Tag Archives: authors

Beatrix Potter at 150

When Ms. Wendy wrote recently that the Winnie-the-Pooh stories hold her mother’s voice, the stories and voice I thought of were my grandpa reading the tales of Beatrix Potter.  Somewhere between 3 children and 4 grandchildren he memorized Peter Rabbit, although I enjoyed the stories most when I could look at the beautiful pictures.

You can find a special display in the library of books by and about Beatrix Potter, to mark 150 years since she was born.  Here are a couple of recommended books about her from the children’s collection:

My Dear Noel: The Story of a Letter from Beatrix Potter by Jane Johnson
A letter from Beatrix Potter to a young friend who is ill marks the origin of her famous tales.

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of the Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson and Charlotte Voake
A neighbor lets a guinea pig model for Beatrix Potter, but the unfortunate pet does not survive an attempt to eat her art supplies.

Beatrix: Various Episodes from the Life of Beatrix Potter by Jeanette Winter
This simple biography of Beatrix Potter, best known for writing The Tale of Peter Rabbit, includes excerpts from her published letters and journals and reveals why she drew and wrote about animals.

Beatrix Potter by John Malam
This short biography of Beatrix Potter is especially notable for its photographs and examples of Potter’s writing and drawing.

Beatrix Potter by Alexandra Wallner
An appealing picture book biography illustrated in a folk art style

Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box by David McPhail
An introduction to Beatrix Potter as a child features illustrations by another artist known for cuddly-looking animals


Eve Merriam at 100

Poet Eve Merriam would have been 100 years old today.  She is known for writing everything from children’s picture books to poems for adults.  Here are some of her books that you can find at the library; her poems are also included in several poetry collections.

Goodnight to Annie: An Alphabet Lullaby
In alphabetical order, creatures all over the world fall asleep, from alligators dozing in the mud to zebras asleep on their sides.

On My Street
This book is a good example of how families can make rhymes out of the ordinary people, places, and activities they see around them, like “Mr. Sklar washing his car” or “Pat at the laundromat.”

Ms. Merriam’s poems for older children are often playful.  Here’s one from Blackberry Ink:

Cat cat cat on the bed,
Bed’s too soft, it jumps on my head.
Head head, head’s too hard,
Cat wriggles out into the yard.
Yard yard, cat slips away
Over to the playground where the children play.
Playground seesaw, who wants to ride?
Cat’s all ready on the other side

Chortles: New and Selected Wordplay Poems

The Singing Green: New and Selected Poems for All Seasons features some poems that are about poetry– I could see these coming in handy for an English teacher.

Spooky ABC features spooky illustrations by Lane Smith (you probably recognize his style from books like The Stinky Cheese Man).
A poem for each letter of the alphabet introduces a different, spooky aspect of Halloween.


For the refreshment of the spirit


Is there a favorite book that inspires you, one you return to over and over again?  I was thinking of this idea in connection with this bit in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

“On the next page she came to a spell ‘for the refreshment of the spirit.’ … And what Lucy found herself reading was more like a story than a spell. …before she had read to the bottom of the page she had forgotten that she was reading at all.  She was living in the story as if it were real…”

She wants to read the story again and finds that it is fading away.

“…and ever since that day what Lucy means by a good story is a story which reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician’s Book.”

(She later asks Aslan to tell it to her, and he promises that he will.)

Is there a story that always makes you feel good?

I asked other people in the department, and this is what they wrote.



Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner are precious to me because they hold my mother’s voice. A. A. Milne’s books were first published in the 1920s when Mom was a little girl when, so the copies that she read to us had been hers as a child.

When I read these stories today I hear her voice in my head. I am transported to the Hundred Acre Wood and to my own childhood. Gloomy donkey Eeyore was my favorite character. “In Which Eeyore Loses a Tail”, “In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday”, and “In Which Pooh Invents a New Game and Eeyore Joins In” were the stories I wanted to hear again and again. Whenever my family was out hiking and came to a bridge over a stream, we always gathered twigs or pine cones so we could play Poohsticks. We wished one another “HIPY PAPY BTHUTHDTH THUTHDA BTHUTHDY”, and quoted Pooh, “Time for a little something”, when we wanted a snack. Rereading the familiar words, I am caught up again in the adventures of some of my oldest literary friends.

Milne’s imaginative wordplay, his gentle humor and memorable characters continue to draw families to the enchanted place he created. Share the original with your children, so your voice will be captured in the pages of these classics for them.


Reading really is in itself a spell.
There are two books I turn to most when needing a “refreshment of the soul”.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Doesn’t every child and even adults want a forest to grow in their bedroom?
It is the book that reminds me that our imagination can take us anywhere and when we return supper will be waiting….still hot.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
There are few books that I want to read over and over and this is one of them. The wonderful magical world of Harry Potter is of course the main draw for readers.
J.K Rowling’s writing is so fantastic that I can really get lost into the world the second third or fourth time just  as much the first time that I read it.



