Fjóla Fjóla's Comments (member since May 16, 2012)

Fjóla's comments from the Children's Books group.

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188 Kathryn wrote: "Here are the books we will read in June: ..."

I will try to chime in if we come across any of these books. Although probably not until school is out late June.

Kathryn wrote: " ...
The Tooth Fairy Wars: with audio recording *not sure why it's linking to the audio recording--it's not required ..."

This is one of those weird GR kinks. For some reason the audio book ends up being the most shelved version …
188 Manybooks wrote: "Wow, I cannot believe this happened to you, sigh. Did someone flag a review you posted? Or was it because of the fact that you do not suffer spamming, or manipulative authors with regard to Iistopia lists? ..."

I suppose I have been somewhat vocal about my repugnance of fake reviews and rigging of listopia votes. Nowadays I mostly try to look the other way, although I find the practice just as grating as before.

I have observed a fair deal of weird stuff going on behind the scenes over the years, whole discussion threads getting pulled, comments deleted right before my eyes, even some of my own. I do understand that they are trying to run a business and please their customers, among whom we are clearly not, rather the product as we are creating content with every keystroke. And clearly, they want this content to reflect well on their patrons.

But I can't help it if I sometimes feel as there is someone looking over my shoulder every time I comment, or contribute to a group. Especially since I have had comments deleted instants after I typed them. I know, I may be a bit paranoid, but this is how I feel sometimes, even when participating in this group …

Ironically, GR staff has turned off my desire for writing reviews. I was probably writing over a 100 reviews a year when I started here, but now it's probably down to around 5. Like most of you probably, I received this e-mail from GR a few weeks ago, denoting me as a "top reviewer". And they said: "Out of all the reviews you've written, this is the review that got the most attention:" … and then linked to a review of mine that they themselves had DELETED during their all-time purge. I mean, that's kind of funny, right!?
188 Kathryn wrote: "Thabks for the feedback, Cheryl and Sam. Good to know why you're not casting a vote.
I do understand that sometimes there's a lack of interest (or so much interest one will read anything chosen!) ..."

I will fess up to having been staying on the sidelines lately. I got a nasty e-mail from Goodreads staff a few months ago, and it made me step back and try to "wean" myself from Goodreads. Problem is, I really like this group, and it's also hard to walk away from the 100+ hours probably spent making librarian and listopia edits here, only to move to another site.

So, I think I'm stuck here. Still reading a lot, obviously, and quite committed to the Caldecott book challenge, but my 7yo is gradually moving away from the picture books too.
188 I don't have much to contribute, my little boy not being into fairies at all. He however LOVED The Tooth Fairy Wars so much he got me to buy it for him. Another title, for younger kids, but which I remember being more on the "gritty" side is the hilarious Alice The Fairy.

I'll throw in a link to the following lists, in case it helps finding titles:
Picture Books about Fairies
Picture Books About Mystical/Magical Creatures

The fairy listopia was not created by me, and the latter listopia was assembled from picture book club nominations.
Apr 18, 2016 08:28PM

188 My son has recently been showing interest in these as well. Like your daughter he is a big Harry Potter and Hobbit fan, and getting started with Percy Jackson. He has Illustrated Norse Myths which he likes quite a bit. While not a picture book, it is sprinkled with colorful illustrations, and it's an easy read despite the almost 300 pages. He's also borrowed both D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths and Gods and Heroes from Viking Mythology at our local library, and enjoyed them.
Nov 11, 2015 09:26AM

188 I have started gathering this type of books into a list of very easy chapter books, based on the books my son and his friends tried and seemed to be into. Fly Guy, Max Spaniel and the Elephant and Piggie books were read over and over, they are so funny (these may cap at 64-80 pages or less tho).

There's another one by Andy Griffiths: The Big Fat Cow That Goes Kapow, very easy and very silly. Your son is also gonna love The 13-Story Treehouse once he gets to that stage.

I could also suggest Nate the Great, a series of "mysteries" with a decent plot but very easy vocabulary.
188 Cheryl wrote: "I can see why When Clay Sings charmed the Caldecott committee, but I personally am very glad that Byrd Baylor moved on to work with Peter Parnall instea..."

About When Clay Sings, I think you nailed it. Intellectually, I wanted to like that book better, but I couldn't get excited about it. The art being so "derivative" (as it is meant to) is one reason. Some of the illustrations are quite pretty, just not exciting. And then I struggled with on one hand, feeling that it's great to explain to kids that there were people here before them, in whose traces they walk, but on the other not being impressed with the self evidence and banality of it. Will kids get excited about pottery? Sure, arrow heads maybe, but fragments of clay? This said, many of Baylor's lines were evocative and pleasing.

