Our May book club books were two classics: Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel, and The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame.
Our group was small–5 of us–but very engaged. Most of us enjoyed The Wind in the Willows a lot–especially the rich language and sensibilities. One member questioned that Mr. Toad kept getting away with things– like breaking out of jail. Someone else pointed out that Mr. Toad was simply a delightful rogue.
We thought it might be a good read aloud nowadays since the language could be difficult for kids. Our local librarian had checked circulation and found that all four copies of the book are taken out regularly. We were surprised and pleased to hear that. One member did not like The Wind in the Willows. She had tried to read it three other times in her life and was never able to get very far. Although we encouraged her to try again, we also agreed that it’s OK not tolike a book that is considered a classic. Our librarian member had also read Return to the Willows by Jacqueline Kelly and thought it was quite good.
We all agreed that we love Frog and Toad are Friends. In fact, we read aloud the “I look funny in my bathing suit” chapter. And we all laughed. We found it remarkable that with such simple words evoke so much emotion and convey such a good story.We then talked about other easy readers that we love including Nate the Great, Henry and Mudge, Are You My Mother, and George and Martha (actually picture books). We marveled that these books have such simple language and yet tell such wonderful stories. One member said her 6 year old granddaughter had entertained her with The Cat in the Hat via skype–singing it like an opera. We realized that we have a lot of favorites among beginning readers–including Frog and Toad.
Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, Minnesota
It was nice to have the group meet again after our April meeting got snowed out. We had a lot to discuss tonight – April’s titles and the two classics for this month. We had a small group of only four people tonight and shared gummy frogs as our treat.
We started out talking about what we are currently reading.
The lexile level on The Wind in the Willows is 1280. We had a brief discussion on the lexile levels of some of the classics versus current best-sellers for children. We had different versions of The Wind in the Willows it was fun to compare the editions and see how the different illustrators saw the story. A good read-alike would be the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.
Frog and Toad is always a fun book to read. We compared it to other friend stories—George and Martha, Poppleton. We also shared how Arnold Lobel was the first to push the limited vocabulary used in previous I Can Read titles.
In both versions we thought the anthropomorphism worked well. In neither book were they too cutsey.
Stravinsky & Nijinsky and Ballet for Martha are both wonderful non-fiction picture books to introduce children to events they might not have been aware of previously. It was interesting to see the change between the color schemes of the two books.
We invite any interested readers to join us for our June discussion at the Chapter & Verse location nearest you. We are reading Cold Fury by T.M. Goeglein and Phoebe and Digger by Tricia Springstubb and Jeff Newsman.
Yes, these two books have a connection (at least in our minds). Cold Fury is a book about a 16-year-old girl who is part detective, part avenger, and part consigliere. Phoebe & Digger is a picture book for reading out loud and telling a story.
Please bring suggestions for stories about teens in unusual, plays-against-type circumstances.
Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
Both books inspired us to know more about the subject matter and to do additional research. We thought both books were a perfect example of collaboration. The whole was more than the sum of its parts. The back matter was important to both books for us but felt the book could stand alone without it. Both books fit in to classrooms with the common core state standards.
Ballet for Martha: Knowing the music or Martha Graham ahead of time would certainly add to this story. This is a somewhat sophisticated story and would be better for a little older reader. The book’s illustrations being mostly simplistic, match the story line and set design. We discussed the quote, “ugliness, if given a powerful voice, can be beautiful.” We feel it’s the reaction to ugliness that can give a powerful voice which is beautiful. i.e. The people of Boston coming together after the bombs is one example.
Due to a snowstorm, our first try at this meeting took place on Thursday, May 2nd. There were 18 people in the group, many new faces. Author-illustrator Lauren Stringer joined us to talk about her book When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot. We paired this book with A Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca.
These two books were chosen so we could talk about collaboration. The subjects of the books collaborated on their artistic expressions, as did the authors and illustrators of the two books. Yes, even Lauren collaborated with her husband, Matthew Smith, during the ten years it took from conception to completion. A composer and musician, Matthew helped Lauren get past a time when she was stuck in developing the story by diving in and introducing sound into the manuscript.
Lauren shared a magnificent slide show of the images and ideas that inspired her, the music from The Rite of Spring (the ballet that caused the riot), which ended with a complete reading of the book. When her talk was finished, the applause filled up the spaces of The Bookcase.
We took a break for Riotous Rite of Spring punch and Cubist Cupcakes (much of the art in the book pays homage to cubism), otherwise known as opera cakes from Wuollet’s. Melanie Heuiser Hill did a wonderful job of pulling together the musical refreshments and the table décor.
