Four President’s Day Books to Read

President’s Day is just around the corner! Our current political climate has kids (and adults) asking questions, so why not spend the day off school curled up with a book (or two) about the leaders of our country. From how a campaign works to important moments in history, our collection of presidential books has a fun and educational selection!

1. If I Ran for President

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With one of the most talked-about election seasons in recent history just wrapped up, If I Ran for President explains the process of presidential campaigns to little ones. Through the imagination of a multicultural cast of children, this picture book shares the fun parts of running for an election, but also the hard work that is a part of the process.

2. How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln

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Told with colorful collage-style illustrations, this historical book shares the story of the first female detective, Kate Warne, as she thwarts a plan to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln on his Inauguration Day. A great choice for girls in particular, this fun picture book surely educate your little one!

3. If I Were President

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Children from all over America imagine what it would be like if they became President of the United States. From having a personal chef make desserts to being sworn in at the Inauguration, the cast of If I Were President depicts both the fun and the serious parts of this important job. Interspersed with facts about the White House and American history, this picture book is as informative as it is imaginative.

4.  Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

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Introduce your child to one of the most famous speeches in American history with this picture book. The actual text of the Gettysburg Address is accompanied by beautiful illustrations depicting historical moments from the early years of America. In our tense political climate, Lincoln’s unforgettable words are relevant in today’s world and current political climate. Complete with an introduction by scholar Gabor S. Boritt, this book is a perfect choice for a child’s first history book.

 

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Four President’s Day Books to Read

Natural Materials Make Welcoming Homes for Fairies, Pixies, Elves, and Gnomes

Rebecca O’Connell, a librarian, is the author of Baby Party (2015) and Baby Parade (2013).

Baby ParadeBaby Party

She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband, son, two cats, and a big dog. O’Connell talks about fairy tales in this week’s edition of Friday reads!

 

I like walking with my dog, Bear, in a little wooded area near my house; there’s green space within the city. Bear is looking for woodchucks and squirrels. I am looking for sticks, catkins, pine cones, acorns, pebbles, or other building materials—construction supplies for fairy houses.

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Fairy houses are tiny houses (or schools or castles or libraries…) for the hidden folk.

The Hidden Folk

The structures are made of natural materials. We leave them outside (or, sometimes, in a window) in the hope that someone will find this welcoming shelter and move in.

I love to pore over the photos of fairy houses in the books by Barry and Tracy Kane:

Fairy Houses...Everywhere!Fairy Houses and Beyond!

 

Fairy Houses … Everywhere! (left)

Fairy Houses and Beyond! (right)

 

 

Fairy Houses...Unbelievable!Fairy Homes & Gardens

and Fairy Houses…Unbelievable! (left)

And this new one by Barbara Purchia and E. Ashley Rooney, Fairy Homes and Gardens (right), which includes the poem “The Fairy Dew Drop” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I page through the photo books for inspiration. Seeing what can be made from petals and shells and seed pods and bark makes me want to construct something. The possibilities are endless, as can be seen in page after page in the books or on Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Facebook page, for example.

The wee people for whom we build can be tricky or friendly. They can be shy or sociable. Usually, they will respond to kindness with kindness. I keep that in mind as I gather materials for their cozy nooks or luxurious mansions. I think about The Tomten and the Fox by Astrid Lindgren. That is where I learned about the tradition of leaving a bowl of milk out for the Tomten. (Putting up a little house is like leaving out a bowl of milk, right?)

The Tomten and the Fox

When I picture the soon-to-move-in wee little neighbors, I picture the flower fairies of Cicely Mary Barker. Aren’t they beautiful? Wouldn’t you set your mind to making the most comfortable home possible for them to enjoy?

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I like to learn about who the wee people are, their habits, their preferences – all the better to recognize and welcome them. The poems in Fairies, Trolls & Goblins Galore, complied by Dilys Evans, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers are a fine introduction to (or reminder of) our hidden neighbors.

 

Natural Materials Make Welcoming Homes for Fairies, Pixies, Elves, and Gnomes

#Fridayreads: A photographer found

Happy Friday everyone! Our lovely publicity coordinator, Tracie Schneider, talks about a fascinating book she recently read entitled Vivian Maier: A Photographer Found.

