5 adorable Halloween memories

Ron and Yvonne

You can keep your costumes, your wax teeth, your funny nose and fake puke. You can keep the Mars Bars, Kandy Korn, popcorn balls, and healthful homemade treats that look great but taste like sludge.

You can keep all of it, because one Halloween I got the best treat ever. Her name was Yvonne.

I sat in my apartment that night watching TV, wondering if I would ever meet the woman of my dreams. It occurred to me that if it was going to happen, it probably wouldn’t be in my apartment or on TV.

I’d heard about a Halloween party at a local club—not my kind of place, and besides, I didn’t have a costume. But I wanted to meet someone, so I went.

There were clowns, witches, cartoon characters, and a nun with a handlebar mustache. Across the room, I saw someone wearing jeans and a sweater, and she saw me. I walked up to her.

“I like your costume,” I said. “You’re dressed as a normal person.”

She grinned. She joked. We danced. We talked and talked and talked. Years later, we’re still talking. In our house. With our daughter.

And every Halloween, we celebrate.

Ronald Kidd, author of Night on Fire and Dreambender (publishing March 2016)

Leslie’s daughter, Natalie, dressed as a bunny.

 

My most vivid Halloween memories are about making—never buying—my costume each year. My three sisters and I would compete to see who came up with the most creative idea. My mom was very talented at crafts and sewing, and she supervised in the early years. I remember one truly fantastic papier maché mouse head my mother made for my youngest sister.

As an adult, I continued the homemade costume tradition. Here’s a photo of my first attempt, definitely not up to my mom’s high standards. My then two-year-old daughter was supposed to be a bunny rabbit. Clearly an alien species of rabbit; I had some trouble with the head and ears. (I did get better as the years went by!) Welcoming neighborhood trick-or-treaters is still one of the high points of my year, and I keep an extra candy bar for anyone with a homemade costume.

Leslie Kimmelman, author of Trick Arrr Treat


 

dana elmendorf football
Dana dressed up as a young football player one Halloween.

Dressing up for Halloween was, and still is, my favorite part of the holiday. One year in particular I was so excited to get one of those prepackaged Barbie costumes (nothing like today’s costumes, mind you.) This beauty consisted of a terribly scratchy mask and a preprinted sheathlike plastic ball gown that made me feel—and smell—like a crayon. Needless to say my dream costume quickly became my most loathed costume. But that has never stopped me from dressing up. Instead, I became more creative and designed most of the costumes for my children and myself. Over the years the costumes have consisted of a Football Powder Puff, Shark Boy and Lava Girl, Thomas the Train, Batman’s Poison Ivy and my most recent and favorite, I dressed up as VMA’s Miley Cyrus. The more bizarre the costume, the better, I say. –Dana Elmendorf, author of South of Sunshine (publishing April 2016)


 

Sam and Josh Granberry, Photo taken Oct. 31, 1997 for inside story for Healthy Living. 10282008xGUIDEDAILY
Sam and Josh Granberry, Photo taken Oct. 31, 1997

Sam and David wanted to be vampires. Thank goodness for Halloween, I thought as we drove from California to our new home in Texas with Sam, 6, David, 4 and Josh, 1 in the back seats. To distract the boys from everything we were leaving behind, we talked about how quickly we could make the look happen when we arrived the morning of Oct. 31. (Josh’s main contribution was to spit up, which meant he was going to inherit the old pumpkin sleeper that had been worn by his brothers.) We dropped off our things at our new apartment and hit the ground running, seeking capes, white make-up and plastic pumpkins for candy. Over dinner, I read their new favorite book, Matt Novak’s Pete and Ghost, about a boy who finds a friendly ghost in his new house. And then, trick or treat! They ran from decorated house to house, gathering treats and, even better, smiles from the new kids that would become their best friends.

