Archive for July, 2012

My husband converted me to being a football fan (that’s soccer for Americans) when we first got married and I ended up watching tons of games with him. He supports Liverpool FC (the Reds), so by proxy, I do too. Although I must say that their performance in the last 2-3 years has been completely crap. They’ve just gotten a new manager, so hopefully things will be better this year, though I am disappointed that Dirk Kuyt left (even as my hubby points out, he is 34 and has been at Liverpool forever). But as I’ve told my hubby many times before, if their goalie Pepe Reina ever leaves Liverpool, I’m not supporting them anymore. He’s my favorite player in all of football, plus he’s a damn fine goalkeeper. That aside, they’ve finally decided to do a North America tour this summer, which of course we can’t attend due to the fact that all the bloody games are on the east coast and we are currently living on the west coast. Flights are expensive and we’re broke, so no going to games. So my husband has been observing them via text messages on his phone. So far the results were tied 1-1 against Toronto FC in Toronto, and were beat 2-1 by AS Roma at Fenway Park in Boston (the team owners of Liverpool also own the Boston Red Sox, hence the game being there). They have one more game in Baltimore against Tottenham, so we’ll see what happens there. The cool thing about the Boston game was that Daniel Craig (star of the James Bond series) is apparently a lifelong Reds fan and was at the game yesterday. Here are the pictures from him meeting the owners and team.

Yesterday a friend of mine posted this link on FB, which was NPR’s (National Public Radio) attempt to find the best ever teen novel from a selection of finalists picked by their expert panel of Children/YA professionals. They are making the decision in mid-August based on what people pick, so please go to the website and vote for your favs. I will say that it was very hard to limit it down to just 10 and I didn’t manage to look at the whole list when I chose mine. I don’t completely agree with the way some classic books have been lumped into YA, but I wasn’t on the expert panel, so it’s just my opinion. I am quite happy that all of John Green’s books managed to make it on there, as they are awesome (with the exception of Paper Towns, which I’ve not read yet). Here’s the finalist list, and I’ve managed to read 88 of them (including individual books in series).

13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson

Abhorsen Trilogy / Old Kingdom Trilogy (series), by Garth Nix
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
Across the Universe, by Beth Revis
Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel
Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars, by Daniel Pinkwater
Along for the Ride, by Sarah Dessen
American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
Anne of Green Gables (series), by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Annie on My Mind, by Nancy Garden
Ash, by Malinda Lo
Ashfall, by Mike Mullin
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (series), by M.T. Anderson

The Bartimaeus Trilogy (series), by Jonathan Stroud
Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
Before I Die, by Jenny Downham
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
Betsy-Tacy Books (series), by Maud Hart Lovelace
Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys
Blood Red Road, by Moira Young
Bloodlines (series), by Richelle Mead
Bloody Jack Adventures (series), by L.A. Meyer
The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley
The Book of Blood and Shadow, by Robin Wasserman
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan
Brooklyn, Burning, by Steve Brezenoff
Bruiser, by Neal Shusterman

The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Chaos Walking (series), by Patrick Ness
The Chemical Garden Trilogy (series), by Lauren DeStefano
Chime, by Franny Billingsley
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
The Chronicles of Chrestomanci (series), by Diana Wynne Jones
The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica (series), by James A. Owen
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Circle of Magic (series), by Tamora Pierce
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (series), by Louise Rennison
Copper Sun, by Sharon M. Draper
Crank (series), by Ellen Hopkins
Criss Cross, by Lynne Rae Perkins
Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
The Curse Workers (series), by Holly Black

Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
The Dark is Rising (series), by Susan Cooper
Darkest Powers (series), by Kelley Armstrong
Daughter of Smoke & Bone, by Laini Taylor
Daughter of the Lioness / Tricksters (series), by Tamora Pierce
Delirium (series), by Lauren Oliver
The Demon’s Lexicon (series), by Sarah Rees Brennan
Discworld / Tiffany Aching (series), by Terry Pratchett
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
Divergent (series), by Veronica Roth
Dolphin Sky, by Ginny Rorby
Dreamland, by Sarah Dessen
Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie, by Jordan Sonnenblick
Dune, by Frank Herbert

Earthsea (series), by Ursula K. Le Guin
East, by Edith Pattou
Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (series), by Patricia C. Wrede
Everybody Sees the Ants, by A.S. King

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
Fallen (series), by Lauren Kate
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
Feed, by M.T. Anderson
Fire and Hemlock, by Diana Wynne Jones
The First Part Last, by Angela Johnson
Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan
Forever…, by Judy Blume

Gallagher Girls (series), by Ally Carter
The Gemma Doyle Trilogy (series), by Libba Bray
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente
The Giver (series), by Lois Lowry
Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
Going Bovine, by Libba Bray
Gone (series), by Michael Grant
The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale
Graceling (series), by Kristin Cashore
Graffiti Moon, by Cath Crowley
Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers
The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages

Haroun and the Sea of Stories, by Salman Rushdie
Harper Hall Trilogy (series), by Anne McCaffrey
Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
Hate List, by Jennifer Brown
The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley
Hex Hall (series), by Rachel Hawkins
His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (series), by Douglas Adams
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride
Hold Still, by Nina LaCour
House of Night (series), by P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast
The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff
How to Save a Life, by Sara Zarr
Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins
Hurt Go Happy, by Ginny Rorby
Hush, Hush Saga (series), by Becca Fitzpatrick

I Am the Cheese, by Robert Cormier
I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
Immortal Beloved (series), by Cate Tiernan
The Immortal Rules, by Julie Kagawa
The Immortals (series), by Tamora Pierce
Impossible, by Nancy Werlin
The Infernal Devices (series), by Cassandra Clare
Inheritance Cycle (series), by Christopher Paolini
The Iron Fey (series), by Julie Kagawa
It’s Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini

Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey
Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta
Jessica Darling (series), by Megan McCafferty
Just Listen, by Sarah Dessen

The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
The Legend of Beka Cooper (series), by Tamora Pierce
Leverage, by Joshua Cohen
Leviathan (series), by Scott Westerfeld
Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow
Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
The Lord of the Rings (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien
Lost in the River of Grass, by Ginny Rorby
The Lumatere Chronicles (series), by Melina Marchetta
Lux (series), by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Make Lemonade, by Virginia Euwer Wolff
A Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass
The Marbury Lens, by Andrew Smith
Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork
Matched (series), by Ally Condie
The Maze Runner Trilogy (series), by James Dashner
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
Monster, by Walter Dean Myers
A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness
The Monstrumologist (series), by Rick Yancey
The Mortal Instruments (series), by Cassandra Clare
My Most Excellent Year, by Steve Kluger
My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult

The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson
Nation, by Terry Pratchett
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan
North of Beautiful, by Justina Chen Headley
A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly

The Only Alien on the Planet, by Kristen D. Randle
The Outside of a Horse, by Ginny Rorby
The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
Outtakes of a Walking Mistake, by Anthony Paull
The Oz Chronicles (series), by R.W. Ridley

Paper Towns, by John Green
Perfect Chemistry, by Simone Elkeles
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
The Pigman, by Paul Zindel
The Piper’s Son, by Melina Marchetta
Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S. King
Postcards from No Man’s Land, by Aidan Chambers
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
The Princess Diaries (series), by Meg Cabot
The Princesses of Iowa, by M. Molly Backes
Private Peaceful, by Michael Morpurgo
Protector of the Small (series), by Tamora Pierce

The Queen’s Thief (series), by Megan Whalen Turner

Raw Blue, by Kirsty Eagar
Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly
A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L’Engle
Ruby Blue, by Julie Cassar
Ruby Oliver Quartet (series), by E. Lockhart
Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier
The Rules of Survival, by Nancy Werlin

Saving Francesca, by Melina Marchetta
The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater
The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (series), by Michael Scott
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
Seven Realms (series), by Cinda Williams Chima
Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi
Shine, by Lauren Myracle
Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupis
The Shiver Trilogy, by Maggie Stiefvater
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (series), by Ann Brashares
The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson
Sold, by Patricia McCormick
Something Like Normal, by Trish Doller
Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
The Song of the Lioness (series), by Tamora Pierce
Soul Screamers (series), by Rachel Vincent
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Split, by Swati Avasthi
Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
Stolen, by Lucy Christopher
Story of a Girl, by Sara Zarr
The Summer I Turned Pretty, by Jenny Han
Sweep (series), by Cate Tiernan
Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr

Teach Me, by R.A. Nelson
Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
This Lullaby, by Sarah Dessen
Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Trash, by Andy Mulligan
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen
Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler
Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer
Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Uglies (series), by Scott Westerfeld
Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi
Unwind, by Neal Shusterman

Vampire Academy (series), by Richelle Mead

Wake (series), by Lisa McMann
The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic, by Allan Wolf
Weetzie Bat (series), by Francesca Lia Block
Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
Where She Went, by Gayle Forman
Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley
Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler
Wide Awake, by David Levithan
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green, David Levithan
Willow, by Julia Hoban
Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Year of Secret Assignments, by Jaclyn Moriarty

I am going to delve into my inner geek for this post. I grew up on public television, literally as my maternal grandparents didn’t have cable till I was about 12 so it was either watch that (i.e. Sesame Street and Mister Rogers) or soap operas, so naturally I picked PBS. We are lucky enough here in Arizona to have 3 public television stations, one of which specializes in children’s programming, for most of the morning/afternoon at least. So my son can watch Sesame Street too, although thankfully they also have 5 seasons of it on Netflix, so we can watch them whenever we want. For the longest time, I rebelled against the modern Sesame Street as I grew up in the good ‘ole days when the show was still young. I especially hated Elmo because they really over did the character in the late 90s. But as I now have a child that can watch the show, and as a consequence I have watched many many of the newer episodes, it’s not so bad. It still teaches the kids the letter and number of the day, they get more varied music and even learn some Spanish, plus the cast is more diverse. Back in the day, I loved Grover, Cookie Monster, Bert & Ernie, Big Bird and Snuffie. I even watched the movies, well Follow That Bird at least. Nowadays, I love Murray (who occasionally raps) and his little lamb Ovejita, who speaks Spanish,  Alan (who now owns Mr. Hooper’s store), and Leela (the Indian-American girl who runs the laundromat). Ever since I watched the documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, I have been fascinated by Elmo. Kevin Clash, who is the puppeteer who handles Elmo’s movements and his voice, started designing his own puppets when he was a teenager and how he eventually came to work for Jim Henson and eventually on Sesame Street. Mr. Clash just put so much love and personality into Elmo, it is hard not like the little furry red monster.

On to what I really wanted to talk about, the Muppets. Sesame Street was the beginning of my Muppet obsession. Yes I know that now Sesame Street is a completely separate enterprise from the Muppets, after Jim Henson’s children (who now own and manage the company) sold them to Disney. If you want to know about that whole debacle, see this article. It only got worse when I met this guy in middle school who literally wanted to become the next Jim Henson. As usually happens when you like someone, you tend to obsess over whatever they obsess over. I should in all reality hate him and the Muppets, as he ended up not being such a great friend to me, but never really felt that way. It only served to make me like them even more. I’ve seen most of The Muppet Show, though it will take me awhile to get all those episodes as they sell them in 3 packs, there are 5 years worth of episodes, and I only have 2 DVD’s so far. The Muppet Show is actually the reason for me writing this post today. I had bought a DVD of the show awhile back but never watched it, and was trying to find something that my son and I could watch together (though I know he doesn’t get most of it). I pulled it out and started watching it yesterday. I still find the stuff in it funny even though it was done 1975-1981. I love Pigs in Space, which I still say like they introduce it on the show to this day. Yesterday’s shows had Peter Sellers, John Cleese and Dudley Moore as the guest stars. I didn’t think the second version of the show, Muppets Tonight, was as good, but it was still funny.

I’ve seen all the movies, including the Disney released one last year, which was surprisingly good (even my husband who hates musicals liked it). My favorite movie is The Muppets Take Manhattan. The first three movies, including this one, were almost like an extension of The Muppet Show, with all the famous people that were in them. My favorite songs are “I’m Gonna Always Love You,” “Rat Scat (Something’s Cooking)” and “You Can’t Take No For an Answer”.

