Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Luxe - Anna Godbersen

Rating: 4 stars
Shelf: Now Reading

Review: Glamorous party dresses, turn of the century scandal, high society intrigue. Sometimes, it's all you need. The Luxe definitely does not disappoint.

Purchase Now from Amazon: The Luxe

Friday, May 15, 2009

Children's Book Week: Teen

Here’s where it gets a bit dicey. My favorite book from this period of my life is The Count of Monte Cristo. But, though it’s full of intrigue and is utterly fantastic, it’s not technically a Teen novel. Most of what I read back then would not classify as Teen. Tons of Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Austen, Hemingway. Anyway, I’ll try my hardest to pick books that might be classified as Teen.


Uglies Trilogy, by Scott Westerfeld: I still count it as a trilogy even though he came out with that fourth book, way after the fact. I’ve not read it and I’ve got no interest in reading it because the trilogy (Uglies, Pretties, Specials) is such a special and cohesive series. Westerfeld’s approach to image is unique, truthful, and thought provoking.

I also proudly sport an oversized tee that states, “I’m an Ugly”.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky: This book speaks volumes to any kid who’s always felt a bit on the outside of life. Charlie’s struggles and final acceptance of himself is incredibly heartfelt. You can’t come away from this book without its making a profound impact on your life.

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore: Cashore’s book is, in my opinion, at the top of contemporary Teen fantasy. It’s incredibly well-written and has a unique approach to the fantasy genre. Rather than use your typical witches, vampires, elves, etc – Kristen Cashore invents a new kind of people. And she doesn’t disappoint. I really love this one.

Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien: YES, I read it before the movies came out. Way before, actually. I’m proud of me. Are you?

Top Pick:

Hamlet, by Shakespeare

WHAT? Shakespeare!?

Yes. An in class reading assignment in high school, I think it counts! Hamlet is my favorite Shakespearean play, with all of its madness, betrayal, ghosts, and plays within plays. Not to mention, we got to take a ‘field trip’ to the Academic Learning Center and watch the Kenneth Branaugh movie version of the play.

Find these books and more in the From Infants to Young Adults Bookstore! 

Children's Book Week: 5th-6th

5th – 6th:

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snickett: Though I obviously wasn’t reading these when I was in fifth grade, I would have been had such an unfortunate series existed. It’s one of those brilliant series that transcends all age groups. They are witty and complex enough for an adult, yet simple and entertaining enough for a young child.

Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret, by Judy Blume: So. Your mother was either too afraid to give you the ‘you’re going to sprout breasts, grow hair in unlikely places and bleed between your legs’ speech so she threw this book at you and ran, or she gave it to you but used too many gardening references that you had to go out and pick up this book on your own. Either way, you were a pre-pubescent girl. And you read this.

Though, for me this book was a little misleading. I was pretty sure my period would come quite quietly, displayed as a teeny tiny red dot on my panties. This wasn’t the case at all. I also wish I hadn’t done so many of those “We must” exercises…

Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling: Who else sells over 100 million copies of a book because she is somehow relatable to YA readers as well as Grandpas and Grandmas? I love books that have the ability to sell themselves to readers - that spark enjoyment of the story and a hunger for the words.

At the bookstore I once worked at, we had midnight Harry Potter release parties. The first one I ever worked was for the release of The Goblet of Fire. At this point, I worked in the café section of the store. We all dressed up in black, wore witchy hats and some of us wore Potter glasses, and other carried wands. The party was UTTER INSANITY! About a million Potters, Grangers and Weasleys showed up. A few McGonagills, a Hagrid here and there, and this guy in a complete wizard costume, with a creepy plastic mask head. He rode in on a motorcycle. Which was incredibly hilarious. The line for café snaked around the entire store. I didn’t see the end of it until 2 in the morning. TWO in the morning! These are people, parents, out with their kids! For Harry Potter! At two in the morning!!

But seriously. You know by five am we all already read the book. Right, you guys?

