Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
- Construction paper
- Pencil with eraser (preferably without a point)
- Pushpin or tack
- Small-hole puncher
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
OK, I admit it. I’m having a crisis. I recently read a suspense novel that was so awful I asked myself whether writing suspense for adults was a career I really wanted to pursue. Could I force myself to deliver a book for an audience satisfied with a caricature protagonists and slight plot lines? I won’t mention the name of the book, but suffice it to say it freaked me out.
Then I remembered a novel I recently read entitled “American Rust.” Whew! There STILL are readers of substance who appreciate good characterization, captivating plots and enlightening subject matters. Everyone loves books for different reasons, but for me it has always been about those three things; a character I can identify with, a provoking plot, and a subject from which I can learn something. Yes, you absolutely should expect to learn something from a fiction novel!
From the first page, “American Rust” completely engaged my attention. In this book, author Philipp Meyer portrays a handful of characters and successfully follows them through a devastating incident. Even as I cried at Isaac’s misfortunes I knew in my heart he must complete his heartbreaking and perilous journey. At first I didn’t like Poe very much, but he too is constructed so wholly I began to appreciate his problems. Isaac’s sister, Lee, would be easy to despise, but Meyer’s strength in the details as he illustrates Lee’s life lets the reader understand he isn’t making excuses for her. She, as everyone else is only human. He portrays in-depth character so perfectly, that as a writer, I wanted to reread and dissect every nuance of his characters, plot and subject. Meyer’s meticulous detail builds a world that is authentic and realistic. I rarely read a book more than once. Only the greatest writers deserve such attention, Austen, Hemmingway, the Bronte’s, Forrester, Alcott, and C. S. Lewis. However, “American Rust” is drenched with writing so wonderful and true; I might add it to my list.
Monday, March 21, 2011
And finally, one of my all time favorites, The Octopus:
If you have never experienced the pleasure of his verse, pick up a copy of anything Nash sometime very soon. You won't be disappointed.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
How do you define a quiet novel?
Editor Nick Eliopulos once remarked that "a lot of the award-winners are quiet tales that you can't do justice in a one-line pitch." That pretty much says it . . . in one line, actually.
Shannon Hitchcock recently blogged about a quiet books presentation by author Audrey Vernick and her Editor Erin Murphy:
The topic was newer quiet books, and the blog lists some practical ways to make your own quiet book louder. It even mentions one of my favorites, Linda Urban's A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT.
But I have to admit that when I was a middle-grade reader myself, the quiet books that blew me away were already really, really old. (Most of them were hand-me-downs from aged relatives.)
It's easy to list my top titles. They're the ones I read to shreds. Here they are, in the order I probably first met them:
1. JACK AND JILL by Louisa May Alcott
Yes, I read LITTLE WOMEN and all the other Alcotts. But this is the book I wanted to live in. Three amazing girls. There was some of me in each of them! I still cherish my copy, the World Books Rainbow Classic edition, with its unforgettable and graceful illustrations by Nettie Weber.
2. DANDELION COTTAGE by Carroll Watson Rankin
I didn't feel like any of these girls was me. But I wanted to join them in their so-real play house.
3. THE FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS AND HOW THEY GREW by Margaret Sidney
Maybe only borderline quiet, because it's a rags-to-riches story—almost a fairy tale. But it was the part before the riches arrive that blew me away. The quiet bravery. Polly's measles. How the Peppers make a fabulous Christmas without spending a dime. Polly helping her mother earn a tiny living by sewing piecework at home (Polly's job is picking out the basting stitches—and saving the thread to use over again). . . .
4. REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Rebecca first grabbed me because she had six siblings, like me. Then her trials and triumphs took hold. Thinking back, I suppose this novel was a sort of denser version of the Green Gables series, in a single volume. But Rebecca touched me more deeply than Anne Shirley because she was so . . . wordy.
Finally, not a children's book, but pilfered from Gram's bookshelf to read in secret, on the floor near the 7-watt night-light:
5. I CAPTURE THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith
Today it would be a cross-over, or even a YA, I think. But I was ten, so it was my first grown-up romance. I still re-read it every year or two (usually when I'm down with a cold) because it's so familiar. And so perfectly built. (J. K. Rowling loves it, too.)
So—which quiet books blew you away when you were young? Were they new (to the world) when you were? Or already classics?
p.s. This post was inspired by an article in a new blog (by tween blogger "Scout") that blows me away:
Friday, March 11, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I get excited talking about someone who's on top of their game, someone who's one of the best at what they do. Any sports fan will understand. Heart pounding, you watch in amazement as your favorite receiver scores the winning points with a fingertip catch in the back of the end zone just as time slips off the clock. It's awe-inspiring. It's motivating. On some level, it makes me wish I could be like them.
Lucas Chicken House, 2003
Bloodline Barrington Stoke, 2004
Kissing the Rain Chicken House, 2004
Candy Chicken House, 2005
I See You, Baby (with Catherine Forde) Barrington Stoke, 2005
Like Father, Like Son Barrington Stoke, 2006
Private Detective Barrington Stoke, 2006
The Road of the Dead Chicken House, 2006
Being Penguin, 2007
Black Rabbit Summer Puffin, 2008
Killing God Puffin, 2009
Monday, March 7, 2011
This young adult science fiction book tells of a future when computer/transmitters are implanted deep inside people's brains, like the ultimate wireless device. Most communications are done internally over the 'feed' piped into everyone's head. The 'feed' is produced and provided by a corporation that encourages everyone to shop around the clock.
Over time, people have become dumbed-down. They've lost the ability to speak effectively (who needs to talk when you can constantly send email-type messages), and to learn and think for themselves (who needs to memorize or struggle with concepts when you can instantly pull up data and info from the 'feed').
Why does this story give me chills? I remember when young kids started getting their own cell phones. We thought getting expensive electronic devices for middle-schoolers was crazy. But soon all the kids my children knew had them. We resisted as long as we could, but eventually we broke down and got them their own phones.
Friday, March 4, 2011
A Pocketful of Posies, by one of my favorite illustrators, Salley Mavor.
I often give a book of nursery rhymes as my standard new baby gift. I know from my professional work as a child psychologist that exposure to nursery rhymes has a powerful effect on later reading skills (see, for example, this very readable review of some of the research on rhymes and "phonemic awareness"). Perhaps even more importantly, I know from my experiences as a mom and a former day care and preschool teacher, that cuddling up with a good book of rhymes has strong emotional benefits for both kids and caregivers.
There are several things that make this collection stand out from the dozens of options available:
|Little Miss Muffet from A Pocketful of Posies by Salley Mavor (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010)|
What's also remarkable about the artwork is how it appeals to a huge age range. Even young infants are attracted to the crisply photographed 3-D images and bright colors, older babies are drawn to the textures and sense of action, and toddlers on up through adults can not get enough of the detail.
|Tree detail from A Pocketful of Posies by Salley Mavor (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010)|
Organization Often the order of rhymes in a Mother Goose collection seems arbitrary. But Mavor has arranged the rhymes overall to follow the rhythms of a child's day from waking up and doing chores through playtime and sleep. This arrangement not only gives the book a sense of "story" but makes it easy for a parent to read just a few rhymes to suit the moment's activity when there isn't time for a longer story session. Mavor's also grouped rhymes on similar topics together, so that the illustrations for different rhymes blend seamlessly into a single scene, and children are subtly exposed to the concepts of repetition and variation on a theme.
I hope you'll be blown away by this book too. If you liked this book, you'll want to check out Mavor's website and frequently updated blog, as well as her other books, some of which I've pictured below: