Reading Aloud—To Your TWEEN?

Lori Haskins Houran is a children’s book editor and the author of several books for young children, including How to Spy on A Shark. Lori shares some of her favorite tales to read out loud to her tweens in this week’s Friday Reads!

It is weird that I read to my kids every night?

They’re not little. My younger son is 9, and my older son turns 12 next month. They’ve been reading independently for years now, but they still insist that I read aloud at bedtime. The few times I’ve tried to beg off—I’m tired./I have a sore throat./Downton Abbey is coming on!—they’ve looked as shocked as if I suggested skipping dinner.

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Occasional slacking aside, I do love reading to my boys. It’s a chance for snuggling—and smuggling. By that I mean I can sneak in personal favorites they might otherwise miss: Little House in the Big Woods, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Pippi Longstocking, All-of-a-Kind Family. (I’m just now realizing how many of my choices feature female protagonists. Not once have my sons complained or even commented. So much for the old publishing saw that boys don’t like stories about girls.)

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A few other must-reads I would have added had my kids not already enjoyed them at school or on their own: Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the essential trio of Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, and Stuart Little.

Not every selection has worked out as well as I expected. I thought my boys would enjoy The Borrowers, but they didn’t warm to it. A Wrinkle in Time felt confusing as a read-aloud, and I’m sad to say that we gave up on it after three nights. I hope my boys will read it to themselves soon and adore it as much as I do. 

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I don’t always choose the books, of course. My boys’ picks have included everything from comic books and movie tie-ins (I can tell you pretty much anything you need to know about Batman, Star Wars, and the Avengers) to gems that I might otherwise have missed, among them Jacqueline Davies’ The Lemonade War, Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda, and Cynthia Lord’s Rules.

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I don’t know long I’ll continue reading aloud to my kids. Will I Skype them in college and read The Secret Garden? No, no, that would definitely be weird…right? But for now, I’ll keep going.

Do you still read to your tweens/pre-teens? What’s on your must-read list?

Reading Aloud—To Your TWEEN?

Father’s Day: Authors Tell All Part 1

Summer is officially here, and it’s Father’s Day weekend! Some of our authors sent us a photo of themselves and their dad, telling us how each of our authors’ dads have influenced their lives.

Jacqueline Jules and DaddyZapato Power

(Pictured: Author Jacqueline Jules with her father) My father was an immigrant from Switzerland who came to the United States after World War II. He was unmarried, in his early thirties, and jobless when he arrived. Within ten years, he had learned English and was living a comfortable middle-class life with an American wife and two daughters. Whenever I asked my father why he came to America, he would laugh and say that he’d heard the streets were paved with gold. Daddy loved to travel and to garden. He was keenly interested in world affairs and read several newspapers from cover to cover. In his later years, he took great pride in writing letters to the editor of the publications he read. He spent hours typing on an old gray Underwood typewriter. I learned the power and joy of self-expression from watching him. Daddy also taught me perseverance. He passionately believed that goals could be achieved if you kept working toward them. Whenever I get discouraged, I can hear my father’s voice in my head, saying, “Don’t give up.” While he has been gone since 1999, his presence is always felt.


 

Ian Hoffman Fathers Dayjacobs new dress(Pictured: Author Ian Hoffman with his son and his father) My dad’s a science guy (he’s a radiation oncologist & researcher). I’m an arts guy (I’m an architect & author). Although we like to think about very different things, somehow we think alike. That’s the beauty of genetics. My dad taught me the values of method, care, persistence, and curiosity. He didn’t lay it out like that. I just watched him, and learned from his example. I also learned from my dad to get down on the floor and wrestle with my kids. When we were little, he used to do that everyday when he got home from the hospital. Although eventually I would be impressed by my dad the physician and scientist, it’s still the wrestling I cherish most.


