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?

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

Another #FridayReads with AW&Co Staffers!

It’s #FridayReads with Albert Whitman Staffers!  Today, metadata master and sales team all-star Caity Anast talks about her current reads:

I laughed when I read Annette’s post, because I too went through a period of very little “fun-for-me” reading when my children were babies (What to Expect the First Year doesn’t count as fun).

I nodded my head as I read Wendy’s post, because although I am not keeping track of books I’ve read on Goodreads, I do have my own personal list that I have kept since high school. It started with a pamphlet my freshman year English teacher passed out called “Excellence in English: The Honors English Program, York Community High School” that listed the core and supplemental readings by grade level. (A shout out to those great English teachers at York.) I highlighted the titles as I read them, and my goal was to read all the titles in the pamphlet.

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(The ACTUAL pamphlet…I still have it…)

But I reassessed that goal after picking up Moby Dick for fun. I just couldn’t get through it. I mean how many times do you have to describe the whale? I get it, it’s big. I suppose if I read it for English class and had someone to discuss it with, I would have found it more interesting. But instead, I put it down and never finished it. That was the first time I had ever done that. I always felt it was my duty to finish a book. After that, I decided I didn’t have to read every book on that list, but I could refer to it from time to time.

The latest book I am reading is a recommendation from my dad, Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia. I’m not very far along into the book, but the setting is the Bellweather Hotel where a murder-suicide happened fifteen years ago in room 712. Now the hotel is host to Statewide, a high school music festival. So far I’ve been introduced to Alice and Rabbit Hatmaker, twins who are participating in the festival, and their chaperone and teacher, Natalie, who happens to be a former student of Viola Fabian, Statewide’s chairperson and mother of Jill, the best flautist in the state. It’s received three starred reviews, so it’s bound to be good. Booklist says, “Encore, encore.”

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At the same time I am listening to an audio book in the car. I find this is a great time to catch up on what my kids are reading. It’s also a great way to find out the proper pronunciation of a character’s name. I am in the middle of because of mr. terupt (tear upt, not tur upt as I thought) by Rob Buyea. It’s a great story about a fifth grade class and their new teacher. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of seven children in the class. You’ve got your brain, outcast, loner, mean girl, prankster, fat girl, and the new girl. I honestly can’t wait to get in my car each day to see what’s going to happen next.

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Another #FridayReads with AW&Co Staffers!

AWC Podcast Series: Climbing Lincoln’s Steps

Today I am talking with author Suzanne Slade, author of the picture book Climbing Lincoln’s Steps: The African American Journey.  Listen as we discuss civil rights and the steps of change. (RT: 7:43)

To see Marion Anderson’s speech, one of the events that inspired this book, click the below link.  You can also check out Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech here.

http://www.youtube.com/v/mAONYTMf2pk?fs=1&hl=en_US

Suzanne Slade is the author of 80 children’s books, including many biographies and historical picture books. Susan B. Anthony, Fighter for Freedom and Equality was named to the 2008 Amelia Bloomer Recommended Titles list. Her picture book, What’s New at the Zoo? won a 2010 Teachers’ Choice Book Award. Ms. Slade’s most recent picture book, Climbing Lincoln’s Steps, released Sept. 2010.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28597201/

AWC Podcast Series: Climbing Lincoln’s Steps

Illustration Station: Q&A with an Art Director

Soon the spring ’11 artwork will start pouring in to be digitalized, printed, and bound.  Before our art director Nick becomes buried in a mountain of watercolor paintings I thought I would sit down and ask him about the art of, well, art.

AWC: How do you generate a pool of illustrators with whom we could work?

Nick: Agents, referrals, past illustrators, unsolicited postcards and slush pile submissions.  I usually go online and check out their work on their website or blog and sometimes I link to the blogs they follow to find new people that way.  I’m always looking for consistency in the work.

AWC: How do you and the editors decide which illustrator to assign to a book?

Nick: It’s all subjective.  It’s about style, about what fits with the story.  You might look at some art and say, ‘that’s too graphic’ or others and say ‘that’s too editorial.’ But regardless, the manuscript leads the illustration.  We start with a mock-up book that is text-only and I decide how to block the art.  Then I’ll offer guidance to the illustrator.  For instance, with The Really Groovy Story of the Tortoise and the Hare (Spring 2011) I said, ‘Well, the rabbit is kind of cosmopolitan – maybe it should have a backpack of some sort.’

AWC: What are some of the trends we are seeing right now?

Nick: Well, the graphic novel is huge right now, and we are seeing it have some influence, but you have to be careful because sometimes it can look too cartoony for a picture book.  Then there’s digital.  Everything is going digital.  Last year it was something like 60/40 or 70/30 traditional versus digital, but this year it’s the exact opposite.  Take this one (pointing to The Three Bully Goats), the illustrator drew the outlines but painted everything digitally.

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AWC: I bet the digital artwork makes it easier for the printers to get the colors exactly right.

Nick: Not always.  With reproduction the CMYK colors are always muddier and darker than the Pantone versions.  See the brightness of that green in the grass?  We’ll never get it as fluorescent as that.  It’ll look more like this color here.  [See Below]

AWC: What did you do before you came to Albert Whitman?

Nick: I worked in advertising as an art director.

AWC: What about your own art work?  Do you still paint or draw?

Nick: (Laughs).  Not anymore, no.  Not after looking at art all day.

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Illustration Station: Q&A with an Art Director