Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A sad loss to the world of children's books...

I just found out that the beloved French author and illustrator Mario Ramos passed away this week.

See this webpage for more information on his life and art.

Here are just a few of his books that the children at ISB have loved to borrow from the library:

Monday, December 17, 2012

The winter holidays are quickly approaching!  I know that everyone at school will be happy to get this much-needed break.

Here's what I am reading this week:

One of my 5th graders is reading this book, and it looked interesting, so I picked it up too.  It was an amazing read.  Sickness, especially cancer, is a tough topic to deal with in children's literature, but this book made it work.  There were sad scenes that had me tearing up while I was reading on the bus, but there were many funny moments as well. 

I read "The Elephant Scientist" for my librarian/teacher book club, and it was fascinating!  The photographs alone are breathtaking, and they are further enhanced by the story of Dr. Caitlyn O’Connell, a scientist who has spent many years studying elephants in Namibia.  Do you want to know what it's really like to be a scientist in the field?  Then don't miss this book, or the others in the same series!

By the way, did you know that the silver medal on the book cover is called the Sibert Honor Medal?  

What is that, you ask?  Well, this medal is given yearly to the best informational book for children, and every year, there are runner-ups, like "The Elephant Scientist."  Read about other Sibert Medal books here!

Monday, December 10, 2012

This week I picked up a book called "Dark Lord: The Early Years."  The premise is that the enemies of an evil Dark Lord exile him to earth in the form of a 12 year old human boy.  Of course, he is furious, but as a puny human, what can he do about it?  And more importantly, how can he escape his new (sickeningly nice) foster parents and get back to running the universe?

Here's a small taste of the book:

"He looked up at the back of Miss Cloy's head as she walked in front of him, and began to make the movements and gestures required for the casting of various spells, like the Charm of Sudden Baldness, the Cantrip of Uncontrollable Flatulence, and the Hex of Hideous Hives.

Miss Cloy gave him a look over her shoulder.  'Stop that nonsense, Dirk, you look ridiculous!  And hurry up, we haven't got all day.'" (page 38).

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

This week I am reading a fantasy book called "The Familiars."  A familiar is a spirit that often takes animal form and is bound to a witch or wizard.  In this story, an alley cat named Aldwyn is trying to escape from an evil bounty hunter, and in the process, winds up in a shop full of animals destined to be familiars.  He ducks into an empty cage, and soon after, is picked to be the familiar of a young wizard, Jack! Even though Aldwyn is worried that his lack of magic will soon be revealed, he still enjoys learning alongside Jack and meeting two other familiars, the blue jay Skylar and the frog Gilbert.  Of course, their idyllic life together can only last so long...

In French, I just finished a beginning reader book called "Le journal secret de Max."  It is a light-hearted story about a young dog with a new baby sister.  He had hoped for a brother to play pirates with, but eventually he realizes that his sister, annoying and loud as she can be sometimes, might be a fun playmate after all.  The simple text (written as short journal entries) is nicely enhanced by the bright, cartoony illustrations.  The style reminded me a bit of the Donald Duck comics I used to read as a kid.

Monday, November 26, 2012

This week, I am reading "Heartbeat," by Sharon Creech.  Like her other books,"Love That Dog" and "Hate That Cat," this is a book written in verse--small poems that give snapshots of the life of the main character, 12-year-old Annie.  This is now the third book in verse by this author that I have read, and the style still feels fresh to me.  I enjoyed all of the poems, from the serious ones about Annie's grandfather losing his memory to the funny ones about her "alien" baby brother. 

I also read the French book "Bizarre, Bizarre" by Audren.  It's a cute, short chapter book about a little boy whose new teacher (from England) acts in an unorthodox way.  For homework one day, he tells the students to bring "une bizarrerie" (something strange) to class.  In a funny scene at the dinner table, Félix gets annoyed at his family for being too normal, because otherwise, he would have an easier time bringing something weird to school!  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Arabian Nights-An Amazing Production!

This weekend, I had the privilege of seeing "Arabian Nights" at the Central Square Theater. 

With the creative use of minimal props and a small number of actors, the audience was swept away on a magical journey.  It was an amazing reminder of the power of stories and the human imagination!

If you're interested, come by the ISB Library and pick up some of these fascinating tales to read with your family!