 

Robin and Dad in 1958Mystery of the Stolen Dinosaur Bones

(Pictured: Author Robin Koontz with her dad circa 1958) Warren S. Koontz was head of a U.S. Naval Ordinance division, working as a civilian after World War II. We knew little about that, but we did know that my dad had also been a musician. He led a jazz band before the war and traveled around the world. By the time I came along, the youngest of three, my dad didn’t play music anymore other than on his huge hi-fi system. But on my 4th Christmas, Dad gave me a little electric piano. This is the only photo I have of the two of us – he demonstrating me how it’s played and me in a very untypical pose of patiently learning. My dad died when I was 13. But his creative spark lives on in me as both a writer and illustrator. And I also play the guitar!


 

Linda and Dad 7th gradeCurious Cat Spy Club

(Pictured: Author Linda Joy Singleton [7th grade] and her father) Both of my parents have always been extremely supportive of my writing, but Dad went a step further when I was a teen. I wanted to submit my writing but this was before the internet & it wasn’t easy for a teen to learn about the publishing world. My high school didn’t even have a writing class. Only popular kids wrote for the newspaper—and I was shy. Dad was also interested in writing and wanted to learn how to help me, so he took a college writing class. He taught me how to submit my work, use correct query format and research publishers. So I submitted short stories to a teen magazine, and received very encouraging rejection letters. While it would be over a decade before I sold any writing, when I joined a local writing group I recognized the name of one of my other writers—Dad’s college writing teacher. And she congratulated me when I sold my first book.


The Potato Headshappy dad

(Pictured: Author Felicia Sanzari Chernesky with her father, Stephanie, Francesca, & Jennifer circa 1998) My dad was tough on us growing up. I was the oldest child, quiet, studious, serious—big glasses, straight As, extra English classes by choice—you know the type. As he energetically charged my sisters and me to do our academic and personal best, we learned the meaning, value, and reward of hard work, taking personal responsibility, and standing up for your beliefs. I was always hardest on myself, and Dad frequently reminded me, “You’ve got to learn to laugh if you want to survive the hardships of this life.” He meant it. Plus, the man was funny. I think of Dad presiding at the table during Mom’s wonderful Italian meals, us kids listening to stories and eventually participating in passionate family discussions. Everyone was loud and laughing. Always laughing! Dad passed away last November after being seriously ill for many years. His quick wit never dulled. He loved the winter season, and I dedicated Sugar White Snow and Evergreens to him. He’s there in everything I write. I learned the art of storytelling from my father.


Suzanne Slade with dadWith Books and Bricks

(Pictured: Author Suzanne Slade with her father) My dad is a hard worker, and through the years he’s demonstrated that by sticking with something and giving it your best, you can accomplish almost anything (which came in handy during my many “rejection letter” years.) My dad also loves nature and being outside — sailing, biking, kayaking, fishing, and more. I’ve gone with him on many of his adventures, which have inspired several books. So Happy Father’s Day, Daddy! 

 

Father’s Day: Authors Tell All Part 1

Brazilian Picture Books: My childhood

Albert Whitman author Ana Crespo shares some of her favorite childhood picture books from Brazil in this week’s #Fridayreads. Ana is the author of The Sock Thief (Spring 2015), J.P. and the Giant Octopus (Fall 2015), and J.P. and the Polka-Dotted Aliens (Fall 2015).

I love picture books. So, as you can imagine, I read lots of them. For now, I have a good excuse – a five-year old who loves them as much as I do. However, I don’t think I will have the excuse for too long, as the five-year old will soon move on to more wordily adventures.

Born and raised in Brazil, the books I read as a child were not the same ones you probably read. Throughout my childhood, my two favorite picture books were Flicts by Ziraldo (a renowned Brazilian cartoonist) and Chapeuzinho Amarelo (Little Yellow Riding Hood) by Chico Buarque.

flicts

Flicts tells the story of a lonely color. No one wants to play with Flicts because he’s different. Flicts travels the world looking for a place where he’s accepted, but finds none. He ends up in the moon. As Ziraldo tells it, “nobody knows, except maybe the astronauts” what color the moon is. On the very last page of the edition I have (but can’t find), Ziraldo says he met Neil Armstrong when the astronaut visited Brazil. After telling him about Flicts, Neil Armstrong confirmed, “The moon is Flicts.”

