Happy Mother’s Day to anyone who is a mother and everyone who’s ever had a mother. That encompasses all of us, right? Among other things, today’s blog includes a few items about mothers, lists the latest (and past) winners of the Children’s Choice Book Awards, and reviews a new novel-in-verse from a favorite writer.
A FAVORITE QUOTE FOR MOTHER’S DAY
No one was better at understanding how kids think and feel than Eleanor Estes. Here’s a quote about mothers from THE MOFFATS which has always haunted me. It occurs when eight-year-old Janie discovers a “For Sale” sign on the family’s Yellow House on New Dollar Street:
The sign made the house look strange and unfamiliar. It was like looking a long time at Mama’s face and thinking “This is Mama”; looking and looking and thinking “Who is Mama?” And the longer she’d look at Mama’s face the stranger and more unfamiliar it would seem to her until she’d just have to rush to her, bury her face in her apron, and feel, “This is Mama.”
DID YOUR MOTHER MAKE YOU A READER?
Did your mother help make you a reader? Did she read to you as a child or share her favorite books with you? I definitely think my mother influenced my love of reading, by reading me books such as WINNIE-THE-POOH when I was just a baby, not even old enough to understand the words. What books did your mom read to you? Or didn’t she read at all, leaving you to discover books on your own? Please share your stories.
DID YOUR MOTHER MAKE YOU A WRITER?
A lot of famous children’s authors have spoken about the influence their mothers had on their writing. Here are a few of their stories:
Natalie Kinsey Warnock (THE CANADA GEESE QUILT; A CHRISTMAS LIKE HELEN’S) : My mother, a teacher, instilled in us a love of books and reading, and a curiosity about everything.
Julie Ann Peters (LUNA) on the difference between real life and fiction : I remember my editor once saying, "You create the most horrible mothers. Your mother must’ve been awful." I said, "Not at all. My mother was a wonderful person." When my characters are being developed on the page, I never think I’m writing about real people, or even composites of people I know. Since writing for young readers means projecting myself into them and seeing through their eyes, I’m afraid parents are oftentimes the least sympathetic characters. But assembling all the qualities of a believable character requires observation and absorption of human behavior. The parents’ role in young adult literature, as I see it, is to create conflict and dramatic tension. Parents play such a central role in their child’s development that as a young person strives for independence, parents become natural, convenient antagonists.
Heather Henson (THAT BOOK WOMAN) : I'm sure that is why I became a children's book writer: because my mom read to me every night.
Kevin Henkes (KITTEN’S FIRST FULL MOON; JUNONIA) on his teenage decision to write and illustrate children’s books: My mother always read us the title page -- maybe that was it.
Patricia C. Wrede (the “Enchanted Forest Chronicles”) on writing her first novel in seventh grade: I worked on it during class when I was supposed to be studying and brought it home every day. My mother aided and abetted me by typing out the pages.
Barbara Seuling (ROBERT AND THE SNEAKER SNOBS) : My mother passed on to me her love of reading, of fairy tales and mythology and stories in general.
Marjorie Weinman Sharmat (the “Nate the Great” series) on writing her first poem : It was about a neighborhood dog, and I still have the memory of my mother supplying the last line when I was stuck. . . . [This] poem appeared years and years later in my book THE LANCELOT CLOSES AT FIVE.
Syd Hoff (DANNY AND THE DINOSAUR; IRVING AND ME) on the incident that made him decdide to become an artist : I remember one day when we came home from a trolley-car ride; I drew a picture of the conductor, resplendent in his uniform with brass buttons. “Sydney is the artist of the family,” my mother proclaimed, immediately hammering the picture into the wall with a three-inch nail.
Virginia Hamilton (M.C. HIGGINS THE GREAT ) : Mother could take a slice of fiction floating around the family and polish it into a saga.
Carol Fenner (YOLONDA’S GENIUS) on writing her first poem : I sat in a field of grass and sun and dandelions and felt a sudden richness, such a fullness, that I needed to say something. Name something. A dandelion so fair/Had the prettiest hair. The words were there in my head. I said them over and over to myself. I was about five or less and couldn't write yet. I ran to my mother with the poem dancing in my head. One day I again was there/The dandelion grew old/And had white hair. After that, my mother wrote down all my gems until I learned to write them down myself. My mother says I would come in from playing and tell her, “I feel a poem coming on."
M.E. Kerr (YOUR EYES IN STARS; SOMEONE LIKE SUMMER) on how her gossipy mother influenced her writing : My mother would begin nearly every conversation the same way: :”'Wait till you hear this!” Even today, when I'm finished with a book and sifting through ideas for a new one, I ask myself: Is the idea a “wait till you hear this?
THE WOMAN WHO HAD OVER 1300 CHILDREN
No, this is not a story about the latest exploits of the Octo-mom or Kate Gosselin. This one involves Gertrude Chandler Warner, the creator of the “Boxcar Children” series. Here is a short video describing how the author was pressed into service as a schoolteacher while the male teachers were off to war in the 1940s. Some of her former students are interviewed. Although she never had any children of her own, Ms. Warner would later say, “I had over thirteen hundred children in my lifetime.”
THE LATEST CHILDREN’S CHOICE BOOK AWARD WINNERS
Last week the Children’s Book Council announced the winners of the fourth annual Children’s Choice Book Awards. Over a half million young people voted for their favorites in bookstore, at school libraries and online.
