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Tag Archives | Marion Dane Bauer

Ann Angel and Her Reading Team
September 2020

As our Rais­ing Star Read­ers col­umn kicks off anoth­er school year, edu­ca­tors and care­givers both con­tin­ue to face the kind of chal­lenges few of us could have imag­ined last fall. Here, Ann Angel describes how her Read­ing Team is coun­ter­ing the “pan­dem­ic bub­ble” by adding non­fic­tion books to their list of favorite reads: 

Hey there, par­ent or grand­par­ent, raise your hand if you’re a pan­dem­ic teacher. I’m guess­ing many hands just went up. My hand is up, too, and I hear from many oth­er grand­par­ents that as the school year begins, we’re pro­vid­ing child­care and the class­room for tod­dlers, kinder­garten­ers, and even some grade school­ers. At least we know that although we may be iso­lat­ed in this pan­dem­ic, we’re in this togeth­er. 

While we hadn’t real­ly planned to be called into ser­vice this way, there are some amaz­ing upsides to edu­cat­ing our lit­tle ones. The best upside is that we get to sift through and share new books and authors with our kids and grand­kids. In my new role as Nana and teacher, I’m see­ing such a won­der­land of non­fic­tion books, and I’m learn­ing about the uni­verse along­side my lit­tle stu­dents. For instance, I now know that dia­dem snakes have wind­pipes that open into the bot­tom of their jaws so they can breathe and eat at the same time; an octo­pus has eight brains; and the earth’s inner core is made of sol­id iron, which grand­son Ted­dy always reminds me is also what Ironman’s suit is made of.

The Stuff of Stars and Soar High, DragonflyEnter­tain­ment, art, and edu­ca­tion are all com­bined in some of the best illus­trat­ed books I’ve come across. Mar­i­on Dane Bauer’s The Stuff of Stars is sure­ly the most beau­ti­ful weave of these ele­ments, with abstract illus­tra­tions by Ekua Holmes that allow a glimpse of nature made of star dust. You can make out the forms of hors­es, feet, birds, but­ter­flies, and a care­tak­er hug­ging a child. The first time I read this with my grand­son Ted­dy, he exclaimed at the explod­ing stars, “I’m begin­ning to love this book!” It has become a favorite, and Ted­dy and I enjoy find­ing new images every time we share it. He reads along with me, lov­ing the idea that before there was you, there was a uni­verse, and we’re all made of star dust. (Note: this book actu­al­ly inspired the name of this col­umn.)

Oth­er favorites that focus on a sin­gle ele­ment include Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move by JoAnn Ear­ly Mack­en and illus­trat­ed by Pam Paparone, a poet­ic per­spec­tive of the way seeds trav­el and implant across the land. Sheri Mabry Bestor has cap­tured details from the world of insects with Good Trick, Walk­ing Stick! and Soar High, Drag­on­fly!, both col­or­ful­ly illus­trat­ed by Jon­ny Lam­bert. Side­bars pro­vide addi­tion­al details about these insects and encour­age kids to dis­cov­er the tini­est crea­tures in our world.

With well over 100 pages of illus­trat­ed infor­ma­tion, the DK books from Pen­guin Ran­dom House pro­vide hours of fun for my younger grand­kids when we’re togeth­er in our pan­dem­ic bub­ble. Andrew, 6, Ted­dy, 4−1÷2, and Emma, 4, might not always have the patience to sit through lis­ten­ing to all of the text, but they do pick their favorite ani­mals, plan­ets, and explor­ers to share with one anoth­er. Two favorite books include the DK Smith­son­ian Did You Know? Amaz­ing Answers to the Ques­tions You Ask and My Ency­clo­pe­dia of Very Impor­tant Things. I’m guess­ing that, if they don’t grow up to become explor­ers, they could well end up envi­ron­men­tal­ists or zoo keep­ers or even actors, see­ing as part of read­ing always entails act­ing out every­thing from light­ning strikes to snakes breath­ing through their mouths.

Ann Angel's grandsons

And of course, kids can learn any­where, so we are also mak­ing the most of time out­doors. Why not take your books and your Read­ing Team out­side to enjoy the ear­ly fall weath­er?

There is such a wide vari­ety of non­fic­tion avail­able for all age lev­els. Feel free to leave your favorites in the com­ments below so we can all build our non­fic­tion libraries.   

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Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing.

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Constance Van Hoven and Her Reading Team
October 2019

Nikhil and the dust jacket for Grumpy MonkeyThis addi­tion to Rais­ing Star Read­ers fea­tures the theme “If you read it, they will come.”

As Con­nie (Gigi to her grand­chil­dren) explains: “Our read­ing team hit a bump in the road! On a recent trip to Col­orado, I intro­duced the pic­ture book Grumpy Mon­key (writ­ten by Suzanne Lang and illus­trat­ed by Max Lang) to Priya (now 2½) and Nikhil (now 10 months). This is a fun­ny, sweet sto­ry about allow­ing your­self to have a bad day every once in a while for no par­tic­u­lar rea­son.

Nikhil absolute­ly did not want to sit on my lap to look at the book. He did, how­ev­er, want to man­han­dle the bright red shiny dust jack­et.

Grandpa and Priya reading Grumpy MonkeyPriya did not want to sit and read either, though she was intrigued by the title. She kept repeat­ing, “grumpy mon­key” as she put­tered around the porch with her arm­ful of toys. It wasn’t until Grand­pa picked up the book, began to read aloud, and clear­ly enjoyed the sto­ry, that Priya couldn’t resist com­ing in for a look. Hence the moral of the sto­ry: If you read it, they will come!

With the addi­tion of Grand­pa, our read­ing team has now grown by one. And Priya’s dad reports that since we left, Grumpy Mon­key is Priya’s most request­ed bed­time sto­ry. It seems she has added Jim Panzee, Marabou, and Nor­man to her list of beloved book friends.”

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Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing.

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Brenda Sederberg and Her Reading Team
September 2019

Bookol­o­gy read­ers first met Bren­da Sederberg’s Read­ing Team part­ner Sylvie when she was only two days old. At that time the two were shar­ing one of their very first read-alouds. Now Gram and Sylvie have had the chance to share a whole won­der­ful year of read­ing togeth­er!

To cel­e­brate Sylvie’s first birth­day, Bren­da is high­light­ing the three books that have become Sylvie’s favorites over that spe­cial year. As Bren­da says, “Sylvie now brings books to me to read — which is such a joy for me, both as a for­mer ele­men­tary school teacher and as Gram.” Sylvie’s First Birth­day Favorites are: The House in the Night, writ­ten by Susan Marie Swan­son and illus­trat­ed by Beth Krommes; Big Red Barn, writ­ten by Mar­garet Wise Brown and illus­trat­ed by Feli­cia Bond; and “More More More,” Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams.

Bren­da con­tin­ues, “Sylvie loves being read to: when she isn’t feel­ing well, before a nap, and just any­time!”

Bren­da and Sylvie con­duct their read-alouds in Min­neso­ta. Bren­da also shares her pas­sion for children’s lit­er­a­ture by read­ing to an ele­men­tary class­room and by belong­ing to the Duluth branch of Bookol­o­gy’s Chap­ter & Verse Book Clubs, which meets at the Book­store at Fitger’s.

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Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion about how to par­tic­i­pate.

About Rais­ing Star Read­ers

The orig­i­nal inspi­ra­tion for this col­umn was Mar­i­on Dane Bauer’s book The Stuff of Stars and her sug­ges­tion for using that book as an ongo­ing scrap­book to doc­u­ment read­ing aloud with a child. More details about that sug­ges­tion can be found on this PDF. The Stuff of Stars is illus­trat­ed by Ekua Holmes and pub­lished by Can­dlewick Press. Bren­da has been hav­ing fun putting togeth­er just such a scrap­book for Sylvie and is delight­ed to share this peek at it with Bookol­o­gy read­ers.

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The Animals in The Stuff of Stars

The Stuff of StarsWhen I first read The Stuff of Stars by Mar­i­on Dane Bauer and Ekua Holmes, I was cap­ti­vat­ed by the beau­ty of the book and its lyri­cal thoughts about the earth and our envi­ron­ment. Ms. Holmes’ illus­tra­tions invite us to look clos­er, to dis­cern the crea­tures she’s so art­ful­ly includ­ed. Ms. Bauer’s text includes a list of ani­mals that roam the earth, bring­ing to mind all of the sto­ries and facts about these spe­cif­ic ani­mals, birds, insects, and rep­tiles.

We thought it would be help­ful to pull togeth­er a Quirky Book List that you could use for dis­cus­sions in your class­room, research units, book dis­plays on The Stuff of Stars theme, or inde­pen­dent read­ing. Be sure to refer to Bookol­o­gy’s Book­storm for The Stuff of Stars for more resources that com­ple­ment this book.

BEETLES
Bonkers about Beetles  

Bonkers about Bee­tles
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Owen Davies
Fly­ing Eye Books, 2018

Fun and fas­ci­nat­ing infor­ma­tion about the tough­est bugs in the world. The illus­tra­tions are incred­i­ble but the facts will astound young read­ers.

 

Masterpiece  

Mas­ter­piece
writ­ten by Elise Broach
illus­trat­ed by Kel­ly Mur­phy
Hen­ry Holt, 2008

Mar­vin, the bee­tle, lives under the kitchen sink in the Pom­pa­days’ apart­ment. James Pom­pa­day is an eleven-year-old boy who lives in the same apart­ment. When James receives a pen-and-ink set for his birth­day, Mar­vin sur­pris­es him with an intri­cate draw­ing. Soon, these two friends are drawn into a staged heist of an Albrecht Dür­er draw­ing at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art.

 

One Beetle Too Many  

One Bee­tle Too Many:
The Extra­or­di­nary Adven­tures of Charles Dar­win
writ­ten by Kathryn Lasky
illus­trat­ed by Matthew True­man
Can­dlewick Press, 2009

A child­hood of col­lect­ing spec­i­mens, espe­cial­ly bee­tles, Charles Dar­win was a nat­u­ral­ist to his very toes, hap­pi­est when he was sail­ing The Bea­gle to South Amer­i­ca to observe the flo­ra and fau­na. Lasky writes the sto­ry of Darwin’s life in a way that reveals the com­plex man who chal­lenged the world’s think­ing.

BLUEBIRDS

Bluebird

 

Blue­bird
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Lind­sey Yankey
Sim­ply Read Books, 2014

Lit­tle Blue­bird awak­ens one morn­ing to find the wind miss­ing. She and wind always fly togeth­er. Deter­mined to find the way, Blue­bird sets off on a clever, well-illus­trat­ed, heart­warm­ing jour­ney.

 

Bluebird  

Blue­bird
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Bob Staake
Schwartz & Wade, 2013

In this emo­tion­al pic­ture book, read­ers will be cap­ti­vat­ed as they fol­low the jour­ney of a blue­bird as he devel­ops a friend­ship with a young boy and ulti­mate­ly risks his life to save the boy from harm.

 

Captivating Bluebirds  

Cap­ti­vat­ing Blue­birds:
Excep­tion­al Images and Obser­va­tions
writ­ten and pho­tographed by Stan Tekiela
Adven­ture Pub­li­ca­tions, 2008

Although not strict­ly a children’s book, Tekiela’s out­stand­ing pho­tographs will keep children’s atten­tion as you share some of the intrigu­ing facts on each page.

