Thursday, July 13, 2017

Early Morning Distracted Reading


Every summer, the Minneapolis newspaper runs a serialized book in the variety section and I look forward to an early morning read with my coffee. I'm taking two online summer courses and have to be logged in every morning from 7:30-noon so I don't always get the chance to read till later. And sometimes, a couple of days pile up on me! Yesterday, I was up extra early so I sat on the deck to catch up on Redemption's Run, the Star Tribune's 2017 serialized story by Jane Fredericksen. 

I was distracted, though, by the beautiful front cover image and article about the allure of picture books on Tuesday's section. Dilemma...what should I read first?! And when I got to Wednesday's section, my eyes were pulled to the adjacent article on a literature course offered at the University of Minnesota studying the writings of Bob Dylan. 

So much reading...so little time!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Tell Your Friends What You Truly Care About


I finally added a background picture to my Facebook page. Well, actually, Katie added a background picture to my Facebook page. Of an albatross. Seems pretty random but it's not. And here's how it happened...

Of course, it all started with a book...


This stack of small books sits on a shelf in our entryway. The thin slate colored book at the bottom is  a volume containing two poems, one by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and one by James Russell Lowell. The Coleridge poem is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and it is where Kate and John first met an albatross.

This book is tiny and beautiful and over 100 years old. Imagine that! Maybe I shouldn't take it outside. Maybe I shouldn't put a rock on it or lay it on the ground. Maybe I shouldn't open it. What? No! Books are meant to be held and handled and opened and read!


When John was five and Kate seven, I read a bit of this ballad to them each night. We read the old English and we read the side notes and then we talked about what it meant. I took us a few nights to get through it. For those few days, we were immersed in it. Kate and John had never heard of, let alone seen, an albatross. 


Fast forward some 10 years and...this past February, we received a group text, with a photo (above), from my parents who were in Hawaii for the winter. They were hiking in a bird sanctuary and took this photo of an albatross! We thought it was SO cool.

Fast forward again to a morning last week when Kate and I went out for coffee. We sat at a sidewalk table and wrote and read and talked about what we're writing and reading and watching. Katie was telling me about a David Attenborough program she recently watched, Life Story (season 1, episode 1: First Steps), that features a segment on albatrosses. They are fascinating birds whose life cycles mimic human life cycles in many ways. They can live up to 60 years, mate for life, often wait to have chicks until they are 20 years old and then have one every two years or so. (the chicks are funny little puffs of white feathers...look up an image...it'll make you smile!) One type of albatross has the longest wing span of any bird species at 10 feet! I was amazed to learn that albatrosses have lived for millions of years before humans even existed.

There are many superstitions regarding albatross and literature is full of references to the albatross. The most well known is probably Coleridge's poem  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Sailors' legends source the bird as a carrier of dead sailors' souls and, therefore, an albatross sighting is a good omen (thought to mean that the passing sailor is protecting the current voyage) and the bird's death a curse. So, when a sailor in Coleridge's poem kills an albatross which has been following the ship, his crew mates condemn him to wear the large dead bird around his neck in an unsuccessful attempt to escape the curse.

The blank space on my Facebook page, before we added a photo, had the following instructions: "Tell your friends what you truly care about". So, we added the photo that my parents took (and shared with us) when they saw one of these ancient, mythical creatures, which most of us (at least here in the northern hemisphere) have only encountered through literature.

Is what I truly care about? Family, parents, children, literature, reading together, creatures on our earth, learning, talking and sharing together? Yep. They are all things I truly care about.
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Thank you to Fifth Grade Library Helpers AND their Summer Book Recommendations



Several times last school year, a particular fourth grade student asked me if she could be a library volunteer, to come in before school and help with any tasks that needed to be done.

I have to say this pulled at my heart strings. Not only because, here is a student asking, repeatedly asking, to be allowed to help but also because as an elementary student, I did this exact same thing. I begged our school librarian, Ms. Hewlitt, to allow me to come in and help her with anything. Just to be working in the library. Eventually, I got everyone on board and was allowed to work in the media center during recess once a week.  (I wrote about this experience in another post, Jar of Sunshine.)

