How Well Do You Know…Neil Gaiman?

Hi everyone,

Neil-Gaiman-2-225x300

Photo Credit: panels.net

Before we jump into today’s regular post, I just wanted to give you a quick update on what to expect for this month!

There’s a lot going on in May, including Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. Screen-Free Week starts today, so we’ll have our TV turned off in favor of some new books.

May is also Short Story Month, so keep an eye out for some short story reviews throughout the month. You may remember similar reviews from last October; you can go back to check those out here (1, 2, 3) if you’d like! Instead of horror, this month will have some “badass girls,” “timeless tales,” and a little bit of steampunk.

Lastly, you may remember that I did an author study last May, where I spent a full month looking at different works by the same author. If you’d like to see my author study of Francesca Lia Block, you can check out those posts here (1, 2, 3, 4). This month, I’m going to be doing another author study, this time with books by Neil Gaiman! I’ve read several of his books before (and we’ve reviewed The Graveyard Book previously), so I’ve picked ones that I hadn’t read yet to share throughout this month. To kick off our author study, here’s a new a How Well Do You Know quiz to find out how much you really know about Neil Gaiman!

 

 

How Well Do You Know…Neil Gaiman?

 

  1. What is Neil Gaiman’s birthday?

a. November 10

b. January 10

c. September 10

d. July 10

  1. Gaiman’s middle name is…?

a. Peter

b. Stephen

c. Richard

d. Thomas

  1. As a child, Gaiman enjoyed reading books by which of the following authors?

a. Edgar Allan Poe

b. Ursula K. Le Guin

c. C. S. Lewis

d. All of the above

  1. Which of his books has received a Newbery Medal?

a. The Graveyard Book

b. Coraline

c. American Gods

d. Stardust

  1. What was Gaiman’s first collaborative project with Dave McKean?

a. The Wolves in the Walls

b. Violent Cases

c. Coraline

d. Crazy Hair

  1. Which of his books inspired an animated feature film?

a. The Ocean at the End of the Lane

b. The Sleeper and the Spindle

c. Coraline

d. The Graveyard Book

  1. What kind of animal is Chu?

a. Pig

b. Panda

c. Cat

d. Rat

  1. M is for…?

a. Mustard

b. Mischief

c. Mistakes

d. Magic

  1. Odd and the Frost Giants was inspired by what kind of mythology?

a. Greek

b. Celtic

c. Norse

d. Roman

  1. What is Coraline’s last name?

a. Smith

b. Jones

c. Gaiman

d. Doe

 

Answers: 1. a 2. c 3. d 4. a 5. b 6. c 7. b 8. d 9. c 10. b

 

How many questions did you answer correctly? Let us know in the comments below!

 

For more information:

http://www.neilgaiman.com/

 

And be sure to keep an eye out throughout the rest of this month for more reviews of Gaiman’s work! We’ll be checking out The Wolves in the Walls for tomorrow’s #wednesdayreview on Instagram.

 

Julia

Happy 100th Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

Hi everyone,Ramona

Today is an exciting day! It’s Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday! We were so excited for Cleary’s birthday that we’ve decided to start a new series on Two BookWorms Blog to celebrate. Keep an eye out later for our first “How Well Do You Know…” quiz and test your Beverly Cleary knowledge!

For Cleary’s birthday last year, we’d reviewed her book Ramona the Pest. You can check out that review HERE!

Today is also DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) Day! What will you be reading today?

Julia

Happy Birthday, Trina Schart Hyman!

Hi everyone,

 

Today, we’re celebrating Trina Schart Hyman’s birthday with her version of the Rapunzel fairy tale.

 

Rapunzel

Rapunzel

Retold by Barbara Rogasky, Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Publisher: Holiday House, 1982

Genre: Fairy tale

Format: Picture book, Hardcover

Source: Public Library

 

Since we’re celebrating Hyman’s birthday, I don’t want to say too much about the text. I think it’s enough to say that it’s very closely based on the Grimm version, as are some of the other fairy tale picture books Hyman illustrated.

 

If you’ve read some of my previous fairy tale round-ups, you’ll know that I love Hyman’s illustrations. Her picture book version of Little Red Riding Hood is my current favorite, both of her work and of Red Riding Hood retellings. The illustrations in this book follow her classic style, with detailed framing and beautifully-drawn figures. The Rapunzel in this book is beautiful, and, as you might be able to tell from the cover, her hair is absolutely stunning. I love the spread of Rapunzel after she meets the prince; they both look so happy together!

