Last Stop on Market Street

LastStopDe La Peña, Matt.  Last Stop on Market Street. Illustrated by Christian Robinson.  New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015.

Many of the children’s books I featured in my blog are older books. I write about them, because I have wonderful memories associated with them.  When I pick up a book, I remember the first time I read it either to one of my daughters or to a group of children.  I have been lucky to have read many fine books over time.  I am delighted to add this new book to my collection.  Eventually, I will get to read it to special young person.

This is a very new book to me. I picked it up on a whim at this year’s Texas Book Festival. I am ever in pursuit of Caldecott and Newberry award winners.  Not only did it win these two awards, but it also won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.  I brought it home and placed it on my shelves for a future blog post.  Just after the first of the year, I bought myself a 2018: Desk Diary Literary Datebook from Barnes and Noble.  It is chock-a-block full of all sorts of literary bits and bobs.  A couple of weeks ago, I was looking it over for interesting facts and I found one about this book.  My diary informed me that on January 11, 2016 Matt De La Peña became the first Hispanic winner of the John Newberry Medal award. It was kismet!  It was a sign! This must be my next book blog.

Wonderful words and praiseworthy pictures come together for a charming story about CJ and his Nana.  I already have something in common with CJ.  He calls his grandmother, Nana and that what I called my grandmother and my girls called theirs. Every week after church, CJ goes with his Nana to help at the soup kitchen, which is near the last bus stop on Market Street.  He is young and restless.  Why do they have to walk to the bus stop in the rain? Why don’t they have a car? He has a few other laments.  For each question, his strong and sunny Nana has a calm and thoughtful answer.  She guides him to ideas and thoughts outside of himself.  A question about why they don’t have a car, brings this reply, “Boy, what do need a car for? We got a bus that breathes fire, and old Mr. Dennis, who always has a trick for you.” It took me a couple of readings and examination of the illustrations to find the reference to the bus that breathes fire.  It is an illusion to the fire-breathing dragon Christian Robinson has illustrated on the side of CJ and Nana’s bus.

This is a wonderful book about how we see things about us.  CJ, with Nana’s help, learns to hear and see the wonder of the world that surrounds them.  Whether you’ve ever ridden a bus with your Nana or not, this is a wonderful book.  Read it and remember all the times someone who loved you, helped you see the bigger picture.


The Dark Is Rising Sequence


  • Cooper, Susan. Over Sea, Under Stone. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1965.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Dark Is Rising. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1973.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Greenwitch. New York: Simon Pulse, 1974.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Grey King. New York: Simon Pulse, 1975.
  • Cooper, Susan. The Silver on the Tree.  New York: Simon Pulse, 1977.

Last year, I started out with a series based on Welsh mythology, the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. I love stories based on myths and legends. While I was writing about that series, I thought about this one.  The Dark Is Rising Sequence is based on Arthurian legends with some other mythologies in the mix.  It is a sweeping tale of the final struggle of the light against the dark. It is an exciting, well written, high fantasy series.  It appears on several best fantasy series lists. Once I decided to write about this sequence, I had to locate the books. Unfortunately they aren’t carried in my local Barnes and Noble.  I had to scour my Half Price Book store to find them.  I consider it well worth the effort. These are excellently crafted books that carry you away to another place and time.

Susan Cooper received a Newberry Honor Medal for the Dark Is Rising and the Newberry Award for The Grey King.  I couldn’t write this summary of the entire sequence without giving you some spoilers so stop here, if that is a problem for you. Please take my word for it this is a wonderful adventure.  I know I didn’t read this when I was young, because I started with The Dark Is Rising, which was published in 1973 when I was busy in college. I must have discovered it when my oldest daughter did and again when my youngest daughter did.  We all loved it.

In the first story, Over Sea, Under Stone, we are introduced to the story of the struggle between the light and the dark for control of the world.  Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew, ordinary, intrepid children, have their part to play in this struggle.  Theirs is the first quest.  During a trip to the Cornwall Coast, they are introduced to this struggle by their Great Uncle Merry.  They find an ancient map that leads to an important manuscript and to the grail.  These are crucial weapons for the Light’s fight against the dark.  They must find a hiding place that is over sea, and under stone.  How can they prevail when all their actions are scrutinized by agents of the dark?   Can these agents be outwitted?  There is intrigue, danger, and excitement in this book. Read along to see how they discern the clues needed to solve this puzzle.

