Texas Book Festival 2017

Books covers for Soonish, It devours, Welcome to Nighvale, Santa Calls, Creepy Carrots, Spy School, Space Case, How to avoid extinction, Symphony for the city of the dead, Last stop on market stree

The first Saturday of November, Jim and I attended the 22nd annual Texas Book Festival in Austin.  The book festival began in 1996 about the same time my family moved to the Central Texas area.  It is prestigious, large, and mostly free.  It promotes literacy and reading across all ages.  There are events for the youngest children through adults.  There is something of interest for everyone. The money raised at the book festival through book sales, donations, and other fundraising goes to library and literacy programs in Texas.  This year there was a special fundraising effort for public and school libraries effected by Hurricane Harvey.  I participated by attending and purchasing lots of books.  Once I started it was hard to stop!!!

One of the first events of the day was the announcement of the new Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List for 2018-2019.  We missed the announcement, but I collected a copy of the list.  As I have said in the past, I like this award as Texas school children in grades 3-6, who have read (or have heard read out loud) at least 5 of the books on the list, vote for the winner.  The 2016 winner was Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl. The 2017 winner will be announced this spring at the Texas Library Association’s annual conference. I picked up a book from the list How to Avoid Extinction.  It quirky title made we want to see what is inside!

Another program that the book festival supports is the Reading Rockets Program. This is a literacy outreach program for students in Title I elementary schools, like the one where our daughter teaches.  It brings bilingual and award-winning children’s authors to these schools for presentations.  This program donates a signed copy of the author’s book to each student and a set of the author’s books to the school’s library.  How cool is that!

Because I love children’s books, we had to spend time in the Children’s tent.  We stopped to see the PreK class from my daughter’s school introduce Aaron Reynolds.  He had been at their school earlier in the week. I also wanted to hear his new book.  It had an interesting title, Creepy Underwear. This book is hysterical and so was the author.  Have you ever talked with a group of young children?  You must bring your A-game!  You never know what they will say.  He was funny, charming and energetic.  He told the group that he was an author and most of the time he was a grown up.  The kids in the tent were delighted!  They loved his book.  Alas, I delayed going to the books sales tent and all the copies of the book were gone.  As an alternative, I purchased his book, Creepy Carrots. You will hear about it in another blog.

I decided to stay for the next session as I was intrigued by Chris Harris’ book title, I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-ups. Here was another delightful author.  The local class that introduced him recited one of the poems from the book.  He thanked them and told them how much he had enjoyed visiting their school.  Wow, you must really love to talk with children to be on this circuit.  They asked him all kinds of questions.  As you might have guessed, he began this book for his own children and it just grew.  His poetry, rhyming or not, is captivating and the poems have appealing titles. Here’s a title from one he showed the audience, “Alphabet Book (by the Laziest Artist in the World)”. The illustrator for this book is also one of my favorites, Lane Smith.  The pictures in this book are fantastic, just like the poems.  There will be more to come on this book in another blog.  I have to read the book first!

I learned an interesting fact from both Chris and Aaron. Authors and their illustrators rarely meet.  I was under the wrong impression that they collaborated during the entire process.  That must only happen when the author and illustrator or illustrator and author are very close or the same person.  According to Aaron and Chris, you write your book and you send it off to the publisher.  They look it over and then decide, who might be the best person to illustrate it.  They send the book off to the illustrator to see, if he/she wants to illustrate it.  Aaron said he never met his illustrator, Peter Brown, until after his first book, Creepy Carrots, was published.  Jim and I wondered what happens when the author hates the illustrations?  Our question will have to wait for another time as both these authors appeared to enjoy the illustrations in their books.

These two children’s authors presented in the mid-afternoon and as I am not a husband torturer, we split the day between what he thought might be interesting and what I wanted to see. He is interested in science and science fiction, so we took a flyer and attended Kelly and Zach Weinersmith’s session.  Their book title looked curious, Soonish: A Funny Future of Technology: Ten Technologies That Will Improve/Ruin Everything.

