Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)




Tuesday, August 30, 2011

LLOYD ALEXANDER: HIS PRYDAIN CHRONICLES AND A MAGAZINE NAMED "CRICKET"

"Fantasy's hardly an escape from reality.  It's a way of understanding it."  
-Lloyd Alexander


Lloyd Chudley Alexander (January 30, 1924 – May 17, 2007) was an American author whose best known contribution to the field of children's literature is the fantasy series, The Prydain Chronicles. (He authored over 40 books. To see a complete listing with reviews, click HERE).


Determined to become a writer and looking for adventure after high school, Alexander decided to enlist in the Army during World War II. While training in Wales, he discovered a history and romanticism that would be the inspiration for many of his books...


“It seemed I recognized faces from all the hero tales of my childhood,” he wrote in a memoir, “My Love Affair With Music” (Crowell, 1960). “Not until years afterwards did I realize I had been given, without my knowing, a glimpse of another enchanted kingdom.”  (source: Alexander's obituary in the NY Times)

The Prydain Chronicles is a five-volume (not-to-be-missed!) series of children's fantasy novels which tell of the adventures of a young man named Taran, who is awarded the humble "honor" of Assistant Pig-Keeper (of an oracular pig, named "Hen Wen"), but dreams of being a grand hero.  He finds himself caught in a struggle between good and evil with the help of his unlikely companions: stubborn Princess Eilonwy; a bard named Fflewddur Fflam; a wild, yet gentle creature called Gurgi; and a dwarf named Doli. The book focuses on Taran's progression from youth to maturity, with the series being loosely based on Welsh mythology. (For an excellent overview and review of each book, CLICK HERE). Ages 10 and up.

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain Book 1)
The Black Cauldron (1965) - Winner of the 1966 Newbery Honor
The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain)
The Castle of Llyr - Book 3 in the Chronicle of Prydain
Taran Wanderer (The Chronicles of Prydain)
The High King (1968) - Winner of the 1969 Newbery Medal
The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain)

Some thoughts from Lloyd Alexander on the importance of writing and reading fantasy:
(Source: The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance, May 2007)
"When asked how to develop intelligence in young people, Einstein answered: "Read fairy tales. Then read more fairy tales." I can only add: Yes, and the sooner the better. Fairy tales and fantasies nourish the imagination. And imagination supports our whole intellectual and psychological economy. Not only in literature, music, and painting spring from the seedbed of imagination; but, as well, all the sciences, mathematics, philosophies, cosmologies. Without imagination, how could we have invented the wheel or the computer? Or toothpaste? Or nuclear weapons? Or speculate "What if—?" Or have any compassionate sense what it's like to live in another person's skin?


For me, writing fantasy for young people has surely been the most creative and liberating experience of my life. As a literary form, fantasy has let me express my own deepest feelings and attitudes about the world we're all obliged to live in.


A paradox? Creating worlds that never existed as a way to gain some kind of insight into a world that is very real indeed? The paradox is easily resolved. Whatever its surface ornamentation, fantasy that strives to reach the level of durable art deals with the bedrock of human emotions, conflicts, dilemmas, relationships. That is to say: the realities of life.


As adults, we know that life is a tough piece of business. Sometimes the most heroic thing we can do is get out of bed in the morning. I think it's just as tough for young people. On an emotional level, a child's anguish and a child's joy are as intense as our own. Young people recognize their own inner lives while they journey through a world completely imaginary.


I don't mean to imply that works of realism haven't the same profound effect on young readers. Of course they do. More often than not, however, realism tends to deal with material of immediate, current interest; with, to use a word much overused, what is relevant. All well and good. But there's a difference between what is relevant and what is merely topical. The topical goes away after a while, to be replaced by the next fashionable subject; the newest literary disease of the month, as it were. The best fantasy it seems to me, is permanently relevant. Because it deals metaphorically with basic human situations, it always has something to say to us. Also, I think that fantasy offers a certain vividness and high spiritedness unique to itself. We shouldn't underestimate the value of sheer fun, delight, and excitement. In any art, boredom is not a virtue.


Dealing with the impossible, fantasy can show us what may be really possible. If there is grief, there is the possibility of consolation; if hurt, the possibility of healing; and above all, the curative power of hope. If fantasy speaks to us as we are, it also speaks to us as we might be."


Lloyd Alexander was also one of the creators of children's literary magazine Cricket, which is an illustrated literary magazine for children published in the United States. Cricket magazine publishes original stories, poems, folk tales, articles and illustrations by notable authors and artists. On the last page of each issue is the "Old Cricket Says" column, in which Old Cricket points out a bit of wisdom or a witticism, or introduces themes to be explored in the upcoming issues of the magazine. This recurring column has been ghostwritten by a number of authors and editors who worked for Cricket, but a preponderance of them were written by Lloyd Alexander until his death.

CRICKET now offers 14 magazines for different age groups, including Babybug (up to 3 years old), Ladybug (2-6), Spider (6-9) and Cicada (for teenagers).


CRICKET WEBSITE LINK

Monday, August 29, 2011

NEED A "SUSTAINING BOOK"?