After our break, we briefly discussed the differences between When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky and A Ballet for Martha. We agreed that each book has a beauty and a storytelling quality. Lauren’s book works well for young children through adults, whereas A Ballet for Martha is appropriate for older readers, perhaps fourth grade and up. Each book left us hungry to know more about these two extraordinary ballets that changed history.
Our May Discussion Books are two beloved classics: The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
The Bookcase, Wayzata, Minnesota
We had such a small group last night (3) because of Spring Break (we believe) that we were tempted to call it an early night, but we ended up talking until store closing!At our meeting, we talked about Nighttime Ninja with the mother of a 3-year-old boy and a 7-year-old boy and a 20-year school library assistant. We appreciated the art, and compared it to other of Ed Young’s books. We liked the design of the book and the vocabulary. What people worried about was the basis of the book, surprisingly enough. They felt that a “ninja” was an unfamiliar term for the age group for whom this book is intended. The mother in our group said she tried to explain ninjas to her boys and did a miserable job … how do you talk about assassins to young kids? So, although we liked a number of things about the book, we hope their subject matter for the next book is a different one.
Everyone liked Jerry Spinelli’s Third Grade Angels very much. We thought it was a “sweet” book about a gentle and thoughtful boy and we all agreed that those kids aren’t represented often enough in books for this age group. It’s also an age-appropriate book about third graders that third graders will enjoy reading. We were pleased that Suds’s mother was portrayed as wise and patient, a mom that Suds could rely on and confide in. Mrs. Simms was a Smart and Caring teacher who expected good behavior from her class from Day One. We all agreed that there are boys and girls very much like Suds, who are sweet, generous, and mindful, but they don’t often get portrayed in books. We also spent some time talking about perfectionism and how much anxiety and worry some kids have … this is a good book for those kids. Our group talked a bit about didacticism and “preaching” in books (going back to The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew) and the distaste among reviewers for books that cross the line (which we felt Third Grade Angels did NOT cross) and how kids are fine with reading tales about morality. All in all, it was a good night’s discussion.
Redbery Books, Cable, Wisconsin
We were impressed with Nightime Ninja, the artwork, the sparse story and the way they worked together. Both built suspense and then reveal the surprise. We wonder how a first time author gets Ed Young as an illustrator. Very cool. Because the story and illustrations work so well together it feels that the author and illustrator would have had to work together. It is a book that when you get to the end, you will go back to the beginning and start again. It has a bit of Where the Wild Things Are in it — bedtime, imagination and a journey. We think mom is going to go back to the kitchen and eat the ice cream.
Third Grade Angels was also a hit. The tone fit well with the story elements. In some ways Suds seemed naive and a young third grader. Peer pressure wasn’t as much of a factor for him. He worked to please himself. The humor and interactions of relationships was important to the story. Mrs. Simm’s was an angel in the way she handled students and letting Suds know why the outcome. We liked the fact that he didn’t win, that would have been too pat of an ending.
The Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, Minnesota
We love getting all the different reports in from our Chapter & Verse Book Clubs around the country. Each group has such different reactions to the books we discuss!
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind got rave reviews from the group. In regard to the story, it was important to include the magic as it fueled his imagination and opened up possibilities. Even though he has principles of science behind his inventions, what he accomplished really is magical.
We discussed the power of wind and its multi-dimensions in the importance in the story specifically and as an element generally. It transforms. It is renewable. Standing in the wind can refuel according to D.R. She considers her relationship with the wind to be one of power. The illustrations capture this power with its spinning blades, combinations of paper and paint.
The use of collage brought in a child-like feel. Textures were warm. We especially liked the spreads with the dark background. We believe it is a Caldecott contender. Both the story and the illustrations are engaging and keep one turning the pages. The attention to detail in the formatting of the book is evident. The color of the endpapers is definitely representative of the sub-sahara. It also happens to be the same color as the cover on the adult book.
We think it is an amazing story that needs to be told. The backmatter is important to enhance its value in the classroom.
The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls We were uncertain who is the best audience for this book. The cover and format suggests a middle school audience. We liked the way the author pulled in the other literature and books from the book club but felt this was better suited for older readers. This would be a great springboard to reading these classics. The characters seemed real and the way they came together in their interactions with each other made them seem less cliched. Three of the moms were more of a cliche. If you had to define each one with just one word we would define Cee-Cee as manipulative. Adrienne, vulnerable, JIll as reason. Wallis was courageous. The author led us astray in the way the ending at the pool was set-up. We believed that Wallis and her mom were in hiding from an abusive relationship. She was private about her personal life, didn’t want Internet exposure, protected her Mother. In addition, it seemed that experience with abusive men might have played a part in her response to her actions in the final pool scene. (trying not include a spoiler).
The Bookcase, Wayzata, Minnesota
We had 14 people at our group on Thursday night, everyone freshly ready after a busy summer. We have a large proportion of librarians from elementary to middle to high school and public libraries, too. With a few writers, a couple of parents, and all enthusiastic readers, our discussion was very lively!
This is the last time this group will meet at 607 East Lake Street. Our October meeting will take place in the brand new store at 824 East Lake Street. In fact, a number of our Chapter & Verse group are helping to move the books down the street so the store can re-open on October 1st. Here’s a farewell photo of our diverse and talkative group!
Our conversation around The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind talked about the incredible accomplishment of William Kamkwamba. We felt that it’s an important story for children who are looking for themselves in books, whether it’s the science-minded child who loves to tear things apart and put them together again or the African American child who is seeking heroes and inspiration. We worried that the book might have too much of an American bias. In our group, A.Q. had heard Mr. Kamkwamba speak at the SCBWI conference in California. She shared his story. T.E. had read the adult version of the book, which she said focused far more on the culture and beliefs of Mr. Kamkwamba’s home. S.P. related that he had seen Mr. Kamkwamba’s invention featured at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. The artwork by Elizabeth Zenon received many comments, from the mixture of collage and oil paints to the swirling of wind and energy and the shamans. The coloring of the book represented the desert effectively. We all agreed that Ms. Zenon is an illustrator to keep an eye on. Overall, this book received 11 thumbs up and 3 thumbs sideways at the end of our discussion.
For The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls, we were grateful to Julie Schumacher for sharing her answers to specific questions, which you too can read in this interview. We talked over each of the girls, what led them to participate in this disparate group, and how they affected each other’s lives. Our group was glad to learn that the author left Wallis as a cipher at the end of the book because she caused much of our discussion. We had guesses about her story and her motivations and her reasons for hanging around, but they are guesses only. People felt that the girls were not cliched characters. They did unexpected things. Many people were drawn to CeeCee because she was so unexpected and her motivations were not readily apparent. We had to dig deeper into her personality. The use of classic books throughout the book was genius, we felt. We all like books that do this because it either introduces us or reminds us of books we should read or re-read. Ms. Schumacher is a writer who takes good care of her story and her characters. We all agreed that we appreciate her writing style. Overall, this book received 7 thumbs up and 6 thumbs sideways at the end of our discussion.
The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls
We were delighted to have 15 people attend our book club, including author Julie Schumacher. Before she arrived, we read Vicki’s interview with her to the group. We discussed all the girls, and found Wallis intriguing. Clearly she saw what happened to Jeff. She could have prevented it, perhaps. (We were all surprised it was Jeff who died.) Wallis had a scar and her answers about her mother were sketchy. Then, she and her mother gave different destinations when asked where they were moving. We wondered if they were in the witness protection program or if they were hiding from a relative. Julie Schumacher said she wanted Wallis to be a mystery and there really were no answers about her.
Julie wanted to put people together who don’t’ belong and don’t want to be together for the book club. This is the only book she’s written based on someone’s suggestion, an editor, and it took her 3 ½ years to write it due to a change in editors. She never reads any of her books through after she completes them. She chose short classic books for the book club girls to read in case any of her readers wanted to read them, too. She most identified with Adriane who didn’t feel like she had a personality. However, she said Cee Cee was fun to write, and many of the C&V book club members liked Cee Cee’s spunk.
Julie writes in the mornings and goes to work about 11:00 a.m. She says writers are thieves who rip off things from others. The part in the book where the girls complain about their mothers talking about them as if they were pets was taken from her daughter who said something similar to her when she was talking about her on the phone to her sister, her daughter’s aunt. Julie brought us postcards of the book with lifesavers attached.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
We liked this book and felt that it was a book that could be appreciated by all ages. The texture, bright colors, and the cover would attract young children. We felt a map would have been helpful as well and some language translation. Though the drought has not had as much impact on Minnesotans as it has had on other parts of the country, we felt children could relate to that.
We appreciated William’s persistence and his ability to teach himself from books in the library. He was able to disregard the jeers of his people who thought he was crazy. We wish he had used the word “tool” rather than “weapon” to describe his windmills, though. The magic in the book was partly culture. People make up things or attribute things they don’t understand to magic rather than seeking scientific explanations. William is truly an amazing young man.
Our October discussion books are Frozen by Mary Casanova and A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Ed Young.
