Tag Archives: middle school

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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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1990-1999

It’s kind of hard at this point to know just what children’s literature of the 1990s will have staying power in the distant future, so I’m choosing a few books and authors who had a real impact on the decade or that had a strong body of their work published in the 1990s and which I know kids are still reading today. It’s hard for me to realize that many of these books were written over twenty years ago because, well, the 1990s doesn’t seem so far in the past to me! It may have become clear to readers by now that I am particularly fond of historical fiction and fantasy titles, but I have a few picture books and realistic fiction titles included in my list, and if you notice any glaring omissions from the decade, chime in below.

[1990-to-1999-book-list]

A sampling of some significant events in history for the decade (including a number of which I actually remember!):

1990–Nelson Mandela freed
1991–Collapse of the Soviet Union
1992–Los Angeles riots after Rodney King verdict
1993–World Trade Center bombed
1994–Nelson Mandela elected president of South Africa
1995–eBay founded
1996–Unabomber arrested
1997–Pathfinder sends images of Mars
1998–U.S. President Bill Clinton impeached
1999–Euro becomes new European currency

Newbery Medals for the decade are:

1990–Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
1991–Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli
1992–Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
1993–Missing May, by Cynthia Rylant
1994–The Giver, by Lois Lowry
1995–Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech
1996–The Midwife’s Apprentice, by Karen Cushman
1997–The View From Saturday, by E.L. Konigsburg
1998–Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse
1999–Holes, by Louis Sachar

Caldecotts for the decade are:

1990–Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China, by Ed Young
1991–Black and White, by David Macaulay
1992–Tuesday, by David Weisner
1993–Mirette on the High Wire, by Emily Arnold McCully
1994–Grandfather’s Journey, by Allen Say
1995–Smoky Night, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz
1996–Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann
1997–Golum, by David Wisniewski
1998–Rapunzel, by David O. Zelinsky
1999–Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Product DetailsAndrew Clements: I don’t know if I’ve expressed how much I love Andrew Clements’ books (I have, a few times), but I do very much love Andrew Clements’ books! Suitable for readers as young as third or fourth grade, they usually have a school-based setting, have a varied cast of characters and conflicts, and you never have to worry that the content will be inappropriate for young readers despite some of the issues they tackle. My first and always favorite is Frindle (1996), his first novel for children, but Extra Credit (2009) and About Average (2012) are up there, too, for different reasons. (I consider him the Joan Bauer of children’s literature…and Joan Bauer is the Andrew Clements of YA literature–always appropriate to recommend!)

Sharon Creech: Sharon CreechProduct Details doesn’t write series books, but my classroom library when I taught fifth grade had quite a long Creech segment anyway! My personal favorites are Love That Dog (2001) and Granny Torrelli Makes Soup (2003). Her characters are also real and relatable, and she doesn’t shy away from hard topics. I would recommend most of her works for fifth grade and up, actually, because of the topics and age of the protagonists, but my two favorites can work for slightly younger students. Walk Two Moons (1994), the story of a young teenage girl who is dealing with her grief over the loss of her mother in her own particular way, won the Newbery in 1995. Absolutely Normal Chaos (1990), another book for upper elementary to middle school readers, was published first in the UK and again in the US after the success of Walk Two Moons.

Product DetailsChristopher Paul Curtis: Because they were both published after I had begun high school, I read the Newbery medalist Bud, Not Buddy (1999) and Newbery runner-up The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 (1995) as an adult, but I think if they had been around when I was in grade school, they would have been just as impactful, and I hope a teacher would have exposed me to them! (They were certainly both in my classroom library when I taught fifth grade, but our history curriculum didn’t teach those eras in my grade level, so I didn’t use them in class.) Historical fiction is my favorite way to learn (and teach!) about the past, and a well-researched novel is, to me, the most immersive and moving way to learn about an era in history from the point of view of a character who is a part of a group to which I don’t belong. My historical knowledge of these eras (Great Depression and Civil Rights Movement) is embarrassingly weak, but these characters pulled me in and made me feel for them and with them, those little girls in their Sunday best and that trumpet-playing, jazz-loving boy, characters who were like me in as many ways as they were unlike me, and that is a definite mark of a well-written story! Because of the very tragic (and very real) climax of The Watsons Go to Birmingham:1963 (the burning of the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church which killed four little girls), I’d suggest it for upper elementary and middle school aged readers, but Bud, Not Buddy and more recent works, like Elijah of Buxton (2007) and The Mighty Miss Malone (2012) (both now on my reading list!) might be suitable for readers in the middle to upper elementary grades.

Kevin Henkes: Kevin Henkes Product Detailshas been publishing since the early 1980s, but his works that are most familiar to me, like Chrysanthemum (1991) and Julius, the Baby of the World (1990), were written in the 1990s and later. My children own a number of his mouse-based books (Owen’s Marshmallow Chick (2002) was one of GirlChild’s favorites when she was but a wee lass, and it still comes out every Easter!), and the Henkes shelf gets a lot of circulation at both the public and school library locally. His characters (despite usually being animals in this period of his writing) are realistic with recognizable childlike qualities (both good and not so good), and children really identify with the emotions his characters express. He is both author and illustrator, and his first black and white picture book, Kitten’s First Full Moon (2004), won a Caldecott in 2005.

Product DetailsPatricia Polacco: Patricia Polacco’s picture books are a staple of primary school libraries, and she published quite a few during the 1990s (and beyond). Some of her best and most famous works include Thank You, Mr. Falker (1998), Chicken Sunday (1992), and Thunder Cake (1990). (I reviewed Babushka’s Doll in my Themed Third Thursday: Dolls and Toyland post.) The author weaves her heritage and personal history into her books, including her Russian Jewish and Irish family stories and style, and her art is engaging and easily recognizable.

J.K. Rowling: Product DetailsIf we’re talking in terms of popularity, visibility, and continuing impact on culture, I’d have to say J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (1997-2007) made the biggest splash of the 1990s. (It even made it onto the history timeline I reference for my events of the decade portion of the post!) My first introduction to the series was in a children’s literature class for my education degree, and I soon caught up on the series and waited like so many others for each next book to come out. (I’m a pre-order kind of fan, not a Barnes-and-Noble-at-midnight-in-costume kind of fan…) While GirlChild has not yet read the series, all of her older cousins have, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. (I’m pretty sure that if I introduced GirlChild to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as a character right now, she’d never finish the books (or forgive me!), so I’m not going to ruin that for her!) Readers enjoy the well-developed fantastical elements of the stories, of course, but also the realistically portrayed, flawed, and lovable characters, the relatable emotions and themes, and the complex and interwoven plot lines. Not only has this series spawned a hugely popular movie series, but even books within the books are now being published and made into movies of their own!

