with impromp­tu con­tri­bu­tions ver­sus a tra­di­tion­al class­room, teacher-led dis­cus­sion. It is help­ful if kids prac­tice being a part of infor­mal con­ver­sa­tions in both small and whole group set­tings. Facil­i­tat­ing a pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sion about char­ac­ter traits, the gist of the sto­ry and/or the author’s mes­sage is not an easy feat with a group of thir­ty hun­gry 3rd graders, but Room 132 is proof that it can be done.

Find­ing the right food-relat­ed book is a must. A free 100-page, anno­tat­ed book list fea­tur­ing  “over 400 books with pos­i­tive food, nutri­tion and phys­i­cal activ­i­ty mes­sages for chil­dren in grades K‑2” can be down­loaded thanks to a project from Michi­gan State Uni­ver­si­ty Exten­sion and the Michi­gan State of Edu­ca­tion.




Literary Madeleine: Grasping at Stars

by Vic­ki Palmquist

How many chil­dren, over how many years, have learned from their par­ents to iden­ti­fy the stars that make up the Big Dip­per? Can you see them stand­ing out­side, point­ing to the stars in the dark sky, trac­ing the make-believe line that draws a saucepan in the heav­ens?

The Stars and Find the ConstellationsMy moth­er told me some of the sto­ries she knew about the con­stel­la­tions, about the Great Bear and Ori­on and Androm­e­da. When her sup­ply of knowl­edge (and inter­est) were exhaust­ed, she bought me Find the Con­stel­la­tions by H.A. Rey (yes, the author of the Curi­ous George books).

When I want­ed to know more, she bought me The Stars: a New Way to See Them, also by H.A. Rey.

Besides cre­at­ing books for chil­dren, the jack­et flap says Mr. Rey’s inter­ests “extend­ed from biol­o­gy and lan­guages (he was flu­ent in four and acquaint­ed with half a dozen more) to his­to­ry and, of course, astron­o­my.” Thank good­ness! He awak­ened that inter­est in me and I’m pret­ty sure dozens and dozens and hun­dreds of oth­er chil­dren. (And adults, go ahead, admit it.)

In Find the Con­stel­la­tions, which is updat­ed through 2016, you’ll find expla­na­tions that com­bine facts, and sto­ries, and sci­ence. Any­thing less would not be sat­is­fy­ing. Bet­ter yet, the man could draw, and his illus­tra­tions are light­heart­ed but sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly sound. When he draws a “Sky View” as though we were priv­i­leged to be inside the USA’s best plan­e­tar­i­um, we can see sea­son­al depic­tions of the way the stars appear in the sky, and the way they might appear in our brain, find­ing the con­stel­la­tions. There are charts and maps and tips for stargaz­ing.

Finding the Stars

In The Stars, we find a book for old­er chil­dren and adults. There are con­stel­la­tion charts with view­ing notes:

CRAB (CANCER): Faintest of all con­stel­la­tions in the zodi­ac. Its main attrac­tion is the so-called BEEHIVE, a small hazy spot [marked by a cross on the chart], just vis­i­ble with­out glass­es under best con­di­tions. Glass­es reveal a clus­ter of many faint stars.

Finding the ConstellationsThese are info­graph­ics at their best, long before we began using that term. The Cal­en­dar Charts show where the stars will be in the sky on a cer­tain day, at a cer­tain time. There are even lat­i­tu­di­nal charts so peo­ple in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try can more accu­rate­ly observe the stars.

The sec­ond half of the books includes more won­ders, includ­ing how stars die, the celes­tial clock, how the earth wob­bles on its axis, and how con­stel­la­tions have moved through the ages. When the right child finds this book, there is an astronomer in the mak­ing, whether as a pro­fes­sion or as a hob­by.

Wait! There’s more! If you buy the hard­cov­er of The Stars, you will find that the dust jack­et unfolds to a large poster of a Gen­er­al Chart of the Sky. I had this hang­ing on my bed­room wall through­out my child­hood. Is it any won­der I love read­ing sci­ence fic­tion? Check these books out of the library for your curi­ous child. When you find your­self con­sid­er­ing a tele­scope, it’s time to buy them for your own library.



