Category Archives: classics

Alice’s Curious Adventure

“Every adventure requires a first step”

–  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Today is Lewis Carroll’s 185th birthday.  It is a great time to revisit a classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, first published in 1865.  A journey like no other, Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole and encounters a variety of engaging characters.  Equal parts discovery and non-sense, it is a must read for those who have yet to experience the original Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, and Queen of Hearts.  And worthy of a re-read for those who haven’t picked up their copy in a while.  Although nothing about Alice’s adventures can be considered traditional travel, imagination often provides the best kind of adventure, and books are the perfect way to get there.

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Tell A Fairy Tale Day

For centuries fairy tales have captivated readers with their magic and mystery.   If pressed, nearly early everyone could share at least one traditional story from memory.  They are part of cultural heritage, tradition and identity.  However, what is so fascinating about fairy tales is their universality.  The number of tellings and re-tellings of traditional stories across the ages have transcended physical and cultural boundaries.  In honor of “Tell A Fairy Tale Day”, take time to discover new interpretations of old tales from cultures across the globe or read a new fairy tale from a culture that isn’t familiar to you.  This is a great opportunity to compare and contrast versions.   “Once upon a time…” is the gateway for travel to far away lands, without having to stray too far from what you already know.


The Princess and the Peaprincess and pea by Rachel Isadora.   The traditional story of a prince in search of a wife is brought to East Africa with vibrant illustrations that place the classic tale in a new location.  Isadora, a Caldecott award winner, also re-imagines the classic stories of The Twelve Dancing PrincessesRapunzel, and Hansel and Gretel in an African setting.  PB

cendrillionCendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci.  The enduring tale of Cinderella as told through the eyes of a West Indian washerwoman who discovers she possesses a magic wand that can grant her goddaughter happiness.  Other wonderful interpretations of the classic Cinderella story include Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from ChinaThe Egyptian CinderellaAdelitaThe Rough-Face GirlThe Irish Cinderlad The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella StoryThe Korean Cinderella , and The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece.   Enjoy them all!  PB

red riding hoodLittle Red Riding Hood Stories Around the World: 3 Beloved Tales (Multicultural Fairy Tales) by Jessica Gunderson.   There isn’t just one story about a little girl and her sick grandmother – discover how the traditional tale of Little Red Riding Hood plays out in Germany, Italy and Taiwan.   Finding all three stories in one book is perfect for young readers to investigate the similarities and differences between re-tellings.  Recommended as a read-aloud with a grown-up for younger readers-  some versions are a little intense.   Available in the series is Snow White Stories Around the World: 4 Beloved Tales, also by Gunderson, and Cinderella Stories Around the World: 4 Beloved Tales and Rapunzel Stories Around the World: 3 Beloved Tales, both by Cari Meister.  RA/ER-1/2

russianRussian Fairy Tales  compiled by Aleksandr Afanasev.  The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore library has a large collection of classic tales from around the world.  These editions contain traditional cultural stories known for generations, filled with witches, princes, and other unique characters.  Reading these stories, originally from the oral storytelling tradition, provides a window into the beautiful culture of Russia.  Also recommended are the other editions in the extensive Pantheon library, including Folktales from India Japanese Tales Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies African Folktales Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions Norwegian Folktales Yiddish Folktales African American Folktales: Stories from Black Traditions in the New World American Indian Myths and Legends  and their compilation book Favorite Folktales from Around the World , edited by renowned author Jane Yolen.  RA/MR- 5/ YA

blue fairy bookThe Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.  The first of Lang’s fairy books contains 37 enduring classic fairy tales.  A staple for generations, this is a good start for anyone looking to revisit the stories as they were originally compiled into an English language collection.  Lang pulled from a variety of sources including the Grimm brothers and Charles Perrault, as well as from the oral storytelling tradition.  The fairy tales continue in his many additional volumes.  MR-5   

hcandersenHans Christian Andersen’s Complete Fairy Tales translated by Jean P. Hersholt.   Recommended reading for those older readers who are looking for the most recognized versions of classic fairly tales like “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Little Mermaid”.   The bulk of Andersen’s work is from the mid-1800’s and his stories can be more intense than the well-known, softer versions we are familiar with today.  MR/YA

brothers grimmThe Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.  Containing all 156 tales from the 1812 and 1815 original publications of the Grimm brothers stories, this is where you’ll find the dark and gritty fairy tales when magic isn’t always nice and happy endings aren’t guaranteed.  Without doubt it is a classic, but also not necessarily the best place to start with young children.   Another recommendation to broaden your knowledge of the where the modern day re-tellings got their start.  MR/YA 

