Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Pinkney’

I promised a full report on the National Book Festival, so here it is!  I’m still rather exhausted from yesterday’s adventure, so forgive me if I ramble a bit.

The day got off to a rough start.  I thought it would take me three hours to drive to the Vienna/Fairfax Metro station (Google confirmed this, by the way) but it actually took me four.  And then the Metro ride into D.C. took 50 minutes instead of 30.  Fortunately I had given myself lots of extra time to get to the festival, so instead of being an hour and twenty minutes late I was only thirty minutes late.  Thus I managed to catch the last twenty-five minutes of Isabel Allende’s presentation.  (I am so glad she got fifty-five minutes to speak.  Most presenters only had thirty minutes.)

My first impression of Allende?  Her voice didn’t match the voice I had for her in my head.  I don’t know why this threw me off, (what did I expect? the voice in my head doesn’t have a Chilean accent), but it took me a few minutes to get past this and actually listen to what she was saying.  She said a lot of things I had read in My Invented Country and The Sum of Our Days, especially once we got to the Q&A (people ask some really unoriginal questions during those things).  Someone asked her what she’s currently reading (finally! an interesting question!) and she said she was reading Things I’ve Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi.  Nafisi was one of the highlights of last year’s festival, so this answer thrilled me to pieces.  Allende mentioned, too, her discomfort with her work being labelled as “Latin American literature” because such distinctions lead to being excluded from the canon of Literature (she actually said this much better than I just did).  I agree with her.  That exclusion is one of the pitfalls of genre labels.

After she spoke I joined the throngs of people waiting in her book signing line.  Last year I brought several books by several different people to be signed, but this year I decided I did not want to a) spend most of the day in line or b) carry around lots of books all day, so the only book I brought was My Invented Country.  The line was really long, and by the time I actually got my book signed the festival volunteers were really rushing us all through, so I barely had time to squeak out “thank you” when she signed it.  While that was a little disappointing, I did enjoy the hour of line-bonding with my fellow Allende fans that preceded the signing, even though by the end I was sunburned and sweating profusely.

(I’m sorry.  I’m sure you don’t want to read about my sweat.  But it was really, really hot yesterday, and only the presence of great authors and great books kept me from getting really cranky.  Last year the weather was the exact opposite: cool, with showers here and there . . . exactly what it’s like RIGHT NOW.  Seriously.  It’s 61 degrees out.  Why is it 61 degrees now?  Why couldn’t it have been 61 degrees yesterday?  Or at least not 90?  I’m trying, rather unsuccessfully, not to be completely peeved about this.)

Norton Juster

Once my book was signed I dashed over to hear Norton Juster (The Phantom Tollbooth author) speak.  As soon as I saw him, I thought, “Yep, that’s totally the guy who wrote The Phantom Tollbooth.”  Something about him, maybe that mischievous twinkle in his eye, just fits the book.  He was witty and quirky and a delight to listen to.  When he finished I grabbed lunch, rehydrated myself, and then returned to the tent to hear Marilyn Nelson and Timothy Basil Ering.  (Aren’t you glad you’re getting a play-by-play of my entire day??)

I had never heard of Marilyn Nelson, but I knew Timothy Basil Ering from The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone (haven’t read it? read it!) and as the illustrator of The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo.  Marilyn Nelson wasn’t the most dynamic speaker in the world, but Timothy Ering, on the other hand . . . I now completely love him.  He recently illustrated Marilyn’s picture book Snook Alone and clearly loved everything about it: its prose, the experience illustrating it, everything.  He was so obviously thrilled and honored to be at the National Book Festival and in the presence of people who love his work.  Listening to him speak was the unexpected delight of the day, and I’m so glad I had the chance to hear him.

see? very unfortunate cover

Immediately following Marilyn and Timothy was Mem Fox.  Before yesterday my only experience with Mem was her book Reading Magic, which, in spite of the fact that it looks like a cheesy self-help book, is actually a great book about the importance of reading aloud to children.  (I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never read any of her thirty-something children’s books, but that is going to change soon.)  Anyway, she was a hoot and a half.  Like Timothy Ering, she was totally enthusiastic about being there and it was infectious.  She read three of her books aloud and did a phenomenal job.  She read with expression, interjected little comments, made faces . . . oh, I loved it.  I wish I could carry her around in my pocket.  She was just that wonderful.  I’m totally buying her latest book for my niece.

