105 Ways to Give a Book

Summer Reading Program Booktalking II

Okay, you guys weren’t as helpful as I had hoped in giving me starting points, but I’m giving you another chance with this batch for the lower elementary grades. These are also books I recommended to the summer reading list, thank you very much, so I know and love them. I’m just not sure how to start off the booktalk for all of them.

Clementine is easy, because I’ll read the first page. It sets up the story, shows Clementine’s personality, and displays the humor of the book. I’ll probably go from that right into Phineas MacGuire Erupts! as another book with humor and personality, but this time a boy. I’m not sure how I’ll start The Year of the Dog; I’m only sure that I’ll use it. Ditto for Akimbo and The Snakes, though it’s possible a rubber snake will be involved.

For Babymouse: Beach Babe, I’ll start by asking the second/third graders who’s going to the beach this summer. If I let a few of them tell me where, I could easily kill a couple of minutes. If I can find Are You Quite Polite in time, I’ll sing one of the songs — probably the one from the library. If I locate Once I Ate a Pie, I’ll read a poem or two.

For first grade and maybe some kindergarten, I’ll start with fake sneezing/coughing to introduce Sniffles, Sneezes, Coughs and Hiccups. (This one I didn’t suggest, but I couldn’t resist the idea of opening with a sneezing fit.) I can ask the kids who has lost their first baby tooth to introduce I Lost My Tooth in Africa. (By the way, if you ask a question of kids younger then ten, remind them to put their hands down after they raise them. Kids will leave their hands up until all the blood rushes to their toes in the hopes that you will ask each and every one of them their particular story. I always go with this phrasing: “Hands up if you’ve lost your first baby tooth. Okay, hands down.”)

I’ll read from Snip, Snap: What’s That? and from Bats at the Beach. I’m thinking of giving them a new chipmunk song/action rhyme I learned and then telling them about the nonfiction book Chattering Chipmunks and other books about animals for beginning readers. If I get some good openers today for either these books or yesterday’s titles, I promise to put up audio of me and my kids doing the Chipmunk Song. It’s the catchiest thing ever.

I have to mention a story about the Chattering Chipmunks book, which I brought it home for my eight-year-old to read for fun and practice. In retrospect it may not have been the best choice of books for my family. We get to the line, “Have you seen chipmunks in your backyard?” She turns to me and says, “No, but the cats bring us dead ones.” True, very true.
Category: 2 comments

Summer Reading Program Booktalking

Focus! Focus!

Sorry, that was my internal dialogue taking over. The truth of the matter is that I have only two days before I need to talk about books to five hundred kids, and I am woefully unprepared. I have read the books, but I am having trouble coming with my hooks for each title. Without that starting point, I find it hard to move on.

Let me back up. In my county that shall remain unnamed — like Voldemort — the public librarians go to the elementary schools in the area and promote our summer reading program. We also have a list of books, mostly from the previous year, that we use to get the kids excited and coming in the library doors. Voldemort County orders extra copies of these books — like forty extra copies — and we talk them up in the schools — like a hundred and forty schools — so the students swarming into the libraries have shiny new copies to borrow. I’ve helped make the list before, but this year I merely suggested books to consider. It is only a mark of the committee’s intelligence that they ordered most of my suggestions.

So now I need to tell the kids about these books. I’ve read them, some twice, and I love them, hence the suggesting for the list. But I need the first sentence or the gimmick or the hook to grab the kids’ attention. You are welcome to submit suggestions in the comments, particularly if you are Jenny Han or Gail Gauthier, given that the books I’m talking up to the sixth graders are Shug and Happy Kid!

I’ll talk about Yellow Star to the fifth and/or sixth graders, but I already know that I will open with the first paragraph, where it lists the numbers of Jews in the Ghetto before and after the war. For Transformed: How Everyday Things Are Made, I’ll start with some interesting facts and then recite the complete list of items covered. Bridging the fifth and fourth grades, I’ll also read from Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, since it was such a hit with my daughter’s fifth grade class. I’ll probably throw in a new, non-list book called Blind Mountain, because it’s a fun (short) adventure book. For that I’ll start with asking them to close their eyes and imagine getting around different places, and ending with getting down a mountain with a cougar stalking you. I know, sounds good, doesn’t it?

I wanted to add Water Street to the fourth grade, maybe fifth grade, mix but I don’t know how to grab them with such a quiet book. Any ideas?

Tomorrow, look for my selections for third grade on down to the tiny kindergartners.
Category: 8 comments

Eight Things: Summer Edition

Big A, little a tagged me with a meme. Each player lists eight facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags eight people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Since I’ve listed one hundred things about me (and I highly recommend it as a self-knowledge/writing exercise), and since I’m soooo ready for summer, I’ve decided to make all of my eight things relevant to the summer season.
  1. Yesterday I got my first sunburn of the summer because the sunscreen I brought to the pool was really greasy and I didn’t want to put it on.

  2. However, I slathered my kids in it until they looked like they’d been rolling in ranch dressing. They did not burn.

  3. I really love the beach and usually by this time of year I would have gotten my sorry butt there at least once. The thought that I have to wait another three weeks is making me itchy.