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Filed under classics, fairy tale, Multi-Cultural

A Christmas Carol

I’ve always adored the timeless, enduring message of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Perhaps it stems from my youth, when my parents would take us to the theater to see the annual stage production. Or perhaps it was my academic focus on 19th century history and literature as a college student that bred my fondness for Scrooge’s reformation. Maybe it’s that I cherish the sound of laughter and togetherness watching the The Muppet Christmas Carol with my girls. Whatever the motivation, A Christmas Carol has cemented itself as a necessary staple of our holiday season. Through Scrooge we are reminded that Christmas isn’t about things, that sharing is more wonderful than getting, family matters most, it is never too late to turn over a new leaf, and that forgiveness is easily given.   I adore many of the film versions, from the aforementioned Muppets (Gonzo is spectacular as narrator, and Miss Piggy does a perfect Mrs. Cratchit), to Scrooged, a commentary on ’80’s indulgence (with a fantastic Bill Murray), to the terrifying iterations of Scrooge as done by Patrick Stewart or George C. Scott.  However, I recommend giving the written story a try – from the original work, to adaptations for younger readers, to inventive interpretations –  curl up by the fire and experience the true magic of Dicken’s classic tale.

christmascarolPBA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Illustrated by Brett Helquist – This picture book version of the beloved tale of Scrooge and his midnight apparitions is a wonderful addition to every holiday library and a perfect introduction to the story for younger readers.  It would make a wonderful holiday tradition to gather round the fire to read this aloud together as a family. (PB/RA)

mth christmas carolMagic Tree House #44: A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time by Mary Pope Osborne – Jack and Annie are transported to Victorian England where they meet up with writer Charles Dickens.  Although he appears to have everything he needs, Dickens has secrets about his past that haunt him.  Can Jack and Annie save the beloved writer of a Christmas Carol?  For more information on Dickens London check out Rags and Riches: Kids in the Time of Charles Dickens the non-fiction companion book by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce.  (ER-1/3)

cracked classicsCracked Classics: Humbug Holiday by Tony Abbott – When Frankie & Devin need a little boost with their English homework they usually get banished to the library where, to their surprise, they are frequently zapped into the books they are supposed to be reading.  This time they are in Victorian England where they come face to face with the grumpiest grouch they’ve ever encountered.  Can they help soften Scrooge’s cold heart and make sure he listens to the visiting spirits? (MR-4)

christmas carolA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova – A beautifully illustrated edition of the classic story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, a miser who, through the midnight visitations of three spirits, learns the true meaning of Christmas and discovers it isn’t too late to embrace the joy of the season and change his fate.  (MR 6+/YA/RA)

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Filed under classics, History, Holiday

Marooned Without A Compass

Today is “Marooned Without A Compass Day”.  I love a holiday, any holiday, so I enjoy that there is a designation for pretty much every day of the year should you choose to celebrate. I’m a particular fan of “Talk Like A Pirate Day” (Sept. 19) and “Squirrel Appreciation Day” (Jan. 21).


Now I realize that today, “Marooned Without A Compass Day”, I could go all existential and talk about the deep emotional feelings of being adrift in life without guidance or direction, searching for meaning and fulfillment, alone and trapped in an existence made of chance or misfortune. Or there is the whole “moral compass” angle to consider.  Or I could wax poetic as a travel-blogger about going forth to discover the world without plans or preparation to fully immerse yourself in genuine (or scary, unsafe, life-threatening) experiences.

