Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Documentary

I was thrilled to discover this morning that a documentary has been made about Phillipe Petit's amazing tightrope walk between the towers of the World Trade Center on August 7, 1974.

You may know Petit's name from Mordecai Gerstein's Caldecott winning picture book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. And if you don't know the book, give it a try. It sums up Pettit's incredible feat perfectly and succinctly and it's my favorite picture book.

For more about the documentary and Phillipe Petit, see David Segal's article "Traversing the Towers In a Moment of Joy" in today's Washington Post. The film is currently playing at the Tribeca Film Festival. I can't wait until it comes to a theater near me.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My favorite books to read aloud

This weekend I volunteered to do a storytime for kids at a huge outdoor festival. It was quite a challenge because people were constantly coming and going. The kids ranged from babies to ten year olds. There was loud music playing in the background and there were tons of other events going on in the immediate vicinity. I had to shout to make myself heard.

Plus, I was right near an enormous tent where 50,000 free cupcakes were being handed out.

So, I had some competition.

What to do? I decided to use my all time favorite books, the ones that always work as read alouds, no matter what. I did some old classics, which was very effective because it drew in an audience, and I mixed it up with a couple of new favorites. Here are the magic books I used, and they attracted a crowd despite the strong allure of the cupcakes.
  • Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
  • Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow
  • Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberly
  • Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
  • Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett (the British edition)
  • The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone
  • The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
I've got a much longer list of books I use for storytimes at the store I work at, but that's a much quieter and calmer environment. I've got the books above memorized, and they've never failed me yet.

I'm not sure if this list would work for everyone, because each storyteller has their own style. My style works best with books that are funny and have audience participation.

I'm curious, if you do storytimes or read to kids (your kids or anyone else's), what books always work for you?

You want to know more about the cupcakes, don't you? There's more about them here and here and fabulous pictures here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Book club bliss

I've wanted to be in a book club for years, but have never been able to find one that reads children's literature. I finally stopped looking and started a book club myself.

We've had a few meetings so far, and it's been pure heaven. The DC Children's Literature Bookclub (DC Kidlit for short) is a terrific mixture of children's librarians, teachers, library school grad students, bloggers, authors and parents. The meetings have been insightful, thought provoking and a lot of fun. It's wonderful to be able to have in-depth conversations about good books with fellow children's book lovers.

If you live in the Washington DC area, (or are in town for a visit) you're welcome to join us. We read a book from a different genre each month. All meetings are on Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m. at the La Madeleine Bakery in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

Here's the upcoming reading list and schedule:
  • May 4- Early chapter book: The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
  • June 1- Juvenile fiction: The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
  • July 13- Non-fiction: We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson
  • September 7- Poetry: This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman
If you'd like to join the bookclub and vote on upcoming selections, e-mail me at: wizardwireless [at] gmail [dot] com, and I'll be happy to add you to the group's listserv.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The People in Pineapple Place

Every now and then I discover a fantastic book that I know I'll love forever. I found one today. It's called The People in Pineapple Place and was written by Anne Spencer Lindbergh (the daughter of Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh). It was originally published in 1982.

It's a fantasy set in Washington D.C. about a street of people that are only visible to newcomer August Brown. August gets frustrated that no one else can see the wonderful world he's found (wouldn't you?) but he has great adventures with the (mostly) invisible children of Pineapple Place.

Why did I love it so much? It's timeless and believable in the way a good fantasy should be. It's set in my hometown and I just loved the descriptions of places I know well, such as the National Gallery and the carousel at Glen Echo Park. The characters were endearing. It had a terrific ending. And, most importantly, I could see kids reading this book and loving it as much as I did.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Monkeying Around

I made a monkey of myself last week.

I drew the short straw had the opportunity to wear a costume as part of an event our store was participating in.

I think I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. No, I can't resist. I have to add captions.

Getting dressed.

Putting on the feet.

Adding the head.

Putting on the hands.

Taking off the head to help a customer.

Trying to have a serious conversation with a customer while wearing a giant monkey costume.

The complete outfit.

Off to greet the public.

Observations I made while I was Curious George:
  • It's hot in this thing.
  • I don't know how those people at Disney do it.
  • I can't see.
  • It's really hot.
  • It's very cute when kids run up and hug you.
  • You don't need to smile when someone takes a picture of you.
  • Did I mention that it's hot?
No one can make a monkey out of you if you do it yourself.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The power of being read to

The Kentucky Post has an inspiring article about prison inmates recording children's books on tape. The tapes get sent to the kids of the inmates, so that they can hear their fathers' voices (sometimes for the first time).

Monday, April 7, 2008

Do you remember...

...the first book you ever read?

Not the first book that was read to you (obviously), but the first book that you read all by yourself.

I do. It was a book called Susan's Special Summer by Joyce Boyle. I loved it because the main character had my name. It was one of my favorite books and my mom read it to me countless times. I remember being so excited the first time I could read it to myself. It took forever.... I just pulled it off my shelf and I see that it's 96 pages long... which was overwhelming at the time.

It's about a girl named Susan who spends the summer in a cottage with her parents before her baby brother is born. She explores the park near the cottage, has a wonderful encounter with a librarian, and gets to know her grandmother better. It also has a great map in the front of the book that I remember poring over. It may not sound exciting... but it was the book that helped me enter the world of reading (and that was exciting). It was published in 1954, has been out of print for a while and no one seems to have ever heard of it but me. It's got a special place in my heart and I remember every detail of it.

Do you remember that triumphant book where you finally cracked the code? If you do, I'd love to hear what it is.

Friday, April 4, 2008

I'll take picture books for $500, Alex

I'm a bookseller at an independent toy store. Or, perhaps I'm a permanent contestant on a game show called "Name That Children's Book!" It's hard to tell.

When I worked at a large independent bookstore, I frequently relied on the computer when someone asked me a question. I looked up authors and titles. I did subject searches. I checked if we had the book in stock. I found out what section it was shelved in.

The store I currently work at doesn't have a computerized inventory for books (because the computer program is set up to handle toys, not books). And, even if it did, I would rarely use it. I work primarily in the back of the store (where the books are) and the computer (which doubles as the cash register) is in the front of the store and is hard to access when it's busy (which is all the time).

As the book person, I constantly get asked questions from both customers and colleagues. Some are ones that you can't use a computer for: "what books would you recommend for a 3rd grade boy?" or "what's that book with the blue cover?" But, there are still plenty of straight children's literature trivia questions. Here's a few that I was asked yesterday.
  • "Who wrote Clementine?" Easy one. Sara Pennypacker. Orange and white cover, it's face-out in early chapter books. The sequel just came out in paperback.
  • "There's this book written in the early 1900's about two brothers... and one is always outsmarting the other." The Great Brain series by John Fitzgerald. Actually, the first book was written in the1960's but it's set at the turn of the 19th century. Look in juvenile fiction under F.
  • "Do you know the Jesse Bear book?" Yes. It's called Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy Carlstrom. It's in the paperback picture book section. I just reordered it. We should have it.
  • "The author of Amelia Bedelia wrote another series. What's it called?" Peggy Parish. Clues in the Woods. Mystery section.
  • "Where is Diary of a Worm?" Hardcover picture books, under C for Doreen Cronin. "Does it come in paperback?" Nope.
  • "Who's the author of Lentil?" Robert McCloskey. Red book. Paperback picture books. We have 3 copies.
  • "Do you have any books about pirates?" Sure. We even have a whole pirate section. They're right next to the dinosaur books.
I'm always surprised at what I remember. I don't always realize I know the answer until someone asks a question. And, it's wonderful when you can find the book that someone is looking for.

Now I have a question of my own. Is there a bonus round?

Oh, and don't forget to vote in the new poll.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What the Pigeon Wants

Mo Willems has written a new Pigeon book, that's being released today. In a brilliant marketing move, the publishers have kept part of the title a secret. In all the publicity material, the book is called "The Pigeon Wants a..."

What exactly, the pigeon wants, has been a matter of guesswork and the subject of a contest. And, I've got to applaud Hyperion for keeping it under wraps. The title wasn't in the spring 2008 catalog. There were no early samples available. Heck, the name of the book wasn't even on the packing list, and the books were turned upside down inside the box.

But, now the big moment has arrived, and after keeping the secret for 18 hours (since the box arrived at my store), I can tell you that the Pigeon wants a..... Puppy.

And I can also tell you that it's a lovely, funny book. Mo Willems uses the standard pigeon formula, but deviates a little, which works really well. This looks like a great read aloud book that doesn't require as much screaming as previous Pigeon books. Plus, in a surprise plot twist, the pigeon actually gets what he wants for once. I'm curious to hear what other people think about it.