Tag Archives: children’s books

A tradition at 15, Twin Cities Book Festival set for October 17

Rain Taxi Review of Books and the Twin Cities Book Festival just keep growing and getting better, introducing readers of every age and literary persuasion, collectors, booksellers and thousands of other visitors to an expanding diversity of writers and publishers. The Fifteenth Annual Twin Cities Book Festival extravaganza will ignite the Minnesota State Fairgrounds all day Saturday, October 17 – with an opening night celebration on Friday evenin

As the programs and exhibits continue to evolve, event planners are sharing the basics, including the rosters of author events, panels, book signings, workshops, storytelling and more.

At present the following adult programming includes these local and globally renowned writers: Jabari Asim, Christian Bok, Susan Cheever, Brian Henry, Leila Lalami, Joe Meno, Nina Revoyr, Craig Thompson, Rupert Thomson and Joy Williams.

Authors scheduled for the Children’s Pavilion include John Coy, Mike Curato, Donale Lemke & Bob Lentz, Tran Thi Minh Phuoc, Stephanie Watson and Mike Wohnoutka.

Writers appearing in the Middle Grade Headquarters include Cecil Castellucci, John Flanagan, Lynne Jonell, D.J. MacHale, Carrie Ryan, Daniel Wallace and Jacqueline West.

Appearing in the Teen Tent are Rebecca Hahn, Tom Isbell, E.K. Johnston, Julie Kagawa, Derek E. Sullivan and Nicola Yoon.

Bios of each of these authors are included on the TCBF website (www.raintaxi.com)

TCBF regulars also know to look for hundreds of exhibitors and once-in-a-lifetime deals on thousands of used and rare books and records.

To stay in tune with developing plans, connect with social media including www.raintaxi.com @RainTaxiReview, and/or Facebook.com/RainTaxi.

TCBF15 is made possible by grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council supported by Legacy funds. The children’s pavilion at TCBF is supported by MELSA. Middle Grade Headquarters and Teen Tent programs are co-sponsored by Red Balloon Bookshop.

 

 

Advertisements

“Rejoice the Legacy!” Andrea Davis Pinkney Delivers 2014 Arbuthnot Lecture May 3

Born in Washington, DC in 1963 Andrea Davis Pinkney was an infant during the Civil Rights Movement, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary.  And yet she tells the stories of those days with beauty and passion – in words and pictures that communicate with children of today.  Today Pinkney is a highly regarded writer, editor and publisher, creator of stories that bring deeper understanding of African American heritage to young readers.

Pinkney’s elegant books for children, many illustrated by her husband Brian, have earned her a host of awards, including the famed Coretta Scott King award.  Her acceptance speech on that occasion warrants legacy status.  (http://www.hbook.com/2013/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/coretta-scott-king-author-award-acceptance/)

And “Rejoice the Legacy!” is the title of the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture she will deliver on May 3, 2014, at Willey Hall on the University of Minnesota campus.   The Arbuthnot Lecture is a prestigious honor bestowed by the Association of Library Services to Children, a network of over 4000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educators.

Andrea’s husband Brian Pinkney is just one of several talented family members who contributed to a profile of the writer in The Hornbook.(http://www.hbook.com/2013/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/a-profile-of-andrea-davis-pinkney/

To prepare for and further illustrate the Arbuthnot Lecture Lisa VonDrasek, Curator, and staff of the Children’s Literature Research (Kerlan) Collection  at the U of M have prepared an exhibit that brings to memory the stories of the Civil Rights Movement era.  One visual highlight of that exhibit is a real-life reconstruction of the famous lunch counter where protesters sat in to protest the ways in which the civil rights of African Americans were trampled in a nation that prides itself on equality.

The exhibit at the Andersen Library on the University of Minnesota West Bank is open now during library hours.  Included in the exhibit are original art and sketches selected from Pinkney’s children’s and young adult titles, “providing insight into one writer’s creative process as well as a peek into editorial practice.”

