Today I Read…Here Come Destructosaurus!

Here Comes DestructosaurusToday I read Here Comes Destructosaurus! by Aaron Reynolds, with illustrations by Jeremy Tankard.

Destructosaurus! What a naughty monster you’re being today! Stop destroying the city and terrifying the people at once, or someone’s going to have a very sore tail!

Why is Destructosaurus rampaging through the city? Find out in this hilarious picture book that will sound very familiar to the parents of any toddler who has monster-sized tantrums.

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I found this one at my local public library, and I knew I wanted to write about it. This clever and colourful reimagining of Godzilla frames the terrible legendary monster as a toddler having a temper tantrum, and is told from the perspective of the frustrated and impatient. but ultimately well-meaning, adult civilian.

I love the satire, and my Tiny Niece is well into her Terrible Twos, so I can definitely sympathize with the Narrator and their efforts to get Destructosaurus to be a good monster. I may call Tiny Niece a Destructosaurus the next time she hears “Time to clean up and go home!” and interprets it as “Let’s empty the toy box all over the floor and run away so Auntie can’t put my shoes on!” Still, I think I’d hold off on reading it to her, despite the wonderful illustrations. She’s a little too young to understand the story. This book would be perfect for a teacher talking about appropriate behaviour and how to deal with frustration, and why parents sometimes get angry with what you’ve done.

I also really like that the Narrator apologizes for yelling and getting frustrated when they find out what Destructosaurus wanted. It shows that both of them were in the wrong–Destructosaurus should have used his words instead of destroying the city, but the Narrator should have asked what  wrong instead of just yelling.

Destructosaurus does have a reason for destroying the city, but I won’t spoil it here–go read the book to find out! The Narrator uses the usual phrases frustrated parents use and weaves them into the tale of destruction, such as “Don’t you take that tone with me, Destructosaurus! Whatever you’re saying must seem awfully important to you, but I could do without the attitude. Besides, everyone here is a little busy at the moment. Screaming. And running away. And stockpiling bottled water.” Or “What do you think you are doing, Destructosaurus? Stop throwing around buildings that don’t belong to you. You’ve been brought up better than that, you naughty monster! Look with your eyes, not with your claws.”

Jeremy Tankard does a wonderful job of making Destructosaurus an adorable ball of fire-breathing tantrum. The illustrations are large and bright, and a wonderfully child-like version of the classic Godzilla movies, complete with helicopters and biplanes trying to corral Destructosaurus.

I’d recommend this book for more like a kindergarten-grade 1 audience. Or for the annoyed parent of a toddler who will definitely recognize themself in the harassed Narrator dealing with a real monster having a bad day.

 

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Today I Read…Every Day is Malala Day

Everday is Malala DayToday I read Every Day is Malala Day by Rosemary McCarney with Plan International. It won the 2015 Golden Oak award from the OLA Forest of Reading.

Malala Yousafzi’s story is well-known, as the young girl who was shot by the Taliban for trying to go to school. She is now the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and she has become a symbol of the fight for the rights of girls and women and all children to get an education. Every Day is Malala Day is an open letter to Malala from girls around the world, expressing their admiration and their thanks for her continuing advocacy of education and peace. With beautiful photographs of girls from around the world illustrating their message, this book is a wonderful introduction for Western students of the challenges some children face just for trying to go to school.

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Disclaimer first: I was on the selection committee for the 2015 Golden Oak award, and I did recommend it for the list of finalists, which was then read and voted upon by the as a public. The Golden Oak award is for adults who are beginning to learn how to read English, so while I do refer to Every Day is Malala Day as a children’s book in this review, it is suitable for and enjoyed by adults as well.

This is a terrific story and a great introduction for children to some of the barriers that women face in other countries. As a read-aloud, it is more suited to older children. I would probably recommend at least ages 8+, based on the references to Malala being shot and violence against women. However, it’s important to point out that this is something that is actually happening to children, and sometimes there’s a very fine line between protecting children and being honest with them. When I was coaching a children’s literature trivia team, I had to try explain the Holocaust and Nazi propaganda to grade 3s. Not easy, but they asked.

