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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.

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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!”

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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? Do we give up because there will always be peo­ple who want pow­er, mon­ey, land … or just plain don’t like the kid next door?… 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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