Product DetailsJerry Spinelli: Looking at Jerry Spinelli’s extensive publication list from the 1990s, I realize that I was growing up with these books! I turned eleven as this decade began, so I spent my early adolescence picking these up as they filtered into the library. My youthful memories include Maniac Magee (1990, 1991 Newbery Medal), There’s a Girl in My Hammerlock (1991), and that literary classic Who Ran My Underwear Up the Flagpole? (1992). GirlChild recently read Fourth Grade Rats (1991) in school, and my fifth grade classroom library included Wringer (1997, 1998 Newbery Honor), The Library Card (1997), and Picklemania (1993). Spinelli has continued to publish children’s and YA literature to the present.

 

What Do We Do All Day’s list had very little overlap because she aims for lesser-known works, and this list is her last to compare. I’m going to venture into the 2000s and even future favorites of the 2010s, so I’m on my own now!

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1980-1989

The 1980s were my childhood decade. I went from infant to tween in the space of those ten years, and it seems obvious that the books of the decade would stick with me since I was both an early and indiscriminate reader.

[1980-to-1989-book-list]

Here’s a sampling of the historical events of which I was probably completely unaware while I was being a child:

1980–Pac-Man video game released
1981–First woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court (Sandra Day O’Connor, who spoke at my university years later!)
1982–E.T. released
1983–Cabbage Patch Kids popular (now this I remember!)
1985–Titanic wreckage found
1986–Chernobyl disaster
1989–Berlin Wall falls, World Wide Web invented

Newbery medalists of the decade include a number that I remember reading (but not all), and the honor books (some of which I’ll address later in the post) were also standard fare:

1980–A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-1832, by Joan W. Blos
1981–Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson
1982–A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers, by Nancy Willard
1983–Dicey’s Song, by Cynthia Voight
1984–Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary
1985–The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley
1986–Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan
1987–The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman
1988–Lincoln: A Photobiography, by Russell Freedman
1989–Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, by Paul Fleischman

Caldecott medalists, including some of my most remembered illustrators (like Trina Schart Hyman, Stephen Gammell (whose more recent work I didn’t connect to these books), and Chris Van Allsburg):

1980–Ox-Cart Man, by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
1981–Fables, by Arnold Lobel
1982–Jumanji, by Chris Van Allsburg
1983–Shadow, translated and illustrated by Marcia Brown (French text by Blaise Cendrars)
1984–The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot, by Alice and Martin Provensen
1985–Saint George and the Dragon, retold by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
1986–The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
1987–Hey, Al, by Arthur Yorinks, illustrated by Richard Egielski
1988–Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr
1989–Song and Dance Man, by Karen Ackerman, illustrated by Stephen Gammell

While a number of the above titles have stood the test of time, my personal favorites will show up again in the reviews below!

Richard Scarry's Best Word Book EverRichard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever: New Revised Edition, by Richard Scarry (1980): Okay, I know that this was not published originally in the 1980s, but it was such a giant in my vocabulary development as a wee lass that I had to include it! My brother, born in the previous decade, had the 1963 version for his edification, but I learned about the bear twins’ clothing, shapes and colors, and parts of the body with a few more females in male-dominated fields and a few more gender-neutral job titles (fire fighter as opposed to fireman, for example). Love, love, love this book. My mom made sure to get each of her sets of grandchildren a copy so they, too, could examine each page diligently as they grew!

Fables, by Arnold Lobel Fables(1980): This book of one-page original fables was a favorite of mine as a child. I’m not sure where I got my paperback copy–either a book fair or a RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) give-away, I think–but I treasured it! It was a Caldecott Medal winner, and each fable has a large, detailed illustration to go with it. Each fable comes with its own explicitly stated moral, such as “Satisfaction will come to those who please themselves” and “Advice from friends is like the weather. Some of it is good; some of it is bad.” It would be a great mentor text for writing stories with a moral (or even just a message), and I might suggest covering the morals up, reading the fables aloud, and letting the class brainstorm what each moral might be. Because the animal characters are so silly, the fact that there is a message to each one won’t ruin the fun!

If You Give a Mouse a CookieIf You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond (1985): I apparently missed this as a kid, but the Kohl’s Cares reprints and accompanying toys were a big hit with my children when they were smaller! (In fact, this particular title was the one we didn’t own, and BoyChild–age 5–discovered how much he loves it when he found it sitting with our library books and made GirlChild read it to him!) It’s a cause-and-effect story that has just enough silliness to disguise the fact that it is a great literacy learning tool!

Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan Sarah, Plain and Tall (30th anniversary edition)(1985): This Newbery Medal book tells the story of a father and his children who are hoping that the father’s advertisement for a wife will bring songs back to their home and hearts. Sarah from Maine answers the letter and comes to the plains for a trial period. Anna and Caleb hope that Sarah, who describes herself as plain and tall, will learn to love their home and stop missing the sea. When she goes into town alone one day, the children are worried that she has decided against staying and is buying a train ticket home to Maine. However, Sarah returns with special gifts and tells them that although she misses the sea, she would miss them more. The book is a fast, simple read and would be a good choice for historical fiction for middle grade readers starting around third grade. I’m going to give it to GirlChild to try! (The book flap says the story is based on “a true event in [the author’s] family history”–always a great way to get story ideas!)

The Whipping Boy (updated cover)The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman (1986): Our cat, a kitten we rescued from the storm sewer on our street, was named Jemmy after this book; it’s one of those that my mom read aloud to us in that memorable way (where she used different voices for different characters but didn’t even realize it) that made the book come alive! An orphan named Jemmy catches rats in the sewer to earn money. He is snatched from the streets to live in the castle as the whipping boy for Prince Brat (not his given name). When the prince tires of Jemmy’s stoic response to whippings and his father’s lack of attention, he makes Jemmy help him run away. There is a circus bear, a pair of kidnapping highwaymen, and a chase through a city sewer–all the ridiculousness and excitement a middle grade student needs! This historical fiction book (quite possibly more popular with boys but obviously something I quite enjoyed!) won the Newbery Medal.

Howl’s Moving Castle, by Dianna Wynne Jones Howl's Moving Castle(1986): I have to admit that I checked this book out and still didn’t get a chance to read it! So many of my fantasy-loving friends have mentioned it, however, that when I discovered it had been published in the ’80s, I had to include it. I have read another of her fantasy titles for young adults, The Dark Lord of Derkholm (which is not quite as dark as the title might imply!), and Wikipedia (that monolith of solid information!) says that she has been compared to Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman, both authors whose books I have loved (although I can’t read Coraline and look at the illustrations at all!), so I am going to keep my borrowed copy of this book until I actually get it read! It was made into a movie in 2004, so we’ll see if I have to look that up, too, after I’ve finished!

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters (updated cover)Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale, by John Steptoe (1987): Steptoe retells a folktale first recorded in published form in 1895. The moral points out that being kind and caring is more important than being beautiful (and reaps better rewards), but the illustrations that earned it a Caldecott Honor are worth the purchase price of the book even without the story! Another positive aspect of the book is that the author clearly did research, not only citing the first printed version of the story that inspired his book but also the origins of the names he chose, the inspiration for the scenery in the illustrations, and the people (and related institutions) that assisted him in his research. Additionally, unlike many books where there is a king seeking a bride, there is actual mutual consent and respect shown between the king and the woman he asks (not just chooses!) to be his bride. Definitely a lasting title great for any home, school, or classroom library!