Muppet Treasure Island (I mean really, who can’t love Tim Curry as Long John Silver? He’s so brilliant in it!) and Muppets From Space come a close second. I grew up with musicals, so I love it when you get comedy plus singing.  Muppets From Space features my favorite Muppet of all time, Gonzo and was the first movie that Pepe, the King Prawn was in. One of the funniest things I remember from graduate school in Scotland was I was sitting in our dorm kitchen talking about having cabin fever and the guy I liked jumped up and said “Cabin Fever, yah” like they do at the end of this video (2:16-17). It was just so random. So I always think of this song when I’ve been trapped at the house a long time (like most of this summer).

And this is of course not counting Fraggle Rock or Muppet Babies, which I also grew up with. My son currently has my collection of Muppets in his room, i.e. 2 poseable Kermits, a Bear from The Bear in the Big Blue House, and one Gonzo, although I’ve stored the Gonzo in his closet so it doesn’t get destroyed. I have a couple Kermit shirts that I like to wear because they make me happy. I think that’s the thing with the Muppets, they just make you feel good. They are the kind of silly humor that parents and kids can enjoy together. They used to have a Muppet section at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, that had a Muppet ride and a live show of The Bear in the Big Blue House that my friend and I saw when she graduated high school. They still have the ride, Muppet Vision 3D, as I dragged my hubby to that when we went there on our honeymoon. I guess the bottom line is I still like them and will continue to like them and want to share the Muppets with others. Does anyone else have any memories of the Muppets/Sesame Street that they would like to share?

I honestly have not had much going on lately, except that my son turned one on the 15th, so we had a little party with family and friends. It was our first get-together at our rental house, but thankfully it went off without a hitch, except for the semi-crappy weather. We are in “monsoon” season here in Arizona, which means that the humidity, which is normally under 10%, skyrockets to the 40% + range at times. This produces either really bad duststorms (we are in the desert after all), or thunderstorms. It is the only time we really get rain here. Before the first storm of the monsoon season in July, we hadn’t had rain since February. On my son’s birthday, it was like 44% humidity and looking like rain, though it didn’t rain thankfully. I felt like I was melting. I mean, I grew up in the South and had to live with 100 degrees with 100% humidity, no small feat, let me tell you. But switching back and forth between dry heat and humidity sucks big time, and it screws your body all up. Anyways, my son got some people food (his daddy’s famous German Potato Salad) and his own piece of cake, plus a bunch of new toys to play with, so he was happy camper. I can’t believe my baby is now a 1 yr old toddler. Crazy how fast time flies! I will include a picture below.

So I’ve been reading more this summer than I have in awhile, which is a nice change. I’m steadily making my way through the Caldecott Challenge and have read all the books from 2002 – 2012 Caldecott Honors and Winners (42 out of 43), with the exception of one book which is only in the Children’s Reference section and so I will only be able to read it in the library. I’ve managed to stay on top of recent children and YA books that have come out this year. I’m currently on the wait list for Mary Hoffman’s City of Swords, and the 7th book in the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, The Last Guardian. I hope to soon get on the wait list for Rick Riordan’s 3rd book of The Kane Chronicles: The Serpent’s Shadow. The only thing I am regularly listening to/reading right now is Lirael (Abhorsen #2) by Garth Nix, read by the amazing Tim Curry. As always, I rate things from 1 – 5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The Caldecott Challenge is my attempt to read all of the Caldecott Honors and Award winners from 1938 – the present.


Sir Ryan’s Quest by Jason Deeble

A very cute and imaginative book about a young boy, named Sir Ryan, who goes on a quest around his house one day. He meets a king, a mysterious man in the jungle, a castle guard, and a dark cave filled with a hungry beast. To celebrate his exploration, his mom hugs him and prepares a feast. My son liked the pictures and the story. Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

Naamah and the Ark at Night by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

I picked this book up after finding it on my local library’s booklist for children. I had never seen it before and since I’ve started a list of Biblical picture books, this one was a great (though different from your regular Bible story). Naamah (pronounced Na-ah-mah or Nay-ah-mah) is Noah’s wife and in the book she sings the entire ark to sleep, using a ghazal, which is a form of Arabic poetry dating back to the seventh century. In the author’s note, Bartoletti says “I hope that this lullaby inspires readers to trust in the darkness, as Naamah did.” Like I have said before in other reviews, I normally don’t like collage, but I think Holly Meade did a fantastic job with these illustrations, especially the black/white/grey ones. Even my son liked the illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-5, 4 stars.

Happy Birthday, Little Pookie! by Sandra Boynton

I love Sandra Boynton books and this has to be one of the cutest ones she’s ever created! In this board book, it is Little Pookie the pig’s birthday, but he just can’t wait for it to come. He keeps waking his parents up through the wee hours of the morning before they finally get up at 5:30am. Daddy makes Pancakes Supreme, they go buy a balloon and then have cake and open presents. I love Little Pookie’s comments throughout the book, they’re so precious. I borrowed this book from the library for my son, who turned 1 on the 15th, and let me say we were as exhausted as Little Pookie’s parents by the end of it. Recommended for ages 6 months – 3 yrs, 5 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

Another book for the Caldecott Challenge, though given my recent obsession with Jerry Pinkney books, I would’ve read it sometime soon anyways. This book won the 2010 Caldecott Award and although I enjoyed All the World, this book is so beautifully illustrated, it is no wonder that it won. Pinkney’s books are literally works of art in and of themselves, and this book is no exception. I was surprised that this version of the Aesop fable was wordless, but the penciled and watercolored illustrations more than make for that fact. Recommended for ages 1-9, 5 stars.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein

This was another book for my Caldecott Challenge that I’ve been putting off forever, because frankly it was very publicized and I tend not to read overly publicized books, at least not at first (Harry Potter & Twilight are perfect examples of this theory). It won the 2004 Caldecott Medal. It’s actually an interesting story, once you get into it. In 1974, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in NYC were almost finished being built. Philippe Petit, a young street performer saw them whilst performing in Central Park and thought they would be great to walk between. He had done something like this before, across the two towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, though nothing as grand as this. The book explains how he got the top of one and set up the tight rope between the two towers with some friends and then proceeded to walk back and forth between the two until he was spotted by a pedestrian below and the police were called. The painted illustrations were lovely, with all the greens and blues, and the extended pictures to put things into perspective for the reader. Recommended for ages 3-9, 4 stars.

