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Revisiting: The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups

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The other day, looking for a relatively short read for my fourth graders, I went to my secret read-aloud stash and rediscovered David Wisniewski‘s The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups.  Clutching it to my chest to keep the cover hidden, I sat down in my reading chair and asked the children to draw near.  I was, I informed them, being a traitor to my species — that of grown-ups.  I was going to do something that I might later rue, I told them.  And once I had their attention I carefully showed them the book cover and read it to them. Then, with great caution, I read the introduction in which Wisniewski describes how he became a secret agent (double agent, really, as he was doing something against our grown-up species after all!), scouting out these rules, usually in difficult disguises and with many a near escape.

Do I need to tell you I had every child in the palm of my hand by then?

Looking about shiftly, I then quietly read the first few pages — the truth about Grown-Up Rule #31: “Eat your vegetables.”  My students today (meat-eaters or not) adored the truth behind this rule (which you can sample yourself here). David Wisniewski, (who sadly died a few years ago) was the Caldecott winner for Golem and had a unique and witty style that never gets old.  There are two more books of Grown-Up Rules, but it is this first one that is the most successful in my opinion.

Years ago, when I first read this book aloud I would make a big deal of locking it up when done. The kids loved the game, begged me for it, sometimes rattled the locked closet door in a vain attempt to get the book; they loved everything about it. This year’s kids do too.  So here’s another that deserves to be revisited (or visited for the first time) by snarky adults and inquisitive kids.

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A Big Black Book with a Flower on the Cover?

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A security guard was sitting behind the desk in the lobby, reading a big black book with a flower on the cover. He glanced up when we filed  in with our weapons clanking. “School group?  We are about to close up.”

page 144, The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

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Bo, the National Mascot Now?

The opportunity to work on a book about the White House’s mascot, is the ultimate for us,” said Aryal. “Young readers will love the playful story line, the beautiful illustrations by celebrated artist Danny Moore, and they’ll learn interesting White House facts and traditions along the way.”

Aryal said the book has been in the works for several weeks, and when Bo’s identity became known, they put the finishing touches on the story.

Herndon, Virginia publisher Mascot Books is behind the book. They’re responsible for publishing more than 150 other children’s books that feature mascots for well-known colleges, sports teams and elementary schools.

Bo, America’s Commander in Leash will be released on April 23, and will be available for $14.95 in stores or online at www.mascotbooks.com.

Kids’ Book Features Obamas’ New Dog

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Obama and Sendak

Check out  this article which includes video of Obama reading Where the Wild Things Are at today’s White House Easter Egg Roll Monday.  Lovely.

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My (and Many Other People’s) Park

Although people think I did, I did not grow up in New York City.  My father began his academic career in the 50s taking whatever job he could get. So I was born in the South and spend my childhood in the Midwest and Europe. However, my grandparents did live in New York near Riverside Park and I remember, when visiting going to the park with my grandfather to feed squirrels and birds. A resident of the city myself for many years now, I have always lived just off this lovely stretch of green along the Hudson and so I really appreciated this New York Times piece about it. (Thanks to  Jenny Davidson for the link.)

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Lucy and I now spend hours in the park.  We’ll be going there in a few minutes, in fact. Here she is in her favorite part, near the 120th Street tennis courts where a group of dogs congregate in the hours before 9 AM when they are allowed off leash. (Pre-Lucy this group unnerved me when I ran — I’d once been bitten by a dog when I ran so I never trusted these. And now I’m one of them.!)

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The Memorial Service for Kate McClelland and Kathy Krasniewicz

But now there’s not Kathy and Kate any more. Which is why it is so urgent that we leave this place with Kathy and Kate on our shoulders. One on each. We’ll take Kathy’s red coat and Kate’s fabulous kimonos and wrap them around ourselves as armor. We’ll recall Kate’s chunky jewelry and Kathy’s beautiful family rings when we see a literary gem in the rough. We’ll peer over Kate’s half glasses and look at the world half full; more than half full. We’ll steal their enthusiasm, their drive, their optimism and use it to fuel ourselves. It’s uncertain times these days. Radical change is in the air. But the stories and the songs and the pictures will go on because they must go on. Our job as publishers, writers, artists, readers is to imbue our own endeavor with the fierce love of Kate and Kathy felt for children’s literature and children themselves.

From Brenda Bowen’s comments at Kate and Kathy’s memorial service.  I was unable to attend and am glad that Brenda posted this.  Here’s another report on the service. And here is Jennifer Brown’s moving  and poetic report.


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Books Gone Missing

The British Library has ‘misplaced’ 9,000 books. Novelist Michèle Roberts who worked there, relives the joy of losing herself in its labyrinths.

Novelist Michèle Roberts on the British Library’s lost books in The Guardian

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Mitali Perkins’ Take on Slumdog Millionaire

I loved Slumdog Millionaire, but had been concerned about some of the criticism.   Mitali’s thoughtful response is incredibly helpful.

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Zorgamazoo

Zorgamazoo Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston

My goodreads review

This is one of the more unique books I’ve read in the last year. Zorgamazoo is done completely in verse, Dr.Seuss/Roald Dahl-sort-of-verse. All of it. All 281 pages of it. Terrific verse, mind you. Versifier Robert Paul Weston manages to beautifully sustain a voice, a tone, a style, and a beat throughout. Given that he is also telling a story — building a setting, atmosphere, developing characters, and moving a plot along — it is really quite impressive. The story is fantasy, macabre, silly in (yes) a Dahlian style, and truly great fun to read. (I have to admit I did have to put the book down now and then to take a break from the verse, but I think that was my problem not the book’s. I suspect kids will enjoy this tremendously and I think I may read it aloud to be sure.)

I usually don’t agree with reviewers who say a writer is “like” some other author, but in this case I do. I did find Weston to be writing in the tradition of Seuss, Dahl, and —yes– Lemony Snicket. His tone is sinister at times, there’s terrific wordplay, and the whole package is very elegant indeed.

And by package I mean the design. Not only is this whole book in verse, but there’s some fun stuff happening with the story, pages, and such. There’s a very strong authorial voice that is connected to the design. Well done indeed!

As for plot, it is there. We’ve a plucky heroine (a la Coraline and Alice) named Katrina Katrell with the requisite horrid parents and guardian. Then we’ve got another world (literally under ours) with another main character, one sadsack named Morty. The two of them end up on a quest to find the missing Seussian Zorgles of Zorgamazoo.

Zany is remarkably just the right word for once. Zany Zorgamazoo.

View all my reviews.

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Regarding Ravens …

and fornication, check out what Mr. Roger from our neighborhood quotes.

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