Lowriders in Space Companion Booktalks


To get you start­ed on the Book­storm™ books …

13 Planets13 Plan­ets: The Lat­est View of the Solar Sys­tem, by David A. Aguilar. Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Children’s Books, 2011.  Grades 2 – 6

  • Report mate­r­i­al galore, beau­ti­ful­ly orga­nized
  • Illus­trat­ed with a com­bi­na­tion of pho­tographs and dig­i­tal art
  • Includes sev­er­al hands-on activ­i­ties

Car Science coverCar Sci­ence: an Under-the-Hood, Behind-the-Dash Look at How Cars Work, by Richard Ham­mond, DK Books, 2008. Grades 3 and up

  • Key physics con­cepts as they relate to how cars run
  • DK’s sig­na­ture explod­ed dia­grams, cut­aways, and high-inter­est visu­als
  • Mate­r­i­al is divid­ed into intrigu­ing sec­tions: Pow­er, Speed, Han­dling, and Tech­nol­o­gy

Chato's Kitchen coverChato’s Kitchen, by Gary Soto, illus­tra­tions by Susan Gue­vara, Pen­guin, 1997. Preschool through Grade 3.

  • Mouse fam­i­ly vs Cha­to, a very cool cat
  • Good sto­ry for “pre­dic­tion”
  • Span­ish and Eng­lish vocab­u­lary

Draw 50 Cars coverDraw 50 Cars, Trucks, and Motor­cy­cles: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Drag­sters, Vin­tage Cars, Dune Bug­gies, Mini Chop­pers, and Much More, by Lee J. Ames, Wat­son-Gup­till, 2012.  Grade 1 through Adult.

  • From a Dis­ney stu­dios artist
  • Vari­ety of draw­ing projects suit­able for range of expe­ri­ence
  • Step-by-step” is real­ly lay­er-by-lay­er, show­ing how a draw­ing is “built”

Girls Think of Everything coverGirls Think of Every­thing: Sto­ries of Inge­nious Inven­tions by Women, by Cather­ine Thimmesh, illus­trat­ed by Melis­sa Sweet, Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2002. Grades 3 and up.

  • Sib­ert-win­ning author, Calde­cott-win­ning artist
  • Inven­tions from exot­ic to famil­iar
  • Inven­tors and inven­tions going back to 3000 BC

If I Built a CarIf I Built a Car, by Chris Van Dusen. Dut­ton Books for Young Read­ers, 2005.  Pri­ma­ry grades.

  • 2006 E.B. White Read Aloud Award
  • Clas­sic Van Dusen illus­tra­tions: bold col­ors, car­toon-style (look for hid­den ref­er­ences to a few oth­er Van Dusen books)
  • Great dis­cus­sion starter for all ages: What kind of car would YOU design?

Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush coverMr. Mendoza’s Paint­brush, by Luis Alber­to Urrea, illus­trat­ed by Christo­pher Car­di­nale, Cin­co Pun­tos Press, 2010. Grades 7 and up.

  • Graph­ic nov­el about a graf­fi­ti artist and Mex­i­can vil­lage life, with some mag­ic real­ism
  • Nar­ra­tive is a non-lin­ear rem­i­nis­cence — bold flash­es of sto­ry to match the art
  • Rich­ly-col­ored wood­block-style art

My Little Car coverMy Lit­tle Car, by Gary Soto, illus­trat­ed by Pam Paparone, Put­nam, 2006. Preschool and pri­ma­ry grades.

  • Child-grand­par­ent sto­ry
  • Eng­lish and Span­ish vocab­u­lary
  • Just how do you make a car dance?

NicoVisitsNico Vis­its the Moon, by Hon­o­rio Rob­le­do, Cin­co Pun­tos Press, 2001. Preschool and pri­ma­ry grades.

  • Vivid, imag­i­na­tive, art
  • Crawl­ing baby, bal­loons, the moon — each page turn deliv­ers a fan­ta­sy sur­prise
  • Bilin­gual in Span­ish and Eng­lish

Norther Lights coverNorth­ern Lights: The Sci­ence, Myth, and Won­der of the Auro­ra Bore­alis, by George Bryson, pho­tographs by Calvin Hall and Daryl Ped­er­son, Sasquatch Books, 2001. Grades 3 and up for look­ing at the pho­tographs, grades 5 and up for the sci­ence.

