Hervé Tullet introduces Let’s Play!

In this video, Hervé Tullet–creator of picture books Press Here and Mix it Up!–introduces his newest book, Let’s Play! (available March 29.)

Chronicle Books has an activity kit available here and a teacher’s guide here.

Tullet is on Twitter @HTullet and on Facebook here. If you’d like to share the video, here’s the embed code:

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300 Seconds: File Photos

300 Seconds: File Photos

I received an email during my time at Winter Institute from Lauren Wiser, marketing and publicity manager of Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri. Well, I was one of many who were blind-copied (will I show my age if I tell you I want to say blind-carboned?) on this message:

“Attached are updated stock photos of the Left Bank Books storefront. Please use these updated exterior photos in all subsequent media that includes Left Bank Books. If you have any questions, please email me at lauren.w@left-bank.com.”

LBB Exteroir 5Attached to the message, as promised, were five high-resolution images of the bookstore, shot from different angles.

I thought this was such a great idea, so I chatted with Lauren through email, and with co-owner Kris Kleindienst at Wi11. They told me co-owner Jarek Steele wanted to send updated images of the bookstore to media sources when he saw an old photo used in a piece, especially because the store had had a makeover since the original photo had been captured.

There are several 300-second projects waiting for us here, but we’re going to focus on one: creating one location for ‘official’ store files.

I recommend creating a folder on the desktop named Photos, Bios & Logos. If you’re worried about removing it from your desktop, call it SAVE! Photos, Bios & Logos.

‘The Weight of Things’ by Marianne Fritz

‘The Weight of Things’ by Marianne Fritz

TheWeightofThingsYou probably haven’t heard of Marianne Fritz, but she was one of Austria’s most adventurous authors. Thanks to Dorothy, a publishing project, her first novel became available in English translation this winter.

The Weight of Things is a war story by way of horror novel, or more precisely, a novel about World War II that is set almost completely after the fact. It’s soaked in nightmarish imagery, the darkest of humor, and foreboding symbolism. At the same time, many of the grimmest acts unfolding in its pages are skimmed lightly; we understand what happens without the gruesome play-by-play we may be accustomed to from more detail-oriented fiction. This skirting, in a way, makes these passages more shocking. The saving of a life, the taking of a life, domestic, minutiae, and a parent-teacher meeting each merit about the same number of paragraphs.

Fritz’s nonlinear plot and insistence that we read between the lines disorients, but heavy repetition grounds the novel and highlights the creeping doom that, in the world of this novel, nobody can avoid. Whether it is a battlefield, the landscape of a terrible dream, an insane asylum, or merely a kitchen table, there is nowhere Fritz does not infuse with the dreaded titular weight. They are all connected; they are all alike. Her style is sparse, but each word packs more meaning for it.

If you want to know why you haven’t heard of Fritz, here may be the reason: when The Weight of Things was first published in the late 70’s, few wanted to read a story set mainly in the mid 60’s that detailed the failure to return to normal domesticity, and certainly not one by a woman who shook off conventional narrative techniques and exchanged them for cruel, spare prose. Even today, we rely on the idea that one simply returns home from a war to a relatively unchanged home life. But what if it is literally a different man who returns? And to a woman who isn’t who he thinks? With the world still shaking beneath the placid face of a “new normal?” The urge to cover the wounds of the past–both national and personal ones–can only conceal so much, and what Fritz sought to portray in this novel is the rotting flesh beneath the bandage of sunnier narratives. The result is timeless, disturbing, and sadly overlooked.

The Weight of Things by Marianne Fritz (Dorothy, a publishing project | 9780989760775 | October 2015)


Review (Plus): ‘Pax’

Bookshelf Blurb: An unlikely bond between a boy and his fox, the father who drove them apart and the ability to endure hardship when you have unconditional love.

Pax_9780062377012_0e913Ms. America’s Review: I cry whenever I read an animal story, and I must confess, this one was no different. The young boy, Peter, and his pet fox, Pax, alternate points of view with every changing chapter. Sara Pennypacker has created unique and thought-provoking characters in her new middle-reader book, Pax.

I was dismayed when Peter, our young narrator, is made to dump his pet fox in the woods while his father stands by watching. Peter throws a toy soldier into the woods for Pax to retrieve, knowing he is sending his best friend far away so he can leave and never return. Peter’s dad told him it was for the best, as Peter was going to have to live with his grandfather 300 miles away while his father goes off to war–and the fox is better left in the wilderness where he belongs. With a heavy heart, Peter climbs in the car and does as he is told: He leaves his fox.

Pax, playing his favorite game, runs into the woods to reclaim the soldier and bring it back to Peter, only to discover his human is gone. He knows the boy will return for him. After a few days, Pax is hungry, cold and alone. Peter has not returned. Another fox, Bristle, discovers Pax and smells human on him. She is apprehensive of Pax, but her friendly and eager little brother, Runt, is not. Runt is overjoyed to find a new friend. Bristle allows Pax to follow her to their den for one night, and he gladly agrees to the terms, knowing he can follow his scent and come back the next day and wait for Peter.

Peter isn’t at his grandfather’s home even 24 hours before he realizes he has left his heart 300 miles away and he must go back to reclaim it. He packs his bag and leaves to find Pax. Peter doesn’t get too far when he trips on a tree root, breaking his foot; he hobbles to shelter in a barn, where he is discovered by a hermit named Vola, who understands Peter’s need to find Pax but makes him commit to three terms before he can continue.

Author Sara Pennypacker has created special journeys for each of her three characters in Pax. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a realistic symptom found within many homes across the U.S. and Pennypacker has softened the illness through the eyes of a child. The ability to have every character show growth from the time they are introduced to the end of the book is commendable. Peter, Pax and Vola display personality traits hidden within each one of us. Even more interesting was the author’s ability to give Pax humanistic traits and make the reader connect to the fox as much as they do to the humans in this story. The depth to each character makes this a true story to love.

In the classroom: Although Pax explores complex issues, it allows your students to read and recognize shifts in character, point of view and setting. Peter is 12, and I believe this is the target audience for this book. The ever-evolving hormones of middle school students often make them rage out, cry uncontrollably, and, in short, be a moody mess. Under Vola’s direction and guidance, Peter is able to sort out some of his past and learn he has the ability to overcome inherited traits. This is a lesson every middle school student needs to learn.

Much can be gleaned from Peter and even the adolescent fox, who has to learn to survive without a human. Sara Pennypacker develops two main characters and defines them by their point of view. She chose to let each character tell his own story.

A middle school Common Core Standard is for your students to explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text. Have your students select a passage, or a chapter, and have them explain why Pennypacker selected these particular words. Are they effective? Does she use sensory details? Can we, the audience, relate to our characters?

Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Balzer + Bray | 9780062377012 | February 2, 2016)

Video: A Great Big Cuddle

In this video, Michael Rosen performs poems from A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very YoungRosen is a writer, poet, performer, broadcaster and Professor of Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London.

If you share this video on Twitter, tag him @MichaelRosenYes. He also has an extensive website at www.michaelrosen.co.uk.

If you want to share through your website or newsletter, here’s the embed code:

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