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Another book the Caldecott Challenge, this won a 2004 Caldecott honor award. I liked this one better than the authors’ other attempts at nonfiction picture books. Even though this was a bit too advanced for my son, he liked it and the illustrations (which are done in Steve Jenkin’s trademark cut-paper collage style). The book explores the different ways animals use their varied body parts, such as noses, eyes, tails, ears, mouths, and feet. Each section ask the question “What do you do with a [body part] like this?” and shows different animal parts, so you can guess whose they are. It then follows with the animal and what they use that part for, like “if you are a platypus, you use your nose to dig in the mud.” The back, like the other Jenkins’ books, features an index of the animals features with more info about them. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport

This book won a 2002 Caldecott Honor, but I would’ve read it anyway because I like the author. I will say that I have a very hit and miss relationship with collage, Bryan Collier’s chosen medium in this book, I wasn’t a particular fan of this time. I liked that the author and illustrator shared their experiences with and thoughts about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The text was simple but straightforward and I liked that they added so many Dr. King quotes throughout the book. There is a timeline in the back of the book, along with a nice bibliography. Recommended for ages 5-10, 4 stars.

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill

This book is a 2011 Caldecott Honor book. The cool thing about this book, aside from the subject matter, is that I know the guy that modeled for Dave. He was a youth librarian and now works at the Columbia Museum of Art in their Youth Department, teaching kids about art (and he’s a really nice guy). Dave the Potter was a real person, a slave born around 1801, who lived in Edgefield, South Carolina (right outside of the capital city of Columbia). He was an artist and poet, in a time where most slaves were not allowed to be either of those things. To have created 40,000 pots, especially such large ones that involved lifting and molding sixty pounds of clay on a manual potter’s wheel took an incredible amount of strength and skill. I’ve handbuilt and wheel-thrown pottery before, but never anything that enormous. Just getting a pot centered is hard enough without trying to do it with one leg and make pots that are 20-40 gallons. I liked the author and illustrator’s notes in the back of the book, and that they included a picture of some of Dave’s surviving pots. The book also contained a thorough bibliography and websites to check out. Recommended for ages 5-12, 5 stars.

Blackout by John Rocco

This book was a 2012 Caldecott honor book, which again, I thought was better than the one that won the award. The text is very simple and describes a young boy who wants to play a board game but everyone is too busy to bother with him. So he goes off on his own and plays by himself, that is until the power goes out all over the city, and then they have to do things together. They do cool things like making shadow puppets, looking at the stars, checking out the parties on the roof and the street, and having some good family time. So when the little boy wants to play with his family, he just turns off the lights (which makes me wonder why people never slow down and have non-electronic fun anymore). Loved the illustrations. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford

This book was a 2007 Caldecott Honor Winner but definitely gives the winner, Flotsam, a run for the money. It has, as another reviewer has said, stunning illustrations plus the text is really well done.  Through them, you can imagine Harriet Tubman going through all the trials and tribulations of escaping slavery in the South and being led by God through these hardships and on to Philadelphia and freedom. You can also see how because of her faith in God, she discovered the Underground Railroad System and helped hundreds of other slaves escape into Canada. She really was like Moses. Recommended for ages 5-12, 5 stars.

Red Sings From the Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman

I had never heard of this book before reading it for my Caldecott Challenge. It won a 2010 Caldecott Honor. I liked it because it was a tribute poem to the seasons, done in colors (i.e. the colors were used to describe the season). For example, in summer, there are white ice cubes, yellow sunshine, red hummingbirds, green leaves, blue water which turns into turquoise/azure/cerulean, and purple shadows. and I enjoyed the whimsical representations of summer, winter, fall and spring done in mixed-media painting and computer illustration. It was a little too much for my 1 yr old, but I liked it. Recommended for ages 4-8, 5 stars.

Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems by Joyce Sidman

This book won a 2006 Caldecott honor award. Honestly, I didn’t think much of this book from the cover, but the book itself is genius. The author created these fantastic nature poems about insects, birds, amphibians and other pond creatures. They are paired with these absolutely gorgeous woodcut and watercolor illustrations. Each poem has a scientific explanation about the creature featured in the poem and there is an index of scientific terms in the back of the book. I believe that this book or Zen Shorts should’ve won the Caldecott Award that year. Highly recommended for ages 7-11, 5 stars.

Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson

This book won a 2005 Caldecott Honor, and I’m reading it for my Caldecott Challenge. It was a story about a young African-American girl whose mother goes to Chicago for work during WWII. The girl is very sad as she is really close to her mother, and then even more so when her mother doesn’t write for ages. She takes comfort in her grandmother and a black kitten she finds. Finally after a very long wait, her mother writes them to say she is coming home soon. Honestly I don’t think I would’ve given this book very many stars, was it not for the gorgeous watercolor illustrations done by E.B. Lewis, that really made the story. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann

This book won the 2003 Caldecott Award, and even though I liked it, I believe Tony DiTerlizzi’s The Spider and the Fly should’ve won that year (for far superior illustrations). Now, the reason I gave this 4 stars instead of 3 is because I really like the illustrations and the imaginative problem-solving that Mouse’s friend Rabbit concocts. I mean if you had an airplane stuck in a tree, most kids would just ask an adult if they could help get it down. But Rabbit grabs and elephant, rhino, hippo, deer/elk, crocodile, bear and goose to reach it. I liked when they were all in a pile on the ground looking very grumpy at Rabbit, “who means well and is [Mouse’s] friend, even if whatever he does, wherever he goes, trouble follows.” It is interesting that the book later became a children’s cartoon show in Canada and the UK, which was quite successful. My son loved the illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-7, 4 stars.

