Friday, March 18, 2011

Battle and Bad Kitty

 Nick Bruel's Bad Kitty has turned into a mini-dynasty.  What began with a short and hilarious picture book has turned into a continuing series - two picture books and three, soon to be four, longer books.  Bad Kitty is ba-a-a-ad with a capital B and Bruel's illustrations are bright, colorful, clever and chaotic.  Check out Bad Kitty's website for more information on the books, Nick Bruel and for games, too

Back to the Battle!  This morning's contest was between The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams- Garcia.  Newbery award-winning author Karen Hesse was the judge.

Alas, I have read neither of these books.  I skimmed through One Crazy Summer because Williams-Garcia is an author I truly admire and her books are well written and heartfelt.  And The Odyssey has not been on the shelf since the library bought it.  I am a library girl.  Don't do book stores so much.

Hesse does a very thorough job of explaining her choice.   The Odyssey is the winner!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Next Match-up Round 1

Hereville : how Mirka got her sword by Barry Deutsch squared off against Kathi Appelt's Keeper. The judge was Susan Patron. 

Hereville is a graphic novel set in the Jewish Orthodox community of Hereville.  Although Mirka tangles with fantastic characters - a talking pig, a witch - the time period is today.  Mirka wants to be a dragon slayer and she also loves arguing with her step-mother, a woman who loves Mirka very much.  The book is about independence, and about learning about one's place in a larger community.  It is also about facing obstacles and being a kid, regardless of the social rules that surround you.  The artwork is clever, the dialogue is realistic and often funny.  And the book introduces the Jewish Orthodox community to a larger audience.  What's not to like?

Keeper is her name and she is convinced that her mother is a mermaid.  She is so convinced that she sets off in a boat to find this absent mother.  Keeper has been raised by a small seaside community, including her mother's best friend.  Her search for her mother, her dog's struggle with the ocean and the way her community wraps itself around her and swaddles her with love make a wonderful story.  This is almost a fantasy.

The similarities between these two books are clear.  Both heroines are being raised by people other than their mothers - people who love them and want to keep them safe and whole.  Both girls want desperately to be other than they are.  Mirka wants to fight dragons; Keeper hopes to be half-mermaid.  And both girls set off on an adventure to make things different in their lives.  Nice job of matching books, BOTKB crew!

Patron chose Keeper to go on to the next round.  What a difficult choice that had to have been!  Both books are winners in my eyes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Still Round 1

Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan went up against The Good, the Bad and the Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone.  Barry Lyga had to make the decision that sent one book on to round 2.

His decision making process forced him to delve deeply into the skill of the writers and the intent, impact and content of each book.  And it's fun to read as well.  So read what Barry has to say before you go any further.  I'll wait.

Done yet?  Well, if you are done, you don't need me to tell you the results.  And if you DID read what Barry had to say, you are probably just as baffled as I am about his decision.  Did you or did you not think he was going to choose the other book??  I know I did.

Dreamer is the fictionalized account of the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda's childhood and it is written with touches of magic realism as befits the subject.  The book was a joy to read; I felt as if I was being carried along on a river surrounded by the sounds and sights that the young Neruda experienced.  Neruda's words and Peter Sis' artwork made the whole book even more dreamlike.  This book is a masterpiece.

The Good, the Bad and the Barbie is detailed, structured, and informative to the max - a very complete history of the Barbie doll and the way it influenced popular culture and vice versa.  Peppered with photos and with quotes from Barbie aficianados and critics alike, the book is cleverly written.  And, wait, this book is a masterpiece of an entirely different kind.

It's like comparing a luxury hybrid with a Hummer, or a butterfly with a honey bee, or a glider with a cargo plane or a....Actually, it's not like any of those comparisons.  It's like comparing a novel to a work of non-fiction. 