 

What Bluebirds Do

 

What Blue­birds Do
writ­ten by Pamela Kir­by
Boyds Mills Press, 2009

After a male and female blue­bird select a place to nest, they raise a young fam­i­ly of hatch­lings, feed­ing them and encour­ag­ing them to fly off on their own. Excel­lent pho­tographs illus­trate this book.

BUTTERFLIES

Caterpillar to Butterfly

 

Cater­pil­lar to But­ter­fly
writ­ten by Lau­ra Marsh
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Kids, 2012

This ear­ly read­er gives kids an close-up look, through stel­lar pho­tographs, at how a cater­pil­lar becomes a but­ter­fly. The book includes infor­ma­tion about the dif­fer­ent types of but­ter­flies and poi­so­nous cater­pil­lars.

How to Hide a Butterfly

 

How to Hide a But­ter­fly & Oth­er Insects
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Ruth Heller
Gros­set & Dun­lap, 1992

Each page invites the read­er to hunt for the but­ter­fly or bee or inch­worm, all the while nar­rat­ed by Heller’s dis­tinc­tive poet­ic text.

A Place for Butterflies

 

A Place for But­ter­flies
writ­ten by Melis­sa Stew­art
illus­trat­ed by Hig­gins Bond
Peachtree Press, 2006

By fram­ing but­ter­flies as a vital­ly inter­con­nect­ed part of our world, this book teach­es about behav­ior and habi­tat, while encour­ag­ing efforts to pre­serve forests and mead­ows, cut­ting down on pes­ti­cides.

CRICKETS

Cricket in Times Square

 

CLASSIC
A Crick­et in Times Square
writ­ten by George Selden
illus­trat­ed by Garth Williams
Far­rar, Straus & Giroux, 1960

When Chester Crick­et hops into a pic­nic bas­ket, lured by the smell of liv­er­wurst, this coun­try crick­et is trans­port­ed to Times Square. There, he’s giv­en a com­fy home by Mario Belli­ni, and becomes friends with Tuck­er Mouse and Har­ry Cat. And yet, Chester’s coun­try home calls to him. A favorite of young read­ers for more than 50 years!

Oscar and the Cricket

 

Oscar and the Crick­et
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Geoff War­ing
Can­dlewick Press, 2009

A begin­ning sci­ence book that teach­es about mov­ing and rolling. One day Oscar sees a ball in the grass. “Try push­ing it!” says Crick­et. Oscar learns that the ball rolls slow­ly in grass and faster on a path, until it bounces off a tree and changes direc­tion. Some things need a push to move, and oth­ers use their mus­cles to move them­selves — and to move plen­ty of oth­er things, too.

Quick as a Cricket

 

Quick as a Crick­et
writ­ten by Audrey Wood
illus­trat­ed by Don Wood
Child’s Play Library, 1982.

I’m as quick as a crick­et, I’m as slow as a snail. I’m as small as an ant, I’m as large as a whale.” The young child plays with imag­i­na­tion and words, illus­trat­ed with fun and ram­bunc­tious inter­pre­ta­tion.

FROGS

Frog and Toad Are Friends

 

CLASSIC
Frog and Toad Are Friends
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Arnold Lobel
Harper­Collins, 1970.

The beloved tale of two friends who are always there for each oth­er, whether it’s find­ing a lost but­ton or going swim­ming or writ­ing let­ters.

The Frog Book

 

The Frog Book
writ­ten by Robin Page
illus­trat­ed by Steve Jenk­ins
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2019

With more than 5,000 dif­fer­ent frog species on the plan­et, in every col­or of the rain­bow and a vast num­ber of vivid pat­terns, no crea­tures are more fas­ci­nat­ing to learn about or look at. Jenk­ins and Page present a stun­ning array of these intrigu­ing amphib­ians and the many amaz­ing adap­ta­tions they have made to sur­vive. An excel­lent non­fic­tion pic­ture book.

It's Mine!

 

It’s Mine!
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Leo Leon­ni
Scholas­tic, 1986

Three frogs con­stant­ly fight and bick­er over who gets to eat the lat­est hap­less insect. But a toad and a storm help them real­ize that there are mer­its to shar­ing.

GIRAFFES

Giraffes

 

Giraffes
writ­ten by Lin­da Marsh
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Read­ers, 2016

A true book, with inter­est­ing facts and teach­ing points for begin­ning read­ers. Giraffes are fas­ci­nat­ing crea­tures. The text and pho­tos in this book are engag­ing and mem­o­rable.

Giraffes Can't Dance

 

Giraffes Can’t Dance
writ­ten by Giles Andreae
illus­trat­ed by Guy Park­er-Rees
Orchard Books, 2001

Ger­ald the giraffe is excit­ed to go to the dance but the oth­er ani­mals tell him he can’t dance because he has knob­by knees and skin­ny legs and he’ll look sil­ly. Ger­ald slinks away, unhap­py, until a kind voice tells him to dance to a dif­fer­ent song. Soon Ger­ald is danc­ing so beau­ti­ful­ly that the oth­er ani­mals gath­er to watch and admire.

Stay Close to Mama

 

Stay Close to Mama
writ­ten by Toni Buzzeo
illus­trat­ed by Mike Wohnout­ka
Dis­ney / Hype­r­i­on, 2012

Twiga is curi­ous and wants to explore, but Mama knows about the dan­gers of the savan­nah and wants to pro­tect lit­tle Twiga. An excel­lent read-aloud with engag­ing illus­tra­tions.

HAWKS

Hawk Rising

 

Hawk Ris­ing
writ­ten by Maria Gian­fer­rari
illus­trat­ed by Bri­an Flo­ca
Roar­ing Brook Press, 2018

A father red-tailed hawk hunts prey for his fam­i­ly in a sub­ur­ban neigh­bor­hood in this thrilling, fierce non­fic­tion pic­ture book. Infor­ma­tive book writ­ten in sen­so­ry, poet­ic, per­cep­tive text with Bri­an Floca’s stun­ning illus­tra­tions.

Tale of Pale Male

 

Tale of Pale Male: a True Sto­ry
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Jeanette Win­ter
Har­court, 2007

When a red-tailed hawk makes its nest on top of a New York City apart­ment build­ing, the res­i­dents remove the nest, pro­test­ers raise their voic­es, and even­tu­al­ly bird­ers rejoice.

Birds of Prey

 

Birds of Prey: Hawks, Eagles, Fal­cons,
and Vul­tures of North Amer­i­ca
writ­ten by Pete Dunne, with Kevin T. Karl­son
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2017

A book of nature writ­ing that dou­bles as a field guide, this is a well-researched and ‑writ­ten book with accom­pa­ny­ing pho­tos.

HIPPOPOTAMUSES

Mama for Owen

 

A Mama for Owen
writ­ten by Mar­i­on Dane Bauer
illus­trat­ed by John But­ler
Simon & Schus­ter, 2007

When an African baby hip­po is sep­a­rat­ed from its moth­er dur­ing the Indi­an Ocean Tsuna­mi of 2004, it bonds with a giant tor­toise. This is a gen­tle per­spec­tive on the true sto­ry.

I've Lost My Hiippopotamus

 

I’ve Lost My Hip­popota­mus
poems by Jack Pre­lut­sky
illus­trat­ed by Jack­ie Urbanovic
Green­wil­low, 2012

Short, rhyth­mic poems about ani­mals that are ide­al for ear­ly read­ers.

How to Clean a Hippopotamus

 

How to Clean a Hip­popota­mus:
A Look at Unusu­al Ani­mal Part­ner­ships
writ­ten by Robin Page
illus­trat­ed by Steve Jenk­ins
HMH Books for Younger Read­ers, 2010

A non­fic­tion book about ani­mal sym­bio­sis, fea­tur­ing the hip­popota­mus as well as oth­er ani­mals.

Saving Fiona

 

Sav­ing Fiona:
The Sto­ry of the World’s Most Famous Baby Hip­po
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Thane May­nard
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2018

The sto­ry of the first pre­ma­ture baby hip­po born in cap­tiv­i­ty, raised at the Cincin­nati Zoo & Botan­i­cal Gar­den.

George and Martha

 

CLASSIC
George and Martha
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by James Mar­shall
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 1972

Legions of fans love these sto­ries about two hip­pos who rev­el in being friends.

HORSES

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

 

The Girl Who Loved Wild Hors­es
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Paul Gob­le
Atheneum, 2001

Though she is fond of her peo­ple, a girl prefers to live among the wild hors­es where she is tru­ly hap­py and free.

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

 

Leroy Ninker Sad­dles Up
writ­ten by Kate DiCamil­lo
illus­trat­ed by Chris Van Dusen
Can­dlewick Press, 2014

Leroy Ninker has all the trap­pings of a cow­boy, but he doesn’t have a horse. Then he meets May­belline, a horse who loves spaghet­ti and hav­ing sweet noth­ings whis­pered in her ear. Will their rela­tion­ship mean an end to Leroy’s lone­li­ness?

Misty of Chincoteague

 

CLASSIC
Misty of Chin­coteague
writ­ten by Mar­garet Hen­ry
illus­trat­ed by Wes­ley Den­nis
Rand McNal­ly, 1947

On the island of Chin­coteague off the coasts of Vir­ginia and Mary­land lives a cen­turies-old band of wild ponies. Among them is the most mys­te­ri­ous of all, Phan­tom, a rarely seen mare that eludes all efforts to cap­ture her — that is, until a young boy and girl lay eyes on her and deter­mine that they can’t live with­out her.

Rosie's Magic Horse

 

Rosie’s Mag­ic Horse
writ­ten by Rus­sell Hoban
illus­trat­ed by Quentin Blake
Can­dlewick Press, 2013

Rosie puts a dis­card ice-pop stick into a box, but the stick wants to be some­thing! When Rosie dreams of a horse named Stick­eri­no, the ice-pop stick trans­forms, gal­lop­ing out of the box. “Where to?” he asks. “Any­where with trea­sure!”

JELLYFISH

I Am Jellyfish

 

I Am Jel­ly­fish
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Ruth Paul
Pen­guin, 2018

Jel­ly­fish is chased into the ocean depths by Shark. Shark is attached by Squid. Who will save Shark? Jel­ly­fish!

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish

 

Peanut But­ter and Jel­ly­fish
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Jar­rett J. Krosocz­ka
Knopf, 2014

Peanut But­ter, a sea­horse, and Jel­ly­fish are best friends. Crab­by is NOT their best friend. But when Crab­by gets into trou­ble, will Peanut But­ter and Jel­ly­fish help? Of course they will.

The Thing about Jellyfish

 

The Thing About Jel­ly­fish
writ­ten by Ali Ben­jamin
Lit­tle, Brown, 2015

For a mid­dle grade read­er: Suzi con­vinces her­self that her friend Fran­ny drowned because she was stung by a rare jel­ly­fish. Suzi explores her the­o­ry and comes to real­ize many truths that make it pos­si­ble for her to grow past her grief and remorse.