  • Beau­ti­ful pho­tographs that can be looked at again and again
  • Dis­cuss­es the many myths and leg­ends inspired by the lights
  • Con­cise expla­na­tion of geo­physics behind the phe­nom­e­non

Remind coverRemind, by Jason Brubak­er, Cof­fee Table Comics, 2011. Grades 5 and up.

  • Graph­ic nov­el with a great cast: Son­ja, a young woman who is a mechan­i­cal genius; Vict­uals, her cat that may have received the brain of an exiled lizard man; an under­wa­ter colony of lizard peo­ple
  • Won­der­ful array of mechan­i­cal inven­tions (Dis­cuss: what kind of giz­mos would you like to invent?)
  • Crisp, unclut­tered illus­tra­tions — at times suit­ably creepy

Shark King CoverShark King, by R. Kikuo Johnon, TOON Books, 2012. Grades 1 and up.

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


Zita coverZita the Space­girl, by Ben Hatke, First Sec­ond, 2010.  Grades 3 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?




Cathy Camper: Writing Lowriders in Space

Lowriders coverLowrid­ers in Space
writ­ten by Cathy Camper
illus­trat­ed by Raul the Third
Chron­i­cle Books, 2014

When did you first become aware of (or involved in) lowrid­er cul­ture?

Prob­a­bly in the ear­ly 1980’s, when I vis­it­ed a friend of mine who lived in the Mis­sion Dis­trict of San Fran­cis­co. There were a lot of lowrid­ers in the neigh­bor­hood, and since we were young women at the time, we’d get flir­ta­tious atten­tion from guys show­ing off their cars when we walked down the street.

How was the deci­sion made to make your three heroes non-human (the fourth hero, Genie, is a cat and I don’t need to ask why a cat is a cat)? They are an impala, an octo­pus, and a human … how did that come about?

Back when the book was just a day­dream, I thought up the names of the char­ac­ters first. I liked the name Elirio, and the name Elirio Malar­ia was real­ly fun to say. I’d walk around think­ing, Elirio Malar­ia, what kind of guy is he? Then one day it was as if a lit­tle voice whis­pered in my ear, “I’m not a guy, I’m a mos­qui­to!” Duh!

Lowriders cast

Heroes in Space

Lupe (short for Guadalupe) Impala also got her name because it was fun to say, and because Impalas are the cho­sen cars of lowrid­ers. She real­ly is an impala, which is like a deer, or gazelle. For some rea­son read­ers don’t seem to know what kind of ani­mal she is; they think she’s a fox, a wolf, a mouse?!? Raul and I thought it would be clear from her name, but you just nev­er know…

And Flappy…I was read­ing an arti­cle about octo­pus­es, and dis­cov­ered there real­ly is a super cute kind of octo­pus called a Flap­jack Octo­pus, because its ten­ta­cles are short and stub­by. Bam, you couldn’t ask for a bet­ter char­ac­ter.

It cracks me up when I hear the heroes described as a mos­qui­to, an impala and an octo­pus, because I nev­er thought of them as those ani­mals first. Their ani­mal nature came out of their names and per­son­al­i­ties.

For the kids who’d like to make their own comics, how did you find Raul the Third? And when you found him, did the two of you work on devel­op­ing the graph­ic nov­el togeth­er? Or was there the typ­i­cal sep­a­ra­tion of author and artist?

Lupe at the Wheel

Lupe at the Wheel

Raul and I met via a mutu­al friend, who was draw­ing anoth­er com­ic I’d writ­ten. He couldn’t com­plete it, so he emailed me to sug­gest his friend Raul might like to work on it. I nev­er fin­ished that com­ic, but sev­er­al years lat­er when I’d writ­ten the script for Lowrid­ers, I emailed Raul to see if was inter­est­ed in a kid’s book, because I liked his art and knew we both had a good work eth­ic – we like to meet our dead­lines.

He read it and wrote back, “This is the book I want­ed to read as a kid,” and start­ed send­ing me sketch­es the next day. He lives in Boston and I live in Port­land, and we even­tu­al­ly met in per­son before embark­ing on such a big project, but from the start, it was obvi­ous we had sim­i­lar goals and shared the same sense of humor and approach to get­ting things done. In gen­er­al, I write the sto­ry and he does the art, but we’re lucky that our pub­lish­ers have let us col­lab­o­rate a lot. Some­times Raul will sug­gest plot changes or add dia­log that fits with his chore­og­ra­phy of the sto­ry. Like­wise, some­times I’ll spec­i­fy some things that need to be shown in the art. It’s kind of like jazz, riff­ing off each oth­er, where jokes and plot lines move back and forth between words and pic­tures. We also both have to adjust what we do to fit our edi­tors’ and art director’s instruc­tions.

