Monday, May 27, 2013

For Memorial Day...Children's Books about War

by Susan Berger

From Wickipedia:

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service

In Honor of the holiday here are some children’s books about war. I list them in chronological order of the wars they depict.

American Revolution:

My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier.

     The story of one family torn apart by the Revolutionary War. All his life, Tim Meeker has looked up to his brother Sam. Sam's smart and brave -- and is now a part of the American Revolution. Not everyone in town wants to be a part of the rebellion. Most are supporters of the British -- including Tim and Sam's father.
      With the war raging, Tim knows he'll have to make a choice -- between the Revolutionaries and the Redcoats - and between his brother and his father.
     This classic novel, published in 1974, is a Newbery Honor book that was also named an ALA Notable Children's Book and nominated for a National Book Award in 1975. The ALA reports that My Brother Sam is Dead was the twelfth most frequently challenged book in the period from 1990 to 2000, and the 27th most challenged book from 2000 to 2009.
      My son Chris was assigned My Brother Sam in two separate school systems. He loved it.

The Civil War

Pink and Say by  Patricia Polacco
Say Curtis describes his meeting with Pinkus Aylee, a black soldier, during the Civil War, and their capture by Southern troops. Based on a true story about the author's great-great-grandfather.

Under Siege!: Three Children at the Civil War Battle for Vicksburg by Andrea Warren 

Meet Lucy McRae and two other young people, Willie Lord and Frederick Grant, all survivors of the Civil War’s Battle for Vicksburg. In 1863, Union troops intend to silence the cannons guarding the Mississippi River at Vicksburg – even if they have to take the city by siege. To hasten surrender, they are shelling Vicksburg night and day. Terrified townspeople, including Lucy and Willie, take shelter in caves – enduring heat, snakes, and near suffocation. On the Union side, twelve-year-old Frederick Grant has come to visit his father, General Ulysses S. Grant, only to find himself in the midst of battle, experiencing firsthand the horrors of war.

World War I

Well, my personal favorite is Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery. 
This is the last book in the Anne of Green Gable series and I cannot tell you how many times I've read it. It is a clear and touching picture of the home front in Canada.

Rilla of Ingleside  is available as a free eBook from Project Guttenberg

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo 
The terrible ravages of World War I as seen through the eyes of a Calvary horse. This book became a Tony Award winning play using puppeteers for the horse. Kathleen Kennedy was so moved by the play that she and Steven Spielberg made a movie of it. The movie is good, but can’t touch the power of the play.

World War II
by Eve Bunting, illustrations Steven Gammell

The Holocaust. Nobody can write a picture book about the Holocaust for kids. Right? Wrong! The incredible Eve Bunting can write about any subject for kids. The title link above is to GoodReads, but Terrible Things has been animated on VimeoPlease watch it. Her language is simple, yet lyrical, the illustrations are beautiful and the book is a reminder of what can happen if we are not vigilant.

Last Page in the Diary by Colleen L Reece 
Thirteen-year-old Patricia (Pat) Kelly bargains with God. If He will bring her best friend Mike (Yoshi Mizuki) home from a desert prison camp and make things like they were before the war, maybe she can start trusting Him again. The war ends, but hate and persecution continue.

Modern War
Off to War by Deborah Ellis
What does it feel like to be left behind? To watch someone you love put themselves into danger on a regular basis? To find that the person who left is not always the same person who comes back? Author Deborah Ellis systematically speaks to a wide swath of soldiers’ children, always coming back to the same questions. What does your parent do? How long have they been gone? How much do you miss them? The reader never reads Ellis’s questions, only the responses of the kids.
(Spanish Edition: El Primo de Ebeneezerby Kristen Zajac, Illustrated by Jennifer Thomas Houdeshell

Maria Jimenez and her dad share many things including a passion for going to see the monkeys at their local primate sanctuary. But when Maria's father returns home from military service with an injury, how will she find a way to help him recapture his spirit and independence?