Monday, November 19, 2012

This Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend another amazing workshop ("What's New in Children's Books"), this time sponsored by the Foundation for Children's Books.  The event took place at the lovely Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill.  For 4 hours, we heard from these great speakers: Julia Denos, an up and coming illustrator, David Yoo, a young adult author, and Grace Lin, a children's book author/illustrator.  We were also given a presentation of great new fall books by a school librarian, Christian Porter, and Terri Schmitz, who owns the Children's Book Shop in Brookline.   

The Lower School Library now has signed copies of the following books:

If you like fashion and movies, you'll love this book!

Julia Denos also illustrated "Letters to Leo," about a 4th grade girl, Annie, whose letters to her dog, Leo, help her cope with everything from the loss of her mother to her best friend moving away.

No matter if you're Chinese-American or not, this book will touch your heart.  And as an extra treat, you can enjoy the little drawings in the margins!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's not Monday anymore, but I wanted to post anyway!

This weekend I went to a great author panel at the Cambridge Public Library.
I was able to meet some great children's book authors & illustrators, and our library now has signed copies of the following books:

Here's one of my favorite pictures from the book (I know you want to know why that skyscraper is wearing glasses!)

Once I got into this book, I couldn't put it down!  It's a great adventure story, and the illustrations are amazing!

Peter Reynolds is a local author/illustrator/entrepreneur extraordinaire, and I thought we needed to have a signed copy of one of his most famous books!

Monday, November 5, 2012

I have always been a comic book lover, so I guess it's not surprising that I have been on a comic book kick lately.  Here are two that I read and enjoyed this past week:

When Zita finds a big red button at the bottom of a crater, her friend Joseph warns her not to push it.  Not surprisingly, she does, and suddenly, fuzzy black tentacles appear and transport Joseph to another galaxy!  Zita has no choice but to follow him, and so, she soon finds herself on a strange new planet full of aliens (I enjoyed them all, especially the angry hooded chickens!).  Zita is determined to find Joseph, and on her way, assembles a motley crew of alien friends to help her out.  This comic was full of action and unforgettable characters--I really enjoyed it.  I also liked how one of the main characters struggled between his good and evil sides, rather than just being a regular hero.

I always loved the book "A Wrinkle in Time," so I was interested to hear that there was a graphic novel version coming out.  Considering how complex of a book "Wrinkle in Time" is, I think the graphic novel did a good job of conveying the ideas as well as the emotion of the book.  I will say that it took me a little while to get used to the blue-black color scheme, but after a while, I forgot about it and just got sucked into the story again.  I don't know how someone who had never read the novel would react to this adaptation, but I thought it was well-done!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Here are some of the books I enjoyed during our October vacation last week! 

Think "Little House on the Prairie" plus magic!  Loved it!

 This is definitely a book that you can explore over and over.  It is full of stories, happy and sad, that really make the presidents come alive.  There is even a page that shows the presidents and their pets!

A thought-provoking book about a girl who is starting to ask 
the hard questions about growing up.

This is one of the most powerful fantasy books I have read in a while.  It tells the amazing story of a girl who dares to stand up for what she thinks is right, even if society will punish her for it.  Also, theater is a big part of the plot, and the descriptions of the performances make you feel like you are watching them along with the characters!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Online storytelling tools!

Read this article to find out about 9 great online storytelling tools for kids (some are available as apps as well!).

image by flickingerbrad via flickr

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I just finished reading "Princess Academy: Palace of Stone."  While it's been a few years since I read the original "Princess Academy" book, I still felt a kinship with the characters, especially the main character, Miri.  In this book, Miri and some of the other "ladies of the princess" leave their homes in the mountains and journey to the capital, Asland, to help their friend Britta prepare for her wedding to Prince Steffan.  As Miri becomes aware of the poverty in Asland and begins to feel some sympathy for the revolutionary ideas of her new friends, she faces some big decisions.  While she cares deeply for Britta, is it possible that the monarchy should be toppled, for the greater good?  Follow Miri as she continues to grow up and find what it means to truly follow your heart.

Global Education Conference 2012!

Are you a teacher interested in Global Education?

Then don't miss this free, online conference happening from November 12-16, 2012!

French education reform

This Associated Press article is certainly biased, but it gives an interesting view of the French education system and President Hollande's current reform movement.

