Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Summertime, and the reading is easy

Impossibly, our Harvey Summer Program enters its fourth week. BREAD conducts twice-weekly geography classes for the 3/4, 5/6 and junior high classrooms, and then opens the Reading Room for take-home selections. The Room also is in heavy use by teachers for kindergarten through 2nd grader read-alouds. (Multiple classes x multiple sessions) x several books per session = a BREAD scramble to place great NEW picture book titles on the shelves.

We've been so impressed by children's attention and curiosity. India, China, Africa, South America and Russia/former USSR already are under their belts. Despite a lack of prior knowledge, they have been utterly game to discover the wheres, whys and whithers of the planet's physical and political structures. Tectonic plates, latitude/longitude, cradles of civilization, the Terra Cotta Army, Genghis Khan, the Age of Discovery, India's partition, Russia's turbulent post-dissolution strategies: all have generated great questions.

Maps are now strewn across all the classroom bulletin boards. Other visual aids have ranged from mind-blowing books of photography (Earth from Above, The Hyena and Other Men) to Shiva statuettes.We have distributed pocket atlases to the older classes, so that students can match places to future reading. The Reading Room currently displays books related to each class.

So hooray for the 5th/6th's unabashed rendition of the chronological Chinese dynasties song. Huzzah to 3rd/4th, who insisted upon a (sticky) date taste-test after seeing a picture of Egyptian palms. Kudos to the junior high, who viscerally appreciated the disastrous relationship between Indian sanitation and NDM-1 antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

One final cheer for those out-of-state kids, who attend the Summer Program while visiting their Harvey relatives. Several are uber-readers, who would prefer never to leave the Reading Room. These visitors are assigned a special weekly BREAD book limit: how many can you carry?  

So hum Frère Jacques, and sing along:

Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han
Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han

Sui, Tang, Song
Sui, Tang, Song

Yuan, Ming, Qing, Republic
Yuan, Ming, Qing, Republic

Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Childhood Reading

In a wonderful series in The New Yorker (6/6/16), authors meditate upon what, and why, they read as children. 

  • Poet Kevin Young moved to a less challenging school in fifth grade. Rather than skip a grade, he was relegated to back-of-the-classroom independent reading, which "meant going through old issues of Reader's Digest." Yet no reading is wasted.  "[L]ike the Sears catalogue, Reader's Digest did contain a whole world in its thin pages, often despite itself."     "[I]n a weird way, the condensing of words, and worlds, in those digests proved instructive for a poet. So, too, all that independent reading; it was in school that I learned how to be an autodidact." 

  • Rivka Galchen compares her daughter's reading experience with her own, more limited childhood reading choices. Galchen experiences her daughter's books as "mock-epic, [but] she sees language poetry. She doesn’t read for what happens next, I think, even as she has taken on her preschool teacher’s lilting 'What’s going to happen?' before turning a page. What happens next is often just another random animal at the zoo. Some of the books have plots, but she reads them more like eternal landscapes. In that sense, nothing is happening, and she reads for that nothing, I think."

  • Galchen herself was raised with few books, and so read Celestial Seasoning tea boxes, cookie tins, Ed McMahon mailings. "It’s mostly a clatter of carbohydrates and junk mail, but all those words were so haunted—remain so haunted—by a sense of well-being, meaning, and light. My heart still lifts when I see language that recalls the covers of my mother’s textbooks: Basic basic, Fortran."

  • Tessa Hadley compares her reading of The Secret Garden, as child and then adult.  "My doubting, critical self seems smaller, moving around inside the novel's spaces, than the believing child who was here first." Although the novel now seems didactic and sentimental, "I'm not sorry that I grew up on this rich fruitcake diet of feeling and moralizing. There are worse things. This is one the miracles that fiction works: you can be a doubter and a believer in the same moment, in the same sentence."

  • Hisham Matar proves that even a read-aloud fragment can permanently alter a child's mind.   "It is strange to me, now that I am in my mid-forties, after a lifetime of passionate affairs with books -- some, I later realized, undeserving of my youthful fervor, a few that I encountered at the wrong moment, and plenty of others that still light up rooms inside me -- in two tremendous languages, Arabic and English, that the book that has affected me most is one I came across when I was ten or eleven years old and about which I know almost nothing. I haven't read it. And, notwithstanding the many attempts I have made to find it, I have failed to learn so much as its title or the name of its author."