 And, by the same author:

Chasing the Spirit of Service 
by Kristen Zajac, Illustrated by Julie Tucker
Emma comes from three generations of Air Force pilots and misses her father when he travels. Her best friend Adam tries to cheer her up. Emma's great grandfather, one of the first African American pilots during World War II, shares his life story with Emma and Adam and helps them appreciate the spirit of service.

Chasing the Spirit of Service was a 2011 Global eBook Award Winner, Multicultural Fiction. I love these two and bought both of them to share with my grandchildren.

Last but not least: One of our readers, Lynn Becker, mentioned  IN DARKNESS, by Nick Lake.

It didn't fit my theme, but I didn't want to leave it out.

The 2013 Printz winner is a beautifully written YA about gang war, and fighting for freedom from slavery in Haiti:

In Darkness is the story of "Shorty"-a 15-year-old boy trapped in a collapsed hospital during the earthquake in Haiti. Surrounded by the bodies of the dead, increasingly weak from lack of food and water, Shorty begins to hallucinate. As he waits in darkness for a rescue that may never come, a mystical bridge seems to emerge between him and Haitian leader Toussaint L'Ouverture, uniting the two in their darkest suffering-and their hope.

A modern teen and a black slave, separated by hundreds of years. Yet in some strange way, the boy in the ruins of Port au Prince and the man who led the struggle for Haiti's independence might well be one and the same.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Today's Links: Appropriate And Inappropriate


 by Kris Kahrs

In the spirit of collaboration, the forces of good and evil here at The Pen and Ink Blog decided to split the difference and list both the appropriate and inappropriate kidlit links this week. 

The Appropriate:

Go to bed with a good book?  What if that book also kept you warm at night? The Great Eastern Hotel in the UK has a blanket designed by Tiago da Fonseca that is also a traditional bedtime story.

The Inappropriate:
Author/Illustrator, Josh Cooley has a series called the L'il Inappropriate Book line.  One of these has a Golden book of our favorite movies, The Godfather. Definitely not a bedtime read for anyone under 21. 

The Appropriate:
This ultra-hip library desk from the Tu Delft Architecture Bibliotheek in the Netherlands.  Every bibliophile's dream.

The Inappropriate:
Over at College Humor (and yes, the name does say it all), there are more funny, but ah, inappropriate titles for children.    

My favorite.  You can get the wallpaper here.

Enjoy this week's Appropriate and Inappropriate Links.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dispatch #7 - "The Science of Story"

by Lupe Fernandez
The "First Commandment" is the story "must appeal to emotion."

Last Friday at the Chabot Science Space Center in the hills of Oakland, Ca, your Foreign Correspondent attended the Center's "Future Friday Lecture Series." The guest speakers were Jim Capobianco, Derek Thompson & Kevin O'Brien, artists at Pixar Animation Studios. Their work included Wall-E, The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

The artists introduced themselves and talked about their childhood inspirations.

Kevin O'Brien
Kevin or "Kevo", as his colleagues called him, was "a space nerd." His mother allowed him to stay home and watch the coverage of various space program launches like the launch of Apollo 15.

Jim Capobianco
Jim loved Star Wars. He was inspired by the appearance of different creatures in one location. Jim acknowledge the influence of Jungian archetypes and Joseph Campbell. "Story is embedded in our guts. It's primal." Storyboards use cinema language.

Derek Thompson
Derek traced the story linage from John Carter by Edgar Rice Burroughs to Star Wars to present science fiction film stories.

The artists experience working in the Pixar community involved seeking "design solutions for character performance in the story." When they were presented with the challenge of the pod sequence from Wall-E where Eva thinks Wall-E is dead, they worked on "problem solving."

(c)Pixar Storyboard

The scene had no dialog and depended on their visual skills.

The artistic team's goal was to "crack the problem." The scene came first, not who did what. "The story board was the frame of the house," they said, "The bones of the story. The undercarriage." All the artists accepted that their "artwork is tossed...designs changed...artists has to let go."

After their talk, someone in the question asked how they made story work in a "Pixar committee."