What fun is that? I prefer to embrace this holiday with the same attitude that I give to “Name Your Car Day” (Oct. 2)*, with a bit of humor and irreverence. Today I choose to pay tribute to those literary characters who really were “marooned without a compass”.  Check out these classic, and not-so-classic stories of shipwreck, deserted islands, and survival.

gsshipwreckedShipwreck on the Pirate Islands –  In the 18th book in the Geronimo Stilton series we find our intrepid mouse hero stranded on a deserted island, searching for buried treasure.  How Geronimo, who seems to long for a quiet life in Mouse City, always winds up in the most precarious situations is a mystery – but always a fun read! (ER-2)

shipwreckedsailorThe Shipwrecked Sailor: An Egyptian Tale with Hieroglyphs – by Tamara Bower is the retelling of a centuries old tale, discovered on papyrus, written in hieroglyphs, that tells of a shipwrecked sailor who soon discovers he is not alone. He befriends a mystical serpent prince who bestows riches upon the sailor to take back to the King of Egypt when he is finally rescued.  (MR-3/4)

maroonedpirateMarooned On The Pirate Coast – by Melinda Rice is part of the Lone Star Heroines Series, focusing on Texas state history.  I’ve included it because the main character is 11 year old Georgina, who is shipwrecked off the coast of Texas, near Galveston, and learns to survive with help from the Karankawa tribe.  And she is rescued by famous pirate, Jean Laffite!  This story of a strong female heroine holds a place among the boy-centered stories!  (MR-3/4)

shipwreckedjapanShipwrecked!: The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy– Rhoda Blumberg enthusiastically brings to life the story of 14 year-old Manjiro.  In the early 1800’s Manjiro’s fishing boat is shipwrecked 300 miles away from his home in Japan.  He knows, due to the laws of the time, that he can never return.  When he is finally rescued by a whaling ship, Manjiro takes a chance to go where no Japanese person had gone before, to America!   In his quest to understand American culture, receive an education and undertake amazing adventures Manjiro becomes a hero in his homeland.

robinsoncrusoeRobinson Crusoe – The ultimate, classic shipwreck story, written in 1719 by Daniel Defoe, is a survival booklist must-read.  Crusoe is by far the most famous literary character ever to be “marooned without a compass”.  This novel, told in journal form, of his struggle for survival is required for anyone looking for deserted island adventure . (MR-5 – click here, Robinson Crusoe, for the unabridged YA/Classic version)

swissfamilyrobinsonThe Swiss Family Robinson – If being shipwrecked alone is a bit much to handle, there is always Johann D. Wyss’ tale of the Robinson family, who find themselves stranded on a tropical island.  Together, with their wits, ingenuity, love – and quite a few supplies they salvage from the wreckage of their ship – they make a home out of the uninhabited jungle.  (MR-5 – click here, The Swiss Family Robinson, for the unabridged version – Classic/YA/MR-6&up)

*I just got a new car this week. We haven’t named him yet, but I doubt we’ll wait for next October before christening him with a delightful moniker which will hopefully embody all the awesomeness that is a minivan.

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Filed under classics, Holiday, travel, Uncategorized

Classic Disney

I’m going to DisneyWorld – tomorrow!  I pretty much love all things Disney, but in true Paperback Pigeon form, my absolute favorite Disney films, rides, and attractions come by way of classic literature.  Which also means that many of my favorites harken back to the 60’s and 70’s.  These adaptations were some of my mother’s childhood favorites, which she lovingly introduced to me.   I’m super excited to continue the tradition and share my “classic” favorites with my girls – visiting the attractions and meeting the characters that first entered the world via storybooks.

Check our some of my favorite novels that became Disney films and attractions.  Planning a visit to DisneyWorld?  Read your favorite before you visit.  Not traveling anytime soon?  Grab one of the stories below for a virtual trip to the classic Disney universe.

mary poppinsMary Poppins by P.L. Travers  – The Banks house will never be the same after Mary Poppins arrives to take care of Jane, Michael & the twins.  She’s a most unusual nanny who, with a little magic and make believe, changes the Banks family forever.

Brought to life in the 1964 musical starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition is a true Disney classic.  Looking for the story behind the making of the film?  Check out Saving Mr. Banks, with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, which tells the story of Disney’s quest to adapt the novel for movie audiences.

Looking to meet Mary Poppins?  Enjoy the Supercalifragilistic breakfast at 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel & Spa where she regularly makes an appearance.  Or if you are heading to EPCOT make sure to stop at the United Kingdom Pavilion where Mary Poppins makes multiple visits each day.

swissfamilyrobinsonThe Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss – When the Robinson family is shipwrecked on a tropical island they must create a new life for themselves in this uninhabited paradise by creatively using the items they salvaged from the wreck of their vessel.

