“A book is a dream you hold in your hand.”

-Neil Gaiman

I couldn’t agree more, which is one reason that I absolutely LOVE the SpReAd the Love Children’s Book Challenge.  Books have always been a big part of my life.  I’ve been an avid reader since childhood and I chose a profession that can be decidedly bookish in nature.  My bookshelves overfloweth!  Not surprisingly, my kids also have tons of books…the one thing that I almost never refuse to purchase when asked.  Each of them has a mini library ranging from childhood favorite picture books to age appropriate (and inappropriate – hard to find age appropriate books for a nine year old who reads at the high school level – MiniMe is currently reading Divergent) books of both the fiction and non-fiction variety.

In addition to being active readers, both of my kids are emergent writers with huge imaginations.  It’s no wonder that the thought of children without access to books is heartbreaking to me.  For kids whose real lives are full of far too many, far too adult realities, a book really can be a dream.  A paperback means to escape from that reality and immerse in imagination for awhile.  The SpReAd the Love Children’s Book Challenge helps make this possible.  My donations this year are a childhood favorite and a slightly sinister selection of award winners which I dropped off this week.

Here’s a really cool bonus that I stumbled on last year…a way to get “more bang” for your donated books:

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From March 1-31, Half Price Books (which has locations in several US states) will match donations of children’s titles book for book.  The Half Pint Library Book Drive culminates in Giveaway Events held in the month of April where the books are given to schools and non-profit organizations.  It’s a great event that puts books into the hands of children who might not otherwise have them.  MiniMe had the day off of school on Monday (for some undetermined reason) so we (MiniMe, sleepover buddy and me) headed off to drop off our books.  My selections plus a few more that MiniMe and Showbiz parted with, added up to 20 books…which became 40 books when we placed them into the donation bin.  It’s a good feeling for sure!  The links will take you to more information about the drive.  If you are close to a Half Price Books location, it’s definitely worth taking a look.

I also really dig their mascot…what is that?  A bookworm?!

SpReAd the Love Children’s Book Challenge: “Death by Newbery”

Last year, when I was trying to convince my oldest to write up something for the children’s book challenge, I threw out a couple of titles…one of them being The Bridge to Terabithia, at which point he threw up his hands muttered something about it being a complete mind f#$k and then said clearly…”No way.  I’m not promoting ‘Death by Newbery‘”

OK…so I bit.

Me:  “Death by Newbery?  What is that?”

Him:  “The marked regularity that either a sibling, a virtuous best friend, a wise advisor or a beloved pet will meet an untimely death – for which the book wins a prestigious literary prize.”  (Yes, he actually talks like that.)

End of conversation – he refused to participate, I posted Everyone Poops on his behalf.

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Fast forward one year, and here I am again, hovering around a familiar theme.  First, a bit of background excerpted from Wikipedia:

The John Newbery Medal is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of theAmerican Library Association (ALA). The award is given to the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”[1] Named for John Newbery, an 18th-century English publisher of juvenile books, the Newbery was proposed by Frederic G. Melcher in 1921, making it the first children’s book award in the world.[2]:1 The medal was designed by Rene Paul Chambellan and depicts an author giving his work (a book) to a boy and a girl to read.

(The British Carnegie Medal is similar and has a similar death toll evidently)

Dating back to 1922, the list of Newbery winners and honorees is a veritible Who’s Who in American juvenile literature, so I thought I’d scan through it and pick out some winners that I’d read and see how the “Death by Newbery” trope held up.

Spoiler alert…if you haven’t read these books…well, you know…

1953 – Charlotte’s Webb by E.B. White:   I was absolutely gutted when you know who died…and then was gutted again when I read this book to each of my children.  Wise advisor dies – reader gutted.  Check.

1970 – Sounder by William H. Armstrong.  Summed up beautifully by Wallace Wallace in No More Dead Dogs:

“The dog always dies. Go to the library and pick out a book with an award sticker and a dog on the cover. Trust me, that dog is going down.”