One of the artists remarked that they were "told the characters" must "connect with the audience."

"Nobody sees the storyboard (work) on the screen. But the scene works." There's "great satisfaction," even they "work on other's (artists) work."

These insights are valid for our work as writers. Of what use is an elaborate fantasy world, if the characters fail to convey human emotion. These men have develop thick skin working with revision after revision to serve a greater "Prime Directive" as Kevin said.

"The story must appeal to emotion."

Some thoughts to consider, courtesy of visual artists Jim, Derek and Kevin.

Next up for Pixar is Good Dinosaur and Inside Outside, a journey into a girl's brain.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Five Best First Paragraphs
I’ve Read this Month

by Susan Berger

I’m back to reading Children’s and YA books. These first paragraphs are from my April favorites. The books link to Goodreads because their listings also include links to independent bookstores and libraries.

It was a sunny spring morning, but there was murder in the air. Jordon Johnston was killing  Pomp and Circumstance. Actually the whole elementary school orchestra was involved. It was a musical massacre.

About Average by Andrew Clements

The minute I read the first paragraph, I checked out the book. Andrew Clements is best known for Frindle His books don't stay on the shelves in the libraries. Kids love him and I do too.  I would have linked you to Frindle, but Blogger is strange and irritable today and will not let me do so.

Whenever Castle Glower became bored, it would grow a new room or two. It usually happened on Tuesdays when King Glower was hearing petitions, so it was the duty of the guards at the front gates to tell petitioners the only two rules the Castle seemed to follow.

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

I picked up this book because last year I read her book DragonSkin Slippers and loved it. I’m looking forward to the sequel, Wednesdays in the Tower which will be released May 7th.  I also read The Princess trilogy by Jessica Day George this month. This trilogy is based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses, one of my favorite fairy tales.

I’m going to give you the whole first page on this next one:

I have had not so good of a week.

Well, Monday was a pretty good day, if you don’t count Hamburger Surprise at lunch and Margaret’s mother coming to get her. Or the stuff that happened in the Principal’s office when I got sent there to explain that Margaret’s hair was not by fault and besides she looks okay without it, but I couldn’t because Principal Rice was gone, trying to calm down Margaret’s mother.

Someone should tell you not to answer the phone in the Principal’s office if that’s a rule.

Okay, fine, Monday was not so good of a day.

Clementine  by Sarah Pennypacker, Illustrations by Marla Frazee

I'd already read Clementine, but I checked it out to read to my seven year old granddaughter. I read her the first chapter and she decided to take it home with her and read it herself.


Prince Charming is afraid of old ladies. Didn’t know that did you? Don’t worry. There’s a lot you don’t know about Prince Charming. Prince Charming has no idea how to use a sword; Prince Charming has no patience for dwarfs; Prince Charming has an irrational hatred of capes. Some of you may not even realize that there’s more than one Prince Charming. And that none of them are actually named Charming. No one is. Charming isn’t a name; it’s an adjective.

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy Illustrated by Todd Harris

This is my favorite funny read for April. I picked it up because May is Fantasy month at Reading for Kids, a group I volunteer with, and this was the fourth Grade title. I cannot WAIT to read this with them next week. I loved it so much that I pre-ordered the sequel, A Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle.

Prologue: May 22, 1950

HE HAD A FEW MORE MINUTES to destroy seventeen years of evidence, Still in pajamas, Harry Gold raced around his cluttered bedroom, pulling out desk drawers, tossing boxes out of the closet, and yanking books from the shelves. He was horrified. Everywhere he looked were incriminating papers-a plane ticket stub, a secret report, a letter from a fellow spy.

Bomb The Race to build and steal the world’s most DangerousWeapon by Steve Sheinkin

I mentioned this book in my last first Lines post. I read it in April and WOW!!!  A fascinating look at the players in this history. I bookmarked all the pictures as I went back frequently to reference their faces. He did a brilliant job with the book.

Bomb won the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children, Newbery Honor and YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: 

Hope one of these books strikes your fancy.  Happy Reading.