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Archive for the month “September, 2013”

Brian and Andrea Davis Pinkney

Brian Pinkney on his own is an incredible artist. Andrea on her own is a fabulous writer. Put these two together (they are husband and wife) and you get some remarkable books for children. They won the Coretta Scott King Award this year for Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America. Other fantastic books are Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, Duke Ellington, Alvin Ailey, Ella Fitzgerald and many, many more. Both Brian and Andrea presented at the National Book Festival and talked about how they collaborate and the rules they set up so they’d make it past the collaboration with an intact marriage. It was funny listening to them. Andrea talked about how she got the idea for Hand in Hand and Brian talked about, and demonstrated, how he approached the art. They showed their latest book, Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song. Up until reading this I had no idea that Mahalia Jackson and Martin Luther King, Jr. were friends. At the March On Washington it was Mahalia Jackson who shouted out, “Tell them your dream, Martin!” That made shivers run down my spine. Read this book – it’s wonderful. Here’s a photo of Andrea and Brian at the Festival as she lead us in song.



Brian Floca

Brian Floca has really made a name for himself by writing and drawing some incredible non-fiction books. He did Moonshot which won the Sibert Award for outstanding non-fiction. He won a Sibert Honor for Lightship which he also wrote and illustrated. I loved Ballet for Martha; The Making of Appalachian Spring which he illustrated and one of my favorite alphabet books is Floca’s, The Racecar Alphabet. His latest is just incredible. It is called Locomotive and its big trim size tells you there is lots to discover in the pages of the book. Everything you ever wanted to know about steam locomotives and the history of locomotives in our country is there and beautifully illustrated as well. It really is outstanding. Floca talked about how he works and talked about the painstaking research (which he thoroughly enjoyed, by the way) that went into the book. It was worth it all. Here is a photo of Brian Floca presenting at the National Book Festival.


Divergent, Insurgent, and Veronica Roth!

This dystopian series really rocks and I am not the only one who thinks so. Veronica Roth appeared at the National Book Festival and there were over 2,000 people crowded into the tent to hear her. Two of my students stood in line to get her autograph for 3 hours! Both Jamie and Abby reported that she thanked them for waiting so long and was completely charming. Roth was interviewed by a book reviewer from USA Today and the audience loved hearing her talk about her work. The third, and last, in the trilogy is Allegiant and it is due out on October 22nd. It surprised me to learn that Roth wrote the first book while in college and that she is now only 25 years old. She is smart and beautiful which I don’t think is particularly fair to the rest of us but there you go! 🙂 Here’s a photo that my student, Gabby, took of her as she was signing books.Roth

Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness is a Young Adult writer whose books include the Chaos walking trilogy. The series is set in a dystopian world which is usually not my thing. These books are awesome! I listened tot hem on audio and they knocked my socks off. If you like dystopian fantasy to begin with, I can’t imagine you won’t like these. One of my favorite Patrick Ness books is A Monster Calls and its provenance is quite interesting. The story begins with an outstanding British writer named Siobhan Dowd who died after battling breast cancer for some time. She began notes for a book she wanted to write about a boy losing his mother to cancer and the abandonment he felt. Sadly, she ran out of time and those notes were passed along to Patrick Ness who shared the same editor with Dowd. Ness used Dowd’s notes but created his own story out of those notes and A Monster Calls was published in 2011. In 2012 it won England’s big prize, the Carnegie Medal. The book is beautifully written and the pain the boy feels is palpable. Here is a photo of Ness at the National Book Festival.


Jon Klassen – 2 Caldecotts this year alone!

It’s Jon Klassen’s year, that’s for sure. He won the prestigious Caldecott medal for This Is Not My Hat, a companion book to the outstanding I Want My Hat Back (2011). And if that wasn’t enough, he won a Caldecott Honor for Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett. Amazing.  Jon is humble and funny and is enjoying working on children’s books. He was in the animation world working on films like Kung Fu Panda and the like. He finds children’s books pretty rewarding and, I, for one am delighted he does. Here is a photo of Jon speaking at the National Book Festival.


Have you discovered Oliver Jeffers yet?

Oliver Jeffers is a hilarious Irishman with the accompanying gift of gab. He did an amazing job at the National Book Festival. His books are so different – just a tweak away from the expected. My favorites are The Day the Crayons Quit, That Moose Belongs to Me, Stuck, and so many others. Check them out – you can’t go wrong. Jeffers

Kevin Henkes Talking About His Books and a WEBCAST!

Here’s a photo of Kevin Henkes at the National Book Festival. During his talk he referenced some photos that came from a webcast he did the week before. I watched it live but have just gotten the link from Greenwillow Books so that you may watch it as well. I think you’ll really love it and it will give you some insight into his amazing work. Here’s the link for the WEBCAST:


Kevin Henkes – From Board Books to Novels

Almost every school teacher in the country knows Kevin Henkes and has exposed their students to his wonderful PICTURE BOOKS. Book like Chrysanthemum, Wemberly Worried, Julius Baby of the World, and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse have delighted young readers everywhere. Owen won Kevin a Caldecott Honor while Kitten’s First Full Moon won him a Caldecott. Not a bad career, I’d say. But did you know he now has 3 wonderful BEGINNING READERS? I love each of them – they are: Penny and Her Doll, Penny and Her Marble, and Penny and Her Song. I hope he keeps them coming in this series. His BOARD BOOKS start little ones off by introducing them to some of his most famous characters – Lilly, Wemberly, Sheila Rae, Owen, and Julius – in delightfully simple tales. But it doesn’t stop there. Henkes has also won a Newbery Honor for one of his many terrific novels, Olive’s Ocean. Other great ones include Sun & Spoon, Words of Stone, and his newest one, The Year of Billy Miller. Billy Miller is a rising second grader who is convinved that he will not be able to handle second grade. On a family trip that included a visit to the statue of the Jolly GreenGiant, Billy’s hat is carried off by the wind. When he leans out a bit too far to catch it, he falls and lands on his head. He overhears his parents talking with concern about him in the car when they leave the hospital and whether the trauma to his head might leave long time damage. Billy is a completely normal (the head is AOK) second grader who worries a bit more than he should. It’s a terrific read and one that would make a great class read aloud.


National Book Festival

The National Book Festival is a must for book lovers. It used to be one day on a weekend in September but has now been expanded to two days. I have not missed one since its inception and I have loved every one of them. I always encourage my students from JMU to go and this year 8 of them did. They got to see Veronica Roth (the Divergent series), Andrea and Brian Pinkney (Hand in Hand, Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song), and Kevin Henkes (The Year of Billy Miller, Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse) and many more children’s and teen authors.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

ImageLeonard Peacock is a smart but disenfranchised high school student whose home life is even worse than his school life. His one-hit-wonder rock and roll father has left the family and mom has virtually done the same thing. She has left Leonard in their big house with a credit card at his disposal while she chases her own dreams in the big city. Leonard’s only tether to this world is his teacher whose class on the Holocaust challenges his students to think deeply about right and wrong. Leonard has been bullied by his childhood friend, Asher, ever since a pivotal experience turns Asher inside out. Leonard has now decided to end his own life after he gives the bully his due. The story rings true and the inner thoughts of Leonard as he approaches his own personal D-Day, although muddled, are completely believable.

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