Celebratory Final Lunch of the Saturday Morning Geography Club

Our core group of fourth and fifth-grade girls were rewarded with a loyalty lunch at Tandoor Cuisine of India, a real find in Schererville, Indiana. Although none previously had tasted an Indian dish, they were game to try everything: naan, chaat pappri (with the tamarind and mint dipping sauces), vegetable biryani, tandoor chicken, curry chicken, aloo gobhi, dal makhani. No grimaces, no fuss. They were intent and sedulously polite diners, who tickled the restaurant staff.

We were so impressed by their approach to a new cuisine, and a novel experience. Most never eat in any kind of restaurant. One girl noted that she was clumsy with a knife and fork, as virtually all her (tortilla-based) meals require no implements.  

The one disappointment: coffee. All had insisted on a cup with the meal, a habit restricted to Lake Wobegon retirees. Blame rested upon their recent Wisconsin camp experience, where dining hall "coffee" was constructed with one tablespoon java to 16 hazelnut creamers. Coffee in its raw state was a bitter shock. One fourth-grader did finish her cup, and one shudders to extrapolate to her college caffeine-tolerance.    

Friday, April 1, 2016

Working Mothers Circa 1939

A Reading Room champion, and after-school volunteer extraordinaire, shared this mother-power winner with us. In 1939, author DuBose Heyward understood the fallacies of societal stereotypes and strictures. How wonderful that his book remains in print, as we seem to need regular reminders.

Humble Mother Cottontail, burdened with 21 children, obviously could never qualify as one of the five Easter Bunnies. Such was the sneer of the male white bunnies and the Jack Rabbits. " 'Only a country rabbit would go and have all those babies. Now take care of them and leave Easter eggs to great big men bunnies like us.' " Surely her responsibilities had sapped her swiftness. And what would befall her children during her absence at work?

The Country Bunny, however, proves that she has not lost a step. She further solves childcare through the genius of delegation: half-grown bunnies can clean and cook, after all, with proper training. During a mission-impossible egg delivery to a mountain-isolated sick child, Country Bunny displays courage and grit. Grandfather Bunny rewards her merit with a pair of gold shoes, imbued with magical leaping powers.  

DuBose Heyward also wrote the novel Porgy, and co-wrote the libretto for the inspired George Gershwin opera, Porgy and Bess. If only Gershwin had spun tunes from The Country Bunny.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

That's Beest With Two E's

A small BREAD group today braved rain, wind and Metra platforms, in order to visit the amazing Strandbeest exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center. Artist Theo Jansen's unique vision - beach-trudging creatures of pvc pipe and zipties - had them clamoring to meet him. Alas Jansen had returned to the Netherlands after the exhibition's initial set-up. What a disappointed fan base!

They were held rapt by the movement demonstration.

They pumped their hearts out, to understand how air powers the creatures.

They were fascinated by the myriad of underlying parts, and the beauty of those pieces.

At their Corner Bakery lunch, they instantly selected the best spot for people-watching. In every kind of weather, that corner of the Santa Fe Building bustles.

Filled with the spirit of making, the kids then wandered through the Santa Fe lobby to discover the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Lego Studio.

Bottomless tubs of Legos, to build without charge or interference? Score! Our kids intently rummaged through every bin, and then wheedled specialty pieces from the staff. Their creations were then promptly added to the Studio's open display of work.

One last swing through the CAF's shop for small gifts, and then home. "I never rode on a train before," mused Nicholas, "but now I have."

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Everyman's Library Pocket Poets

We love this series, whose alluring design and pocket size lure readers otherwise intimidated by anthologies. A thick, full-size collection can easily be rejected, as much-of-a-muchness. The absence of a theme can render jarring the transition from piece to piece. Crowded text design tempts kids to turn pages as they would fiction, resulting in a muddy experience. Consider the sad brown of repeatedly dyed Easter eggs, or a classic youth group dinner: one common pot of 25 different canned soups.  

