Book of the Week - Sabriel

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Prologue: Sabriel is born to a mother who just stumbled into the middle of a camp of traders. Baby Sabriel dies. Just as the traders are about to say the final rights, a necromancer arrives and proceeds to walk into the land of the dead and bring back the baby--alive. Sabriel is revived, marked with magic, and she and her father join the group of traders.

If that doesn't suck you into a story then I don't know what would. This book promises from the beginning to be full of death, magic, and adventure, and it fulfills all of those promised to the letter. Sabriel doesn't give up, lighten, or slow down from beginning to end. It also pushes the boundaries on what would be considered a children's book. Esteemed editor Virginia Buckley said she would never sign a young adult book with an eighteen-year-old protagonist, yet Sabriel is just that and it is very much for the adolescent audience. Sabriel is a dark adventure, but perfect for anyone needing a good fantasy.

Forgotten Author of the Week - Alexander Key

Yet another author in which you do know their work although perhaps not their name. In a week the DVD release of Race to Witch Mountain will be out. In honor of this event, I present to you--Alexander Key.

Alexander Key was an American children's sci-fi writer. He became nationally known for his illustrations before he became an author. Many of his books have a distinctive rugged landscape due to his home being in the North Carolina mountains.

His novel Escape to Witch Mountain was made into a popular film in 1975, 1995, and again this year. The sequel, Return From Witch Mountain (an absolute favorite of mine) was also made into another popular film in 1978. Among some of his other books is The Incredible Tide which was made into an anime series called Future Boy Conan, Sprockets, The Forgotten Door, The Sword of Aradel, and a dozen others.

Key is known for his portrayals of aline, but human-like people who have psychic powers and close communion with nature. Often his characters can speak to animals. The protagonists of Key's books are often ostracized, feared, or persecuted because of their abilities or alien origin, and Key uses this as a clear metaphor for racism and other prejudice.

Book of the Week- This Land Was Made for You and Me

This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie by Elizabeth Patridge

What a large amount of research this author had to wade through in order to write this book. From interviewing friends and family to reading the almost illegible scrawl of Guthrie’s handwriting later in his life. Despite the very detailed and vivid information the author provides, the reader always feels like they are being presented with facts. Nothing feels made up or crafted for the story. There is rich sensory details such as how the dust must have felt during the dust bowl, and the way the migrant workers camp must have felt. She pieces this together from Guthrie’s life, but also through outside sources, letters, and conversations with people who may or may not have been associated with the Guthrie movement. Partridge weaves together a tale that does not shy away from the good, the bad, or the ugly. She takes these facts and transports you into the world of Woody Guthrie. One can’t help but go find one of his CD’s and listen as you read the book.

Forgotten Author of the Week - Sempe-Goscinny

Perhaps you have run across the Nicholas books while perusing your local library shelves. More than likely you have not.

Rene Goscinny is the writer of the story. Born in Prais, France in 1926 and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Goscinny discovered his love of reading. He lived in New York City for awhile, but eventually moved back to France in the 50's. Most of Goscinny's books were written in French first and later translated by himself into English. He has written numerous children's books such as the Adventures of Asterix the Gaul and Nicholas.

Jean-Jacques Sempe is the artist of the Nicholas series. Sempe was born in Bordeaux, in the South of France in 1932. When he was a little boy he was always getting into trouble at school, just like Nicholas. When he was older, Sempre tried all kinds of jobs from selling toothpaste to working in a summer camp. When Sempe was eighteen-years-old, he moved to Paris and soon got one of his drawing printed in a newspaper for
the first time. He had no formal training as an artist. He has been drawing cartoons and illustrations for magazines, newspapers, and books ever since.

Illustrator of the Week - Jean-Jacques Sempe

In honor of the Forgotten Author of the Week. The Illustrations of Jean-Jacques Sempe.

Book of the Week -We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro Baseball by Kadir Nelson

Every author must make a conscientious choice of whom the narrator of their story will be. Typically, the voic

e centers around the main character or characters. Whether in first or third person. However, Nelson chooses to use a god-like voice in We Are the Ship. This voice explains and describes the story as if he was a part of the story, as if he is one of the ballplayers. There is a distinct vocal style, reminiscent of the way African-American’s spoke centuries ago. The book begins, “Seems like we’ve been playing baseball for a mighty long time.” Th

e word ‘we’ allows the reader to feel like they are part of that we. The ‘mighty’ creates a distinctive cultural flavor that permeates the story. There is no name to the voice, but there doesn’t need to be. This is your voice, this is Jackie Robinson’s voice, it is Leroy “Satchel” Paige, and everyone else who made up the negro leagues so long ago. 

Forgotten Author of the Week - Howard Pyle

Just like many of my previous forgotten authors, you do know Howard Pyle even if you don't realize it. His 1883 classic The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood remains in print to this day and his other books often have some of the same themes. 


Howard Pyle was born in 1853. Although he w

as born in Wilmington , Delaware, he spent most of his life living in Florence Italy. In 1894, Pyle began teaching illustration at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry. In 1883 he wrote The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. He also wrote an original work called Otto the Silver Hand (1883), and a four-volume set in King Arthur. He also illustrated historical and adventure stories for periodicals such as Harper's Weekly and St. Nicholas Magazine. His Men of Iron book was made into a movie in 1954 called The Black Shield of Falworth.