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Vivian Maier lived a relatively quiet life working as nanny for several affluent families on the North Shore. In her spare time, she would wander the streets of Chicago and shoot on her Rolleiflex camera capturing the extraordinary in the everyday ordinary. Nearly all of the 150,000 images captured were left undeveloped and packed away in boxes collecting dust for years at a local storage locker until they were auctioned off and landed in the hands of historical preservationist, John Maloof, for under $400.

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©Vivian Maier

At first, he had absolutely no idea what to do with them. He had originally purchased the negatives for his upcoming Portage Park historical book, but nothing seemed to fit, so, her boxes remained in a closet. Vivian’s work began to soon take life years later after John revisited the boxes and began scanning her images and revealing them to photo enthusiasts on Flickr.

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©Vivian Maier

The art community finally got a glimpse into the world of Vivian Maier—the eccentric mystery woman that always hid behind the camera.

Admirers demanded more. Who was this woman? And why did she conceal her talent from the world? This book explores the oddities and quirky behavior that consumed the painfully private, Vivian Maier, that hindered her ability to become a successful street photographer while alive.

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©Vivian Maier

Even after extensive research, very little is known about her. She had no family, or close friends. She often would use fake names, and it appears she may have even pulled a Madonna by rocking a fake accent even though records indicate that she was born and raised in NYC. What we do know is that she was incredibly tall and lanky. She liked wearing men’s shoes and big, oversized coats. She enjoyed getting lost in large cities and always had a camera strapped around her neck.

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©Vivian Maier

Grown-ups didn’t quite understand her, but kids adored her for her sense of adventure and zest for life. She was the Mary Poppins of the North Shore, and she had the natural ability to freeze moments that would normally be overlooked by busy city dwellers. Here’s a link to a documentary about her: http://www.vivianmaier.com/film-finding-vivian-maier/.

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©Vivian Maier

I really enjoyed this book! Not only did it feature some of Vivian’s most praised work, but it also reminded me to slow down a bit and stop ordering grilled cheese for lunch three days a week. When life gets a little hectic, it’s so easy to get lost in our daily routine that “moments” are often overlooked. Vivian’s work encourages you to break away from autopilot mode, and wake up to the beauty surrounding us.

What “moments” have you stopped to cherish today? Let us know in the comments!

 

#Fridayreads: A photographer found

#Fridayreads: Kiki’s book club gives us recommendations

Let’s take a trip to Kiki’s book club! Kiki, who always has a fun story to share, is Albert Whitman’s Purchasing Assistant. Take it away, Kiki!

I’m a part of a lovely book club. We catch up, have some coffee, and discuss a variety of genres of books. I’ve been a part of it for a number of years. It’s honestly one of the best parts of my week! Below I’ve listed several titles we’ve recently read as a group, as well as some books I intend to read with the book club.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo is an international bestseller with over 2 million copies sold since October 2014. I haven’t finished it quite yet, but here are some tips that especially resonated with me:

  • When you put your house in order, you put your affairs in order, too.
  • All you need to do is look at each item, one at a time, and decide whether or not to keep it and where to put it.
  • The key to success in tidying is to keep only those items that bring you joy. “Does this spark joy?”

If the answer to the above question is ‘no’ then you discard the item. I intend to employ the KonMari method during my spring clean this year. If used correctly, the KonMari method will make this my last attempt at tidying up. “By successfully concluding this once-in-a-lifetime task” all subsequent acts of tidying will only be putting items back to where they belong. She outlines a specific order to tidying and discarding. I am looking forward to my tidy house that she had me visualize in Chapter 2. Thanks Marie!

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Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill was selected as one of the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2014. As a short read –less than 200 pages—it has a fragmented style that keeps the reader on her toes. It is about marriage & motherhood and the loneliness & the disappointment that comes with both. My book club had a lively discussion of this book. This is the perfect book to read twice, expect to pick up on themes and other passages not noticed the first time around.

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Yes Please by Amy Poehler was neither critically acclaimed nor on any ‘Best of’ lists. However, it had funny stories and felt, at points, real to me. A bit scattered, all in all it was a good book to escape to after a long day. The book was neither frivolous nor too serious. I definitely recommend this one.

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The books I intend to read next are: The Martian, Deep Down Dark and Girl on the Train, which are the next three book club selections. My choice for the group was Girl on the Train since it kept popping up as a recommendation time and time again. We choose these three in particular so we can read ahead or get on the looong waiting list at the Chicago Public Library (101st on the waiting list of Deep, Down Dark).

