Sunday, October 04, 2009


S IS FOR STORY by Esther Hershenhorn, illustrated by Zachary Pullen (Sleeping Bear Press)

Y is for Your Story,
yours to live and grow,
of all you do,
and where you've been
and where you hope to go.

Well, I have stopped regular hours of the PlanetEsme Bookroom while I pursue my Master's in library science, but I HAD to open it up again today at 2:00 p.m. to celebrate the release of this book with a visit by the legendary author herself, famous not only for her own award-winning work but for her support of and influence upon the writing of other authors, and an open mike for kids (e-mail me for an invite, or be my Facebook friend for Bookroom updates). Opposite each short alphabet poem is a thoughtful and often inspiring description in praise of prose's process, whether its a short history of the alphabet, the value of journaling, the ride that is revision or what is it about voice that makes writing unique. The text is also peppered with writer's tips and inspiring quotes by authors such as Kate DiCamillo, Jacqueline Woodson, Lois Lowry and Richard Peck, all warranting many reference revisits. This writer's alphabet, fittingly, has dotted it's i's and crossed it's t's in terms of breadth of content. Broad, caricatured paintings are great for sharing with a group. B is for Boon to teachers. (8 and up)

In honor of the spirit of S IS FOR STORY, here are five fabulous new books about the connection between readers and the books they love.

THE PLOT CHICKENS by Mary Jane and Herm Auch (Holiday House) Even though there is a chicken on the cover of this book, it's the bravest depiction of the writing process I've ever encountered in children's literature. After several successful trips to the library, Henrietta Hen declares, "Reading books is so much fun. Writing books must be eggshilarating." Zany computer-generated illustrations give a light touch to some real and pragmatic writing hints for beginners ("Rule Three: Give your main character a problem"; "Rule Seven: Make your story come alive by using all five senses"), but what really sets this book apart is the realistic treatment of not only writing a book, but the aftermath of sharing it....or trying to share it. After receiving a blunt rejection from a publisher ("Don't quit your day job," signed "Hunter Fox, Editor"), in a forward-thinking, proactive move, she self-publishes, inspiring a lovely couple of double-page spreads showing the four-color printing process. When the enthused librarian suggests she send her book of for review at the "Corn Book,"she gets reamed by a review. "'I'm going to keep writing,' Henrietta said, but her feelings were hurt." How Henrietta finally finds her audience is rewarding without being romanticized. This book never loses sight of the real people (or chickens) behind the books we read, while giving great insight into the process of being publishedm making it a must-read for aspiring authors, young and old. I don't care what the Corn Book would say, this is one fresh egg. (7 and up)

A BOOK by Mordicai Gerstein (Roaring Brook)
Did you know that when you close a book, the characters are sleeping inside, and when you open a book, you wake them up? Crack the binding a rouse the clever little family in this book. "I know we live in a book, but what is our story?" queries the daughter. Daddy insists it's the story of a lovingfather who is a hardworking circus clown, while Mom corrects him; "actually it's the story of a devoted mother who is a fearless fire fighter." Her brother thinks it's about a boy who grows up to be an astronaut, and the pets have plot lines all their own as well. But ultimately, this is the story of a girl looking for her story, and traveling across pages through genres like fairy tales, mysteries, science fiction, historical fiction and more, before the surprise epiphany at the end, revealing what the girl's story really is about. Charming, funny, exciting and complete, this book really demonstrates what a book can be---and can do. The overhead perspective (such as the girl looking up as if observing a tall skyscraper, observing the reader with surprise) makes this book come to life, having the effect of a miniature world unfolding right in our laps. Though I usually hate when the same authors win awards over and over again, Mr. Gerstein is the exception to that rule. His book design and imagination are just too wonderful not to celebrate, at the Caldecott Awards and in the classroom. (6 and up)

LIBRARY MOUSE by Daniel Kirk (Abrams)
A mouse makes his home behind the reference books, and reads everything he can get his paws on, until he makes the natural leap: he decides he wants to write a book himself. He puts his handiwork on display and garners a following, which is lots of fun until people start requesting a chance to meet this talented author. What is he to do? He sets out a Kleenex box with a banner that says "MEET THE AUTHOR," and when the children look inside, they see a mirror. (I know you're going to set this up, aren't you?) This book celebrates the natural progression from reader to writer with a punch. Also check out the follow-up, LIBRARY MOUSE: A FRIEND'S TALE, about book collaboration. (7 and up)

THE BOOK THAT EATS PEOPLE by John Perry, illustrated by Mark Fearing (Tricycle)
One day in Little Rock, Arkansas, Sammy Ruskin forgot to wash his hands after lunch, and the book tasted peanut butter on his fingers.
a warning as much as a story, this self-referencing story explains how dangerous it is, with a subtle undercurrent of admonishment over bad book care. Angular, heavily stylized multi-media illustrations, sometimes like a comic book and other times a collage, effectively make us want to play the "Jaws" theme with every turned page. Look at those shifty eyes! Oddly convincing, here's a book with some teeth to it; be warned, it's not for sharing with children so young that they might actually believe that a book could eat someone. But if they do, counter with a tooth for a tooth: Oliver Jeffers' INCREDIBLE BOOK EATING BOY. (7 and up)

