Welcome to the Bookshelf Detective, a site packed with tricks and tips for readers and writers of children's literature. Thank you for visiting!
Kim Tomsic

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What if Your Best Friend Were Blue?

WHAT IF YOUR BEST FRIEND WERE BLUE? by Vera Kochan, Illustrated by Viviana Garofoli
PUBLISHER: Marshall Cavendish (September 2011)
AGES: 4-8
  • ISBN-10: 0761458972 

  • ISBN-13: 978-0761458975

  • A book review by Bookshelf Detective Kim Tomsic
    WHAT IF YOUR BEST FRIEND WERE BLUE? by Vera Kochan offers a delightful way for children to learn colors while at the same time discovering it's what's inside a person that counts. The book features a yellow doctor, an orange babysitter, a blue best friend and more.
    Author Vera Kochan provides sweet and simple big-concept text while iIllustrator Viviana Garofoli makes your eyes stretch wide. Her rich and captivating scenes marry the whimsical atmosphere of color with a powerful theme, "it's what's on the inside that matters."

    WHAT IF YOUR BEST FRIEND WERE BLUE? is a great reading choice for the classroom. Teachers can follow up with coloring projects where their students compose their own "What if" projects (What if my brother were pink; What if my mom were silver?).  The book also makes a lovely bedtime story and opens light opportunities for parents to discuss tolerance.

    Whether at home or in the classroom, the fantastical charm of the cast of characters (including the green policewoman!) will have kids begging for another read of WHAT IF YOUR BEST FRIEND WERE BLUE?

    Boulder Bookstore
    Barnes & Noble
    Tattered Cover Bookstore

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    Mister Lemur Combines Cultural Literacy with Seuss/Silverstein Style

    Mister Lemur’s book, TRAIN OF THOUGHT features short stories in rhyming verse. Many of the tales have clever educational twists. Clever, I say, because while the reader has fun, he/she never feels manipulated into learning. How? The author avoids talking down to children and freely throws in words like ‘phylum’ or ‘symbiotic’. Science words appear in the heart of adventurous and crazy stories with definitions highlighted at the bottom a respective page. While memorable images are conjured up in the midst of a wild story scene, the words stick like superglue right to the child’s mind. Voila, education transpires.  Mister Lemur stories are cute, whacky and wily with learning as an added bonus.
    Although I was a bit bugged by some of the rhyming meter, I easily got over myself. The amusing stories are different from the norm; in fact, I’d categorize them as a hip version of a classical style. It’s easy to see why kids in the twenty-first century love Mr. Lemur.  The tag line on Mister Lemur’s homepage is, “Moving kids forward, taking parents back.” It’s a balance they brilliantly accomplish. Although the stories are modern, they evoke memories from a parent’s childhood.  Old PBS songs come to mind…remember Conjunction Junction, What’s your function? Mister Lemur’s Threeple feels like a shout-out to Norton Juster’s Phantom Tollbooth while 2043 has a lovely Seuss-ish feel. Furthermore the book is structured like a Shel Silverstein work. Some pages feature short poems while others include short stories and sweet black-line illustrations. Although I’ve grown to love my Kindle, the quality of this book felt luxurious in my hands.
    Kudos to the creators of Mister Lemur. Their passion for children, education, science, philanthropy, wordplay and the Mister Lemur project shines. Mister Lemur's caretakers offer school visits (a Stanford, Wharton educated pair) and they provide a kid-friendly web page where children can ask Mister Lemur questions. Mister Lemur also offers writing contests, music, games, and a regular Mister Lemur newsletter. A portion of all proceeds is donated to wildlife.  

