Showing posts from January, 2007

The Newbery and Caldecott Winners

Newbery: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron Caldecott: Flotsam by David Wiesner For the top two books of the year, they sure are repetitive with other things we've seen. Patron's title captures the only original element, which is her inclusion of a child's eye view of 12-step programs. The rest is fun, breezy, and even amusing at parts, but predictable. Girl without mom worries guardian won't keep her, runs away, saves the day in the meantime, and is rewarded with her guardian's promise of love forever. The "higher power" references are sprinkled throughout, but this theme is dropped at the end. The opening scene that (quite effectively) draws the reader in involves spying at a crack to the town meeting place for 12-step programs. In the end, with no particular explanation, the protagonist seals the crack. Yes, it's the right thing to do. But yawn. Wiesner is outstanding at creating wordless picture books, but this one is less effective

storytelling, story hearing, story gathering

(Thanks to Mary and Julie, who have let me know they are reading along! It inspires me to keep posting). Today I'm writing about something I read aloud, to a group of children yesterday at BTW school, as a prompt to get them to talk about their own stories. The book was A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams. It was interesting to try this... first we were in absolutely the wrong space for little ones to pay attention, a raucous and noisy auditorium. So I asked that we move, and we did, to the library. Then we had the problem that some children had already read the book, so I asked them to keep it secret for the others. In the middle of the book, one girl blurted out "then their house burned," and I leaned to her and said, yes, that's the story inside the story that we'll keep secret for now. So she kept the secret, and felt proud instead of out of line for her enthusiastic outburst. In a context where a group is divided into those above the age 9 (who w

quick funny quote from Hawthorne's Wonder Book

This comes from the story "The Gorgon's Head," about Perseus killing Medusa with the aid of "Quicksilver" (Mercury). After the part of the quest where Perseus has had to confront The Three Gray Ladies who share a single eye between them, Hawthorne writes... "As a general rule, I would advise all people, whether sisters or brothers, old or young, who chance to have but one eye amongst them, to cultivate forbearance, and not all insist upon peeping through it at once." (p.20, 1885 edition)

An Old Fashioned Girl, continued

Well, costumes do become an even more significant part of the narrative near the end, when Polly dresses up to go to the opera, and garners the attention of a young man whom she doesn't love. This dressing up comes on the heels of a scene in which Fan's friends are discussing how they dislike to see their servants in finery unbecoming their station. The attention of Mr. Syd is drawn, it seems, as much by the dress itself as by Polly's actions. Alcott writes it as a near-ruinous turn of events. If I had read this book when I was younger, I might have put it down in disgust at that point. The idea that girls needed to reign in their energy was anathema to my younger self, as I felt I had been reigned-in all my life up to that point. Alcott's moral would have seemed sour indeed. Now I see it differently. I still think there's an inherent sexism to Alcott's writing (historically appropriate, but sexist nonetheless) in blaming Polly for attracting Mr. Syd'

costumes in An Old Fashioned Girl

I'm reading Alcott's An Old Fashioned Girl, and noticing connections to the Jo-Topsy article as well as a general use of costume. These are notes toward a paper on Costume and Transgressive Dressing in An Old Fashioned Girl. Chpt V: Scrapes features Tom cross-dressing and thereby turning into a monster, injuring poor Polly. Check out the language, here framing cross-dressing as so transgressive as to be beyond words. "It [Fan's bureau] was covered with all sorts of finery, for she had dressed in a hurry, and left everything topsy-turvy. A well-conducted boy would have let things alone, or a moral brother would have put things to rights; being neither, Tom rummaged to his hearts content, till Fan's drawers looked as if some one had been making hay in them. He tried the effect of ear-rings, ribbons, and collars; wound up the watch, though it was n't time; burnt his inquisitive nose with smelling-salts; deluged his grimy handkerchief with Fan's best cologne

Jo March and Topsy

Topsy and Topsy-Turvy Jo: Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and/in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women by Michelle Ann Abate, in Children's Literature v. 34, 2006, p. 59-82 Abate shows that Alcott was, like millons of others, influenced by Stowe, and more specifically that the two writers were in some minimal contact. More importantly, she shows how Jo March can be read as connected to the character Topsy. While careful not to overgeneralize, she shows some interesting similarities between the two, drawing on Toni Morrison's "American Africanist" ideas of ways whites use the fictional image of blacks. Topsy is, after all, a stereotype of a Minstrel show performer. Favorite quote that shows how Abate is specific in delineating similarities: "Although Louisa May Alcott's Jo March emerges from a profoundly different social, economic, geographical, racial, and cultural milieu, she possesses and array of personal, physical, and psychological

Digital Storytime

The Digital and Traditional Storytimes Research Project. By: Collen, Lauren . Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children , Winter2006, Vol. 4 Issue 3, p8-18, 11p Fascinating article on using books from the International Children's Digital Library in storytimes, but there were a few things I left the article wondering... First, the comparison of size was page-to-monitor, but no info was given about the size of the projection in front of the children. How did it compare to standard big books? Second, the comparison was between a standard storytime with a reader and book in the front of the room and a storytime with a projection of a book from the ICDL with a reader sitting "in the audience" with the children. Collen concludes that children pay better attention to the digital story, but she doesn't account for this major difference. Children, given a storyteller who is a live and interesting person, will invariably ask

The Norton (the cat) Books

Peter Gethers wrote 3 books about his Scottish Fold cat Norton: The Cat Who Went to Paris, A Cat Abroad, and The Cat Who'll Live Forever. For me, this series was extremely welcome easy holiday reading. It was also pertinent because my parents had my childhood cat, Tristan, put to sleep on Dec. 26, 2006. He lived to be almost 21. During my teenage years it meant the world to me to have one creature in the house who didn't blame or judge me, who accepted me as I was. He was a very shy creature, but after much coaxing I was able to teach him to nap on my belly. Last I saw him was last Christmas, when he looked very frail. He got sweeter as he got older, and loved to be held and petted. But this is supposed to be about books, not about my childhood cat. The three books by Gethers are must-reads for cat lovers. That said, the writing is choppy, and the stories typically focus more on Pete, the human, than on Norton, the cat. In my mind, Pete's saving grace is his lov