The story itself is based on a short video produced by the young people who took over the UN on the first Malala Day, July 12, 2013. The book also includes a brief description of what happened to Malala and part of Malala’s speech to the UN from that day, advocating for education for all children as a way to help lift them out of poverty and ignorance and warfare. While she isn’t really in the daily news right now, Malala is an important figure for our time and I am certain that we will hear from her again. This book is an excellent introduction to her remarkable work.

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“So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are out most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.” -Malala Yousafzai, July 12, 2013

 

Today I Read…The Dark Lord & The Seamstress

tDL&tSToday I read The Dark Lord & The Seamstress written by J.M. Frey and illustrated by Jennifer Vendrig. This is the product of the successful Kickstarter that I wrote about back in September.

Once upon a time there was a seamstress of unsurpassed talent, a woman of kindness and intelligence and beauty. The Dark Lord of Hell heard of her skill, and sent a messenger asking her to come and make him fine new suits of clothing, clothes worthy of his magnificence (and a little more modern in style). But when she arrived, something unexpected happened. The Dark Lord fell in love.

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With the recent rise in the popularity of adult colouring books (which is a great trend, because they’re super fun and besides my niece rarely lets me colour in hers–sharing is not a toddler’s strong suit), Frey has been marketing The Dark Lord and the Seamstress as an adult coloring book in verse. And her colouring contests have been fun, and artist Jennifer Vendrig’s illustrations are charming (though I still think my favourites are the chibi ones that she drew for the marketing and Kickstarter campaign–they’re just so cute! Especially the expression on the Seamstress’ face when she sees the Dark Lord’s dorky mismatched outfit!) Dark Lord

But it almost feels like the focus on the pictures is a bit of a disservice to the story, which is equally as charming. It’s a lovely fairy tale, very reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, except that the Dark Lord is not cursed to his appearance, more misunderstood. When the Seamstress learns to look beyond his red skin and frightful job and his terrible taste in clothing, she sees that his love is true. He is never forced to change, while she uses her talents to help dress the inhabitants of both Heaven and Hell. Both angels and devils are clothed in love and blood, in something that unites them all.

This is a picture book, but one I’d give to an older child. The rhyming verses sometimes use some advanced and old-fashioned words that might need to be explained. That said, this would be an excellent story to read aloud to an older child who can already read, say grade 4 and up.

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Once upon a time, oh yes,

So very long ago,

There was of course a lovely girl,

Who came to learn to sew.

And as it goes, fair listener,

She learned to sew so well

That even the Dark Lord Himself

Heard of her talent, down in Hell.

Today I Read…Eye of the Crow

Eye of the CrowToday I read Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock, the first book in The Boy Sherlock Holmes series.

Born of a Jewish father and a mother disinherited from the gentry, and with the gifts of intellect and observation, young Sherlock Holmes is not a boy who fits in anywhere. Tormented by his schoolfellows, he prefers to spend his days reading the exciting police newspapers in Trafalgar Square, until one day when he reads of the shocking murder of a lovely young actress, and the arrest of the wicked Arab what done ‘er in. Justice served…or is she?

The young Egyptian, poor and dark of skin though he be, professes his innocence, and only Sherlock, condemned by society for being a half-mongrel Jew, believes him. But when he goes snooping around the scene of the crime, the detectives of Scotland Yard think he’s in on it!

Chased by the police, and with the true murderer lurking around every corner, young Sherlock must make new friends, treat with his enemies,and stretch his mind to its very limits to solve the crime and save himself, the innocent stranger, and someone else dearest to him.

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This series has been on my reading list for a while (I actually picked up a copy of the 6th book, Becoming Holmes, at the 2013 OLA Super Conference), but my to-read list keeps growing and my free time keeps shrinking. But now with my new job in a school library (yay! so exciting!) I can call it ‘familiarizing myself with the collection’ and delve more into the middle grades fiction and leave off the adult books for a while. So I grabbed the first book and devoured it today after school.

