Monday, July 30, 2012

This Past Week in Twitter World Vol. 2

Here are most of the links I posted to Twitter this past week (7/24-7/29):

1. Haven't heard this cover from the  before! Between the Bars // The Civil Wars:  

2. Check this out! Reading Lists of your Favorite Fictional Characters:

3. Children's Book Week poster from 1987 by Marc Simont!

4. Post from Brain Pickings: Artist Maira Kalman – one of my favorite hearts and minds – on identity, happiness, and existence 

5. Vote for the Best YA books on NPR: Some of my favs    Via: Best-Ever Teen Novels? Vote For Your Favorites

6. Check out Joel Robinson's Photography at his page! His work is utterly AMAZING!!! 

7. From "Letters to Note": Tolstoy wasn't Sendak, either 

8. On Children's Lit and the Olympics from the Cambridge ChildLit Student Blog 

9. Awesome list, 100 Best Chapter Books! Which ones have you read? 

10. Some quotes I posted:

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― William Butler Yeats Just love this quote!

-"Creativity is an act of defiance." Twyla Tharp

-“Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound.” E. B. White

-"You cannot always wait for the perfect time, sometimes you must dare to jump." 

Enjoy!  and Have a wonderful week :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Upcoming Film: "Lore" A Post WWII Drama

So I don't know very much about this film yet, but I saw the trailer today for the first time, and I have to say that it looks incredible beautiful, stunning and haunting.  The juxtaposition of the actors with the nature of the German countryside is just amazing, and they all say so much with their eyes!

This film, from Australian director Cate Shortland, has premiered at a few festivals so far but does not yet have a release date.  The story is set in post WW II Germany and it tells the story of Lore, a young German girl and her siblings who are forced to go on a 900km trek to their grandparents house when their father, an SS soldier, is arrested.  Along the way they fall into the hands of a young Jewish man who helps them, and they are thus "forced to trust a charismatic and intriguing Jewish refugee named Thomas, the one person they've always been taught is the enemy" (quoted from The Playlist).  

Here is the trailer:

More info from:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Updated Plan for the last 28 days or so of Summer!

So this summer I've gotten more done that I usually do which is pretty great!  But like almost every summer, it's also been made up of making plans, goals and lists and then restructuring those said plans/goals/lists.

So this past Saturday, I stayed up figuring out how to make the most of the last 28 days left of my summer vacation...

Here are the results:

Updated lists of books and audiobooks:

Remaining fiction books to read:

Audiobooks left to listen to:

And two podcasts to prep for teaching this year, one on The Whole Book Approach from the Eric Carle Museum and a lecture by Adam Andrews on Teaching the Classics.

Theory books: So I haven't been as successful as I wanted at working through some theory texts.  So my plan for the next 28 days is to read the following four books in short bursts everyday. It went well today, so hopefully it will work! Couldn't find a picture for the fourth book but it's a text book on Literature for Young Adults that's pretty good so far:

Lastly, I thought it might be a good idea for me to try and plan out what I will be posting on in the coming weeks.  So I hope to be posting the following over the next four weeks:

-On my fall Children's Lit classes and Course Reading Lists
-Guest post Review over at "There's A Book" on John Green's The Fault in Our Stars
-Book Review of The Berlin Boxing Club
-On Czech Illustrators
-Post on Art, Dreams and Illusions
-Picture Book Review of Rose Blanche

So there's the plan! Here's to making the most of the final weeks of summer!

And all of this "making the most of the summer talk" reminded me of this quote from Tuck Everlasting for some reason so I'll finish off with that:

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.” ― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

This Past Week in Twitter World Vol. 1

So this past week I took the jump and joined the Twitter universe.  And though I'm still getting used to it, so far it's been pretty great to connect with more people and have more wonderful children's lit news!

So, inspired by Jen Robinson's Book Page, I hope to write up a weekly post every Monday (although right now it's technically Tuesday already...) on links I posted during the week on Twitter.

So here we go:

1) A wonderful review of Beth Kephart's "Small Damages" from Forever Young Adult: …

2) A quick and funny article also from Forever Young Adult on Book Boyfriends/Girlfriends: …

Do you have any book boyfriends/girlfriends? haha I think I've accumulated a few too many over the years, but right now my top three are Andrius Arvydas from Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (see my review here), Stephen Barley from The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (forthcoming guest post review for the wonderful There's A Book blog!)

3) Kidlitcon calling for submissions for 2012! 

4) Pixar’s 22 Rules to Phenomenal Storytelling [INFOGRAPHIC]    thanks to  for sharing!

