Have some soup…

I don’t know about you, but I’m under the weather something awful. In the anthology Minificción Mexicana is a story called “El Letroscopio” (“The Letroscope”) by the poet Raúl Renán. It reads like a bittersweet joke, a fable that’s been around forever. The gist is this: A man sees a doctor about a sharp pain in his book–the letters have fallen out from rough, excessive reading. The doctor prescribes the man alphabet soup after every meal, and pen exercises every morning, to restore his book. The man returns, after a year, with a book full of nonsense. The poor book expires.

I am thinking, the words in my own head jostled and shaken for the moment, that alphabet soup sure did Martha a lot more good than it did that guy. Even when her steady diet of words is garbled by missing letters in her soup in Martha Blah Blah, she still finds ways to get the message across. She’s kind of like the Cows that Type that way.

martha blah blah cover and catalog link

What would you say with your soup, even if you didn’t have all the letters?

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Take the A Train!

Well, not literally, however at all CLP locations on Saturday, February 1 at 12 Noon you will hear/sing some rendition of the song “Take the A Train!” by Pittsburgher Billy Strayhorn.  This event is the kick-off to Black History Month 2014, a celebration of 28 days of Black History!

Find out about all the events taking place during the month of February plus a list of recommended resources at http://carnegielibrary.org/events/programs/bhm/#programs

Check out this rendition of “Take the A Train” by Nikki Yanofsky.

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Kazoo times two!

On Saturday, February 1, you will have TWO separate opportunities to make music with the humble but versatile kazoo.

From 12 to 12:15, as part of the Black History Month kickoff, there will be renditions of Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train.”

From 2 to 3, we will have our annual Kazoo Fest, complete with requests. Hope to see you at either or both!

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2013 WAS PRIME FOR PICTURE BOOKS

Although every year has its standouts, 2013 had so many picture books I love. My colleague Kathy listed her favorites on her last post and I’d like to add my mine as well:

Journeyjourney by Aaron Becker
With a red marker, a young girl draws herself into a magical journey, filled with a castle, airships, a captured bird, adventure and heroism. Get a taste of this world, all told wordlessly, in a wonderful book trailer.

insideInside, Outside by Lizzi Boyd
Inside is a creative home with drawings, pets, plants, a puppet stage, a tepee. Outside, a child romps through every season. Die cut holes and repeating details tie the two together. Muted colors on brown-paper-like backgrounds infuse this wordless book with coziness and warmth.

tigerMr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Mr. Tiger lives in an uptight Victorian town until one day he decides to shed his upright existence and walk on all fours. One wild thing leads to another until he flees to the jungle. Feeling lonely, he heads back to town to find his rebellion inspired others to let loose a little.

crayonsThe Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
When Duncan opens his box of crayons, he discovers a stack of letters instead. Each crayon has written its own funny complaint and asks him to change the way he uses them..

flamingoFlora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
Roly-poly Flora with outsized flippers echoes almost every movement of a flamingo until she’s caught in the act and thrown off-balance. But all is righted in this wordless flap book before they dive in with an exuberant splash.

squashSophie’s Squashby Pat Zietlow Miller
Loves comes in many shapes. Sophie finds hers at the Farmer’s Market in Bernice, a squash just right for summersaults and tea parties. Although her parents worry about rot, Sophie never does.

howHow To by Julie Morstad
With refreshing simplicity, Morstad lets us in on how to do ordinary things in winsome ways.

pandaXander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Parks
Xander wants to throw a panda party but he’s the only one at the zoo. So he decides to extend his invitations to all bears only to find he has many, many more friends.

hareTortoise and the Hare by Jerry Pinkney
Caldecott winning author and artist Jerry Pinkney set this wordless version in the American Southwest. He captures the excitement – and setbacks  – of the race in the expressions of his motley crew of animals.

duskDusk by Uri Shulevitz
A small boy and his grandfather wander while nature’s lights grow dim. Along the way, they meet eccentric shoppers including one from the planet Zataplat. Little by little, lights from shops, from holiday celebrations, from traffic transform the city, making it “as bright as day.”

ideaThat’s Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems
Willems turns an archetype wolf/chicken story on its head. And does it framed like a silent movie complete with a Greek chorus of peeps.

