Saturday, April 28, 2018

MunMun's the Word

MunMun by Jesse Andrews.
When I read that this book came out this month I was soooo excited.  Jesse Andrews is a brilliant writer.  I expected madcap humor and razor sharp wit.

I mean, here's the set up.  In an alternate world, the amount of wealth you have - Munmun - determines how BIG you are.  The poor are as small as rats.  But the very, very wealthy are as tall as skyscrapers.  How cool is that!

I was game.  Warner, our narrator is a littlepoor, the poorest rank or class of citizenry.  Since his father was killed when a boy - probably a Middlerich because he was normal sized - running from a bully stepped on Warner's dad, Warner, his older sister, Prayer, and his crippled mother, must come up with a way to get Munmuns and up their scale.

Plan 1:  Meet a nice Middlerich or even Middlepoor fellow in Dreamtime and get him to marry Prayer.  Confused yet?

See, in Dreamtime, everyone is the same size regardless of their size in Reallife.  PLUS, Warner makes the BEST dreams and he can include all kinds of people.

Plan 2:  Go to Middlerich Law School and get a law student to fall in love with Prayer.  So, off they go.  So does Usher, a Littlepoor fellow who is so in love with Prayer.  Usher can read; Usher is strong; Usher has a terrible stutter.

So when Plan 2 explodes in pieces, I stop waiting for the storyline to become funny.  Do you know why?  Because Warner's situation was just too real - as in REALLY real; as in change size to color or other differences and you have our life, right here, right now.

Littlepoors are our inner city residents, black, hispanic, just not WASP.  Everything is stacked against them and every time they find a way out, it gets blocked or taken away. (I know - huge generalization!)

So around the time that Warner gets into the home of a Big where he will go to school with MiddleRich's, I turned to the ending in hope....

I don't even remember what I was hoping for.  I am curious as to how Warner got where he ends up but I think I need a lot of sunshine and silliness before I can dive into the Yewess (their country) again.

People are going to be talking about this one, fersure.  I can't stop thinking about it and I didn't even read the whole book.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


I went for my Medicare Wellness "event" today.  Your tax dollars at work!!!  And really, what else would you want to spend your tax dollars on but the chance to keep me around long enough to record my new song - or a podcast - or write that, no, THOSE books I keep nattering on about writing?

Growing old is ... better than NOT growing old. 

There are some things that I will never get the chance to do.  Those things are pretty much related to my aging body and to my lack of interest in doing them; i.e. I will never have a second child; I will never climb Mt. Everest.

But important things like -
Make a difference
Write a book
Paint a picture
Help a child find their passion - for this week - and another one next week
Sing a song
Share a story
Learn to dance
Understand physics??? -
there is still a lot of time to do those things.

I wish I could decide where to place the time I have left.  There are so many, many things I hope to do.  My biggest wish of all?  It's that everyone realizes that it is Not Too Late to do most of the things you dreamed of doing.  In the doing of those things, you will ease the regret that might come from those dreams that will never come true.

I wish you hope!

Friday, April 20, 2018

They Did NOT make the List - not even the addendum!

I cap my book list for KUCLC at 7 pages.  That gives me about half a page to brag on myself - my 30+ years in public libraries, this blog, my kids' CD - and to give contact info so people can help me find good books.

THEN, I usually add another page or two of books I forgot.  The following books are noteworthy and I MIGHT mention them tomorrow but, they didn't make either list.  Some books did not make the list because I want to feature them in a future list.  Some did not make the list because they are fluff. If I mention them, it will be to illustrate a trend in children's literature - because I am a Trend Identifier.

The Worthy Ones:
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani. Dial Books, (9780735228511), 2018.  When Pakistan and India are divided there is wide spread strife and violence among the various religious sects.  Nisha and her father, brother, and amah must flee - on the titular night train - to save their lives. The book is a series of journal entries that Nisha writes as letters to her Muslim mother, who died when she and her brother were born.
Observations: 1. Sometimes a book is worthy because it brings attention to a concept, a philosophy, a time period or an event that needs a spotlight.  MG, religious conflict, war, discrimination

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. Dutton Books, (9780525555360), 2017.  Aza suffers from anxiety and OCD but she keeps it together.  When the search for a missing billionaire offers a prize for finding him, Aza's best friend, Daisy hatches a plan to find him. Since Aza went to camp with the billionaire's son, Daisy is sure they can get info that will lead to the runaway dad.  That's as far as I got.
My observations: 1.  John Green's writing is smooth as glass, a joy to read. 2. Reading about anxiety disorders and OCD behavior makes me uncomfortable because I am that person - the one who starts having the symptoms that she reads about.  3.  When I finally finish reading this book, I expect to put it on a list because I heart the Green Brothers.  YA, mental illness, fugitives

Some Fluff!
First: Fluff is good.  There is nothing wrong with an amusing book that makes a kid giggle - unless it's a mean giggle and then, well, then we will have to have an intervention and years of therapy to deal with the trauma.  That said, the success of the Wimpy Kid and the Dork Diaries have caused a wave of imitators like:

Take the Mummy and Run: the Riot Brothers are on a Roll by Mary Amato. Holiday House, (9780823438686), 2017.  This is book #4 in this series about Wilbur and Orville Riot and their detective efforts or missions or whatever.  I did not actually read this book. I read a page or two.
My Observations: 1. It's funny - funny dialogue, goofy people with goofy mannerisms. 2.  There actually seems to be a story going on here.  Some of these fluff books are all jokes and very little story.  Stories are good.  MG, humor, mystery

Stick Dog Craves Candy by Tom Watson. Harper, (9780062410948), 2107.  I don't know about this book.  I read a few pages and it moves very slowly.  It appears to be about dogs who are looking for food.
My Observations: 1. Lots of people think that they can think like dogs.  I think that this author thinks he's one of those people. 2.  Dogs really like food. 3. I find it hard to imagine that dogs can understand concepts like "witches" but these dogs seem to be very frightened of "witches". 4. This MIGHT be a Halloween themed book; witches, candy, also orange heads.  5. One of these observations is not like the others.  Can you guess which one? MG, humor, dogs, candy, witches

Welp, that's it for now.  I hope to see some of my scads and hordes of readers at the Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference tomorrow.

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 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.