LARKS

Ostrich and Lark

 

Ostrich and Lark
writ­ten by Mar­i­lyn Nel­son
illus­trat­ed by the San artists of Botswana
Boyds Mills Press, 2012

This pic­ture book about an unlike­ly friend­ship is the result of col­lab­o­ra­tion between the award-win­ning poet Mar­i­lyn Nel­son and the San artists of Botswana. The sto­ry, which cap­tures the feel of a tra­di­tion­al African folk­tale, is brought to life with vibrant illus­tra­tions inspired by the ancient rock paint­ings of the San people’s ances­tors.

LIONS

Deadliest Animals

 

Dead­liest Ani­mals
writ­ten by Melis­sa Stew­art
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Children’s Books, 2011

Fas­ci­nat­ing facts about the most threat­en­ing ani­mals in the world, includ­ing lions, writ­ten on an ear­ly read­er lev­el.

Eli

 

Eli
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Bill Peet
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 1978

A decrepit lion despis­es a vul­ture, but he soon learns about friend­ship from his pesky vis­i­tor.

Library Lion

 

Library Lion
writ­ten by Michelle Knud­sen
illus­trat­ed by Kevin Hawkes
Can­dlewick Press, 2006

Miss Mer­ri­weath­er is a librar­i­an with a lot of rules for her library. When a lion appears one day, there isn’t a rule to cov­er it. What will they do? The lion res­cues the library, which finds a place for him.

Lion and the Mouse

 

The Lion and the Mouse
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Jer­ry Pinkney
Lit­tle, Brown Books, 2009

A book about a devel­op­ing friend­ship between an unlike­ly pair, with ele­ments of fam­i­ly bonds woven into the famil­iar fable. African ani­mals are beau­ti­ful­ly depict­ed in the Calde­cott-win­ning illus­tra­tions for this book.

SHARKS

Great White Shark Adventure

 

Great White Shark Adven­ture
writ­ten by James O. Fraioli and Fabi­en Cousteau
illus­trat­ed by Joe St. Pierre
Mar­garet K. McElder­ry Books, 2019

Graph­ic nov­el. Junior explor­ers Bel­la and Mar­cus join famed explor­er Fabi­en Cousteau and his research team as they embark on an ocean jour­ney off the coast of South Africa, where the world’s largest con­cen­tra­tions of great white sharks are found. Their mis­sion is to inves­ti­gate a sight­ing of a mas­sive white shark and tag it so they can track and pro­tect it. 

If Sharks DIsappeared

 

If Sharks Dis­ap­peared
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Lily Williams
Roar­ing Brook Press, 2017

Even though sharks can be scary, we need them to keep the oceans healthy. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, due to over­fish­ing, many shark species are in dan­ger of extinc­tion, and that can cause big prob­lems in the oceans and even on land.

Shark vs Train

 

Shark vs Train
writ­ten by Chris Bar­ton
illus­trat­ed by Tom Licht­en­held
Lit­tle, Brown, 2010

Smack talk­ing, Shark and Train are pit­ted against each oth­er in this wild and crazy book about what would help them gain suprema­cy in a vari­ety of sit­u­a­tions. Fun!

SNAILS

The Biggest House in the World

 

CLASSIC
The Biggest House in the World
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Leo Lion­ni
Knopf, 1968

A young snail is deter­mined to have the biggest shell in the world until his father tells him a gen­tle fable about the respon­si­bil­i­ty and weight of car­ry­ing around that type of shell.

The End of the Beginning

 

The End of the Begin­ning:
Being the Adven­tures of a Small Snail
(and an Even Small­er Ant)
writ­ten by Avi
illus­trat­ed by Tri­cia Tusa
Har­court, 2004

Avon the snail sets out on an adven­ture because that’s what every­one does. They encounter a drag­on in dis­guise, the begin­ning of the sky, and a mag­ic cas­tle. Along the way, they dis­cov­er friend­ship. It’s a great read-aloud for kinder­garten and up.

The Snail and the Whale

 

The Snail and the Whale
writ­ten by Julia Don­ald­son
illus­trat­ed by Axel Schef­fler
Dial Books, 2004

A tiny snail and a hump­back whale set out to trav­el the world, explor­ing the oceans, under­wa­ter caves, and the skies. When the whale is strand­ed on the beach, will the snail be able to save him?

SPIDERS

Charlotte's Web

 

CLASSIC
Charlotte’s Web
writ­ten by E.B. White
illus­trat­ed by Garth Williams
Harp­er & Bros, 1952

Some Pig. Hum­ble. Radi­ant.These are the words in Char­lot­te’s web, high up in Zuck­er­man’s barn. Char­lot­te’s spi­der­web tells of her feel­ings for a lit­tle pig named Wilbur, who sim­ply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur’s life when he was born the runt of his lit­ter.

Spiders

 

Spi­ders
writ­ten by Lau­ra Marsh
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Children’s Books, 2011

Spi­ders are every­where. And there are so many kinds of spi­ders! Some red, some blue, yel­low, and more … all fas­ci­nat­ing. Amaz­ing pho­tog­ra­phy and easy-to-under­stand text makes Spi­ders a hit.

Very Busy Spider

 

CLASSIC
Very Busy Spi­der
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Eric Car­le
Philomel, 1985

Ear­ly one morn­ing a lit­tle spi­der spins her web on a fence post. One by one, the ani­mals of the near­by farm try to dis­tract her, yet the busy lit­tle spi­der keeps dili­gent­ly at her work. When she is done, she is able to show every­one that not only is her cre­ation quite beau­ti­ful, it is also quite use­ful!

WHALES

Amos & Boris

 

CLASSIC
Amos & Boris
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by William Steig
Far­rar, Straus and Giroux, 1971

Amos the mouse and Boris the whale: a devot­ed pair of friends with noth­ing at all in com­mon, except good hearts and a will­ing­ness to help their fel­low mam­mal. They meet after Amos sets out to sail the sea and finds him­self in extreme need of res­cue. And there will come a day, long after Boris has gone back to a life at sea and Amos has gone back to life on dry land, when the tiny mouse must find a way to res­cue the great whale.

Breathe

 

Breathe
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Scott Magoon
Simon & Schus­ter, 2004

A good book for young chil­dren, this looks at the life of a baby whale who ven­tures out on his own for the first time, engag­ing in adven­tures, and return­ing home to his mom.

Whales

 

Whales
writ­ten by Sey­mour Simon
Collins, 2006

This non­fic­tion book is full of infor­ma­tion about cows, calves, feed­ing, habi­tat, and the 90 species of whales around the world. From a mas­ter researcher and writer of non­fic­tion for young read­ers.

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Constance Van Hoven and Her Reading Team
February 2019

For this addi­tion to our Rais­ing Star Read­ers fea­ture, we’re delight­ed to be show­cas­ing anoth­er new Star Read­er: Baby Nikhil was just 2 months old when he joined the Read­ing Team that also includes his grand­moth­er Con­stance Van Hov­en (Con­nie) and his big sis­ter Priya (2). The team was cel­e­brat­ing Connie’s first oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet her new grand­son, who lives with his fam­i­ly in Col­orado.

Constance Van Hoven and her grandchildren

Priya, “Gigi,” and baby Nikhil share their first read-aloud togeth­er.

Con­nie (or Gigi, as she is known to her grand­chil­dren) chose Owl Babies, writ­ten by Mar­tin Wad­dell and illus­trat­ed by Patrick Ben­son, as the team’s first read-togeth­er title. Con­nie notes that the book is gen­tle and reas­sur­ing and adds “who does­n’t love owls?” She also says that new big sis­ter, Priya, enjoyed point­ing out each owl sib­ling on every page and that she cheered when their Owl Moth­er returned to the nest. Nikhil clear­ly sensed some­thing good was hap­pen­ing, because he stayed awake for two read­ings! Of course, Con­nie admits that their spon­ta­neous “whooo-whooo-whooo’s” also helped keep his atten­tion. Con­nie comes from a fam­i­ly of bird­ers, so she is espe­cial­ly hap­py to share that love and antic­i­pates read­ing this book with them many times in the future.

_______________________

We here at Bookol­o­gy wish Con­nie, Priya, and Nikhil many won­der­ful hours of read­ing and owl-hoot­ing togeth­er! We espe­cial­ly look for­ward to a pho­to of the three of them enjoy­ing Connie’s newest pic­ture book when it is pub­lished next year. If you would like us to fea­ture your Read­ing Team, con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion about how to par­tic­i­pate.

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Brenda Sederberg and Her Reading Team
February 2019

Sylvie and Gram

Sylvie and Gram begin a read-aloud tra­di­tion togeth­er.

For this addi­tion to our new Rais­ing Star Read­ers fea­ture, we’re hon­ored to be show­cas­ing a brand-new Star Read­er: Baby Sylvie was only two days old when this pho­to was tak­en! She’s pic­tured with Gram (Bren­da Seder­berg), as the two of them share Debra Frasier’s clas­sic pic­ture book On the Day You Were Born at Sylvie’s home in Duluth, Min­neso­ta. The mile­stone they were cel­e­brat­ing was, of course, Sylvie’s safe entry into the world.

Bren­da is a retired ele­men­tary teacher with a pas­sion for chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. When she retired, she didn’t take much else from her class­room, but she did bring home 24 box­es of books! They are now on shelves in her home, and she takes cer­tain ones out to read to vis­it­ing chil­dren and now her new grand­daugh­ter as well. Bren­da also reads in a 4th grade class each week and belongs to the Duluth branch of Bookol­o­gy’s Chap­ter & Verse Book Clubs, which meets at the Book­store at Fitger’s. 

Sylvie is now five months old and Bren­da cares for her two days a week. They read togeth­er each time. This is impor­tant to Bren­da, being a teacher, and know­ing the impor­tance of books. Her wish for her grand­daugh­ter is to grow up with a love of read­ing, and Bren­da is delight­ed to report that Sylvie is already lis­ten­ing and focused.

_______________________

We here at Bookol­o­gy wish Bren­da and Sylvie many, many hap­py hours of read­ing togeth­er, and we look for­ward to shar­ing oth­er mile­stones with their Read­ing Team in the future. If you would like us to fea­ture your Read­ing Team, con­tact Lisa Bullard. She can answer ques­tions and pro­vide fur­ther infor­ma­tion about how to par­tic­i­pate.

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Bookstorm™: The Stuff of Stars

The Stuff of StarsBefore the uni­verse was formed, before time and space exist­ed, there was … noth­ing. But then … BANG! Stars caught fire and burned so long that they explod­ed, fling­ing star­dust every­where. And the ash of those stars turned into plan­ets. Into our Earth. And into us. In a poet­ic text, Mar­i­on Dane Bauer takes read­ers from the tril­lionth of a sec­ond when our uni­verse was born to the sin­gu­lar­i­ties that became each one of us, while vivid illus­tra­tions by Ekua Holmes cap­ture the void before the Big Bang and the ensu­ing life that burst across galax­ies. A seam­less blend of sci­ence and art, this pic­ture book reveals the com­po­si­tion of our world and beyond — and how we are all the stuff of stars.

The Stuff of Stars is an ide­al book for home, read­ing aloud, life cel­e­bra­tions, and as a way to begin dis­cus­sions about sci­ence.

