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Celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day With Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Good Reads With Ronna
is a proud participant in
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2015
Featuring Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day and we’re SO excited!! We’ve got one book from our friends at Lee and Low Books that we’re talking about today, and two more we’ll mention below that are also must-reads. But before you get the scoop about Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, learn about the origins of MCCBD and help us celebrate and promote diversity in kidlit. Use the hashtag #ReadYourWorld and spread the word!


THE MISSION OF MULTICULTURAL CHILDREN’S BOOK DAY: 

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is to create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia and Valarie here.

You can find the MCCBD blog and links to all the other participating sites here.

Little Melba and her Big TromboneREVIEW: Little Melba and Her Big Trombone                                                                                  

Pick an instrument, any instrument – would you pick the trombone? Well, in Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, (Lee and Low, $18.95, Ages 4-8) by Katheryn Russell-Brown with illustrations by Frank Morrison, that’s exactly what Melba Doretta Liston did and never once looked back! This eye-opening fictionalized picture book biography recounts the story of a jazz pioneer whose contribution to the music industry is presented in irresistible prose and artwork certain to get your toes tapping and fingers snapping.

Born in pre-Depression Kansas City, Melba had the music in her from an early age. In fact making music would always matter to Melba. It was easy to be influenced when “avenues were lined with jazz club, street bands, and folks harmonizing on every corner.” From blues to jazz to gospel, Melba loved it all and soaked up all the sounds around her. At age seven she chose a “shiny trombone: from the traveling music store and, with the help of her grandpa and her keen ear, Melba learned how to play it.

little melba int spread

Interior artwork from Little Melba and her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown with illustrations by Frank Morrison, Lee & Low Books, ©2014.

In the years following the Depression, things got tough financially for Melba’s mom so together the two moved to Los Angeles where Melba’s trombone talent really took off. Eventually, when she was just seventeen, Melba toured the country with trumpeter Gerald Wilson’s band. With the popularity of jazz sweeping the nation, Melba’s prowess on her beloved brass instrument stood out on stages everywhere. “She composed and arranged music, spinning rhythms, harmonies, and melodies into gorgeous songs.”

 

This young woman was a musical force to be reckoned with. But the harsh realities of racial segregation she and the band experienced while touring down South meant “some white folks didn’t show good manners toward folks with brown skin.” This brought Melba to the brink of quitting, but ultimately she persevered, playing her horn with the likes of “Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones and more.” She even toured briefly with Billie Holiday. Melba’s career took her around the world and garnered her numerous awards including being named Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, “the highest honor the U.S. gives to a jazz artist.”

Helpful back matter includes an Afterword, a Selected Discography and Author’s Sources. This pioneering, brass playing woman has left a legacy of music to learn and love, as well as a tale that begged to be told. I’m thrilled Russell-Brown found Melba’s inspiring story and conveyed it so beautifully. Russell-Brown’s words coupled with Morrison’s warm and spirited illustrations take us back in time so when we’re done reading we feel as if we’ve been on the road with Melba Liston, and that’s really something special!  – Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

LendaHandcvr Check out Lee and Low Books today for these and other diverse books:The Hula-Hoopin' Queen cvr
Lend a Hand and The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen.

RELATED ACTIVITY: Make a musical instrument with your child

Simply get an empty toilet paper roll, scissors, wax paper, a rubber band (or masking tape), fun stickers, and something sharp like the point of the scissors (NOTE: for parents to do only!). Cut a piece of the wax paper that is large enough to completely cover the hole at one end with room to spare for fastening it down. Use a rubber band or masking tape to hold the wax paper in place. One option is to make small holes in the wax paper then have your child decorate the toilet roll with stickers or patterned duct tape and try out the sound. Another option is to make one hole in the part of the toilet paper roll that is not covered by the wax paper, and no holes in the wax paper. Have your child ompare the sounds these two types of kazoos make. Try making the instrument with a paper towel roll instead. Is the sound any different using a long paper roll? Will more holes cut into the toilet paper roll or paper towel rolls make the sounds change?

