Norman's Best Books of 2013

Today I'm turning over the space to my husband, Norman Trepner, an avid reader and an all-around good guy. Take it away, Norm. Susan

Once again Susan has asked me to share with her Chicken Spaghetti friends my favorite books I’ve read this past year, and once again I’m more than happy to comply!

9780670026630LThree of my top ten books were stories about teens and tweens. A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki, is the story of a 16 year old Japanese girl who writes in her diary about her 104-year old Buddhist nun great-grandmother, and the book also tells of a woman in a remote British Columbian island who finds the diary. At times laugh-out-loud funny and at times disturbing, this book, which was short listed for the Man Booker Prize, is a must read. Another powerful book that was short listed for the Man Booker Prize is We Need New Names, by NoViolet Bulawayo. This excellent debut novel follows the protagonist, named Darling, from her life as a 10 year old in Zimbabwe to her teen years living in Michigan. The third book, Brewster, by Mark Slouka, is the story of two teenage boys from troubled homes who become close friends. Set in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s in working class Brewster, New York, this hard-to-put down book is storytelling at its finest. 

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Thank You, Readers

J10062In the book What W.H. Auden Can Do For You (Princeton University Press, 2013), Alexander McCall Smith writes,  "[The poet W.H.] Auden reminds us to be grateful, and that is something that we increasingly need to be reminded of in a culture of expectations and entitlement."

McCall laments a consumerist culture in which we're pushed to complain rather than express gratitude. But "Why not say thank you?" McCall Smith asks.

He goes on to say that Auden's work points us in a appreciative direction because the poems after 1940 "tend to be poems of celebration, written with great charity and with love for the ordinary pleasures of life." 

McCall Smith's lovely book is a good one for this season, and reminds me to say thank you, readers, for continuing to visit Chicken Spaghetti. I hope your holidays are grand.


Chicken Spaghetti's Best Kids' Books 2013: A List of Lists and Awards

6a00d834516d9569e200e550070a188834-150wiYippee! It's "best books of the year" season. Once again I'll be gathering the online lists of best kids' books right here. The Chicken Spaghetti compilation features books published in 2013, no matter when the list or awards are announced. Readers can expect to see this post amended many times, especially over the next few months.

Looking for older titles? Since this blog has been around a while, you'll find more Chicken Spaghetti lists at the following links: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Don't miss Largehearted Boy's amazing annual roundup of all the best-book lists.

And please do give me a holler if you see any I've overlooked, via Susan_Thomsen on Twitter or c_spaghetti AT yahoo DOT com.

*****

AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books: Finalists and winners

Air & Space magazine/Smithsonian: Aviation- and space-themed children's books

Alex Awards

Amazon: Ages 0-2 (board books)
Amazon: Ages 3-5
Amazon: Ages 6-8
Amazon: Ages 9-12
Amazon: Editors' picks, including teen and young adults

Amelia Bloomer Project (feminist books for children)

American Indian Youth Literature Award

Arthur Ellis Awards. Presented by the Crime Writers of Canada, prizes include a children's/YA category.

Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) Awards

Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC): Tween Recommended Reads (PDF file; books from 2012 and 2013)

Band of Thebes. 92 writers recommend best LGBT books of the year, including a couple of YA titles. (Some older books on this list, too.)

Bank Street Children's Book Committee Awards

Bank Street College: Best Children's Books

Barnes and Noble

Batchelder Award (for books in translation)

Bellingham (WA) Herald

Belmont (MA) Public Library Children's Room

Blue Peter Book Awards shortlist (UK)

Boing Boing Gift Guide: Books (some YA and kids' titles in a longer list)

Book Diaries: Picture books

Bookie Woogie

Booklist: Arts
Booklist: Audiobooks
Booklist: Black history
Booklist: Crafts and gardening
Booklist: Religion and spirituality
Booklist: Science and health
Booklist: Sports

BookPage

Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. Titles from 2013 and 2014.

Brain Pickings

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Annual gift guide (PDF) includes 2013 titles and older books. Also, Blue Ribbons (best-of-the-year books).

BuzzFeed Books

CONTINUED AFTER BREAK

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Alice Munro, Nobel Prize Winner. Yeah!

Don't you love that Twitter announcement! 

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Alice Munro, "master of the contemporary short story." As a fan of Munro's writing, I am marking the following To Read:

"Alice Munro, LLD'76, wins 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature." Jason Winders at the Western News. Good local angle from the University of Western Ontario, which Munro attended. Later she was the writer in residence at the school.