I thought this was a delightful session!  Zach has two degrees one in literature and the other in physics.  Kelly, who could not attend, has a degree in parasitology.  Between the two of them, they work on the ideas and research for their books.  Their book combines interesting theories and Zach’s cartooning. In this presentation, Zach talked about two technologies from their book: Cheap access to space and robots.   In the section on “Cheap Access to Space”, he discussed carbon nanotubes that could be used for a space elevator.  As soon as he started on this topic, I thought about Arthur C. Clarke’s story The Fountains of Paradise.  I haven’t read the book so I don’t know, if they reference his story.

He also discussed robots and how it will end for humanity.  He talked about some interesting recent robotic experiments.  We, the people, are so gullible. Seems if a robot tells us something, it is true. To the best of my narrative ability, here’s how the experiments went.  In experiment one, on a campus, near a locked dorm lurked a robot.  The robot would stop students and ask them to let it into the dorm.  A very, few students let the robot into the dorm.  On the other hand, around 80% of the students stopped and would let that same robot in the dorm, if it robot had cookies and offered one to the student.   Makes you wonder what people will do for cookies!

In experiment two, began with student who were volunteering for a study waiting in a building’s lobby.  They were met by a robot and led to a room.  Sometimes the robot went straight to the room.  Sometimes the robot took what was obviously a long, circuitous route.  Sometimes the robot would walk into a wall and go the wrong direction and have to correct itself on the way to the room.  Sometimes the robot would move very slowly.  The robot left the students in the room where the experiment was to take place. After they had been in the room for a few minutes, the room began to fill with smoke and the fire alarm went off. A robot appeared in the doorway and told the students to follow it to safety.  It is interesting that in every case, people followed the robot.  It didn’t matter, if they could see the exit door, or if the robot had made mistakes in getting them to the experimental room and was making obvious mistakes getting them back to the outside door, the students followed the robot.  I think that is a scary thought that they would so blindly follow robots.  After all they were built by people.  During the Q&A session someone asked this related question, what would you do to prevent a robot apocalypse?  His answer: “Don’t let it get started!”  It was a most amusing presentation.  Did I buy his book? Why yes and “soonish”, after I read it, I will blog about it.

Jim and I listen to the news on the way to and from work every day.  It gives us a chance to talk about current events.  Discussing current events led us to this session with its intriguing title, “Falsehoods, Forgeries, and Fake News” in the C-SPAN Book tent.  This session featured Kevin Young and Jared Yale Sexton.  They discussed how PT Barnum and his use of the Penny Press was similar to the way the internet is used now.  It was a lively, but somewhat distressing topic.  They offered us hope.  We must learn about each other and find common ground so that civil discourse can continue.

After that heavy topic, we were ready for lunch.  We walked down to six street and had lunch at BD Riley’s Irish Pub.  Books (a discussion), a brew (Guinness Stout), and BD Riley’s Irish stew (best ever) made lunch heaven.  I am glad that we had the second half of our day at the book festival to walk off all that yummy goodness.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To cap off our book festival day, we intended to try the festival’s lit crawl.  Unfortunately, all the lit crawl venues were too far from us.  We had our own lit crawl. We used two of our newly purchased books (Tom Hank’s Uncommon Type and Zack and Kelly Weinersmith’s Soonish) to play the game, “Bring Your Own Book.”  We had a blast and it was a lovely end to a perfect day at the Texas Book Festival.

Advertisements

Arrow to the Sun – Happy July 4th

arrowsunMcDermott, Gerald.  Arrow to the Sun. New York: Puffin Books, 1974.

I know this is late, but Happy July 4th! Yesterday was the birthday of our nation.  We are fortunate to live in a country with a diverse population.  Our varied backgrounds, ancestry,  and stories combine to create a rich narrative for all of us.

The book I offer today, Arrow to the Sun is based on a Pueblo Indian tale.  According to the synopsis, “it is a retelling of how the Spirit of the Lord was brought the world of men”.

This is an exciting tale.  If I were a better storyteller, I would learn to tell this story. It would be a great one to share around a campfire. This book is a visual treat as well.  It has bright colors and stylized drawings based on the Pueblo Indian’s mythology.  I have enjoyed following the story with my eyes as well as my ears.

