Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Lantana Publishing: An Avenue for Minority Voices
Isn't that cover gorgeous!?*  This is but one of a rich array of titles from Lantana Publishing.  I love what Lantana is doing -- adding dimensions to the children's book market and widening the road of opportunity for minority voices.  Before I even knew who they were and what they were about, my daughters picked up The Wooden Camel from our library based solely on its cover appeal;
Ivy, in particular, was captivated by the story, and checked it out a second time.

For home-schooling, our units are usually integrated and based on a country.  As well as studying non-fiction texts on religion, traditions, history and important figures, we seek out fictional narratives from each place.  Finding stories for some countries has proven much harder than others!  Lantana is part of the remedy. 

Not only are Lantana stories culturally significant, important for the market, and lovely to look at (as aforementioned*), there's some great writing to be enjoyed.  The alliterative symphony of Sleep Well Siba & Saba is one of my favourite examples.  I don't know about the read-aloud readers in your household, but in ours, we always read the author and illustrator's names after reading a book's title.  The diversity Lantana is adding to that exercise alone is valuable!

Though you'll see they are based in the U.K. and have broken into the U.S. market, Lantana's director lives and works in Dunedin (when she's not travelling...)!  From the time I've been lucky to spend with her, I can tell you: while this place may be extending its reach, this is still very personal for Lantana staff; these people care a great deal about sharing these stories.

Interested in adding some diversity to your family readingDo it.  Or perhaps you're the diversity the children's market is missing out on?  Submissions are open, get in there! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Good Human Alert

A few months ago, I wrote this message, at Esky's request.  She so desperately wanted me to write it, she wrote me a note, on toilet paper, reminding me of its urgency.  (Fetching paper would have breached her bedtime terms so she used what she could get her hands on.)

Dear Lovely People at the Gardens,

Today my daughters were playing in the lovely rhododendron (I think?) trees near the main entry to the gardens and found a small stuffed animal lion. He is clearly very well loved. Sadly, it was after 4pm so we were unable to hand him into the visitors’ centre Lost and Found, so left the lion where he was found in the hopes his owner (or parent of his owner) might return for him, thinking that better than leaving it outside the centre and far away from where someone might retrace their steps. My daughter is very concerned that tomorrow it will rain and no one will find the lion and bring it in to Lost and Found once you are open. If there is anyone there who will be doing rounds tomorrow who might look in on this wee lion, it would warm her worried heart.

(Or if by some miracle someone enquired about whether anyone had seen their precious lion, that is where it is!)

Thank you for your time!

Angela (and Esky) Lastname

Now, to why I'm posting about this.  The reply.  Oh, the reply!

Dear Angela and Esky,

Thanks for your email and concern for the Lion you found in the undergrowth.

I traipsed high and low this morning around the area you mentioned said Lion was last seen in, hoping to be able to email you a photo of the Lion to prove he was in safe hands and to allay your concerns Esky that Lion was alone and lost in the jungle of the rhododendrons, but alas, I could not find him. I suspect this is because the owner may have returned to collect him, as I checked with all staff and the information centre and no one has had the Lion handed in.

Thank you for your concern and for letting us know. I'll of course keep my eyes open and ears peeled over the weekend just in case Lion is found and handed in.

Kind regards,

Well, months have passed, and there has been no more word from Barbara.  Suffice to say, Lion must have returned home.  I haven't forgotten this woman's good humour.  She even cc:ed Esky in her reply (as I had).  And I think we should share more stories that celebrate than we do vent.  To Barbara! *virtual toast*

Monday, June 11, 2018

My Girls' Obsession and A Biographical Book about a Service Dog
Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship, Jessica Kensky, Patrick Downes and Scott Magoon
This book could not be more up my girls' alley.  For context: Esky celebrated her 9th birthday three weeks ago.  When anyone asked what she'd like for a gift, she responded that she didn't need gifts, but if they really wanted to give her something, they could bring any spare change they found and she would donate the combined amount to the SPCA and WWF.  Then she did.  After the SPCA visit, she was swollen with joy and spouting plans to make animal crafts to sell so she could earn more money to give to animals.  I never suggested this to her.  She did read a story in the paper about another girl who had done it, and told me that she thought that was the best use of a birthday she'd heard of.  Here's the top of Esky's library check-out list:
And we don't have any pets.  The girls lament this fact regularly.  It's an exclusion in our tenancy agreement...but also...I'm not there yet with the pets; getting the girls to clean up their stuff is enough, peops.  So...we feed horses apples at fence-lines, walk family member's dogs, dream and diary futures filled with farm-life, and in Ivy's case, pretend to be a pet.  *blank face* 

The cover of this book alone induced gasps of admiration.  The story got them talking.  At its end, Esky said, "I feel bad, because reading this I kind of wish something bad happened to me so I could have a service dog."


I doubt Esky appreciates the gravity of the struggles service dog-users have, but she really wanted me to grasp the depth of her want.  I'm getting it, Esky.

More on the book now.
We love the inclusion of biographical notes, accept the adaptation to a younger protag, manage the dual perspectives (Jessica AND dog...and it works!) and respect the pacing (this picture book has gentle suspense!).  I appreciate how well this story expresses a mutually beneficial relationship and how aptly the illustrations render darkness into Jessica's battle.

This came at just the right time for us (not long after Esky's birthday and at the peak of animal fever).  It only makes the girls appreciate animals more and, I hope, empathise with the struggles others face a little better.  We highly recommend Rescue & Jessica. (P.S. The hardback is lovely).

If you're feeling an itch, here are links to donate to the SPCA, WWF, or NEADS (a nonprofit that provides highly skilled service dogs for people who are deaf or have a disability). 

Review copy received from Walker.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Rachael Craw's next book COVER REVEAL

I've been talking with Rachael about this book since it went by another working title and can't wait to get my hands on a copy!  Rest assured, when I do, I'll be filling you in.  The Rift is officially out in November and promises a brand-new mystery featuring an ancient curse and a centuries-old secret.

The story is set on Black Water Island, where terrifying creatures slip through a dimensional Rift every full moon. These creatures hunt the Old Herd, an ancient race of deer whose antlers carry a potent healing compound, Actaeon’s Bane. The Rangers of the Island have protected the Herd for millennia and face a new threat from a ruthless corporation, Nutris Pharmaceuticals, who will stop at nothing to acquire the compound.

The heroine?  Meg Archer.  A love interest?  There sure is one, and an island to save.   In addition to her cover-stamp or approval, best-selling author Isobelle Carmody says "the romance between Cal and Meg blends envy, desire and uncertainty with a potent authenticity."

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

I finally read The Alchemist
The Alchemist, Paul Coellho
I finally read this -- months ago -- but I neglected to post!  I've been meaning to read The Alchemist for years.  When I was a high school English teacher, one of my colleagues used it for a novel study (while I was using Ender's Game), and while she would gush, 90% of her students groaned about it during form-time.  I think only one or two of the boys had positive things to say about it (it was an all-boys private school).  This didn't put me off -- I was curious -- but as a young teacher, I hadn't yet rediscovered reading for pleasure; I was doing my best to stay ahead with all the texts I was teaching.  Because someone I care about was reading it, it brought it back to my attention, and promoted it on my "To Read" list.  I enjoyed the parts that reminded me of A Monster Calls (it did this in its mentor tone, in parts), and where its allegory resembled Life of Pi.  Sadly, too often the mentoring and allegory devolved into heavy-handed philosophy.  The tangents, too, could go overboard.  It's a shame, because I think there's redeeming content here.  Overall: I'm glad I know what people are talking about, this is a much-discussed book.  It's not one of my favourites.

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