The Arbuthnot lecture is set for 7:00 pm. at Willey Hall on the U of M campus.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m.  A reception and signing will follow the event.  Required tickets are free for the lecture and can be obtained from the U of M website.(http://www.eventbrite.com/e/2014-may-hill-arbuthnot-honor-lecture-with-andrea-davis-pinkney-tickets-6654895973?aff=efbnen

For more information or with questions, contact the Children’s Literature Research Collection at https://www.lib.umn.edu/clrc/new-manuscripts.  One treasure on the CLRC website is a great Educator’s Guide to one of Pinkney’s books, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, the story of the peaceful sit-in at Woolworth’s lunch counter and its role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Read more about Andrea Davis Pinkney:

http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/pinkneyAndrea.php

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/andrea-davis-pinkney-interview-transcript

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12981.Andrea_Davis_Pinkney

 

 

 

Reading & Weeding as the Garden Grows

Children and gardening is a match made in heaven.  They are both about starting small, growing, depending on others, and finally turning into something very special.  Still, not every parent, grandparent or care provider has a green thumb.  Nor does everyone have a backyard primed for planting.  And some of us have little gardening wisdom to impart.  Still, we have stories to share, tons of resources and glorious books to read with kids.  Virtual gardening is a great option.

Experienced gardeners and those who remember the farm or stories of rural life know the routine.  Though life experience is always the best teacher, book stores and libraries offer rich collections of good reads that introduce kids to the many facets of gardening – books that tell the garden story at a pace kids can comprehend, with options for experienced gardeners to elaborate on the text and illustrations.

Though authorities would probably promote connecting kids and gardens during the spring planting season, I think harvest season works as a good alternative.  A rich harvest shows the result of plant growth coupled with the caring hands of the gardener.  Kids appreciate the beauty of a blooming rose and the great taste of strawberries and corn on the cob.  Knowing the ROI they can track back to learn about the process that transforms the inert seed into an edible product or visual treat.

As with any list, this a pitifully inadequate representation of the possibilities – just a nudge to remind us all that a good story can be the best teacher:

Alison’s Zinnea, by Anita Lobel. Alison gives an amaryllis to Beryl who bestows a begonia on Crystal.   You get it – an alphabet book about plants.

Beautiful, by Susi Gregg Fowler.  A story about the gift of gardening and watching that gift blossom.  Centers on the relationship between a garden, an uncle and his nephew.

Isabella’s Garden, by Glenda Millard.  A picture book

And Then It’s Spring, by Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead. A picture book

The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krause.  A picture book

And the Good Brown Earth, by Kathy Henderson.  A grandma and a young boy go through the planning, planting, weeding/watering, gathering seasons.

Flower Garden, by Eve Bunting.  A family creates a window box garden in a city apartment.

Farm, by Elisha Cooper.  Life on a family farm in the Midwest.

Caterpillar, caterpillar, by Vivan French.  Nettles aren’t just nasty weeds, they provide shelter and food for caterpillars that turn into butterflies.

The Tiny Seed, by Eric Carle.  Check for the beautifully illustrated YouTube supplement.

Yucky Worms, by Vivian French.  Grandma and child explore how earthworms help plants grow.

Good reads for grownups

The shelves are loaded with books for grownups – ideas, resources, advice.

A Child’s Garden: 60 ideas to make any garden come alive for children, by Holly Dannenmaier.

Gardening with Children, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Guide for a Greener Planet.  Ideas for 40+ garden-related projects.

Geography of Children; Why Children Need Wild Places, by Gary Paul Nabban.  Making sure your garden is “where the wild things are.”

Touch a Butterfly: Wildlife gardening with kids, by April Pulley Sayre.  Creating a garden that invites wildlife.

The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids, by Todd Christopher.

Lots of websites

Green Grandparents

Children and Nature Network  (http://www.childrenandnature.org/)

Junior Master Gardener  (http://www.jmgkids.us/)  a 4-H youth development program sponsored by Extension.

Kids Gardening  ( www.kidsgardening.org/) ‎ The National Gardening Association site.