HAVE I GOT A BOOK FOR YOU by Mélanie Watt (Kids Can Press) Step right up! Tell ya what I'm gonna do! "Say GOOD-BYE to boring books! You know the ones I'm talking about...storybooks that put you to sellep! Schoolbooks that add up to ZERO fun! Cookbooks that leave a bad taste in your mouth! And the dictionary--a book so boring words can't describe it!" Sit through Al Foxword's subversive sales pitch for reading this book: satisfied customers, free bookmark (if you act now), and two, two, TWO books for the price of one (the second making a very nice hat, hassle-free door stopper or decorative coaster). Now, just imagine what you can do with 742 books? You still haven't bought it? That's what you think. Hilarious and high-energy, when you're not using the book as a door stopper, it also makes a great segueway into conversations about how books are marketed, or an introduction to "book commercial" book reports. Have I sold you on this yet? (7 and up)

Also of interest:
Howzabout a short bibliography for young lexicon lovers?
L IS FOR LOLLYGAG: QUIRKY WORDS FOR A CLEVER TONGUE by Molly Glover (Chronicle) An elegant abecedarian volume that will leave readers with a vocabulary almost ready to take on William F. Buckley, or maybe William F. Buckley when he was a kid). (9 and up)
THE WORD SNOOP by Ursula Dubosarsky, illustrated by Tohby Riddle (Dial) a tour of the English language by an enthusiast, writing letters directly to the reader and inviting them to share in anagrams, palidromes, texting tricks, and even un petit peu de Pig Latin (or should I say etit-pay eu-pay?) (8 and up)
WOE IS I JR: THE YOUNGER GRAMMARPHOBE'S GUIDE TO BETTER ENGLISH IN PLAIN ENGLISH by Patricia T. O'Conner (Putnam) Gosh, wwho needs a stodgy old grammar book? This puts language in contexts children can understand and enjoy...what child wouldn't prefer to learn plurals by comparing "tarantula" to "tarantulas?" I think I might need some new multiple copy sets. (9 and up)
CRAZY LIKE A FOX by Loreen Leedy (Holiday House) A simile story that reads like a dream. (7 and up)
PUNCTUATION TAKES A VACATION by Robin Pulver (Holiday House) An oldie but goodie, and my favorite of all of the author's many wonderful books about words and school. (7 and up)
TOO YOUNG FOR YIDDISH by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Neil Waldman (Charlesbridge) A fascinating inter-generational narrative which at its heart is about how to keep a language --- and the spirit of a people --- alive. This book reads from back to front, in honor of the way books in Yiddish are read. (8 and up)
TWENTY-ODD DUCKS: WHY, EVERY PUNCTUCATION MARK COUNTS! by Lynne Truss, illustrated by Bonnie Timmons (Putnam), companion to THE GIRL'S LIKE SPAGHETTI: WHY, YOU CAN'T MANAGE WITHOUT APOSTROPHES! Pictures speak a thousand words (or at least correct a few hundred ) in a laugh-out-loud book duo that really knows how to bring home a point. (both 8 and up)

Happy reading (and writing), everyone!

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


Karen Evans said...

So I was talking to my friend Eugenia and she said you are in one of her classes. That is crazy because I feel like you should be teaching the class... I should load up a backpack full of your books for her to take to class to get signed- ha just kidding! Anyway, I enjoy reading your blog from time to time- now I just need to actually read some of the books you mention instead of just reading summaries!

MaureenHume said...

Thank you so much for your review on 'The Plot Chickens', I had no idea such a book existed. I'm surrounded by young aspiring fiction writers and potential song writers so this book solves a few Christmas present problems.
Maureen Hume.

Kim Baise said...

I love reading your blog posts. You review so many books! I really want to check out Mordicai Gerstein's (sp?) A BOOK. We take turns telling stories about ourselves at bedtime after all the bedtime books have been 2 year old is a princess and the 6 year old is a knight, a horse, a ghost....etc. It's so much fun!

Becky said...

Cute books! My kids and I just finished reading a cute book tonight titled, "Runt Farm: Under New Management Amanda Lorenzo... a cute little book about little farm animals who take over the management of the farm when the farmer decides to abandon it. My friend suggested it and I have to say we love it. I am always excited to check out new books to read to the kids, and can't wait to check out some of the books you suggested on this post- thanks for the great tip!

NICK said...

Why isn't there an honorary MLS,we should lobby for it ! Your wonderful body of work should be your credential. I love your shout outs and writing !

Roberta Gardner
EL Librarian
The Galloway School

Boni Ashburn said...

You could add The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli to your list. Great book about writing stories from the heart!

Esme Raji Codell said...

Yes, for sure, Boni! THE BEST STORY is an important title to add to this list; reviewed on PlanetEsme at

Thanks to everyone for your encouraging and insightful comments...

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to get three copies of your book "How to Get Your Child to Love Reading" for 3 of my children's teachers for Christmas, but have really been having a hard time. I first went through Amazon, and my order went through. Then the next day or two I received an email saying they did not have it, and could not get it. Then I went to Borders and they took my order. Now they are saying they cannot be sent out until December 22nd or later. I called my local Barnes and Noble and Borders stores. Borders didn't have it, and B & N said it was difficult to come by and he could not even get 3 copies. He referred me to the Alagonquin Press (sp?), and I have not contacted them yet. I have read this book and use it weekly. I also read your book about your first year, which I also purchased the same time as your reference books (and I received quickly) for the teachers for Christmas. Thought you might want to know about this delay of your books. ~ds


Related Posts with Thumbnails