    Some of my favorites from Mister Lemur include: Summer Vacations, Den Head, Threeple, Eyeball, Continental Plates, 2043

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Thirteen Fast Facts With Jay Asher

    After a brief chat with Jay Asher at the SCBWI summer conference, I learned thirteen fast-facts including details on his next project:

    13. We all know THIRTEEN REASONS WHY is being made into a movie, but I didn't know the deal happened because Selena Gomez pursued it;

    12. Although roles for the film have not yet been cast, Gomez will play Hannah;

    11. Asher thinks Gomez is very cool to work with;

    10. Asher did not write the screen play, but he served on the committee to interview screenwriters;

    9. Asher's next project is called THE FUTURE OF US;
    8. He co-wrote THE FUTURE OF US with Carolyn Mackler. Mackler is the author of the Printz award winning book THE EARTH MY BUTT AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS.

    I interrupt this count-down for a brief Interviewer Intrusion:With this dream-team, THE FUTURE OF US has to be amazing!

    7. I asked if the book was written in a similar fashion to DASH AND LILY'S BOOK OF DARES. Asher said that although they took turns writing chapters, they also dug into one another’s work, edited and even revamped chapters;

    6. Asher has been a regular at the SCBWI conference for years. Thirteen Reasons Why is no comedy, but according to Lin Oliver, Jay Asher is one hilarious guy; in fact he was the regular winner of the annual joke contest held during the summer conference. It was during one of these SCBWI conferences prior to Asher getting published when he briefly met Carolyn Mackler (he says he was a big fan). After he was published, Asher blurbed Mackler's name and something regarding TANGLED (Mackler's last novel)...hmmm, I met Asher at a conference...I'm blurbing his book...this must mean that Jay Asher and I have a co-authored book in our future!

    5. After seeing what Asher wrote, Mackler contacted Asher and initiated the idea to co-write a book. Asher agreed and they began sending chapters back and forth to create THE FUTURE OF US;

    4. They met "live" for the first time at the 2010 SCBWI summer conference where they dressed for the theme evening (Along with Rachel Vail) as the ____ Bo Peeps (you'll have to fill in the blank with your imagination);

    3. THE FUTURE OF US is set in 1996. When two teens take their AOL disc and toss it into their computer, the 2011 internet page of Facebook pops up hence releasing a crystal ball into the future;

    2. THE FUTURE OF US releases in November, 2011;

    1. THE FUTURE OF US has already been optioned for a movie deal.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Diversity in YA Fiction

    "Diversity in YA Fiction is a website and book tour founded by two young adult authors, Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon, to celebrate diverse stories in YA."

    I came across Diversity in YA Fiction on Twitter (@cindypon). She posted a challenge to take the DiYA reading challenge:
    What to read: You can read whichever diverse books you like! By diverse we mean: (1) main characters or major secondary characters (e.g., a love interest or best friend kind of character) who are of color or are LGBT; or (2) written by a person of color or LGBT author. If you need some suggestions, check out our monthly lists of new books, and these book lists at Black Teens Read."
    My "Diversity" Reading Experience:
    I grew up in a military family. We moved from base to base and diversity was the consistent norm. Although the classroom rosters included a good number of students who were Latino, Korean, Vietnamese, Black, White, etc., I only saw--Hong, the prettiest girl in school;or Addie, oh, so funny, or Nanae, super-good at basketball... I want on her team; or Jason, will he look at me today or is he crushing on Hong. Sure, attention was given to labels like rich and poor, but we never wasted time on color. I honestly thought my school, my world was a microcosm of how all communities functioned. It wasn't until after I graduated college that I discovered my experiences were unique.  By taking the Diversity in YA challenge, I enjoyed getting lost in the texture and color of different worlds now that I live in a white-washed community.   Reading expands teens' horizons and experiences. Just like I thought everyone grew up with diversity, there are those who may have limited exposure to diversity and in turn they believe their world is the norm. Thank goodness for authors like Matt de la Pena and Sherman Alexie (and Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo) who set us straight while entertaining.

    Some recommendations to add to the suggested reading list include:
    We Were Here by Matt de la Peña
    How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen
    A Single Shard by Lin Sue Park
    Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
    Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Peña
    Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Peña
    Paris Pan Takes the Dare by Cynthea Liu
    The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Same Kind of Different As Me (not technically a YA or MG read, but still recommended) by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

    What are additional titles that should be added to this list?

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