Friday, January 30, 2009

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker: The Unlikely Friendship of Elizabeth Keckley and Mary Todd Lincoln

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker: The Unlikely Friendship of Elizabeth Keckley and Mary Todd Lincoln by Lynda Jones
"Sometime in February 1818, on a platation in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, Mammy Aggy gave birth to her daughter, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Hobbs..."
Readers witness Elizabeth Keckley in her many roles: from fashion designer to abolitionist to caretaker. They follow her through the Civil War, the evils of slavery, and the many challenges faced alongside the First Lady. Handsome duotone illustrations include daguerreotypes, photos, paintings, and illustrations of the Lincoln's, Mrs. Keckley, and her masters. The book’s elegant design emphasizes period fashion and the art of dressmaking. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker tells the remarkable story of a forgotten figure whose influence ran deep and offers a revealing insight into an extraordinary relationship at the very heart of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. Elizabeth made this quilt with leftover scraps of material that she used to stitch Mary's dresses. It is 85 1/2 inches square.In response to the financial scandal after Mrs. Lincoln left the White House, Elizabeth Keckley wrote her own story, Behind the Scenes, in 1868 to "attempt to place Mrs. Lincoln in a better light before the world" and to "explain the motives" that guided Mrs. Lincoln's decisions regarding the "old clothes" scandal. Elizabeth enlisted the help of a man named James Redpath, an editor from New York and friend of Frederick Douglass to help Keckley edit and publish the book. Contrary to Mrs. Keckley's serious intentions, advertisements labeled the forthcoming book as a 'literary thunderbolt' and the publisher, Carleton & Company joined in by declaring it as a 'great sensational disclosure'.-Wikipedia

Most Loved in All the World

Most Loved in All the World by Tonya Hegamin, Cozbi A. Cabrera (Illustrator)
"Mama works hard in the field. My hands are too little..."
An authentic and powerful account of slavery and how a handmade quilt helps a little girl leave home for freedom.With a poet's keen ear, Tonya Hegamin tells the account of a little girl whose mother is a secret agent on the Underground Railroad. Before sending her daughter north to freedom, the mother sews a quilt for her daughter, not only to guide her with its symbols of moss and the north star, but also to remind her always that the smiling girl in the center of the quilt is "most loved in all the world." Strikingly illustrated in unique textile collaging and expressive acrylic paintings.

The Kind of Friends We Used to Be

The Kind of Friends We Used to Be by Frances O'Roark Dowell
"When Kate decided to play the guitar, she realized she would need new shoes..."
Twelve-year-olds Kate and Marylin, friends since preschool, draw further apart as Marylin becomes involved in student government and cheerleading, while Kate wants to play guitar and write songs, and both develop unlikely friendships with other girls and boys.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Graveyard Book

"...The next night, Silas appeared at the front of the Owenses' cozy tomb carrying three large books - two of them brightly colored alphabet books (A is for Apple, B is for Ball) and a copy of The Cat in the Hat. He also had paper and a packet of wax crayons. Then he walked Bod around the graveyard, placing the boy's small fingers on the newest and clearest of the headstones and the plaques, and taught Bod how to find the letters of the alphabet when they appeared, beginning with the sharp steeple of the capital A..." --The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Monday, January 26, 2009

...there is always light in the darkness...

Ms. Krommes, 53, who has been illustrating books for 10 years, said she used the so-called scratchboard technique to make the drawings for “The House in the Night,” published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. She uses heavy cardboard paper stock covered in black ink and scratches away the black to make drawings. Nell Colburn, chairwoman of the Caldecott Committee, said the technique perfectly illuminated the message of “The House in the Night,” which, Ms. Colburn said, “tells the child that there is always light in the darkness.” - New York Times

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Inside Nan: While We're Waiting

This feeling of waiting - and the song (music and lyrics by Fred Rogers) that always comes - is part of my growing up. Click on the link and then on the Audio File below Mister Rogers picture.