It’s definitely written as a modern mystery, even though it’s set in the Victorian era. It doesn’t have the distinct tone of the Conan Doyle stories, even though it does well with the historical details. That said, it works well for this story, being written for children–the more modern, familiar tone makes it a fast and easy read.

Fans of the original Sherlock Holmes will see elements of the great detective scattered through the book, in somewhat changed circumstances. Miss Irene Doyle, for example, is a most daring young woman, and the intelligent and dangerous Malefactor is almost a dark version of Holmes. There is no loyal Watson, which seems odd–a Sherlock should never be without his Boswell–but it is only the first book in the series, so I’m hoping an equivalent shows up in a further adventure.

Sherlock himself is not the same cold, calculating man of pure practical science that some readers may recall. He is a child–gifted, different, but still hurt by others’ disdain. He is angry at the world, for condemning him as a half-breed and dooming him to a life of poverty and struggle for the conditions of his birth–it’s not FAIR! His anger costs him dearly–he is forced to shut away his emotions to solve the case and save himself, showing the roots of the once and future great detective.

I like the book–I’m a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and I enjoy rewrites of famous stories and characters, seeing all the different ways they can go in the hands of different authors. Peacock does a great job of going back to the beginning of such a famous and beloved character, and introducing him to a new generation. The book evokes the past Sherlock and his London while still being accessible to a young reader. Now, for the upcoming weekend, I think I need to borrow the rest of the series at school tomorrow…

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As the sun climbs, its rays spread light through the lifting yellow fog, filtering down upon a brown, flowing mass of people: on top hats and bonnets, heavy clothes and boots swarming on bridges and along cobblestone streets. Hooves strike the pavement, clip-clopping over the rumbling iron wheels, the drone of the crowds, and hawkers’ cries. The smell of horses, of refuse, of coal and gas, hangs in the air. Nearly everyone has somewhere to go on this late spring morning in the year of Our Lord, 1867.

Among those moving over the dirty river from the south, is a tall, thin youth with skin the pallor of the pale margins in The Times of London. He is thirteen years old and should be in school. From a distance he appears elegant in his black frock coat and necktie with waistcoat and polished boots. Up close, he looks frayed. He seems sad, but his gray eyes are alert.

His name is Sherlock Holmes.

Last night’s crime in Whitechapel, one of many in London, though perhaps its most vicious, will change his life. In moments it will introduce itself to him. Within days it will envelop him.

He comes to these loud, bustling streets to get away from his problems, to look for excitement, and to see the rich and famous, to wonder what makes them successful and appreciated. He has a nose for the scent of thrilling and desperate things, and all around these teeming arteries, he finds them.

He gets here by the same route every day. At first he heads south from the family’s first-floor flat over the old hatter’s shop in grimy Southwark, and walks in the direction of his school. But when he is out of sight he always veers west, and then sneaks north and crosses the river with the crowds at Blackfriars Bridge, for the glorious center of the city.

Londoners move past him in waves, each with a story. They all fascinate him.

Sherlock Holmes is an observing machine; has been that way almost since birth. He can size up a man or a woman in an instant. He can tell where someone is from, what another does to make his living. In fact, he is known for it on his little street. If something is missing – a boot or an apron or a crusty doorstep of bread – he can look into faces, examine trousers, find telltale clues, and track the culprit, large or small.

This man walking toward him has been in the army, you can tell by his bearing. He’s pulled the trigger of his rifle with the calloused index finger of his right hand. He’s served in India – notice the Hindu symbol on his left cuff link, like one the boy has seen in a book.

He walks on. A woman with a bonnet pulled down on her head and a shawl gripped around her shoulders brushes against him as she passes.

“Watch your step, you,” she grumbles, glaring at him.

An easy one, thinks the boy. She has recently lost in love, notice the stains around her eyes, the tight anger in her mouth, and the chocolate hidden in her hand. She is within a year of thirty, gaining a little weight, a resident of the Sussex countryside where its unique brown clay has marked the insteps of both her black boots.

