Friday, October 29, 2010

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Elementary Edition

Interrupting Chicken
by David Ezra Stein
Grades Preschool-Grade 2

Summary:

Little Red Chicken wants Papa to read her a bedtime story but interrupts him almost as soon as he begins each time.

Why you'll love it: 
  • A fun premise: Little Red Chicken interrupts the stories her father is reading to her, literally popping into them and truncating them to her satisfaction.
  • David Ezra Stein employs a variety of artwork styles to great effect: warm, expressive paintings show the cozy bedtime scene; sepia-toned, ink drawings (save for the brightly colored young chicken) depict the three classic fairy tales; and crayoned scenes with handwritten text illustrate what Little Red Chicken has penned to tell her father.



Chicken Big
by Keith Graves
Preschool-Grade 2

Summary:

A giant chicken hatches from an enormous egg, but the other chickens cannot accept that he is one of them.

Why you'll love it:
  • The little chickens reach ridiculous--and hilarious--conclusions as they notice Chicken Big's talents and traits. For instance, since Chicken Big is able to shelter the little ones from rain, he must be . . . an umbrella!
  • Elements of Chicken Little are sprinkled through the story. Kids will smile at the familiar refrain, "the sky is falling," in this new context.
  • Comic-book-like touches in the artwork, including the chickens' silly comments and reactions in speech bubbles, add to the fun.



Swim! Swim!
by Lerch
Preschool-Grade 1

Summary:

Lerch the fish is lonely, and after trying to befriend some unreceptive—and inanimate—objects, he finally succeeds in finding a friend.

Why you'll love it:
  • Lerch is one endearing fish! Readers will enjoy humorous moments, such as Lerch "talking bubble" to the bubbles and remarking that the hungry cat seems to "really like him."
  • James Proimos (writing and illustrating as Lerch) makes great use of format, sometimes splitting pages into comic-book-style panels, other times using full pages and spreads. His boldly outlined characters have huge eyes and are extremely expressive.
  • The simple text, consisting solely of dialogue incorporated into the illustrations as speech bubbles, is suitable for a young audience; the format and sly humor make the story substantial enough for beginning readers. 



Bink & Gollie
by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
Grades 1-3

Summary:

Two roller-skating best friends share three comical adventures involving outrageously bright socks, an impromptu trek to the Andes, and a most unlikely marvelous companion.

Why you'll love it:

  • Bink and Gollie are a tremendously appealing pair, and their friendship is full of give and take.
  • The somewhat stylized dialogue ("I must journey forth into the wider world . . ."), combined with childlike sentiments ("Putting on socks is hard work," said Bink. "I'm hungry."), make for a fun read-aloud.
  • Tony Fucile's background in animation is clear; every one of the girls' poses suggests movement. His delightful illustrations contain ample white space and backgrounds that are mostly grey and minimalistic, while the girls and selected details pop with color.



The Cat's Pajamas
by Wallace Edwards
Grades 1-3

Summary: 

Depicts twenty-six idioms--contextualized within a sentence--with illustrations that bring new meaning to each, and includes explanations of the sayings. 

Why you'll love it:

  • Each of Wallace Edwards's twenty-six tableaux depicts a different idiom, while an accompanying sentence uses the expression in a way that is simultaneously literal and figurative. For example, in one scene, a crab is knotting a giraffe's bow tie. The text reads, "Gerrard was terrible at tying bows, but Claudia could always be counted on in a pinch."
  • Imaginative, detailed illustrations encourage close study. Readers are invited to search for a hidden cat (some are easier to find than others!) in every scene.
  • A playful and clever approach to language that will appeal to fans of puzzles and brainteasers. 



Hallowilloween: Nefarious Silliness from Calef Brown
by Calef Brown
Grades 2-5

Summary:

A collection of poems celebrating Halloween, accompanied by acrylic illustrations featuring fanciful holiday scenes. 

Why you'll love it:
  • Calef Brown's rhymes are witty and mischievous. A mummy worries about his wrappings ("'What a bummer!' / the mummy cried, / 'Why oh why / was I so badly mummified!'"); a vampire becomes an umpire ("He only works night games. / His signals are creepy."); and some smartly dressed witches from Texas practice hexes "in comical conical ten-gallon hats."
  • Whimsical, folk-art-inspired illustrations perfectly match the poems' freewheeling, ebullient silliness.
  • Readers will laugh at a host of hilariously non-threatening creatures, from a ghostly waterspout known as the Poltergeyser to a Frankenstein look-alike that loves to decoupage. 



Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night
by Joyce Sidman
Grades 3-6

Summary:

A collection of poems that celebrate the wonder, mystery, and danger of the night and describes the many things that hide in the dark. 

Why you'll love it:
  • Elegant wordplay and vivid imagery draw the reader into the woods as seen by its nocturnal inhabitants. Joyce Sidman has a gift for engaging all five senses with her verse.
  • A memorable introduction to poetry, from playful rhyming and thoughtful free verse to the traditional Latin form of lamentation known as ubi sunt.
  • Each of the twelve poems is paired with fascinating factual information about the poem's focus.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

All Things Kid Lit: Art and Max

Picture Book Pick of the Week:
 

Art & Max
by David Wiesner
Published by Clarion Books (October 2010)

Three-time Caldecott medalist David Wiesner offers a playful, thought-provoking, and visually stunning look at the creative process. Full-color illustrations in acrylic, pastel, watercolor, and India ink.


From School Library Journal:

Underlying this tale of a feisty friendship between two lizards is a thought-provoking exploration of the creative process. Readers first encounter Arthur rendering a formal portrait of a stately reptile, one of several reacting to the unfolding drama in the desert. Frenetic Max dashes into the scene; he also wants to paint, but lacks ideas. Self-assured Art suggests, "Well…you could paint me." Max's literal response yields a more colorful Art, but the master's outrage causes his acrylic armor to shatter. His texture falls in fragments, leaving an undercoating of dusty pastels vulnerable to passing breezes. Each of Max's attempts to solve Art's problems leads to unexpected outcomes, until his mentor is reduced to an inked outline, one that ultimately unravels. Wiesner deftly uses panels and full spreads to take Max from his "aha" moment through the humorous and uncertain moments of reconstructing Art.


I really love Wiesner's books, especially the classic Tuesday. I'm very excited that this new book will be at the book fair that starts Thursday!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Books By Theme: Life on the Wrong Side of the Law

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession 
by Allison Hoover Bartlett

Is a thief less culpable if he steals for love rather than profit? John Gilkey has stolen more than $100,000 worth of rare books, a "hobby" that has landed him in jail on numerous occasions. Yet Gilkey pilfers books in order to build his own collection, believing that one day he'll be admired for what he's accumulated. In The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, author Allison Bartlett tells not just Gilkey's unusual story, but also that of Ken Saunders, the rare book dealer who has made it his personal quest to bring Gilkey to justice. 


Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief
by Bill Mason and Lee Gruenfeld

If the phrase "cat burglar" conjures up intriguing images of a Cary Grant-like thief breaking elegantly into the homes of the rich and famous, then Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief is a book for you. Bill Mason freely shares the dubious story of how he stole millions of dollars worth of jewelry from luminaries such as Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, and Johnny Weissmuller (though he returned Weissmuller's Olympic gold medal). In addition to discussing the details of his crimes, Mason also describes the toll his work took on his family, offers insight into the criminal justice system, and provides tips for deterring burglars.

Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History
by Helene Stapinski 

Those who love reading about highly dysfunctional families will find plenty of fodder in Helene Stapinski's memoir of a Jersey City family filled with all manner of middling crooks, from bookies and con artists to embezzlers and mobster-wannabes. Expanding upon the story of her own unsavory childhood, Stapinski also introduces readers to life in pre-renaissance Jersey City, where rampant crime and little punishment was a way of life for many residents. Fans of Five-Finger Discount will also enjoy All Souls: A Family Story from Southie by Michael Patrick McDonald.

Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War  
by T. J. Stiles 

Americans often romanticize outlaws of the Wild West, and Jesse James is no exception. Raised in Mississippi, James fought with a group of lawless Confederate guerillas in the Civil War before embarking on a crime spree through America's frontier. Though some have gone so far as to portray James as a Robin Hood figure, in Jesse James, author T. J. Stiles asserts that James should more accurately be called a terrorist; operating with a political agenda, James used the media to promote a distorted interpretation of his crimes. Kirkus Reviews calls Jesse James "a thoroughly impressive, eminently readable work of revisionist history."

~All summaries from NextReads~

~ For more themed book lists, check out Listless by One Librarian's Book Reviews and Listed by Once Upon a Bookshelf ~ 


Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Monstrosity Gazette: A weekly smattering of all things literary...

Quote of the Week

If information is the currency of democracy, then libraries are its banks.

-Wendell H. Ford



Today in Literary History...

