Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Swell Books!

I have a pile of books to flip through before April 21st, when once again for the 9th or 10th time, I will wax rhapsodic or grouse about the state of children's books at the Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference- at Kutztown University, Kutztown PA - just in case you wondered where it was.

YESTERDAY, I read, not one, but TWO, great books as different from each other as books can be.

Vincent and Theo: the Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman had me in tears less than a third of the way into the book. I knew where this was all going to end up, still, I don't know how Heiligman does it exactly - she manages to imbue her biographical works with emotion.  Her writing never strays from fact, although she does ask the readers to imagine how the characters may have felt at certain times in their lives.  She uses short chapters, divides the book in sections by types of artwork, and gives a full sense of place and time.  I will buy this book.  I need to read it again.

Granted by John David Anderson is a middle grade fantasy about wishes.  Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is a cobalt blue-haired fairy whose job is to grant wishes.  The "algorithm" (my word, not the book's word) that controls magic in the world has limited the number of wishes granted each day to a mere 12. Ophelia has never gotten the chance to grant one - UNTIL the wish of a girl whose bike was stolen falls from the Great Tree.
Wish granting doesn't sound hard.  You find the object used to make the wish and then you sprinkle the object with a little magic dust and say the four magic words. Easy peasy - EXCEPT for the planes, trucks, birds, animals, humans, trash, hunger, pain, feet, traffic, wind, humans and dogs...
When the wish object doesn't stay where it was tossed, when it travels from human to human, when Ophelia loses the ability to fly and has to depend on a sloppy, smelly dog - a sweet, adorable, smelly dog - to get around, when the wish object is used to ....  no, no, that would be telling.  This is one day Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets will never forget.

So, I started the day carried away with the sadness of the Van Gogh brothers' lives and awed by Vincent's talent and Theo's loyalty.  And I ended the day cheering on an imaginary creature whose mission was to grant a wish and grow magic in the world. 

I LOVE reading.

PS:  I'm reading Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor.  I don't know how I missed this one last year.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Chiles' Play CD Release Party

On Saturday, April 7, at 7 pm, at 707 N. 4th Street, (you thought I was going to say 7th street, but no!) - that's 707 N. 4th Street, Allentown, PA 18102 - the site of Coffee House Without Limits - we will hold a CD release party for our baby, "I Can Make It Myself", music for kids and their grown-ups.

I am so choked up with emotion.  I NEVER thought I'd see the day that I would actually put out a CD.  I could not have done it without Dan Chiles, my sibling and co-conspirator.  Actually, Dan did MOST OF THE WORK - including the production and the design and the backing tracks and some song-writing and vocals.  I did some song-writing and vocals.

We will have games, crafts, CDs for sale, A Skype session with Dan, who now lives in Sapporo, Japan. 

Please come.

The CD is up on Bandcamp.  You can listen to it there for free.  You can download the songs, one by one for $1 a pop, or the whole CD for $9.

Or you can go to Amazon.com and purchase the CD there.  The CD will be cheaper at the CD release party! Just saying.

Monday, April 2, 2018

A Year's Worth of Books - Jane Yolen

With the publication of A Bear Sat on My Porch Today, Jane Yolen reached the amazing goal of writing 365 books!  That's a book for every day of the year.

Someone should attempt to read a Jane Yolen book each day for an entire year and then vlog about it.  Some of the days will just be the vlogger reading a picture book.  Other days can be book reports or cosplay - Yolen books offer lots of cosplay opportunities - or even "travelogues".  Oooh, this is a great idea for someone with lots of energy.  I want a cut if the idea goes viral.  Just saying.

A YEAR OF YOLEN.  You are welcome.  Oh....wait....over on Jane Yolen's website, they already have plans for a year of Yolen.  My ideas are almost as good.

With the huge success of the How Do Dinosaurs Say... franchise, Yolen cemented her place in picture book lore.  The Dinosaur books are not my favorite Yolen picture books.  I preferred the Piggins books with illustrations by Jane Dyer.
The poetry of Owl Moon earned a Caldecott Award for the paintings it inspired illustrator John Schoenherr to create.

Yolen's fantasy novels delight middle grade, YA and adult readers.  Her poetry is contemplative, or funny, or sprightly, or inspiring.  She writes biographies, collects and rewrites stories from the bible, and the spiritual traditions of other cultures.  She even composes cookbooks!

Do you have a favorite Jane Yolen book?  I have several and I read them so long ago, I can't remember the titles accurately.  I do remember Boots and the Seven Leaguers: a Rock and Troll Novel  and Wizard's Hall.  I like Yolen's fantasy best of all.

Friday, March 30, 2018


There is simply not enough time to do all the stuff.  Housework stuff. Reading stuff. Blog stuff. Raising money for causes stuff.  Kid care stuff.  Spending quality time with all my family stuff.  Getting ready for the Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference Stuff.  CD release party stuff.  LOTS OF STUFF.  (I won't go into weddings, babies, etc.  I just won't.)

Instead, I will tell you what we did today.

D came over.  It's Spring break and her school decided that Spring Break is SACRED.  They will make up snow days at the end of the school year.