The boy feels like he needs to know everything. He needs advantages in a life that has given him few. A teacher at his school once told him he was brilliant. He’d scoffed at that. “Brilliant at what?” he had muttered to himself. “At being in the wrong life at the wrong time?”

On Fleet Street, he reaches into a cast-iron dustbin and pulls out a handful of newspapers. The Times … toss it back. The Daily Telegraph … toss it back. The Illustrated Police News … ah, yes. Now there is a newspaper! Every sensation that London can create brought to life in big black-and-white pictures. He reads such scandal sheets every day, but this one, with a riveting tale of bloody violence and injustice, will reveal to him his destiny.

Dark Lord and the Seamstress Kickstarter

So my friend J.M. Frey, the author ofTriptych and Hero is a Four Letter Word, has written a picture book, called The Dark Lord and the Seamstress, with art by Jennifer Vendrig. It’s a staff pick on Kickstarter, and there’s only a few days left to donate. It’s over halfway there–it would be amazing if in the last few days it could get fully funded and out in time for All Hallows’ Read as planned. You can read the first few verses on the Kickstarter page, as well as see some of the preliminary art. Though personally I love the art for the announcement, as seen below–doesn’t he just look like a Really Big Dork, and she’s just So Not Impressed?

Dark LordIt’s an adorable book written by a very talented author, and I can’t wait to get my copy and review it here for all of you lovely readers–and if you donate to the Kickstarter, you can get your own signed copy, with your name on the backers’ list printed in every copy! Your name in a published book! You know, not on the cover, but it’s a start to every reader’s authorial dream, right? And everyone needs an adorable picture book. Plus, Christmas is coming up–it’d be a great gift! (hint hint)

So please donate, and see this whimsical little story come to life via the magic of Kickstarter.

Today I Read…Dinosaur School: Big and Small

Dinosaur SchoolToday I read Dinosaur School: Big and Small by Joyce Jeffries. This is one of the books I got at the OLA Super Conference this year, as part of a door prize bag from CrossCan.

Do you know what opposites are? That’s when things are very different from each other, but still a little the same. Big and Small are opposites. Let’s learn about things that are Big and Small in the dinosaur school!

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This book is pretty cute. Most kids (myself included) go through a dinosaur phase, because as everyone knows dinosaurs are cool. It’s a short read–only 24 pages, with the last page being a chart of all of the opposites. The layout is very nicely done, clean and simple. Each pair of pages contains one set of opposites, with the big one on the left and the small one on the right. The sentences are simple and repetitive and written in a large, easy to read font. “The lion is big.” “The kitten is small.” Each page has a picture with a dinosaur interacting with the item listed, for example a dinosaur standing beside a lion, and a dinosaur waving at a kitten. The illustrations are brightly coloured and simple with lots of whitespace, and can be used to help prompt the child with what the words say. The page numbers are also fairly large and can be used to help practice numbers as well as reading the sentences. All in all, this book is cute, nicely designed, and easily accessible to beginning readers. I’ll have to try reading it to Tiny Niece and see what she thinks (probably that the pages taste good).

According to the back cover, this is a part of a series about opposites, including Heavy and Light, Hot and Cold, Long and Short, Near and Far, and Which is Different?

Today I Read…The Book Thief

The Book ThiefToday I read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Among the many awards it has won are the 2006 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, the 2006 Kirkus Reviews Editor Choice Award, the 2007 ALA Best Books for Young Adults, and the 2007 Michael L. Printz Honor Book award.

Death is haunted by humans. He meets every human in the end, no matter how they try to avoid him. So very many humans, and yet a special few he visits more than once, just to watch them. Liesel Meminger is one of the special ones. She is a book thief.

Death sees Liesel steal her first book when he comes for her brother- The Grave Diggers’ Handbook. He finds her again in the small German town of Molching, where she has been adopted by the compassionate housepainter Hans Hubermann and his foul-mouthed wife Rosa. She lives across the street from her best friend Rudy. who tries to steal kisses as they play soccer in the street. And Hitler and his Nazi party are in power far away, but they have eyes everywhere, even in sleepy little Molching. And Liesel steals more books.

