Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two Books For Kids About How Hard It Is To Fit In

February 29, 2012

One of the great things about being a reader is that over time, the books on your shelf seem to start talking to one another. Themes echo and resurface and resonate in new ways. That's why in February, NPR's Backseat Book Club — our monthly feature aimed at young readers — selected a pair of books published 60 years apart that still seem to speak directly to each other.
The Hundred Dresses, a children's classic written in 1944 by Eleanor Estes, is about Wanda Petronski, a Polish schoolgirl whose classmates tease her for wearing tattered clothes. The story was inspired by a little girl Estes remembered from her own childhood who was picked on by other kids. Estes' daughter Helena says her mother never forgot that little girl — but she didn't know what became of her.
"As an adult, once she had become a writer, she figured that the only thing she could do was to write her story ... and that in itself, I think, is very, very touching," Helena Estes says.
Over six decades, The Hundred Dresses has touched millions of kids with its poignant tale of bullies and bystanders. Helena Estes can attest to that. She's a children's librarian and says her mom's book is in constant circulation. After all, everyone feels like an outsider at some point.
"Perhaps they've been mean to somebody and regretted that, or perhaps they've stood aside and done nothing when they knew they should have spoken up," Estes says. "I think that all children recognize that has happened to them and to others, and so the book really speaks ... to everybody
The main character in our second book certainly feels that way. In Shooting Kabul we meet Fadi, a little boy who is a refugee. He and his family escaped from the Taliban's grip in Afghanistan one night in the summer of 2001. During the harrowing journey, Fadi's little sister drops her Barbie doll and gets separated from the family as they climb onto a truck and speed away into the night. Fadi's family ends up in Northern California, and as they struggle to assimilate, Fadi also struggles with his guilt; he feels responsible for losing his sister Mariam, because he was supposed to be holding onto her hand.
Fadi arrives in the U.S. with just a few cherished items: his favorite book and his camera. The title — Shooting Kabul — refers to the photos he loves to take. In school, it's difficult for him to fit in; he struggles to learn the language, culture and customs of America.
Shooting Kabul
Then Sept. 11 happens, and navigating his new country becomes even more difficult for Fadi. "He, being an Afghan — he, being a Muslim — faces a lot of issues that happen in the grown-up world," says author Naheed Senzai. "And as we know, they trickle down onto the playground at school."
For many authors, it's a challenge to write books that explore emotionally complex terrain yet remain accessible to children. But Senzai has faith in her young readers. "I always think kids are smarter than us in many ways," she says. "They may be in the background, they may be — as you say — sitting in the back seat. But they know what's going on around in the world."
The book that Fadi carried with him to the U.S. is another children's classic, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. That sparked a question from one of our young readers, Ellie Carlile, a 12-year-old from Georgia whose father has served in the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan. Carlile wanted to know how Senzai came up with the idea of connecting Shooting Kabul with a book written decades ago.
Senzai says Konigsburg's classic was one of her favorite books growing up. "When I was writing Shooting Kabul, I thought, well, this is a book about running away," Senzai explains. "I thought it would be wonderful to compare their stories, because in many ways Fadi and the main character, Claudia, face a lot of the same issues. They both have mysteries to solve."
There's that idea again — a thread that feels just as fresh in classic and contemporary works. Senzai didn't read The Hundred Dresses as a kid, but once she picked it up, she immediately understood why we paired the books together.
"I saw such immense parallels between Shooting Kabul and The Hundred Dresses," Senzai explains. "... These themes of bullying and acceptance and immigrants and becoming a part of the fabric in America is a theme that's played for many, many years."
For both Wanda and Fadi, art helps them endure the unkindness of their peers and lifts them up on their darkest days. Wanda draws all the dresses she wishes she had, and Fadi turns to photography to help find his lost little sister. "It's an outlet for expression," Senzai says.

PG-13: Risky Reads from NPR

At 13, you crave the adult stuff — the drama, the relationships, the mind-blowing ideas — even if you're not ready for adulthood. "PG-13" presents authors discussing the books that transformed and matured their teenage minds.

The End Is Near, And It's No Walk 'On The Beach' (5) Recommend (27)

May 25, 2012 Growing up in the '80s, author Myla Goldberg crafted a survival plan in the event of a nuclear war. But all that changed when she read On the Beach by Nevil Shute. Have you ever read a book that gave you a sobering picture of the world? Tell us in the comments.
Featured in this story:

Teenage Tales: Sneaking Looks In Sexy Books(0) Recommend (20)

May 25, 2012 Coming out as a teenager can be difficult. That's why finding Rubyfruit Jungle was important for author Emily Danforth. The book's lesbian narrator helped her figure out who she wanted to be. Have you ever found a book that helped you understand yourself better? Tell us about it in the comments.

'I Am The Cheese': A Nightmarish Nail-Biter(1) Recommend (22)

May 25, 2012 Something about Robert Cormier's I Am the Cheese, made author Ben Marcus worry. It was the first time he had encountered an unreliable narrator — and he found it disconcerting. Do you have a favorite narrator who doesn't quite tell the truth? Tell us who in the comments.
Featured in this story:

Graphic Novels from Lat

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Kampung Boy & Town Boy

by Andrew Wheeleron at 2:57 pm
Posted In: , Reviews

It can be a bit disconcerting to discover that whole comics industries exist in previously unsuspected places. We all know about the large French-Belgian comics market, and of course the massive world of Japanese manga, but who suspected that there was a great Malaysian cartoonist?
Well, there is, and his name is Lat. He’s been working in comics since the late ‘60s, but his work has never been published in the US before. His stories first appeared weekly in the newspaper Berita Minggu when he was thirteen years old, and he was awarded the prestigious Malaysian honorific title Datuk in 1994. (Think something along the lines of “Sir” or “Lord.”) According to Wikipedia, Lat’s real name is Mohammed Nor Khalid, and much of his work seems to be political or topical cartoons for the major Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times. (The Wikipedia entry has a list of his titles, and many of them sound like compilations of previously published work.)
Kampung Boy seems to have been his first standalone graphic novel, and begins his autobiography; Town Boy continues the story from the point Kampung Boy leaves off, and brings him up nearly to the end of his schooling. Kampung Boy is laid out more like a children’s book than like comics; the art spreads across the pages, accompanied by hand-lettered text set like captions. There are no panel borders, and only the occasional word balloon. Town Boy starts off in the same style, but turns into more traditional comics for much of its length, with long stretches laid out as panels with word balloons. The difference is that the purely narrated sections – all of Kampung Boy, and the parts of Town Boy covering general information or longer stretches of time – are done in the first style, while detailed, dialogue-intensive scenes need the immediacy of balloons and borders.
Kampung Boy begins like a traditional autobiography: Lat is born on the first page. The rest of the book chronicles his life in a very rural village, or kampung, up to about the age of ten, when he is sent off to a boarding school in the town of Ipoh. The details of his life are exotic, but the rhythms of rural life, and of boyhood, are very familiar and well captured. Lat may be a Muslim boy on the other side of the world, in a region that farms rubber and mines tin, but the life of a boy in a village, falling asleep during lessons in a small school and swimming with his friends in the river, is not all that different from Mark Twain’s childhood.

