Tag Archives: Kate DiCamillo

Books By The Banks, 2017

12 Nov

Every year along the banks of the Ohio River, Cincinnati hosts a huge book festival. Well actually, it’s downtown in the convention center, so it’s literally closer to banking institutions than to the river banks, nevertheless it’s an event you can bank on every year! And every year, I meet more new and wonderful people – authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, parents, kids, friends, volunteers.

This year I attended a panel of ‘authorstrators’, author/illustrators. These talented people both write and illustrate. I was inspired by Loren Long, Rafel Lopez, Ben Clanton, and Amanda Driscoll. Look at this small sample of their work. Amazing!

Each artist has his/her distinct style. Without looking at the names or even knowing the artists, I’m sure you could group these books into four piles based solely on the art. These books present readers both windows and mirrors to see themselves and others in literature. Of the many things discussed, I think the key message is to be fresh, different, unique, and true to yourself.

I was particularly in awe meeting Rafel Lopez. He spent several minutes talking with me even though there were other people in line waiting to meet him. We discussed his work, and the importance of bringing diverse books into the world. He chuckled with me at the trouble I sometimes have convincing people I am spanish because I don’t fit their stereotype. And he encouraged me to continue writing and submitting. “There is a place for all our work,” he told me. I will treasure my copy of Maybe Something Beautiful which he autographed for me.

 

And then, I had the pleasure of listening to the award winning author and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Kate di Camillo speak. I just wanted to curl up and never leave her funny, warm, human spirit. She spoke directly to my writer’s heart and my reader’s soul. She talked about connections, about making connections with the world around you and writing toward the connections with others. She also talked about keeping everything open so you don’t miss a thing. Keep your eyes and ears open. Keep your heart and mind open. Keep your brain open. Allow creativity to find you and inspire you to write, or draw, or dance, or sing, or do whatever it is that connects you to the world outside yourself.

 

Even though the line was looooooooong, she took a moment to look up and smile for each and every fan wanting a picture taken with her. What a genuine kind person she is!

 

And last, but not least, I took a few minutes to stop by the bookmobile parked outside the front doors of the convention center. Actually, the bookmobile is part of my former school district and I wanted to pop in and say ‘HI’ to the wonderful folks who work tirelessly to put books into kids’ hands. There is no checkout system. Kids are free to browse the shelves, sit and read, and take home any book that speaks to them. They don’t even have to live in our district. Our librarian was calling out to families passing by, “Come on in. Pick a book to take home.” And they did. They climbed up the steps to the brightly painted, remodeled school bus, designed by nationally renown author/illustrator Loren Long, into the inviting reading space filled with books, stuffed animals, cushioned benches, and friendly faces of Princeton City School employees. My heart was bursting to see the happiness a few pages could bring to those kids and their parents.

If you have any gently loved children’s books laying about the house, please consider a donation to this or many other organizations in your neighborhood.

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Mercy Watson

31 Jan

DSC08555In keeping with my Kate DiCamillo theme this week, I want to review her Mercy Watson series.  Kate DiCamillo, author of Newbery Honor Winner Because of Winn-Dixie, and Newbery Winner of The Tale of Despereaux also wrote this enchanting chapter book series for young readers ages 6-8.  The second book of the series, Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride was the winner of the 2007 Theodore Seuss Geisel Award.

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I’m glad I waited until I had all six books to read at once.  Although you don’t necessarily have to read them in order, I found it to be more fun to read like that because Kate DiCamillo builds on each character in each subsequent book.  Of course there is Mercy Percy, the butter loving – adventure loving pig, and Mr. and Mrs. Watson who would do anything in the world for their darling, dear, porcine wonder.  In the first book we are introduced to the Lincoln sisters, Eugenia and Baby, the Watson’s elderly yin and yang neighbors. Eugenia has an opinion on everything, and in her opinion pigs should not live in houses. She spends the next five books trying to convince everyone that her opinion is correct.  And then there’s Baby, who secretly likes Mercy Watson even though she always agrees with her sister Eugenia… it’s just easier that way.  Throughout the series we meet Ned and Lorenzo, the fire fighters who are called out for every crisis; Officer Tomilello who has the quirky habit of asking and answering his own questions out loud; Leroy Ninker, the little thief who really wants to be a cowboy and later becomes the reformed conession man at the drive-in theater who still really wants to be a cowboy; Frank and Stella, the neighborhood children who befriend Mercy; and Animal Control Officer Francine Poulet whose nose looks remarkably like a chicken’s beak.

Kate DiCamillo expertly weaves these characters in and out of the series always putting Mercy Watson’s love of butter at the center of her conflict and in every resolution.  How could one not adore a character who unabashedly follows her dream into wacky wonky misadventures?

Leave it to Chris Van Dusen to paint the story pictures so vividly on each page.  Each character’s personality and motivation is captured in their faces and their body language.  Chris Van Dusen extraordinary illustrations will leave you begging for more.  You might be interested in reading some of his other works as well.  Look for the Mr. Magee series of early readers and several other titles including The Circus Ship which looks amazing and is on my reading list!

You can learn more about Kate DiCamillo here. http://www.katedicamillo.com/index.html

You can learn more about Chris Van Dusen here.             http://www.chrisvandusen.com

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