Because a com­ic book or graph­ic nov­el often lets a sto­ry be told between the pan­els, did you do more edit­ing to fit the illus­tra­tions than you might have with a pic­ture book?



When I write the script, it’s very descrip­tive, because I’m try­ing to con­vey a whole world to Raul, my edi­tors, and our art direc­tor. When Raul draws the thumb­nail sketch­es, a lot of the writ­ing falls out, because the sto­ry has now moved into the pic­tures. So if a char­ac­ter says, “Look, there’s a falling star!” once he’s drawn it, the char­ac­ter might just need to say, “Look!” I also try to leave some large spaces where big dra­ma occurs, so the art can take over.

I think our book is dif­fer­ent in this way from books like Dra­ma or El Deafo, in that their art fol­lows the plot line a lit­tle more direct­ly, where­as Raul and I want­ed some­times to let the art just enve­lope the read­er.

I don’t think it’s that dif­fer­ent from writ­ing a pic­ture book, except I have to use waaay more excla­ma­tion marks. There are some parts of the writ­ing I fight for, though, in order to main­tain a rhythm, a poet­ry and to retain deep­er lay­ers of mean­ing.

Did you set out to write a com­ic that had sci­ence ele­ments in it? Was lowrid­ing into out­er space always a part of the con­cept?

I love sci­ence; it’s where I get tons of my inspi­ra­tion because noth­ing is more unbe­liev­able than what is true. My first idea for this book was that it would be cool to have a car that was detailed by out­er space. So it was nat­ur­al to include not just space sci­ence but the tech­nol­o­gy of cars. I also thought it was weird that we rarely see kids’ books about cars, when you think of the big part they play in our lives, and all the jobs folks have involv­ing auto­mo­biles.

I love that this com­ic is vir­tu­al­ly read­able by any per­son of any age: was that a con­scious deci­sion?

Lowriders illustrationMy orig­i­nal tar­get audi­ences were kids in third through fifth grade, Eng­lish- Span­ish read­ers, and boys, since their lit­er­a­cy rate is drop­ping. I also want­ed some­thing that wouldn’t seem baby­ish to old­er kids read­ing below grade lev­el, since I work with a lot of kids like that as a librar­i­an. And then Raul and I are both avid comics read­ers, so we want­ed to include stuff that both par­ents and adult comics ‘ fans would enjoy. Plus a lot of it was just Raul and I mak­ing our­selves laugh.

Inte­grat­ing Span­ish into the sto­ry feels very nat­ur­al — and I know a lot of peo­ple will be grate­ful for the instant trans­la­tion on each page — which feels like a nat­ur­al part of the com­ic book style. Was this a sub­ject of dis­cus­sion with your edi­tor or art direc­tor?

Both Raul and I love Love and Rock­ets comics by the Her­nan­dez broth­ers, (an adult com­ic). They always used drop-down trans­la­tions and expla­na­tions beneath their comic’s frames for things read­ers might not under­stand. Our com­ic is def­i­nite­ly an homage to theirs (they have a female mechan­ic named Mag­gie who works on rock­ets, and who is Lupe’s role mod­el) and so we thought it was nat­ur­al to do this in our book as well. I want­ed to include a glos­sary for many rea­sons, but first and fore­most, to empow­er any kid to read. Incar­cer­at­ed kids, immi­grant kids, kids whose par­ents don’t speak Eng­lish or Span­ish, or don’t read super well. I want­ed to give kids the oppor­tu­ni­ty to fig­ure it out them­selves. Also, learn­ing to use a glos­sary is a skill in and of itself, which ties in with cur­ricu­lum goals, which schools need to meet. And then there’s the kids that tell me, “I just love read­ing glos­saries! “

Have you done any work on your own car?

Naw, although my car is kin­da low and slow. It’s old and faith­ful.

Do you have plans to go into out­er space?

No, I like look­ing at mete­or show­ers, and the night sky, and spy­ing on out­er space through tele­scopes. I guess I’m not focused on just one field of sci­ence. I love talk­ing to sci­en­tists and learn­ing what’s new and cool. There’s so much to dis­cov­er, and we live in an age where a lot is going on.

