Category Archives: Book Notes

The Book of Dust Trilogy – Philip Pullman. I’m freaking out!

I kind of knew about this upcoming fantasy for a while but didn’t realize that it’s not just ONE book, but a TRILOGY.  Woot!

Can’t wait to have new words, new phrases, new characters, new magical experiences and new emotional responses to Pullman’s creation.  The world is a richer place because it contains His Dark Materials and the wisdom of Philip Pullman!

Read the Guardian article here:

Philip Pullman unveils epic fantasy trilogy The Book of Dust

willandlyraschair

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Nameless City by Hicks – RWW Review

I’d like to draw attention to this thoughtful review of Erin Hicks’ graphic novel Nameless City over at Reading While White blog, I could not bring myself to reading most of the book, because of my own strong emotional (mostly adverse) reaction the raised concerns explored by Angie Manfredi in her review.  I did not speak up about this title because I strongly believe that one cannot critique a book without reading the book in its entirety and closely examining its many components.  (I felt the same about Ryan Gaudin’s The Walled City and Richelle Mead’s Soundless, both “inspired” and “loosely based” on an exoticized old China without the authors’ true understanding of the very real, and very much “living” culture or paying tribute to the long established literary tradition in this particular country.)

 

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An Average Day

This morning I woke up and looked out the window. It was snowing like crazy! Mayor Miranda decided that it would be a snow day. All the kids who attend schools were excited that it was a snow day. Then all of a sudden, a giant monster ate Mayor Miranda!!! The monster stomped around causing fear and destruction.

Everyone stayed inside all day because of the monster. Some kids could see the monster stomping around the city. The monster burped and destroyed most of the houses. Then, Bob the Builder the Assassin killed the monster with a bomb. Even though he killed the monster, he also destroyed the city with the bomb.

Then, a mutant underwear ate the bomb. But there was another assassin and the two assassins tried to kill the mutant underwear. Bob the Builder called the Pink Fluffy Unicorn to help. But Dumbledore was so mad that he started shouting the elder curse but without saying all the “beeeeeeeeeps.”

A new assassin, the Poop Assassin, came and killed the Pink Fluffy Unicorn and it called for all the mutant fingernails to kill every other underwear and toxic poop. The wizard guy trapped the people into the Underworld and killed all the people and then killed himself.

But then, since the monster that ate Mayor Miranda didn’t chew her but only swallowed her, so when the monster died, Mayor Miranda survived.

That was a Nasty Dream!

(This is a 4th grade class exercise for Search Engine efficiency, strategy, and reliability.)

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Jesus and the Passed Gas

This morning, I woke up and looked out the window. It was pouring rain.  My neighbor was practically swimming.  My eyes wandered around my backyard when they landed on something shiny.

I put my raincoat on and went outside to check it out.  It was this weird piece of rock.  I picked it up and something strange happened.  Jake Paul came by, surfing somehow in the air.  Then magically, Madeleine G. flew in the air and dabbed, whipped, and nae-nae’ed. She fell and got run over by a car.

She ran!  Something dropped out of her pocket: A POTION!  I ran to it and picked it up. It wasn’t marked poison, so I took a sip.  Two things happened: first, my eyesight got really good, and then I fell through a trapdoor!  I woke up and Jake Paul said to me, “I am Jesus in disguise.”  Then he disappeared and a cross took his place.  

I passed gas and a bomb fell from the sky to blow me up.  At the last second of my life, I thought, “How could this happen to me?”

THE END

(A story composed as part of an internet/information literacy unit by my 4th grade students.)

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Savage Meme Bird

This morning, I woke up and looked out my window.  I saw a bird that flew into my window.  There was a big crash and it slipped down the window pane slowly. The bird yelled at me, “You’re NOT MY DAD!”  I was shocked that the bird could speak!

Then the bird said to me, “Hey, I’m hungry; can you get me a block of cheese?”  I replied, “But you said I’m not your dad so why should I get you a block of cheese?”  The bird said, “You’re mean,” and started making an annoying wailing sound that broke the window!

The next thing I saw was that he called a giant gorilla named Harambe.