We move on to the second book, The Dark Is Rising. This book provides the title for the entire series.  Here we meet Will Stanton, the last of the Old Ones.  Will is the seventh son, of a seventh son.  On his eleventh birthday, he discovers his special gifts and his great responsibilities (sounds a lot like Spiderman).  He  must learn from the mysterious Merriman Lyon all that it means to be an Old One.  What are his powers?  What are his gifts?  He learns about the final contest between the Light and the Dark.  His quest is to find the Six Magical Signs that will aid the Old Ones in the final battle.  Here is a book rich with myth, mystery, adventure, terror, and delight.  Does Will prevail? Who is the mysterious, Merriman Lyon?

After Will’s discovery of his heritage and of his quest, we move to book three of the sequence, The Greenwitch.  If you’ve read this far, you probably have figured out that both the Drew children and Will were successful in their quests.  It really isn’t spoiling the stories for you too much.  A lost of exciting things happen to these children in both books, making them excellent reads even if you know the outcome.  Susan Cooper can weave a spell around you.  In Greenwitch, Will and the Drew children meet.  Here we learn the prophecy which has guided them thus far and will do so through this book and the next.

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold;
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

Greenwitch opens with Simon, Jane, and Drew discovering that the grail they found in Cornwall was stolen from the British Museum.  They are at the museum looking at the display, which had held the lovely grail they had discovered during their Cornwall adventure.  The grail came with a manuscript.  While the children were able to retrieve the grail, they lost the accompanying manuscript to the sea.  With the help of their Great Uncle Merry, they travel back to Cornwall to see if the manuscript can be retrieved.  At this point, the trio of children becomes a quartet as Will Stanton joins them.  He has grown into his responsibilities as an Old One with training from Merriman Lyon, a.k.a. Great Uncle Merry. Again, agents of the dark are all around them.  Although this story has tasks for all of the company, it is quiet, thoughtful, Jane who turns the day.

The Grey King is a quest for aid in the battle between light and dark.  Will has been very ill.  His illness has robbed him of most of his knowledge of the Old Ones.  He is left with this riddle to guide him. Although he can’t remember, it is the riddle from the manuscript retrieved from the grasp of the Greenwitch in the previous book. In this book and the final one, this riddle guides his way.  To unravel the riddle and find all of his answers, he will have to find the translation for the last two mysterious lines.

On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,
Must the youngest open the oldest hills
Through the door of the birds, where the breeze breaks.
There fire shall fly from the raven boy,
And the silver eyes that see the wind,
And the Light shall have the harp of gold.

By the pleasant lake the Sleepers lie,
On Cadfan’s Way where the kestrels call;
Though grim from the Grey King shadows fall,
Yet singing the golden harp shall guide
To break their sleep and bid them ride.

When light from the lost land shall return,
Six Sleepers shall ride, six Signs shall burn,
And where the midsummer tree grows tall
By Pendragon’s sword the Dark shall fall.

Ymaent yr mynddoedd yn canu,
Ac y mae’r aglwyddes yn dod*.

In the Grey King, Will’s family sends him to their relatives in Wales to help him recover his strength. Little did he or his family realize that Wales was the next step in his journey. Here he meets the enigmatic, Bran.  Is Bran the son of the Pendragon?  He is curiously pale.  He has tawny eyes, like a bird.  At their first meeting Will names him as “the raven boy’ boy from the riddle. Although most everyone else doesn’t know about Will’s status as an Old One, Bran recognizes him immediately.  There is something curious about Bran aside from his pale coloring. He has a sort of quiet austerity.  Is that due to the nature of his upbringing or his parentage.  Will learns that King Arthur and his knights fought the previous great battle against the dark.  While they weren’t able to defeat the dark completely, they did diminish the dark’s power and postponed the final battle between the light and the dark. The time is coming soon for the final battle.  Will and Bran must work together to find the tools needed in the Light’s fight.  At every angle and with every tool that can be mustered, the Dark works seeks to foil their attempts. Finding the Golden Harp and waking the seeker is the quest that Will and Bran must complete.   Will Bran meet his father?  Are they successful? Do they find the harp and wake the sleepers? Who is Merriman Lyon, who appear mysteriously, when aid or guidance is needed in all of these books.