Disney’s 1960 live action Swiss Family Robinson brings this remarkable adventure to the screen.  With an amazing treehouse, an ostrich and elephant race, and pirates, this relic from the Disney vault is worth a watch.

Who wouldn’t love to live in a treehouse, if just for a day?  Visit the Swiss Family Treehouse in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom Park to walk through the treetops and see how the Robinson Family used some ingenuity and innovation to make their shipwrecked life spectacular.

tomsawyerThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – The classic tale of boyhood uses humor and wit to evoke a simpler time, highlighting memorable adventures of a 19th century childhood.

Disney translated the novel to film in 1995’s Tom and Huck.

Enjoy your own adventure on Tom Sawyer Island in Frontierland at Magic Kingdom Park.  The original attraction was designed in 1956 for Disneyland by Walt Disney himself!  Want to get up close and personal with author Mark Twain?  He is the animatronic host of the American Adventure, along with Benjamin Franklin, at the America Pavilion in EPCOT.  This 30 minute show highlights events in American History.

peter panPeter Pan by J.M. Barrie – The story of a boy who never grows up, but spends his days having adventures in Neverland, leading his band of Lost Boys, and cavorting with fairies and mermaids.  However, when Wendy and her brothers join Peter he questions his path, and Wendy must face difficult decisions that will determine her future.

Disney’s animated Peter Pan is a warmer version of the classic tale, charming and lighthearted without the dark undertones in the original story.  Once they’ve seen this movie every child can’t help but wish for a little pixie dust and membership in the Lost Boys.

Take a trip to Neverland when you visit Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom Park – a ride on Peter Pan’s Flight is a must!  Just around the corner you can meet Peter and Wendy.  Pixie dust more your style?  Head to the Town Square theater where you can shrink down to fairy size and meet Tinkerbell.

aliceinwonderlandAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – A trip down the rabbit hole takes Alice to a nonsensical universe where nothing is quite as it seems and with each turn of the page things get “curiouser and curiouser”.   From the Mad Hatter to the Cheshire Cat, everyone Alice meets introduces her to a wacky, wonderful world

Alice in Wonderland, Disney’s 1951 animated version plays on the whimsy of Carroll’s original and brings the iconic characters to life.  Everyone is here  – from Tweedledee & Tweedledum to the Queen of Hearts!  The 2010 live action Alice in Wonderland starring Johnny Depp is a more sophisticated take on the surreal world of Wonderland.  Nothing is as it seems for a more grown-up Alice, except the creative influence of director Tim Burton is evident in every aspect of this magical adaptation.

Ready to take a whirl into your own Wonderland?  Join the Mad Tea Party and spin yourself silly in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom Park.  When you are done, if you’re not too dizzy, you can meet characters from Wonderland just outside the ride.  Or if you happen to find yourself in United Kingdom Pavilion at EPCOT you can find Alice in the gardens, perhaps recalling her time in Wonderland.

poohThe Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne – Everyone loves the endearing, charming, sweet chubby bear that is Winnie-the-Pooh.  He’s charmed children for generations and his dear companions in the Hundred Acre Wood, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and Christopher Robin, provide enduring friendship and endless adventures.

Even the young, or young at heart, can embrace classic literature through Disney adapted films and attractions. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Disney’s 1977 animated film is a wonderful introduction to Pooh and friends.  Many additional films followed, but start with the original to keep close to the storybook’s classic tales.

Enjoy the Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh in ride form, as you travel via honey-pot through the Hundred Acre Wood, in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park.  After the ride stop in for a delicious buffet meal at the Crystal Palace, where Pooh and friends can be found making the rounds at every meal.  No time to stop and eat?  No worries, you can also meet Pooh & Friends just outside the attraction entrance.  Pooh also makes an appearance in the United Kingdom Pavilion at EPCOT. He can be found, often with one of his friends, in Christopher Robin’s room.

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Filed under classics, Disney, History, Uncategorized

S is for….

S if for…


What books are perfect for every age

With wonders to discover as you turn each page?

Will it be The Cat or the Lorax or an elephant named Horton?

Or Yertle, or Bartholmew?  What could be more fun?

