Blog Archives

“And the award goes to . . .”

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

No, not Meryl Streep.  Not these awards, anyway.  If you’re reading this blog, presumably you have an interest in and/or some knowledge about children’s literature, or you’ve heard about the hysterically witty and charming woman who writes a quasi-regular blog for the Williamson County Public Library website.  Either way, I’m glad you’re here.

Much like the entertainment industry, there are literally (HA! See what I did there?) a plethora of honors that are awarded each year in the field of Kid Lit.  I’m not going to make this article an exhaustive list of the aforementioned youth book awards, so I have narrowed it down to three:  the Randolph Caldecott Medal; the John Newbery Medal; and the Volunteer State Book Award.

media-awards-1

The first of these is the Randolph Caldecott Medal, which has been awarded annually since 1938 to the preceding year’s “most distinguished American picture book for children.”   It is awarded to the illustrator by the American Library Association and is named for Randolph Caldecott, a 19th-century British illustrator.  The two sides of the actual medal are derived from Caldecott’s illustrations:  one side depicts a section of the front cover of The Diverting History of John Gilpin; the reverse is based on Caldecott’s illustration for “Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie,” from the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence.”  Additionally, the committee acknowledges several worthy runners-up each year, and those recipients are referred to as Caldecott Honor Books.  A random sampling of some past Caldecott winners includes some of my personal favorite children’s

media-awards-2

books:  Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1964);  The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (1986); Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes (2005);  and This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (2013.)  The entire list of Caldecott winners since its inception can be found at the American Library Association website, www.ala.org/alsc/caldecott, and all Caldecott books can be found in their own section in the Children’s department at WCPL.  Oh, and here’s an awesome bit of news, hot off the presses (see what I did there?):  the 2017 Caldecott Medal winner was just announced over the weekend at the ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta, and the award goes to . . .  Radiant Child:  The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe.

media-awards-3

The John Newbery Medal is another kid-lit award which is also bestowed annually by the American Library Association, and the Newbery Medal recognizes the author of “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”  Named for John Newbery, an 18th-century British publisher of juvenile books, the Newbery Medal was proposed by noted American publisher and editor Frederic G. Melcher in 1921, hence making it the first children’s book award in the world.  The medal was designed by American sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan and depicts a man, presumably an author, giving his book to a boy and girl.

media-awards-4For a book to be considered for the Newbery, it must be written by an American citizen or resident and must be published first or simultaneously in the United States, in English, during the preceding year.  Much like the Caldecott Medal, the selection committee awards a variable number of citations to runners-up, and those are referred to as Newbery Honor Books.  Most Newbery winners appear on recommended reading lists for elementary and secondary schools, and they also have their own section at WCPL.  The list of Newbery Medal recipients since 1922 can be found at www.ala.org/alsc/newbery, and the Newbery Honors winners are listed there as well.  The 2017 Newbery Medal winner, also just announced at the ALA conference over the weekend, is The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

media-awards-5Last but not least in this list of literary luminaries (mercy, say that three times fast) is an award with some local flavor, and that is the Volunteer State Book Award.  The VSBA, as we librarian types refer to it, is sponsored annually by the Tennessee Library Association and the Tennessee Association of School Librarians.  Every year, schoolchildren from across Tennessee are asked to read books from a list of nominations.  The VSBA has four divisions:  Primary (Kindergarten-2nd Grade), Intermediate (grades 3-5), Middle School (grades 6-8) and High School (grades 9-12.)  In the spring, students who have read or listened to at least three titles from the slate of nominees are allowed to cast their vote for their favorites.  Those votes are then tabulated and sent to the Tennessee Library Association, and the book with the most votes statewide wins the award.  Here at home in Williamson County, many teachers and school librarians from WCS (Williamson County Schools), FSSD (Franklin Special School District), and many private and parochial schools use the VSBA list as their recommended reading over the summer.  The lists of current and past nominees can be found at www.tasltn.org/vsba .

So there you have it, friends—truckloads of fun book suggestions for the kiddos, and for yourself.  Happy reading!


