Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Non-Fiction Picture Book Wed. - October for Monsters

art by Sarah S. Brannen

      Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From her post and others, you will discover and want to celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books! 


         It's the bicentennial of Frankenstein and nearing Halloween, so it's a great time to share this story of Mary Shelley on the night she created a most frightening monster.

            Telling of a young woman who sits in a dark house and dreams of her life as a writer shows this one night when the idea of Mary's monster begins. She wants to be a writer like her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, who passed away when Mary was very young, but the ideas just did not appear.

The poet Lord Byron and her good friend, soon to be husband, Percy Shelley, among others, were visiting and Byron set forth a challenge to them to write a ghost story. Mary wanted to write, wanted an idea, and with only one day left, still nothing. Frustrated and anxious, she went to bed. As she drifted off to sleep, she dreamed of a man that was not a man. He was a monster.

Everyone knows Frankenstein, but few know the beginnings of this story, one where Mary created this man, one not as scary as others show, but lonely and ostracized. It can be an entry to the reading of the book for older middle and high schoolers.

Felicita Sala illustrates the book in dark and dreamy gray tones, surely the atmosphere of that evening when the group spoke of vampires and ghosts, their stories already written, and the night Mary had a dream. There is an author's note where Lynn Fulton explains the changes she made that are not supported in the sources. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Non-Fiction Picture Book - A Woman Who Didn't Follow Rules

art by Sarah S. Brannen

      Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From her post and others, you will discover and want to celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books! 

       Considering the political climate of our times, it feels appropriate to begin sharing this wonderful book chronicling Maria Merian's life, out last February, with some words from Joyce Sidman's introduction:                               "Imagine this girl, forbidden from training as either a scholar or a master artist because she is female. Aware that in nearby villages women have been hanged as witches for something as simple as showing too much interest in 'evil vermin'."
       By the 1660s, when Maria was thirteen, over 20,000 women had been tried and executed as witches in Germany alone.

       This exquisite biography opens with a table of contents, then a glossary and the introduction. The chapter titles themselves offer an overall view of the life cycle of a butterfly, and cover, chapter by chapter, Maria's life cycle, too. Clever in its execution, at the opening of each chapter also is one of Sidman's poems. Written from the insect's view, these themselves would make a beautiful story, for the caterpillar and for humans. Here is one example from Chapter 3, FIRST INSTAR (the phase between moltings): "All that glittering green/before me. . ./how much of it will I devour?"  

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Monday Reading - Politics & Seasons

          Visit Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.  

          I had the pleasure of an advanced copy from Candlewick Press for this book by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin.

       I've loved M.T. Anderson's books with their social underpinnings (like Feed) and Eugene Yelchin's story, Stalin's Nose, showing more historical humor and bite. This time, unassuming elfin historian Brangwain Spurge volunteers for a mission of a lifetime: he will be catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom. It's dangerous, yet enticing for the experience. Brangwain’s host, the goblin Werfel the archivist loves the idea of learning from this never-before visitor and goes to extreme lengths to prepare for him. It can feel like an earth human visiting Mars with the mistakes that occur accompanied by cultural misunderstandings. Even the idea of insult or compliments contradict. Goblins show their love for one another with insults; elves do not. Interspersed within the plot are secret letters from Ysoret Clivers, Lord Spymaster, who hints at a double-cross when Spurge closes in with his peace offering. These two erratic (yet oh so sincere) scholars end in the middle of an international crisis that may spell death for them — and war for their nations. The story holds humor, beauty and an inspiring call for changing one's skin. (You'll have to read it to understand my meaning.)
      Eugene Yelchin illustrates the elf side of this story. In pen and ink archaic style, a few of his chapters move the plot along, enabling us to see the world-building and action from Brangwain's point of view, as the "other", Werfel's story is told in prose by Anderson. The reader will be thrilled to see and read the details of this new place, home of Goblins, and the fantastical plot that moves like a speeding train, across landscapes hard to imagine unless one is M.T. Anderson or Eugene Yelchin. To meet Brangwain Spurge and Werfel, both earnest and honest creatures that just happen to come from very different worlds, and histories, is a pleasure.

       And, thanks to Beaming Books, I received a copy of this new book celebrating fall and the joys of friendship and sharing.
        This sweet story by Laura Renauld--out tomorrow--is the winner of the Beaming Books picture book writing contest! Porcupine prepares for Fall Feast Day by taking off for the river to wash her cranberries. On the way, she meets several animals like Squirrel and asks them if they are preparing the favorite dishes she remembers from last year. Squirrel replies no, no "Nut Bread" this year because she has no flour. Generous Porcupine is happy to share her flour and tells squirrel to help herself. There is humor as well as sharing, like when Bear, appreciative that he will get the needed butter for his "Famous Honey Cake", "nearly hugs Porcupine". As Porcupine moves along, young readers might also notice that those cranberries are spilling from the bucket. Oh no! But Porcupine doesn't realize what's happening and is so disappointed at the river. She trudges home, saying later to the guests that there will only be piecrust this time. All working and sharing together makes a delicious end with "Friendship Pie". The recipe is at the back! Jennie Poh's illustrations fill the pages with cute animals in an autumnal forest, a rich anthropomorphizing in this story, with small touches like Porcupine's cupboard with dishes, a hanging picture of a cupcake, and Bear hanging out with a book. There is also a ladybug that makes an appearance in every scene. It is a story for young readers, perhaps with an added sharing and cooking time?