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen Hatchet (updated cover)(1987): When I discovered many years ago that my husband had never read this Newbery Honor book, I actually read it aloud to him while we traveled! It’s the kind of book I can’t believe a boy in the ’80s would have missed! So many things from the book still linger with me, and the survivalism depicted–both his physical survival and emotional survival–could be empowering to modern readers as well. I’m sure some of the aspects of the story haven’t aged well–Brian would have had a cell phone handy, for one thing, although he might not have gotten a signal in the woods!–but the overall themes and internal struggles still ring true. Gary Paulsen is a master of realistic survival stories (and has lived a rather adventurous life to get the credibility and experience needed to do them real justice), and this is a classic. I think the youngest reader I’d suggest would be probably fifth grade, but the protagonist is thirteen, and there is real meat to the story, so middle and high school readers are likely to get the most out of it.

The MittenThe Mitten, by Jan Brett (1989): I’ve blogged about Jan Brett’s books before, and part of it is because she has just written so very many! The exquisite detail in her illustrations, her lifelike but anthropomorphic animal characters, and her gravitation toward snowy scenes and retellings of traditional tales make her the quintessential author for a primary school library. Because of the way part of the story is told in words and part in pictures, (particularly the images featured around the borders of each page, in this case made to look like decorations pinned to a birch bark panel), readers get several layers of story when the story is read versus when they are able to spend time examining the illustrations. Another great thing about Ms. Brett is that her website contains links for pages to color among other things! The Mitten–the story of how a variety of cold animals squeeze into one lost mitten–is one of her most well-known and loved books.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, True Story of the Three Little Pigsby A. Wolf, as told to Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith (1989): I’m not sure if I’ve said this before (I’ve said this before), but I love Jon Scieszka! While my first introduction to his work was The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, this book was actually his first picture book! Fractured fairy tales are a genre I have always enjoyed, and this title is a great example. In it, Al Wolf (from his prison cell) defends himself against the claims that he cold-heartedly ate the first two little pigs when what he really did was have a sneezing fit while trying to ask to borrow a cup of sugar to make his granny’s birthday cake (and then eat the pigs when their homes fell down so as not to let them go to waste!). He has been framed! Like much of Scieszka’s work, young readers will need to have somewhat sophisticated reading skills to really get the story independently, but these books are also great to share and discuss with kids (and then let them explore them alone to see the nuances and clever details that might be missed in a first read-through)–great for discussing inference, voice, and point-of-view!

Number the StarsNumber the Stars, by Lois Lowry (1989): Set in Denmark in 1943, this Newbery Medal book tells how a young Danish girl helps her Jewish friend during the Nazi occupation of her country. The family’s determination, inventiveness, and bravery in spite of reasonable fear are clear throughout, and I know that my mother has used this book as a literature supplement to her history lessons in her sixth grade classroom. (Another World War II historical fiction book I can suggest for upper elementary and middle school aged readers would be Michael Morpurgo’s Waiting for Anya (1990).)

I obviously have quite a few favorites from the decade, and the bloggers over at What Do We Do All Day? had a list with even more forgotten favorites on it! (My kids just finished listening to the Wayside School books on audiobook during our summer travels this year!) I do notice a few common threads on both our lists: silly/slapstick, folktales, and historical fiction. I don’t know whether these things were just en vogue at that time and really dominated children’s literature or if we bloggers just have similar taste in our ’80s books!

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1970-1979

I’m on vacation this Thursday, so I hope you’ll forgive a perhaps spotty posting!

[1970 to 1979 book list]

Historically in this decade, with a focus on new technology:

1970–Floppy disks introduced
1971–VCRs introduced
1972–Pocket calculators introduced
1973–Skylab (first U.S. space station) launched
1975–Microsoft founded
1976–Apple Computer founded
1977–First Star Wars movie released
1979–Walkman introduced by Sony

In literature (Newberys):

1970–Sounder, by William H. Armstrong
1971–Summer of the Swans, by Betsy Byars
1972–Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien
1973–Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
1974–The Slave Dancer, by Paula Fox
1975–M.C. Higgins, the Great, by Virginia Hamilton
1976–The Grey King, by Susan Cooper
1977–Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
1978–Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
1979–The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin

In literary art (Caldecotts):

1970–Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig
1971–A Story A Story, retold and illustrated by Gail E. Haley
1972–One Fine Day, retold and illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian
1973–The Funny Little Woman, retold by Arlene Mosel, illustrated by Blair Lent
1974–Duffy and the Devil, retold by Harve Zemach, illustrated by Margo Zemach
1975–Arrow to the Sun, by Gerald McDermott
1976–Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, retold by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon
1977–Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions, by Margaret Musgrove, illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon
1978–Noah’s Ark, by Peter Spier
1979–The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, by Paul Goble

I’m going to be open here: I was born in 1979. The first memory I have of any of the award-winning books of the decade are the two Leo & Diane Dillon books, but many from the Newbery list later became favorites. I’m going to skip all those now that they’re listed and just tell you about a few others that have stuck with me somehow from this decade.

Chocolate FeverChocolate Fever, by Robert Kimmel Smith (1972): Henry loves chocolate so much that he breaks out in chocolate fever and flees the hospital to avoid the treatments of doctors who don’t know what to do! A truck driver named Mac gives him a ride, but they are hijacked by two thieves who believe the truck to be carrying expensive furs (instead of the chocolate bars it’s really hauling). Henry learns the value of moderation and considering others (like his parents) when he makes his choices. BoyChild and GirlChild enjoyed this audiobook, and GirlChild had already read it in her classroom in second grade as well.

The Dark Is Rising, The Dark Is Risingby Susan Cooper (1973): I received this book as a gift from either my fourth or fifth grade teacher. It’s the second of the series, and I never got around to reading the first, but I read the rest of the series! Steeped in European mythology, I believe it was one of my first solo ventures into magical realism in novel form. The seventh son of a seventh son, Will Stanton is the last of the Old Ones, and his adventures start as he turns eleven. A little darker than a lot of the children’s series that I enjoy, this is a good series for upper elementary and middle school age readers.

Tight TimesTight Times, by Barbara Shook Hazen, pictures by Trina Schart Hyman (1979): “Tight times” mean the little boy who tells the story can’t get a dog. His daddy explains all the things in their life right now that are a part of tight times: Mommy going to work, bulk cereal, and no trips to the lake. Then Daddy loses his job, and the little boy finds a cat in a trash can outside. He names the cat Dog because he’s always wanted one. There is no “happy ending” exactly to the story–the boy gets to keep the cat, but there is no solution to the real issues–just like life.

