Category: Oz: Children’s Books (Page 2 of 18)

From ‘Ollie’s Odyssey’ to ‘Dinosaur Bob’: William Joyce is an inspiration

I was beyond excited to have William Joyce come to Lemuria for his latest children’s book Ollie’s Odyssey. I might have even skipped out on class to go on his school visits.

William Joyce is an inspiration. I didn’t know much about his work before he came, and I was blown away by the end of his first school talk. He has touched the lives of kids everywhere, from those that love Toy Story to Rise of the Guardians, Dinosaur Bob to Ollie’s Odyssey. His books and animation bridge the gap between generations.

dinosaur bob LTDI wanted to tell you a little about two of my favorites, Dinosaur Bob and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. They are full of the importance of family, those we are related to and the friends we find along the way. They also stress the value of creativity, imagination, and the amazing impact stories can have on you if you give them the chance. His illustrations are lively and friendly. They bring his beautiful stories to life in a way that makes you feel like you stepped into the pages of his books.

Dinosaur Bob follows the Lazardo family and their pet dinosaur Bob, from finding him on a safari to bringing him home. Full of fun adventures, Dinosaur Bob is a heartwarming story about love. It shows that sometimes our family isn’t only who we grow up with, but it’s also those special people and pets that we meet along the way. For the Lazardo family life wouldn’t be the same without dinosaur Bob and they wouldn’t want it any other way.

Jacket (3)The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful stories you will ever read. After hearing him talk about his own history and rereading this book, I nearly teared up. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, is more than just a picture book, and it will touch the heart of anyone that reads it, regardless of age. This story exudes his love for books and storytelling. By illustrating characters without books in black and white and later giving them color after they’ve received a book, it beautifully shows how reading enriches lives. You can feel the love for books and the overpowering desire to share this love with everyone. It has a beautiful circular telling: you begin and end with a book opening the way to discovery.

William Joyce is one of the best storytellers, both in person and in his words on the page. His illustrations will bring even more life to his already lively stories. In every book and film, he reaches out with his words and reminds us that there are stories all around us.

“Everyone’s story matters” said Morris. And all the books agreed.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Isn’t There Supposed to be a Mad Scientist in This Story?!

Original to the Clarion-Ledger 

WFES062252111-2What is there to do when a picture book has been canceled? Pencil is the narrator and director in this story. The crayons are getting ready to act out their parts. Frankencrayon is sent to page 22 to make his grand entrance. He is, as his name suggests, a crayon towering over the rest, a mix of green, orange, and purple broken crayons held together by masking tape.

When the lights go out, there is a horrible screeching noise. And worse yet, when the lights come on, there is a terrible scribble all the way across the page! As Teal crayon says, “A scribble can ruin a picture book!”

The mystery scribble just keeps getting bigger and bigger…where could it be coming from?

The pencil (director of the story) gets a notice that the picture book has been canceled.

1. No one likes the scribble thing.

2. The characters are gone.

3. Isn’t there supposed to be a mad scientist in this story?

But the pencil forgets to tell Frankencrayon that the picture book has been canceled, and on page 22, Frankencrayon makes his grand entrance onto the page with the scribble! But the lights are off, and where has everyone gone, and most of all, WHO IS SCRIBBLING IN THIS BOOK??

Frankencrayon is clever, funny, and teaches kids to make a creation out of what other people might perceive as a mess. Bring the kids to meet the author and illustrator, Michael Hall, and join us for a FRANKENCRAYON story time on Thursday, January 28th, at 3:00 p.m. at Lemuria Bookstore.

Call 601-366-7619 with questions.

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

Jacket (2)“Wolf wilders are almost impossible to spot. A wolf wilder is not like a lion tamer nor a circus ringmaster: Wolf Wilders can go their whole lives without laying eyes on a sequin. They look, more or less, like ordinary people. There are clues: More than half are missing a piece of finger, the lobe of an ear, a toe or two. They go through clean bandages the way other people go through socks. They smell very faintly of raw meat.”

So begins Katherine Rundell’s The Wolf Wilder, a story that envelops readers in words, taking them on a journey into the dark of the snowy Russian forests and into the heart of St. Petersburg. It is a story that wraps around the reader much like the red coat the protagonist wears.