Hans is contacted by a Jew, Max Vandenburg, the son of a man who once saved his life. Max needs help hiding from the Nazis, and Hans is an honourable man. He agrees to hide Max in his house, despite the danger-they could all be killed if Max is discovered.

And Liesel steals more books. Any book that she can get her hands on. She learns to read them, and she reads them over and over again. She reads to her neighbours as they hide from bombs. She reads to Max as he lays deathly ill. She reads the stories that Max leaves behind for her. And she reads the words she writes down as her own story- the story of the book thief.
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This is a beautiful, lyrical, evocative, difficult, and upsetting novel. I decided to read it because it was a book that I’ve heard recommended quite a few times- I knew vaguely that it was about World War 2, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was about.

Sometimes you come across a book that’s hard to read, emotionally speaking–Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose was another such for me–but you keep on reading it because you know that it will be worth it in the end. Rather like how Bastien kept reading Atreyu’s story in The Neverending Storysometimes you just can’t give up reading it.

I’ve thought about this book a lot, and I’m still not sure how to describe it other than beautiful and terrible–terrible in the older sense, of extremity–it is a terrible beauty. I absolutely recommend it, though possibly for older grades, around grade 5 and up. This book should be paired with The Diary of Anne Frank for anyone learning about World War 2, because often it’s forgotten that the Germans suffered too. The quote I have following is fairly long, but I think it will give you a better idea of the book than I ever could.

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THERE WAS once a strange, small man. He decided three important details about his life:

1. He would part his hair from the opposite side to everyone else.

2. He would make himself a small, strange mustache.

3. He would one day rule the world.

The young man wandered around for quite some time, thinking, planning, and figuring out exactly how to make the world his. Then one day, out of nowhere, it struck him—the perfect plan. He’d seen a mother walking with her child. At one point, she admonished the small boy, until finally, he began to cry. Within a few minutes, she spoke very softly to him, after which he was soothed and even smiled.

The young man rushed to the woman and embraced her. “Words!” He grinned.

“What?”

But there was no reply. He was already gone.

Yes, the Führer decided that he would rule the world with words. “I will never fire a gun,” he devised. “I will not have to.” Still, he was not rash. Let’s allow him at least that much. He was not a stupid man at all. His first plan of attack was to plant the words in as many areas of his homeland as possible.

He planted them day and night, and cultivated them.

He watched them grow, until eventually, great forests of words had risen throughout Germany…. It was a nation of farmed thoughts.

While the words were growing, our young Führer also planted seeds to create symbols, and these, too, were well on their way to full bloom. Now the time had come. The Führer was ready.

He invited his people toward his own glorious heart, beckoning them with his finest, ugliest words, handpicked from his forests. And the people came.

They were all placed on a conveyor belt and run through a rampant machine that gave them a lifetime in ten minutes. Words were fed into them. Time disappeared and they now Knew everything they needed to Know. They were hypnotized.

Next, they were fitted with their symbols, and everyone was happy.

Soon, the demand for the lovely ugly words and symbols increased to such a point that as the forests grew, many people were needed to maintain them. Some were employed to climb the trees and throw the words down to those below. They were then fed directly into the remainder of the Führer’s people, not to mention those who came back for more.

The people who climbed the trees were called word shakers.

The best word shakers were the ones who understood the true power of words. They were the ones who could climb the highest. One such word shaker was a small, skinny girl. She was renowned as the best word shaker of her region because she Knew how powerless a person could be WITHOUT words.

That’s why she could climb higher than anyone else. She had desire. She was hungry for them.

One day, however, she met a man who was despised by her homeland, even though he was born in it. They became good friends, and when the man was sick, the word shaker allowed a single teardrop to fall on his face. The tear was made of friendship—a single word—and it dried and became a seed, and when next the girl was in the forest, she planted that seed among the other trees. She watered it every day.

At first, there was nothing, but one afternoon, when she checked it after a day of word-shaking, a small sprout had shot up. She stared at it for a long time.

