Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Hope everyone had a lovely Labor Day, sans too much labor! Before we dive back into a continuation of our back-to-school celebration, I have an important announcement for teachers, librarians, bloggers and book groups! A very limited supply of VIVE LA PARIS advance readers copies are left for people who want to share and/or review (i.e. with your local independent bookseller, on Amazon, on your blog, in a classroom or library booktalk) before publication next month! VIVE LA PARIS is the companion novel to SAHARA SPECIAL, and is appropriate for ages 10 and up. Send your request to esmeatripcodotcom, subject heading "Vive la review copy"! Please feel free to share this offer with appropriate listservs and friends. Also, if you signed on for the VIVE LA PARIS round robin earlier this summer and for some reason never got your copy, now's the time to let me know! While supplies last. And many, many thanks for those of you who have been so kind in helping me get the word out so far. This book is very important to me and I want it to find its audience.

Now, raise your hand if you're ready for some not-so-oldies and still-very-goodies that you'll want to add to your school supply list:

STAND TALL, MOLLY LOU MELON by Patty Lovell, illustrated by David Catrow
Molly Lou is the shortest girl in first grade, has a voice like a boa constrictor, buck teeth like a beaver, and the grace of a left-handed gorilla, but Molly Lou also has a secret weapon: her loving grandmother's good advice, which helps her shine like the star she is, even when she attends a new school. This is easily the most encouraging back-to-school book that I know. Besides a formalistically flawless story, David's Catrow's illustrations are hilarious, imaginative and perfectly married to the text. Molly emanates a cuteness that is first-cousin to Dr. Seuss's "Cindy Lou Who." The illustration of Molly Lou standing in the middle of a paper snowflake that is exponentially larger than she is is breathtaking, the image of Molly Lou barreling past the school bully to make a touchdown will illicit cheers and the close-up of Molly Lou's smile is completely contagious. On the last page, Molly Lou writes a letter to her grandma telling her how it's going, and wait until you see grandma! Children will laugh out loud and cherish this book until they have grandchildren of their own. Take my advice and don't miss this winner! (6 and up)

MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS by Lisa Yee (Scholastic)
It is very rare to find a book in which you cannot manage to turn a page without laughing, but this meets the laugh-a-page challenge. Millicent's tentative, earnest steps toward achieving every pre-teen girl's dream--making and keeping a real best friend--loom larger even than Millicent's goal to win the Field's Medal, the highest mathematical honor a person under forty can achieve. ("It would be great to do all this by age twenty but I don't want to put too much pressure on myself. Therefore, if it doesn't happen until I am, say, twenty-three, that's fine with me.") As Millicent tutors a jock named Stanford, survives her first sleepover, spikes a point for her volleyball team and tries valiantly to hide her genius from her ebullient friend Emily, she learns that there are book smarts and people smarts, and both are important. It's nice to have a heroine who is more concerned with learning curves than body curves, and her character's development is gradual and convincing and a pleasure to read. Millicent is the valedictorian of the intermediate reading list (no Field's Medal, I know, but it will have to do for now). Fans will also enjoy the companion novel, STANFORD WONG FLUNKS BIG TIME, in which basketball camp becomes a distant dream for our floundering hero. (11 and up)

THE BEST CLASS PICTURE EVER by Denis Roche (Scholastic),
deals interestingly with the common situation of being in-between teachers. Here it is, picture day, and the class pet is missing and the children don't even have a substitute. No wonder Olivia can't gather the gumption to grin! It's up to Mr. Click the photographer and Olivia's classmates to find a way to turn that frown upside down, and in doing so, Mr. Click discovers some competencies he didn't know he had. Listeners will have fun locating Elvis (the guinea pig) in each of the rowdy pictures, and smile at the surprise ending whether or not they say "cheese!" (6 and up) If you like this, you'll also love Stephanie Calmenson's THE TEENY TINY TEACHER also illustrated by Denis Roche (Scholastic), which is a teeny-tiny bit spine-tingling for your teeny-tiniest storytime listeners. (4 and up)

RATTLESNAKE MESA: STORIES FROM A NATIVE AMERICAN CHILDHOOD by Ednah New Rider Weber, photographs by Richela Renkun (Lee & Low)
Almost as soon as Ednah adjusts to life at the Navajo reservation, she is sent to a strict government-run school where the authoritaian teachers try like gangbusters to get these kids wise to the ways of white folks. Luckily, the pulse of her own culture beats too hard within her own veins to be shanghaied. In her first book, Ednah New Rider Weber has what so many authors dream of: an authentic and original voice, and it's put to good use here, sharing a recollection of childhood that is hilarious and chilling in turn, and always honest. This book puts into first person perspective a dark chapter of American history in a way that both chilren and adults can appreciate. I savored her beautiful language, realistic and lively dialogue and knack for pulling together her chapters like the last threads of a perfectly woven cloth. Wether sharing the haunting descriptions of watching boys get punished or the fond reminicences of a little girl named "Old Thunder" passing gas as a form of rebellion, you'll look forward to reading this book aloud to children. Subtle descriptions of children bonding together to preserve a thing that they can't name but deeply value tell so much about the human condition, and is hard to find outtside these pages. Besides having a school theme, it is highly recommended as a must-read for anyone interested in Native American history or memoir-writing. (7 and up)

by Kristine O'Connell George,
illustrated by Debbie Tilley (Clarion)

George's pithy free verse is a pass in and out of the hallways of a tricky 'tween year. What is really special about the point of view presented here is that it is not particularly edgy, but more realistic in it's tentative, self-conscious quality, captured in the lines, "So, where is she,/this amazing/Other Me?" Whether it's the harmless rebellions like wearing a rubber pig snout to lunch, clumsiness in the band room or a first crush, this book of poems reads more like finding a secret insider's binder full of small distractions and successes. Any middle-schooler reading this will feel less alone, and any adult reading this will remember the days. A graceful gathering of thoughts, and booklovers, don't miss the tiny treasure of a poem "School Librarian" tucked inside! You can also check out more of George's work at her Children's Poetry Corner, which happens to be my favorite poetry website. (9 and up)

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

1 comment:

Lisa Yee said...

Oh, oh, oh! Thank you for adding MILLICENT (and STANFORD) to your Book-A-Day Plan!


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