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."