The tree grew every day, faster than everything else, till it was the tallest tree in the forest. Everyone came to look at it. They all whispered about it, and they waited . . . for the Fuhrer. Incensed, he immediately ordered the tree to be cut down. That was when the word shaker made her way through the crowd. She fell to her hands and Knees. “Please,” she cried, “you can’t cut it down.”

The Führer, however, was unmoved. He could not afford to make exceptions. As the word shaker was dragged away, he turned to his right-hand man and made a request. “Ax, please.”

At that moment, the word shaker twisted free. She ran. She boarded the tree, and even as the Führer hammered at the trunk with his ax, she climbed until she reached the highest of the branches. The voices and ax beats continued faintly on. Clouds walked by—like white monsters with gray hearts. Afraid but stubborn, the word shaker remained. She waited for the tree to fall.

But the tree would not move.

Many hours passed, and still, the Führer’s ax could not take a single bite out of the trunk. In a state nearing collapse, he ordered another man to continue.

Days passed.

Weeks took over.

A hundred and ninety-six soldiers could not make any impact on the word shaker’s tree.

“But how does she eat?” the people asked. “How does she sleep?”

What they didn’t Know was that other word shakers threw supplies across, and the girl climbed down to the lower branches to collect them.

It snowed. It rained. Seasons came and went. The word shaker remained.

When the last axman gave up, he called up to her. “Word shaker! You can come down now! There is no one who can defeat this tree!”

The word shaker, who could only just make out the man’s sentences, replied with a whisper. She handed it down through the branches. “No thank you,” she said, for she Knew that it was only herself who was holding the tree upright.

No one Knew how long it had taken, but one afternoon, a new axman walked into town. His bag looked too heavy for him. His eyes dragged. His feet drooped with exhaustion. “The tree,” he asked the people. “Where is the tree?”

An audience followed him, and when he arrived, clouds had covered the highest regions of the branches. The word shaker could hear the people calling out that a new axman had come to put an end to her vigil.

“She will not come down,” the people said, “for anyone.”

They did not Know who the axman was, and they did not Know that he was undeterred.

He opened his bag and pulled out something much smaller than an ax.

The people laughed. They said, “You can’t chop a tree down with an old hammer!”

The young man did not listen to them. He only looked through his bag for some nails. He placed three of them in his mouth and attempted to hammer a fourth one into the tree. The first branches were now extremely high and he estimated that he needed four nails to use as footholds to reach them.

“Look at this idiot,” roared one of the watching men. “No one else could chop it down with an ax, and this fool thinks he can do it with—”

The man fell silent.

The first nail entered the tree and was held steady after five blows. Then the second went in, and the young man started to climb.

By the fourth nail, he was up in the arms and continued on his way. He was tempted to call out as he did so, but he decided against it.

The climb seemed to last for miles. It took many hours for him to reach the final branches, and when he did, he found the word shaker asleep in her blankets and the clouds.

He watched her for many minutes. The warmth of the sun heated the cloudy rooftop. He reached down, touching her arm, and the word shaker woke up. She rubbed her eyes, and after a long study of his face, she spoke.

“Is it really you?”

Is it from your cheek, she thought, that I took the seed?

The man nodded.

His heart wobbled and he held tighter to the branches. “It is.”

Together, they stayed in the summit of the tree. They waited for the clouds to disappear, and when they did, they could see the rest of the forest.

“It wouldn’t stop growing,” she explained.

“But neither would this.” The young man looked at the branch that held his hand. He had a point.

When they had looked and talked enough, they made their way back down. They left the blankets and remaining food behind.

The people could not believe what they were seeing, and the moment the word shaker and the young man set foot in the world, the tree finally began to show the ax marks. Bruises appeared. Slits were made in the trunk and the earth began to shiver.

“It’s going to fall!” a young woman screamed. “The tree is going to fall!” She was right. The word shaker’s tree, in all its miles and miles of height, slowly began to tip. It moaned as it was sucked to the ground. The world shook, and when everything finally settled, the tree was laid out among the rest of the forest. It could never destroy all of it, but if nothing else, a different-colored path was carved through it.