Nancy Churnin, author of The William Hoy Story (publishing March 2016)

Cheryl and son Will
Cheryl with son Will

Is my son a zombie? It is possible. Here are the top five reasons why I think he might be: 5) He answers questions with a blank stare;  4) He’s good with directions. Have you noticed zombies always know which way to go? 3) My son played baseball as a kid and now works for a baseball team. Zombies never give up either;  2) He has lots of friends – zombies hate to be alone; and number 1) My son likes ripped shirts and old pants. If that doesn’t scream zombie – what does? So as another Halloween approaches, I’ll be thinking of my wonderful zombie and all the fun we used to have. 

Cheryl Lawton Malone, author of Dario and the Whale (publishing March 2016)

 

5 adorable Halloween memories

7 reasons I love Brazil

by author Ana Crespo

Considered by many to be the most beautiful word in the Portuguese language, Saudade has no literal translation to English. Saudade is what you feel when you miss someone or something. Saudade is what I feel for Brazil.

Rio, Brazil

(Photo: Rio seen from Corcovado by Ana Crespo)

I love the United States. Every year we travel to many U.S. states, having visited 34 of them by car, plus Hawaii. The United States is a beautiful country with wonderful people. However, there are certain aspects about the place you grew up that always bring you comfort.


 

Ipanema and Leblon Beach

(Photo: Leblon and Ipanema Beach seen from Mirante Dois Irmaos by Ana Crespo)

For me, it’s the cold waters of Ipanema beach. The refreshing breeze of the ocean as you walk on the calçadão. The coconut water. The Brazilian rodízio restaurant right after a morning under the hot sun. The bits of samba and bossa nova on the streets. The Feira Hippie. And, most of all, the family and friends.


 

Sock Thief

It’s Saudade, more than any educational reason, that encourages me to share the culture and traditions of the place I come from with my kids. That makes me search everywhere for the right ingredients to make pão de queijo. That makes me drive over an hour to eat coxinha. That makes me listen to Brazilian music in the car. That makes me read Brazilian children’s books. It was Saudade that motivated me to write The Sock Thief. Saudade is a big part of who I am.


 

Sugar Loaf seen from Corcovado

(Photo: Sugar Loaf seen from Corcovado by Ana Crespo)

September 7 is Brazil’s Independence Day. I imagine Saudade has a hand on the many Brazilian Day celebrations happening this month everywhere around the world.

Author Ana Crespo is originally from Brazil and has lived in the United States for 15 years. She lives in Colorado with her husband and two kids. Her two latest picture books, which are part of a new series, My Emotions and Me,  published on September 1: J.P. and the Giant Octopus and J.P. and the Polka-Dotted Aliens.

What is it about your hometown – in the US or not – that makes you feel Saudade?

7 reasons I love Brazil

Remembering my favorite childhood book

by Sarah S. Brannen, author and illustrator

Ever since my first book was published in 2008, I have been asked the same question in dozens of interviews:

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

For years, I protested that I couldn’t possibly answer the question; I have a favorite painting, a favorite drawing, a favorite piece of music, a favorite sound, but I love far too many books to choose a favorite.

Nutshell librarypeter rabbit

When I think about books that I loved as a child, I visualize one picture book after another, some famous, some less so: Peter Rabbit, Blueberries for Sal, Prince Bertram the Bad, Bartholomew and the Oobleck, One Morning in Maine, Melisande, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, The Nutshell Library, to name just a few.

I was complaining about this to my mother one day, when she reminded me that I did indeed have a favorite book when I was little: Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man by Robert McCloskey. As I look at the list of books I just spouted, it seems pretty clear that McCloskey was my favorite author when I was small. And my mother told me the following story, of which I have no memory.

burt dow

I was probably about four years old. My family was staying at Sand Beach Farm on Deer Isle, Maine. My parents had rented a small aluminum boat with an outboard motor, and we headed out for a picnic on an island. We motored along the shore, past McCloskey’s home. I had Burt Dow with me, which must mean that I loved it so much I took it everywhere. My parents pointed out McCloskey’s house and told me the author of my book lived there. I held the book over my head and yelled at the top of my lungs, “Mr. McCloskey, I love your book!”