  4. I start painting my toenails again starting in May and changing the colors all the time from red to pink to blue to green, depending on my mood.

  5. I can execute a pretty dive into the pool, though I’m sure it was a more beautiful thing to watch before I packed an extra thirty pounds on my frame.

  6. Speaking of extra poundage, I now think shopping for a bathing suit is worse then getting a cavity filled. At least at the dentist you get something for the pain.

  7. It’s been almost twenty years since I was in school, but I always feel a bit surprised — and a little resentful — that I don’t have the whole summer off.

  8. I still love summer so much that the smell of Coppertone is one of my favorite scents.
Now I tag recent contributors of prizes for the 48 Hour Book Challenge:
  • Adcock News, who is sending a necklace and bracelet set.

  • Just Books, who gives a lovely, handmade journal and coffee cozy.

  • Wands and Words, who is giving us a Dark Dreamweavers T-shirt and signed book

  • A Wrung Sponge, who will allow me to frame one or more of her beautiful photos.

  • Mitali Perkins, who is donating a signed copy of Rickshaw Girl. Oh, and if you follow the link, you can weigh in on her next book cover.
I just realized that the next three blogs I was going to mention will either be unable or unwilling to respond, but there’s nothing that says I can’t use them anyway, so...There’s still time to contribute prizes for the 48 Hour Book Challenge, now only ten days away and counting. Scroll down to the end of my blogroll and Email MotherReader!
Category: 4 comments

Checking In With Myself

Every Sunday, Seven Impossible Things has a post that asks the blog readers to list seven (more or less) great things that happened in the past week. It’s become a weekly ritual for me, not only to read and respond, but also to revisit and reflect to come up with seven things. Personally, I like the idea of coming up with exactly seven things, because it forces me to look back at my week and find the great things that happened to me. Sometimes they are big and obvious. Sometimes they are small and discreet. But the weekly task serves as a reminder to me that even in the chaotic, crazy weeks, good things are happening and sometimes you just have to allow yourself to see them.

Every Friday, I stop by Robin Brande’s blog to report on the nice thing I’ve done for myself that week. Now treating myself is not my issue. I’m always the woman who will take a nap rather than sort the laundry if said nap is needed. I generally make time to read and play and soak in the sunshine. However, going to visit on Friday has reminded me to pay attention to when I treat myself and to how I treat myself. Sometimes it’s a gaudy ring that will just make me smile. Sometimes it’s taking a break in the hammock. But what’s important for me is mentally checking in to make sure I am keeping some balance in what I’m giving to others and what I’m giving to myself.

This weekend has been a bit of a breath in the tight schedule I’ve been keeping. There have been some long conversations with my dad — some overly long — that have kept our connection. Together, we’ve worked on cleaning and fixing the deck. It’s been extremely satisfying to get that done. I’ve realized that next week is a little less busy than it has been, which should get me on track with my booktalking. And in something that qualifies as both a kick-ass thing and a nice thing I’m doing for myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that I over-prepare for these booktalks, so I’m scaling back. I’ll prepare a third fewer books and repeat them more to the different classes. It seems obvious now, but sometimes these moments of clarity come under crises.

Today I’m going to see my grandmother for her 96th birthday. Ninety-six years old, can you believe it? She’s still sharp as a tack, too. Tomorrow I’m allowing some downtime with my girls at the pool. But yes, I’ll be bringing a book. Maybe two.
Category: 2 comments

In The Weeds

You know when you’re so overwhelmed that you want to throw your head back and scream?

Where I am now, I’m feeling a little nostalgic for that point.

December is always a busy month for me, what with all the holiday prep, but at least it’s generally focused on one broad thing. Online shopping has also made things so much easier in the last few years, as has my artificial tree. But the two-month period from the middle of April to the middle of June remains my endurance test, and adding the Girl Scout leader thing to the mix has put me deep in the weeds.

Here’s my schedule: Birthday, Girl Scout overnight trip, 48 Hour Film Project, work yearly review, Girl Scout dance, Mother’s Day, Drama Club play, Girl Scout camping, birthday, second grade biography project... breathe... 48 Hour Film Project Best of DC Screening, Dad’s visit, booktalking, friend visit, Girl Scout awards ceremony, my birthday, Girl Scout Sing-Along, middle-school booktalking, and 48 Hour Book Challenge.

I am only up to the breathe so far.

I lose focus with lots of irons in the fire. I tend to put my energy into the current situation, and then make odd choices with my next bit of free time. I’ll sit for three hours over three days to help the second grader come up with a song for her biography project on Susan B. Anthony (she really did write most of it, and it’s pretty darn good). But then with my only free hour, I’ll decide that I need to power-wash the deck instead of putting away the laundry. So while my wood deck is now actually the color of... well, wood... my kids are sitting on the floor of the family room playing a version of laundry Go Fish for matching socks. I’ll take the time to write this post as a creative release, while upstairs the past month’s copies of the Washington Post have creeped off of their tidy pile and are now forming a sort of second carpeting for the dining room. (Which is helping with the clean-up, I guess. Now instead of vacuuming, I can throw away the top layer of newspapers. Like a bird cage.) I’ll spend twenty minutes searching online for the last ten minutes of American Idol which did not tape last night, and then step over two belts, six random shoes, and seventeen Polly Pockets on my way to the stairs.