The word shaker and the young man climbed up to the horizontal trunk. They navigated the branches and began to walk. When they looked back, they noticed that the majority of onlookers had started to return to their own places. In there. Out there. In the forest.

But as they walked on, they stopped several times, to listen. They thought they could hear voices and words behind them, on the word shaker’s tree.

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“Did you read it?” she asked, but she did not look at me. Her eyes were fixed to the words.

I nodded. “Many times.”

“Could you understand it?”

And at that point, there was a great pause.

A few cars drove by, each way. Their drivers were Hitlers and Hubermanns, and Maxes, killers, Dillers, and Steiners. . . .

I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race—that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.

None of those things, however, came out of my mouth.

All I was able to do was turn to Liesel Meminger and tell her the only truth I truly know. I said it to the book thief and I say it now to you.

A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR

I am haunted by humans.

Today I Read…I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!

I Ain't Gonna Paint No MoreToday I read I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! written by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by David Catrow.

Mama caught me paintin’ pictures on the floor and the ceiling and the walls and everywhere else, so she took my paints away and made me take a bath. ICK! She says I can’t paint no more. And I won’t after…

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The grammar is atrocious, particularly when Mama hollers “YA AIN’T A-GONNA PAINT NO MORE!”, but kids will get a kick out of singing the repeated lines along. This book really needs the rhymes to be sung, especially the lines “I ain’t gonna paint no more, no more, I ain’t gonna paint no more.” The rhymes can also be used to teach children the different body parts that the little boy paints. This is emphasized by the words for the body parts being set aside from the rest of the lettering and being in a much larger font, as well as the accompanying illustration focusing on said body part.

The illustrations nicely compliment the story, especially how everything in the house is black and white except for the little boy’s paint. The painting is certainly creative, even if the adult reader may want to slip in a reminder not to paint on furniture, body parts, or anything else that adults would disapprove of getting painted. The reader can encourage the children in the audience to point at the body parts named and to go along with the action, such as making faces along with the little boy during the dreaded baths.

This book is suitable for reading to younger children, especially preschoolers.

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Today I Read…Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again

Humpty Dumpty Climbs AgainToday I read Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again, written and illustrated by Dave Horowitz.

Humpty Dumpty used to love climbing–until he had that great fall and cracked himself wide open. The doctor told him to be more careful, but now Humpty is too afraid to climb, or do anything other than sit around in his underwear watching television. But then one day the King’s favourite horse gets stuck up a wall–who will be brave enough to go and rescue him?

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This is a lovely continuation of the nursery rhyme, beginning with someone finally being sensible enough to call a doctor to put Humpty Dumpty back together again–though did not one of the king’s horses or the king’s men have any first aid training? The Health and Safety committee is falling down on their job too, I’d say. There are some nice references to other nursery rhymes too, such as including the Dish and the Spoon, the laughing Little Dog, and the scary Spider. The illustrations are large, bright, simple, and add some funny, if immature, jokes that will entertain kids. For example, when Humpty is broken, one of the king’s men holds up a piece of Humpty and asks “What is this?” and the other king’s man says “I think it’s his butt.” The adults reading it will laugh at the king’s men bemoaning “Oh the humanity” when Milt the horse is stuck on the wall, and when Humpty promises never to climb without safety equipment or pants again. There’s also some nice details in Humpty’s house, with photographs on the wall of him climbing lots of different mountains.

This book is probably more for an adult to read to a child–all of the words are the same size and set in short paragraphs, and some of the vocabulary might be a bit difficult for a beginning reader. Most kids will recognize the different nursery rhymes referenced, so the adult reader can use those to draw connections between books, and to demonstrate how stories can continue outside of the single text–what happens next after “they all lived happily ever after.” It can also be used to point out that just because something bad happens is no reason to quit doing something you love–just be more careful in the future. And always wear pants. Pants are important.