Unfortunately, we couldn't get a schedule in place last year to accommodate our fourth grade request. But this school year (the one that just wrapped up) that fourth grade/now fifth grade student approached me the very first week of school with the same request and I was ready for her. I spoke with her teacher and set a day of the week for my helper to come in before school. She soon convinced me to increase her time to two mornings a week and we stuck to that for the entire year. She was remarkably and impressively punctual and reliable and by the end of the year had recruited 4 additional helpers (as well as requests from fourth grade students to be considered for next year).


Our library helpers put up bulletin board decorations, selected books for book displays, pulled books to fill requests, and kept shelves orderly. I saw so much growth in these students throughout the year as they felt more and more comfortable and creative in giving their opinions and suggestions.

As the year came to a close, I asked all five helpers to come on their last regularly scheduled morning for a fun activity and treats. I brought a small basket of treats as well as supplies to personalize these pocket sized composition books. I pre-filled the first page with a thank you note.


As we cut and glued and wrote in our notebooks, we talked about our favorite library projects we'd worked on this past year. Although they'd worked in the library with me all year, this was the first time we'd all sat at a table and chatted while we worked and it was so fun! If I'm able to continue a helper program next year, I'll include more time for this connected collaboration.


I showed and talked about Alison McGhee's book Snap to introduce the notebook project. In the book, the main character, Eddie, makes lists for everything in her life. It helps her feel in control. Any writing can be therapeutic, Writing lists can provide a comforting sense of order. Only one of my helpers had already read the book but thought she had been too young and would like to read it again. We talked about rereading books at different points in our lives and how we can be affected differently because of what we know and what we've experienced.

We decided to make our first list on the second page of each notebook; a list of book recommendations for each other to read over the summer. We passed our notebooks to the left, wrote a recommendation and then passed it on again. I recommended Snap. The recommendations my five fifth grade helpers wrote on my second page are:

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane
Wish by Barbara O'Connor
Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

And guess what? I have never read any of these titles. A few of them (especially the top two), I probably should have read by now but...I haven't. So, I bought and checked out these five titles and, with much gratitude in my heart, am ready for my summer reading!





Monday, June 5, 2017

Reading Circular Stories with Kindergarten



We are nearing the end of my second year leading kindergarten media classes and I'm getting a little nostalgic already! The past couple of weeks, we've been reading and talking about circular stories; stories that end in a way that starts the story all over again.

The pictures above are from Gemma Merino's book, The Crocodile Who Didn't Like Water. In the first picture (inside the front flap of book), we see an adult crocodile carrying a basket of crocodile eggs...except one is white. Hmmm...that white egg ends up being the crocodile who didn't like water. And he doesn't like water because he's not a crocodile; he's a dragon! Then the picture at the end of the book is that grown up dragon carrying a basket of white dragon eggs. Except one is blue. And here we go again.

Does it bother you that crocodile eggs should be white, not blue? Well, I can tell you that it does bother kindergarten students. Gotta love critical thinkers!



Our next example of a circular story was David LaRochelle's It's a Tiger! Look at the first picture, top of the righthand page...see the tiger's tail? Throughout the book, the main character tries to get away from this tiger. But every time it seems safe, we can see a bit of that tiger peeking out on the page. In the end, when we realize that the tiger is sleepy, the main character suggests that we read a story to put it to sleep. The story starts just as it did in the beginning of the book only now look at the top of the righthand page...it's a crocodile!


Now, this isn't a book. This is my deck railing but we have a circular story here too. My parents were over a few nights ago and we were sitting outside chatting. My mom had her back to this railing and as I sat talking to her, I noticed this inch worm...well, inching along this post cap. About five minutes later, I noticed another one doing the same thing and I mentioned it aloud. Yeah, you've probably figured this out already. But I hadn't until I saw the third one inching along. Or wait...oh, it was the same one coming around for the third time.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Brontës (Especially Emily)


We spent this past Memorial weekend at my parents' cabin. The weather was sketchy and we spent moments of sunshine on the dock followed by dashes into the basement during a sudden wind/rain burst to play pool and watch movies. It was a wonderfully long and leisurely weekend.