Let's think of something to do while we're waiting
While we're waiting for something new to do.
Let's try to think up a song while we're waiting
That's liberating and will be true to you.
Let's think of something to do while we're waiting
While we're waiting 'til something's through.
You know it's really all right;
In fact, it's downright quite bright
To think of something to do
That's specific for you.
Let's think of something to do while we're waiting.
Now while we listen and remember whatever all it brings back, let me say this: When I say "growing up" I don't mean a distant past, although some of it happened then, but an ongoing process that is rarely painless, always turbulent, and sometimes/often involves waiting. These last few years I've tried to embrace waiting without the "I can't wait for..." feeling. I learned a long time ago from a philosophy professor in college that to say "I can't wait" was to negate the present and more and more I sense that less and less of the present is still mine. All my time is so precious. So today I salute the moment -- remembering all my sisters and brothers who wait with me for the fun announcements of tomorrow morning...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Amiri and Odette: A Love Story

Amiri and Odette: A Love Story by Walter Dean Myers, paintings by Javaka Steptoe
A boy searches for his newfound love among the city streets, to find that, unwarily, she's been caught in the arms of an evil street lord who means her harm. It is only through perseverance and undying love that the girl is returned to the safety of her one true love. Tonia Saxon of Children's Bookshelf interviewed Javaka Steptoe about this book project in Publishers Weekly, 1/8/2009.

Whitefoot: A Story from the Center of the World

Whitefoot: A Story from the Center of the World by Wendell Berry, Davis Te Selle (Illustrator)
A white-footed mouse is swept away in a flood and must carefully watch and wait until it is safe to make a home in its new surroundings. This book was first published in Orion Magazine, you can read it here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

We Can't All Be Rattlesnakes

We Can't All Be Rattlesnakes by Patrick Jennings
When Crusher the snake is captured, her only thought is to escape but as time goes by and she befriends the other inmates of the "zoo," she realizes that freedom also means leaving companions behind.

Yourspace: Questioning New Media

Yourspace: Questioning New Media by Heather E. Schwartz
"New media is used to inform and entertain. And it's also used to influence us. That's why it is important to question the new media we use every day."

Monday, January 19, 2009

let freedom ring....

Lincoln and His Boys

Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells, P. J. Lynch (Illustrator)
Brothers Willie and Taddie share stories about their father, Abraham Lincoln, from 1859 to 1865. For a perspective and analysis by a blogger especially interested in Abraham Lincoln read this post. Enjoy this slide show of the art of the illustrator, P.J. Lynch. Near the end of the slide show there are several of the illustrations from Lincoln and His Boys.

The Last Straw (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series #3)

The Last Straw (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series #3) by Jeff Kinney
Middle-schooler Greg Heffley nimbly sidesteps his father's attempts to change Greg's wimpy ways until his father threatens to send him to military school. ALL about the Wimpy Kid books here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Budgie & Boo

Budgie and Boo by David McPhail
Morning, noon, and night, Budgie and Boo work in their gardens, have adventures, and solve problems for each other—from fixing a leaky roof to fixing breakfast—because that’s what best friends are for. Together they learn that even if they lose their way, friendship is all they need to get through the day.

"Bugie pulled weeds in the garden. Boo picked vegetables for supper.

After they ate a delicious stew,

Budgie and Boo decided to go for a walk..."

Up Close: Bill Gates

Up Close: Bill Gates by Marc Aronson
Bill Gates is many things: the richest person in the world; the ruthless businessman who co-founded Microsoft and led it to domination of the computer software industry; and now, the leading global philanthropist. When Gates was born in 1955, no one in the world owned a personal computer. A window had a pane of glass. A mouse was a rodent. As a teenager, Gates realized how computers were about to change the world, and made his fortune by riding that wave; modern teens look to him as their model of how technology can be turned into wealth. Marc Aronson's biography is a probing portrait of a man whose name is a household word.

Inside Nan: Don't read this post if you don't want to know what I'm reading and thinking about it...