MORE ABOUT MULTICULTURAL CHILDREN’S BOOK DAY
MCCBD Diversity Book Lists and Resources for Educators and Parents is now available.
http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/multicultural-reading-resources/diversity-book-lists-for-kids/

MCCBD’s new Facebook page
MCCBD’s new Twitter using #ReadYourWorld

ANIMALIUM by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott

 

Animalium
curated by Jenny Broom (author) and Katie Scott (illustrator)
(Big Picture Press, $35.00, Ages 8-12 – but will be enjoyed by all ages!)

 

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014

Starred Reviews – Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly and Shelf Awareness

Animalium-cvr.jpgTurn off the TV, power down the devices, and take the children to the museum … simply by opening up this visually impressive book! Colorful, intricately drawn animal life forms, will instantly grab children’s attention.

Beginning with its oversize format and a bronze-colored admittance ticket, the book’s design was intended to create (or recreate) a museum visit. Turn the pages and step into the “museum.” At the “Entrance,” the “curators,” Jenny Broom and Katie Scott, welcome children and invite them to “See for yourself how the tree of life evolved from the simple sea sponge into the diverse array of animals found on Earth today (p.1).”

A breath-taking two page spread of the “Tree of Animal Life” follows. The curators explain that this unusual tree illustrates ” … how organisms that appear to be very different have … evolved from one another over millions of years … (p. 5).” Children (and adults) will find it fascinating to follow the branches up from the stem (Invertebrates) to see the development of, and interrelationships between, animal life forms. For example, a lungfish and a cockatoo once shared the Vertebrate branch. The curators note that the further away from the stem a species is, the more the species has evolved in order to survive.

As children continue turning pages, they enter individual “galleries” (or book chapters) which are ” … arranged by shared characteristics and in evolutionary order to show how the animal kingdom… (p.1) ” developed over eons of time into invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Int-art-Animalium.jpg

Interior spread from Animalium by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott, ©2014 Big Picture Press.

 

The curators encourage their young visitors to ” … look for characteristic similarities and read the text to find out more about how the animals are comparable. (p.1).” Each gallery also sports a “habitat diorama” where children can learn about the ecosystem that supports those animals and how they have adapted to life in that environment. In examining the Arctic Tundra, children will learn that many of the mammals there, such as the polar bear, are predatory carnivores, requiring the protein found in meat to help fuel the energy these animals need to keep warm.

Broom’s narrative is engaging and flows smoothly. While age appropriate, it is not simplistic nor condescending. Scientific vocabulary (cnidarian, amphibian, phylum) is used throughout the book with the meanings gracefully woven into the narrative.

Two page spreads feature general information and characteristics about a group of animals. A “Key to the plate” presents information specific to the animals found in the accompanying illustration, numbered like a field guide. Scott makes excellent use of the book’s oversized format with a stunning full-paged spread of the Emperor Penguins and a diagram of the Nile Crocodile’s skeleton. Other spreads, such as the European frog, cover the bottom halves of two pages. This enables Scott to effectively and sequentially depict the frog’s five stages of development from frogspawn to adult. Her intricate pen and ink drawings, digitally colored, are reminiscent of work done by artists and naturalists like John James Audubon.

Additional material in the book includes a preface by Dr. Sandra Knapp of the Natural History Museum of London, England stressing the importance of biodiversity and a “Library” of several online resources.

Check out Big Picture Press to see several images from the book and Candlewick Press for information on the author and the illustrator and to order your copy. Watch the YouTube book trailer below, too.

So visit a “museum” that never closes-and keep children engaged for many hours. Animalium is a highly recommended middle grade nonfiction book for home, schools, and public libraries plus there’s never an admission fee.

– Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

Give Out Comics Not Candy on Halloween – Free Comics Oct. 25 on Halloween ComicFest

Celebrate All Hallows’ Eve With Comics:
Get free comic books & purchase mini-comics
to hand out instead of candy.HCF14 Poly bag Comics_group

In homes across America, families are preparing for Halloween. Many are looking for a candy substitute, something to offer as a treat. Is there something sugar-free that will still bring a smile to kids’ faces? Consider this great idea – comic books!

