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Art&Seek Jr: Hooray For Literacy Day! 14

Just in case you don’t have it marked on your calendar, this Thursday, Sept. 8 is International Literacy Day. The purpose of the day is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to celebrate books, reading, and your local library with your children.

To commemorate the day back in 2014 I compiled a list of my favorite children’s books; and last year, local librarians shared their favorite picks. This go round we decided to ask our staff here at KERA and KXT to give us their favorite kiddie lit picks.

Some of the books selected are surprising, some…not so much.

It's a pirate's life for Jerome. Photo: Therese Powell

Jerome’s work as a critic was modeled after the pirate Long John Silver. Photos: Therese Powell

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Illustrated by NC Wyeth. Picked by Jerome Weeks, Senior Arts Producer-Reporter, Art&Seek

What it’s about: This seafaring classic, set in the mid-1700s, tells the story of Jim Hawkins, a young teen who finds a treasure map among the personal effects of Billy Bone, a crusty old sea captain who dies suddenly at his parent’s inn. Jim sets out on an adventure with his compatriots to find the buried treasure of the evil Captain Flint and bring it home to England. But before he can do that he has to overcome a crew of mutinous pirates, including the one-legged Long John Silver.

Why it’s one of Jerome’s favorites: “Any televised or cinematic treatment of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ has been a pale disappointment compared to my father reading the book to my siblings and I as we were going to bed. I was transfixed – not simply because of Stevenson’s boys-and-pirates adventure yarn but by the illustrations in the famous 1911 edition by N.C. Wyeth. These have often been called Wyeth’s finest set of paintings. His images of pirates as scarred and brawling men remain in my head as some of the fiercest depictions of ruthlessness I’ve ever encountered – despite all the computerized bloodshed and steroidal stars in today’s films. Even during the day, when I’d take down the book to look at the pictures, they made me terrified for young Jim Hawkins – this slender lad caught up in an adult world of masculine brutality and greed. And yet I couldn’t take my eyes off the pictures because of Wyeth’s beautiful details of wood and leather, his treatment of light, candle light, a setting sun, the light of the tropics, the glint of a knife clenched between teeth.”

As a kid, Sam was inspired by Henry's persistence to get into the news business. Photo: Therese Powell

As a kid, Sam was inspired by Henry’s persistence to get into the news business. 

Henry and the Paper Route by By Beverly Cleary. Picked by Sam Baker, ‘Morning Edition’ Host & Senior Editor, KERA News

What it’s about:  10-year-old Henry Huggins is on a mission to get his very own paper route, trouble is, Mr. Capper, the supervisor for paper boys, thinks he’s too young. Henry does everything, including offering free kittens to new subscribers, to prove himself worthy of the job.

Why it’s one of Sam’s favorites: “Although the tale sounds dated in the Internet age, it’s both fun and inspiring.  Best of all, Henry Huggins was like me at the time – a young boy with plenty of neighborhood friends, but still an only child. In this and every other book in the series about Henry I could get my hands on, I found home”

He's a maniac on the floor, and he's dancing like he's never danced before. Photo: Therese Powell

He’s a maniac on the floor, and he’s dancing like he’s never danced before. 

Manic Magee by Jerry Spinelli. Picked by Hady Mawajdeh, Arts Reporter/Digital Editor, Art&Seek

What it’s about: Jeffrey Lionel “Maniac” Magee is an orphan who lives with his unhappy aunt and uncle. After eight miserable years, 11-year-old Maniac decides he’s had enough and runs away. And run he does. With his amazing and legendary athletic ability he changes a racially divided small town.

Why it’s one of Hady’s favorites: “As a kid in elementary school a lot of the reading I did was to gain points in the Accelerated Reading program. The schools I attended all AR as part of the curriculum. And at times I hated it, because I wasn’t always allowed to read the books that interested me most. But the more I read the more options I gained.

Anyway, my favorite book from this time was “Maniac Magee.” The book was about an orphan boy looking for a home in the fictional Pennsylvania town of Two Mills. He was sort of a legend in the community for his athletic prowess, but what I loved most about him was fearlessness and colorblindness. The book dealt with issues of race, institutional poverty and of course homelessness. “Maniac Magee” dealt with all of this in a beautiful way that didn’t feel like it was talking down to me. I still remember the first time I read the book and just writing about it now makes me want to read it again.”

No surprise that the aspiring and thoughtful heroine of this book left a big impression on a young Krys Boyd

The heroine of “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn’ would make an excellent ‘Think’ guest. 

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Picked by Krys Boyd, ‘Think’ Host & Managing Editor

What it’s about: This American classic is the coming-of-age story of Francie Nolen, a second-generation Irish-American girl who lives in New York City during the turn of the century.

Why it’s one of Krys’ favorites: “I loved a lot of books as a girl, but the one I read and reread was “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith.  It’s the story of a girl named Francie Nolan, born at the start of the 20th century to teenage parents.  She faces real hardship; her father is an alcoholic, her mother can be prickly, there’s rarely enough food or money, and her neighborhood is sometimes dangerous.  But she grows into a strong and resilient young woman—determined to get an education despite many roadblocks along the way.  I loved this book as a survivor story, and I also loved its rich portrayal of life in a bustling immigrant community where different kinds of people find ways to coexist and survive. I discovered “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” when I was nine or ten, and it felt like the first “grownup” novel I read—a kind of bridge between books written for children and more adult fiction.”

Apparently, a taco truck on every corner wouldn't be a bad thing for dragons. Photo: Therese Powell

Apparently, a taco truck on every corner wouldn’t be a bad thing for dragons. 