The Lord of the Sun sends his spark to the earth to a young Pueblo Indian maiden.  The Boy is born. He is rejected by his peers as his father is unknown.  He leaves home to seek his father.  A wise Arrow Maker recognizes the Boy and sees his connection to the Lord of the Son.  He offers his help and makes the boy into an arrow and shoots him to the sun.  The Boy meets the Lord of the Sun but must prove himself.  Find a copy of this book to read to a young friend or even for yourself.

Gerald McDermott

McDermott’s illustrations are dominated by bright, stylized forms, which often draw from indigenous art and highlight his fascination with the origins of stories!¹

I agree with this assessment of his work!  Here are some other interesting facts about this author.

  1. This author was a reader and artist from a young age.
  2. He had an avid interest in world mythologies.
  3. He was a film maker before he became an author. He made some of his films into books.
  4. He won the Caldecott Award for Arrow to the Sun in 1975. He also holds Caldecott Honors for Anansi the Spider (1973) and Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest (1994).

Here are some websites where you can discover more about this author.

  1. http://www.slj.com/2013/01/industry-news/gerald-mcdermott-a-legacy-of-magical-storytelling/#_
  2. https://www.booklistonline.com/Books-and-Authors-Talking-with-Gerald-McDermott-Nancy-J-Johnson/pid=3993803
  3. https://www.booklistonline.com/Books-and-Authors-Talking-with-Gerald-McDermott-Nancy-J-Johnson/pid=3993803
  4. http://www.academia.edu/12211133/Master_Artist_Master_Storyteller_An_Interview_with_Gerald_McDermott_Independent_Filmmaker_Author-Illustrator_of_Childrens_Books_

¹https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/55452-obituary-gerald-mcdermott.html

Guest Blog: Puns

PunRisesPollack, John.  The Pun Also Rises. New York: Gotham Books, 2011

This is the first of two parts on humor.  While some deride puns as the lowest form of humor, we here in Texas celebrate them with a special contest, the O. Henry Pun Off.  As you can see by the information below, I am a little late publishing this blog as this event happened earlier this month.  

O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) moved to Texas in 1882 worked at a little of this and a little of that. While his writing career didn’t take off until after he left our state, we have a tidy little museum in downtown Austin dedicated to his years in Austin. The annual O. Henry Pun Off is hosted on the grounds of this museum.  This year was their 40th Anniversary, so people have been making “punny” there for a long time.  We didn’t have a chance to go this year, so my husband, Jim, has contributed his thoughts on this form of humor.

Well, the O. Henry Pun Off is happening on May 13, 2017.  While I have never gone to one, I have read books and heard about it.  It is hard to miss in season since I live close to Austin, Texas, where it is held.  I have (and my entire family for that matter) be punsters.  Sometimes we will engage in puns for hours, switching topics from time to time.  My father once told me a story of about my grandfather, who was also a punster.  Apparently, his coworkers couldn’t take any more of the puns and took him and locked him in a storage room and said that he couldn’t come out until he told another pun.  To which, he said, “Oh pun the door” and was let out forthwith.

I have heard it said that puns are the lowest form of humor…unless you where the one who came up with it.  There is, I must say, something pleasing about hearing the groans of your friends and acquaintances when you let go an unexpected pun.  This disease is hereditary.  I like to pun as does my wife, Robin.  We have two wonderful daughters and they also are formidable punners.  There is, however, a distinct difference between the way my daughters pun.  My youngest daughter, Sarah likes to join in with the rest of us when we start to pun.  My oldest daughter Alexis fains disdain at these antics, but will let one go randomly when no one is expecting it.  She is the seldom, but devastating punner.

I am not sure what the attraction of puns is.  Somehow, there is satisfaction is using incorrect words that sound the same or similar to the correct word.  Part of the attraction, of course, is seeing if the recipient/target of the pun gets it.  If so, he/she usually groans.  If they don’t get it, you can humiliate the victim by explaining it.  A well-executed pun is a no-lose proposition for the giver.  If, however, a pun is botched, the tables turn and the attempted giver of the pun is subject to intense ridicule, as well they should.