"...would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would
help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?"

A.A. Milne's books about Edward Bear will definitely hold your child's attention, as well as provide them with lots of bedtime stories, one chapter at a time!

This edition celebrated the 75th anniversary of the beloved "silly old bear". THE COMPLETE TALES AND POEMS OF WINNIE-THE-POOH collects A.A. Milne's classic stories (Winnie-the-PoohThe House at Pooh CornerWhen We Were Very Young; and Now We Are Six) and Ernest H. Shepard's original illustrations in one gorgeous oversize gift edition.  And it includes Three Cheers for Pooh: The Best Bear in All the World, by Brian Sibley, which provides readers with a historical reference point, starting with the story of Mrs. Milne's purchase of a stuffed bear at a London department store for their young son, Christopher Robin. Photographs, original manuscript pages and Shepard's sketches and illustrations complete the package.
 


from WINNIE-THE-POOH,
Chapter II ...In Which Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets Into a Tight Place...


"We'll read to you," said Rabbit cheerfully. "And I
hope it won't snow," he added. "And I say, old fellow, you're
taking up a good deal of room in my house -- do you mind if I
use your back legs as a towel-horse? Because, I mean, there
they are -- doing nothing -- and it would be very convenient
just to hang the towels on them."

"A week!" said Pooh gloomily. "What about meals?"

"I'm afraid no meals," said Christopher Robin, "because
of getting thin quicker. But we will read to you."


Bear began to sigh, and then found he couldn't because
he was so tightly stuck; and a tear rolled down his eye, as he
said:

"Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would
help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?" So for a
week Christopher Robin read that sort of book at the North end of Pooh,
and Rabbit hung his washing on the South end . . . and in
between Bear felt himself getting slenderer and slenderer. And
at the end of the week Christopher Robin said, "Now!"

So he took hold of Pooh's front paws and Rabbit took
hold of Christopher Robin, and all Rabbit's friends and
relations took hold of Rabbit, and they all pulled together....


And for a long time Pooh only said "Ow!" . . .

And "Oh!" . . .

And then, all of a sudden, he said "Pop!" just as if a
cork were coming out of bottle.

And Christopher Robin and Rabbit and all Rabbit's
friends and relations went head-over-heels backwards . . . and
on the top of them came Winnie-the-Pooh -- free!

So, with a nod of thanks to his friends, he went on
with his walk through the forest, humming proudly to himself.
But, Christopher Robin looked after him lovingly, and said to
himself, "Silly old Bear!"


A.A. Milne always acknowledged that it was his wife, Daphne, and his young son, Christopher Robin, who inspired him to write the poems and stories – the literary journey began in 1924 when the Very Young Christopher Robin was introduced to an American black bear at the London Zoological Gardens. (from PoohCorner.com)
Click on the link PoohCorner.com to read more about the origins of Winnie-the-Pooh.

And you can read my previous post "Making Friends With Pooh" by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

WHAT DO HARRY POTTER, LITTLE GOLDEN BOOKS AND DR. SEUSS HAVE IN COMMON?

How about the TOP 100 BESTSELLING CHILDREN'S BOOKS OF ALL TIME! (compiled by Publisher's Weekly: based on sales in the U.S., the list only includes books published before the end of 2000, when the list was compiled.)

Lists are fun! Below, I've included the Top 20 Bestsellers (and their date of publishing) for hardcovers and paperbacks, but you will find a link to the complete Top 100 lists at the bottom of this post. Where do your favorites fall on the lists?



The #1 Bestsellers from each category are two of my all-time favorites: The Poky Little Puppy (a "Little Golden" picture book by Janette Sebring Lowrey, illustrated by Gustuf Tenggren - #1 hardcover)
The Poky Little Puppy Special Anniversary Edition LGB (Special Edition Little Golden Book)

and Charlotte's Web (a chapter book by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams - #1 paperback).
Charlotte's Web

HARDCOVER TOP 20
1. THE POKY LITTLE PUPPY (1942)
2. THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT (1902)
3. TOOTLE (1945)
4. GREEN EGGS AND HAM (1960)
5. HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (2000)
6. PAT THE BUNNY (1940)
7. SAGGY BAGGY ELEPHANT (1947)
8. SCUFFY THE TUGBOAT (1955)
9. THE CAT IN THE HAT (1957)
10. HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS (1999)
11. HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (1999)
12. WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS (1974)
13. ONE FISH, TWO FISH, RED FISH, BLUE FISH (1960)
14. THE GIVING TREE (1964)
15. THE LITTLEST ANGEL (1946)
16. HOP ON POP (1963)
17. OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO! (1990)
18. DR. SEUSS'S ABC (1960)
19. HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE (1998)
20. THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR (1969)

