Monthly Archives: September 2008

Poetry Friday: Mark Strand read by Mary Louise Parker

I’ve been out of the Poetry Friday loop for a month or so, and now I want back in. So I apologize if lots of people have already happened upon and celebrated this poem & video from Poetry Foundation. I think it’s worth looking at over and over, in any case.

This poem gives me the chills. It’s one of those really special ones that conveys exactly something I’ve felt before, in an almost spookily apt way:

Lines for Winterby Mark Strand

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars…

For the rest of the poem, click here, and then you must take a look at the video reading by actress Mary Louise Parker. Gorgeous.

Just Grace. Just Awesome.

Just Grace is soul sister to Clarice Bean, Clementine, Judy Moody and Ellie McDoodle and is entirely lovely in every way. Last week, I sang the praises of Charise Mericle Harper’s Fashion Kitty books. Just Grace is every bit as delightfully cheery and clever.

Grace becomes “Just Grace” because there are 3 other Graces in her third-grade class and in the interest of not going round the bend, her nothing if not practical teacher decides Grace will be known as Just Grace. This is not exactly fab news for Grace, but she dwells on it only for a little while before thinking about all sorts of other important things, mostly her “teeny tiny superpower”: the ability to feel a person’s sadness and help that person feel better (commonly known as empathy). Grace’s empathy-powers bring her into contact with lots of different people as she works to be kind and make a difference the best way she knows how.

All throughout this book you’ll get all kinds of funny little cartoonish drawings that add tremendously to the story’s humour and charm. It’s a book about communication and openness and being a kid. This is really a big grin between two covers.

I’m already reading the second one, Still Just Grace, and then it’ll be Just Grace Walks the Dog. Good times.

For a laugh, follow this link to hear Charise interviewing her daughter in role as Just Grace (so cute).

Colors! Colores!

This picture book is something a bit out of the ordinary and rather beautiful. Colors! Colores! is a bilungual book that celebrates the poetic qualities of colour. Award-winning Mexican writer, Jorge Lujan, has created simple but evocative text to inspire children to consider everyday colours in fresh, creative ways. A taste: “Yellow rolls through the sky like a warm, gold coin” and “Into a tiny seed fits clover, fits a tree, fits the whole jungle… fits green.” I can imagine using these small poems as first stanzas for students to use as inspiration for writing their own poems about colour. South African illustrator, Piet Grobler, offers up the perfect match for Lujan’s poetic jewels with understated, whimsical watercolours. I’m crazy about the artwork here.

For a book that is so spare in its text, and in the style of illustration, it feels remarkably rich, and would make a lovely gift for a would-be artist. Proof that something understated and restrained can be every bit as pleasing as flashier reads.

Colors! Colores! is published by Groundwood Books.

Cybils 2008

I am getting so excited about the Cybils 2008. If you’re new to the Cybils, they are the premier web awards for children’s/YA literature, given in all sorts of categories by members of the kidlitosphere. On October 1, you can begin to nominate those titles that you were craziest about in 2008: poetry, Middle Grade, YA, fantasy, fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels… You name it, you’ll find it. The Cybils are all about high-quality writing with kid appeal, so every parent/librarian/bookseller/publisher (and kid!) should care about what gets nominated and of course, what wins. Visit the recently jazzed-up Cybils Blog for all the latest news as things get underway. Yippee!

Fashion Kitty Fantastic-ness

Question:

May I please be allowed to stay home from school tomorrow to read Fashion Kitty all day and eat cookies till I burst?

Answer:

Um… No.

One More Question:

Is it Friday yet?

Answer:

Um… No.

Darn it.

Then just allow me to say that I have only today discovered the utter fantastic-ness that is Charise Mericle Harper’s Fashion Kitty series. Do you know a tweenage girl who likes fashion, likes to laugh, likes a little sparkle and some gently-taught life lessons? Then I guess you know what to buy her for her next b-day.

Some Fashion Kitty Wisdom to tickle and inspire:

“There’s nothing that a tummy full of cookies can’t fix.”

“It is not very satisfying to do lots of arguing first thing in the morning before breakfast.”

“It is not a good thing to decide you don’t like someone before you even meet them, but it can happen.”

Grab a little Fashion Kitty. It’s what all the cool cats are reading this fall.

