Apr 21, 2008

Running Running

My sister, Bonney, is running the Boston Marathon today for the third time. I've always been right there, watching her progress at different points along the route, but this year we're keeping track vitually, and our images of the day come from webcasts. I've completed all these work tasks -- writing, phone calls, emails -- I've also had lunch and walked the dog, and my sister is still running. Running as part of the American Liver Foundation's Run for Research Team, running to raise funds and awareness of ALF's research efforts and especially running for difference live donor transplants made in her life. It's a great thing she's doing and I'm riveted by every update.
I thought I'd mention some books about marathons for kids, but you know what? There aren't many. There's a nonfiction picture book, The First Marathon: The Legend of Pheidippides by Susan Reynolds, published by Albert Whitman. I remember a photo in Sue Macy's terrific Winning Ways that showed a man going after Katherine Switzer, the first woman to officially enter Boston's race in 1967 (though it wasn't until 1972 that women were "allowed" to enter.)There must be more. Judging from the excited reaction I see from kids watching the marathon I think it would make a good story.

Apr 18, 2008

A New Look at Authors and Illustrators for Children

I hadn't been to the Authors and Illustrators for Children site for awhile so this was my first look at their redesign. It's great! I like it. I was led there by a post at Seven Impossible Things about a new campaign named This I Dream, art and essays of dreams for children. Essays by Viginia Ewuer Wolff and George Ella Lyon begin the series and you can see a list of future participants. Powerful stuff.

Apr 16, 2008

Nim's World

Last week we went to see the new movie, Nim's Island, based on Wendy Orr's book from a few years back. I loved the book and was anxious to see how it translated to film. Plus, I've been waiting about 30 years to see Jodie Foster in another kid's movie - but that's another story.

It was fabulous! VERY well done, well acted and quite true to the book, if memory serves. It really felt like those old live-action Disney movies I loved growing up - Escape to Witch Mountain, Candleshoe, Bedknobs and Broomsticks. I've missed those, and I love that Walden Media is doing such a great job with taking children's books and making movies of them. I have many suggestions for them if they'd like to contact me!

Yesterday the sequel to Nim's Island arrived - Nim at Sea (Knopf). Hooray! I sat right down and read it through. It had the same "touch" as the first one - action, humor, fun, adventure - and all the characters are back, too. It's great fun to see Nim leave the island and go out in the world, tasting hot chocolate and pizza for the first time and making friends her own age.

I love Kerry Millard's pictures, the interior black-and-white sketches that illustrate the story, too. They really add to the delight of the book.

Apr 14, 2008

On the Wing

Monarch and Milkweed
by Helen Frost and illus. by Leonid Gore
Atheneum/S & S, hardcover, $17.99
ages 4-8

A couple of years ago I did a project for an author who had written a children’s book about butterflies and so I have more than a passing knowledge of the many butterfly books out there, worthwhile and not so.
Monarch and Milkweed is special for many reasons – its story; the masterful pairing of text and art; the book’s design. Listen to the beginning – yes, read it out loud – “In a patch of dirt behind an old red barn,/ Milkweed stretches into warm spring air./ Its roots reach deep and wide,/ its stem points to the sky. (Next page) Monarch spreads her wings and rides the wind --/ past white and yellow daisies, across a creek,/ heading north.” And that lyricism continues throughout as the story describes the symbiotic relationship between host plant and butterfly, neither overshadowing the other. The illustrations of acrylic and pastels are mostly full page, with some spot art contributing to the book’s pleasing design, and in a larger-than-life scale that pulled me in. The natural colors are muted and there’s a textured effect (from the type of paper?) that I really liked. (The cover image distorts the color some.)
The author’s note tells us the story begins with the final generation on one northern journey and ends with a monarch in the next generation, as that monarch is leaving Mexico to begin the journey north the following spring. In addition, the endpapers illustrate the monarchs’ migration patterns north and south. Monarchs continue to fascinate us because of their beauty and mystery. While this title illuminates that mystery for young ones, it also retains some of nature’s wonder.

Apr 6, 2008

The Return of Anne-girl

I don't mean to say that I can compete with the Japanese, but I am a tremendous Anne of Green Gables fan. Have been, ever since a friend told me at age 16" "Read this book. You'll like her - she's a lot like you." I did. And she was. I went on to read every thing Lucy Maud Montgomery had written, whether it was about Anne or not, and was pretty much thrilled by it all.

Lots of my friends know this, so when it was announced that a "prequel" was being written, in honor of the 100th year anniversary of AOGG's publication, they began asking what I thought.

What I thought was, "I'm not sure I WANT to read a prequel." Two unrelated episodes kept me from it, at first: when the third PBS Anne movie came it, it was so god-awful and different from those first two lovely movies, I felt wounded. Also, I had eagerly dived into the Peter Pan sequel last year only to find I could NOT finish it. So, hoping to keep my Anne memories intact, I didn't intend to read it.

Then fate intervened, and my good friend Lisa handed me the galley of the book and said "I want to know what you think." Not intending to read it was one thing, but when it's sitting right here in front of me...OK, so I opened it up. And pretty much didn't put it down until I finished it.

It's wonderful! Budge Wilson did a magnificent job pulling various clues and threads from the Montgomery books, and weaving them together to imagine what Anne's life was like before she came to live with Matthew and Marilla: her lovely parents, their tragic death, her various "foster homes"...but she also imagines new characters, and Anne's connections to them, that absolutely ring true. She really captures Anne's voice, and her descriptions read uncannily like Montgomery's. What a tribute the book is.

I can't imagine that anyone who loves Anne wouldn't like this book - it's as if we discovered an unpublished Anne manuscript in Montgomery's attic. By the end of the book, all I wanted to do was dive right into the originals and read them all through again.