Pyle's most famous work distilled many Robin Hood legends and ballads, making them suitable for the child audience that the sought to appeal. Pyle was not so concerned with historical accuracy as he was about storytelling. Although, none of the tales in the book were Pyle's own making, he wove them together to form a unified story.

Illustrator of the Week - Howard Pyle

In honor of my forgotten author this week, I also bring to you the illustrations of Howard Pyle.

Book of the Week - Judy Moody

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald

There is this tricky bit when writing books for intermediate readers. Judy Moody is eight-years-old. If we are to assume that the average child reader wants to read a book about children older than themselves, then this books is aimed at 6-8 year-olds. Yet, there are many big words in this books, words that set this book apart as a story for advanced readers of this age group. Average words for a second grader are words like might, cry, flew, and maybe. McDonald pushes further using words like memorizing, armadillo, invitation, collage, and unscrunched. The author is challenging her readers, taking them many steps past Magic Tree House and the A-Z Mysteries. By creating a book aimed at younger readers, but expecting them to read at a higher level, McDonald makes a book that is far more engaging and in-depth than much of the literature written for this age group.

Forgotten Author of the Week - Michael Ende

Michael Ende is a German writer of fantasy and children's literature. Before you jump to the conclusion that you do not know this author, I can promise you that you have heard of him and seen his work. Ever heard a little film called The Neverending Story? That is Ende. Ende was born in 1929 in Bavaria, Germany.

Ende was one of the most popular and famous German authors of the 20th century, mostly due to the enormous success of his children's books. However, Ende was not strictly a children’s author, as he also wrote books for adults. Ende claimed, "It is for this child in me, and in all of us, that I tell my stories," and that "[my books are] for any child between 80 and 8 years." Ende’s writing could be described as a surreal mixture of reality and fantasy. The reader is often invited to take a more interactive role in the story, and the worlds in his books often mirror our reality, using fantasy to bring light to the problems of an increasingly technological modern society.

Die unendliche Geschichte (The Neverending Story) is Ende's best known work. Other books that have been translated into English include Jim Button and Luke the Engine Drive (1960),  Jim Button and the Wild 13 (1962), The Grey Gentlemen (1973), The Neverending Story (1979), Ophelia's Shadow Theatre (1988), The Night of Wishes (1989).

Michael Ende's works have been translated into more than 40 languages and sold more than 20 million copies, and have been adapted into motion pictures, stage plays, operas and audio books.

Book of the Week - ...If You Lived When Women Won Their Rights

...If You Lived When Women Won Their Rights by Anne Kamma

This book is organized very well. First it sets up the story, the very reason the book is written. We begin with the very first women, Abigail Adams and Deborah Sampson, who began writing and talking about women’s rights. Then we delve into what women were not allowed to do. This is extremely important in the set up of the story, for many young girls today do not understand what it was these women were fighting for.  Jamma hits on poignant issues that young reader’s would be interested in such as what woman wore the first pants, rode bicycles, and schooling. Mixed within those tidbits are the facts, the women who fought, and the eventual winning of women’s right to vote, own land, and go to college. By carefully mixing these two things, the reader gets all the facts without getting bored by all the names, places, and laws.

Book of the Week - Handel: He Knew What He Liked

Handel: He Knew What He Liked by M.T. Anderson

Footnotes are a great way to insert needed information into a story without putting them into the narrative. Some children’s stories have an abundance of footnotes, inserting them all over the page. This can be seen in non-fiction science and animal books especially. Anderson understood that he was writing a story that is very time period directed, and although children will understand the emotions of a character, they may not know what a clavichord, or an opera, or a libretto is. The footnotes are details, but not too much detail. Needed information that would otherwise slow down the pacing of the story. When writing non-fiction one has to keep footnotes into consideration to insert much needed information. 

Forgotten Author of the Week - Edith Nesbit

Edith Nesbit is a rare gem of a writer, but sadly her success in the U.S. has never been widespread. Yet, a few of her book are still in print. Edith was born in 1858. She studied in France and at the young age of 19 (not so young then), married Hubert Bland, a writer and political activist. Edith was all the scandal for she had a child two months after their wedding.

Edith and her husband were socialists, not something that was smiled upon in 1883. Even more out of the norm, her husband had a mistress who lived with them, and bore Herbert's child. Amazingly, Nesbit seemed all right with this. Nesbit was a regular lectureer and writer on socialism. However, over the years she began to devote less and less time to her political acitivities and began to write books for children. Her most famous novels include The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1899), The Wo
uldbegoods (1901), Five Children and It (1902), The Phoenix and the Carpet (1
904), The New Treasurer-Seekers (1904), The Railway Children (1906) and her most famous, The Enchanted Castle (1907).

Edith's husband died in 1914, but within a year she married Thomas Tucker, an engineer. Edith continued to write children's book and published forty-four novels by the time of her death in 1924.

Edith has this wonderful quality in her books that really pulls the reader in, draws them into these extraordinary fantasy worlds. Although the language is a bit archaic at times, the stories never lose their magic and will hopefully remain in print for many years to come.

An interesting article about Edith Nesbit: