Tag Archives: fiction

Fun Fourth Friday Future Favorites: 2010-2016

Newbery Medal winners from the partial decade:

2010–When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead
2011–Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool
2012–Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos
2013–The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
2014–Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, by Kate DiCamillo
2015–The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
2016–Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña

Caldecott Medal winners:

2010–The Lion & the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney
2011–A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
2012–A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka
2013–This Is Not My Hat, written and illustrated by Jon Klassen
2014–Locomotive, written and illustrated by Brian Floca
2015–The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, written and illustrated by Dan Santat
2016–Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Predicting the future isn’t an exact science, of course, but I’m willing to put my neck (and the neck of my favorite neighborhood librarian!) on the line and suggest that the following authors from the early 2010s have the potential to make a lasting impression on children’s literature with their books! (The medalists also have a pretty good chance, but they’re already getting their limelight in the lists above!)

Bob SheaDinosaur vs. the Library–Not all of Shea’s work was published in the 2010s, but many of my favorites were! Dinosaur vs. the Library, Dinosaur vs. the Potty, and I’m a Shark are just a few examples. His work is funny, and his illustrations are bold and simple. BoyChild has loved everything I’ve ever read aloud of his, and stories about stubborn dinosaurs just don’t get old!

Interrupting ChickenDavid Ezra Stein–Ever since my parents introduced my children to Interrupting Chicken, we have been fans of Stein’s work! Dinosaur Kisses and Ol’ Mama Squirrel are a couple of my other favorites, and I really want to read Tad and Dad now that I’ve seen it! These are fun picture books that are great read-alouds, and I look forward to more of his work.

Toys Go OutEmily JenkinsToys Go Out was published in 2008, but the rest of the series was in this decade, and GirlChild has loved them (and BoyChild, too, when we had an audiobook)! In the same vein as Raggedy Ann and Toy Story, this series of stories of toys with a life of their own are funny and silly and intelligent, and they have the potential to be favorites that our kids pass down to their kids someday.

Tuesdays at the CastleJessica Day George–Day George started publishing in the early 2000s, but my favorite series of hers, the Castle Glower series, began in this decade! Tuesdays at the Castle was the first, and the final installment, Saturdays at Sea, is in my Amazon wish list for when it’s published in February 2017! She writes light-but-detailed fantasy with strong female leads and a lot of humor mixed in with the conflicts, and they have the kind of vaguely historical (but highly magical) settings that don’t fade with age!

 

I know that these authors aren’t the only ones worthy of literary endurance; tell me in the comments some of your favorite new authors and books from the decade!

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The Beasts and Children, Day 12: Christmas with the Mousekins

Christmas with the Mousekins

Christmas with the Mousekins, by Maggie Smith (2010)

As we enter the last two weeks leading up to Christmas, this book about a mouse family’s activities during the same time might lead to some inspiration…and maybe some cinnamon snails!

The book opens as Papa Mousekin starts getting out the Christmas decorations two weeks before Christmas. (I’m actually right there with him this year!) The family–Papa, Mama, Mimi, Momo, and Baby–goes to find the perfect tree, and before they even get it set up at home, Nana Mousekin arrives for her Christmas visit. She and the older children make decorations while Papa and Mama set up the tree, and the children write their letters to Santa while the adults get the lights up. Then they all decorate the tree. Ten days before Christmas is the baking day; they bake cookies of all sorts to give as gifts (and to keep for themselves!). A week before Christmas is spent ice skating, sledding, and building snowmice in the fresh snow. Five days before Christmas, the carolers come around, and the Mousekin family has cookies and hot drinks to share. The day before Christmas, everyone is hurrying to finish up their gifts for one another. When everything is finished, Nana tells the story of Papa Mousekin’s first Christmas, the one where Santa Mouse had to rescue Grandpa Mouse from a snowstorm and delivered him down the chimney! On Christmas morning, the children come down the stairs to see the stockings filled and the tree surrounded by gifts. Finally, after their Christmas dinner, the Mousekins go around to all their friends and neighbors to deliver Christmas cookies, then they return home to enjoy their gifts together. On the very last page, on the day after Christmas, Mimi writes a thank-you letter to Santa for “all the good cheer that Santa Mouse brought to her family this year.”

It might not be possible to explore all of this book in one sitting with a young listener, and an independent reader might get sidetracked by ideas, too–even the endpapers are filled with craft instructions! BoyChild was obsessed with the speech-bubble-esque words in the illustrations (no actual speech bubbles, but spoken words in hand-written text to differentiate from the italicized story font), and I had to stop reading the story to read each word that was spoken by the mice in the pictures. There are so many details in each image that a child could spend an hour just looking through the book and still not catch everything. Then there are the craft instructions and recipes interspersed with the story, and there are even some items pictured (like the felt skates with paper clip blades and pinwheel cookies) that don’t get an explanation because there just isn’t enough space! This would be a great book to use with your elementary aged children to create a personalized family timeline of Christmas plans (maybe opting to start decorating a little earlier and not wait until the last minute to finish craft projects!) to both pace your Christmas activities and to help manage anticipation by laying out what comes next. You might get some great ideas for spending time together, too!

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The Beasts and Children, Day 9: Crispin, the Pig Who Had it All

Crispin, the Pig Who Had it All

Crispin, the Pig Who Had it All, by Ted Dewan (2000)

Crispin and his abundance of both belongings (especially the car on the cover) and ennui reminded me strongly of Milo from The Phantom Tollbooth, but this story has a more focused point and less journey than that one. Still, both Crispin and Milo undergo a personal change when they experience unfamiliar interactions with others, and a dynamic main character makes for an interesting book! In addition, both kids were appalled by Crispin’s callous treatment of his belongings…which I hope will help their minor case of ingratitude!

“Crispin Tamworth was a pig who had it all.” Each year at Christmas, he gets more, of course, and he soon gets bored with each new thing. (The story says that each item gets broken, but one illustration makes it clear that Crispin destroys his expensive toys when he is tired of them…in as short as a week in one case!) This Christmas, Crispin is excited to see a huge box under the tree; the note on the box says, “Master Crispin, In this box you will find the only thing you do not have. It’s the very best thing in the whole wide world. S.” The box, however, is empty. Crispin shoves the box outside and goes to his room to pout. When he sees a rabbit and raccoon find the box and attempt to take it with them, assuming it’s being discarded, he is seized with jealousy and goes to guard the box until he gets too cold and goes back inside. The next day, he catches the same two children playing in the box and goes outside to yell at them again, but they manage to involve him in the game of Space Base they are playing instead. The next day, he skips his weekly trip to spend his pocket money at the arcade to wait for Nick and Penny (the raccoon and rabbit) to come by; they end up playing Store, Pirates, Castle, and Space Base. Crispin is heartbroken the following day to find that the rain overnight has ruined his box and is afraid his friends won’t come back again. They do come, however, and bring even more playmates, and they spend the day repurposing the debris from his broken toys to make a really amazing game of Space Base. When the family’s new refrigerator arrives later that week, the housekeeper has the deliveryman haul away the “junk” from Crispin’s room while he’s at school, and he is horrified at the loss of yet another thing that he believes is keeping his friends around. In the backyard, however, he finds the refrigerator box that was left behind, and he discovers that it is full…of friends.

GirlChild was able to figure out by the end of the story that the note on the empty gift box was referring to friends, and the sparkly snowflake pattern bursting from the box at the end suggests the snowflake and star pattern from the wrapping paper on that box earlier in the book, giving another hint. We all felt kind of bad for Crispin that he thought that he could only have friends if he had things to entertain them, so it was really nice to see how many playmates he acquired by the end who were only interested in playing, however it came about! Stumpy little Crispin with his enormous ears is an adorable little guy, too, and all the more so when he stops being so self-absorbed and starts enjoying his friends. This is a great book for reminding children that friends are a gift!