Ben’s Trumpet, Ben's Trumpetby Rachel Isadora (1979): I kind of love almost everything Rachel Isadora does. This book–about my favorite instrument, no less!–is no exception. Done completely in black and white, it tells the story of a boy named Ben who pretends to play a trumpet and loves listening to jazz musicians play. The trumpet player from the jazz club compliments his “trumpet,” but the other kids make fun of him. Later, the jazz trumpeter takes him to a practice at the club to teach him to play the real horn.

BunniculaBunnicula, by James and Deborah Howe (1979): I recently checked out the whole Bunnicula series on audiobook for a roadtrip with my kids. They almost refused to listen–too much suspense, I think!–but they ended up loving these stories about an innocent (but possibly vampire) bunny, Harold the happy-go-lucky author dog of the book, and suspicious Chester the cat.

What Do We Do All Day published a list that contains many of my favorites and a few I’d never heard about!

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1950-1959

I was doing so well, really, until the third Thursday of June fell during the week of BoyChild’s Things that Go camp at church and as I was getting us ready for a weekend getaway for Father’s Day! I totally thought I had another week to get it posted, so here it is, a week late, and I’m going to just go with it! (After all, Fun Fourth Frowback Friday just doesn’t work for me!) Here’s the Themed Third (plus one!) Throwback Thursday for the 1950s, the decade in which my parents started reading!

[1950 to 1959 book list]

Here’s our history news update from about.com:

1950–first organ transplant performed, first “Peanuts” comic strip published
1951–color tv introduced
1952–seat belts in cars introduced, Queen Elizabeth ascends to the throne
1953–DNA discovered
1954–segregation ruled illegal in the U.S.
1955–Disneyland opens, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat
1956–Velcro introduced
1957–Dr. Seuss publishes The Cat in the Hat, Sputnik launched
1958–LEGO bricks introduced
1959–The Sound of Music opens on Broadway

The Newbery Medals awarded this decade are:

1950–The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli
1951–Amos Fortune, Free Man, by Elizabeth Yates
1952–Ginger Pye, by Eleanor Estes
1953–Secret of the Andes, by Ann Nolan Clark
1954–…And Now Miguel, by Joseph Krumgold
1955–The Wheel on the School, by Meindert DeJong
1956–Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham
1957–Miracles on Maple Hill, by Virginia Sorensen
1958–Rifles for Watie, by Harold Keith
1959–The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare

Caldecotts for the decade include:

1950–Song of the Swallows, by Leo Politi
1951–The Egg Tree, by Katherine Milhous
1952–Finders Keepers, by Will and Nicolas
1953–The Biggest Bear, by Lynd Ward
1954–Madeline’s Rescue, by Ludwig Bemelmans
1955–Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper, translated and illustrated by Marcia Brown
1956–Frog Went A-Courtin’, retold by John Langstaff, illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky
1957–A Tree Is Nice, by Janice Udry, illustrated by Marc Simont
1958–Time of Wonder, by Robert McCloskey
1959–Chanticleer and the Fox, by Barbara Cooney

PetuniaPetunia, by Roger Duvoisin (1950): Petunia is a silly goose, and she believes she has become wise because she is now in the possession of a book. She acts so wise and holds her head so high that the other animals begin to come to her for advice, and she doles it out (much of it completely ridiculous) confidently. When her advice leads to a dangerous and painful situation for her and all her friends, Petunia realizes that she is not actually wise. She then realizes that simply having a book does not make her wise but that reading it might, so she sets out to learn to read so she can be truly wise and help make her friends happy. BoyChild was able to see the humor in Petunia’s poor advice, and the reminder that wisdom can come from the knowledge found in books was the perfect ending for a picture book.

Pippi Longstocking, Pippi Longstockingby Astrid Lindgren (1950): Swedish author Lindgren’s Pippi is far from the typical orphan girl in so many of the other stories I’ve reviewed. She has Anne’s spunkiness and red hair, but she is by no means similar to her in other ways! Firstly, Pippi lives alone and insists that her father, a lost sea captain, is actually living as a cannibal king somewhere. She is almost Mad Hatter-esque in the way she goes about her days (or maybe Cat in the Hat-esque!), and she is abnormally physically strong and athletic as well as extremely independent. She is a source of constant excitement for Tommy and Annika, the well-behaved children who live next door with their parents. She is shockingly and innocently indecorous, and she has a horse who lives on her porch. What’s not to love? I dressed as Pippi for Halloween when I was in third grade, complete with stick-out red pigtails (thanks to a well-padded hanger bent around my head and red hair spray) and a patchy blue dress. GirlChild got a copy of the book for Christmas this year and loves it, too!

Charlotte’s Web,Charlotte's Web by E. B. White (1952): This children’s classic received a Newbery Honor in 1953. With both an animated and live-action screen version produced (and probably more of which I’m unaware), Charlotte and Wilbur are pretty well known. There are references in other books (I specifically remember the titular character in The Great Ideas of Lila Fenwick dressing as Charlotte for Halloween…which I then also did!) and media as well. (My children go around singing the “Smorgasbord” song that Templeton sings in the animated movie…) Definitely a lasting story!

Beezus and Ramona, Beezus and Ramonaby Beverly Cleary (1955): This isn’t the first book that Beverly Cleary published in the 1950s (that was Henry and Beezus in 1952), but I’d argue that it’s her most memorable! This is the book where we really get to know Ramona and her imagination, persistence, and roundabout logic. She is so very real, imperfections and all, that it’s easy to either see yourself or your child in her place as you read, and then you can really feel empathy for this little misunderstood person with her quirky ways and exasperated family. GirlChild first started reading these books in kindergarten (with the assistance that hearing them on audiobook

Little BearLittle Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik, pictures by Maurice Sendak (1957): This book is tagged as an I Can Read! book, but I’m not sure which level–probably level 1, beginning reading. The short, simple sentences, familiar words, and repetition help make this the kind of book that might be a child’s first real reading conquest. (It would also be a fun book for a parent to use to cuddle up with their own Little Bear to read along.) Little Bear is a little silly and has a big imagination. His mother is both indulgent of his whims (she makes him a hat, coat, and snow pants one day, for Pete’s sake!) and the voice of reason in his daily imaginings. This is definitely a classic early reader!

Sammy the Seal, Sammy the Sealby Syd Hoff (1959): I picked this one up because there is still an old copy of it at my parents’ house for the grandchildren to read! Sammy is a seal at the zoo, but he wants to know what goes on outside. Because he has been a well-behaved seal, the zookeeper tells him he can go look. Sammy travels around the city and eventually ends up at school (where he learns to read and write…in one day). When the day is done, he heads back home to the zoo because “there’s no place like home.” This is an I Can Read! beginning reading (level 1) book, and there are a few short, simple sentences on each page of bright illustrations. The story isn’t exactly rich literature, but it was obviously well-loved at my house when I was a child since I remember it and it made the cut when my mom was culling down her book collection!