After Mem Fox, I took a brief break from the children’s tent to hear E. O. Wilson, renowned ecologist, biologist and champion of small creatures (he’s a big fan of ants).  He just published his first work of fiction, Anthill: A Novel.  While I am normally leery of Blatant Message Books – and that’s what this sounds like – I’m adding this to my TBR anyway because, well, it’s E. O. Wilson.  The man is brilliant. 

Then I was down to just three more presenters: Rosemary Wells (author and illustrator of the Max and Ruby books, Noisy Nora, etc.), Judith Viorst (author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, etc.) and Jerry Pinkney (author and illustrator of The Lion and the Mouse, etc.).

Rosemary Wells was a bit of a let-down.  She got a little political, and quite a few people left while she was speaking.  Judith Viorst, on the other hand, was really funny.  She told stories about her kids and grandkids (and, much to his embarrassment, pointed out the real Alexander, who’s now grown with three kids).  She read the first part of her latest book, Lulu and the Brontosaurus, (illustrated by Lane Smith! yay!), which I now need to go find because I need to know what happens to Lulu.

Jerry Pinkney was just as wonderful as he was last year.  He spoke in a conversational tone and was obviously thrilled to be sharing his latest book.  I seriously love that man.  I had planned on telling him how much my students last year loved The Lion and the Mouse but I completely chickened out.  Maybe someday.

Okay, I’ll stop rambling now 🙂  Overall it was a good day!

P. S.  Today’s my nine month blogiversary!  I may actually make it to the one year mark!  Wow.
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As any good reader of fairy tales knows, it’s all about the number three. So in honor of my three month* blogiversary here’s a list of my top three bookish moments from the last three months:

#3: The Green Valley Book Fair

I really, really love the book fair. Giant warehouse in the middle of a field filled with tables and shelves and shelves and tables of books . . . ahhh, bliss. While I know that the book fair didn’t open March 13th in honor of my birthday, I’m allowing myself to pretend that it did. Two hours perusing books really is the best way to spend a birthday weekend. And to top it off I got to stop at Sheetz on the drive home! (Am I nuts for loving a gas station? Probably. But then so are thousands of other people.)

#2: 2010 Caldecott Award

I already went on and on about The Lion and the Mouse back in January, but I just have to say it again: I’m really glad it won the Caldecott this year. Way to go, Jerry Pinkney. You deserve it.

#1: The Crocodile Blues

Every month a librarian from our local library comes by our center for storytime. After her visit last month my students and I had some time to kill before lunch so we went through the box of books she had checked out for us. I had figured that by the time we finished going through the books lunch would arrive and we would go about our normal routine from there. Silly me. Once I finished showing them the books they looked at me expectantly and said, “Can you read one to us?”

“Um, well . . .”

“We have time before lunch comes.”

“Yeah, we have time, Ms. Emily. Read the crocodile one!”

(I want to point out that at this moment not only had our librarian just finished reading three books to them, that day our Spanish teacher had read them La Oruga Muy Hambrienta (The Very Hungry Caterpillar), plus I had read them a book at circle time, plus I had read a book first thing that morning to the early bird kids. So in the last four hours they had heard either five or six books already. And here every single one of them was looking at me like of course they would want to listen to their seventh book of the day. I was simultaneously flabbergasted and elated.)

