Written in verse and apportioned like a diary, Thanhha Lai's Newberry Honor and National Book Award-winning Inside Out & Back Again is a wonder-- a rare middle-reader occasioning close and gentle reading.
Inside Out's ten year old hero and narrator Hà is both tough and tender. She faces a mind-boggling migration from communist-occupied Saigon to an All-American Alabaman outpost with the humor and heart we are all working toward.
A beautiful introduction to the Vietnam War, Vietnamese culture more broadly, and to the trials of entering a new life and language as a refugee in the United States. This is a particularly good one for parents and young readers to enjoy and unpack in tandem. So happy to welcome a new lyric-loving voice to the genre! I'm a full-fledged Lai fan already!
ROUTINE (From Part II At Sea)
Mother cannot allow
hers or anyone else's.
After one week
on the ship
Brother Quang begins
I wish he would
keep it to:
How are you?
This is a pen.
But when an adult is not there
We must consider the shame of abandoning our own country
and begging toward the unknown
where we will all begin again
at the lowest level
on the social scale.
It's better in the afternoons
with Brother Vũ
who just wants us
to do front kicks
and back kicks,
at times adding
Brother Khôi gets to monitor
lines for the bathrooms,
where bottoms stick out
to the sea
behind blankets blowing
in the wind.
When not in class
I have to stay
within sight of Mother
like a baby.
Mother gives me
her writing pad.
there's but one pad.
so I draw
over my words.
Pouches of pan-friend shredded coconut
Tamarind paste on banana leaf
Steamed corn on the cob
Rounds of fried dough
Wedges of pineapple on a stick
And of course
cubes of papaya tender and shiny.
Mother smooths back my hair,
knowing the pain
of a girl
who loves snacks
but is stranded
on a ship.
I don't know about you, but I was mighty shocked to open my curtains to a snowy white yard this morning. As beautiful as it was, (and as much as I do love snow) I will admit to being a little disheartened. Snow on the 1st day of March? What about spring?
I happened to pick up And Then It's Spring, by Julie Fogliano for a read when I got to work, and I am oh so glad I did. I'm not sure how they've done it, but Fogliano and illustrator Erin E. Stead have managed to create the perfect balm for the anxious, rain-soaked Portlander's soul!
At heart, the story is one of simple anticipation, but it's really so much much more than that.
Recognize the illustration style? The incredibly talented Stead won the Caldecott Award two years ago for her work on, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. We just adore her illustrations, and were thrilled to find this great interview with her over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. It's such a treat to catch a glimpse of artists' lives and work. (And what an adorable pooch!)
“or maybe it was the bears and all that stomping, / because bears can’t read signs / that say things like / ‘please do not stomp here— /
there are seeds / and they are trying’ "
And Then It's Spring is the perfect reminder that the snow will melt, the green will return, and March will go out like a lamb in the end. Until then, I'll just have to put daffodils in every room in the house.
We still have a few copies left of this lovely book in store, so come on down and see it for yourself!
All of my blog posts are inspired by my breakfast, but I think that is OK!
Today's morning treat was a blueberry papillon from our Alberta Street neighbors at the totally stellar Petite Provence. A blueberry papillion is a beautiful innovation, wherein somebody bakes a croissant all twisty in the shape of a butterfly and fills it up with blueberries! Pretty groovy.
Anyway, the first bite triggered a très powerful Frenchy book episode. The first darling thing I recalled (after a decades long dormancy) was called Émilie et Les Papillons. I'll share just one of my favorite images. ( "And you, if you had been shut up in a jar, would you have been happy?" )
I had forgotten how fun it is to indulge one's Francophilia every once in a while. Allors, voila! A few other especially good-looking titles on said theme we've got in the shop!
Classic Caldecott Honor book Anatole (1956) is the story of an honorable little mouse from the banlieue of Paris, who shuns a life of crime and becomes a world class cheese critic! An adorable ancestor of Ratatouille I am sure, toiling to overcome the horrid human assumption that "to be a mouse is to be a villain."
Universe's awesome reissue of the 1962 Saul Bass book Henri's Walk to Paris, in which Henri tricks himself into rediscovering the charms of his own hometown Reboul. "There are not many people in Reboul. There is Monsieur Manger, the baker. There is Monsieur Gogi, the mailman. There is Madame Crème, who has a cow." Bass is famous for designing title sequences for hot shot directors like Kubrick and Hitchcock. He did North by Northwest and Vertigo! You'll surely recognize his style!
A second gift from Universe-- M. Sasek's This is Paris (1959). (One of Sasek's many place-based books.) Readers get to meet a bunch of classy Parisian cats, a lovely concierge ("sort of a guardian angel"), hang out at the Notre Dame, enjoy the bird market, take the Métro, and shop for antique trumpets, periscopes, and African spears at the Marché aux Puces!
See Also: The ceaselessly striking Blexbolex's latest masterpiece People. He's a contemporary French designer with tons of ties to these old-school standards. We've got the English copy for you to fall in love with!
Adieu mes amis!
We are happy to announce that Green Bean reusable shopping totes have finally arrived in the store, and they are ADORABLE! (I will admit to squealing out loud when I first saw them this morning.) These totes are just perfect for trips to the market or bookstore, and make great everyday bags for both kids and grown-ups.
Designed by our very own talented Green Beaner, Elizabeth Pusack, and only $6.99, you can't beat them for utility AND cuteness. (I plan on giving oodles of them away as birthday and baby shower gifts this year.) And how about that hungry, book-eating monster? So squishy and adorable! Come grab a tote or two and start filling him up with books!