The conclusion to the sequence is Silver on the Tree.   In this book all the players from all the books are present and necessary to the conclusion.  Each had his/her part to play.  Simon, Jane, and Drew come to Wales for holiday.  They are joined by Great Uncle Merry and Will.  Here they meet Bran and his family and allies. To start the book, Will has been receiving messages from the Old Ones around the world that they are prepared for the final battle.  Is everything ready?  Are the weapons and resources gathered?  Are all the necessary players in place?  The last object of power must be found, a sword, which has been hidden away.  Arthur’s sword it what they seek.  Will they find it? Like all the other books, Will and his companions must travel through space and time to gather what is needed for the final battle.  Here is the epic conclusion to this wonderful series.

Susan Cooper

  1. She has always loved reading and writing.
  2. She lived near London and was not evacuated during the Blitz. Her experiences during that time color some of her stories.
  3. After graduating from Oxford, she wrote for the Sunday Times. Her boss was Ian Fleming.
  4. She wrote Over Sea, Under Stone in her spare time in order to win a cash prize. She didn’t win the prize, but she was bitten by the fantasy bug and in time went on to write the other four books in this sequence.
  5. She married an American widower and moved to the United States, where she still lives.
  6. She was awarded a Newberry Honor for The Dark Is Rising and the Newberry Award for The Grey King.
  7. She has been nominated for an Emmy award for the scripts she co-wrote with Actor Hume Cronyn.

If you want to read more about this author, here are some interesting sites to visit.

The mountains are singing, and the Lady comes.

The Prydain Chronicles

Book cover for the Prydain chronicles. Shows a young celtic young man holding a sword aloft.Alexander, Lloyd

  • The Book of Three. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1964.
  • The Black Cauldron. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1965.
  • The Castle of Llyr. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1966.
  • Taran the Wanderer. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1967.
  • The High King. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1968.

In honor of Lloyd Alexander’s birthday (January 30), I present these wonderful adventure tales. These five books tell the tale of Taran, Assistant Pig Keeper of Caer Dallben.  Taran longs to know his parentage. An orphan raised by the wizard, Dallben he has lived quietly. His life seems dull as he tends the oracular pig, Hen Wen and learns homely gardening skills from Dallben’s loyal retainer, Coll. He longs for adventure, to learn the art of sword fighting and to go abroad in the world to right wrongs.

Although each of these books can stand alone, read as a group they show the growth of Taran from boy to man. He grows through experiences of hardship, pride, shame, courage and sorrow.  Taran, like many young people, struggles to find his true path.  He makes mistakes and seeks to correct them. He makes friends and enemies. On his adventures he travels the length and breadth of Prydain and learns about its people.

Like Frodo, he has steadfast companions.

  • Dallben, ancient wizard and Keeper of the Book of Three.  He found and raised Taran.
  • Coll, retired warrior, Head Pig Keeper, and farmer of Caer Dallben. He teaches Taran how to care for Hen Wen.
  • Eilonwy, a sorceress and Princess of Llyr.  She is practical and opinionated and feisty.
  • Gurgi, a creature of the forest, who proves his worth many times despite his moanings and groanings.
  • Flewder Flam, the Bard King of a small country.  He has a special harp from the Bard Taliesin. The harp’s string break  whenever Flewder exaggerates. Despite his frequent tall tales, Flewder is faithful and brave.
  • Prince Gwydion, son of King Math, really Taran is his companion. Gwydion is strong, wise, and faithful. Gwydion and Math are descendants of the Sons of Don, who come to Prydian from the Summer Country to defend Prydian from Arawn, the Lord of Death.
  • Doli, a dwarf.  Although it irritates him, Doli’s magic is that of invisibility.

Here are books worthy of a reader’s attention.  Pick them up and follow Taran on his adventures.

