Showing Tag: "a" (Show all posts)

"Flora & Ulysses" by Kate DiCamillo

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Monday, October 20, 2014,

"Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures" by Kate DiCamillo is a delightful and engaging story for tweens.  It justly won the Newbery Award this year for its contemporary yet timeless story of superheroic, poetry-writing squirrel Ulysses and his cynical yet hopeful human sidekick Flora.  Their adventures rival those of any dynamic duo.

Ulysses becomes aware after a close encounter with a powerful vacuum cleaner. At first, only Flora appreciates that he is now sentient and can understand hu...
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"Seedfolks" by Paul Fleischman

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Monday, October 13, 2014,

I would love to teach this book with older elementary or middle school students. The gentle way it teaches how one person doing a simple action can create and build community is quite lovely. Luckily, I am getting to do the next best thing. 

The teacher that I am mentoring this year is going to use this book as a read-aloud with her third and fourth grade class.  They are studying community and are working at learning how to build a community from diversity.  And I could think of no book th...

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“Friends Forever” by Amy Ariel

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Tuesday, July 31, 2012,

Local St. Paul author Amy Ariel has written a charming novel that gives a glimpse of what life was like in St. Paul in 1912 and how that view might seem both familiar and alien to a contemporary child.  In the process, the reader is transported, just like the character of Hannah, back to a world that makes us appreciate what we have now and anticipate with curiosity what may come in our future.

Our narrator is Abigail, a thirteen year old girl writing in...


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“Into the Unknown” by Stewart Ross, Illustrated by Stephen Biesty

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Friday, July 27, 2012,

Exploration across human history has made us and revealed us as who we are: curious, adventurous, daring.  “Into the Unknown:  How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air,” written by Stewart Ross and illustrated by Stephen Biesty, does an excellent job of capturing this side of humanity.

Ross has chosen an interesting spectrum of people to discuss, and not all of them are familiar household names.  Because of his focus on journeys he deems “amazing,” he can choose pe...


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“The Unforgotten Coat” by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Thursday, July 5, 2012,

How does a child respond to a new classmate who is an immigrant from a very different part of the world?  Frank Cottrell Boyce tackles this topic in his engaging and thought-provoking short novel, “The Unforgotten Coat.”  Using first person narration and photographs, Cottrell Boyce draws the reader into the story of Julie – the “good guide” – and Chingis and Nergui – the new arrivals from Mongolia.

This book addresses many themes that teach...


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“If You Lived Here: Houses of the World” by Giles Laroche

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Wednesday, July 4, 2012,



“If You Lived Here:  Houses of the World,” written and illustrated by Giles Laroche, provides lovely and informative looks at various houses throughout history and the world.  The collages give intricate details that draw a reader in and make the accompanying text that much more interesting.

I have a few minor observations though.  When I first looked at the book, I was confused by the very first house.  Nothing in the title or on the cover made clea...


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“Never Forgotten” by Patricia McKissack, Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Monday, July 2, 2012,

A book with richly textured illustrations and text, “Never Forgotten” tells a story mostly absent from the history of the African slave trade – the story of the people who were left behind.  The imaginative and lyrical language of Patricia McKissack combines with the evocative and compelling images by Leo and Diane Dillon to create a story that assumes mythic depth.

The tale opens with the blacksmith Dinga choosing to raise his newborn son (whose m...


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“Waiting for the Magic” by Patricia Mac Lachlan, illustrated by Amy June Bates

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Wednesday, June 27, 2012,

“Waiting for the Magic” is a sweet take on the ubiquitous talking animal story.  Mac Lachlan’s tale with believable characters, both human and animal, is enhanced by the charming illustrations by Amy June Bates.  The novel’s central message is that, for true communication to take place within a family, people need to listen.  And here, in the family of human characters of William and Elinor, listening enables a person to hear the animals as well.

As the book opens, William and El...


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“Around the World” by Matt Phelan

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Tuesday, June 26, 2012,

Okay, I am starting with my quibbles first.  “Around the World” is categorized both by our list and by my local public library as a “graphic novel.”  Yet most of the book is based on fact and research.  This left me wondering – is the category labeling a result of the form, or is there some fictionalizing going on that isn’t immediately apparent?