We will feature title-give-aways, with a poem read-aloud quid pro quo.  Readers will learn to decode the poet's intent; even the less brave will gain by listening. With Everyman titles which gather poems on cats, dogs, zombies, ghouls and monsters, we hope to excite some clamor.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bandanna, pyjama, veranda

Our Saturday geography class reveled in India: the history of the Indus Valley, the spice trade, and precepts which continue to transform secular life across the world. India's innovations cover the spectrum: zero, Arabic numerals, the first animal hospital, and Gandhi's direct influence on the non-violent protests of the American Civil Rights Movement. Let us not forget the game of chess.

How to understand a cradle of civilization, and the second most populous nation, during its transit from antiquity and empire, to the largest democracy? How to grapple with India's current issues, such as the sanitation challenges which fuel both childhood stunting and a global threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria? What we managed was to learn to wonder.

We augmented our talk with gorgeous photographs, past and present. Several students evinced a sincere urge to fling pigments, in an homage to the Holi Festival. Pizza was accompanied by slices of mango and kiwi, and ragas of Ravi Shankar.    

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Time to Plan for Earth Day

BREAD tries to celebrate Earth Day each year with a massive Spring Fling. The missiles consist of the guerrilla gardener's secret weapon: seed bombs.  Needed are but wildflower seeds, potter's clay, a willingness to trash your work-space, and the patience to make hundreds.

Here are the Harvey kids, staging for the 2012 Fling. Although Harvey contains many empty lots and fields, we selected the area behind their elementary school. The view from the playground: the Calumet Union Drainage Ditch, filled with industry waste, and abandoned and collapsed houses. Some natural beauty seemed a welcome and necessary addition.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Puppets Rule the Reading Room

This 2006 field-tripper convinced BREAD that puppets are integral to any reading room. At this point, BREAD may single-handedly keep Folkmanis in business. A puppet is that good friend: the one who has plenty of time to help you peruse, and always wants to read with you.

New geography enrichment class

We today commenced our Saturday morning geography enrichment class, for 11 of our Harvey uber-readers in the fourth and fifth grades. Class consisted of 75 minutes of new-to-us material, on topics including continental draft, geologic time, latitude and longitude, the dissemination of humans out of Africa, and how the heck does GPS work.

Everyone received a pocket world atlas, a copy of Australia to Zimbabwe, and blue paper for map-creation. After class, each student collected a mini-mineral collection of opal, Petoksey stones, ammonites and jasper. A pizza lunch concluded the session.

Next week, we will start our country-intensive sessions. First up: India!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

2011 Flashback

Once upon a time, Adrian read best with his favorite reading room buddy.

Last week, Adrian returned to say hello: a strapping high school sophomore. He departed with books for pleasure, and books for the rapidly-approaching future: college guides and entrance exam preparation.  

Who needs meteorological Spring?

The first day of Spring officially occurs when we order the National Poetry Month poster, from the Academy of American Poets. NPM is a big deal, in these parts.

Every April, BREAD substitutes a poem-of-the-day for the word-of-the-day. Every April, our kids discover secret recesses. The tough girl declares love for the work of Christina Rossetti. An hitherto shy boy discovers that reading for an audience is a bit thrilling.

Who this year will assume the mantle of uber-reader Eliazer, who transformed Dean Young poems from cerebral surrealistic delights into resonant, uproarious performance pieces.

Little hurt bat,
I thought you were a teabag
dunked from your necropolis
into the buzzy forsythia.
Hurdy gurdy, says the world
feeling a wee cranky,
morphology pink as a popped quiz.

(Newlyweds, Dean Young)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Chess moves

Sometimes the uber-readers require the most strategy, as they low-ball reading choices to fit in with peers.

Last week, fourth-grade Elida gleefully accepted the suggestion of Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks. Thin, pictures, perfect. This week, we'll go double-or-nothing with The Wonderful O.
Pirate Black hates the letter O, after his mother's tragic death-by-porthole. Aided by an attorney (naturally), Black reduces a captive community to an O-free existence.

" 'Chaotic is now chatic,' he said, 'a cross between chaos and static.' He decided that farmers could keep their cows if they kept them in herds, for cows in herds are kine or cattle. And so the people had milk and cheese and butter. He decided in favor of hens and eggs, if hens were segregated. 'Keep them out of flocks,' he said, 'for flocks are not only flocks, but also poultry.' "  

2006 Flashback

Two BREAD readers help Esme Codell spread read-aloud magic.