So, pun “oily” and often.  Let all your former friends know just how smart and witty you are.  But, do so at your own risk.

Extra credit:  Read “The Pun Also Rises” by John Pollack

A Is for “All Aboard!” An Alphabet Book for Autism Awareness Month

  • Kavan, Stefan and Barbara. Illustrated by Michaelin Otis. Trainman: Gaining Acceptance…and Friends…through Special Interests.  Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing, 2011.
  • Kluth, Paula and Victoria Kluth. Illustrated by Brad Littlejohn. A Is for “All Aboard!” Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing, 2010.

I wanted to share these two books in recognition of Autism Awareness month.  About 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)¹. Autism is diagnosed on a triad of issues: Social Skills, Communication, and Unusual Interest and Behaviors². These two books give perspective on the unusual interest and behaviors legs of this disorders.  Sometimes these unusual interests can keep children with autism apart from other children, who don’t share them.

Trainman is Stefan’s story.  He is a boy with autism. His interests are maps, roads, and trains!  His mom and his teacher both worry about him.  He sits alone at lunch, partly because the cafeteria is too noisy and partly because his interests aren’t shared by the other children. One of the goals on his individualized education plan (IEP) is self-advocacy.  To address this goal, his mother suggests that he might like to make a presentation to his teacher and classmates about his autism and his special interests.  He agrees.  Stefan is good at PowerPoint. Armed with information from his mother, he creates a presentation for his class.  He shows this to all his peers, his teacher, and his principal.  This presentation helps them understand that Stefan is much like them.  They are impressed with his knowledge of trains.  This disclosure helps Stefan with his classmates, teacher, and even the principal (who Stefan only sees when he is in trouble). The children in his class have much more patience, when he talks about trains or roads.  Stefan, also tries to remember to ask them about their special interests.

Stefan and his mom wrote this book for other students with autism.  It is her hope that this book will encourage classroom discussions around relationships.  All children, including those with autism, need acceptance and understanding from peers.  They all need friends.

Kari Dunn Buron, a noted autism education specialist, has contributed ideas for using this book as a teaching tool. She also contributed information on special interests and students with ASD in the back of the book.

The second book I offer is a delightful alphabet book written by Paula Kluth and her sister, Victoria Kluth.  Paula is also a noted specialist on autism, literacy, and inclusive education.  When she was researching for her book on literacy and autism, she discovered that there were no train ABC books. Paula drafted her sister, Victoria, to help her write this alphabet. From “A Is for All Aboard” to “Z Is for Zephyr,” all the letters have a special significance to train lovers including these two authors.  Their father worked on the railroad and they spent some quality time in the railyard.

When I was reading this book, I thought about my own Grandpa worked on the railroad.  I wonder how he would have liked this book.  He never talked much about his work and I was too young to collect his thoughts.

Paula and Victoria created an alphabet book for any train enthusiast. Like Trainman, this book can also be used as a teaching tool.  Paula has included a section on using alphabet books to teach.

Here are some great autism resources.

¹CDC Autism Spectrum Disorder: Statistics and Data – https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
²CDC Autism Spectrum Disorders: Signs and Symptoms – https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html

February 2017: Reading Report from North, Central Texas

feb2017The second month of the year has flown by.  Where did the time go?  As you can see from the photo for some reason this month’s book stack is short.

Jim

Jim is working his way through the book he started last month, 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson.  The past couple of weeks, his reading has slowed down as the skies have been clear and dark and he has been imaging the stars.

Alexis

As always, Alexis wins the reading award for our house. This is only a partial listing of her reads.  She made a trip to the library before I could record them all!

  • Johnston, E.K. A Thousand Nights. New York: Hyperion, 2015.
  • Gladwell, Malcolm. blink. New York: Little Brown and Co., 20015.
  • Meyer, Marissa.  Heartless. New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2016.
  • Sagara, Michelle. Cast in Courtlight. Buffalo, NY: Luna, 2006.

Sarah

Sarah didn’t have much time for personal reading this month.  Here are a few of the books she read to her classes.