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. Picked by Shelley Kenneavy, 90.1 Announcer & Art&Seek Calendar Producer

What it’s about: Dragons love tacos. They love chicken tacos, beef tacos, great big tacos, and teeny tiny tacos. So if you want to lure a bunch of dragons to your party, you should definitely serve tacos. Buckets and buckets of tacos.

Why it’s one of Shelley’s favorites: “Apparently, dragons love tacos and parties and taco parties. But if they get one drop of spicy salsa, you’ve got a big problem on your hands. My preschooler loves that even though the dragons accidentally ingest the spicy salsa and burn the boy’s house down, they stick around to help him rebuild. It’s a nice gesture – even if they are just in it for the taco breaks.”

gini 2

Gini’s literary heroes have always been dreamers with big imaginations. 

Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself by Judy Blume picked by Gini Masccoro, KXT Host & Music Coordinator

What it’s about: It’s 1947 and 10-year-old Sally Freedman finds herself in a new school and a new city far away from her father who she misses terribly. To pass the time Sally makes up stories about her suspicious neighbor (she thinks he’s Adolph Hitler in disguise) and the handsome Peter Horstein, the Latin lover of her dreams.

Why it’s one of Gini’s favorites: “My heroes have always been the authors of banned books, and I’ve been in awe of Judy Blume ever since I can remember. “Iggie’s House” taught me about the ugliness of racism, while “Deenie,” “Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret” and “Then Again, Maybe I Won’t” didn’t make me feel so alone during my adolescence. But it’s “Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself” that stands out as my favorite. The lovable ten-year-old Sally has an Esther Williams obsession and a hyper-active imagination – one that kicks into full gear once she and her family move from New Jersey to Miami Beach because of her brother’s health. The book picks up at the very end of World War II, and two years later, the horrors of war still loom fresh in her story-driven mind and they hit a little too close to home: an aunt and cousin who perished at Dachau. The awful reality of concentration camps and fear of losing loved ones inform the stories she concocts in her head, but at the same time, she’s also discovering boys and making new friends, and Blume strikes a beautiful balance here.”

Adventure is out there! Photo: Therese Powell

The Tom Swift books are like the Hardy Boy series on brain steroids. 

Tom Swift in the Race to the Moon by Victor Appleton II. Picked by Rick Holter, Vice-President News, KERA News

What it’s about: Speed is the name of the game in this Cold War era, science-adventure, mystery. Tom Swift Jr. is in the race of his life to complete a spaceship to the moon before our evil foreign enemies, the Brungarians, launch their own. But that’s not all Tom has to contend with. He’s also trying to help friends on another planet who are in dire straits. It seems Tom and his scientist friends are the only ones that can conquer a disease that threatens their planet.

Why it’s one of Rick’s favorites:  “I stumbled across “Tom Swift in the Race to the Moon” as a 6-year-old. It was on my granddad’s bookshelf — a throwback to the postwar ’40s and ’50s, when dreams were big and heroes could do anything. Tom, a kid inventor, conjured up a spaceship, called (cue the foreshadowing) “Challenger,” that could beat his evil foreign rivals to the moon. The Sputnick inspiration was less than subtle, the writing was silly, and it didn’t ignite astronaut dreams. But for a sheltered farm kid sprouting in the late 1960s, “Tom Swift in the Race to the Moon” was like magical mental fertilizer.”

Eric loved the Boxcar Children series. Photo: Therese Powell

Eric devoured the adventures and soda recipes from The Boxcar Children series. 

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Picked by Eric Aasen, Managing Editor, KERA News

What it’s about: Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny are orphans who have created a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar in the forest. They eventually meet their kindly grandfather, who takes them in and moves the beloved boxcar to his backyard so the children can use it as a playhouse. Gertrude Chandler Warner wrote the first 19 stories, but there are now 140 titles in the Boxcar Children Mysteries series

Why it’s one of Eric’s favorite: “I loved, loved, loved reading The Boxcar Children. I read the entire series in third grade. I checked out book after book in the series from my school library. I couldn’t wait to find out about Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny’s adventures in (and out of) the boxcar. In one book, the kids mixed up a new drink: orange juice and Coca-Cola. I was intrigued. I remember testing out the recipe at home – and it tasted pretty good! I have read a couple of the Boxcar books to my own two children, hoping they pick up a love for a series I cherish.”



…And speaking of libraries, all of the staff picks above are from the Dallas Public library, so you can check them out any time.  Celebrate International Literacy Day at the library with one of these family-friendly activities.

Grab your favorite tween and head to the North Garland branch of the Nicholson Memorial Library Wednesday night for Tween Scene: Code Jewelry. Kids can use binary code to spell their names and make bracelets, key chains, or necklaces.

Here’s a great excuse to check out the fabulous Children’s Center at the Dallas Public Library downtown. On Saturday at 11 p.m. they’ll be rolling out the educational fun in STEAM on Saturday: Candy Science.  Experimenting with sweets is what’s on the roster this week. Kids can mix a purple potion, sink a marshmallow, or build a structure using only toothpicks and candy.

Got to run to the mall on Sunday? Be sure to stop by BookMarks at NorthPark for the Mr. Phil Show! No, he won’t be asking about your marriage, or your troubled teen, this Phil will charm and delight you with classic stories, contemporary tales and cool tunes on his ukulele.

Here’s an event that Jerome Weeks would love. International Talk Like A Pirate Day happens, Monday, Sept. 19 and to celebrate the occasion the East Branch of the Irving Public Library is holding their own Talk Like a Pirate event. Kids of all ages can learn how to talk like a salty dog, make crafts and tell pirate jokes. Why are pirates called pirates? They just arrrrrre!