The Stray Dog by Marc Simont

This book won a 2002 Caldecott Honor Award. I loved the watercolor illustrations by the author/illustrator, who is apparently really well-known and had been illustrating books since 1939. The book is about a family who is having a picnic in the park when they meet a dog, which they name Willy. They play with him and feed him, but the parents won’t let them keep him. All week the whole family thinks about him, and it isn’t until the following weekend, when they’re at the park again, that they “adopt” him and take him home. Very cute story. Recommended for ages 1-7, 4 stars.

The Three Pigs by David Wiesner

This book won the 2002 Caldecott Award. I am finally reading it for my Caldecott Challenge, though I probably would’ve eventually as I love David Wiesner’s work. He has an imaginative take on things in all his books, and this one is no exception. In this version of The Three Little Pigs story, the pigs actually step out of the story and wander into other fairy tales and nursery rhymes, before heading back to the third pig’s brick house. Thanks to the dragon they brought home, they have no more trouble from the Big Bad Wolf. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

Children and Young Adult

The Siege of Macindaw (Ranger’s Apprentice, #6)  by John Flanagan

This book was way better than the last book, which was another building up the story line book but not actually giving you a satisfactory conclusion. It was once again read by the amazing John Keating, who does all the voices, and is the narrator for the series.

Will Treaty the Ranger meets up the shipwrecked Skandians from the previous book and the agree to join his fighting force that plans to lay siege on Castle Macindaw and get it back from Keren, the knight that has taken it over with his thug militia. Will meets up with his old friend Horace, a knight of the Royal Guard, and explains the situation and they go back to Grimsdale Wood, to pow-wow at the house of Malcolm the Healer. Will has another reason to get into Castle Macindaw, his very good friend Alyss is being held prisoner there. Keren has been hypnotizing Alyss to give him information on the Ranger and his allies. Alyss discovers that Keren has made an agreement with the Scotti, the people from the land of Picta, right across the border from the castle. General MacHaddish, a Scotti, is sent to work out the arrangements with Keren and on the way back he is captured by Will and his friends. They scare the information out of him and learn the Scotti’s entire raid plans. So Will comes up with one of his amazing and crazy plans, which seems impossible but ends up working, and they take back the castle. Will rescues Alyss during the siege and eventually they all go their separate ways.

I liked the bickering between Will and Horace, especially because Will never seemed to speak up to Horace before and vica-versa. It was only a matter of time before Horace fell for Cassandra/Evanlyn, especially given their current situation. I’m so glad that Will and Alyss finally admitted their true feelings for each other. Will deserves a little happiness as he has had a tough life. Recommended for ages 10+, 5 stars.

Young Adult

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5) by Cassandra Clare

Where to start with this book? As a whole, I enjoyed the book, but I do not think it is her best work. I was 400 pages in and kept wondering when was this book gonna get better? I thought the ending was well-done, but gave you enough that it made you want to read the next book. I guess it was frustrating to read because there were so many sub-plots going on that you weren’t really sure which one to concentrate on, though I will say they were a lot more interesting than the main story.

This is the basic gist of the book. After Sebastian (Jonathan Morgenstern) has been risen from the dead, Sebastian manages to get in Jace’s head and control him. They are now literally inseparable, i.e. if you hurt one, you hurt the other. So Clary, Isabelle, Alec, and Simon are trying to find a way to separate them. They enlist Magnus the Warlock’s help, who summons first a demon and then helps them summon Raziel. Sebastian and Jace came to Clary’s house to get her and end up mortally wounding Luke (Clary’s soon-to-be werewolf stepdad) with demon metal, so he is on death’s door for most of the book. Clary eventually ends up living and traveling with Sebastian and Jace as they hatch their evil plan, and she tries to figure out all that it entails (it is actually a pretty brilliant plan though very evil). Meanwhile, you have the side romance between Jordan and Maia, a developing one between Isabelle and Simon, and the falling apart of Alec and Magnus. Plus Simon has been kicked out of his house by his mother who thinks he is a monster, and him finally telling his sister Rebecca what has happened to him. Simon, who’s got the Mark of Cain (making him pretty much invincible) is the one who actually has to summon the Angel Raziel, who thanks to the Mark, he can’t smite automatically. He gives them Glorious, the sword of Archangel Michael, which they use on Jace to get rid of the evil part of him. But there is a drawback to this strategy, even though he is finally separated from Sebastian and his influence.

Clary’s incessant whining about Jace was driving me a little crazy. The whole part of the book where Sebastian, Jace and Clary are together was just weird and a little creepy. As per usual, her kissing and nearly sex scenes are pretty hot and steamy, and definitely hold your interest while you are trying to wrap your head around the rest of the book. There were some interesting points in the book, like when is she going to connect Jace with Will Herondale as they are obviously related (I’m guessing grandfather). Why is Brother Zechariah so interested in preserving the Herondale line? Recommended for ages 15+, 4 stars.

Emma, Volume 10 by Kaoru Mori

The last volume of the series and I must say I’m sad to see it end. Most of the stories focused on the servants and seeing things from their point of view. The first story was about Emma and William and her trying to learn how to ride a bike, even though it frightens her, because she gets to spend time with him. The second story is interesting because it finally gives us the perspective of Adele, the head maid in the Meredith’s household. The third story is about Arthur and his experiences at Eton as a prefect and a particular young boy who reminds him of his sister Vivi. The next story is a very short one about Eleanor and Ernst and admitting their true feelings for each other. Chapter 17 gave a us shots of the Merediths’ and Jones’ family as viewed through their servants. The rest of the manga was devoted to the servants of the Meredith and Jones’ households getting ready for Emma and William’s wedding, which they were all invited to and the ensuing craziness that happened. This part illustrates how much changes at the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of the Edwardian period. Overall, I enjoyed the ending,  though I kind of think the author made you think of new ways the story could branch off, like how will Emma & William approach their new life together, do Hans and Adele have a thing going on, and will Eleanor finally find some happiness with Ernst. Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars.


