Archive for March, 2011

Friday Snippets

March 25, 2011 @ 4:51 pm | Filed under: ,

Over at the RIF blog, Carol Rasco reminds us that it’s cherry-blossom season, rather a bittersweet time this year with all Japan is suffering. There’s a new book out by Andrea Zimmerman I’m keen to read, about Eliza Scidmore, the woman responsible for bringing the cherry trees to Washington, DC: Eliza’s Cherry Trees: Japan’s Gift to America (illustrated by Ju-Hong Chen). I spent quite a bit of time in DC during my college years and I have marveled at those lovely pink avenues in spring.

Your comments on last week’s Rillabooks posts have greatly informed our library list this week: thanks to you, we’ve enjoyed Not a Stick, Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat (a whimsical retro delight), and Cowboy & Octopus. About that latter: Rilla and I read it together curled up in my bed. When I got to the bit where Cowboy tells Octopus what he truly thinks of Octopus’s hat—his opinion is a wee bit scatological, you understand—I heard a peal of laughter from down the hall. Seems Rose and Beanie had been listening in all the way from their room. I think you know a book’s a success when it sucks in an audience from rooms away.

(Thank you to Joann, Cate, and Ellie for the suggestions!)

Other Rilla-reading:
My Naughty Little Sister, chapter 1 (thanks, Kathryn)
• Scott finished reading her My Father’s Dragon
Grumpy Bird several more times

Kidlit4Japan auctions to benefit tsunami victims

March 24, 2011 @ 2:58 pm | Filed under:

I meant to post this link earlier in the week—Children’s Authors and Illustrators for Japan.

For three weeks, beginning on March 21st, Kidlit4Japan will feature a children’s and YA literature auction to benefit the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. A Daily Auction Preview will appear each weekday morning at 8AM EDT. New items will appear at least hourly from 9AM to 4PM. Items include signed books, advance reader copies, artwork, critiquing services, book-related swag, author visits, or the chance to name a character in an upcoming book.

For example, author Kathryn Erskine is offering signed copies of her books Mockingbird (which I loved) and Quaking and an ARC of The Absolute Value of Mike, plus assorted other goodies. Quite a tempting package, I must say!

I have donated something as well: I’m offering a set of signed paperback copies of my Martha books—Little House in the Highlands, The Far Side of the Loch, Down to the Bonny Glen, and Beyond the Heather Hills. I raided my private stash for these and I hope they’ll find a happy home! I’ll let you know when my auction begins; I think I’m in the third week.

Do pop over and look at the other items being offered. Besides books, there are manuscript critiques and more. It’s quite heartening to see so many children’s/YA publishing folks come together for an effort like this. Special props to Greg Fishbone, who is organizing the whole thing.

Comments are off


In Demand

March 23, 2011 @ 3:41 pm | Filed under: ,

Today: My Very First Mother Goose, the Iona Opie/Rosemary Wells collaboration. A gift from my sister when Jane was tiny, so thoroughly loved by all six children overlappingly and in succession that the binding is cracked and peeling. Huck carts this one (and its companion, the red one, called something like “More Mother Goose” or “My Very Second Mother Goose” and yes, I’m being lazy) all around the house, loving on it, talking to the bunnies and cats, naming the nice big initial letters. Today Rilla chose it for our “quiet reading time” (it is seldom very quiet) and she basically read/recited the whole darn book to me, bearing out Charlotte Mason’s theories about using nursery rhymes to teach reading without actually teaching.

Also: selected poems from Milne’s When We Were Very Young.

Yesterday: Dinosaur vs. Bedtime at least a dozen times. And then three or four more rounds with Huck. This was one of my favorites from the Cybils nominees two years ago, and it is enjoying renewed popularity now that Huck is prime dinosaur material.

I can’t remember if we read anything but Dino v. Bed yesterday, but then again it kind of dominated the whole day, didn’t it? ROAR! DINOSAUR WINS!

