Category Archives: Book News

Book Talk – November

Each month, I will feature several books (especially nonfiction) to help you celebrate the special days.

November picks up where October left off with the Day of the Dead or El Día de los Muertos celebrated from Halloween to November 2, the feast of All Souls.  This Mexican holiday focuses on remembering those family and friends who have died.  Traditions include fiestas, papier-mâché skeletons or calaveras, and colorful altars decorated with candles, marigolds, butterflies, sugar skulls, fruit and pan de muerto or bread of dead.  These offerings are put in homes to welcome the souls of the dead relatives.

Inspired by a real Mexican family of artists, Calavera Abecedario – A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book, is a colorful look at skeletons that come to life for the fiesta; one skeleton for each letter of the alphabet from ángel to zapatero.  The alphabet glossary and author’s note by Jeanette Winter offer additional information on this celebration.

Illustrator Jeanette Winter teamed up with Tony Johnston for another book on this Mexican tradition.  In Day of the Dead, readers take a ringside seat during the preparation for and observance of Mexico’s three-day celebration of the dead.

“When you love someone they never really leave.”  Barbara Joosse and Giselle Potter present a heart-warming picture book story, Ghost Wings.  You’ll never look at a butterfly again without thinking about this book.  It’s one of my favorites for any time of the year.

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Arlington – The Story of Our Nation’s Cemetery

On a hill overlooking downtown Washington, DC stands Arlington National Cemetery, the last resting place of more than 300,000 Americans who have served their country.  Author/Illustrator Chris Demarest shares that “every marker is a story unto itself.”  Arlington – The Story of Our Nation’s Cemetery is a must read for children to understand the importance of Veterans Day, November 11.

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Lucky turkey pardoned by the President and enjoying the good life at Mount Vernon

Preschoolers will enjoy learning about all the preparations at colonial Plimoth and at a nearby Wampanoag village as ten little Pilgrims and ten little Wampanoag get ready for a wonderful harvest feast in One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims. one little pilgrim

Arizona author BG Hennessy and illustrator Lynne Cravath create an accurate depiction of Pilgrim and Wampanoag life in 1621 in Massachusetts in this picture book.  Check out the backmatter author and illustrator notes to learn about their research for this book.  And yes, the Pilgrims and Native Americans did eat turkey during their three day feast that we know as “the First Thanksgiving.”

Do you start your Thanksgiving celebration by watching the Macy’s Parade on television?  Then, enrich your experience with Caldecott honoree Melissa Sweet’s book, Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade.  balloons over broadway

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1931 – Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade

This book earned top awards for nonfiction – the 2012 Sibert Medal and the NCTE Orbis Pictus award.  Sweet’s brilliant combination of collage, illustration and text give this book an amazing richness.  Comparing her illustrations to actual photographs of the parade show her attention to accuracy, an important characteristic of nonfiction.

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Grab a piece of pumpkin pie and a good book and enjoy your holiday!

R is for Rosary

R_is_for_Rosary_CVR_500 300dpiR is for Rosary – a Catholic Family Alphabet is truly a collaborative effort involving my spiritual companion Sr. Patt, my critique group, art designer Lorien, business partner Debra LaPlante, and the Holy Spirit.  Yes, I believe that!  I remember how I felt after writing the text on the R page.  I reread it and wondered where those words came from.  Surely the Holy Spirit guided me.  When it came to deciding how to illustrate the book, the Spirit was present again.   I had just finished writing about St. Kateri Tekakwitha and was shutting the computer down when my photo library opened up.  I clicked on a thumbnail (I have over 20,000 images in my library) and it was the photo of the icon of St. Kateri that I took at the San Carlos Mission on the Apache reservation.  It was then that I had the idea to illustrate the book with images of sacred art.   And to think that this book would still be packed away in a crate under the table in my office if it wasn’t for the 4th graders at Ss. Simon and Jude.  I was visiting the school with my book D is for Desert and they asked if I was working on any new books.  When I told them about R is for Rosary, they gasped as if I was writing this book for each one of them.  And in a way, I did.  I went home that day and started on it.  I unpacked my research, wrote (and rewrote) the manuscript, and photographed sacred art wherever I could find it including Ireland.  Upon completion, I dedicated the book to the students at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral School in Phoenix for inspiring me to finish it.