Sic transit snogging

Louis Rennison, author of The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series, has died. What a great pity. Her books have been enormously popular in the reading room: roaringly funny, in a Brit slang that sounds transgressive in Sixth Grade. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: that's a title to hide from parents. Ah Sixth Grade: one long treasure-hunt for hints of transgression. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

We miss Eva Ibbotson

"I think if I had to choose a moment of pure happiness in my long life as a reader it would be the moment I picked up [Daddy Long -Legs] and found, most gloriously, that it had absolutely nothing to do with insects." 

BREAD readers stock their own shelves

We first learned of Three Times Lucky from a Harvey fourth-grader. Jose had spotted the book summary on a Scholastic Books order form. He requested it from us: urgently, and in writing. 
And what a wonderful choice! Moses is an orphaned sixth-grader, who narrates an absurd but layered tale from a small Southern town. Sheila Turnage's assured writing, inimitable character voices and pitch-perfect tone remind us of the brilliant adult novel, A Short History of a Small Place (T.R. Pearson).
"As the lunch crowd drifted in, I plugged in the jukebox. The lunch crowd is the breakfast crowd shaved and combed, plus the Azalea Women, who call themselves the Uptown Garden Club."

We are so pleased that children have been able to follow Mo and Dale, in the subsequent books of the series.

H.H. Munro, to his mother

Out-of-print gems regularly thwart our new-book mission, and require recourse to sources such as abebooks. As it has become increasingly difficult to replace the collected short stories of Saki, we were thrilled by this NYRB reissue.  As icing, the collection contains the illustrations of Edward Gorey. 

The New York Review of Books continues to burnish its reputation as no mere press, but a cultural treasure.

Wait - what?

Sometimes we rely upon consensus book orders. Dictionary distributions, for example, can trigger yawns. But just let one junior-high kid grumble that a teacher "uses words that I don't even know". Suddenly: everyone needed a MW Collegiate Dictionary, stat. 

2011, Garfield Park site

Summertime, and the reading is easy.

Return to us, Verlyn

"Childhood is an oasis of repetitive acts, so much so that there's something shocking about the first time a young reader reads a book only once and then moves on to the next. There's a hunger in that act but also a forsaking, a glimpse of adulthood to come." 

(More Scenes from the Rural Life, Verlyn Klinkenborg)

Intelligence is equally distributed; opportunity is not

BREAD offers one free book each week, but some kids need an hourly allotment.
Austin reader Olavion once listened gravely to the word of the day, pugnacious, and used it correctly. We added that the pugnacious person starts fights, while the truculent person seethes silently with the same feelings. "Oh," said Olavion, "pugnacious means the instigator."
Olavion was in the first grade.

Magic Tree Bookstore, Oak Park IL

Many thanks to the Adults Who Read YA bookclub, sponsored by Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park. The group has selected BREAD as a designated regular recipient of donated books.

Cousin Irv from Mars

This tone-perfect title from New Yorker cartoonist Bruce Eric Kaplan remains a favorite. Cousin Irv may hail from Mars, but he provokes the same angst as any visiting relative.
"Teddy hid in the coats as he always did whenever relatives came over. Other people's coats make you feel so much safer than your own."

Timmy Failure

We hand out the Timmy Failure series hand-over-fist, as even the less skilled readers want to share the fun. The illustrations belie the sophisticated vocabulary and humor. Timmy is no Wimpy Kid, and thus makes a great stealth addition to the reading room.

A typical quip: "Sadly my cat is now in Kitty Heaven (or perhaps the Kitty Badlands - he never was a friendly cat)." Not surprisingly, author Stephan Pastis once practiced as an insurance defense litigator.

In the Palace of the Khans

BREAD was familiar with Peter Dickinson's sly adult mysteries. What a delight, however, to find that his YA books are twice as substantial, complex and sophisticated. Yet given the pacing and suspense, this book is torte, not pudding.

The Younger Set

At a Garfield Park read-aloud, 19 month-old Robert seemed more engaged in fretful cutting of canine teeth than listening to Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. But then mid-story, we heard him whisper to himself, "Mister Tiger".
We were excited that Robert was prompted by story to use his fresh speaking skills. We are all a bit trepidatious, however, of the eventual size of Robert's canines.


