Posts Tagged ‘Childrens Books’

Periodically, we invite other book lovers to guest post on the Book Jam.  Today, we are thrilled to welcome back an outstanding Children’s Librarian — Beth Reynolds (or Ms. Beth to many kids in our town). We love the fact she serves as our own children’s librarian extraordinaire. She is the type that calls a child to let them know they have a book on hold, even when they didn’t request it, just because she knows that particular child will love that particular book. Those of you lucky enough to visit or live in Norwich can find her working at our fabulous Norwich Public Library most week days, and the Norwich Bookstore on many a Saturday. So without further ado, some recommendations of children’s books about friendship from our dear friend Ms. Beth.


Many readers in Vermont are very familiar with Understood Betsy, the only children’s book written by the beloved Dorothy Canfield Fisher. Though she wrote several novels for adults this enchanting chapter book about a young girl in Vermont was her only published work for young readers. This one book phenomena also occurred with the adored editor, Ursula Nordstrom. She helped produce amazing books, ones that most everyone holds dear in remembrances of childhood: Harriet the SpyCharlotte’s Web, Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are. It’s a noteworthy list. And yet, Ursula herself was responsible for writing one of my favorite children’s books, though not nearly as well-known as the books she edited. The Secret Language, the story of two girls at boarding school and based on the author’s own experiences, was a book that I reread over and over. When I started working for a bookstore in my twenties I tracked down a copy and it’s become a book I have given to some of my dearest adult friends. The paperback copy I have is tattered and pages are falling out. It originally sold for 35 cents and opening it now to most any paragraph brings back a flood of memories: wanting to have a friend so we could dress as ice cream cones for Halloween, or communicate with a secret language, or finding someone who would be my companion during the long nights at school far away from my family. (The Book Jam is sorry to say this book is currently out of print.)

I guess I was looking for such a friend when I left home and went to college. Living in a very small, rural mining town before the creation of the internet, books were the way I learned about the world. I discovered what it was like to have friend—and how to be one— in good situations and difficult ones. And in some ways the books of my childhood are the basis for the contemporary books I read today. No matter the setting or circumstances, I think a good kid’s book should contain fully-realized characters. In some cases, they are so well-drawn that they feel they might leap off the page. As cliché as it might sound, I believe a talented author can instill this exact hope. (Who wouldn’t like a five minute chat, hug or handshake with Harry Potter or Percy Jackson?) I also like to be surprised by a character’s reaction to certain situations. I find it easier to make a connection with a character who contains multitudes, one who doesn’t wear a white or a black hat and has some depth to their emotions. I appreciate an empathetic character, but I find it so much more valuable when those characters evoke empathy in my readers.


In the spirit of newness—pencils, classes and friends—here are a few chapter books guaranteed to get you off to a great start with your reading.

The Question of Miracles by Elana Arnold – I picked this one up for the title and the image on the cover. Iris and her family moved to Seattle in the wake of a tragic accident. Her new school and her new life require a bit of an adjustment. The loss of her friend clouds everything else, but she finds an unlikely friend in Boris. He’s a mouth breather and a know-it-all, but he teaches her Magic the Gathering. This is not something that sparks an interest, but it does help to pass the time. When she meets his family she discovers he was a miracle baby, meaning his very existence is a medical mystery. Iris starts to wonder if miracles are possible and how to find one for herself. In return for Boris’s gaming advice, she instructs him in social etiquette, which brings about some interesting interactions. I found Iris’s life to be well-drawn and fully-realized. She has a loving set of parents. Her dad works from home with a hairless cat named Charles for a companion. Her parents call her Pigeon, take the time to explore their new rainy surroundings with her and genuinely seem to care for one another. Having characters who seem almost human and interact with each other in a kind, considerate manner even in the face of tragedy is just one of the reasons to pick up this delightful book. (Mrs. Kassab the pregnant bus driver made me smile.) The friendship between Boris and Iris is fraught with differences but the fact that they learn from each other and come to enjoy spending time together just proves that life can be good again when you have friends. ~ Beth Reynolds