As I said, I don’t remember doing this. I do remember seeing E.B. White’s sweet little wooden sailboat, “Fern,” on its mooring. The dingy was named “Wilbur.”

Well, after my mother told me the story, I bought a new copy of Burt Dow. (My childhood copy disintegrated long ago; I was the kind of kid who loved books to death). Just looking at the cover gave me a happy shiver. And the title page, with its pots of paint, big spill of pink, and a seagull happily leaving pink footprints? Heaven.

It had been far more years than I care to share since I read the story. But it was all there, so deeply embedded in my memory that I had forgotten where the images came from. The old dory planted with geraniums and sweet peas. The Tidely-Idely, with her make-and-break engine. The giggling gull. “Hit the deck, Burt, time to eat!” The peppermint-striped band-aids. “An old deep-water man like me always keeps a weather eye out.”

And the colors – murky green Maine water, the boat painted in all the colors left over from Burt’s odd jobs, the Pollack-like paint-splashed innards of the whale. And best of all, the spreads filled with whales of all sorts of yummy colors. Read it. You’ll see.

I’ll never know whether this is the book that made me want to be a children’s book illustrator. It was probably only one of many. But it was, definitely, my favorite.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Sarah S. Brannen is an award-winning illustrator of over 15 children’s books. She is the author and illustrator of Madame Martine and Madame Martine Breaks the Rules. She lives in Massachusetts but goes to Paris as often as possible. 

Remembering my favorite childhood book

Happy Birthday, E.B. White!

“All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.” — E. B. White

When I volunteered to do a #FridayReads post, and randomly chose the July 10th slot, I already knew I’d be writing about E. B. White. What I discovered only as I began to write was that that was the day before White’s birthday! He was born 116 years ago, on July 11, 1899.

Charlotte's Web

It may be a bit of a cliché to claim Charlotte’s Web as my favorite children’s book, but I can’t help it. From the moment I first read (and reread) it as a child to the dozens of times I shared it with my own children, it has never failed to move me to tears. The book is more than 60 years old, but is freshly beguiling on every read. And how can you resist a story that kills off one of its main characters, but still uplifts you, ending with (slightly abridged):

[The barn] was the best place to be, thought Wilbur, this warm delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, and the glory of everything.

Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. . . . She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

Absolute perfection.

That’s not to pass over Stuart Little or the sometimes overlooked but beautiful homage to wilderness, The Trumpet of the Swan. What E. B. White gave me was an early appreciation for nature and the natural ebbs and flows of life—“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder,” he advised—and though I didn’t know it at the time, he probably planted the seeds that led to my becoming an author. His prose was witty, wise, and gorgeous; he always chose the right words—and just the right words, no wasted verbiage. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered White also wrote for adults.

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I still consult his Elements of Style (the newish version, with the bonus of illustrations by the great Maira Kalman). Check out White’s story and poetry anthologies; they’re a revelation. His poem, “Natural History” is undoubtedly the most romantic poem ever written about a spider (E. B. White is a one-man PR marvel for spiders).

E.B. White

So tomorrow, have a piece of cake for E. B. White—or better yet, revisit one of his classics. Prepare to be utterly enchanted. He was SOME WRITER!

Leslie Kimmelman is a children’s book author and works part-time as an editor at Sesame Street Books. She also works from home as a freelance writer and editor. She lives just outside of New York City, where her and her husband have brought up two children and two dogs.

Happy Birthday, E.B. White!

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

Wonder: Humorous children’s book about acceptance, kindness

Author Sarah Lynn Scheerger talks about the book Wonder in this week’s Friday reads. Scheerger is the author of The Opposite of Love (hardcover 2014; paperback Fall 2015), and Are You Still There? (Fall 2015).

