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, May 26, 2016

FOUND by Salina Yoon and PAX by Sara Pennypacker

We had quite animated discussions at our May meeting. We talked about the picture book, Found by Salina Yoon first. We all loved the illustrations and the simplicity of the story of a little tricycle-riding bear who finds a toy stuffed bunny in the forest, tries to find its owner, but then becomes very attached to the bunny, and ultimately has to return it to its original owner, a 'grown-up' necktie-wearing moose. We felt that it would be a good read-aloud, and might be helpful for kids who had to get rid of unused or outgrown toys. A couple of people loved the book, but a few others felt that it fell short in a few respects. They thought that the transition when the 'older' moose decided to give the bunny back to the little bear was a bit too 'convenient,' and that it would have worked better if there had been a couple of 'beats' between the moose reclaiming his bunny and then almost immediately returning it back to the little bear. But we basically liked it, and everyone loved the endpapers, which showed a colorful collage of various 'LOST' signs (and one 'FOUND' sign!), some of which would have garnered a good giggle from any adult reading this book to a little one.

We had several differing opinions on the novel, Pax by Sara Pennypacker, the story of 11-year-old Peter, who lived with his widower father, and had rescued a young orphaned fox from the forest, raised it as a pet, and then had to release it back to the wild when his father went to war and Peter was sent to live with his grandfather. The story is told in alternating chapters in the voices of Peter and the fox, as they are each determined to do whatever it takes to find the other, and as each has various harrowing adventures and adverse situations to overcome in the process. Many readers were upset and even a bit annoyed that there was no specific time or place for this story. Which war? Where? When? Others felt that didn't really matter since the major themes were related to letting go of something loved and then trying to find it again, and also to the idea of what really constitutes a family as well as the anti-war message provided in many of the passages that dealt with what war does to people (and animals.) Some readers felt that the author tried to undertake too much in the development of too many plot points, and others felt that both Peter and the fox seemed to exhibit just too much thought and insight given their ages and statuses (11 & a fox!) in life. Many felt that the character of Vola, an embittered female war veteran whose cabin Peter finds in the middle of a forest and ultimately befriends, was somewhat gratuitous, and really unnecessary; others thought she filled an important role in sort of substituting as a mother figure for Peter when he needed that. We all agreed that the black and white illustrations by Jon Klassen added absolutely nothing to the story, and we also all agreed that this book provided some beautifully written passages, and a lot of 'stuff' for us to think about, but none of us felt that it would become 'a beloved classic', as many of the reviews  had stated. ....and so it goes.

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