Fables, Vol. 5: The Mean Seasons by Bill Willingham

This volume gives us the aftermath of the war with the Adversary (Emperor of the Old Kingdom) in Fabletown and the Farm. Snow White is in labor for 42 hours (I would go crazy during this amount of time, and I thought 6-7 hrs was a long time) and ends up giving birth to not one but six kids. Only they’re not all exactly human, most are pretty wolfish, courtesy of their dad Bigby Wolf. He ends up leaving after a fight with Snow and she heads to the Farm (where the magical non-human creatures go) with the kids, to stay with her sister Rose Red. King Cole is voted out of the Mayor’s Office and Prince Charming is voted in, so Snow and Bigby are out of a job, and Beauty and Beast take their places. Everything is not so perfect as Prince Charming would have imagined after becoming the mayor, first Boy Blue leaves and then someone is mysteriously murdering the inhabitants of Fabletown and the Farm.

I must say that my favorite parts were the story between Cinderella and Ichabod Crane, as well as Bigby and the Dog Company story during WWII in the beginning of the story, and the twist in the ending of the mysterious killer story at the end. Overall, I really enjoyed the story, though they took forever to tell you why the babies were floating. Can’t wait to read the next volume in the series. 5 stars.

Fables, Vol 6: Homelands by Bill Willingham

I swear this series just keeps getting better and better. The first section of the comic is about Jack Horner/Nimble/Giant-Killer, who has stolen a bunch of gold from Fabletown with the help of Jill (who turns out is as big as Thumbelina). They go to Hollywood where Jack buys a film studio and starts making a series of three movies about himself (though no one in the Mundy world know he is a Fable). Everything goes great until Jill gets fed up being held prisoner by Jack and calls Sheriff Beast on him, who confiscate all the money and the studio. Beast lets him escape with one suitcase full of money on the promise that he will never be seen again. The second part of the comic is the stories of Boy Blue, who has stolen the Witching Cloak and Vorpal Blade, and is in the Homelands trying to get to the emperor. He kills a whole bunch of Fables in the Homeland and creatures, before he finally reaches the capital and assassinates the emperor, or so he thinks. It is afterwards that we discover who the real power behind the empire is (which is one of the most interesting stories in the whole volume). Boy Blue eventually escapes with the real Red Riding Hood, who has no memory of him, back to Fabletown. He is, of course, in a lot of trouble with the Mayor’s office, or is he? Meanwhile, back in NYC, Mowgli of Jungle Book fame, has come back to Fabletown. He goes to the farm to see Bagheera, who has been imprisoned since his role in the uprising last year. Mowgli bargains with the Mayor to secure Bagheera’s release. To do so, he must find Bigby Wolf and bring him back to Fabletown. The Mayor and his staff find out they have a traitor in their midst and he is disposed of. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham

I liked this short collection of Fable stories. The overall story is that Snow White is in the Middle East trying to warn them about the Adversary, who is about to turn the Homelands of the Middle East and Africa, however her warnings fall on deaf ears. The Sultan is tied up in his own problems and at first doesn’t listen to her. Snow ends up being a Scherazade of sorts, telling the Sultan 1001 tales of Fables. I enjoyed it because it gives a background for Snow White and her first husband Prince Charming, the true story about Frau Totenkinder and background on Bigby Wolf. Being that he’s the son of the North Wind (which you also find out in Fables Vol 6), it makes sense that he can “huff and puff and blow your house in” like in The Three Little Pigs story. I liked that he started out as the runt of the litter, but turned out to be this incredibly powerful humongous wolf. I also liked how you got the back story on how Old King Cole became the first mayor of Fabletown. I love the guy who illustrated the Fables series, Mark Buckingham, but the illustrators in this book were a mixed bag. Some I liked (Charles Vess, James Jean, and Esao Andrews) but most I didn’t. You don’t have to have read the Fables comic book series to understand this book, but it definitely helps (at least the first 6 volumes). Highly recommended, 4 stars.

Preacher, Vol 2: Until the End of the World by Garth Ennis

Wow, what can I say about this volume! It had a little bit of everything in it, including gratuitous heads blowing up and T&A. Not gonna lie, this is definitely an adult comic and one I wouldn’t leave lying around the house for my parents to find. Now given all that, I thought it was a pretty kick-ass volume. It gave you Jesse Custer’s entire back story, told to his girlfriend Tulip while they are both being held captive by his insane (literally and figuratively speaking) maternal relatives. It is because of what happens to Jesse before and during his stay at the L’Angelle household that him and Tulip get back together for real. They meet up with Cassidy in San Francisco, where he had gone to meet his old girlfriend, who had died of a drug overdose. He wants to punish the people who gave her the drugs and gets involved with Jesus de Sade, one really messed up guy, who calls himself and his cohorts “the Gomorrah people,” with good reason. Meanwhile there is a secret organization called the Grail (similar to the whole “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” book theory), which started with the secret bloodline of Christ and has survived to this day. This organization wants to use Custer as the new Messiah, to “hold sway over the masses after the coming Armageddon (p 237).” But things don’t go as planned, and I’m super curious to see what happens in the next volume. 5 stars.

Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables by Cheryl Sternman Rule

This was a gorgeous and mouth-watering photographed cookbook, which featured a different and color-coordinated approach to fruits and vegetables. I found it helpful because it not only gave tips on how to cook the fruits and veg in simple directions at the beginning of each section, as well as tips on how to prepare them, and also gave a full recipe for each. Some of my favorite recipes included Kumquat Arugula Salad with Currant-Walnut Vinaigrette, Apricot Frangipane Galette, Cardamon Baked Plums with Coconut Ice Cream, and Gruyere-Crusted Leeks and Apples. I can’t wait to give these recipes a try as I am trying to wean myself off red meat and eat more vegetarian food. 5 stars.

Food Lovers’ Guide to Phoenix and Scottsdale: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings by Katarina Kovacevic

Most of the restaurants and food establishments listed in this book I already knew of, so I was looking for ones I hadn’t heard of before. I found 13 news ones that I want to check out online before I decide if I will go there in the future. I liked that the beginning featured a food news/blogging section, a list of food festivals and events, and a list of food trucks available in the area. There was also a food glossary of terms used in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, which is helpful if you’ve never been here before. The restaurant listings themselves are broken down into areas of Phoenix, Scottsdale, East Valley and West Valley. I must say that I am sad that there are no Chinese or Indian places listed at all (my hubby and I have been searching for a good Chinese & Indian place since we got here), so that would be my only gripe with it. Well that and the fact there is hardly any under $20 places in Scottsdale. I mean I know it’s the fancy-pants part of town, but still, I know some regular folks live there too. The back of the book featured recipes by local chefs, which I’m guessing they use at their restaurants. My favorites were the Argula Pesto with Pickled Tomatoes Bruschetta and Lamb Drumstick with Ginger Beer BBQ Sauce. Highly Recommended for Foodies, 4 stars.

