You are probably already familiar with author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg from his best known children’s books: The Polar Express and Jumanji. Both have been turned into extremely successful feature films. They also both earned Van Allsburg a Caldecott Medal for best illustrated children’s book in the year they were published.
Van Allsburg’s work features detailed drawings in a limited range of colors and with unusual perspectives. Look closely and you’ll almost certainly find something surprising, or even other-worldly. Although his books are usually in a picture book format, they are suitable for older kids and adults, as well. You’ll need to spend some time on each page, soaking up the words and the illustrations, to appreciate the richness of the art form.
In 1984, Van Allsburg published an unusual book called The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, consisting almost entirely of strange and haunting illustrations. These illustrations were often used in schools as writing prompts. In 2011, a group of young adult authors were asked to write a collection of short stories based on the Harris Burdick illustrations. You can read the stories in The Chronicles of Harris Burdick.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day I wanted to republish this post, first posted Feb 13, 2017.
Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is a celebration of accomplishments by African Americans. It’s also a time to recognize how African Americans helped shape this nation. The US is not the only country who dedicates a month to celebrating black history, Canada and the United Kingdom do, as well.
Black History Month actually started out as a single week called ‘Negro History Week’, by Carter G. Woodson in 1926. They chose the second week of February because of the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
In decades that followed, cities across the country issued yearly proclamations recognizing the week. In the late ’60s, around the same time as the civil rights movement and the growing awareness of black identity, the week evolved into the month. President Gerald R. Ford was the first president to officially recognize the month in 1976
To help celebrate Black History Month, below are some books showing African American History.
John Green is probably Indiana’s most loved Young Adult author. His debut novel, Looking for Alaska, won the 2006 Printz Award for best teen novel. His last book, The Fault in Our Stars sold over 45 million copies and was made into a popular film.
In between, he authored An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and (with David Levithan) Will Grayson, Will Grayson. His latest book, Turtles All the Way Down was published in October of 2017.
Turtles All the Way Down has been receiving rave reviews from book critics. People magazine described it as “A tender story about learning to cope when the world feels out of control” and the Wall Street Journal said, “There is tenderness and wisdom here, and a high quotient of big ideas.”
In the book, sixteen-year-old Aza pursues the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, because there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. The book illustrates the difficulties of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition that Aza shares with author John Green.
Dealing with difficult situations is a standard of much of Green’s writing and the honesty of his work provides an opening for discussion about these topics. At the same time, he uses lots of humor to keep the plot from becoming too serious and teens are easily able to relate to his characters.
In addition to his writing, John and his brother Hank produce the Vlogbrothers videos (youtube.com/vlogbrothers) and created the online educational series CrashCourse (youtube.com/crashcourse). He also collaborated with YA authors Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle on a book of three intertwined holiday romances.
Our Fall Storytime programs will be featuring three picture book authors; we began on September 12th and 13th with Lois Ehlert. Ehlert is the author and illustrator of over 20 children’s books and has also illustrated books by other authors, including the iconic Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. Coming from a graphic design background, Ehlert creates illustrations from cut paper, cloth, feathers, rocks and much more.
Many of her books are written about plants and animals and are the perfect starting point for discussions or lessons about science. Others of her books use simple shapes and numbers and are wonderful for reinforcing math concepts. Educators love her books because they are so easy to adapt for classroom use, but kids love them for the bright colors and sly sense of humor. Some of the subjects addressed in her books include:
Ehlert attributes her success to parents who encouraged her creativity and who kept her supplied with tools and materials. Her parents’ influence is discussed in her autobiography The Scraps Book which is located in our juvenile biography area.
If any teachers would like me to share some Lois Ehlert books with your classroom, just give me a call. I love to share these amazing books with kids!
Tuesday, November 1 is National Author’s Day! Technology and social media make it easier than ever before to stay connected to our favorite writers. If you follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Facebook, or any other social media platform, you can send them messages whenever you want, and you might even get a response! Here are some ways you can celebrate National Author’s Day this year:
Check out books by your favorite authors from the Library and post them to social media with#NationalAuthorsDay. Be sure to tag the author in the post so they’ll see how much you appreciate them!
Post comments on their websites about how much you appreciate their writing. Writing can be a lonely business with long hours and numerous frustrations along the way. Your kind words will be much appreciated.
Write reviews of your favorite books either on Goodreads, Amazon, or whatever platform you use. On Goodreads, you can ask authors questions and sometimes you’ll get a reply, which is the coolest thing in the world.
Let the aspiring authors in your life know that you appreciate them, too. It isn’t easy to create something out of nothing, and it’s even harder when you face rejection after rejection from publishers. A nice card or
text (or candy!) would be a great way to let them know that you’re rooting for them.
My favorite way to celebrate National Author’s Day is to curl up with some books by my favorite authors (Rick Riordan, Meg Cabot, the Brontë sisters….) and read all day long. How will you celebrate National Author’s Day?