Booktalk Week 2

Day 6: November 18th

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”  -  C.S. Lewis

“I seize an idea for the grown-ups and then tell the story to the little ones while always remembering that Father and Mother often listen, and you must also give them something for their minds.”  -  Hans Christian Andersen.   

Robert Sabuda’s latest pop-up book, The Little Mermaid, is a book that some claim is more for adults than children. The pop-up books at my house are unrestricted for children or adults. But I would say the majority of my customers buy the elaborately engineered pop-up books for themselves and other adults. The books are so intricately designed that they require careful handling and are really an art form. They can be challenging for young hands to put back in place. The story is well told but the art competes for attention to the point that I don’t know how many people try to read the text to young children. This is a beautiful book and you will have to determine for yourself if it is a gift for young or old. Which is all relative anyway, right?

Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff is told from a boys perspective. I particularly like this because I find that girls are more open to read books about boys than boys are to read books about girls. This is a well told spin on the Rumplestiltskin tale from Germany, collected by the Brothers Grimm. I loved the book before I realized that the author grew up in Salt Lake City and is a graduate of Brigham Young University, but that is a fun bonus. It is a middle grade novel and is great for younger children as a read aloud. I enjoyed reading it and I am on the white hair end of the spectrum. That is quite an impressive interest range.

Don’t miss Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman! Several years ago Mr. Gaiman wrote a picture book titled The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish. Anyone who longed for a pet as a child could understand how easily this could happen. The father becomes a commodity in a series of backyard swaps until Mom comes home and wants him back. Gaiman claims that he has felt bad ever since for his shabby treatment of Dads and has set about to make things right by making Dad the hero of a rollicking adventure that starts when he goes out to buy milk for the cereal. You will laugh aloud. What other books make you LOL?

Reply with contact into and be entered into a drawing for a copy of Fortunately, the Milk.

Day 7: November 19th
Fairy Tales

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."  -  Albert Einstein

"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."  -  Neil Gaiman, Fortunately, the Milk

It is always a wonder to me that we have stories that have been loved for over 200 years (Grimm’s Fairy Tales) and even over 2,000 years (Aesop’s Fables). They have staying power that speaks to the human heart and the common human experience that repeats to some degree through all the generations. Couples fall in love. Hard work succeeds. The underdog triumphs. We all want to be seen for the best that is in us. We can empathize with others and laugh at ourselves in fairy tales. I have my favorite old tales and love to hear about yours. Artists continue to astound me with their skill in making old tales new! Some of the best this year are:

The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen retold by Cynthia Rylant (author of the Newbery Award winner Missing May) illustrated by Jen Corace

This book has a satisfying twist to the ending. We tend to sweeten the original these days. What do you think about that?

The Tortoise & the Hare by Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney is an Aesop’s Tale he heard as a child by way of Uncle Remus. ‘Slow and steady wins’ was a particularly important message for him as a dyslexic child and he certainly personifies the principle with multiple award winning books.                                                                                                

As much as we love the old original tales we do love fracturing them:

Jan Brett keeps chickens and when a friend told her about a beautiful hen being picked on by two other chickens she thought immediately of Cinderella and Cinders was born. The beautiful Russian winter setting grew from a visit to St. Petersburg.

Little Red Writing is, of course Red Riding Hood in the shape of a pencil corageously writing her way through the story.

Day 8: November 20th
Anthropomorph. . . what? And ABC’s

Personification of inanimate objects is natural in child’s play and we love the idea as adults. Milk has favorite cookies, flowers dance, earth weeps, and houses, trees, mountains and weather are bent on destruction.  Yesterday we saw Little Red Pencil saving the day. Today we have conflict in the crayon box. “Poor Duncan just wants to color.” He takes out his crayons to color and instead he gets letters of grievance from each of the crayons.  They are tired of being over-used, under-used, misunderstood, unappreciated, stubby or naked. You faithful protectors of crayon boxes will feel justified. You know who you are; every classroom had at least one. They wouldn’t share crayons, never broke the tips or peeled the paper off. I admit I always wanted to be that person but could never pull it off. Crayon users on both sides will love The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers; one of our favorite author/illustrators, he gave us This Moose Belongs to Me and Stuck and others.

