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, March 5, 2015

RAIN REIGN by Ann Martin and SCARECROW by Cynthia Rylant and SCAREBIRD by Sid Fleischman

Our meeting space was almost divided in half between 'loved it' and 'not-so-much' regarding Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin. Those of us who loved it felt the voice was authentic and sincere, and liked how Rose's obsessions with homonyms and prime numbers aided her in functioning in her somewhat complicated world of school, her distracted, confused single-parent father, and her love for her dog. We liked that she made an effort to make friends at school, even though she was so 'different' from her classmates, and how she used every bit of her talents and capabilities to find her lost dog, and then -- because she believed in 'following the rules' -- made sure that the dog was returned to its original owners. We felt it was a very touching story.

Some of our colleagues questioned the voice, and didn't think it rang true. They were also annoyed with the constant insertion of the homonyms or number sequences in the narration, and felt that was a distraction from the story. Several of our members had experience working with kids with Asperger's syndrome like Rose, and their opinions varied as to the authenticity of the voice. We discussed at length the role of Rose's father, and reacted to his final decision to leave for Rose's own good (and probably his, as well) and also her relationship with her uncle who seemed to be the only person who really understood her.

In our comparison of the two picture books, Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant and Scarebird by Sid Fleischman, we agreed that Scarebird was the 'winner.' We felt that Fleischman's expert storytelling stood out, and that it was a heartwarming tale that children would like. A couple of people felt sad for the 'scarebird' who seemed to be abandoned when the real boy, Sam, came along to be a companion for the lonely farmer. But, all things considered, we all really liked it.

As for Scarecrow, although we all loved the illustrations, and how they showed the changing of the seasons on the farm, we felt it was a poem written more for adults than for kids. We didn't think children would 'get' the intent or even actually enjoy reading/hearing it. It was a very interesting comparison between two books on the same subject by two very highly respected authors.

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