Sting interviewed in the NYT Book Review:
"We only had two in the house [as I grew up], an illustrated Old Testament and Volume I of Encyclopaedia Britannica. I was well versed in everything from 'aardvark' to 'azimuth,' but little else. The public library become a sort of refuge. I never throw a book away now."

More 2013 Flashbacks

Journey by Aaron Becker is wordless magic, and has been a huge story-time hit at both the Austin and Garfield Park sites. If not one child draws a door on a bedroom wall, we will be quite disappointed.

2013: Flashback

Raul started fourth grade with a boy-band haircut, and a new seriousness about reading. His initial plan evidently was to snag two books each week, rather than one. 

Although he subsequently accepted the one-book limit, he now insists on placing his next book on lay-away. His new mantra: "Do you remember what book you said you'd keep for me?"

All Hail, Polly Horvath

BREAD loves Polly Horvath, who writes not only wonderful books, but wonderful sentences for children.
"On Sundays we walk as we always do, fall, winter, spring, summer, any weather, to the little steepled church in town. We get sand in our good church shoes walking over the beach and sit on cement dividers when we get to the parking lot, dumping our shoes, as much a church ritual now as kneeling at prayer."

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny are also wonderfully fun, and well-loved by BREAD readers.

Why Louise Erdrich Love Science

"[The study] found that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence -- skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone's body language or gauge what they might be thinking. 
The researchers say that the reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity."
" 'In popular fiction', said Mr. Kidd, one of the researchers, 'really the author is in control, and the reader has a more passive role.' In literary fiction, like Dostoyevsky, 'there is no single, overarching authorial voice,' he said. 'Each character presents a different version of reality, and they aren’t necessarily reliable. You have to participate as a reader in this dialectic, which is really something you have to do in real life.' ”

(New York Times, 10/3/13)

2013: Surprise

Our Austin room was small, but frisson-filled.

Why Picture Books Matter

Writer/Illustrator James Marshall (Miss Nelson Is Missing): 

"The entrances of Viola Swamp, I think, are particularly successful. She is sort of Maria Callas with a fake nose on."

(Show Me a Story, ed. Leonard Marcus)

Jump-rope scansion

Rosemary Wells on illustrating Mother Goose:
"Among my favorites are the jump-rope rhymes because they come from the children themselves..... When children repeat something hundreds and hundreds of times, you know it's going to scan well and there's not going to be an extra syllable. That kind of poetry is so completely rounded and beautiful that the sense of it doesn't matter.
'Manchester Guardian,
Evening News,
Here comes a cat
in high-heeled shoes.' "
(Show Me a Story!, ed. Leonard Marcus)

We Miss Maurice Sendak

"I grew up in the era of famous kidnapped babies, which played a part in Outside Over There. It was a re-creation of the Lindbergh kidnapping, which was so traumatic to me as a child. People say you mustn't frighten children, but you can't, because they already are frightened, they already know all these things. All you can do is console them."
(Show Me a Story!, ed. Leonard Marcus)

Pleased as punch

We Will Always Love Kate DiCamillo

BREAD's Kate section experiences the greatest restock rate. I always hold a breath, wondering if the newest book can possibly equal the already extant. Take Because of Winn-Dixie:  equal to Seuss in read-aloud word-selection, and tonally perfect as well.
In Flora & UlyssesDiCamillo deftly spins wacky kid wish-fulfillment (a super-hero squirrel who writes poetry) with the foreshadowed heartbreaks of adult life.
" 'Little fishes in a can. He would put these little fishes onto crackers for me, and then I would hear him coming back down the hallway, carrying the sardines and humming, returning to me.' Dr. Meescham sighed. 'Such tenderness. To have someone get out of bed and bring you little fishes and sit with you as you eat them in the dark of night. To hum to you. This is love.' "

The Family That Borrows Together

Jack London as a child possessed no toys, and not a single item of store-bought clothing until age eight. His salvation was the Oakland Free Library: he signed up all family members for cards, to maximize his own borrowing.