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate  – Applegate earned a bit of notoriety with her award-winning novel, The One and Only Ivan. The essence of sincerity and kindness of that book follows through to her latest offering. Jackson lives with his sister Robin and his parents. Life has started to get tricky again, not the least of which involves the reappearance of an overly-large imaginary cat. Crenshaw came into existence years ago but then vanished as most imaginary friends do. But he’s come back into Jack’s life at a crucial point, it looks like his family might have to sell everything they own and start living in their mini-van again.  Homelessness is not a topic address often in kid’s books, though if this subject interests you then definitely pick up Blue Balliett’s Hold Fast book. Applegate examines this issue through the lens of friendship. Jack has lost friends due to their moving around and it helps him to have the support of a friend whose known him for many years—even if that friend is imaginary. Losing your home also means saying goodbye to things, but when given the chance to put a few items in their treasure bags, both kids pick a book. A Hole is To Dig (coincidentally edited by Ursula and almost called Stars and Mashed Potatoes) for Jack, and Robin picks Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. These companions have been with them for most of their lives. When they read each aloud, you could see they provided a bit of stability. Having the support of friends and the comfort of treasured possessions helps create a resiliency that can get you through the rough times. Crenshaw is someone I would want on my side when the chips were down. ~ Beth Reynolds

Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories by RJ Palacio – For everyone who loved Wonder, Palacio allows usback into Auggie’s world. He is however a minor character in these three stories. Julian the bully tells his story first. We see Auggie’s familiar story but from a completely different perspective. For many readers Julian was the bully and the character that evoked feelings of anger and a sense of injustice. Palacio turns the tables here and lets us see Julian’s fear. He does end up leaving the school for his unkind acts towards Auggie, but it’s not until he spends time in France with his grandmother that he’s able to see his acts for what they were and their impact. The second story takes someone Auggie has known since he was a toddler and shows us a deeper look into his world, one that doesn’t involve Beecher Prep. Chris has his own problems at his school, but it’s his friendship with Auggie that allows him to navigate these tricky times with his parents and his band dilemma. The third story shows us more about Charlotte, one of Auggie’s welcome buddies. Charlotte auditions for and is accepted into a dance troupe. She finds herself interacting on a daily basis with two other girls. Their afterschool practices actually bring them closer despite their differences. There is also the mystery of a homeless man a situation that tests their new-found friendship. Auggie is a touchstone and a marker for how Charlotte behaves and treats her friends. Each of these stories will delight those who wanted to know more about Auggie’s world while showing different, unexpected sides of some characters they thought they knew and understood. ~ Beth Reynolds

Fish in a Tree by Linda Hunt  – Ally has always been labeled slow and a loser. She can’t read and though that has become a real barrier to making friends, she doesn’t let that stop her. There are other activities that engage her, but she knows that learning to read is the key to moving forward. She can’t figure out how to make that a reality until she gets a new teacher, Mr. Daniels (He clearly went to teacher school with Mr. Terupt.) But her teacher isn’t the only surprise this year, Know-it all Keisha and Albert–the big kid who wears the same shirt everyday and has a fondness for facts—become her closest friends. This book is filled with the day to day life of school, with its highs and lows. There are bullies and triumphant moments that should be celebrated. For me that means the moment when Ally’s older brother, Travis, comes in to ask for help with his own reading. But for others that might mean Ally becoming class president or doing so well on a Fantastico Friday challenge. Or when Albert stands up to the bullies. But I absolutely loved the day when Ally and Keisha show up wearing special shirts to show that they are Albert’s friends. To me it’s one of the sweetest moments in the book and a real standout from all the books reviewed here. I know it’s one I’ll think about for years to come when things might be a bit challenging in my own life. ~ Beth Reynolds

All of these books address big issues, but they should not be defined by them. I wouldn’t pick any of them up and say “Here’s a book about the death of a friends, the threat of homelessness, or this one about bullying or the devastation of dyslexia.” Like a good friend they are not black or white, there is much to think about, ponder and laugh about. Any one of these books would make a great addition to a child’s library or a perfect choice for a parent/child discussion or book group. The characters are complex and intriguing, and the stories are written by authors who truly care about their audiences. Ursula actually wrote a sequel to The Secret Language, but she didn’t like the ending so she burned the manuscript. I’m glad that these authors were brave enough to put their books out into the world for all of us.

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore.  Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the week leading up to their engagement.  Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events.

We are breaking our tradition of not posting in August because we are excited to again welcome author and friend Lizi Boyd for the debut of her latest work, an enchanting picture book called Flashlight.

Ms. Boyd has written and illustrated many children’s books including the critically acclaimed Inside Outside, but her talent doesn’t stop with books. She also creates other art such as the papers and stationery — all available for purchase from the Norwich Bookstore. She is our first repeat author, so it was fun to see how her answers differ this time around.  (When we return in autumn, we will debut three new questions for this series.)

