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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Eggs


Many friends have posted photos of the nests and eggs in the planters on their porches, and I am in awe of the beauty in their colors and patterns. It was good timing, then, that Egg: Nature's Perfect Package by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page arrived on my library reserve list. I like being the first person to check out a new book, and this one is beautiful and filled with incredible facts. Organized by topics, the text can be savored fact-by-fact or read in its entirety (and then reread, as I have done). It is perfect for reading aloud to cause astonishment or to foster further reading. I learned so many fascinating things that I could list almost the whole book! The illustrations, of course, make the book shine even brighter. As with all his work, I am awestruck that the art is made from cut paper. Steve Jenkins is a master of that medium.

On another note, I offer thanks to the fan club member who presented me with How to Bake a Book by Ella Burfoot. Perhaps someday I will be able to do just that!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Voicing Blame


For dinner tonight I made one of our favorite sandwich recipes: prosciutto, medjool date, & arugula (with Gruyere on sourdough). The recipe comes from Scott Graden's NEW SCENIC CAFE COOKBOOK. If I were to choose favorite places to eat, the Scenic Cafe would be in the top five. Though I only get to eat there one or two times a year (it is located on Lake Superior's shore north of Duluth), I get to reminisce about meals by cooking recipes at home. If there were fiddlehead ferns in my yard, I would try to replicate a tomato soup we enjoyed there a few years ago. But sandwiches have been on my mind this week.

We are reading aloud Julia Sarcone Roach's new book THE BEAR ATE YOUR SANDWICH to all classes during library time. Reading the same book to all students provides me the opportunity to hear the range of comments and observations from children ages 6-11. They immediately notice the (unseen) narrator's voice, telling the sandwich owner how the bear ended up in the San Francisco park where it then smelled and devoured her delicious and excellent sandwich, leaving only a bit of lettuce. That narrator, however, somehow does not sound trustworthy; suspicions swirl as the bear's story unfurls. I will not give away the ending by telling why.

Readers ask me to turn back to the Golden Gate Bridge page, noting that the author/illustrator was smart to make the red truck the only red vehicle on the road. They like the shift in perspective as the bear makes his way from the Marin Headlands to the cliffs (city buildings). They appreciate how the bear uses things in the city (a telephone pole for scratching it's back, for instance) like he would in the forest. They find it interesting that the bear seems to take on the appearance of another creature as the story progresses. But most of all, they appreciate that narrator's voice - and its change in voice and language - at the end of the book. Oh...and they love the end papers, filled with sandwiches at the front and crumbs at the back. 

This book is a gem. The acrylic artwork is varied and beautiful. The children even noticed how the artwork tells stories apart from the text, telling me that made the book even better. I completely agree. It is my favorite picture book of the year (so far). 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Echoes in Life


A morning symphony greets me as I walk and run these spring days. Red-winged blackbirds trill from dried cattail heads. Cardinals call from tree branches. Woodpeckers tap into bark. Chickadees sing in rhythm. Even loons laugh in pairs as they fly to another lake. Their echoes abound and resonate throughout the day. 

Pam Muñoz Ryan’s latest book Echo has been resounding in my thoughts as well, filling my mind with four interconnected stories, harmonica songs, personal struggles, and the joy of finding one’s passions. The story begins with a boy’s encounter with three mysterious sisters, destined to live with an evil witch yet hopeful in their quest to be released. From the forest, readers travel to October of 1933 in Trossingen, Baden-Württemberg, to June of 1935 in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, to December of 1942 in Southern Californina, and finally to April of 1951 in New York City. 

In each time and place, I became so engrossed with the characters and their situations that I felt certain I could not enjoy the next section. Yet those same connections occurred again, echoing with deeds and lessons and songs. And then, almost every magically, the book ended in the most amazing possible way. I loved it. I know readers who have echoed my sentiments about it, and I know young readers will engage with this book just as strongly.

By the way, each section begins with the harmonica music for a song, and those songs play an essential role in the section. 
Brahms’ Lullaby
America the Beautiful
Auld Lang Syne
Some Enchanted Evening
The music and the harmonica made one friend seek out her childhood harmonica to look carefully at its markings and try to play it! Savor this phenomenal book!