R_is_for_Rosary_A_HiResEach letter in the alphabet represents a facet of the Catholic faith.  A rhyme, text and sacred art illustration along with a prayer written by a child complete the page.  As Father Herb at Our Lady of Joy Catholic Church said, R is for Rosary is a treasure for parents and children alike.  The format is clear and concise.  Every child learns the ABCs but these ABCs are special.  This book teaches the gifts of our Catholic Faith to the young and will refresh the understanding of adults.”R_is_for_Rosary_P_HiRes

Following the alphabet letters is a section called Family Faith Formation with stories about our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and ideas on how families can grow their faith.  The book is interactive with places for photos, a family written prayer and even a child’s drawing of heaven.

R_is_for_Rosary_Family_Faith_HiResFr. Peter Kirwin, O.F.M., the rector at the Church of Our Lady of the Angels at the Franciscan Renewal Center shared this, “Barbara Gowan has brought together a stunning array of beautiful illustrations and meaningful descriptions of essential elements of our Roman Catholic faith in a unique manner to inspire all who read it.  Students bring to each letter of the alphabet a prayer to help the reader focus spiritually on its meaning.  To enjoy this book is to be filled with joy celebrating the gift of a relationship shared with our loving God and with each other.”

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Icon of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

 

I am available for school visits and family literacy nights focusing on the creation of this book.  Students at Ss. Simon & Jude brainstormed ideas for each letter and then learned about the writing process and the sacred art chosen for each topic.

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Stained glass window of St. Dominic Savio

R is for Rosary is the first selection in the Catholic Kids Book Club.  Members join for three months at a time and receive a carefully selected book for their child based on the liturgical calendar.  The theme of the CKBC is “faith formation through story.”  To read reviews of the book selections and to sign up for the CKBC, go to the website www.CatholicKidsBookClub.com.  And don’t forget to like Catholic Kids Book Club on Facebook!

CKBC is my latest adventure in literacy.  Together with friend and librarian Debra LaPlante, we’ve started a new type of book club.  We believe that the family is a child’s first teacher of faith.   A natural way to start a child on the journey of faith formation is through story.  We’ve selected outstanding picture books as the monthly selections for CKBC.  Many will follow the Church calendar in theme.  Parent information and ideas for family activities are sent with each book.  The first book is R is for Rosary.   We hope you will join the Catholic Kids Book Club today and experience the joy of faith formation through story!

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IMG_1765Help spread the word about R is for Rosary and the Catholic Kids Book Club.  Please share it with your church community.  Contact me for a press release for your diocesan newspaper.

Grand Canyon Reader Award nominee

Imagine my delight when I received an email from Shirley Berow and Kerrlita Westrick, co-chairs of the Grand Canyon Reader Award committee, announcing that  D is for Desert – a World Deserts Alphabet is a 2015 nominee in the Nonfiction category.  Wahoo! D is for desert cover The Grand Canyon Reader Award is sponsored by the Arizona Library Association and is the state’s kids’ choice award.  Nominated and voted on by Arizona’s children, the award is a special honor for an author.   Ten books are in this year’s Nonfiction list.  Kids must read or have read to them at least five of the nominees to have the opportunity to vote for their favorite.  Competition for me is stiff this year as it is every year!   Votes are due by April 1, 2015 so get started reading now.   For the list of books in all categories – nonfiction, picture book, intermediate, tween and teen, check out the GCRA website. http://www.grandcanyonreaderaward.org

nf15ballotThe website also has curriculum ideas, teacher’s guides, bookmarks and voting stickers.  Consider inviting me into your class or to visit your school to share my presentation on D is for Desert.   Check out the details on my SCHOOL AUTHOR VISIT PRESENTATIONS page.

 

Photos from the visit to Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral School in Phoenix, AZ