I agree that Parnall's art in the consequent books is probably a better match. I really love his use of colors, but even in Hawk's black and white pictures there is a great sense of feeling and space. I hope they continue to keep all of Baylor's books in circulation, in particular in the school libraries. But I think they're great for adults too, they're actually not really children's books so much.
188 Cheryl wrote: "This batch includes, I believe, our first Tomie dePaola book. Strega Nona is a fun take on the Sorcerer's Apprentice theme ..."

I was waiting to see if anyone would remember to comment on this one. We read it at some point but it didn't quite leave enough impression for me to have anything particular to say about it. I do like Tomie dePaola's art, and the story (which seems like a variant on a well known fairy tale) is okay but I didn't feel endeared to the main character Strega Nona and couldn't care less whether I read her other books. The book however often features on all sorts of "Best Of" lists, so visibly many people must be quite fond of it since childhood, I am guessing ...

Now, Hosie's Alphabet was the one book on the list of Honor books this time that I was so intrigued by that I ordered it through inter-library loan. It gets very mixed reviews, but my interest was sparked. Should have it soon.
188 Cheryl wrote: "re' The Contest - what did she do? Date one man during the day, the other at night? Considering that they're ..."

I didn't let my imagination run wild as to what precisely she would have been doing with them men, but she was clearly taking advantage of them as far as I was concerned. But, just to be clear, I was secretly amused, not shocked. My reaction was in the context of what I perceive as proper for the North American canon, knowing that some things would never fly here while being perfectly acceptable overseas. And vice versa ...
188 Oh, and I will admit that I did struggle with parts of Macaulay's text indeed. It is quite technical and not all of the vocabulary was familiar to me (as a non native reader). I many times wished I had a glossary, and then was glad to find one ultimately at the back of the book.
188 The other one that completely blew me away was Hawk, I'm Your Brother. Again, my expectations were modest for a book that was seemingly just a story about a bird in the desert.

I understand how readers take issue with Rudy's capturing of the bird and all that, but in my opinion this exact thing is an important part of the learning process for the little boy, together with the pain and regret that come with it. Rudy's cruel deed is not condoned or glossed over at all (the first few pages explain how he knows it's wrong), but depicted in its nakedness up to the point where Rudy understands and learns from his mistake. I thought there was a lot of love, and respect for wildlife in this book. And a desire to commune and comprehend. I was so touched by this unassuming book, it brought tears to my eyes. It's not as pretty as some of Byrd Baylor's other books, but then it also is, in a delicate sort of way. And then I haven't even said anything about the beautiful text yet. I'll comment more on the Byrd Baylor books when I'm done with the lot of them. Right now I want to take my time …
188 There were two books that really stood out for me as the most impressive finds in this selection of books.

One was Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction. I read the original black and white version, it has quite a bit of text and together with the lack of color the book looked kind of terse and inapproachable to me at first. I started reading however and before I knew I was completely immersed. What an unimaginable feat it describes! It gives culture a new meaning to think how people came to build structures like this, to rise out of the ordinary and figure out ways to accomplish such gargantuan, long term projects. It's clear this builds on not the cleverness of a single creator but on the skills and crafts of a whole society of people, skills honed and perfected over centuries. While we implicitly are aware of these things, the book Cathedral illustrates the impact of it in such concrete terms. I found it very humbling, to think of greatness achieved by many individuals, each being a precisely fitted wheel in a well oiled machine. How many times would I not have given up, had I been in their place? And I think of all the superfluousness in modern times and all the fancy tools we now have, and then contrast with the dearth of means back then and yet what they accomplished. This was a truly fascinating book. I'm going to get the new color version now, to enjoy it some more.
188 Hah! Yes, this is how I often perceive it as an "outsider", but it's tricky to throw around labels of course without over simplifying. The year 1977 may also have carried a more progressive atmosphere (if we can call it that) than what we have today.

Unlike most here, I actually was quite happy with the illustrations in Three Jovial Huntsmen, and it's fun how this must have been one of Susan Jeffers's first picture books, but the original rhyme seems to have been tampered with, because the text in Jeffer's book is impossible to recite (at least for me).

And I'm a huge William Steig fan and love all his crazy stories, but most of all the ones who, like The Amazing Bone, center around the use of magic and a person/animal turning into an inanimate object. Steig's stories are so wacky and funny, but full of love and grief too, they take me through the whole range of emotions. Needless to say, my son has never fully taken to William Steig, because these stories still cause him too much pain when he places himself in the shoes of the (usually unlucky, ill fated) protagonists. I think Steig is a genius though, and I now got a whole stack of his books to read along with the Bone.
188 I hope I'm not too late to this discussion. I wasn't actually super excited about this selection, but I've slowly been making my way through it and there are some nice surprises. My favorite out of the winners will definitely be Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears, but I read it a couple of years ago and haven't gotten my hands on it yet for a reread. I remember the story to pretty enjoyable but the technique and the colors of the pictures are so unique that I would be most happy to have my own copy at some point.