Town Boy becomes a bit more exotic, because Lat (called Mat in the book, for no reason I can see) is now a teenager, living in a larger town, and interested in the strange and foreign (to him) world of Western rock music. It also focuses more on Lat/Mat’s friendships, schooling, and his appreciation for Normah, the most beautiful girl in Ipoh. But, again, he’s a boy at school in the middle of the 20th century, hanging out with his friends and hoping to do well on his exams – the universals outweigh the specifics, and make a story we can easily enter into.
Lat’s drawing style is very energetic and stylized; he creates very caricatured, idiosyncratic people and incorporates a lot of motion into his drawings. There’s something reminiscent of Don Martin or Sergio Aragones in his work, though clearly coming out of a different artistic tradition – he’s drawing funny pictures to make his readers smile and laugh, and uses much of the same visual shorthand to do so. He’s a cartoonist rather than an illustrator, and I mean that as praise; he knows how to make his drawings lively and funny. (His depiction of teenage boys’ slouching, no-hurry walk is exceptionally good.)
First Second is aiming a lot of its books at the Young Adult and library market, and Lat’s autobiographies are a natural for a young (particularly male) audience. But there’s no reason why Kampung Boy and Town Boy should be restricted to younger audiences; they’re suitable for young readers but not restricted to them. Anyone interested in humorous cartooning and coming-of-age stories should find much to enjoy in Lat’s books – so I hope First Second will publish more of them.

Kampung Boy
First Second, 2006, $16.95

Town Boy
First Second, 2007, $16.95

Yoga with Babar

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-4-Babar confides that even elephants experience stress in their day-to-day living, and a little yoga, it seems, goes a long way in providing comfort and relaxation. In fact, the book starts out by revealing that little clay cylinders found in a cave near Celesteville prove that elephants invented yoga. This find was authenticated at the National Library, where elephants, together with human yoga experts, "discovered that all of the poses depicted on the seals are still practiced today." Spreads feature instructional text on one side, with Babar illustrating the poses on the other. After introducing yoga to Celesteville, Babar and Celeste go on a worldwide jaunt where they practice their favorite yoga positions in front of famous landmarks. The Proud Warrior is demonstrated in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Bridge is practiced in front of the Half Dome in Yosemite, and, because "the traffic in Times Square is terrible," the Lotus position returns Babar's and Celeste's minds to Celesteville. While the art style is reminiscent of the original books, the colors are far more subdued. A note at the end reminds children that "this book is intended for elephants interested in yoga," and that "humans and other animals should consult books written specifically with them in mind." The book includes a large, removable poster. Babar's Yoga would be useful for larger collections needing information on the subject.
Lisa Gangemi Kropp, Middle Country Public Library, Centereach, NY
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Publishers Weekly

Babar narrates this lighthearted guide to yoga for pachyderms (and people). He begins by explaining that archeologists working in a cave near Celesteville recently discovered ancient drawings revealing that woolly mammoths not only practiced yoga they invented it. Since then, yoga has become "tremendously popular" in Babar's hometown; it "helps us all to relax and draw strength from our inner elephant." In straightforward prose, this thoroughly relaxed elephant outlines yoga movements, stretches and exercises to improve balance and to strengthen the back and stomach. (Yoga lovers will recognize his opening Salutation to the Sun, and all that follow, as the real McCoy.) Though these instructions include playful touches (at one point Babar notes, "I find wrapping my trunk around my feet helps to stretch"), aspiring yoga practitioners can easily follow de Brunhoff's directives and imitate the movements in his signature watercolor renderings of the earnest narrator. A comical concluding sequence of pages shows Babar and pals putting their yoga positions to the test as they stretch in the airport during a delay, relax on the median at Times Square or imitate landmarks (e.g., a Head Stand in the Place de la Concorde next to the obelisk; a Standing Head to Knee in Venice's Piazza San Marco). This diverting volume conveys de Brunhoff's passion for his subject both the star and his practice. All ages.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Graphic Novels 101: FAQ by Robin Brenner

From the March/April 2006 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

Graphic Novels 101: FAQ

By Robin Brenner

By day a mild-mannered library technician at Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, Massachusetts, Brenner is the creator and editor-in-chief of “No Flying, No Tights,” a website reviewing graphic novels for teens, and “Sidekicks,” its sister site for kids. Here are her answers to some frequently asked questions.

Q What’s the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel?

A Most simply, length. A comic and a graphic novel are told via the same format, officially called sequential art: the combination of text, panels, and images. Comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels are in this sense all the same thing, but comic books stretch a story out to about thirty pages, whereas graphic novels can be as long as six hundred pages.

Q What’s the difference between American comics and Japanese manga?

A There are a few key differences between American graphic novels and Japanese graphic novels, or manga. While superhero comics still dominate the U.S. market, in Japan there is a much wider diversity of topics, from romantic comedies to historical fiction to how-to comics, and they are published in both weekly and monthly installments. Japanese comics work with a complex language of visual signals, from character design to sound effects to common symbols. The biggest difference is obvious: Japanese comics are from another culture and were never intended for export. In some ways, Japan’s pop culture is like ours, but in many ways it’s not, and learning the secret code that opens up those stories for us is one thing that makes manga so appealing to American readers.

Q Are different graphic novels aimed at different audiences?

A Most certainly! In today’s market, graphic novels exist for almost everyone but are not automatically for all ages. In the past, American comics were mostly aimed at children and teens, but today there are graphic novels for everyone from elementary school kids to seniors. It’s true that a higher percentage of graphic novels and comics are still essentially aimed at men from teens to middle age, while girls and women have fewer titles created expressly for their tastes. Japanese manga creators, on the other hand, have a specific age and gender audience in mind when working on their titles, and those age and gender recommendations usually hold up.

Q What are some common misconceptions about graphic novels?

A Comics and graphic novels are for kids. In reality, comics never were just for kids. Even in the 1940s–1950s Golden Age of superhero comics, there were crime, fantasy, and science fiction comics intended for teens and adults rather than children. However, due to the hullabaloo started by psychologist Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent (1954), which drew a tenuous connection between juvenile delinquency and comics, comics’ content became watered down. Many adults are still under the impression that the format automatically means juvenile content — but as the average age of a comics reader is thirty, this is certainly not true.

Graphic novels are all full of violence and explicit sex. On almost opposite tack to the idea that graphic novels are for kids, many adults fear that they are full of sex and violence. Like many previous formats, graphic novels are painted with the extremes of what’s available. There are comics with R- or X-rated content, but they are not the bulk of what’s available, nor are those titles intended for younger audiences.