I’m not telling you this to provoke your sympathy. Well, not entirely. I just want you to know in case I owe you an email, or didn’t review your book, or haven’t been commenting at your site. I’m still reading email, but am responding pretty inconsistently. I’m not reading books much at all, and I’m less likely to read a book that I’m looking forward to because I want to read it in a good state of mind. I’ve always prided myself on going to my blogfriends’ sites and commenting, but while I go here and there to read, I’m not always thinking of things I want to say. Maybe I’ll start using true dat! and fo’ shizzle! more as sort of a commenting crutch.

I’ll be using this space for the next two weeks to profile books I’m using for booktalking at the public schools. I may even ask for your suggestions for introductions. My older daughter has always been incredible at coming up with great hooks, but I could use all the help I can get. Obviously.

Still feel like helping out? Prizes. I still want/need prizes for the 48 Hour Book Challenge. The extra book light you got as a gift and can’t use, ’cause how many do you need? Your handicraft expertise in T-shirts, jewelry, or macramé — who doesn’t love macramé? I know I do. Hit my Email MotherReader! button and send me some love... and stuff.

Summer Reading

At the end of May, the children’s librarians in my county enter the public schools to tantalize the students with the Summer Reading List choices. I was not on the committee to select the books this year, but I did urge the committee to consider certain titles. So as I prepare to book talk to hundreds of kids, I’ll share here what I’m bringing there.

Many years ago my older daughter went through a bat stage. It involved us reading bat books, owning bat beanie babies, and visiting the bat house at the National Zoo. So while I personally am not a huge bat fan, I do have a soft spot in my heart for them.

Bats at the BeachThen along comes Bats at the Beach, combining these flying rodents with my favorite vacation spot. It’s a cute book, but it’s more than just cute. There are the legs sticking out from the marshmallow to be toasted on a stick. There’s the image of the bats flying to the beach with their tote bags and umbrellas (for the moon, I guess) gripped in their feet. It’s the picture of the bat buried in the sand and the bat friends making a bird sculpture out of him. The text is cute, but the pictures are very, very clever. And very, very fun.

I’ll be reading Bats at the Beach to the kindergartners, with maybe a little beach or bat introduction.

48 Hour In Two Ways

You Pay Your DuesThe short film Bill and I made featuring the writing of Robin Brande has been chosen for the Best of DC screening at the AFI Silver Theatre. While we originally thought that the only the top twelve would be featured in two repeat screenings, instead twenty-two films were selected. So, we’re in the top quarter. I was actually going to hold off on my film news until I had something more definitive to report, but eh, whatever. If you are becoming intrigued by the whole process of making a film in two days, stop by the Tohubohu blog for links to several of the films and participants. The WIT film — WIT standing for Washington Improv Theater — is particularly funny and the strongest competitor.

Speaking of two-day projects, the 48 Hour Book Challenge is a bit more than two weeks away! Start collecting your to-be-read pile of older elementary and teen books. Remember that there will be prizes for most books read, most pages read (if different), and most hours spend reading/reviewing. There will also be prizes given out to random participants just to keep it fun.

What kind of prizes? Well, I have received a T-shirt and hoodie from Threadless in my first non-kidlitosphere prize. Yeah to asking for what you want. I also have a signed Babymouse book from Jennifer Holm and a virtual pinky-swear for an original Babymouse drawing. Grace Lin will be contributing the Lissy’s Friends book and doll. Mitali Perkins throws in a signed Rickshaw Girl, as Gail Gauthier puts A Girl, A Boy, and A Monster Cat in the mix. Tanya Lee Stone promises the signed paperback of A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, with a bonus reader’s guide.

If you have a picture book manuscript you’d like someone official to give a look-see, Bonny Becker will offer her assistance as a professional critiquer and writing advisor — along with her own middle-grade novel Holbrook: A Lizard’s Tale.

Prize baskets will also include assorted items of immeasurable worth, such as framed photography from A Wrung Sponge (I had to beg her, but it’s worth it), some special surprise item from China from Miss Rumphius, my famous paper bead necklace, and probably four other things that I’m forgetting.

I would still love more prizes, so if you’d like to contribute, look to the bottom of my blogroll for the ever-exciting Email MotherReader! button and send me a message.

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a SkankIt would be really helpful to me as a potential author if people would stop writing books that I was clearly intended to write.

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank: And Other Words of Delicate Southern Wisdom, by Celia Rivenbark, is a series of humorous essays within the topics of Kids, Celebrities, Vanity, Husbands, and Southern Living. I was most a fan of Kids, but all of the book made me choke back laughter (I read a good deal of it at my daughter’s ballet class.)

The title story reflects my own irritation at this particular fashion problem of moms:
We headed for our favorite department store, ready to take that leap into the new world of 7–16. Bye-bye, 4–6X, I thought to myself with a tug of sadness. My baby was growing up.