The Rescuers: a fantasyThe Rescuers: a fantasy, by Margery Sharp (1959): I didn’t get around to reading this one, but it is the basis for the popular The Rescuers movie by Disney, so I’m familiar with the characters. The illustrations are done by the prolific Garth Williams, and the characters seem a little more mouse-like in their appearance than in the movies. I’m going to give this one to GirlChild to try; it might be a little on the tough side for her, particularly since it’s an older book with older cultural references, but I think she’ll enjoy it!

My Side of the Mountain, My Side of the Mountainby Jean [Craighead] George (1959): I read this book a thousand years ago (more or less…probably less), so the details are kind of sketchy in my mind, but I clearly remember Frightful the falcon and the fact that this was voluntary survivalism, not forced (like in Hatchet, which also features a young teenage boy in the Canadian wilds), so it’s a little less intense. It is written in first-person, mostly as Sam, the young protagonist, is thinking back on his experiences while he is sheltering from a snowstorm, and I would recommend it for upper elementary students; it might be a little unwieldy for younger, less experienced readers, and it will be best understood by children who have some interest in or interaction with the outdoors. (Sam himself is inexperienced in self-sufficiency at first, and he learns from the locals and others who pass through the woods on his grandfather’s farm where he chooses to live.) It is a Newbery Honor Book as well.

I won’t summarize the Newbery winners that I believe to still have classic appeal, but The Witch of Blackbird Pond is definitely a book that continues to deserve new readership as the decades progress, and I personally loved Miracles on Maple Hill as a child. And here are the corresponding book lists from What We Do All Day, both chapter and picture books (so sad that I forgot about Half Magic)!

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1910-1919

Many of the authors that were publishing in the 1900-1909 range continued to publish through the next decade. A whole lot of series adventure books were published, from the Bobbsey Twins to the Boy Scouts and Outdoors Girls. (Tom Swift books, a science fiction/inventor series, were first published in this decade as well, but the only knowledge I have of that character is of the Tom Swift puns, Tom Swifties!)

[1910 to 1919 book list]

Here’s our “when-in-the-world” reference from about.com to understand what was going on in real life while these books were being published!

1910–Boy Scouts established in the U.S. (which might explain all the Boy Scouts books published!)

1911–the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire occurs (I can’t remember where I learned about this tragedy–a social studies text?–but here’s a graphic novel an upper elementary to middle school reader might benefit from reading!)

1912–the Titanic sinks (and Oreos are first introduced!)

1913–Henry Ford invents the moving assembly line

1914–World War I begins

1915–the first transcontinental phone call is made

1916–Jeanette Rankin is the first woman in the U.S. Congress (and Piggly Wiggly opens as the first self-service grocery store in the U.S.)

1917–the U.S. enters WWI

1918–Daylight Saving Time introduced

1919–end of World War I with the Treaty of Versailles

That’s a lot of heavy stuff going on, so it’s really no wonder that there were so many adventure and inventor series being written! The stories that I best remember, though, being a timid child growing up in small-town USA, are the stories of hope and perseverance, childish goodness and wisdom, and “safe” adventures in fantasy! Here’s a list of some of the stories from this era that were most memorable to me and have stood the test of time!

Peter and WendyPeter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie (1911): While Peter Pan as a character is pretty pervasive in modern culture (peanut butter, Geico commercials, and the many iterations in movies and on stage, just to name a few examples), the actual book from which the character arises is perhaps not as well known (nor, perhaps, that he first appeared in a book for adults and that this book where he is featured is actually an expansion on a long-running play written by the author and is not the original source material). The different versions of Peter don’t all agree on his personality or characteristics (even among Barrie’s works there are some discrepancies), but he is generally portrayed as young, brave, and carefree. Tinker Bell, likewise, has different characteristics among versions, but she is almost always shown to be both fiercely jealous and loyal (although I’m pretty sure the jealousy aspect is either toned down or missing in the Disney Fairies version of her where she isn’t with Peter Pan). Much of the book has a decidedly silly tone to it, despite dealing with such serious ideas as lost babies and murderous pirates. The Darlings have a somewhat ridiculous discussion about their finances while Mrs Darling holds the newborn Wendy, but they finally decide that they will keep their baby and hope for the best cost-wise. They hire a Newfoundland dog as their nanny because they can’t afford a human version but still want to keep up appearances, and the dog bathes the children and walks them to school, but she also lies on the floor in the nanny waiting area and is chained outside when Mr Darling (in a sullen temper and with the guilty understanding that he is being unreasonable) is offended by her supposed disrespect. (She also has dialog, but it’s hard to tell if the author intends for her to be actually speaking or if it is assumed that what she “says” is what she would be thinking or conveying with her demeanor.) Peter’s heavy-handed and obviously manipulative flattery convince the otherwise responsible Wendy to trust and follow him. All in all, I can’t help but think of the avowed absurdity of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland being passed off as absolutely reasonable in this book. My mother read this aloud to us when we were young, and I remember being heartily confused by the nanny/dog bit, but it certainly helped to have a reader who could explain the archaic or confusing parts to us! For independent reading, I’d suggest at least upper elementary age, and there are a vast number of YA books inspired by the story and characters if your reader falls for Peter, too!

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911): The Secret GardenThis character begins her story as both similar to and wildly different from Burnett’s other classic female character, Sara Crewe. Where Sara, the only child of a doting British officer in India, is sweet-tempered and wise and generous, Mary, the only child of self-centered British parents living in India, is angry and selfish and demanding. Both are orphaned at a young age, and both end up living with a wealthy guardian (after Sara’s stretch at Miss Minchin’s, of course). Both sincerely befriend children who are their social inferiors (Betsy for Sara and Dickon (as well as the servants) for Mary). Where Sara uplifts her fellow students through her goodness, imagination, and inclusiveness, Mary brings her hidden cousin Colin out of his misery with bluntness, stories, and shared secrecy. One theme of the story that seems obvious to me would finding life where there seems to be only death: Mary’s survival when her household is struck down by cholera, the garden being coaxed back to bloom from its abandoned state, and Colin and his father being drawn out of their pain and misery into a more abundant life. I loved this book as a child, and we loved the 1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie version (although I know it to be full of inaccuracies, it was what we had, and we loved it!). It is, like the others from this list, an enduring classic, and it would be a good read-aloud for elementary aged children and independent reading from upper elementary on.

PollyannaPollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter (1913): All that I really recall from reading this book a million-ish years ago (or, you know, maybe 25 or so) is that Pollyanna is cheerful (which may also have something to do with her lasting literary legacy and not my actual memories of the book) and some sort of accident near the end of the book. It actually came to my attention when my daughter mentioned that a friend from her class (a bit of a Pollyanna herself!) was reading it. While the exact plot of the book may not have gone down in history (the basics of the storyline are pretty familiar and common to many books from this era: an orphaned child or child in otherwise desperate straits is sent to live with with better off relatives (usually spinsters or a childless couple) or friends of the parents and brightens their lives considerably), the character of the main character has created a lasting impression, a shorthand way of saying that someone is almost foolishly optimistic (and can, therefore, be used as a bit of an insult). The characterization comes about because of how Pollyanna approaches life, as taught to her by her father, in that she always looks for the bright side of things (which she calls playing “The Glad Game”) and teaches others to do so as well. Pollyanna is so very guileless (she reminds me of GirlChild in this way!) that there are frequent misunderstandings between herself and the people from her mother’s hometown that have secrets they’ve been keeping and feelings they’ve been hiding. When she is gravely injured in an accident and can’t manage to summon up a reason to be glad, all the people in the town visit or send messages to her about how she has changed their lives so that she can have something to be glad about. This is actually a somewhat easier read than many juvenile books from the era, and although some of the inferences might be missed by a young modern reader, I think a middle to upper elementary child could manage the contents decently, even better if read with an adult.

Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914): Tarzan of the ApesI will freely admit that I have never actually read this book. Does that, however, mean it isn’t a book with staying power? Of course not! There are many readers who are not me, after all! Besides, the character of Tarzan has been immortalized in film, and I would imagine that most adults in the English-speaking world could at least identify some characteristics of Tarzan (if not reproduce his yell). Not having a good acquaintance with the book character, I have little to no idea how far the Disney version strays from the original (although, from the fight with Kerchak that I happened to open the book to, I would guess the answer is “pretty darn far”). Still, the man who was raised by apes from infancy, discovered and brought to civilization by Professor Porter and his daughter, and has adventures, marries Jane Porter (although, apparently, not in this book), and has more adventures–his legend lives on. Judging from the bits of the book that I browsed and the hints gleaned from the introduction, I’d say it would be best for readers of at least middle school to high school age, and readers would need to be able to suspend disbelief on a semi-regular basis.

The Real Mother GooseThe Real Mother Goose, illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright (1916): To me, at least, the cover of this book is the iconic Mother Goose image; it is what I think of when I think of Mother Goose despite all the different available compilations and adaptations of the rhymes contained within. In the interest of full disclosure, I do not remember a lot of the rhymes (“Three Wise Men of Gotham,” really? and “Needles and Pins” about the risks of marriage??), but the image has stuck. Nursery rhymes can be pretty brutal 😉 , but these weren’t composed during this time period, just illustrated. (I prefer Richard Scarry’s Best Mother Goose Ever in terms of contents, actually! Richard Scarry is kind of second only to Dr. Seuss in terms of my childhood reading memories, and Sandra Boynton joins them in my children’s collection of sure-to-be-classics!)

Raggedy Ann Stories, by Johnny Gruelle (1918): Raggedy Ann StoriesI don’t know that I ever read the stories themselves before, but I most definitely knew of Raggedy Ann and Andy! (My kids even have a metal jack-in-the-box that has Raggedy Ann in it!) The stories remind me very much of the Toys Go Out series by Emily Jenkins or the Toy Story movies. Raggedy Ann, despite being just a rag doll passed down to the little girl, Marcella, from her grandmother when she found the doll in her grandma’s attic, becomes the admired leader of the dolls in the nursery. She watches out for them and is the voice of wisdom and reason and love. There is a wealth of quotes in the stories that show what an upbeat and positive doll Raggedy Ann is, like: “So all the other dolls were happy, too, for happiness is very easy to catch when we love one another and are sweet all through.”

ArcolaFestival

A former Sunday school student with Raggedy Ann and Andy at the Raggedy Ann and Andy Festival in Arcola, IL.

It’s clear that the author also had some marketing in mind, however, when he wrote the story of the dollmaker taking Raggedy Ann in to use as a pattern for mass-production and having another doll say to Raggedy, “For wherever one of the new Raggedy Ann dolls goes there will go with it the love and happiness that you give to others.” The afterword, written by the author’s grandson, states that after the success of this first Raggedy Ann collection, the author wrote at least one new Raggedy Ann title per year until his death 20 years later. He also says, “His books contained nothing to cause fright, glorify mischief, excuse malice, or condone cruelty,” and that is probably why his characters for children endure today! While there used to be a museum and annual festival in the author’s hometown, they have recently suspended operations due to low turnout and volunteers.

1981SebbyFamilyPhoto (2)

The blogger as an almost-3-year-old with a Raggedy Andy doll

I had a couple more books slated to be shared today, but I realized that they may have had a more limited audience than these other books have had, so they may have only been memorable to me (and other readers like me). Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs (1912) and Dear Enemy (1915) were books my mother read to us that were published during this decade. Understood Betsy (1916) I discovered on a similarly-inspired book list on the blog What We Do All Day, and I loved that book as a child as well! (You should definitely check there for more books-by-the-decade as the blogger there is trying to emphasize books that might have been forgotten! I promise that I’m avoiding looking at the corresponding lists before I compile my list so I’m not unfairly influenced and so I can compare what we’ve found.)

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Themed Third Thursday: Books Get Meta

meta- : Describing or showing an awareness of the activity that is taking place or being discussed; self-referential

Books getting meta. Books about books. Books that refer to themselves as books. Books where the characters are aware of being in a book. While my categories may stray from the generally accepted definition of “meta,” these self-aware books and books about books are sure to be page turners for your book-loving readers!

Product DetailsThe Monster at the End of this Book, by Jon Snow, illustrated by David Smollin (2003–most recent edition): In this Sesame Street classic book, Grover warns the reader not to continue on with the book because there is a monster at the end of it, and he is scared of monsters! In his distress, he tries everything to avoid getting to the end. Not to worry, however–Grover himself is the monster at the end of the book! I vaguely remember this book from my childhood, and the fact that it is still in print is telling. A great breaking-the-fourth-wall book for preschool and early elementary children, this book is best shared as a read-aloud.

Book! Book! Book!, Book! Book! Book!by Deborah Bruss, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke (2001): When the children all go back to school after a summer of fun, the animals on the farm are bored. The hen decides to go looking for something to do, and the other animals follow. When they come upon a building where people with smiles on their faces are exiting, they decide this is the place for finding something to do! (The place is the public library.) The horse thinks the hen is too small to be the one to go in to ask, so he goes in, but all the librarian can hear is “neigh, neigh,” so he leaves sadly. Each of the other larger animals also try, but the librarian can only hear their animal noises. Then the hen, frustrated, determines to go in herself. When she arrives, she starts clucking, “Book! Book! BOOK!” It takes a few tries, but the librarian suddenly realizes that she’s asking for books! She gives her three, and the hen takes them back to the farm with the other animals to read together. Everyone is happy except the frog; he keeps claiming that he’s already “read it!” With a cute story and simple plot, a read-aloud (to emphasize the chicken-y sound of the word “book” in particular) to children as young as preschool would be a crowd-pleaser!