Comics and graphic novels are only superheroes. Yes, superheroes are still the bread and butter of the big companies, but genre diversity is increasing every day with more and more independent companies publishing a range of genres, from memoir to fantasy to historical fiction. This is partly what has allowed graphic novels to truly break into the book market. On the other hand, this distinction could also lead to the mistaken conclusion that there is nothing of value in superhero comics. A few years ago, many dismissed fantasy as a lesser genre, but the success and popularity of Harry Potter has reminded the reading public that genre does not define quality.

Graphic novels are for reluctant readers. One of the biggest benefits of graphic novels is that they often attract kids who are considered “reluctant” readers. This is not just hype — the combination of less text, narrative support from images, and a feeling of reading outside the expected canon often relieves the tension of reading expectations for kids who are not natural readers, and lets them learn to be confident and engaged consumers of great stories. That being said, graphic novels are not only for reluctant readers — they’re for everyone! It’s a disservice to the format to dismiss it as only for those who don’t read otherwise, and relegating graphic novels to a lower rung of the reading scale is not only snobbish, but wrong.

Graphic novels aren’t “real” books. This one’s a zinger and contains a bit of truth and a lot of prejudice. The key to categorizing graphic novels is to remember that they’re a format, akin to audiobooks, videos, and television, all media that have struggled for acceptance. Graphic novels are not and were never intended to be a replacement for prose. Sequential art is just another way to tell a story, with different demands on the reader. So, yes, graphic novels don’t work exactly the same way that traditional novels do, but they can be as demanding, creative, intelligent, compelling, and full of story as any book.

Q Why should kids read comics and graphic novels?

A Graphic novels are simply another way to get a story. They represent an alternative to other formats, not a replacement. They are as varied as any other medium and have their fair share of every kind of title, from fluff to literary masterpieces. What they always involve, though, is reading — just as books, from Newbery winners to the latest installment in the Animorphs series, do. Stephen Krashen, who examines voluntary reading in his book The Power of Reading, discovered that comics are an unrecognized influence on reading. He found that not only were kids more likely to pick up comics voluntarily, but the average comic book has twice the vocabulary as the average children’s book and three times the vocabulary of a conversation between an adult and child. And the very fact that a child chooses to read them gives them a greater impact on that child’s confidence in reading.

Not only do graphic novels entail reading in the traditional sense, they also require reading in a new way. To read a comic requires an active participation in the text that is quite different from reading prose: the reader must make the connections between the images and the text and create the links between each panel and the page as a whole. This is generally referred to as “reading between the panels,” and this kind of literacy is not only new but vital in interacting with and succeeding in our multimedia world. If you’ve ever struggled to make the connections in reading a graphic novel while a teen reader whizzes through it, you’ve experienced how different this type of literacy is.

Squish Trailer

In the battle between good and evil, there's only one who has the courage to do what's right... SQUISH! Saving the world...one cell at a time!



From Booklist:
Gr. 4-6. In this energetic comic by a brother-sister team (Jennifer's Our Only May Amelia was a Newbery Honor Book), Babymouse, a wise-cracking rodent stand-in for your average, adventure-seeking nine-year-old, strives to capture popular Felicia's goodwill, finally achieving her end at the expense of Wilson Weasel, truest of friends. But, wouldn't you know it, Felicia's world has little to offer a smart, fun-loving mouse, after all. The Holms spruce up some well-trod ground with breathless pacing and clever flights of Babymouse's imagination, and their manic, pink-toned illustrations of Babymouse and her cohorts vigorously reflect the internal life of any million-ideas-a-minute middle-school student. Jesse Karp
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

For more about Babymouse and her upcoming July 10 release of Babymouse for President, go to http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/babymouse/homepage.htm

At The Eric Carle Museum...


Our British Cousins: The Magical Art of Maisy and Friends
May 22 - November 25, 2012
Lucy Cousins is the creator of the beloved Maisy series. She is also the author-illustrator of numerous other stories, including the widely acclaimed Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales, a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book, as well as I’m the Best and Hooray for Fish! The Eric Carle Museum is pleased to announce it will host a survey of this wonderful artist’s work: Our British Cousins: The Magical Art of Maisy and Friends in the central gallery. The exhibition, comprising forty works, will be on view from May 22 until November 25, 2012. Lucy Cousins, who lives in Hampshire, England, will make a special visit to the Museum in the fall [consult the website for updated information]. The generosity of Candlewick Press and Walker Books UK have made this exhibition and Lucy’s visit possible.

Support for Our British Cousins: The Magical Art of Maisy and Friends has been generously provided by Candlewick Press.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Freeing the Elephants from The New Yorker

Freeing the Elephants

What Babar brought.

by September 22, 2008

Some left-wing critics have read in the Babar story an implicit endorsement of the civilizing effects of French colonialism.
Some left-wing critics have read in the Babar story an implicit endorsement of the civilizing effects of French colonialism.
A chain of elephants, trunks and tails linked, wanders, with a mixture of upbeat energy and complacent pride, along the endpapers of a children’s book. So begins one of the stories that most please the imagination of the modern child and his distant relation the modern adult—Jean de Brunhoff’s “The Story of Babar,” published in 1931. The Babar books are among those half-dozen picture books that seem to fix not just a character but a whole way of being, even a civilization. An elephant, lost in the city, does not trumpet with rage but rides a department-store elevator up and down, until gently discouraged by the elevator boy. A Haussmann-style city rises in the middle of the barbarian jungle. Once seen, Babar the Frenchified elephant is not forgotten. With Bemelmans’s “Madeline” and Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” the Babar books have become part of the common language of childhood, the library of the early mind. There are few parents who haven’t tried them and few small children who don’t like them. They also remain one of the few enterprises begun by a father and continued by his son in more or less the same style. Laurent de Brunhoff, who was twelve when his father died, at the age of just thirty-seven, picked up the elephant brush after the Second World War and has gone on producing Babar books, with the same panache, almost to this day. (Audubon’s sons’ continuation of their father’s “Quadrupeds” is another instance, but in that case the father was alive when the sons began to carry on the work.)

Babar comes to us now in a show, at the Morgan Library & Museum, of the early drafts and watercolor drawings for the first books by both de Brunhoff père and de Brunhoff fils. Jean had produced the very first Babar book at the demand of his wife and two children, who had fallen in love with an elephant-centered bedtime story that she had been telling the children in the summer of 1930. He came from a family of artists perched on the ledge—a broad one in the France of his time—between fine-arts painting and book and fashion illustration. (De Brunhoff’s father had worked with the academic Impressionist James Tissot, and his brother was the editor of French Vogue.)
Jean de Brunhoff was trained as a painter, and what strikes one first about his preliminary drawings for “Babar” is how much more conventionally masterly—the work of an obviously accomplished draftsman—they look than the final drawings do. The sketches are sinuous and authoritative as de Brunhoff searches out form and dramatic manner. (He made oil paintings for adult collectors, and those which survive are likewise quite conservative and finished.) The completed Babar drawings, by contrast, are beautiful small masterpieces of the faux-naïf: the elephant faces reduced to a language of points and angles, each figure cozily encased in its black-ink outline, a friezelike arrangement of figures against a background of pure color. De Brunhoff’s style is an illustrator’s version of Matisse, Dufy, and Derain, which by the nineteen-thirties had already been filtered and defanged and made part of the system of French design.