As always, the opinions about life, love, and literature expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and in no way a reflection on the employees of Williamson County Public Library or their families, friends, neighbors, or pets.

La Grincheuse, C’est Moi (or, I Am A She-Grinch)

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

grincheaux (French, noun, masculine) also: grincheuse (French, noun, feminine) crank; crab; curmudgeon; grouch; grump; shrew; sourpuss.

As I was driving to work on a frigid day about a fortnight before Christmas, thinking less-than-charitable thoughts about my fellow humans (and possibly hissing through clenched teeth some unprintable epithets about the ones who were allegedly sharing the road with me) it occurred to me that I might be exemplifying many of the Grinch’s personality traits. NO, not those sweet, shiny Christmas morning ones, where The Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day and he carved the roast beast from the head chair at the Who’s Who In Whoville dinner table, with his new best friend Cindy Lou Who by his side; but those dark, slithering, vile things that were rampaging through his Grinchy heart and mind as he stomped around his cave on Christmas Eve, plotting mayhem against all those insufferably cheery Whos down in Whoville.grinch1

A little background, for those of you who have no idea what I’m yammering on about: the Grinch that I speak of is a furry green reclusive character created by Dr. Seuss (aka Ted Geisel) in his 1957 Christmas classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Side note: the name of the character may or may not have been inspired by the French word grincheaux, which loosely translates to “grouch” in American English (or “misery guts” in British parlance—you’re welcome) and has evolved into an unflattering term for someone who embodies an anti-holiday spirit or has a mean, greedy attitude (like Scrooge).  The Grinch derives pleasure by destroying others’ happiness, and on Christmas Eve he hatches a diabolical plot to annihilate Christmas for the residents of Whoville. SPOILER ALERT: He drafts his little dog Max into service as a reindeer, fashions himself a jaunty tunic that echoes Santa’s traditional outfit (Grinch opts to go pantsless, but that is a conversation for another time) and descends from Mount Crumpit in his bootleg sleigh, into which he loads all the Whoville residents’ Christmas presents, decorations, and food.

His schadenfreude (pleasure derived from the misfortune of others) is short-lived, however; he is at first infuriated to hear all the Whos singing and celebrating anyway, even though he just totally stole all their stuff, right down to the last can of Who-Hash, but then he begins to twig to the possibility that maybe Christmas isn’t just about the boxes and bows:

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.

What if Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more?

The Grinch then experiences an epiphany (can you believe I made it this far into the blog without a pun? Neither can I! It’s a Christmas miracle!) and returns all the Whos’ purloined goods and joins them in their Christmas festivities.

So. Back to me cruising to work and thinking Grincheuse thoughts. If you are a sentient being (and since you’re reading this, presumably you are) then you may have noticed that it’s fairly common at this time of year to find oneself stomping around in one’s very own metaphorical Mount Crumpit cave of negative thoughts and emotional distress, feeling as isolated as the Grinch. Here’s my Christmas gift to you, Darling Reader: permission to turn loose a little. Let go of the reins of that sleigh full of pressures you put on yourself for the “perfect” holiday card photo/Christmas tree/present/six-course dinner/whatever. Because, as the Grinch learned that day, Christmas isn’t about the packages, boxes, or bags.

grinch2


Opinions expressed in this blog are, as always, solely those of the author and in no way representative of the employees of WCPL or of their families, friends, or pets masquerading as reindeer. Further, the author wishes everyone a safe, joyous, stress-free holiday season and hopes to see you back here in 2017 for more exhilarating blog installments.

The Transcendence of Calvin and Hobbes

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

I can’t remember the exact date that a smart-mouthed, spiky-haired kid named Calvin and his very real stuffed tiger Hobbes entered my life. I’m reasonably certain that it was not November 18, 1985, as I was a smart-mouthed, big-haired high school sophomore (do the math, Darling Reader) who was more concerned with my reflection in the mirror than with reflection on love, art, theology, mortality, public education, paleontology, environmentalism, and the repercussive effects of human free will.

ch3

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbes was conceived by American cartoonist Bill Watterson and made its syndicated debut on November 18, 1985, and ran until December 31, 1995. The strip follows the raucous antics and adventures of Calvin, a precocious six-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his quick-witted toy tiger. The pair was named for 16th-century French theologian John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes, a 17th-century English philosopher. Hobbes’ shifting duality is a defining theme of the strip: to Calvin, he is a live, anthropomorphic tiger; to all others (his parents, his archnemesis Susie Derkins, et. al.), he is an inanimate plush toy.