5) Judging a Book by Its Cover: A 6-year-old Guesses What Classic Novels Are All About  via

6) Flavorwire's 20 Most Beautiful Children's Books : 

7) John Green's Crash Courses are AMAZING!!! I posted a link to a poster for the World history courses  . Also Crash course related, John Green tweeted this:  just hit 8 million views. Thanks for watching and learning along with us! 

8) Roger Sutton posted a video interview with author/illustrator Melissa Sweet:

9) Wonderful video posted by Aileen Leijten that I "retweeted": Waldorf Education England 

10) The Book Truck: Mobile Library Hits Mexico City's Streets - Cities - GOOD 

11) Check out  's wonderful work! Love this one:

12) Video of a school library that Maira Kalman designed and decorated:  

13) An another awesome review of Small Damages from Danielle at There's A Book:

14) Great Article! Making War Personal in Young Adult Novels - Publishing Perspectives  


15) Great advice in an extremely funny video from John Green on "How to Become An Adult": 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

GUEST POST from my Little Brother

I've asked my little brother to honor us with his very own post with his thoughts on the last four read alouds we've done together.  Here's his post below which I typed up as he spoke it to me and he helped me select the images:

The four most recent read alouds I finished with my sister are The Doll People, Esio Trot, Wee Gillis and The Squirrel's Birthday and Other Parties.

The Doll People was funny! My favorite part was when the cat had the dad and the Grandma Katherine said "No! You'll be locked up in the kitchen!"  Here's The Captain (that's the cat) trying to get Annabelle's dad from behind the drawers!

Esio Trot was crazy!  Because he made up all those words. And here's a picture that's in the book, but this one's in color!  And so this is not actually Alfie, it's one of the fake Alfie's and I remember seeing this picture in the book because he has a smile on his face since he's not that used to the lettuce that Ms. Silver gives him and he likes it!

I loved Wee Gillis because he could blow up the giant bagpipes.  And I liked that it was set in Scotland. Even though there were no colors in the illustrations, they were really good.  Here's a funny picture from book where Wee Gillis is surrounded by his Uncles, one from the Highlands and the other from the Lowlands:

The Squirrel's Birthday was funny, funny, funny and funny again!  And strange :)  My favorite part was when all of the animals were dressed up in costumes as other animals. Here's a picture of that:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thoughts on Disney and Pixar's "Brave"

I guess I should preface this post with that fact that I am not a Pixar fanatic.  To be honest the only films of their's that I really liked were Ratatouille and Finding Nemo.  So, I don't have real preconceived notions of what a Pixar film should be, what kind of issues they usually raise or how differently they supposedly approach animated stories.  Instead I came to this film with a genuine interest in medieval history, a love of the British Isles and as someone who also has a great amount of crazy curly hair, although not the red variety.

As I sat in the theater watching the film, the main things that kept coming to me were, wow the way they animated the scenery is just exquisitely beautiful, they did a really fantastic job creating the hair realistically, I feel like I'm watching an attempt to create a film for kids that is similar to Snow White and the Huntsman, in a way, and is this Disney's first attempt at an original fairy tale? ...

So, the film seemed to present many juxtapositions: Merida and her mother, female and male, human and animal, light and dark, young and old, magic and "non magic" (I don't really like this term, if I can call it that, but I can't think if anything else, for example in Snow White and the Huntsman there was a definite juxtaposition between magic and religion, but I'm not sure what it is here) and wit/intellect and foolishness.

I must say that while all of these comparisons were presented, I don't think they were delved into in a deep way; they are there but in a rather surface fashion.  The plot was rather simple, and other than the "villain" bear,  the characters didn't have too much complexity as individuals.  To be honest I wasn't as stirred or moved or thought provoked as much as I was with Snow White and the Huntsman, but I truly enjoyed the film!  I enjoyed the role that legend and storytelling played, as well as the way the mother-daughter relationship was dealt with, in that it wasn't simply a rebellious daughter or a unforgiving and horrible mother, it was more realistic in that both had to learn from each other, both made compromises, both were altered.

Magic played a somewhat ambiguous role in the film.  There are the will-o'-the-wisps who help lead you to your fate, and are the visible signs that lead you on the path to your destiny.  But then there was also the character of the witch, who was neither good nor evil, and simply gives Merida what she believes she desires, however the outcome is less than perfect.

This film is one more to add to this list of films and books that are adding to the fairy tale trend, both in film and literature.  Unlike other fairy tale movies, this was not a revisioned fairy tale but instead an attempt of creating a new fairy tale.  After seeing the film, I started thinking how it seemed to be a combination of the following films and texts:

1. Quest for Camelot (the mother-daughter relationship, a girl that desires to be a knight/warrior type of person, medieval setting, animals, form altering magic, threatening forest...)