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The Beasts and Children, Day 8: Wombat Divine

Wombat Divine

Wombat Divine, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Kerry Argent (1995)

I had to pick this up since the juxtaposition of “wombat” and “divine” was too sharp to ignore! My family went to Australia when I was ten, and I recognized many of the animals in this book from that trip!

Wombat loves everything about Christmas, especially the nativity play, and he is finally old enough to audition. He finds that his physical attributes and sleepy tendencies make it impossible for him to take any of the parts he so willingly volunteers to try. Each time he proves to be a vital mismatch somehow, the animal who is chosen instead comforts him with a gentle touch and kind words and encouragement: “Don’t lose heart! Why not try for a different part?” When all the parts have been given out, Wombat struggles not to cry in disappointment, and all his friends look on with concern. Then Bilby (one of BoyChild’s new favorite animals from the Plum Landing game on pbskids.org) has a sudden inspiration: Wombat is perfectly suited to play Baby Jesus! After his convincing performance on the night of the play, his friends congratulate him on the “best Nativity ever,” and Emu, the director, says, “You were divine, Wombat!” And Wombat is suitably pleased.

The illustrations are semi-realistic (for a book about anthropomorphic Australian animals auditioning for a Christmas play!) and expressive. You can see how bad Wombat’s friends feel that he isn’t able to participate the way he wants to, and they aren’t as happy about their own parts because of how unhappy their friend is. There are no bad friends or meanies or ungracious winners or sore losers in this book, so there are no bad behaviors to discuss away. Wombat Divine is simply a sweet book about a hopeful wombat with theatrical aspirations and his strong, caring support system! A very cute read-aloud or independent reading book for preschool to middle elementary, particularly those with a Wild Kratts-level of love for Australian animals! (Oddly enough, there is another book about a wombat and Christmas by a different author (of Diary of a Wombat fame) and with a very different focus: Christmas Wombat, by Jackie French.  I’ve not read this one!)

 

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The Beasts and Children, Day 7: A Letter to Santa Claus

A Letter to Santa ClausA Letter to Santa Claus, story by Rose Impey, pictures by Sue Porter (1988)

Charlotte lives in a rural area with no other children around except her infant brother. She spends her time like many small children, drawing, watching television, playing dress-up, and visiting the animals around her home. Her favorite thing to do, however, is write. Charlotte doesn’t yet know how to read, though, so she often copies lists, notes, and addresses from envelopes. Charlotte writes a letter to Santa Claus by copying what her mother has written for her, including a request for a surprise gift and a mention of the Christmas list she plans to send with the letter. When she starts to clean up for dinner, she drops several papers on the floor, and–since she can’t read–she picks up the wrong list to include with the letter to Santa and seals them into an envelope for her father to mail up the chimney. When Santa receives her letter, he is a little confused by the list (which is actually a copy of one of her mother’s shopping lists). As Charlotte impatiently waits for Christmas to come, she spends time watching her animal friends in the cold and snow outside, and she worries about them, hoping to get one of the busy adults at home to find some food she can give them. While she is lying awake with excitement on Christmas Eve, she sadly remembers that she hasn’t yet fed her animal friends and hopes that Santa sometimes brings something for the animals. Santa visits after she falls asleep, eager to “see this little girl who had sent him such an unusual Christmas list” and hoping she won’t be disappointed by what he has brought. When Charlotte wakes in the morning and begins to open the parcels in her stocking, she finds a loaf of bread, a bag of carrots, a package of raw fish, a bag of nuts, a carton of milk, and a hot water bottle. She feels like “Santa had been able to read her mind” and has brought her just what she needs…to take care of her animal friends! Before her parents even get up, she is outside with the animals in order to distribute the gifts she has received. And for her surprise, Santa has brought her a farm playset, “the perfect present for a little girl who liked to look after animals.”