The unifying theme, such as it is, in “Around the World” is the idea of traveling around the world as individuals.  Phelan taps...


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“Soldier Bear” by Bibi Dumon Tak

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Thursday, June 21, 2012,



“Soldier Bear” is an entertaining but curious amalgam of fiction and history.  Set mostly during World War 2, “Soldier Bear” follows a group of Polish soldiers, displaced by the Nazi invasion of their homeland, and their animal mascot, Voytek the bear.

This book is billed as fiction, but draws on an actual historical event.  The author includes photos of Voytek and some of human and animal friends.  As an adult, the choice to call this fiction made me wonder—how much is true?  ...


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“Bread and Roses, Too” by Katherine Paterson

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Wednesday, June 20, 2012,

 like historical fiction.  Sometimes children like it too.  But often, I find, children’s historical fiction reads as if it were written according to some curricular checklist, to fit a particular set of standards in the most careful and efficient fashion possible.

“Bread and Roses, Too” by Katherine Paterson seems just such a novel.  Here’s the checklist I envisioned.

  1. Will it appeal to both boys and girls?  Yes, it will, because it ...

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“Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word” by Bob Raczka

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Tuesday, June 19, 2012,


Like Marilyn Singer’s “Mirror, Mirror” before it, Bob Raczka’s “Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word” uses a special, somewhat gimmicky hook to interest reader in poetry.  Singer uses the form of the reverso (see my review here), while Raczka creates poems out of single words.  In each case, the poet’s self-imposed restrictions provide a special challenge to making meaning and art.

Raczka’s technique inherently limits the poem’s topic, length, and depth. ...


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"America Is Under Attack" by Don Brown

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Friday, June 15, 2012,

Don Brown's "America Is Under Attack" provides an important resource for students in this age group.  I taught 5th grade Language Arts this past year (I am usually primarily a Library / Media teacher), and I didn't realize just how little students know about the actual events of September 11, 2011.  Of course, this should not be a surprise, since many of them were either infants or not even born yet.

As adults we often have a personal link to historic even...


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"Itamar Makes Friends" by Josh Hasten

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Sunday, February 5, 2012,

This picture book, "Itamar Makes Friends: A Children's Story of Jewish Brotherhood" by Josh Hasten and Illustrated by S. Kim Glassman, is innocuous enough, but I wish it had attempted more. The protagonist, Itamar, is an eight-year-old Israeli, who lives in the country. When he goes to visit his cousins in the city, he has an unpleasant encounter with some city boys, who refuse to return his soccer ball. After Itamar falls and hurts his knee, one of the city boys, Eitan, remembers a time...
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Rosemary Well's On the Blue Comet

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Friday, August 12, 2011,

I'm going to start with a disclaimer:  Rosemary Well's On the Blue Comet is exactly the kind of book I loved as a child.  It reminds of some of my favorites by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, which had an enchanting blend of realism and whimsy. But I also think that much about the book would be hard for modern children to understand.

Our protagonist, Oscar Ogilvie Junior, is obsessed by the world of Lionel trains.  Set at the beginnings of the Great Depre...


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Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature's Survivors by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beckie Prange

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Sunday, August 7, 2011,

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature's Survivors by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beckie Prange is quite engaging and difficult to categorize.  Or, perhaps, this book is engaging BECAUSE it is hard to categorize.  Whatever it is, I like it.

Sidman's poems laud the thriving world of "survivors" that populate the world.  Ranging from the microscopic bacteria and diatoms to the larger sharks, from plants and animals as well as humans, these poems and ...


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For Good Measure: The Ways we say How Much, How Far, How Heavy, How Big , How Old

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Tuesday, August 2, 2011,

Ken Robbins has done something with this book that I often despair of finding -- he has created an entertaining, truly informative, well-written non-fiction book for kids in middle grades.  I found this book to have information I didn't know, which is an added plus.