TheOppositeofLoveAreYouStillThere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why is R.J. Palacio’s Wonder so wonderful?

“Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?” –Goodreads.com

I know why I think so. The heartbreakingly real characters, true to life. The careful introduction of issues that make us think and feel. The quick moving plot. Boy appeal. Humor that makes me smile while reading. The beginning hooks the readers right away. The authentic character voices that speak in real and meaningful ways.

Pg. 3 “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

Her succinct and accurate portrayal of character.

Page 34 “…so is he the kind of kid who’s one way in front of grown-ups and another way in front of kids?”

I think the sense of humor intertwined with real issues is part of what makes this so enjoyable. Consider these sections:

Page 64

“Are you always going to look this way, August? I mean, can’t you get plastic surgery or something?”

I smiled and pointed to my face. “Hello? This is after plastic surgery!”

Jack clapped his hand over his forehead and started laughing hysterically.

“Dude, you should sue your doctor!” he answered between giggles.

The cover is tasteful, appealing, and intriguing. Palacio changes POV, so that we hear multiple perspectives in ways that slightly overlap but still push the story forward. We have empathy for the ways people act, and we understand their motivations.

Wonder

Of course there’s a clear hook for upper elementary and middle school teachers. What a great way to spark discussion about friendship, acceptance, differences, school culture, bullying and kindness.

As a school social worker, I have the pleasure of visiting many elementary and middle school classes. It’s a breath of fresh air when I walk into a classroom and see that each student has created their own one-eyed “wonder-esque” face to post around the room. Think of the classroom discussions that can ensue after reading aloud Mr. Tushman’s end of the year speech about being “kinder than necessary.” Mr. Browne’s precepts are another great source of discussion material.

But what do kids think? Why do they love it? I’ll confess that my eleven-year-old has read and re-read this book five times. He’s a kid who typically gravitates to fantasy, action, or sci-fi. Realistic fiction isn’t his cup of tea, unless it’s historically based. But the characters in Wonder grabbed hold of his heart and head, wouldn’t let go.

I asked him this question—“Why is Wonder worth reading?”

All of his comments referenced the feelings invoked within himself as he connected with these masterful characters. He said,“I felt sympathetic for Auggie. I could imagine how Jack Will felt when he accidentally hurt his friend’s feelings. I felt a proud feeling when the kids from his school protected Auggie during the movie.”

Then I asked, “Why is Wonder worth re-reading?”

He smiled, and said, “Just… the book is so… amazing.”

Or shall I say Wonder-ful?

Wonder: Humorous children’s book about acceptance, kindness

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.”

chapeuzinho_amarelo-1

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.

9780807583708_DownFromMountain

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: Anne’s House of Dreams

It’s #FridayReads with metadata master and sales team all-star Caity Anast, who talks about her current reads:

Before Christmas, I decided to listen to Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery in the car. It is my all-time favorite book. Not only have I read the series, seen the TV mini-series with Megan Follows and Colleen Dewhurst, but I have also been to the Anne of Green Gables festival on Prince Edward Island. I love Anne and have always thought we would be wonderful friends. It has been more than 20 years since I have read the books, but I so enjoyed listening to the first story on audio that I decided to reread the whole series. Lucky for me, I have it on my bookshelf. I am nearing the end of Book 5, Anne’s House of Dreams. Even though I know what is going to happen, I still enjoy watching it all unfold. Every night, I look forward to getting into bed and traveling back to Avonlea or wherever Anne seems to be.

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Every year for Christmas, my husband and I try to get a nice book for each of our children—a book that they will keep for a long time. I knew what to get my 9-year-old daughter immediately. She loved Wonder by R.J. Palacio (as did I, finishing it up near midnight on New Year’s Eve 2013), so when I saw 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts, I knew it would be perfect. As you can guess, there is a precept for every day. Some are from famous people and some are from readers who wrote to the author. My daughter has decided to read a precept a day, and together we read it at night before bed. One of our favorites is: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.—Anne Frank.” (I love that they did not put a jacket on the book, but embossed it instead. Those jackets just end up getting in the way!)

