WELCOME! Once a month, usually on a Thursday evening, a group of writers, illustrators, teachers and librarians meets in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles to discuss children's books. Usually we talk about one picture book and one middle grade or YA novel. After the meeting, Sandy Schuckett, a retired LAUSD librarian, summarizes our discussion. Here are her reports of our thoughts about the books we have read. We'd love to have your comments too!
Thanks to Nancy Hayashi for our wonderful title art! Our group has been meeting since 2007. It was organized under the auspices of the Children's Literature Council of Southern California (CLCSC).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell, IF I BUILT A CAR by Chris Van Dusen

We all agreed that Eleanor and Park was a quite wonderful book that spoke of the joys and sorrows of first love. Several of us thought that it was a bit too long - that there were some sections that, had they been shorter, would not have negatively affected the total story. We also agreed that young people - especially girls - would like reading this book, since the things that happened were so real and the relationship between Eleanor and Park developed slowly, by little bits of connection, just as real relationships do at that age (and probably at any age!). A couple of our writer members felt that it wasn't very "writerly," although they liked the story and kept reading to see what would happen next. Others felt it was beautifully written - especially in the transitions between Eleanor's and Park's voices as the story developed. We liked Park's very 'sensible' family and the obvious love between his parents, and the way they dealt with him, which certainly had an impact on his feelings for and actions toward Eleanor, and provided a healthy contrast to Eleanor's completely dysfunctional family which included her abusive stepfather and a mother who allowed the abuse to continue. We also were content with the ending: that Eleanor got to a safe, sane place with her uncle's family, and that Park learned and grew from the total experience. We felt that the 'second' ending, when Eleanor finally sent Park a post card with "three words" possibly provided the opportunity for a sequel.

As for the picture book, If I Built a Car, we had mixed feelings. On one hand, we felt that little kids who were interested in cars would love it - especially boys. Some of us were completely put off by the Seuss-like rhymes, which, although well-executed, rhythm and meter-wise, seemed to go on for too long. We basically liked the illustrations which showed the fantasy car the little boy had imagined, and felt that the illustrations would have worked fine with a sparser text. We liked the endpapers which showed the boy's plans for his super car. One of our members thought the little boy looked a bit weird and creepy in the illustrations, and several of us agreed. Some of us felt it would be a good read-aloud, and could serve as an impetus for kids to imagine their own perfect cars or planes or probably anything else.

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