For nearly 80 years Dr. Seuss has charmed and challenged young readers with his rhyming prose, whimsical illustrations and fantastical creative universes.   From the first publication of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street in 1937  you’d be hard-pressed to meet a child who hasn’t been won over by a Seuss story.  Although they are funny, magical and sometimes nonsensical, the true joy in a Seuss is discovering the real moral heart of each story – and realizing Theodore S. Geisel truly believed, “A person’s a person, no matter how small”.  His belief in children, and their ability to learn from and love literature, is evident on every page.    Here are just a few Paperback Pigeon favorites from the more than 40 Seuss titles to choose from. (PB/ER K-2)

mulberrystreetAnd to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street – The very first Dr. Seuss was rejected by 27 publishers!  This classic tale of a young boys’ journey home from school, and what he saw (or imagined) on the way home appreciates the creativity and ingenuity of make-believe and cherishes the storyteller in all of us!

yertletheturtleYertle the Turtle and Other Stories – Moral tales in engaging rhyme – what a perfect pairing.   Yertle, the greedy turtle king, forces all the other turtles to hold him up to view his kingdom – but when his desire for power and possession goes too far it only takes a tiny action (hilarious to kids of all ages) to bring him back to reality.

grinchHow the Grinch Stole Christmas!  – The enduring tale that reminds all of us that Christmas isn’t about toys and trees, and the joy of the season can impact everyone – even if your heart is two-sizes too small.


greenegsandhamGreen Eggs and Ham – “I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.”  The story of this infamous dish mimics the struggles of every parent to entice picky-eaters to try new foods.  Seuss keeps it funny and lighthearted, but in the end Sam-I-Am wins out and a delicious discovery is made.  PBP Challenge: Can you read the longest page in only one breath?

Do you have an ultimate Seuss fan at home?  Trip It:  with a visit to Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure to see Seuss Landing – and immerse your young reader in the world of Dr. Seuss firsthand!

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Filed under A to Z, classics, Early Reader, Picture Book

P is for….

It begins with “A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy”

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwick sisters are as different as can be, but all of them are truly thrilled to be spending their summer at Arundel, a country estate.  Here they discover a special friendship, the joy of of fresh baked cookies, and endless summer afternoons.  But they also learn of prejudice, the consequences of selfish behavior, and the sting of first love.  A charming, heartwarming tale that is sure to be a classic. MR-4/5

*A Paperback Pigeon All-Time Top 10 Favorite*

penderwicksThe Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy–  When Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty arrive at Arundel they are looking forward to a summer of outdoor adventures on the grounds of this Massachusetts estate, but they never imagined they’d meet a friend like Jeffery Tifton.  The sweet son of Arundels cold and prejudiced owner, Jeffery is in peril of being sent to a military academy his mother hopes will make him more like his grandfather.  Jeffery needs help to avoid this dreaded fate and the Penderwick sisters aren’t going to let their new friend down.  Filled with hilarious misadventures and growing pains, The Penderwicks evokes the warmth and charm essential to a childhood classic.

penderwicksgardhamstreetThe Penderwicks on Gardam Street – Fall has come and the Penderwicks are back home.  Mr. Penderwick has settled into the widower lifestyle, but his sister, Aunt Claire,  thinks it is time he consider dating again.  Leave it to the girls to come up with the “save-Daddy” plan to thwart any progress in his search for a new wife.  Can they ensure his dates are dreadful all this while dealing with neighborhood boys, homework swaps, and soccer drama?  What if the solution to their problem isn’t quite what they think, or any further away than their own neighborhood?

penderwickspointemouetteThe Penderwicks at Point Mouette – This summer Rosalind is off to the beach and the other girls are headed to Maine with Aunt Claire.  Can Skye live up to the pressure of being OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick)?  With their dear friend Jeffrey joining them, things are sure to be full of excitement, confusion, misunderstandings, and adventures.   Luckily their quaint cottage by the shore has some special neighbors who are sure to make certain it’s a summer they’ll never forget.

penderwicksspringThe Penderwicks in Spring – Due March 24, 2015 – Spring is full of surprises and the Penderwicks are sure to be up to mischief in the fourth book about this amazing family!