The next morning, I woke up my mom and I walked into the window and told my mom that I want a block of cheese. But she made me pancakes instead.  I walked down to the kitchen but the bird was following me asking for a block of cheese for a second time!  The gorilla Harambe was following the bird even though Harambe was 150 times larger than the bird.  The bird stole the cheese and said, “Cash me ousside, how ‘bout dat?”

I was confused from what the bird said.  My mom was confused THE WHOLE TIME!  Both of us almost fainted.

Suddenly I realized that the bird was totally an illuminati and I gave him some fresh-avocado.

(Made up story in a ROUND during Library Class by my 4th grade students.)

 

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A Commitment to Social Justices and Compassion

“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going!” This is the time when all of us working with children, children’s books, and education must toughen up and keep on going!

It is heartening to see that hundreds of signatures by children’s book creators have been collected at The Brown Book Shelf for A Declaration in Support of Children, and that a live version of this document that allows for more signatures and support can be found on their Facebook page.

Today, I publicly echo my support for all the sentiments expressed in this document, adding here my continuing commitment as an educator, a school librarian, and a children’s literature advocate that:

I will read widely works created by a diverse group of writers and illustrators that both reflect authentic lived experiences of today’s children and offer genuine opportunities to understand and empathize with experiences unfamiliar to their own.

I will constantly highlight and promote these titles directly to my students and their families and also on social media in an effort to strengthen the innate capability of hope, courage, and compassion to bring about true social justices via the power of literature.

I will create curricula and take advantage of teachable moments both in the classroom, during casual interactions, and on social media to combat the ever-growing threat of Untruth-Telling in the digital and mass media sphere.

I will model my commitment to social justices and compassion by addressing injustices intentionally, openly, and truthfully in the classroom, during casual interactions, and on social media.

Fellow librarians, educators, and children’s literature champions, join me in our work together for a better and brighter future!

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A Tribe of Kind Souls: a closer look at a double spread in Lane Smith’s There Is a TRIBE of KIDS

There Is a TRIBE of KIDS (capitalization as part of the title/design), written and illustrated by Lane Smith (Stinky Cheeseman, The Happy Hocky FamilyIt’s a Book, etc.), was published in May, 2016 (two months ago.)

This book has received four starred reviews from major review sources and positive reviews from others. However, the use of the word TRIBE and some of the images on a particular double-page spread toward the end of the book have sparked heated debate (in which I took part) in several online places.  A short description and link to each of these reviews (with comments) can be found at the end of this post.

I read and re-read this book many times and have considered all the reviews cited below and many additional comments sprinkled throughout the internet.  Finally, I feel that I am ready to share my own take on this book.  I must stress that this is but ONE of many potential interpretations of the book which features very few words and delivers most of its “messages” with pictures that can be differently interpreted.

By no means do I want to discount Debbie’s and others’ pain when they face certain images (that they see on the second to last double spread) which definitely trigger strong emotional reactions from past and personal experiences.  (My own triggers are seeing erroneously attributed so-called Chinese cultures or imageries and boy do those get me seeing red!)

So here it is,

Fairrosa’s Interpretation of the Double Spread in There Is a TRIBE of KIDS:

I must confess that my initial reaction to the word TRIBE in the title was a skeptical one: how would it be used in the book?  to indicate some relations to Native American cultures?  to indicate something primitive?  When I finally read through the book (many times over,) I realized that, as Debbie Reese and many reviewers pointed out, it is a play on word.  Tribe is a collective noun for a group of “young goats” (kids) and Tribe is also a collective noun for many human groups that share the same cultural, geographical, or historical experiences.  The word is still used widely.  It is used by American Indians as their official group names.  It is used by the Jewish people.  It is also used by groups who need to bond over their unique identities and experiences, such as the deaf community (as found in Tribes, a play by Nina Raine from 2015.)

In the case of this book, Lane Smith used it to indicate a very specific “kind” of human beings: children. The child protagonist, after mimicking all kinds of animals, finally found his own “tribe.”  The text is all in past tense — until the very last spread which is in present tense, proclaiming the currency and the universality of childhood.

Here is my interpretation of the second to last spread accompanying the text, There was a TRIBE of KIDS (note the past tense!)

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 11.11.46 AM

(reproduced with permission from Roaring Brooks Press)

Since our child protagonist is not in this picture, so unlike the previous encounters, we don’t see him mimic or play act.  We see this child (looking a bit like Burt in Mary Poppins, doesn’t he?) welcoming the new child (our protagonist, off page, unseen) into a TRIBE.

