Monthly Archives: November 2007

Poetry Friday: Genevieve Cote’s Lady of Shalott

In the mood for something pretty enchanting? How ’bout this?

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Tennyson meets Genevieve Cote and what we get is a gorgeous and fresh take on one of the world’s most oft memorized ballads. Cote’s art is luminous and light, just right for Tennyson’s flowing lyricism. This is a book you want to put into the hands of any teenage girl who is a real reader (not to mention every other reader you know).

Before we get to a little bit of “willows whitening” and “aspens quivering,” you might want to find out more about Genevieve Cote. Her website offers a short biography and a selection from her portfolio. Also, Genevieve is one of the many illustrators who created a snowflake for Robert’s Snow this year. I am sure you will agree that her snowflake, “Printemps”, is bound to get some serious bidding happening:

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Utter sweetness. Genevieve’s art has a softness to it that renders all of her images completely magical. For an interview with Genevieve about her snowflake (and herself), head on over to a wrung sponge. To bid on Genvieve’s snowflake, join in for Auction 3 starting December 3rd.

Want some poetry now?

The Lady of Shalott

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by
To many-tower’d Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shallot.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro’ the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shallot…

Goosebumps? Keep reading at poets.org (that is if you don’t happen have it memorized like some super-geeks among us- ahem…).

This Just In…

I’ve been sort of compulsively checking the Robert’s Snow Online Auction 1 website and right now, one of our friendly flakes has cracked the $400 mark (Liza Woodruff’s “Shoveling”). How high will it go? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Oh, and by the by:

cash advance

Tomorrow I will write a post containing many words with at least 5 syllables and then check again. See who’s smart now?

Nostalgia Moment: Brambly Hedge

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When I started working in Toronto’s little corner of paradise known as The Flying Dragon Bookshop, I went through an initial period of glorious rediscovery, as I came across books that I had adored as a child, but had somehow managed to slip out of my memory. It was like meeting the best, best old friends completely by surprise and realizing once again why you loved them so much in the first place. Rediscovering Brambly Hedge during one of my days working at the store had just such an effect- I think I may have actually cried out in surprise and total delight. Now I suppose I can admit that Brambly Hedge books may not be for everyone. Some might find them too cute, too quaint. To those sad, sad individuals, I simply say, “Pshaw!” What is not to adore about families of tiny mice, wearing little waistcoats and dresses with aprons and capes, who make toast over the fire and drink coffee out of acorns? (The correct answer here is “Absolutely nothing.”)

I think the illustrations were what charmed me completely as a child. The detail, the cozy messiness of the cottages where the mice lived, the very fact that they slept in 4-poster beds and kept a storeroom filled with the most succulent treats just seemed like the right way to live. These books remain enchanting to me, even now. I don’t have many of my original childhood books, but I do still have my 4 Brambly Hedge books, one for each season, and from time to time I pull them out and I’m 8 again.

Last year, I bought my niece her own set of the season books. They came in a small suitcase-like package, complete with handle for easy toting about. I could hardly resist a set for me.

The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem can be found as a single collection, or as individual editions (better by far for little hands, I think). Give them to a child you know and give ol’ Beatrix a run for her money.

When Dinosaurs Came With Everything

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All kids love free stuff. A lot of kids love dinosaurs. So, for many kids, a world where dinosaurs came free with everything would more or less equal total bliss.

A picture book that is cute, clever and charmingly illustrated is for me, more or less total bliss. Enter When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Elise Broach, illustrated by David Small. I like it. You will like it too, I think. Confession, dinosaur books are a hard sell for me. I don’t care even a little bit about dinosaurs (OK, maybe the littlest bit). I am not interested in their fancy, many syllabled-names. I do not think much about what wiped them out. Dinosaur exhibits at museums – not my thing. And yet, after reading this quirky, creative tale, I find myself suddenly wondering if there is a place in my heart after all for a small (or not so small) dino buddy (especially one who cleans the eaves).

When a little boy sets off for a day of errands with his mother, he is none too happy about it. Things take a decided turn for the better when he finds out that today you get a free dinosaur with every purchase.  This is a whimsical book – and who doesn’t like a little whimsy? Gentle humour comes through in both the words and the illustrations. And this is most definitely a book to win over parents and kids, as the comedy appeals to grown ups too. I also like the fact that while the main character is a boy, this dinosaur book does not scream 100% boy the way so many of its kind do. 

By the way. David Small has illustrated some of my favorite favorites ever:

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Clearly, he can do no wrong.

To further sweeten this deal, Elise Broach has a lovely website. She is evidently a clever lady poised to write even more delightful stories for all of us. Visit her at Elise Broach.com.

When Dinosaurs Came With Everythingis published by Atheneum.

