Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Boxcar Children Vampires

Well, not exactly.  But having explored Little Vampire Women (“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any corpses,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.) I figured anything is possible.  So when I saw Abigail Goben’s mention of a vampire Boxcar Children book (in this post by Betsy Bird) I had to see to believe.

So, yep, here’s #120 by must-be-a-vampire-to-still-be-writing Gertrude Chandler Warner.

The publisher’s synopsis:

The Aldens meet Mr. Hudson, a local author who is best known for his novel about a vampire.  But rumors of a real vampire are going around town – a vampire who haunts the graveyard behind Mr. Hudson’s house!  But since vampires don’t exist, the children soon realize that someone must be trying to scare people away from Greenfield!  Who brought the old legend back to life – and why?

Hmm…they don’t exist, do they?


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Fine, So Maybe There are some Cool Things about the Ipad

Thanks to those who, knowing my love for this book, sent this my way (and whose names I can’t remember).

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The Well-Read-Aged-Female-Teacher

Sarah asks, “Which of the Top 100 Have You Read?” (question first posed by Teacherninja)

Er…um…all except one (#46).  Well, you did ask.  (Today I’m inviting my students to write blog posts about this.  Let’s see what they have to say. They already wondered why none of the Wimpy Kid books were on the list. ) Edited to add: I’ve starred * those I first read as a kid.

100. The Egypt Game – Snyder (1967)
99. The Indian in the Cupboard – Banks (1980)
98. Children of Green Knowe – Boston (1954) *
97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane – DiCamillo (2006)
96. The Witches – Dahl (1983)
95. Pippi Longstocking – Lindgren (1950)
*
94. Swallows and Amazons – Ransome (1930)*
93. Caddie Woodlawn – Brink (1935)*
92. Ella Enchanted – Levine (1997)
91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School – Sachar (1978)
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall – MacLachlan (1985)
89. Ramona and Her Father – Cleary (1977)
88. The High King – Alexander (1968)
87. The View from Saturday – Konigsburg (1996)
86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Rowling (1999)
85. On the Banks of Plum Creek – Wilder (1937)
*
84. The Little White Horse – Goudge (1946)*
83. The Thief – Turner (1997)
82. The Book of Three – Alexander (1964)
81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – Lin (2009)
80. The Graveyard Book – Gaiman (2008)
79. All-of-a-Kind-Family – Taylor (1951)
*
78. Johnny Tremain – Forbes (1943)*
77. The City of Ember – DuPrau (2003)
76. Out of the Dust – Hesse (1997)
75. Love That Dog – Creech (2001)
74. The Borrowers – Norton (1953)
*
73. My Side of the Mountain – George (1959)
72. My Father’s Dragon – Gannett (1948)
*
71. The Bad Beginning – Snicket (1999)
70. Betsy-Tacy – Lovelae (1940)
*
69. The Mysterious Benedict Society – Stewart ( 2007)
68. Walk Two Moons – Creech (1994)
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher – Coville (1991)
66. Henry Huggins – Cleary (1950)
*
65. Ballet Shoes – Stratfeild (1936) *
64. A Long Way from Chicago – Peck (1998)
63. Gone-Away Lake – Enright (1957)
*
62. The Secret of the Old Clock – Keene (1959) *
61. Stargirl – Spinelli (2000)
60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle – Avi (1990)
59. Inkheart – Funke (2003)
58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Aiken (1962)
*
57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 – Cleary (1981)
56. Number the Stars – Lowry (1989)
55. The Great Gilly Hopkins – Paterson (1978)
54. The BFG – Dahl (1982)
53. Wind in the Willows – Grahame (1908)
*
52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)
51. The Saturdays – Enright (1941)
*
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins – O’Dell (1960)*
49. Frindle – Clements (1996)
48. The Penderwicks – Birdsall (2005)
47. Bud, Not Buddy – Curtis (1999)
46. Where the Red Fern Grows – Rawls (1961)
45. The Golden Compass – Pullman (1995)
44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing – Blume (1972)
43. Ramona the Pest – Cleary (1968)
42. Little House on the Prairie – Wilder (1935)
*
41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond – Speare (1958)*
40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Baum (1900)*
39. When You Reach Me – Stead (2009)
38. HP and the Order of the Phoenix – Rowling (2003)
37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry – Taylor (1976)
36. Are You there, God? It’s Me, Margaret – Blume (1970)
35. HP and the Goblet of Fire – Rowling (2000)
34. The Watsons Go to Birmingham – Curtis (1995)
33. James and the Giant Peach – Dahl (1961)
32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – O’Brian (1971)
31. Half Magic – Eager (1954)
*
30. Winnie-the-Pooh – Milne (1926)*
29. The Dark Is Rising – Cooper (1973)
28. A Little Princess – Burnett (1905)
*
27. Alice I and II – Carroll (1865/72)*
26. Hatchet – Paulsen (1989)
25. Little Women – Alcott (1868/9)
*
24. HP and the Deathly Hallows – Rowling (2007)
23. Little House in the Big Woods – Wilder (1932)
*
22. The Tale of Despereaux – DiCamillo (2003)
21. The Lightening Thief – Riordan (2005)
20. Tuck Everlasting – Babbitt (1975)
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Dahl (1964)
18. Matilda – Dahl (1988)
17. Maniac Magee – Spinelli (1990)
16. Harriet the Spy – Fitzhugh (1964)
15. Because of Winn-Dixie – DiCamillo (2000)
14. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Rowling (1999)
13. Bridge to Terabithia – Paterson (1977)
12. The Hobbit – Tolkien (1938)-
11. The Westing Game – Raskin (1978)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth – Juster (1961)
*
9. Anne of Green Gables – Montgomery (1908)
8. The Secret Garden – Burnett (1911)
*
7. The Giver -Lowry (1993)
6. Holes – Sachar (1998)
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – Konigsburg (1967)
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – Lewis (1950)
*
3. Harry Potter #1 – Rowling (1997)
2. A Wrinkle in Time – L’Engle (1962)
*
1. Charlotte’s Web – White (1952)*

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On the Return of DEAR AMERICA

I’m very intrigued by Scholastic’s relaunch of the Dear America series this fall.  I had mixed feelings about the original books — some were terrific, some were not, and all were packaged in a way that made kids think they were real diaries.  So, first of all, let me say — Bravo, Scholastic, for now putting the author names on the covers.  That will definitely help young readers better understand that the diary writers are fictional characters and did not really exist.