During one of the cloudy but not quite so wet afternoons, we even tackled a long forsaken cleanup project in the garage. My parents have several elaborate decanters that came from a family friend whose father had collected them. Our family friends kept as many as they wanted, then passed them along for us. My brothers and I drew straws and had turns making our selections. Although I thought the decanters were very unique, I had little interest in actually taking any home with me.

Until I saw these...!


If you ask me who my all time favorite writer is....I will say Emily Brontë. All time favorite book...Wuthering Heights. For longer than I can remember, I have been fascinated with the Brontë family; with Emily, Charlotte, Anne, and Branwell. And I never knew there was a liqueur made in their name. Apparently, neither did Sir James Aykroyd, the current producer of Brontë Liqueur.

After purchasing the parsonage in which the Brontës had lived, Sir James Ackroyd's great grandfather gifted it to the Brontë Society to be used as a museum. So, Sir James was already quite tied into the appeal of the Brontës when he travelled to Paraguay in the 1960's and first saw a bottle of Brontë liqueur which had been left by an earlier traveller. Eventually, he was able to acquire the rights to the name and began his own production of the liqueur.

The decanters I have here are sealed and probably about 40-50 years old. I'd really like to try some but...is that safe? As we made our selections, we did sample a 45 year old whiskey but the proof of that bottle is much higher than this liqueur and I'll bet that makes a difference in its longevity.

Could I buy a new bottle? From here in the states, I'd have to order it online. But, no, I don't think I'll do that. If and when I get to England, I'll stop in a pub and have some there. Will it be easy to find? Not sure. But it will be fun to search!


Even after 200 years since the births of these three sisters, their stories, their books, their poetry, and their appeal is still strong. This past March, PBS Masterpiece aired a special on the Brontës. I watched it in a Boston hotel room (in the midst of an intense college tour trip) but intend to re-watch it now from the comfort of my own couch! If you missed it and would like to check out more information, you can do so here: To Walk Invisable: The Brontë Sisters.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

It Smells So Good


If I could have a dollar for every time a student walks into the media center, takes a deep breath and says, "Ah, it smells so good in here"....I'd....well, I'd have a lot of dollars! There's something about stepping through the doors of a media center, or a library, with information everywhere, pictures and and connections and stories and facts and virtual experiences....that makes you have to stop and take a deep breath. You can be transported or be transformed here. And it smells good.

Speaking of smells, and libraries,...when Kate and I were in Boston and New York City over spring break, touring colleges, we found the Demeter Fragrance Library. We had fun sampling the incredible variety of scents...like Moonshine, Cotton Candy, Laundromat, Meadow, Holy Water, and even Kitten Fur. Katie bought Salt Air as a souvenir. I didn't buy one but, honestly, kinda regretted it once we were back at home.

And, now, guess what my two sweet kids ordered me for Mother's Day? Yep, my very own crazy fragrances. Nestled in a beautiful little box were these two shiny bottles selected just for me. Paperback smells soft, papery with a slight hint of vanilla. Tomato smells warm and green, something between the smell of a tomato vine and a freshly picked, freshly sliced tomato. It smells like I'm sitting in a vegetable garden. That may not sound like a scent you want to wear but, really, it is so summery and pleasant. I love it!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bhäird is the name of our Corner Garden

The perennials in our corner grade are springing to life but we lost one of our large old pines and the arbor is knocked a little off kilter. Over the years, we have called this corner garden the fairy garden, the pine forest, the forest garden, the play garden, or simply the back corner.