 

tribe07

We, readers, along with the child protagonist, observe the scene with keen interest:

A TRIBE of kids from around the world and from both yesteryears and now, dressed much like our protagonist (in leaves, branches, and flowers,) being themselves and playing like all children might:

We watch, as they

swing, eat and play with their food,

tribe02 tribe15 tribe08

collect seashells and flowers,

tribe04 tribe25

play balls, crawl, balance, dance,

tribe03 tribe09

tribe11 tribe12

scout, explore,

tribe13 tribe26

take care of a younger sibling, 

tribe10

dress up like an adult (a princess, a king, a judge?)

tribe19  tribe20 tribe27

give a hug,

tribe01

dangle, slide,

tribe14 tribe17 tribe16

model, run (like an olympian with a torch,)

tribe23 tribe24

hide, and seek.

tribe28 tribe18

tribe22  tribe21

What I do not observe is the child protagonist attempting to mimic any of these KIDS, as if these are roaming animals. I also don’t see the “wildness” linked to a colonial sense of the word TRIBE (as stated by Minh C. Le and as troubling to others). I see children engaging in regular childlike and childhood activities.  And if I were to read this book with a young child, that’s how I would posit it — “Look, do you play hide and seek, just like these kids?  Do you pretend to be a king or a princess sometimes?  Do you play with your food?  Do you love going down the slides or sit on a swing?  This makes you part of the TRIBE of all children in the world.  You belong with each other and you accept and embrace one another.”

As I pointed out in the beginning of this post, my interpretation is different from some others’ views, including those of Minh C. Le’s, Sam Bloom’s, and Debbie Reese’s. All three wrote thought provoking reviews of this title — and I urge all to read them and take their concerns or potential hurt and mis-use of this book seriously.

Il Sung Na’s ‘The Opposite Zoo,’ and More by Minh C. Le (New York Times)
Le feels that the “juxtaposition of the word ‘tribe’ with the woodland utopia conjured uncomfortable associations,” and a particular image is problematic “in its echoes of the longstanding trope in children’s literature that uses Native imagery or ‘playing Indian’ to signify wildness.”

Reviewing While White: There Is a Tribe of Kids by Sam Bloom (Reading While White)Bloom finds himself in agreement with Le’s take on the book and ponders why all the reviewers for the major publications have given this book such favorable feedback when he sees even more images that are problematic.  He posits that perhaps it is due to Lane Smith’s long-time fame and status as a celebrated children’s book creator.  He also links to a page delineating the negative associations that the word TRIBE contains from the Teaching Tolerance site. Bloom concludes his essay by strongly indicating that he does not recommend this book. He writes, “If it wasn’t Lane Smith’s name on the front cover, could we more easily see the problems inherent in There Is a Tribe of Kids? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that this is a book that I personally won’t be sharing with (human) kids.”

Lane Smith’s new picture book: There Is a TRIBE of KIDS (plus a response to Rosanne Parry) by Debbie Reese (American Indians in Children’s Literature)
Reese details the picture book and focuses first on the word play and the repeated pattern of a child going through the natural world, mimicking behaviors of groups of animals, while garbed in leaves.  Reese then moves on to discuss the double spread that features a TRIBE of KIDS (children) and the specific images she finds objectionable.  She also delineates many counter-points to Rosanne Parry’s review of the book.  Reese uses words like “rolling your eyes” and “grinding your teeth” to express how irate she is with Parry’s proposed interpretation of the book’s images.

Rosanne Parry also wrote a blog post in response to Sam’s post: A Tribe of Book Reviewers (Writing in the Rain Blog). Parry writes to share her interpretation of this book and her disagreement with Sam’s take on the book as a reinforced negative portrayal of children “playing Indian.” Parry’s take on this book is in accordance with reviewers who see that there are multiple cultures represented in the book and that the book’s focus is on the importance of a sense of belonging and the warmth of acceptance in every child’s life, regardless of their origins or skin tones.  The final “snapshot” seems to encapsulate this sentiment — the kids of pale and dark skin tones locked in a friendly embrace to show their kinship and solidarity:tribehug

For those interested, here are links to all four starred reviews:

 

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