Because, yes, in my experience in the classroom kids do sometimes think the books are real.  Here’s a 2004 child_lit post of mine:

A few minutes ago a boy in my class exploded.

He’s calmer now and went back to his work, but not before saying, “I’m angry with the guy who said, ‘Let’s fool kids by pretending they are real.’ ”

And what was he so angry about? Finding out that the Dear America books are not real. He is working with two other boys on a historical fiction project, but somehow had not registered that fiction in the case of his book meant not real. He evidently has read many WWII Dear America books and was completely beside himself to discover they were complete fiction. At first he was furious with me and ready to run to the library to show me other books that were real. I finally calmed him down enough to show him the tiny disclaimer at the back of the book at which point he made the above comment. He has gone back to his desk feeling completely and utterly betrayed.

My impression is that Scholastic is working hard to avoid this today. Not only by putting the author names on the covers, but by making the covers look less “real” by using photographs instead of drawings.  (That is, a child today will realize that the cover photograph is not actually from, say, 1620 whereas the paintings on the older books could be and were in fact misconstrued to be real-life portraits.)

For example, here’s the new cover for Kathryn Lasky’s A Journey to the New World. Now I can’t say I’m wild about the photo as the girl looks way more 2010 than 1620, but I as I wrote above, it is probably to reinforce the fact that she is a fictional character.  I’ve been teaching a unit on the Pilgrims for a couple of decades (and have written about it in books and articles) and can say with reasonable authority that Lasky did her research.  In fact I read parts of the book aloud. It is so much fun for the kids to recognize exactly where she got her info (as it is from the same primary sources they use — Mourt’s Relation and Bradford’s memoir).  It is, to my mind, a superb example of well-researched and well-written historical fiction.

PS Years ago I got a bit tired of the hyperbole surrounding Harry Potter (and, mind you, I love Harry Potter) and wrote a Dear America parody about a poor kid who hated HP.

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An Exquisite Corpse Adventure Who’s Who

In the latest episode, Children’s Literature Ambassador Katherine Paterson kindly recaps some of what has happened and takes the intrepid group on to something new and most likely discomforting.  Reading it made me think that it might be helpful to create a list of the characters populating this shaggy doggish story to date.  So here’s my stab at it.

  • Nancy and Joe: eleven-year-old twins who thought they were orphans, but found out moments into the first episode that they were not.
  • Alistair and Libby Sloppy: the twins’ parents trapped somewhere in time.
  • Boppo: a scary narcoleptic clown
  • Albert Einstein: a mad scientist
  • Genius Kelly: a dancing pig from somewhere…else?
  • Baby Max: a roller skating baby who may be the twins’ father or a hologram or something else, but seems to be related to them…
  • Angel: a pirate
  • Leonardo Dubenski: Lord of Thieves
  • Sybil Hunch: local misfortune-teller
  • Roberta: a robot of great importance

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Scholastic Fall 2010 Preview

No doubt many of you have seen Betsy Bird’s publisher preview posts wishing you lived in NYC so that you could go to one yourself.  Well, Scholastic has made it possible for anyone to go to the one they did yesterday.  First of all they broadcasted it live and then, even better (at least for me), they’ve put it here for you to watch at your convenience.  Beautifully done, Scholastic!

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The Finale of this year’s Battle of the Kids’ Books

(Yep, I’m half of the Battle Commander.)

It has been so much fun running this year’s Battle of the Kids’ Books. SLJ built a new arena, set-up a t-shirt giveaway, and got us the best writer-judges ever.  These last made thoughtful and often very unexpected decisions about our contenders and the Undead winner (the book contender that was voted back into the competition) was quite surprising to many.

I’m so glad that there are many who get this contest — that it is a way to remind people of 16 exemplary books of 2009 when we are already focused on those of 2010.  They also realize what a great opportunity it is to read essays by brilliant writers as they consider literature, young readers, genre, and a whole lot more.

Today Children’s Literature Ambassador Katherine Paterson makes the final decision, but if you have missed any of the early ones you can read them all at the Battle site.

If you have any suggestions for next year’s Battle do put them in the comments below.  (For example, if you are interested in leading a group of young people shadowing the contest as happens for the Carnegie, we’d love to know.  It is something I’ve wanted to do and maybe we will get it off the ground next year.)  Or comment at the site.

Can’t wait till we do this again!

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Mothers and Fathers, Moms and Dads

Julie Just’s essay in this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, “The Parent Problem in Young Adult Lit,” is already provoking some discussion on facebook and twitter.   After considering various trends and books over the last few decades, Julie ends with an approving look at Miranda’s 70s mother in Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me.  And it struck me when reading this that the 60s parents in Miranda’s (and my) iconic YA book A Wrinkle in Time aren’t too problematic either.   Interesting indeed.

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Magpie Day

Some disturbing and exciting stuff going on around today.

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