Wow! What a cold night. Although we shouldn’t complain—it’s the first cold night we’ve had this winter. We weren’t sure anyone would show up for Chapter & Verse this evening. Staying warm and cozy by the fire had its appeal.
Lo and behold, we were a lobby of librarians tonight: public, academic, high school, and middle school. We gathered to discuss Anne Ylvisaker’s The Luck of the Buttons and Toni Buzzeo’s and Nancy Carpenter’s Lighthouse Christmas. I think it’s the first time we all unanimously liked both books for the evening.
We first discussed Lighthouse Christmas. People were interested to learn that the author lives in Maine and has probably seen lighthouses firsthand. Other than Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior and some lighthouses in Michigan, none of us has seen an ocean lighthouse. We were interested in the isolation, the loneliness, and the feeling of needing to stay constantly on the job. We all agreed we wanted to know more about Mr. Dunlap. Where did he come from and why was he out in the storm? Frances is a wise, capable, and loving sister and daughter. We talked about “sweet” books with happy endings. They’re very important to many readers and this one certainly made everyone feel good by the end of the story. We’d never heard of the Flying Santa project. We felt this would be a good way to talk about celebration of holidays that aren’t what we’re used to, whether it’s Kwanzaa or Hanukkah or Eid or Christmas. The writing was spare but the story was filled with tension and kept us turning the pages. We didn’t feel that it was predictable—the ending surprised us all. Everyone agreed that we admired the illustrations. Nice job, Nancy Carpenter!
Next, we talked about The Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker. Everyone enjoyed Tugs Button, who could have been a rapscallion, but wasn’t. She is earnest, honest, and she really tries to overcome her family’s opinion of itself as luckless. We all found the story of Harvey Moore intriguing. How did Tugs guess his number so quickly? We were intrigued by her use of the town’s library. When asked the question who the hero of the story was, most people felt it was Tugs, but one of us felt it was Lucy the Librarian! She was a power for good. This book prompted a good discussion about familiar themes and new readers, as well as current readers’ preference for zombies and violence (a middle school perspective). Our school librarians feel that historical fiction has to be booktalked–kids don’t naturally gravitate toward the genre.
During our third half-hour, we engaged in more ALA-awards speculation because the awards will be announced next Monday. We had an animated discussion!
[Summary submitted by Vicki Palmquist, group facilitator]
This group deferred our December reading until this January meeting so more people had a chance to read the nine books.
Our group of 6 enjoyed a lively discussion of the potential Newbery and Printz choices tonight.
We all agreed that Wonderstruck was an extremely creative and well executed story—especially unusual because the protagonist is deaf.
Most people felt that Breadcrumbs was an excellent story—very well written with its multitude of literary illusions.
Those who read Island’s End enjoyed the fact that it introduced readers to an unusual culture with a strong female protagonist.
Those who read The Friendship Doll enjoyed the historical settings and the fine array of characters.
Miles From Ordinary we found terrifying and extremely well written. We speculated that it could help readers understand children who grow up with mental illness in their family.
Most felt that Anya’s Ghost would really appeal to many adolescent girls who routinely deal with peer pressure, wanting to fit in, and manipulative friends.
We found A Monster Calls unusual and interesting. We thought that those looking for actual monsters in a book would be disappointed but that it deals with emotional monsters very well.
Most of us hadn’t read Blink and Caution. The one who did convinced us that it was well worth reading.
[Summary submitted by Linda Glaser, author and group facilitator.]
Because many of us had not had the opportunity to read this book, Natasha read it to us. While we enjoyed the illustrations, there were some things we questioned. There were gaps in the story, such as what happened to the little boy when he sister was minding the lighthouse so her father could perform the rescue? Did he put himself to bed? Suddenly he appears in his pajamas the next morning. We wondered how the cat got to the island. Probably it was the cat of the previous lighthouse family. We also wondered about the age of the little girl who seemed so responsible. We guessed she was between 10-12.
We did enjoy the story, though. We appreciated the author’s note about The Flying Santa, and Natasha brought more information. We love a story that makes us want to do research! That the Flying Santa flew overhead on Christmas Day was a total surprise to us, and it made for a very happy ending to the story. Children are intrigued by true stories, and we are, too.
The Flying Santa made one member think of the book Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot about parachutes filled with chocolate that were dropped for the children during the Berlin Airlift in the late 1940s. Someone else mentioned the Christmas tree trains of long ago. We also learned that the wood from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is used to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. The Carpenter’s Gift is a story about the first Rockefeller Christmas tree. These three stories would work well together.
Everyone declared that they loved this book. Even though it was predictable, we loved it. The setting, pre-depression, figured prominently in the story with the Brownie cameras. We discussed how Tugs viewed the world differently through the lens of her camera. She grew dissatisfied with herself and her parents were very supportive of her desire to change.
We liked the characters. Two of our members met the real Miss Lucy the previous weekend at the MLA Mock Printz Award discussion at St. Kate’s. We thought Aggie was quite resourceful, and was not class conscious like her mother. We loved Tugs standing up for herself, choosing not to be a loser and accept the defeatist attitude of her family. This led us to believe that both Aggie and Tugs could resist the temptation to fall into a family pattern of behavior.
Though there was no trouble at our Chapter and Verse meeting, we still had pie! Our choices were blueberry lemon buckle pie or peach praline. We had six members attending counting our new member. It was cold outside, but it was very cozy inside The Red Balloon.
[Summary submitted by Heidi Hammond, library science instructor and group co-facilitator.]