Does the group El Lupe y su Quin­te­to Impala have any­thing to do with Lupe’s name?

Ha! Nope, that’s a total coin­ci­dence. Although I do love cumbia!

For class­room teach­ers who might be work­ing with stu­dents who are writ­ing a com­ic book, what advice would you give them about the writ­ing side of this?

As a writer work­ing with an artist, you have to agree to col­lab­o­rate. So you want to fig­ure out right at the start who does what. Some artists want the writer to do all the writ­ing, break down the dia­log frame by frame, and even describe what they should draw in each frame. Oth­er artists pre­fer more free­dom. And the same can be true of writ­ers. Some demand to have a lot of artis­tic con­trol about how the art will look. Oth­ers are more open. If it’s clear from the begin­ning, no one’s feel­ings will get hurt.

Do a rough form of the com­ic, pen­cil­ing every­thing in loose­ly, before you com­mit to some­thing that will take a lot more work. That way, you can work out your mis­takes before you invest too much time in it. One very impor­tant thing is to fig­ure out where each page will fall. If you look at a com­ic, you’ll see how impor­tant it is, where each pan­el lands. A big dou­ble page splash page has to land on two pages that lay next to each oth­er. So it real­ly helps to make a rough mock-up of your com­ic to fig­ure this out.

I notice on the title page it says “Book 1.” Dare we hope for a Book 2?

Oh yes, book two is in the works as I write this, and it’s big­ger and just as over-the-top as book one. Our intre­pid heroes take a road trip in the oppo­site direc­tion, into the cen­ter of the Earth! It will be out in spring of 2016.


Author Emeritus: Eleanor Cameron


bk_wondrEleanor Frances But­ler Cameron in was born in Win­nipeg, Man­i­to­ba on March 23, 1912. She attend­ed UCLA and the LA Art Cen­ter School for three years before mar­ry­ing Ian Stu­art Cameron, a print­er, in 1934. Mrs. Cameron worked as a ref­er­ence librar­i­an for many years before begin­ning to write full time, and was fas­ci­nat­ed by the way the mind took frag­ments of a writer’s life and rearranged them for writ­ing mate­r­i­al. “Sit­u­a­tions … are like usable places — mys­te­ri­ous in their abil­i­ty to arouse the writer’s cre­ative response.”

One day her son David told her of a dream he’d had that would inspire the five Mush­room Plan­et books, includ­ing The Won­der­ful Flight to the Mush­room Plan­et and Stow­away to the Mush­room Plan­et. She wrote of bk_plantCal­i­for­nia, which she knew well, in The Ter­ri­ble Chur­nadryne and The Mys­te­ri­ous Christ­mas Shell; The Court of the Stone Chil­dren, for which she won a Nation­al Book Award; and in A Room Made of Win­dows, part of a real­is­tic fic­tion series about Julia Red­fern, a twelve-year-old writer. Mrs. Cameron died in 1996, leav­ing a lega­cy of delight­ful children’s books. She also wrote exten­sive­ly about the field of children’s lit­er­a­ture and ana­lyzed her own cre­ative process in such essays as “The Seed and The Vision: on the Writ­ing and Appre­ci­a­tion of Children’s Books,” which is a part of the Ker­lan Col­lec­tion.

— Julie Schus­ter

For more Authors Emer­i­tus biogra­phies please vis­it the AE index.



Raul the Third: Illustrating Lowriders in Space


Lowriders coverLowrid­ers in Space

writ­ten by Cathy Camper
illus­trat­ed by Raul the Third
Chron­i­cle Books, 2014

When did you first become aware of (or involved in) lowrid­er cul­ture?

I feel like I’ve been aware of lowrid­er cul­ture for my entire life. When I was in high school I would draw the type of imagery you might see used as décor on a lowrid­er. Besides the super­heroes, ros­es, clowns cry­ing tears, goth­ic let­ters in torn scrolls were all things you would find in my note­books. Plus I was a big fan of Lowrid­er mag­a­zine and espe­cial­ly of the Fan art which was usu­al­ly cre­at­ed with BIC pens.

Are either you or Cathy drawn into the com­ic?

