Nov 25, 2012

Welcoming a Friend to the Blogosphere

My plans for this week's post were put on hold due to unexpected events involving a cheesecake that caught fire. 
Fire safely extinguished. 
Minimal damage.
Smoke and fumes cleared. 
Clean up completed (after many hours). 
Repair services scheduled. 
Research begun on new ovens (of the non-flammable variety). 
Much for which to be thankful.
Take-away tips:

  1. Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen.
  2. Keep a large box of baking soda in the same place.
  3. If possible, use the baking soda. (Note to self- USE THE SODA IF YOU CAN!)
  4. When making cheesecake, place on another pan WITH EDGES to catch spills or overflow.
Enough excuses already...
Next week I'll be back with notes on more favorite picture books, but this provides me with an opportunity to direct your attention to a recently launched blog you won't want to miss. It was created by none other than the esteemed John Warren Stewig, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Children's Literature at Carthage College

Dr. Stewig's long career focused on children's literature as a professor, author of textbooks and picture books, academic leader, member and chairperson of Caldecott committees, and winner of more honors than I have space to list here. His picture books feature retellings of traditional tales, both familiar (King Midas, Stone Soup) and less well-known (Whuppity Stoorie, Clever Gretchen), with more titles to come.

Anyone eager to gain a complete understanding of the visual aspects of picture books should take the time to read his text book, LOOKING AT PICTURE BOOKS. The resource list of titles at the end of each chapter is reason enough, but if you take the time to read it your insights into picture books will be forever changed.

Now he has launched a blog, CHILDREN'S BOOKS: ALL THE ARTS AND THAT'S ALL, which features an abundance of titles in conveniently tabbed sections: Visual Arts, Dance, Theater, Music, Architecture, Literature, and Notable Design Qualities. Why a blog? This is from the home page:
Mission Statement: 
           To help teachers, librarians and parents use books about the arts to enhance children's literacy.

I encourage you to take a look, read some of the reviews, and see for yourself. Then share it with someone you know who loves picture books and appreciates the arts. Spread the word about the blogosphere's newest contributor. 

And before making cheesecake, review the tips above. Especially #4.

Comments on the new blog and/or fire safety tips are always welcome.

Nov 18, 2012

Thanksgiving- from Many Points of View

Thanksgiving is a holiday celebration observed at different times and with various traditions around the world. Even in this country it had a mixed history until it was first formalized as a national day of thanks by President Lincoln, as noted in a last week's post.

Long before that, long before the Pilgrims ever landed at Plymouth Rock, Native Americans honored Mother Earth and her bounty with harvest ceremonies and celebrations. It is foolish to suggest that any one person, blog, or group speaks for all Native Americans, but it is safe to say that attitudes about traditional American Thanksgiving are wide-ranging, and much more complex than typically depicted in the Pilgrims/Indians tales.

Lee & Low Books, 1995

One way to incorporate a balanced approach to this holiday is to share a simple and powerful picture book by Chief Jake Swamp, illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr. GIVING THANKS: A NATIVE AMERICAN GOOD MORNING MESSAGE offers an inspiring start to Thanksgiving or any day of the year.

The words of thanks in this Reading Rainbow book come from Native People known as the Haudenosaunee, or more commonly, the Iroquois or Six Nations, whose native lands centered around the Great Lakes.

Puffin Books, 2002

Reflecting for even a few minutes on this book is a perfect prelude to reading BROTHER EAGLE, SISTER SKY, a message from Chief Seattle, with remarkable and inspiring paintings by Susan Jeffers. His message about the need to respect every aspect of the Earth and its resources, his plea to recognize that we are but one strand in a web that is both vibrant and fragile, rings even more true today than it was over a hundred years ago when his words were first spoken.
Read what Kirkus Review had to say about this timely and timeless book.

Scholastic Paperback, 2000
Speaking of timeless, here's another challenge for anyone willing to search libraries, used book stores, or online resellers. A THANKSGIVING WISH, by Michael J.Rosen, illustrated by John Thompson, is the perfect selection for those dealing with the loss of a loved one, for those still struggling to recover  from the East Coast superstorm, and for those who believe traditions can draw us closer, especially at holiday times.

With a cumulative 4.29 stars, this synopsis is from Goodreads:
"After her grandmother Bubbe's death, Amanda is worried that Thanksgiving will never be the same. But when she recalls Bubbe's favorite custom -- having her grandchildren make wishes on wishbones she had saved up throughout the year -- Amanda and her family discover the power and comfort embedded in tradition."
I'll add to that. This Thanksgiving story, unlike most, features a Jewish family, a massive storm and power outage, and the generosity of strangers. 

Here's hoping that one or all of these titles find their way into your lives this week or some time in the future. All provide food for thought, as well as heartwarming illustrations and reflections. 

I'm wishing everyone happiness and good company on Thanksgiving and every day.

Nov 11, 2012

Never Too Soon To GIve Thanks!

This title is featured in advance of the holiday to allow you to locate it to share during holiday visits.

With the election over, I doubt I'm alone in giving thanks for an end to campaign advertising.

