Monthly Archives: June 2013

In Honor of Helen Keller’s Birthday

I’ve always been blown away by both Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. As a child I read many of Keller’s memoirs (she was a prolific writer) and one of my favorite units when I taught 6th grade was on “The Miracle Worker.” Of the many recently published books about these two, I especially like the graphic novel Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert. The title trials are both metaphoric and real, one of them being a probably not-so-well-known plagiarizing situation. Lambert creatively explores familiar and less familiar aspects of Helen’s life in powerful ways, say representing her interior thoughts in dark text-free panels.

And then there is this awesome video of Annie Sullivan demonstrating just how she introduced speech to Helen.


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NPR’s Backseat Book Club’s Call for Best Books for Kids 9-14

NPR’s Backseat Book Club has a call out for nominations for their “Ultimate Kids’ Bookshelf — a collection of 100 books that every 9- to 14-year-old should read.” Here’s what I contributed:

In looking through the nominations they don’t seem very diverse, most likely because of your audience. That is (as was the case with the YA poll) those who listen and follow NPR (and this feature of it) are a particular demographic. Couple that with the many suggestions that are nostalgic and you seem to be heading toward a very …er…not-diverse…list of “The Best Books for Kids Age 9-14.” I do hope you can somehow get the word out so the nominations widen out a bit. That said, here are mine (selected because I personally love them and because I’ve seen firsthand kids today loving them as a teacher):

1, E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (I’d be a bit horrified not to see this on a best books list for this age group.)

2. Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 (I was glad to see this was one of your book club selections. Still my favorite of all of this fine writer’s works.)

3. E. L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (This fabulous author died earlier this year and this is probably her best known and loved book. Still holds up for kids today in my experience as an elementary teacher.)

4. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (This was also on the YA list, but is great for the upper end of this age range, especially the first two books.)

5. Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer (Wonderful and the most recently published of my nominations.)


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After Seeing The ABC of It

Having now seen “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter,” here is a quick follow-up to yesterday’s post. First thing to know is that it is wonderful — witty in design and delightful in the actual objects on display. It is reflective of curator Leonard S. Marcus’s intelligent and deep understanding of children’s books — this is reflective in the works on display, their organization, the whimsical exhibit design (Leonard worked closely with the designers on this), and the informative wall cards and text. As it will be on through next March I urge anyone who is in or visits New York City to be sure to go (specifics are here).


There’s a rabbit hole!


And Alice’s neck (made of books and pages) moves up and down.


The man of the hour, Leonard Marcus.


NYPL’s Betsy Bird and Jeanne Lamb who helped behind the scenes (along with many others at NYPL) in front of a section featuring NYC books (and Faith Ringold’s quilt).


This is probably hard to see because of my shadow, but those are two teeny weeny red shoes in a corner of The Wizard of Oz display.


This photo has all the words it needs, doesn’t it?


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The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter — New Exhibit at the New York Public Library

Later today I’m going with some others in the local children’s lit world to see the new New York Public Library exhibit, The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter along with its curator, Leonard S. Marcus*, someone I’ve known for many, many, many years. I’d been hearing bits and pieces about this for a long time, but today’s review in the New York Times (with a tantalizing slideshow) has me completely beside myself with excitement to see it. As it is on through next March, you all have plenty of time to see it. Congratulations, Leonard, for what is clearly an incredible show.

*Who is having quite a year. Coming in August is his Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing.


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Lee & Low Examines The Diversity Gap in Children’s Books

Since LEE & LOW BOOKS was founded in 1991 we have monitored the number of multicultural children’s books published each year through the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s statistics. Our hope has always been that with all of our efforts and dedication to publishing multicultural books for more than twenty years, we must have made a difference. Surprisingly, the needle has not moved. Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, children’s book publishing has not kept pace. We asked academics, authors, librarians, educators, and reviewers if they could put their fingers on the reason why the number of diverse books has not increased.

That is the intro to the timely and highly informative piece, “Why Hasn’t the Number of Multicultural Books Increased in Eighteen Years?”  Highly recommended.

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Tom McNeal’s Far Far Away

Tom McNeal’s just out Far Far Away is getting some well-deserved buzz so I figured I would post my brief goodreads comments, written after reading it (and liking it quite a lot) a few months back.

A very unique read, sort of spooky, definitely creepy as it goes on. With one notable exception, the characters are-not-quite Grimm characters, but nearly. The book is filled with Grimm tropes and you think the author is going to take you in somewhat predictable fairy-tale directions and he doesn’t. McNeal really knows how to make food sound really scrumptious and also various characters twinkly and fun until…they are not. It probably would have given me nightmares as a kid. That is, I was the sort of kid who always freaked out around clowns and there is a character in this book that reinforces just why they freaked me out. Can’t say more without spoilage.

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Pippin Now and Then

Yesterday on a whim, I got a ticket for the matinee of Pippin (which took home a clutch of Tonys last Sunday) and it was money well spent. In particular, Patina Miller and Andrea Martin were fantastic as were all the acrobatics and other circus-centered actions. (I was especially impressed with a very casual-in-passing-knife act in the middle of one number and…Andrea Martin….boy oh boy!). There was even a Lucy-like-dog* at one point.

The original production was playing when my family moved to the NYC area from the Midwest and I vividly remember the following television ad with Ben Vereen and so shed a sentimental tear when the familiar music began.

Here’s Patina’s version (followed by “Simple Joys” which gives a good taste of the acrobatics):

*Little black poodly-like thing.


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Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer

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Kate DiCamillo on Charlotte’s Web

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Blank on Blank’s Animation of a Sendak Interview

I’ve just come across the organization blank on blank that “…take journalists’ raw interviews and transform them with music, sharp editing, and storytelling.”  Yesterday, to honor Maurice Sendak’s 85th birthday, they pubished the the following animation of an interview he once did. Have to say, I’m not wild about the juxtaposition of their drawing with Sendak’s-what do you all think?


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