Garden Reads: "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards, 2011

With all the interest in school and community gardens these days, the list of  "Growing Good Kids" book awards is a wonderful resource. The latest winners, announced last weekend, are as follows. (Don't miss the roster of classics, too.)

Amazon_title Water, Weed and Wait, written by Edith Hope Fine and Angela Demos Halpin; illustrated by Colleen Madden (Tricycle Press, 2010)

Nibbles: A Green Tale, by Charlotte Middleton (Marshall Cavendish, 2010)

In the Garden with Dr. Carver, written by Susan Grigsby and illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (Albert Whitman & Company, 2010)

A description from the American Horticultural Society:

The Junior Master Gardener Program and the American Horticultural Society honor engaging, inspiring works of plant, garden and ecology-themed children's literature through the new "Growing Good Kids—Excellence in Children's Literature Awards" Program.

This award recognizes a select group of children's books that are especially effective at promoting an understanding of and appreciation for gardening and the environment.

You'll find additional children's book titles about gardening today at A Year of Reading. That post inspired this one. Thanks, Franki and Mary Lee.

Summer in the Field

Junior is now a rising 7th grader. How did that happen? I could have sworn that he just finished kindergarten.

This summer, when he's not app-surfing, he wants to read more Scientists in the Field books. That's the great series from Houghton Mifflin. Some that he has not gotten to yet are Diving to a Deep Sea Volcano; Saving the Ghost of the Mountain; and Wildlife Detectives. Along with many others, he's re-reading Harry Potter, too.

What are your kids reading these days? 

Wayward Thoughts

"I like to think about things," [Isabel] said airly. "I like to let my mind wander. Our minds can come up with the most entertaining possibilities, if we let them. But most of the time, we keep them under far too close a check."

from The Careful Use of Compliments, by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon Books, 2007)

Less edgy than Barbara Pym's novels and a bit more sophisticated than Jan Karon's Mitford books, McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series is a delight. After my mother lent me The Sunday Philosophy Club (thanks, Mom!), I've gone on to read three more, and have the next waiting on the book shelf. Set in Edinburgh, the short novels, which make the most of their Scottish setting, feature a fortysomething philosopher, who really does think about lots of things and occasionally meddles in situations, if not exactly mysteries, where she shouldn't.  

Talking About "The Latte Rebellion" & Directions to the Blog Blast Tour

At Chasing Ray, Colleen Mondor talks to Sarah Stevenson, who wrote The Latte Rebellion (Flux, 2011). Stevenson's young adult novel features characters of mixed race. The author says, 

From the beginning I wanted to make this a fun story with a healthy dose of humor, not just an "issue book." Not that the issues it covers aren't important to me, but I feel very strongly that there need to be more books that have race/ethnicity/culture as a theme but which are not pigeonholed into being "ethnic books" or even problem novels...

The interview is part of the Summer Blog Blast Tour, a top-notch annual series focusing on books for children and teens. The entire schedule is here.

From English to Catalan to English

All this time, I couldn't help but wonder what my problem with English had been. It took me more than a long while to work out that English was not my language at all: British English was. A language in which syntax, vocabulary, slang and the odd turn of phrase involuntarily delineate the class origins of either the author or – should there be one – the fictional narrator. 

Matthew Tree,  "Finding My Voice in Spain," The Telegraph, 6 July 2011

The above is from a really interesting piece in which the author, a native Englishman living in Spain, talks about finding his voice in English after years of writing in Catalan. Tree's latest book is Barcelona, Catalonia: A View from the Inside. I've always wanted to visit Barcelona, and since summer is a good time to travel, if only by reading, I'm going to hunt down a copy.

Link via The Book Bench

Beach Reads (for Nature Loving Kids)

9780736820646 On Saturday I got to be the Story Lady at the beach. The "friends" group of the nearby state park, Sherwood Island, sponsors several summer read-alouds, and as the day's pinch hitter, I took over when the regular reader had to be out of town. 

I had two requirements for each book I chose: 1. Natured-themed in some way., 2. Not too long or wordy.

Nic Bishop Frogs (Scholastic 2008). Mostly we looked at (and exclaimed over) the fantastic, close-up photographs of frogs. I kept the text short and sweet, leaving out most of it, since one of the listeners was only three. It was very exciting to look at all the fwogs!

Sea, Sand, Me!, written by Patricia Hubbell and illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst. (HarperCollins, 2001) Fun for the littles: "Flippy-floppy sun hat./Wiggly-waggly toes./Mommy rubbing lotion/On my nose, nose, nose."

Actual Size, by Steve Jenkins. (Houghton Mifflin, 2004) Recommended by Adrienne at the blog What Adrienne Thinks About That, this collection of colorful, cut-paper illustrations of real-life-sized animals (and parts of animals), like bear, squid, and great white shark teeth. Everyone thought my hand would be as big as a gorilla's (um, thanks?). But it wasn't, and neither were theirs! We all held up our hands to the illustration. A keeper for my list of good second-grade books for next fall. (I'm a volunteer reader in a second-grade classroom.)

