Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Post-March Conference

Seems like the more I do, the more I have to do. Who was it who said “If you want something done, give it to a busy person”?

Saturday, our regional chapter hosted the one-day conference and 20th anniversary of my SCBWI region at Buckeystown, MD. We celebrated big by listening to three amazing authors and a battery of editors and agents. As the registration person, I spent a lot of time answering questions for the 190 attendees and putting out fires. Consequently, I didn’t get to hear everything the speakers have to say, but I know they were all well received. I’d say the event was a success.

As part of the celebration, we held an evening event on Friday. Billed as a dessert reception, the event was more schmoozing than anything else. It was great seeing so many people in a more relaxed atmosphere.
I can’t resist a good book sale. And here is a good book I bought Saturday.

The True Story of Miracle Man
Written by Lois SzymanskiMiracle Man

If you like horses, you’ve probably loved stories of the Chincoteague ponies ever since you discovered Marguerite Henry. Szymanski’s newest story from Chincoteague does not disappoint. And this is not just a story for girls. With the heavy involvement of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department and creative animal care, this is for everyone. The story begins with the discovery of an orphaned colt and ends with a healthy and smart stallion. (You knew it was going to have a happy ending, but I won’t tell you how they get there or what he does after he gets his own band of mares.) The story is in the struggle to get him healthy. Gripping and heartwarming. The clever drawings and photos help make the reader part of the story.

Reviewed by Sue Poduska
Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2013
Middle Reader, Horses, Chincoteague Ponies.
Paperback, 48 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7643-4420-6

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Next Saturday, I will be helping run the Twentieth Anniversary Celebration for the Maryland/Delaware/ West Virginia region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I’m very excited for this event for several reasons.

One, the region is going strong, making me think that the more and more people are trying to make sure that quality literature is available for children. Without quality literature, children will not want to read and will learn nothing. As the registrar for this event, I can tell you I was worried we were going to top 200 participants.

Two, the speakers are exciting. T.A. Barron writes some of the best fantasy around. His Merlin series is worth a look for everyone. Paul O. Zelinsky gets mentioned at the Caldecott competition nearly every year for a reason. He’s good. Stephen Mooser is not only a co-founder of SCBWI, but writes really funny books.

Three, after this conference, my friend Sue Peters and I will become the new Co-Regional Advisors. Edie Hemingway has been Regional Advisor for three years now and has done a fantastic job. Lois Szymanski has been her helpmate for a good portion of that time. Lois is also a prior Regional Advisor They both deserve a break. So, Sue and I have been working on the next conference already – scheduled for September 21 and 22.

In the meantime, here are a couple of books I read this week.


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar ChildrenMiss Peregrine
Written by Ransom Riggs
It’s no coincidence that the word peculiar appears in the title of this fantasy. Far beyond pointing out that photographs don’t always show the reality of the pictured situation, Riggs turns this concept over and asks what would happen if the reality actually fit what was shown in peculiar photographs. What if a child could levitate? What if another child were invisible? What if a bee charmer had bees in his stomach? And so on. For his entire life, sixteen-year-old Jake has heard about the monsters from his grandfather. Most people either say the old man is crazy or add their own interpretation based on his war experiences. When he witnesses the grandfather’s death at the hands of a monster, Jake is sent on a journey to find the source of the stories. What he finds are the peculiar children. Fascinating story for those who like the truly weird.
Reviewed by Sue Poduska
Quirkbooks, 2011
Young adult, fantasy.
Hardcover, 352 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1



The One and Only IvanIvan
Written by Katherine Applegate
I’m so glad the Newbery Committee agreed with me. This is a good book. Getting into a gorilla’s head is not an easy exercise. I wonder if Ms. Applegate knuckle walked (her words) for the time it took her to write this masterpiece. Actually, all of the characters are wonderful. Ivan lives at a truck stop with Stella, an elephant, and a stray dog named Bob. Mack, the owner, falls on hard financial times and the care for the animals suffers. Trying to shy away from spoilers, I’ll just say Ivan has a major hand in solving the situation. And you know, in a children’s book, things will get better. This is a heartwarming and inspiring look at the treatment of animals that says a lot about humans too.
Reviewed by Sue Poduska
Harper/HarperCollins Books, 2012
Middle reader, Nature.
Hardcover, 305 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

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Books to Consider

Here are a couple of books I read this week.

One disclosure: Audrey is a friend, but I wouldn’t say anything I didn’t mean. I try very hard to look for the positive anyway.


Not Exactly a Love Story
Written by Audrey CouloumbisNot Exactly a Love Story

What happens when a teenage boy finds himself in possession of the unlisted number of the beautiful girl next door? Of course he calls her, but the way he calls and the eventual results will have the reader waiting for the next development. Vinnie and his Mom move from Queens to Long island after a divorce and remarriage. His mother marries Vinnie’s gym teacher, who flunked Vinnie the previous year. Luckily, the teacher turns out not to be such a bad guy. Still, Vinnie needs to make a lot of adjustments. He stumbles on his neighbor Patsy’s phone number when her very large boyfriend drops the paper it’s written on. On the phone, Vinnie is Vincenzo, the polite and understanding obscene caller. The progression of Vinnie and Patsy’s friendship and Vinnie’s progression toward a wonderful human being make for a great story. The writer’s gentle wit rings true and keeps the reader on her toes.

Reviewed by Sue Poduska
Random House, 2012
Young adult, friendship.
Hardcover, 278 pages
ISBN: 978-0-375-86783-5



Verdi for Kids: His Life and Music with 21 Activities
Written by Helen BauerVerdi for Kids

Packed with information, this would make an excellent resource for a music or history classroom. The title suggests to me that there is more information about individual works than is provided. But there is plenty of information about Verdi’s life, about the history of the area, and about music in general. The choices of photographs and illustrations add a great deal to the readability. The introduction is a very thorough treatment of Italian history. The main text is a chronological treatment of Verdi’s life. The many sidebars include activities such as playing bocce and designing costumes and masks. The twenty-one activities presented are great for bringing home many of the points made by the author. As a reference, the book has numerous notes, a thorough bibliography, other resources, table of contents, timeline, glossary and index.

Reviewed by Sue Poduska
Chicago Review, April 2013 release
Nonfiction, biography.
E-book, 145 pages
ISBN: 978-1-61374-500-7

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