IAW 2015 Get to Know the Judges: Rachel DeWoskin

Leading up to the It's All Write Teen Short Story Contest celebration on June 7 (mark that on your calendar!), we'll be posting information about the judges who have the difficult task of narrowing down our contestants. Our next judge is Rachel DeWoskin.

Originally hailing from right here in Ann Arbor (!), DeWoskin is an author, poet, and teacher of fiction and memoir at the University of Chicago. She divides her time between Chicago and Beijing, where she once starred in a Chinese soap opera called “Foreign Babes in Beijing.” Her memoir of the same name was released in 2005.

In addition to her memoir and numerous essays and articles published by a variety of magazines, DeWoskin has published three novels. Her first two—REPEAT AFTER ME (2009) and BIG GIRL SMALL (2011) [set in Ann Arbor, and known for its crossover appeal with teens]--are adult novels, but her most recent book, BLIND (2014) is a foray into young adult. In BLIND, a terrible accident leaves fifteen-year-old Emma Silver without eyesight. She works hard to adapt to her new life, but just as she’s beginning to recover her friendships and resume high school, a classmate is found dead of apparent suicide. Emma must navigate not just her own recovery process but that of her community in the wake of these tragedies.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #530 - “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ William Faulkner

The Swimmer * marks the debut of Swedish Joakim Zander, an espionage thriller that draws enthusiastic comparison with John Le Carré, Graham Greene and vintage Robert Ludlum, in which a deep-cover CIA agent races across Europe to save the daughter he never knew.

Klara Walldeen, an EU Parliament aide in Brussels, is quickly learning how to navigate the treacherous currents of international politics and dangerous desires. Warned by a series of anonymous emails, Swedish academic Mahmoud Shammosh suspects that it is related to his probing research into The Privatization of War (think Blackwater). George Loow, an ethically challenged lobbyist is increasingly uneasy with the requests of his shadowy client. Meanwhile, in Virginia, an old spy (a one-time UM swimmer and an Olympic hopeful) hides from his past while haunted by what happened in Damascus three decades ago.

Their stories converge one stormy Christmas Eve in the Swedish archipelago, when Klara is hunted down for something she should not have seen, and the old spy is the only one who can save her.

"Skillfully moving between the past and the present, from Sweden to Syria to Washington and back again, Zander weaves an increasingly tight web of intrigue and suspense... Beyond the blood-pumping chase sequences and requisite shootouts, there is real humanity here. A compulsively readable page-turner with unexpected heart."

Girl Underwater *, a debut novel by Claire Kells demonstrates that survival is not just physical, but also mental and emotional.

The plane that carries Avery Delacorte, a competitive college swimmer home to Boston for Thanksgiving break crashes in a mountain lake in the Colorado Rockies. She survives along with teammate Colin Shea and three little boys. Faced with sub-zero temperatures, injuries and the dangers of the wilderness, Avery and Colin must rely on each other in ways they never could have imagined.

Her beleaguered recovery comes after their rescue. Avery must come to terms with the trauma in order to reconnect with the world around her. She must dig deep to reclaim her love of swimming and to recognize her heart's true desire.

Claire Kells, (M.D. The University of California) currently in residency in the Bay Area, lends realism to the story with her technical knowledge, and with "a spare, sure hand". "(M)emorable and eminently readable."

* = starred review

Atlas of Adventures: A Collection of Natural Wonders, Exciting Experiences and Fun Festivities from the Four Corners of the Globe

Atlas of Adventures is an exciting new book that invites children to learn a little more about the world around us. The book consists of a collection of intricately illustrated maps (including world, continental and regional varieties). There are labeled map pages for each of the continents, as well as several unique landmark pages within each continent. Each of these specialized regional pages showcase different notable activities and landmarks-- for example, the Europe pages take a look at the Louvre, the Moscow Metro, and a Venetian gondola ride (among many others). With Atlas of Adventures, you can explore the Amazon rainforest, dog sled with huskies in Alaka, go on a canoe safari down the Zambezi River, or set the world aglow at Hong Kong's Lantern Festival. Additionally, there is also a "Where's Waldo" inspired game throughout the book's pages, adding an extra level of fun and whimsy to this amazing collection. This highly recommended book is a great way to inspire a love of geography and travel in children of all ages.

Reading aloud for all ages

Many parents know that reading to young children is beneficial. It is a warm bonding time that promotes literacy and language development.

But what about older children... especially children that can read for themselves?
There are benefits for older elementary and middle schoolers as well. A child's listening level does not catch up to her/his reading level till almost high school. For example reading a book that is above reading level will promote learning new vocabulary as well as more complex grammar and con. Besides the intellectual benefits there are the social benefits of experiencing a story together, the physical closeness, and the opportunity to discuss issues that occur in stories and books as a family.

For great tips (and some read aloud passages) check out Jim Trelease's The Read-aloud Handbook.

Here are some lists to help you create a habit of reading aloud in your family:
Folklore and Fairy Tale Read Alouds
Read Aloud Books for Links
Read-Alouds for the Big Kids
Great Chapter Books to Read Aloud
Read Alouds for Middle School

Parent’s Corner: Go Outside and Play

It’s spring, it’s summer, it’s spring it’s summer! The grass is green, it probably already needed mowing, the lilacs are blooming, baseball practices have started up, and kids are on their bikes all over town! With the warm weather comes kids wanting to go outside. Whether it’s gardening fun or shooting hoops, there are all sorts of ways to keep kids safe and having fun outdoors.

