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, June 30, 2016

Wild Horse Scientists by Kay Frydenborg and Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko

We  had terrific discussions at our last meeting, beginning with the nonfiction book, Wild Horse Scientists by Kay Frydenborg. One of our very creative members created a beautiful snack to go with the book. This same person, a died-in-the-wool long-time horse lover, said that of all the horse books she has ever read -- fiction, nonfiction, picture books, etc., this one was by far the best. We all agreed that it was quite wonderful, with beautiful photos and clearly written explanations of the detailed work of the various scientists who study the horses on Assateague Island. We felt it was an excellent example of how the scientific method works, and that it also presented a possible career path for students who were interested in horses. We felt it could be interesting for a wide range of readers -- from elementary through high school. 
Horse themed snack
We had a couple of minor carps: one was that all of the pages weren't numbered, making using the Index a bit cumbersome; another was that the sidebars -- some of which took up a few pages -- were distracting from the thread of the explanations. A couple of readers also thought it could have been better organized. We were all impressed with how the scientists figured out a way to use birth control shots for the mares so that the island wouldn't become overpopulated, given the resources that were available there. All things considered, it was a great read which presented information that none of us would have known otherwise...the sign of a good nonfiction book!

We were much less enthused with the picture book, Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko. One reader stated that there was absolutely nothing about it that she liked -- not the story, not the pictures -- nothing. A few readers thought the illustrations were cute and quite humorous. One of our members said she read it with her grandchildren and they thought it was really funny and they loved it. But we adults generally felt that the premise of an author (in this case a chicken) inserting him/herself (hard to tell) into the story, and basically having a dialog with the main character (an alligator who didn't want to be in the story anyway, and felt completely misunderstood) was a very 'meta' concept, perhaps a bit too deep for young children to even understand. We talked a bit about how authors often say that "the character takes over the story" while they are writing, and we figured that perhaps this was what Julie Falatko was trying to show....but we felt that it pretty much fell flat, and definitely wouldn't be appealing to young children. Although many reviewers loved it, we didn't.

One of our members is also involved with a book group that discusses picture books by a particular publisher at each meeting. Some folks were interested in reading their blog, and it can be found here: pbpublishers101.blogspot.com. If you copy/paste it into your browser, it will be accessible.

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