And apparently into a prostitute.
This topic is pretty standard conversations among moms who are also distressed that the first grader clothes are lumped in with the clothes for middle schoolers — and that the trend has been kind of slutty-looking stuff. But we don’t say it as funny as this:
When did this happen? Who decided that my six-year-old should dress like a Vegas showgirl? And one with an abundance of anger issues at that?
But here’s where the author truly won my heart within her writing on Celebrities:
Although the endless celebrity perfume is tiresome, it’s still not so irksome as the celebrities thinking that just because they had a cameo on Baywatch one time, they’re now ready to write for kids.

Madonna’s leading the pack with an entire series of children’s books. Whose idea was it to give Madonna a five-book kids’ book deal? What’s next? A parenting book by Michael Jackson? (What to Expect When One of us is Painfully Weird at Best or a Child Molester at Worst?)

Why does every celebrity think they should write a children’s book? Usually they’re still feeling the last bliss of the epidural when they bark at the nurse, “Call my agent! The world needs my children’s book.”

...But Madonna? Does the world really need her take on Puss’n Boots? (Then again, the original features a velvet-vested cat wearing nothing more than the vest, a smile, and some fetching thigh-high leather boots, so perhaps we have nothing to fear.)
I think we have a new BACA member, people.

The book is full of great lines and funny perspectives. I wasn’t familiar with the author, but she has written other books that I’ll be looking up soon. I like my kids’ lit, but I need to work in some good hearty laughs to keep my sense of humor in shape.

Poetry Friday: Stellina

The True Story of StellinaQuite a while ago, lots of bloggers were raving about The True Story of Stellina, by Matteo Pericoli, but it didn’t come into my library collection under my watchful eyes, and I missed it. Then something made me think of it again and I ordered it from a different branch, and oh, I’m so glad.

What a sweet book. But not sticky sweet. I’ve read it at home. I’ve read it to second graders. I’ve read it to fifth graders. If I had a preschooler class, I’d read it to them.

The book is about a small bird who was found in NYC, brought home by the author’s wife, and who lived with them for many years and eventually died. That’s it.

But it’s the poetry of the story and the soft illustrations that make the book so special. When I read it to the fifth graders, I asked them what stood out in my reading that made the story a poem. (They picked up on the author’s repetition of “Holly, my wife.”) I also read a page both the way it was written with the right pauses, and the way it would be read without the pauses. But that was the extent of my poetry lesson, I mostly let the book speak for itself. As I will, briefly, here:
Holly, my wife,
once saw a very little bird
on the corner of
46th and Third.
In Manhattan.
Cars were rushing by,
Cars are loud in the city.

But “CHEEP,” Holly heard.
Holly, my wife, has very good ears.
Could you also have heard
on the corner of
46th and Third,
in the middle of the day,
while cars were rushing by?
That’s not easy to hear.
This is such a quiet book, and a perfect jumping-off place for talking about birds, poetry, or even New York City. Since I don’t have a NYC kid, I must request that someone buy it for your child (Brooklyn counts!) and share it. Over and over again.

Strangest Match Since Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett

From my email:
Dear Amazon.com Customer,

We’ve noticed that customers who have expressed interest in The Day the Babies Crawled Away, by Peggy Rathmann, have also ordered The Shadowmancer Returns: The Curse of Salamander Street, by G. P. Taylor. For this reason, you might like to know that G. P. Taylor’s The Shadowmancer Returns: The Curse of Salamander Street is now available.
The Day the Babies Crawled AwaySo, let me get this straight. Customers who ordered the lovely, fun picture book The Day the Babies Crawled Away...

The Shadowmancer Returns...also ordered the gripping, dark fantasy middle-grade book The Shadowmancer Returns: The Curse of Salamander Street.

Okaaaaay, if you say so. But I’ve now officially lost confidence in your recommendation feature. Oh, and by the way, it is a bit odd that you're suggesting the sequel and then letting me know that this same book is available. Is it possible that the first Shadowmancer book was supposed to make an appearance somewhere in that email?

Eh, Why Not?

I am a

What Flower Are You?

I’ve always liked snapdragons, so that’s cool, but I really like the description:

“Mischief is your middle name, but your first is friend. You are quite the prankster that loves to make other people laugh.”
Category: 5 comments

Kind of Hugo Cabret, But Really More Mo-ish, and Bonus Venting

The Invention of Hugo CabretHere’s the thing, I was going to review The Invention of Hugo Cabret, because it’s freaking fantastic. I mean, I read the book and then two days later read it again just because I could. The illustrations are brilliant, the story is engaging, it’s obviously a masterpiece.

But like you guys don’t know that already. Like you haven’t seen it everywhere. Like Fuse#8 didn’t mention six months ago that it was the book that could change the face of children’s literature, or at least make someone rethink the whole Newbery/Caldecott thing.

I was going to link to Esme’s recent review and call it a day, but then Mo saved me. As a friend of what’s-his-name — y’know, the author — Mo posted some great pictures from the book with his own variation. And what the hell, it also gives me a chance to mention Mo’s great line about his Toronto trip — and I love great lines.
Brian Selznick and I will both speak at the lecture entitled “Pigeons and Orphans, The Musical.” The subtitle is: “Mr. Selznick will describe the years of painstaking research required in his lavishly detailed work while Mr. Willems will describe how he just makes up stuff sometimes.”
Brian Selznick, that’s right. I should know that.