Book of Wonder

I was having a more difficult time coming up with something for my son. He likes sports books, but I try to introduce him to other genres. When I was working at my daughter’s school’s book fair, I found the perfect book for him, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin.

Last year, he read Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson for school and loved it. This past summer, we went to Springfield, Illinois, where we toured the Lincoln library, his home, and also stopped by the cemetery where Lincoln is buried. This story is a thriller based on the real events that happened in 1876 when President Lincoln’s body was stolen and held for ransom. My son has enjoyed it so much that he has read it four times. As soon as I finish the Anne of Green Gables series, I promised him I would read it, too.

 

#Fridayreads: Anne’s House of Dreams

It’s #FridayReads with Editorial Director Kelly Barrales-Saylor!

Thanks for popping in for another installment of #FridayReads with Albert Whitman staffers.  Chime in on our Twitter (@AlbertWhitman) and tell us what you’re reading this Friday.  We’d love to know!

Today’s guest post is from our Editorial Director Kelly Barrales-Saylor:

Reading and editing children’s books as a career is definitely the coolest job I could have ever dreamed of. And having a toddler at home, I read more picture books than I ever thought possible. This is precisely why when I’m not reading The Little Blue Truck I gravitate toward adult nonfiction. My guilty pleasures are celebrity memoirs and big, glossy cookbooks.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought I’d write about one of the memoir-ish books I’m reading right now that is full of nuggets of wisdom: What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey. Say what you will about Oprah and her empire, but growing up in Chicagoland, her show was a staple in my house. And in Chicago her show ran at 9am and 11pm so even before DVRs existed, I never missed an episode—probably saw at least a few minutes of every one from the first season until its finale.

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Side story: Oprah and her various shows are a large part of my personal history. Just one example is when my dad was in the Oprah studio audience back in the late 1980s and a very young Jonathon Brandmeier was a guest as part of Oprah’s conversation with “outrageous disc jockeys.” Johnny B (as he was known) pointed to my very tall and burly biker dad sitting in the audience and said, “I’m sorry, sir, but the mass murderer show was last week.” The show was live! They showed my dad on TV! My dad laughed (he was a fan of Johnny’s) and waved him off. After the show, according to my dad, Johnny approached my dad to apologize and then asked my dad to act like his bodyguard so he didn’t get mugged on his way to the car. My dad obliged and had some nice conversations with Johnny on the way. I still have that episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show on tape. After my dad passed away, having this little video with my dad waving and saying “Hi, Johnny!” has been quite comforting.

(OMG. Remember 80's Oprah?)
(OMG. Remember 80’s Oprah?)

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Ok, back to this #FridayReads post (sorry, I’m quite wordy when telling stories).

What I Know for Sure is a collection of essays that originally appeared in Oprah’s magazine. They’re organized by themes such as joy, gratitude, resilience, possibility, awe, etc. Remember that book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum? Well, this is sort of the Oprah version. The essays are small enough to digest a few at a time or all at once.

I admit that on the weekends you can probably find me wearing my Oprah Winfrey Show T-shirt while drinking out of my Oprah Winfrey Show mug (both of which my husband scored in a swag bag from producers of the show—like I said, I’ve got a few Oprah stories). But I swear this little collection of essays is worth reading for non-Oprah fans too.

It’s the perfect little book to help me reflect and find peace and (especially right now) remember the true meaning of Thanksgiving…before or after I run in and out of five different grocery stores in search of the one ingredient I forgot to buy that everyone is sold out of while my son insists I sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” over and over. And if you happen to have a meltdown while arm wrestling someone for the last can of pumpkin, just remember what Oprah knows for sure: “no matter where you are, you are a single choice away from a new beginning.”

It’s #FridayReads with Editorial Director Kelly Barrales-Saylor!

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!