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Posts from March 2006

Poetry Friday

Last week, Kelly Herold at Big A little a initiated the idea of Poetry Friday and posted the poem Disobedience, by A. A. Milne. Liz Burns at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy and Michele at Scholar's Blog also posted poems last week. I thought that this seemed like a good idea, and so, in honor of Kelly, I bring to you one of my favorite poems this Friday.

Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town
by e. e. cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon starts rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

I get little phrases from this poem stuck in my head, like "with up so floating many bells down". I found it in the book Poetry Out Loud, edited by Robert Alden Rubin, with an introduction by James Earl Jones. The book also includes "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat" by Edward Lear, another one that I love.

Grandparents and Books

I just read an article in the LA Daily News by Dennis McCarthy about an LA Public Library program that I LOVE. It's called Grandparents and Books. Under this program, senior citizens volunteer to read aloud to kids at local libraries. Says program director Maureen Wade "Our readers give the kids a personal touch and are instrumental in introducing children to the fun and pleasure of reading and developing their literacy." The article especially profiles Grandpa Sid Conkwright, who says "I come home after reading to these kids with a glow, feeling like, 'Oh, boy, ain't life great?' You can't beat that at any age." It sounds great to me!! -- Jen

Children's Literacy Round-Up: March 30

I don't have to much time to comment because of my travel schedule, but here are some items from this week's literacy news that caught my eye:

  • I enjoyed this March 21st article by Melanie Hughes in The Morning Call about "a three-year, $3.4 million grant to expand Lehigh Valley Head Start's Early First Reading program, which prepares disadvantaged children for reading success in kindergarten."
  • I also found heartening a March 24th article in the Guardian Unlimited about wiping out illiteracy in a region of Scotland. According to the article, a "groundbreaking project spanning a decade and involving almost 60,000 children near Glasgow has seen poor reading ability drop from 28% to 6%."
  • I was pleased to see a March 27th article by Robert L. Smith in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about a Cleveland non-profit that "puts a new book in the hands of thousands of youngsters each week, many of them poor and just beginning to read." The program founder is a passionate advocate of reading for children, especially minority children.
  • Lovers of children's books will be happy to note this March 28th article at about a new $10,000 children's book award, aimed at picture books written by Canadian authors and illustrators.
  • Also pleasing is this March 29th article by Trisha Murphy in the Palatka Daily News about a Rally for Children and Reading in Palatka, Florida. The article includes great quotes from kids who were happy to receive free books.
  • I was saddened by this March 28th article by Paula Burba in the Louisville Courier-Journal about the death of Vera Dockery "a Louisville activist who lobbied for decades for children's literacy and pioneered the Reading is Fundamental program in Louisville in 1974."
  • However, I cheered up again on reading this March 28th article by Karina Bland in The Arizona Republic about a group that puts "little libraries" in low income preschools.
  • And finally, I was inspired to read this article by Erin Kelley-Gedischk in the March 29th Oak Bay News (B.C., Canada). It's about a woman named Kathy Knowles who helped to establish more than 150 children's library programs in Ghana, because "it's her passion."

Have a great weekend! -- Jen

One More Lost Literary Reference: Henry Gale

I owe this one to an ongoing column at USA Today that discusses hints and red herrings on ABC's Lost. Recent column contributors have noted that the "man who might or might not be one of The Others is named Henry Gale, and he says he came to the island in a hot-air balloon — Dorothy Gale's Uncle Henry, perhaps, from The Wizard of Oz." The column also wonders why, of all books, did Locke give Gale The Brothers Karamazov to read. Check out the full column for other interesting tidbits.

Adults Reading Children's Books

Thanks to Kelly at Big A little a for pointing out this article by Katherine A. Powers in yesterday's Boston Globe. The article is entitled "A drafty castle and other teenage troubles". It's about the reading of children's books by adults, which regular readers of this blog will know is something that I have long advocated. My favorite line from Ms. Powers' article is "I like nothing so much as sitting around reading novels written for children." I couldn't agree more!

I have to admit that I'm not quite with her on enjoying Jonathan Stroud's ''Bartimaeus Trilogy", which I tried to listen to on MP3 and found off-putting. But I'm behind her 100% philosophically on the idea that adults should read and re-read the best children's books. You should check out the article yourself.

