Archive for the 'Books' Category

Virtual Advent Tour: Holiday book memories

Today’s post is part of Kailana and Marg’s 2013 Virtual Advent Tour, in which bloggers take turns sharing a holiday-related post each day in December, leading up to Christmas. I participated in 2011, but somehow I missed the tour last year.

This year I want to write about some beloved holiday books from my childhood. It might be a little difficult, because all my books are packed away in storage at the moment. (I moved! But I’m staying with a friend for now. All this is related to why I haven’t blogged since October — eek!) Nevertheless, I’m doing this based on memories, not as full-scale reviews.

Jingle Bugs

Beloved holiday book #1: Jingle Bugs by David A. Carter

This is the book that started my love and collection of pop-up books. I was in second grade the year it came out, and Mrs. Thompson read it to our entire class. With the cute little bugs hiding in Christmas trees and other presents  — plus the light-up tree at the end that plays a “Jingle Bugs” tune — this book instantly shot to the top of my Christmas list. My brother gave it to me and its magic captivated me for years. I accumulated other pop-up bug books by Carter, but this one remained the best.

santa

Beloved holiday book #2: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

I discovered this lesser-known by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author in my middle school library. In it, Santa is an abandoned child raised by a wood nymph. Eventually he must find his own way in the world and grows from carving toys for youngsters to the once-a-year joy bringer we all knew and loved as kids. The fanciful creatures and chance to see Santa as a person with a dynamic history pull you right into this enchanting “history.”

In addition to my first encounter with this book (and subsequent annual readings), I have another special memory about it. Just before Christmas in 2006, when Andrew and were on the verge of dating, he mailed his copy of this book to me. One of our bonds was over continued delight in our imaginations, and it was such a dear gift (plus a much cooler copy than mine) that I donated my copy and never told him I’d read it before! The letter he wrote with it is still in the book, and right now I’m really wishing I had kept it out of from the books that went into storage last month.

What holiday books did you love as a child? Do you have any non-Christmas holiday favorites? Later this week I’ll share two holiday picture books I’ve been digging as an adult. Ones about Ramadan!

Characters along the way

I don’t have a great desire to be a novelist, but as I do my job as a small-town reporter I am building a brain bank of book-ready characters. I collect people’s idiosyncrasies and mannerisms in my mind like a button collector collects…well, buttons.

I also felt this way when I worked for my brother at the Georgia Renaissance Festival. Perhaps I should start a consulting business in which I share the characters I’ve met throughout the country/world with aspiring authors.

Marlene Carrier, a.k.a. The Button Lady

Marlene Carrier, age 78, introduced herself to me as “The Button Lady.” Her son, who is now 54, started collecting buttons when Barry Goldwater ran for president. Marlene starting making buttons when her friend Tom Ridge ran for Pennsylvania governor. She sells political buttons at fairs and Republican State Committee events. She’s even had some in the Smithsonian museum. “I’ve done it all in politics but this is the most fun,” Marlene told me. Photo taken at National Night Out in Duncannon, Aug. 2012.

 

Frankenstein (A Monstrous Parody) book trailer

Did you know there’s such a thing as book trailers? Yes, like movie trailers, but for books! I only learned this recently and wanted to share an example of one that has definitely made me want to go read this book, which is “a monstrous parody” of Ludwig Bemelmans’s Madeline.

How to get kids excited about reading

Be passionate. Be creative. Be so committed you will even jump on desks shouting “I LOVE READING!” to get their attention.

In other words, be like this guy:

It’s Banned Books Week!

Go check out some of the most frequently challenged books and leave me a comment about one of your favorites on the list. Why do you love it? When did you read it? Did it make you think differently about yourself or the world?

If you’re a teacher or librarian try these suggestions for highlighting banned books in schools!

Finally, though this week is a good way to celebrate the First Amendment, critical thinking and the freedom to read,  it’s important to remember the problems that banning books brings to individuals and communities. In this episode of Brain Burps about Books podcast, Amy Timberlake and Adam Rex share their feelings after their picture book The Dirty Cowboy was banned in a Lebanon County, PA school district. (Not too far from me, in fact.)