At the height of its popularity, Calvin and Hobbes was featured in more than 2,400 newspapers worldwide. As of 2010, reruns of the strip appeared in more than 50 countries and nearly 45 million copies of the compilation books of the strip had been sold. At the time of the strip’s creation, Watterson was employed in the advertising industry, and detested it, and began to devote increasing amounts of his spare time to cartooning. United Feature rejected Watterson’s fledgling strip, but Universal Press Syndicate took it on. Within a year of syndication, Calvin and Hobbes appeared in approximately 250 newspapers.

From the beginning, Watterson found himself at odds with the syndicate, primarily over the issue of merchandising. Watterson insisted that cartoon strips should stand on their own as a form of artistic expression, and he adamantly refused for the images of Calvin and Hobbes to be used in traditional items for marketing and promotion such as apparel, plush toys, action figures, and the like. Of course, the strip’s overwhelming popularity gave rise to the appearance of various counterfeit items such as window decals and t-shirts that often depicted crude humor, drug usage, alcohol consumption, and other themes that were not found in Watterson’s work. Watterson once wryly commented that he had “clearly miscalculated how popular it would be to show Calvin urinating on a Ford logo.”  To that end, almost no legitimate Calvin and Hobbes merchandise exists outside of the book collections. The notable exceptions are two 16-month calendars that were produced from 1988-1990, and a textbook titled Teaching With Calvin and Hobbes, which has been described as the most difficult piece of official Calvin and Hobbes memorabilia to find. Only 8 libraries on the planet have a copy of the book.

Throughout the lifespan of Calvin and Hobbes’ syndication, Watterson took two extended sabbaticals from writing new strips, from May 1991 to February 1992, and from April to December 1994. In 1995, Watterson sent a letter via his syndicate to all newspaper editors whose papers had carried Calvin and Hobbes, informing them that he would cease to publish the strip. The final Calvin and Hobbes strip ran on December 31, 1995. It featured Calvin and Hobbes cavorting in a winter wonderland of freshly fallen snow and pondering the endless possibilities of the day and the year:

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

ch1It’s a magical world, indeed, Dear Reader . . . let’s go exploring in it every opportunity we get.

 

Sources and Suggested Reading:

  • The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book by Bill Watterson (J 741.5073 WAT)
  • The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury by Bill Watterson (741.5 WAT)
  • Peanuts, Pogo and Hobbes: A Newspaper Editor’s Journey Through the World of Comics by George Lockwood (070.92 LOC)
  • Something Under the Bed is Drooling: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection by Bill Watterson (J 741.5973 WAT)

Viewpoints expressed in this blog belong solely to the author, and are in no way representative of the opinions of WCPL employees, their long-suffering parents, or their pet tigers.

 

Zen and the Art of Winnie-the-Pooh

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

After a particularly nerve-shredding week that saw citizens foaming at the mouth over the divorce announcement of a high-profile celebrity couple, schools placed on lockout over bizarre and inexplicable clown sightings, and a media frenzy surrounding the alleged armed robbery of millions of dollars in jewelry from a woman who is famous merely for being famous (and saying and doing obnoxious things), I was desperate for some calm.  (Fans of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” may insert a quote here from the delightful and unparalleled Daryl Dixon:  “Am I the only one Zen around here?  Good Lord!”)   I needed some Zen and I needed it fast.  How utterly fortuitous it is that I am employed in the Children’s Department of Williamson County Public Library, by which I was granted an unrestricted, all-access pass to some books about Alan Alexander Milne’s deceptively simple but actually quite wise “Silly Old Bear,” that delightful creature who has won the hearts of readers for more than nine decades, Winnie The Pooh.

