Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Themed Reviews: Tall Tales

Tall Tales have long been a staple of American folk literature, often featuring stories of legendary figures such as Johnny Appleseed, Pecos Bill, Daniel Boone, Paul Bunyan, Davy Crockett, and John Henry. These stories, told as if they are factual, all have unbelievable elements. While some are exaggerations of actual events or persons, many are fictional tales. Also popular today are Original Tall Tales, most often set in contemporary settings but maintaining the same structure as a traditional tall tale.

Tall Tale Checklist:

•The story has many exaggerations in it.
•The main character has a problem to solve.
•The main character is bigger than life and has super-human abilities.
•The plot of the story is funny and impossible.
•In the end, the main character solves a problem, overcomes an obstacle and/or defeats a “bad guy.”
•The story includes lots of action.

(Taken from

Browse through these titles and those from previous years for some selections to share with your family or students.

The Tall Tales of Paul Bunyan: The Graphic Novel
Martin Powell
Illustrated by Aaron Blecha
The tall tale of Paul Bunyan is hilariously retold in graphic novel format, giving new life to the story of the biggest woodsmen who ever lived. In this retelling, Paul wears wagon wheels for shirt buttons, hires seven assistant woodsmen, all named Elmer, and pulls his companion, Babe, the blue ox, out of a frozen pond. He nurses Babe back to health and the two enormous pals make their way across the United States. Paul and Babe walk through Minnesota, and the footprints they leave become the state's famous ten thousand lakes. In the Tennessee hills, Paul stops to smoke his pipe, and the hills become known as the Smoky Mountains. In the far south, Paul and Babe help the residents rid themselves of “bee-skeeters,” which create the giant southern bayous. Finally, the two visit the desert, start roughhousing, and make the Grand Canyon. On their way back home, Paul wrestles with Old Man Winter, who has Minnesota completely buried in snow. Paul holds up Old Man Winter closer to the sun, where Old Man Winter melts and becomes Lake Superior. This loony depiction of the quintessential American tall tale is fun, funny, and likely to get the most reluctant reader more interested in both American history and geography. Also included in the book are a glossary, writing prompts, and discussion questions. It is recommended for ages 8 and up. 2010, Capstone Publishing Company, Ages 8 up, $22.65. Reviewer: Lauri Berkenkamp (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9781434218971
ISBN: 9781434222688

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What Makes a Good Book (Part 6) by Marilyn Courtot

The following is the final part in a six part series written by CLCD President Marilyn Courtot. Aimed at reviewers and writers, we ran a new part every month.

Types of Books

When you read a children’s book, pay attention to the characters. In a good book, they will be well developed with multifaceted personalities. It is important for children to see the good and bad in the characters, and to avoid stereotypes. Individuals are rarely totally good or completely evil.

Think about characters from books that you read. Did Jo March of Little Women or Philip in The Cay seem real to you? Did you share their worries, joys, and everyday experiences? I know that I did. These characters were well defined and they did things that kids can understand. Books, more than any other medium, allow children to understand the thinking process. They afford an opportunity to put oneself safely into a situation and allow the reader to relate to the way the character responds to situations. To be believable, the character must respond in a logical or realistic way, and the character should learn or grow during the story.

In a picture book, the format doesn’t lend itself to much character development, but it can be done. Patricia Polacco has successfully created memorable characters in her picture books as have Mem Fox and David McPhail. In chapter books, more characterization is needed and writers like Patricia Giff, James Howe, and Elizabeth Levy are skilled at providing three dimensional characters.

For young adults, realistic and believable characters are essential. They can provide solace through shared experiences and answers to the trauma and angst of the teen years. Books by authors such as Bruce Brooks, Betsy Byars, Katherine Paterson, and Paul Zindel, to name a few, exhibit fine characterization in their novels.

Marilyn Courtot
Publisher and Editor

Friday, July 9, 2010


Children's Literature provides support for book sales at numerous author events, school book fairs and the like. Often we have one or two copies of a book left that we do not bother to return to the publisher. Our stock has grown and we would like to make some very good, never used books available on a first come first serve basis at a very attractive price: 50% off list (you do pay shipping). We will not order books as part of this special program. An order form is provided that identifies this month's book sale offerings. A revised order form will be posted each month.

How to Place Your Order:
Print a copy of the order form and mark it up with your choices. Then fax the completed order form to (301) 469-2071 or put it in an envelope and send it to Children's Literature at the following address:

Children's Literature
7513 Shadywood Rd
Bethesda MD 20817

Orders will be filled as they are received. For credit card purchases, we will confirm your total before processing your card. If you want to use a personal or business check for a purchase, circle check as as the payment option and we will get back to you with the amount due. We will ship the books when your check arrives. If you are an institution using a purchase order, we will fill your order and send an invoice with the books.

Shipping Charges:
Shipping charges will be calculated based on the dollar value of the order (discounted prices). A basic charge of $4.50 for shipping will be made for orders up to $30. The shipping charge for $31 to $100 worth of books is $7.50, and over that it is 5% of the dollar value.

Sales Tax:
If you are a Maryland resident, please add 6% sales tax.

This is a new service and comments or suggestions are welcome.

Marilyn Courtot, Proprietor
Children's Literature

Friday, July 2, 2010

Themed Reviews: Fourth of July

A long, hot day spent outside at the pool, enjoying a barbecue feast, watching a parade, and listening to patriotic tunes, as fireworks explode in the sky--nothing quite says summer like the Fourth of July. Every year Americans gather with friends and family to celebrate our nation’s independence from Great Britain in 1776.
Did you know? In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation was 2.5 million. On July 4, 2008, the nation's population was 304 million. (Taken from

The selections found in the feature can help in showing children the exciting activities and traditions associated with the Fourth of July, as well as the history behind this day of independence. Browse through the titles and those from previous years for some selections to share with your family or students.

Pippa at the Parade
Karen Roosa
Illustrated Julie Fortenberry
Pippa stands on the curb with her parents as she watches the parade. She taps her toes and claps her hands to the beat of the marching band. Some of the instruments featured include drums, trumpets, and trombones. Pippa marvels at gymnasts’ flips, the tall man on stilts, and a red balloon sailing into the blue sky. She eats pizza, popcorn, and a candy apple. Afterward Pippa goes to a carnival and wins a stuffed animal when she throws a ball threw a hoop. She and her parents watch fireworks flare in the evening air. At the close of her exciting day, her dad carries her home and tucks her into bed. The snappy text written in verse will engage listeners when the book is read aloud. Colorful illustrations add movement and joy as they show a loving family enjoying a special day together. 2009, Boyds Mills Press, $16.95. Ages 2 to 6. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 9781590785676
ISBN: 1590785673