"For Good Measure" looks at one of those topics that people of all ages often obsess about -- how do we measure what we see or experience and why do we do it the ways we do.  (If you don't think we obsess about it, just try t...


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"Meanwhile" by Jason Shiga

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Saturday, July 30, 2011,

Okay, I am SOOOO an English major.  On my first couple of attempts to read this book, I (literally) whined and complained to anyone and everyone within ear shot.  The book is too hard to follow, it is boring, it doesn’t make sense, etc.  So I handed it to my more mathematically-inclined family members who looked at me like I was crazy and implied I was too lazy to figure out how it works.

So, with some grumpiness, I picked it up the next day. And, much to my dismay, they were right.  ...


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A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Wednesday, July 27, 2011,

The novel A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata is a thoughtful and compelling book, but I think it would work better with middle-school or high school students.  The book tells the story of Y’Tin, a boy who achieves his dream of becoming an elephant handler.  The story is set in Vietnam, mostly in 1975, after the US troops have left.

Some of the subject matter of this novel would captivate and charm students in the age range of 4th and...


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"I Dreamed of Flying Like a Bird" by Robert B. Haas

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Tuesday, July 26, 2011,

Robert B. Haas artfully and clearly explains how and why he uses aerial photography to capture his subjects in the wild.  Hass introduces some of the basic terminology of photography, and he makes clear just how dependent he is on the skills of the pilots he works with.

The photographs in this book are stunning.  Haas explains how he takes the photos and how often he is dependent on luck to get the best image.  The sidebar explanations about th...


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"Cosmic" by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Friday, July 22, 2011,

In Cosmic, Frank Cottrell Boyce presents us with a charming and believable narrator – Liam, the twelve-year-old boy who looks like an adult man.  Liam’s narrative begins in the middle, with him telling us how he got into the mess/adventure that he is in.  His story is told with verve and energy, and just the right mix-in of self-deprecating humor. 

For you see, as the novel opens, Liam is in space, on a rocket near the moon, with four other children.  Unfortunately for Liam, he is t...


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True (. . . sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Wednesday, July 20, 2011,

True (. . . sort of) by Katherine Hannigan is both fun and serious. It is also an example of why I have learned to trust my instincts – some of my favorite books are the ones I happen to stumble upon.  This book falls squarely into that category.

The main character is Delly Pattison, a short, sassy spitfire of a girl who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.  Delly has enough of a reputation in her family, at school, and in her town that she is...


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The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O'Connor

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Wednesday, July 20, 2011,

Owen Jester seems like a typical elementary school boy.  In Barbara O'Connor's The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester, Owen feels stranded on the wrong side of town, away from his friends.  His family has moved in with his grandfather both to help out his grandfather, who is recovering from a stroke, and to help themselves out, since Owen's father has lost his job.  Viola, the nearby neighbor girl, is no substitute for Owen's friends--she suffers fr...


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"The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)" by Barbara Kerley

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Thursday, July 7, 2011,

I wanted to love this book.  I love Mark Twain's books.  I even took a course devoted to his writing when I was in graduate school.  I forced my husband to make a vacation stop at Twain's home in Connecticut.  I've been known to quote (excessively, some might say) his writing. But this book just didn't live up to my hopes.

First of all, it felt as if Susy's writing was literally de-emphasized by its placement into the smaller, inserted pages.  If ...


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"Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down" by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Thursday, July 7, 2011,

This picture book by Andrea Davis Pinkney uses the language of food and recipes as a novel technique to describe the Civil Rights movement and sit-ins.  Pinkney quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., using large, colorful type to emphasize the importance of his words in the development of non-violent protests against segregation.

Pinkney gives a clear sense of the role that sit-ins played in the larger movement.  The book's illustrations work well to show how the movement spread.  Pinkne...


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"Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword" by Barry Deutsch

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Tuesday, July 5, 2011,



As the front cover of this graphic novel announces, Hereville:  How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch stars Mirka, "yet another troll-fighting, 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl."  What?  That seems unexpected to you?  Deutsch clearly has as part of his agenda to push away your preconceived notions and to give Mirka an adventure.