On this day in 1930 Harold Pinter was born. The famous Pinter pause may have been learned as an only child in Hackney: at the age of eight or nine Pinter and a group of imaginary friends would gather in his back garden, where they "talked aloud and held conversations beyond the lilac tree." He also says he was deeply affected by being a child-evacuee during WWII: "'There was no fixed sense of being ... of being ... at all.'"

For more literary history, visit Today in Literature.




Segment in which I shamelessly pimp Etsy:


Edgar Allan Poe Collage Print


 
Book I'm eyeing this week:
by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
Algonquin, 2010
Nonfiction

Summary in a Sentence:
 
A handicapped woman finds unexpected pleasure in observing a snail as it resides first on her bedside table and then in a homemade terrarium.  

Read the Reviews:
 
 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Libraries in the News

Look, I would suggest you go from here directly to the library. Get a copy of the Bill of Rights and you’ll realize that everybody has a right to say what they want to say.

—New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, responding to a journalist asking why he supports the construction of an Islamic center several blocks from Ground Zero in Manhattan, “The Mayor, the Mosque, and Public Response,” New York Times: City Room Blog, August 18, 2010.




Rupert Grint chooses A Clockwork Orange
A Yahoo! News story informed its readers October 1 that “Rupert Grint (right) has risked upsetting parents of young Harry Potter fans—he’s urging them to read Anthony Burgess’s controversial novel A Clockwork Orange.” Grint did so by joining his costars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson to pose for a trio of Celebrity READ posters. ALA Marketing staff reports that the latest READ posters have created more buzz than any ALA poster in recent memory....
AL: Inside Scoop, Oct. 1; Yahoo! News, Oct. 1; ALA Graphics, Sept. 30

A Mad Men reading list
Books are no exception to the meticulous recreation of the 1960s advertising world in the AMC network series Mad Men—and one librarian has been paying attention. Billy Parrott, manager of the New York Public Library's Battery Park City branch, has compiled a “Mad Men Reading List” that includes such books as the paperback Betty Draper pored over in the bathtub while trying to soak away suspicions about Don’s cheating and the Japanese cultural-history tome that everyone in the agency is forced to read. But does Don Draper go to the library? “I like to think he does,” Parrott said....
New York Daily News, Oct. 3 


Top 10 most valuable children’s picture books
Travis Jonker writes: “I spent a good portion of my formative years reading price guides. I was fond of prematurely and obsessively counting my riches, checking price guides for the current going rate of my most valuable assets. These memories of my collecting past came flooding back to me when I stumbled upon a list of the most valuable picture books of all time. Let’s build the suspense a bit and count them down.”...
100 Scope Notes, Oct. 5; Children’s Picturebook Collecting



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

All Things Kid Lit: Even Monsters Need Haircuts

Picture Book Pick of the Week:

Even Monsters Need Haircuts
by Matthew McElligott
Published by Walker Books, 2010

At midnight, a barber's son opens his father's shop and welcomes Igor, Frankenstein, and a host of other monsters in need of a trim. Full-color illustrations created with ink, pencil, and digital techniques.



From School Library Journal:

The young narrator learns a lot from watching his barber dad in action–how to give a good haircut or trim, treat his clientele with respect, and give them what they want–even if the "regulars" are monsters. Literally. Once a month, Frankenstein, Cyclops, Vlad, Medusa, and others fill the barbershop chairs after midnight strikes, and the boy (who never breaks the rules and NEVER leaves the house alone) stands atop a ladder or chair, and–clad in monster slippers, pj's, and "shamp-ewww"-filled pockets–competently gives each customer a new do. With a jewel-toned palette in ink, pencil, and digital art, the shadows of night brighten in the barbershop to bring out the personalities of a lighthearted collection of monster-inspired characters. The art invites both inspection of humorous details for individual readers and an opportunity for exploration of voice and mood in a read-aloud. Fears of the unknown are faced as a human arrives at the shop during the wee hours, yet the boy ("More nervous than I have ever been") never backs down and takes care of business. Narrated in the voice of a child, this offering is perfect for young readers facing a bit of personal anxiety.






Saturday, October 2, 2010

What I'm reading: Lady Ellen Grae by Vera and Bill Cleaver

I came across a quirky little gem of a book in my library media center the other day.  This is one of those reading situations where it is of dire importance that one ignores the cover art when deciding whether to read the book.






See? It was originally published in 1968 and is unfortunately out of print. My copy was purchased by the library in '68. Yes, we have some ancient tomes, indeed.

Ellen Grae feels sure her father won't send her to stay with her aunt in Seattle if she proves she can be a "lady" and take care of herself. There is a bit of an 'Anne Shirley' feel to the main character in the book that I am definitely drawn to.

Anyone read it?