Those that are normally not a fan of graphic novels liked this one. Kids like to learn this way and also good for kids that like to grab on to facts. The theme is interesting and has the yuck factor. Comics are nostaligic form of graphic novels and we all remembered our favorite comic. Integrating art and facts was done effectivey. The characters could have been stronger. Was Wikki named after Wikipedia?
The Phantom Tollbooth: This was a first time read for two of us. Those two had a harder time with the book. Those that have used it in the classroom were fans although it seems that it was used sparingly in the classroom and with select kids. Some had trouble with the story as being too disjointed and without a problem. One librarian had had experience with it as a Battle of Books book which didn’t work at all. The theme of the book as it relates to boredom drew a discussion related to the malaise of wanting to be entertained.
Comment on page 247 regarding cooperation and then internal motivation to solve a problem struck a cord. Other ideas pulled, the importance of reason and it’s okay to make mistakes. The two opolis’ are a study in left brain and right brain.
We all agreed that the writing was clever—a journey of words and worlds.
There were six of us in attendance, and we had our cake, and we ate it, too. We also had chocolate Milo cars, humbugs, and spelling bees.
Everyone enjoyed The Phantom Tollbooth. One member said it had been her husband’s favorite book as a child. It seems that Milo’s adventure was a life-changing experience for him, and reading the book has been a life-changing experience for other children in the past. We are not so sure it is still a popular choice, as one member read it to her seven and ten year old children, and they were not impressed.
The book might be too long, and it is wordy and didactic. Perhaps Milo’s adventure was too long. Because it relies on understanding words and word play, and because children sometimes have difficulty with the Amelia Bedelia and Fred Gwynne books, we think they would need lots of help comprehending some of the passages. We liked the illustrations, but didn’t find them very helpful. Our favorite character was the dog, and our least favorite character was Dr. Dischord. We had two of Leonard Marcus’s annotated versions to peruse.
Between books, we took turns sharing interesting books we are currently reading, and Natasha book talked all the books from Camp-Read-a-Lot. That was a treat.
We found The Cow appealing with the nonfiction integrated throughout the story. It reminded us of the Magic School Bus books. We thought the poop and dung beetles and humor would attract many students and that it would be fun to read with kids. Because it is not an early reader, it doesn’t have a controlled vocabulary, so some of the words are more difficult. However, two levels of vocabulary increase the audience range.
Both The Phantom Tollbooth and The Cow were quest books and the characters had to learn new perspectives.
We started our discussion of The Phantom Tollbooth by asking what people remembered as their long-lasting impression from reading this book as children. The answers varied: “trippy,” “smart book,” “writing teachers’ book,” “it seemed like a dream,” “the use of language, the twisting and turning,” “how clever it was, how well thought out.”
We then asked what people think of the book, reading it as adults. “I was amazed at how closely it follows the Hero’s Journey,” was one reply. “It parallels Harry Potter and Dumbledore.” Another person was struck by the use of vignettes, similar to those in Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver’s Travels, The Wizard of Oz, and The Prydain Chronicles. And everyone agreed that it was a feat of writing.
Tock, the watch dog, was the character most people remembered from reading the book as children … and we were surprised to see how little he is in the book. In fact, this led to a discussion about the characters. They’re not developed; they serve to further the plot. It is primarily an action plot with wordplay where not a lot happens. And yet, people still remember the book fondly and it’s in print after 50 years, so it’s a story that resonates with a lot of readers.
Do kids still know what a tollbooth is? Isn’t it interesting how time changes the way we relate to books?
Zig & Wikki in the Cow is a transitional reader with simple and more difficult vocabulary. There’s science and poop and dung beetles. For specific readers, especially curious, visual readers, this book will be a favorite. The farmer in our group said, however, that it is not very accurate about cows, nor does it teach enough that kids would find really interesting. How could the authors miss the cow’s second stomach? There was an opportunity to incorporate an agricultural life cycle in the book, but it doesn’t go there.
We spent our third half-hour recommending books to each other and discussing them in terms of what might win ALA awards by the end of the year. Here are some of our recommendations. We’re currently reading: Bink & Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo, Alison McGhee, and Tony Fucile; Wumbers by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld; The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce and Branden Oldenburg; The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; Face Book by Chuck Close. Books we recommended were Thirteen Art Mysteries Children Should Know by Angela Wenzel, Waiting for Magic by Patricia MacLachlan; Third Grade Angel by Jerry Spinelli.
A note of explanation: The evening of the June C&V meeting was the night of the horrific Flood in Duluth, Minnesota: the group didn’t meet. They’ve had some catching-up to do.
