Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dog Heroes

During World War I, Great Britain and other European countries used dogs at the battlefront. Many dogs are loyal and smart, have keen eyesight, and an excellent sense of smell. They can be trained for many useful purposes. In the war, most dogs were used for carrying messages, but some were trained
to be Red Cross “Mercy Dogs.”

Training for dogs deemed fit for service took place over a period of about six weeks. They were trained to heel, to sit, and to stay silent. Using their sense of smell and vision, Mercy Dogs were trained to search for wounded soldiers, return to their handlers and then lead emergency workers to the soldier. They carried medical supplies and water so that those who were conscious could begin treatment. The dogs were trained to ignore dead soldiers. Mercy Dogs were used only in World War I since their services were not needed when armies stopped trench warfare. However, dogs continue to be trained today in the military to perform such tasks as searching for explosives and drugs.

Darling: Mercy Dog of World War I (written by Alison Hart, illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery; Peachtree, 2013) is part of the series “Dog Chronicles.” Middle graders will be fascinated by the dogs and will learn a great deal of history as well. Next in the series is Murphy: Gold Rush Dog.

From the time she was a little girl, Helen Keller loved dogs. Growing up deaf and blind, Helen Keller’s dogs were a window to the world. When Annie Sullivan entered Helen’s life, her world went from “darkness into the light.” In fact, Helen Keller learned thirty words the first day of Sullivan’s breakthrough using the technique of finger spelling and experience. Helen even tried to teach her dog Belle how to finger spell.

Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan are featured in Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle (written by Holly M. Barry, illustrated by Jennifer Thermes; Whitman, 2013).

Award-winning author and artist Debra Frasier brings us Spike, the Ugliest Dog in the Universe (Simon & Schuster, 2013). The story shows the young reader that courage, loyalty, and intelligence are much more important that appearance. Frasier’s art is composed of paper, used clothing, and worn blue jean pieces. You have to see it to believe it!

Poet Meg Kearney and Caldecott Honor artist E. B Lewis combine their talents in Trouper (Scholastic, 2013), the story of a rescued shelter dog who is passed by for adoption because he has only three legs. Based on a true rescue story--Wilma Snyder.

Don Brown at St. Christopher's School

Interested in some great nonfiction?  Author/illustrator Don Brown creates terrific, well-researched books about "people with passion."  Describing stunt pilot Ruth Law, astronaut Neil Armstrong, adventurer Alice Ramsey, American Revolution patriot Henry Knox, etc., etc., Mr. Brown's books take young readers into fascinating, inspiring lives.  His newest book, The Dust Bowl, presents that frightening episode in American history in graphic novel format.  Kids love Brown's unique visual formats.

Author/Illustrator Don Brown shows his process from sketch to finished illustration.

Joking with the students
Lucinda Whitehurst and Don Brown

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Featured Authors at Teen '13

Teen '13 is coming!  

Authors featured at Teen '13 include some of our favorite Richmond writers.

Macadoo of the Maury RiverGigi Amateau has new book out.  Macadoo of the Maury River is the second in her Horses of the Maury River series (following Chancey).  I always admit that animal books are not my favorite things, but I always love Gigi's. Her writing is so lyrical and beautiful, whether the characters are people, horses, or probably even snakes, I would want to read about them.  (I do hope she stays with horses rather than snakes though.) Candlewick, 2013

BrotherhoodA. B. Westrick's Brotherhood is a fascinating look at the Reconstruction period in Richmond.  Shad, a teenage boy, follows his older brother into membership in the Ku Klux Klan.  There are no easy answers as the family struggles through that difficult time. Complicated by his friendship with a group of African-American children, Shad finds himself challenged on many fronts as he tries to figure out how to handle his conflicting relationships.  Viking, 2013

ArchonArchon, the sequel to Freakling by Lana Krumweide, was released this week.  I am eagerly anticipating finding out more about Taemon and the mysterious Psi power.  Candlewick, 2013

The event takes place on Thursday, October 17, from 6-8:30 pm, at the Richmond Public Library, 101 East Franklin Street, Richmond, VA.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Teen '13 Book and Author Party

If you read YA, work with tweens or teenagers, or know teen readers, do not miss Teen '13!  A fabulous lineup of YA authors will be at the Richmond Public Library, ready to meet you and tell you about their terrific new books.  The event takes place on Thursday, October 17, from 6-8:30 pm, at the Richmond Public Library, 101 East Franklin Street, Richmond, VA.  It's free and open to the public, so bring your friends, your children (of an appropriate age), and their friends, too.

From the Teen Read '13 publicity materials:

"The Richmond Public Library invites book fans of all ages to meet and mingle with fifteen Virginia authors of books for children and young adults. Enjoy a night of refreshments, book sales and signings, prize raffles and more.

Meet featured authors: Aimee Agresti, Gigi Amateau, Hannah Barnaby, Susann Cokal, Kathryn Erskine, Lana Krumwiede, Meg Medina, Elisa Nader, Erica Orloff, Valerie O. Patterson, Madelyn Rosenberg, Sarah Sullivan, Steve Watkins, A.B. Westrick, and Sylvia Whitman.

Book donations will be accepted for the Rappahannock Juvenile Detention Center.