Today I Read…Return of the Library Dragon

Return of the Library DragonToday I read Return of the Library Dragon, written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Michael P. White.

Miss Lotty, the beloved librarian at Sunrise Elementary School, is retiring! The children are worried, but Miss Lotty promises that the new librarian will read to the little kids and dress up in costumes and take care of the books just like she did.

But there are strange things happening in the library. Mike Krochip, the new guy from IT, has taken away all the books! He says it’s going to be a cybrary! With ebooks and MePods and lots of computers! The children say they’d like their books back, but some of those gadgets are pretty cool…Oh no! Miss Lotty isn’t putting up with THIS nonsense! Everyone look out! LOTTA SCALES THE LIBRARY DRAGON IS BACK!

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This is a nice story about the need for balance between library traditions like paper books and costumes and the need for innovative technologies. The children explain to Mike Krochip (warning! bad puns!) that paper books have a valued physical presence–that you can share books with friends, that you can read the same book with your grandmother that her grandmother read to her, that different books look and feel different. As Milo says “If you’ve never really loved a book, maybe nobody can explain it to you.” But Mike points out that you can have 10,000 books in one device, and a fourth-grader says that the MePod is awesome. Molly, the new librarian and an old friend of Miss Lotty, says it best “I love technology too. But our kids need a library where they can UNPLUG, for the love of books.” The last page of the book shows Molly using a computer to check out a book, and Mike Krochip wearing a funny hat and reading a book to a couple of children. There is a sign on the circulation desk saying “Tomorrow is Technology Free Tuesday- Unplug it or Lose it!” This implies that during the rest of the week, technology is welcome in Molly’s library, but sometimes it’s time to unplug and go offline. Apparently this is a sequel–now I think I have to track down the first book, The Library Dragon.

There’s a lot of tension in the library world right now over technology and how much and which kinds and how to integrate it into library services. Most librarians that I talk to are really enthusiastic about it–the theme for the OLA Super Conference next year is A Universe of Possibilities (which I actually proposed at the 2013 conference, though I think I used the phrase An Out of This World Library Experience). Technology can do some really cool things–TumbleBooks lets kids read along with ebooks, SmallDemons is neat reader’s advisory tool, I’ve talked about my love for my Kobo, things like the 50 Book Pledge and Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter, podcasting, WordPress and other blogs–it’s so easy now to share your world. And isn’t that the point of books? To share what you think with other people? To teach, to entertain, to take a journey and say to the reader “Come with me–let’s see where we end up?” I do love my books, and I miss them terribly now that most of them are packed away in storage until I have the space for them again (and I’m sure that they miss me too), but it is so convenient to have so many books on my laptop, that I can carry around on my ereader so I always have something to read with me. But it’s not the first edition copy of Triptych that my friend J.M. Frey signed for me. It’s not the copy of Peter David’s Q-in-Law that I had to tape the cover back on because I read it so many times. It’s not the bright cover of Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein that snagged my attention this past weekend at the bookstore. It’s not the copy of James Blish’s Spock Must Die! that I might have borrowed from my mother about 20 years ago and kinda sorta deliberately forgot to give back. It’s definitely not the 2 handwritten pages of family births, deaths and marriages from the mid-1800s that my aunt found in her basement last year. And technology definitely won’t the same as plunking my baby niece down in my lap and letting her chew on a board book of fairy tales–she doesn’t understand the stories yet, but one day she will.

There’s some thought that technology will replace books–there was recently an article in the Toronto Star about a boy who can’t sign his name to his passport because kids are no longer being taught handwriting in schools, just typing. A couple of years ago the Windsor Catholic School Board decided to get rid of their libraries and turn them into a learning commons area where kids could do research and engage in digital literacy. The kids and the parents protested and the decision was reversed. What the future of the library should be is a hotly debated subject in the public sphere right now, and all of the people involved are very passionate about their opinions. Return of the Library Dragon is a good explanation of the debate for both kids and adults–enthusiasm and moderation, tradition and innovation balanced. Just beware the librarian when you threaten the library–I hear she’s a real dragon!