pooh1

Winnie the Pooh, aka Pooh Bear, first appeared as Edward Bear in a poem in A.A. Milne’s1924 children’s verse book When We Were Very Young.  The first collection of stories about Pooh and his friends was Winnie-the-Pooh, published in October of 1926 and followed by The House at Pooh Corner in 1928.  Milne named the character for a teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne, who was of course the inspiration for the character Christopher Robin.  Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger were also toys belonging to Christopher Robin Milne and were incorporated into A.A. Milne’s stories.  Owl and Rabbit were created from Milne’s imagination, and Gopher was later added in the Disney theatrical adaptation.  Some of Christopher Robin Milne’s original toys have been on display at the Main Branch of the New York Public Library in New York City.

pooh2

Dear Reader, you’ll be thrilled to learn that after spending some time reminiscing with Pooh and his friends (and a delicious cup of black chai tea), I was able to regain my sense of Zen.  While contemplating a second cup of tea, it occurred to me that Pooh is quite fond of snacks, and I think he would wholeheartedly encourage me to have another, and accompany it with a “smackerel” of something.  If you recall, Pooh makes it a habit to eat a snack at around eleven in the morning.  Seeing as how all the clocks in Pooh’s house “stopped at five minutes to eleven some weeks ago,” then pretty much any time of day or night can be considered Pooh’s snack time.

“Christopher Robin was at home by this time,

because it was the afternoon, and he was so glad     

to see them that they stayed there until very nearly

tea-time, and then they had a Very Nearly Tea,

which is one you forget about afterwards, and

hurried on to Pooh Corner, so as to see Eeyore before

it was too late to have a Proper Tea with Owl.”

–“The House at Pooh Corner”

So as my tea was brewing, I pondered to myself (ok, I might have actually verbalized some of my random thoughts to my cat Blackie Lawless, who was hovering around hoping for a “smackerel” of something herself, and was more than willing to hedge her bets and pretend to listen to my idle musings, if it resulted in her getting some food) how fabulous it would be if we all—librarians, movie stars, Department of Motor Vehicles employees, politicians, pizza delivery guys, rappers, and plumbers—were to manifest more of Pooh’s characteristics in our own lives.  For instance, Pooh is portrayed in Milne’s books as naïve and often a little slow on the uptake, but occasionally Pooh has a really clever idea, often sparked by urgency and fueled by common sense.  Pooh showed remarkable initiative the time he used one of his honey pots, which he christened The Floating Bear, to navigate to Christopher Robin’s house during a flood, and then together they utilized Christopher Robin’s umbrella to rescue little Piglet from rising floodwaters.  How glorious it would be if we all shared our umbrellas, so to speak, with friends and strangers alike.

Pooh is also an extremely social animal (see what I did there?) and also very loving toward his friends, who are really more family than friends, in my opinion.  In Pooh’s own words, “It’s always useful to know where a friend-and-relation is, whether you want him or whether you don’t.”  Although Pooh chooses to spend most of his time with Christopher Robin and Piglet, he habitually pays visits to Kanga and Roo, Rabbit, Tigger, Owl, and Eeyore.  Pooh’s thoughtfulness and kindhearted nature compel him to go out of his way to be especially friendly to gloomy Eeyore, visiting him frequently and even building him a house (with Piglet’s help), despite getting lukewarm sentiments from Eeyore in return.  How fabulous that would be, if we all followed Pooh’s example and put the needs of others ahead of our own from time to time, with disregard to personal gain.

Dear Reader, thanks for dropping by for another installment of my kid-lit-inspired mental meanderings.  I believe that this charming, thought-provoking Silly Old Bear and his friends will continue to delight and inspire readers far beyond the century mark.

pooh3

 

*All opinions and viewpoints advanced herein the above blog belong solely to the author and her cats: Blackie Lawless, Roxy Blue, Jack Bauer, and Pearl.

