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 28, 2016

H.O.R.S.E. by Christopher Myers and THE HIRED GIRL by Laura Amy Schlitz

We had a small but vocal group at our last meeting. We discussed our picture book, H.O.R.S.E. by Christopher Myers first, and we all agreed that the illustrations were excellent: boldly showing the two main characters who are having the conversation, embellished with terrific collages of various New York buildings and scenes, and very well-designed, with the text appearing in arcs similar to the basketball shots they are describing. One of our members read the book aloud to us, and another said that she had absolutely NO interest in basketball, and -- in fact -- didn't read the book, but that hearing it read aloud gave her an appreciation of the language and the creativity the author/illustrator used as the two boys tried to outdo each other in their descriptions of the amazing shots they were prepared to accomplish in the game of H.O.R.S.E. We all basically liked it, although some a bit less than others, although all agreed that it was terrific for stimulating imagination and interesting use of language for young readers. We were amused that one illustration, describing a shot that transcended outer space before landing in the basket, included the illustration of an African-American man with a nametag reading, "NDGT," -- an homage to Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist, author, and noted host of the TV program, Cosmos. We definitely felt that young readers would enjoy this book, and might even be drawn into describing their own astounding basketball shots with imagination and flowery language.

We all agreed that our novel, The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz, was beautifully written as it told the story of a 14-year-old girl from Pennsylvania who, in 1911 ran away from her family farm and an abusive father and arrived in Baltimore, where she lied about her age, changed her name, and was taken on as the "hired girl" for a prominent Jewish family. We all loved the beginning chapters and the ending chapters of this almost 300-page book, which was her actual diary in which she described her life. Several people felt that a lot of the descriptions of her daily life as she did the household work, dreamed about the clothes she would buy, and her relationships with the various family members could have been a bit shorter. One reader questioned the level of the writing in Janet/Joan's diary, saying that it seemed too sophisticated for a basically uneducated 14-year-old. Others felt it was completely believable, since she was an avid lover of reading, and had, in fact, run away from the farm when her father had burned her three cherished books, which she had read over and over and over again. Certainly, many of the entries in her diary compared her life with characters in the books she had read, and when the father of the household allowed her to read books in his library, her vocabulary and knowledge only grew. She was definitely a reader and a thinker. We agreed that young readers who might be daunted by such a long book might decide to 'give it a try,' once they found out that there was a love story between Janet/Joan and David, the family's youngest son, who dreamed of becoming an artist instead of carrying on as the proprietor of his father's department store. We all agreed that it was a pretty complicated plot, with a lot of details that perhaps didn't add much, but some thought that the inclusion of the detailed descriptions of Jewish holidays and other minutiae of daily life were valuable. But -- in the final analysis -- positive feelings all around.

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