So, which book moves on to Round 2?  I'm surprised but not entirely baffled by Lyga's choice.  The Winnah! is The Good, the Bad and the Barbie!  (A slight pause is followed by thunderous applause.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 2: The battle wages on

Today's contenders were A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner and Countdown by Deborah Wiles.  Talk about comparing apples and oranges.  "A Conspiracy of Kings" take place in an ancient kingdom and is filled with strategy and political wrangling and battles and intrigue, kidnapping, slavery and clever maneuvering AND it kept me on edge the whole way through.  If you've read the other books in the series, you will appreciate how the friendships between Eugenides, the king of Attolia, and the Sophos, the young king of Sounis, change after Sophos ascends to the throne. The connection between Sounis, Attolia, the third kingdom of Eddis and the threat of the Mede against all three has as much to do with personalities as it does with borders and battles. I need to read the rest of the series now.

Deborah Wiles wrote an absorbing account of a young girl's loss of a friend against the background of the Cuban Missile crisis in the 1960s.  Countdown sandwiches the day to day life of 6th graders and their families with news clips, photos, quotes and biographies of the major players during the 1960s.  Civil Defense drills and plans for a bomb shelter indicate how frightening the stand-off between the United States and Cuba was to the people who lived through it.

So which of these very different books will move on to the next round?  I would have had a very difficult time choosing.  One book is full of long ago intrigue and adventure.  The other book hits close to our daily lives and helps put what is happening today in context.  Both are written masterfully and the stories are absorbing for very different reasons.

Dana Reinhardt, the judge of this match, chose Countdown.   Countdown  will go up against The Cardturner  when Round 2 begins in a few days.

Tomorrow, Pam Munoz Ryan's lyrical book, Dreamer, goes up against The Good, the Bad, the Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone, a complete history of America's favorite doll.   I'd hate to be the judge of that match-up.  The only things these books have in common is their bookiness! 

Battle Has Been Joined!

The Battle of the Kids Books began yesterday when Judge Francisco X. Stork had to decide between Lynn Rae Perkins "As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth" and Louis Sachar's "The Cardturner".  Stork's books are more complex studies of teen boys in challenging realistic circumstances.  Knowing a little something about the judge enabled me to hazard a guess about which book he would pick even before I read either of these titles.

"As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth" drops a teen boy in the middle of nowhere without a cell phone!!!  OMG!  as the teens might text!  He proceeds to meet a series of very kind and quirky people; one in particular helps the lad hunt down his parents who are on their first ever romantic getaway.  The parents thought their son was at a month long camp.  And they ALL assumed their new home and dogs were in the care of the grandfather.  The book is fun and fascinating while evoking a dreamlike feel at the same time.  There are boxcars, sailboats, trucks, diners and late night meals and a trip to a tropical island as well.

"The Cardturner" is about bridge - the game - with a capital B.  17-year-old Alton is drafted into driving his blind great-uncle to duplicate bridge matches.  His blind great-uncle is very rich and Alton's parents are positively gleeful about Alton's indenture.  Alton is surprised at how quickly he gets sucked in by the complicated almost manic game of Bridge.  Well, I found this book fascinating.  I could NOT put it down.  It helps that I am a terrible bridge player myself and find the game frustrating beyond belief.  Alton's longer explanations, bracketed by whales to let the reader know they can be skipped, and his shorter summaries - for readers who wanted to skip the explanations but needed basic knowledge - were a stroke of genius.  The relationships that developed between Alton and his great-uncle and Alton and the other bridge players, including one younger teen girl-type, are well-drawn.  Good book.

My guess about what book would be chosen yesterday was right.  Can you guess?  Take a minute now.

Give up?  Stork chose (wild cheering)  "The Cardturner",  just as I knew he would.

Today was another decision which I will post in an hour or two.  I want to give you time absorb the awesomeness of yesterday's contest.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wimpy Kid Contest!

Kids!!!! Win money for yourself and the library of your choice (Parkland Community Library, of course!)
  Enter the Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Comics Contest.    