Some parts of this book are delightful--I love Mirka's personality, persistence, and bravery.  On the other hand, Mirka "wins" her sword by knitting (really...


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Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Tuesday, July 5, 2011,

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea is an engaging and thoughtful novel, spot-on for the needs and hearts of the middle elementary school student.  It would make a terrific read aloud -- the nature of the multiple perspectives over time lends itself well to those "found" moments to read in a homeroom.

Buyea captures perfectly what every teacher knows:  every student has a story.  Each of these children, both through their own narrations and thos...


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"Benno and the Night of Broken Glass" by Meg Wiviott

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Tuesday, June 21, 2011,


Because I work as a librarian at a Jewish Day School, the students I encounter are well aware of the Holocaust by the time they reach 4th and 5th grades.  Benno and the Night of the Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott will make an excellent addition to our collection on the topic.

Wiviott successfully captures the interest of children in this age group by using Benno the cat as the central...


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“Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty” by Linda Glaser, Illustrated by Claire A. Nivola

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Friday, May 13, 2011,

Linda Glaser provides a gentle introduction to activist Emma Lazarus in her picture book, “Emma’s Poem.”  She introduces to young reader how Lazarus was born into wealth and privilege in the United States.  Coupled with Nivola’s lovely paintings, Glaser clearly conveys how people in Lazarus’s social class were able to read, have parties, collect art, and generally aspire...


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“Meet Einstein” by Mariela Kleiner

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Thursday, March 24, 2011,

The picture book, “Meet Einstein” by Mariela Kleiner, is not quite what the title led me to expect.  I anticipated a kid-friendly biography that introduced some basic facts about Albert Einstein.  Instead, what the book presents is a very, very brief explanation of what a scientist is.

Clearly the author intends for this book to be read to preschool children.  Unfortunately, mo...


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“Sliding Into the New Year” by Dori Weinstein

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Monday, February 28, 2011,

In the book, “Sliding Into the New Year,” we gain a wonderful new author of children’s Jewish literature in Dori Weinstein.  She brings a modern, human tone to a story that is both timely and engaging.

The story’s narrator, Ellie Silver, (aka YaYa) speaks in the authe...


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“Polar Opposites” by Erik Brooks (author and illustrator)

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Monday, February 14, 2011,

Erik Brooks has created a charming demonstration of the concept of opposites in his picture book “Polar Opposites.”  In the process he also manages to define the expression in his title.

Alex is a large, jovial looking polar bear who lives—not surprisingly—at the North Pole.  He is pen pals and friends with Zina, a tiny penguin who lives in Antarctica.  The book provides ...


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“Yasmin’s Hammer” by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Doug Chayka

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Saturday, February 12, 2011,

In an evocative and powerful picture book, Ann Malaspina explains the world of Bangladesh in language that even young elementary students can understand.  And in the process, those students will learn about the transformative power of education.

The narrator, Yasmin, is a young girl who lives with her family in Dhaka.  She and her sister work all day breaking up bricks to be mixe...


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"Mitzvah the Mutt" by Sylvia Rouss

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Sunday, January 30, 2011,

"Mitzvah the Mutt” does something that I have long been wishing for as a librarian at a Jewish day school.  It tells a story that has Jewish content, without being excessively didactic. In the process, it tells a wonderful story about a family and their delightful dog.  The author, Sylvia Rouss, is better known for her Sammy Spider series of Jewish content books for preschoolers. ...


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“Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan” by Jeanette Winter

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Friday, April 16, 2010,

Jeanette Winter has yet again succeeded in creating a visually stunning and deeply meaningful picture book that looks at current issues so that children can begin to understand them.  Much like her earlier books, “The Librarian of Basra” and “Wangari’s Trees of Peace,” Winter’s “Nasreen’s Secret School” tackles an difficult topic and makes it accessible.

The book ...


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“Mirror, Mirror” by Marilyn Singer, Illustrated by Josee Masse

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Saturday, April 10, 2010,

“Mirror, Mirror” is a playful take on how perspective shapes our understanding of words and stories.  Singer has created what she calls “a book of reversible verse,” in which she tells the story of a popular folk tale in verse, and then reverses the order of the lines to give another take on the story.


