Newbery Loves History–Again

January 31, 2012

Last week, the 2012 Newbery Award and Newbery Honors were announced.  Personally, I have aspired to win a Newbery since I was about ten, and I don’t know too many children’s authors who don’t let themselves dream of it every so often.  It’s the most prestigious award in American children’s lit, the one that guarantees that librarians and teachers will take note of your book, and it also comes with a posh awards ceremony later in the year.

Lucky for my inflated-ego daydreams, the committees often favor historical fiction.

This year is no exception.  The winner and the two honor books are all set in the past.  I am sorry to say I haven’t gotten the chance to read these books yet, so I can’t give my own opinion, but here’s what the Newbery Medal Homepage on the ALA site had to say:

2012 Medal Winner
The 2012 Newbery Medal winner is Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, published by Farrar Straus Giroux

The importance of history and reading (so you don’t do the same “stupid stuff” again) is at the heart of this achingly funny romp through a dying New Deal town. While mopping up epic nose bleeds, Jack narrates this screw-ball mystery in an endearing and believable voice.

“Who knew obituaries and old lady death could be this funny and this tender?” said Newbery Medal Committee Chair Viki Ash.

2012 Honor Books
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers

Hà and her family flee war-torn Vietnam for the American South. In spare yet vivid verse, she chronicles her year-long struggle to find her place in a new and shifting world.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin, published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

On the eve of his induction into the Young Pioneers, Sasha’s world is overturned when his father is arrested by Stalin’s guard. Yelchin deftly crafts a stark and compelling story of a child’s lost idealism.

Any Damsels readers want to share their thoughts on these books? Or you can head over to Kirby Larson’s blog and check out her list of books she wishes could have also been honored.  (I’m totally with her on The Trouble With May Amelia.)


Europe is Old…

January 26, 2012

…and I say that with the utmost respect!

My sister is doing a year of service work in Europe this year, so for Christmas, instead of flying her home, my parents decided we’d go out there to see her. We took on quite an ambitious itinerary for a ten day trip. It was dubbed the “Christmas Mart Vacation.” Our travel corresponded with the schedules of the different Christmas Marts.

Marienplatz and all the booths of the Christmas Mart.

We started off in Munich, Germany. Munich, the third largest city in Germany, is the capital city of Bavaria and is located on the River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps. The year 1158 is the earliest date the city is mentioned in a document and hence assumed to be its founding date. 1158—That’s still over 300 years before America is discovered! At the center of the city is the Marienplatz—a large open square named after the Mariensäuke, a Marian column in its center—with the Old and New Town Hall. This is the location of the Kris Kringle Mart. I love Munich’s Mart, for the German food (I ate my way from booth to booth pretty much), the hand-made German crafts (most especially their straw ornaments a traditional German ornament you’ll find on most of the trees in all the German churches), and for its atmosphere of good cheer.

From there we moved on to Salzburg, Austria. I’ve been to Salzburg before, but it was in the summer and when I was younger, so I didn’t have many memories of it. The markets were neat. They didn’t have the atmosphere of the German marts, but it was still fun to walk around them and there was a stall that made the most amazing linzer pretzel cookies. HUGE! DELICIOUS! COOKIES! I really liked walking around the town and just soaking in the history. It’s so amazing when you walk through a graveyard and the dates on the headstones go back to the 10th century or even earlier.

In Salzburg...with my dad being silly. The water/fountain in the back ground was a watering and bathing place for horses in eariler centuries.

Life size mascot...I had to get my picture with Ljubljana's Dragon.

Third on the whirlwind vacation was Ljubljana, Slovenia. This was my first time visiting Slovenia, and I’d like to go back in the summer and just spend a whole week or two exploring the country. There was a charm about Ljubljana (the capital) that I wasn’t expecting for a large city. Their Christmas Market was quite extensive and very different from Germany, but unique, with its own personality. We took a walking tour of the old city, which I’d highly recommend it. Ljubjana’s city symbol is the Dragon, which symbolizes power, courage, and greatness. It’s depicted on the top of the tower of the Ljubljana Castle, on the coat of arms and on the Ljubljanaica crossing Dragon Bridge.

To split up the very, very, very long drive from Slovenia to Belgium, we stopped in Rothenburg, Germany for a night. I love this medieval town, and since I have a post about it planned for the near future, I’ll hold off on mentioning any more at the moment.

The next day was a seven hour drive to Bruges, Belgium for two nights. Bruges was fun to just walk around and soak in all the medieval architecture. One of my favorite spots had to be the Church of Our Lady. I have to say it was impressive! The church dates mainly from the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries. Its tower is 401.2 feet high making it the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world.

Finally, we ended up in Brussels, Belgium on our last day. Chocolate! Really, really good chocolate! Brussels started as a 10th-century fortress town that was founded by a descendant of Charlemagne and grew into a metropolis of more than one million inhabitants. It’s a bustling city. And really does feel like a city compared to the smaller and quainter Bruges. We had about half a day in Brussels that we spent walking around and just taking in the city square and walking the very expansive Christmas markets.