But the Babar books are more than the sum of their lines. By now, of course, a controversial literature is possible about anything, and yet to discover that there is a controversial literature about Babar is a little shocking—faut-il brûler Babar? (“Must we burn Babar?”), as one inquisitor puts it, in a famous French locution. And the controversial literature isn’t trivial: it touches on questions that are real and enduring. In the past few decades, a series of critics on the left, most notably the Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman, have indicted Babar in the course of a surprisingly resilient and hydra-headed argument about the uses of imagery and the subtleties of imperialist propaganda. Babar, such interpreters have insisted, is an allegory of French colonization, as seen by the complacent colonizers: the naked African natives, represented by the “good” elephants, are brought to the imperial capital, acculturated, and then sent back to their homeland on a civilizing mission. The elephants that have assimilated to the ways of the metropolis dominate those which have not. The true condition of the animals—to be naked, on all fours, in the jungle—is made shameful to them, while to become an imitation human, dressed and upright, is to be given the right to rule. The animals that resist—the rhinoceroses—are defeated. The Europeanized elephants are, as in the colonial mechanism of indirect rule, then made trustees of the system, consuls for the colonial power. To be made French is to be made human and to be made superior. The straight lines and boulevards of Celesteville, the argument goes, are the sign of enslavement. Through such subtle imprinting, the premises of imperialism come to be treated as natural. The case cannot be dismissed out of hand: it’s easy to see that, say, “Little Black Sambo,” for all his pancake-eating charms, needs to be thought through before being introduced to young readers, while, to take an extreme example, a book from nineteen-thirties Germany about the extermination of long-nosed rats by obviously Aryan cats would go on anyone’s excluded list, however beautifully drawn.
Yet those who would burn “Babar” miss the true subject of the books. The de Brunhoffs’ saga is not an unconscious expression of the French colonial imagination; it is a self-conscious comedy about the French colonial imagination and its close relation to the French domestic imagination. The gist of the classic early books of the nineteen-thirties—“The Story of Babar” and “Babar the King,” particularly—is explicit and intelligent: the lure of the city, of civilization, of style and order and bourgeois living is real, for elephants as for humans. The costs of those things are real, too, in the perpetual care, the sobriety of effort, they demand. The happy effect that Babar has on us, and our imaginations, comes from this knowledge—from the child’s strong sense that, while it is a very good thing to be an elephant, still, the life of an elephant is dangerous, wild, and painful. It is therefore a safer thing to be an elephant in a house near a park.

Every children’s story that works at all begins with a simple opposition of good and evil, of straightforward innocence and envious corruption. While the good hero or heroine has to be particularized, with flaws and idiosyncrasies, the evil force is, oddly, the more powerful the less distinct it is; because villainy is itself so interesting, there’s no great need to particularize the villain. In few works of children’s literature is the creation of dull and faceless evil as effective as it is in the Babar saga. “Page 2 of ‘Babar’ ” is a code word among certain parents for the entire issue of what it is right to expose our children to. (It’s actually the sixth numbered page in the book, and the fourth page in the story, but it seems to register as page 2, being the second element after the introduction of the elephant nursery idyll.) It is there that Babar’s mother, with her little elephant on her back, is murdered, with casual brutality, by a squat white hunter. The pro-page-twoers think that without the incident the story is robbed of motive and pathos; the anti-page-twoers think that it’s just too hard, too early, and too brutal, so they turn the story into one of a little elephant who merely wanders into Paris—not such a bad premise. (Maurice Sendak, in a lovely appraisal of Babar, recalls thinking that the act of violence that sets Babar off is not sufficiently analyzed—that the trauma is left unhealed and even untreated—while Nicholas Fox Weber, in his good book about the art of the elephant saga, suggests that Babar’s “apparent indifference to his mother’s shooting is a by-product of the essential drive to see beauty and continue living no matter how tragic the past.”)
Whether the motive is amnesiac or therapeutic, the moment when the lost and motherless elephant enters the French city—Paris, surely, though also standing in for French colonial capitals from Saigon to Casablanca—is a magical moment. The arrival is subdued and simple, creating a tension between the savanna and the city that is continually renewed, and around which the whole series will be structured. The exoticism of the Babar story is obviously a Fifth Arrondissement exoticism, like that of the turn-of-the-century Douanier Henri Rousseau, whose harmless but rapacious paintings of wild animals, inspired by visits to the zoo, have much of the same sober charm as Jean de Brunhoff’s. And the dream of the desert as an enchanted place, which takes such powerful form in Rousseau’s matchless “Sleeping Gypsy,” as in de Brunhoff’s unforgettable nocturne of Babar and his bride, connects the two.
But there is a deeper connection between this kind of French made-at-home exoticism and the domestic charm of Babar—between, if you like, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Henri Rousseau, between the idea of the native genius of children and a romantic vision of Africa. France during the nineteen-thirties was in transition from an old, unashamedly predatory model of imperialism to one that insisted on the mission civilisatrice—the vauntedly benevolent gathering of different races into one French commonwealth—and, simultaneously, from a model of work and labor as their own reward to one in which the reward of irksome labor was French family leisure.
This double “primitivism” of the hearth and the heathen, the foyer and the faraway, is apparent in the books’ visual style, even more than in the obvious and much argued-over story line. High Fauve style, from the beginning, and in the hands of Matisse in particular, was connected to children’s art and the idea of childhood. Picasso saw this keenly, speaking often (if with a hint of condescension) of how crucially the drawings of Matisse’s children had affected their father’s art, and for the better, supplying a kind of domestic primitivism, an African art of the nursery. That is visible even in a masterpiece as sophisticated as Matisse’s “Piano Lesson,” of 1916, where the play between the oppressive weight of French teaching and the gasping attempt at pleasure weighs on the boy. And the traffic between the exotic elephant and the French nursery is already implied, in a more complex form, in Matisse’s “The Moroccans,” of the same year, in which the remote decorative style of French-colonized Africa is rephrased in terms of the metropolitan faux-naïf. (Although “tribal” art is in no way childlike, French artists, wrongly but fruitfully, saw it that way.) The tightrope between the exotic and the domestic that the Babar books walk is central to the French imagination of the first half of the twentieth century: the great desert opens onto the great city; the beautiful patterning of the carpet gives life to the gray light of the Île de France; we dream of the elephants, and the elephant dreams of a green suit and a motorcar. (The children’s dining room of the French ocean liner Normandie was, tellingly, decorated with de Brunhoff’s elephants, animal totems of French voyaging.)
All of which complicates one’s sense of the politics of “Babar,” too. One can forget, reading the critics, that the books are, first and last, meant to be funny, and that Babar is an elephant who talks and walks: the story is happening to creatures that children know do not ride elevators, wear suits, or build buildings. Part of the joke is in the way the obvious animalness of the protagonist makes evident the absurdity of the human behavior depicted. An animal that attempts to become an astronaut or conduct an orchestra is inherently ridiculous and makes the ambition ridiculous as he pursues it. That’s why Daffy Duck in “Duck Dodgers” is daffy.

