Friday, October 26, 2012


Kooser, Ted. House Held Up by Trees. Jon Klassen, illus. Candlewick Press, 2012. 32 p. ISBN 978-0763651077

SUMMARY: "When the house was new, not a single tree remained on its perfect lawn to give shade from the sun. The children in the house trailed the scent of wild trees to neighboring lots, where thick bushes offered up secret places to play. When the children grew up and moved away, their father, alone in the house, continued his battle against blowing seeds, plucking out sprouting trees. Until one day the father, too, moved away, and as the empty house began its decline, the trees began their approach. At once wistful and exhilarating, this lovely, lyrical story evokes the inexorable passage of time — and the awe-inspiring power of nature to lift us up."

RISKS: Um...grown-ups might like it more than children? Is that a risk?

EVALUATION: I should put it out there right away that I love this book. House Held Up by Trees is not the kind of book I would label fun, its colors are not bright nor its story cheery. The art is enthralling, painted with subdued colors and clean lines. The story is sort of melancholy, but beautiful and mesmerizing, I would even say mystical and sublime. Some elements of the book - perhaps the tone and simplicity of the story, or the feeling that there is something deeper happening, not just what is obvious and visible - bring to mind the film The Straight Story (1999). But, that connection is tenuous and could be entirely my own construction - especially since it's been a number of years since I saw the film. Anyway, as soon as I read this book I had to have it on my shelf. And then I had to give it to my mom to for her shelf. Great picture books need to have language and images that come together in a way that tells the story so perfectly and completely that it would be hard to imagine it any other way. I think Kooser and Klassen have done this.

TOPICS: nature; trees; passage of time; change; growing up; families; homes; abandoned buildings

AWARDS: A bit early to say, but this book has been talked about lately (see links at the bottom of this post). And what finally got me to check it out from the library was Flavorwire's article on the 20 most beautiful picture books of all time, which has a great selection of truly gorgeous books.

You can watch Ted Kooser talk about his inspiration for the book, and see the mysterious house in this video. (Thanks, mom, for sending me the link!)

Other blog posts that talk about House Held Up by Trees:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I can get so immersed in blog reading, I forget that I started posting again. And when I do remember to post something, I'm frequently too overwhelmed by all the cool things I could write about that I don't know what to do. Therefore, I will do a post today on - BY FAR - the coolest and most interesting thing out there: "What I am reading and planning to read." I know you can hardly contain your excitement.

Sometimes I think it's a good idea to leave "things I need to do" out in plain sight so that I don't forget about them. This tendency clashes with the part of me that hates clutter. I suppose having stacks of books lying around is the most tolerable of all clutter, so I cut myself some slack when I leave books out in order to remember them. But I probably only forget about them because I read too many at a time. I'm so easily distracted. Sometimes I think it's a terrible habit.


My Name is Asher Lev by Chiam Potok
{Re-reading this wonderful book for a book club. I acquired this well-loved mass market paperback signed by the author years ago, while teaching in China. Don't know who left it in the teacher's lounge for the taking, but thank you!}

If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino
{Reading this for another book club. Not sure how to respond to the second person POV when I feel like it is implied that "you" (the reader, me) is a male.}

Crossover Picturebooks by Sandra L. Beckett
{Brilliant. Makes me wish I was doing scholarly research on picture books.}

Saint Morrissey by Mark Simpson
{Actually I paused this one in order to read the heavily referenced A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney (not pictured).}

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
{Reading this aloud with my son and loving it. It's all I can do to keep myself from reading ahead because we only read about a chapter each night.}

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
{For another book club. Yes, I am in 3 different book clubs. Does that make me unfaithful?}

Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar
{Mysterious and fascinating and beautiful. Just beautiful.}

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
{Re-reading just because I started it again for a past book club meeting.}

Draw it with your eyes closed: The art of the art assignment published by Paper Monument
{John brought this back from a conference and it's quite entertaining. Plenty of stories about crazy stuff art teachers assign their students to do.}

So...I like to think the stack pictured below contains the next books I'll pick up because I'm excited about them right now in this moment. But we'll see. I am easily distracted. Notice that 2/3 of them are library books, which I constantly bring home from working in the children's department. How can I help it?

{To read}

Friday, October 12, 2012


Halloween is kinda my favorite holiday. I like to be scared. I like the whole carvival, surreal atmosphere of people in costume or wearing masks. I like pumpkins and candles and especially when you put them together. I like candy. And I like a bit of macabre in my books now and then. In honor of the coming spooky season, I am posting about a few of my favorite Halloween-ish picture books today. Usually I'm not thinking far enough ahead to put up a post about Halloween books before the actual holiday. The catalyst for this post was an invitation to be in a Google+ hangout with blogger friend Amy of Delightful Children's Books.

Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara (2008) could be a spooky tale of a haunted house, but the cover assures little readers that it's a safe, friendly read. A girl - but not an ordinary girl, this one is an adorable, resourceful witch - moves into a haunted house and makes it into a lovely home. If you so desire, an environmentally friendly subplot could be pointed out as you read this to a child, since the girl not only catches the ghosts, but washes and reuses them!