 

For more information about Trina Schart Hyman:

http://www.rmichelson.com/illustration/trina-schart-hyman/

http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/authors-illustrators/jim-arnosky-trina-schart-hyman/#_

 

I also love Hyman’s illustrations for Snow White. Which is your favorite of her books?

 

Julia

Happy Birthday, Mem Fox!

Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives ForeverReading Magic

Author: Mem Fox

Publisher: A Harvest Original, Harcourt, Inc., 2008, 2001

Source: Public library

 

Do you know anyone with a young child? Better yet, someone expecting a child? Then I have just the gift to give them. Buy this book.

 

I know we usually review children’s books, and Mem Fox has written many wonderful and memorable stories for kids. Yet this book is life-changing. (Some of her others may be for children; I am talking to adults here.) Why? Because Fox explains the real importance of reading aloud to your children in a way that is far from dull, dreary or accusatory.

 

If I were to quote all the important passages and ideas from the book in this post, it would be many pages long. I will try to contain myself to only the most vital.

 

“The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading” (pg. 10).  The best thing is, as Fox explains, you don’t need special qualifications or to do anything extraordinary. We should read with our children all the time – right from the moment they are born. So soon?, you may ask. Yes, because “the first day of school is almost too late for a child to begin to learn to read. It’s as scary as that” (pg. 13). Working in a three-year old preschool program, I can tell you that it is already obvious which children are read to on a regular basis and which are not.

 

If the beginning of school is too late, obviously parents, grandparents and other caregivers must take action right away. In this book, Fox gives us the guidance we need. She explains that reading aloud helps to develop children’s speaking skills. Unless they are spoken to, they can’t learn to talk and reading aloud helps develop these skills. It gives us another opportunity to converse with them. You might think that any listening will do, but in fact they do not develop these skills when they hear language “passively from television” (pg. 17). Language is learned in a give-and-take environment.

Reading aloud is also the basis for important emotional connections. “The time spent reading together provides clear evidence to a child of a parents love, care, and focused attention” (pg. 20). That is one of the keys to making reading special and enjoyable.

 

Fox gives us information to help with all our questions. When is the best time to start reading to our children? What time should we read? How much should we read? Is television bad for children? What about dealing with a fidgety child? What if a child lacks interest? Are there other places to find print that helps children read? What about worksheets? How important are nursery rhymes and fairy tales? What about learning to read by using phonics? This book covers it all.

 

As an educator, I am grateful for the many reminders I received. On page 89, Fox tells us, “Rhymers will be readers: it’s that simple.” I will give you some scary statistics. Our classroom recently read aloud a common nursery rhyme and out of 22 students, only two actually knew the nursery rhyme. Two. And I will add that both of them immediately caught on to the words that rhymed. (Yes, we’ve been using more of them in the classroom lately.)

 

I only have the highest praise for Reading Magic. I recommend it as the type of book that is worth reading and re-reading. To learn more about Mem Fox, go to www.memfox.com.

 

Barbara

Happy Birthday, Langston Hughes!

Hi everyone,

Today we’re celebrating Langston Hughes’ birthday (February 1, 1902-May 22, 1967) with a picture book collection of his poetry. Because February is Black History Month, we wanted to try to incorporate a few books by African American authors or about African American characters into our reviews this month. We frequently saw books about the same important figures – Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges – coming up again and again in various classrooms and wanted to share some alternatives to give other significant individuals a little more attention.

Langston Hughes

Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes

Edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad

Illustrated by Benny Andrews

Publisher: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2006

Genre: Poetry, History, Picture Book

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 48

Source: Borrowed from Public Library

 

This book is a collection of some of Hughes’ poetry and includes detailed historical information about both Hughes’ life and his work.

 

I think this book could be a great tool for teachers looking to introduce Langston Hughes to readers of any age, but it would likely be best if specific segments were selected and discussed rather than trying to read through the book in one sitting. The book opens with a fairly extensive summary of Hughes’ life and writing. Each of the following pages includes Hughes’ poetry and a corresponding illustration. Each poem includes a very short introduction that provides a little more background information, which might include Hughes’ inspiration for a particular poem or about its reception and long-term impact. Some even include definitions at the bottom of the page for unfamiliar terminology. All of that background information combines to give strong insight into Hughes’ work and would be a very effective way to introduce it to a new reader.