As an elephant who takes on the role of the bourgeois patriarch (and monarch), Babar reveals that role’s touching absurdity. In “Babar the King” (1933)—the central book in the Babar saga—the rhinos and the elephants have been at war, but the point isn’t that the rhinos are evil. It is that war between nations is as absurd in reality as war between animals looks on the page. Becoming French, the elephants reveal the absurd and contrived elements of the French national character. Celesteville is a parody of the French corporatist dream, beautifully expressed, in “Babar the King,” in the drawing of the elephants at their various occupations, as Cartesian and logical as a poster from the pedagogical-instruments house Deyrolle:

If Barbacol wants a statue for his mantelpiece, he asks Podular to carve one for him, and when Podular’s coat is worn out Barbacol makes a new one to order for him. . . . Hatchibombotar cleans the streets, Olur repairs the automobiles, and, when they are all tired, Doulamor plays his cello to entertain them. . . . As for Coco, he keeps them all laughing and gay.

There are no bankers or stockbrokers in Celesteville. Capitalism is elided, as are unnecessary “middlemen,” in this perfect Comtian economy, in which each does his job and receives his goods. There is to be no ambition, either, no upwardly mobile individual elephant. (That is an American elephant’s notion.) The reward for this serene corporatism is apparent on the next page: after working in the morning, the elephants take the afternoon off. And this society provides continuity with the classical traditions—the elephants, bewigged and formal, attend a production of the Comédie-Française.
Surely the happy effect this has on the reader, and the elephants, is not the result of our (or their) having been propagandized to accept colonial hegemony. This isn’t a portrait at a distance of an imaginary colonial city. It is, instead, an affectionate, closeup caricature of an idealized French society. The fragility of this society—and its inability to resist the rhinoceroses—only intensifies the pathos and affection it inspires.
So “a certain idea of France,” in de Gaulle’s phrase, is at the heart of the appeal of the Babar books. What is that idea, and how does it differ from our idea of England or America? All children’s books take as their subject disorder and order and their proper relation, beginning in order and ending there, but with disorder given its due. In our century, different ideas of order have been represented in children’s literature by a city or a country. The Mary Poppins stories, “Peter Pan,” “The Wind in the Willows,” and, in a slightly different way, “The Hobbit” all use an idea of England and, often, of London. Here order is internal, found at home, part of the natural world of the nursery and the riverbank; disorder lies beyond, at times threatening but more often beckoning as a source of joy and Dionysian possibility—as in the beautiful chapter entitled “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” in “The Wind in the Willows,” or the celestial circus in “Mary Poppins.” Order, in the English vision, is comforting but plain; disorder is perilous but romantically alluring. We escape the nursery for the disorder of the park.
The idea of Paris that one finds in the Babar books—or in the Madeline books—has another shape. Disorder is imagined as internal, psychological; the natural world is accepted as inherently coquin, “mean,” or potentially violent. Order needs to be created by constant infusions of education and city planning; it is a source of Apollonian pleasure. Paris is the place where you go up and down in the elevator. Madeline’s wish is to walk along the parapet, while Miss Clavell wakes every night to sense that something is not right, and the girls walk in two straight lines to hold disorder at bay. When disorder arrives—Madeline and Pepito’s time with the Gypsies, Babar and Celeste’s imprisonment in the circus—it takes the form of a new routine. Disorder is the normal mess of life, what rhinos like. Order is what elephants (that is, Frenchmen) achieve at a cost and with effort. To stray from built order is to confront the man with a gun.

Things are sorted differently in the children’s classics of New York. In “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” “The House on East 88th Street,” “Stuart Little,” “The Pushcart War,” and “Harriet the Spy,” neither order nor disorder is taken to be natural. The world of the books oscillates unpredictably between them, producing battles and freaks. The best we can find are small secret islands of order. Everything turns on the individual child and her ability to create a safe miniworld of her own within the big chaotic city.
In London, in children’s books, life is too orderly and one longs for the vitality of the wild; in Paris, order is an achievement, hard won against the natural chaos and cruelty of adult life; in New York, we begin most stories in an indifferent city and the child has to create a kind of order within it. Each of these schemes reflects a history: the English vision being a natural consequence of a peaceful nation with a reformist history and in search of adventure; the French of a troubled nation with a violent history in search of peace; and the American of an individualistic and sporadically violent country with a strong ethos of family isolation and improvised rules. We go to the imaginary Paris for sudden glimpses of evil (the death of Babar’s mother) set off by satisfying visions of aesthetic bliss (the Celesteville Bureau of Industry, situated near the Amusement Hall), just as we go to the imaginary London to satisfy our longing for adventure and the undefined elsewhere, which returns us safely in the end to Cherry Tree Lane. And we go to the imaginary New York for the pleasure of the self-made: to see two children actually hide and live in a museum; to see an alligator, or a mouse, absorbed uncontroversially into a normal life.

As an elephant who takes on the role of the bourgeois patriarch (and monarch), Babar reveals that role’s touching absurdity. In “Babar the King” (1933)—the central book in the Babar saga—the rhinos and the elephants have been at war, but the point isn’t that the rhinos are evil. It is that war between nations is as absurd in reality as war between animals looks on the page. Becoming French, the elephants reveal the absurd and contrived elements of the French national character. Celesteville is a parody of the French corporatist dream, beautifully expressed, in “Babar the King,” in the drawing of the elephants at their various occupations, as Cartesian and logical as a poster from the pedagogical-instruments house Deyrolle:

Fables for children work not by pointing to a moral but by complicating the moral of a point. The child does not dutifully take in the lesson that salvation lies in civilization, but, in good Freudian fashion, takes in the lesson that the pleasures of civilization come with discontent at its constraints: you ride the elevator, dress up in the green suit, and go to live in Celesteville, but an animal you remain—the dangerous humans and rhinoceroses are there to remind you of that—and you delight in being so. There is allure in escaping from the constraints that button you up and hold you; there is also allure in the constraints and the buttons. We would all love to be free, untrammelled elephants, but we long, too, for a green suit.
Far more than an allegory of colonialism, the “Babar” books are a fable of the difficulties of a bourgeois life. “Truly it is not easy to bring up a family,” Babar sighs at one point, and it is true. The city lives on the edge of a desert, and animals wander in and out at will, and then wander out again to make cities of their own. The civilizing principle is energetic but essentially comical, solid-looking on the outside but fragile in its foundations, reducible to rubble by rhinoceroses. Even the elephants, for all their learning and sailor suits, can be turned into slaves through a bad twist of fate. The unruliness of natural life is countered by the beautiful symmetries of classical style and the absurd orderliness of domestic life—but we are kidding ourselves if we imagine that we are ever really safe. Death is a rifle shot and a poisoned mushroom away. The only security, the de Brunhoff books propose, lies in our commitment to those graceful winged elephants that, in Babar’s dream, at the end of “Babar the King,” chase away misfortune. Love and Happiness, who are at the heart of the American vision, are, in Babar’s dream, mere tiny camp followers. The larger winged elephants, which are at the forefront of this French vision of civilized life, are instead Intelligence, Patience, Learning, and Courage. “Let’s work hard and cheerfully and we’ll continue to be happy,” the Old Lady tells the elephants, and, though we know that the hunter is still in the woods, it is hard to know what more to add.