Kate used to make up stories about the fairies and gnomes who lived in this garden. Several years ago, to encourage her aspirations of becoming a writer, I said I would pay her for each story that she wrote, typed, and submitted to me. She gave the village that exists in this garden the name Bhäird and I now have this beautiful collection of stories; stories of winter survival, mid-summer festivities, and even wars that have broken out between political factions of the inhabitants (who knew, right?!)!

In the forefront of the above photo is a book we have loved by an author we have adored, Lesley M.M. Blume. Back when our mother/daughter book club met, we read Blume's book The Rising Star of Rusty Nail. We wrote a letter to Ms. Blume and were so excited to receive a beautiful hand-written note back from the author.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Millions - Mother/Son Book Club Meeting

A bag crammed with cash comes tumbling out of the air and lands right at Damian's feet.  
Suddenly the Cunningham brothers are rich.  Damian has questions: 
Is the money a sign from a higher power?  Should they tell the police?  
Anthony is eager to spend.....
--Harper Collins Publishers

Tonight, John and I hosted our book club meeting to discuss Frank Cotrell Boyce's book, Millions. I had seen the movie years earlier, thought it was clever.  The book is listed on several Middle School "must-reads".  And so...this is how we made our selection!  

I always feel like I read a book differently when I know others are reading it simultaneously, and especially when they are reading it because of my suggestion.  I'm more critical.  I'm wondering if they'll like it.  So, I had a slightly hard time getting into this story (even though...or despite of having already seen the movie).  But once hooked, I enjoyed it.  It is a story with so many layers...which, of course, made for great discussion. 

First the guys went outside to play basketball while the moms chatted and caught up.  Soon the guys came in, hovered around, wondered when we'd start discussion (and have food!)  We found a great discussion guide here.   The last question on the guide is... "What would you do with the kind of cash that Damian found?"  So we handed each mom and each son a scratch-off lottery ticket and went around the room discussing what we each would do if we won the $777.00 grand prize.  Some money went to charity.  Some went to throwing a great big party,... reinvestment in more lottery tickets, "real" investment, a cross bow, a new computer...fun discussion.

In the story, we noticed a somewhat odd frequency of requests for...toast. Yep, toast.  So, John and I decided that we'd just serve toast.  When my mom stopped over this afternoon before the meeting, she caught me checking the internet for toast recipes.  I know, I know, it's toast.  But I wanted to make it all in the oven instead of the toaster so I wanted advice on how to do that.  Just use the broiler.  Place the bread on a cookie sheet and turn after a few minutes.  But watch closely because they can, and do, burn quickly!  We had many new jellies and jams from my wonderful aunt (who keeps us supplied year round).  And then my good friend in Maine posted an article about a new restaurant opening in her town that will be serving only,,,yep, toast!  So, I knew we were on the right track.  And it turned out great.  Very fun meeting.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Kerlan Awards and a Poem in Your Pocket


Kate and I made it to the Kerlan Award ceremony again this year and, again, it was such a wonderful afternoon.  The catered lunch was salmon with couscous, fresh fruit, a delicious green salad and,...I can't even remember everything that was available on the long banquet tables but I do remember the apple tarts and pecan pie served with hot creamed coffee for dessert - yummmm!

Oh, yes, and then the award.  The 2015 Kerlan Award was given to Sharon Creech.  I knew of Sharon Creech.  I know of her titles.  But I had never read her books.  Honestly, I didn't really think I would like them.  But I am always interested in hearing authors speak about their craft, their process, their story.  Paris Kelvakis, a Kerlan Friends Board member, gave a speech introducing Sharon Creech.  His speech was so well written, concise, relevant and inspirational, it made me want to take the next few days off and read everything Creech has ever written.  Because, after that speech, I was convinced I would like her writing.   Even Ms. Creech's first words, when she reached the podium, were, "Wow, I'd like to meet this Sharon Creech person!"  Kelvakis remembered a passage from Walk Two Moons when Ben says he can read palms.  So Sal gives him her hand and he holds it for awhile, studying the lines and markings.  Then Ben says he has good news and bad news; bad news first is that he can't actually read palms.  The good news, though, is that he just got to hold Sal's hand for five minutes.  Kelakis said that reading Creech is sometimes like that palm reading.  You go along reading and you might be halfway through before you realize that the author is holding your hand.  (Kelvakis said it much better but I'm remembering as best I can!)