HalloweenComicFes400x400Take note parents! On Saturday, October 25th, participating comic book shops will be handing out FREE comics to anyone who comes to their stores in celebration of Halloween ComicFest in addition to hosting special Halloween activities in communities across the US, Canada and internationally. There are 19 free comics available to choose from that are great for readers of all ages with titles that include, Scooby Doo and Batman Team Up, Marvel Secret Wars, My Little Pony, Afterlife with Archie, Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, and more!

Also, it’s a great time to consider giving out comics instead of candy. So, while getting your free comics, pick up Halloween ComicFest Mini-Comic Packs because they’re “just as sweet and last a lot longer than candy!”

Each pack contains 20 mini-comics and are only available to purchase at comic book shops for just $4.99 per pack. Such a delicious deal that won’t get stuck in your teeth! There are seven titles to choose from which include Angry Birds, Betty and Veronica, Plants vs. Zombies, BOOM! Studios Fright Fest, LBX Little Battlers, Mermin and Vamplets. The Mini-Comic packs are a healthy alternative to candy, promote literacy, provide entertainment for families to enjoy, can be used as prizes for Halloween games or prizes used in the classroom.

Click here to find participating comic shops in your community.

MiniComicPacks“Our BOOM! Studios Halloween Fright Fest mini-comic, featuring stories from Adventure Time, Peanuts, and Fraggle Rock, is sooooo sweet that you don’t need to eat any candy! Plus, you won’t get any cavities from reading it either. Because it’s comics!” – BOOM! Studios publisher.

“The LBX Halloween Comic-Fest sampler is better than candy because super-strong cardboard robots that battle each other on command are pretty much better than anything, right? And this new manga series is actually about super-strong cardboard robots who battle each other on command!

Kids will love LBX because it’s about kids who do tournament battles with super-strong cardboard robots that battle each other on command (which is, of course, better than candy…or most anything). It’s a kid-safe comic starring an actual kid trying to save the world with his paper robot. What’s not to love, really.

Handing out the LBX mini-comic will make even the dullest, apple-giving, toothbrush house the most popular because you can win anyone over with manga, even the most super-strong cardboard robot-hating neighbor kid. Only, since there aren’t any kids who hate super-strong cardboard robots (especially if they can battle each other on command), you don’t have to worry about that. Can’t help you with the toothbrushes, though.” – Joel Enos, editor of the Little Battlers comic from VIZ Media.

www.freecomicbookday.com
www.halloweencomicfest.com

 

 

 

Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet, A Review, Interview & Giveaway

MIX IT UP! FUN FOR EVERYONE

9780811879545_largeGood Reads With Ronna recently interviewed notable Parisian artist and author Hervé Tullet via email before his upcoming trip to Los Angeles. Tullet, the creative force behind the best-selling Press Here, and his latest, Mix It Up!, will be at both MOCA & LACMA this weekend conducting mural workshops for children using his books as inspiration. Both books are published by Chronicle Books, cost $15.99 each, and are recommended for ages 3-5.

REVIEW
Mix It Up!
is an interactive board book of the coolest kind. It’s the type of book children will reach for frequently, and each time engage with it in a new and exciting way. Picking up where Press Here left off – although each book stands on its own – Mix It Up! requires no battery or password. In fact it’s better than any app because youngsters get to hold the book in their hands and take a journey through color under Tullet’s expert tutelage. Note: Insert fab French accent here, “Tap that gray spot. Just a little, to see what happens.”

Written in the second person, Mix It Up! invites kids to place their hands on the page, close their eyes, and count to five then MIX IT UP! They can tap, rub, smudge and smoosh to their hearts’ content without getting a drop of paint on them. I couldn’t wait to turn each page to see what Tullet had in store. This book got me away from the computer and onto my feet, moving, tilting and turning pages to and fro, but really, it’s okay to read it seated as well!  The best part is finding out what happens when various colors come together on the page. Tullet’s text will make each youngster interacting with Mix It Up! feel satisfied, successful and ready to smoosh some colors on their own. – Ronna Mandel

INTERVIEW
Good Reads With Ronna:  At what age would you recommend parents begin introducing art to their children to look at? To engage in?

