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, October 16, 2014

The Streak: How Joe Di Maggio Became America's Hero by Barb Rosenstock and Freedom Summer: the 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi by Susan Goldman Rubin

We had great discussions at our last meeting, even though there were only five of us. We all liked  The Streak: How Joe Di Maggio Became America's Hero by Barb Rosenstock, the nonfiction picture book about Joe Di Maggio for various reasons, although we were not all equally thrilled with the illustrations. Even a couple of people who dislike/know nothing about baseball liked this book. One of our members questioned the use of the words, "...America's Hero" in the subtitle, since she didn't feel that an athlete deserved to be labled such. However, as we talked about it more, and the time it occurred -- the summer of 1941, just before the U.S. entered into WWII, we agreed that Di Maggio's streak was something that truly brought the nation together. We agreed that it presented a short moment in history and baseball-lore in a great way, that it humanized Di Maggio, and that interested readers would probably want to read more about him. One person questioned why Di Maggio was held up to be such a hero, given some of his personal 'issues' (Marilyn Monroe, anyone?), but we ultimately agreed that this book merely dealt with his 56-game hitting streak, and that the rest of his life had nothing to do with this. We also liked the 'back matter' and the quotes that were shown on the endpapers. As for the illustrations: Some thought they were terrific, other's didn't. Some of us questioned the paintings' disproportionate visual portrayals of the athletes -- shown with small heads and upper bodies and huge, long legs. Others felt that the illustrations perfectly fit the story, and truly presented a picture of baseball at that time. We all agreed that it could work as a read-aloud, and that the illustrations could be easily seen and deciphered from a distance -- even with the huge legs!

For the longer nonfiction book we also had a wonderful discussion. We all agreed that Freedom Summer: the 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi by Susan Goldman Rubin, the story of the 1964 Goodman-Schwerner-Chaney murders in Mississippi was well-told, providing great detail about everything that happened leading up to the murders, and their aftermath. We thought the writing was quite journalistic, though very well done, and that the quotes from people who had actually lived through the various incidents added a human touch to the facts. Those who had previously known little about the Freedom Schools and the other Mississippi events of that era felt that this book truly presented a clear picture that increased their understanding. One person felt that there wasn't really a 'point of view' in the writing, even though it was excellently done. We all commended the author on her impeccable research, including the use of primary sources, and felt that the book presented essential information related to the Civil Rights struggle.

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