Everyone keeps hoping for another Harry Potter. And by that I mean, not a book 8, but a really good book, by another extremely brilliant author who has the ability to bring together such a diverse crowd that eats snacks until 2am. I’m not sure we’re going to experience something like that again in our lifetime. Which is what makes Pottermania a true phenom.

My Top Pick:

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi

I read this book about once a year. It was probably the first book that gave my system a true shock. A polite and proper young lady defies expectation and preserves her dignity by casting aside her upbringing and becoming one kick ass chick. Charlotte Doyle inspired me then. She continues to inspire me.

Find these books and more in the From Infants to Young Adults Bookstore! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Children's Book Week: 3rd-4th

I’m not sure that I have as much to say about these books as I did the younger group. I wonder why that is? Actually, it seems like quite an important observation (maybe?). That getting children excited about books at a very early age is essential to developing life-long readers. My parents started reading to me from the moment I came out of the womb. They say that even then, I hung on their every word. Is this small action on the part of my mother and father the reason that I’m in publishing now? The reason I devour any book I can get my hands on?

3rd and 4th Grade Picks:

Chocolate Fever, by Robert Kimmel Smith

Ralph S. Mouse, by Beverly Cleary – Beverly seems to dominate my Top Five, and rightly so!

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume – I know I read this book before fourth grade, a fact which excited me very much when I was a kid. Mostly because I thought you had to be in fourth grade to be able to read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Thus developed my severe reading superiority complex. Book snob in the making.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8, by Beverly Cleary – Who didn’t love stubborn little Ramona and her oh-so-cool older sister, Beezus? There was, and always is, a little bit of Ramona Quimby (age 8!) in all of us!

My Top Pick:

Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

I remember the reason I read this book. The movie was going to be on TV. Commercials were announcing it like it was going to be a major event. Maybe back then it was. But my mother told me that I absolutely could not watch the movie until I read the book. Impetus! You know, these are the things I should thank my mother for on Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving – every day.

I read the book, loved it, and then she bought me the movie. Thanks, Mom!

Find these books and more in the From Infants to Young Adults Bookstore! 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Children's Book Week: K-2

As I twittered, it’s the Children’s Book Council Children’s Book Week, a celebration dating back to 1919. The CBC has just posted the winners of The Children’s Book Awards on their website. The categories are as follows:

Kindergarten to 2nd grade
3rd grade to 4th grade
5th grade to 6th grade
Teen Choice

And, of course, I thought I’d join in on the fun. I mean, you guys can’t have a party without expecting me to crash it. Especially when the party involves children’s books. So here I am, digging through my many years of reading experience to give you my own top choices every day this week, and they might just be extremely old school.

Kicking it off, Kindergarten to 2nd Grade:

The Jolly Postman, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg: Renting this book from our elementary school library was, quite literally, a fight to the death. And it was a fight I lost. Over and over again. The book was never available to take out, and the kid who was lucky enough to get their grubby paws on the book usually wouldn’t even let you look at it. It was the elements that drew us in and around this famous picture book. The letters that we could pull out of the envelopes and read, as though we were spying on our favorite fairy tale characters.

Years later, in college actually, I lamented often on how I was never able to check this book out of my library. For my birthday that year, my roommate bought me the picture book and now I don’t have to share it with anybody!

Really, one could say this isn’t truly my favorite book from this time period, as I doubt I ever actually read it then. However, I remember it. I remember wanting to read it so badly, I’d give anything for it. And I obviously cared so deeply about not having read it that my college roommate bought me a copy and I, from time to time, still take it off my shelf and read all of the Jolly Postman’s letters. And Children’s Book Week should be about celebrating books that give kids the desire to read. Even if that desire results in a fight on the playground.

The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton: I spoke about this book briefly in my previous post. I think it’s probably the first book to make me feel something, to connect me to the world through its universal themes, emotions, and stunning illustrations.

Real Mother Goose: Every child needs a collection of Nursery Rhymes. This just happens to be the collection that I grew up with and loved. The illustrations are wonderful and classic. My sister, brother and I loved our paperback edition to pieces. This past Christmas, I purchased gorgeous hardcover editions from Barnes & Noble, inscribed and gave one to each of my siblings. My brother was really too young to remember, plus he always hated getting, and I quote, “stinking books” for Christmas, so he thought I was referencing a Mother Goose computer game we used to play as kids. “Uh, thanks.” But, my sister cried.