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Filed under A to Z, classics, Middle Reader, series

Veteran’s Day Voices

It’s Veteran’s Day, an opportunity to remember and honor the members of our country’s military.   November 11 is more than just a day off from school, it is a time to remember that others have served, fought, and sacrificed so that we can continue to live as we choose.  Originally established to commemorate the Armistice established November 11, 1918 ending the hostilities in WWI, in 1954 the holiday was changed to honor veterans of all conflicts.  Check out these books that bring personal perspective to the military experience of World War I.

poppyladyThe Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veteransby Barbara Walsh is the true story of one woman’s quest to honor the soldiers in World War I.  Inspired by John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” Moina Michael turned the poppy into an enduring symbol of appreciation and remembrance for the American military.  (PB)

knityourbitKnit Your Bit: A World War I Story by Deborah Hopkinson is the story of a little boy who wants to help when his father goes off to fight in WWI.  He realizes that doing something small can make a big difference.  Inspired by the true life event of the Central Park Knit-In in 1918. (PB)

bunnywarhorseBunny the Brave War Horse: Based on a True Storyby Elizabeth MacLeod is a heartwarming tale of two brothers and their horse who tackle the horrors of World War I together.  (ER – 1-3)


shootingatthestarsShooting at the Stars by John Hendrix details the Christmas Eve Truce of 1914, when British and German soldiers came together on the battlefield to celebrate the holiday together, only to return to their trenches and await orders to resume fighting.  Includes non-fiction support information about the truce. (MR- 4/5)

inflandersfieldsIn Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae by Linda Granfield follows the lines of the historic poem interspersing factual information about all aspects of the military experience in World War I. (MR – 4/5)


afterthedancingdaysAfter the Dancing Days by Margaret Rostkowski tells the story of Annie, a young girl who is trying to forget World War I.  That’s what her mother wants her to do, but Annie can’t seem to forget Andrew, the young injured soldier at the hospital where her father works.  As Annie gets to know Andrew better she begins to understand that the War isn’t so easy to forget and growing up isn’t so simple.  (MR -6+)

allquietonthewesternfrontAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is a defining classic of the cost of war to the young men engaged to participate in conflict.  Paul Baumer enlisted with his friends, but as the war goes on and he lives the horrors of World War I, he vows to work against the principles of hatred that have destroyed his life.  (YA+)

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Filed under classics, europe, History, Holiday, military history, veterans

I is for…

What if you could be anyone, or go anywhere?  With a little imagination anything is possible!

Isabella books by Jennifer Fosberry

Isabella is a little girl with big plans.  With unlimited imagination nothing is impossible for a girl who truly believes in the magic of pretend!  (PB)

isabellagirlonthegoIsabella: Girl on the Go – Isabella is spending the day helping her father, but she isn’t going to settle for ordinary chores!   As she goes about her day each chore becomes an exciting adventure across the globe.  Where will she end up?  The best place of all, of course, home.  Wonderful information for young readers about the fantastic destinations that Isabella visits – from the Pyramids at Giza to the Great Wall of China – at the back of the book.

isabellanotmynameMy Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream? – Isabella isn’t going to settle for just being Isabella!  Call her Sally the astronaut or Marie the scientist, or Mommy the greatest Mommy there ever was!  Isabella spends her day pretending to be all her heroes, driving home the idea that girls can be and do anything they want.  And maybe being Isabella is the best person for her to be, after all.  Turn to the end to learn all about the amazing women Isabella adores.

isabellastarofthestoryIsabella: Star of the Story – Isabella discovers the wonders contained in the covers of a book when she visits the library.  Here she takes a turn at being the lead role in classic children’s tales while she tries to find just the right book.   Who will Isabella be next?  Peter Pan, Goldilocks and Black Beauty all make appearances, but it is the yellow brick road that leads Isabella to the checkout desk and the perfect book for her.  Don’t forget to check out more information on the stories Isabella enjoys at the back of the book – perhaps one is just right for you!

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Filed under A to Z, Art, Biography, classics, Library, Picture Book

Keep them on the shelves!

This week is Banned Books Week here in the US.  It is an opportunity to bring to light the books, and the messages, that have been challenged, primarily over the past 4 decades, for a variety of reasons.  I’ve thought a lot about this issue, started and re-started, written and re-written this post, trying to get a handle on exactly what it means to both sides when a book is challenged or banned. But in the end I will  help carry the torch against the  banning of books. Does that mean I agree with everything I read? Nope. But I believe in the power of literature to inspire, comfort, motivate, encourage, expose and interest readers.