In The Wolf Wilder, the nobility of Russia purchase wolf pups to bring their families good fortune. The wolves wear gold chains and are taught to be tame. Once the wolf begins to act, well, like a wolf, they are sent back into the wilderness. This is where the wolf wilder comes in to help “untame” the wolf and teach it to run and hunt and survive in the wilderness where it belongs. Feodora, described as a “dark and stormy girl” and her mother, Marina, are wolf wilders in the deepest forests of Russia, far away from St. Petersburg, where they turn the wolves wild in an abandoned chapel.

When Marina is arrested by the cruel General Rakov for defiance against the tsar for “wilding” the wolves instead of shooting them outright, Feodora embarks on a dangerous journey to St. Petersburg to rescue her mother. She is accompanied by three wolves named White, Gray, and Black, and by Ilya, a boy her own age who used to be an imperial soldier but whose lightness of foot is much like the wolves.

With motifs from Little Red Riding Hood, Rundell spins her own fairytale that, much like the Grimms, goes into the darkest part of the forest, with little hope of escape. Rundell has a way with words and language, as seen in her previous two middle grade novels, Rooftoppers and Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, and The Wolf Wilder does not disappoint. Feo, a little girl who might be too small to notice, outsmarts the imperial soldiers with her wits, her wolves, and the help of friends she makes along the way. A beautifully enchanting story to read this winter, The Wolf Wilder shows that there is glittering undercurrent even in the darkest of moments, and even the smallest of golden moments can illuminate the darkness.

Originally published in the Clarion-Ledger.

Gene Luen Yang Named the National Ambassador for Children’s Literature

Original to By Clara Martin.

Gene Luen YangEarlier this week, Gene Luen Yang was appointed the National Ambassador for Children’s Literature. Having heard Yang speak at the Children’s Book Festival in Hattiesburg in April of 2015, this news comes as a delight. His presentation was engaging, made everyone laugh, and I’ve never seen so many librarians queue up to buy a graphic novel. They were sold out minutes after his speech. With his friendly demeanor and an innate ability to teach, whether it is about the history of superheroes in comics—Superman was also an alien immigrant—or teaching history (the Boxer Rebellion) or coding, Yang’s range and appeal is wide and varied. There is one constant, though. Gene uses illustrations, comic-strips, in fact, to tell his stories.

He is the first graphic novelist to be chosen for the position of National Ambassador (which has been around since 2008), and it is perfect timing. The graphic novel is having a moment. Raina Telgemeier’s ever popular SmileSisters, and Drama books are always in high demand. My only regret with Victoria Jamieson’s Rollergirl is that I didn’t get to read it when I was eleven. The list goes on and on.

For those of you who don’t know what a graphic novel is, it is a term for a novel told through comic-strip drawings. Reading Without Walls, a platform Yang developed with his publisher that he will promote as the new National Ambassador, is about “being open to new kinds of stories.”

JacketAmerican Born Chinese (First Second, 2006) was the first graphic novel to both win the Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature and the first graphic novel to be a finalist for the National Book Award. Yang drew on his own experience of being a first-generation Chinese boy growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. A coding teacher for 17 years, Yang only stopped when the demands of traveling to promote his books, but even though he’s not in the classroom, he continues to teach computer programming in his new book, Secret Coders. In just reading the first installment in this series, I now know the basics of coding, and this book will be an awesome introduction to computer programming for kids.

A graphic novel is a complex story, often more so because of its format. Children are innately open to new kinds of stories. In reading graphic novels, they make connections to their own lives, and they are constantly processing context clues both in the text and drawings.

As children’s literature continues to evolve, it is exciting that Gene Luen Yang will be leading the way for the next two years.

Congratulations, Gene!

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

On August 24, 1914, Captain Harry Colebourn bought a baby bear for $20 on a train station platform.

“Harry stopped. It’s not every day that you see a bear cub at a train station. ‘That Bear has lost its mother,’ he thought, ‘and that man must be the trapper who got her.’”

On his way overseas to fight in World War I, Colebourn, a veterinarian from Winnipeg, decided to name the bear Winnie after his hometown.

When Colebourn showed Winnie to the Colonel, he was originally met with disapproval.

“’Captain Colebourn!’ said the Colonel on the train, as the little Bear sniffed at his knees. ‘We are on a journey of a thousand miles, heading into the thick of battle, and you propose to bring this Most Dangerous Creature?’ Bear stood straight up on her hind legs as if to salute the Colonel. The Colonel stopped speaking at once—and then, in quite a different voice, he said, ‘Oh, hallo.’”