Hervé Tullet: Babies don’t know anything, which is why I think they know everything. With their eyes they experience everything as new and interpret everything without any prior experience. This is imagination. They are the artists, our real artists, that’s why I think that museums are the perfect place to feed them with colors and shapes and sensations without any restrictions (except maybe at feeding time!)

GRWR: Were you stirred and moved by art as young as age three – five like the age of the kids your books are geared to?

TULLET: It was a different time, and people didn’t raise children the way they do now. During my childhood, I learned a lot from being alone, from being bored, from not knowing. When I was a teenager, books and museum became my way out, my breath, my salvation

GRWR: Your new book is just so kid-friendly. Why do you think no one has thought of your brilliant idea for a book like Mix It Up! sooner?

Herve Tullet_standing with paint_HiRes.jpgTULLET: On the one hand, hand I think that ideas are in the air and everybody can catch them. That’s what happens when you find one; it looks like it came out of the blue. On the other hand, I think that it is a long process of maturation and that I spent lot of time on, nearly obsessed, to find, to  think, to search, go on thinking again, erase, cut and at last find  the ideas.

Press Here and Mix it Up! are the result of this long process, the high point of 20 years of exploration and work.

GRWR: By having kids get down on their hands and knees with some color and a paintbrush (at your workshops), while you’re out there motivating them, what are the things you’d like to achieve?

TULLET: I’m motivated by having a great time all together and making great memories. And maybe, from this experience, it will create a desire to have another one, or it will be a seed that will flourish later on, out of the blue. Or, maybe not exactly out of the blue.

GRWR: What do kids say to you after they’ve worked on the enormous mural?

Mix-It-Up-cvr.jpgTULLET: A look, a smile, a word, a hand shake, a kiss, a sign, a thank you. All these are so deep, so sincere, so true, to me that I accept all of them as true gifts.

Here’s some advice Tullet offers attendees to this weekend’s artsy workshops: “… one thing, please listen to my prompts very carefully. That’s it! That’s all what you have to do! Except the babies of course, they’re going to do whatever they’re going to do!”

Don’t miss Tullet’s L.A. appearances this weekend at MOCA & LACMA on Saturday, 10/11 and Sunday, 10/12. Head to L.A. Parent to get more details by clicking here. In that article, you can also read Tullet’s reply to my question: Is there anything you’d like to say to the families of L.A. and Southern California who will be attending your events?  I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of his warm and welcoming response.

To purchase Press Here and Mix It Up! head to your local independent bookseller.

GIVEAWAY
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Read Across America Day 2014!

 Good Reads With Ronna and Oceanhouse Media
Celebrate the 17th Annual
Read Across America Day 2014

We’re happy to share some wonderful opportunities with you from Oceanhouse Media on the occasion of NEA’s Read Across America Day!

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In honor of Dr. Seuss’s Birthday and Read Across America Day, Oceanhouse Media has created this fantastic offering that we’re certain will mean smiles around!
-More than 60 Dr. Seuss apps are on sale for iOS and Android through March 6th, starting at just $.99. Find all the deals here.
-Find a Facebook contest & Instagram contest where Oceanhouse Media is giving away a 10-pack of Dr. Seuss apps.
-On Monday, March 3rd (Read Across America Day) Oceanhouse Media will have hourly promo code giveaways on their Facebook page from 12pm-5pm PST.

Holiday Gift Guide – Santa Claus: All About Me

GIVE BOOKS AS GIFTS THIS YEAR


Today’s must-have, Santa Claus: All About Me (by Me), written and illustrated by Juliette and John Atkinson, (Minedition Books, $34.95, all ages) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

Santa Claus: All About Me by Juliette and John Atkinson, Minedition Books, 2013.