In the class­room and library, The Stuff of Stars is a a poet­ic and breath­tak­ing­ly beau­ti­ful way to open sci­ence units about ani­mals, the earth, out­er space, human beings, and evo­lu­tion. It will ignite imag­i­na­tions when used as a men­tor text for poet­ry units.

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book. You’ll find books, arti­cles, web­sites, and videos for a vari­ety of tastes and inter­ests.  

Downloadables

 

 

You’ll find more infor­ma­tion about Mar­i­on Dane Bauer and Ekua Holmes on their web­sites.

BOOKSTORM TOPICS

Ani­mals of the Earth. The author and illus­tra­tor include many ani­mals in The Stuff of Stars, from hip­popota­mus­es to hors­es to larks. Look close­ly for them in Ekua Holmes’ illus­tra­tions. Use The Stuff of Stars to begin your learn­ing about ani­mals every­where.

Babies. Babies and old­er chil­dren (and adults) love books about babies. The Stuff of Stars is a cel­e­bra­tion of birth. You’ll enjoy explor­ing these books.

Human Body. How amaz­ing our bod­ies are! We rec­om­mend books that will help you talk in age-appro­pri­ate ways about the won­ders of human beings.

Mar­bling. Illus­tra­tor Ekua Holmes uses a paper mar­bling techh­nique to begin her art for The Stuff of Stars … and then she lifts that art­form to a new lev­el. Per­haps you’d like to try paper mar­bling in a class­room or after school set­ting?

Our Earth. From Todd Par­r’s The Earth Book to Lisa Bullard’s Earth Day Every Day to Oliv­er Jef­fers’ Here We Are: Notes for Liv­ing on Plan­et Earth, you’ll find inspi­ra­tion for study­ing fas­ci­nat­ing aspects of our home plan­et.

Our Uni­verse is Born / Evo­lu­tion. We offer a num­ber of books that will bring sci­en­tif­ic the­o­ries of evo­lu­tion into sharp­er focus. How was our uni­verse born?

Plan­ets and Stars. A web­site with a star wheel, a video demon­strat­ing how to use a star chart, and sev­er­al excel­lent books will help you along your way to nav­i­gat­ing the plan­ets and the stars.

Poet­ry. Mar­i­on Dane Bauer’s poem can be used as a men­tor text in your class­room, along with books on show­cased sub­jects by Dou­glas Flo­ri­an, Joseph Bruchac, Lau­ra Pur­die Salas, and more.

Resources for Adults. The author was orig­i­nal­ly inspired by Carl Sagan’s “Cos­mos.” That book and sev­er­al oth­ers are rec­om­mend­ed.

Let us know how you are mak­ing use of this Book­storm™. Share your ideas and any oth­er books you’d add to this Book­storm™.

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Deb Andries and Her Reading Teams
January 2019

We’re delight­ed to fea­ture Bookol­o­gy fol­low­er Deb Andries and her grand­chil­dren to kick off our new Rais­ing Star Read­ers col­umn! The column’s goal is to show­case dif­fer­ent Read­ing Teams as they read togeth­er dur­ing mile­stone cel­e­bra­tions.

Reading The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Grayson, Gram­my, and Fin­ley share The Polar Express by Chris Van Alls­burg (HMH Books for Young Read­ers).

Deb, a.k.a. “Gram­my,” was able to enjoy two mile­stone read-togeth­ers to kick off her Christ­mas sea­son. In the pho­to above, Gram­my shares The Polar Express, by Chris Van Alls­burg, with grand­sons Grayson (5) and Fin­ley (3) in Wis­con­sin. In the pho­to below, she shares the same book with grand­daugh­ter Emmer­syn (5) in Min­neso­ta.

Emmersyn and Grammy share a read-aloud tradition.

Emmer­syn and Gram­my share a read-aloud tra­di­tion.

Deb told Bookol­o­gy about the spe­cial rit­u­als her fam­i­ly enjoys as they read this hol­i­day favorite togeth­er every year: “All three grand­chil­dren know the sto­ry and have favorite pages on which we linger and share our thoughts. We also keep our bells in our pock­ets or close by to ring at the end of the sto­ry. My orig­i­nal bell is as old as the book pub­li­ca­tion as that’s when I start­ed read­ing it with my daugh­ters!”

Deb is a retired ele­men­tary teacher and lit­er­a­cy coach of 35 years from Min­neso­ta. Cur­rent­ly, she is a Nation­al Lit­er­a­cy Con­sul­tant for Bench­mark Edu­ca­tion Co. She talks about the impor­tance of books in the life of her fam­i­ly: “Time togeth­er with these spe­cial peo­ple in my life is cher­ished. We all have book­shelves in our homes, and at each vis­it, whether that’s for a day, or a week­end, we make time to cel­e­brate spe­cial books togeth­er. Some­times, we read the same ones over and over, and oth­er times, there’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to read a new trea­sure!”

_______________________

We here at Bookol­o­gy look for­ward to shar­ing oth­er read-togeth­er mile­stones with Deb and her Read­ing Teams in the com­ing years! And if you would like us to fea­ture your Read­ing Team, con­tact Lisa Bullard. She can answer ques­tions and pro­vide fur­ther infor­ma­tion about how to par­tic­i­pate.

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The Stuff of Stars

I’ve been anx­ious­ly await­ing the book birth of The Stuff of Stars by Mar­i­on Dane Bauer, illus­trat­ed by Ekua Holmes. I heard the text a year ago and for­got to breathe while the author read it out loud. And then I heard who the illus­tra­tor was. Let’s just say, what a pair­ing!

When I opened my much antic­i­pat­ed copy — after oohing and aaahing over the cov­er — and read the first page, I heard cel­lo. A deep deep cel­lo note, under the words.

In the dark,

in the dark,

in the deep, deep dark…. 

As I con­tin­ued to read, I con­tin­ued to hear cel­lo music — almost a synes­the­sia kind of expe­ri­ence, though thor­ough­ly explained, I sup­pose, by my intense love of cel­lo.

And so, when it came time to read it to an audi­ence — sto­ry­time in wor­ship at church — I con­tact­ed a won­der­ful cel­list in our midst and asked if she was the sort of per­son who liked to impro­vise, draw­ing pic­tures with her cel­lo, etc. She is that sort of per­son, luck­i­ly enough. I emailed her the text and she emailed back her excite­ment.  I said, “Wait ‘til you see the art….” (She gasped when she saw the art.)

I gave her com­plete artis­tic free­dom. We agreed to meet before church to run through it a cou­ple of times. I sat so she could see the pic­tures as I read. We ran through it twice — dif­fer­ent both times. Won­der­ful both times. We did it anoth­er two times in each of our church’s ser­vices — dif­fer­ent those times, too, and won­der­ful in all new ways because the kids were lis­ten­ing.

She’s an extreme­ly tal­ent­ed musi­cian work­ing on a degree in com­po­si­tion — obvi­ous­ly not every­one could do this. But it was just glo­ri­ous, my friends.

She played how “the cloud of gas unfold­ed, unfurled, zigged, zagged, stretched, col­lid­ed, expand­ed…expand­edexpand­ed….” My heart near­ly burst when she played that expan­sion. The chil­dren sat rapt, their eyes wide at the  col­laged mar­bled papers illus­trat­ing the first moments of our cos­mos.

The cel­lo illus­trat­ed for our ears how the star­ry stuff turned into “mito­chon­dria, jel­ly­fish, spi­ders…” It helped us hear the ferns and sharks, daisies and gal­lop­ing hors­es. The gal­lop­ing hors­es were fan­tas­tic. 

When the dark refrain returned…

…one day…

in the dark,

in the dark,

in the deep, deep dark… 

…so did that low low note on the cel­lo. The chil­dren noticed. Their heads turned to look at the cello…and then back at the mar­bled dark­ness in the book.

It was pow­er­ful.

The Stuff of Stars is pow­er­ful with­out cel­lo music, I assure you. I’ve since read it to young and old alike with­out accom­pa­ni­ment, and it’s a delight­ful — I will even say holy—expe­ri­ence every time. If you’ve not seen this book, you must! Pick up a few copies — it makes a won­der­ful new baby or birth­day gift;  for the sto­ry of the birth of the cos­mos moves to the birth of our planet…and then to the birth of the indi­vid­ual child “spe­cial as Love.”

We need more books like this one — books that hold togeth­er won­der, sci­ence, awe, love, and our place in nature along­side the inevitable ten­sions of life. We need gor­geous books for chil­dren. Too much of the world is ugly right now. Chil­dren need beau­ty, sto­ries, and art. They need to hear:

You

   and me

      lov­ing you.

          All of us

              The stuff of stars.

 

For fur­ther read­ing, I high­ly rec­om­mend the fol­low­ing:

Mar­i­on Dane Bauer inter­views her illus­tra­tor, Ekua Holmes.

The writ­ing process for The Stuff of Stars.

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Marion Dane Bauer

Mar­i­on Dane Bauer and her books are respect­ed and loved by chil­dren, par­ents, edu­ca­tors, librar­i­ans, edi­tors, and writ­ers. She began her career as a nov­el­ist, turn­ing to pic­ture books lat­er in her career. Cel­e­brat­ing the release of her newest pic­ture book, the charm­ing Win­ter Dance, we were curi­ous about how she writes these short books so we asked! And this long-time teacher of oth­er writ­ers pro­vid­ed heart­felt answers.

Marion Dane Bauer

Mar­i­on Dane Bauer (pho­to cred­it: Kather­ine Warde)

If You Were Born a KittenWhen you sit down to write a pic­ture book, what has inspired you?

Some­times I begin with an idea I want to share.  If You Were Born a Kit­ten, for instance, comes out of my very impas­sioned belief that the mir­a­cle of birth is hid­den from most young chil­dren in our soci­ety — from most of us, real­ly.  I want­ed to cel­e­brate birth in a way that would show it both as mir­a­cle and as part of our sol­id, every­day real­i­ty. 

Some­times the con­cept comes from some­thing I read or some­thing some­one says to me. Win­ter Dance came from an editor’s say­ing, “What about cel­e­brat­ing the first snow?” 

But the actu­al pic­ture book begins, always, with lan­guage.  I can’t even begin to flesh out my idea until the open­ing line is singing in my head.

The Longest NightDo you know the end­ing of your pic­ture book before you begin to write?

I always know the end of a nov­el before I begin to write, and if a pic­ture book is a sto­ry, I know the end of that, too. So when I began writ­ing The Longest Night, I knew before I put down the first word that the lit­tle chick­adee would bring back the sun. When I write con­cept books, though, like How Do I Love You?, I have to find my end­ing in the play­ing out of the lan­guage.

Do you write with a spe­cif­ic child in mind?

I write always for a child, and in the case of pic­ture books for the adult who will be shar­ing the book, but I have no par­tic­u­lar child in my heart … except maybe the small child I was so many years ago.

Do you envi­sion the illus­tra­tions while you are writ­ing?

I envi­sion space for the illus­tra­tions, which is a very dif­fer­ent thing. I don’t think what the illus­tra­tions will depict, specif­i­cal­ly, and I cer­tain­ly don’t think about what they will look like. That’s the artist’s ter­ri­to­ry. But I make sure I have cre­at­ed an active chang­ing world for the illus­tra­tor to take hold of.