Ms. Boyd will appear in her Norwich studio from 5 to 7 pm on Friday, August 15 to celebrate the publication of Flashlight.  (Click here for directions.) While the book is geared to preschoolers, all ages will enjoy Flashlight, and all are welcome during this special studio event.  While you wait to visit her studio, be sure to click here to watch Flashlight‘s movie trailer.

Because this event is not at the Bookstore, reservations are not required, but an RSVP is appreciated. When you call (802) 649-1114 to RSVP, you may also pre-order your signed copy of Flashlight

1. What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

The Mouse Who Liked to Read in Bed by Miriam Clark Potter and Zenas Potter. I just found my ratty little copy from 1958. I wasn’t reading yet, but I vividly remember the first PG w/ black and white illustration: “Scuffie was a little field mouse with bright brown eyes. He liked to read in bed. He had a tiny table made of an empty spool. He had found that in a wastebasket. By his bed was a pink birthday candle. That was his reading light. One day, in an old doll house, way up in the farm house attic, he had run across a wee, wee quilt. He had dragged that home, for a bedcover. And his bed! He had fixed up a tiny four-poster, with a candy box, and some stubby pencils”. This little book influenced not only a desire to make drawings and stories out of the littlest bits of ideas but also must have given me my big love of being cozy in bed with a pile of books. (NOTE: Sadly, this book is now out of print.)

So of course, Maurice Sendak, who illustrated a A Kiss for Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik (a friend of my mothers, which I just discovered via an inscription, along with my mothers notes of her phone number and address). Also, Leo Lionni and little books by Hockney and the list could go on and on.

2. What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why? 

I’ve been waiting since last year when I answered this question, and it’s still tea with Ursula Nordstrom. She was a brilliant editor who worked with absolutely everyone mid-century and changed the world of “children’s books”.

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

The three books reside by my bed. I just finished The Stories by Jane Gardam, meeting all sorts of old and new characters, and really meeting them because Ms. Gardam gives that to the reader.  Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips which I’ve just dipped into. And, Euphoria by Lily King, which is waiting for me.

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Ah summer… A time for young students to swim, to fish, to camp, to be bored and most importantly to read what they want, when they want.  And right about now is the time those of you who know kids spending hours at overnight camps might need things to pack in their care packages.  Since most camps won’t allow candy, we have selected some perfect books for you to include instead — even if the campers in your life are only making it as far as their back yard.

Because we like to highlight great independent bookstores everywhere, we would like to mention The Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont. This bookstore specializes in children’s books and seems the perfect partner for our picks for young summer campers. If your travels take you near Lake Champlain in northern Vermont, please stop in and peruse their shelves; their incredible staff will help you find our picks, as well as many other books that are perfect for you and the young readers in your life.

NOTE: All our picks today are targeted to elementary aged students and tweens.  Our picks for young adults and adults will follow later this month.

Relatively Recent Releases with Adventure as the Theme

Manhunt by Kate Messner (June 2014) – In this third book of the Silver Jaguar Society series, the youngest members – Henry, Jose and Anna head to Paris, with their Jaguar Society relatives, to solve a series of international art thefts. The ensuing complications include that the adults promptly disappear leaving them stranded in Shakespeare and Company (yes, the famous Paris landmark) with a boy they don’t quite trust, that they do not speak French and that they are constantly hungry as they try to recover both the lost art and the missing adults. ~ Lisa Christie

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (June 2014) – I would call this a cross between Mary Poppins (only for the roof top scenes, not the nanny) and The Adventures of Hugo Cabret. This story begins with a baby floating on the ocean in a cello case, who is then rescued and taken in by an unusual and kindly bachelor. Of course, the child services lady does not think the bachelor is fit to care for a girl. The solution? Find the girl’s mother armed only with the one small clue embedded in the cello case. The clue leads the pair to Paris, a variety of rooftops, and eventually, to other orphaned children who can help them. The clue also leads you to an enchanting story. ~ Lisa Christie

Boy or Beast: The Creature from the 7th Grade by Bob Balaban (October 2013) – While I disagreed a bit with the ending because I thought there was a squandered lesson, the humor and storyline are perfect for the middle grade reader approaching puberty or in the midst. Truly just fun. ~ Lisa Christie 

Relatively Recent Releases With Girls as the Star

Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli (May 2014) – What do you do when your LITTLE brother gets all the credit for helping you save your neighbor’s life? Or, when your best friend and the boy down the block don’t quite get you? Or, when you don’t get a part in the community theater play? Why you become the poet Emily Dickenson of course. But then you discover being a recluse is not as easy as it seems. A charming look at life through the eyes of an unique girl. ~ Lisa Christie

Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer Blakemore (May 2014) – This book combines, small town Vermont, McCarthyism, potential Russian Spies, Union troubles and two intriguing kids. Kids will enjoy Hazel Kaplansky – the narrator and girl extraordinaire. Hazel strongly believes in the pursuit of knowledge and truth no matter what the cost, and she loves a good mystery.  So when Senator McCarthy targets a local union in her small Vermont town, Hazel knows it is up to her to uncover the Russian spies. But first, she enlists Samuel, the new boy with a mysterious past, to help. ~ Lisa Christie

Now Some Books that We Know We Mentioned Before —  But We Only Gave Them Six Words and They Deserve More

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (March 2014) – We agree with Publishers Weekly assessment – “Fans of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will find this another delightful lesson in art history.” In this novel, Theodora Tenpenny of Manhattan tries to solve the mystery of a painting she uncovers (literally) once her grandfather dies. It includes her eccentric mother who has spent at least fifteen years doing nothing but completing her mathematical dissertation and consuming very expensive tea.  It also shows how two amazing, but lonely girls can make great friends. And, along the way it introduces young readers to the world of art and the importance of asking for help when you need it.  Not bad for an author’s first children’s book. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Will In Scarlet by Matthew Cody (November 2013) – An EXCELLENT and FUN tale of Robin Hood and his merry men before they became famous.  In this version of this timeless tale, you meet them as a gang of outlaws and watch them find their mission in life.  A superb adventure for any middle grades reader and the adults who love them, or who love English legends. ~ Lisa Christie

IF You Are Worried Kids Will Forget All They Learned in School, A Few More Serious Books…

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell (August 2013) –  John Lewis, the Congressman and man who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., has, with two collaborators, written a memoir in the form of a graphic novel. This book begins with his childhood in rural Alabama and follows Mr. Lewis through meeting Martin Luther King and then his own student activist days in Nashville. The pictures explore how his life must have felt at the time.  The prose explains what he was thinking as each of the momentous moments of his life unfolds.  The 1958 comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story was inspirational to Mr. Lewis and other student activists.  We hope March proves as inspiring to future leaders.  We truly look forward to Book Two. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (February 2014) – Celeste Marconi is 11 and has bigger problems than many pre-teens.  Her country – Chile – is in the midst of being overtaken by a military dictatorship.  Once that happens, her best friend is among those “disappeared” by the General, her parents go into hiding to protect her from their support of the previous leader, and her grandparents send her to far-away Maine to live with her Tia and escape the problems brought by the dictator.  An excellent introduction both to Chile and to all that being an exile entails. ~ Lisa Christie

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson (December 2013) – A true story of one of the boys saved by Schindler’s List. This is a unique entry point into an important story for kids to know. It is also a well told tale. ~ Lisa Christie


Older Titles We Highlight Because Someone is Always New to Chapter Books

Frindle or Trouble-Maker or other titles by Andrew Clements – Mr. Clements is a former school principal and his love of kids – especially the ones who end up in the principal’s office – comes through in each of his books. He treats kids with humor and compassion and presents many real world dilemmas in each of his books for young readers. Pick one up and enjoy. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Anything – and we mean ANYTHING – by E.L. Konigsburg – She was truly a superb gift to young readers everywhere. Her books are fun, well-written, humorous and help kids work through the issues they face every day.  Our favorites – The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler and The View from Saturday.  But please discover your own. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Some Series for Kids Just Branching out of Early Readers and Needing Beginning Chapter Books

Calendar Mysteries by Ron Roy – Four young children – Bradley, Brian, Nate and Lucy (younger relatives of the A to Z Mystery kids) – continually unearth problems that need to be solved as they travel the roads and playgrounds of their home town. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Capital Mysteries by Ron Roy – Pre-teens KC and Marshall uncover bad guys and save the world from their homes in Washington, DC.  KC’s home just happens to be the White House. ~ Lisa Christie

BallPark Mysteries by David Kelley – Two kids travel the country attending baseball games (one of their moms is a sports reporter) and solving mysteries. Reminiscent of those original “meddling kids” – Scooby’s gang. ~ Lisa Christie

Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne – This seems to be the original model for this genre. It now bring over 50 titles with the adventures of young siblings Jack and Annie and their time-traveling adventures in their magic treehouse to young readers everywhere. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Great Audio Books for Route to Camp or for Those Kids Who are Reluctant Readers, but Avid Listeners 

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling – This series, broken into seven books of young witches and wizards, is a page-turning tale. Luckily, it is also an amazing audio book narrated by British Thespian Jim Dale. He has created distinct voices for the many, many characters – that is fun for all ages. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan – This set of five books is creating a generation of Greek Myths experts.  It also makes a great family listen in audio book form.  Enjoy the tales of Percy and his friends and their exploits saving the world from monsters. Bonus: You can then continue with the books of Mr. Riordan’s Lost Heroes series. `  Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie



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And so it was on a snowy night last week in late November that sixty people from the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire gathered in the wine cellar of the Norwich Inn to talk about some of 2012’s great books. Great books for gifting, great books for curling up with on the couch, great books for sharing with friends. It was, in a word, well, great.


This special event, the second incarnation of “Pages in The Pub”-  an evening designed by “The Book Jam” (and this time sponsored by The Vermont Community Foundation) to gather people at a local inn  to discuss literature – raised over $1,300 for Vermont Libraries. We heard suggestions from booksellers and bibliophile alike who discussed titles that would make the perfect gift for friends and loved ones. They covered everything from engrossing reads for the memoir enthusiast, picks for the man who “has enough flannel shirts but not enough fiction,”  to mouth-watering tomes for people who like to “cook up a culinary snowstorm.”


Below is a list of all twenty books discussed during the evening along with its own special six word review.  (Yes, we limited the presenters to six words so we would not run out of room, and they creatively rose to the challenge.) Each is linked to The Norwich Bookstore where you can learn more about these treasures. You’ll also notice that our picks are divided into rather specific categories. These are ones that we created last year as part of our annual “best of” list for  The Book Jam blog; our 2012 “best of” edition of the Book Jam will be published separately next week so stay tuned.  And, just a small technicality: some of the books below were first published in 2011, but are new to paperback in 2012, so we counted them.

Our wonderful, dynamic, thoughtful presenters included:

  • Penny McConnel, Owner, Norwich Bookstore
  • Beth Reynolds, Children’s Librarian, Norwich Public Library
  • Arline Rotman, President of the Norwich Women’s Club (and retired Massachusetts judge and current family law consultant)
  • Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie, curators of the Book Jam Blog

We’d like to thank the our panelists, The Norwich Inn, The Norwich Bookstore, all those who attended, and the Vermont Community Foundation for making this evening possible.

So sit back and read on for ideas —- holiday shopping help is on its way.

Cookbooks: For people who like to cook up a culinary snow storm:


Roots: The Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes by Diane Morgan, selected by Lisa Cadow (2012) – Cook from this all winter long.

Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman, selected by Penny McConnel (2012)- Yum yum yum delicious delicious delicious.

The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden, selected by Arline Rotman (2011) – Cuisines, cultures, history—delicious  reader’s cookbook!

Non-fiction or reference book or poetry: For people who like to think and chat while sitting by the wood stove:


Stag’s Leap: Poems by Sharon Olds, selected by Penny McConnel (2012) – Divorce through a wife’s compassionate eyes.

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie, selected by Arline Rotman (2011) – History that reads like a novel.

Memoirs: For people who enjoy living vicariously through other people’s memories:


 Wild by Cheryl Strayed, selected by Lisa Cadow (2012) – Hiking boots: too small. Adventurousness: infinite.

Winter Journal by Paul Auster (2012), selected by Penny McConnel – Intimate. Honest. Difficult. Beautiful. Unforgettable.

Field Guide to Now by Cristina Rosalie  (2012) selected by Beth Reynolds – Little books can change your life.

Adult Fiction: For a woman who only has time for the best fiction:


Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman (2012), selected by Lisa Cadow – Australia 1920s. Baby washes ashore. Decisions.

The News From Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story by J. Wickersham (2012), selected by Penny McConnel – Seven delicious short stories that deliver.

The Secret Keeper  by Kate Morton (2012), selected by Beth Reynolds – Puzzles from the past demand solving.

Adult fiction: For a man who has enough flannel shirts but not enough good fiction:


The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, selected by Lisa Cadow (2012) – Beauty, grace in Colorado despite apocalypse. Really.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (2012), selected by Beth Reynolds (2012) – It’s so much more than music.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011), selected by Arline Rotman – Youth, ambition, family, friendships—peripherally baseball.

Coffee table book or literary gifts for your favorite hosts/hostesses/co-workers:


Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter (2012), selected by Beth Reynolds – Inspirational beauty found in unexpected places.

Jerusalem: A cookbook by Ottolenghi & Tamim (2012), selected by Arline Rotman – A beautiful book that I covet!


 End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (2012), selected by Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie – Mother. Son. Many books. Little time.



Picture Books: For families to read together during snow storms

The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems about the Presidents by Susan Katz, selected by Lisa Christie – Humorous poems. Facts. Presidential Inauguration soon.

Books for young readers (ages 8-12): Those beyond Tonka trucks and tea parties but not yet ready for teen topics

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke, selected by Lisa Christie – First friend helps end family curse.

Books for your favorite High Schooler: Tales for teens who still like to drink hot chocolate and spend snowy days reading, but who are not quite ready for adult themes

Rush for the Gold: An Olympic Mystery by John Feinstein, selected by Lisa Christie (2012) – Gold Medals. Teen Detectives. Great Series.


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“Princesses” – The Book’s Eye View From Vermont: Just because we wear clogs and flannel shirts doesn’t mean that we’re not interested in royal wedding dresses being worn across the pond! Both Lisas watched from a clapboard house on a dirt road as William and Kate tied the knot in Westminster Abbey and then kissed at Buckingham Palace. These are the books that then came to mind. 

Listen Now to Princesses or download http://www.box.net/files#/files/0/f/0/1/f_765741554

The recent royal nuptials (what a fun phrase to write and say – royal nuptials – try it), got us thinking about life as a royal personage.  And we started to think, as we tend to do, about books to help us empathize/fantasize about royalty.  Our conclusion? — even with the best books, there is no way to truly relate to the royal treatment other than to actually be in a royal family.

So we decided to focus on a former commoner like us – the newly crowned Princess Kate. Then we turned to stories about princesses. And once we started along this line of thought, the titles kept on coming.  We edited a bit, and the books we dicussed on the BookJam podcast are:

Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch  In this classic picture book, Princess Elizabeth wears fancy clothes and is to marry Prince Ronald. Then a dragon abducts Ronald.  So she dons a paper bag, tracks and tricks the dragon, and rescues Prince Ronald.  When Ronald says “You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess,”  well let’s say they do not live happily ever after. But she does save the prince.

The Light Princess by George Macdonald – a tale from the 19th century – really. We surmise that Gail Carson Levine read it somewhere along the way (see next entry).  The Light Princess is a simple tale, written for children. A princess is cursed by a wicked witch with lightness and thus is condemed to float blissfully about the castle all day long, missing gravity, weight, sorrow, suffering and love. The tale relates how she finds her own gravity — and how she saves the prince, too.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – This Newberry Honor Award winner has a cursed princess too.  At birth, Ella is given the gift of obedience by a fairy named Lucinda. Thus, anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. As with many fairy tales her mother dies, her father remarries a wicked woman and her life is not so great.  But Ella decides to solver her problems herself. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this version of Cinderella sticks with you with twists and deviations from the original.

The Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine- As in Ella Enchanted, Carson Levine turns fairy tales upside down and inside out.  We enjoyed her versions of a sleeping beauty who wakes covered in dirt and cobwebs and a Rapunzel who chooses her own entrapment.

Other titles of interest that we mention on the podcast include:

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman – Takes all the elements of a classic fairy tale and up ends them a bit.  This is a great book that also made an excellent movie.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot – Mia Thermopolis, your average urban ninth grader, discovers her father is prince of a small country and that she is now considered the crown princess! She doesn’t even know how to begin to cope, but we enjoy watching her try. (Good movie as well.)

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory  – Sisterly rivalry drives this vivid retelling of the story of Anne Boleyn.

And since most of this podcast focussed on books that are often downright silly, we end with a more serious recommendation – Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel provides a fantastic well written look at life in the court of King Henry the VIII.

Musical selections to bookend this podcast include Margaret Whitman’s original recording of “Moonlight in Vermont”  and “Dig a Little Deeper” performed by Jenifer Lewis (Mama Odie).

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