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Archive for the ‘middle grade fiction’ Category

Guess who’s having a birthday?

Michael Bond, who created Paddington, my most favorite bear character in all of children’s literature, turns 89 today!

photo by Sue Foll

Thought we’d celebrate by taking a look at his latest novel, Love from Paddington (HarperCollins, 2014), the 14th chapter book in his beloved series featuring the marmalade-loving, well-mannered, endlessly charming “rare sort of bear” from Darkest Peru.

Thanks to Mr. Bond, we now have vital proof that bears are indeed good letter writers. LFP contains 15 of Paddington’s letters to his dear Aunt Lucy describing how he met the Brown family at London’s Paddington Station, and about some of the unexpected “misadventures” he gets into (for he’s “just that sort of bear”).

This is the first of the novels to be written in Paddington’s own words, so expect to be totally delighted and amused by his endearing personality and refreshing innocence. Who else could manage to wallpaper himself or saw a table in half while constructing a magazine rack? What happens when he climbs atop a horse, plays a game of cricket, or attends the theatre for the first time? Let’s just say it isn’t every day a marmalade sandwich lands smack dab on a bald man’s head.

It’s hard to pick a favorite episode, but I do love the time Paddington helps out at the barber’s. If some bear accidentally shaves some man’s hair off, the least he can do is glue it back on — and, of course, make further amends with his knowledge of antique Spode Blue Italian bone china (how I love a bear who knows his crockery!).

The man had told me not to touch the top of his head, but it was too late. Whereas it had been covered by a mass of thick black curls, now there wasn’t a hair to be seen. He was completely bald!

There was only one thing for it. I reached for my tube. Mr. Sloop had said his floor was covered with unwanted hair, so I wouldn’t be short of material to repair the damage.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but there were so many different kinds of hair, and so many different colors, it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

Whatever the mishap, Paddington always lands on his feet and things work out in the end much to everyone’s relief. Love from Paddington is a great way to whet the appetite for the other books in the series, where these stories are described in greater detail. Those who’ve already read the previous books will enjoy hearing Paddington’s unique take on these somewhat sticky adventures, enjoying yet again his strong sense of right and wrong, his capital bargaining skills, his admirable hat-raising politeness, his enduring kindness, his unmatched appetite for chunky marmalade sandwiches, and his masterful hard stare.

Written to coincide with the Paddington movie release, the book contains wonderful pen-and-ink drawings by Peggy Fortnum and R.W. Alley. Ms. Fortnum was the first to depict Paddington on the page back in the late 50’s, and Mr. Alley, Paddington’s current illustrator, has been drawing him since 1997. I think there have been at least 6 different illustrators through the years, but it’s nice to have the first and the most recent represented in this book.

by R.W. Alley

by Peggy Fortnum

by Peggy Fortnum

I’d like to think that part of Paddington’s enduring appeal is the theme of unconditional acceptance and tolerance. He is an immigrant, after all, and an ursine one at that — yet the Browns happily welcome him into their home and he becomes a member of the family just like that. Good manners (often lacking in these crazy times) never go out of style — something I’ve always loved about this bear. Could you resist him if he tipped his hat at you? :)

But ultimately Paddington is just plain lovable and fun. I enjoy reading his observations about the sights, sounds, and the people he encounters in London. I’ve always said that rescuing a lone bear from a department store shelf on Christmas Eve says a lot about a man.

Thank you, Mr. Bond, for giving us Paddington!

Happy Happy Bearthday!!

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LOVE FROM PADDINGTON
written by Michael Bond
illustrated by Peggy Fortnum and R.W. Alley
published by HarperCollins, December 2014
Chapter Book for ages 8-12, 144 pp.

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MORE CHUNKY GOODNESS

*Don’t forget: the Paddington movie opens January 16!

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Copyright © 2015 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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Hello there. It’s story o’clock and time for elevenses!

Paddington’s put on his comfy PJs and slippers, poured a cup of warm cocoa, and procured a big fat chocolate bun just for you. If you’re familiar with Paddington and his adventures, you know that he frequents Portobello Road to have cocoa and buns with Mr. Gruber in his antique shop.

What’s that? You haven’t read any of the Paddington chapter books yet? Oh but you must! The movie is coming to the U.S. soon — we’ve been counting down the days to January 16 for months now. To whet your appetite, check out this video of some of the cast and crew reading the first chapter of the very first book, A Bear Called Paddington (1958).

Why do stories always sound better when read aloud in a British accent? I especially love the way they all pronounce the word “bear.” Nicole Kidman’s Australian accent is pretty cool, too. I think we Americans have been getting it wrong all this time. :)

So take a break, put your feet up, sip some cocoa and grab a bite of that bun before a certain furry interloper devours it all. Enjoy!

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HAPPY THURSDAY!

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Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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“Truth is so rare, it is delightful to tell it.” ~ Emily Dickinson

I’ve been curious about Emily Dickinson’s relationship with children ever since learning that she used to lower baskets of gingerbread to the neighborhood kids.

That’s why I loved Burleigh Mutén’s delightful verse novel Miss Emily (Candlewick, 2014). It gave me a good sense of how Dickinson might have interacted with four of the children in her life: her niece and nephew Mattie and Ned (who lived next door at the Evergreens), and the pastor’s kids Mac and Sally, who lived across the street.

This fun and suspenseful adventure, where Emily and the children disguise themselves as gypsies to catch a glimpse of the midnight circus train, is told from Mac’s point of view. It is clear the kids all adore Miss Emily and she, them, united as they are in imaginative play and a singular brand of friendship.

Illustrations copyright © 2014 Matt Phelan

I’m so pleased Burleigh is here today to tell us more about writing and researching Miss Emily. I daresay “the children’s laughing goddess of plenty” herself would be quite pleased with this story, as it celebrates her fondness for children and the importance of remaining true to one’s inner child: therein lies the truth about who we really are and should always strive to be.

Look sharp! The circus train is here. All Aboard! :)

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I’m happy to welcome dear friend and award winning author Margo Sorenson back to Alphabet Soup today. :)

The good news is that her middle grade historical novel, Tori and the Sleigh of Midnight Blue (first released in paperback back in 2003), is now available as an ebook!

Eleven-year-old Tori and her family are struggling with the Great Depression in North Dakota, and the death of her beloved Papa has been the severest blow of all. To aspiring writer Tori, everything is changing for the worse—her friends are acting too grown-up, and her little brother Otto invades her privacy. When a Norwegian bachelor-farmer begins courting Mama, Tori writes in her journal that her life will be ruined. What will Tori discover about forgiveness and acceptance as she tries to keep her life from changing?

I enjoyed learning about Scandinavian customs through this beautifully written novel, which reminded me of childhood favorites like All-of-a Kind Family and the Little House Books, where family ties, simple pleasures and a strong sense of community sustain the characters through difficult times.

In the chapter “Missing!”, Tori reluctantly helps her mother roll lefse for Thanksgiving. She usually loves making the traditional flatbread, but this would be their second Thanksgiving without Papa, and besides, she was angry that Mama had invited suitor Bjorn Oppestadt to dinner. How dare she? He wasn’t family!

Today, Margo talks about rolling lefse with her own family. It sounds like such delicious fun. Adopt me, please :).

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A big day in the world of children’s literature — the American Library Association has announced the winners of the 2014 Youth Media Awards!

2014 Newbery Award for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

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2014 Caldecott Award for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

Click here to see the full list of children’s and young adult books honored today!

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