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1978 – Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson:  C’mon!  Is this really a kid’s book?!

I was somewhat surprised to find that another of my childhood favorites…the book that started this whole conversation last year, Where the Red Fern Grows by Winston Rawls is not on the Newbery winner list…it certainly fits the bill.   It’s a coming of age story about a boy and his two beloved Redbone Coonhounds that culminates in one dog dying protecting the boy from a mountain lion and the other pining away and laying down to die on the grave of her dead companion. The boy buries his dogs and returns later to find a sacred red fern growing on their graves.  Reflecting back on it as an adult he says,

“I’m sure the red fern has grown and has completely covered the two little mounds. I know it is still there, hiding its secret beneath those long, red leaves, but it wouldn’t be hidden from me for part of my life is buried there too. Yes, I know it is still there, for in my heart I believe the legend of the sacred red fern.”

                                                                           Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows

One book from read by 12 year old yours truly takes the cake though…The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell – Newbery Medal winner in 1961.

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Based on a true story, this book tells the tale of a young Native American girl living on an island off the coast of northern California…she suffers crisis after crisis, loss after loss but remains resilient.  She endures the death of companions and is forced to live in complete isolation on an otherwise deserted island for over a decade.  Looking back on it now, I realize why the only thing I really remembered was the description of the special garment she made out of the shiny black feathers of the cormorants which were native to the island – it is JUST.  SO. GRIM.

So in sum…Where the Red Fern Grows, The Island of the Blue Dolphins and Steinbeck’s The Red Pony?  Sixth grade was a real literary horror show! (Is it any wonder I don’t find myself particularly bothered by Hannibal?)

All I can say now is:

Thank you Kate DiCamillo!

Read on Armitageworld

(a copy of each of these deadly Newbery Medal winners will be donated to an unsuspecting child 😉  )

SpReAd the Love Children’s Book Challenge: The Monster at the End of This Book

Many moons ago, I was a tow headed sprout among the ranks of the first generation of kids who grew up with the lovable, educational antics of Sesame Street. It was the best part if my morning when I was a very little girl. My mom broke the mold and went back to work when I was six months old, so I went to Mary’s house. Mary was a childhood friend of my mom’s. I remember a few things about those days. I remember being a bit afraid of Mary’s giant German Shepherd, and even more so of her grinch husband. I remember laying the foundation of a lifelong hatred of Cheerios. There are always some downsides to being placed in an “alien” environment I guess.

On the plus side though, I remember loving Mary fiercely. I loved her beautiful red hair, which my mom would style into a massive beehive updo that held for the week with the addition of a shellacking of hairspray. Most of all, daily dose of Cheerios choked down, I remember settling down in front of their “giant” TV (the actual screen was probably about the size of my computer monitor, but the console was huge) to watch Sesame Street.

Big Bird, Ernie and Bert, Kermit, Oscar the Grouch, and my personal fave…Grover. A furry little blue guy who was always well meaning, but often a bit neurotic and definitely a little spastic as he flew off the handle, skinny arms flailing over something or another. I thought Grover was hilarious, so I was delighted when my mom turned up at bedtime one night with this

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My mom read the story of how Grover is frightened of monsters, and he how tries a variety of methods – tying pages together, nailing pages down, building a brick wall – to keep the reader from turning the pages and reaching the monster at the end.

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All to no avail as the reader keeps turning pages despite Grover’s constructions and arm waving histrionics. I remember being a little leery the first time my mom read the book to me…why was Grover so afraid? Should we turn that last page?

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As it turns out…

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There was never anything to be scared of at all! I loved this story as a child, and I loved reading it to my own kids, their laughter at Grover’s antics was infectious. I was talking about donating this book with my mom and MiniMe the other day. My mom remembered it fondly…ours was a battle scarred Little Golden Books version. I asked MiniMe if she remembered it and she said, “Yes, and I read it to a little girl in the church nursery last week.”

Four generations of Grover love is a beautiful thing!