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, November 10, 2016

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem's Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett

At our last meeting we discussed our picture book, The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem's Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson first. We all liked it a lot! We loved the cover, where a young boy seems to be uplifted by a symbolic 'bed of books' as he lounges and reads. We also loved the illustrations which we felt beautifully reflected the information and tone of the account by young Louie Michaux as he described his dad, Louis Sr.'s "Book Itch," which prompted him to encourage everyone in his family and community to READ, and which ultimately led him to open up the first African-American bookstore in Harlem, NY. One reader said the title kind of gave her the creeps...the 'itch' part, but it didn't deter her from liking the story. We felt it was told in a very straightforward way, with Louie's voice coming through clearly as he described various incidents including meeting Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X in the store, and his and his dad's sorrow when Malcolm was assassinated. We also liked Louis Sr.'s many (somewhat) poetic sayings which were shown in various very bold and large fonts throughout the story as well as in the endpapers. We loved the design of the book -- where some of the illustrations were framed on a single page, while others were double-page spreads. We also liked the author's note, photos of the actual store, and bibliography at the end. We all agreed that it would be a great book for adults to share with kids -- at school or at home, though we weren't sure if many kids would just pick it up to read. In the end, we felt it was an important story, well told, and an inspiration to anyone who loves books and reading.

We had varying opinions on the novel, The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett. We discovered that it was the first in a series, which already has two additional titles. We liked the idea of Steve, a budding detective (who wasn't really a detective), who used what he had learned from reading a fictional series of 59 books about boy detectives to solve an uncanny case that suddenly involved him, some CIA-type librarians, a crooked teacher, and a quilt with a secret message. We all agreed that it was a great book for kids, probably boys, because of the short sentences, short chapters, and moments of suspense in an intriguing (though completely impossible) plot. Several of us thought that as the story went on, some of the elements of the 'mystery' were just too convoluted and complicated, but we found many good writing techniques that Barnett used to keep kids interested. We also loved the fine-line black ink illustrations, which beautifully reflected various parts of the story, and the facsimiles from the "Detective's Manual" that Steve had sent for after reading the 59 books. For most of us adults, it wasn't exactly our 'cup o'tea' but we could appreciate the writing that was obviously geared to young readers.

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