How much do you con­sid­er the lev­el of the reader’s vocab­u­lary when you write a pic­ture book?

Hon­est­ly? Not at all. Because pic­ture books are usu­al­ly read to a child rather than by the child, I nev­er con­sid­er vocab­u­lary. Some­times a total­ly new word is, in itself, a kind of enchant­ment for a child. Think of Peter Rab­bit for whom let­tuce had a “soporif­ic” effect! No, I’ve nev­er used the word soporif­ic or any­thing like it, but isn’t it a won­der­ful­ly res­o­nant word? 

I should add, though, that there is one basic rule I use with all of my writ­ing.  I believe the best word in any piece of writ­ing for any audi­ence is always the sim­plest one.  Some­times, though, that best word might just hap­pen to be soporif­ic.

Winter DanceDo you ever begin a pic­ture book feel­ing at a loss for how to write it?

Yes, and when I do I always stop, set it aside, give it time. When it begins to sing to me—if it begins to sing to me — then there will be no more loss.

Win­ter Dance, my newest pic­ture book, actu­al­ly began with an editor’s com­mit­ting to a pic­ture book I had writ­ten about spring.  For a com­pli­cat­ed series of rea­sons the text the edi­tor con­tract­ed had to be altered sub­stan­tial­ly, and dur­ing that process, my drafts got far­ther and far­ther away from any­thing the edi­tor want­ed.  I men­tioned ear­li­er, it was the edi­tor who final­ly came up with the idea that I write about the first snow instead.  Great idea, but first I had to find my fox, and I had to dis­cov­er that fox­es mate in win­ter so he would have a rea­son to rejoice over snow.  And then, of course, I had to find the song to car­ry him through.

What is the word length you aim for in a pic­ture book?

A max­i­mum of 450 words.  Even that can be too long for some books. 

You were best known for your nov­els for mid­dle grade and teen read­ers. What influ­enced you to try a dif­fer­ent book form for a dif­fer­ent read­er?

The truth is I always want­ed to write pic­ture books. In the begin­ning, I sim­ply didn’t know how to write them, even though I had read them end­less­ly to my own chil­dren and to var­i­ous fos­ter chil­dren in my home. Pic­ture books are a bit tech­ni­cal to learn, and I had no one to teach me. In fact, I start­ed out try­ing to write pic­ture books and dis­cov­ered I didn’t know what I was doing. So I moved on and found it eas­i­er, not know­ing what I was doing, to mud­dle through a nov­el. 

The oth­er piece, though, was that my first edi­tor, at a time when we  writ­ers were owned by our first edi­tors, said to me when I showed him what I thought was a pic­ture-book man­u­script, “Mar­i­on, you are not a pic­ture book writer.” Now, he could legit­i­mate­ly have said, “Mar­i­on, that’s not a pic­ture book.” Because it wasn’t. But even when the pub­lish­ing world opened up and I did learn and began pub­lish­ing suc­cess­ful pic­ture books with oth­er hous­es, he refused to alter his vision of me as only a nov­el­ist. So I have him to thank for my career get­ting estab­lished in nov­els. Pic­ture books are so much fun, if he had been open to younger work from me, I prob­a­bly would have been off play­ing with pic­ture books much soon­er.

___________________

Thank you, Mar­i­on, for shar­ing your thoughts about pic­ture books in such an instruc­tive way. We’re always hap­py to learn from you.

Learn more about Mar­i­on Dane Bauer.

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On Growing Older … Old

Growing OlderWhy is “old­er” an accept­able word and “old” almost for­bid­den?

To answer my own ques­tion, I sup­pose it’s because we’re all grow­ing old­er, even the four-year-old next door. But old … ah, old smacks of incom­pe­tence, of irrel­e­vance. Even worse, old smacks of that tru­ly obscene-to-our-soci­ety word … death.

I am approach­ing my birth­day month. It won’t be a “big” divid­able-by-five birth­day, but still one that feels sig­nif­i­cant for the num­ber it stands close to. I will be 79 next month.

Can you name the num­ber?

Forty didn’t trou­ble me a bit. I had a friend, sev­er­al years old­er than I, who, when I turned forty, said, “Forty is such a fine age. It’s the first num­ber you reach that has any author­i­ty, but you still feel so young.” And she was right! I sailed into 40 feel­ing mature, con­fi­dent … and still young.

Six­ty-five slipped past with­out much fan­fare. As a work­ing writer I wasn’t fac­ing retire­ment, after all. More­over, I could sign up for Social Secu­ri­ty and Medicare, and for the self-employed that is no small thing. I’d been pay­ing in, both the employ­ee and the employ­er side, for a long time, and at last it was going to come back to me. Giv­en the dif­fi­cul­ty and expense of buy­ing health insur­ance that isn’t hand­ed down through an employ­er, being able to get Medicare was an even big­ger deal. (I will nev­er under­stand the flap in this coun­try about “social­ized med­i­cine.” That’s what Medicare is, and it works! It works bet­ter than any oth­er pay-for-care sys­tem this back­ward sys­tem offers.)

When I turned sev­en­ty my daugh­ter threw me a big par­ty … at my request, I should add. It was a love­ly par­ty, and it exhaust­ed me. Most­ly it remind­ed me that I’ve nev­er liked par­ties.

I won’t ask you to do that again,” I said.

She, who has always been a lov­ing and will­ing daugh­ter, said, “Good!”

But this is 79! And yes, I might as well name the num­ber. Eighty is a very short hop, skip and hob­ble down the road!

It’s the first time I find myself fac­ing changes in my body that I know I don’t have the pow­er to fix. Not that I’ve giv­en up try­ing. I walk vig­or­ous­ly two of three times a day. I do Pilates three times a week. I stretch and I med­i­tate and I eat health­ful­ly and I prac­tice excel­lent sleep hygiene. Actu­al­ly, my sleep hygiene is bet­ter and more reli­able than my sleep. But my body con­tin­ues on its ever-so-pre­dictable down­ward tra­jec­to­ry.

From time to time, bits fall off.

And my mind? That’s hard­er to define and even hard­er to talk about. I can still pro­duce a work­able man­u­script. I can still offer a use­ful cri­tique of some­one else’s man­u­script, too. But I find myself too often going back to the refrig­er­a­tor to locate the eggs I’ve just set out on the counter or strug­gling in the evening to remem­ber some detail of what I’ve done that morn­ing.

My omelets still please the palate, though, and I’ve shown up wher­ev­er I was expect­ed to be in the morn­ing and done what­ev­er I said I would do.

Arriv­ing at a place called old in this cul­ture is a mat­ter for some amaze­ment. Who is ever pre­pared? After all, old has nev­er been some­thing to aspire to … despite the alter­na­tive. A friend said recent­ly, “I went from wolf whis­tles to invis­i­bil­i­ty in a heart­beat.” And I went from “cut­ting-edge” to “vet­er­an author” in the same incom­pre­hen­si­bly short time.

I find I want more than any­thing else to use these years I’ve been gift­ed, how­ev­er many or few they may be. I want to use them to deep­en my accep­tance of my own life, blun­ders and accom­plish­ments all. I want to use them to enrich the peace my pres­ence brings to a room.

I want to use these years to live. Not just to move through my days stack­ing accom­plish­ments, one on top of anoth­er. I have enough of those. We all have enough of those.

I want to use these years to breathe, deeply and mind­ful­ly. And now, being old, I want use these final years to be grate­ful for every, every breath.

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Knowing My Own Mind

There are times when I don’t know my own mind. Worse, there are times when I think I know my mind per­fect­ly well and then find an entire­ly dif­fer­ent mind on a lat­er vis­it to my opin­ions.

Which feels almost as though I have no mind at all.

Some time ago one of my favorite writ­ers came out with a new nov­el. I had been wait­ing for her next book for years, so, of course, I signed up to have it pop into my elec­tron­ic read­er at the first oppor­tu­ni­ty. It did, and I read it eager­ly.

I was dis­ap­point­ed. Pro­found­ly.

It wasn’t that the nov­el was bad­ly writ­ten. This author isn’t capa­ble of bad writ­ing. It was just that I didn’t care about the peo­ple she explored so deeply. And even know­ing their com­plex­i­ties, one lay­er exposed after anoth­er, didn’t make me want to spend time with them.

I didn’t have to wait near­ly so long for her next book. This time, though, I read it with cau­tion, with my new­ly acquired dis­con­tent. (Once burned.) This nov­el was … okay. But I wasn’t in love. I had been in love with her ear­ly nov­els. Besot­ted, real­ly.

Now anoth­er book is out. In a series of inter­wo­ven short sto­ries my once-favorite author explored many of the char­ac­ters from the pre­vi­ous nov­el, the one I didn’t dis­like but that had nev­er quite cap­tured me.

And before I had quite decid­ed to do so, I had fin­ished the lat­est offer­ing and gone back to reread the pre­vi­ous nov­el. The okay one. And I found myself reread­ing the book I had been so tepid about with new respect, even full-blown appre­ci­a­tion. Obvi­ous­ly, the book hadn’t changed on the page.

Next I intend to return to the first book that dis­ap­point­ed me. Will the change in me, what­ev­er caused it, now make room for that one, too?

As some­one who has for many years men­tored my fel­low writ­ers, I find myself won­der­ing. Is my opin­ion any more reli­able, any less emo­tion­al­ly based when I am eval­u­at­ing a man­u­script than it is when I approach a pub­lished nov­el?

When I cri­tique a man­u­script I always try, if I pos­si­bly can, to read it twice. Some­times a strong­ly held opin­ion from my first read­ing dis­solves on the sec­ond. When that hap­pens, I usu­al­ly trust the sec­ond read­ing. And, espe­cial­ly if it’s a long man­u­script, I rarely risk a third.

Is noth­ing in my mind sol­id, cer­tain? Are my opin­ions based on any­thing except emo­tion? Is all the log­ic in the world sim­ply some­thing I pile around me to jus­ti­fy my mood?

When I’m respond­ing to pub­lished work and the opin­ions I hold are only my own, the ques­tion is mere­ly a mat­ter of curios­i­ty. Some­thing to take out and won­der at in won­der­ing moments. How sol­id is this thing I think of as self with all its sup­port­ing frame­work of opin­ion?

When I’m respond­ing to a man­u­script-in-process, the ques­tion is one of pro­found respon­si­bil­i­ty. My opin­ion will impact anoth­er person’s work. And what if my response is, indeed, a prod­uct of my mood? What harm might I do to a piece of writ­ing in the name of help­ing?

The ques­tion is even more dis­con­cert­ing when I face my own work. Some days I am utter­ly con­fi­dent of this new nov­el I’m peck­ing away at. Oth­ers I’m equal­ly con­vinced that my entire premise is bogus.

I have long known that noth­ing impacts my writ­ing out­put more than my con­fi­dence. If I’m cer­tain that this piece I’m work­ing on is tru­ly good and I’m lov­ing writ­ing it, the words flow. (The true val­ue of what I pro­duce is a mat­ter for lat­er dis­cern­ment, my own and oth­ers.) When I doubt myself, each word arrives after a slog through mud.

How I wish there were a reli­able way to keep my writ­ing flow­ing, to keep my soul brim­ming with con­fi­dence.