Babysitter’s Little Sister, by Ann M. Martin: The Babysitter’s Club was a HUGE deal when I was in elementary school. However, partly because I was too young and partly because my mother monitored, somewhat, what I read, I wasn’t able to start reading The Babysitter’s Club books until the fourth grade. Thankfully, there was Babysitter’s Little Sister, part of the Little Apple Books series which made up most of my early chapter book reading.

By the way, I was Mary Ann. And I remember constantly referencing something about “faucets” when it came to describing how much Mary Ann cried. Though I wasn’t much of a crier. And I wasn’t very shy either. But I was Mary Ann. Which Babysitter were you? (C’mon, you know you played!)

And my Top Pick for my favorite Children’s Book in the Kindergarten to 2nd grade Category:

Elmer, by David McKee

Okay, so I didn’t even know about Elmer until last year, but I’m completely obsessed with him. And it isn’t even the first title that is my favorite, but rather the character in general. I’ve started collecting all of the books and almost have them all, including the  Pop-Up Book , Matching Cards and Baby Record Book . I’ll probably soon purchase the Lunchbox and the Tea Set, and I’ve got a small AND large Elmer Doll sitting on my desk. Just to complete the obsessive streak, I’m creating a crochet pattern to make my very own Elmer blanket.

Elmer is adorable. He’s bright, cheery, and always suffers some ordeal that makes him stronger, smarter, and brighter in the end. An oddly colored elephant among a herd of gray, Elmer teaches children the importance of being different and the strength it takes to be yourself.

My poor, first born forced to love Elmer child!

Find these books and more in the From Infants to Young Adults Bookstore! 

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Back in September (oh eight), I attended the Eric Carle Benefit Dinner, where the famed children’s book author and illustrator raised money for his Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. This was my first rather large publishing event. Being only a few tables away from Mr. Carle and very nearly introducing myself to The Polar Express author Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Very Hungry Caterpillar Thank-You Cards and Invitations, a Very Hungry Caterpillar Drawing Pad and a great poster from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection of Children’s Illustration of Alice in Wonderland characters from the July-October exhibit.

The poster has since been hanging above my desk at work and I’ve been staring at it, longingly staring at it, for months.

In the immortal words of Tina Fey’s daughter – “I want to go to there.”

In January, I mentioned wanting to go see The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
Two months later he said, “I want to get out of New York. Do you want to go see that museum?”
He being a guy I should probably keep around, even if just for remembering how badly I wanted to go to there.

So April 24th, we went to there. Okay, enough of that.

Happy 40th, Very Hungry CaterpillarFirst envisioned as A Week with Willie the Worm, the first gallery we entered was a complete homage to the work of Eric Carle and most specifically – The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Thankfully for us readers, his (agent?) suggested using a caterpillar rather than a worm for the book. To which he exclaimed, “Butterfly!”

That’s it.
One word.

You should now need no explanation for why I love this genius of a children’s book author.

In the gallery:
- Original spreads from A Week with Willie the Worm, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and 10 Little Rubber Ducks.
- A wonderful self-portrait of Eric Carle and the Very Hungry Caterpillar, buddying it up.
- A wall-o-Eric Carle with photographs of his childhood, his wife, Bill Martin and including a video telling the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. My favorite photograph on this wall was one of Mr. Carle in his studio, holding a paintbrush, and using his left arm to clean his brush! The picture to the right isn't the one from the museum, but you can see his messy arm!
- Butterflies contributed by various famous illustrators, including a lovely, lovely original from Arnold Lobel’s Frog reaching out towards a pretty butterfly.

Preview the exhibit here.

Virginia Lee Burton
I’m completely passing over the exhibit in the middle room with original spreads from Lottie’s New Friend, donated by author and illustrator Petra Mathers. It wasn’t that it wasn’t gorgeous, or that I didn’t spend a really long time moving from spread to spread – but I don’t really know Lottie. I don’t really know Petra Mathers. At all. And I came for Eric Carle and for Virginia Lee Burton. So. I’m sorry.