This is another oldie-but-goodie in my opinion. Modern enough to mention television in passing, the rural setting is (as I’ve mentioned before) a kind of timeless backdrop; Charlotte could be a child sending a letter to Santa this year just as well as she did almost 30 years ago when this book was published! The pictures help make the story and sometimes include significant information that the printed text does not. While this book could be enjoyed independently by readers up to the middle elementary years, young pre-readers would probably love to have this book read aloud by someone who would let them take the time to explore the pictures and to point out important clues found there. I haven’t yet read this to BoyChild, but I’m considering asking him to find some environmental print to copy just to see what kind of a crazy Christmas list he might come up with if he wrote a letter to Santa like Charlotte did! (My guess is that he’d have a nice copy of the to-update list for our home that hangs on our refrigerator or a note to schedule a doctor’s appointment!) Animal-loving readers might be inspired to make a list of their own for things to help make the animals they love more comfortable this Christmas. As much as you can, help them out–encouraging compassion and generosity at Christmas time is important!

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The Beasts and Children, Day 1: Christmas Cricket

Christmas Cricket

Christmas Cricket, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Timothy Bush (2002)

The dedication page implies the inspiration for the story. The author writes, “To the Christmas choir in my garden. You sing like angels.” This book tells the story of a cold, wet, and dejected cricket who makes his way indoors and takes shelter in a brightly lit tree he finds there. Once he hides himself there, he begins to sing, and he is startled by sudden voices nearby. When the larger of the voices agrees with the smaller voice (who says she thinks she heard the angel ornament sing) that he thinks he hears singing, too, Cricket is surprised to hear him also say, “Did you know that angels sing in the songs of birds, and frogs and people and crickets?” Cricket is calmed and encouraged by the thought, and he joins in with the voices as they sing “Joy to the World” with joy in his own heart.

BoyChild really enjoyed this book. He even gave sounding out a few lines a try: “What should he do? He must not be found. Should he jump? Should he try to get away? Should he stay hidden?” (Clearly, not all of that can be sounded out, but he tried!) When we reread it the next day, he willingly tried it out again, only missing a few tricky words, so I’m encouraged by his effort! While he liked the part when Cricket is crossing the kitchen tiles (“jump-jumped across something, cold as frozen snow”), the hardwood floor (“skid-skidded across somewhere, slippery as pond ice”), and onto a rug (“a place as soft and fresh as grass”), he really loved the illustration showing Cricket hopping across the living room floor and up into the tree. I think he found it funny how Cricket interpreted the different flooring types based on his own experience with the outside, and the implied movement of the illustration was fun for him. The art is done in watercolor and features an assortment of perspectives that keep the illustrations interesting and make the reader feel close to the action of the story. While the claim that angels sing in the songs of animals and people is a little suspect, I explained to BoyChild that the Bible says that nature proclaims God’s glory (Psalm 19), so the author probably means that it’s as if the angels are singing when creatures in nature make their music. The point of the story, then, is found in the following passage: “He was small, then. But not worthless. What a great discovery!” For little children feeling small and powerless (and perhaps their parents, feeling insignificant in a big world), the reminder that even the smallest voice–each member of God’s creation–speaks a bit of heaven is a refreshing and empowering thought.

Great for a read-aloud for preschool to early elementary, this book has large illustrations and small chunks of text that would make it a great independent read for an early reader as well. Definitely BoyChild approved, and GirlChild thought it was cute, too.

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 2000-2009

Themed Third Throwback Thursday this month will clearly require some throwing back as it is not being posted anywhere near the third Thursday (despite the fact that I got it to post as being published over a week ago!)…I hope you can forgive me for that! 😉

Again, we’re definitely in a time frame where “classic” or “lasting” is a relative term, so I enlisted the help of my local children’s librarian to find out what books from this decade already have a following among young readers. This list reflects her suggestions as well as my own experience with and guesses based on what kind of children’s books have been, in the past, popular in the long term.