Five people attended our group at Fitger’s Bookstore this evening and had a rich and lively discussion about C & V books from May, June, and July.
We all sang the praises of The Fault in Our Stars. We were struck by the fact that the book was not “about cancer” but rather about deep relationships. We loved the humor, the pathos, and the characters. We compared notes on when we each figured out what the ending would be. We noted how well the hints were given along the way. It’s a book we all recommend highly.
We agreed that When I Was Your Age would be particularly useful for teachers. We thought students would find an author’s story especially interesting if they’d first read a book by that author. We commented on the variety of stories–some quite sad, others funny, others thought provoking. The teachers in our group hope to use stories from this book in their classrooms. One member of the group brought in This Family is Driving Me Crazy: Ten stories About Surviving Your Family. It, too, is a collection of stories written by authors and looked like a good read as well.
With a Name Like Love spurred an interesting discussion about whether a Christian book is appropriate to use in a public school setting. Since all our teachers work in public schools this seemed like an important consideration for this particular book.
A Butterfly is Patient was especially appealing to our group because of the wide variety of butterflies covered, the choice of factual material included and also for the beautiful illustrations. A kindergarten teacher had read the large text on each page to her class this spring. She then paraphrased the denser text. She said her children loved the book. She also said she read them Not a Buzz to be Found, Insects in Winter and that they loved that one as well.
One Cool Friend was a favorite of the group. We felt that the surprises and humor would appeal to elementary age kids. We also enjoyed looking back at the illustrations and finding hidden clues to the clever and most satisfying ending.
There Goes Ted Williams appealed to our group as well. We thought the focus on perseverance and drive was very well done. We commented on the fact that the author/illustrator chose not to include Ted’s temper in the story but did include it in the author notes. As adults, we found that an interesting addition to the character of Ted Williams but agreed that for young readers it was appropriate to leave it out of the main story.
—Summary submitted by Linda Glaser, author and book club facilitator
What a pleasure having Vicki and Steve visit our Chapter and Verse this month. The conversation sometimes drifted off topic to tap into their expertise and our enjoyment.
Everyone liked When I Was Your Age: Original Stories About Growing Up by a variety of children’s book authors. This is a book for all ages but seems to be marketed more to adults. We would redesign the cover (a classroom project) to engage upper grade and older students. It is effective for meeting common core standards. Several of us would like to know what part of the story is true and what is an embellishment. We found the author notes as interesting as their stories. This led to an interesting discussion about truth in non-fiction, including what an author chooses to tell or leave out. These stories were enhanced by the sharing of foibles, shameful moments, etc., but those were not extreme missteps. What if the author shared a truly awful aspect of their behavior? This moved into There Goes Ted Williams: The Greater Hitter Who Ever Lived by Matt Tavares. Are we deceived if major but negative aspects are left out—think Greg Mortenson?The universality of the stories’ themes: struggles, absent parent, bullying and being bullied, losing a family member or loved possession, shame, growing up, and family reminds us of our own stories. Two ways this could be captured in the classroom would be to have students write a letter to their 40-year-old selves or discuss/write/draw a diagram showing how this person is like him/her self. It would also be interesting to add a third to this compare-and-contrast assignment by choosing a main character from a book by the author.
There Goes Ted Williams was a hit (pun intended) with the group. The illustrations were effective. The children’s faces radiate joy and admiration as they look up to Ted Williams. A variety of views—the close-up, panaromic, action, and repetition added interest. In most of the illustrations he was portrayed with loose body structure and a larger-than-life image. It also became a page-turner as it moved to his life as a soldier. The major portion of our discussion centered on heroism, how it is covered by the media, and what should or should not be included in the story. Is someone who sets out to be the best truly a hero or is hero defined by someone who wants to do the best they can? Does everyone have heroic moments? The theme in the book could be defined as having a dream and going after it.
Overall, we really liked the Tavares book—the illustrations (some of them almost Norman Rockwell-like), the format of the book, but especially the Authors Note at the back. All felt that Ted Williams’ story was compelling and that he should, indeed, be considered a hero (despite some personality flaws).
Then we moved on to When I Was Your Age. Everyone agreed that Avi’s camping experience in the wilds of New Jersey made us laugh out loud, whether it was “all true” or not! We found many similarities between the stories that took place during WWII: missing fathers, busy mothers, kids left largely on their own for huge chunks of the day. Also that the main characters in those vignettes found heroes in their own families, with fathers and older siblings being highly revered. We marvelled at these children’s ability to entertain themselves, and the active imaginations that made that possible.
All in all, a great discussion!
