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Book Review: Books for Babies (and one for the big kids)!! Bedtime Classics: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll & Carly Gledhill and “The Nutcracker,” by E.T.A. Hoffmann & Carly Gledhill; Hello, World!: “Pets” & “Arctic Animals,” by Jill McDonald; plus “Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species,” adapted by Sabina Radeva

October 16th, 2019

This life...

(“Good morning, sunshine!” Photo by Rawley)

The fall books are arriving, and that makes life just a little sweeter, especially when the books are finally starting to reflect the actual country that we live in.

The majority of preschoolers in the United States today are non-white, aka “from a minority background.” This statistic has been accurate for several years now. (Since at least 2015, according to the people who pull the numbers together.) When the minority becomes the majority? That means, my friends, yes, America is a melting pot, which we already knew, and we love that.

Yet only 23 percent of children’s books published last year reflect this diversity.

Along comes Bedtime Classics, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” based on the Lewis Carroll story, and illustrated by the talented Carly Gledhill. Gledhill, an artist from the United Kingdom, did a lovely job with the Alice tale, and littles will be happy to meet the Cheshire Cat and the rest of Carroll’s crew in this sweet little board book.

Gledhill also illustrated a cool version (just in time for the holidays) of “The Nutcracker,” by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Both new releases are published by Penguin/Random House, 2019, cost $7.99 apiece, and are the first two in a new series, which will include “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Wizard of Oz” and other titles.

The Hello, World! series also has new books out. “Pets” and “Arctic Animals,” Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2019, $7.99 each, offer innovative ways to introduce the little ones to non-fiction info about animals, to identify colors and shapes, and voila! learn how to read, too.

The books are fun. We have a cute little rabbit, for example, with “long, floppy ears, whiskers, and a nose they can twitch,” a prompt to practice twitching your nose like a bunny, and some fun facts. (“Rabbits eat hay, fruits, and vegetables.”) Both books have the same style, and it’s just a fun way to work on a lot of educational stuff without being bossy about it. Lol.

Now, one for the big kids. Sabina Radeva, another artist from the U.K., has adapted and illustrated Charles Darwin’s classic, “On the Origin of Species” (Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House, 2019, ages 4 and up, 64 pages, $18.99 and worth every penny). This extraordinary adaptation gives us lots of science facts, distilled for the younger crowd, along with biographical information on Darwin.

“Wacky Mommy,” you might ask, “Is this really a book my niece/nephew is going to want? Shouldn’t I buy them another Captain Underpants book, instead?” Well. You should buy them Captain Underpants, because that series is great. But you should also buy this one, too. Kids dig non-fiction, biographies, autobiographies, and all sorts of unexpected stuff.

Happy reading! Bon appetit!

Wacky Mommy at Large

Thursday, Thursday, Picture Books! — “Five Minutes (That’s a lot of time) (No, it’s not) (Yes, it is),” by Liz Garton, Audrey Vernick & Olivier Tallec; “16 Words: William Carlos Williams & ‘The Red Wheelbarrow,’”; and “My Tiny Pet,” by Jessie Hartland

October 3rd, 2019

So many photos ❤️

(“White Chickens/Black/and Red” photo by Nancy Row Rawley)

I love this picture book’s title, y’all. “Five Minutes (That’s a lot of time) (No, it’s not) (Yes, it is),” written by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Olivier Tallec (G.P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR, 2019, ages 3-7, $16.99).

This cheerful, goofy picture book takes just about five minutes to read, but you’ll probably end up need 20-25 minutes, total, because the kids will want you to read it four or five times. Five minutes is forever — or it’s not enough, depending on how a person looks at it. Visiting the puppies, bunnies and birds at the pet store? Five minutes is not enough. Just a little more sleep? Please, please more than five minutes. Waiting in line, anywhere? Five minutes takes an eternity. Clever story, sweet illustrations.

Visit the crew — Liz Garton on Twitter @LGartonScanlong, Audrey Vernick and Olivier Tallec.