"Editing Alice Munro." Deborah Treisman, at the New Yorker.

"Alice Munro, Our Chekhov." Critic James Wood, at the New Yorker.

"Margaret Atwood: Alice Munro's Road to Nobel Literature Was Not Easy," at the Guardian.

"Alice Munro: AS Byatt, Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín hail the Nobel laureate," at the Guardian.

"Why Alice Munro Won the Nobel Prize in Literature," by Jens Hansegard. Remarks from the press conference following yesterday's announcement, at the Wall Street Journal.

"Alice Munro, Nobel Winner and a Writer's Peerless Teacher." Hector Tobar, at the Los Angeles Times 

"A Beginner's Guide to Alice Munro." A timely re-run of an older piece, by Ben Dolnick, at the Millions.


Catching Up with the "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards, Baby Books, and More

The annual "Growing Good Kids" awards, for children's books with an ecological theme, were announced last summer. You'll find a list of the winners here. The American Horticultural Society and the Junior Master Gardener program are the sponsors.

Catching up on some spring news, I was thrilled to learn that the annual "Best Books for Babies" list is still being compiled. I had thought this list had gone the way of a defunct organization in Pittsburgh. My bad! Yay for the project's organizers, the Carnegie Library, the Fred Rogers Company, and the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children. 

The New York Public Library recently unveiled its list of the best 100 children's books of the last 100 years, which goes along with an exhibit at the library.

Soon to be added to this blog's project "The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards" are the following, some of which were announced quite a while ago. (I go by the year the book is published. Soon I'll start the 2013 list of lists.)

Bank Street College, Center for Children's Literature. Books of the Year.

Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. Honoring titles from both 2012 and 2013.

Canadian Children's Book Centre: TD Canadian Children's Literature Award finalists

Children's Book Council of Australia: Book of the Year Awards.

Children's Choice Book Awards

Emu's Debuts (blog): Best under the radar books of 2012

Ezra Jack Keats Book Award

Jane Addams Children's Book Award 

South Asia Book Award, sponsored by the South Asia National Outreach Consortium


Reading with Second Graders: A Squirrelly Story

Eastern Grey Squirrel

 

School has started and with it my volunteer gig as a classroom reader in a city school. After a year with third graders, I am back with the second grade. I follow the same teacher wherever she goes. If Ms. B. heads to kindergarten next year, I'll tag along.

I'm finding that I need to readjust to a younger group; some of my picture-book selections so far have been too wordy. And too big-wordy at that. But Earl the Squirrel? Perfect! It's one of my favorites anyway. Published in 2005 (fifty years after it was written), the book is by Don Freeman, of Corduroy fame. The young Earl gains some independence after discovering an unusual way to find acorns. The plot involves a bull who sees red.

Since taking a workshop at the Eric Carle Museum, I've spent more class time with the art, talking about a book's cover, end pages, and so on. Actually I try to get the kids talking and thinking about the book's art. They are great observers and always notice things that I didn't. Freeman used scratchboard for Earl the Squirrel, which features only three colors: black, white, and a very important red. The students got a real kick of the different ways the red color was employed.

The story of how the Earl manuscript was re-discovered in Don Freeman's papers can be found here. 

Photograph by BirdPhotos.com (BirdPhotos.com) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Feeling a Warm Embrace from a Tortilla

Every once and a while, I come across some true weirdness in the New York Times. I actually love when the Times gets odd and unpredictable. A phrase from today's paper (online edition) inspired this doggerel poem, which I wrote before reading the article. It was just too delicious to pass up.

 

Feeling a Warm Embrace from a Tortilla

(headline on the front page of the New York Times, web edition, Wednesday, October 2, 2013)

When I hugged a cucumber,

It didn't hug me back

Cold, lifeless, green,

It stared without seeing,

wordless, rejecting, and cold.

I turned to the tortilla,

Soon to become my taco.

And wrapped it 'round my shoulders,

Savoring its warm embrace,

This humble shawl of corn,

Destined for the dinner plate.

A comfort food who

Put the cuke to shame.


Third Grade Picture Book Read-Alouds

The last school year was a good one for reading aloud with third graders. After participating in an online class on the Caldecott Medal and a workshop on the "whole book approach" at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, I feel like both our class discussions and my book choices improved. 

Here are the best of the books I read aloud in 2012-2013. The children were great about drawing connections and seeing parallels, often coming up with things I had not noticed.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, by Mo Willems (Balzer & Bray, 2012) and The Three Bears, by Paul Galdone (Clarion, 1972). Willems' spin on the classic tale tickled me, but the kids especially appreciated the Galdone version and even laughed more at it. The exact opposite of what I expected—which is one reason I love reading with a group like this. You just never know.