There were eight of us at The Red Balloon. Karen Clark, author of Sweet Moon Baby, joined our group for the first time. She kindly found her book on the shelf and showed it to us.
We liked The Fault in Our Stars and A Butterfly Is Patient very much and thought of several ways the books could be connected.
- “I believe the universe wants to be noticed….the universe enjoys its elegance being observed.” We felt we were observing and appreciating the beauty and elegance of the universe in the lovely illustrations of Sylvia Long.
- Hazel came out of her cocoon, much like a butterfly.
- Augustus led a short and beautiful life.
- Cancer patients are patient with their disease.
One of our members is a cancer survivor, and liked The Fault in Our Stars for a number of reasons, one of which was that while she had cancer, she felt much like Hazel in her desire to cocoon, just be at home, not relate to the world. Perhaps the medical references were not always accurate, but we felt Green’s portrayal of the suffering seemed authentic, especially the loss of bodily sovereignty.
Gus had the strongest voice, even though he wasn’t the narrator. (Oh, I’m grand.” Augustus Waters smiled with a corner of his mouth. “I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.”) All the voices were a little mature, but these were bright and witty kids. We felt they were real, and we were happy to see them participate in life like normal teenagers, despite the inconveniences of their disease.
We liked that Hazel and Gus had both parents, and we were particularly struck by Hazel’s concern for her parents’ welfare. She feels she’s a grenade and her parents will be the casualty her inevitable early death, possibly divorcing as many parents do after the death of a child. She watches T.V. with her parents, and she is truly delighted to learn that her mother is pursuing a M.S.W. and will have a life after Hazel is gone.
Metaphorically, Peter Van Houten is a roadblock preventing Hazel and Gus from learning what happens after the end of his novel, and cancer is a roadblock preventing Hazel and Gus from leading normal lives. He, or rather, his book, is also a device the author uses to bring Hazel and Gus together.
What does happen to characters after the end of the story? John Green, in an interview, said that nothing happens. It’s a work of fiction. The book ends. What happens to us after death? Gus believed Something with a capital S happens, and Hazel believed Gus was Somewhere with a capital S.
Besides A Butterfly Is Patient, we looked at other books illustrated by Sylvia Long. We discussed collaboration between the author and illustrator and wondered if Aston at least offered suggestions to Long about the placement of illustrations.
We so appreciated that this picture book was a circle that began with the great purple hairstreak and ended with it. We would have liked an author’s note about the habitat of each butterfly.
Suggestions for how to use this book:
- Read the cursive writing and ask students what they already know, or ask them to research to fill in the other text.
- Match caterpillar with butterflies on the end papers. All can be matched, but they are not in the same locations in the front and the back.
- This would be a good book to read one-on-one though we’ve seen it read to a class studying butterflies.
We had Dutch apple pie for our treat, and Mary and Stacy won The Red Balloon drawing for the two books for next month’s Chapter and Verse.
The Secret Box: We had a fascinating discussion with lots of ideas of what this book was about. Everything from time travel to ghosts, orphanages to schools. The adventure and the simplicity of the illustrations give it a timelessness of the adventures in childhood. Students could create their own secret time capsule. Older kids are a better audience for this book. It’s interesting how the box contains just regular things that lead to discovery. We didn’t understand the illustration that has the three kids with their hands as if they are signing. Knowing the signs would unlock the mystery of the book, we think. The design of the endpapers to give the appearance of opening the box is creative.
The Flint Heart: We had mixed reactions to this book. All agreed that it is a beautifully packaged book—the illustrations, the paper, the heft, the white space to text. We felt that we would not have connected it to Katherine Paterson had we not seen her name on the book. It’s so different from her other books. It seemed more like a Kate DiCamillo book.
DR said it seemed distant emotionally to her and she didn’t connect with the characters but loved the illustrations. B liked the humor, the turn of a phrase. It felt a bit like an allegory with lots of possibilities for discussion with upper elementary students.
The main story was about the misuse of power. The discussion turned to overtones of politics today. We think Governor Walker is the current owner of the Flint Heart.
We had 7 participants this evening.
Our discussion of Lighthouse Christmas led to a discussion of other lighthouse books including Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, The Stormy Adventures of Abbie Burgess, and Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter. We agreed that all these books give readers a fuller understanding of the difficult and lonely life of those who live in lighthouses—especially the children.
Our discussion of The Flint Heart led to a broader discussion of Katherine Paterson’s books. We shared our favorites. One of our members read us a passage from Spying Heart by Katherine Paterson. The group as a whole felt that Flint Heart wasn’t a “true” Katherine Paterson book and most weren’t as fond of it as others of hers.
