Charlotte Zolotow, children's author, has died

This has been a hard week for children's literature. First, we said goodbye to Junie B. Jones creator, Barbara Park. Now, we learn that Charlotte Zolotow, died yesterday at home in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY.

Ms. Zolotow, a fearless champion of facing head-on the tough issues of childhood -- loneliness, anger, death -- began her illustrious career, as a powerful editor for children's literature at Harper and Brothers (now HarperCollins Publishers). On her rise through the ranks (she eventually became head of the publisher's children's division, a vice president, and associate publisher and, 22 years ago, she was named publisher emerita), she made the careers of M.E. Kerr, Robert Lipsyte, and Paul Zindel whose 1968 teen novel, The Pigman, a grim tale of the troubled friendship between two unloved high school students and a lonely old man. She also represented Patricia MacLachlan, author of the the children's classic, Sarah, Plain and Tall (19850, which not only won the 1986 Newbery Medal, but was also turned into the 1991 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie by the same name, starring Glenn Close and Christopher Walken.

Ms. Zolotow's work as an editor was a natural segue to her own writing career. She used her books to help children and their parents face emotional subjects. William's Doll (1972) tells the story of a little boy determined to play with dolls when his dad wants him to embrace basketballs and trains. Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present (1962), a 1963 Caldecott Honor book, teaches the abstract idea of the power of color. Maurice Sendak illustrated this perennial favorite.

Ms. Zolotow's titles have been illustrated by some of the giants of children's illustrators. Garth Williams, Tana Hoban, and H.A. Rey are just some of the artists paired with Ms. Zolotow's books.

The death of Ms. Zolotow, who was 98, was announced by her daughter, Crescent Dragonwagon, a well-known children's author in her own right.

Barbara Park, creator of the beloved Junie B. Jones children's books, has died

Barbara Park, who combined her inner six-year-old self with a fantastic sense of humor to create the popular Junie B. Jones chapbooks, has died.

Ms. Park discovered her love of reading in high school and her writing gifts in the 70s when, as a military wife, she put to paper the antics of her young boys. Her first books were stand-alones that spoke to children about tough subjects with her uniquely child-oriented perspective, such as The Kid in the Red Jacket (1987) which covers the stress of moving and being the 'new kid' in school.

In 1992, Park found her popularity soar with the publication of the first of her 28 Junie B. Jones chapter books. First up, Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus. The eponymous five -year-old hates her first bus ride to school so much that she refuses to go home at the end of the day.

Through 16 more entries in the series, Junie B. Jones stayed in kindergarten. Finally, in 2001, Junie B. Jones graduates. In Junie B., First Grader (at Last!), Junie B. faces the twin traumas of losing her best friend to TWINS and of having to get her first pair of glasses.

The last Junie B. Jones title, #28, Junie B., First Grader: Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff), was published last year.

Ms. Park had battled ovarian cancer for several years. She was co-founder and CEO of Sisters in Survival, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women navigate the many challenges of a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Barbara Park, a longtime resident of Scottsdale, AZ, and winner of multiple children's literature awards, was 66 years old.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger is bored with being proper. He wants to have more fun. So he decides to go wild, which is just what this suit and tie wearing tiger does! He goes a little bit too wild and ends up confusing his fellow proper animal friends. They tell him he should go to to the wilderness where he belongs! And he does go away, but he gets lonely and misses his city and his friends. When he gets back to town he is so surprised and happy by what he sees.

Peter Brown is a Caldecott Honor illustrator and the images in Mr. Tiger Goes Wild were made with India ink, watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper, then digitally composited and colored. They are simply amazing in this picture book.

The book was recently listed on Publishers Weekly's Best Picture Books of 2013.

Choosing Books That Are Right For Your Family

Everybody has specific ideas about the material they're comfortable with their children reading. Maybe you're okay with exposure to some swear words but not others. Maybe violence is out, swearing is tolerable, but you're concerned about how your child is exposed to different social situations than what he's used to. Maybe you have a 7-year-old who's worked through everything you can think of written for that age group, and you need to feed that child's voracious reading appetite without giving her nightmares. Maybe you just want to be prepared for questions your kids might ask you as they work their way through a book.