Emo­tions are slip­pery, often hard to rec­og­nize and name, cer­tain­ly impos­si­ble to keep march­ing in a straight line, and yet I’m con­vinced this sup­pos­ed­ly log­ic-dri­ven world is more accu­rate­ly an emo­tion-dri­ven one.

It’s a scary thought!

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End Cap: Little Cat’s Luck

Little Cat's LuckWe hope you enjoyed read­ing Lit­tle Cat’s Luck as much as we did. Did­n’t Mar­i­on Dane Bauer and Jen­nifer A. Bell cap­ture the nature of cats and dogs well? If you love puz­zles and games, we hope you have a good time solv­ing this Word Search. 

Sim­ply use your mouse or touch pad to draw a line over your found words and the pro­gram will mark them off for you. Words can be found for­wards, back­wards, hor­i­zon­tal­ly, ver­ti­cal­ly, and diag­o­nal­ly. As you find a word, it will be high­light­ed on the board and it will dis­ap­pear from the word list.

Have fun!

Hid­den Words

Puz­zle by mypuzzle.org
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Jennifer A. Bell

Jennifer A. BellIn this inter­view with Jen­nifer A. Bell, illus­tra­tor of many endear­ing books, we’ve asked about the process of illus­trat­ing Lit­tle Cat’s Luck, our Book­storm™ this month, writ­ten for sec­ond, third, and fourth graders as a read-aloud or indi­vid­ual read­ing books.Jennifer was also the illus­tra­tor for Mar­i­on Dane Bauer’s ear­li­er nov­el-in-verse, Lit­tle Dog, Lost.

What media and tools did you use to cre­ate the soft illus­tra­tions in Lit­tle Cat’s Luck?

These illus­tra­tions were ren­dered in pen­cil and fin­ished in Adobe Pho­to­shop.

Little Cat's LuckDo you use real ani­mals for mod­els? Are they ani­mals you know?

I do have a cat. I find Google image search­es to be a bit more help­ful when I need to find details of dif­fer­ent ani­mal breeds or spe­cif­ic pos­es.

How are the deci­sions you make about draw­ing in black-and-white dif­fer­ent than those you make about draw­ing in col­or?

I love work­ing in black-and-white. I get to nar­row my focus onto light­ing, val­ue con­trast, and tex­tures. It’s much faster than work­ing in col­or. Col­or adds anoth­er lay­er of deci­sion-mak­ing and can make things more com­pli­cat­ed.

Little Dog Lost

The cov­ers for Lit­tle Cat’s Luck and Lit­tle Dog, Lost are so vibrant­ly col­ored. Do you get to choose the col­or palette for the cov­ers or are you asked to use those col­ors?

Ini­tial­ly, I had sub­mit­ted many cov­er sketch­es for Lit­tle Dog, Lost. Most of them were moody night­time scenes with the excep­tion of a day­time park sketch. Simon and Schus­ter thought that image worked the best and we went from there. That cov­er went through many revi­sions. The dog changed, the com­po­si­tion was adjust­ed, and the col­ors got brighter and brighter. When we start­ed work­ing on Lit­tle Cat’s Luck the cov­er need­ed to look dif­fer­ent than the dog book but still coör­di­nate.

Little Dog, LostHow did you inter­act with the art direc­tor for these books?

There was a lot of back and forth on the cov­ers but I had more free­dom work­ing on the inte­ri­or illus­tra­tions. I had a set num­ber of illus­tra­tions to come up with and they set me loose with the man­u­script. The art direc­tor then used my sketch­es to lay out the book. Once they could see how it all came togeth­er we made some adjust­ments and I was able to work on the final art­work.

When does the book design­er get into the process?

The art direc­tors for these books were also the design­ers.

What does the book design­er do beyond what you’ve already done?

So much! They design the cov­er and book jack­et. They choose the fonts. They pag­i­nate the text and illus­tra­tions and pre­pare the book to be print­ed.

___________________________________________

Jen­nifer, thank you for tak­ing the time to share these insights into your work with our read­ers. One of the rea­sons we fell in love with both Patch­es and Gus, and with Bud­dy in Lit­tle Dog, Lost, is because you have such a deft way with char­ac­ter­i­za­tion.

For use with your stu­dents, Mar­i­on’s web­site includes a book trail­er, a social-emo­tion­al learn­ing guide, and a teach­ing guide that you’ll find use­ful as you incor­po­rate this book into your plan­ning.

Read more...

Marion Dane Bauer

Marion Dane BauerIn this inter­view with Mar­i­on Dane Bauer, we’re ask­ing about her nov­el-in-verse, Lit­tle Cat’s Luck, our Book­storm™ this month, writ­ten for sec­ond, third, and fourth graders as a read-aloud or indi­vid­ual read­ing books. It’s a good com­pan­ion to her ear­li­er nov­el-in-verse, Lit­tle Dog, Lost.

 When the idea for this sto­ry came to you, was it a seed or a full-grown set of char­ac­ters and a sto­ry­line?

I began by sit­ting down to write anoth­er Lit­tle Dog, Lost, but not with the same char­ac­ters, so it was eas­i­est to start with a cat. When I begin a sto­ry, any sto­ry, I always know three things: who my main char­ac­ter will be, what prob­lem she will be strug­gling with (know­ing the prob­lem, of course, includes know­ing about the story’s antag­o­nist, in this case “the mean­est dog in town), and what a res­o­lu­tion will feel like. So I knew Patch­es would be lost and I knew she would encounter “the mean­est dog in town” and I knew she and Gus must be believ­able friends in the end. I wasn’t sure, though, how their friend­ship would evolve. So I sent her out the win­dow after that gold­en leaf and then wait­ed to see what would hap­pen.

Little Cat's LuckYou’ve stat­ed that Lit­tle Cat’s Luck is a “com­pan­ion book” for your ear­li­er nov­el-in-verse, Lit­tle Dog, Lost. What does that term mean to you?

It’s not a sequel, because it’s not the same char­ac­ters or the same place (though it’s anoth­er small town). I have how­ev­er writ­ten it in the same man­ner — a sto­ry told in verse through a nar­ra­tor — which gives it the same kind of feel. The same artist, Jen­nifer Bell, did the illus­tra­tions, too. Each book stands alone, but they could also be read side-by-side, com­pared and enjoyed togeth­er. One sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence is that Lit­tle Cat’s Luck is entire­ly devot­ed to the world of the ani­mals where Lit­tle Dog, Lost is focused more on the humans. In Lit­tle Cat’s Luck we see the humans only tan­gen­tial­ly as they affect the ani­mals, and because the ani­mals stand at the cen­ter of the sto­ry I allow them to con­verse with one anoth­er. That doesn’t hap­pen from the human per­spec­tive of Lit­tle Dog, Lost.

When you’re writ­ing ani­mal char­ac­ters, which you do so well, from where are you draw­ing knowl­edge of their behav­ior?

I have always had ani­mals in my life, cats when I was a child, both dogs and cats as an adult, though in recent years I’ve grown some­what aller­gic to cats so no longer have them in my home. But I have lived with dogs and cats, paid close atten­tion to them, loved them all my life, and when I turn to them as char­ac­ters in a sto­ry I know exact­ly how they will be. In fact, since I can’t cud­dle real cats any longer with­out end­ing up with itchy eyes, I found deep plea­sure in bring­ing Patch­es to life on the page.

In cre­at­ing Patch­es, you’ve imbued her with char­ac­ter­is­tics and dia­logue that could be iden­ti­fied as human and yet you’ve main­tained her ani­mal nature. At what part of your process did you find your­self watch­ing for that bor­der between human and ani­mal?

RuntThe moment I give an ani­mal human speech, I have vio­lat­ed its ani­mal nature. We are who we are as humans pre­cise­ly because we talk, and we do it con­stant­ly, with good and bad results. We con­verse to under­stand one anoth­er, and we call one anoth­er names. In sto­ries it can be very dif­fi­cult to hold onto the ani­mal nature of a dog or cat while human words are com­ing from their mouths. When I wrote my nov­el Runt, about a wolf pup, I chose to give the ani­mals speech, fol­low­ing the pat­tern of mar­velous writ­ers such as Felix Salten, the author of Bam­bi, a Life in the Woods. And while that was a very inten­tion­al choice, it was a choice I found myself not want­i­ng to repeat when I con­sid­ered writ­ing a sequel to Runt. I returned to my wolf research in prepa­ra­tion for writ­ing that sec­ond book and found myself so impressed with the sub­tle, com­plex ways wolves actu­al­ly com­mu­ni­cate with one anoth­er that I put the idea for a sequel aside. I found I didn’t want to put speech into their mouths again. How­ev­er, when I wrote Lit­tle Cat’s Luck I put that con­cern aside eas­i­ly, part­ly I sup­pose because cats are domes­ti­cat­ed ani­mals, so speech felt less a vio­la­tion. I gave them roles that are famil­iar in our human world, too, for Patch­es be a moth­er and for Gus to be a hurt­ing bul­ly, which made it easy to know what they might say. Through­out, though, I retained their ani­mal nature by stay­ing close to their phys­i­cal­i­ty. Describ­ing the way they move and the things they do with their bod­ies kept their ani­mal natures in view.

Gus, the dog, is at once the “mean­est dog in town” and the char­ac­ter who earns the most sym­pa­thy and admi­ra­tion from read­ers. Was the “vil­lain” of your sto­ry always this dog? Did he become more or less mean dur­ing your revi­sion process?

Gus was always the vil­lain, and he always start­ed out mean. In fact, I didn’t know how mean he could be until he took pos­ses­sion of those kit­tens … and then of Patch­es her­self! But by that time I under­stood Gus, under­stood the need his pain — and thus his mean­ness — came from, and thus knew he was act­ing out of des­per­a­tion, not out of a desire to hurt. So that meant my sto­ry could find a rea­son­able and believ­able solu­tion, that Patch­es, the all-lov­ing, all-wise moth­er, could suc­ceed in reform­ing “the mean­est dog in town.”

How con­scious are you of your read­ers, their age and read­ing abil­i­ty, when you’re writ­ing a nov­el like Lit­tle Cat’s Luck or Lit­tle Dog, Lost?

Little Dog, LostWhen I’m writ­ing, I’m focused on my sto­ry and my char­ac­ters, not my read­ers. I hope there will be read­ers one day, of course, but I’m writ­ing through my char­ac­ters, through my sto­ry with­out giv­ing much thought for what will hap­pen to it out in the world. If I can inhab­it my sto­ry well, and if my sto­ry comes out of my young read­ers’ world, it will serve them. How­ev­er, read­ing abil­i­ty is anoth­er mat­ter, and one I must take into con­sid­er­a­tion. I have writ­ten many books for devel­op­ing read­ers, and I love the kinds of sto­ries that work for young read­ers, so I have loved writ­ing them. I wrote a series of books for Step­ping Stones aimed at devel­op­ing read­ers, ghost sto­ries The Blue Ghost, The Red Ghost, etc., The Secret of the Paint­ed House, The Very Lit­tle Princess, and more. And they were a great plea­sure to write. But after I time I grew rest­less over hav­ing to write in short sen­tences to make the read­ing man­age­able for those still devel­op­ing their skills. So when I came to write Lit­tle Dog, Lost, I said to myself, What if I wrote in verse? If I did that, the bite-sized lines would make it eas­i­er to read, and I wouldn’t have to alter the nat­ur­al flow of my style. I did it, and it seemed to work, not just for review­ers and the adults who care about kids’ books, but for my young read­ers them­selves. And I have been very hap­py with hav­ing dis­cov­ered a new — for me — way of pre­sent­ing a sto­ry. That’s why I decid­ed to do Lit­tle Cat’s Luck in the same way.