PBS Victory Garden: Gardening with kids ( http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/victorygarden)  Accompanies the public television program.

National wildlife: 16 Tips for Wildlife Gardening with kids (http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Gardening/Archives/2010/Wildlife-Gardening-with-Kids.aspx

Thyme 4 Kids,  http://www.herbsociety.org/resources/t4k/thyme-4-kids.html  Site sponsored by the Herb Society of America.

 

Making Room for a Children’s Classic

Note:  Snowbound days are meant for slow thinking about ordinary things.  Yesterday’s gentle snowfall on a quiet Sunday spurred me to learn and write about books that help introduce children to the realities of poverty and hunger in our midst.  The hours I have been spending as a volunteer at Neighbors do give me a fresh take on ordinary things.  This morning my concern is the plight of homeless people faced with a foot of new fallen snow.  A piece I had written for Neighbors came to mind.  Though the piece describes a program at Neighbors, the message is universal.  Furthermore, it’s about one of my favorite stories and this entire blog is simply  about poking around……

***

One of my favorite stories of the holiday season is  Always Room for One More, written by Sorche Nic Leodhas and illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian.  Based on a Scottish folktale it’s the story of a generous Scotsman, Lachie MacLachlan, who welcomes every weary traveler who passes by on a stormy night into his “wee house in the heather” where “there’s always room for one more.”

The host’s generosity is part of the story – the rest of the tale is the beautiful  thank you of his grateful guests.  It’s a warm and humorous story, complete with a musical score for singing along.  And it’s just right for the Christmas season.

When Lache extends his hand, his reward is rich.  A tinker, a tailor, a sailor, a ‘lassie’, an ‘auld’ wife, a bagpiper and others join him.  There’s dancing and singing till the house falls down!  With the help of his guests Lachie builds a bigger house, where there is ‘always room for one more.’”

The story sets a tone and is delightfully infectious.  Though shopping for toys, books, clothing, games and other holiday gifts for an adopted family is not quite the same as Lache’s experience, the spirit and the rewards are very much the same.

Many families and seniors in our community are like the weary travelers Lachie befriends.  Neighbors depends on our friends to make room in their hearts by adopting a family or senior.  As in Lachie’s stories, the rewards for all are great.

The promotion part:  This was part of a pitch for Neighbors Adopt-a-Family and Adopt-a-Senior holiday programs.  Neighbors is a “full service” social service agency – thrift shop, food shelf, tele-care, transportation, emergency assistance and much more.  It serves and is largely supported by residents of northern Dakota County — South St Paul, West St Paul, Inver Grove Heights, Mendota, Mendota Heights, Lilydale and Sunfish.  If you want to know about these programs or about Neighbors in general, you can let me know or contact Neighbors directly.– info@neighborsmn.org, www.neighborsmn.org,   651 455 1508 or visit Neighbors’ new site  at 222 Grand Avenue West in South St. Paul.

Note:  Snowbound days are meant for slow thinking about ordinary things.  Yesterday’s gentle snowfall on a quiet Sunday spurred me to learn and write about books that help introduce children to the realities of poverty and hunger in our midst.  The hours I have been spending as a volunteer at Neighbors do give me a fresh take on ordinary things.  This morning my concern is the plight of homeless people faced with a foot of new fallen snow.  A piece I had written for Neighbors came to mind.  Though the piece describes a program at Neighbors, the message is universal.  Furthermore, it’s about one of my favorite stories and this entire blog is simply  about poking around……

***

One of my favorite stories of the holiday season is  Always Room for One More, written by Sorche Nic Leodhas and illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian.  Based on a Scottish folktale it’s the story of a generous Scotsman, Lachie MacLachlan, who welcomes every weary traveler who passes by on a stormy night into his “wee house in the heather” where “there’s always room for one more.”

The host’s generosity is part of the story – the rest of the tale is the beautiful  thank you of his grateful guests.  It’s a warm and humorous story, complete with a musical score for singing along.  And it’s just right for the Christmas season.

