Monday, February 28, 2011

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park, Newbery Medalist for A Single Shard, has written a very timely middle grade novel in A Long Walk to Water.  After years of Civil War, Sudan held a referendum in January 2011, declaring that Southern Sudan would become an independent nation.  Some of the issues still to be settled are border demarcation and trade barriers.  Since the oil-rich Abyei region straddles the north-south border, controversy is sure to continue after the election and for many years to come.  The war and violence in the south, which has been declared genocide by the United Nations, has decimated the country for more than 25 years.  Stories of the “Lost Boys” of southern Sudan have proliferated in recent years as the surviving youth have reached manhood and have made their way to Europe and the United States.  Churches and other relief organizations are active in southern Sudan, even in the face of danger and mounting suffering by the native peoples.

One of the great needs in this war-torn country is clean water.  Cut off from traditional water supplies and medical facilities, the people of southern Sudan struggle for the bare necessities of life.  Linda Sue Park tells this story in A Long Walk to Water.

Salva Dut, a member of the Dinka tribe, was an eleven-year-old student when the civil war reached his village in 1985.  As shots are fired and bombs are dropped, Salva’s teacher instructs his students to run in the other direction.  Salva and the other students continue to run away from the attack, beginning a journey which will take him across the Nile River to a refugee camp in Ethiopia.  After years in the camp, the refugees are forced out of Ethiopia.  Salva becomes the leader of a group of boys which eventually seeks refuge in Kenya.  Word from the front tells the boys that anyone returning to their home villages will immediately be conscripted into the revolutionary forces.  At the age of 22, Salva is sent from the refugee camp to America, arriving in Rochester, New York, to be met by his new family.  After receiving his education, Salva returns to southern Africa.  He realizes that one thing he can do to relieve the suffering is to build wells.

Linda Sue Park is a resident of Rochester.  She brings her finely-honed writing skills to the task of telling the story of the Lost Boys and of their efforts to bring help and comfort to their people in Sudan.  A Long Walk to Water is the best of the several books I have read on this topic.  Based on the true story of Salva Dut’s experiences, Park fictionalizes certain events to great effect.   I recommend this book for children and adults who want to know more about conditions in an African country which have ramifications around the world—Wilma Snyder.  (Historical fiction, gr. 5-8; Clarion, 2010) 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Little Golden Books exhibit at the Richmond Children's Museum

Don't miss this unique experience to view the original art from the Little Golden Books!

This exhibition will present the most extensive public showing ever of original illustration art from American publishing’s best loved and most consequential picture-book series, Little Golden Books—the history-making experiment that celebrated its 65th anniversary in 2007.

Launched in 1942—the first full year of America’s involvement in the Second World War—Little Golden Books made high quality illustrated books available at affordable prices for the first time to millions of young children and their parents. Among the artists who contributed to the ambitious series were greats of the European émigré community (including Garth Williams, Feodor Rojankovsky, and Tibor Gergely) who had gathered in New York as the European situation worsened; alumni of the Walt Disney Studios (including Gustaf Tenggren, Martin Provensen, J.P. Miller, and Mary Blair), who came East for the artistic freedom and control associated with picture-book making; and such American originals as Eloise Wilkin, Elizabeth Orton Jones, Richard Scarry, and Hilary Knight.

60 masterpieces of original illustration art by these and other artists—chosen from the vast Random House archive—will be featured in the exhibition, including examples from such picture-book classics as The Poky Little Puppy, Tootle, Home for a Bunny, The Kitten Who Thought He Was a Mouse, The Color Kittens, I Can Fly, and more.

This exhibition was organized by the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guys Read! Jon Scieszka at St. Christopher's

Text Box: How can parents and teachers help boys become
self-motivated, lifelong readers?

To find out,
join former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature
Jon Scieszka
for an evening of laughter and learning.
Adults only, please.

Monday, April 4, 2011
Talk and Book Signing 7:00-9:00 pm

St. Christopher’s Lower School Auditorium
699 Pepper Avenue, Richmond, VA 23226
(804) 282-3185, ext. 2380

This Event is Open to the Public. Admission is Free
but reservations are required at

Donations accepted to support
Read Aloud Virginia and Guys Read

Monday, February 14, 2011

S is for Smithsonian

S is for Smithsonian: America’s Museum Alphabet. Marie and Roland Smith. Illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen.
A guided tour of the world’s largest museum complex gives the reader some grasp of the many riches available at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C. Are you interested in ballgowns belonging to the First Ladies, the Hope Diamond, inventions, space, aviation, art, science, history, anthropology, and/or Dorothy’s ruby red slippers? Unless you live at the Smithsonian, you probably never will see it all. This book will whet the interest of every reader—Wilma Snyder.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

V is for von Trapp

V is for von Trapp: A Musical Family Alphabet. William Anderson. Illustrated by Linda Dockey Graves.