Anyway, if you’ve posted a review of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, throw me the link in the comments, because I’d like to give credit where credit is due and it could really save me some time.

You’ll have to excuse my laziness. Tonight I came back from a drama club performance where I was almost mauled by the kids attacking the treat table. For some reason, I ended up as the only adult within a ten-foot radius of the food and thus ended up pouring sodas for three thousand kids. Or maybe fifty. But still, the parents seemed to assume that I was the host of the whole party and made very little effort to take care of their own kids or clean up afterwards. I didn’t get to enjoy the reception for the kids and parents — of which I was one, mind you — at all. Oh well, at least the play was fine, my daughter did great, and I can cross off one more kid activity in my countdown to summer.

The Edge & The Carnival

Honestly, I was going to copy two entire posts from Big A, little a and paste them here, but apparently I don’t know how to do that and retain the links. So instead I’ll have to link only to the Edge itself, and the allow some text to tempt you to delve further.

The May issue of The Edge of the Forest is up. Here’s what’s in store this month:

Kelly interviews Kerry Madden and investigates JacketFlap. Allie discusses “The Bermudez Triangle: Too Cool for School?” and profiles author Deb Caletti. Kim Winters talks to children’s writers on retreat about what they are reading and why for the In the Backpack column, and gets personal about writing for children in A Day in the Life. Kelly Fineman interviews David Lubar in our Blogging Writer feature. There are reviews in all categories — from Picture Book to Young Adult — and Best of the Blogs covers THE scandal of the month (you know which one...)

Don’t miss the 14th Carnival of Children’s Literature, to be held one week from today at Chicken Spaghetti. Stop by there and email your submission or use the form at the Blog Carnival site. The deadline is Thursday.

Thanks, Kelly, as today I only had the energy to slap in a couple of links and edit a smidge.

Happy Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day today, I’m going to repost last year’s entry of my favorite Mommy Books Of All Time. As I said then, and repeat now, if you are used to my sense of humor and quirkiness, this selection of sweetness may surprise you.

On the Day You Were BornIt should be mandatory, I believe, for every pregnant woman to receive a copy of On the Day You Were Born at her shower. Or for Mother’s Day, perhaps. I will go so far as to say that it may not be possible to fully appreciate this book until you are a mother or expectant mother (or an especially sensitive father). With bright pictures, Debra Frasier charts the everyday wonder around us that makes it possible for all of us to live on this earth. Maybe this will be enough to move you, but wait, there’s still more. Maybe it will be the line “While you waited in darkness, tiny knees curled to chin...” that chokes you up. Personally, I can’t get to the end without tearing up. I’ll give you the ending here so you will rush out and buy this book for every mom you have ever known.
“On the day you were born, the Earth turned, the Moon pulled, the Sun flared, and, then, with a push, you slipped out of the dark quiet where suddenly you could hear... a circle of people singing with voices familiar and clear.

‘Welcome to the spinning world,’ the people sang, as they washed your new tiny hands.

‘Welcome to the green Earth,’ the people sang, as they wrapped your wet, slippery body.

And as they held you close they whispered into your open, curving ear,
‘We are so glad you’ve come!’”

I got choked up just writing that. And so you can bring this book out even as your kids get older, the back pages tell about the science behind the pages — migrating animals, spinning earth, flaming sun — bringing a whole other level to this book. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Oh My Baby, Little OneMy next favorite book is also kind of sappy, but again, will strike a chord in moms who have taken their child to day care. I’ve seen many books that address the first day of preschool or school, but the implication is that once the first day is over everything is hunky dory. If you have taken a child to day care, especially a young child, you will know that is not the case. For weeks at a time your honey bunny will go to day care/preschool without a glance back. And just as you are feeling comfortable, along comes a period of whining, begging, and crying. And that’s just you. Your toddler or preschooler is doing that and clinging to your leg with some kind of death grip. You pry your child off, hand her to the teacher, and feel guilty as you drive away to work. There is almost no worse moment of angst for a parent. Unless you include when you go to pick up the child from day care, and SHE DOESN’T WANT TO LEAVE! Kids will drive you crazy.

Kathi Appelt must know what we go through, because she has written the perfect book for toddlers, preschoolers, and their anguished parents. In Oh My Baby, Little One, the mother hen drops her chick off at day care, reminding him that her love is with him all through the day. We watch him go through the familiar routine of school, but knowing that mommy always loves him. Different from most books of this type, we also see mom at work and how the child’s love stays with her also. Then at the end, we find that the best part of her day is coming back together. The message is sweet, the pictures are lovely, and there’s a surprise. In every picture, there is a heart — sometimes hidden, sometimes obvious — and it is fun to read the book and find the hearts together. This book got me and my daughters through some tough stages, so it has my complete recommendation.