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham illustrated by Paul Zelinsky is much more engaging than ABC books that bring the letters forward in a nice orderly fashion. Moose just can’t wait for it to be his turn and Zebra is determined to make him conform or else! It just so happens we move through the alphabet as we enjoy the drama. Alphabet ABC Everywhere by Elliott Kaufman presents the letters in order but opens the door to discovery, challenging children to find letters all around them. An Annoying ABC by Barbara Bottner and Michael Emberley careens through an alphabet of children’s names and annoying behaviors until “Adelaide apologized” and things turn around.

"It was a quiet morning until...
Adelaide annoyed Bailey
Bailey blamed Clyde
Clyde cried
Dexter drooled on Eloise"
...on through the alphabet until
"Adelaide apologized."

Carnivores written by Aaron Reynolds illustrated by Dan Santat makes you laugh from the front cover where the fine print declares, “No herbivores were injured, physically or emotionally, in the making of this product. Safe handling instructions: It is recommended that persons use a tranquilizer gun, suit of armor, or shark cage when handling this product” . . .  Savage carnivores have feelings too and lion hurts when the “wildebeests call him ‘bad kitty’ just because he’s eaten half the neighborhood.” Will they be able to “go vegetarian” or will self-acceptance carry the story?

Is the trend of softening harshness in children's books past? What is your choice, reality or euphemism?

Day 9: November 21st

I will admit to turning to the internet for answers and a decreased use of the print encyclopedias at our house. But I love a good non-fiction book and think the selection is better than ever before! When I leave non-fiction books in the popular spots in our house I find the adults enjoy them just as much as the children and it is good for my heart to watch them pour over them together.

Sy Montgomery will be a guest at the July 2014 Books For Young Readers Symposium and she has been a long time favorite of mine. I particularly enjoy her books about scientists. The Tapir Scientist: Saving South America's Largest Mammal with photographs by Nic Bishop came out in 2013 and is about a shy, strange looking animal that very few people have seen. Montgomery’s books give us an appreciation for the animals as well as the scientists who study them and their importance to the world at large.
Frog Song by Brenda Z Guiberson illustrated by Gennady Spirin defies my preference for photography in non-fiction. This book is gorgeous! The pictures are so beautifully done that they are as informative as a photograph. The onomatopoeia in the text gives the information an appeal even to the very young but it goes beyond age limitations with additional information in the back including a bibliography and suggestions for information on-line.

Strong than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope by Bridget Heos with photographs by Andy Comins is almost more than I can wrap my mind around. At times it feels so incredible as to be the stuff Science Fiction imagines. One of the chapters is titled A New Lab: Utah.  This is definitely in my top ten for the year.
Nasty Bugs with poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by local artist Will Terry is the unlikely combination of poetry and, well, nasty bugs –flys, fleas, lice and oh so many more. This is a doorway into poetry for those kids who like the thrill of things a little bit creepy. How Cars Work by Nick Arnold & illustrated by Allan Sanders explains in ways that I, the ultimate mechanical dunce, can understand. This book is a guidebook complete with interactive parts. Buy it for a gift and you are in danger of keeping it for yourself, regardless of age or gender. The Time for Kids books are always hits  -- Where, How, What, Why, Sports, Super Science.  They are especially good for that person who thinks they don’t like books. You can’t help being drawn in by bits of fascinating information. Who Says Women Can't be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Margorie Priceman is about the first female doctor in America. She courageously would not take no for an answer. “Elizabeth didn’t believe in couldn’t or shouldn’t.”

Day 10: November 22nd 

If you have a crowd of all ages coming for the holidays. It is a good idea to strategically place books that have universal appeal. It may be an oldie but Where's Waldo? still works in all volumes. Children and adults are surprisingly well matched when they become competitive at finding Waldo and it leads to some fun book memories. The Time for Kids books work well for the same reasons. Where's Waldo? led to a storm of look & find books of many formats and themes.
Where's the Dragon & it’s sequels have hidden pictures in addition to adventures of George, Grandfather & Meg (the dog). The stories create a bit of suspense as the reader finds what you are anxious for the characters to see. Princess Tales adapted by Grace Maccarone illustrated by Gail de Marcken has ten popular fairy tales written in rhyme and illustrations filled with details and a list of hidden pictures to find in each double page spread. I think these books are particularly engaging for children who have grown up interacting with of electronic entertainment. They provide a positive book experience and and an introduction to time tested stories.

