Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

Today is Beverly Cleary's birthday and also National D.E.A.R. Day, or Drop Everything and Read Day. For more info on this day, click here.

I heart Beverly Cleary. RAMONA AND HER FATHER was the first chapter book I read when I was a kid Ramona Quimby was and still is one of my favorite heroines from kidlit. I always understood where Ramona was coming from- from her exacting revenge on her classmate Susan for copying her owl to her if-only daydream of being  a star in a TV commercial to her embarrassment from cracking a raw egg on her head in front of her classmates. 

One of my favorite Ramona moments is from BEEZUS AND RAMONA (I think).  Beezus freaks out 'cuz she thinks Ramona's gone missing and then she finds her in the basement where Ramona has been busy taking one bite of each apple from a crate of fruit. Totally something I would have done at that age.

If anyone has any favorite Ramona memories they'd like to share, feel free to leave a comment!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Don't Put Lipstick on a Pig

On Saturday, I attended SCBWI San Francisco/South's discussion panel on Multiculturalism. The presenters were award-winning kidlit author Rita Williams-Garcia (via Skype) and Abigail Samoun, a former editor at Tricycle Press who's now an agent with Red Fox Literary. Being that multiculturalism is woven into a few of my writing projects and book ideas, I soaked in what the industry profs had to say.

Rita gave some insights about developing a character who could be a "stereotype" into a more authentic character:
- Every character has a function. Find the truth of the character and what their journey is.
- Sometimes stereotypes exist because of some statistical truth. As writers we have to dig deeper and add more layers to such characters by sharing, for example, the character's soul and values.
- If there are things in our culture we have to address, we shouldn't put lipstick on a pig to cover it up.
-The writer has to be brave and come from a place of integrity when addressing such characters.

Abigail read aloud excerpts from YESTERDAY I HAD THE BLUES by Jeron Ashford Frame (Picture Book-Tricycle Press) as an example of what a solid multicultural story looks like, even if it was written by a "cultural outsider." Then she shared the characteristics of a good multicultural story:
-A consistent, authentic, and evocative voice
-Vivid metaphors
-Research and craft
-Empathetic imagination
-Intimate knowledge of character, their culture, the environment the character was raised in (Know a character right down to what breakfast cereal they eat!)

I enjoyed listening to Rita and Abigail talk. After their presentation, I stuck around and mingled with the other attendees. Glad I came.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Teaching with Children's Books: Poetry

April is National Poetry Month and what better way to bring poetry into the classroom than to read aloud some rhyming children's books. Here are a few picture books told in rhyme and/or verse I've read:  


THE MONSTER WHO ATE MY PEAS by Danny Schnitzlein, Illust. by Matt Faulkner (Picture Book-Peachtree) A boy gives up his favorite things to a monster in exchange for getting his peas eaten for him.

HOP! PLOP! by Corey Rosen Schwartz & Tali Klein , Illust. by  Oliver Dunrea (Picture Book-Walker & Company) Mouse and Elephant share some noisy adventures together on the playground. The book is stocked with examples of onomatopoeia (pronounced on-uh-mat-uh-PEE-uh), which refers to words that mimic the very sound they describe (e.g. plop, boom, whoosh).


FIREFIGHTERS IN THE DARK by Dashka Slater, Illust. by Nicoletta Ceccoli (Picture Book-Houghton Mifflin) A girl imagines all the surrealistic places a fire engine goes to when its siren goes off.

PIGGIES IN A POLKA by Kathi Appelt, Illust. by  LeUyen Pham (Picture Book-Harcourt) I was a guest at a piggie hootenanny, which is a rowdy and merry gathering among folk musicians and locals. 

I've also read couple of poetry collections intended for older readers I just wanted to share:

AN EYEBALL IN MY GARDEN AND OTHER SPINE-TINGLING POEMS edited by Jennifer Cole Judd and  Laura Wynkoop, Illust. by Johan Olander (Middle Grade-Marshall Cavendish) A group of writers contributed to this collection of poems where Dracula goes coffin shopping, the ghost of a goldfish haunts a toilet, a monster lurks in a wishing well, and a dead girl who was bullied comes back for her bully. (Keep this one around for Halloween.)

SHUT UP, YOU'RE FINE: POEMS FOR VERY, VERY BAD CHILDREN by Andrew Hudgins (Adult/Young Adult-The Overlook Press) I found this in the grown-up section and couldn't stop reading this award-winning poet's glimpses into the dark world of the young and troubled. With poems featuring verbally abusive parents, creepy grandmothers, masturbation, thoughts of violence, and animal cruelty, this collection of poems is NOT intended for children or the classroom. But I wanted to mention this book because I think some mature teens would get the subversive voice of the poems, told in the form of upbeat nursery rhymes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Books I Read in March

DEAR PAPA by Anne Ylvisaker (Middle Grade-Candlewick Press) A novel told through letters about a girl living during World War II coping with the loss of her father

CRANK by Ellen Hopkins (Young Adult-Simon Pulse) A novel told in poetry about a girl's downward spiral resulting from her meth addiction

JUNIE B. JONES AND THAT MEANIE JIM'S BIRTHDAY by Barbara Park (Early Reader/Middle Grade-Random House) Girl copes with not getting invited to a birthday party that all of her classmates are going to

THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING FAIRIES by Ammi-Joan Paquette, Illust. by Christa Unzner (Picture Book-Tanglewood Press) A guide for fairy seekers and enthusiasts 

TTYL by Lauren Myracle (Young Adult-Harry N. Abrams) Three girls navigate through high school through instant messages

I WANT TO BE SOMEBODY NEW by Robert Lopshire (Picture Book/Early Reader-Random House) A rhyming story about an animal who shape-shifts into different creatures to seek others' approval