Summer Reading List for Wellesley Students K-5 2012

Click here for Wellesley Public Schools 2012 summer reading list for grades k-5:

 Summer Reading List

Summer reading recommendations from The Horn Book

Summer reading recommendations

Need suggestions for beach reading or books to bring to summer camp? We’ve hand-picked some new favorites, all published within the last year, that are ideal for the season.

Picture books (Fiction and Nonfiction)
Suggested grade level listed with each entry.
No Dogs Allowed! written by Linda Ashman; illus. by Kristin Sorra (Sterling)
Faced with a restaurant’s “NO DOGS ALLOWED” sign, a boy and his dog sit at a fountain. Soon there’s a crowd of people with pets enjoying the hospitality of a nearby lemonade and ice cream stand. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.
Z Is for Moose written by Kelly Bingham; illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky (Greenwillow)
In this funny and inventive ABC book, Moose jumps for joy in anticipation of his moment in the spotlight. When we finally get to M, though, it turns out to be for…Mouse, resulting in a major meltdown. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.
Coral Reefs written and illus. by Jason Chin (Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook)
Alongside a straightforward description of tropical coral ecosystems, fantastical illustrations show a girl enjoying an adventure when the contents of this very book come to life. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.
Neville written by Norton Juster; illus. by G. Brian Karas (Schwartz & Wade/Random)
A lonely boy stands outside yelling “Neville!” Soon every kid in the neighborhood is calling for Neville, though no one knows who he is—not even the reader, who finds out on the satisfying last page. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.
I Want My Hat Back written and illus. by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)
In this subversive, hilarious tale, a bear has lost his red hat. After he questions his fellow woodland critters to no avail, a sudden recollection leads the bear back to the thief. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.
The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot written by Margaret McNamara; illus. by Mark Fearing (Schwartz & Wade/Random)
A mama alien sends her children to find a planet of their own, warning them to watch out for the Big Bad Robot. Robotic onomatopoeia and a space setting will make this take on a classic tale a read-aloud hit. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.
Stars written by Mary Lyn Ray; illus. by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane/Simon)
Beginning and ending with stars in the sky, this quiet narrative muses about star shapes in nature and around the home. Expressive illustrations offer a spot-on portrayal of imaginative play. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.
The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks written by Barb Rosenstock; illus. by Mordicai Gerstein (Dial)
After reading John Muir’s book advocating for forests, the president asked Muir to take him camping. By the time they reached Yosemite, Roosevelt was persuaded to create our national parks system. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.
A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play written by Marilyn Singer; illus. by LeUyen Pham (Clarion)
Eighteen poems celebrate outdoor play, featuring different styles of poetry and moving from morning to dusk. The illustrations show a multicultural group of children enjoying the exciting day. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.
A Good Knight’s Rest written by Shelley Moore Thomas; illus. by Jennifer Plecas (Dutton)
The good knight badly needs a vacation—but since he allows three demanding young dragon friends to come along, he doesn’t get much rest and relaxation. Grade level: Preschool. 32 pages.
Press Here written and illus. by Hervé Tullet (Handprint/Chronicle)
This interactive book invites the reader to press, tilt, blow, and clap to “transform” colored dots from page to page. Satisfying patterns alternate with surprises to keep the activity fresh. Grade level: Preschool. 64 pages.
Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team written by Audrey Vernick; illus. by Steven Salerno (Clarion)
The Acerra family from Long Branch, New Jersey, was the longest-playing all-sibling baseball team in the mid-twentieth-century. This story of a real American family whose bond was the game is vividly brought to life. Grade level: 1–3. 40 pages.
The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? written and illus. by Mo Willems (Hyperion)
The Duckling asks politely for a cookie and gets one, setting the Pigeon off on one of his trademark tirades. His rant comes to a screeching halt when the Duckling generously offers him the cookie. Grade level: Preschool. 40 pages.
Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard written by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld; illus. by Priscilla Lamont (Knopf)
Alice and her family have a plot of land upon which they grow edible plants, raise chickens, and enjoy their interactions with the variety of living things in their backyard ecosystem. Grade level: K–3. 40 pages.

Early Readers and Younger Fiction
Suggested grade level listed with each entry.
Ivy + Bean: No News Is Good News [Ivy + Bean] written by Annie Barrows; illus. by Sophie Blackall (Chroncle)
Ivy and Bean start a neighborhood newspaper, selling subscriptions to afford the fancy cheese they’ve been coveting. Their attempts to find newsworthy stories have hilarious results. Grade level: 2–4. 127 pages.
Cork & Fuzz: The Swimming Lesson [Viking Easy-to-Read series] written by Dori Chaconas; illus. by Lisa McCue (Viking)
Cork (a muskrat) realizes Fuzz (a possum) has never visited his home—Fuzz can’t swim. After some on-the-ground lessons, the possum falls into the water and, following a moment of panic, swims. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.
Friends: Snake and Lizard written by Joy Cowley; illus. by Gavin Bishop (Gecko)
Snake and Lizard, roommates and business partners, bicker constantly, but the outcomes are fair, reasonable, and often delightfully ironic. Grade level: 2–4. 126 pages.
Benjamin Bear in “Fuzzy Thinking” written and illus. by Philippe Coudray, trans. by Leigh Stein (Candlewick/TOON)
Twenty-seven single-page cartoon stories for emerging readers featuring Benjamin Bear and friends. The book is original, imaginative, and deep-down funny. Grade level: K–3. 32 pages.
The Dunderheads Behind Bars by Paul Fleischman; illus. by David Roberts (Candlewick)
When the “Dunderhead” kids sign up to be extras in a movie over summer vacation, they discover their erstwhile teacher Miss Breakbone and her police-chief brother are there, too. Grade level: K–3. 48 pages.
Sadie and Ratz written by Sonya Hartnett, illus. by Ann James (Candlewick)
Sadie and Ratz are the pair of hands that belong to Hannah — and get her into trouble, especially with her little brother. This tale of temper and self-control is an original take on sibling rivalry. Grade level: K–3. 60 pages.
Grin and Bear It written and illus. by Leo Landry (Charlesbridge)
“Bear had a dream…to make his friends laugh.” But poor Bear has stage fright, and his debut flops. A hummingbird named Emmy partners with Bear to save the day. Grade level: K–3. 48 pages.
Invisible Inkling written by Emily Jenkins, illus. by Harry Bliss (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
Fourth-grader Hank Wolowitz’s imaginary friend is an invisible, cranky, almost-extinct “bandapat” named Inkling. Inkling’s attempts to help Hank with a school bully go hilariously wrong. Grade level: 2–4. 156 pages.
Earwig and the Witch written by Diana Wynne Jones; illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky (Greenwillow)
Orphan Earwig, adopted by an unpleasant witch, teams up with the witch’s familiar, a talking cat. Plentiful line illustrations add to the humor. Grade level: 2–4. 120 pages.
I Don’t Believe It, Archie! written by Andrew Norriss, illus. by Hannah Shaw (Fickling/Random)
Ordinary Archie always seems to be in the middle of outrageous happenings (told in seven connected short stories). This British import is an easy read, but also complicated enough to engage mystery fans. Grade level: 2–4. 124 pages.
Hooey Higgins and the Shark written by Steve Voake, illus. by Emma Dodson (Candlewick) In this over-the-top screwball comedy, Hooey and his friend, Twig, try to capture a shark. Their methods involve ketchup, a cricket stick, and a bathtub. Grade level: 2–4. 104 pages.