She brought two of her LOL dolls AND...oh my gracious!  An LOL BIG doll that her mother made out of D's out grown recital tights and other stuff. IS this not the most adorable thing you have ever seen?  Her name is Dawn and she is very closely modeled on the actual LOL doll named Dawn.
Poor Dawn ended up being the babysitter for two other LOL dolls and you-know-who.  You-know-who was up to his old tricks but then we remembered that he is good now so we introduced a new bad guy, Smunch.  Smunch flooded the school and all the aquatic stuffies - cuddlefish, frog and an LOL doll who developed the ability to swim under water indefinitely - had to save everyone. 

However, bad guy-ness seems to be running its course.  Slime making, however, never grows old.  So, before long, D was seated at the counter and working with cornstarch and water.  That's it.  Cornstarch.  Water.  Oh, and a little food dye.

Yep. Cornstarch, water, some food dye and maybe a little more food dye.

Sure thing.  Cornstarch, water, food dye,  a little more food dye.  How about some more food dye?
That is Little Blue Bunny - slimed.

I LOVE cornstarch and water slime.  We called it Oobleck and I bet parents and teachers still call it that.  When you get the right consistency - and finding that mixture is a big part of the fun -it is hard and dry to poke and touch.  Then you scoop it up and it runs through your fingers like ooze.

If you want a better idea of how much water and cornstarch you need, there's an approximate amount on Steve Spangler's Science website. 

You can click to watch his video, but honestly, it's more fun to toss in cornstarch and stir in water til you get it right.  OK, about a box of cornstarch to 1 or 2 cups of water.  There?  Are you good?  Food dye is optional.  Considering that D an I still have blue fingers, we maybe should have skipped that part.

The glue and borax slime is actually a toy.  I end up wanting to save it for further use.  So I need to find a container and then the stuff sits on a shelf for months.  But oobleck?  Throw it away!  Let it dry up and toss it in the garbage.  Done.  And done.

Oobleck forever.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Unicorn Rescue!

Adam Gidwitz!  (sigh) His books are sooo good and now his writing concentrates on saving mythical creatures from capture - or worse!!!  Watch this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Let's Not Forget Russell Freedman 1929-2018

Immigrant Kids was my introduction to the work of Russell Freedman.  I had never read a non-fiction book that gathered archival photos and decoded the personal stories of children who came to the US from other countries.  And who could possibly resist that adorable round teary-eyed girl on the cover - and her stoic protective brother?

After that, I turned to Freedman whenever I needed to purchase a book about a particular era in American - or sometimes World - history.  His writing was precise.  His research was exhaustive.  His insight was measured.  I trusted him.

Publisher's Weekly's obituary tells us that his first published work was about teenagers, Teenagers Who Made History, published by Holiday House in 1961.

Freedman wrote about things that I am interested in; children and teens through various periods of history, cowboys, famous people.  How he always picked someone who piqued MY interest I will never know.  He wrote about American history, Native Peoples, Civil Rights, inventors.  He started his career with a series about animal behavior.

The man was a Renaissance writer.  I often led adults to his books on specific time periods because the writing is accessible but NOT simplified.

Freedman won a Newbery Award for his biography of Abraham Lincoln; Lincoln: a Photobiography.

You know what?  I have to stop writing now.  With over 60 non-fiction books - all written for young readers - to his credit, I should be content to let Russell Freedman rest in peace.  I am.  I am also very sad.

I won't forget him, Russell Freedman.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

LBB Reviews - Sputnik!

Whoa!  That Sputnik guy!  Him, I like.  Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cotrell Boyce.

So, here's the set up.  Prez is the human kid and he doesn't talk - out loud - because, um, something about his grandfather going somewhere and he's living with people who are not related to him.  Toys are related to everyone so this was hard for me to wrap my stuffing around.  But, let's just say, he's lonely.

So, one night at dinner, the doorbell rings and the family doesn't hear it - just Prez - BECAUSE, get this!  There is no doorbell.   Wha-a-a-T??!!

Prez goes to the door and there's this little "kid" with a backpack and he's wearing a kilt because it's all in Scotland and this little kid answers everything Prez thinks.

I know!  But that is just the beginning!

The family thinks the "kid" is a DOG!  An adorable, irresistible dog!

At this point, I am all "What is going on here????" But, the "kid" is an alien - from another planet. AND his name is Sputnik AND Prez is his "project" which means Sputnik is here to help Prez with his grandfather and loneliness and not talking-ness. 

So a lot happens:
1. a toy light saber gets turned into a REAL light saber.
2.  A tree is destroyed.
3.  A tree is undestroyed.
4.  the remote control goes crazy and changes time and people
5.  robbery with menaces, I think.
6. disappearances.
7. running aways
8. a daring rescue
9.  Some lying
10. the threat of world wide destruction

And lots of other normal kid book stuff.

But that Sputnik guy!  Don't tell him to fix something because he FIXES it all right.  He just goes off and does his ET alien-y thing with all the trimmings. 

He is a person without limits - just like me.

You want to read this book.

Little Blue Bunny, here, signing off.