Eaten out of house and home, Not budge an inch, Seen better days, and Into thin air are all phrases that we use today, and they were all first used by William Shakespeare. The author, Jane Sutcliffe, wrote that she wanted to publish a book in her own words about the Globe Theater and William Shakespeare. As she progressed on the project, Sutcliffe became so enamored with Shakespeare’s words and phrases that an entirely different book came to be. Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk (Charlesbridge) is illustrated by John Shelley. This author and illustrator’s collaboration is an engaging title that will educate and amuse readers of all ages.
Here’s an example from Will’s Words:
WILL’S WORDS: Green-eyed monster
WHAT IT MEANS: Jealousy. Four hundred years ago the color green was thought to be the color of jealousy. (That’s why we say “green with envy.”)
WHERE IT COMES FROM: Othello, Act 3, Scene 3. The villain tells the hero of the play to beware that green-eyed monster jealousy-then he does everything he can to make him jealous.
Picture book biographies aren’t just for our younger students anymore. Many of these short, illustrated biographies are for older children too. A couple of our recent acquisitions will also be of interest to adults, and they both demonstrate the unique perspective that artists have.
Josef Albers’ work with color was an important milestone for artists, teachers, and anyone who is interested in the use of color. An Eye for Color: The Story of Josef Albers by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Julia Breckenreid (Henry Holt) clearly describes Albers’ curiosity about how colors work with each other, and how differently they react with each other.
In order to use color effectively it is necessary to recognize that color deceives continually. –Josef Albers
Dorothea Lange also viewed our world through an artist’s eyes, but her art form was photography. Long after her death, some of her photographs remain as masterpieces that define our history. Dorothea’s Eyes by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Gérard DuBois (Calkins Creek) narrates this remarkable woman’s life and explains how she often felt invisible.
This is the way it is. Look at it! Look at it! -Dorothea Lange
One of our talented art teachers, Lisa Houck, has produced a colorful board book for toddlers and young children, Flowers Grow All in a Row(Pomegranate Kids). The rhyming text compliments the bright illustrations that are made from white-line woodcuts. Working in this method is one of Lisa’s specialties, and she teaches it to our middle school students, as well as to adults in different venues. With traditional woodblocks, the artist cuts away the area around the drawing, and that cut away area becomes negative and does not accept the paint or ink. In white-line woodcutting, the outline of the design is cut or grooved which leaves a white line between the designs that accept the color. Flowers Grow All in a Row is a counting book illustrated with whimsical flowers.
Lisa has also published a fun coloring book entitled Bright World (Pomegranate Kids). Both children and adults may enjoy this coloring book. Anyone who has discovered the peace that comes from coloring can recreate the colors that Lisa used in her illustrations or try their own combinations. If you know a child or adult who loves to color, Bright World would be a gift for them. Bright World and Flowers Grow All in a Row will be available to purchase at our book fair.
…But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun. – The Beatles
As a baby boomer, I enjoy sharing my memories of growing up and the music that I enjoyed and still enjoy with children. They have a vague concept of a band named The Beatles, but few know anything about the “Fab Four” or their songs.
Two recent additions to our collection should intrigue intermediate and middle school readers. Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles by Susanna Reich, illustrated by Adam Gustavson (Henry Holt) is a picture book biography and a fine introduction to the early lives of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The young men had much in common, growing up in Liverpool, England and finding escape in music.
A more sophisticated and more comprehensive title is How the Beatles Changed the World by Martin W. Sandler (Bloomsbury). There are many black and white and color photographs throughout the book that chronicles the rise of one of the most influential musical groups in history.
The bond, the special bond, between kids and grandparents is unique and should be treasured. This is the story of one of those magical moments. May I be as great a grandfather as Gus was to me. –Keith Richards
Growing up during the rock and roll music revolution during the 1960s was an exciting and memorable time. There were two bands that dominated the airwaves – The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. We watched them perform on the Ed Sullivan Show and bought their albums. The music from these two bands has become synonymous with rock and roll. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are “Rock and Roll”. While there have been a number of books written about The Beatles for children and young adults, there aren’t many (any?) about The Rolling Stones.
There is a delightful book that Keith Richards, one of the founding members of The Stones, wrote with Barnaby Harris and Bill Shapiro called Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar (Little Brown). Richards reminisces about his childhood and pays homage to his grandfather, Theodore Augustus Dupree, who started him on his musical journey.
Keith had many family members who enjoyed music but it was his grandfather who lit the spark that would flame into a passion for music. This musical legend spent many childhood days walking throughout London and the English countryside, and his grandfather always hummed every step of the way. During some of their rambles, Gus took Keith to repair shops where they watched experts fix broken musical instruments. It was after one of these visits that Keith became interested in a guitar that was on the top of his grandfather’s piano. Gus eventually gave this guitar to Keith and taught him to play the classic piece “Malagueña”. Gus told Keith that when he mastered that song, he would be able to learn to play anything, and so he did.
The illustrations for Gus & Me were composed by Theodora Richards, Keith’s daughter, who is named after his grandfather. For inspiration and accuracy, she returned to her father’s childhood home, used family photos, and consulted with her father while she was illustrating the book.
Check out this video of a younger Keith Richards playing “Malagueña”.
This is one of six clips where Keith Richards talks about writing the book.
