21 April 2019

4 Books About the Texas Revolution

Inside the Alamo
written by Jim Murphy

Voices of the Alamo
written by Sherry Garland, images by Ronald Himler

All for Texas: A Story of Texas Liberation
written by G. Clifton Wisler
A Line In the Sand: The Alamo Diary of Lucinda Lawrence, Gonzales, Texas, 1836
written by Sherry Garland

15 April 2019

Books I Love: Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Shel Silverstein

I first read this book
about 1985

I have a powerful memory of my mother coming into my grandmother's back bedroom where I was playing one afternoon. She held a thick book in her hands.  The book's jacket was gone, leaving the brown cover with a darker brown scrawl pressed in it. I realized later this was the imprint of Shel Silverstein's signature. I've always thought it was impressive that his signature was pressed into the cover of a book.

Mom told me she wanted to share a book with me--a book of poetry. She stretched out beside me on the king-size bed and began reading some of the poems. I vividly remember her interpretation of "Sick."

I was hooked instantly.

Not only did I fall in love with Shel Silverstein's poetry, but I discovered a love of poetry in general.

The poetry I write is terrible. I simply do not think like a poet. I wish I did. Imagine being able to distill a complex emotion or thought into the confines of a poem.

Shel Silverstein and his poetry have fared me well. I've bonded with friends over our mutual love for his poems. I've performed his poems in poetry competitions.

One of my favorite memories of performing his work was when I read "Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony" to a school group touring the library. (Technically, that poem is from A Light In the Attic, but I love that book, too.)

I was reading to this group of first or second graders, and I was having a blast.  I was reading with emotion and attitude and truly giving them a show when, from the front row, I hear one girl say to her friend, "She's crazy."

I don't know how I managed to stop myself from bursting out laughing when I heard that. Internally, I certainly was. I can only hope she delighted in my "crazy" performance and maybe even remembers it still.

But she was correct. I am crazy about poetry, and I love, love, love to share those feelings with others. Just as my mother did with me.

08 April 2019

8 Books by Trina Schart Hyman

Changing Woman and Her Sisters
written by Katrin Hyman Tchana, images by Trina Schart Hyman

Merlin and the Making of a King
retold by Margaret Hodges, images by Trina Schart Hyman

Sense Pass King: A Story from Cameroon
retold by Katrin Tchana, images by Trina Schart Hyman

Little Red Riding Hood
retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
written by Eric Kimmel, images by Trina Schart Hyman

Children of the Dragon: Selected Tales from Vietnam
written by Sherry Garland, images by Trina Schart Hyman

Tight Times
written by Barbara Shook Hazen, images by Trina Schart Hyman

Saint George and the Dragon: A Golden Legend
retold by Margaret Hodges, images by Trina Schart Hyman

20 March 2019

Louis Sachar: An Appreciation

I first discovered Louis Sachar's work in elementary school when I read Sideways Stories from Wayside School. I don't recall how exactly I had a copy of the book--either I bought it for myself at a book fair or my mother bought it for me somewhere. I should have been knee deep in my "biography phase" at the time, so I don't even know why I read it. But I did.

And I loved it.

It was silly and sad, ridiculous and oh-so-real. Wayside School was utterly fictitious, but the children in that classroom on the 30th floor were utterly human.

I devoured Sideways Stories from Wayside School (seriously, it needs to be a TV show on Netflix). I discovered something new every time I read it.

As I grew older, I completed my own elementary, junior high and high school educations. I went on to college and then on to graduate school.

During my first year of grad school, I turned on the Today show and saw Katie Couric talking to that year's Newbery and Caldecott recipients (sadly, they no longer do this). Imagine my surprise when I saw Louis Sachar talking about his novel Holes.

It sounded amazing, so I went out and bought a copy. And it was amazing!

Intricately plotted, heartbreakingly real. I found the story of Stanley Yelnats and the other poor boys at Camp Green Lake equal parts devastating and inspiring. Plus, it was set in Texas.

A few years later, I was lucky enough to escort Louis Sachar around the Texas Book Festival in Austin. During his panel discussion, one young boy stood up to ask the best question I've ever heard asked of an author. He was about eleven years old, and he said, "In Sideways Stories from Wayside School, you said the building was 30 stories tall but there is no 19th floor. So how can it be 30 stories tall?"

To his credit, Louis Sachar took that question in stride and answered it. "Do you know what zen means?"

The boy did not, so the author explained. Then he wrapped it all up. "Sideways Stories is sort of the Zen Guide to Elementary School."

The boy replied, "Okay. Thanks."

I have no idea if that boy remembers asking Louis Sachar that question, but I thought the whole exchange was so delightful that I've remembered it.

If you haven't read anything by Louis Sachar, do yourself a favor. Grab Holes, Sideways Stories, Fuzzy Mud or one of his other tales. There's something to love in all of them.

19 March 2019

19 Books About Dogs

Goodnight Baxter
written and illustrated by Nicola Edwards

Gracie's Baby Chub Chop
written and illustrated by Gillian Johnson

Grody's Not So Golden Rules
written and illustrated by Nicole Rubel

Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog
written by Pamela S. Turner, images by Yan Nascimbene

Harry On the Rocks
written and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh

Help Me, Mr. Mutt! Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems
written by Janet Stevens & Susan Stevens Crummel, images by Janet Stevens

Hickory Dickory Dog
written and illustrated by Alison Murray

Hondo & Fabian
written and illustrated by Peter McCarty

Howie Monroe and the Doghouse of Doom
written by James Howe, images by Brett Helquist

I Don't Want a Posh Dog
written and illustrated by Emma Dodd

I Love Dogs
written by Sue Stainton, images by Bob Staake

Ivan the Terrier
written and illustrated by Peter Catalanotto

Jack's House
written by Karen Magnuson Beil, images by Mike Wohnoutka

Kamik's First Sled
adapted from the memories of Matilda Sulurayok, images by Qin Leng

Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee
written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Love That Dog
written by Sharon Creech

Madame Martine
written and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

My Dog Is the Best
written by Laurie Ann Thompson, images by Paul Schmid

No Dogs Allowed!
written by Sonia Manzano, images by Jon Muth

05 March 2019

5 Books by Mem Fox

Good Night, Sleep Tight
written by Mem Fox, images by Judy Horacek

The Magic Hat
written by Mem Fox, images by Tricia Tusa

Where Is the Green Sheep?
written by Mem Fox, images by Judy Horacek

Wombat Divine
written by Mem Fox, images by Kerry Argent

Ducks Away!
written by Mem Fox, images by Judy Horacek

01 January 2019

14 Books I Like

written by Julie Herman

written by Bettina Restrepo

The Boy, the Boat, & the Beast
written by Samantha M. Clark

Wait for Me
written by Caroline Leech

Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood
written by Varsha Bajaj

Take Me To Your BBQ
written by Kathy Duval, images by Adam McCauley

It Wasn't Always Like This
written by Joy Preble

Crossing Stones
written by Helen Frost

A Round of Robins
written by Katie Hesterman, images by Sergio Ruzzier

Hearts Unbroken
written by Cynthia Leitich Smith

The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman
written by Darcy Pattison, images by Joe Cepeda

written by Anastasia Suen, images by Karen Katz

In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry
written by Carla Killough McClafferty

A Weird and Wild Beauty: The Story of Yellowstone, the World's First National Park
written by Erin Peabody