When Lache extends his hand, his reward is rich.  A tinker, a tailor, a sailor, a ‘lassie’, an ‘auld’ wife, a bagpiper and others join him.  There’s dancing and singing till the house falls down!  With the help of his guests Lachie builds a bigger house, where there is ‘always room for one more.’”

The story sets a tone and is delightfully infectious.  Though shopping for toys, books, clothing, games and other holiday gifts for an adopted family is not quite the same as Lache’s experience, the spirit and the rewards are very much the same.

Many families and seniors in our community are like the weary travelers Lachie befriends.  Neighbors depends on our friends to make room in their hearts by adopting a family or senior.  As in Lachie’s stories, the rewards for all are great.

The promotion part:  This was part of a pitch for Neighbors Adopt-a-Family and Adopt-a-Senior holiday programs.  Neighbors is a “full service” social service agency – thrift shop, food shelf, tele-care, transportation, emergency assistance and much more.  It serves and is largely supported by residents of northern Dakota County — South St Paul, West St Paul, Inver Grove Heights, Mendota, Mendota Heights, Lilydale and Sunfish.  If you want to know about these programs or about Neighbors in general, you can let me know or contact Neighbors directly.– info@neighborsmn.org, www.neighborsmn.org,   651 455 1508 or visit Neighbors’ new site  at 222 Grand Avenue West in South St. Paul.

Children’s Books Portray the Tough Reality of Hunger and Poverty

For far too many children abject poverty and insatiable hunger are a constant reality.   Still, most children are shielded from the facts that some of their peers know only too well.  For children who live in comfort, good books that portray children with whom they can identify can open doors of understanding, even empathy.

Much that is written for children depicts the travesty of global hunger – starving children who struggle against unspeakable conditions in faraway lands.  Poignant  as these stories are, some are remote, beyond the experience or even the imagination of a child.

In recent times the world of children’s literature has expanded to embrace the plight of children closer to home.   My amateur search for children’s books about poverty and hunger is grossly limited by my ignorance of the genre.    A good children’s librarian, teacher or bookseller would be a far better resource.  My thought has been to explore children’s stories about hunger in our midst.  The goal has been to find books that tell a story that will some day have meaning for my grandson whose idea of severe hunger is missing a glass of milk at bedtime.

The unfortunate and statistically inaccurate fact is that ethnicity and family situation play a role in several children’s books that deal with poverty and hunger.   Adults sharing these books are cautioned to take this into account by stressing that the characters are not responsible for their condition.  For the most part the causes of poverty are not individual but systemic.

Many books that depict causes and conditions of poverty derive from passed from generation to generation; many come from places and people that enjoy an oral rather than written tradition.  Though the setting may be unfamiliar, the message transcends geography.  These books come to life when they are shared with caring adults who can interpret the underlying factors that shape the lives of individuals and families, especially children, who are not to blame for their situation.

ü  A good conversation starter is the classic story of Stone Soup, a familiar tale that has been told in words and pictures by countless writers and artists who know children well.

ü  Rosie, the Shopping Cart Lady, by Chia Martin, is a story for children, told by a child, a good introduction to the reality of poverty and homelessness for young book lovers.

ü  Another good read, based on a Chinese folktale, is One potato, two potato retold by Cynthia DeFelice.  In this story a hungry family learns that doubling their edibles is less important than expanding their circle of friends.

ü  In The Roses in my Garden, set in Afghanistan, author Rufshana Kahn tells the story of a young refugee living with terrifying memories.  Overcome by thirst, hunger and mud he continues to dream of freedom.

ü  Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoefer, was first published by Heifer Project International.  The book describes how the gift of a goat brought a level of prosperity to a village in Uganda.

ü  In The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh Frederick Lipp describes how a young girl saves money to buy a bird for her impoverished extended family.

ü  Sounder, by William Armstrong and James Barkley, is the story of a 19th Century African American sharecropper family.

ü  In A Shelter in Our Car Monica Gunning writes about a widowed mother and her daughter Zettie who are forced to leave their home in Jamaica.  The mother’s strength instills hope and confidence is the little girl.