This said I'm really not that crazy about the Anansi style folk tales, and was feeling pretty luke warm about both Anansi the Spider and Arrow to the Sun. In retrospect, I ask myself if it wasn't more the illustrators that had put me off those tales in the past, and Gerald McDermott's pictures are not my favorite. However, I did like Kathryn and sought out the video version of both Anansi and also Arrow to the Sun. These were made by McDermott himself and they are excellent, the illustrations really come alive and the geometry in them makes much more sense when they are not static. The music and the cadence of the story teller also greatly enhance the stories, so I would definitely take the animation over the picture book format here.

I felt a bit ambivalent about the other folk tales: The Funny Little Woman was okay to me, although there is a quality to the illustrations that might be worth a second reading. I loved the spread where her hair came undone and she looked all the more crazy, but also more real. I didn't think Duffy and the Devil had that much going for it either, it's a decent version of this story and I liked the twists but I still didn't find it particularly memorable. And I finally was a bit baffled by The Contest. I'm generally pretty fond of colored pencil (as shown by my love for anything Bill Peet for instance), but these didn't blow me away. And the story is frankly strange. How curious that this tale got selected at the time for a children's book award given the somewhat "puritan" culture of North America. (Or were all boundaries gone back in 1977, the "Age of Aquarius"?) I'm no prude, I think, but my eyes did a double take when I first read about the fiancee. ("She did what?!?!") It was a bit amusing, but a bit awkward too.
Halloween (82 new)
Oct 09, 2015 09:03PM

188 Gundula wrote: "Cinderella Skeleton, although not about Halloween per se, would be fun for Halloween."

How could I have missed that book! We love David Catrow's stuff, his illustrations are so much fun.

Then, we saw Bone by Bone on display at our library, in their Halloween section. I wouldn't have thought of listing it this way myself, but I liked it a lot when we read it ... it's about bones for sure and it's a super cool and interesting book per se.
188 I haven't had much time to look for titles, but I was aware of a couple of thematic lists already:
. Best Children's Thanksgiving Books (almost exclusively picture books, although that is not a requirement)
. Secular Thanksgiving Picture Books (not that I had altogether noticed the religious angle to this holiday before)

As for my suggestions otherwise, I think One Is a Feast for Mouse could be a good choice for younger children.
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade is a really good book that is also a good break from the otherwise typical turkey tale.
The Thanksgiving Story for something classic.
Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation is one I was really impressed with, a couple of years ago.
Finally, Over the River and Through the Wood is one I always like for Catrow's zany illustrations.
Oct 09, 2015 05:10PM

188 Kathryn wrote: " ... For those of you who don't yet know, we are getting ready to welcome another baby next month :-) and this is, of course, factoring into my decision masking as well ..."

What wonderful news!! I just want to add, that while Kathryn is a great moderator, in that not only does she organize but also contributes a lot to the discussion, it never occurred to me that the whole weight of the discussion was her responsibility, it must come down to the members to create some exchange.

I actually would not see any fault in it if you weren't able to comment on all the titles, let alone if you were caring for a newborn and a toddler. I hope you, Kathryn, keep up the great job you are doing. I would be surprised if there were many better run clubs around here ...
Oct 07, 2015 02:07PM

188 I think the sort of "science-y" topics we have picked recently are partly to blame for the daunting number of longer books. It would be hard to find much worthwhile non fiction that can be consumed in a five minute read.

I think the moderators should have leeway to pick the right balance of books, so the maximum number of readers will be able to contribute. No need to make the voting more complicated, just use your discretion.

Now the Caldecott months are a different story, and with me chasing after the Honor books as well I have to say they sometimes "do me in" and I'm stuck with stacks of non approachable books for weeks.
Oct 07, 2015 02:05PM

188 Kathryn wrote: " ... what I'm needing to know is whether the majority of our members would want to focus on books suitable for littlest readers or whether the group's interests in picture books are more advanced? ..."

"Picture Books" is indeed a very broad genre (something I hadn't quite realized before I became a parent) so I think we should make room for both ends of the spectrum, when we can. I principally read for the picture book club with my own kid who now has grown from being on the lower end of your window (3) to being on the upper end (7). Some of the books we read when he was younger definitely went over his head and some would have emotional content that simply was too intense for him. But I assume the responsibility for knowing which books are appropriate for him.

I enjoy sometimes reading books that require more investment, such as poring over the pages or spreading over two nights of bedtime reading, but me too I will sometimes unwillingly push those books aside due to time constraints. If we were to completely shift the focus to "baby books", or preschool level books, I however suspect that the discussions might often turn into one-liners. Aside from unusually well crafted, or creative books, there honestly just isn't always all that much to say about the books with the more simple content.

This is why I would suggest a balance, with say, at least one simple, pre-K level book, and the rest a variety of age 3 - 7 appropriate titles. I think one longer (up to 48 p), text heavy book should be reasonable. Worst case one can always skip it, as it seems likely that another interested group member could be expected to pick up the slack.
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