Children's books

What’s the difference between participating and witnessing? And what does this have to do with books and children?

I had lunch with some longtime friends today and as we walked out together, my friend was telling me how she shared books with a group of children, the same group she had the opportunity to observe as they saw the same story read on a “smart board.”

Nothing creates readers like a good book. And in my experience good books are often recommended to children by a trusted teacher or librarian.

But educators are busy people. A lot of teachers and school librarians I know have a hard time keeping up with what’s new and what’s good in books for children. Then there’s the entire matter of getting one’s hands on the books. Libraries certainly have a role, but there are limitations to physical resources.

If we followed the Ingalls’ journey according to the Little House series, after we left the Big Woods in Wisconsin, our next stop should be Independence, Kansas. Given that Independence is more than 600 miles from Pepin and Walnut Grove, Minnesota, is less than 200 miles, the banks of Plum Creek is where we headed next.

Rachael in a poke bonnet

It's earlier than it's been in the past and the location has changed from the National Mall to the Washington Convention Center but once again, it's back. If past is prelude, then it will be just as much fun (with the benefit of indoor plumbing and air-conditioning against the dreaded DC humidity).

I'm talking about the National Book Festival, of course.

2014 National Book Festival

Remember Laura’s first trip to Pepin? In Little House in the Big Woods, Wilder writes, “Laura stood up on the board and Pa held her safe by the arm, so she could see the town. When she saw it, she could hardly breathe. She knew how Yankee Doodle felt, when he could not see the town because there were so many houses.”

More and more often filmmakers have been turning to children’s books for inspiration. Perhaps it’s a catchy book title that a filmmaker finds intriguing or maybe an idea they want to flesh out. Maybe they simply want to build on existing popularity.

Sometimes it works well. Many of us are wild about Harry, for example. I’m a Harry Potter fan in both the novel and film version, and frankly I find the 1936 movie version of Wizard of Oz more engaging than the book.

When readers first meet Laura in Little House in the Big Woods, she’s a little girl living with her Pa, Ma, older sister Mary and baby sister Carrie. The real Laura Ingalls was born in a little house deep in the forests surrounding Pepin, Wisconsin, on February 7, 1867. Since Pepin is Laura’s birthplace and the setting of her first book, this village along the Mississippi River seemed like the place to visit first.

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote one of the most beloved series in children's literature. Her "Little House" books, which recount her childhood during the late 1800s, have provided generations of readers with a look at what life was like for our pioneering ancestors.

If you've always wanted a closer look at the Big Woods, wondered what it would be like to play along the banks of Plum Creek or dreamed of wandering the shores of Silver Lake, you're not alone. My mother and I have talked about walking in Laura's footsteps ever since I first read the books as a child.

Hats have been around for a long, long time. They’ve been used to kept ears warm, identify one's chosen profession, protect heads from the elements, and more. So it's not surprising that hats abound in books for young readers.

Walter Dean Myers

I've been away for a while. The family vacation was without Internet access or even phone service. When I was reconnected, I was deeply saddened by news that one of the true giants of contemporary children's and young adult literature had died.

Pages

"So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall." — Roald Dahl