I have many favorite poems, but this one is in the top five:

“so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white chickens.”

– William Carlos Williams

What is it about this poem? English majors and their professors, writers and poets, fans of chickens… we all worship it, analyze it, interpret it in different ways. It’s cool to see the poem dissected — and illustrated — in a new picture book, “16 Words: William Carlos Williams & ‘The Red Wheelbarrow,’” (Schwartz & Wade Books, by Lisa Rogers, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, 2019, ages 4-8, 40 pages, $17.99).

I love when this poem is used as a writing prompt; it frees us. It is simple, beautiful, deep, and everything a poem needs to be. Williams was a family doctor in Rutherford, New Jersey. Thaddeus Marshall, a neighbor, was one of his patients. His garden, his wheelbarrow, and the sale of his vegetables inspired Williams, who wrote in his spare time. Who knew? (English majors. Their profs. Writers and poets. #bigsmile)

The illustrations and the words wrap around the poem to give us a nice biography of Mr. Williams, and a beautiful tribute to Mr. Marshall. Enjoy.

For more about the author and illustrator, check Lisa Rogers and Chuck Groenink.

Next up, one just for you, science geeks and art lovers: Jessie Hartland’s “My Tiny Pet,” (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019, ages 4-8, $17.99). They can survive radiation, the vacuum of space, or live at the bottom of the ocean. They can hibernate for centuries. Their biggest predator, though? You’ll never believe it. Snails.

What is this mysterious creature we’re talking about? Tardigrades! (Aka, “water bears.”) And now someone, believe it or not, has written and illustrated a beautiful, sweet, educational picture book about them. Hartland’s work (gouache) has been compared to Maira Kalman’s (one of the best artists, ever, in the history of the universe, people!) and yes. It does remind me of Kalman’s work.

A little girl and her family are downsizing and moving to the forest, and their pets are all rehomed. But she would really, pretty please, like one small pet? So much love for this book.

Check out more of Hartland’s work here.

Wednesday = Picture Books! Let’s Review “Snack Attack,” by Terry Border; and “Max & Ruby and Twin Trouble,” by One Ms. Rosemary Wells

October 2nd, 2019

So many photos ❤️

(“Puppy/Monkey,” by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

OK, this first one is crazy, which means the kids are going to love it. Terry Border’s “Snack Attack!” (Philomel Books/Penguin Random House, 2019, picture book for the littles — and maybe the bigs? — unpaged, $17.99). We have the three best besties in the world — Cookie, Pretzel and Cheese Doodle. Do we care about them? Even though they’re not actually real? Yes, yes we do. So when we see the note from mom, and realize that Big Kid is heading home, with “big teeth and slobbery tongues,” yes, we get a little worried.

The photos and montages are funny. Check this one out.

It’s the 40th anniversary for Rosemary Wells’ beloved sibling bunnies, you know them, you love them, Max and Ruby!!! I really do adore these two, and not just because my kids (and their granny) adored them. Oh, they are too flippin’ cute and funny. What’s happening in the new book, “Max & Ruby and Twin Trouble,” (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2019, ages 4-8, and also my age, $17.99) with its candy colors and its wild style? Max and Ruby are getting twin babies at their house, that’s what!

Happy reading, y’all.

WM

On My Nightstand: Fall Book Round-up for the Younger Set (“Ruffleclaw,” by Cornelia Funke; “ABC Dream,” by Kim Krans; “Space Dog,” by Mini Grey; “Toys Meet Snow,” by Emily Jenkins & Paul O. Zelinsky)

October 11th, 2015

Funke is a cool, talented illustrator and author — the kids really respond to her work. When it comes to certain authors, readers (of all ages) just grab them up and claim them as “theirs.” It’s kind of funny. Funke is one of those. Ah, that territorial feeling you get over a certain book or author. I get that. She’s the author of the “Inkheart” series, which are for more advanced readers, but her new book, “Ruffleclaw,” is a chapter book for kiddos who are transitioning to chapter books. (Random House, 2015, $9.99, 102 pages.) Ruffleclaw is a wicked smart, icky lil monster, who has a “scrumptiously smart plan” to live with some humans and sleep in their cozy beds and eat their yum-yum food. Will he succeed?

