Off For a Few

I am off for a long Labor Day weekend where we will be having the last of our lazy summer days as a family.  I’ll be back on Tuesday!  Enjoy your holiday weekend!

Head Start and Libraries

School Library Journal has an important piece on the Senate looking at improving the way that Head Start and libraries collaborate.  Here is the part that warmed my heart.  This Senator really gets it!

In February 2007, Sheketoff sent a letter to Representative Raul
Grijalva (D-AZ) saying that libraries play a crucial role in early
childhood literacy, which is a critical part of Head Start’s mission.
“By recognizing the important role that public libraries play in
improving literacy and school readiness in the Head Start
reauthorization bill, libraries across the country can continue to
develop new innovative programs to provide young children with the
tools they need to succeed in school and life,” the letter reads.

Yes! 

One of my favorite parts of being a children’s librarian in Cape Girardeau, Missouri was going out on a weekly basis to read to a Head Start class.  The incredible difference between the children who started each year and the children who completed Head Start!  I would start the year reading all of my most gimmicky books, trying to get them to sit still long enough to make it through my short pile.  At the end of the year, I was being begged to read more and amazing the teachers and myself with the books the children would not only sit through but enjoy.  I have yet to find anything as immediately rewarding as sharing books with those children. 

Mouse Shapes

Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh

I have always enjoyed Walsh’s mouse series, especially the illustrations.  Her mice and cats are so simple but accurate at the same time. 

In this book, the mice are running from the cat and find themselves near a pile of colored shapes.  They discover they can create things from the shapes: houses, trees, a sun.  And then more and more intricate designs.  When the cat pounces at them, the mice come up with a cunning plan to use the shapes to scare him away.

As always, the story is simple, the words are easy, and the illustrations are welcoming and bright.  Walsh has once again captured with her paper designs a world of clever mice and menacing cats.  I loved the juxtaposition of this wonderful paper artist having her mice characters create things out of colored paper shapes.  To me it was the perfect cherry on this wonderful book.

Recommended to add to your mouse story times, but also to discuss shapes, colors and to promote creating things from shapes.  I can see this leading to a table filled with paper shapes and a long time of gluing, ripping and creating.  This book will work well with toddlers and younger preschoolers.

Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary

Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary by Beverly Donofrio and Barbara McClintock.

What an absolutely wonderful book!  It combines a classic feel with a marvelous story.  Mary hadn’t even realized that there was a mouse family living in her walls until she drops her fork at the same exact time the little mouse drops her spoon.  They spot one another through the mouse hole and grow up side by side, living parallel lives.  They miss one another in college and are reunited as they end up in the same house once again, both with daughters of their own.  But the daughters prove to both be much more forward than their mothers!

For me it was the illustrations that drew me in and held me fast, but for my sons the words and pace of the book caught them by the second page.  So we have a perfect pairing here.  McClintock’s illustrations remind one of books from the 50s and 60s.  They have a vintage feel that adds a real charm and cozy quality to the book.  Donofrio’s text is filled with lovely patterns and rhythms echoed in the illustrations.  The pacing is dynamic and enticing while the illustrations are cozy and sweet.  I love the way they work together in the book.

Highly recommended as a bedtime read.  Not as good for groups of children, because everyone will want to gaze at and discuss the mouse homes.  I would also recommend this as a perfect holiday present to any young girl in your family, ages 4-7.  It’s guaranteed to please the parents too.

Definitely Worth the Trip

A huge warm welcome to the Kidslitosphere for fellow Wisconsinite KT Horning!  Not only is KT active on the national children’s lit level, but she also runs the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in Madison, a place where I wish I had time to simply bunk down for months and read, read, read.

KT’s new blog is Worth the Trip, a blog of “queer books for kids and teens.”  Hurrah!  I am adding it immediately to my collection of blogs I must read daily.

Thanks to several other blogs for the link.  Definitely worth repeating.

Guardian Children's Fiction Longlist for 2007

It’s always with mixed emotions that I look at the Guardian Children’s Fiction Longlist.  Since it is a British award, so often the books aren’t published here yet.  So it can be a frustrating list to look at.  But here they are.  I will list whether they are out in the US yet, to warn you whether to not get so very excited yet.

Guardian Children’s Fiction Longlist for 2007

The Boyhood of Burglar Bill by Allan Ahlberg (Not in US yet)

Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher (In US as hardcover, will be out in paperback in 2008)

The Falconer’s Knot by Mary Hoffman (In US)

Fearless by Tim Lott (Coming out in US in Oct)

The Penalty by Mal Peet (In US)

The Truth Sayer by Sally Prue (In US in paperback)

Mr. Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire by Andy Stanton (Not in US, though the title will probably have to be changed to “Mr. Gum and the Cookie Capitalist”)

Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine (Not in US)

Back-to-School Books

Here is a very nice article from SLJ that talks about great back-to-school books.  I like their various categories by age ranges plus a special section for the first day jitters.  I’m sure someone will have those around our house.  Probably me.

Five Nice Mice

Five Nice Mice by Chisato Tashiro.

Translated from the Japanese, this is a story of five urban mice who hear music in the distance and follow it to a park where they find a chorus of frogs singing.  But the concert is for frogs only, so they are forced to leave and can’t listen any longer.  The mice are all inspired by the music, and build their own instruments.  They practice and practice until they are ready to perform their songs on stage.  During their performance, they glimpse some frogs in the audience and the book culminates with them all up on stage together.

Right from the beginning, readers know that this is not an American book.  There is something a little different about the pacing, illustrations and the story itself.  I love publishers who bring such varied books to the American market, allowing us a glimpse into other societies and their values.  Penguin has done well.

The illustrations are charming and filled with small details and lovely perspectives that are unusual to see in children’s books.  Additionally, the prose is clear and bright, almost allowing the readers to hear the music in the air. 

A lovely translation, this book is recommended for story times on music or mice or frogs. 

Sad News

Siobhan Dowd, author of the incredible A Swift Pure Cry, died on August 21st from breast cancer at age 47.  If you haven’t read her poetic, powerful novel for teens, you really should.  Sad that there won’t be many more books like this coming from her, she had a real gift.