Monday, March 7, 2011

Very Short Post

March 20th is "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" Day!!  Hooray for little green caterpillars that eat a LOT!  Check out the Very Hungry Caterpillar page for wallpapers and to download activity sheets.  WARNING:!  This website is a commercial site and will try to sell you adorable caterpillar related items.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

All things Seuss

This past week has been all about Dr. Seuss, with birthday celebrations (he'd be 107 years old!) and Read Across America Day.

One of the Teen Teller leads her Seuss Trivia experts, including Thing 1, at last Saturday's party.
The Parkland Community Library celebrated Dr. Seuss' birthday last weekend with a Dr. Seuss birthday party complete with red and white striped hats, stories and games. 

Check out the websites in the Featured sites sidebar for Seussical fun and information.  Dr. Seuss's pioneering work with beginning readers has spawned thousands of imitators.  And his signature character, the Cat in the Hat, has gone on beyond reading readiness and into the world of science and nature.

Educators and young readers alike owe a lot to Dr. Seuss.  We doff our hats, striped, dotted or covered in peace signs, to this wonderful author and artist.
Another Teen Teller in the green hat, consults with her team of Seuss trivia experts in the Facts and Figures Seuss Trivia Game.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Women's History Month

Welcome to March, Women's History Month!

There has been a trend in children's books to write short, illustrated biographies for younger readers.  In the past year there have been several books written about women in vehicular sports, race car drivers, pilots and even cyclists. 

Soar, Elinor! by Tami Lee Brown is the surprising story of young Elinor Smith who got her pilot's license in 1928 at the age of sixteen.  She was a daredevil pilot and is famous for being the first pilot - ever - to fly under all four bridges on New York City's East River and she did it in a single flight.  The illustrations show just how daring this stunt was.

Fearless : the story of racing legend Louise Smith by Barbara Rosenstock is full of beautiful paintings of the bulbous nosed cars of the 1930s and 1940s.  Louise Smith got her first race car driving job as a "stunt" to drum up business for her sponsor.  Once she got a taste of the excitement of racing, there was no turning back for Louise.  The stories of her racing successes and escapades are fun and fast-paced.

Tillie the terrible Swede : how one woman, a sewing needle, and a bicycle changed history by Sue Stauffacher tells the story of Tillie Anderson, who first revolutionized cycling outfits for women in the 1890s and then proceeded to win bicycle race after bicycle race.   Readers will enjoy the clever drawings and reading about the bicycle craze of the end of the 19th century.

Stretching back even further, Charley Parkhurst drove stagecoach her entire life and no one knew she was a woman until she died.  In Rough, Tough Charley, Verla Kay writes about Charley's rivoting life in rhymed couplets describing how Charley masqueraded as a stable boy and became a very able stagecoach driver.  In simple verse, Kay also explains why Charley's disguise was necessary for a woman who wanted to follow that career.  The realistic oil paintings are accurate to the time period of the mid-19th century.

Women, wheels and wings combine to make great reading for Women's History Month.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good news, Bad news, maybe

The good news is that we have some great stuff going on during February!

On Monday, Feb. 21st, children and teens, ages 7 and up, can join the Youth Services staff as we play Games on the Rug and other games, too.  Checkers, Chinese checkers, (my favorite), mancala, Parchesi AND Rivers Roads and Rails, and Apples to Apples and Dominoes.  Younger children can play if their parents stay with them.

On Sat., Feb. 26th, from 2 to 3 pm, the Parkland Community Library will hold its Annual Dr. Seuss birthday party.  This program is open to all ages.  Tellers Too will do a Reader's Theater presentation of a Dr. Seuss book, Mrs. Karen will tell a Dr. Seuss story and there will be songs and games!  Please call 610-398-1361 ext. 19 to reserve a space.  This program will occur at the South Whitehall Township building.

