Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson (Simon and Schuster, 2003) is a fantastic portrait of a complex man. I have always loved Ben Franklin (ever since I read Ben and Me by Robert Lawlor as a child). Reading Isaacson’s biography helped me to see why I liked it him so much: he was, in general, a likeable man.
This week’s Cybils batch includes some fantastic books. I’ve decided to focus on some that are (more or less) based on the concepts of Friends and Telling Stories. These are common themes for picture books, and these books I list below are some fantastic examples. (more…)
I mentioned last year that my son is a very creative child. He is regularly having imaginary adventures with his imaginary friends, and he constantly comes up with stories for me, stories he tells as if he’s surely experienced them. Given his intense interest in creative writing, I was seeking further instruction on how to nurture his creativity in his early years.
No More “I’m Done!” by Jennifer Jacobson (Stenhouse Publishers, 2010) is an inspiring how-to manual for early primary grade teachers. Subtitled “Fostering Independent Writing in the Primary Grades,” Jacobson’s book describes a system of nurturing creative writing that lets children take control of the process. After she describes her system, she provides a year’s worth of mini-lessons for encouraging development of ideas in various segments of writing (including voice, organization, word choice, fluency, details) all using well known and beloved children’s picture books as examples. Although I am not a teacher in a classroom setting, her ideas have given me the confidence to institute some similar casual instruction during our “school time.” It is informative and inspiring, helping one think outside the traditional box of writing prompts.
This post contains thematic spoilers.
I have put off writing my thoughts on the prequel to the Boxcar Children series for more than two weeks now. It’s not that I didn’t like it. On the contrary, I really enjoyed seeing the children interact with their parents, relish their life on a small farm, and find their own ways of enjoying life over the course of one year. It was quite fun to revisit Henry, Jessie, Violet, and precious Benny in their home setting.
However, something about the book as a whole didn’t resonate well with me. Is it because I just can’t imagine the emotionally stable children of this book then running away and avoiding adults (such as their unknown grandfather) as they do in the first chapters of the original The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Harris? Is it because the book had to, of course, end in the death of their parents so the children would be orphans, as they are in the first chapters of the original?
The Boxcar Children Beginning: The Aldens of Fair Meadow Farm (Albert Whitman and Company, August 2012) was written by Patrician MacLachlan, a master storyteller of historical fiction in rural communities featuring close-knit families. She did a wonderful job, as always, at creating the setting in rural, depression-era America, and the children’s personalities seemed to fit the already created personalities as we know them from the other books. My son and I loved the adventures the kids had as they looked for things to do.
Show Me a Story: Why Picture Books Matter (Candlewick, May 2012) is a collection of interviews conducted by Leonard S. Marcus with 21 different children’s illustrators over the past two decades. From Quentin Blake to Eric Carle, Helen Oxenbury, Peter Sis, William Steig, Mo Willems and many more, Mr Marcus covers a variety of backgrounds, childhoods, and inspirations.
I loved the peek in to the lives of illustrators. Each of them have such different styles of illustration, and the interviews helped me understand their motivations, inspirations, and especially the personalities behind their work. While the volume does not really attempt to explain why picture books matter, as the subtitle suggests, it does inspire the budding artist to follow his or her own style and dreams, and it helps the reader of children’s books, like myself, better appreciate the fine art that makes a picture book what it is.
The book contains brief introductions to each illustrations, the interviews, and a center section highlighting some examples of each illustrator’s work.
Note: I read a digital review copy from the publisher via netgalley for review consideration.