Veronica, by Roger Duvoisin (Knopf, 1961, 2006).  A hippo with a big behind at sea in the big city, where she is most definitely "conspicuous." Fun way to teach everyone a new word. As a big fan of Duvoisin's Petunia books, I want to track down Our Veronica Goes to Petunia's Farm. I didn't realize that the two had ever met.

The Funny Little Woman, written by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent (Dutton, 1972). Winner of the 1973 Caldecott, this Japanese folk tale and another, The Furry-Legged Teapot (Marshall Cavendish, 2007),  provoked long, on-topic conversations. Tim Myers wrote the latter, and Robert McGuire illustrated it. The class loved the oni (ogres) in The Funny Little Woman and the tanuki (raccoon dog) in the other. 

Library Lion, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick, 2006). The kids pointed out that I favored books about animals who don't fit in at first. Hmm. Little therapists in the making?

Dragons Love Tacos, written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (Dial, 2012). Wonderfully funny.

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems That Squeak, Soar, and Roar, edited by J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic, 2012). I read five or six short poems, then left it in the classroom for a few weeks so that everyone got a chance to read as much as he or she wanted. Very popular. Large color photographs of animals enhance the book's appeal. 

Me and Momma and Big John, written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by William Low (Candlewick, 2012). Momma is a stone cutter at New York's unfinished Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I chose this one because it was an honor book for the Charlotte Zolotow Award, which recognizes picture book text. The Zolotow winner, Each Kindness (written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis), was also on our list. There was not a huge conversation about it the day I read the book. Months later, though, someone brought it up in regard to another story, and several kids chimed in with details. They really remembered this picture book and its lessons on inclusion well. Each Kindness (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2012) also won a Coretta Scott King Award author honor.

Owl Moon, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr (Philomel, 1987), is a beautiful book; in fact, it won the Caldecott Medal. This selection was the biggest surprise to me in that the class did not respond to it much. Too quiet? Too outdoorsy for the screen-time generation? Maybe it works better one-on-one. I remember my own kiddo liking it.

It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw (Lee & Low, 2012). I wrote about our delightful experience with Don Tate and R. Gregory Christie's book earlier back in January.

Broken Beaks, written by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and illustrated by Robert R. Ingpen (Michelle Anderson, 2003) A touching story about a homeless man and an injured sparrow who befriend each other. It provides an gentle opening for talking about mental illness, too.

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team, written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Steven Salerno (Clarion, 2012), made a fun start to spring. The boys and girls had just read Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates (written by Jonah Winter, with art by Raul Colon; Atheneum, 2005) in class, so they had a lot to say.

Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing, written by Judi Barrett and drawn by Ron Barrett (Atheneum, 1970). I brought something really fun and silly for the last reading of the year, and told the third graders that this was the kind of book they could read to younger siblings, cousins, or friends. After all, it contains many hilarious visual jokes. I reminded the students that they were role models. We talked about what that meant, and everyone piped up with an idea of whom he or she could read to over the summer.


Good Morning, and Happy 4th

Yawn. Stretch. Um, good morning.

It's March 16th, right? Snow still on the ground?

(My last post was on March 15th.)

What! It's July 4th? So, that's what all the noise is about. 

Oh, dear. I have missed a day or two a few months. We're all fine, the chickens are fine (and sassy), and the summer is really fine. My son, J., and I are listening to an audiobook of The Outsiders, narrated by Jim Fyfe. I cannot remember if I ever read the young adult novel before, but hearing it this way is wonderful. Fyfe does a great job with different voices for all the characters.

My 13-year-old Minecraft devotee must read the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf this summer for school. I refuse to make any comments indicating doubt here. Fortunately, there's an audiobook for that one, too.

I've been reading a lot since I'm taking a Coursera course called "The Fiction of Relationship" and just finished up Kafka's Metamorphosis for the first time ever. Gregor Samsa the bug made me incredibly sad. (Pssst: why don't you join me as a fellow student in the fall for "Modern and Contemporary American Poetry"?)

My year with the sweet class of third-grade rowdies is over, and we had a great time reading together and talking about books. I hope to post about what we read soon. At year's end I was invited to a third-grade pool party. Featuring an in-ground pool, it was noted with pride. The other details—date, time, address—were not spelled out, but I loved the thought nonetheless.