Here are the 2011 winners:
AUTHOR OF THE YEAR: RICK RIORDAN for THE LOST HERO
ILLUSTRATOR OF THE YEAR : David Wiesner for ART & MAX
KINDERGARTEN TO SECOND GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR: LITTLE PINK PUP by Johanna Kerby
THIRD GRADE TO FOURTH GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR: LUNCH LADY AND THE SUMMER CAMP SHAKEDOWN by Jarrett J Krosoczka
FIFTH GRADE TO SIXTH GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR : THE RED PYRAMID by Rick Riordan
TEEN CHOICE BOOK OF THE YEAR : WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan
PREVIOUS CHILDREN’S CHOICE WINNERS
Here are the winning titles from 2010:
AUTHOR OF THE YEAR: James Patterson for MAX
ILLUSTRATOR OF THE YEAR : Peter Brown for THE CURIOUS GARDEN
KINDERGARTEN TO SECOND GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR: LULU AND THE BIG CHICK by Paulette Bogan
THIRD GRADE TO FOURTH GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR: LUNCH LADY AND CYBORG SUBSTITUTE by Jarrett J Krosoczka
FIFTH GRADE TO SIXTH GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR: DORK DIARIES: TALES FROM A NOT-SO-FABULOUS LIFE by Rachel Renee Russell
TEEN CHOICE BOOK OF THE YEAR: CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
The winners from 2009:
AUTHOR OF THE YEAR: Stephenie Meyer for BREAKING DAWN
ILLUSTRATOR OF THE YEAR: Jon J. Muth for ZEN TIES
KINDERGARTEN TO GRADE 2 BOOK OF THE YEAR: THE PIGEON WANTS A PUPPY by Mo Willems
GRADES 3 TO 4 BOOK OF THE YEAR: SPOOKY CEMETERIES by Dinah Williams
GRADES 5 TO 6 BOOK OF THE YEAR: THIRTEEN by Lauren Myracle
TEEN CHOICE: BREAKING DAWN by Stephenie Meyer
Finally, here are the winners from the first year the prizes were given, 2008:
ILLUSTRATOR OF THE YEAR: Ian Falconer for OLIVIA HELPS WITH CHRISTMAS
AUTHOR OF THE YEAR: J.K. Rowling for HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS
KINDERGARTEN TO SECOND GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR: FRANKIE STEIN by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry
THIRD TO FOURTH GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR: BIG CATS by Elaine Landau
FIFTH GRADE TO SIXTH GRADE BOOK OF THE YEAR: ENCYCLOPEDIA HORRIFICA by Joshua Gee
IMPACT AWARD: Al Roker
REVIEW: HIDDEN BY HELEN FROST
In 2009, Helen Frost published CROSSING STONES, a novel in verse about World War I, the influenza pandemic, and the suffrage movement. This beautifully-written, multilayered story was one of the year’s best books, though some felt that young readers might not relate to the remote historical period. With HIDDEN, Ms. Frost writes about events that few readers have experienced – such a being accidentally kidnapped during a car theft – though nearly every kid can understand the fear of becoming a crime victim, as well as the joys and anxieties of forming new friendships. HIDDEN tells the story of eight-year-old Wren, who waits in a minivan while her mother pays for gas at a fuel pump. When the van is randomly stolen, Wren hides under a blanket, unseen by the thief who takes the vehicle home and hides it in his garage. Over the next several hours, the panicked youngster plots her escape while a secret ally – the thief’s daughter, who has heard about the carjacking on the radio – quietly leaves food in the garage and tries to help Wren win her freedom. The opening section of the novel ends with Wren escaping, though many readers may wish that story had continued long enough to include Wren’s reunion with her family. The second section of the narrative concerns Darra, the daughter of the car thief who attempted to help Wren while simultaneously trying to prevent her father from getting caught by the authorities. Now that her father is imprisoned, Darra blames Wren for “stealing” her dad. The third, longest, and best part of the novel is the third section which is set six years later as Wren and Darra – now fourteen – accidentally meet at a summer camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In alternating free-verse poems (Wren’s verses faster, lighter, seemingly more superficial while Darra’s are denser and more introspective) warily circle each other in a complex dance. Wren is something of an unreliable narrator (thinking “I got over all that / long ago. / Really. / I’m fine” before kicking Darra and holding her underwater for a dangerous period of time) while her counterpart unexpectedly finds herself opening up to a new group of friends and even reaching out to Wren. Helen Frost continues to demonstrate her mastery of poetic forms as well as her understanding of human emotions. Teachers will delight in exploring the poems’ ironies and extended metaphors (boats, water, prison, the concept of “hiding”) and sharing Darra’s hidden messages with their students; the kids themselves will love HIDDEN because, first and foremost, it’s a good book.
You may be wondering what I meant when I spoke of Darra’s “hidden messages” in the entry above. In an afterword to HIDDEN entitled “Notes on Form,” Helen Frost reveals that Darra’s poems are written in a form that she created just for this book; the last word of each long line, when scanned down the right side of the page, reveals Darra’s thoughts about her family (“He didn’t know I saw him crying the day he got laid off”) and her memories of the car theft, adding further interest and resonance to the tale. And how ironic that the girl who wasn’t abducted is the one who ends up sending out secret messages…!
MOTHER AND FATHER GOOSE
After weeks of roosting on her nest atop the muskrat house out back, “Mother Goose” finally has her goslings. The eggs hatched on Wednesday. I had read that all the baby geese would follow their parents into the water that day, then swim to shore for a snack…but only one gosling was that daring. Mother Goose stayed on top of the muskrat house with her babies, while Father Goose took just one of his children around the pond and then up on the bank for a walk:
The next day we saw both proud parents swimming around with four goslings. Now they have apparently found better digs because they haven’t been out back or on the pond since Thursday. I wonder where they are.
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