I have a hard time processing the banning of books.  Free speech, one of the strongest ideals held in the Bill of Rights, established in the First Amendment, is a cornerstone value on which our society was established.  Banning books means removing access to ideas, thereby limiting free speech. Regardless of personal opinions, the societal ideals we uphold need to be applied universally – we can’t pick and choose which amendments should be adhered to.  I’ll never own a gun, and I most definitely do not want my children in a home with a firearm. But I can’t stop others from owning one. Just because someone doesn’t want their child to read The Hunger Games doesn’t mean they can take away that opportunity from my child.

Equal opportunity aside, what is it about banned books that gets everyone so riled up? And why are these books, or any books, so important?  Often the banning of books is a way to protect our children from what we have deemed as scary, unfamiliar, or shocking. Reading is way to experience the world, without having to actually experience it. Learning through literature enables readers to branch out, safely. Books help us to think differently, sometimes that makes us uncomfortable, but it is a necessary challenge pushing us to grow.  Allowing your child to read banned books gives you the chance to comment and weigh in, imparting your values either in reinforcement or opposition.

I’ve put together 5 reasons that books, all books, should be kept on the shelves.

1.) Literature is a reflection of our society. Reading about someone like you eases isolation and validates your feelings and existence.

thefamily bookThe Family Book by Todd Parr (PB) has been challenged because it represents families of all types, some with only one parent, some with two parents of the same sex. How painful and unfair for children in these family groups to never see their life represented – for diverse families make up much of our population. The moral of the book is that all families are special and filled with love – an experience everyone should see validated.

AreYouThereGodmodernAre You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume (MR) is one of the top 100 most challenged books of the 90’s and 00’s. Just like any other 12 year old girl, Margaret struggles with buying her first bra, getting her period, and establishing her identity. What an honest heroine for pre-teen girls to know – and to help them realize that what they are going through is normal. Unless they don’t get to read it.

2.) Books open our eyes to existences different from our own, which increases understanding. Exposure to differing beliefs, lifestyles, and experiences breeds empathy and tolerance.

betternatethaneverBetter Nate Than Ever  by Tim Federle (MR) follows the story of Nate, a Broadway show loving misfit, from his small hometown in Pennsylvania to New York City to realize his dream of auditioning for a role on-stage. I’ve read this one cover to cover and what stuck with me the most was the idea of pursuing your dreams, and realizing you aren’t alone. Nate encounters some interesting characters on his journey who validate his uniqueness. There is also an “appreciate your family” piece that I like, too. Nate, along with his show-biz troubles, also has a minor sub-plot that addresses his current confusion about his budding sexuality. Ending unresolved, is he gay or isn’t he?, the book promotes a compassionate character who can help young readers not feel so alone. But it also creates empathy and understanding for those who, tempted to bully or belittle what they don’t understand, will reconsider in favor of tolerance or even friendship. Click HERE to read author Tim Federle’s thoughts on banning his book.

olivesoceanOlive’s Ocean  by Kevin Henkes (MR)  is #59 on the ALA list of challenged books for the 00’s primarily because it deals with mortality. Olive and Martha could have been friends, but they never knew it, and now it’s too late. Olive was killed in a car accident and, when her mother gives Martha pages of Olive’s journal that reveal how Olive really thought of Martha, it causes her to rethink who she is an who she wants to be. At it’s heart Olive’s Ocean is a coming-of age story about the loss of innocence and realization of our own mortality. It also examines the idea that we never truly know how we are perceived by others, or what our impact may be on their lives. (Newbery Honor Book)

3.) Imagination and fantasy encourage creativity and originality. They also require us to take a hard look at our own world.