However, some liked various aspects—the humor, the language, etc.
We then took another look at the Caldecotts for this year since one of our members, a kindergarden teacher, had read them to her students and asked for them to vote for their favorite. As it turned out, most of the children voted for Blackout. In that discussion we talked about ways to read a wordless book—A Ball for Daisy. Some of us admitted that we find it challenging.
We compared the illustrations of John Rocco in Blackout to his illustrations in The Flint Heart. It was inspiring to see his versatility—especially since both books were published the same year.
[submitted by facilitator and author, Linda Glaser]
The Bookcase of Wayzata, Wayzata, MN
We began our discussion of The Flint Heart by each choosing one word that described the book for us. That led us to a round-the-table of explaining our reasons for choosing those words. PH felt that the book was all about finding the lost. She felt the story was told in a legendary way. MHH thought the language, the book’s physical appearance, the story, the characters were all “scrumptious.” SM thought the book was “odd” in the sense that it was weird, not like most books we see today. AP felt the characters, the story, the magic was “mischievous.” We all agreed with WW that the language was “lyrical.” VP felt the book was so different in its language and appearance that it was “astounding.” SP found the feel of the book and the story in the book to be “smooth.” Later, he decided the story was told in the “bardic” tradition.
None of us took the time to search out Eden Philpotts’ 1910 version of this story, but you can find different formats here.
We commented on the high quality of the book: the varnished pages, the trim shape, the saturated artwork in this illustrated book, the gilt on the embossed boards, the crisp black line of the fonts. It’s an incredibly heavy book but we all felt special for holding it and experiencing the texture of the reading.
We all agreed this is an ideal read-aloud book … referring back to the Bardic Tradition. The language is so lyrical and carefully crafted that there was no sense of getting tired of the humor and cadence, which sometimes happens in other books that use a particular voice.
Would we recommend this to kids? You bet. It will probably work best as a read-aloud (TRY THIS AT HOME) but kids who like “weird” books would respond well to this. Kids who understand the hero’s journey (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson) would recognize it here. It’s an exploration of evil and many kids will resonate with that. It will fit into the gamers’ sphere of interest.
Read this New York Times review and insight.
Next up, we discussed the wordless book by looking at and attempting to interpret Barbara Lehman’s The Secret Box. We all agreed that you’d have to have a copy of the book for every two kids if you’re going to use it in a class or library. Young kids will not get this book, we felt, because it’s fairly complex in its deciphering of the story.But from fourth grade and up, this will be an ideal book for examining, discussing, and writing. A good way to show that people look at the same thing and everyone will write a different story.
In examining the illustrations, we wondered about the brick building that doesn’t change throughout the book. Is it a boarding school, a hospital, an orphanage, a school for the deaf? MH said it reminded her of The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. SM brought The Red Box by Barbara Lehman, which she said she has used very successfully with her students in the library. We felt that the palette of The Secret Box illustrations is more sophisticated than the palette for The Red Box. We liked it.
How fascinating that a wordless book can engender this much discussion.
[filed by Vicki Palmquist, facilitator]
This is the night we discussed all of the year’s ALA and ALSC award winners, which were announced on January 23, 2012.
We had a small group of 5 tonight including me. But we still had a lively discussion. No one had read all the books. So we recapped for each other.
Two teachers thoroughly enjoyed Dead End in Norvelt. They said it was packed with fifth grade boy humor. In fact they read some aloud to us and could hardly stop laughing. They also said they’d read portions to their husbands who also thought it was very funny. We had a discussion about “what is funny” and agreed that since the two teachers had both taught fifth grade, they had probably developed that particular sense of humor more than some of the rest of us. They also appreciated all the interesting historical information included and thought boys would enjoy that as well.
Those of us who read Inside Out and Back Again loved it and highly recommended it to the others. We particularly appreciated learning about another culture. And we found it remarkable that the author was able to convey deep complex emotions with such spare language. We thought the challenges of being an immigrant and the prejudice faced by the characters were done very well and would provide opportunities for interesting classroom discussions.
None of us had read Breaking Stalin’s Nose. But we did look through a copy during the group and were impressed with the illustrations and the subject matter. We commented on the fact that the Newbery committee chose three autobiographical novels this year.
For the Caldecotts, we shared the most enthusiasm for Blackout. We loved the feeling of magic that John Rocco captured during the blackout.
We also shared our appreciation of Me…Jane which we had enjoyed very much in a previous meeting.
We admitted that most of us are more story and text oriented than visual. So the other two choices held less appeal for our particular group.