Green Babies, Sage Moms: The Ultimate Guide to Raising Your Organic Baby by Lynda Fassa

Overall this book was a little preachy on organics. I realize that if you’re a rich ex-model you can afford organic baby clothes and expensive organic makeup and other things like that. Normal people, living paycheck to paycheck, cannot. So I’ll take some of the points you have, such as how to make natural highlights, soothing natural treatment for rough heels (which is hard to avoid in Phoenix), and how to use baking soda to clean your house. I will also check out some of the links you provided in the back of the book. A lot of this book was common sense, like how you shouldn’t go to the nail salon when pregnant because of the fumes and harmful products they use, and how to eat healthier when you’re pregnant because what you eat affects the baby’s development. I do however hope that the second book you wrote for older children is better. 3 stars.

Green Kids, Sage Families: The Ultimate Guide to Raising Your Organic Kids by Lynda Fassa

Once again, there were a couple of things I found helpful but overall most of the things in this book were common-sense stuff that pretty much anyone could figure out. Kids should be eating healthier, avoid pesticides and lead paint, and gardens make kids appreciate what they are eating and growing. Not impressed with this book. 2 stars.

Monday I came across an article on The 20 Most Beautiful Children’s Books of All Time, which one of my friends had posted on FB. I finally got a chance to look at it on Tuesday and for the most part I agree with their choices. Some of the best include The Arrival written & illustrated by Shaun Tan, Flotsam written & illustrated by David Wiesner, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale written by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon and Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Tale from China written & illustrated by Ed Young. I’m not the only one to think so, but the Caldecott committee liked what they’ve seen to, as three out of the four books have been awarded the Caldecott Medal. These five illustrators are some of the best out there. I happen to love David Wiesner‘s wordless picture books: Flotsam, Sector 7, and Tuesday as they are some of the most imaginative picture books out these days. Leo & Diane Dillon have been an illustrating couple since the 1960s (though Leo started in 1957), and are the only couple to win the Caldecott Medal two years in a row for Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears and Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions (which are both excellent books). I just found out today that they did the cover art illustrations for the Garth Nix Abhorsen series, i.e. Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. Sadly Leo Dillon passed away in May of this year. Shaun Tan is an Australian illustrator who creates picture books as well as traditional paintings. While his work tends to be for older children and young adults, I love his crazy Bosch-like drawings, like the ones in The Arrival or Tales from Outer Suburbia. Ed Young has won the Caldecott Award once and the Honor twice for his illustration work, although I think he should’ve won for Wabi Sabi as well. For more information on this artist, check out his website.

In addition to the five listed above, there are so many great illustrated Children’s books out there. Some of my favorite older illustrators (1900s to 1980s) include Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak (more about him in this post),  Kate Greenaway (more about her further on in the post), Randolph Caldecott, Beatrix Potter, Arnold Lobel of Frog and Toad are Friends fame, and Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey (my favorite being How the Sun Was Brought Back to the Sky, which I still own, pictured below).

How the Sun Was Brought Back to the Sky, 1975

I also enjoy Mercer Mayer (especially his Monster books and grew up with his Little Critter series that I’m sharing with my son) and Charles Mikolaycak. The last artist only did work from the 1970s-90s, as he died in 1993. The first book I saw of his was his illustrated version of the famous poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. Below are examples of his work.

Bess, The Landlord’s Daughter from The Highwayman, 1983

I bought the following book after I moved to Arizona, as I thought the artwork was beautiful. Definitely not a kid’s book, but it is gorgeous.

Orpheus, 1992

Some of my newer favorites are Tony DiTerlizzi, Jerry Pinkney, Paul O. Zelinsky, Sylvia Long, Lane Smith, Brian Selznick, Tom Murphy and Mo Willems. Tony DiTerlizzi’s work is just phenomenal and it’s an added bonus that his writing is great as well. I got into his work by reading the beginning of The Spiderwick Chronicles, then moved to Kenny and the Dragon, and now my favorite books of his are his Wondla series (2 books out so far and can’t wait for the third!). Jerry Pinkney has been illustrating books since the 1960s but I only recently discovered his work while doing my Caldecott Challenge. Now I am just in love with his work. He has won tons of awards, including two Caldecott honors and one Caldecott Award. My favorite book at the moment is Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star which he wrote last year, pictured below.

Most people know who Lane Smith and Mo Willems are. Lane Smith classically teamed up with one of my favorite children’s writers and all-around crazy nice guy Jon Scieszka (sounds like “Fresca), for such works as The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and Science Verse. But he also produces his own author/illustrator books such as It’s A Book and Grandpa Green (which won a Caldecott Honor). He was also the Conceptual Designer for the Disney film James and the Giant Peach. For more info on Lane Smith, check out his website. Mo Willems has become incredibly popular with his Don’t Let the Pigeon… series and my personal favorite, the easy reader series Elephant and Piggie. I also love his book Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. Willems drawings are simple but hilarious and so expressive, it’s no wonder kids love them. Brian Selznick is also pretty well known thanks to the fact that his Caldecott Award winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret has recently been turned into a movie. Hugo and Selznick’s newest book Wonder Struck are my favorites and I’ve even managed to get my mother to read both of them, which she really enjoyed.

Now for the somewhat lesser known artists from my newer illustrators list, or more likely you have seen their work but had no idea it was from them. Paul O. Zelinsky has been illustrating children’s books since 1978, but I think really hit it big when he stared illustrated Beverly Cleary’s books. He did the artwork for Strider, Ralph S. Mouse, and Dear Mr. Henshaw. I am fascinated by these because I read them as kids, well two of the three at least, and never thought about the artwork until I got to graduate school and began studying it. I did have a chance to meet him in person a few years ago and get my copy of Rapunzel autographed, though I did act like a total nerd when I found out that he also studied art history in college. I find that book to be particularly amazing because it was done completely in Northern Renaissance style, which happens to be one of my favorite artistic periods, but also I would think, very hard to copy. I found an interesting blog post on this page, where I found the Rapunzel picture (personally I’ve always loved fairy tales, and my aunt used to read my cousin and me the real Grimm versions, even if they were scary – we loved them).