I drew author pic­tures of the both of us. Cathy is drawn as a Fox in an astro­naut hel­met doing research for our book. I am a wolf. Raul means “swift wolf” so I thought it was appro­pri­ate, plus I am a shag­gy dude so it fits my per­son­al­i­ty. This book is incred­i­bly auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal as well. I mod­eled Lupe’s hair on my Abueli­ta Catalina’s. I based el Cha­vo on my child­hood hero Ches­pir­i­to and the locale of the book is loose­ly based on El Paso/Juarez where I grew up. I also drew myself dri­ving a van on the very last page!


I read that you used Bic pens for a good deal of the draw­ing and col­or­ing. Is this a medi­um you’ve used on oth­er projects?

I have used them for oth­er projects. For some of the fine art draw­ings I have used it as a tex­tur­ing tool or to cre­ate text with­in the draw­ing. This was the first time I have used them in a project as involved as Lowrid­ers in Space. I felt that it was the per­fect instru­ment for this series. When I was a boy I learned to draw with the BIC pens my father had lying around the house. I want­ed to use mate­ri­als that most every­one could have access to. This is a book about dream­ers who use what they have to build the car of their dreams and I want­ed the approach to the art­work to reflect what is pos­si­ble when you have noth­ing, but dream big.

What type of paper did you draw this book on?

When I start­ed cre­at­ing con­cept draw­ings for the book before Chron­i­cle Books was in the pic­ture I drew pages on note­book paper and newsprint to give the look of a school kid draw­ing in their note­book. This would not have been pos­si­ble for the final art­work as this type of paper is very unfor­giv­ing to mis­takes. When I start­ed work­ing on the final art­work I used smooth plate Bris­tol board for the illus­tra­tions and typ­ing paper for the col­or lay­er.


From the art on your web­site, I see that you’ve used cof­fee as a tex­tur­ing agent before. Is there a sto­ry behind that? Did you use that tech­nique in Lowrid­ers in Space?

I love stain­ing my paper with cof­fee or tea. I use that tech­nique to age the paper. I love stuff that is old or appears beyond its years. I want­ed Lowrid­ers in Space to have that same feel. As if the char­ac­ters had been with us for­ev­er. The look of old pulpy paper and the way stuff in clas­sic com­ic books is often print­ed off reg­is­tra­tion is a huge inspi­ra­tion. The draw­ings in Lowrid­ers in Space are a love let­ter to so much about what I admire in car­toon­ing, com­ic books, and old prints by Jorge Guadalupe Posa­da.


Is this your first com­ic book or have you worked in this form before?

This is my first pub­lished work. I have self-pub­lished zines before Lowrid­ers in Space that were com­ic books, and I have been draw­ing them for a large part of my life.  

How did you work with Cathy to fit the text of the sto­ry into your pan­els?

It is a very col­lab­o­ra­tive process not just with Cathy but with our edi­to­r­i­al team as well, which includ­ed our art direc­tor Neil Egan. It begins with Cathy’s script which I then turn into a rough sto­ry­board. I then share this with Cathy and she makes adjust­ments to the script based on the new visu­al flow of the sto­ry. We then share this with our edi­to­r­i­al team, and they give it back to us with notes and sug­ges­tions, and we repeat the process until we get it just right. After all is set in stone I lock myself in a room and com­plete the final art for the book.


For class­room teach­ers who might be work­ing with their stu­dents to cre­ate a com­ic book, what advice would you pass along about the art­work?

Base char­ac­ters on your­selves. It makes draw­ing so much eas­i­er if you know what your char­ac­ters look like and you don’t know any­body like you know your­self. We also come with our own sup­port­ing casts so pick and choose char­ac­ter­is­tic from friends and fam­i­ly. There are not enough char­ac­ters out there that tru­ly resem­ble the won­der­ful peo­ple that make up our com­mu­ni­ties so it’s time we made our­selves into the inter­est­ing hero­ic char­ac­ters we know we are! Also draw what you love to draw and through your draw­ings go on the adven­tures of your choos­ing.


Two for the Show


by Jack­ie Brig­gs Mar­tin and Phyl­lis Root

Martin and Root

Jack­ie Brig­gs Mar­tin (l) an Phyl­lis Root ®

We both love find­ing for­got­ten trea­sures in the “removed from cir­cu­la­tion” sec­tions of libraries or in sec­ond hand book­stores. Some of these books call to us because we remem­ber them from our child­hoods: the Babar books writ­ten out in long­hand, the Flic­ka, Ric­ka, Dic­ka sto­ries about Swedish triplets, Mar­cia Brown’s Stone Soup.