ü  Jane Resh Thomas tells the story of Latino migrant workers far from and lonesome for their homeland during the holiday season in Lights on the River.

ü  In Angel City an elderly African man discovers an abandoned baby on a Los Angeles street.  With no experience, he rears the child as his own, keeping the child and hope alive with songs and stories.

ü  A Handful of Seeds by Monica Hughes recounts the story of Concepcion, a young orphan girl who is forced to move to the barrio when her grandmother dies.  When she learns that her new friends must steal for food Concepcion decides to sow the corn and bean seeds left to her by her grandmother.  The community garden represents hope and illustrates the impact one person can have on a community.

ü  Gowanus Canal is a grubby area in NYC in which a homeless man and a brood of dogs share a common fate.  Jonathan Frost shares their story in his first book, Gowanus Dogs.

ü  Race and poverty play a role in Lucky Beans, based on the real life memories recounted by author Becky Birtha’s grandmother.  It’s the story of a Depression-era African American family who enter a bean-counting contest with high hopes of winning a sewing machine.

ü  The Double Life of Zoe Flynn by Janet Lee  Carey is the story of a little rich girl with a secret – – that her family is no longer rich but living in a van.  Hope and strong family ties help Zoe survive her situation.

ü  Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen is a realistic story in which a young boy sees first-hand the difficult lives of families who are hungry and the kindness they are shown at the workers at the soup kitchen.

ü  Well-known author Eve Bunting recounts the plight of a homeless boy trying to avoid detection in an airport terminal.  Fly Away Home describes how a bird in flight gives him hope.

ü  In Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn, Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, the young boy Sam discovers the true meaning of the “lucky money’ his grandparents have given him to buy “anything he wants.”

ü  Mama Panya’s Pancakes by Mary Chamberlin and Richard Chamberlin is about a poor Kenyan mother and son who go to market to shop for the ingredients to make pancakes.  The generous boy insists on inviting all people he encounters to join the pancake feast.

ü  Predictably the Berenstain Bears have a tale to tell, a story of conspicuous consumption writ large.  In The Berenstain Bears Count Their Blessings Mama helps her cubs realize that love trumps worldly goods, even Bearbie dolls.

ü  Last on the list, first in my heart, is one of my favorite holiday reads, Always Room for One More by Sorche Nic Leodhas, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian.  Though it’s not strictly about hunger and poverty this book is the perfect holiday read for the whole family and the perfect gift for a young reader with a vivid imagination and a generous heart.

These few titles offer but a quick sample of the treasures on the shelves of libraries and bookstores.  In these volumes creative writers and illustrators interpret themes and conditions that are difficult for children to grasp, harsh realities that are nonetheless part of the world in which they live, learn, make friends and come to understand others.   A good story well told can reveal deep truths and subtle nuances that children are just learning to comprehend and apply.

A good book is always the ideal gift for any child.   In every home, for every child, there is always room for one more….

Booked for an Evening – Good Reads for Good Kids November 7

Now that the experts have confirmed that TV harms kids (!) the fallback for some parents, grandparents and caregivers just may be as old fashioned as books!  Catch up on the latest with a panel of experts, children’s librarians who live and breathe children’s literature.  Check out Booked for the Evening, an evening of children’s literature at the Red Balloon, is now celebrating its tenth year as a venerable tradition for those who want to learn what’s new and special and irresistible to young readers and their reading partners.

 

Sponsors of this unique collaboration include the Red Balloon, MELSA, the regional public library system, and the Library and Information Science program at St. Catherine University.  The books are from the Red Balloon and the panelists are graduates of the Master’s program at St. Catherine University.

 

The tenth annual Booked for the Evening is Monday, November 7, 6:30 p.m. at the Red Balloon, 891 Grand Avenue (Grand and Milton) in St. Paul.  Cost is $13 – checks payable to St. Catherine University.  Mail to Alumnae Relations, SCU, Mail F-33, 2004 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul 55105.