Booktalk Week 1

Day 1: November 11th
I have been adding a new Christmas book to my collection since I was old enough to buy my own books. This tradition has segued into others and now I buy a new Christmas book for our children and their families for Christmas. This year, however, I am breaking with tradition. I am adding a holiday book, but rather than Christmas it is Thanksgiving. The book is Giving Thanks: Poem, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving edited and with reflections by Katherine Paterson, illustrations by Pamela Dalton. It is a beautiful book in content and appearance. I have always loved the juxtaposition of Thanksgiving and Christmas, feeling that there is no better introduction to the Christmas season than gratitude. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude as I peruse this book. The most convincing reason to take a look at this book comes from the opening reflection by Katherine Paterson, “I know words and art will help me consider all the blessing I have been given, remembering the prayer of seventeenth century poet George Herbert, and making it my own: Thou that hast given so much to me, give one thing more – a grateful heart.” 

These two very talented women also collaborated on Brother Sun, Sister Moon: Saint Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Creatures. The cut paper and water color illustrations are vibrant against a black background. If you like it then you will love the art in The Story of Christmas with the text from the King James version of the Bible illustrated by Pamela Dalton.
For years the children’s book buyer at BYU Bookstore has presented a Holiday Booktalk in November at the Harold B Lee Library Auditorium.  I love preparing book talks because it gives me license to think and talk about my life-long passion, books. After trying to accommodate many requests for lists, times, notification I have decided to blog the Holiday Booktalk. I hope it will appeal to book lovers who have difficulty finding time and parking on campus. For the next six weeks I will share favorites old and new and I hope you will respond with some of your favorites.

Day 2: November 12th
Stopping by woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers. This is not a Holiday book but it always makes me think of “over the river and through the woods.” It is a beautiful introduction to winter and quiet reflection. Robert Frost is a favorite of mine, as is Susan Jeffers, so this small book gets pulled out year after year. Natalie Bober did a wonderful job telling the story of the poet's life in the biography, Restless Spirit. Now she has made the poet accessible to children in a picture book told from the viewpoint of his oldest daughter, Lesley, Papa Is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost.  Rebecca Gibbon is the illustrator. I love books with author notes in the back. This one has notes, several of his poems and Robert Frost quotations –“A poem is a momentary stay against confusion.” It is a “voyage in discovery” that “begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same for love.”  

Day 3: November 13th
TRY POETRY! I am horrified by the memory of an elementary school teacher saying, “I don’t do poetry!” Some of my favorite memories involve poetry. We had favorite illustrated anthologies in our house and we would turn the pages looking at pictures until one called to us to stop and read the poem or recite it together. Sharing poetry with children when it is just for fun is what opens the door to a love of poetry as an adult. Poetry gives language to emotion that can’t be fully expressed any other way. I have such happy memories of my mother at the sewing machine, the ironing board or in the kitchen reciting from memory, The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat, Little Orphan Annie, Three Little Kittens and many more. I can still recite those poems even now without effort or ever working at it. It tells me a lot about listening and learning at a young age. No home should be without at least one good volume of poetry for children to enjoy. Caroline Kennedy has done a lovely job of selecting poems for her anthologies as has Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton-Hamilton.

If you are stumped for gift ideas, if you want a really special gift that will give lasting satisfaction, if you have someone on your list with no needs . . . TRY POETRY.  Bookmark a few of your favorites to get them off to a good start.
Poems that make you laugh:
Don’t Worry if Your Job Is Small
And your rewards are few.
Remember that the mighty oak,
Was once a nut like you.     - Anonymous

Poems that open your mind and heart, and thrill you with their beauty:

Thy love
Shall chant itself its own beatitudes,
After its own life-working. A child’s kiss
Set on thy sighing lips, shall make thee glad:
A poor man, served by thee, shall make thee rich;
An old man, helped by thee, shall make thee strong;
Thou shalt be served thyself by every sense
Of service which thou renderest.   - Elizabeth Barrett Browning           Try Poetry!