Lloyd Alexander

Five things to know about Lloyd Alexander

  1. The child of well-to-do parents who suffered bankruptcy, he shocked them at age 15 with the news he intended to be a writer.
  2. King Arthur was one of his heroes.
  3. He won the Newberry Award for The High King in 1969.
  4. The Black Cauldron was a Newberry Honor book in 1966.
  5. He met his wife Janine in France. They came back to the United States when Lloyd realized he needed to be home to be able to write.

You can go on and read more about this author at these websites.

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

The Hero and the Crown

hero_crownMcKinley, Robin. The Hero and the Crown. New York: Firebird, 1984.

Here is a tall tale of a young hero.  It is a coming of age story of Aerin Firehair, daughter of King Arlbeth of Damar.  She feels she has many strikes against her.  She is a daughter, not a son.  Her mother, the king’s second wife, was a foreign and was rumored to be a witch.  For these reasons and perhaps others, she is not her father’s heir.  Her people treat her with cautious respect, but also with suspicion.

As the story opens, Damar, a relatively peaceful country, has become embroiled in border skirmishes and threats of secession from one of its nobles.  To add to Damar’s woes, dragons have re-appeared in the countryside to harry and harass the citizenry.  These difficulties are whispered to be caused by the loss of the Hero’s Crown.  The crown was reported to have warded the county against mischief. It has been gone so long, that no one remembers why the crown is an important defense of the country.

But mischief is lurking in and round Damar. King Arlbeth must ride to “treat” with his unruly noble and fight errant dragons, where they are found. Aerin, wishing to be of service, asks permission to ride with him.  After a gentle but, painful refusal from her father, she is humiliated by a snarky courtier. He provides public, scornful commentary on her upbringing.  He suggests she needs some slaps for her scandalous behavior. I think perhaps he goes a step too far.  This courtier is nearly called out by the Tor, the king’s heir and friend to Aerin. King Arlberg steps in and asks the offensive courtier to apologize. The courtier hurls an angry apology at her as he leaves the room. He does manage to get in one last nasty, jibe, “Go slay a dragon, lady!  Lady Aerin, Dragon-Killer!”

These taunting words, send Aerin down her path, one she was destined to follow in some way.  How to slay a dragon becomes consuming work for her.  Dragons are pesky, dangerous and hard to kill.  Many a dragon slayer does not return or returns badly charred. Before venturing forth to slay dragons, she seeks an advantage.  Does she find one?

Aerin is hopeful, persistent, stubborn and courageous, all the qualities we love in our heroes. Read this book to find out how she uses all these strengths in her quest to slay dragons, find the Crown and save her people. It is a terrific story for readers of all ages.

Robin McKinley

Reading her biography on her website, she reminds me of my daughters, it appears she likes to name objects.  She has a Steinway named Rhodanthe¹.  I wonder if she names her cars.  Actually, it appears she does.  I just read one of her blog postings².  It possibly may be named “Wolfgang.”  With that name, I imagine a grand, old German car.  You never can tell about people and names.  Our Ford 500 wound up with the name “Teapot.”  The girl who came up with name, never had an explanation other than “I don’t know, I just call it Teapot.”

Robin’s father was in the Navy and they were stationed in different places.  Robin charted her life by where she read a book for the first time.  For example, she read The Chronicles of Narnia in New York and The Once and Future King in Maine³.  I like the fact that it was for the first time, which implies that perhaps she went back and re-read her favorites a time or two. I love to re-read books.  It to me is like visiting an old friend.

She is talented and fortunate.  Her book Beauty was accepted on its first submission to a publisher.  She like to write about strong, heroines.

She has been a teacher, an editor, and book store employee. She has lived on a horse farm.  Currently she is living in England in a cottage with a garden full of roses.  To learn more about this author, visit her webpage, Facebook page, and blog.

Other Robin McKinley interviews that may interest you.







El Deafo

El Deafo book coverBell, Cece. El Deafo.  New York: Abrams, 2014.

I thought this book would be interesting to read for a number of reasons.  First of all, it reminded me of my colleagues Elaine and Eden and their work with students with deafness or auditory impairments.  Second, it was a Newberry Honor Book in 2015.  Third, I thought it was on this year’s Bluebonnet Master list. It was a trifecta of good reasons to read it. When I sat down to write this blog posting, I was highly disappointed to learn that I had confused lists and it is not on this year’s Bluebonnet list.  It is a great book so maybe someone will recommend it for another year.