When Mommy Was MadAll right, with this last book recommendation you will feel like you know me again, because it is a little different, starting with the title, When Mommy Was Mad. Lynne Jonell really knows how to capture the feeling of frustration in a household when everyone is having a bad day. In her story, Mommy is in a grumpy mood, and the two brothers try to figure out what they did wrong. They try to fix it, but Mommy is still in a bad mood even when the youngest shows her a picture of a porcupine (borkupine) he made. He loses it with a tantrum and starts “borking” mom because he is a “borkupine.” She breaks out of her mood, “smoothes down the prickles,” and they all cuddle. I love the dual message in this book, that sometimes moms are just in a bad mood, and that moms need to remember that their bad moods affect their kids. What a great way to explain to kids that moms are actually just people who have good days and bad days. I read this book at my storytimes every chance I get.

So there, I have revealed that I am a big softy and given out three perfect books to share for Mother’s Day, or to give as a gift for that new/newish mom you love. I’ll spend my Mother’s Day reading grown-up books and avoiding all work related to the raising of children. Ironic, isn’t it.

The Film Is Up!

You Pay Your DuesTonight the husband and I see our movie, along with eleven others, on the big screen. You can see it in the comfort of your own home on the computer screen. Watch it. I’d love to hear some responses; positive would be better of course (“You people are like movie making gods!”), but oddly original comments are also fun (“I like the way the lead looks like a cross between Niles from Frasier and Sting.”).

Author and blogger Robin Brande wrote our screenplay — in about three hours. My husband directed, edited, and fretted for two solid days. My job description as producer was, according to Bill, “to make sure everything happens that needs to happen, and get lunch.”

I think we all did admirably. Hope you agree.

Yum, Farm-Fresh Cats

When Fuse#8 reviewed the book What Happens on Wednesdays, she noted that she couldn’t think of that title without mentally adding “stays on Wednesdays.” Oh, I so agree (even if I can’t seem to find the review itself).

It was also Fuse#8 who noted that the title Monkey Town put the song “Funky Town” in her head.

I’m just saying here that authors need to think about what else the title brings to mind.

Farm-Fresh CatsWhen I saw the book Farm-Fresh Cats, my instant reaction was, “They’re eating the cats!!!??? Gross!!!” I couldn’t help it. Putting farm-fresh with anything seems like it implies... well, tasty. Odd title choice and then a pretty odd book.

A farmer and his wife live harmony with all the animals. Then something strange happens, and where the farmer was growing cabbages, green cats start to grow. When they start mewing, the farmer and his wife pick them. But then they don’t know what to do with them, so the cats just hang around the farm and the house. The book tells us that the cats are no trouble, but every time they shed some fur, a new cat forms. That sounds like trouble to me. Or, as my husband said, like the plot of Gremlins.

The farmer and his wife get the idea to sell the green cats at their roadside stand instead of vegetables — another thing that kind of reinforces the ick factor, especially as they are sold by the pound. City folk buy them, since they are no more trouble than house plants — though again, it sounds like they are trouble to me. They get rid of the cats this way, but who knows what will happen with all those cats shedding all over the city?

The book seemed to appeal to some reader reviewers on Amazon, but personally, I need to keep love for cats and love for cabbage in completely separate categories. Though the whole thing does remind me of my favorite brother-in-law quote. When I told him about going to a local cat show, he thought it would be very funny to ask the owners about their cats and, after listening politely, to lean in and ask, “But how do they taste?”

Perhaps farm-fresh.

“You Pay Your Dues”

You Pay Your DuesWhew! I was going to post yesterday about our movie-making experience with the 48 Hour Film Project, but I was too tired to successfully string words together. Here’s how it went.

My husband, Bill, went to the kick-off event and drew our genre literally out of a hat. The required elements were given out to the hundred participating teams. And we were off.

Bill and I talked about our genre, “detective/cop,” and what he wanted to do with it. I wasn’t surprised when he wanted to go for a film noir feel. But I was a bit scared. We tossed around a few basic concepts, including placing some actors in the roles, and then called author and blogger Robin Brande.

Our call was the briefest of hellos — no small talk for this chick — and down to business. We told Robin our genre (she groaned) and the required elements. (The character: Roosevelt or Rosie Adams, President; The prop: A bracelet; The line: “That’s what I’m talking about.”) We talked about some things we’d been thinking in terms of style, actors, and settings. She said, basically, “Okay, I’ll call you back in an hour.”

After we hung up, Bill and I didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We’ve always had to help the writer brainstorm or actually write it ourselves. This... this... freedom was a little unnerving. We did have to make some calls, coordinate some logistics and such, but having time to do it was just... wild.

Robin checked in with the script, and she was right on track so she kept on going. We got a full script about 10:30, and we loved it. LOVED IT! Very sharp, very creative, very witty. We needed to make a couple of changes to keep with the locations we had, so she retooled that and we had an absolutely amazing script by midnight. A new record for us. Bill and I talked about the film schedule, costuming, call times, and needed props. Bill sent out an email to the team, and we went to bed.

We had the crew meet at our house at 8:00, but it was more like 9:00 when we had everyone we needed. We decided to film an office scene at my in-laws’ home. The set dressing and camera set-up took much longer than we thought, so we really didn’t start filming until 10:30. Not a stellar beginning. We were also filming some of the harder scenes, which also made it difficult.