Then Sharon Creech gave her speech and told her story.  She said when she got the call from her agent telling her that Walk Two Moons had won the 1995 Newberry Award (the Newberry!), she asked her agent, "is that a big deal?  I mean, how many are given out?"  One!  Only one is given out each year.  Creech was interesting to listen to - so different from other children's authors I've heard.  And she had such great side stories and antidotes.


So, I came home, pulled Walk Two Moons off our bookshelf (yes, we even have a copy and I still had never read it) and read it straight through.  That this is a children's book is amazing.  This is how children's books should be.  C.S. Lewis once said (or wrote?):

A children's story which is only enjoyed by children is a bad children's story.

I am moving on to Sharon Creech's book, Love that Dog, which is written entirely in verse.  It is a book commonly used in schools during their poetry unit and almost universally changes the minds of kids convinced that they hate poetry.  They love this book.  During the Q&A, a guest asked Creech about the inspiration for this book.  Above her writing desk, Creech said, she has all kinds of little post-its and notes tacked to a bulletin board.  One of the little slips of paper has Walter Dean Myers' poem Love that Boy on it.  And as she sat staring into space one day, half reading the little notes, half letting the words play in her head, she thought about that boy and how that boy probably loved something or someone that much also; something or someone like...a dog, maybe.  That is the inspiration story she told.  Heartbeat, another book written in prose, is next on my list.

April is National Poetry month.  And today, April 30th, is National Poem in Your Pocket Day.  At Kate's High School, there's a contest today.  If a student reads/recites a poem to any teacher, the student's name will be entered in a drawing for gifts cards from local food shops.  Cool.  What poem would you put in your pocket today, to carry around with you all day?  I've racked my brain trying to decide which one I would pick and finally settled on Emily Bronte's The Night is Darkening.  Not because it is inspirational or that it fits my mood today or any other totally valid possible reasons but only because I love Emily Bronte, this poem just sounds so like her and...I thoroughly enjoy reading it.  Every time.  The words.  The rhythm.  The imagery.  The mood.

The Night is Darkening

The night is darkening round me
The wild winds coldly blow
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot cannot go

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow
And the storm is fast descending
And yet I cannot go

Clouds beyond clouds above me
Wastes beyond wastes below
But nothing drear can move me
I will not cannot go

I'll come when thou art saddest
Laid alone in a darkened room
When the mad day's mirth has vanished
And the smile of joy is banished
From evening's chilly gloom

-Emily Bronte

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Main Bath Redo

Our bathroom redos are finally done - yay!  During the mess, I wondered WHY? are we doing all three at the same time.  Now I'm so glad we did because now we are done.  And we will never redo them again.  So...I'm also glad that we're happy with the final product!
Above is the "after" pic of the main bath.  I did go with the Pollock inspiration for my artwork (can be seen reflected in the mirror).  It is a little busy but I like it.
Here is what it used to look like:
And the tub/shower before and after:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sherry and The Goldfinch

"Ah, Welty was never on the outside of anything," said Mrs. DeFrees, accepting her glass of sherry and petting Hobie affectionately on the sleeve, her little paper-skinned had glittering with rose-cut diamonds.  "He was always in the thick of it, bless him, laughing that laugh, never a word of complaint." page 397, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

We have been renovating our bathrooms and, oh my gosh, what a mess!  But it is starting to look so much better.  We're getting close to done.  The really dirty, really dusty stuff is done.  Now, it's just all the little finishing details.  Or the not-so-little finishing details.  One wall of our main bathroom used to have pale lemon tile halfway up it with a matching pale lemon yellow ceramic towel bar above the tile.  And then an old framed poster of an orchid above that.