2. The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke (daughter who wishes to defy royal traditions and doesn't want to be a typical princess, competes in a tournament in which the victor is supposed to win her hand and wins thus forgoing a chosen mate, connection with nature)

3. O'Sullivan Stew by Hudson Talbott (British Isles setting, role of storytelling (although it's much more important in this story than in Brave), a young woman who defies convention, doesn't end with the typical romantic happily ever after (although, unlike in Brave where this is no love interest at all, it is implied that Kate will probably marry the King on her return)

4. Brother Bear (role of form altering magic, fate and destiny, change into a bear in order to improve one's perspective, family relationships, nature)

Lastly, a few non thematic or substance related notes.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film's score composed by Patrick Doyle as well as the end credits collaboration between Birdy and Mumford & Sons called Learn Me Right:

Here's one of the songs from the score called "Fate and Destiny":

Here's Learn Me Right from Birdy and Mumford & Sons:

Also, I really loved the actors they got to voice the three main characters, Merida (Kelly Macdonald), her mom (Emma Thompson) and her dad (Billy Connolly).

Have any of you seen Brave?  What did you think of it?

Will post soon!

I haven't been able to post in a few days, but I will be posting soon!  I'll be posting next on Disney's "Brave", Cornelia Funke's latest novel "The Ghost Knight" and on John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars".  I'm excited to post about these three works and also here about your experiences with them if you watched/read them.  Until then here's an awesome/strange/interesting image I found today (it's a wallpaper, so if you click it it will expand so that you'll actually be able to read what it says):

Friday, July 6, 2012


Usually when I'm about to read a picture book, I flip through quickly and scan the images.  When I sat down to read Extra Yarn today, I once again flipped through and then I had some extra time, since my little brother was finishing listening to a ebook story, in which I found myself thinking about and realizing consciously that I tend to do this flip preview and especially today I realized that this not only gives me a sense of the story but I then enter the story in a special way.  

So although most people will probably not read/experience/see Extra Yarn in the way I'll describe below, this is how my eyes/brain/perspective viewed this charming, amazingly illustrated, quirky and modernly old timeish book:

So, here's the first spread (from Jon Klassen's website):

So first of all, flipping through, these are the things that stuck out to me: juxtaposition of stark images and wonderful color, a small girl in plain clothes and a dog, a boy in a Russian winter fur hat, village setting, flamboyantly dressed man, ocean, yarn, more yarn, wood, snow.

So before jumping into my somewhat outlandish reading, I want to say that this is one of the best picture books I've seen in a long time!  Text and image worked so well together, and I like how they placed the image on the page, and the whiteness is awesome because it just adds to the atmosphere.  While I was reading this together with my brother, I was totally inside this book, I was in the village and I totally bought that this magical and crazy unending yarn was there.  And Annabelle is just awesome, isn't it just evident? 
So with the mental images that I garnered through my flipping process in mind, this is the added layer that surfaced for me in the story.  It reminded me of what a post-Soviet village might perhaps look like.  A stark community where everything is painted in blacks and grays and browns, where the only light and hope is found in the miracle of snow, where surprisingly anything is still possible in the hopeful mind of this little girl who has been through so much; because despite the struggle, the poverty, the seeming lack of hope, sparks of the imagination have lingered in the private echos of her inner self, where anything is still possible, where life is alive and where finding a not so ordinary box with something surprise inside is still believable.  

I know, crazy right?  But this is what Extra Yarn sparked in the inner workings of my mind... 

Some more spreads (1st & 3rd from Jon Klassen's website):

More reviews and thoughts:

Also check out Mac Barnett's site here and Jon Klassen's here.

And I'll leave you with this wonderful Mac Barnett quote from his talk with Jules for Kirkus on the awesomeness of quirkiness:

"The same plots get trotted out. Great ideas are shaved and sanded down until they look a lot like a lot of other things on the bookshelf. I like strange stories, shaggy stories, stories with knobby bits and gristle and surprises. And so I’m glad that people think my stories are quirky. All my favorite books have quirks. Although I think it is almost always more interesting to examine why something is quirky than to simply say that it is." 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A new book from Europa Editions

Here's a new book I'll be adding to my list of future reads (see the rest of my list here).  These are books that I hope to read in the near future, but there's a lot on there and it keeps getting bigger!

So here's a new book from Europa Editions, a great small publishing house featuring mostly European titles in translation.