 

Although I like the use of color throughout the illustrations, I have mixed feeling about the images overall. While I think some of them are perfectly suited to the poems they accompany and are deeply symbolic, others lack that same power and appear flat and stiff.

 

For more information about Langston Hughes:

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/langston-hughes

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/langston-hughes

 

Which of Hughes’ poems is your favorite?

 

Julia

Happy Birthday, Lloyd Alexander!

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1965

Format: First eBook edition, July 2011

Source: Downloaded from iTunes store

 

For today’s post, I reviewed The Black Cauldron, which is the second book in Lloyd Alexander’s (January 30, 1924-May 17, 2007) Chronicles of Prydain series (The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, The High King). Based, in part, on classic Welsh legends, Alexander also incorporated his own experiences of Wales, where he trained during World War II.

 

Taran is the Assistant Pig-Keeper at Caer Dallben, located in the northern realm of Prydain. Despite his seemingly lowly position and his youth, he is invited to join the council of men as they prepare to seize the Black Cauldron from Arawn, Lord of Annuvin. Arawn has been taking the bodies of the slain and using the cauldron’s magical powers to “give them life again. They emerge implacable as death itself, their humanity forgotten.” In fact, it seems as if Arawn is no longer satisfied to wait until men are dead; now living men are disappearing, never to be seen again.

 

The council must act, and Taran is to assist the warriors by guarding their pack animals and serving as necessary. While Taran’s adventure begins this way, ultimately he becomes far more involved in actually securing and destroying the Black Cauldron. It’s an action-packed tale, sure to please those looking for some vicarious feats of valor.

 

Although I think The Black Cauldron is a great story, I do have one complaint. The names are complicated. Names like Ellidyr, Gwydion, Eilonwy and Fflewddur fill the pages. There is a pronunciation guide at the end of the e-book, however I find that these are the types of names that could be a big enough hurdle to stop some readers in their tracks.

 

Barbara

 

Happy Birthday, A.A. Milne!

Finding Winnie: The True Story of The World’s Most Famous BearFinding Winnie

By: Lindsay Mattick

Illustrated by: Sophie Blackall

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2015

Source: Public library

*2016 Caldecott Medal Winner

 

Finding Winnie tells the true story of a bear named Winnipeg. When Winnipeg was a cub, her mother was caught by a trapper. Captain Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian on his way to care for the horses used during World War I, spots the young cub and buys her from the trapper. Winnie joins Harry and his regiment as they travel to the green fields of Valcartier. Later, Winnie would join Harry as they crossed the ocean to England and Winnie was the Mascot of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade. However, when it came time to fight – and as Winnie grew bigger – Harry knew it was time for Winnie to leave him to go to a new home. That is how Winnie came to live at the London Zoo – where a man named Alan Alexander Milne would take his son, Christopher Robin Milne, to visit a very special bear.

 

This is a wonderful story and Sophie Blackall’s illustrations make it all the more special. However, I must admit that my favorite part of the book came at the end. I loved the Album that showed the photographs of Lindsay Mattick’s great-grandfather, Captain Harry Colebourn, and especially those of him with the real-life Winnipeg.

 

And for those who were not aware, this post is appearing on A.A. Milne’s birthday (January 18, 1882), which has been named “Winnie-the-Pooh Day”. It’s a great time to read or watch a Winnie the Pooh story. Like to do more? Here’s a link that will provide more information and ideas for celebrating “Winnie-the-Pooh Day”: http://www.just-pooh.com/fun.html

 

Barbara

Happy Birthday, Avi!

 

Old Wolf

Old Wolf

Author: Avi (December 23, 1937)

Illustrator: Brian Floca

Publisher: A Richard Jackson Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2015

Source: Personal purchase at the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair

 

Nashoba is the leader of the Iron Mountain wolf pack. It’s the starving time (March), and the whole pack is desperate for food and looking to Nashoba to provide it. But old and weak from hunger, Nashoba is increasing being threatened by Garby, a younger male who is constantly challenging Nashoba’s right and ability to lead the pack. Thus pressured, Nashoba knows that he must make a kill – not only for the pack’s survival, but to securely hold his lead. However, he cannot find food. The elk remain elusive, and his senses are no longer as strong as they once were.