PAPERBACK TOP 20
1. CHARLOTTE'S WEB (1974)
2. THE OUTSIDERS (1968)
3. TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING (1976)
4. LOVE YOU FOREVER (1986)
5. WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS (1973)
6. ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS (1971)
7. HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE (1999)
8. ARE YOU THERE, GOD?  IT'S ME, MARGARET (1972)
9. SHANE (1972)
10. THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD (1982)
11. A WRINKLE IN TIME (1974)
12. LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE (1971)
13. LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS (1971)
14. THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY (1984)
15. THE LITTLE PRINCE (1968)
16. JOHNNY TREMAIN (1969)
17. JUST ME AND MY DAD (1977)
18. GO ASK ALICE (1976; 1998)
19. HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS (2000)
20. OTHERWISE KNOWN AS SHELIA THE GREAT (1976)

PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY FULL LISTS: HARDCOVER and PAPERBACK books and their authors, publishers and how many of each book have been sold. (Lists edited by Diane Roback and Jason Britton; compiled by Debbie Hochman Turvey)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

PINK AND PIROUETTES

I love this cute picture book for aspiring ballerinas, and it's a great read aloud! Reminiscent of MADELEINE: in four rows of two, Miss Lina’s eight ballerinas—Christina, Edwina, Sabrina, Justina, Katrina, Bettina, Marina, and Nina—dance to the park, at the zoo, and even while doing their schoolwork. They are one perfect act, but when Miss Lina introduces Regina, a new girl, the group of nine’s steps become a mess. (MISS LINA'S BALLERINA'S by Grace Maccarone, ages 4-8)


Check out the fun trailer:



MORE BOOKS ABOUT BALLET:
Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two, by Patricia Lee Gauch.
Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two
When Tanya, the smallest and wiggliest girl in her ballet class, makes friends with a talented newcomer, they both learn something.

Angelina Ballerina, (series) by Katherine Holabird.
Angelina Ballerina 25th Anniversary Edition
Angelina loves to dance and wants to become a ballerina more than anything else in the world.

Lili on Stage by Rachel Isadora.
Lili on Stage
Lili is thrilled to be dancing the part of a guest in the party scene of the Nutcracker ballet.

Swan Lake by Lizbeth Zwerger.
Swan Lake
A prince's love for a swan queen overcomes an evil sorcerer's spell in this fairy tale adaptation of the classic ballet.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

WHAT DO I LOVE ABOUT REAL BOOKS?

...from William Lyon Phelps (1865-1943), Lampson Professor of English literature at Yale University, distinguished lecturer, author, critic and ordained minister:

William Lyon Phelps speaks
On Books
(From a radio broadcast on April 6, 1933)

The habit of reading is one of the greatest resources of mankind; and we enjoy reading books that belong to us much more than if they are borrowed. A borrowed book is like a guest in the house; it must be treated with punctiliousness, with a certain considerate formality. You must see that it sustains no damage; it must not suffer while under your roof. You cannot leave it carelessly, you cannot mark it, you cannot turn down the pages, you cannot use it familiarly. And then, some day, although this is seldom done, you really ought to return it.


But your own books belong to you; you treat them with that affectionate intimacy that annihilates formality. Books are for use, not for show; you should own no book that you are afraid to mark up, or afraid to place on the table, wide open and face down. A good reason for marking favorite passages in books is that this practice enables you to remember more easily the significant sayings, to refer to them quickly, and then in later years, it is like visiting a forest where you once blazed a trail. You have the pleasure of going over the old ground, and recalling both the intellectual scenery and your own earlier self.


Everyone should begin collecting a private library in youth; the instinct of private property, which is fundamental in human beings, can here be cultivated with every advantage and no evils. 


Build a child's library one book at a time, starting when they are born.


One should have one's own bookshelves, which should not have doors, glass windows, or keys; they should be free and accessible to the hand as well as to the eye. The best of mural decorations is books; they are more varied in color and appearance than any wallpaper, they are more attractive in design, and they have the prime advantage of being separate personalities, so that if you sit alone in the room in the firelight, you are surrounded with intimate friends
My husband and daughter at Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris.
The knowledge that they are there in plain view is both stimulating and refreshing. You do not have to read them all. Most of my indoor life is spent in a room containing six thousand books; and I have a stock answer to the invariable question that comes from strangers. "Have you read all of these books?"
"Some of them twice." This reply is both true and unexpected.


There are of course no friends like living, breathing, corporeal men and women; my devotion to reading has never made me a recluse. How could it? 
Books are of the people, by the people, for the people. Literature is the immortal part of history; it is the best and most enduring part of personality. But book-friends have this advantage over living friends; you can enjoy the most truly aristocratic society in the world whenever you want it. The great dead are beyond our physical reach, and the great living are usually almost as inaccessible; as for our personal friends and acquaintances, we cannot always see them. Perchance they are asleep, or away on a journey.


But in a private library, you can at any moment converse with Socrates or Shakespeare or Carlyle or Dumas or Dickens or Shaw or Barrie or Galsworthy. And there is no doubt that in these books you see these men at their best. They wrote for you. They "laid themselves out," they did their ultimate best to entertain you, to make a favorable impression. You are necessary to them as an audience is to an actor; only instead of seeing them masked, you look into their innermost heart of heart."

(Source: William Lyon Phelps Foundation WEBSITE)