(Caleb Crain, The New Yorker)

The Girl Who Fell

Is the immensely-quotable series Fairyland series intended for children? Answer: tis too delightful to deny them.
"You know what a fate looks like, don't you? It's just a little toy version of yourself, made out of alabaster and emerald and a little bit of lapis lazuli and ambition and coincidence and regret and everyone else's expections and laziness and hope and where you're born and who to and everything you're afraid of plus everthing that's afraid of you."

Thanks to Catherynne Valente, for stretching us every which way.


What spells magic like a full moon, come to rest in your own backyard? People yawn in the nightday, a pulled tide covers the lawn: a tablecloth avails not. Even the school math lesson becomes garbled. 
"1 + 1 = Moon."

Moonday, by the gemlike Adam Rex.

2008: Peace Out, Fish

A disappointed BREAD group at the Shedd Aquarium, finding the Komodo dragon exhibit closed. Shortly after this photograph, we treked to the gift shop. Guess who there found the back door into the dragons' lair?
Miraculously, we returned with a full head-count.

2013 Flashback

Our Garfield Park pre-school read-aloud group skulked under the giant ferns of the Garfield Park Conservatory. They were recognized by their roars, and irresistible Dino board book/masks. Why oh why aren't all of Benedicte Guettier's little theater books available in the United States?

Do not disturb the bugs of June

Once Upon a Twice is an irresistible read-aloud, with newly-coined words that command rapt attention to the language. Jeffrey at our Austin site was laughing from the first stanza: "In the middle of the NICE???"
Beware the dangershine of Moon,
Do not disturb the bugs of June!

Thank you, Denise Doyen and Barry Moser.

More Reading Wisdom

"I always get curled toes in the discussion on the suitability of books for children. One always throws all children on a pile, as if The Child exists. Like a baker would bake his bread for a particular kind of child. Let’s apply this reasoning to adults to show how absurd this argument is: Not all adults understand and read Kafka’s books. So, the books of Kafka are not suitable for adults."
(Illustrator Klaas Verplancke, interviewed at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast)

Thought for the Day

"Insisting people absolutely have to read a book you loved -- what better way of telling them you love them?"

A lovely NYT exchange between Dana Stevens and Anna Holmes.

Readers Get It

BREAD's readers are thankful for donors who remember that books come a close third, after food and shelter (warm coats!).
We received a substantial, out-of-the-blue holiday donation, from a contractor who works in Chicago's southern suburbs. His cover-letter in part: "I've been an avid reader from childhood on, and grabbing a good book for an hour or an afternoon is still one of my favorite activities. I'm glad to see an organization dedicated to getting good books in childrens' hands".

Sandmeyer's Bookstore, Chicago

For three years, Sandmeyer's Bookstore has featured and promoted a BREAD donation holiday display. Not only does BREAD so reap wonderful new-book donations, but Sandmeyer's throughout each year feeds us advance reader copies. Nothing lures the junior high set like a secret society of the not-yet-published.

Sandmeyer's: the store is gorgeous, the selection irresistible, and both proprietors and staff are frighteningly well-read. Support this glorious independent bookstore!

Books All Round!

Nine Open Arms

Nine Open Arms combines inimitable characters, witty asides, tragedy, farce and redemption. The translation from the Dutch is silken, as is the weave of historical/mysterious/magical fiction. New in 2015, it has been oft restocked.
" 'Thank God your mother never had to bring you up herself,' said Oma Mei halfway through her sermon. Our dead mother belonged in her rants the way a brass band belongs in a parade."

Blast from the Past: 2006

BREAD Director Esme Codell holds BREAD readers rapt, in a private read-aloud in her original Planet Esme reading room.

N is for Nature

Per British nature poet RF Langley, “You’re wrapped up in your own affairs, you’re screwed up by your own subjective feelings, and you know that you’re colouring the world with your own thoughts and resentments, and you see a kestrel outside the window, hovering and … ‘The world becomes all kestrel’ … it takes your selfishness away, removes your self."
Time to buy more nature guides!

Great recommendations from Helen Macdonald, author of the amazing H is for Hawk

Reluctant Tribute to Jeff Kinney

Diary of A Wimpy Kid: more effective than chocolate as a reluctant reader lure.