I have to admit, in all my years as a bookseller, I haven't paid very close attention to board books. Even in my former days as a children's librarian, those little volumes just weren't on my radar. Shameful, I know. Sure I could recommend a baby shower gift-book or two, and always knew the latest quirky releases, but larger picture books have always had a way of stealing the show. With their subtle plots, layered illustrations, and award-winning potential, full-scale picture books tend to offer more adult appeal.
It can be hard to get excited about books that are aimed only at the littlest of readers--published exclusively in board book form. How much time do we spend actually thinking about and discussing the merits of books by Sandra Boynton or Karen Katz? When I found out I was expecting my first child this summer, I suddenly found myself paying VERY close attention to the section I had so long neglected. It seemed that most folks (myself included) weren't sure exactly when to start reading to their infants, and were disappointed by the amount of information out there as to what actually works and what doesn't.
I knew it was high time to take a crash course in "Board Book 101." After doing some research, I was finally able to figure out which books to choose from a developmental standpoint. It really helped to start thinking in terms of what babies can see, rather than what they can comprehend. Color doesn't seem to matter much to newborns, but they still love looking at books as much as older babies! They are incredibly drawn to high-contrast, black and white images. Books like, Look at the Animals! by Peter Linenthal or White on Black by Tana Hoban, with their big bold shapes are perfect for them.
At around 6-8 weeks, infants become more aware of color and are drawn to shapes and angles in illustrations. Books like What Do you See? by Martine Perrin, and I Kissed the Baby, by Mary Murphy are fantastic for this beginning stage, and offer just a little more interest for parents as well. I especially love that I Kissed the Baby has a miniature plot that older siblings seem to find hilarious!
At about 3 months, babies start to scan their environment. They can recognize people, objects, and other familiar things, but they also know when something is different or out of place. Novelty is key. It helps to think of the environment to which a baby will become accustomed, and what might surprise him/her. I tried to imagine the things our little one will see every day. Dogs, cats, bicycles, nature, the bathtub, clothing, kitchen things (his/her papa is a chef), and books that might include those elements.
Babies of all ages are particularly fascinated by faces, and books that feature lots of different types of faces (both illustrated and photographed ) of babies, children, and adults are great for every stage. There might not often be much in the way of text for parents to read, but the more diverse group of faces you include in your viewing, the better! Babies love to study eyes, noses, ears, hair, and even belly buttons, so it's best to keep things varied.
Of course, books for slightly older babies, like Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, and I am a Bunny by Richard Scary, are classics for a reason. Board books that perfectly capture the elements of a little one's environment, use reassuring repetition, and still provide enough novelty to keep things interesting, are books that every generation will return to again and again. I Am a Bunny has always been my go-to baby shower gift book. Even in my board book ignorance, I knew there was something special about it, the way it resonates with readers both young and old. So can you guess the first book I purchased when it came time to start building a library for baby-on-the-way? Of course you can.
In the end, it's always best to remember that you will be the one doing the reading, and to choose books you love as well. Babies can definitely sense our enthusiasm for certain books over others, so what better way to create a reader than to start bonding over favorite books right away? I've still got a lot to learn about the world of board books, but I suspect that my library shelves will be full of them before this little one even arrives!
This morning I totally started the day right. I ran around outside in my red hood and checked out the purple crocuses and papas biking with their daughters at daybreak. When I came home my roommates were cooking me breakfast--coffee, poached eggs, and asparagus with Japanese mayonnaise. Just to be sweet! I was feeling really lucky, like the simplest things were parties. Counting blessings and celebrating the simple are Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall's favorite pastimes, and I reread these three stellar picture books this morning in honor of my especially good mood.
What a sappy post this is!
RULE NUMBER 8
of the rock
is up to you.
(There is a girl in Alaska
who only likes flat rocks.
Don't ask me why.
I like them lumpy.)
The thing to remember
with a hundred other rocks
around it on a hill.
if your rock
is going to be special
it should look good
in the bathtub.
The way to start a day
and face the east
and greet the sun
with some kind of
that you made yourself
and keep for early morning.
The way to make the song is this--
Don't try to think
what words to use
you're standing there
I gave myself
one hundred and eight
besides the ones
that they close school for.
I cannot get by
with only a few.
Friend, I'll tell you
how it works.
I keep a notebook
and I write the date
and then I write about
I don't think I'm the only one who associates the Newbery Award with bawling my eyes out. I've had to stock up on the tissues for everything from A Wrinkle in Time to Moon Over Manifest, so I tend to brace myself when picking up a new winner every year.
As much as I love a good cry, I couldn't be more pleased that a 'funny book' was awarded the gold this year. Never was a funny book more heartfelt or more deserving of the gold than Jack Gantos', Dead End in Norvelt.
Gantos is truly an unlikely children's book author, and if you haven't yet heard his brilliant segment on NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! then head on over to their website and have a listen.
SAGAL: So I was reading your book and it's about a kid named - let me check - Jack Gantos.
SAGAL: Who is growing up in a town called Norvelt.
SAGAL: In Pennsylvania, which is a real town where you yourself grew up.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SAGAL: I mean, is this book autobiographical? We can only assume, since the character is named after you and growing up where you grew up and when you grew up there.
GANTOS: Yeah, yeah, all those three things point to autobiographical.
He also plays a chuckle-worthy round of Not My Job (on romance novels, of all things), so don't miss it!
We're already looking forward to February 16th's BOOK WITH A HOLE IN IT class! The latest in a whole series of bookmaking classes for kids ages 6-11. We'll use pages with big ol' holes to create a story. We'll put on our thinking caps and make the hole transform into different objects as we turn the pages. What will the hole reveal on the very last page?
$10 per child per class.
Call 503-954-2354 to sign up!