Bookalachi can help. This site was created for this very purpose and includes parent reviews of children's books. They also tell you how they approach reviewing books. They consider content in these categories: language, sexual content, alcohol/drugs, violence/scary/disturbing, social/family, and religion. Their intent isn't to censor books, but to provide parents with tools to make the best decisions considering their own family's values.

Here's a taste of what this site offers. Bookalachi will tell you that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone that language-wise the book is a Level 1. Level 1 books include words like "hell" and "bastard," but not four letter words. It also lets you know that in the book, the reader will see an adult kiss another adult on the cheek. Under alcohol/drugs, the site tells you that there is an "item described as looking like a ‘cigarette lighter’" in the book; also adults drink brandy and wine and in several cases it changes their behavior. A number of factors are listed under violence/scary/disturbing. The social/family category tells you that Harry's parents are dead and that he is raised by an Uncle and Aunt who actively dislike, neglect, and abuse him, and mentions a few other things. The religion entry points out that the book features "witches, wizards, ghosts, poltergeists, and fortune-telling. It also includes this quote from the book, "There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it."

This is a great resource for parents who like to know the content of the books your children read, but who don't have the time to read it all beforehand.

We've Got Community!

Playing at the Downtown Library tot table with the garages, cars and traffic signs, provides a great opportunity to talk to your little one about our community, neighborhoods and incredible C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. Watch out for that stop sign!

Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus

Pete the Cat is one groovy cat, and he and his picture books are popular among the preschool crowd. Sure, he loves his white shoes. But he also rocks in his school shoes, saves Christmas, has four buttons, and sports a pair of magic sunglasses. Did you know he is also a bus driver and is into Thanksgiving? Yes, this Pete the Cat is into everything.

Some of the new books, including the beginning reader books, are nice to read if you want to read more books about Pete, but they don’t really compare to the original Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. But no fear, it’s all good.

What is your favorite Pete book?! Here’s a handy list to see if you've missed any.

Madeline and the Bad Hat

On Sunday, November 10, 2013, the Michigan Theatre is going to be presenting the musical version of the classic children's book Madeline and the Bad Hat by Ludwig Bemelmans. This title was originally published in 1956, and deals with bullying, a timely topic even today. The term "bad hat" is not used to describe a head covering, it is a term for a person who deliberately causes trouble.

Before you take the kids to see this show, take them to the Malletts Creek Branch
on Sunday, November 3, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. We'll read the original book and then
do some special crafts. You'll be able to make Madeline's famous yellow and blue hat or construct the Eiffel Tower out of craft sticks. Parents must stay with their children as we will be using hot glue for these projects.

This is for kids in grades kindergarten and up.

Halloween Storytime

Don't want to go trick-or-treating? Bring the costumed little ones to the Pittsfield Branch on
Thursday, October 31 at 7:00 p.m. for a Halloween storytime. We'll tell stories that aren't very
scary, sing songs, have cider and donuts, and do some very special crafts. It will be fun for the
whole family.

For some Halloween stories, look here.

Art Table: Veterans Day Cards!

Next time you’re at the Downtown branch, stop by the art table in the Youth Department and create a Veterans Day card! We've got the supplies needed to make a SUPER STAR card for a Veteran. All cards collected in time will be delivered to the Ann Arbor VA hospital in time for Veterans Day on November 11.

Too Tall Houses, by Gianna Marino

Too Tall Houses is a beautiful new picture book by Gianna Marino. In the story, Rabbit and Owl live in two small houses on top of a hill. They were good neighbors and friends… until Rabbit’s garden got too tall and Owl couldn’t’ see the forest. So Owl decided to build his house taller, which blocked the sun from reaching rabbit’s garden. Oh my! These two friends have found themselves in a pickle of a house mess. Will they stop competing to make the tallest house and make up and enjoy being neighbors again? Check out this beautifully illustrated picture book to see how it all ends.

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