Authors & illustrators

The "Mystery Reader" needs a book

My daughter's third-grade teacher does something called The Mystery Reader, which involves a surprise visit by an adult who comes in to read with the class. I'm the Mystery this Friday (shhhh...don't tell Molly!)

I'm looking for funny and engaging picture book read alouds for third graders. I've asked around my neighborhood and my teacher friends, and combed our own bookcases. I have a few ideas, but would love to hear yours!

Why not use graphic novels with younger children?

I recently read an article describing how two library clerks would not allow an 11 year old to check out a graphic novel. They lost their jobs over it — it was a violation of library policy plus they clearly exceeded their authority — although they likely did so with the best intentions.

It brings up a much broader question; that is, why is the graphic form so popular with children of all ages?

Pictures in the Mind: Magicians and Elephants

Our new family read aloud is Kate DiCamillo's The Magician's Elephant. Although we're only three chapters in, we're all hooked. It's a great read aloud for my kids, ages 7 and 9, and I'm sure other ages would love it too.

An excerpt from Kirkus Reviews:

Slightly spooky books are fun now -- and later

I'm the kind of adult who does not (emphasize not) like scary movies. I stopped reading scary books after I read a Stephen King novel that gave me nightmares.

So if you like the type of books that give you major creeps, then don't bother reading any more. But if you're up for not-too-creepy books to share with the children in your lives, you may find an idea or so here.

The gift of a thank you letter

I love children's writing. It can be fresh, fun, and unexpected. It can also be rare. E-mails just don't have the staying power of a pen (or pencil) and paper correspondence.

But recently I got a batch of thank you letters from a group of 4th graders at the grade school from which my son graduated. I had donated some new books to the school.

The librarians and teachers are always appreciative as their budget frequently doesn't allow them to purchase new materials.

Knowing what you see

A film critic's review of the film version of Where the Wild Things Are in today's Washington Post started me thinking. In it, the writer says clearly that the film adaptation of a picture book classic is not typical family film fare but that the film version "created a fully realized variation on its most highly charged themes."

A new Pooh or Pooh continued?

It's being released this month…a new adventure of Winnie the Pooh. You remember Pooh bear, I'm sure. He and his pals from the Hundred Acre Wood have been part of childhood since well, for the past 80 years. A.A. Milne, the author of Pooh (and more) died in 1956.

And now, the Milne trust has entrusted Pooh to another writer.

Building comprehension, one corpse at a time

A runaway train. A ticking clock. Two young kids on an adventure they don't even know about. Sound exciting? That's the premise of the first episode of the Exquisite Corpse, a new project sponsored by The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

From the Exquisite Corpse site:

An exquisite corpse?

Lots of people know the work of Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson, and illustrator Chris Van Dusen. But last weekend at the National Book Festival, a group of well known writers for children and young adults discussed their Exquisite Corpse.

Book to screen

Children's books have inspired creators of other media for a long time. You can probably come up with many television programs inspired by characters who first appeared in print: Rosemary Well's Max and Ruby; Angelina, based on the mice-children created by Katharine Holabird, and Marc Brown's ever popular aardvark Arthur are just the start.


"Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. " — Neil Gaiman