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Chapeuzinho Amarelo is about a little girl who spends her days doing nothing, because she’s afraid of everything. “She was afraid of thunder. For her, worms were snakes. And she was never caught under the sun, because she was afraid of the shadow,” Chico Buarque writes. Eventually, Chapeuzinho Amarelo gets over her fears, thanks to a play with words that just works in Portuguese. So creative!

Because I grew up abroad, I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to American picture book classics. The first time I read an Eric Carle book, for example, was in 2002. I had never heard of Lois Ehlert, Shel Silverstein, Leo Lionni, or even Dr. Seuss, until about a decade ago. And I am sure there are lots of wonderful authors and illustrators that I still don’t know.

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Of the most recent American picture books, some of my favorites are Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown, The Dot by Peter Reynolds (and almost anything by Peter Brown and Peter Reynolds. What is it about Peters?).

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I also love Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, and Mark Pett’s The Boy and the Airplane and The Girl and the Bicycle. The five-year old excuse loves My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza, and The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle.

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However, I don’t read only picture books. I have a lot of catching up to do in other genres too. I love the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, and Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. Angela’s Ashes is possibly my favorite book ever. I just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which I also enjoyed.

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Before that, I went through some of Albert Whitman’s recent titles–Down from the Mountain, The Black Crow Conspiracy, Biggie, and The Poisoned House. I enjoyed all of them!

What’s your favorite childhood book?

Brazilian Picture Books: My childhood

#Fridayreads: Middle-grade audio books

Editorial Director Kelly Barrales-Saylor shares her thought on a couple audio books for this week’s edition of #FridayReads!

A couple weeks ago Wendy wrote in her #FridayReads that she recently discovered audiobooks. There must be something in the water at AW&Co, because I recently made the same discovery. I have a fairly long commute to and from work, so I have plenty of time to listen to books on tape (when I’m not singing along to my iPod or listening to Howard Stern). So I borrowed a couple audiobooks from my local library and here are the results: sometimes audiobooks are awesome and sometimes they are not.

I’ll admit, I’m a little behind on my middle grade reading list… Er, maybe I’m a lot behind since I’m still working my way through the 2013 and 2014 Newbery lists. I picked up Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (read by Tara Sands) and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (read by Adam Grupper). Both of these books, as beautiful and imaginative literature, are awesome. But one worked perfectly as an audiobook and the other, not so much. Can you guess which is which?

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For those of you as behind on middle grade books as me, Flora and Ulysses is the story of a young girl (Flora) with divorced parents who witnesses her neighbor accidentally vacuum up a squirrel (Ulysses) in her backyard. She runs to rescue the squirrel and realizes the squirrel can communicate with her—and might be some sort of super hero! This book is also full of really awesome illustrations by K. G. Campbell. You know what you can’t see when you’re listening to an audiobook? The really awesome illustrations by K. G. Campbell. Womp womp. They did an ok job of conveying through the audio what was happening in the comic book sequences, but the whole time I was listening to the book, I felt something was missing. I might need to reread this book as a book because I think my inner-10-year-old would’ve loved this story (and wished to discover a poetry-writing super hero squirrel). I can tell you one good thing: I do look at the squirrels in my neighborhood with a little more compassion now.

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Ok, let me move on to The One and Only Ivan. This audiobook was amazing. It was a little slow to start because I struggled with the sad premise: A gorilla has been in captivity almost his entire life as the main attraction of a circus inside of a shopping mall. He lives in a glass enclosure and his friends include a stray dog and an elephant. It’s quite melancholy. But there was something so intriguing about the story. And each word Katherine Applegate chose was somehow so perfect I couldn’t stop listening. I’d stay in the car a few extra moments after I pulled into the driveway just so I could finish up a scene. There were quite a few times I had to finish crying in the parking lot before I walked up to our office building. Somewhere along the way, I found such joy and pain and love in this story. Adam Grupper’s reading and the voice he gave Ivan was so perfect. Just thinking about it now is making me tear up. As a book lover, I’m going to buy this one in hardcover just so I can have it in my collection.

I’m off to the library this weekend to pick a new audiobook. Any suggestions?