Here is a YouTube clip of an interview with Funke. I show it to my students when I booktalk her work, along with some of the J.K. Rowling interviews, and Lemony Snicket. He’s a lot of fun in video clips. Neil Gaiman is another one who is a great interview. I read the first few pages of “The Graveyard Book” to the 5th and 6th graders the other day and gave everyone the shivers. And “Coraline” is still never checked in. I tell the kids that she and Babymouse — the Jennifer & Matthew Holms’ series of graphic novels — just stop by the library to say hey and then leave again.

(Always a good sign for a book.)

By the way, the Goosebumps book are getting a new surge of interest, too, with the Jack Black movie coming out in time for Halloween.

Now, on to some beautiful art…

Galleys for a book by Kim Krans appeared on my doorstep. (love.) “ABC Dream” is one of the best picture books I’ve come across recently. (Random House, 2016, unpaged, $16.99.) (Yes, I’m reviewing it even though it might only be available for pre-order at the moment.) Wait, she’s a Portland, Ore. girl like moi? Fantastic.

The art is precious. Beautiful, thoughtful, bright, just lovely. No words, just letters. I like books that the littles can enjoy, savor, and not have to worry about “Wait, I can’t read yet!” I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… I love picture books for the big kids and the grown-ups. Anything that inspires us to do art makes me happy. I am really happy about the new coloring craze that’s going on. Titles? OK, here, here and here. My favorite letters in the book: R & T (and the key in the back that tells me, “rain, red, reflection, ring, robin, rope, rose” and “tigers, tired, tree, trunk, two”).

Mini Grey’s new release, “Space Dog,” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015, $17.99, unpaged) is a wild ride through space, but of course. It’s always more interesting when a little conflict is introduced in a work of literature, and our conflict in this picture book is between Space Dog, Astrocat and the darling lil Moustronaut.

“It’s the year 3043 and for as long as anyone on Home Planet can remember, Space Dogs, Astrocats and Moustronauts have been sworn enemies.”

When the Queen of the Cheese Ants comes along, you know it’s going to get extra lively.

“Toys Meet Snow: Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-Loving Rubber Ball” is a new collaboration between author Emily Jenkins and illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky. (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015, $17.99, unpaged.) Their previous series, “Toys Come Home,” has been a long-time favorite with young readers. This one is for the littler-littles — ages 3-7. The art is sweet, the story is good, and it’s nice Jenkins and Zelinsky paired up for the younger kids in the crowd.

Words of wisdom (they sent an interview along with press kit):

Zelinsky says: “I’m not an expert in this, but I say read to your children, and don’t stop. Nobody is ever too old to be read to. Picture books make good out-loud reading for any age.”

And from Jenkins: “Oh! Am I opinionated on this topic! Don’t shame their reading choices. Ever. I see this happen so often in bookstores and libraries, or at school book fairs. ‘You’re too old for that.’ ‘That’s too easy for you.’ ‘Why do you like that junk?’ ‘That’s a book for girls, not boys.’ Instead, I recommend parents try this approach: Don’t try to get your child to choose appropriate books. At all. Just bring them to the library, where they can choose inappropriate books at zero cost to you.”

Hear, hear!

Bon appetit, babies.

– wm

quotes from my student

March 3rd, 2011

She’s funny, this kid. Two weeks ago she snuggled up next to me, looked at me adoringly and asked me, “Ms. Nancy, why don’t you ever have any good books in your library?”

Ohhhhhhh, let me count how many books (new and new-to-us) I put on the shelves in the past six months: A ton. That’s right.