So we read The Crocodile Blues by Coleman Polhemus. Normally I read our storytime books to myself ahead of time so I know what I’m getting into, but I didn’t exactly get an opportunity to do that. Oddly enough, my ignorance actually added to the experience. Turns out that The Crocodile Blues is a nearly wordless book. Since I didn’t know what was going on or what was going to happen next – and there weren’t any words there to help me out – my students and I had to puzzle through it together. It was one of those fantastic bonding moments that reminded me (as if I could forget) how much I love reading with kids.

We totally fell in love with this book. We loved the illustrations, the characters, the odd story line. (Yet another egg unexpectedly hatching into a crocodile! Where did this come from? First Guji Guji, then The Odd Egg, now this. We read – and loved – all these books this year, too. And I didn’t do it on purpose, really.) For four weeks they read it constantly – to themselves, to each other – repeatedly requested it for storytime, discussed it with each other, re-enacted scenes as they played. When our librarian came this month she hadn’t even left with the book yet before my students were asking me if I could check it out from the library again, adding to my ever-growing list of why I totally adore them.

I don’t know what it’s like reading The Crocodile Blues without ten wonderful preschoolers, but I’m sure it’s still a delight. Check it out! We highly recommend it.

Here’s hoping for another three fantastic months . . .

*Yes, I am aware that three months is not a very long time. But I’m still a newbie so I’m allowed to get excited about little things like this.

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The Lion & the Mouse won! My students were so excited they actually started cheering when I told them! I’m completely thrilled, too. I cannot think of a single book more deserving of this award. Congratulations, Jerry Pinkney.

The ALSC selected two Honor books this year: All the World (illustrated by Marla Frazee) and Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors (illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski). I haven’t read either one of them, but I’ve already requested them from the library so my students and I can discuss them!

Check out the ALA’s website for reviews of these books, as well as links to the other awards announced today (like the Newbery). I haven’t read any of this year’s Newbery winners, but they’re going on the to-read list, of course!




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The Lion & the Mouse
by Jerry Pinkney
Little, Brown and Co. Books for Young Readers, 2009
Source: public library


I confess that this book is the sole reason I decided my students should study lions for the first half of this past week (we were working on the letter “L”). My reason behind sharing this book with my class was to see if it they were as impressed with it as I am. I think sometimes as adults reading children’s literature we (often unintentionally) forget who the intended audience is and disregard their thoughts, emotions and experiences with the text in favor of our own. I already knew how I felt about the book, so I wanted to see if Pinkney’s work could withstand the greatest test: the critique and assessment of nine preschoolers. Their reaction was overwhelmingly positive.


This book absorbed them. Its nearly wordless nature (the only words in the book are sounds, such as “roar” and “squeak,” and they exist as part of the illustrations, not in separate text boxes) gave them ownership of the story. They soaked in the artwork, infused it with their individual interpretations and experiences, and created their own version of the story. Watching these two storytelling traditions, oral and literary, merge together in the hands of my preschoolers was extraordinary. In the span of just three days Jerry Pinkney became one of the many authors and illustrators whose work they value immeasurably. As a result my own admiration for this work rose considerably.


For me, the most striking part of the story itself is Pinkney’s portrayal of the mouse. The illustrations in the book range from full, two-page spreads to smaller pictures framed by thin lines and empty space. The lion is rarely present in these framed pictures; it is usually the mouse. What’s interesting is that her movement is never restricted by these frames. Some part of her body — the tip of her tail or an ear — almost always extends beyond the frame. Frequently, too, she is drawn outside of the frame entirely, moving from one picture to the next. It is as if this little mouse exists both within the story and outside of it. She appears so comfortable navigating both worlds I half expect to find her in the pages of another book.

This book is phenomenal. No blog post could ever do it justice. In nine days the American Library Association will announce the 2010 Caldecott winners, and I think Pinkney has got it in the bag. In my students’ eyes, though, he has already won.

Other reviews: 

DPL Kids Blog
100 Scope Notes
A Fuse #8 Production

Did I miss your review?  Let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

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