Mommy? by Authur Yorinks and Maurice Sendak (2006) is a beautifully elaborate pop-up book with a humorous, not-quite-scary scenario. The book follows a baby through a succession of monster lairs as he tries to find his mommy. Unfazed by the monsters, he is able to avoid all kinds of peril with ease. He just wants his mommy, and these monsters will not stand in his way. And, of course he find his mommy in the end, though she might not be what you expected.

Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex (2008) is a silly, gruesome, monster-ridden parody of the classic, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I love the original, but I'm not opposed to having a little fun at its expense. This picture book will appeal most to children ages 5 and up, and who like a good monster scenario. Especially if they grew up having Goodnight Moon read to them.

You can read about the picture books Amy shared during our hangout on her blog and you can watch a recording of the hangout below.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Gidwitz, Adam. A Tale Dark and Grimm. Dutton Children's Books, 2010. 252 p. ISBN 978-0525423348

SUMMARY: "Follows Hansel and Gretel as they walk out of their own story and into eight more tales, encountering such wicked creatures as witches, along with kindly strangers and other helpful folk. Based in part on the Grimms' fairy tales Faithful Johannes, Hansel and Gretel, The seven ravens, Brother and sister, The robber bridegroom, and The devil and his three golden hairs."

RISKS: Blood and guts, frightening images, bizarre and disturbing situations.

EVALUATION: Reading the back of the book jacket will give you some idea of what this book is like. But it is also more than that. It is dark and bloody and humorous and self-conscious and completely unbelievable/fantastical. But there is something wonderful and true about it as well. One of the reasons I like this book is because of its uniqueness. It pushes and tests the boundaries of genre and of what makes a children's book. By the end (the REAL end), I am seeing the characters as more than flat individuals ruled by crazy fates, which is how I usually see fairy tale characters. I also really like something I read in the author's acknowledgments, which says "to trust that children can handle it." Now, this all depends on the individual child, but I sometimes think we protect our children from too much when it comes to literature. A second book in the Tale Dark & Grimm series, In a Glass Grimmly, was just published last month. I haven't read it yet, but it's definitely on my short list. I have high hopes for it.

TOPICS: Grimm's Fairy Tales; fairy tale characters; brother-sister relationships

AWARDS:A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (2010), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee (2010), Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of the Year for Fiction (2010), New York Times Editor's Choice Book (November 2010), ALA Notable Children's book (2011)

Ages 8 & up

Thursday, October 4, 2012


In my attempts to make this blog more my own thing rather than a left-over class assignment, I'm going to start adding stuff. Stuff in addition to stuff about controversial books for young people. Stuff I'm interested in and that probably has to do with children's and teen lit. Neat stuff. Cool stuff. Rad stuff. This stuff may or may not include series posts, Kidlit happenings, philosophical musings, author name-dropping, guest posting, cross-posting, cross-dressing, stylish dressing, pony rides, puzzles, riddles, pretty pictures, poetry, and lively debates.

DON'T BE AFRAID of change (that was mostly for me). As I go along, I'm sure this blog will evolve organically, reshaping and redirecting itself, and I'll find a kind of rhythm and language that fits. But until that happens, please bear with me. It could be bumpy and sporadic, but hopefully interesting.

Also, I just barely started pinning (not pining) today. I've been reluctant to add more time-sucking additives to my daily screen time, but I felt it was time for this. So, now you can follow my pins and/or my tweets. Not too many tweets or pins yet. But. Hooray for time-sucking!

{Image found on}

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

BBW 2012 - 9/30-10/6

I began this blog for a class on censorship during my MLIS program. One of my favorite things to do as a librarian is advocate for the freedom to read. So it seems appropriate restart some regular posting on this blog during Banned Books Week. All the book titles in my previous posts have been challenged or banned somewhere. But I'm hoping to expand the scope of this blog as time goes on.

Back to being banned. If you are like me, the fact that a book is banned only makes you want to read it. You can find lists of challenged books on ALA's website (note the box entitled "Banned and Challenged Books" on the sidebar). You might be surprised by some of the titles on those lists.

I'm thinking in honor of Banned Books Week, I'll pick up a few books from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice series. It's been in the top ten challenged lists for a number of years now. What are you reading that's controversial?

Monday, October 1, 2012


I was lucky enough to go to the 6th annual Kidlit Conference this past weekend in NYC. It was one of those experiences where I didn't know a single person there, but instantly felt like I was with "my people." Authors, illustrators, librarians, bloggers, editors, teachers - all connected to children's and/or teen literature in some way. The whole weekend was perfectly inspiring, full of enthusiastic and intelligent bibliophiles and located in the beautiful and historic New York Public Library Schwarzman Building on 5th Ave and 42nd St. I connected with some fascinating people and hope we'll continue to connect (including at next year's conference). Hooray for Kidlit!