We Are in a Book!We Are in a Book! (An Elephant & Piggie book), by Mo Willems (2010): Gerald the Elephant and Piggie are sitting back to back on the ground when Gerald suddenly notices that someone is looking at them. When Piggie gets up to investigate, coming closer to the reader, they realize that they are being read by a reader! They are very excited and try to get the reader to say the word banana, then they laugh and laugh about it. Piggie offers to let Gerald try it before the book ends, and Gerald is shocked to realize it will end (on page 57, no less). He is distraught over the approaching end, but Piggie comes up with the idea to ask the reader to read the book again to prolong their fun. The book ends semi-abruptly with the two of them hoping their request works (because, after all, having a conclusion to a book where the characters want it to be read in a continuous loop would be counterproductive!). While this is a perfectlly acceptable book for an independent young reader, all the Elephant and Piggie books make amazingly fun read-alouds as well.

The Best Book in the World!, The Best Book in the World!by Rilla (2014): When I looked up this author’s website to see if I could figure out her name (her full name is Rilla Alexander, but the library copy I have has “Rilla, Alexander” like Rilla is the last name!), I discovered that she is primarily an illustrator and graphic designer (which, considering the appearance of the book, didn’t surprise me). I also discovered another of her books (also featuring the character she calls her “alterego, Sozi”) that I really must have–Her Idea! (I was just having a chat with a friend this morning about all the writing ideas I have that I never carry through to completion!) The relevant book to this theme, however, features Sozi as she gets started on a book. With book in hand and a superhero mask over her eyes, she moves through town as she progresses through her book, and then things start to focus in more on the story world she enters. The book states, “Page by page you’re carried away. So let yourself go!” Sozi (whose name isn’t mentioned in the book) travels deep into her book, picking up strange companions on her way. Just as things seem to be getting overwhelming, she takes a moment to “rest [her] eyes” and dozes off. All the characters who populated her book now populate her dreams, and they huddle around her book–The Best Book in the World–as she dreams because of the secret they share: “the story won’t stop…[i]f we go back to the beginning again!”

The Children Who Loved BooksThe Children Who Loved Books, by Peter Carnavas (2012): Angus and Lucy don’t have a lot in the way of personal possessions; in fact, they even live in a camper with their parents instead of a regular home or apartment. What they do have, however, is books. They have so many books, in fact, that they soon overwhelm their tiny living space, and their father hauls them off. In addition to the logistical problems they start having because books were a literal prop in their home, the abundance of space in their house allows a lot of space to form between the members of the family as well. When Lucy brings a book home from the library, they can’t help opening it up and starting to read aloud. They all crowd around the father as he reads, and they read together on the couch late into the night (where they also all fall asleep). Bonded together once again through a shared story, they take their bike out first thing in the morning and head to–you guessed it!–the library for more books. As the last page says, “Angus and Lucy didn’t have very much, but they had all they would ever need.”

What Happened to Marion’s Book?,What Happened to Marion's Book? by Brook Berg, illustrated by Nathan Alsburg (2003): Marion is a hedgehog who loves to read all kinds of books in all kinds of places. She’s looking forward to starting school because her nana said that she should become a librarian some day, and she knows school is the place to start! She is most excited about visiting the library and taking out two books at a time. One morning at breakfast, however, she drops some raspberry jam on her open library book and knows she can’t just leave it there. She tries all kinds of things to fix the red stain (from letting the dog lick it to washing it in the washing machine!), and she even considers donating one of her own books to replace the ruined one, but all of her books have been dirtied because she reads them everywhere. She worries that she doesn’t know how to treat books, will be banned from the library, and will never be able to become a librarian. She finally gets the courage to tell her mom, and her mom tells her that she’ll have to pay to replace the book. When she brings the ruined book back to the school library, the librarian is disappointed, of course, but she gives Marion a tour of the “book hospital” where books are repaired and gives her a bookmark to remind her how to care for books. And, of course, Marion pays for the ruined book and checks out two new ones! (This hit close to home since GirlChild’s milk Thermos leaked in her backpack and spoiled a library book recently!)

Wild About BooksWild about Books, by Judy Sierra, pictures by Marc Brown (2004): In this rhyming story, librarian Molly McGrew accidentally drives the bookmobile to the zoo. Instead of being perturbed by her mistake and their reluctance, Molly starts reading Dr. Seuss aloud to attract a crowd. Soon, all the animals come to check out books (in two senses of the phrase!). The crocodiles enjoy Peter Pan, an elephant reads Dumbo, the pandas request books in Chinese, and then the puns begin! The llamas read The Grass Menagerie, the scorpion leaves stinging reviews of the poems the insects are inspired to write, and the hippo wins a Zoolitzer Prize for her memoir, Mud in my Blood. Then Molly hires some of the construction-minded animals–the beavers in particular–to create a branch library to satisfy their literary needs right there at the zoo. Now that they have their very own zoobrary, it’s sometimes hard to see the animals because “[t]hey are snug in their niches, their nests, and their nooks, [g]oing wild, simply wild, about wonderful books.” This book is a great one not only for introducing the concepts of reading, getting inspired by reading to write, and finding the perfect kind of book for your interests, but it also appeals to little readers who simply like animals and learning new animal names!

Have I Got a Book for You!, Have I Got a Book for You!by Mélanie Watt (2009): Al Foxword is a creature (of some sort, I can’t really place him!) and a salesman. This book serves as an infomercial for itself as Al tries to convince the reader not only that he or she should buy a copy of the book but that he or she should buy multiple copies of the book. He tries every trick of the trade, wheedling and exaggerating, throwing in bonus gifts and deals for buying more than one. When all his efforts seem to have failed, he reminds us of the one big rule of merchandise: “You break it, you buy it!” And the last page is “torn.” Definitely meant to be read aloud by someone with few inhibitions. 😉 (Also, might be a great book to use when teaching information literacy and the tricks advertisers use!)

Wanted: Ralfy Rabbit, Book BurglarWanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar, by Emily MacKenzie (2015): Ralfy Rabbits loves books so much that “one thing led to another,” and he starts actually burgling books from people to get his fix! Unfortunately for Ralfy, Arthur also loves books, and he notices when parts of his well-organized collection start to go missing. Arthur stakes out his bookshelves and sees Ralfy, but no one believes his story about a thieving rabbit, not even the police. That is, I mean, until Ralfy accidentally burgles the home of PC Puddle, the officer to whom Arthur had spoken when he called in his complaint. When Arthur is called in to view a line-up of bunnies wearing “I ❤ Books” shirts, he isn’t sure which rabbit is the robber until a conveyor belt of goodies is passed in front of them, and the only bunny who goes for books instead of the carrots and lettuce offered is Ralfy. Arthur feels sorry for Ralfy because he is only in trouble because he loves books, and he has a great idea of where Ralfy can borrow his fill of books without having to steal them: the library! And Arthur and Ralfy become “best ‘book buddies'” and visit the library together often. Good fun for elementary readers.