2010 marks the 45th anniversary of the Broadway musical, The Sound of Music, which was based on the life of the von Trapp Family Singers. Coinciding with the release of a digitally restored, Blu-Ray limited edition collector’s set of The Sound of Music, William Anderson wrote this book based on interviews with Maria von Trapp shortly before her death in 1987, and with the seven remaining von Trapp children. He also wrote an adult title, The World of the Trapp Family for which he had access to a variety of von Trapp family records and memorabilia. Anderson, known primarily for his work on Laura Ingalls Wilder, is a fine author, historian, and lecturer--Wilma Snyder.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sleeping Bear Discover the World series

The Discover the World series introduces the reader to countries of the world. An interactive website for kids at supports each book. Free downloadable Teachers Guides are also available to accompany each book.

E is for Eiffel Tower: A France Alphabet. Helen L. Wilbur. Illustrated by Yan Nascimbene.
France is one of the most visited countries in the world. The French language is widely studied by students worldwide. This book celebrates the history and culture of France by an author who visits the country frequently. Readers are introduced to landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the palace at Versailles, and Notre Dame Cathedral; historic figures such as Louis XIV, Victor Hugo, and Charles de Gaulle; and elements of culture such as fashion, food, and winemaking.

B is for Bagpipes: A Scotland Alphabet. Eve Begley Kiehm. Illustrated by Alexa Rutherford.
You will find the kilts, the bagpipes, the haggis, and Robert the Bruce, but this book is filled with much, much more. The author and the illustrator, both of whom grew up in Scotland, share their love of their homeland in this extremely beautiful book about history and culture. Both Kiehm and Rutherford are new to the Sleeping Bear stable of artists and writers, but both acquit themselves well and show fine promise.

D is for Down Under: An Australia Alphabet. Devin Scillian. Illustrated by Geoff Cook.
Australia is the world’s smallest continent and the biggest island. Inhabited first by the Aboriginal peoples, it was not until the late 1700s that Australia was colonized by Europeans when England sent unwanted criminals to settle there. The last shipment of convicts arrived in Australia in 1868. From these beginnings grew a nation which is dedicated to its individuality, friendliness, and sport.

D is for Dala Horse: A Nordic Countries Alphabet. Kathy-jo Wargin. Illustrated by Renee Graef.
The term Nordic Countries identifies the Nordic region of Northern Europe and North America. It includes the countries Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and their associated territories of Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Svalbard, and Aland. The countries cooperate in a Nordic Council and have a population of approximately 25 million people. Little known facts such as these make this book a fascinating read. It is illustrated by Renee Graef, known for her work in the American Girl books and picture books on Laura Ingalls Wilder, in Nordic folk-art style—Wilma Snyder.

touchblue by Cynthia Lord

Cynthia Lord’s first novel, Rules, was awarded a Newbery Honor, quite an auspicious beginning for a new children’s writer. touchblue, her second book, proves that Lord is not a one-book wonder. Eleven-year-old Tess lives on an island off the coast of Maine. There are so few children on the island that the state announces plans to close the island school. This action will mean that Tess’s family and others on the island will have to move to the mainland in order to provide an education for their children. The fishermen and their families will be giving up the only life they have ever known. The islanders come up with a plan to take in foster children in order to swell the school population. When thirteen-year-old Aaron is placed with Tess’s family, there are serious adjustments required on both sides, not the least of which is combating Aaron’s suspicion of mixed, self-serving motives among the island families. Lord shows great insight into the minds and hearts of adolescents. Her experience as a Maine island school teacher informs her every word—Wilma Snyder. (Fiction, gr. 4-7; Scholastic, 2010)

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Family of Readers

A Family of Readers: The Book Lover’s Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Literature. Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano, editors of The Horn Book Magazine, write as “book lovers addressing book lovers.” Made up of thoughtful essays, entertaining responses and interviews, A Family of Readers has the look of a college textbook, but its chatty style resembles more that of a magazine. Yes, it defines and discusses the genres of children’s literature; yes, it contains book lists and annotations; yes, it contains an extensive bibliography and a useful index, but this book is much more. Interviews and essays by writers and artists, responses by many who are working in the field of children’s literature, and essays by critics and historians give A Family of Readers strength and depth—Wilma Snyder. (Adult--Children’s Literature History and Criticism; Candlewick, 2010)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sugar Changed the World

Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science
by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos
Marc Aronson has another winner in this book written in collaboration with his wife, Marina Budhos. The couple became interested in the subject of sugar when they discovered that they both have sugar in their family backgrounds. Aronson’s contact is through an aunt by marriage whose grandfather was a Russian serf who found a way to give raw beet sugar appealing colors. Budhos’ great-grandparents emigrated from India to Guyana to work on the sugar plantations. Aronson has a doctorate in American History and runs the Nonfiction Matters blog at He was awarded the first Robert F. Sibert Award for Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for Eldorado. Budhos is an associate professor English at William Paterson University. She is involved in research into the history of indenture. They see this book as “sugar as a pathway through world history.” It is a fascinating blend of science, history and social commentary—WS. (Nonfiction, gr. 5-9; Clarion, 2010)