Happy to say, that is all gone.  Now there is one wide open blank wall painted a beautiful shade of gray called Heron Plume.  The room is all neutrals and that wall is very blank.  So, last month, I used my Presidents Day Weekend Sale coupons and bought a 4' x 5' canvas to hang on that wall.  And I've waited for inspiration.  I re-watched the film Pollock recently and really wanted to do a Pollock inspired painting but am afraid it would be too busy in the bathroom.

So, instead, I started a new book that my book club friends have bee saying that I would enjoy, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  They were right - I love it.  And as I'm reading about the NYC museums and the paintings and the antique collectors, I came across this passage where they are having a small glass of sherry.  And so I went out, bought a bottle of sherry, dug out all my old craft paints and just started painting any old color...just getting paint on the canvas.  I will post more photos as the painting progresses but I will tell you...the Pollock is happening.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Apples and Grapes

We have wild grapes that grow on the hill between us and our neighbors.  Along with the Buckthorn berries, the grapes get very ripe and fall onto our driveway, staining the concrete.  This year, maybe because of all the rain we got, the grapes were abundant.  So, in the one week I had between our summer road trip and the start of school, I picked as many grapes as I could reach.  I even talked to the neighbor to see if they were going to use their grapes this year.  The grapes on their side get the western sun and were even more abundant than on our side.  They said to go ahead and pick as many as I could.  Although I've never done it before, I decided to make grape jelly.  I didn't know that you really don't have to pick all the berries off the stems so I sat and picked enough grapes off stems to fill 3 full ice cream gallon buckets!  And then I put them in the fridge cause we had a few other things going on.  This past weekend, I finally made the jelly - 26 little jars of yummy goodness!

After all these jars, I still had a gallon of juice left and no desire to make more jelly.  My mom was at my house for the day, using my stove to can applesauce, so we had an afternoon snack of grape juice/7-Up, crackers and cheese.  It was good but we both agreed that something a little stronger than 7-Up might taste even better.  But we had work to do.  Our family farm has an old apple tree.  Last year, my parents paid John $.01 for every apple he picked off the ground before it snowed.  He made $8.00 - that's how many apples that tree produces!  This year, my mom picked the apples before they fell to the ground - saved herself $8.00 but bought herself a lot of work!  We ended up with 18 quarts of applesauce and 29 pints.  It is pink because she left the skins on - a little more nutritious.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

At the Flea Market THIS Saturday (7/19)

We've sold our books at two garage sales and made a little over $200; tremendous support, but still falling short of our $1,000 goal.  So, we'll be at the Excelsior Flea Market this coming Saturday, July 19, selling all the books you want to buy for yourself, for your family, as gifts...all for only $1.00!  Again, all profit will be donated to Room to Read.
If any of you visited us at a garage sale, you will now notice that we've added hundreds of children's books for all grade levels, as we had many interested teachers looking to build their classroom libraries.  Of course, we still have, and have added to, our collection of fiction and nonfiction for ALL ages.  Kate wants to assure you of our booth staff's expertise in recommending titles for anyone.
Please come and support children's literacy and right to education, and pick up some great reads while you're at it! You can visit the Excelsior Flea Market's Facebook page here, and get directions to Excelsior here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Books for Charity

During this past horribly cold Minnesota winter, Kate and I have been book shopping.  Most Saturday mornings found us with a cup of hot coffee, in a preheated car, stopping at used book shops and thrift stores to find the best deals on good books.  We bought over 600 books! Not books for us though.  Here's the scoop:
Last winter we saw the film Girl Rising - a film about 12 different girls, in 12 different countries, who were struggling for the right to an education and a better life.  It was very powerful and it left us wanting to be able to help somehow.  We researched the various organizations featured on the Girl Rising website and decided to create a fundraising campaign for the organization Room to Read.
This is what Room to Read is about: We envision a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world.
To achieve this goal, we focus on two areas where we believe we can have the greatest impact: literacy and gender equality in education.  We work in collaboration with communities and local governments across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the life skills they’ll need to succeed in school and beyond.
Our fundraising campaign consists of us buying good used books, in good quality for a good price and then reselling them at a slightly higher price ($1 each) and donating all profit to Room to Read.  It won't be enough to build a school but it may be enough to have a few books published in a native language (Room to Read helps set up publishers in the native countries with the additional benefit of added jobs and a boost in local economy.)