The other news, good or bad depending on the day and where you sit, is that I am retiring - right after the Dr. Seuss birthday party.  I hope to publish a port or two between now and then.  After 22 years at the Parkland Community Library, I will turn my energies to other things.  It's not over yet, though, so keep reading.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Battle of the Kids Books

The brackets are cast and the sixteen contenders have been chosen.  The judges will be revealed on February 22nd, and then.....and then....SLJ's 3rd Annual Battle of the Kids Books will commence.

It is always fun to see what books make this honored cut of 16 out of the thousands of fiction and non-fiction written for middle grade readers and teens.  Then the challenge for Mrs. Chaply and myself is to actually read or have read all the books or enough of them to make an educated guess about which book will move on to the next round.

In the first round, for instance, Lynne Rae Perkins' As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth goes up against Louis Sachar's The Cardturner.  In one book (Falling), a boy is stranded in the middle of nowhere just because he wants to make a cell phone call.  In the other, a boy is recruited to turn cards for his blind uncle as the uncle plays tournament bridge.  I haven't read either of them!!  But that will change in the next couple of days.  I haven't read A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner OR Countdown by Deborah Wiles either.  But I will!

Take a look at the brackets.  Next week the fun begins.  And even if I am retired before the end of the Battle, I will find a way to share my insights and reading triumphs with all of you through the whole exciting contest!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Teddy Bears and Puppy Dogs

The Parkland Community Library will be the place to be during February, 2011.  On Saturday, Feb. 12th, certified therapy dogs will be here to listen to young readers and to visit with anyone who wants to pet a puppy.  These dogs are wonderfully calm and love children.  Please register for this event by calling the Youth Services department at 610-398-1361 ext. 19.

On Tuesday, Feb. 15th, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, everyone can celebrate Chinese New Year and the Paper Lantern festival by attending the Annual Teddy bear Costume party.  Dress up those teddy bears and come out for an hour of fans, fireworks(!!) and fun.  Please register for this event in advance.  This event will be held in the South Whitehall Township Building.

The fun doesn't end there.  On Monday, Feb. 21st, from 1 to 3 pm, there is another Games on the Rug event for children from the ages of 7 and up.  (Younger children can attend with a parent.)  Play the games printed on the meeting room rug - Checkers, Parcheesi, Chinese checkers, mancala - or play Apples to Apples or Rivers, Roads and Rails.  Please let the Youth Services department know if you will attend by calling 610-398-1361 ext. 19.

And we will celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday early this year with a party on Saturday, Feb. 26th from 2 to 3 pm.  Join the Teen Tellers and Tellers 2 for stories, songs and games in honor of Dr. Seuss.  Please sign up in advance for this event by calling 610-398-1361 ext. 19.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow poetry

The drive to work was absolutely beautiful this morning.  The trees were loaded with snow and the stark white against the very dark gray or black of bare branches was awesome - especially since the sun was shining.

All that winter beauty reminded me of a haiku I once read:

How many million / flakes will it take to make a / snow day tomorrow?

Or how about this one?

Icicles dangle / begging to be broken off / for a short sword fight.

Both of these haiku, sticking to the traditional lines of 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables, were written by Bob Raczka, and can be found in his book, Guyku : a year of haiku for boys.   Raczka and his partner in rhyme, illustrator Pete H. Reynolds, have a website for all the guys - and gals - who appreciate short verse.  Write your own haiku, guyku or galku, about snow and ice or about school or winter or waiting for spring - or anything at all!! Haiku is fun and simple.  Write one today.  There's no school.

One of my favorite winter poems is "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service, the story of a prospector who freezes along the shores of a frozen lake.  Before he dies Sam McGee begs his buddy to cremate him so that finally, Sam will be warm again.  The friend tries to fulfill Sam's dying request.  Service's rhyme and rhthmn makes this a clever poem that is haunting as well.  You can find the poem in the book Scary stories illustrated by Barry Moser.  "The Cremation of Sam McGee" is a poem that begs to be read out loud.