Soon, Winnie was one of their own.

Jacket (1)Finding Winnie is narrated by Lindsay Mattick, the great-grandaughter of Harry Colebourn, as a family story passed down from generation to generation. When Lindsay’s son asks her for a story, she asks “What kind of story?” to which the reply is;“You know. A true story. One about a Bear.”

This picture book tells the miraculous journey of a man and his bear that crossed the Atlantic from Canada to England; and this is the very bear that would become the inspiration for Winnie-the-Pooh when A.A. Milne and his son visited the London Zoo.

After crossing the Atlantic with Winnie, Harry knew that she was growing larger and could not be taken into battle, so he took her to the London Zoo.

“Winnie’s head bowed. Harry’s hands were warm as sunshine, as usual. ‘There is something you must always remember,’ Harry said. ‘It’s the most important thing, really. Even if we’re apart, I’ll always love you. You’ll always be my Bear.’”

Harry and Winnie’s parting seem’s like the end of the story, but as Lindsay points out, “Sometimes, you have to let one story begin so the next one can begin.”

The beautiful and heartfelt illustrations by Sophie Blackall bring this story to life in ink and watercolor. Her illustrations depict Harry Colebourn’s excitement of finding the bear, the heartache of leaving Winnie behind in the zoo, and the joy of a new friendship with Christopher Robin. Finding Winnie will bring you and your child joy and delight at discovering the true story behind one of the most famous characters in literature, and show that sometimes, one story’s ending is just another story’s beginning.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch

Today is the sixth day in the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas. To celebrate, we’re running Clara’s Clarion-Ledger article about the ever-popular children’s book, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. Enjoy!

JacketThe Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski is not a new Christmas story, but it is one that I would like to revisit as it has been recently published in a new 20th anniversary edition.

Illustrations by P.J. Lynch have made this book the miraculous wonder that it is, and Lynch says the challenge of painting this story was “not to do with costumes or tools; it was to try to match, in my pictures, the deep emotional core of Susan’s story, to try to somehow show that might be going on inside a character’s head, or inside his heart.”

In what looks like Appalachia, Jonathan Toomey is the best wood carver in the valley. However, he doesn’t speak to anyone, and the village children call him “Mr. Gloomy.” He spends his days bent over his work, carving “beautiful shapes from blocks of pine and hickory and chestnut wood.” The reason for his gloom, the narrator tells us, is that some years ago, he lost his wife and child to sickness.

“So Jonathan Toomey had packed his belongings into a wagon and traveled till his tears stopped. He settled into a tiny house at the edge of a village to do his woodcarving.”

When the widow McDowell and her son Thomas knock on his door, asking Jonathan Toomey to carve them a nativity scene, he shuts the door, grumbling, “Christmas is pish­posh.”

After a week, the widow McDowell and Thomas return to see what progress has been made on their manger scene, and Thomas sits at Mr. Toomey’s side, since he, too, wishes to be a woodcarver some day. However, he interrupts Mr. Toomey to tell him that he is carving the sheep wrong, that his sheep are happy sheep. “’That’s pish­posh,’” said Mr. Toomey. ‘Sheep are sheep. They cannot look happy.’” To which Thomas replies, “Mine did…they knew they were with the Baby Jesus, so they were happy.”

With each visit to Mr. Toomey’s, and with each subsequent character being carved to fill the manger scene, Thomas continues to tell Mr. Toomey the right way to carve his figures: the cow is proud that the baby Jesus chose to be born in its barn, the angel looks like one of God’s most important angels because it was sent down to baby Jesus, the wise men are wearing their most wonderful robes, and Joseph leans over the baby Jesus protectively.

When Mr. Toomey asks Thomas how Mary and the baby Jesus should be carved, he says, “They were the most special of all…Jesus was smiling and reaching up to his mother, and Mary looked like she loved him very much.”

Jonathan Toomey completes his carvings on Christmas Day, and it is indeed a Christmas miracle. The widow McDowell and Thomas gave him a miracle by asking him to carve the nativity scene. Twenty years later, the deep human experience and the power of the Christmas story lives on in this book.

“And that day in the churchyard the village children saw Jonathan throw back his head, showing his eyes as clear blue as an August sky, and laugh. No one ever called him Mr. Gloomy again.”

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Alice in Wonderland is turning 150!


by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), wet collodion glass plate negative, July 1860

by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), wet collodion glass plate negative, July 1860

“Tell us a story.”