But we’ve got great people on our team, and got through those scenes before a late lunch at 2:00. The crew took turns eating and setting up for the living room scene, which we also did at my in-laws’ house (they had taken the kids to the zoo by now). I ran the actors through their lines while the crew worked on lighting, and then Bill came in to direct that scene.

We left the house by 4:00 to do scenes closer to my home. My friend provided the front of her house when one of my locations fell through, and we did a few things there. Then we used the front of my house for a long scene involving five actors and finished just before it got dark. It was supposed to be a gardening scene, but since it was cold and lightly raining, we had to make some adjustments.

We sent home most of the team, and went inside to do voice-overs until about 10:00. It was a more leisurely session, though, involving pizza and joking. When the rest of the team went home, we sent our composer some music ideas and then went to bed.

Sunday was reserved for editing the film together, doing color and audio correction, adding the music and credits, putting in the title, and probably ten other things I don’t even know. This was mostly Bill’s show, with me there for moral support and to lend another set of eyes and ears to the film. We dumped out a backup tape at 5:30, so we’d have something, and Bill worked until 6:45. We arrived at the drop-off location a whole five minutes early, and turned in the final product.

I think you know a film is great when you’ve watched the same scene twenty times in editing, and it still cracks you up. That’s the case. The script was wonderful, we have some knock-out performances, and interesting camera work. We’re very happy with the results.

Our screening is this Thursday (Group F, 9:30 p.m.), and after that the film it will available online at our website. Let’s hope it’s a winner. The title for our film — involving a hardened detective, a sultry lady, a homeowners’ association, and self-help books — is You Pay Your Dues.

Making a Movie

This weekend my husband and I, along with our fantastic team, are making a movie for the 48 Hour Film Project. Over these next two days we have to write, film, edit, and score an eight-minute film. We drew the genre of Detective/Cop movie. The required elements for Washington, DC, are as follows:
The character: Roosevelt or Rosie Adams, President (of whatever we choose)

The prop: A bracelet

The line: “That’s what I’m talking about.”
We’re going for film noir with a comedic, suburban twist. Author and blogger Robin Brande has already written us an amazing script by midnight our time, so we may even get some sleep before we spend all day tomorrow filming the thing. After the screening next Thursday (Group F, 9:30 p.m.), it will available online for all interested parties. Think good movie-making thoughts for us.

Poetry Friday: A Writing Kind of Day

A Writing Kind of Day: Poems for Young PoetsOne of the books that I read in my fifth grader’s class was A Writing Kind of Day: Poems for Young Poets, by Ralph Fletcher. Following is my favorite poem from the collection, posted here with permission from the author.

Poetry is like some
sugar-crazed teenager
who just got a license
but refuses to follow
the rules of the road.

It races out of control
then jams up the traffic by
going reeaaaal sloooooow.
It turns up the music so loud
you can’t sleep at night.
I can’t figure out how it Decides
to capitalize certain Words.
Punctuation? Ha! A joke!
Won’t use complete sentences.

And why does it refuse to

The most annoying thing?
Poetry won’t shut up.
It embarrasses everyone
by telling the truth.
This poem begs to be read aloud, what with all the speeding up and slowing down and loud music and exclamation points. I love the way it defines poetry and its rule-breaking nature with examples in its very structure.

The book itself, A Writing Kind of Day: Poems for Young Poets, contains poems about writing poetry. Sometimes a selection will propose an idea — like putting Grandma’s cutting board in a poem — and then the next poem will be about that idea. So in many ways, it’s a book about process, but presented in a fun way. The author has a website as well, if you’re interested in more of his works for kids.

Now I may have done the collection a bit of a disservice by following it with my reading of many of the funny poems from Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. It’s pretty hard to stand up against a poem like “The Phantom of The Opera Can’t Get It’s a Small World Out of His Head,” especially when the cool mom at the front of the class actually sings it.

Later, I asked my daughter if she thought the class enjoyed the poetry. She gave the typical tween low-key, “Yeah.” But then she told me that when the teacher announced earlier in the day that I was coming in to read, the class cheered. They cheered! It’s better than money in a paycheck.

Love Thursday

There’s something I’ve seen in the world of mommy bloggers called Love Thursday, and today I’d like to contribute to that tradition.

Love is…

... knowing you are supposed to wear your haiku T-shirt when you go into your fifth grader’s class to read, because you’re reading poetry and because you promised fifth grader you would wear it, but then you spill tiny drops of makeup on the chest and the drops of make-up are very noticeable and might stain, so you wash them off but get a little overzealous and end up getting half of the shirt soaking wet, but since you have to wear it in ten minutes you throw it in the dryer, not realizing that ten minutes is not going to be enough because when you take it out, the shirt is still pretty damp, but you’ve got to leave so you wear it anyway because you said that you would.

A Haiku T-shirt will be among the prize packages in the 48 Hour Book Challenge, with thanks to Threadless for the donation.

Cool prizes to offer? Scroll down to the ever-exciting “Email MotherReader!” button and make me an offer I can’t refuse.