Sources and suggested reading:

  • A.A. Milne, Author of Winnie the Pooh by Marlene Toby (J 92 MILNE)
  • The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (J F MIL)
  • Disney’s Winnie the Pooh:   A Celebration of the Silly Old Bear by Christopher Finch (791.43  FIN)
  • Pooh and the Psychologists (In Which It Is Proven That Pooh Bear Is a Brilliant Psychotherapist) by John Tyerman Williams (823.912  WIL)
  • The Pooh Dictionary:  The Complete Guide To The Words Of  Pooh & All The Animals In The Forest by A.R. Melrose (J 828.91209  MEL)
  • Postmodern Pooh by Frederick Crews (823.912  CRE)
  • The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff (828.91209  HOF)
  • Winnie the Pooh:  The Essential Guide by Beth Landis Hester (J 791.4372 HES)

Little Women’s Growing Up: Happy Birthday!

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Dear Reader,

lw2

Louisa May Alcott

I have a confession to make.  (Don’t get excited, it’s severely tame as far as confessions go.)  I’ve never read Louisa May Alcott’s classic girl-coming-of-age story, Little Women.  I haven’t seen any of the film adaptations, either.  As you might expect, this makes writing a blog about it somewhat challenging . . .

Louisa May Alcott (herein referred to as LMA) was born on November 29, 1832, on her father’s 33rd birthday, in Germantown (which later became part of Philadelphia), Pennsylvania.  She was the second of four daughters born to educator and transcendentalist Amos Bronson Alcott and social worker Abby May Alcott, and joined 20-month-old sister Anna Bronson Alcott.  The births of Elizabeth Sewall Alcott in June 1835 and Abigail May Alcott in July1840 completed the Alcott clan.  Readers will notice the many parallels between LMA’s family and that of the March Family in her most widely known publication, Little Women, which was published on September 30, 1868.

lw1The Alcott Family moved to Boston in 1834, where LMA’s father established an experimental school and joined the ranks of the Transcendental Movement with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  The majority of LMA’s education came from her strict, high-minded father Bronson Alcott, but she also received instruction from Thoreau, Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller, all of whom were family friends.  In 1840, after several disappointing setbacks with the school, the Alcotts moved to a cottage on the river in Concord, Massachusetts.  LMA has described this period of her life as idyllic, and it was in Concord that she first began writing poems and stories and keeping a journal.  In 1843, the Alcotts and six other people moved to a communal farm called Fruitlands.  A rigid lifestyle was maintained at this Utopian commune; members of the community did not eat meat, chicken, or fish, and they wore clothing made of rough linen spun from flax fibers, as they believed it was wrong to take the life of an animal for its hide or even to shear its coat (i.e., wool) or to use a product of slavery (cotton.)  This grand experiment collapsed spectacularly, leaving Bronson bitterly disappointed and physically ill.  LMA’s mother nursed him back to health, and with an inheritance from Abby’s family and financial help from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Alcotts were able to purchase a homestead in Concord in April of 1845.  Hillside, later called The Wayside, is the backdrop for Little Women, and the novel is a semi-autobiographical account of LMA’s childhood experiences with her three sisters: Anna, Elizabeth, and May.

littlewomen4The Alcott clan endured periods of extreme poverty, due in large measure to the idealistic and impractical nature of LMA’s father.  Family was everything to LMA, so when she realized just how poor her family was, and how terribly her beloved mother suffered as a result, she decided to devote her life to supporting her family.  LMA went to work at a very early age as a teacher, seamstress, governess, maid, and writer.  As a coping mechanism to survive these pressures, writing became an emotional and creative outlet for LMA.  Her first book, Flower Fables, was published when she was just seventeen years old.   The stories that she wrote during her teenage years earned her very little money.  Hospital Sketches, a collection of letters that LMA had written home during her stint as a nurse in the American Civil War, finally won her some critical acclaim, and the publication of Little Women in 1868 brought her fame that exceeded everything she had dreamed of, and freed her family from poverty forever.