 

Then help comes from an unexpected source. Merla, a raven, gives Nashoba a tip as to where the elk are located. Though suspicious of the bird’s motives, Nashoba makes a deal with Merla that in exchange for her help, the wolf pack will leave enough food for Merla and her conspiracy to eat. There is just one problem; the elk are grazing in an area that is dangerously close to where humans have been seen.

 

While we follow the story of Nashoba and his problems, we are simultaneously learning about Casey, a thirteen-year old boy who has received a much-desired bow and arrows for his birthday. He’s anxious to hunt, though his parents have told him he will have to wait to hunt until he has received some lessons. However, Casey is free to practice a bit on his own in the woods near his home.

 

And that is how the paths of the young boy and the old wolf cross. Nashoba is near the humans looking for the elk. Casey is out in the woods practicing with his new longbow. An arrow flies – and their lives are intertwined and changed forever.

 

I found Old Wolf to be a disappointing read. It’s ending, with major unresolved issues for both Casey and Nashoba, left me dissatisfied. The ongoing issues faced by both boy and wolf may be more realistic than an ending that neatly and perhaps too conveniently closes the story, but that closure is part of what a reader wants at the end of a book. A second problem that I had with the story was the fact that the boy mistakes the wolf for a dog. Really? The fact that someone that interested in learning to hunt can’t see the difference is a little hard to believe. It is jolting and takes the reader’s thoughts away from the many fine points of the story.

Barbara

Happy Birthday, Jan Brett!

Hi everyone,

 

To kick off our December posts, we’re celebrating Jan Brett’s birthday (December 1st, 1949) with her picture book, The Mitten.

 

The Mitten by Jan Brett

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1989

Genre: Folktale, Picture Book

Format: Hardcover

Source: Personal Collection

 

Nicki wants mittens as white as the snow outside, and, against her better judgement, his grandmother makes them for him. She warns him that she will be checking to see if he still has his new mittens when he comes home, so he must be very careful with them. Yet Nicki loses one almost immediately, and a host of forest animals decide to make it their temporary home instead.

 

This Ukrainian folktale has a simple text, but the illustrations are incredibly detailed and interesting. Brett’s characteristic detailed borders and highly realistic depictions of animals capture the reader’s attention immediately. Young readers will be excited to see the mitten-shaped cut-outs on either side of each spread. They’ll be able to follow both Nicki’s progress as he plays and searches for his missing mitten and to predict which animal will try to squeeze into the mitten next.

 

My favorite part of the book is the last page, when Nicki’s grandmother, Baba, is looking at Nicki’s mittens. One is normally sized, but the other is all stretched out from all the animals. I have knitted many, many pairs of mittens, but I don’t think any of mine would manage to contain a bear – I’d like to know Baba’s knitting secrets!

 

For more information:

 

http://www.janbrett.com/index.html

Here’s some additional information about author/illustrator, Jan Brett! There are also plenty of activities to go along with The Mitten.

 

http://www.carolhurst.com/titles/mitten.html

This website includes some more ideas for teachers who want to use The Mitten in their classroom!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3rRWzdHv5M

Jan Brett reads The Mitten aloud

 

Julia

Happy Birthday, Robert D. San Souci!

Hi everyone,

Today’s book is a twist on the Cinderella fairy tale – my favorite fairy tale of all – and celebrates author Robert D. San Souci’s (October 10, 1946 – December 19, 2014) birthday!

Cinderella Skeleton by Robert D. San Souci

Illustrator: David Catrow

Publisher: Harcourt, 2000

Format: Hardcover

Source: Borrowed from Public Library

I don’t think this book needs much explanation – it’s the perfect Cinderella story for the Halloween season.  Told in rhyme, it’s bouncy and fun, but has spooky illustrations that remind of Tim Burton’s artwork.  I do have some mixed feelings about what would be the appropriate age-range for this book; I think it would be best for you to consider your own readers and their tolerance for spooky things before sharing this one.  That being said, I love this Cinderella and the twists San Souci provides to the tale.  One of my major requirements for new Cinderella tales is that Cinderella have more agency and power than in earlier versions, and I think this book takes a little step in the right direction.

San Souci passed away last December, not long after I completed a thesis which incorporated one of his other Cinderella tales, Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella. I was sorry to hear of his passing, but am happy to share his work with you today.  Which of his books has been your favorite?

For more information:

http://www.slj.com/2014/12/industry-news/author-robert-san-souci-dies-at-68/#_

San Souci’s obituary in School Library Journal, including comments from his brother

Julia