Censorship is a complicated topic and what makes Banned Books Books Week worth celebrating is the chance to have conversations about why censorship happens and how it affects people and society. So go on, tell me about one of your favorite banned books! Later in the week I’ll upload a video of myself reading one of my own favorites.

July BAND: Upcoming Nonfiction

This month at the Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees, Zohar of Man of La Book asks, what upcoming nonfiction books are you excited about?

My answer to this is brief because I’m not that up on what books are coming out soon. (Related question for nonfiction devotees: how do you know about new or forthcoming books? Is there a secret world of book trailers/previews I don’t know about?)

Coincidentally, I just started following the blog of Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings and by doing so, I learned that he will have a new book out in January 2013. Because I Said So! will debunk myths and warnings that adults pass on to children over generations. As someone who works with kids and tries to avoid “because I said so,” comments, this book sounds like a fun read to me!

June BAND: Bias and self-reflexivity

This month’s Bloggers’ Alliance of Nonfiction Devotees is hosted by Marilyn of Me, You, and Books. She asks,

When is an author’s subjective response to a subject not a bias but a legitimate perspective? What non-fiction have you read where an author’s feelings enhance your understanding?

This is a strange question for me to answer, because I don’t consider any written text to be unbiased, though I don’t use the term biased all that much.

In the early days of academic anthropology, when researchers went to colonized lands to “observe the natives,” anthropologists wrote as if they were the Authority on their subject. They described and analyzed so-called primitive cultures as static units, not acknowledging the influence of their own presence on what they observed, much less the effects of colonialism on the societies and lives they analyzed.

Continue reading ‘June BAND: Bias and self-reflexivity’

Quote of the Week

I don’t like the attitude that someone else can judge the content of a book for me, and I don’t prejudge books for my students. I do, however, insist that we look at what is read from a critical point of view and weigh the multiple components that shape personal responses to complex works of literature. -Herbert Kohl

I just picked up Should We Burn Babar? again (I started reading this collection of essays last summer) and once again I’m wishing Herbert Kohl were my friend. Reading his work gives me equally strong desire to be teaching my own class and intimidation that I couldn’t provoke the level of critical thinking he did in children of all ages.

Quote of the Week

The fundamental thing is that adults categorize things into important, not very important, trivial, nonsense. Children don’t. So, President Obama’s latest speech is as worthy of attention as a fly and what the fly is doing.
-Roddy Doyle

I recently read Roddy Doyle‘s young adult novel, Greyhound of a Girl and listened to a podcast interview with him from the Guardian children’s books website. I thought this quote was spot on. It also reminded me of a great blog post, “Honey Nut Cheerio Childhood,” by my friend Sylvia.

Classroom Values: Encouraging confidence and competence

I’m reading a book called Working in the Reggio Way, about a lauded educational model from Reggio Emilia, Italy. In the introduction, author Julianne P. Wurm encourages teachers reading her book to ask questions about the classroom environment, routines, and curriculum planning. All of these aspects reflect our values and beliefs about children, teaching, learning, and society.

This idea resonates with me because this is the way I look at the broader world, too. The physical space around us, the ways we fill it, as well as the ways we act, all have meaning within a cultural system.

My ability to understand educational settings from that perspective is a huge part of why I like working for Head Start. For example, when I go into classrooms and see that materials are accessible and available to children, it’s clear to me that I’m in a space where children are considered capable of making choices and encouraged to explore different skills/modes of playing. That’s the type of space in which I want to teach.

One of the benefits of being a substitute teacher is the chance to see many other educators in practice. Head Start classes have two teachers, so I’m always with another adult. In new classrooms I make mental lists of habits and tricks I want to incorporate into my repertoire. My understanding of the values and purpose behind some of these preschool practices doesn’t come as intuitively to all adults, though. Occasionally I’ve been in classrooms where the absence of positive qualities from other locations flashes like a neon sign that only I can see.

Continue reading ‘Classroom Values: Encouraging confidence and competence’


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