When you see Inside Nan in the title of a post be aware that what follows is editorial comment, maybe a rant, a sigh, an eruption. If you don't want to know don't read it. I've been blogging for a year without the permission of the "Annotated" aspect so I have many Inside Nans waiting for publication. Here's the first...
Sticks and Stones: The Troublesome Success of Children's Literature from Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter by Jack Zipes
Here's the publisher's blurb: Have children ever really had a literature of their own? In Sticks and Stones, Jack Zipes explores children's literature, from the grissly moralism of Slovenly Peter to the hugely successful Harry Potter books, and argues that despite common assumptions about children's books, our investment in children is paradoxically curtailing their freedom and creativity. Sticks and Stones is a forthright and engaging book by someone who cares deeply about what and how children read.

Here's Zipes... "To attract children and adults as consumers of literature, the very nature of the book - its design and contents-began to change. Gradually books began to be produced basically to sell and resell themselves and to make readers into consumers of brand names...(p. 6)...Children's books are formulaic and banal, distinguishable from another only by their brand labels. Yet book publishers argue that as long as these books get children to read, this is a good in itself...(p.7)

More Zipes: "I do not mean to slight the reviewers of children's books in local newspapers or in the popular press, but I have rarely read a negative review of a children's book or a book for young adults. It appears that everything and anything is good for children's minds and eyes. Good is rarely defined, though the reviewer may appear to have a firm grasp on what is appropriate literature ..."
I am reading this book and thinking about my field from Zipes' perspectives. So far I think he has strong opinions and arguments for them. And yes, the examples I posted are extreme but...What do you think? Lurk or go ahead and say it...

The Eye of the Forest (Children of the Lamp Series #5)

The Eye of the Forest (Children of the Lamp Series #5) by P. B. Kerr
When a collection of Incan artifacts goes missing, the Blue Djinn of Babylon dispatches the twins and Uncle Nimrod to recover them. Along the way, though, John and Philippa encounter their friend Dybbuk, who was drained of his djinn powers but is determined to get them back. In a fury, he's headed to an ancient Incan Empire where he believes he can regain his strength. Dybbuk will stop at nothing . . . even if it means destroying the rain forest, opening a cursed portal, and disturbing the enchanted kingdom of the Incas that has slept for thousands of years.. Find out more about P.B.Kerr here.

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman
Here's the synopsis and starred review from Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. "This rewarding biography of Charles Darwin investigates his marriage to his cousin Emma Wedgwood. Heiligman (the Holidays Around the World series) has good reason for this unusual approach: as deeply as they loved each other, Emma believed in God, and Charles believed in reason. Embracing the paradoxes in her subjects' personalities, the author unfolds a sympathetic and illuminating account, bolstered by quotations from their personal writings as well as significant research into the historical context. We meet Charles as he weighs the pros and cons of wedded life—but then seeks his father's advice (Darwin père urges him to conceal his religious doubts); Emma becomes a more fervent believer after the death of her favorite (and more religious) sister. Heiligman writes for motivated readers, and her style can be discursive (mention of a letter can introduce a few sentences on the British postal system). Her book allows readers not only to understand Darwin's ideas, but to appreciate how Emma's responses tempered them." Bold emphasis is mine. I worked my way through these pages stopping often to search out other resources. The discursive style noted by Elsevier is present throughout the book. Jonathan Weiner notes in the Foreward "The story of Darwin has never been told this way before..." There are many books to inform the curious student about Darwin, the styles and format rich and varied. Here are just a few.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Anokaberry Presents the 2009 Anokaberries: Our Selections for the Best Books of 2008 for Middle-Grade Readers, Ages 8 to 14

A Difficult Boy by M.P. Barker
Diamond Willow by Helen Frost
The Facttracker by Jason Carter Eaton
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean (Illustrator)
and Quadruped Delights by David Elliott
The Last Invisible Boy by Evan Kuhlman, J. P. Coovert (Illustrator)
Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing by Guo Yue, Clare Farrow, Helen Cann (Illustrator)
Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich, Louise Erdrich (Illustrator)
by H. M. Bouwman
Skylar by Mary Cuffe-Perez, Renata Liwska (Illustrator)
Trouble by Gary Schmidt
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by David Small
The Unnameables by Ellen Booraem
The Walls of Cartagena by Julia Durango, illustrated by Tom Pohrt
Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls
Where the Steps Were by Andrea Cheng
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Turmoil and Transition

The Stars Will Still Shine
-by Cynthia Rylant

this new year...
the sky will still be there
the stars will still shine
the birds will fly over us
church bells will chime
cows will have calves
kittens will sleep
flowers will bloom
(a promise they keep)
we shall have peaches
we shall have pie
we shall have ice cream
three scoops high!
homes will be cozy
homes will be warm
we'll curl up together
when rain makes a storm
and in this new year
love will be strong
growing and growing
all the days long
there will be goodness
there will be grace
there will be light
in every dark place
the sky will still be there
the stars will still shine
birds will fly over us...
church bells will chime.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Welcome 111th Congress!

No Time

Yesterday at the library I tried to help a mom and her son. They needed historicial fiction and they needed it fast. They had no time. He wasn't interested in a book and the interview wasn't productive - a shrug. The eye-roll. The mom looking at her watch. It happens often in juvenile fiction. The kid has to have a book, the kid has no interest, the mom has no time. I grabbed a couple of good ones, with good covers. Less than a minute - they were gone. What exactly happened there I don't know but I am thinking seriously about ways the library put materials in these patrons' hands with a better result. Can we do Reader's Advisory by email - 3 easy questions -- or telephone? Give us a call, we'll do the interview by phone and have a stack waiting for you -- by the curb if necessary. All these books waiting for readers.... I am resolved to remedy by all means possible - or impossible. I let this family down, it is impetus for change. No excuses.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Focus on Putting the Books in the Bowl

I am re-reading my favorites for the 2008 Anokaberries. Yesterday as I was reading -- well, I won't say which one -- I was thrilled with the strength of the characters and the rich unfolding of the plot. I wanted to underline underline underline! I knew I had been there before but - WOW - what a wonderful book. This is the kind of book I want to place in the hands of the youngsters who come into the children's room and say "Do you have any good books?" Yes, that is often the way they ask. I'll be selecting the books for the Anokaberry and making that glorious and difficult announcement soon -- the image of the bowl of berries has settled into my sense about this Anokaberry thing so I won't have a single book and the bowl may seem crowded -- isn't that good? Next year I will definitely be staying with books written with primarily 8 - 14 year-olds in mind, fiction and non-fiction but I am turning the idea of introducing categories to the framework. The end of Year One brings on all these results of hours of thinking, working, reading, writing... I often wonder how others stucture/restructure their blogs and deal with the inevitable changes in direction and focus that process and progress bring. Your comments?

Friday, January 2, 2009

End of Year One: Some Stats and Comments

2 zero zero 8
I entered 796 books into the Anokaberry account at LibraryThing in 2008. You are welcome to look at that collection - at LibraryThing click on the Search tab and enter "Anokaberry", click on "see library". I gave 5 stars to 65 books, 41/2 stars to 16 more and 4 stars to an additional 35. I gave more than 60 books less than two stars. Some have no stars from me because I didn't read them. Some have no stars because I thought they were awful. I wrote personal reviews on a few, those can be found on LibraryThing as well. Anokaberry published three short list plus the vote list. Short List #1 on May 31, Short List #2 on August 13 and Short List # 3 on November 9. I put up the vote list the first week of December. I will post the results of the vote (the Anokaberries!) - from the votes and emails soon. I made a lot of mistakes this first year, enough to seriously consider not doing this another year. I posted almost 800 times. The "mock Newbery" aspect of this blog is still central but I think of it more as an online booktalk of books published in the current year for young people. I focus on books of interest for 8-14 year-olds. I have often wished for more of a voice here -- that may be part of the way Anokaberry becomes Annotated.