For information, email us at teen13valit@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at #teen13valit, and "like" our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/events/193283700840625/"

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Platypus Police Squad by Jarrett Krosoczka

Leave it to Jarrett Krosoczka to come up with the idea of  a mystery with a platypus as a policeman.  A platypus is funny in and of itself;  making it the star of a wacky crime story takes the humor potential even higher.  Lunch Lady fans can rejoice because Krosoczka has developed another winning hero in Rick Zengo. Zengo has to prove himself to his partner, veteran policeplatypus Corey O'Malley, but evenutally Zengo tracks the clues and runs down the villains to solve the case of The Frog Who Croaked.  Longer and more text heavy than the Lunch Lady series, Platypus Police Squad is an excellent bridge book for kids who love graphic novels and are ready for a slightly more challenging reading than LL.  The action is fast-paced but gentle.  The police use boomerangs and the thieves are dealing in synthetic fish.  The story would make a great family read aloud.  Don't miss The Frog Who Croaked, and be on the lookout for future entries in the Platypus Police Squad series--Lucinda Whitehurst.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mac Barnett at St. Christopher's School

Mac Barnett and the Junior Kindergarten class

Lucinda Whitehurst with Mac Barnett
Mac Barnett is the author of the Brixton Brothers mystery series and picture books such as Extra Yarn (a Caldecott Honor book), Chloe and the Lion, Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, Oh No!, Guess Again, and many others.  He is an inventive and original writer as well an a highly entertaining speaker.  He was a big hit with both the students and the teachers.  If you are looking for high-interest, boy-friendly books, be sure to check out all the wonderful Mac Barnett titles!--Lucinda Whitehurst.

Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Yaqui Delgado Wants to ...

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass!  The title grabs your attention, then the story wins your heart.  Meg Medina takes a different direction with her newest title, a contemporary story with none of the magical elements found in her other novels, such as the lyrical The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind (Candlewick, 2012).  Yaqui is a bully and Piddy is her victim, but one strength of this amazing book is the characterization.  We get to glimpse Yaqui's frustrations as well as Piddy's responses.  Refreshingly, the adult characters are as fully-realized as the YA protagonists.  Piddy is by no means perfect, but she does not deserve the treatment she receives.  Following her path as she avoids school, lies to teachers, lashes out at her mother, and seeks comfort with a boyfriend allows us to see parts of life many people keep hidden.  Medina writes with feeling and honesty.  She offers hope for targeted teens, as well as insight into their tormentors--Lucinda Whitehurst. 

Published by Candlewick Press, 2013.

YA Spotlight: Historical Fiction

Come August, Come Freedom bookcoverThe power of historical fiction is demonstrated when an author can transport the reader into the sensibility of another time.  All three of these books accomplish that goal in a compelling manner.

Come August, Come Freedom by Gigi Amateau (Candlewick, 2012) tells the story of Gabriel Prosser, an African-American slave who organized an uprising in Virginia in 1800.  Amateau researched Prosser extensively, then took the pieces she discovered in primary sources and fashioned them into a gripping portrait of a complex man.  Who would Gabriel be to take on such a mission in his time and place?  What events would take someone from dreaming about freedom to organizing a full-scale rebellion?  Amateau creates a believable, thrilling version of events that examines human motivation beyond the bare bones of the court records.  

Ruta Sepetys' first book, Between Shades of Gray, was a outstanding debut.  She returns with another historical fiction title, but one that is completely different in setting and tone.  Out of the Easy (Philomel, 2013) takes us to 1950s New Orleans. Josie Moraine is the daughter of a prostitute.  Her part-time job is cleaning up the brothel and doing errands for the madam, Willie.  Raised in this world, Josie accepts it but is not eager to embrace it.  Sepetys is particularly good in catching the rhythms of her characters.  The setting is another star here--the mixture of grit, glamour, truth, and deception that Josie sees each day is unforgettable.  Things begin to change when Josie makes a friend who is everything Josie wishes she could be--a college girl with a respectable family.  Sepetys' characters are multi-dimensional however, and most are not all good or bad.  Discovering the many layers within each person is one of the great pleasures of Out of the Easy.

Z:  A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler (St. Martin's Press, 2013) is a fascinating novelization of Zelda Fitzgerald's life.  Fowler takes on some of the criticisms of Zelda--was she really mentally unstable?  jealous of her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald?--and answers with compassion and insight.  Maybe Zelda was unfairly criticized by people like Ernest Hemingway.  Maybe Scott was jealous of Zelda's abilities.  The story is told from Zelda's point of view, so regardless of whether you believe her, the story is always interesting.  From her debutante years in Alabama, to New York City, Paris, and other European hot spots, Z provides a tantalizing glimpse into a glamorous life.  To prepare for the new Great Gatsby movie coming out in May, re-read that novel along with Z--Lucinda Whitehurst.

YA Spotlight: For fans of The Help--The Dry Grass of August

Do you know YA or adult readers who loved Kathryn Stockett's The Help?    Tell them about The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew (Kensington Books, 2011).

In August, 1954, thirteen-year-old June travels with her mother, sisters, and Mary, their black maid, from their home in Charlotte, N.C., to Florida and back through Georgia.  Mayhew explores the complex relationships between white children and black maids.  June gets more genuine love and affection  from Mary than from her parents, but the relationship always is a bit guarded.  Despite their closeness, June and Mary are restricted by societal roles and expectations.  Mary knows "her place," and changes her manner for survival in various circumstances.  Mary's deference to white people initially is confusing to June, but during the trip June sees more of how the larger world treats black people.  A tragedy forces June to face the terrible truths about her family and her way of life.  Signs of coming change are everywhere once June begins to look.  At one point, June and her older sister Stella argue about Mary.  June says, "But she was our friend," and Stella replies, "We paid her to be."

Although this book is not written specifically for a YA audience, teens and adults will appreciate June's, and Mary's, journey--Lucinda Whitehurst

Sunday, March 10, 2013

JMU Picture Book Presentation

What an honor to be invited to speak to the Future Childhood Educators' group at James Madison University!  I know these terrific young people will make a positive difference in our classrooms.