Tina Zubak

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Favorites of 2013

There were (as there always seems to be) a lot of great books in 2013.  It’s impossible to pick just one . . . so, here are some of my favorites.  How about yours?

index

Baby Parade by Rebecca O’Connell

cat

Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner

clip

Ol’ Clip Clop, a Ghost Story by Patricia McKissack

crayons

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

flora

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Schaar Idle

frog 2

Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folgueira

idea

That is NOT a Good Idea! by Mo Willems

king

The King of Little Things by Bil Lepp

luck

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata

tortoise

The Tortoise and the Hare by Jerry Pinkney

babymouse

Extreme Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

pete

Pete the Cat–Play Ball! by James Dean

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Tuesday Tales: Nursery Rhymes

NurseryRhymes1

Most everyone remembers a favorite Mother Goose rhyme that has a place in their childhood memories.  And although scholars warn us of the nursery rhymes’ more sinister historical meanings, I prefer to find the simple joy in them when shared with little ones.  The Children’s Department offers a wide selection of nursery rhymes in both the circulating and special collections.

The fact is that rhymes have sounds and a rhythmical quality that comfort and entertain young children.  The rhymes also introduce and share the sounds and rhythms of our language.  When children listen to nursery rhymes they participate and develop listening skills.  Think of all the things that rhymes can help to impart and develop: counting, sequencing, large and small motor skills, fluency, speech, vocabulary, and language.   But besides all of the many benefits and skills that rhymes develop and reinforce, they are simply fun and playful.  When we share Mother Goose with children we can create wonderful memories, support literacy skills, and perhaps event plant the seeds for a future appreciation of poetry.

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Braille Literacy Month: Resources for encouraging literacy in blind children

January is Braille Literacy Month! With the fascinating advances in text-to-speech technology, accessible e-books and terrific audiobook narrators, it’s easy to forget how revolutionary Louis Braille‘s writing system for blind people really was. (Literally–Braille had to fight his school in order to use it.) Braille can seem cumbersome to many people, but it was an improvement over the raised letters people like Laura Bridgman used. And for everyday life, functional knowledge of Braille can still make things easier. In Do You Remember the Color Blue?, Sally Hobart Alexander writes, “Even though I’m slow [at reading Braille], Braille is crucial to my independence and keeps my spelling from deteriorating.”

For children who are born or become blind, early literacy skills present their own challenges. Sighted children are surrounded by signage and labels and other printed information, which provides ample opportunity for encouraging print awareness. Parents and caregivers might wonder how they can develop that awareness in blind children.

The Perkins School offers an extensive list of resources from pre-braille skills to reinforcement of existing skills.

Family Connect has a tip sheet for encouraging literacy skills in children with both blindness and low vision.

For children using a refreshable Braille display, Braillebug at the AFB has book trivia word scrambles in Braille. There are also many games for sighted people who want to learn the Braille alphabet.

The Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has Braille books and equipment. Several county libraries have Braille books as well.

For kids who want to show off their Braille skills, they can try the annual Braille Challenge.

So why not show kids what’s at their fingertips?

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Yeah, we’re cool . . .

Tuesday in the Children’s Department we decided to have some fun with this frigid, arctic weather we’re having instead of complaining…

As a part of our Homeschool Tuesdays program, we went outside to try a couple of things you can only do when it’s this cold.

First, we tossed boiling water into the air:

IMG_2678

Yes, this really works!  Though, it worked better when I tried it at home this morning when the air temperature was -10 on my porch.  It had warmed up to a balmy +3 when we did it at the library.

Next, we froze t-shirts.

IMG_2690

Yes, the t-shirt is frozen solid, not being blown by the wind.

