Maurice Sendak’s Prescient Opinion on our President-Elect

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From We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993). Many thanks to Michael Patrick Hearn for bringing it to my attention.

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New York Times Notable Children’s Books of 2016

Congratulations to NYTBR children’s book editor, Maria Russo, and all the creators of these fabulous books. Go here for the complete list with annotations.

 

Picture Books

DU IZ TAK? Written and illustrated by Carson Ellis. (Candlewick, $16.99.)

FREEDOM OVER ME. Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life. Written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan. (Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum, $17.99.)

I AM PAN! Written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. (Roaring Brook, $18.99.) .

THE JOURNEY. Written and illustrated by Francesca Sanna. (Flying Eye, $17.95.)

LEAVE ME ALONE! Written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol. (Roaring Brook, $17.99.)

MY NAME IS JAMES MADISON HEMINGS. By Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Terry Widener. (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99.)

WE FOUND A HAT. Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. (Candlewick, $17.99.)

SCHOOL’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. By Adam Rex. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, $17.99.)

THE THANK YOU BOOK. Written and illustrated by Mo Willems. (Hyperion, $9.99.)

THEY ALL SAW A CAT. Written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. (Chronicle, $16.99.)

THIS IS NOT A PICTURE BOOK! Written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier. (Chronicle, $16.99.)

THUNDER BOY JR. By Sherman Alexie. Illustrated by Yuyi Morales. (Little, Brown, $17.99.)

Middle Grade

THE BEST MAN. By Richard Peck. (Dial, $16.99.)

GHOST. By Jason Reynolds. (Atheneum, $16.99.)

THE INQUISITOR’S TALE; Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. By Adam Gidwitz. Illustrated by Hatem Aly. (Dutton, $17.99.)

MS. BIXBY’S LAST DAY. By John David Anderson. (Walden Pond, $16.99.)

PAX. By Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by JonKlassen. (Balzer&Bray/HarperCollins, $16.99.)

RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE. By Kate DiCamillo. (Candlewick, $16.99.)

WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER. By Grace Lin. (Little, Brown, $18.99.)

Young Adult

THE GREAT AMERICAN WHATEVER. By Tim Federle. (Simon & Schuster, $17.99.)

THE PASSION OF DOLSSA. By Julie Berry. (Viking, $18.99.)

SALT TO THE SEA. By Ruta Sepetys. (Philomel, $18.99.)

THE SERPENT KING. By Jeff Zentner. (Crown, $17.99.)

STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO. By A. S. King. (Dutton, $17.99.)

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR. By Nicola Yoon. (Delacorte, $18.99.)

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In the Classroom: The Critical Importance of Teaching and Learning History

The people in the country now who are spouting hate-filled words don’t seem to know their own American history. There is enough blame to go around as to why. But when it comes to fixing what’s wrong with America, one of our priorities should be making more of an effort to put our history into our classrooms in the earliest years, and to educate our teachers, too. I want all of our people—even the haters—to know why we have needed that armor and how we can, while wearing it, remain open to one another.

That is from Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s TALKING TO YOUNG PEOPLE ABOUT TRUMP, WITH LESSONS FROM GWEN IFILL, an article that resonated with me because I’ve always thought teaching and learning history is so important*. Young people need time in school to engage with the past, grapple with it in all its complexities, and develop their own tools to think historically. While I use fiction and nonfiction children’s books in my teaching of history, I also use primary sources, and structure experiences for my 4th grade students to be  historians themselves. For example, right now they are completing a study of the Europeans who came through Ellis Island in 1900. Next they will be considering those who came from China through Angel Island before and during the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act. After reading books, studying photographs and other primary sources, they will take a position on the statement often bandied about at the time that, “Angel Island is the Ellis Island of the West” and defend it with reasons and evidence. (Spoiler: they always say it wasn’t.)

*I’ve written two books (Seeking History and Far Away and Long Ago) on the teaching of history, articles (some listed here) and done presentations on the topic.

 

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Rep. John Lewis on Receiving the National Book Award for March Book Three

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Congratulations to National Book Award Winners

Congratulations to all the National Book Award winners, especially the two I have read: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad  and Representative John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell’s March: Book Three. I read the latter during the final week of the election campaign and the parallels are eerie. The former is remarkable for its topic, its ambition, its imaginative, its magical realism,….just everything. Both are amazing, amazing works (as are the first two books in the March series.)

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The Day After

Today is my sister’s birthday. Until now one of the worst historical events that occurred on it was Kristallnacht in 1938 Nazi Germany. Now it is also the day Trump won the US Presidency. My poor sister. Poor us.

Here are a few random thoughts I just posted on Facebook:

1. My wise and liberal political scientist father. Lewis J. Edinger, died in May 2008 thinking it wasn’t possible for a country so full of racists, to elect an black man. When it did I kept thinking, how happy he would have been to be proven wrong. And then again in 2012 — it would have pleased him enormously. A Holocaust survivor and specialist in German politics, who regularly answered my questions as to how Hitler and the Holocaust happened, I wish he was here now to help explain what has just happened and what might happen next.

2. Having been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone taught me that you can think it won’t happen “here” and then it does. I knew Sierra Leone as a relatively stable country in the mid-1970s. A couple decades later it was a country awash in brutality and horror. Things can change on a dime. Even in America.

3. I teach children. I have a life-threatening illness. Yet I’m an optimist. I’ll try to continue to be one and assume things aren’t going to go downhill from here. I will look for what is beautiful and do what I can to help in this dark time.

 

 

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Revisiting: Tom Angleberger’s Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind

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Want an insane kid book about an insane presidential election?  Look no further than Tom Angleberger’s Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind. Here’s my 2012 review of it:

Yesterday a package of ARCs from Abrams arrived at my home, among them Tom Angleberger’s forthcoming Fake Mustache and, needing a light read before bed, I decided to give it a try. Next thing I knew a couple of hours had passed and I’d gulped down the whole delightful confection. It isn’t out till April so I hope this isn’t a dreadful tease, but I thought Origami Yoda fans as well as others looking for good and funny middle grade books might like to know what they have in store.

So wacky this is (as another beloved Angleberger character might say) in the best way which is no easy feat. For funny is incredibly hard to pull off; what has me guffawing can just as easily leave another reader cold and vice versa. As someone who too often has been left cold by silliness I was wary when I started this one, but within pages I was completely won over.

So where to begin with this over-the-top story? The beginning, I guess. The first section is narrated by seventh grader Lenny Flem, Jr who tells what happens when classmate-and-supposedly-best-friend Casper Bengue gets his hands (or rather his upper lip) on a very pricey fake mustache, the Heidleberg Handlebar #7 to be exact. Somehow Casper knows of the remarkable properties of this mustache and while I don’t want to give away too much I will say that they help him to begin taking over the world starting with state governor and moving on to president. And so Lenny along with a Hannah Montana-like television star called Jodie O’Rodeo (who narratives the second section of the book) alone have to save the day.

There are silly names (Casper and Lenny’s town is called Hairsprinkle), pitch-perfect-for-kids grossness (boogers play a significant role), and some lighthearted pop culture baiting (e.g. Jodie’s has-been status). There are wild and crazy chases and bad guys and much zaniness. One of my many favorite moments is when Casper in his new “I”m taking over the world” role changes Election Day to Monday so he can take over the US faster.

I will be eager to see what others think of this one, but for me it was a goofy froth of fun.

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