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 2, 2015

Paula Bunyan by Phyllis Root and Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Odell

We were a very small but enthusiastic group at our last meeting. We started by remarking on the fact that both of our books were stories of very strong young women who used their intelligence, initiative, creativity, and 'pluck' to do the things they needed to do to solve their problems and make life more bearable. We also liked the fact that in both books the main characters solved their problems by themselves without any adult help or intervention.

We all liked the picture book, Paula Bunyan by Phyllis Root. We thought it was a good 'takeoff' on the traditional 'Paul Bunyan' story, imagining what his sister might be like. We liked that it followed the parameters of a Tall Tale, and that Paula's amazing powers helped her to accomplish some 'very tall' deeds -- a true example of the exaggeration present in tall tales. We loved the illustrations -- both the full-page, full-color scenes on the pages opposing the text and the black ink drawings at the top of the text pages. We thought it would be great to expose children to this 'made up' tall tale (as opposed to one from the oral tradition) and to compare it with the Paul Bunyan stories.

We also had good feelings about our novel, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. We had decided to read it to see if it stood up over time since it was originally published in 1960. We decided that it did. We felt that it was a great adventure story that both boys and girls would like, and that the portrayal of Karana, a courageous young girl who figured out what she had to do in order to survive living alone on the island could be inspirational to young readers. We also liked the detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna on the island and how Karana figured out how to use everything at her disposal to make her life safe, livable, and even comfortable. There was a question of whether the portrayals of Karana's tribe and of the Aleuts was accurate, but we agreed that given the pre-Internet time it was written the author had probably done the best research possible at that time. We also agreed that the writing was not the most magnificent prose ever created, but that it was straightforward and very accessible to kids, and given that Scott O'Dell had been a journalist prior to becoming a children's author, it made sense that this would be his writing style. A couple of our members said it belonged on their 'All-Time Best' lists.