Lit­tle Dog, Lost was your first nov­el-in-verse. With Lit­tle Cat’s Luck, are you feel­ing com­fort­able with the form or do you feel there are more chal­lenges to con­quer?

I was much more com­fort­able with the form with Lit­tle Cat’s Luck. When I start­ed Lit­tle Dog, Lost I felt ten­ta­tive. Could I real­ly do this? Would any­one want it if I did? Was I just divid­ing prose into short lines or was I tru­ly writ­ing verse? So many ques­tions. But after a time, I grew to love the form, and when I was ready to start again with a new sto­ry, I knew verse was the right choice. The one change I brought to verse form in Lit­tle Cat’s Luck is that this time I began exper­i­ment­ing with con­crete verse, let­ting a word fall down the page when it described falling, curl when Patch­es curls into a nap and more. That was fun, too, but the chal­lenge was to play with the shape of the words on the page with­out mak­ing deci­pher­ing more dif­fi­cult for young read­ers. I’m guess­ing there will be more dis­cov­er­ies ahead if I return to this form.

Little Cat's Luck concrete poetry

Do you think visu­al­ly or pri­mar­i­ly in words?

Total­ly through words. Absolute­ly and total­ly. In fact, when I receive the first art for one of my pic­ture books, I always go through the entire thing read­ing the text. And then I say to myself, “Oh, I’m sup­posed to be look­ing at the pic­tures!” and I go back to look. I didn’t have to prompt myself to be more visu­al, though, to play with the con­crete poet­ry. Once I’d start­ed doing it, oppor­tu­ni­ties to do more kept pop­ping up, so even though I was using only words my think­ing became more visu­al.

What is the most impor­tant idea you’d like to share with teach­ers and librar­i­ans about Patch­es and Bud­dy that you hope they’ll take with them to their stu­dents and patrons?

Little Cat's Luck by Jennifer A. BellI believe that the most impor­tant thing a sto­ry does, any sto­ry, is to make us feel. By inhab­it­ing a sto­ry, liv­ing through it, we are trans­formed in some small — or some­times large — way. I know that when sto­ries are used in the class­room, they are used for mul­ti­ple pur­pos­es, and that is as it should be, but I hope adults pre­sent­ing Patch­es and Bud­dy will first let the chil­dren expe­ri­ence the boy, the dog, the cat, will let them feel their sto­ries from the inside. After the sto­ries have been expe­ri­enced, as sto­ries, there is plen­ty of time to use those words on the page for vocab­u­lary lessons or as a prompt for chil­dren to write their own verse sto­ries or any­thing else they might be use­ful for. But always, I hope, the sto­ry will be first.

____________________________________________

Thank you, Mar­i­on, for shar­ing your thoughts and writ­ing jour­ney with us. 

For use with your stu­dents, Mar­i­on’s web­site includes a book trail­er, a social-emo­tion­al learn­ing guide, and a teach­ing guide that you’ll find use­ful as you incor­po­rate this book into your plan­ning.

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Bookstorm™: Little Cat’s Luck

 

Little Cat's Luck

Little Cat's LuckMany peo­ple love cats. You might be one of them. Many chil­dren con­sid­er their cat or their dog to be one of the fam­i­ly. Mar­i­on Dane Bauer under­stands that. She wrote Lit­tle Cat’s Luck, the sto­ry of Patch­es, a cat, and Gus, the mean­est dog in town, out of her deep affin­i­ty for both cats and dogs. You can tell. These are real ani­mals who have adven­tures, chal­lenges, and feel­ings that read­ers will avid­ly fol­low … and under­stand. Writ­ten as a nov­el-in-verse with charm­ing use of con­crete poet­ry, Lit­tle Cat’s Luck is a book that will inter­est both avid read­ers and those still gain­ing con­fi­dence.

We are pleased to fea­ture Lit­tle Cat’s Luck as our March book selec­tion, writ­ten by the per­cep­tive Mar­i­on Dane Bauer and illus­trat­ed by the play­ful Jen­nifer A. Bell, sto­ry­tellers both.

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book. You’ll find books for a vari­ety of tastes and inter­ests. This month, we’re focus­ing on books for pri­ma­ry grade read­ers. We’ve includ­ed some books for adults with back­ground infor­ma­tion about cats, infor­ma­tion texts, nar­ra­tive non­fic­tion, and plen­ty of mem­o­rable cat char­ac­ters. 

Downloadables

 

 

Don’t miss the excep­tion­al resources on the author’s web­site. There’s a book trail­er, a social-emo­tion­al learn­ing guide, and a teach­ing guide that you’ll find use­ful as you incor­po­rate this book into your plan­ning.

BOOKSTORM TOPICS

Mem­o­rable Cat Char­ac­ters. You may know and love these books but have your read­ers been intro­duced to Macav­i­ty, Pete the Cat, the Cat in the Hat, Atti­cus McClaw? From pic­ture books to ear­ly read­ers to mid­dle grade nov­els, there’s a wide range of books here for every taste.

Friend­ship. There have been excel­lent books pub­lished about ani­mals who are friends, many you would­n’t expect, both as fic­tion­al sto­ries and true sto­ries.

Smart Ani­mals. Do you know the true sto­ry of Alex the Par­rot? Or how smart an octo­pus is? Do you know what ani­mals think and feel? There are books here that will amaze you and deep­en your appre­ci­a­tion for ani­mals and birds.

Car­ing for Ani­mals. These fic­tion­al books are good dis­cus­sion starters for the respon­si­bil­i­ty of hav­ing an ani­mal pet, espe­cial­ly a cat. 

Spir­it of Adven­ture. Ani­mal adven­tures have been favorites ever since Jack Lon­don pub­lished Call of the Wild. These are some of the best sto­ries, just like Lit­tle Cat’s Luck and Lit­tle Dog, Lost.

Ani­mal Moth­ers and Their Off­spring. How do ani­mals care for their young? We’ve includ­ed a cou­ple of books that will fas­ci­nate young read­ers.

The Truth about Cats. From The Cat Ency­clo­pe­dia to How to Speak Cat, these are infor­ma­tion texts filled with facts. Good choic­es for your stu­dents’ book bins.

Best of all? There are so many good books about cats!

Let us know how you are mak­ing use of this Book­storm™. Share your ideas and any oth­er books you’d add to this Book­storm™.

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Marion Dane Bauer: Animals in Stories, Animals in the World

11_24_puppyby Mar­i­on Dane Bauer

Who doesn’t love a pup­py? Well, admit­ted­ly there are some folks who don’t, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing how dif­fi­cult both ends of such crea­tures are to keep under con­trol. So let’s rephrase the ques­tion: Who doesn’t love a pup­py in a children’s sto­ry? Or even a frog or a toad, for that mat­ter?

Some­thing hap­pens to a sto­ry when it is pop­u­lat­ed by ani­mals, some­thing easy to feel but dif­fi­cult to define. Per­haps it’s what a sales rep for one of my pub­lish­ers once referred to as “the aw fac­tor,” not awe but aw-w-w‑w! He pre­dict­ed my upcom­ing pic­ture book would be suc­cess­ful because it had “the aw fac­tor.”

Ani­mal char­ac­ters are so com­plete­ly them­selves, so utter­ly with­out lay­ers or com­pli­ca­tions. The big, bad wolf will always be big and bad. Lassie will always faith­ful and true, mak­ing her way home. And we respond to each with our whole hearts, hat­ing or lov­ing.

I once had a stu­dent, a mature woman, who refused to read any sto­ry that threat­ened injury or death to an ani­mal, no mat­ter how well writ­ten, no mat­ter how well earned the story’s trau­mat­ic action might be. But that same read­er was not in the least offend­ed by On My Hon­or, my nov­el in which a child dies. I sus­pect she is not alone in her response.

11_24RuntTo take her side, at least for a moment, I’ll admit it is entire­ly too easy to elic­it tears through an animal’s death, espe­cial­ly when the ani­mal is some­what periph­er­al to the sto­ry. I used such a plot device myself in a long-ago nov­el, Rain of Fire. Per­haps, were I to rewrite that sto­ry, I would still decide to kill the fic­tion­al cat, though I’m aware these days of my own increas­ing cau­tion about such dramatic/traumatic plot turns. In part that may be because I have learned to employ more sub­tle devices. Maybe the shift has come, too, from grow­ing old­er and want­i­ng the world around me to be a bit … well, gen­tler, I guess.

In Runt, my nov­el in which the char­ac­ters are mem­bers of a wolf pack, ani­mals die, too, and the deaths are affect­ing. The dif­fer­ence, how­ev­er, is that I entered the sto­ry know­ing some death must occur if I intend­ed to rep­re­sent accu­rate­ly the real­i­ty of the wolves’ lives. And as with any oth­er strong action, to be effec­tive — to be dra­ma rather than melo­dra­ma — the plot moment must rise out of the neces­si­ty of the char­ac­ters, not be imposed from on high.

11_24MamaOwenBut what about the pic­ture-book lamb that goes out into the world and gets lost from his moth­er, the sto­ry I demand­ed be read to me again and again and again when I was a preschool­er? Or the baby hip­po who is sep­a­rat­ed from his pod dur­ing a tsuna­mi and ends up bond­ing with a giant male tor­toise, his real-life sto­ry pre­sent­ed in my pic­ture book, A Mama for Owen? Or what about anoth­er of my pic­ture books, If You Were Born a Kit­ten, in which I lead up to a pre­sen­ta­tion of a child’s birth through first depict­ing the births of var­i­ous ani­mals? How does the ani­mal nature of the char­ac­ters impact us as read­ers?

11_24Little-CatAni­mals, the liv­ing ones as well as those that rise off the page, seem to call forth a puri­ty of response from us. They cap­ture our whole hearts: Jane Goodall’s chimps, the dog who lies at my feet as I write this, the lit­tle cat moth­er in my upcom­ing verse nov­el, Lit­tle Cat’s Luck. They all touch into the most ten­der, the most human part of our­selves.

And because they are so ful­ly them­selves, we become more ful­ly who we are capa­ble of being, car­ing, gen­er­ous, grate­ful.

Blessed to share our plan­et — and our sto­ries — with oth­er species.

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Bookstorm™: Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall

Untamed Bookstorm

Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane GoodallThis month, we are pleased to fea­ture Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, writ­ten by Ani­ta Sil­vey, with pho­tographs and book designed by the incred­i­ble team at Nation­al Geo­graph­ic. This book is not only fas­ci­nat­ing to read, it’s a beau­ti­ful read­ing expe­ri­ence as well.

It’s not often that a book offers us a glimpse into the child­hood of a woman who has fol­lowed a brave, and car­ing, career path, but also fol­lows her through more than 50 years in that cho­sen pro­fes­sion, describ­ing her work, dis­cov­er­ies, and her pas­sion for the mam­mals with whom she works. I learned so much I did­n’t know about Dr. Goodall and her chim­panzees, Africa, field work, and how one moves peo­ple to sup­port one’s cause.