The Wednesday Wars

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I read a lot on the subway. I also read walking down the street. Geeky, I know. There are some books, however, that are too fine to be read while in transit. These books deserve quiet time, me in a sunny spot, with a cup of tea and plenty of time for musing and rereading. Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars deserves this treatment. It also deserves prizes. Lots of prizes.

I started reading this book on the subway, and although I recognized almost immediately that it was wrong, wrong to be reading this when I could not devote 100% of my attention to savoring its perfection, I couldn’t make myself stop. I was laughing and laughing in front of my fellow commuters, and I didn’t care. There are few books that actually make me run down my street to my house so that I can read my guy the funniest parts without even taking off my coat first, and only being about 40 pages into the story.

I don’t think I want to describe much of what this story is about, because there are plenty of plot summaries out there. So in a few sentences: It is towards the end of the Vietnam War, as Holling Hoodhood enters 7th grade. He is the only Presbyterian kid in his class, which means that on Wednesday afternoons, when his Jewish and Catholic classmates are at synagogue and catechism, he is alone with his English teacher, Mrs. Baker, who seems to hate his guts. After much verbal sparring and power tripping, Mrs. Baker settles on making Holling read Shakespeare’s plays, which effect subtle, yet profound changes in his world. All you really need to know is that The Wednesday Wars is a book that will stay with you, that becomes a part of you. The voice feels so true, with characters drawn perfectly and consistently from beginning to end. Not to mention the fact that it is hilarious and touching. I love that it conveys that over time, we are transformed by the seemingly ordinary, often bizarre events of day to day existence, and that the possibility of connecting with family and other people in our lives is what we’re all really striving for, even when we don’t realize it.

In kids lit land, the phrase “destined to become a classic,” gets tossed around so frequently that most of the time, it hardly warrants a raised eyebrow. The Wednesday Wars has already earned a place on my “special shelf, ” where I keep books that I go to when I need to remember what I believe in, and what I find inspiring and reaffirming.

So I guess you could say, it’s already achieved classic status in my humble library. Prizes or not, I imagine that’s what every author hopes for.

The Wednesday Wars is published by Clarion books.

Blogging for a Cure: The final 2 days

Bidding starts tomorrow for the first round of glorious snowflakes created in support of Robert’s Snow. All proceeds will go to cancer research at the Dana Farber institute. For details about how the auction will work, please visit Robert’s Snow for Cancer’s Cure.

This morning I watched the Robert’s Snow video for the first time, and if you haven’t already done so, now is the moment. It is awe-inspiring and moving, not to mention the perfect way to review all of the flakes in preparation for tomorrow’s bidding.

Gorgeous, no?

Below are the last sets of links to illustrator features for Robert’s Snow. Also, at the bottom of this post you will find a link to a page created by the tireless, fantabulous Jules of 7-imp where she has compiled links to all of the features created for this blogging event. Important to remember that not all of the snowflakes were featured on blogs over the past month. Some had not been created until the initiative had begun. So there are even more great snowflakes out there to bid on.

A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cosy – Paul Brewer
Jo’s Journal – Aaron Zenz
What Adrienne Thinks About That – Wendy Edelson
Chicken Spaghetti – Joan Waites
Book, book, book – Giles Laroche
Check it Out – Annie Patterson
The Miss Rumphius Effect – Teri Sloat
Lisa’s Little Corner of the Internet – Anette Heiberg
Wild Rose Reader – Wade Zahares

7-imp’s Master List of Features

Kinda sad that all of this fun is wrapping up, but it’s exciting to see how much money will be raised as these little babies start finding their way to happy homes over the next month.

Poetry Friday: Dogku

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Dogku, by Andrew Clements, is completely adorable.

It is a picture book written entirely in haiku about a stray hound who finds a home. (Wish I’d thought of that! Curse you Andrew Clements and your cleverness!).

The deceiving simplicity of the haiku form seems to be just the right fit to express the hidden depths of the doggy mind. (I’m pretty sure dogs don’t think in phrases any longer than 7 syllables).

I like this one especially:

Scratch, sniff, eat, yawn, nap.
Dreams of rabbits and running.
Could life be sweeter?

It is if you’re my dog, who gets picked up in the afternoon by the doggy happy bus to go for a wild walk at the beach with his posse. Mr. Clements’ book is sure to liven up any teacher’s stale poetry unit. I’m seeing a class set of pet-inspired haiku collections…

In the spirit of all things poetic, if you have a pooch (or if you don’t), please take a moment to pause for poetry, and leave me a Dogku of your own. You know how it goes (5/7/5 syllables is the general rule of thumb). Here is my quickie attempt:

Uh oh… She found my
sandy dog-prints on her bed.
Good day at the beach.

Find all the rest of Andrew Clements’ delightful “dogku” in Dogku, published by Simon and Schuster.