Interesting Links

I spent some time this weekend catching up on blog news that I missed last week. Here a few things that especially caught my eye:

The Edge of the Forest, Issue 2

I was traveling this week, and missed the launch of Volume I, Issue 2 of The Edge of the Forest, a new online magazine dedicated to children's literature, edited by Kelly Herold. If you haven't seen it already, you should definitely check it out. I particularly enjoyed an article by Liz Burns about Teens and Seniors, a recent phenomenon in kid lit in which teen characters bond with some much older, unrelated adult. (I had also noticed this in the book Shakespeare's Secret). I also liked Camille Powell's interview with children's author Gail Gauthier, and associated review of Gail Gauthier's upcoming book, Happy Kid!. Books reviewed in this issue that I am particularly eager to read include:

Overall, it's an excellent issue of a wonderful online magazine. Kudos to the editorial staff!

Uglies: Scott Westerfeld

On a trip this week I finally read a book that has intrigued me ever since I first hear about it: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Uglies is about a girl named Tally, who lives in a future society in which everyone undergoes extensive plastic surgery at 16. The idea is to remove the conflicts and unfairnesses associated with differing levels of beauty, by bringing everyone up to some pre-defined standard. Tally, to her frustration, remains a pre-surgery Ugly, while her slightly older friends have moved on to the post-surgery world of Pretties.

The young Uglies are second-class citizens, living in dorms isolated from everyone else, constantly aware of their own imperfections and inadequacies. They run around playing "tricks" to blow off steam, but everything that they do is just marking time until they can become pretty.

In the course of one of her escapades, Tally meets up with Shay, another Ugly who shares Tally's birthday. The two girls become friends, and Tally learns of Shay's ambivalence regarding the upcoming operation. This ambivalence leads both girls into an adventure, in which they meet new people, test their own limits, and confront unexpected ideas.

I found the premise underlying the story fascinating. I've always had a fondness for books the explore post-apocalyptic future societies. In that context, Uglies reminded me of John Christopher's Tripods Trilogy (one of my favorite series as a young adult), Jennifer Armstrong and Nancy Butcher's Fire-us Trilogy, and Jeanne Duprau's Ember Books, all of which feature kids making their way in a world that bears only remnants of our own society. In Uglies, however, the new society that has formed includes high-tech toys, environmental awareness, glistening towers, and beautiful people. The book is a fascinating look at our concepts of beauty, and how our looks affect what we think of ourselves and others.

The other thing that made Uglies stand out for me (besides the storyline itself, which would have kept me reading anyway) was the voice of Tally. Her voice is strong and engaging. She longs for the beauty that any teen would want, especially any teen growing up in her world. Over the course of the book she makes mistakes, but anguishes over them, and finds her own bravery. She feels real.

Uglies is one of those books that left me wanting more. Fortunately, it's the first book in a trilogy. As soon I got home from my trip yesterday, I went out to the bookstore to buy the second book: Pretties. I'll be reading that one on next week's trip. Overall, I highly recommend Uglies. I think that it's a must-read for anyone interested in young adult literature, or anyone who likes to ponder "what-if" sorts of questions.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Book Recommendations for a Toddler

A blog friend (see Fred's blog here) asked me recently if I had any book recommendations for him to read to his two-year-old daughter. What I told him was that I tend to be better at recommending books for older kids (because I read those myself). But I was fortunate enough to spend time with my friend Sara recently, going through her kids' books, and talking about which ones they loved. Here are some thoughts from that, and from suggestions that other friends with kids have made (especially Eileen and Scott):

There are, of course, many, many others. But these could be a good start for any toddler's library. You can find other picture books that have caught my eye by scrolling down in the left-hand sidebar of this blog, or by clicking through to my Kids Recommended page. Happy Reading! -- Jen

Children's Literacy Round-Up: March 22

I am traveling this week, and so I'm giving you my community literacy round-up a bit early. Here are a few tidbits:

  • Susan at Chicken Spaghetti wrote last week about the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature, to be held in Westport, CT March 30-April 1. She listed several exciting events, and included this endorsement: "I've attended in years past, and this is a fun and impressive literary celebration." You can find more information about the festival at Sadly, it's a bit out of my way from California. But maybe next year!
  • I enjoyed a March 17th article from about how the sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan are participating in the "United for Reading" program. I've written about this program before. Deployed armed services personnel are videotaped reading children's books aloud, and can send the tapes or DVDs to their kids (or "brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews or even the neighbor's kids"). The Navy Compass article includes quotes from program participants and organizers.
  • I was also inspired by reading two March 18th articles about Dr. Ben Carson, who spoke at the Palm Beach County Literacy Coalition's annual Love of Literacy Luncheon. Dr. Carson was the son of an illiterate mother, herself one of 13 children, who put her foot down and insisted that he think of himself as smart. Under her influence, he went on to become a top brain surgeon. I strongly recommend that you read about him in the Palm Beach Daily News and the Palm Beach Post
  • I was happy to see that the Winfield, KS Rotary Club is promoting literacy in Winfield. According to an article in the Winfield Courier, "The Winfield Rotary Club is taking steps to help every local child acquire literacy skills from birth — literally. The club is distributing a book to the parents of every child born at William Newton Hospital. Club members hope the books will encourage parents to read to the infants, leading to a lifelong love of reading for Winfield area children. The club received a grant that provides some funding for the project."
  • I also enjoyed reading a Peoria (IL) Journal Star article by Haley Murray about a recent sign language story hour, co-hosted by The Central Illinois Center for Independent Living and Barnes and Noble in Peoria. Jodi Miller, "a deaf mother of four hearing children, was asked to sign stories to the children, including Little Red Riding Hood and, her personal favorite, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein." The goal of the program was to encourage literacy in hearing-impaired children.
  • I was less happy with this article. The Advertiser of Adelaide, South Australia published an article on March 21st about a British study showing that fathers are not reading enough to their children. "The Dymocks Literacy Foundation Survey ... found only two in five fathers read to their children." Clearly not enough, especially if we are to encourage boys to grow up as readers.
  • Finally, I recommend a March 19th column by Robert Odum in the Elmira, NY Star-Gazette about how literacy is an intrinsic human trait, but is not self-sustaining or self-starting. Mr Odum says "(l)ike any other muscle, the language muscle will waste away if it is not exercised." He proceeds to discuss methods of compensating for language deficiency in older children.

Best Selling Children's Books

I ran across a site, Infoplease, that lists "The Best-Selling Children's Books of All Time". More specifically, it references Publisher's Weekly's publication of the best-selling children's books through the end of 2000, broken down by paperback vs. hard cover books. Here are the top 12 books from each category:


  1. The Pokey Little Puppy (A Little Golden Book Classic), Janette Sebring Lowrey (1942)
  2. The Tale Of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter (1902)
  3. Tootle, Gertrude Crampton (1945)
  4. Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss (1960)
  5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4), J. K. Rowling (2000)
  6. Pat the Bunny, Dorothy Kunhardt (1940)
  7. The Saggy Baggy Elephant, Kathryn and Byron Jackson (1947)
  8. Scuffy The Tugboat, Gertrude Crampton (1955)
  9. The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss (1957)
  10. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2), J. K. Rowling (1999)
  11. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3), J. K. Rowling (1999)
  12. Where the Sidewalk Ends : Poems and Drawings, Shel Silverstein (1974)


  1. Charlotte's Web, E. B. White; illustrated by Garth Williams (1974)
  2. The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton (1968)
  3. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Judy Blume (1976)
  4. Love You Forever, Robert Munsch; illustrated by Sheila McGraw (1986)
  5. Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls (1973)
  6. Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O'Dell (1971)
  7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1), J. K. Rowling (1999)
  8. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Judy Blume (1972)
  9. Shane, Jack Schaeffer (1972)
  10. The Indian in the Cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks (1982)
  11. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle (1974)
  12. Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder; illustrated by Garth Williams (1971)

I'd like to see a more updated version of this list, but it's still interesting. Check out the full list here.

P.S. UPDATE: I should have mentioned before that one of the places I saw this list was on Cindy Swanson's blog, Notes in the Key of Life. Cindy lists the first 100 books on the paperback list, and highlights the ones that she has read. It's a fun post, well worth checking out.