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, December 11, 2014

OPENLY STRAIGHT by Bill Konigsberg and LOCOMOTIVE by Brian Floca

 We had a wonderful holiday celebration dinner at our last meeting, and great discussions of our books. We started with the novel, openly straight (sic) by Bill Konigsberg. Two people really liked it a lot, and thought that it portrayed Rafe's struggles in a good way as he explored getting rid of the label, "the gay kid." A couple of people didn't enjoy it at all because of the 'kidspeak' which they found difficult to understand and which they felt got in the way of the story. None of us particularly loved the way Rafe's parents were portrayed -- it just seemed that they were too, too cloying and positive, and not at all realistic. We all agreed that it wasn't the best literary writing ever, but that it was certainly very accessible to YA readers, and that kids of that age could certainly relate to what Rafe was going through; it could either possibly mirror their own situations, OR they could learn something about someone who was different. We also agreed that it was probably difficult for a group of heterosexual women to have any kind of an accurate idea of how Rafe really felt, even though the author created scenes and situations to give us something to think about. 
In a rare unanimous moment, we all LOVED the picture book, Locomotive by Brian Floca. There were so many things to like: the illustrations were fantastic, both in their detail, and in the fact that they told a story of a family traveling across the country on the train. Details in the illustrations brought this 'story' to life, even though it wasn't specifically mentioned in the text. We agreed that it could be used on several different levels -- as a read aloud to younger children, due to the very simple text; as a source of a wealth of information about the trains heading to the site of the hammering down of "the golden spike," as well as about the inner workings of steam locomotives; and as a kick-off point for research in a variety of curricular areas. We were all happy to have had the experience of reading it.