Jellies, by Twig C. George. (Millbrook, 2000) I love this book for its odd, second-person point of view. "If you were a jellyfish you would have two choices—to go up or down. That's it. Two. You would not have a brain, so you could not decide what to have for breakfast or where to go for lunch." The seven year olds in the group got it right away. We talked about the cool photos of jellyfish, too.

Herons, by Margaret Hall. (Capstone, 2004) A beginning reader from a series called "Wetland Animals," this was a good selection for the park because of all the herons that can be found there. I learned something, too. "Herons eat during the day. They sleep standing in water at night." A couple of kids imitated how a heron might sleep standing on one leg.

Whale in the Sky, by Anne Siberell. (E.P. Dutton, 1982) Relatively short for a folk tale, this "Reading Rainbow" selection is a re-telling of a Native American legend from the Pacific Northwest.  Siberell's wood-block illustrations show well to a group. 

I also had on deck, in case story time ran long:

Crab Moon, written by Ruth Horowitz and illustrated by Kate Kiesler. (Candlewick, 2000) A story about horseshoe crabs and a boy at the beach, with a dash of educational information.

A Beach Tail, written by Karen Lynn Williams and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. (Boyds Mill Press, 2010) Beautiful, realistic illustrations depict a boy drawing in the sand and getting farther and farther away from his dad. "A gentle story for young readers [that] touches on independence and problem-solving..," writes Pam at MotherReader.

"Diversify Your Reading!"

Here's a fun summer reading challenge: Diversify Your Reading!, sponsored by Diversity in YA Fiction. From that blog, 

This summer, we’re challenging readers to read books that feature a diverse world, to read beyond their comfort zones, and to just plain dive into some wonderful stories. Our challenge will have two components: one for libraries, one for readers and book bloggers. At the end of the summer we’ll be giving away some wonderful book prizes donated by publishers.

For more information, click here.

via Crazy Quilts

Booked at the Beach: Read-Aloud at CT's Sherwood Island

Hey, friends! If you're in southwestern Connecticut on Saturday, come on by. I'll be reading beach and nature-themed picture books under a white tent at Sherwood Island State Park on the East Beach (if it's sunny) and in the Nature Center (in case of rain). No charge beyond the usual parking fees.

Sherwood Island State Park, Westport, CT. Saturday, June 25 at 2.


The Latest Book: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading
by Nina Sankovitch
HarperCollins, 2011

I admire Nina Sankovitch, although I've never met her. Every day for an entire year, she sat down and read a book, and blogged about it all.  She even wrote her own book, afterward. I just finished the resulting Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, a lovely collection of personal-and-literary essays. The author began her year as an antidote to the overwhelming sadness she was still feeling three years after the death of a beloved sister, and her conclusions about the value of memory and the backward glance inform every chapter.

Books like Sankovitch's always give me additions to my wish list. I wrote down these titles: The Open Door, by Elizabeth Maguire; The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon; A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest J. Gaines; Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry; Little Bee, by Chris Cleve; Indignation, by Philip Roth; The Sunday Philosophy Club, by Alexander McCall Smith; and Pastoralia, by George Saunders.

Not surprisingly, Sankovitch was an avid reader as a child—Harriet the Spy was especially beloved—and she does include some children's and YA books on her list of 365. Among the titles are American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang; Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card; Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke; The Picts and the Martyrs, by Arthur Ransome; Silverwing, by Kenneth Oppel; Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler; Wizard's Hall, by Jane Yolen; and The Wright 3, by Blue Balliett. 

If you need some lit-blogging inspiration, or just like to read about reading, don't miss Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.

Where the Wild Things Are Not

I'm winding down this year's stint as a volunteer reader for a second-grade public school class. Earlier this week I took in Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak's classic picture book. 

Usually this group is bouncing with enthusiasm but not this time around. It was hot in the classroom (the school has no a.c.), the kids were finishing their breakfast, and energy was flagging. Very few except the reliably talkative Charlotte* wanted to make a related comment when I closed the book, although Alex* took the opportunity to announce that it was his birthday.

Finally Viviana*, a girl in pink glasses and pigtails, raised her hand. She has never spoken during read-aloud. I was happy that she was going to participate.

"Yes?" I said.

"That is NOT like the movie," she said.

"No, it isn't, is it?" I said, sounding hopeful. (A guess on my part since I never actually saw the film.)

Her eyes narrowed.

"It is not AT ALL like the movie," she said, folding her arms across her chest and staring me down.

She did not care to elaborate. Neither did anyone else.

Our discussion came to a close.

I totally bombed. I have to laugh, though, remembering it. 


*not their real names