Sunday, November 30, 2008

Book Review: Me Hungry! by Jeremy Tankard

Book: Me Hungry!
Author: Jeremy Tankard
Illustrator: Jeremy Tankard

A little caveboy is hungry, but cavepoppa and cavemomma are both too busy to feed him. So he comes up with the brilliant idea to hunt his supper all by himself. But what could he hunt? Animal after animal proves unsuitable. Is caveboy ever going to get fed?

I loved Tankard's first picture book, Grumpy Bird, and Me Hungry! proves this guy's not a flash in the picture-book pan. From the tongue-in-cheek humor (something tells me a lot of moms are going to get a laugh out of stressed cavemomma with cavebabies hanging off every limb) to the ink-and-digital illustrations to the sudden-but-sweet right turn the story takes at the end, this book has a lot of appeal.

You may get some resistance from grammar stickler parents who object to the improper use of the personal pronoun (is that the right term? Meh) but me, I think that just adds to the fun. I haven't tried this one out at storytime yet, but something tells me it'll be a hit.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


This blog may be rather sporadic over the next month. I'm going to be moving to another state and that means I have to do the hardest thing any librarian ever does . . . decide which of my personal books I get to keep and which have to be donated.

Seriously, though, it's going to be a pretty crazy month. I have a couple of reviews that I'll polish and put up, and if I run across anything interesting I'll post it.

But as soon as I'm settled in, I'll be back on the job.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bringing Back Playtime

AP ran a story about kids losing out on play due to ever-more-rigorous academic standards at ever-younger ages, and the move to bring it back. As a literacy-lovin' person you'd think I'd be all for early learning, and I am.

But imaginative play is vital to grow a reader.

Narrative skills--one of the six pre-literacy skills--refer to how a child puts together a story. Beginning, middle, and end (although often there's no end, just an evolution to the next chapter of the Perils of Pauline). What happens next? And after that? And after that?

But they don't do it on paper. They do it with a foil crown, with a cardboard box, with a stick from the backyard (Mom: "Put that down, you'll poke someone's eye out!") They tell each other the story of how they're blasting off to explore Venus with their pet dinosaur.

The child who has already explored Venus in their own mind instinctively seeks out other adventures. The child who is given play time, fantasy time, imagination time, becomes our reader, because they already know the world is bigger than what they see with their own two eyes, and they want to discover it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How Jane Yolen Writes a Picture Book

Other than, really, really freakin' well.

Fuse #8 pointed me at Jane Yolen's journal, wherein she talks about how she's writing (and, sometimes, tearing her hair out over) her current picture book. A snippet:
Difficult? A picture book? O, ye of little knowledge. To remind you: a picture book is usually 32 and occasionally 40 pages long. Half or more of it is pictorial. The trick of writing one--so far as there is a trick--is to be a prose writer with a poet's sensibility. Or a poet who is comfortable with story. Furthermore, an historical picture book needs to be able to boil down a biography or a part of a biography into a followable line with illustrate-able pages.
Y'all, this is why she's Jane Yolen. Unfortunately, her journal won't let you link to individual entries (Jane. Wordpress. Is all I'm sayin' here. Please?) so just scroll down the page or do a quick search to find the first entry, "Interstitial Moment 1 of 3."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Backstage at Sesame Street

One of the non-kidlit blogs that I always make sure to tune into is Jane in Progress, the blog of TV writer Jane Espenson. She's set her pen to Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, and too many others to mention, and her blog is full of good writing tips even if you're not aiming for the small screen.

I'm sharing this post because it contained a letter from a writer on Sesame Street. Favorite bit:
The folks in Research all have Master's degrees and PhD's in education, child psychology, etc. Research will review each script and give their comments to our head writer. . . .
I always knew Sesame Street had sound educational principles behind the Letter of the Day and Feist singing the "1, 2, 3, 4" song with penguins, but I had no idea they had such high requirements from their staff. I knew I liked those muppets for a reason.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Will Eat Them With a Fox!

I found this little gem over at Chicken Spaghetti--a Food Network Dr. Seuss Cake challenge. This vid focuses on the Green Eggs and Ham cake.

What I liked best about the clip was that, to the judges, the story that the cake embodied was just as important as the techniques, so the cake artists had to sit down with a book aimed at 5-year-olds and really study it. Cooooool.

Other cake stories seemed to include The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, and possibly maybe The Lorax. Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go bake something.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ethiopa Reads and Yohannes Gebregeorgis

If you haven't heard about this guy yet, then you need to check out Ethiopa Reads. This is a guy on the list of CNN's heroes (follow this link to vote for him being the top hero!) who's making a life's work of bringing books and reading to Ethiopa, to kids who may never have held a book before. Wow.

And the dude is a children's librarian! He left a job in the San Francisco Public Library to go back to Ethiopia and start up the ultimate bookmobile service! How much do I love that? Answer: a lot. I love it a lot.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Warped Picture Books

So a few days ago, the child_lit email list was having a hoppin' debate about scary and warped picture books and using them with the tots. Warped in this case includes surprising and dark elements, like Kara LaReau's Ugly Fish, Sylviane Donnio's I'd Really Like to Eat a Child, or the monkeys who tease Mr. Crocodile.

