Books and Reading
It happens all the time. You’re sitting in the movie theater with your friends, waiting for the show to start. The screen goes green with a preview message, then suddenly blasts alive with a trailer for an upcoming movie. It’s all over in less than a minute, but you know by that time that either a)you have to see it and are already mentally marking your calendar for the release date, or b) it looks like another lame romantic comedy/action-thriller/horror flick you’ve seen a hundred times before and you’re not wasting your money on that.
But what if you had the chance to tell the story? Oftentimes, a good trailer can make even a lame movie seem pretty appealing. People across the country, especially teens, are being given the chance to do just that, but for books through book trailer contests. And, because so many books are being turned into movies these days, it’s easy to find creative fodder for the aspiring teen film directors out there.
Bastille Day (July 14) provides a great excuse for sharing a few French-flavored books. Ludwig Bemelmans’ “Madeline” series, set in Paris, is just the thing for preschoolers. The rhymed story about “twelve little girls in two straight lines,” the daring Madeline (”to the tiger in the zoo Madeline just said ‘Pooh-pooh’”), and the dramatic appendicitis attack in the middle of the night (“Miss Clavel turned on her light and said, ‘Something is not right!’”) makes a read-aloud that children will ask for over and over.
Just listen! Barbara Kingsolver has earned a world-wide reputation for her writing, but who knew she is a fantastic reader as well? Her performance of her newest novel, The Lacuna, kept me looking for errands to run so that I could hop back in the car to hear more. The 16 CDs brought the story to life in a way I doubt I would have appreciated in reading the words without her voice in my head.
The book jacket blurb summarizes the plot:
"BK takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J.Edgar Hoover ... a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identity."
True enough, but doesn't get at the nuances of character development Kingsolver accomplishes in her extended portrait of protagonist Harrison Shepherd and the people impacting his life.
Harrison Shepherd is a writer, following from boyhood that compulsion common to many writers to chronicle their days. Year in and year out Shepherd fills notebooks comprising a detailed journal of his life. How we come to read those journals and empathize with the writer and move with him from the "interesting times" he experiences in mid-1950s Asheville, North Carolina, back to his coming of age in Mexico is to acknowledge writer Kingsolver's extraordinary skill in structuring her narrative. On paper, the novel is 500 pages long, yet the tension as the story develops keeps the reader [or listener] hooked. As her protagonist says, more than once, "the most important part of the story is the piece of it you don't know" --- until the end!
January 30, 1649, was chosen to be King Charles’ death day. Among the sober observers were tall, flaxen-haired Gideon Jukes, musketeer and spy for Cromwell’s New Army, and lovely Juliana Lovell, the still loyal though seemingly abandoned wife of a Cavalier officer.
by Jacob Puckett, an 11 year-old guest reviewer
I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old." (Excerpt from Chapter 1)
Take one poor but resourceful young woman from any number of Gothic romances; mix her with the wise governess from Eva Ibbotson’s “Journey to the River Sea;” fold in the Victorian flavor of Joan Aiken’s “Wolves of Willoughby Chase” series; add just a hint of Lemony Snicket’s narrator from “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” and you’ve got it: Maryrose Wood’s new series, “The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place.”
The first book, “The Mysterious Howling,” introduces Miss Penelope Lumley, a fifteen-year-old graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. The governess position at Ashton Place sounds appealing to her, especially the notice that experience with animals is strongly preferred. But to her astonishment, the animals in question are the three children she is to care for. Raised by wolves and found in the woods by Lord Ashton, Alexander, Cassiopeia and Beowulf drape themselves in animal skins and communicate by howling. Under Miss Lumley’s tutelage, they soon learn to wear clothes, bathe and even make a stab at learning Latin.
"Log on to your imagination - that's the real internet - and you can access it just by opening a book." – Helen Cresswell
It’s high summer now, with the library’s summer reading clubs in full swing and the Fourth of July right around the corner. Marla Frazee’s award-winning picture book, “A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever,” captures the best of summer from a kid’s point of view.
James and Eamon are spending the week with James’s grandparents so they can attend nature camp. While Grandfather Bill tries his best to interest the boys in Antarctica, and Grandmother Pam fills them with banana waffles and ice cream sundaes, the boys enjoy all kinds of fun, most of it unrelated to nature camp. Identifying birds? They have more fun training their binoculars on each other’s freckles. Sleeping in the basement on the blow-up mattress, playing video games, and eating more banana waffles are the highlights of their week.
Children’s books are never too far from the minds of children’s librarians. On a recent hiking trip to the North Carolina mountains, a phrase from a children’s verse got stuck in my head: “We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one, it’s a beautiful day, we’re not scared!” Maybe our bear bells scared them away, but the black bears that populate the coves and ridges of the Nantahala National Forest never showed themselves to our group (thank goodness).
Having trouble picking a good book for the summer? Relax and let the diligent Cafe Book readers help you out! 450 students from eight middle schools across