Monday, December 9, 2013

The Best (and Besting) Children's Books of 2013

To gift-wrap our year and tie it up with ribbons, each TeachingAuthor is sharing a few of those children’s books published in 2013 she deems worthy of the label “best.”

Of course,
there’s best the adjective, best the adverb, best the noun and best the verb.
And what best means to one, it doesn’t mean to another.
I pondered the possibilities, but not for long.
SNOWFLAKES FALL, I knew, bested all.

Simply put, children’s books do Important Work.
They delight. They inform.  They inspire.  They encourage.
Always, they leave their readers with Hope.
Best of all, though, to my way of thinking,  
children’s books help readers make sense of their World.

On the morning of April 20, 1999, I was out-and-about, visiting grade schools in Lake Zurich, Illinois, sharing my very first picture book There Goes Lowell’s Party! with K-5 students, when News Bulletins reported the tragic killings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

How does one explain this horrific happening to children?

Or 9/11?

Or the December 14, 2012 losses of Sandy Hook?

I am honored to live and work in a community that when tragedy strikes, when horror reigns, members instantly begin gathering children’s book titles, sharing resources and utilizing their talents to help children grasp and grapple and understand.

SNOWFLAKES FALL is the first collaboration between longtime friends illustrator Steven Kellogg and Newbery medalist Patricia MacLachlan.

In the book’s dedications,
Steven Kellogg writes, “I was active in the school and library communities of Newtown and Sandy Hook, Connecticut where I lived with my family for thirty-five years.  My first book for children was published just before we moved there, and was followed by a hundred more books that were created in the attic studio of our old farmhouse.  The changing seasons in the woodlands, fields, and streams that surround the Sandy Hook village provided an idyllic environment for raising a family.   Those scenes and memories inspired these illustrations.”

Patricia MacLachlan writes,
“I wrote Snowflakes Fall after Steven told me of his sadness and concern for his community and for children everywhere.  This is a sadness that the world felt, and that I felt too.  What brought us comfort was the idea of renewal and memory, and while writing Snowflakes Fall, I thought about all children and families affected by loss.”

In a February 25 PW interview, Patricia MacLachlan shared that the snowflake motif used to underscore each individual’s uniqueness and the power of nature and time to help heal was inspired by the Connecticut Parent Teachers Association’s efforts to encourage people to create paper snowflakes to decorate the new school Sandy Hook students would be attending.

A round white decal claims the bottom left corner of each book’s cover.
Random House also made a book donation of 25,000 books, signed with autographed bookplates, to the national literacy organization First Book, in support of children everywhere.

Steven Kellogg concluded his book dedication with his hope that “this book celebrates the laughter, the playful high spirits, and the uniqueness of the children of Sandy Hook and of children everywhere.”

When it comes to the power of children’s books, it doesn’t get any better than that of Snowflakes Fall.

Thanks and Holiday Greetings to our TeachingAuthors readers who continue to uplift and celebrate us and help us remember!

Esther Hershenhorn


Linda B said...

It is a beautiful book, Esther, and wonderful that these two authors worked quickly to do something so visible for those in Sandy Hook, and for us all. I'm glad you shared about it. I am from Denver. Columbine has colored our lives since that time. We won't ever forget, nor do we wish to, but it still saddens me for our children. Thank you for your lovely post.

Susan B James said...

Now I have to read Snowflakes Fall. This post brought tears to my eyes.
My favorite picture book is KC Snider's Silence. It's a wordless picture book about the life of the Golden Mantel in Crater lake park. The pictures are so beautiful and joyous and filled with story telling. I interviewed her this week for the blog.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

I agree, Linda: we're lucky such talented children's book creators readied this beautiful book by December 14 of this year so we can remember, honor and celebrate Sandy Hook's lost children and children everywhere.
And, I'm on to your blog, Susan, to check out SILENCE.
Thanks for sharing.
I also received several emails from folks grateful to know SNOWFLAKES FALL is in the world now.
I so appreciate readers taking the time to write.

Anne Bromley said...

This is indeed an amazing book, Esther. The owner of the one independent children's bookstore in San Diego (Yellow Book Road) introduced it to me last week. I will be forever grateful for this beautiful gift. Thank you for sharing it with so many.

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks so much for this, Esther. I hadn't heard of the book before. I'll be sure to check it out.