Newbery Medalists of the decade are:

2000–Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis
2001–A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck
2002–A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park
2003–Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi
2004–The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread, by Kate DiCamillo
2005–Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata
2006–Criss Cross, by Lynne Rae Perkins
2007–The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron
2008–Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz
2009–The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

The Caldecott Medalists are:

2000–Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback
2001–So You Want to Be President?, by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small
2002–The Three Pigs, by David Wiesner
2003–My Friend Rabbit, by Eric Rohmann
2004–The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordecai Gerstein
2005–Kitten’s First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes
2006–The Hello, Goodbye Window, by Norton Juster, illustrated by Chris Raschka
2007–Flotsam, by David Wiesner
2008–The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
2009–The House in the Night, by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes

Kate DiCamilloBecause of Winn-DixieHer first book, Because of Winn-Dixie, was published in 2000, was named a Newbery Honor in 2001, and was made into a movie in 2005. The Tale of Despereaux, her 2004 Newbery Medalist, became an animated film in 2008. She won the Newbery a second time in 2015 with Flora & Ulysses (featured in my post about superhero books). However, middle grade fiction is not her only strength! My kids both enjoy her funny Mercy Watson series (GirlChild as an easy independent read, BoyChild as a Tumblebook read-along!), an early chapter book, and she’s also tried her hand at a couple picture books. She often tackles tough topics that kids can understand (divorce, loneliness, homelessness, etc.) and empowers her characters to overcome their circumstances and be the heroes of their own stories. The consistent quality of her works suggest that longevity is almost inevitable!

Neil GaimanThe first Gaiman Coralinebook I encountered was actually Stardust, through the movie (recommended by my sister, whom I shall call “Marian the Librarian” (if I haven’t already done so) since she is a youth services librarian in a public library), published in 1999 (and definitely a YA or above book–not for readers younger than high school). He has an extensive bibliography, however, that starts in the mid-80s and continues to now and is primarily in the speculative fiction genre. Many of his efforts are in comics and adult literature, often short stories or poetry, but shortly after Stardust, he started publishing more child-friendly books (although most still with an edge). Some of my favorites for middle elementary to middle school are Coraline (although I can’t look at the illustrations for long!) and The Graveyard Book (the Newbery Medalist which I experienced as an audiobook read to perfection by the author). And of his picture books, I enjoyed The Wolves in the Walls and loved Chu’s Day (as did my children). He seems to be the kind of author that will continue to be read far into the future!

Lemony SnicketSeries of Unfortunate EventsI started purchasing The Series of Unfortunate Events for my classroom shortly after the first book was published in 1999. By the time I was done teaching 5th grade in 2007, the series had been completed. I remember picking up most of them from the Scholastic book order, but the last few were purchased at a local bookstore when I couldn’t wait for them to come out in paperback! Wikipedia suggests “mock-gothic” as a genre, and a setting is hard to nail down. (It feels almost steampunk to me with its Victorian vibe and a variety of anachronistic technologies, but it is less focused on the technology than on the woe the main characters face near-constantly.) Another term Wikipedia uses is “absurdist”–the characters seem like Gothic caricatures, villains and heroes alike, and the plot events are often sadly absurd. Snicket’s understated melodrama and dire and dreary commentary are hallmarks of his work. Some children read the books and get depressed; others (like me) find the understated absurdity to be absolutely hilarious. Besides the author’s other prolific writings, the series has been translated into many languages and is in the process of being made into a second movie.

Mo WillemsMo Willems‘ first books for childrenDon't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! came about after a stint as a writer and animator on Sesame Street; he decided to become a stay-at-home dad to his daughter, Trixie (who became the protagonist in his Knuffle Bunny series). Between his Pigeon books, Knuffle Bunny, and Elephant and Piggie books, it’s hard to believe that there are any youthful readers who haven’t come across and enjoyed something he has written! (My children strongly adore all of his works and are mesmerized by the Scholastic animated versions they got from Grandma! I wrote about how much we adore him in a Themed Third Thursday post a few years ago.) He received Caldecott Honors for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, and Knuffle Bunny, Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity.

I feel like I’m overlooking someone (or a few someones!) really talented and prolific with a strong body of work in this decade, and I’d love it if you’d help me out by telling me in the comments about the authors/series from this decade that have the potential to make a lasting impression on children’s literature!

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