Intermediate Fiction and Nonfiction
Suggested grade level for each entry: 4–6
Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind written by Tom Angleberger; illus. by Jen Wang (Amulet/Abrams)
Lenny knows his friend Casper is behind a spree of bank robberies—the robber was wearing Casper’s (fake) handlebar mustache. As Casper’s criminal ambitions grow, the slapstick and jokes amp up accordingly. 201 pages.
The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by by Jeanne Birdsall (Knopf)
In their third book, the Penderwick sisters—Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty—face their first-ever summer separation. Easing the sting is the company of friend Jeffrey. 296 pages.
Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns; photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz (Holt)
Four remarkable scientific projects enlist regular people in data collection to better understand ecological issues. Detailed accounts of the projects are followed by ways to get involved. 80 pages.
Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley (Dial)
Everyone in the town of Remarkable is brilliant and talented, except for Jane. Ingeniously naughty twins get themselves kicked out of the School for the Remarkably Gifted and join Jane at the public school. 329 pages.
Summer in the City written by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel; illus. by Marie-Louise Gay (Groundwood)
Instead of taking a summer trip, brothers Charlie and Max must make their own fun at home in Montreal. Each chapter relates adventures that inevitably turn into misadventures. 151 pages.
The Midnight Zoo written by Sonya Hartnett; illus. by Andrea Offermann (Candlewick)
Three Romany siblings are overlooked when German soldiers round up the rest of their community. The children end up in an abandoned zoo still inhabited by ten animals—who begin to talk. 217 pages.
With a Name like Love by Tess Hilmo (Ferguson/Farrar)
Thirteen-year-old Ollie, daughter of a traveling preacher, befriends Jimmy. He needs her help: his mother has confessed to murdering her abusive husband, but Jimmy claims she’s innocent. 250 pages.
Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire! written by Polly Horvath; illus. by Sophie Blackall (Schwartz & Wade/Random)
Madeline’s parents have been kidnapped. Capable Madeline engages the services of a couple of (rabbit) detectives—leading to an absurd and breakneck bunny noir plot. 248 pages.
The Fairy Ring: or, Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure (Candlewick)
In WWI England, two young cousins produced photographs many believed proved the existence of fairies. Primary sources and the photographs themselves enhance this narrative of a famous hoax. 180 pages.
The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet (Harper/HarperCollins)
In Paris with her family for a year, Maya meets an elderly relative who is keeper of the mysterious Cabinet of Earths. Maya finds herself in a life-or-death struggle when she becomes the next Keeper. 260 pages.
Secrets at Sea written by Richard Peck; illus. by Kelly Murphy (Dial)
The rodent world meets Upstairs, Downstairs in this comedy of manners. When the (human) Cranston family decides to take an ocean voyage to Europe, their (mouse) neighbors tag along. 241 pages.
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
Stella is stuck with Great Aunt Louise on Cape Cod, where she works tending vacation cottages. When Louise dies suddenly, Stella and new friend Angel cover it up, taking over management of the cottages. 273 pages.
Sidekicks written and illus. by Dan Santat (Levine/Scholastic)
In this graphic novel, superhero Captain Amazing holds auditions for a new sidekick; his pets hope to win the role. Meanwhile, Captain Amazing’s nemesis has stolen a belt that jeopardizes the entire city. 218 pages.
Far from Shore: Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyage written and illus. by Sophie Webb (Houghton)
This journal combines scientific information, field-guide-like illustrations, and a detailed account of experiences onboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship studying dolphin populations. 80 pages.
First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low by Ginger Wadsworth (Clarion)
In 1912, Low founded the Girl Scouts—a pioneering organization designed to help empower girls of all races and ethnicities. Information is provided about the organization and its continued success after Low’s death. 209 pages.
Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman (Atheneum)
Ten-year-old Gabe is excited to go to the Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment (a.k.a. “Nerd Camp”) but he worries what his new, cool stepbrother Zack will think. 261 pages.

Middle School Fiction and Nonfiction
Suggested grade level for each entry: 6–8
City of Orphans by Avi (Jackson/Atheneum)
In 1893 New York, thirteen-year-old newsie Maks must find a way to free his wrongly imprisoned sister. A detective, a lawyer, and orphan Willa help him uncover the truth in this fast-paced mystery. 355 pages.
Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate by Rick Bowers (National Geographic)
In 1946, the producers of the Superman radio show deployed their character’s popularity in a campaign against bigotry. Bower traces the creation and history of the superhero as well as the rise, fall, and resurgence of the K.K.K. 160 pages.
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (Farrar)
In 1962, Jack’s summer job typing obituaries keeps him busy as the elderly citizens of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, drop like flies. Gothic comedy meets richly layered semi-autobiographical tale. 341 pages.
The Obsidian Blade [Klaatu Diskos series] by Pete Hautman (Candlewick)
Created as an entertainment in a distant future, diskos are windows to points in human history. Tucker enters one of these portals to look for his missing parents, beginning a dangerous journey through the millennia. 311 pages.
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf)
Wahoo’s father Mickey is a well-known animal wrangler. He allows the TV show Expedition Survival! to film on the family’s Everglades property, but must come to the rescue of the bumbling star. 294 pages.
Bloodline Rising by Katy Moran (Candlewick)
In this companion novel to Bloodline, master thief Cai is waylaid by his rivals and sold into slavery. Taken from Constantinople to Britain, Cai becomes mired in complex loyalties. 336 pages.
Withering Tights by Louise Rennison (HarperTeen/HarperCollins)
Fourteen-year-old Brit Tallulah is attending a performing arts summer school. Her madcap adventures, literary musings, and hilariously naïve inner monologues are all highly entertaining. 275 pages.
Goliath [Leviathan Trilogy] written by Scott Westerfeld; illus. by Keith Thompson (Simon Pulse/Simon)
In this steampunk trilogy ender, airship Leviathan picks up inventor Nikola Tesla. Alek believes reuniting Tesla with his electrical weapon Goliath can stop World War I. 545 pages.

