No, I'm not talking about the Duchess of Cambridge (although I am sure she's a very fine person, charming and all that, but my fascination with British royalty died with Diana...) No, I'm referring to birthday girl Kate DiCamillo, Newbery-Award winning author of some of my favorite children's books.
Kate DiCamilllo (courtesy NPR)
As a child, Kate moved from Philadelphia to a small town in Florida. As she writes in her Scholastic website bio: "I was a very sickly kid, and suffered from chronic pneumonia, which is why we moved to the warm southern climate. I think being ill contributed to my
development as a writer. I learned early on to entertain myself by reading. I learned to rely on stories as a way of understanding the world. I read everything I could, and some of my favorites were The Twenty-One
Balloons, The Secret Garden, The Yearling, Ribsy, and a book called Somebody Else's Shoes." Her first book, Because of Winn-Dixie, came out of that Southern experience and childhood memories of a beloved pet and was partly the result of being homesick and dogsick (she was living in Minneapolis at the time and was unable to have a dog in her apartment). As she notes, writing that story "allowed me to go home and to spend time with a dog of the highest order."
So here's a Read More About It birthday salute to Kate:
Mercy Watson: to the Rescue
Whether or not you're a fan of pork, you won't be able to resist this porcine parcel of personality and pluck. In this first of six adventures, Mercy's single-minded pursuit of her culinary favorite, hot buttered toast, leads to a series of comic semi-disasters. But all ends well, warm and buttery. Other titles in the series of beginning chapter books include: Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, ...Fights Crime, ...Something Wonky This Way Comes, ...Thinks Like a Pig, and ...Princess in Disguise. The illustrations by Chris Van Dusen add to the hilarity and charm.
Louise: The Adventures of a Chicken
Who doesn't long for a little adventure in his or her life? Well, Louise is no different from the rest of us -- except, of course, that she's a chicken. Literally. Not just any chicken, but a daring chicken who sets out on her quest with spirit and spunk. As she sees the world, she also manages to: escape from a band of pirates, perform in a daring circus act, and get trapped in a cage by a stranger. When she finally arrives home to tell her fellow hens about her ordeals, she realizes, like another farm-girl before her, that "there's no place like home." An exceptionally funny and entertaining read aloud, with fabulous illustrations to accompany and elaborate on the text.
The Tale of Despereaux
Impossible wishes and longings fill this story: a mouse yearns for joys of reading and the love of a princess; a rat burns to leave the darkness of his home in the dungeons of a castle; a slow-witted servant girl dreams of becoming the highest lady in the land. Despereaux, the mouse-hero, is one of many in the castle, but he is different. He was born with his eyes open (weird!), his ears are too big (shocking!) and he likes to read (that's just wrong!). Worst of all, he has fallen in love with the very human Princess Pea and has even dared to speak to her. This gets him banished to the dark, dark dungeon where the evil rats dwell, which in turn sets in motion a chain of events involving the rat and the servant that will require Despereaux to be as brave as the knights he has read so much about in order to save the lovely princess. If you like a bit of darkness (or more) in your children's books, this Newbery winner will definitely satisfy.
So happy birthday, Kate, and onto the next story!
No, not more Bruce Willis or Bruce Willis-wannabes. I'm talkin' real librarians... and real heroes. Read more about it here.
My apologies to Bruce Willis. No wonder your latest movie is set in Russia. Of course the librarian's favorite action hero would be drawn to the country with the most public libraries.
Yes, you read that correctly. Russia is number one for public libraries in the world, with over 33,000. I was shocked, flabbergasted, my jaw was literally dragging on the floor when I discovered this. On the one hand, it makes sense, given the country's Communist history. The philosophy that decrees the abolition of private ownership in this case would read: no one owns the books, everyone owns the books.
Apparently, the United Kingdom is second on the list with well over 23,000 public libraries and Germany takes a close third with over 20,000.
I know what you're asking in a jingoistic fever: okay, where's the good old US of A, that bastion of democracy and education for all? Well, we are fourth, but a very distant fourth, considering the size and population of our nation. According to the latest statistics from the American Library Association, there are just under 9,000 public libraries in the U.S. We are not very far ahead of the Czech Republic and Romania.
National tradition apparently plays a large role in determining the ratio of libraries to population. In Japan, borrowing a book is not a commonplace thing to do and hence, the country has just a smidge over 1,000 public libraries. However, in Finland, book swapping must help pass the long winter nights that last into day (and the long summer days that extend into night) because, although Finland has a population just a bit over 4% of Japan's, it has over 900 libraries.
March 2nd marks the 109th anniversary of the birth of Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, creator of The Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 and an especially interesting substance called "oobleck." Hey, Sam-I-Am, pick up a book today and celebrate Read Across America Day in honor of this amazing, witty, flabbergastingly creative individual. And you can read the stories behind some of his most famous books at Mental Floss.
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