#Fridayreads: Middle-grade audio books

An Interview with Madame Martine

Sketches and interview by author Sarah Brannen

Madame Martine is a long-time resident of Paris. She and her dog, Max, live in the seventh arrondissement, on Rue du Gros Caillou, near the Eiffel Tower. They try something new every Saturday. We spoke on a recent chilly fall day in a café on Avenue de la Bourdonnais.
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Sarah Brannen: It’s nice to see you again, madame. What new things have you and Max done lately?

Madame Martine: Well, we went to a tennis match last week! We saw Roger Federer play. He is very handsome. And also a good tennis player. In August we went to an opera performed out of doors.

SB: What opera was it?

MM: It was called Aida. We were very disappointed that there were no elephants. We wanted to see elephants. We saw elephants last spring in the circus—it was very exciting!

SB: Have you been back to the Eiffel Tower lately?

MM: Oh no. Dogs are not allowed, you know.

SB: Ah, that’s a good point. Now, madame, please tell me, what was the real reason you had never climbed the Eiffel Tower?

MM: Ouf. Alors. I suppose I must admit it. I am afraid of heights. My grandfather helped to build the tower. He hung on a harness from the highest level. He told me stories when I was a little girl, and I was terrified at the very thought!

SB: Well, you’ve climbed it now! By the way, what was the actual day you followed Max to the top?

MM: November 17. Do you want to know a secret?

SB: Of course! Do tell.

MM: It was my birthday! (Madame Martine got a fit of the giggles at this point and buried her face in Max’s fur.)

SB: What a perfect way to celebrate. Do you have any plans for your birthday this year?

MM: Well, since Max and I do something new every Saturday, we were thinking of picking one of our favorite new things and doing it again. I haven’t decided yet. Perhaps we’ll ride on the carousel again. Would you like that, Max? (Max barks.) Ah, you see, he likes the idea!

SB: Do you mind if I ask Max a few questions?

MM: Suit yourself. He doesn’t talk, you know.

SB: Max, sit! Good dog. What do you like best about living with Madame Martine?

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SB: What’s your favorite place in Paris?
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SB: Have you promised never to run away again?
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MM: He is a very good dog. He does run away from time to time. He keeps me young! (She laughs.)

SB: May I ask you a rather personal question? Is there a…Monsieur Martine?

MM: Ah, non. Monsieur Martine died many years ago.

SB: My sympathies.

MM: C’est la vie.

SB: As you know, this interview will appear on a blog about children’s books. What was your favorite book when you were a child?

MM: Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Also Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man, by your American author Robert McCloskey.

SB: Really?

MM: Mais oui. It is a wonderful book. You should read it.

SB: What’s next for you today? Shopping?

MM: Yes, we go to Rue Cler every day at about this time. I want to buy some cheese. And chicken and some mushrooms. (Max wags his tail.)

SB: Well, I won’t keep you. Thank you for chatting! Let’s do this again soon. Au revoir!

MM: That sounds delightful. À bientôt!

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*Arf

An Interview with Madame Martine

AWC Podcast Series: The Buddy Files – The Case of the Fire Alarm

Today we are talking with Dori Hillestad Butler, the author of the popular chapter book series The Buddy Files.  Dori is talking about the newest book due out this month, #4 The Case of the Fire Alarm.  We chat about therapy dogs (no, not a canine version of Analyze This), spooky mysteries in the forthcoming book #5, and her own beloved pup named Mouse.  Click below to listen. (RT 7:08)

Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of 21 picture books such as The Great Tooth Fairy Rip-Off and novels such as Trading Places with Tank Talbott, Sliding Into Home, Do You know the Monkey Man and The Truth About Truman School, all of which have been nominated for children’s choice awards in 15 different states. Trading Places with Tank Talbott won Maryland’s Black-Eyed Susan award in 2008. She has also written for magazines such as Cricket, Spider, Highlights for Children, Children’s Digest, and Child Life.  She has also “ghostwritten” ten Sweet Valley Twins and Boxcar Children books.

Dori and her dog Mouse are a registered Pet Partner team through Delta Society and enjoy reading with kids. She lives in Coralville, Iowa with her husband, son, and assorted pets.

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AWC Podcast Series: The Buddy Files – The Case of the Fire Alarm