I could name a lot of stories, but the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane is a favorite of mine.  It starts in the library, when Nita (who has ducked into the children’s department to hide from bullies) is drawn to a book titled So You Want to be a Wizard.  She takes an oath, meets some allies, and is soon deep in the wizardly business of protecting the universe.

There is plenty of science fiction and fantasy that features battles between good and evil, but there are some things that make this series unique.  The settings range from contemporary New York City (and a creepy alternate Manhattan) to alien worlds.  Humor sneaks in between the more serious moments.  Magic is closely aligned to science and largely consists of being able to talk things into helping you.

I don’t think those things fully explain why I feel truly, deeply happy when I read these books.  They include lots of things I love (astronomy, talking trees, allusions to Norse mythology, more astronomy), but it’s more than that.  These are stories that acknowledge that the real world is full of pain and injustice, but they also show people struggling to do good and make it better– on a big scale or a small one, by magic or by ordinary means.

Looking for more refreshing stories?  You might want to check out the website for the Christopher Awards.  “First presented in 1949, the Christopher Awards were established by Christopher founder Father James Keller to salute media that ‘affirm the highest values of the human spirit.'”  They include television, books and movies for children, teens and adults.


John Ciardi at 100


John Ciardi, author of funny poetry books like The Reason for the Pelican, Doodle Soup, Fast and Slow, and Mummy Took Cooking Lessons, was born 100 years ago.  Here’s a sample of his poetry that seems perfectly suited to an election year:


We all have thought a lot about you by John Ciardi

Two hundred twenty thousand, five hundred twenty-three
Registered local voters (well, yes, including me)
Were asked to vote in secret on what to do with you.
Two hundred twenty thousand five hundred twenty-two
Voted to put you in a cage and throw away the key.

That isn’t quite unanimous, but I think you will agree
That as a test of sentiment their vote will surely do
To indicate what seems to be a rather general view
Shared by the mayor, the aldermen, your teachers, the police,
The deputy dog-catcher, the man who makes the keys,
The man who makes the cages, and the keeper of the zoo.
You might say everyone in town–no, that’s not strictly true–
But almost everyone in town takes a dim view of you.

In the news: John Lewis

Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement by Ann Bausum
Offers the true account of two young men who took the risk to venture into the segregated South at the peak of the Civil Rights era to take part as Freedom Riders and fight for equality for all. – (Baker & Taylor)

John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson, illustrations by Benny Andrews
“A biography of John Lewis, Georgia Congressman and one of the ‘Big Six’ civil rights leaders of the 1960s, focusing on his youth and culminating in the voter registration drives that sparked ‘Bloody Sunday,’ as hundreds of people walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Includes a note by Congressman Lewis and a timeline”–Provided by publisher.

m1 m2
March written by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin; illustrated by Nate Powell
A first-hand account of the author’s lifelong struggle for civil and human rights spans his youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the birth of the Nashville Student Movement. – (Baker & Taylor)
Book 1 earned a Coretta Scott King Author Honor in 2014.  Book 3 is coming soon!

We must be kind to one another

Saturday I was moving materials in and out of the Vortex for the library’s hardworking teen volunteers.  I noticed the teen department had a display for GLBT Book Month and thought to myself that I really needed to get it together and make a display for our department already…

IMG_0675[1]and then the next day I caught a couple of headlines before work, and by the time I had a chance to read a little further it had become clear that there had been a terrible shooting targeting the gay community in Orlando, committed by a man with some kind of association with ISIS.

I’ve already shared the best resources I know for talking with children about scary things in the news.  Today I want to share some resources for talking with young people about tolerance and about extremism.

One of the most thoughtful people addressing this topic is Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core.   Living in the Chicago area, you have probably heard him interviewed.  This is from the introduction to his book Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation:

This is a book about how some young people become champions of religious pluralism while others become the foot soldiers of religious totalitarianism.  Its thesis is simple: influences matter, programs count, mentors make a difference, institutions leave their mark.  When we look back in the lives of young religious terrorists, we find a web of individuals and organizations that shaped them.  These young killers are not, for the most part, dramatically deranged individuals.  They are kids who fell into murderously manipulative hands. …And then we should ask: why weren’t the hands of people who care about pluralism shaping that kid instead of the hands of religious totalitarians?

He writes about people from a variety of backgrounds who have fallen into extremism, as well as his model for people of different faiths learning and serving together.  It’s a good book for any adult who cares about young people.

The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook is a title that is focused on individuals rather than an interfaith movement.  I’m listing it because it offers basic information (an important alternative to online searches), is inclusive (taking the approach that it’s OK for people to disagree), and contains advice for how to “avoid extremism, fanaticism, radicalism, and other pesky ‘isms’.”

Not My Kid: 21 Steps to Raising a Nonviolent Child has advice for any parent who worries about children living in a violent world.  There is practical advice on raising children and preventing violence, and specific information on what behavior might be a sign that a child needs professional help.