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book. For Untamed, you’ll find books for a vari­ety of tastes and inter­ests. The book will be com­fort­ably read by ages 9 through adult. We’ve includ­ed fic­tion and non­fic­tion, pic­ture books, mid­dle grade books, and books adults will find inter­est­ing. A num­ber of the books are by Dr. Jane Goodall her­self — she’s a pro­lif­ic writer. We’ve also includ­ed books about teach­ing sci­ence, as well as videos, and arti­cles acces­si­ble on the inter­net.

Jane Goodall and Her Research. From Me … Jane, the pic­ture by Patrick McDon­nell about Jane Goodal­l’s child­hood, to Jane Goodall: the Woman Who Rede­fined Man by Dale Peter­son, there are a num­ber of acces­si­ble books for every type of read­er.

Pri­mate Research. We’ve includ­ed non­fic­tion books such as Pamela S. Turn­er’s Goril­la Doc­tors and Jim Otta­viani and Maris Wick­’s Pri­mates, a graph­ic nov­el about the three women who devot­ed so much of their loves to study­ing pri­mates: Jane Goodall, Dian Fos­sey, and Biruté Galdikas.

Chim­panzees. Dr. Goodal­l’s research is specif­i­cal­ly about chim­panzees so com­pan­ion books such as Michele Colon’s Ter­mites on a Stick and Dr. Goodal­l’s Chim­panzees I Love: Sav­ing Their World and Ours are sug­gest­ed.

Fic­tion. Many excel­lent nov­els have been writ­ten about pri­mates and Africa and con­ser­va­tion, rang­ing from real­ism to sci­ence fic­tion and a nov­el based on a true sto­ry. Among our list, you’ll find Lin­da Sue Park’s A Long to Water and Eva by Peter Dick­in­son and The One and Only Ivan by Kather­ine Apple­gate.

World-Chang­ing Women and Women Sci­en­tists. Here you’ll find pic­ture book biogra­phies, longer non­fic­tion books, and col­lec­tions of short biogra­phies such as Girls Think of Every­thing by Cather­ine Thimmesh, Silk & Ven­om by Kathryn Lasky, and Rad Amer­i­can Women: A to Z by Kate Schatz.

Africa. The titles about, or set on, this con­ti­nent are numer­ous. Learn­ing About Africa by Robin Koontz pro­vides a use­ful and cur­rent intro­duc­tion to the con­ti­nent. We also looked for books by authors who were born in or lived for a while in an African coun­try; Next Stop — Zanz­ibar! by Niki Daly and Mag­ic Gourd by Coret­ta Scott King Hon­oree Baba Wague Diakiteare are includ­ed in this sec­tion.

Ani­mal Friend­ships. Chil­dren and adults alike crave these sto­ries about unlike­ly friend­ships between ani­mals who don’t nor­mal­ly hang around togeth­er. From Cather­ine Thimmesh’s Friends: True Sto­ries of Extra­or­di­nary Ani­mal Friend­ships to Mar­i­on Dane Bauer’s A Mama for Owen, you’ll be charmed by these books.

Ani­mals In Dan­ger of Extinc­tion. We’ve includ­ed only two books in this cat­e­go­ry but both of them should be stars in your book­talks. Count­ing Lions by Katie Cot­ton, illus­trat­ed by Stephen Wal­ton, is a stun­ning book — do find it! Dr. Goodall con­tributes a mov­ing book, Hope for Ani­mals and Their World: How Endan­gered Species Are Being Res­cued from the Brink.

Teach­ing Sci­ence. If you’re work­ing with young chil­dren in grades K through 2, you’ll want Per­fect Pairs by Melis­sa Stew­art and Nan­cy Ches­ley. For old­er stu­dents in grades 3 through 6, Pic­ture-Per­fect Sci­ence Lessons will inspire you.

Let us know how you are mak­ing use of this Book­storm™. Share your ideas and any oth­er books you’d add to this Book­storm™.

Downloadables

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Turtles in Children’s Literature

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

TurtleTimeline_July

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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.

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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!

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Leroy Ninker Saddles Up! Companion Booktalks

Let these help you get start­ed on the Book­storm™ books:

Actual SizeActu­al Size, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Steve Jenk­ins

  • Ani­mal parts or whole ani­mals shown in actu­al size (a squid’s eye!)
  • Try to guess the ani­mal by look­ing at just one part
  • Ide­al for com­par­ing and con­trast­ing


Bill PicketBill Pick­et: Rodeo-Ridin’ Cow­boy,
 writ­ten by Andrea Pinkney, illus­trat­ed by Bri­an Pinkney

  • True sto­ry of an African-Amer­i­can rodeo star
  • You won’t believe his trick for qui­et­ing bulls and calves
  • Biog­ra­phy of a true-life action super­hero


Black Cowboys, Wild HorsesBlack Cow­boy, Wild Hors­es,
 writ­ten by Julius Lester, illus­trat­ed by Jer­ry Pinkney

  • True sto­ry about one of the many African-Amer­i­can cow­boys
  • Find all the cam­ou­flaged crit­ters!
  • Hors­es galore!


Cowboy UpCow­boy Up! Ride the Nava­jo Rodeo
, writ­ten by Nan­cy Bo Flood, pho­tographs by Jan Son­nemair

  • You’ve heard of buckin’ bron­cos — how about buckin’ sheep?
  • Pho­tos of chil­dren and teens of the Nava­jo Nation par­tic­i­pat­ing in all the events
  • Poet­ry, pho­tos, and prose make you feel part of the action


Cowgirl KateCow­girl Kate and Cocoa,
 writ­ten by Eri­ca Sil­ver­man, illus­trat­ed by Bet­sy Lewin

  • Easy read­er with four stand-alone chap­ters
  • A girl with her very own horse
  • Kate and her con­trary horse get into all sorts of trou­ble


FriendsFriends: True Sto­ries of Extra­or­di­nary Ani­mal Friend­ships,
writ­ten by Cather­ine Thimmesh

  • Friend­ships between ani­mals of dif­fer­ent species — some are very unusu­al ani­mals
  • What hap­pens to injured wild ani­mals? Learn about ani­mal reha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ters
  • Entic­ing, imme­di­ate pho­tographs


Horse SongHorse Song: the Naadam of Mon­go­lia, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Ted and Bet­sy Lewin

  • Based on the authors’ own vis­it to Mon­go­lia
  • Young read­ers will love rid­ing into com­pe­ti­tion with 9 year-old jock­ey Tamir
  • Illus­tra­tions bring the Naadam fes­ti­val to life


In the Days of the VaquerosIn the Days of the Vaque­ros,
writ­ten by Rus­sell Freed­man

  • Who were the first cow­boys in the Amer­i­c­as? How were they dif­fer­ent from the cow­boys in movies?
  • Find out why Cal­i­for­nia Vaque­ros would las­so and cap­ture griz­zly bears
  • Great mate­r­i­al for a report


Just the Right SizeJust the Right Size,
writ­ten by Nico­la Davies, illus­trat­ed by Neal Lay­ton

  • Why can’t there be a real King Kong?
  • Why can geck­oes climb on ceil­ings and humans can’t?
  • Have fun with math (and the car­toon illus­tra­tions) to find the answers


Leroy NinkerLeroy Ninker Sad­dles Up
, writ­ten by Kate DiCamil­lo, illus­trat­ed by Chris Van Dusen

  • A scary storm, a search for a lost friend, a cel­e­bra­tion with friends — excit­ing action
  • Sil­ly char­ac­ters and their tongue-twisty, fun­ny dia­logue
  • First book in a com­pan­ion series to the author’s Mer­cy Wat­son books — plen­ty more read­ing for eager read­ers


Name JarThe Name Jar
, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Yang­sook Choi

  • Class­room sto­ry about young Kore­an immi­grant Unhei’s dilem­ma: should she choose an Amer­i­can name?
  • Warm, sim­ple illus­tra­tions that evoke all the emo­tions and humor
  • Top­ic of “Your name” makes a won­der­ful dis­cus­sion and writ­ing prompt


RainstormRain­storm,
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Bar­bara Lehman.

  • What do you think about on a rainy day?
  • Min­gles a boy’s real and imag­ined world in a sto­ry with­out words
  • Calde­cott Hon­or author/illustrator

 

Ready Steady SpaghettiReady Steady Spaghet­ti, by Lucy Broad­hurst

  • Cook­book with col­or­ful and engag­ing pho­tographs — wow fac­tor
  • Uncom­pli­cat­ed recipes for a range of food – veg­e­tar­i­an, desserts, snacks, and more
  • Swamp Mud” looks deli­cious!


Star of Wild Horse CanyonStar of Wild Horse Canyon,
writ­ten by Clyde Robert Bul­la, illus­trat­ed by Grace Paull

  • Cap­tur­ing and tam­ing wild hors­es!
  • A mys­tery involv­ing a lost horse — can you solve it before Dan­ny does?
  • Why is the horse named Star?


WindWind
, writ­ten by Mar­i­on Dane Bauer, illus­trat­ed by John Wal­lace

  • All the facts about this unseen weath­er ele­ment — in text just right for begin­ning read­ers
  • Part of a set of four, also includ­ing Rain, Snow, and Clouds—great for first sci­ence reports
  • And just where does the wind come from?

 

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Peace

Peace is elu­sive. It is a goal of some peo­ple at some time in some parts of the world. As John Lennon wrote: “Imag­ine no pos­ses­sions / I won­der if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A broth­er­hood of man / Imag­ine all the peo­ple shar­ing all the world …” Is peace pos­si­ble?… more
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Sparking the flint

Chil­dren aren’t the only kids who get bored dur­ing the sum­mer. Teens are look­ing for some­thing to do in more sub­tle ways. If they’ve got the writ­ing bug … or if they don’t have it yet … you might tempt them with one or more of these books. You’ll find some­thing for every taste, with enough piz­zazz and enough detail to sat­is­fy the most reluc­tant and the most avid writ­ers-to-be.… more
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Bank Street’s 2010 Choices

We eager­ly await the annu­al list of books cho­sen by the Bank Street Col­lege of Edu­ca­tion as books that work well with chil­dren from birth to age 14. Each year, the Chil­dren’s Book Com­mit­tee reviews over 6000 titles each year for accu­ra­cy and lit­er­ary qual­i­ty and con­sid­ers their emo­tion­al impact on chil­dren. It choos­es the best 600 books, both fic­tion and non­fic­tion, which it lists accord­ing to age and cat­e­go­ry.… more
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Monday morning roundup

Hey, Joyce Sid­man, your new book, Ubiq­ui­tous, has done the Most Unusu­al … five starred reviews! In 2009, only 13 books received five starred reviews (if you’re curi­ous, check out the See­ing Stars 2009 doc­u­ment, stored on Radar, the CLN mem­bers’ home page). Book­list, The Horn Book, Kirkus Reviews, Pub­lish­ers Week­ly, and School Library Jour­nal all think so high­ly of this book, illus­trat­ed by Beck­ie Prange and pub­lished by Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, that they’ve giv­en Ubiq­ui­tous the cov­et­ed star.… more
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