The Book that Eats People, The Book that Eats Peopleby John Perry, illustrations by Mark Fearing (2009): I read this aloud to BoyChild, and he was a little concerned about it. Once I realized it wasn’t just a play on words or something, I was a little concerned, too, that young BoyChild would be having nightmares about his books…but it was better to finish and remind him that it was just pretend than to leave him hanging with carnivorous books running through his dreams! Recommended for ages 3-7 on Amazon, I’m going to go ahead and suggest a slightly older crowd despite the relatively small amount of text per page. I’m thinking middle elementary is probably a safer bet what with the book actually eating people and phrases like “it coughed up his bones and they clattered across the floor like wooden blocks” and the like. Sure, it’s darkly hilarious, but that seems like more the sort of thing that children with a stronger grasp on the concept of reality versus fiction might enjoy. Featuring a ton of collage elements and a very cranky-looking book, the visuals are also geared toward the upper end of the suggested age range and beyond. Future fans of the Series of Unfortunate Events would like this book!

Incredible Book Eating BoyThe Incredible Book Eating Boy, by Oliver Jeffers (2006): Henry loves books, but not in the same way that most people do; he literally devours them. It starts by accident at first, when he mistakenly licks his book instead of his popsicle when he’s distracted. It quickly progresses, however, into tearing into pages and then into whole books and eventually several books at once! He eats all kinds of books–he’s not picky–and finds that he grows smarter and smarter with each one he ingests! Eventually, though, eating all those books so quickly without giving himself time to “digest” them leads to confusion and nausea. Henry stops eating books then, and it takes him a while to figure out what else he can do with his books…and he tries reading them. Just like before, he gets smarter with each book he reads, although this method is slower. Now he reads all the time, and he only occasionally slips back into bad habits (as evidenced by a large “bite” taken out of the last few pages and back cover). The irony and graphic design elements of this book make it better for slightly older picture book readers, middle to upper elementary.

Return of the Library Dragon, Return of the Library Dragonby Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Michael P. White (2012): Miss Lotty (short for Lotta Scales, we discover), librarian at Sunrise Elementary School, is retiring. As she tries to reassure the students that the new librarian will be as much and more fun, one of the children asks if the new librarian will let them use computers, and her old dragon-ish ways rear their heads briefly as she declares, “Over my dead dragon body!” On her very last day of work, she is greeted in the morning by the unpleasant discovery that IT has arrived, taken all the books, and filled the library with electronics only! Miss Lotty is steaming mad (literally), and the students beg for their books back, listing all the reasons books are still relevant and enjoyable. They also discover, however, how enticing technology can be, and Mike Krochip (the IT guy) crows that soon the kids will forget all about books in a month! Miss Lotty loses her temper, and everyone flees, but they warn the young woman in the hallway that the “librarian’s a real dragon!” This young woman, it turns out, is the new librarian, and she is the same woman who, as a child twenty years prior, had convinced Miss Lotty to shed her draconic book-lending practices in the first place. (You have to read the short newspaper article in the front matter for this to make any sense, actually, so don’t skip it!) Molly reassures Miss Lotty that the books will be returned because she insisted that they remain as a condition of her employment, and completely replacing books with technology makes her feel a little dragon-ish as well. The last page shows an image of Miss Molly at her desk with children, books, and a sign proclaiming Technology Free Tuesday–striking a balance between printed and electronic resources. This is apparently the second book about the Library Dragon, so reading The Library Dragon first would be an alternative to making sure the newspaper article page gets read. Quotes on reading, books, librarians, and information technology fill the end papers. The controversy about technology and the proliferation of punny names and book titles probably wouldn’t register with younger readers, so I’d suggest a middle elementary to upper elementary audience for this book.

It's a BookIt’s a Book, by Lane Smith (2010): This book is more for big kids and adults than it is for the picture book crowd (particularly if you don’t want to read/have your kid read the word “jackass” for comedic effect–just giving you a heads-up here!). It features a mouse, a jackass, and a monkey. The monkey is reading a book (with the mouse under his hat, for some reason), and the jackass is using a laptop. The jackass keeps asking the monkey if his book can do some thing that the laptop does (scroll down, connect to wi-fi, play music, etc.), and the monkey keeps responding with, “No, it’s a book” (or some variation on that theme). Then the monkey hands his book over so the jackass can see for himself, and the jackass gets totally absorbed to the point of not wanting to give it back. When the monkey gives in and lets him keep it (he’s going to the library anyway), the jackass offers to charge it up for him when he’s done. That’s when the mouse says, “You don’t have to…it’s a book, jackass.” So, a book that might have been fun to read with small children of the digital generation kind of gets fouled up with a double entendre. If you don’t care and wish to share it with your children anyway, that’s fine; it’s a clever book! If that’s a little more mature than you like to go with your child’s vocabulary (or if you’re a school teacher and probably shouldn’t), you can try It’s a Little Book for the same kind of cleverness but in a board book without the words to make children giggle (and with contents suited for an even younger set).

Books for Older Kids that I Wish I’d Had a Chance to Actually Read and Review Properly But Didn’t:

Secrets of the Book, Secrets of the Bookby Erin Fry (2014, upper elementary): This book features a book called Pandora’s Book which is full of images of positively influential historical people that the guardian of the book can bring to life. That there is a shady man who has a book called Pandora’s Other Book suggests that infamous historical people are included in that book. The heroes of the story are sixth graders: a boy who is losing his sight, another with autism spectrum disorder, and the “resourceful” granddaughter of the previous keeper of the book (who goes missing right after passing the book on).

Archie Greene and the Magician's SecretArchie Greene and the Magician’s Secret, by D. D. Everest (2015, upper elementary): The first in a new series, this book tells the story of Archie Greene, a boy who receives a very old book on his twelfth birthday and learns that he is part of a gifted family given the job of protecting and preserving magical books. Archie himself has some hidden talents as well. The reviews I read suggest that there is a lot of content to process, so this is probably good for a dedicated reader who enjoys the concept of magic hidden in the real world. The summaries made me think strongly of The Librarians show and of Warehouse 13, if you happen to be the adult in charge of selecting books for your tween or early teen and know those series!

Inkheart trilogy, Inkheartby Cornelia Funke (2003, upper elementary to middle school): Meggie’s father, a man who repairs rare books, never reads aloud to her, and she discovers why when one of the characters he accidentally read out of a book (and Meggie’s mother into it) shows up outside their home late one night. This fantasy story starts with the idea that spoken words–particularly words spoken by someone with talent–are powerful, and the three books in the series continue in that vein, and with added elements of the power of skillful storytelling and writing added in, to create a world where a good reader can literally make a book come alive and a good writer can transport you into a book. (I have actually read all of these books, but it was long enough ago that I can’t give a very specific review!)

I know there are many, many more of these books available! Just search the subjects “Libraries–Fiction” and “Books–Fiction” to find a vast selection from which to choose!

 

 

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