The Frost on His Shoulders by Lorenzo Mediano, translated by Lisa Dillman

Here's a synopsis from Shelf Awareness by Nick DiMartino:

"Lorenzo Mediano's The Frost on His Shoulders is a tight little masterpiece, told by an unnamed rural schoolteacher who begins by assuring us that the half column of print buried deep in the newspaper was wrong about the tragedy that happened in November 1934, in a small village in the Spanish Pyrenees. "Of course, I might be wrong," he qualifies; "no one ever really knows for sure what dwells in men's hearts."
Ramón Gallar is a bright, handsome boy with blue eyes, a shepherd since he was eight, who loves reading and borrows books from the schoolteacher. He falls in love with Alba, the daughter of wealthy Don Mariano, the most powerful man in the mountains. Ramón works long, exhausting hours, saving the pittance he earns for a life with her.
Scornfully rejected by the girl's father, Ramón defies Don Mariano, swearing that he will return with money, and becomes the legendary smuggler known as the Desperado, working the border into France. There's a folkloric, larger-than-life quality to Mediano's style of narration--like a tale told so often everyone knows it by heart--as the epic showdown between Ramón and Don Mariano draws near.
Laced with the fears and beliefs of a brutal mountain world, the novel builds relentlessly to an unexpectedly horrifying ending. Every twist and turn in the story is crucial, and Mediano's melancholy schoolteacher brings it to a perfect surprise ending. The Frost on His Shoulders is an old-fashioned folktale of forbidden love told with genuine suspense, unabashed enthusiasm for the genre and breathtaking control."

Looks like a great story!  What do you think?

Monday, July 2, 2012

First Foray into the Graphic Novel

So, graphic novels.  They are all over the place right now, right??  I've been hearing about them for a long time, but up until now had never read any.  It's funny because when I was still officially majoring in art history, I was hoping to write my thesis on illustration from children's books, but that wasn't really taking off well with professors.  However, I was shocked to learn that while that wouldn't be ok, graphic novels would be perfectly fine!?  Of course if they were for adults...Anyways, I've digressed.  So as I've been helping my mom a lot with my little brother's journey of actually learning the mechanics of reading (he LOVES stories and books, he'll literally sit and listen to an audiobook for ages and has way advanced comprehension skills!) but for the longest time, and we're still not over the hill, he's struggled with getting himself to actually do the reading, to sit and read himself.  But Jess, he'll tell me, Why do I have to do it, you can just read to me or I can listen to a book!  So, we're still struggling with this, but I've been reading and thinking a lot about the possibility of introducing him to graphic novels.  Because he's the type of person that along with listening to stories, absolutely LOVES images, I guess I've imparted some of my art history-ness to him...but he'll literally just sit there and have a pile of books and go through them looking at the pictures; and I'm thinking how I can I continue this but add in him actually reading the words too!  So, I finally decided to get some graphic novels, and I discovered that our library has a small section of them (and confession, I got two for myself as well hehe).

So, we've had the books for under a week, and he has already read, all by himself, all three of Geoffrey's Hayes' "Benny and Penny" books, he loves them (as do I)! He's already looking forward to the fourth one coming out this fall, Benny and Penny in Lights Out! And he can't wait to check out the Toon Books website which has a bunch of great resources and FUN available for free online! And yes, these don't have that much text, but they are probably around the same word count as "readers" and he seems to enjoy these so much more!  And he's changing his voices for the characters, conveying the emotions more, and just with these three books, his fluency has become better!  And I think it's definitely the combination of the words and images working together, but in a different way from picture books.  And I think he picks up on it to, but probably can't explain it, because although he's getting more comfortable reading picture books himself, sometimes he says, No, Jess, that's not a reader!  You have to read that to me.  But with these he just jumped in!  So if any of you wonderful readers have suggestions for more great graphic novels for young readers let me know!

I just finished my first graphic novel today as well!  I read Siena Cherson Siegel's "To Dance".  It was a lovely book filled with wonderful images.  I think that this medium really added to the story because graphic novels seem to me to add alot of movement to the works because your eyes are moving across them at a faster rate, and so that adds to the sensation of the feeling of dancing a ballet.  And now that I finished that, I started a bit of Barry Deutsch's Hereville: How Mirka Got her Sword.  I first came across this book at the Jewish Museum in New York back in May, and I just thought the cover line was so great: "Yet another Troll-fighting 11-Year Old Orthodox Jewish Girl".  So far it's pretty good, although my one complaint is the characters look and act older than they are supposed to be... but maybe it's just me.

Would love to hear of any good or bad experiences you've had with graphic novels, especially the young reader variation!