This is the age-old petition of children. There is the delight and wonder of hearing words spun from thin air, where even the creator of a story doesn’t quite know what will happen next. And so on a “golden afternoon” in 1862, the three Liddell sisters, Lorina Charlotte, Alice Pleasance and Edith, ask for a story from Mr. Dodgson. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a mathematics lecturer at Christ Church College where the three girls’ father was the dean.

The heroine of the story on this particular day was Alice. In his article “Alice on the Stage,” published in 1887, Dodgson confessed that in some “desperate attempt to strike out some new line of fairy-lore, I had sent my heroine straight down a rabbit-hole, to begin with, without the least idea what was to happen afterwards.”

What happened afterwards is the story of a girl who falls into a land of nonsense, logic games, puzzles and paradoxes. Published under the pseudonym “Lewis Carroll,” Dodgson presented the first manuscript of “Alice’s Adventures Underground” to Alice Liddell as a Christmas gift in 1863. After meeting publisher Alexander Macmillan, Carroll then asked satirical cartoonist John Tenniel to illustrate his Alice.


by Nicola Callahan

Tenniel portrays Alice as a little girl with long blond hair (the blue dress would come later), and this is how we remember her today, although the real life Alice had short, dark hair with bangs cut straight across her forehead. Tenniel’s illustrations were carved into woodblocks by engravers, and then those woodblocks were used as masters for making metal copies to be used in the actual printing of the books. The true first edition was published late in 1865 as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

In “The Lobster-Quadrille,” the Gryphon says to Alice,

“Come, let’s hear some of your adventures.”

“I could tell you my adventures — beginning from this morning,” said Alice a little timidly; “but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

alice_02b-alice_rabbitAlice tells the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle her adventure starting with her falling down the rabbit hole, but when they ask her to repeat the story, she cannot tell it twice. So it is with the original creation of Alice’s story; a story that is told aloud is constantly changing and morphing. Alice’s adventures have been around for 150 years, and each time one reads it, there is something new to uncover, something different that wasn’t understood before. As it is with reading stories, they are constantly changing and evolving, and it’s no use going back to yesterday. Alice is not the same as she was 150 years ago. She has grown (not just by eating cake) and has evolved into different literary and illustrated interpretations.

Alice has lasted 150 years because Wonderland is a puzzle that can never fully be solved — it is a place that continues to ask questions. Fall down the rabbit hole and walk through the looking glass. You won’t be the same as you were yesterday.


Original to the Clarion-Ledger 

‘The Christmas Mystery’ By Jostein Gaarder, translated by Elizabeth Rokkan, and illustrated by Rosemary Wells


Jacket (1)There are officially 24 days left until Christmas. In the Christian tradition, Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, the period of anticipation and preparation before the birth of Christ on December 25th. This book is the perfect addition to any home, and will help your family on the journey towards Christmas, much in the same way Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem. The Christmas Mystery is a Norwegian tale about a young boy named Joachim who goes with his father to buy an advent calendar on November 30th. They find a very old one that looks home-made. The book-seller gives it to them for free, saying, “I think you should have it for nothing. You’ll see, old John had you in mind.”

When Joachim opens up the door to December 1st, a piece of paper falls out. On the back of the paper is a story of a little girl named Elisabet who follows a lamb out of the department store, and each day continues her journey following the lamb. The book is divided into 24 chapters, each representing a day of Advent, and would be perfect to read aloud for each day leading up to Christmas. Every chapter is preceded by a jewel-like illustration by Rosemary Wells, and flipping the pages feels like opening up the flap on an Advent calendar.

Discover the story within a story; as Joachim unfolds each day on the Advent calendar, he also reads about Elisabet’s journey through time to Bethlehem and the birth of Christ. Joachim and his parents also become involved in a journey to discover the identity of John, the man who made the Advent calendar, and the mystery of the real-life Elisabet, who disappeared 40 years ago on Christmas Eve. This Advent season, pick up the The Christmas Mystery for the whole family to enjoy the wonder and mystery of Christmas.

Eloise turns 60

782854I am Eloise.

I am 6.

Eloise is a the darling of The Plaza hotel, and this year is a “rawther” large celebration as she will be celebrating 60 years skittering down the hall and getting into hilarious hijinks in the most famous hotel in New York with her dog who looks like a cat, Weenie, and Skipperdee, her turtle. “The Plaza is the only hotel in New York that will allow you to have a turtle.”