Two organizations that are well known for identifying and opposing hate groups are the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  They offer tools for Education and Outreach and Teaching Tolerance.  (A bonus this time of year is that in addition to resources for the school curriculum, there are also resources for summer camp.)

PFLAG is another well-known organization, offering support through local chapters to “LGBTQ individuals, family members and allies.”  They are a good first place to look for information, resources, and community.

The GLBT Book Month link above has some resources for finding recommended books (“authors and writings that reflect the lives and experiences of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community”) including the Stonewall Book Awards List (which includes fiction and nonfiction for adults, children, and young adults) and the Rainbow Book List, which has titles for children and teens.  The Horn Book Magazine also featured an article not long ago about Maurice Sendak, Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, Remy Charlip, and Tomie de Paola, five gay men who created beloved picture books.

It can be hard to talk to children about difficult and scary topics.  But it’s important to make a start, to keep talking, and sometimes to get advice from other people who are also working to make their world a better place.








Two Great Authors

April 23 is a day for remembering two great authors, Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare.  They both died 400 years ago on this day.  People mark the day in different ways around the world.  In Spain, it’s a romantic holiday when women give men books and men give women roses.  The United Nations observes both English Language Day and World Book and Copyright Day.  Readers in different parts of the world also celebrate World Book Night on this night by giving away books, especially to people who don’t usually read.

Here are a few options for enjoying both writers with young readers:

Don Quixote and the Windmills retold and adapted by Eric A. Kimmel; from The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra; pictures by Leonard Everett Fisher
“Immersed in tales of knights and dragons and sorcerers and damsels in distress, Señor Quexada proclaims himself a knight and sets out on his first adventure against some nearby windmills that he thinks are giants.”

Don Quixote retold by Martin Jenkins; illustrated by Chris Riddell
“An illustrated retelling of the exploits of an idealistic Spanish country gentleman and his shrewd squire who set out, as knights of old, to search for adventure, right wrongs, and punish evil.”

r zot
Robot Zot by Jon Scieszka and David Shannon
This story of a tiny robot and his sidekick is quietly dedicated to “Don Q. and Sancho P.”

walls of c
The Walls of Cartagena by Julia Durango
A teenaged boy who loves Don Quixote has his own experiences with heroism working with a fellow Cervantes fan and St. Peter Claver.

c prince
The Chosen Prince by Diane Stanley
“Prince Alexos, the long-awaited champion of the goddess Athene, follows the course of his destiny through war and loss and a deadly confrontation with his enemy to its end: shipwreck on a magical, fog-shrouded island. There he meets the unforgettable Aria and faces the greatest challenge of his life. Based loosely on Shakespeare’s The Tempest”– Provided by publisher.

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The Orchard Book of Classic Shakespeare Verse
A selection of verse and poetry by William Shakespeare, illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark.

secrets sg
Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave by Deron R. Hicks
“Twelve-year-old Colophon Letterford has a serious mystery on her hands. Will she discover the link between her family’s literary legacy and Shakespeares tomb before it’s too late?”– Provided by publisher.

s secret
Shakespeare’s Secret
by Elise Broach
“Named after a character in a Shakespeare play, misfit sixth-grader Hero becomes interested in exploring this unusual connection because of a valuable diamond supposedly hidden in her new house, an intriguing neighbor, and the unexpected attention of the most popular boy in school.”  This title is also available as an audiobook on CD.

s zoo
The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue presents Macbeth written by Ian Lendler; art by Zack Giallongo; colors by Alisa Harris; [originally] written by Willy Shakespeare
The Stratford Zoo looks like a normal zoo… until the gates shut at night. That’s when the animals come out of their cages to stage elaborate performances of Shakespeare’s greatest works. They might not be the most accomplished thespians, but they’ve got what counts: heart. Also fangs, feathers, scales, and tails” — from publisher’s web site.

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The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet
by Erin Dionne
Hamlet‘s attempts to be a “normal” eighth grader become increasingly difficult when her genius seven-year-old sister and her eccentric Shakespeare scholar parents both begin to attend her school. ”

wwww desk
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
“During the 1967 school year, on Wednesday afternoons when all his classmates go to either Catechism or Hebrew school, seventh-grader Holling Hoodhood stays in Mrs. Baker’s classroom where they read the plays of William Shakespeare and Holling learns much of value about the world he lives in.”  This title is also available as an audiobook on CD or Playaway, and as an ebook to download from eRead Illinois.

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Wicked Will by Bailey MacDonald
“Performing in the English town of Stratford-on-Avon in 1576, a young actress (disguised as a boy) and a local lad named Will Shakespeare uncover a murder mystery.”

life for me
You Wouldn’t Want to be a Shakespearean Actor!  Some Roles You Might Not Want to Play written by Jacqueline Morley; illustrated by David Antram; created and designed by David Salariya
Another in the continuing series about times and places in history that you can be glad you’re only reading out.