Day 4: November 14th

When it comes to books I like to blur restrictive lines just as much as I can. While acknowledging that there are books that are not intended for children, I love books that appeal to all ages. The poetry books in yesterday’s blog are good examples. Watership Down by Richards Adams is a favorite of mine from years ago. The story grew from tales spun aloud by the author to entertain his children on road trips. Yet it has successfully sold to adult audiences for over thirty years without ever going out of print. I have seen academic reviews praise the story as epic. A quote in the Economist said, -“If there is no place for “Watership Down” in children’s bookshops, then children’s literature is dead.” It has been called “the Aeneid of the rabbits.” I love seeing these age & interest borders crossed both ways. On a recent drive to Denver my husband and I listened to the audio version of Steve Sheinkin’s Bomb: The Race to Build -and Steal- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon. This book won a Newbery Honor Medal. It is marketed for children but Sheinkin does a great job of giving us a bird’s eye view of the events developing around the development of nuclear weapons. My 11 year old grandson enjoyed the print version as much or more than we enjoyed the audio. His Mom sent me a picture of him eating lunch with the book propped open so he didn't have to stop reading to eat. 

Does every book lover have a list of books that they would choose to go hungry for?  I definitely have a growing list. One of my most recent additions to that list would have to be Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.  This book has been adapted for Young Readers by Michael French and is the inspiring story of Paul Farmer, a young doctor determined to fight disease, especially antibiotic resistant disease and win. An inspiring testament to the power of single individuals who are willing to sacrifice for others.

What books would you skip dinner for?

Day 5: November 15th
Never Too Young – Never Too Old

Years ago an LDS oriented Utah Magazine, whose title I can’t recall, published an article on the last page of each issue about reading. The articles were written by, now retired BYU Professor Jim Jacobs. I loved reading those articles and still have many of them. In one article he said that sometimes people would ask him when one should stop reading aloud to children. His answer says it all, “When the long distance costs become prohibitive.” A book that proves Jim’s answer is Reading Promise by Alice Ozma. When Alice was nine years old her father made a promise to read aloud to her every night without missing a night for one hundred days. They reached that goal and found that neither one wanted to stop so 100 days expanded to 3,218 days ending in a dormitory stairwell when her father dropped her off to start college. The account is poignant, powerful and you come away with their booklist.

A well-known study conducted by Anthony DeCasper at the University of South Carolina suggests that it is never too early to start reading aloud. Mothers were instructed to read Dr. Seuss out loud while they were pregnant. When the babies were born, researchers tested to see if they recognized Dr. Seuss against other stories, and their mother's voice against other readers. In both cases, the infants were able to pick up on the vocal patterns they'd become familiar with in utero.

Usually I am a bit of a snob when it comes to books as toys. I like “real books.” But for babies to have a hands-on experience there are many options that make a baby book fun. Black & White books are especially appealing and helpful to developing eyes. Black and white board books are the dernier cri in gifts for babies.

I have come to appreciate a series of books for babies called Indestructibles.  They claim to be “Chew Proof – Rip Proof – Nontoxic – 100% Washable” Best of all they feel like paper so your baby can enjoy the pages without disastrous results. I put the 100% washable claim to the test by tossing one in the washing machine with a load of jeans. It came out as good as new.

Blast-from-the-past favorites now are in a board book format. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, Five Little Monkeys, We're Going on a Bear Hunt and many more make early access easy. Even I have a hard time keeping my nose elevated when it comes to bath books. Reading in the bath is the best relaxation technique for me and I am going to encourage books in the tub for the babies in my life. I mean who can resist a bath book that floats with a squirting elephant tub toy?

How are you sharing books with the babies in your life?

Anita is the Children's Book buyer for the BYU Bookstore and has worked at the BYU Bookstore for over ten years! Anita spreads her love of reading within our Children's Books department and with many local book events.