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Archive for January 25th, 2014

by Sam Juliano

This afternoon’s post considers two biographies of women who are not likely to be immediately recognized either by name or deed.  Yet both books are exceedingly beautiful in execution and aesthetic appeal, and for more than one reason are firmly within the radar of what it takes to win Caldecott recognition. Katherine Olivia Sessions died in 1940 at 83, the exact same age when beloved children’s book author and illustrator Barbara passed on.  But Sessions and Cooney are linked by more than age, and all book lovers who first laid eyes on H. Joseph Hopkins (writer) and Jill McElmurry’s (illustrator) sublime work The Tree Lady were no doubt envisioning Cooney’s celebrated classic Miss Rumphius, which features the life story of fictional Miss Alice Rumphius, a woman who sought a way to make the world more beautiful and found it in planting lupines.  In style, theme and overall temperament, The Tree Lady sustains the spirit of Miss Rumphius, and brings a real-life horticulturist to the ‘love of nature’ fraternity.  Sessions to be sure did not plant Lupines as her fictional compatriot, but populated the San Diego landscape with trees.  Indeed as Hopkins explains in the author’s not at the end: “In 1892 Kate made a deal with city leaders to use land in City Park for a plant nursery.  In exchange she promised to plant one hundred trees in the park every year and give the city three hundred more trees for planting in other places.  People loved Kate’s trees, and by the early 1900’s one in four trees growing in San Diego came from her nursery.” Kate was primarily known for her work in City Park, renamed Balboa Park, and to this day it’s a prime attraction for those who relish the opportunity to take in the wide variety of trees, vines and flowers.   (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

“….this is one of the rare books where I cannot for the life of me figure out how anything in the title could be better.  it’s about a friggin unicorn who eats glitter and rainbows and I think it’s jim dandy.  Best dang thing I’ve encountered in a long time..”  

-Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal

After a three-month in-class inundation of Caldecott-friendly picture books in three first grade classes held at the Number Three School Annex in Fairview, New Jersey, a comprehensive polling was held on Thursday, January 23rd.  Nearly fifty books were displayed on a long table, so that the young voters could see the covers that would remind them of the original contact made with these books during the original reading sessions.  The kids were then given half sheets of yellow paper to write down the names of the three books they liked best in order of preference.  When the votes were tabulated Bob Shea’s wildly popular Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great finished a very close second to Mo Willems’ That is Not A Good Idea.  I will be discussing the Willems book in a second three-in-one post on Sunday.  While there were few readings of picture books this year that matched the one of Shea’s for sheer delirious fun and laughter, (I read the book once myself to the kids and then had Shea himself read it on a popular audio that came along with the library loan.  I have since purchased my own copy of Unicorn) I was still unsure if the classes would remember a book I first read to them in early September.  Certainly it is a testament to Unicorn’s staying power and wide appeal that it finished ahead of many Caldecott contenders that were read over the following three months.  What’s more the book was the most difficult for me to obtain in the Bergen County library cooperative network.  I waited weeks, as every last copy was out on loan.  I finally secured it, and was so impressed that I purchased my own copy. (more…)

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