The day before that: Diary of a Fly, another repeat request, and I know everyone already loves Doreen Cronin’s hilarious insect diaries so I won’t say much beyond: Cronin’s a riot and Harry Bliss’s art is a delight. I especially love the way this book and its mates (Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider) suck my older kids in too and engender such animated discussion afterward. Same goes for Click Clack Moo, which, as someone pointed out on my Goodreads page recently, provides a most excellent jumping-off point for talking about collective bargaining rights.

And finally, two books I pretty much need to mark down for every day this past week: Grumpy Bird and Boo Hoo Bird, both by Jeremy Tankard of Me Hungry fame. I was so enchanted with Tankard’s art in Me Hungry that I absolutely had to track down more of his work. The two bird books do not disappoint. The crabby-face of Grumpy Bird—who wakes up one day too grumpy to fly—actually makes us laugh out loud. We’ve seen that face around here before. Great twist at the end, too. I probably can’t say anything that tops Huck’s endorsement, though. I snuck some video of him ‘reading’ these books after dinner the other night and if I get my act together I’ll try and post it. Made me laugh.

Neither a bird, nor grumpy.

Super Moon Books

March 22, 2011 @ 3:58 pm | Filed under: ,

If I really had it together, I’d have pulled some of these books out last week in anticipation of the Supermoon. Truth is, I didn’t even think of these in connection with Saturday’s moon until, well, just now. I did think, sometime Sunday afternoon, Ooh, we should read Owl Moon to Rilla and Wonderboy, but I forgot about thinking that until just now.

What did happen is I was hunting for a package of address labels I thought I’d stashed on a shelf in Wonderboy’s room (which doubles as Scott’s office), and although I didn’t find the labels, I found half a dozen picture books I really love and don’t remember reading in the past year. I gave up my label hunt, addressed the darn package by hand, and snagged Rilla for a readaloud.

That accounts for the first two books in this post. The third one is a quiet marvel of a book and we met it for the first time the weekend before last, when my perfectly scrumptious wee goddaughter came for a visit.

But first:

Little Bird and the Moon Sandwich by Linda Berkowitz.

This, along with its companion, Alphonse, Where Are You?, has enchanted each one of my children in turn. I actually kind of squealed when I found it yesterday because I hadn’t seen it in a while and I knew Rilla wouldn’t remember it and it’s such a delight to share it for another first time. Alphonse the goose is the friend and protector of Little Bird. They gaze at the great round moon together, and Alphonse remarks that it’s made of swiss cheese, and Little Bird would like to eat it but alas, it’s glued to the sky. Except—they round a bend and there’s the big swiss-cheese moon floating in the pond. All the geese crowd around, commencing a frenzy of splashing and diving, and though their efforts don’t capture the moon, they do dredge up a swiss cheese sandwich—and if it weren’t for Alphonse, Little Bird would be left without so much as a nibble. I love the gentle interplay between the big goose and the little one, and I wish I had a record of Rilla’s deep chuckle the first time she heard the words “moon sandwich.”

When Moon Fell Down by Linda Smith, illustrated by Kathryn Brown.

It’s funny how you connect books with the people who introduced them to you. Just as I always think of my friend Joan when I read one of the Alphonse and Little Bird books—I think she was the editor of them, and I know they were, like Brave Georgie Goat, gifts from her—my original Little House editor, the great Alix Reid, comes to mind every time I pick up When Moon Fell Down. “You’re going to love this one, Lissa,” she told me. “It’s one of my favorite books I ever worked on.”


fell upon a farmer’s lawn,
rolled about in sheer delight
on fields he’d only shined upon.”

Before long he encounters—who else?—a cow, and the two of them take off for a stroll through town. Moon has never seen the world from this vantage point before; until now, he “didn’t know a horse had knees.” There’s a lush, hushed, magical quality to this book—and thinking over past Rillabooks entries, I think that’s something I’m often drawn to in a picture book, partly because the magic holds my little ones rapt. This art is, well, luminous, and the combination of whimsy and wonder seems to appeal to the children just as much as it does to me.

Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes.

I’m a big Kevin Henkes fan but somehow I’d missed this book until my pal Kristen pulled it out of her bag last weekend! It’s a great favorite of my little goddaughter, who is just eighteen months old, and Huck and Rilla swooped in upon it immediately. The black-and-white art is magnificent. Like Little Bird above, Kitten spies the big white moon and wants a taste. It looks, after all, just like a gigantic saucer of milk. Kitten climbs a tree, splashes in a pond, tries everything to get to that bowl, to no avail…We were almost as sad to say goodbye to Kitten as we were to Vivi and her parents. This is a book I might just have to add to our collection.

(Which is funny because as godmother, I consider it one of my responsibilities to help curate Vivi’s collection. But on this visit, it was Vivi who introduced us to two keepers. The other was Not a Box by Antoinette Portis, which I keep wanting to rave about here. I fell madly in love with that book. I mean like A Visitor for Bear level, The Maggie B. level, Christina Katerina level—that last is a particularly apt comparison, as you’ll see if you check it out. It’s the kind of deceptively simple artistry that really takes massive talent to pull off, and it speaks so exactly to a child’s sensibility. “What are you doing in that box?” asks the narrator. “It’s NOT a box!” replies the bunny, blasting off in its spaceship.)

(Here, I was going to save it for another post, but now that I’ve gushed about it this much I might as well show you the cover. Only you’ve all seen it already, I bet. I don’t know how I missed it. I mean, look, it’s got the Geisel honor medal! Where’ve I been?)

Now I’ve gone and blown my whole moon theme. This is what happens, though; one book leads to another. I suppose the common thread for all the books in this post is that they came to us by way of dear friends. We can pretend that’s what I was going for the whole time.

Oh but I was going to mention two other moon books we love but haven’t read in a while…I mentioned Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon at the top of this post, and When Moon Fell Down reminded me of The Moon Jumpers, a strange and lyrical little book by Janice May Udry, gorgeously illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I remember Rilla going through a Moon Jumpers attachment about six months ago, but I haven’t seen it in a while. This might be the week to pull it back off the shelf.

I don’t know who gave us those two books. I think I bought Owl Moon when I worked at a children’s bookstore, or if not I bought it because it was part of Before Five in a Row or something. The Moon Jumpers, I must have just picked up myself because I loved the art. I really am crazy about all that early Sendak work.

“You can make it with think.”

March 22, 2011 @ 9:51 am | Filed under:

“A lamp’s no good without a dressed-up picture.” And Gregory added bitterly, “It was a fool thing to think of giving her one.”

“It wasn’t,” said Janet, and Gregory lifted his head. He did not often let his young sister contradict him.

“It was, if I can’t make it,” said Gregory.

“You can make it.”

“How can I make it without any money?”

“You can make it with think,” said Janet.

It was not what she meant to say, yet oddly it said what she meant.

“How can you make things with think?” asked Gregory. He said it scornfully, but now he came to consider it, that is how things are made.

It was as if Janet had opened a little door in his mind, a door that had been shut, and once again he glimpsed the picture.

From Rumer Godden’s The Kitchen Madonna, that jewel of a book.

Oh, Rats

March 21, 2011 @ 1:02 pm | Filed under:

Scott and I slipped away for a little while yesterday, just the two of us. First a visit to Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego’s famous science fiction/fantasy bookstore, beloved of many an author and reader. I found about seventeen books I was dying to buy. (I didn’t buy seventeen books.)

Then we hit one of my favorite spots in the city: Mitsuwa Marketplace, the Japanese grocery that carries a certain chewy yogurt-based candy I adore. And just a Staples away is a cavernous used book-and-CD store that always rewards one’s search with a treasure or two.

We wound up with two Diane Duane novels for Jane, a Robin Hobbs I’ve been wanting to read, a Suzanne Vega CD, my yogurty candy with the regrettable name, and a box of Pocky. A good haul indeed.

Our plan was to wrap up our date with a late lunch at In-N-Out Burger—oh how those savory grilled onions were calling to me. But as we were finishing up at Book-Off, the kids called from home. There was a rat in the bird feeder. As in, STUCK in the tube feeder, face squished against the glass. He had pried the lid off and fallen in. In broad daylight? Or had he been there all night? In either case, ewww.

So we bailed on the burgers (somehow we weren’t quite as ravenous anymore anyway) and hurried home to face the rat. I mean, besides the enormous ew factor there was the quandary of what to DO with the varmint. Set him free? Certainly his suffering, squished in that narrow cylinder for house, was unpleasant to contemplate. But liberating a rat has ramifications. Clearly the bird feeders have got to be retired for a while, and this is a blow: I love my wee sparrows and finches. But if the birdseed has become an attraction for rats, that’s a problem. And setting a rat free in your backyard seems an altogether imprudent form of encouragement. Then again, what’s the alternative? Kill it in cold blood? My blood runs cold just thinking about it.

Fortunately we were spared the decision: while we were hiding in the house deliberating, the rat managed to unsquish itself and squirm out of its prison. It has disappeared and is probably off somewhere writing a post about its terrifying adventure on the rodent equivalent of Facebook. Dudes, you will not believe what happened to me at the In-N-Out Bird Feeder today!

Sunday Links: Gesundheit!

March 20, 2011 @ 6:57 am | Filed under:

Because the world can’t get enough of babies grinning big gummy smiles: here’s a clip that’s making the rounds this week. Mommy’s nose-blowing is the scariest thing ever—no wait, the funniest—no wait, the scariest—no, wait…

HT Scott, as usual

What happens when computers stop shrinking?—Salon

Moore’s law, a rule of thumb that has driven the computer industry for fifty or more years, setting the pace for modern civilization like clockwork. Moore’s law simply says that computer power doubles about every eighteen months. According to Moore’s law, every Christmas your new computer games are almost twice as powerful (in terms of the number of transistors) as those from the previous year. Furthermore, as the years pass, this incremental gain becomes monumental. For example, when you receive a birthday card in the mail, it often has a chip that sings “Happy Birthday” to you. Remarkably, that chip has more computer power than all the Allied forces of 1945. Hitler, Churchill, or Roosevelt might have killed to get that chip. But what do we do with it? After the birthday, we throw the card and chip away. Today, your cell phone has more computer power than all of NASA back in 1969, when it placed two astronauts on the moon. Video games, which consume enormous amounts of computer power to simulate 3-D situations, use more computer power than mainframe computers of the previous decade. The Sony PlayStation of today, which costs $300, has the power of a military supercomputer of 1997, which cost millions of dollars.

Oregon Trail: how three Minnesotans forged its path

Rawitsch, a lanky, bespectacled 21-year-old with hair well over his ears, was both a perfectionist and an idealist. He started dressing as historical figures in an attempt to win over his students, appearing in the classroom as explorer Meriwether Lewis.

By now he’d made it through to the western expansion unit, and he had in mind his boldest idea yet.

What he had so far was a board game tracing a path from Independence, Missouri, to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The students would pretend to be pioneer families. Each player would start with a certain amount of money and buy oxen, clothes, and food. Students would advance with the roll of a die, along the way encountering various misfortunes: broken limbs, thieves, disease. In roughly 12 turns, the kids would simulate the 2,000-mile journey that thousands of pioneers made to the West Coast in the 19th century.

He called it “Oregon Trail.”

Oregon Trail, as it happens, was one of the first things I ever wrote about on this blog. It still gets played around here from time to time (and awaits the day our younger set will discover it).