Monthly Archives: December 2013

Official release today!

My first book, an independent project that combines Japanese history and art, is available today!

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Title: Oboshi the Loyal Samurai: The 47 Ronin Story with Japanese Art

Author: me

Illustrators: more than a dozen 19th-century Japanese woodblock print artists and one 17th-century Japanese painter

Format: Paperback (30 pages) and Ebook

Ages: 6-10

Themes: justice and loyalty

I became interested in the history of the 47 ronin when I heard about the movie 47 Ronin coming out at the end of this month. It was back in July, and as I read about the historical events and people, I also discovered the incredible artwork produced by Japanese artists and wanted to share the art and the story with children in an appropriate way. The story of the 47 ronin is sometimes referred to as the National Legend of Japan, and it represents the finest, ideal example of the code of bushido. My version is based on the play that was written soon after the historical event and uses many of the woodblock prints that were portraits of the actors in costume and on stage. You can look inside the book on Amazon and see for yourself!

The wonderful cover design was created by Andrew Brown of DesignforWriters.com. Thank you Andrew!

Let me know what you think!

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Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

I just found out that my favorite childhood book was banned.

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I’ve posted recently about Harry the Dirty Dog and other books my family members and I loved, but Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig, has always been my personal winner as well as the Caldecott winner of 1970. When I bought a used copy from a library sale, my boys were very little. I got choked up reading it to them back then and again rereading it now. Sylvester’s parents represented my parents, and I imagined that I was as adored a child as Sylvester. (Mom?)

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What I say is Phooey on you banned books people! Pigs can be anything they want to be!

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I am not the only person who loves Sylvester. The School Library Journal named it #55 on the Top 100 Picture Books list last year. It was also recognized as one of the top 100 books of the 20th century by the New York Public Library, the California Teachers’ Association, and the National Education Association. Other bloggers have posted about it more knowledgeably than I can. Anyone can find worksheets, activities, lesson plans, and videos. But I don’t believe we have to justify art with curriculum connections. I love Sylvester because it’s a beautiful story with great illustrations. It touched me personally. I don’t love it because it can teach children about philosophy, emotions, character, perspective, and improve their critical thinking. Those things are valuable, but don’t we degrade the art experience by stuffing it with learning objectives? When my son wants to go to a Bon Jovi concert, I don’t require him to write a one-page biography of John Bongiovi with endnotes and create a video exploring the roots of modern rock music from the Delta Blues through the Beatles, focusing on politics and racism. I just let him have fun.

Read an essay about Steig’s art from Roz Chast at the Paris Review. You can also check out the New Yorker’s lovely article about William Steig shortly after his death. The Jewish Museum in New York held a retrospective of Steig’s art in 2007-08.

If you haven’t had the joy of reading Sylvester, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say there is a reason to discover why it is one of the most beloved children’s books ever written.

Do you love Sylvester or another book? I’d love to hear about it!

Categories: Books we love, Oldie but Goodie | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Cinco the Clinic Cat

Perfect Picture Book Friday is here with Cinco the Clinic Cat/Cinco, el gato de la clínica by Carol Brickell and illustrated by Jim Hastings. Cinco is a bilingual book in English and Spanish, and all the proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to charities that support medical clinics and provide medical supplies to those in need in Latin America. Cinco has received the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and the Mom’s Choice Award.

Check out Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog feature Perfect Picture Book Fridays. She has compiled a complete list of recommended picture books with links to resources for home and the classroom. It’s awesome!

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Title: Cinco the Clinic Cat/Cinco, el gato de la clínica

Author/Illustrator: Carol Brickell and Jim Hastings

Publisher: Brown Books, 2010

Fiction

Ages:  4 and up

Themes: friendship, helping others

Opening: “I wonder if my wish will come trueAlisa lives in a country called Honduras. When there is no school, Alisa goes with her sister Karen to a clinic in their neighborhood. I’d like to help Karen, but I only get in the way. I wish I had a friend.

Synopsis:  When school is out, Alisa spends each day with her sister, who works in a medical clinic. But Alisa feels alone and out of place. One day, she sees a new face — a stray cat. After five days, they become friends and she names him Cinco. Together, they get involved in the activities at the medical clinic — and make more friends along the way. (from Amazon)

Resources and ideas: video of the author presenting the book to a group of children at the mall; can be used in discussions about geography, culture, Latin America, bilingualism, poverty, friendship, anti-bullying, therapy animals, medical clinics.

What I thought: Cinco is a lovely book that provides a window into the friendships and lives of people around a medical clinic in Honduras. The watercolor illustrations are airy and bright and portray the clinic as a welcoming, open place to visit. The text is spare enough for a small child, and I laughed when the boy who needed glasses said he thought the cat was a dog. Check out my favorite illustration, which shows so well a little kid’s perspective on the world (I remember what that feels like, does anyone else?).

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Check out a video featuring the author talking about the clinic and the book and working with kids (The Advocate magazine page with the video is here).

And here is the story behind the story:

Enjoy, and let me know what you and your kids think!

Categories: Perfect Picture Book Friday, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Reblog Thursday: The Man with the Violin from Shelf-employed

I hope everyone had as fantastic a Thanksgiving as I did! I finished my first book, which will be available shortly (self-published, announcement coming soon!), and then I went to Texas for a week to visit my wonderful family.
I hope you enjoy this lovely review of the wonderful book The Man with the Violin. It was inspired by Joshua Bell, who went busking one day in the Washington, DC metro during morning rush hour. I was in DC when this experiment took place and was sad that very few people paid attention to this gorgeous man singing his heart out through one of the finest violins in the world. Only one person … one person … recognized him. It was suggested that if the experiment had been done during evening rush hour, people would have had time to notice and listen for a few minutes. *sigh*
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The illustrations in this lovely book are truly amazing. How can you paint music? How can you show how a child feels about it? Yet Dušan Petričić gracefully shows a child being pulled by the music he hears. The sounds flow all around. I’ve never seen illustrations so descriptive of what goes on in the mind of a character. I hope you take a minute and watch the inspiring book trailer.
Enjoy!
Shelf-employed

The Man with the Violin – a review

Stinson, Kathy. 2013. The Man with the Violin. Toronto: Annick Press.  Ill. by Dušan Petričić.
Kathy Stinson’s story of a boy who is interested in his surroundings and captivated by the music of a performing violinist is perfectly complemented by the illustrations of Dušan Petričić. Targeted use of watercolors highlight the flow of music and joy emanating from the violinist and the spirited observations of the child. Wanting to linger, the boy is instead pulled along, forced to adhere to the busy schedule of his mother who hurries obliviously through the crowd.  In a satisfying conclusion, the mother later finds the time to appreciate and savor the music that so captivated her young son in the transit station.

Sure to be counted among one of 2013’s best picture books, The Man with the Violin is a reminder that the world is often seen and heard best through the eyes and ears of a child.

While this is not actually a nonfiction book, it is based on a true story, an experiment done by the Washington Post.  Read the Washington Post article by Gene Weingarten and watch the actual footage of violin virtuoso Joshua Bell playing in the L’Enfant Metro Station in Washington, DC.  For almost 45 minutes, harried commuters passed by, barely noticing the music of Joshua Bell. There was indeed, a young boy who wanted so badly to watch the performance, but his mother was too pressed for time.  It’s a lesson for us all.

For today’s roundup of children’s nonfiction book reviews, visit Booktalking, where author Anastasia Suen is hosting today’s Nonfiction Monday.
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