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