Douglas Florian, Jack Prelutsky, Robert Frost, Jane Yolen, all these authors have written poems about winter, its beauty, its problems, how much fun snow and ice can be.  Check the sidebar for some other poetry about the coldest season of the year.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Picture Book Awards

Last week, the American Library Association announced the winners of the Caldecott Medal, given to the illustrator of a picture book  published in America.  The winner for 2011 is Erin E Stead for her illustration of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Philip C. Stead.  The illustrations have a textured, handmade look, almost old-fashioned in feel.  The story is delightful.  Check the book out today.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein won Caldecott Honor status.  This story of a father trying to read bedtime stories to his little one is hilarious.  The little chicken interrupts every story to warn the players of upcoming dangers and to change the endings.

Dave the Potter : artist, poet, slave written by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier was the other Caldecott Honor book for 2011.  This picture book biography covers the life of an African-American slave who was renowned for his beautiful pottery and his moving poetry.  This book is perfect for Black History Month and for anyone who appreciates art.

For a list of past Caldecott winners, click here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Award winners!

The Newbery and Caldecott awards were announced last week to great fanfare at the Annual Winter Meeting of the American Library Association.

Moon over Manifest, a first novel by author Clare Vanderpool, won the Newbery award for 2011, given to the best book published for children in America.  In 1936, Abilene Tucker is sent to Manifest, Kansas, to stay with her father's old friends.  There she finds keepsakes that lead her and two new friends - and eventually the whole town - on a quest to solve a mystery that is 18 years old.  Vanderpool's writing is refreshing and the time period, characters and story will keep readers involved and intrigued.

The Newbery Honor books for 2011 were Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm;  Heart of a Samurai by Magi Preus and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.

All four of these books fall into the category of historical fiction but the writing is fresh and current and young readers will enjoy the escapades and adventures that the main characters experience.  Heart of a Samurai is particularly interesting since it is based on the true story of the first Japanese citizen to ever visit America, a teen shipwreck survivor named Manjiro.  Manjiro's adventures on whaling ships, then in Massachusetts in the 1840s, in the gold fields of California and eventually at home in Japan are fascinating and based in fact.

Those of us old enough the remember the 1960's hate to admit but that time period is now part of history.  In One Crazy Summer, three sisters visit their estranged mother over the summer of 1968, and they find a woman dedicated to civil rights, poetry, printing and the Black Panthers. 

Jennifer L. Holm's Turtle in Pardise takes place in the Key West of 1935.  Turtle is sent to live with her cousins in Key West while her mother works as a housekeeper.  The children run their own baby-sitting business, search for treasure and make Turtle part of their wild family. 
Next post will talk about the Caldecott winners.  There are some surprises and some delights among the winners of the Cadecott awards.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

YA titles

When the library first received David Whitley's The Midnight Charter, I read the first and last chapters. (I sometimes do this, to get a feel for the books.  I don't recommend this as a habit.) The last chapter only posed more questions, making the book very appealing.  Here's the set up.  In the city of Agora, everything has a price; lives, emotions, time, even compliments.  Every transaction is sealed with a contract and the contracts are all stored in the Registry Office.  Two teens work for Dr. Theophilus and his grandfather, Count Stelli, the Great Astrologer, in Count Stelli's tower.  When Count Stelli bans his grandson from the tower, Lily trades places with Mark and goes into the city with Dr. Theophilus.  Mark stays behind and is trained to be the next great astrologer of Agora.  Neither teen knows that their individual choices are being watched closely by the Director of the Registry.   Mark allows himself to led deeper and deeper into the contractual world of Agora.  Lily works against those endless contracts and starts a charitable shelter for debtors, the lowest of the low in Agora.

Whitley's descriptions of the different ends of Agoran society are lavish and complete.  The ways that people's lives are controlled by the contracts they sign create a labyrinth of deception. Secret societies, murder, theft, chicanery, treachery - it's all in The Midnight Charter.  Read this atmospheric - almost nightmarish - fantasy/adventure.  The book is suitable for teens through adults.