Santa Claus: All About Me (By Me) is simply a gorgeous book. Perfect for the Christmas-lover in your life, it is chock full of information and astounding artwork. The reader learns many interesting details about the evolution and history of Santa and Christmas throughout the world and the ages. For instance, did you know that Christmas was officially banned in England during 1647-1660 and then in America during 1659-1681? Christmas crackers—those fun, paper, party poppers—were invented by an English confectioner named Tom Smith in 1847. They have been an English tradition, filled with a paper crown, a trinket, and a joke, ever since.  Today, Santa is seen as wearing red; however, earlier portrayals had him in luxurious green and blue gowns.

Interior image of poppers from Santa Claus: All About Me by Juliette and John Atkinson, Minedition Books, 2013.

Presented as Santa’s own scrapbook, and two years in the making, Santa Claus: All About Me has flaps, booklets, a sixpence, recipes, a 3-D snowflake, letters, and so much more to explore. Every time I open this book, I discover something new. The artwork ranges from historical representations of Santa, such as etchings, to photographs and paintings. A wide range of co-characters fills the pages. Some such as Mrs. Christmas (Mrs. Claus) and the elves are to be expected, but in comes Charles Darwin. What could possibly be the connection? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Santa Claus: All About Me is a wonderful choice for a coffee table or gift book that will provide hours of entertaining and informative reading, as well as a visual feast. Your family will look forward to taking it out, displaying and sharing it for years to come.

 

With a Mighty Hand, Adapted by Amy Ehrlich

With a Mighty Hand: The Story in The Torah, (Candlewick Press, $29.99, Available on audio, All Ages) adapted by Amy Ehrlich with paintings by Daniel Nevins, is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

With a Mighty Hand adapted by Amy Ehrlich with paintings by Daniel Nevins

With a Mighty Hand: The Story in The Torah adapted by Amy Ehrlich with paintings by Daniel Nevins, Candlewick Press, 2013.

The High Holy Days or Hanukkah are ideal times to introduce children to Amy Ehrlich’s With a Mighty Hand. This reader-friendly adaptation of the Torah covers the first five books of the Hebrew Bible; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  But you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this beautiful volume. Christians, who refer to the Torah as the Old Testament, will also enjoy the carefully constructed through line Ehrlich’s worked hard to convey in what is a seamless series of stories to come back to again and again. 

Whether you choose to start at the beginning with “Let there be light!” or skip ahead to “I am Joseph, Your Brother” in Genesis, you’ll be pulled into the biblical tales not only by the beautifully wrought words, but by the stunning and evocative artwork Nevins has designed with paint on wood.  Together they manage to make the reader feel in awe, that they are holding something special, something to be cherished. They honor the original text in a re-telling that makes the Torah accessible for first timers or for individuals with a lifetime of biblical knowledge.

With a Mighty Hand is so much more than just the story of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Moses. It’s about “genealogy, law, and ritual.” It’s about faith. About struggle. It’s about a people who to this day still question the Torah’s writing since there is so much contradiction, confusion in parts (sometimes due to translation) and mystery. That is why, as Ehrlich states in her introduction “it is ever new.” As a companion to our synagogue visits, not just on holidays but throughout the year, With a Mighty Hand will provide my family with a wonderful reminder of our rich heritage while also serving as a resource for countless conversations in the years to come.

 With a Might Hand Includes: 

• an introduction by the adapter 

• a Torah genealogy 

• a map of the region 

• annotated endnotes 

• a bibliography 

• an artist’s note 

Click here to read Amy Ehrlich’s enlightening introduction to the book.

An Interview with Ann Whitford Paul, Author of ‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas

Ronna Mandel interviews local L.A. author Ann Whitford Paul who’s written a new book, ‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas with illustrations by Nancy Hayashi.

NOTE: Consider making your purchase before the holiday season and house guests roll in. It’s an ideal present for the moms in your life who need to know there is light at the end of the hectic, sometimes dim Yuletide tunnel. With tongue-in-cheek (and all her holiday shopping already completed), Paul manages to entertain readers in need of a laugh and a nudge from one who’s been there whispering wisely, “Let it go!” Check the GRWR Facebook and Twitter pages for dates of Paul’s appearances at bookstores around town.

Q&A with Ann Whitford Paul

'Twas the Late Night of Christmas cover art

‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas by Ann Whitford Paul with illustrations by Nancy Hayashi, 2013.

Good Reads With Ronna:
Santa’s gone. The kids are complaining. Mom and dad have reached capacity. ‘Twas the Late Night of Christmas, your new gift book and a parody of Moore’s famous 19th century poem, shares the exhaustion of post-holiday-partum. The house is a wreck and who’s left to clean up? The parents. Or in this case the mom. Who or what inspired you to pen this tongue-in-cheek tale?

Ann Whitford Paul:
I’ve always loved the magic of Christmas and gone all-out, filling my house with handmade decorations—Christmas quilts and throws, pillows and pictures, wall hangings and toys.  Right after Christmas I begin making new decorations for the following year.  As you can imagine, the number of decorations has gotten out of hand and the more I make, the more exhausted I’ve become.  This book came out of a combination of my love for the holiday of giving and thinking of others and at the same time my weariness from all the work involved.  I dream Mrs. Saint Nick might come and help me with the resulting chaos of the holiday.

MARTHA STEWART’S FAVORITE CRAFTS FOR KIDS

175 Projects for kids of all ages to create, build, design, explore and share.

175 Projects for Kids of All Ages from the Editors of Martha Stewart Living

175 Projects for Kids of All Ages from the Editors of Martha Stewart Living

Martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids (Potter Craft, $24.99, trade paperback), written by the Editors of Martha Stewart Living, is reviewed by Mary Brown.

We love to see our kids doing crafts. In theory, a craft project keeps the young ones busy and quiet for an extended time, and may produce something worth giving to grandma for her birthday.  But coming up with fun, un-lame projects that utilize inexpensive, easily procured items can be challenging.  Martha Stewart to the rescue!

In Martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids, the domestic guru has produced an impeccable collection of crafts with kids in mind. While not every one is a winner, the book has enough good ideas to be worthwhile, and the fresh, modern volume is a delight to look at.

Be warned: almost all of the crafts listed in the book require adult help and supervision, for most kids under 10 or so. Some precocious, crafty or older kids might be able to figure things out on their own, but most of these projects will involve planning and hands-on monitoring. The instructions are straightforward and minimal, which is fine when showing how to make Paper Bag Puppets, but the Tin Can Toys look like they would require an engineer with a good tool chest to complete. Buy this book knowing that your presence will be required.

The book is divided into categories of craft types, which also cover a variety of age ranges and interests. There is a section for making animals and characters out of various materials; designs and embellishments; and science-type experiments. The book also delves into all kinds of little boxes and organizers, as well as gifts to make. It’s nice that there are a number of activities that would appeal to boys, particularly building projects (Peg Board Marble Run and the Toy Service Station) and physical games like Elephant Stilts.  There are plenty of cute girl-oriented items, like barrettes, purses, dolls and jewelry. My favorite projects included a Scented Scrub for the bath, and the Snow Globes. I do wish though that there was an index of craft projects at the front of the book, and that some of the how-to explanations (like for sewing projects) were a bit more thorough.

I would be happy to own this book just for its fun, creative aesthetic, and some of the ideas would be good jumping-off points for my own interpretations of the projects.  Many of the activities look too challenging for most young children, however. You know how you sit a kid down with a project but you end up doing most of it yourself? Also, many of the crafts involve the adult  making something that the kid then plays with, like the Beach Board Games or the Map Puzzle. Some of the activities require found objects from nature – bark, twigs, leaves, rocks – that may not be available in some urban areas or dry climates. There is also a precious, “Martha-Stewart-Perfect” quality to the book that may intimidate the parent who lacks craft confidence. My (oops, I mean my kids’) Pom-Pom Animals will never look like that!   Out of 175 crafts, however, you’re sure to find enough project ideas to inspire creativity in you and your kids for many happy hours.