All of the above are favorites of mine. I enjoy a good warped picture book, (hey, no comments from the peanut gallery) but I watch my audience. Above the age of four or so, they get into it. Below four or three, they're too sensitive still. And of course, individual results vary--you can have a pretty warped two-year-old who enjoys the crocodile snapping the monkeys down, and then a preschooler who bursts into tears when the old lady who swallowed a fly "dies, of course."

What do you guys think? Do your kids enjoy darkness or scares in their picture books, felt boards, or fingerplays? When did you introduce them?

Saturday, November 15, 2008 Has a Best-of List Too

So there, Publisher's Weekly. Plus, it's more love for A Visitor for Bear. Gotta get me that book.

Seriously, though, I kinda like Amazon's approach, which is to highlight "Editor's Picks" and then "Customer Picks." The two don't overlap at all, and I was mildly entertained to see that Fancy Nancy took up 40% of the customer list all on her own, which is strangely appropriate. I'm not too clear on how the Customer List works--flat out best selling? Did customers vote?

Anyhoo, they're worth a look. Thanks to Fuse #8 for the link.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Buy Books for the Holidays!

I got this one from Jen Robinson's blog. Apparently, there's a new initiative in town, and it's called Buy Books for the Holidays. I'm behind this, and here's why:

1. Books are easy to wrap. Square or rectangle. Done and done-r.

2. When wrapped, the little stinkers can tell it's a book, but which one? Which one?!? No amount of rattling will give the title away. The suspense will make them crazy, which we all know is the best part of the holiday.

3. One-stop shopping, baby, be it Amazon, B&N, Powell's, favorite indie store that smells like cats and incense. With the price of gas, who wants to go driving all over Hell's half-acre for that elusive red shirt that your teenager wants?

4. The start of a lifelong addiction. Get 'em hooked early, and the next thing you know they're knocking on the library windows at 9:59 am, desperate for their lit fix. Muahahahaha.

Are you giving books for the holidays?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

PW Weighs in With the Best Books of the Year

I kind of enjoy the rush of Best-of-Year lists, if only because I have a mental image of the first one being posted, read, and others reacting to it with an "Oh yeah? Sez you!" and posting their own best of. "So there!" Of course, the cynic in me whispers that it's put out just in time for holiday shopping.

And of course, I read all the lists with my librarian ego swinging wildly--"Liked that one. . . Meh, wasn't too crazy about that one . . . Oh my god, I've never heard of that one! How can I call myself a librarian? I should throw myself off a book cart!!! . . . Liked that one . . ."

Among others, PW and I agree on Susan Swanson's The House in the Night, Jon Scieszka's Smash! Crash! and Laura Vaccaro Seeger's One Boy.

Follow the magical dancing link to the PW site for more. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page for kid stuff. Unfortunately, there's not a separate section for early readers, and I don't see any early readers on the list. Sigh. We should sic Anastasia Suen on them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This One's For You, Daddy

We hear a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about boys who don't want to read. The trouble is, many books portray fathers (and by extension, the male gender) in a negative light or as a nonpresence. If you've ever put together a Father's Day storytime just a month after a Mother's Day one, you know what I mean. Now, we all love our mommies, but we love our daddies too, and sometime it's like looking for the lost treasure of the Incas, finding warm and wonderful daddy-centric books. is a website that focuses on books with daddies, uncles, and grandpas, gay, straight, single-parent, nuclear family, whatever you like as long as there's a positive male presence. As a children's librarian, it's currently saved in my "resources" folder. Keep it up, guys!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

. . . Huh

Thanks to Google Alerts, I ran across this review of a play version of Goodnight Moon. As I sat there and thought about it, I scratched my head ever more ferociously. Um . . . why exactly did the world need this?

God knows, Margaret Wise Brown's most famous work is a bedtime classic, and will probably never go out of print (or at least not until we humans have extinctified rabbits, mice, cows, and possibly the moon), but there's just not that much story there. A bunny is going to sleep. The end. Oh, and there may be some mice involved.

I appreciate the instinct of playwrights and screenwriters (anyone remember the live-action Grinch movie? Yeah, I see you there in that fetal ball) to pick up a familiar commodity for some surefire cash, but at some point you've just got to let it be.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama on Books of All Types

I usually don't talk politics on this blog, (although I did participate in Blog the Vote last week) but I had to post this oldish vid of our President-Elect talking about his favorite book as a kid. It's not great quality--the trick seems to be reading the closed captioning instead of trying to follow the audio.

I remember hearing about another speech of Obama's back when I attended ALA in 2005, although I didn't go see it. In it, he spoke passionately about the need for literacy to begin at home.

I think now there's going to be a feeling of possessiveness amongst librarians, as if we discovered him first. Or maybe cuz he so clearly loves and respects books the way we do. Yeah, could be.

(If you're interested in reading his ALA 05 speech, here it is at his now-probably-defunct Senate webpage.)

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the video.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

NYT Best Illustrated Picture Books are Nigh!

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the New York Times has once again put out their list of Best Illustrated Children's Books. One of my favorite things all year, not least cuz it's purty.

Also, I think inclusion on the list is an indicator of possible future Caldecott fame, so it's a good award season primer. I don't have the 07 list to hand--anyone remember if Hugo Cabret was on it?

Thanks to Chicken Spaghetti for the link.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bob Shea reads Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime

One of my most exciting scores at ALA was a fold & gather of Bob Shea's newest, Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime. (Fold & gathers, or F&Gs, are basically ARCs of picture books.) Here's a video of the author reading the book, which should incite all of you to run out and buy it for your little dinosaurs.

Dinosaur vs. Bedtime from bob shea on Vimeo.

Thanks to Stephanie over at Children's Literature Book Club for the vid. Check out her review, too!

The Story Behind the Seuss

Or at least ten of the stories, anyway.

The good people at mental_floss collected the stories behind ten Dr Seuss classics, including such tidbits as Yertle the Turtle is totally Hitler, and The Butter Battle Book was pulled from library shelves because it was too similar to the then-ongoing Cold War. Pretty keen.

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Comment Challenge Ahoy!

So those crazy kids, MotherReader and Lee Wind, have cooked up something else for us all to join in on. It's the 21-day Comment Challenge!

I admit it, I'm not the best commenter ever. I'll save posts, think about them, even link to them if I decide to write about the topic on my blog, but I don't comment on the other person's actual blog. Knowing what a thrill it is for me to get comments, I feel bad about not putting in a little time to give that thrill to someone else.

No more! MotherReader and Lee, I'm in and I'll do my darnedest to speak up, even if it's to say "Go You!"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Baby Sign and Storytime

Over at the ALSC blog, a children's librarian writes about integrating ASL into her baby and toddler storytime.

I don't know much about baby sign, but I do know that I get a lot of requests for books and many of the parents are using it with their children, enough that I've given thought to doing the same thing as this librarian.

Anybody out there using ASL with their own kids or at the library? Care to weigh in?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Opus Has Good Taste

Check out Berkeley Breathed's farewall to Opus, in which a picture-book classic features prominently. If you want some context, read the previous two strips here.

And that's an Awwwwwwwwww from me.

Thanks to the ALSC blog for the heads-up.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yet More Third-Party Candidates

Did you need this today? Yeah, so did I. Click through to see the other candidates for President, running at Hicklebee's bookstore. Cuteness.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Book Review: Maybe a Bear Ate It! by Robie H. Harris

Book: Maybe A Bear Ate It!
Author: Robie H. Harris
Illustrator: Michael Emberley
Published: 2008

Oh dear. Ohhhhh deeeeear. His book is gone. It's totally AWOL. What can have happened to his book? How can he possibly go to sleep without his book?!?

I love books like this, that allow me to shriek, holler, and make silly faces while telling a story that's instantly recognizable to kids and parents alike. The nameless narrator conjures up all sorts of terrifying fates (a bear's teeth! An elephant's behind!) and looks in several unlikely places before finding his book just where he last saw it. (Well, unlikely unless you're me, in which case a washing machine and the sock drawer are utterly logical places to misplace a book.)

Robie Harris is probably best known for her classic puberty text, It's Perfectly Normal. Until I read an interview over at Fuse #8, I didn't realize she was also a crackin' good picture-book writer. She lets the narrator's flight of imagination go on just long enough before bringing the story back to earth as he starts his book hunt.

Michael Emberley's illustrations expand on Harris's spare prose. The narrator (possibly a raccoon?) chases all over the page with the energy and exuberance of your average four-year-old before falling asleep at the very end. This book's going right on my Storytime Favorites shelf.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Munsch's Stroke

Ridiculously prolific picture-book author Robert Munsch apparently suffered a stroke over the summer. Luckily, he's back on track enough to fulfill his publicity obligations for the latest book.

Love You Forever aside, I really like Munsch. I have extremely fond memories of reading Stephanie's Ponytail to a rowdy and delightful crowd of kids. Here's hoping for a full recovery soon!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Reading Roundup October 2008

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 21
Early Readers: 2 (I need more good early readers. Suggestions?)

Writing: Goose and Duck by Jean Craighead George, ill. Priscilla Lamont
Illustration: There's Nothing to Do on Mars by Chris Gall
Overall: A Story for Bear by Dennis Haseley, ill. Jim LaMarche

Because I Want To Awards
Most Romptastic: We've All Got Bellybuttons! by David Martin, ill. Randy Cecil
Dare You Not To Pick This One Up: Airplanes!: Soaring! Diving! Turning! (Things That Go!) by Patricia Hubbell, ill. Megan Halsey
Best New-Mommy Book: Ma! There's Nothing to Do Here! A Word from your Baby-in-Waiting by Barbara Park, ill. Viviana Garofoli