The Book That Proves Time Travel Happens

"In all, Fortune's Way was home to seven tents and seven different ways of seeing the future. The dullest was one where somebody looked at tea leaves in a cup. The weirdest was the one with the banner saying MESS-O-MANCY, where a guy smashed a jelly doughnut with a mallet, then predicted your future by studying the splatter."
Hurrah for another Henry Clark book of clever, inexhaustible invention.

But is it better than Clark's What We Found in the Sofa And How It Saved the World? No: so few books are. Sofa was entirely original, a dream-smut in the fabric of reality. 

A villain from the Indorsia universe, now a toxic chemical tycoon on Earth, schemes to enslave the population of a town with an underground coal fire (cum Indorsia portal). Just as we've all secretly feared, show-tune flash-mobs are indeed the precursor to total mind-control.
The best dialog belongs to a helpful Indorsia "distributed processing unit", which masquerades as a seven-piece living room set. Dust bunnies power its nanotech. "Originally we were eight pieces, but the hassock perished".  

Beastly Verse

D. H. Lawrence's primeval humming-bird, surrounded by dinosaurs and volcanoes. Cowper's Snail with eye stalks as high as its rambling Victorian shell. Illustrator Joohee Yoon also selected the poems, and for once the choices are as surprising and sharp as the art. Yoon layered just pink, yellow and blue to create all the needed shades. Her deep, hilarious spreads emanate straight from a toddler's fervid brain. 

Beastly Verse: an outstanding choice for National Poetry Month in April, and a keeper!

Summer 2015 Program: World War II

One of almost 40 kids who attended BREAD's six-week Summer class on World War II. 

Through the generosity of the McGraw Foundation, each student added four related books to her or his home library.


Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie is an inimitable work. Redniss combines sharp and memorable writing, scientific history and dreamy art-spreads. Serendipitously, the cover-art matched this reader's outfit.

Stuffed like cannoli

Freeing a book from the shelf is sometimes a three-hand job.

True Grit

We continue to pitch True Grit (Charles Portis), justly beloved by writers from Roald Dahl to Donna Tartt.

" ' He will find plenty of his own stamp there,' said he. 'Birds of a feather. It is a sink of crime. Not a day goes by but there comes some new report of a farmer bludgeoned, a wife outraged, or a blameless traveler set upon and cut down in a sanguinary ambuscade.' "

Everything, Everything (Nicola Yoon)

Bubble-girl falls for parkour boy:

"I'm basically never hungry anymore. Apparently a body can exist on IM alone." 

Another book destined to be snatched instantly from our shelves.

Why We Hide in Books

Kindergartner in the Harvey Reading Room presses his nose upon the large posted national map. "Where is the jail where you can see your Mommy and Daddy?"

Confessions of an Imaginary Friend

The real lives of imaginary friends: a wonderful work by Michelle Cuevas, recommended by our friends at Magic Tree Books in Oak Park.

"On Wednesday Zoe, who looked even nicer with both eyes, asked Bernard if he was going to the school dance. Bernard said he'd probably stop by, and Zoe said - wait for it - see you there. See you there! In the fourth grade, that basically means they were engaged."

2015 Harvey Reading Room

We've hit 2500+ books, and the shelves groan softly.

Indie Kids Save the World

We hope that BREAD readers embrace the meta aspects of the new Patrick Ness. The structure (chapter synopsis) carries subplot, and the characters are clever and compelling. And who could resist high-school hipsters, aka indie kids, as world saviors?
"Chapter the Eighth, in which Satchel, Dylan, and second indie kid Finn throw themselves into research in the library, trying to find any mention of the Immortals; later that week, at Kerouac's funeral, Satchel's parents hug her and give her space to grieve".

Time to Schedule Art Institute of Chicago trips

These girls from our Harvey site still remember their favorite objects, more than two years later.

Laura Amy Schlitz scores again

Researchers halt double-blind medical studies, when results render the correct treatment unequivocally clear. Similarly, I was compelled at page 20 to start pressing The Hired Girl into reader hands.

Best Apology

Note from an excessive grabber of BREAD bookmarks:
"I'm sorry Mrs. Julie for stealing your bookmarks and a lot of them. I'm very very sorry and I will never do that again. I promise. I know that you are very sad."

Sing it, Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman:

"I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing.
We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.
We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside."