Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Question Mark Tail

So, what is it about mice and people who write for kids?  Stuart Little, The Tale of Despereaux, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, The Mousehunter, Whose Mouse Are You? - my brain is freezing right now but I KNOW that there are dozens, nay, scores of books with mice as main characters.  (Please comment with titles below so I can groan in recognition!)

Richard Peck - you remember him, right?  Newbery Award winning author of A Year Down Yonder, A Long Way From Chicago,  the Blossom Culp mysteries, and suspense stories of great renown - yeah, that guy!  Well, with the publication of Secrets at Sea, Richard Peck got his feet wet in the world of "mouse literature".  That book?  Quite enjoyable.

His most recent mouse book, The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail, raises mouse literature to new levels.  Set in the underground world of the mice of the Royal Mews during the reign of Queen Victoria, Peck tells the story of Mouse Minor.  Mouse Minor has no family.  His "aunt" takes care of him, sews his school uniform and teaches him how to behave.  Small for his age - and a "nephew" to boot - Mouse Minor has to defend himself from bigger and more established students.  He runs away and finds a whole new world on the grounds of, and inside, Buckingham Palace.

This is historical fiction mouse literature at its best.  Of course, off the top of my head, I don't have any other historical mouse literature in mind .....Oh wait, Ben and Me by Robert Lawson.  Well, Peck's book may occur on the other side of the Pond but it gives Franklin's mouse friend a run for his money.

GoodReads has a list of mouse books for young readers in grades 3 through 6 - just in case you think I exaggerate the prevalence of scurry, furry rodents in children's books.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The shicken did it - storytelling!

Summer is a great time for stories.  All us sleep-away camp veterans remember the campfires and our counselors warning us of the Witch Lady or the Evil Bear.   Ooohhhhhh! Scary.

But stories do more than just titillate and keep the timid awake at night.  Stories solidify our memories.  They create a family legend that helps us with our self-identity.  Stories teach.  Stories inspire.  And they are just plain fun.

When I was just learning to talk, I developed a great fear of chickens.  This was a problem since my grandfather owned a farm.  Those chickens freaked me out.  And if I got a scrape or a bruise or stubbed my toe, I pronounced, "The shicken did it."
Pretty close to the original scary chicken.
Someone gave me an inflatable chicken but my parents had to put it on top of the corner cupboard, it scared me that much.

My mother told us all stories about when we were "little".  She told me about my stint of blaming everything on "shickens".  "The shicken did it", was a phrase we shared. And when I was old enough to explain things, I remembered a dream I had had.  "Oh", I said.  "When I was little, I dreamed that that rubber chicken was chasing me and pecking me."

This is a tiny memory.  If my mother had NOT told me stories of when I was "little", I would have forgotten the chicken dream and the brightly colored toy that haunted my early childhood.  And a little part of who I am would remain a mystery.  I am still not terribly fond of chickens, unless they are fried or served with dumplings.

Yesterday, my mom and my youngest sister and I visited Illick's Mill which has been turned into an Environmental Center.  The Center is working on the public side of the "pond" that edges my parents' property.  Illick's Mill and I have a history and the building has changed from my teen days.  We got the grand tour and the summer intern walked back to the pond with us and explained what they were doing. My sister and mother and I shared stories of how things were when we were young. 

To remember your stories, you must tell them.  Repetition makes then stick in your brain.  Find a willing listener and tell them a story about who you were, who you are, where you went and where you are going.  Then help them tell a story to you.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Spaghetti Book Club - KBWT - Good Books for Kids

By accident, I found this very cool website where kids review books written for kids; the Spaghetti Book Club.

You can find reviews by clicking on the Titles link and then on the title of a book.  Reviews are often accompanied by picture drawn by the reviewer.

Check it out for the reviews.  Some of the other links on the homepage are no longer active.  But a website that encourages children to read and to write is always awesome, in my mind.
Thanks to the Rye School District for this graphic.

Good Books for Kids is a well organized site with book lists and links to find books for all ages.   The site is run by 3 educator/librarian/parent types who love books for children and teens.  The site makes money indirectly through  Some of you in the Save Our Bookstores community - like me - might not like that.  But this site is Very Useful.  Just don't click through to Amazon, if you don't want to.

Another online Summer Reading Club for you... Sylvan runs the Book Adventure site with book lists and contests - and for those results oriented adults - quizzes.  Nothing like some book related quizzes to spark up our summer, right?  Check it out.  Maybe you'll win something.

Today, I got Gordon Korman's upcoming book, The Hypnotist in the mail.  Tell you all about it in a day or two.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer Reading

This is the very first Summer in 30 years that I am NOT involved with a public library's Summer Reading Club.  Do I miss it?  Um..... Actually, yes, I do. 

So in memory of 30 Summer Reading Clubs - which doesn't include the ones I belonged to as a child or helped with as a teen library page - I will offer you some online Reading Clubs.

JetBlue and Random House offer Soar with Reading.  This year, Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series is the inspiration behind the club.  Readers are encouraged to dream of places that Jack and Annie can go in future Tree House Adventures.  The website offers activities based on the Magic Tree House series and a sweepstakes for parents and kids.  Each entry into the sweepstakes earns a book for under-served classrooms.  And the prizes for the sweepstakes include round-trip arifare.

This reading club doesn't ask much of participants.  The only things parents and children need to do to participate is fill out a sweepstakes form online.  The website doesn't even offer age ranges for the participants.  I'd guess first through fourth grades - 6 through 9 years old. 
Here's  a summery book - Kate Coombs' Water Sings Blue.

Don't forget the Summer Reading Club at Barnes & Noble.  Children in pre-K through grade 6 earn a free book by filling out a Barnes & Noble booklog with the 8 books they read this summer.  The link gives you all the necessary paperwork and rules.

Scholastic offers a great summer program and they partner with classroom teachers as well.  Readers log the time they spent reading and win virtual prizes.  There is also a sweepstakes.  Classrooms can  "compete" if the teachers log the children on early enough. 

Scholastic's child and teen friendly web pages are always fun to navigate with author info, games, book trailers, and lots of familiar characters.  Parents and children should check the FAQ if they have questions.

I suspect that the TD Summer Reading Club is limited to the residents of Toronto - I decided not to delve too deeply  - but the website is awesome.  Check it out.

And check with your local bank.  In past years, TD Bank, and other local banks have offered money to children who finished a minimum number of books.  The money has to go into an existing account at that bank, but hey, it's free money, right?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Maurice Sendak - a smart smart man

 I, blessedly, had very good parents.  But, not everyone has very good parents.  Parents try to be good - for the most part.  But sometimes we/they are not.

Here is an illustrated interview with Maurice Sendak on how hard it is to be a child.  He is truly missed.
Thanks to Betsy at Fuse#8 for sharing this.  Check out her other Sunday videos.