Some books enchant that we’ve nev­er read before: When the Wind Blew by Mar­garet Wise Brown, Run, Run, Run by Clement Hurd, The Trea­sure of Topolobam­po by Scott O’Dell (and illus­trat­ed by the won­der­ful Lynd Ward). These books seem like for­got­ten trea­sures that we wish would be remem­bered. They remind us, as well, that the sto­ries we tell now are very much akin to the sto­ries told before us. The length may dif­fer, the tone may have changed with time, but the hearts of these sto­ries still con­nect with read­ers today.

We want to look at sto­ries whose hearts have stayed strong, whether those sto­ries are fifty years old or fif­teen years old — or even more recent. We hope you, too, will find the old­er sto­ries enchant­i­ng enough to look them up, either in libraries on in online book sites such as Alib­ris or Abe­Books. Or per­haps, like we do, you might wan­der the aisles of book­stores and library shops, look­ing for that book that reach­es out, taps you on the shoul­der, and says, “Read me. You’ll be glad you did.”

Our first finds have to do with moth­ers, a good top­ic for ear­ly May. We are call­ing it “What’s a moth­er to do?”

Moms are the pole stars of child­hood, the ones who make us feel safe in the scari­est, wor­ry­ing-est of times. And in this, our first Two for the Show col­umn, we want to take a look at two clas­sic pic­ture books about Moms and see what the moms are doing.

Monster Mama coverMon­ster Mama, writ­ten by Liz Rosen­berg and illus­trat­ed by Stephen Gam­mell (Philomel, 1993) cel­e­brates lan­guage and Moms. It begins:

Patrick Edward was a won­der­ful boy, but his moth­er was a mon­ster. She lived in a big cave at the back of the house. [page turn]

Some­times she paint­ed, some­times she gar­dened, and some­times she tossed Patrick Edward light­ly up and down in the air, for fun.

She also teach­es Patrick Edward how to roar and how to cast a spell that could put almost any­one to sleep. One day he runs into bul­lies who tie him to a tree and say, “Your moth­er wears army boots.” Patrick Edward roars, breaks away, and chas­es the boys. “Who knows what might have hap­pened next — but Mon­ster Mama heard the echoes of his roar. She zoomed out of her cave…” and straight to Patrick Edward. Once things are set to right and they’ve all shared cake (which the bul­lies made) she says to Patrick Edward, “No mat­ter where you go, or what you do…I will be there. Because I am your moth­er, even if I am a mon­ster — and I love you.”

What we love in this book is the shim­mer­ing ques­tion: Is she real­ly a mon­ster? She gar­dens, she toss­es light­ly, she likes sweets. But she is fierce and she can cast spells. There is humor in this ques­tion and humor in the lan­guage — “Vil­lains, farewell!” Patrick Edward says to the bul­lies. And, “Strength is for the wise, not the reck­less. — More cake please.”

Hazel coverIn Hazel’s Amaz­ing Moth­er by Rose­mary Wells (Dial, 1985) Hazel goes off on her own to “buy some­thing nice” for a pic­nic. She gets lost. And that’s when the bul­lies show up. They take Hazel’s doll and throw her until the stuff­ing falls out. Hazel cries, “Oh, Mother…Mother, I need you.” Just then a wind comes up, blows the pic­nic blan­ket — along with Hazel’s moth­er— right over the town into the very tree under which Hazel sat. Hazel’s moth­er takes charge.

A toma­to hit Doris smack between the eyes.

Don’t make a move with­out fix­ing Eleanor!” Hazel’s moth­er roared.

She also rum­bles, laughs thun­der­ous­ly, brings about repairs.

Oh, moth­er,” said Hazel, “‘how did you do it?”

It must have been the pow­er of love,” said Hazel’s moth­er.

These two sto­ries are fun­ny, not trea­cly. When Hazel’s moth­er tells the mean Doris to fix Hazel’s doll, she toss­es down a pock­et sewing kit — and three more toma­toes. The bul­lies don’t just work at fix­ing— “The boys scrubbed fever­ish­ly. Doris sewed like a machine.”