wrinkleintimeA Wrinkle in Time  by Madeline L’Engel (MR) is a fantasy story with a female protagonist who travels through time and space searching for her father. It’s mystery and adventure in a fantasy world. Since it’s publication in 1962 it has been criticized for being too adult, too Christian, not Christian enough, and frankly addressing the battle between good and evil. Paperback Pigeon moment of honesty – I hated this book as a child. It was confusing and I didn’t get it. And that is one of the biggest complaints about it. However, banning something because you don’t understand is prejudice, fear bred of ignorance. I put it down and didn’t read the rest of the series. No harm done. But my sister-in-law loved this series as a girl, and I’m glad she was given the chance to read it. (Newbery Medal Winner)

harrypottersorcerersstoneHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (MR) is one of the most popular, and most challenged, books of the 00’s. Primary concerns are the use of witchcraft and its direct opposition with religious teachings. I’m going to fall back on the Bill of Rights for this one, #1 in fact not only has the freedom of speech, but freedom of religion, too. Banning access to these books based on religious reasons violates the freedom to believe and practice as we wish. Another opposition – the scary nature of the stories and the characters frequent experiences with death. Dealing with death- of a pet, grand-parent or other loved one- is sadly, a part of life. Reading about it can help children to process loss, before they have to encounter it in real life.

hungergamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (YA) is violent, graphic, and emotionally draining. In another Paperback Pigeon moment of honesty – I hated this book. Yep. So why should it be on shelves? Clearly it is a created fantasy world, a dystopian society, far fictionalized from our own. Yet, it provokes a lot of thought about our current society. I especially like the idea of the voyeuristic sensibilities of watching the Hunger Games via satellite in all the districts. How does that correlate to our current fascination with reality TV? How far will we go for entertainment? In the insular fictional word of Panem readers see an exaggerated reality, and determine how far it really is from our society.

4.) Historical novels, when taught in context, provide a window to the past. Just as modern literature reflects the values of our current society, classic literature was at one time contemporary – they reflect the world in which they were written.

tokillamockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (YA) is one of the most banned books of the 20th century, and is still on the list of banned books today. Why? Because it’s deals with racism. Of course it’s about racism – and tolerance, and understanding the weaknesses of the human condition and societal influence on morality. It’s about doing what is right, and just, against adversity. Using literature to teach about the inequity and injustice of racism, means that racism will have to be examined, addressed, and refuted. Not ignored. Set in 1936, published in 1960, To Kill A Mockingbird, when read in historical context, opens minds to how far we’ve come, and how far we’ve yet to go.  (Pulitzer Prize 1961)

diaryofayounggirlAnne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (YA) has been banned for its open and honest portrayal of teenage adolescence. First, it should be open and honest – it was her diary after all. Secondly, when placed in historical context, that is what makes it so compelling and important. Anne is just another pre-teen girl (see Margaret, #1 above) so she is identifiable to readers. Yet what she is experiencing at the hands of the Nazi regime is unimaginable. This book has humanized and personified the Jewish experience during World War II for young readers since it as first published in 1947 (English version 1952).

5.) Early readers don’t come to the table with an understanding of societal constraints. Adults teach those, often too early and unnecessarily.

inthenightkitchenIn the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak (PB) is banned primarily because the main character, in a dream sequence, is illustrated naked. I’ve read this book to many preschool aged kids and they don’t ever seem to dwell on this. “He’s dreaming so he doesn’t have clothes” or “Isn’t he cold?” Older kids and adults are the ones uncomfortable with this because society has taught us that our bodies should be covered (and, yes, I highly encourage wearing pants to the grocery store), but by placing those constraints on a preschool age group, and book, we deny children the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful story.

andtangomakesthreeAnd Tango Makes Three  by Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson (PB) is probably the most challenged book of the late 00’s. It’s based on the true story of a male penguin couple at the Central Park Zoo who were given an egg to raise. Although a great story for children of same-sex couples to see their situation mirrored in literature (see #1 above), it can also help other children gain understanding and empathy for differing family groups (see #2 above). Many children just want to read about penguins. Sometimes grown-ups think too much.

I strongly encourage handling topics in an age-appropriate manner, reading and discussing along with your child, or pre-reading middle-reader/young-adult book choices so that you can be ready to openly answers questions or concerns. Even though it requires work, effort and time, and sometimes saying no, it all comes down to parents being responsible for guiding their children’s literature choices. Just don’t try to guide my children’s choices. You can leave that up to me.

• For a list of banned books check out the American Library Association.
• Check out the Paperback Pigeon pinterest page on banned books:
• Concerned about what your kids are reading? Common Sense Media provides reviews and age suggestions– compare their reviews with books you’ve read so you can decide if you agree or disagree with their ratings. Then you can refer to their reviews to help guide your child appropriately.
• Or visit your local library – many have displays up this week for Banned Books Week!

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