For example, in “Cinderella’s Double Take,” Singer has Cinder...


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"The Black Book of Colors" by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria and Translated by Elisa Amado

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Thursday, April 1, 2010,

This “picture” book would be a wonderful choice in helping younger students to learn about the senses.  All the pages of the book are black, with the text in Braille and in white lettering.  The illustrations are raised print on the pages, without color.  One must feel...


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"Let Freedom Sing" by Vanessa Newton

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Friday, February 5, 2010,


In "Let Freedom Sing," Vanessa Newton has created a delightful picture book to teach younger students about the Civil Rights movement.  She weaves song, images, and historical events together to bring to life the struggle and the joy of making the United States a better, more equal country.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Newton on January 11, 2010, about this book and her process of creating it.  She is a self-taught artist who, as an adult, was diagnosed with dyslexia.  She told stori...
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"The Blue Day Book for Kids: A Lesson in Cheering Yourself Up" by Bradley Trevor Greive

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Sunday, December 27, 2009,


Bradley Trevor Greive has put together animal photos with a snappy text to create a helpful book for elementary-aged children.

His purpose is straight-forward:  he wants children to know what a "blue day" is and to recognize that everyone (maybe even these highly photogenic critters) has a blue day once in a while.  He illustrates some typical causes: feeling grumpy, lonely, or tired; being embarrassed or picked on; or simply just feeling out of place.

But Greive doesn't stop there.  He wants c...
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“One World, One Day” by Barbara Kerley

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Friday, November 27, 2009,


This book, published by National Geographic, has as its premise that all children share certain fundamental experiences on a daily basis.  With lush and sensitive photographs, Kerley creates a story that can both resonate with and educate children about those who live elsewhere in the world.

Mealtimes are likely to be the focus for many children, and Kerley depicts this aspect well...


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“The Frogs and Toads All Sang” by Arnold Lobel

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Friday, November 20, 2009,

I admit it—I am an enormous fan of Lobel’s Frog and Toad series.  I still chant lines from about willpower from the “Cookies” story, I cite Frog’s desire to be alone as different from lonely, and I empathize with their kite flying endeavors.  As a result, I was very excited to see that Lobel’s daughter, Adrianne Lobel, was publishing some new material that her father had...


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"Bartleby Speaks!" By Robin Cruise, Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Thursday, October 1, 2009,


Honestly, there just aren’t that many picture books that allude to Herman Melville’s short stories. Lucky for us, now there is one--"Bartleby Speaks!"

Robin Cruise provides readers with an enchanting and humorous take on Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” a character who was famous for “preferring not to” do pretty much anything he was asked.  In Cruise’s book, Bart...


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Book Blogger Appreciation Week

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Thursday, September 17, 2009,
I thought I would participate, so here are my answers.  I was encouraged to be brief, so I have so striven to be.

One of my favorite books from my childhood from the realm of children’s literature is An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott.  I first read this novel when I was about 10 years old, in a 1960s edition with quirky, anachronistic illustrations that I adored.  This book was truly formative for me;  in fact, enough so that I have often given it as a gift and have written an academic e...


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"I Hear America Singing: Folk Songs for American Families" by Kathleen Krull

Posted by Lydia Schultz on Saturday, August 8, 2009,


This book, with material collected and arranged by Kathleen Krull, gathers songs that are very familiar to people my age (early 50s), but not as familiar to those of younger generations.  And that is simply too bad.  These songs, for me, are the sound track of my elementary school days.  I was lucky enough to attend a public school that used the once ubiquitous Lomax music collections as part of the curriculum, and these titles continue to shape my musical taste to this day.  (It probably exp...
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About Me


Lydia Schultz I am a school librarian and part-time college English teacher. I hope to review many of the books I read, both in the context of my research about children's books as well as in my pursuit of recreational reading. I want to share what I read--so what else is new?


Please feel free to contact me.  I welcome hearing feedback and advice.  If you would like to comment on a particular post, click on the title of the post and a comment box will appear after the post when the page reloads.

Thanks!

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