 

This is just one of scores of programs related to children’s literature – writers, illustrators, publishers and more – sponsored by the Red Balloon and other area bookstores.  Take some time to peruse the magnificent array of books for young readers – you’ll be amazed at the treasures.  If you haven’t read with a child recently you may want to revisit the delight.  A good read with a good kid can brighten the longest and coldest winter evening!

 

 

Books by and for young Muslim readers — the missing links

Writing in the Star Tribune last week Norman Draper, with the assistance of local school librarians, raises an issue and reinforces the myth that there are few images of Muslims in today’s children’s literature.  The fact is that excellent authors are writing and publishers are publishing good books – great books – on the topic.  There are no funds, much less librarians with the time or the budget to purchase the fine books that young readers deserve.  The ten years since 911 have actually seen promising rise in books about Muslim history, Muslims in America, and books about young Muslims, particularly stories that debunk myths about Muslim girls and women.

One of the most interesting articles I found dealt with this last issue. Ozlem Sensoy and Elizabeth Marshall, writing in the Canadian publication Rethinking Schools Online, address the challenge to Save the Muslim Girl! They address three stereotypes:  1) Muslim girls are veiled, nameless, and silent, 2) Veiled=Oppressed, and 3) Muslim Girls and Women Want to be Saved by the West.  Though this is for adults, parents and teachers, the article sets a context for thinking about the issues.

Some years ago I had the opportunity to work in college library for young women at the Abu Dhabi campus of Zayed University.  What I learned through the experience is reflected brilliantly in this timely article.

Perhaps the most thorough treatment of the topic The World of Arab and Muslim Children in Children’s Books compiled by Judith V. Lechner of Auburn University.  Lechner focuses on picture and chapter books that are told from Arab and Muslim perspectives of “sympathetically portray these cultures and avoid stereotypes.   The extensive listing is organized by age of the reader with clear indications of the country portrayed in the book

Current listings of books for children that reflect Muslim history and thinking are legion.  The highly regarded  Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin suggests some classics:  In Pearl Gaskins book, I Believe In Christian, Jewish, and Muslim young people speak about their faith.  Coming to America by Bernard Wolf tells the story of a Muslim family in America.  The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust, written by Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix will broaden children’s understanding of historical relaetions between Jews and Muslims.

And there are lists upon lists.  Rukhsana Khan is a recognized authority on children’s books with Muslim and related cultural themes.  Khan compiled an extensive booklist on the fifth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.  The list, published in School Library Journal, is still available online.  Kahn has now produced a more inclusive list, designed for teachers, librarians, “conscientious parents” and anyone with an interest in Islam and Muslim.  The list is divided into contemporary picture books, contemporary novels and short story collections; folktales, and non-fiction.

Khan is also an author with a raft of published titles including King of the Skies,   The Big Red Lollipop, The Roses in My Carpets, Ruler of the Courtyard, and Silly Chicken Though some of Khan’s books are about Pakistani and Afghan children, the Big Red Lollipop, published in 2010, tells the story of a Pakistani-American girl who has to take her little sister to a birthday party to which she has been invited. In A New Life (2009) Khan writes about a young girl and her brother arrival in Canada as immigrants.  Dahling, If You Luv Me, Would You Please, Please Smile describes the struggles of a Muslim girl trying to appease her classmates.  All of Khan’s books are described in detail on her website.

The Muslim Family is a website devoted to providing Muslim books for readers of all ages.  They offer a Children’s Catalog, a Muslim Children’s Book Club, a Muslim Family Book Club and an annotated list of favorite Islamic books for children..  For pre-schools there is the Akeed Series, a “labor of love” of the author Sister Shamima.  Tell Me About Hajj captures the history and essence of Hajj for children.

The most rudimentary Google search displays a host of publishers that specialize in books about and for young Muslim readers.  For this post I focused on the ones that offer some evaluation.  There are hundreds upon hundreds of other titles that could be readily reviewed.

If funds, time and commitment were to permit, these good books might even be purchased for young readers, locals and newcomers alike,  in Minnesota schools. We all face the challenge to read, learn and share the stories.