North of Beautiful

Now I know it’s not really very nice to review a book that hasn’t been released yet, and it’s doubly-not-nice to review a book that won’t be out for another 4 months (February 09), but… well… I’m gonna. Just cuz I like it so much.

In North of Beautiful, Justina Chen Headley, readergirlz Diva, writer, and world traveler extraordinaire, has written another thought-provoking, thematically-rich YA novel, with a protagonist you won’t soon forget. Her first novel for teens, Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies), was one of the very first YA titles I read as a grown up reader/reviewer, just as I was getting into this whole blogging thing. Let’s just say, it set the bar pretty high, and convinced me that teens today are pretty darn spoiled by the remarkable writing that’s happening right now, just for them. Since Nothing but the Truth, I’ve been waiting for EVER for the good ol’ Toronto Public Library to get it together and let me have a turn with Justina’s second book, Girl Overboard. Hopefully that will happen sometime before I hit middle age.

But back to North of Beautiful. If you’re the least bit into cartography, or geocaching, or art, or sexy Goth guys, or travel, or awesome family stories, North of Beautiful is your promised land. Terra Cooper could be beautiful. She’s tall, blond, has a great body and plenty of smarts. She could be beautiful if not for the large port-wine stain on her cheek. For years, Terra has hidden her birthmark under layers of makeup and her long hair, but everyone in her small town knows it’s there, and no one is more aware of her difference than Terra. She’s nearly through high school, and cannot wait to escape Colville and try out her own future at an East Coast art college. Terra isn’t convinced she’s an artist, just as she doesn’t believe she’s beautiful, so when her controlling cartographer father stamps out any hope of her leaving home, Terra feels more trapped than ever. Enter hot Goth Boy, Jacob. All of a sudden, Terra is headed on a journey she couldn’t have predicted. She has to trust herself, finding her way through new territory, within her family, her relationships, and all the way to the other side of the world and back.

I’m a sucker for a book that’s built around a central metaphor that the author carries through the text, refining and extending it right to the end until it’s all rich and delightful and worth pondering for a while. Justina Chen Headley does just that in North of Beautiful, taking the idea of life as a journey into unknown territory, and weaving into this notion concepts from cartography, adventuring and creativity. As an almost-adult, Terra is living through that uncomfortable period when she isn’t sure of who she is, or where she should go. And there’s no map for this, as everyone who’s grown up knows. Then there’s also the journey Terra’s been on since childhood, as she’s undergone many medical treatments hoping to “fix her face” for good. I think Justina offers readers a really complex look at the difficult, final stage of young adulthood, as experienced by a girl who’s almost ready to recognize her own strength. Terra learns that finding and defining her beauty is an interior journey that brings her a greater sense of calm, and also a thirst for what’s coming next. I love that lesson.

Read North of Beautiful with your gal pals. Read it in Mother/Daughter book clubs. Read it for a book report. There’s lots to talk about and to inspire. Then head over to www.geocaching.com and try a little treasure-hunting in your own backyard. And be sure to check out Justina’s current adventures with her family in Shanghai, over at her blog, Wordlings by Justina.

North of Beautiful is published by Little Brown and will be released in February 2009.

Elf Envy: Random Round Up

Fun stuff for ya from around the kidlitosphere:

Read Kelly Herold’s excellent review of Tamar, by Mal Peet. Great crossover material. This one was one of my favourite reads last year. I like this cover a lot better though:

Jen Robinson offers up a deliciously creepy book trailer for S.A. Bodeen’s, The Compound. (I’ve got this ARC gosh darn it. So why haven’t I read it yet?)

I’m happy to have discovered another cool reading blog: People Reading. You’ll find lots of posts in which the blogger interviews random people about the books they’re reading. Fun! Thanks to The Well Read Child for the link.

For teachers out there, you’ll appreciate a peek into great spaces for student learning in other people’s classrooms over at A Year of Reading. Nifty round up idea. I’d love to see more!

Given the news of late, The Ya Ya Yas have compiled a list of titles connected to teen pregnancy. Worth knowing about.

Read about one Very Cool Librarian. Thanks to Siobhan of The Longstockings for that link.

And speaking of those Longstockings… Caroline Hickey’s new book, Isabelle’s Boyfriend was released this week. Congrats to her. I enjoyed her first book, Cassie Was Here, during Cybils season last year.

Done and done.