  • Wood, Audra.  Silly Sally.  New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1994.
  • Goss, Janet L.  It Didn’t Frighten Me.  New York: Mondo, 1995.
  • Raffi.  Down by the Bay (Raffi Songs to Read).  Nadine Bernard Westcott, Illustrator.  New York: Dragonfly Books, 1988.

Robin

Here are the books I read.  Many of them were for the blogs I wrote this month. You might recognize the Judy Blume books from yesterday’s post.

  • Elrod, P.N. The Hanged Man.  New York: TOR, 2015.
  • Asimov, Isaac. The Complete Robot. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1982.
  • Blume, Judy. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. New York: Puffin Books, 1972.
  • Blume, Judy.  In the Unlikely Event. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.

2016: A Year in Review

collage1_2016Happy New Year! I am starting 2017 with a review of books from 2016. Here is the consolidated list (libraryrecap).

I have enjoyed writing this blog. I began writing to explain to my new nephew, why I chose the books he received as a birth gift. My family encouraged me to write a blog.  They seem to think that I know something about children’s books.  They are so lovely and kind!  What I know about children’s books is that I like them.  If I could, I would inspire every child with the love of reading.  I like reading books. I like paring books with ideas, events and activities.

Since they encouraged me to write, I have been writing this blog for my pleasure and practice. Sometimes, but not often, it gets me out of dinner dishes (I can’t do dishes tonight, I have to work on my blog).  If I had stopped with the volumes purchased for my new nephew,  it would have been a very short blog. When I finished his list I segued to the rest of my children’s book collection.  Many of these books are old favorites of mine. It has been a lovely walk down memory lane. As I reread and write about these books, I remember snuggling up with my girls and sharing these stories.  Reading to children is a wonderful activity. It was fun, fun, fun to read and discover these books with my girls. It was fun, fun, fun to remember that time through this blog.

My family has become accustom to keeping a list of their readings for the monthly reading report. I hope that you have enjoyed these reports.  2016 was a very enjoyable reading year!  I hope it is another good year for reading and for all other endeavors.

Happy New Year to everyone! May your year be productive, satisfying and fun! Find some good books to read. Here are some of the books that were read in Haus Reimund in 2016.collage2_2016

Franchise: A Story for Election Day!

whitehouseAsimov, Isaac. “Franchise.” The Far Ends of Time and Earth.  New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., nd.

My thoughts and good wishes are with all the voters, who go to the polls today and to those that have voted early.  Thank you for participating in our democratic process!  The election of our new president is an important duty.

For election day, I offer you a story of a future time, written by Isaac Asimov in 1955. He imagined a time in the future when waiting for the results of an election was just too tedious and the statistical accuracy of the computers in that time reduced the need for the entire adult populace to vote. In the new Electronic Democracy, the voting process was run by the Multivac computer and only one man in the country  needed to vote. Notice that only one man was needed, by this time women were no longer eligible to vote. Did this Electronic Democracy reduce all the hype and hoopla of the presidential campaigns?  No, sadly, there were still presidential campaigns with all their excess and drama.  The pundit’s role was to speculate on state would provide the designated voter.  Norman Muller of Indiana was chosen and he was petrified. It was a grave responsibility to help choose for two hundred million people.  With great trepidation, he goes to do his duty.  Questions from Multivac are delivered to Norman by a technician. His response are recorded, reviewed and fed into Multivac. His ordeal lasted for three hours after which he had to wait for an hour to make certain Multivac had no more questions. After it was over, the only question Norman could remember was “What do you think of the price of eggs.”  I wonder what other factors Multivac incorporated into the election decision. In the end, despite his original terror, Norman was proud of his contribution.

In this imperfect world, the sovereign citizens of the first and greatest Electronic Democracy had, through Norman Muller (through him!), exercised once again its free, untrammeled franchise.

This process was clean and only took four hours.  Would I trade that Electronic Democracy for our current one?  No, I would not!  I want to help make this vital decision. I will take our messy, noisy, time-consuming process!  Tonight I am going to enjoy the fruits of our democracy and watch the election returns. I will raise my glass to the USA!