It was a treat to spend ten days exploring all the “old” of Europe. One of these days I’m going to write a novel set in Europe! I want to take some of this history and make it part of one of my stories. I do love Europe!

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Pictures from the Past: Jennifer

January 20, 2012

The Year is 1984!

My little brother and me!

I went with this picture this month because I have a special announcement to make!  This is probably one of my favorite pictures of my brother and me. And it plays into my announcement 🙂  My brother was a couple months old in this picture.  I was about 3 and 3/4 years old.  There was a 4 year age gap between my bother and I basically growing up.  He’s not so little now!  He out grew me in height (just barely).  And I think he’d be doing more of the protecting than I would, but for a long time I was the protector.  And I loved being a big sister (still do).  Now my little brother and sister-in-law have made me an aunt! Or a soon to be aunt!  In July 2012 we’ll be welcoming a new addition to the family and I’m so excited!  So congrats to Will and Danielle and here’s a post dedicated to you Will.  I love you!

  • My brother is about three months old here.
  • We were living in Hanua, Germany.  My brother was born in Frankfort, Germany.
  • I got the sled for Christmas and my mom said she always wished it had sides and back cause it was tricky pulling us on it without us falling off.
  • We owned that wood sled for years and years.  I remember using it when I was in fourth grade to sleigh down this huge hill in the back of our apartment complex in Kansas.
  • I’d just started preschool and loved it.
  • My brother had his days and nights messed up 😀 He’d sleep through the day and keep my mom up at night.

It happened this year: 1984

  • The Summer Olympic Games are held in Los Angeles.  The Winter Olympic Games are held in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.
  • USSR And soviet block boycotts the Olympic games in retaliation for Western Boycott in 1980
  • Aids Virus identified by French Immunologist.
  • The first Apple Macintosh goes on sale.
  • The Space Shuttle Discovery has its maiden voyage.

Cost of Living:

  • Average Cost of new house $86,730
  • Median Price Of and Existing Home $72,400
  • Average Income per year $21,600.00
  • Average Monthly Rent $350.00
  • Movie Ticket $2.50
  • 1 gallon of gas $1.10

Pictures from the Past: Tricia

January 18, 2012

Tricia (left): "So, as I was saying—" Julie: "I'm out of here. Already heard this one."

Here I am at ten months old in 1959. We lived in Braintree, Mass. My three older siblings liked to squeeze me a lot. Can you blame them?

Random tidbits from 1959

o Cost of a movie ticket is $1.00; a loaf of bread—20 cents

o Popular films include Ben-Hur, Some Like It Hot, and North by Northwest

o Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone premieres on CBS

o Mattel introduces the Barbie Doll

o First Grammy Awards ceremony

o The Lincoln Memorial design on the U.S. penny goes into circulation. It replaces the “sheaves of wheat” design.

Major events during 1959

o Alaska become 49th state; Hawaii becomes the 50th

o St. Lawrence Seaway linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes opens to shipping

o Fidel Castro comes to power in Cuba

o The Dalai Lama is forced to flee Tibet

Pictures from the Past: Emilie

January 16, 2012

Nothing shows the passage of time quite like kids growing up. I don’t look a whole lot different here in 2004 than I do now, but the munchkins on either side of me sure do! Yesterday, Boy Munchkin turned twelve, and his sister will turn eleven in March. WOW!!!! Back in college, I baby-sat these two quite a bit, then lived in their finished attic for a year until I graduated and moved “to the corner” of their placemat-map of the US.  I get to see them once, sometimes twice, a year now, and in between, I miss them and their parents a lot.

In the intervening time, I guess a lot has changed for me, too.  In Dec. 2004, I was:

  • a junior at Purdue University (go Boilers!), majoring in creative writing
  • just a few weeks from formulating a plan to allow me to spend the following summer studying in Ireland, which in turn allowed me to graduate a semester early, in Dec. 2005
  • majoring in creative writing, covering entertainment for the student newspaper, and wondering what in the world I was going to do for a living after graduation
  • just starting to check out Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program
  • having the occasional conversation with a grad student at church who, less than two years from then, would become my husband
  • NOT considering the possibility that I would EVER move to Seattle…silly me

Major Events of 2004 (outside my sheltered university life):

  • George W. Bush is elected for a second term as president (my first time voting in a presidential election, btw).
  • An earthquake in the Indian Ocean creates a tsunami that ravages several south Asian countries and kills nearly 300,000 people.
  • Martha Stewart is sent to prison for insider trading.
  • The Summer Olympics are held in Athens, Greece, a fitting tribute to the ancient games which provided the format of our modern ones.
  • Afghanistan holds democratic elections for the first time.
  • And, the greatest lasting impact from 2004: Facebook launches at Harvard.