I'm also hopeful that we Americans, as citizens and through our leaders, will find a way to communicate and collaborate in respectful, open-minded ways in the four years ahead and beyond.

Perhaps we'll be inspired by the newly-released movie, LINCOLN, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field. Interviews and reviews indicate the focus of this production is on a very narrow window of time in which Lincoln faced a deeply divided country, navigating pressures and hostility on all sides to make decisions that changed our nation forever.

In the midst of the many challenges he faced, he never lost sight of the needs of individuals.

Albert Whitman & Co. 2012
One book that reveals his awareness of the need for healing among the people is SARAH GIVES THANKS, by Mike Allegra, illustrated by David Gardner.
This biography of Sara Josepha Hale extends far beyond acknowledging her role as the driving force behind the establishment of Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday. Widowed, with five children, Sarah still chose to give thanks for her family and the love they shared. She managed to support her family by writing for magazines, rising to responsibility and success as an "editress".

At the time, Thanksgiving was not a national holiday, but was honored by various states on various dates. 
Beginning in 1849, she undertook her own campaign to persuade Presidents Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan of the importance of declaring Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Despite her persistence, her national audience, and her eloquent arguments, she was ignored year after year. 

It was Lincoln, immersed in the pain of the Civil War, who saw the value in pausing to recognize blessings and give thanks, even in the hardest of times. After Sarah's thirty-six years of effort, Lincoln declared a National Day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated by all the states on the last Thursday of November. 

Sarah's lifelong effort to learn, to write, to reach her full potential and support other women in overcoming gender limitations is inspiring and should be shared well beyond this annual holiday or a "Women's History" month. With the topic of Thanksgiving, this is an ideal book to share early in the year and refer to often. It includes excellent author notes and  back matter, too.

So whether your vote is for pumpkin pie or pecan, let's hope we can set aside differences   long enough to count our blessings, wish each other well, and share some great books.

Nov 4, 2012

Fall Back- Into Bedtime Picture Books!

Did you set your clocks back and enjoy an extra hour of sleep? This is when it's payback time for Daylight Savings, right?
Combine those longer, darker evenings with a celebration of International Picture Book Month, and we have the perfect week to focus on several outstanding bedtime books, with one surprise title featured at the end.
Candlewick, 2010

If your bedtime kiddos have a bit of difficulty winding down, the perfect choice for them is INTERRUPTING CHICKEN by David Ezra Stein. This 2011 Caldecott Honor Book stars Chicken and Papa Chicken. This little clucker knows his stories forward and backward, including when the characters need a little help. He interrupts to warn them about wicked witches, big bad wolves, and false alarms until Papa calls it quits. When Chicken tries to read to Papa, his snores disrupt the story!
Check out what BookDads blog had to say about it.

Beach Lane Books, 2012

If your sleepy time guy or gal uses bedtime to unpack the day, Mem Fox has created another wondrous title with the help of illustrator Lauren Stringer. In TELL ME ABOUT YOUR DAY TODAY the  bedtime boy loves everything about going to bed, especially the way his menagerie of stuffed animals take turns describing their problems and solutions. Once it's his turn he looks back and sees" the who, the what, the why, and the way their whole wild day turned out okay." The reviewer over at KissTheBook loved it as much as I do!

G.P. Putnam, 1994
Everyone goes to sleep with a smile when bedtime includes GOOD NIGHT, GORILLA, by Peggy Rathmann. With a minimum of text and a maximum of humor, this little gem is a favorite that suits the advice to read early and read often. You never outgrow your need for Gorilla!
Awards included:
• ALA Notable Children's Book for 1994
• Bulletin Blue Ribbon 1994
• Horn Book Fanfare 1995 selection
• Parenting Magazine "Best Children's Books of 1994"
• New York Public Library 1995 "Children's Books 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing"

While you're at it, plan to include Rathmann's TEN MINUTES TILL BEDTIME and visit her Hamster website. My advice on these two Rathmann titles?  Make it a Gorilla night when time is limited and a Hamster night when you've got minutes to spare.  Both are loaded with visual talking points and triggers for further investigation and fun.

Chronicle Books, 2011

Even the frilliest fairy princess sleepers will be won over by the touching and lovable personified machines in GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE, By Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Each brief verse depicts a major construction machine's job, exhausting day, and bedtime habits. The blend of animation and realism make these "characters" very endearing and appealing.
 For a more detailed description of this bright little book, check out this Kirkus Review.

Penguin Books for Young Readers, 2005

Remember the promised bonus title?  Here it is, and you won't be disappointed. The early sunset means an "extra" hour of brightness in the mornings, too. What better way to start the day than with a picture book?
One big yellow example of that is Anne Rockwell's GOOD MORNING, DIGGER illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg. In this case the big yellow digger creates a hole next door that grows into a community center. In this case each "character" retains it's "machine" identity, yet the text sings with rhythm, patterns, gutteral sounds, and delightful appeal even though it is not rhymed text. A great way to start the day on an appreciative but lively note.

Care to share any of your family's favorite bedtime titles?
Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.