While her creator, Kay Thompson, is now known for her stories about Eloise, she never set out to be an author. She loved performing and was an accomplished musician who coached Judy Garland and many other singers at MGM. Her most famous role in Hollywood was for portraying fashion editor Maggie Prescott in the musical classic, “Funny Face,” basing her character on Diana Vreeland.

Eloise’s familiarity with The Plaza is due to the fact that when Thompson wrote Eloise in the early 1950s, she was living rent-free at the Plaza while performing in the Persian Room. It was after one of Thompson’s last performances there that she was introduced to the young illustrator, Hilary Knight, who had trained under Reginald Marsh.eloise-sunglasses

In her account of how Eloise came to be, Marie Brenner says, “in the history of artistic collaboration, Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight would become as fused as Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel.” After Knight sent Thompson a Christmas card with Eloise atop Santa’s pack, Thompson knew that she needed to write Eloise down onto paper, and thus Eloise was born.

Kay Thompson’s Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grownups” was published on Thursday, Nov. 17, 1955, and on Friday morning at 11:30 editor Jack Goodman ordered a second printing. Now, there are many more Eloise escapades, the most well known including “Eloise in Paris” and “Eloise in Moscow,” among others.

It is impossible to imagine Eloise in any way but how she appears in Knight’s iconic pen and ink illustrations. There is a mischievousness to Eloise. Knight’s illustrations show her as if she can’t sit still for very long, and his medium allows him to capture the energy and imagination of a 6-year-old, and the hustle-and-bustle of New York. She is in fact a very naughty 6-year-old, and this realistic depiction of children was new and fresh, especially in 1955.

After many years of Eloise, Knight marvels that “Eloise, incredibly, will remain 6 years old forever.”

From Thompson and Knight’s magic, so many children (and precocious grown-ups) have come to love and revisit Eloise’s 60 years at The Plaza.

And as Eloise would say, “Ooooooooooooooooooo I absolutely love The Plaza.”



Original to the Clarion-Ledger

Children’s Books: ‘Vanishing Island’ author to visit

Original to the Clarion-Ledger

51OE5HRFxuL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_A Jackson native who now lives in Memphis, Barry Wolverton will be visiting Lemuria Books on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 5 p.m. to sign his newest book for young readers, “The Vanishing Island.

The protagonist is Bren Owen of the “dirtiest, noisiest, smelliest city in all of Britannia.” “Bren was what they called spindly— tall for his age, but unsteady, like a chair you might be afraid to sit on. He had been born in Map because he had no choice in the matter.”

It is 1599 and the Age of Discovery in Europe. Bren would rather be out on a ship exploring the world, but on the day he tries to surreptitiously board a ship as a stowaway, an explosion foils his plans, and he is sent to work at McNally’s Map Emporium, owned by the one and only map mogul, Rand McNally. It is there, as Bren tends to sick and dying sailors, that one of these sea dogs gives him a strange coin with indecipherable characters. This coin sends Bren on a quest that will take him far beyond the confines of Map and toward the Vanishing Island.

Spanning East and West culture and folklore, “The Vanishing Island” is perfect for fans of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” This book should be next on your child’s to-read list.


harry-potter-illustrated-scholastic“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition” by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay

At the start of 2015, a few gorgeously intricate illustrations featuring characters from the Harry Potter series were released online. Further research showed that Jim Kay, an illustrator who won the Kate Greenaway medal for his illustrations in “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness in 2012, would be creating a series of illustrations for the first Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (or in the UK, “The Philosopher’s Stone”.)

Kay’s illustrations are sheer magic. The colors are dynamic and the detail is so incredible that one could spend hours looking at all the illustrations in the book. With all of the Harry Potter books and movies, it didn’t seem possible that a tried and true classic could be made fresh, but Kay makes the wizarding world a reality. As Halloween draws near, perhaps one of the best scenes in all of children’s literature comes from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” It is after Harry and Ron have saved Hermione’s life from the troll on Halloween night. As Rowling writes, “from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their (Harry and Ron’s) friend. There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a 12-foot mountain troll is one of them.”

Clara Martin works for Lemuria Books.

Meet Barry Wolverton

5 p.m. Oct. 28 at Lemuria Books.

Happy Halloween

Join us for a Harry Potter Trivia Night at 5 p.m. Friday. All ages are welcome, and the best costume will win a prize! For details, call (601) 366-7619 for more information.

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