So she heard I was leaving, Due to Tendonitis and Exceeding Need to Publish My Own Writing (and perhaps start a new internet project, with Stevie. More on that later ;)

Today she gave me a really sweet goodbye card, another big hug, then shoved me away and had a lil fit.

I want to be a writer. I want to be WRITING!”

My response: “Do it.”

I (heart) kids. Writing. And books. Today? In that order.

love your local librarian

February 11th, 2011

“Libraries are far from the rarefied cathedrals of secular humanism they pretend to be, while librarians are the shadiest creatures this side of the Russian mob. Scratch the adamantly bland demeanor of any librarian and you’ll find trails of broken hearts, bathtubs full of meth fixings, and covert careers in porn.” — David Schmader, Last Days, 17 October 2002

same story, nationwide

December 19th, 2010

More on libraries.

hellooooooooooooooo, everyone

January 4th, 2009

Dear World (and by “world” I mean the 14 people out there who still read me),

So. So, so, so.

It is Sunday, January 4th, 2009.

We have a new president moving into the White House pretty soon.

Things are a mess in Gaza. Israel, I would like to ask you: While the rest of us are talking “hope” and “change” and “substance” in the new year, why do you feel the need to kill others? Please stop now. Obama seems to be pretty pro-Israel, pro-hawk, yes? Wanting to hunt down Bin-Laden and all. Maybe Israel is wanting to get in a few punches now, just in case they’re not allowed to later?

Unfortunately, as hopeful as I am about the new American administration, I think Israel is going to continue to be allowed to do whatever the hell they want to do. Israel = bully.

Why is it that while our nation’s schools are focused on policies of no-bullying, no physical violence, no verbal, sexual or mental abuse, no murder, certainly, the grown-ups can’t follow suit? Do as I say not as I do, aiiiiight?

The year my daughter started kindergarten, one of the first-graders wore a button everywhere that said

PUNCHING

with a black line drawn through it.

“Who gave you that, K?” I asked him.

He was all, aw shucks, smiley. “My teacher.”

Smart teacher.

No punching. Just love. And hope for a better world.

I have been meditating, writing in my journal and studying every day. It has helped with the chaos.

After a long, sometimes bumpy winter break (ice, snow, rain, snow, snow, sunshine, flooding, ice), we are heading back to school and work tomorrow. I’m thinking 6 a.m. should be pretty fun, especially since I’ve been sleeping until 9, 10, 10:30 a.m. every day for almost three weeks. Whatever it takes, that’s what I’m saying.

I saw on the news that the Estacada Library underwent a ton of damage (to books, computers, building) during the most recent bout of flooding. If you have a few dollars to spare, I know they would appreciate it.

Estacada Public Library
825 NW Wade
Estacada, OR 97023

peace,

wm

damn books that make me cry

August 21st, 2008

Just finished reading Sharon Creech’s “Love That Dog” aloud to the kids. Wacky Girl had to take over when I started crying.

Have added “Love That Dog” to list of books (“Charlotte’s Web,” “The Yearling,” uh, “Bambi”) that I will not be reading aloud to my students.

Also I think I will skip “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” and “Then Again Maybe I Won’t.” My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Bell, bravely read both to us. I am not the man he was. Also, no “Wifey.” You’ve got to have some boundaries when reading aloud to students. “The English Patient”? Nope. Anything by Anais Nin? Nopey-nope.

No to “A Day No Pigs Would Die.” Ditto, “The Pigman.” Basically, no pigs. Nothing with “pig” in the title, nothing with a pig theme. Because even though Wilbur lives in “Charlotte’s Web,” it is not exactly a happy ending now, is it? Contrary to what my daughter would tell you.

Today’s books:

And:

And even more…:

A big ol’ book round-up

August 19th, 2008

No time to review — reading.

(Almost everything I’m reading the next few weeks came from the School Corps trainings I went to recently. School Corps is part of the Multnomah County Library system and you will find some of their incredible book lists right here.)

Bon appetit!

wm

Today’s books:

And:

And even more…: