Monthly Archives: October 2007

Day 17: Robert’s Snow Posts (Boo!)

Happy Halloween to all!  I noticed this morning that my local grocery story has not even waited for this holiday to pass before putting up their giant, super-sticky window Rudolph.  I suppose that after today, it will truly be full steam ahead to ho ho ho.  We bloggers are already in total snowflake mode.

Today’s links:

Kate’s Book Blog- Shawna Tenney

Booktopia- Adam Rex

MotherReader- Mo Willems

a wrung sponge- Rolandas Kiaulevicius

Halloween Countdown (aka the last Crispy Crunch in the box)

As I sit here, the eve before Halloween, happily munching the last mini Crispy Crunch from my giant mix box, I find I am pondering the perennial Halloween question:

Are these mini bars really getting smaller and smaller, or am I just getting bigger and bigger?

As I blog and munch and blog and munch, I wish to thank Julie of the ever-lovely Children’s Illustration for pointing me towards this goodie:

Tomorrow is The Halloween Party at school. Crazyness will no doubt ensue. A lovely time will be had by all and sundry provided that no children take bites out of each other.

Let the spookiness begin…

Day 16: Robert’s Snow posts

Here are the links to the snowflakes for today:

Book Buds- Ann Kofsky

A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cosy- Bill Carman

Finding Wonderland- Gretel Parker

A Year of Reading- Matt Phelan

Writing With a Broken Tusk- Stephanie Roth

If you haven’t, you must check out the amazing snowflake / tree topping angel on display at 7 imp.  Ah the creativity… I guess that’s why they’re the artists and I’m not.

Leepike Ridge

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I’m beginning to wonder how the Middle Grade Judges for this year’s Cybils award are ever going to choose the winner. The more Cybils nominations I read, the more I realize that this is going to be one hot competition. It will be tough enough for us panelists to narrow the list to the finalists – exciting stuff!

N.D. Wilson’s Leepike Ridge is a remarkably statisfying, superbly written story that should get young readers – and their parents / teachers / librarians / booksellers – really excited. Normally, when someone tells you that a book is something close to an Adventure / Coming of Age / Survival tale that reads like a blend of Robinson Crusoe and The Odyssey you can safely conclude that the author took on too much and the story will come up the worse for it. Not in the hands of Mr. N.D. Wilson.

Quick intro: Thomas Hammond lives with his mom in a house right on the edge of Leepike Ridge. His dad died a few years ago, and now his mom is on the verge of remarrying. Too bad her suitor is a weirdo teacher from Tom’s school. Tom is not too happy about this, and so he grabs a giant piece of packing foam from their newly delivered fridge and floats down the river at the base of the ridge (cause what else would you do in this situation, right?) Things get interesting / terrifying when Tom gets himself sucked underground by the river as it heads under the ridge itself. What he finds under the rock is unlike anything he could have expected. Here are a few things you need to know about this book:

1) Man can this guy write. If I were to set about quoting you the most beautiful passages and turns of phrase in Leepike Ridge, I’d be here for a while. Let’s just say that there are several lines in this book that warranted a “Wow- I need to put this book down and let that image float around in my head for a moment.”

2) It’s a very visual story. The journey that Thomas experiences is a wild and strangely mysterious one, and you can see the whole thing. The book wouldn’t work half as well if Wilson wasn’t so deft with description.

3) This isn’t just a gripping adventure. The book is hiding plenty of “deeper” lessons. Lots of different kinds of kids could enjoy this book (and that’s just one reason why I think it deserves to be a finalist for the Cybils). A kid who loves nearly non-stop action will race through this book and have a blast along the way, but the kid who likes to think about complex mysteries – of the natural and human world – will walk away from Leepike Ridge with lots to mull over.

4) Did I mention that N.D. Wilson can write? Try this for some proof:

“After a few mouthfuls of moon-flavored air, even the stubbornly drowsy can find themselves wide-eyed. Tom was hardly drowsy, and he took more than a few mouthfuls. By the time he had reached the base of the rock, his senses were heightened nearly to the point of bursting. All of the normal noises of life were gone, leaving behind the secretive sounds, the shy sounds, the whispers and conversations of moss disputing with grass over some soft piece of earth, or the hummingbirds snoring…”

Gorgeous.

It is so clear that every aspect of this story was given careful thought. Leepike Ridge is a book that you can appreciate as having been crafted by its author, but not in a way that ever feels self-conscious. It just feels beautiful and complex.

There is an outstanding interview of N.D. Wilson at Novel Journey. Also, lots of bloggers have already had their say about this title:
Becky’s Book Reviews
Semicolon
Miss Erin
Fuse 8

Fuse calls it “an adventure novel with a soul.” I think that’s the perfect way to sum this one up. I don’t want to jinx this, but I have to wonder, have we got our winner here?

Leepike Ridge is published by Random House.

Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears

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Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears is classic Emily Gravett. It might seem a bit much to call it “classic Emily Gravett” as she’s only been on the scene for a few years – but if any hot new author/illustrator is up for it, it’s Gravett. Gravett’s books are always based in clever and deceptively simple concepts that she polishes to complete brilliance. (Can you tell I love one this yet?) Her two more recent books – Orange, Pear, Apple Bear and Monkey and Me are pitched at quite a young age range (5 and younger). Her first title Wolves (insert gushing here…) and this new book, will likely be best appreciated by slightly older readers.

Basic premise: Little Mouse is afraid of many, many things – some rational fears, some not so much. In his book, he lists his major fears and offers illustrations and other pieces of evidence to explain his fears to the reader. What is enviably wonderful about Gravett’s books is the detail. You can pore over every page and discover many small (and usually funny) delights that somehow manage to take you out of the book to a greater appreciation of its artistry, and deeper into the world of the book at the same time. I’m not going to spoil this for you by listing all of the adorable and brilliant details that Gravett has inserted in this work since it’s a treat to discover them as you read.

Ok… just one spoiler! On the front end page, Gravett explains to her readers:

“(this book) has been put together by an expert in worrying, who draws on a lifetime’s experience of managing her fears through the medium of doodle. You too can overcome your fears through the use of art! Each page in this book provides a large blank space for you to record and face your fear using a combination of drawing, writing, collage.”

So Ms. Gravett… you are challenging us to a drawing duel? Scary. (No, I mean it). I wouldn’t want to go up against Emily with a paltry pencil as my only weapon, however pointy it might be. As a grown up lover of picture books, there is a not so small part of me that cries out, “No! Don’t draw on this book! Don’t wreck it with your lame doodles! It is perfection! It shall not be defaced!” But kids will go gaga over this. And, Gravett’s illustrations have a crazy, messy freedom to them, so that a child’s crazy, messy artwork will blend in wonderfully. In fact, I almost want to hand this book over to a couple of young artists in my class so that they can personalize it.

When you see this book, you will want it. I think it could cure the worst ever case of bibliophobia.

Visit Emily’s website at www.emilygravett.com to see more stuff you’ll love.

Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears is published by Macmillan.

Poetry Friday – Sheree Fitch

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Sheree Fitch is a Canadian poet/writer who has written lots of lovely poetry collections for kids (and many other things too!)  Two of her best known children’s poetry books are There Were Monkeys in my Kitchen and Sleeping Dragons All Around. If You Could Wear My Sneakers is a collection with an interesting – and teacher-appealing concept.  Every poem in the book is an interpretation of one of the articles from the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child.  There’s even a quiz at the end of the collection to get kids to match particular poems to the appropriate article from the convention.

While I think some of the poems do not offer a clear enough link to the article from the convention that they are meant to express, many of the poems offer a strong starting place for kids to begin thinking about the rights that they deserve.  Naturally, this ties in beautfully for teachers in numerous curricular areas.  It could be a super launch for a poetry writing experience where kids work together to create their own “book of rights” expressed in verse.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the poems:

           The Stinky Truth

“What do you think?
Do you think that I stink?”
Said the skunk
“Do you think that I smell?”
“Well, I think that you stink
But I think for a skunk
That you smell
Incredibly
Well.”

For the rest, check out Fitch’s book.  Also, see Just One More Book’s interview with Sheree from a while back, for more about her and her work.