I didn’t have a copy of this book in my collection, so I ordered it online.  I was surprised to find that it was a graphic novel.  It is Cece Bell’s attempt to capture her memories and feelings about the loss of her hearing and its impact on her life.

An emerging fashionista at age four, Cece was a normal, happy girl.    Her life changed drastically one day.  She developed meningitis.  Once recovered, her hearing loss was discovered and she was fitted with hearing aids. Even with hearing aids, she had trouble understanding all the speech around her.   At a school for students with hearing loss, she learned how visual, context and gestural cues could help her better understand what the people in her life were saying.

At the end of that school year she moved and was enrolled in a typical school.  Would she have friends?  Would she be able to understand?  The change was not an easy one. It is hard being different.  A chance remark from the television caused her to coin her own nickname, “El Deafo”.  Her difference was her superpower.  In her new school what would happen?  Would she have any new friends?  Would El Deafo find her superhero sidekick and best friend?  Read this book and find out!

With her sense of adventure and courage, Cece learned to live in our hearing world.  She grew up to be an author and an illustrator!  Here’s a link to her website, you can read more about Cece and the other books she has written:

One more fact, I did get more than a trifecta and more for this book.  It was really fun to read!  And for all you comic book/graphic novel lovers, it won an 2015 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12).  The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards are considered the “Oscars” of the comics world. Named for the pioneering comics creator and graphic novelist Will Eisner, the awards are given out in more than two dozen categories during a ceremony each year at Comic-Con International: San Diego.


Elijah’s Little Library Recap

I started this blog back in April, because I was so excited about all the books I purchased for my new nephew.  It has been my whigmaleerie, my notion, my fancy that I might have something to share with the wider world about these books and others. My family is amused by this new hobby of mine.  They have been gently encouraging me to carry on with this writing.

The Hobbit blog marked the last entry for books from Elijah’s Little Library.  His Crazy My PhotoAunt Robin (that’s me!) had so much fun buying the books and writing him a book about his little library. Here’s a picture of me, taken when I was working on his book.  Don’t I look like someone’s Crazy Aunt?  I wanted the fun of thinking about the books we gave him to continue, ergo I started this blog.  To finish the section about Elijah’s Little Library, I’d like to share the introduction to his book.

Welcome to the World!

It is a wide, exciting and sometimes frenetic place.  All our family, Uncle Jim, Cousin Alexis, Cousin Sarah and I, are looking forward to meeting you.

I think your Mama and Daddy are rolling their eyes at this point, wondering why we decided on a small library for your very first gift as it doesn’t seem very practical.  Well I could say that we are your crazy Aunt Robin and Uncle Jim and that’s just what we do.  Ask your Mama when you can, how often a gift from us included a book.

I am your crazy Aunt Robin, but here’s the truth, we love to read and we want to share that love with you. We think if you can read you can go anywhere and do anything even if it is only in your own imagination.  With a good book, you are never alone and you always have something to do.

We want you to remember the way it feels to snuggle with your Mama or your Daddy, while you listen to one of their sweet voices reading you to sleep.  The way it feels to laugh, when you read a silly story for yourself.  The secret joy it is to read covertly under the covers with a flashlight when you are supposed to be asleep.  The guilty pleasure you feel when you look up from finishing a thrilling novel and realize that it is 2 am and you have to get up and go to work the next day.

Elijah, enjoy a good book!  We have chosen the books in this mini library with you in mind.  We hope that you enjoy them as much as we have.  When we started to think about this gift, I asked everyone here to give me the names of two books.  One they remembered from when they very little and one that was their favorite when they were in upper elementary or middle school.  I think you will be surprised at what was included in this little library.

God Bless You Little One!
Love Aunt Robin, Uncle Jim, Alexis & Sarah
April 2, 2016

For those of you who are interested in starting a little library for a young person you love, I have compiled a list of the books in Elijah’s library: LibraryRecap_Aug17_2016.  We tried to get something that would please a young boy, however, I think they would be fun for many different readers.