#Fridayreads: Kiki’s book club gives us recommendations

#FridayReads: T. Jefferson Parker’s FULL MEASURE

Director of Sales & Marketing Mike Spradlin tell us why he loves T. Jefferson Parker’s latest thriller! 

I have been a fervent fan of novelist T. Jefferson Parker since I read his first book Laguna Heat, back in the late ’80s. I believe he is the best thriller writer in America today. His stories are complex but relatable. His heroes and heroines are almost always tragically flawed in some way (which makes them all the more interesting). And his writing is so deeply moving, one feels almost as if you are reading an epic poem instead of a novel.

Laguna Heat

In his latest book Full Measure, Parker takes his talent a giant leap forward. While there is crime, death, and shattered life in Full Measure, the focus of the story is on the victims and their families. As always, he delivers a taut, crisp morality play that makes you think, and fills you with hope and despair (sometimes in the same sentence!). But in the end, he gives you a greater understanding of the human condition.

Full Measure

Full Measure is primarily a story about family. Patrick and Ted Norris are two brothers whose lives have taken different paths. Growing up on an avocado farm in Fallbrook, California, Patrick and Ted share idyllic childhoods in many ways. Yet like all of Parker’s characters, they soon learn the idyll is a myth. Ted, born with mild birth defects in his legs and feet, is never able to measure up to his demanding farmer father. Patrick is consumed by wanderlust and joins the Marines when he graduates from high school. The story begins with Patrick returning from his deployment to Afghanistan.

Once home, he discovers an ugly truth. There are always wars, just different kinds. The kind where you know who and where your enemies are, even if they are there in the darkness, and the other kind, where people you once knew, whom you thought you could trust, are only reflections of the people you left behind. Where sometimes the enemy is sitting right next to you. And it is impossible to not be scarred by them both.

Patrick returns home to find the family farm on the brink of collapse after a fire, set by an arsonist, has burned through Fallbrook. Inevitably, he is drawn into a web of lies, deceit and intrigue all the while dealing with his own post traumatic stress over the men he served with, whom he could not save. His life’s dream is nearly within his grasp when he uncovers a horrible secret about his family that forces him to give it up to save them.

When Ted begins behaving strangely, including hanging out with questionable characters, Patrick, like all good brothers, must step in and save Ted from himself. All the while the arson investigation draws nearer and nearer. Until Patrick discovers a horrible truth that could destroy his family and everything he holds most dear.

I loved reading Full Measure. I hated finishing it for precisely the same reason. Because it was a great book. And now I have to wait until Parker writes another.

#FridayReads: T. Jefferson Parker’s FULL MEASURE

Read widely, please.

Last week at a SCBWI conference, the editors told the crowd to read children’s books…not just write them. I said the same thing in my session. It’s important to read good writing in order to write well, but it is vitally important to understand your marketplace, if you want to promote books.

It’s odd that so many people in our industry don’t read children’s books outside of work. How do you know if a new book you’re promoting is really any good, if you don’t know it’s direct competition? Or where it should be shelved? Or if a well-known blogger will like your book? There is a tendency to think your book fits everywhere (or nowhere— depending on your level of self-confidence). Reading widely helps you place yourself in the picture.

The other benefit of being well read? Conversations with opinionmakers always (and I mean ALWAYS) go better when you can talk about the current “hot” titles.  What are you reading? What’s your favorite Newbery contender? These relationships with opinionmakers are where authors and illustrators have their greatest influence on the PR lives of their books. Appearances on conference panels often stem from conversations just like this.

So, how to get started? You could read some of the current Newbery and/or Caldecott contenders.  Do an online search for “Mock Newbery 2011” and you’ll easily find 5-6 lists. (If you write YA or nonfiction, there are awards for those as well.) You could read the books with the most starred reviews.

For a more historical perspective, you could read all the Caldecott or Newbery medalists. I did this back in 2003-2005.  I started with the 2003 winner and worked my way backwards. (If you start with 1919, you’ll never get past the first book…trust me.) I wrote an article for the Children’s Book Council about my experience. It is no longer available on the the CBC website, so here is CBC Newbery Perspectives Article.

Since that Newbery-reading project, I’ve never been at a loss for conversation at a trade show or cocktail party. And, since I want to be able to say I’ve read all the Newberys, I am now making my way through a wonderful list of contenders for 2011.

So , go…now…READ!

Read widely, please.