For some guidance the Parent Shelf is located in the downtown youth area, and on this shelf you’ll find a variety of parent-child related books on a multitude of topics- including everything from food and nutrition to potty training to time-outs to homework. These books are available for checkout and can be found in the catalog when searching “parent shelf.” There are many books on outdoors and gardening with kids! Here are a few to get you started:

Touch a butterfly: Wildlife gardening with kids

How to grow a school garden: A complete guide for parents and teachers

Toad cottages & shooting stars: Grandma's bag of tricks

I love dirt! : 52 activities to help you and your kids discover the wonders of nature

And here are a few more titles to keep you playing outside.

Circle, Square, Moose

From the author and illustrator of the funny and wonderful picture book Z is for Moose comes a new tale featuring Zebra and Moose. As usual, Moose is causing trouble and Zebra just wants order.

In Circle, Square, Moose the very enthusiastic Moose invades a book about shapes and his pal Zebra tries really hard to get him out of the book and out of the way of those beautiful shapes! He wants to teach everyone about shapes. Circles! Squares! Triangles! Not Moose! In the end Moose and Zebra patch things up and the book is saved with the help of a very special shape and a great friendship.

Margaret A. Edwards Award 2015 Winner: Sharon M. Draper

Every year the Margaret A. Edwards Award recognizes an individual author, and specific books from their many publications, for their significant and lasting contributions to young adult literature. The award is given out by YALSA This year the award was given to Sharon M. Draper and more specifically for her books November Blues, Darkness Before Dawn, Copper Sun, and Forged By Fire.

Each one of the books has had a significant impact on the genre of young adult literature and they are only some of the works that Sharon M. Draper has written. If you're interested in books by previous Edward's Award winners check out this public list

"F" is for Farm Fun

Things were happening on the farm this week during Ms. Rachel storytime.
OUT Of The EGG by Tina Matthews is a twist on the traditional LITTLE RED HEN story.
Ms. Sara sang and accompanied “B-I-N-G-O" and "Old MacDonald Had a Farm“.
PIGGY IN The PUDDLE by James Marshall is a silly story of a family of pigs … and a mud puddle of course!

For more preschool farm fun try these favorites:
E-I-E-I-O:How Old MacDonald Got His Farm by Judy Sierra.
ROSIE’S WALK by Pat Hutchins.
STANLEY The FARMER by William Bee.
LIFE-SIZE FARM: An Actual Size Animal Encyclopedia
The NOISY FARM: Lots Of Animal Noises To Enjoy! by Marni Mcgee.
HENRY’S MAP by David Elliot.

For families that like a longer story, turn of phrase, deeper details, or different vocabulary, try these favorites:
CHESTER The WORLDY PIG and COCK-A-DOODLE DUDLEY by Bill Peet.
MILLIE WAITS For The MAIL by Alexander Steffensmeier.
The YEAR At MAPLE HILL FARM by Alice Provensen.
The CHICKEN-CHASING QUEEN Of LAMAR COUNTY by Janice N. Harrington.
OLD MIKAMBA HAD A FARM by Rachel Isadora

Girls Standing On Lawns

Stand for something,
stand for something!
Otherwise what do
you stand for,
why are you even standing?

Is it possible to fall in love with a book? Of course. This one did not fall short of that. While reading Girls Standing On Lawns I was overcome with a sense of nostalgia, feminism, purpose, and life.

This little book is the first in a series of collaborations between illustrator Maira Kalman, author Daniel Handler, and the Museum of Modern Art. It is filled with photographs of girls standing on lawns that are straight from MoMA's collection. With each photo is text by Handler, with paintings by Kalman interspersed. The way the words and images unfold together is magical and you can’t help but wonder… who are these girls standing on lawns? How many times have we stood on a lawn in a similar fashion on the first day of school, on graduation day, or on Easter Sunday and posed for a quick snapshot whether we wanted to or not? There is such a sense of history and normalcy in looking back at such "unartistic" vernacular photos, and here done in such a touching way.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #529 - “For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” ~ Noam Chomsky

M(iranda) J. Carter's fiction debut - The Strangler Vine * * is longlisted for the 2104 Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) and a finalist for the British Crime Writers' Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award.

Calcutta, 1837. Young William Avery was broke, homesick and for months, had waited for a commission in the East India Company's army that might never come through. Then out of the blue, he was assigned a secret mission by the Company's administrator with the promise of a promotion and a return to his beloved home in Devon.

Avery was to join Jeremiah Blake, a former Company agent gone native who turned out to be a genius at languages and disguises. The pair was to search for the missing English poet Xavier Mountstuart who has been sighted at some of the most dangerous places in all of India, overrun by the Thuggees. While wildly popular with the locals as well as audience at home (Avery being an avid fan himself), it was rumored that Mountstuart's next poem would likely lift the lid on Calcutta society, exposing not only the wickedness of the Company Sahibs, their greed and their immodesty, but also that of the princely courts of the "Hindoo and Mussulman" - a personification of the twisted gray trunks called "strangler vines" that squeeze the life out of other trees.

"Meticulously researched and packed with period detail," it will appeal to historical fiction fans who love action, adventure, and intrigue, particularly those of Bernard Cornwell, David Liss, and Iain Pears. Like many, I am waiting impatiently for the promised sequel The Infidel Stain, and to pick up the trail of this unforgettable investigative pair.

* * = 2 starred reviews

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