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, April 24, 2014

THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER by Kevin Henkes and SOPHIE'S SQUASH by Pat Zietlow Miller

Our discussion opened with one of our members saying that she did not have such great opinions of our novel, The Year of Billy Miller. She thought it had no plot, that nothing really happened, and, in fact, she was so bored with it that she couldn't force herself to finish it. The rest of us felt differently. Some absolutely loved it, others liked it a lot. We loved how it showed us the inner life of a second-grade little boy...the things he was worried about, and how he tried to take action where he could to fix the situations that bothered him. We liked how it was divided into four parts, which in a way mirrored the four seasons of the year. We felt like it was almost four separate little stories, each of which did have a plot and a conclusion. A couple of people thought that there were places where the vocabulary was too difficult for the intended readers (7 - 9-year-olds,) but others thought that good readers could understand the words through the context. We also liked the fact that it was Billy's idea that led to his father becoming a more successful free-lance artist. All agreed that it was a great read-aloud chapter book, and also a great first "long" book for beginning readers -- 240 pages!! (...in a large font) A couple of us also thought the character of Emma, Billy's nemesis, wasn't as well developed as it could have been...but maybe that's for a sequel!

Our reaction to our picture book, Sophie's Squash, was one rare unanimous vote of love! Everyone loved it! We all loved the story, the illustrations (especially the reactions on the dog's face,) the naturalness and believability of the events, how Sophie's loss of her beloved squash was treated, and how she acquired new "best friends." We liked the portrayals of the parents in both books: normal families dealing with everyday life in a loving and sensible way.