Salem State University announced the winner of the 2016 Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (MACBA) earlier this month. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Harper Collins) received the most votes. DCD’s fourth and fifth graders had voted for this as one of their top choices, although they awarded it an honorable mention. The story, published in 2012, is told from the perspective of Ivan, a gorilla in captivity. When a baby elephant is added as an attraction at the same shopping mall, a rare and poignant friendship develops between the two animals. This book has already received many awards given by adults. Many children are touched by the story, even though there are many sad aspects to it.
Two of the MACBA honor books were chosen by our students in a tie as their number one choices. Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein (Random House) and The Wishing Spell: The Land of Stories, #1 by Chris Colfer (Little Brown) were immensely popular. The sequels to both books are in high demand in our library.
April is poetry month, and what better way to celebrate than with a new picture book biography on e.e.cummings? enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is written by Matthew Burgess (Enchanted Lion Books). Edward Estlin Cummings enjoyed a childhood where he was nurtured and praised for his keen observation and love of words. Growing up in Cambridge, MA, his mother wrote down his poetry, even before he could write his poems himself. Called Estlin by his family, as a student, he always remembered his favorite teacher, Miss Maria Baldwin, who taught him anything is possible, as long as you are true to yourself and never give up, even when the world seems to say, stop!
When Estlin graduated from Harvard, he spoke to the audience about “The New Art” of Gertude Stein, Paul Cezanne, and Igor Stravinsky. He moved to New York City, served as an ambulance driver in France in WWI, was imprisoned as a spy, and finally returned to the United States. Then, Cummings wrote and wrote, and he developed a style all his own. He put lowercase letters in place of capitals and played with punctuation. His name began to appear with little e’s. When he first began to break rules, readers didn’t know what to make of it, but they soon became enthralled with his images. e.e.cummings has become one of our premier American poets.
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July 28th will be the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth. Many events are scheduled in Great Britain and the United States to celebrate her life.
Beatrix Potter, one of the world’s most famous storytellers, is celebrated in a new biography for our youngest readers. Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box was written and illustrated by David McPhail (Henry Holt, 2015). The author/illustrator used watercolor and ink on illustration board for the delightful artwork that is reminiscent of Potter’s own art.
McPhail’s spare text begins by describing what life was like for children during the 19th century when nannies and tutors worked for wealthy families. The children sometimes spent a great deal of time exploring on their own. Beatrix was given her mother’s paint box when she was young, and the girl made her own sketchbooks out of paper and string. From the beginning, Beatrix drew and painted animals and scenes from nature. While she was given formal painting lessons, she preferred to paint in her own style, so the tutoring was stopped. As an adult, Miss Potter wrote and illustrated a story about a rabbit for the son of a friend who was sick. Remembering her own time of convalescence from an illness when she was a child, Beatrix sent along her little story to cheer him. The child’s mother encouraged the artist to publish her book, and The Tale of Peter Rabbit became a gift to all children.
There are many, many books written for children and adults about this remarkable woman. McPhail’s just happens to be the latest biography written for beginning readers. It is a natural companion to Potter’s own tales of Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddle Duck, and so many other delightful characters. Fair warning…adults who share Miss Potters tales and biography with their children, just may become immersed in her world. The numerous adult biographies and books about her home and gardens are tantalizing. Two of my adult favorites are At Home with Beatrix Potter: The Creator of Peter Rabbit by Susan Denyer (Frances Lincoln, 2009) and Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales by Marta McDowell (Timber Press, 2013).
What a celebration of books and reading we had this week at school! Thirty-five fourth and fifth graders participated in the Massachusetts Children’s Book Award reading program this year. Eleven students read all of the twenty-five books that were nominated.
The discussion was spirited, and when the voting was finished, there was a tie for the best book between The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. In The Land of Stories, twins enter a magical world of fairy tale characters through a special book. Grabenstein tells the story of a group of children who stay overnight in the new town library designed by Luigi Lemoncello, a master puzzle maker in Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. They form teams to solve his master puzzle.
Our discriminating readers chose four other books as their favorites:
Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Honorable Mention: Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesel Shurtliff and Counting by 7s by Holly Goldbery Sloan
It will be interesting to learn the statewide voting results later this month.
One lion sits and watches his rough-and-tumble pride, He surveys the golden savanna, and a flicker catches his eye- something moving in the grass. A challenger to his throne?
Thus begins Katie Cotton’s free verse in Counting Lions, illustrated by Stephen Walton (Candlewick, 2015). This book certainly can’t be described simply as a counting book about endangered animals. That would limit its audience. Young, independent readers who are interested in animals, poetry, or art should also know Counting Lions. Cotton writes about the characteristics of each featured animal in her unrhymed poetry. Her words complement the stunning illustrations.
Virginia McKenna’s introduction discusses the plight of many threatened and endangered animals over the past one hundred years. She is an original founder of the wildlife protection organization Zoo Check that became the Born Free Foundation. While her narrative sends a strong environmental message, it explains important details to young science enthusiasts.
Counting Lions is all about the illustrations, which are charcoal portraits of endangered animals. It was astonishing to learn that Stephen Walton is a self-taught artist. He attributes his eye for detail to his photography, as each portrait is taken from one of his own photographs. Walton is the Supervisor at Bury Art Museum in Manchester, UK. On his website, he describes being surrounded by the landscapes of George Turner and John Constable, and the animal paintings by Edwin Henry Landseer. Do check out this time-lapse video of Walton drawing “King”, the cover image of the book.