Today’s reviewer, Mary Brown, is a scriptreader for Hollywood film studios, putting her bookworm childhood to professional use. Her favorite place is her sewing studio, where she designs and creates quilts, functional items and garments.  You can see photos and thoughts on her work at www.arroyoquilts.com. She has managed to get two of her kids through college; her youngest is still in high school and has autism. His challenges keep her sitting up and paying attention to life.

Family-friendly BookFest, Downtown L.A.

As part of the March 2013 celebrations for the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day, Grand Park has created Grand Park’s Downtown BookFest, a multi-faceted, multi-generational community event that salutes the enjoyment of reading and the importance of literacy.  Grand Park’s Downtown BookFest takes place on Saturday, March 2, 2013 from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, from Grand Avenue to Hill Street (Blocks One and Two of the park).  Park visitors will enjoy a wide variety of activities inspired by the simple pleasures of reading a good book under the blue sky in an urban green setting.

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Designed for families and book lovers of all ages, Grand Park’s Downtown BookFest features readings from independent book stores, children’s story circles, crafts for children, musical performers, food trucks and other activities based on the power of the written word.  In addition, Grand Park will inaugurate four little free lending libraries, which are miniature libraries that operate on the honor system, allowing visitors to “take a book, leave a book.”  The concept, spearheaded by the nonprofit organization, Little Free Library, is a grass roots movement to encourage reading and provide easy access to books.

Activities at Grand Park’s Downtown BookFest include:

• Readings and a pop-up book store presented by The Last Bookstore and Writ Large Press, representing the authors and publications of 25 Los Angeles-based independent publishers;
mail-1• Book sales and literacy information provided by non-profit writing and tutoring center, 826 LA;
• Book swaps and giveaways by Libros Schmibros;
• Children’s crafts presented by the Central Library and Ryman Arts, which provides teens with free access to visual arts education;
• Performances by DJs Phyz Ed and Danny Holloway;
• Performance by bilingual children’s author, educator and recording artist, José Luis-Orozco; and
• Presentation by the first poet laureate of Los Angeles, Eloise Healey, who was named to this newly created position by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in December 2013.  Healey will open the event and read from some of her poetry.

Visitors will also enjoy food provided by three popular food trucks, including The Lobos Truck (American), Mandoline Grill (Vietnamese) and Cool Cow (ice cream).

Current park programs include Lunchtime Yoga retreat (Wednesdays and Fridays) as well as Lunchtime Concerts in Grand Park (Tuesdays).  More information and an event calendar can be found at http://grandparkla.org/

FArTHER

From its stunning cover image and title to the very last illustration, FArTHER ($17.99, Templar Books, all ages) by Kate Greenaway Medal winner Grahame Baker-Smith will take readers to new picture book heights.

0763663700.medBaker-Smith has written and illustrated this deeply touching and immensely satisfying book as much for adults as for children. The art, a bit Da Vinci meets Dali and Dutch Masters, is spectacular, magical and will beckon you back again and again to study every last detail. If you’d like to learn more about how the art is created, read this wonderful article from the Telegraph in England. England also happens to be where Baker-Smith calls home.

The book introduces readers to a narrator looking back on his childhood with a father consumed by a dream to fly. Visually stunning, the pictures of the inventions are at once elaborate and chaotic cluing readers into the mind of the boy’s inventor father.  The father’s preoccupation with all things flight often left the young boy wanting for his father’s attention. But when he eventually got the attention it was as special as any of the dad’s creations.

Sadly one day the lad’s father is called to war, never to return. The corresponding artwork – red poppies – is significant in its symbolism for those who gave their lives for their country and is worn on Remembrance Day in the U.K.  It’s interesting to note that when the dad is shown tinkering with his flying machines, his work table is a mess. When the boy grows up and pursues his father’s dream of flying, his table appears organized. It’s subtle things like this that make each page a treat to explore.

Now a father, the narrator has hopes and desires for his own son and wonders if the child will aspire farther than his grandfather or father. Regardless of what may happen in the future, the dreams of this family are firmly planted in each new generation making the sky the limit.

Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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