We will have a booth at the Excelsior Flea Market a few Saturdays this summer and will be sharing a garage and driveway next week (April 30-May 4) at the Maple Grove city-wide garage sales.

You can click on the following links to learn more:
Girl Rising Film Trailer
Girl Rising website
Room to Read
Our Room to Read campaign site, Wards for Words, can be found here. If you can't make it to our sales, please consider donating here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2014 Kerlan Award for Children's Literature

The University of Minnesota Library system has an incredible special collection of children's literature called the Kerlan Collection.  When I was at school there, the collection was housed on the East Bank at Walter Library in a room which required special permission to enter.  I had a few classes taught by Karen Nelson Hoyle, who was the curator of the Kerlan collection and so we were able to meet in that collection room of the library.  It was, hands down, my favorite place on campus.  I've searched the internet for photos of the room to share with you but...weirdly...can't find any.  Walter Library is beautiful itself, with gorgeous sculpted ceiling panels, massive arching windows and deep wood paneled walls and reading tables.  But the room of the Kerlan Collection (was it called the Upson Room?  That is ringing a bell...hmmm) was like being inside of a fairytale with warm colors of soft yellows, berry reds, and mossy greens.

Every year, since 1975, a Kerlan Award is given in honor of a singular contribution to the world of Children's Literature.  In 2012, shortly after her retirement, the award was granted to Karen Nelson Hoyle, my former children's lit teacher and long time curator of the special collection.  I wanted to attend the award ceremony but, for whatever reason, was unable to do so.

Then in 2013, I read that the Kerlan was to be awarded to Kate DiCamillo.  We LOVE Kate DiCamillo and, again, I really wanted to attend the ceremony - actually see her in person!!  But, again, the timing just didn't work out and I missed it.

This year, I saw that the award was going to two authors, Russell Freedman and Linda Sue Park.  We have read several of Linda Sue Park's books and our mother/son book club even read The Kite Fighters, discussed it and had a blast making our own kites.  Kate's love of Abraham Lincoln means that we, of course, have a copy of Russell Freedman's biography of the 16th president!  And the timing worked out so...Kate and attended the Kerlan Awards on March 29th.


The collection has moved from the east bank to the west bank, into the Anderson Library which didn't even exist when I was there.  This new library has two monstrous caverns beneath it (each larger than 2 football fields, we were told).  Here's a link to pictures of the building of this library and the caverns - incredible!

There was a delicious lunch followed by various speakers and then the acceptance speeches.  As Kate and I looked at the program, we noticed that Russell Freedman was not going to be able to be there to accept his award.  It would, instead, be accepted for him by the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature - Kate DiCamillo!  Yay!  I mean, I'd love to have seen/met/heard from Russell Freedman also but it was pretty darn cool to be having lunch with the author of Mercy Watson (John's favorite) and Edward Tulane (Kate's favorite)!  She read Russell Freedman's acceptance speech and then spoke as herself also.

Linda Sue Park spoke and was so delightful.  She shared with us the various drafts of her latest book, Zander's Panda Party.  The first draft was terrible - which is why she shared it with us.  Then she donated it to the collection's archives.  She ended by reading us the final story while flipping through the pages on a large smartboard, saying how surprised she was when a STEM school teacher contacted her with praise and gratitude for having provided a STEM book.  The teacher had been searching for a book that could help in an animal classification science unit that she was starting.  This book is perfect.  The funny thing?  Linda Sue Park didn't even know what STEM was (or maybe she kinda did but wasn't being intentional in any way) so it was totally by accident. I find that influence between writer and reader so very cool.  We had John's copy of The Kite Fighter's with us and asked her to sign it for him.  We also bought a copy of Zander for a birthday party gift the following day.