 Image by adrian, acediscovery via flickr

Monday, October 8, 2012

I've been trying to read mainly children's books for the sake of reviewing them on this blog, but I've just finished Libba Bray's teen novel "The Diviners," which had me completely spellbound for all of last week (in my defense, it was 592 pages long!).  I loved the amazing description of New York in the 1920s, the snazzy slang words, and the beautiful relationship that blossomed between Evie and Jericho.  The paranormal elements were disturbing, but fascinating at the same time.  Anyway, next week I will be back in the world of children's books!  Have a good week!

Monday, October 1, 2012

For those who loved "The Invention of Hugo Cabret"...

Ciné-Concert: Georges Méliès, The Cinemagician

Saturday, November 3rd, 7:00-9:15 pm 
Cutler Majestic Theatre
(219 Tremont Street, Boston)
Were you inspired by Scorsese's Hugo?

Georges Méliès, recently portrayed in Martin Scorsese's Hugo, winner of 5 Academy Awards earlier this year, is one of the most renowned figures in cinema. At the beginning of the 20th century, this French director revolutionized cinema with his creativity and ingenuity. 
In celebration of the 150th anniversary of his birth, we are presenting an exceptional ciné-concert! This special performance will feature 16 Georges Méliès silent films, including his iconic A Trip to the Moon, using the original reels which have been restored, preserved and edited. As in the 1900s, this ciné-concert will include riveting narration and piano accompaniment performed by Méliès' great-granddaughter Marie-Hélène Lehérissey and Lawrence Lehérissey, his great-great-grandson.  

Join us at the historic Cutler Majestic Theatre on Saturday, November 3rd as we pay homage to Méliès with this one-of-a-kind show by his descendants. 
$25 General Admission
$18 French Cultural Center & ArtsEmerson Members
$14 Students

$75 VIP* includes premium seating and post-show cocktail reception on stage with the performers

Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling the AE Stages box office at 617.824.8000. Members and students may obtain the discount codes by calling reception at 617.912.0400.  

*Please note that $30 of each VIP ticket purchase is tax-deductible. The French Cultural Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
This event will be conducted in English and French. Knowledge of French is NOT required to enjoy the event.   

You can find more information about this special program and Georges Méliès on
I am in a Children's/Teen book club for librarians and teachers, and for next week's meeting we read "And the Soldiers Sang," written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Gary Kelley.  The topic of this book is the Christmas Truce of 1914, a day when German and British troops decided to have a temporary ceasefire and celebrate Christmas together.   The story is told from the point of view of a fictional Welsh soldier, a young man who hopes that the war will soon be over so that he can come home.  There are few words, but they are carefully chosen and hit just the right chord.  To me, though, the illustrations are what really make this book memorable.  They are full of angles and shadows (a bit Picasso-esque), letting the reader into the emotional turmoil that the characters are experiencing. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More Harry Potter books to come?

I just read an article today that said that J.K. Rowling would be open to writing more books in the Harry Potter universe!  What do you think?  Good news or bad news?

Flickr image by Dyanna Hyde

Monday, September 24, 2012

This weekend I finished reading "Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains," an entertaining adventure story by Laurel Snyder.  Lucy, the main character, may look like Heidi on the book cover, but let's just say she's not quite so sweet.  Her temper is as fiery as her hair, so one day, when her best friend Wynston doesn't show up for their weekly berry-picking session, she impulsively takes off toward the Scratchy Mountains, where she hopes to find her mother, who has been gone ever since she was a small child.  She brings her family's cow Rosebud with her, and picks up a prairie dog she names "Cat" along the way (as you can see from the cover, Cat is just along for the ride!)  =)  Read this book if you like friendship stories with some fairy tale elements thrown in!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I just finished "The Year of the Book," by Andrea Cheng, and enjoyed it very much!  The main character, Anna Wang, is a shy 4th grader who seeks refuge in books, especially when her good friend Laura starts to keep her at a distance.   This book deals with some serious topics, including divorce and Anna's search for her identity as a Chinese-American girl, but in a subtle way that isn't overly dramatic or overwhelming.  As you can tell from the cover, this book is a love letter to books and reading, and I personally feel inspired to reread some of my favorite children's classics!

In French, I am starting to read the book "Joker," by renowned children's book author Susie Morgenstern.  I was already laughing out loud on the second page, as the disgruntled students mutter about their new teacher, who was supposed to be young and athletic but ended up being an elderly man with a startlingly deep voice and untidy white hair.  He begins the first class by saying... "ni 'bonjour' ni 'je m'appelle," ni 'asseyez-vous.'  Simplement: 'J'ai un cadeau pour vous..."  Certainly a different way to start the school year!