The Little House has always been my favorite picture book. It was trumped at one point by The Jolly Postman, but this obsession came solely from the fact that the book was impossible to come by at my elementary school library. And I just… wanted… to… touch… it! I was seven. Forgive me. But, The Little House was beautiful, and the sad little house captured my little heart.

Author and illustrator of The Little House, Choo Choo, and Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and many others, Virginia Lee Burton was celebrated for her simple, yet extremely complex line art which perfectly depicted the growth of urbanization. The Little House, for example, is about a little pink country house sitting atop a hill. As the book progresses, the city grows and suddenly the house, with its peeling paint and boarded up windows, looks sad and small next to two new skyscrapers.

Amazing was how much she could accomplish, how much she could express, in just a few strokes. Her drawings are not complex, yet they somehow depict movement and emotion perfectly. The VLB gallery also included a print by Norman Rockwell. Compared to Virginia’s Gossip print, you can clearly see her genius. Though simpler, both works convey the same message and invoke the same feelings.

In the gallery:
- Original art from The Little House; Choo Choo; Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel; Katy and the Big Snow; Calico, the Wonder Horse; The Emperor’s New Clothes; Life Story; The Song of Robin Hood and others.
- Photographs from Virginia Lee Burton’s life. What a beautiful, amazing woman!

- Designs from her Folly Cove Designers, a group that Virginia founded herself in Massachusetts. They became famous for their linoleum prints on cloth. At first, they created prints for their own homes – table cloths, curtains, etc. But soon, everyone was clamoring for their prints. Gossips (above) is one of those prints. Sentimental (below) was probably my favorite viewing of the entire day.

Preview the exhibit here.

Though I didn’t partake in these other fun literature related activities, Amherst and the surrounding areas seem to be very lit friendly. Plan your own literary themed weekend!

Dr. Seuss Garden in Springfield.
Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Reach Out and Read of Greater New York

Since this 10th Anniversary event happened April 20th at the Tribeca Rooftop Lounge, I probably should have written about it two weeks ago. But, two weeks have passed and it's nearing midnight on Monday. Still, I think this organization is too important to not mention what they do for children all over the country.

Reach Out and Read
Unlike traditional childhood literacy programs, the objective of the ROR model is to deliver specialized early literacy counseling and support. ROR achieves this by taking advantage of the unique access that pediatric primary care providers have to children while they are in their critical years of cognitive and language development – six months through five years old. Three program components complement and reinforce one another:

* At each well-child visit from six months through five years, children receive a new, developmentally and culturally appropriate children's book from medical providers. By the time they begin school, children acquire a home library of at least 10 beautiful children's books.
* In the examination room, physicians and nurse practitioners offer parents tips and age-appropriate advice about the importance of reading with their young children, including materials to take home.
* Volunteers read stories and look at books with children in clinic waiting rooms, thereby modeling for the parents reading aloud techniques.

Donate Now

Also attending this event was Giants' defensive end Justin Tuck and his wife, Lauran. The Tucks founded Tucks R.U.S.H. for Literacy, and were honored at the dinner that night. Both Justin and Lauran spoke eloquently that night about their work with children, and Justin stressed how important his role is - not only as a starting defensive end for the Giants, but as a role model for children. It was pretty incredible to hear an athlete speak this way - especially in the wake of all the A-Rod nonsense.

Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy

Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy aspires to encourage children to READ, UNDERSTAND, SUCCEED, and HOPE as they continue to nurture literacy in their lives. This charity program is committed to raise funds to donate books and other reading materials to benefit the local New York and Central Alabama communities.
Donate Now

Hoda Kotb, from The Today Show's Fourth Hour, was the keynote. She took a few pictures that she promised to show during the fourth hour the next morning, and I'd hoped she would have them posted on the website. But, no. All she mentioned about the event on her Twitter was that it was a rainy night, and that you should go out on rainy nights "cuz u never know what could happen!" Though, her story about her mother reading them Green Eggs and Ham as kids was hi-larious.
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