Seven Picture Books After Lunch

Sometimes my library gets nice little batch of picture books all at one time, with nary a Dora the Explorer or SpongeBob book in the bunch. Here’s the newest, from youngest intended reader to oldest:

One Naked BabyOne Naked Baby, by Maggie Smith
This colorful, playful, lively counting book follows the adventures of one baby through his day, starting with running from the bath and going outside, and counting down from playing outside to ending up back in the bath after a muddy outing. Very cute book.

A Good DayA Good Day, by Kevin Henkes
Sparse text sets off this story in the life of four animals and one child. It’s a bad day for all involved, but things turn around for each animal, and even result in a good day for one child. I love the message here, that bad days can turn around on a dime — sometimes with luck, sometimes with work, sometimes by letting go of something, sometimes by seeing something that was there all the time. Actually, this would be a good book for some adult members of my extended family.

Princess PigstyPrincess Pigsty, by Cornelia Funke
Isabella is a princess, along with her princess sisters. But Isabella doesn’t like being a princess and being overprotected and coddled. She’s wants something different. When she throws her crown out the window in exasperation — and into the fishpond — the king is very mad. Which, speaking as a parent, is understandable. He tells her to work in the kitchen until she is ready to get her crown back. But that doesn’t sway her. Will she be turned when she has to live in the pigsty with the pigs? What do you think? The book is funny, even though — or maybe because — Isabella is pretty bratty. Maybe she could have used her words to express her needs instead of throwing things and stamping her feet.

The Perfect NestThe Perfect Nest, by Catherine Friend
Jack the cat is dying for an omelet. He builds the best nest ever in hopes of attracting a bird to lay an egg for him. But he gets not just a chicken, but also a duck, and then a goose, all of whom lay eggs in the nest and lay claim to it. Jack is very excited about those eggs, but he can’t get those birds to leave. When he comes up with a plan, there’s another surprise in store for Jack the cat. Another funny book, with an awwwwww ending. You do have to accept going in that cats don’t eat birds. Otherwise the whole thing would be kind of icky.

Pierre in LovePierre in Love, by Sara Pennypacker
Oh, what can’t this woman write? Here is a very sweet picture book about a rat who is a fisherman and is too shy to talk to the bunny he loves. He leaves her gifts and flowers, and eventually she catches him. Unfortunately, she loves another. So sad. Though Pierre stills feels better after having shared his secret. He encourages her to do the same with wonderful results for all.

Terrible StormTerrible Storm, by Carol Otis Hurst
Two grandfathers have been friends since they were kids. They grew up in the same town and survived the same big storm. As they sit on the porch now in their old age, they talk about how terrible the big storm was. As it turned out, the shy man was trapped in with lots of people. The social man was trapped alone in a barn. It was torture for both of them. Great story. I really liked the lovely detailed illustrations from S.D. Schindler.

Out of the BallparkOut of the Ballpark, by Alex Rodriguez
I’ll probably have to turn in my BACA membership for this, but I liked this book. It’s definitely hitting the point of working hard to accomplish your dreams, but somehow I can stand that better than some of the other moral messages that picture books like to cover. More importantly, baseball lovers will really enjoy the book because the whole thing is at the game, practicing the game, and talking about the game. It’s not my personal favorite, because I’m not a big baseball fan, but I can easily see how it could be a kid’s new favorite book. As an extra, there are pictures of Alex Rodriguez on the last couple of pages.

Quick Mo News

Pigeon Pajamas and BookHow cute are these? The infant PJs come with a board book. The older kids’ (up to size ten) can be purchased alone, or with a hardback of the book. (From Mo’s blog.)

Blog Housekeeping

48 Hour Book ChallengeOmigod! I have almost fifty people signed up for the 48 Hour Book Challenge! Most are from the kidlitosphere. Some are reading moms and kid lit lovers. Some of the bloggers are old friends. Well, old in blog time, which is anything more than six months. Some blogs are new to me, like Nonfiction Readers Anonymous. (Oh, nonanon, you don’t have to read the 48 hours straight. Just challenge yourself to read as much as you can in a 48 hour window during that weekend. Great blog name, btw.) I’ll be visiting some of the new-to-me blogs next week, once I get my other project finished. But great turnout, people! Keep the sign-ups coming!

I have some great offers of donated prizes, but could certainly use more. It would be best if it were book-related, but anything can be book-related if you really try. You may not be able to top these (ahem, fake) prizes, but it’s not like you can’t try. Roger is actually in for one “stoked,” which is like a little prize for everyone.

On a related note of donations (I hope), the famous haiku shirt has been reprinted over at Threadless. I kid you not. Thanks to Check It Out for letting me know, and for apparently nagging them endlessly until they reprinted it. Now we can all work on the reprint of I’m A Noun!, the shirt owned by MotherReader and her two kids, for the hippest mother/daughter outfits ever.

Our own Fuse#8 went and got herself published in the Horn Book, with an article on kit lit blogging and a list of recommended sites. Mega-tastic! (Note: after googling that term, it turns out it may not be in the slang vernacular after all. It’s more like I made it up. Which, actually, might make it even funnier if it appeared on the Horn Book blog.)

In a MotherReader rarity, I plan to post again today. My April book reviewing — or book sharing — was a little light, and now my reviews are backing up like a public toilet at RFK Stadium (Go Nats!)