Only two of us had read Where Things Come Back. We talked about what type of readers might find the two divergent plots appealing. We thought it might be intriguing for readers who like suspense and enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out how all the pieces will eventually fit together.
We were disappointed that some of the books we read this year were not selected for these awards. We mentioned Girl of Fire and Thorns, Wonderstruck, and Okay for Now as all being worthy of honors. We speculated about the process of selection but, of course, will never know.
[Submitted by Linda Glaser, author and group facilitator.]
There were 11 of us last night so we took over most of the Caribou Coffee which shares the space with The Bookcase. Talking over the espresso machine, we worked our way through the ALA/ALSC Awards list posted on the CLN website.
First we talked about the ALA Awards that didn’t get included on the list but will soon be there. The American Indian Library Association selected The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood, written by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve; Free Throw and Triple Threat, both written by Jacqueline Guest; and Pipestone: My Life in an Indian Boarding School, written by Adam Fortunate Eagle, as recipients of the fourth American Indian Youth Literature Awards.
And somehow we missed the Pura Belpré Author Awards, the list of which Donna Nix brought to the group that night. Those will be added to the Awards list as well.
We had fun sharing what we knew about the award- and honor-winning books that we hadn’t previously read. Of course we felt smug about the books we’d read during the last year that were honored with an award. We also found our heads shaking as we wondered where some of these titles come from.
Wendy Woodfill said she wishes someone would do a study (Are you listening, Somebody? Send us your findings!) of whether the award winners are more likely to be released in the fall rather than the spring.
Our most lively discussion was about Where Things Come Back. Several people had read it but didn’t understand how it would appeal to children or teens. This launched us into the “children’s books published for adult readers” discussion that we’ve had on several occasions.
Many of our members were shocked that A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness didn’t receive any awards and they felt the same way about Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt.
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith is a book that our group has an adult theme and very sophisticated illustrations; our elementary school librarian tried it out with her students and they couldn’t understand the book’s message.
We all enjoyed the art in Blackout by John Rocco but felt that this was a book that children in New York City will resonate with most closely. This being said, the illustrations are beautiful.
We congratulated Donna Nix for choosing A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka as her pick for the Caldecott Medal. Go, Donna!
No one had read Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin before the Awards were announced, but several people had read it afterwards and found the story and illustrations to be top-notch. We felt it would pair well with Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, both books being set in the less familiar Reign of Terror under Stalin’s regime. Our high school librarian said her students are loving Between Shades of Gray.
We questioned inclusion of I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen in the Geisel Award category as an early reader. We felt this was a book you either loved or didn’t love at all but we didn’t feel the text qualified as an early reader.
At the end of the lively evening, we all agreed that our reading lists had grown—we have a lot of catching up to do—and that’s a good thing.
We reviewed our Chapter & Verse process for reading possible award winners and conducting a mock discussion at our December meeting each year. Many people have felt challenged to read so many books for one month’s meeting. Our group suggested that we all nominate at least one book for the awards at our June meeting, thereby giving people a chance to read ahead for the December meeting.
[Report submitted by Vicki Palmquist, group facilitator.]
This month we had a small group of only three people. We discussed the Books for Breakfast event held earlier this month. We also mentioned that the Hubbs Children’s Literature Conference will be held at the end of the month.
Heidi announced to us that she is on the Margaret A. Edwards committee this year. The Margaret A. Edwards is an ALA award given to a young adult author for one or more of their works that help portray young adults and their place in the world. She shared with us the list of potential authors as well as past winners. We quickly discovered this is a hard award to give out as you are looking at various works of literature by authors. We had fun browsing the stacks at the Red Balloon looking for authors and titles we would recommend. We look forward to hearing more from Heidi about her experience throughout this next year.
We really enjoyed Dead End in Norvelt. It was a fun book to read and we are sure that students will enjoy it as well. We also talked briefly about Balloons over Broadway. This is the story of the Macy’s Parade puppeteer. Heidi read Where Things Come Back. This book is told in alternate chapters. She said it reminded her of When You Reach Me in that there are so many pieces that the author has going on in the book and it isn’t until the end that you see how they intersect. Me, Jane has been a favorite of our group. We like how the first illustration of the story matches the end photograph of Jane as an adult with the chimps. Blackout and A Ball for Daisy were also hits. There was some disappointment that Okay for Now did not get an award.
We enjoyed having this month to discuss the books that won the award and comparing it to the books we read in December. It was nice to have a month devoted to reading the new award winners.
We ended the evening by giving away a copy of the book for next month donated by the Red Balloon Bookshop. Thank you to them for generously once again providing a copy of the selections for the following month.
[report submitted by Natasha Thorager, co-facilitator]