High School Fiction and Nonfiction
Suggested grade level for each entry: 8 and up
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler (Razorbill/Penguin)
In 1996, something called “Facebook” pops up when Emma loads an AOL disk into her computer. Using Facebook, Emma and friend Josh learn about their lives fifteen years into the future. 359 pages.
Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal (Feiwel)
A journalistic narrative engagingly relates the life of the Apple co-founder who later went on to leave an indelible mark on three additional fields: movies, music, and cell phones. 312 pages.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Scholastic)
Teen beauty pageant contestants crash-land en route to their competition. They use their “can-do” Miss Teen Dream spirit to survive on what they assume is a deserted island (actually home to a government conspiracy). 396 pages.
The Story of Us by Deb Caletti (Simon Pulse)
Anxious seventeen-year-old Cricket spends a memorable week at a beach house (with a plethora of family and soon-to-be family, friends, and dogs) before her mother gets married. 390 pages.
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Dial)
Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is queen of Monsea. Feeling disconnected from her people, Bitterblue sneaks out to observe city life; a friendship with thieves makes her reevaluate everything she’s been told. 549 pages.
The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe (Hyperion)
Kaelyn’s island community is hit by a mysterious virus. While Kae’s microbiologist father frantically works to diagnose the illness, normally shy Kae takes on a leadership role. 311 pages.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Dutton)
Hazel is controlling her stage four cancer; Augustus lost a leg to osteosarcoma but now seems okay. Sexy romance and a meditation on life and death deepen this acerbic comedy. 321 pages.
Why We Broke Up written by Daniel Handler; illus. by Maira Kalman (Little, Brown)
In addition to her extensive break-up letter, Min is planning to drop on Ed’s doorstep a box of tokens of their relationship. The imagistic stories of each object provide insight into the couple’s flawed love. 355 pages.
The Name of the Star [Shades of London series] by Maureen Johnson (Putnam)
At boarding school in London, American Rory learns of nearby Jack the Ripper copycat murders. She falls in with an undercover group investigating a paranormal explanation. 370 pages.
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour (Dutton)
Colby and Bev had planned to do a summer tour with their band, then take a gap year together in Europe. When Bev reveals she will be attending college in the fall, Colby struggles with feelings of betrayal over the course of their wild road trip. 310 pages.
Legend by Marie Lu (Putnam)
Day is wanted by the totalitarian Republic; June is one of the Republic’s brightest prodigies with her own grudge against him. But when their paths cross, June is attracted to Day’s selflessness and courage. A perfect Hunger Games read-alike. 301 pages.
This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel (Simon)
When sixteen-year-old Konrad Frankenstein contracts a mysterious illness, his twin Victor searches for a cure through alchemy. Secrecy, deception, and a love triangle complicate the quest. 298 pages.
There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff (Putnam)
The god assigned to supervise planet Earth is a lazy, self-centered teenage boy named Bob. When Bob falls for mortal Lucy, the situation on Earth goes from bad to worse. 271 pages.
Past Perfect by Leila Sales (Simon Pulse/Simon)
Chelsea works as a living history interpreter at Colonial Essex Village. This summer she traitorously falls for a Civil War interpreter at a rival reenactment park. 306 pages.
I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Little, Brown)
When Sam’s mentally unstable father learns Sam and his brother are becoming close with Emily and her family, he takes off with the boys. After their dramatic car accident in the woods, the story shifts from romance to survival. 392 pages.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)
Puck intends to ride her mare in the annual Scorpio Races—alongside murderous water horses. Sean, a stable hand who understands the water horses better than anyone else on the island, is also desperate to win. 409 pages.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown)
Karou lives with part-human, part-animal chimaera in Prague. When she meets a deadly angel in Marrakech, she’s powerfully drawn to him. 422 pages.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion)
During World War II, Queenie, a spy captured by the SS, bargains to write what she knows about the British war effort in order to postpone her execution. Her report tells the story of Maddie, the pilot who dropped her over France, then crashed. 337 pages.
The Isle of Blood [The Monstrumologist] by Rick Yancey (Simon)
This third (and darkest) adventure takes monstrumologist Pellinore Warthrop and his apprentice Will Henry to the Socotra, the Isle of Blood. Along the way they dodge spies, befriend literary icons, and test the boundaries of their complex relationship. 538 pages.

M.B. Goffstein

Across the Sea

“The singular charm of Goffstein’s . . . stories and drawings makes her one of the few modern author-illustrators who are assured classic status.”Publishers Weekly

“Goffstein is a minimalist, but her text and pictures carry the same emotional freight as William Blake’s admonishment to see the world in a grain of sand and eternity in an hour.”

“M.B. Goffstein is one of the finest illustrator/writers of our time. Like porcelain there is more to her work than meets the eye. Beneath the delicacy and fragility is a core of astounding strength.”
Washington Post Book World

“A book by M.B. Goffstein is a beautifully simple and simply beautiful thing.”The New York Times Book Review
American editions:
The Gats!, Pantheon, 1966
Sleepy People, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1966; revised edition, 1969
Brookie and Her Lamb, FSG, 1967; revised edition, 1981
Across the Sea, FSG, 1968
Goldie the Dollmaker, FSG, 1969; paperback edition, FSG, 1985; new paperback edition, FSG, 1997
Two Piano Tuners, FSG, 1970
The Underside of the Leaf, novel, FSG, 1972; paperback edition, Dell, 1974
A Little Schubert, Harper & Row, 1972; revised edition, hardcover and paperback, David R. Godine, 1984
Me and My Captain, FSG, 1974
Daisy Summerfield's Style, novel, Delacorte, 1975; paperback edition, Dell, 1979
Fish for Supper, Dial, 1976; paperback edition, Dial, 1986
My Crazy Sister, Dial, 1976
Family Scrapbook, FSG, 1978
My Noah's Ark, Harper & Row, 1978
The First Books, trade paperback collection, includes: The Gats!, Sleepy People, Brookie and Her Lamb, Across the Sea, Goldie the Dollmaker, and Me and My Captain, Avon, 1979
Natural History, FSG, 1979
Neighbors, Harper, 1979
An Artist, Harper, 1980
Laughing Latkes, FSG, 1980
Lives of the Artists, biographies of five artists: Rembrandt, Guardi, Van Gogh, Bonnard, and Nevelson, FSG, 1981
A Writer, Harper, 1984
An Artists Album, biographies of five artists: Vermeer, Boudin, the Woodland Indians, Cézanne, and Monet, Harper, 1985
My Editor, FSG, 1985
School of Names, Harper, 1986
Our Snowman, Harper, 1986
Your Lone Journey, a song by Rosalie and Doc Watson, Harper, 1986
Artists' Helpers Enjoy the Evenings, Harper, 1987