Nana coverAnd these sto­ries are reas­sur­ing. Kids know they can’t do it all — even though it seems we some­times expect them to in our books. How many times have we heard that kids should solve their own prob­lems in our sto­ries? Per­haps that’s chang­ing. Nana in the City by Lau­ren Castil­lo (Clar­i­on, 2014) — a 2015 Calde­cott Hon­or Book — fea­tures a grand­moth­er who knits a cape for her grand­son who’s wor­ried about being in the city. The cape does the trick, and the grand­son begins to enjoy the city. It’s not bad for kids to see exam­ples of grown-ups who can help. They are the bridge to get kids to their own stronger place.

A few oth­er books fea­tur­ing moth­ers:

  • Owl Babies by Mar­tin Wad­dell
  • Run­away Bun­ny by Mar­garet Wise Brown
  • Are you My Moth­er? by P.D. East­man
  • A Chair for My Moth­er by Vera B. Williams
  • Feed­ing the Sheep by Leda Schu­bert





Bookstorm: Lowriders in Space

Bookstorm: Lowriders in Space

In this Bookstorm™:

Lowriders in SpaceLowriders in Space

writ­ten by Cathy Camper
illus­trat­ed by Raul the Third
pub­lished by Chron­i­cle Books, 2014

Lupe Impala, El Cha­vo Flap­jack, and Elirio Malar­ia love work­ing with cars. You name it, they can fix it. But the team’s favorite cars of all are lowrid­ers — cars that hip and hop, dip and drop, go low and slow, baji­to y suavecito. The stars align when a con­test for the best car around offers a prize of a trunk­ful of cash — just what the team needs to open their own shop! ¡Ay chi­huahua! What will it take to trans­form a junker into the best car in the uni­verse? Strik­ing, unpar­al­leled art from debut illus­tra­tor Raul the Third recalls ball­point-pen-and-Sharpie desk-drawn doo­dles, while the sto­ry is sketched with Span­ish, inked with sci­ence facts, and col­ored with true friend­ship. With a glos­sary at the back to pro­vide def­i­n­i­tions for Span­ish and sci­ence terms, this delight­ful book will edu­cate and enter­tain in equal mea­sure.”

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book, Lowrid­ers in Space. You’ll find books for a vari­ety of tastes, inter­ests, and read­ing abil­i­ties.

Car Mechan­ics. An assort­ment of books offer­ing details and info­graph­ics about how cars work and how to build a car, suit­able from pri­ma­ry to mid­dle school.

Draw­ing Cars. A lot of learn­ing takes place when you draw a car. A read­er thinks deeply about how the car works, how the parts inter-relate, and you are tempt­ed to look up the details to ver­i­fy that you’re get­ting it right.  

Graph­ic Nov­els. There’s a rich his­to­ry of space explo­ration and sci­ence fic­tion in graph­ic nov­els. We include a few stel­lar (ahem) exam­ples that are sure to intrigue your read­ers. 

Lowrid­ers. The lowrid­er cul­ture and the artis­tic, mechan­i­cal­ly-inven­tive cars are an intrin­sic part of life in some parts of the US. You’ll find web­sites and books that explain more.  

Nov­els. Sci­ence fic­tion for young read­ers isn’t plen­ti­ful, but there are excel­lent books in this genre. Our rec­om­men­da­tions include a clas­sic and sev­er­al new books. 

Out­er Space. For some read­ers, the facts about out­er space are para­mount. Books with an overview, stick­er books, up-to-date books about what we cur­rent­ly under­stand … these will inter­est those truth-seek­ers.

Pic­ture Books. Cars and stars are favorite sub­jects for pic­ture book authors and illus­tra­tors. You’ll want to dis­cuss some of these in your class­room and offer sug­ges­tions for oth­ers as books for inde­pen­dent read­ing.

Sci­ence. Study­ing the skies is a life­time of work for many sci­en­tists, and their fields of endeav­or are broad and touch upon oth­er areas of sci­ence. Their dis­cov­er­ies change lives. From books look­ing at the con­stel­la­tions to those answer­ing sci­ence ques­tions, we rec­om­mend a few gems to get you think­ing.

Women Chang­ing the World. Dolores Huer­ta, Sonia Sotomay­or, Rad Amer­i­can Women A‑Z … Lupe Impala is inspi­ra­tional. She will nat­u­ral­ly lead to ques­tions about oth­er women who have set their sites on the stars.

Tech­niques for using each book:


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