Rapunzel, 1997

Sylvia Long is the illustrator of the Dianna Hutts Aston’s gorgeous nonfiction picture books.  These books include A Seed is Sleepy, An Egg is Quiet, and A Butterfly is Patient. I can’t wait for the day when my son is old enough to read these books. Tom Murphy has illustrated four books with author Sean Bryan, including The Boy and His Bunny, The Girl and Her Gator and The Bear and His Boy. The illustrations and the text are so cute and funny.

An Egg is Quiet, 2006

If you ever want to check out some museums that feature children’s book illustrations, check out the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) in Abilene, Texas or a little bit better known is the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. The NCCIL has an exhibition on The Lorax on at the moment, and the Carle Museum has one on the art of Ezra Jack Keats and his book The Snowy Day, one on Lucy Cousins’ heroine Maisy, and The Art of Eric Carle and the Birth of a Museum (as the museum has been open 10 years in 2012). I was lucky enough to see a great collection of material including original copies of illustrations by Ezra Jack Keats, H.A. and Margaret Rey (creators of Curious George), Kate Greenaway, and Randolph Caldecott at the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi when I was down visiting family. I grew up with Kate Greenaway books when I was a kid, so I knew who she was even before I learned about the British Illustrator’s Award named after her. For any adult seriously interested in illustration and/or children’s literature, I highly recommend checking it out after making an appointment with the curator.  I would love to go to the Eric Carle Museum as they always have cool workshops going on plus I’m sure their collection is awesome (that’s the museum nerd in me coming out, lol). The Carle Museum has a number of book lists with tons of great picture books to recommend for the moms, dads and other caregivers out there.

Book Censorship

I went to my Crafty Book Club on Thursday and had a great time. Granted the attendance was low, only me, the Youth Services Librarian that runs the program and her teenaged son, but we talked the entire 2 hours about good books, banned ones and the ones we had read for the club. The Librarian had read Fifty Shades of Grey, that new erotic romance that is being dubbed as “mommy porn”. All the women I know are reading it, and I was wondering if it was any good. She pretty much said that it had just as much sex in it as other romances, but with light BDSM, and that the writing was pretty bad. She didn’t think she would read the second book and that pretty much made me lose interest in ever reading it. It’s funny because she compared it to Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, saying that “You know how bad Stephanie Meyer’s writing is in the series, well this woman’s [E L James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey] writing is even worse. According to this article from the UK Newspaper The Telegraph, James wrote Fifty Shades of Grey as “fan fiction”, in homage to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series.” The book review article above  is actually quite good and funny, especially where they say that the book is “a middle-aged mum’s fantasy of what it might be like to kiss “beautiful” Robert Pattinson and tell him, “Have your wicked way with me, do whatever you like!”

Moving on, the real point of this post, which is about book censorship. I mentioned the above book because I read somewhere that libraries were trying to figure out whether or not to have it on their shelves, which is in and of itself, a form of censorship. This topic has always been a bit touchy of me because I’m never 100% sure how I feel about it. On one  hand, I believe in Intellectual Freedom and the right to free speech. I think Banned Book Week is important because it highlights books that people have tried to ban and you can discover some really excellent books that you might not have read otherwise. I mean let’s face it, people like to explore things that they know they’re not supposed to, liked books that are banned or places they’re not supposed to go etc. I think this is especially true with teens, who are trying to push the boundaries and see how far they can get. This is one reason I think Banned Book Week is targeted at them, although they do have children’s books on there as well. Here is the list of Banned/Challenged Books from 2010-2011, the most recent list. On the other hand, I agree with what this author said in this blog post about censorship, “I do believe in a parent’s right to keep an eye on what media their child is consuming and their right to remove items from the pool if they deem it necessary, but I do not believe it is one parent’s duty to police an entire school district’s reading material and choose what is appropriate for all students.”

I never realized that my parents may have been censoring what I read until I got to graduate school and had to do a project on banned books. The book that I eventually picked, Chris Crutcher’s Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, I had never heard of before even though it would’ve come out when I was about 12. I thought the whole concept of the book was interesting, i.e. Eric staying fat for Sarah because she’s got these serious burns over her face (they’ve been friends forever partly due to the fact that he’s obese and she’s scarred) and trying to navigate life together as two teenagers. I’m not gonna lie, the book is filled with reasons why a parent or concerned adult might want to ban it: the 30+ drops of the f-bomb and other curse words, discussions of physical/emotional abuse, suicide, abortion, masturbation, child neglect and more. It’s not an easy book to read at times, but there is a redemptive quality about the book that makes it awesome. Susannah Scheffer says it best in this article:

There are no easy, television endings to [this book]. Good does ultimately triumph over evil, but people remain just as complex as they ever were, and there’s no suggestion that they forgive or heal quickly. In Crutcher’s world, the weak don’t necessarily become strong all of a sudden, and the evil don’t necessarily see the light and repent. Yet the strong, the courageous, the good people do somehow manage to persevere. Love, loyalty, and risk do triumph, so that even if we aren’t left feeling hopeful about humanity in general, we are left feeling a passionate desire to be one of the adults who deserves kids’ trust. These aren’t just books for kids, and they aren’t even just for adults who like young adult literature. They’re for those of us who share Crutcher’s commitment to being one of the good ones, one of the people who does what’s necessary. May we live up to the standard he sets.”

If you are interested in learning more about Intellectual Freedom, check out the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. The Kids’ Right to Read Project is an organization that is part of the National Coalition against Censorship, which promotes freedom to read what you want and advocates for people fighting against book challenges/bans. I like that they include a Book Censorship Toolkit for teachers, parents and kids, and authors, as well as an LGBTQ Right to Read page. For teachers, there is an Anti-Censorship Center through the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). There’s also the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CLBLDF) which is very active in issues of free speech and censorship.

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