Wednesday, September 28, 2016

5 Bookish Podcast Episodes of the Week

Podcasts: Oh, how I love you.

I used to be the type of person to always have the TV on for background noise or news. But now I've been more actively listening to podcasts, instead -- while doing the dishes, while mowing the grass, while walking or running, or while driving (though, really, I'm mostly blasting Toddler Radio on Pandora in the car). There are such a variety of podcasts out there, ranging from informational to humorous to inspirational, and I am sure there are gems that I don't know about!

For today, I'd like to share five recent podcast episodes that I haven't been able to get off my mind. All of these are available on iTunes or can even be accessed through the links provided. Check them out!

1. The Yarn -- George Unraveled with Alex Gino (episode #29)

The Yarn is a podcast on children's literature hosted by school librarian Travis Jonker and teacher Colby Sharp. In this episode, they talk with author Alex Gino about their middle grade novel George. In the book, George is viewed by everyone as a boy, but she knows she's a girl, and desperately wants to audition for the role of Charlotte in the school play, Charlotte's Web. Though the teacher won't allow it, George devises a way for everyone to see her for who she really is.

While I haven't had the chance to read this book yet, the discussion was moving. Gino says that when they began the book 10 or so years ago, they weren't sure how this topic would be received. But as our culture has evolved over the years and has become more open to having these conversations, Gino knew they had to get this story out there.

But while our culture is indeed more open to embracing trans people, there are still people very uncomfortable with the topic. Our own school district is introducing new health ed curriculum that will touch on topics of gender identity -- and this has been controversial. For me, I am proud of the new curriculum and hope our world continues to move in the direction of loving others for who they are. 

"I ask you to remember the young trans student,
alone and with fewer resources than you,
who needs to find themselves represented in literature."
~ Alex Gino

2. What Should I Read Next? -- The books we can't wait to read this fall (episode #41)

My very favorite independent bookstore in St. Louis is the Novel Neighbor. It is located in my old neighborhood of Webster Groves -- a charming, tree-lined municipality with two bustling town centers. The bookstore is charming, itself, filled with books and bookish gifts and an adorable children's nook. So I was thrilled to hear owner Holland Saltsman on this episode of Anne Bogel's What Should I Read Next!

Anne and Holland discuss the books they are excited to read this fall, from children's lit to YA to adult. There is lots of inspiration to be found here -- and lots of great titles to add to your "to read" list.

3. This American Life -- One Last Thing Before I Go (episode #597)

In this episode, two journalists tell two very moving stories of final words. In the first story, citizens in Japan who lost loved ones in the tsunami travel great distances to visit a phone booth -- a phone booth that is not wired, not connected -- to speak with those lost in the tragedy. The idea is that their words are carried on the wind, perhaps out to sea, to reach their loved ones.

In the second story, two estranged brothers in their 80s pay a visit to one another after 40-some years. Their bitterness tries to resurface, but new insight leads to a new perspective on past hurt.

Deeply moving.

4. All the Wonders -- Mac Barnett and Adam Rex (episode #287)

This author-illustrator pair is fuuuuuuuuny. I found myself chuckling many times as host Matthew Winner talked with them about their new book How This Book Was Made. They are smart and creative and I so enjoyed listening in to their process. And their words to the kids at Matthew's school at the end? Hilarious!

5. Stuff You Missed in History Class -- The Death of Poe

I recently discovered this podcast, and if you enjoy hearing stories from history or insights into significant moments that you've never heard, then you will want to check this one out.

This episode is perfect for our approaching Halloween season. Who doesn't love Poe? His creepy stories and poems are so unique and rich, and his life and death so mysterious. This episode sheds light on the life and death of this beloved icon of American literature.

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Do you have any podcasts that you love and would recommend? Please leave a comment! I'm always searching for new stories. :)


Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Hungry Lion

There are so many wonderful books out there. Daily, I read about book birthdays or up-and-coming new releases, and I either immediately request them from my library or mentally file them away as "must reads."

But then sometimes life happens, and that mental file box malfunctions -- and I forget to get that desired book until months later. And that's what just happened with A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals.

I cannot believe we haven't read this book sooner! But I'm so glad we have it now. Released in March of this year (Atheneum), and written by art director/illustrator Lucy Ruth Cummins, A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals is the story of a very hungry lion and a cast of additional animals. But wait -- the animals keep disappearing! What could be happening?! Well, readers (and little listeners) think they know -- but they don't know. This book has a twist -- and then another surprise -- and then another!

The surprising twists in the book serve to elicit different reactions from the reader. At once amused, you are then touched ("Awwww!"), and then you are horrified, and then you are laughing again! These twists make this book sooooo fun to read with kids.

Accompanying this fun story are Cummins' playful illustrations. That bold, hungry lion sits among an otherwise muted palette of characters who are smiling pleasantly. Each page turn brings a surprising detail -- missing animals, dancing bunnies, a mischievous grin on the lion's face.

Cummins' use of marker and gouache (just love those bold strokes in that lion's mane) -- paired with her unique narrative voice -- have created a book that is truly kid tested, mother approved. Add this one to our faves of 2016!

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And you know my love for the All the Wonders resource of podcasts. Check out their episode with Lucy Ruth Cummins. I really enjoyed this one!

Happy reading,

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hannah and Sugar

As I mentioned in my previous post, there was one book this summer that was on repeat like no other -- being read time and time again, and being discussed even when we were away from it. And that book was Hannah and Sugar by Kate Berube (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2016).

Plot: When Hannah gets off the school bus each day, Sugar is there, waiting for Violet P. As gentle as Sugar is, Hannah is nervous around her, and always keeps her distance. But when Sugar goes missing, Hannah joins in the search. She thinks about how scary it would be to be lost and, in one unexpected moment, she musters up some very real courage to bring about a happy ending.

I think there are two main reasons why this book has become such a favorite in our household: its simplicity and its art. The story's concept is relatable and compelling -- many kids are nervous around dogs, and pets sometimes go missing. Berube's moderate and purposeful word choice for telling the story makes it easy for very young children to understand, but the older ones get wrapped up in the conflict, as well. And its subtle messages of understanding adults, community support, and an act of bravery make this simple story quite powerful.

Couple all that wonderfulness with beautiful art, and this book is the whole package. With ink and paint, Berube has created sweet, relatable, beautiful, moving illustrations that add to the story's drama. As an adult, I enjoy the details and sweet scenes as much as my kids.

Hannah and Sugar is that special type of book that appeals to a great range of ages, and I love hearing my toddler flip through the pages and mimick reading the book based on clues from the art. It is a book that lends itself to repeat reading, and I imagine it will have success for years to come.

If you haven't had a chance to read this one yet, I hope you will do so soon! Happy reading!