Lessons learned:

  1. You can make your own snow!  When extreme cold hits, there’s very little water vapour in the air. Boiling water, on the other hand, emits a large amount of vapour – and that’s why it steams. When it interacts with cold temperatures, the excess vapour crystallizes, creating instant snowflakes.   (explanation taken from theweathernetwork.com)
  2. Cold air is dangerous!  It doesn’t take very long for things to freeze in sub-zero temperatures especially when you factor in the wind chill.  The shirt took only a few minutes to freeze with an air temperature of +3 and wind chill of -15.
  3. There is fun to be had no matter the weather…and, you may learn something if you’re not careful!

Now, time for a cup of tea, blanket, and a good book.  What are you reading?  We’d love to hear!

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Tuesday Tales: Randolph Caldecott

17218999[1]In Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Wouldn’t Stop Drawing, Leonard Marcus brings a fresh and fascinating presentation of the artist’s life and works through his meticulous research and in-depth understanding of the artist who influenced so many artists and those in the field of children’s literature.   Last year was the 75th Anniversary of the Caldecott Medal that honors “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. “  Later this month another illustrator will be recognized with this award for their contribution to the field in the spirit and excellence of Caldecott.

Caldecott began his work life as a bank clerk, always spending his spare observing the world around him.  His passion was art and he soon positioned himself to become one, if not the most influential force in the development of the picture book.  Caldecott was a determined man with a specific dream, to make his living not in a bank but as an illustrator.

One of the thought-provoking points that Marcus shares in this new biography is how the nineteenth century in England brought the technological advances that would alter the face of publishing forever and with it usher in the mass production and distribution of books as never before.   This in turn would benefit artists such as Caldecott.  Marcus writes,

“Rich or poor, Caldecott and his contemporaries were all acutely aware of having been born into a remarkable age, an era of breathtaking changes in the way people worked, traveled, communicated, experienced time and space, and imagined the world.  What was more, nearly all the changes were man-made  -  brought about by human ingenuity and the invention of new machines.  Without these changes, Caldecott could not have had the career in art that he did.”

From Caldecott’s younger years in the more rural Chester and Whitchurch, to the industrial center of Manchester and finally London, he seemed to be driven to the larger cities that would facilitate his goal.  Manchester offered other artistic types, art classes, and the everyday life that he documented in his sketchbooks.  The transition to London, made possible by faster railroads, was the next logical step to fulfilling his desire to illustrate full time.  (Unfortunately, the pollution in these larger cities did nothing to help Caldecott’s ill health.)  His first London residence happened to be across the street from the British Museum that provided endless resources for him to study, sketch, and practice his skills.  His momentum as an artist was building, and like the time he lived in was speeding forward to great accomplishments.

It is important to note that during this period society paid a heavy price for such advancements, including children trapped in horrific working conditions, the growing number of people living in poverty, and the dire effects on living conditions and the environment.  My grandfather was eight years old in 1880 when he and his mother, father, and little sister came from England to make a better life.  Years later, while searching census records, I discovered that he had two other siblings who died shortly before their journey to America.   He never talked about his other sister and brother to our family.  He did say that his father was angry that there were so many people suffering with so little while others lived in luxury.  My grandfather made it clear he would never return to his homeland.  It was a time of great advancements in technology and travel, yet a tragic time for many.

However, Leonard Marcus makes us realize that out of such contrasts and suffering an extraordinary amount of beauty emerged.  Randolph Caldecott’s art and his impact on children’s literature as well as other artists is a shining example of something good and positive from a less than ideal time.

caldecott2cadecott3caldecott1

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Free Chess Classes

Children from kindergarten to eighth grade who know basic chess will learn strategy and checkmates during our six-week series of Saturday chess classes from January 18 through February 22 at 10:15 a.m. Chess helps develop math, spatial, social and emotional skills. And the more you know about it, the more fun it becomes! Classes build on one another so plan to attend them all. Call 412-622-3122 or email children@carnegielibrary.org to reserve a place.

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