6ce3221ebf5ad145ab24b16470467022In Little Women, LMA based her protagonist Jo March on herself, and nearly every character in the novel is paralleled to some extent on her family members and friends.  Beth March’s death mirrors that of Lizzie Alcott from scarlet fever, and LMA’s love and admiration of her mother shines through the characterization of Marmee, the beloved matriarch of the March Family.   Little Women (or, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy) was very well received, as readers and critics found it suitable for many age groups.  It was said to be a “fresh, natural representation of daily life” in New England, and a reviewer at Eclectic magazine called it one of the very best books to reach the hearts of anyone from six to sixty.  A second part to Little Women, titled Good Wives, was published in 1869, and afterward was published in a single volume.  The next novel in the Little Women trilogy, Little MenLife at Plumfield With Jo’s Boys, was published in 1871; the completion of the series was published in 1886 under the title Jo’s Boys and How They Turned Out.

mtmxody3nzi0mdi3ntc4mzc4LMA endured many health problems in her later years, and died of a stroke at age 55 in March 1888, just two days after the death of her father.  Early biographers have attributed her poor health to mercury poisoning from the treatment she received for typhoid fever during her service as a nurse during the American Civil War.  More recent analysis suggests that LMA may have suffered from an autoimmune disease such as lupus, and not acute mercury exposure.  She is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, near her instructors, friends, and mentors Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau, on a hillside now known as “Author’s Ridge.”   Her most famous creation, Little Women, has endured the test of time and is still widely read and enjoyed today.

 

*Opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are in no way reflective of WCPL employees or their siblings. Additionally, the author takes full responsibility for her intellectual sloth in not actually reading the book that she so arrogantly blogs about, and hereby honestly swears to do better next time.

Sources and suggested reading:

  • Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs (J 92 ALC)
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (J F  ALCOTT)
  • Louisa May Alcott:  Her Girlhood Diary by Cary Ryan (J 818.403  ALC)
  • Louisa:  The Life of Louisa May Alcott by Yona Zeldis McDonough (J 92 ALCOTT)

 

Amazing Women Athletes: Gabby Douglas

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Even if you don’t know a pommel horse from a polo pony, it’s nearly impossible not to be inspired by the amazing American gymnast Gabby Douglas. Gabby is the first African-American and the first woman of color from any nation to win a Gold medal in the individual gymnastics all-around competition; the fourth female American gymnast to win the Gold; and the first U.S. gymnast to receive both of those honors in a single Olympic Games, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Furthermore, she accomplished all of that before her 17th birthday. Douglas is also the first female reigning Olympic all-around champion to return to the World Championships and medal in the all-around since Elena Davydova in 1981.

gdouglas 1

Gabrielle Christina Victoria Douglas was born on New Year’s Eve 1995 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the youngest of four children to Natalie Hawkins and Timothy Douglas. Gabby was raised by her mother and her siblings Arielle, Joyelle, and Johnathan, and it was Arielle who encouraged Gabby to begin tumbling and trying cartwheels and convinced their mother to allow Gabby to begin gymnastics lessons at age 6. Arielle said, “I taught her how to do a cartwheel, then the next day I saw her doing one-handed cartwheels and I thought, I didn’t teach you that!” Gabby’s undeniable talent for gymnastics soon became evident when at age 8 she won the Level 4 all-around gymnastics title at the 2004 Virginia State Championships.

In October 2010, Gabby moved halfway across the country from her home in Virginia to Iowa to train under Liang Chow, the 1990 World Cup Nationals champion for the Chinese men’s gymnastics team, at his prestigious Gymnastics and Dance Institute in West Des Moines. Gabby lived with a host family, Travis and Missy Parton and their four daughters, while undergoing intensive training with Chow in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. The blonde-haired, green-eyed Partons took Gabby in and treated her as one of their own, but needless to say, there were moments of culture shock. In her book “Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith,” Gabby recounts how weird it was to go for days at a time in Iowa without seeing another person with a skin tone even close to her own. “When my Mom came to town, she and I started a joke about it,” Gabby said. They turned it into a game, a la the classic car trip game “Punch Buggy” —but instead of hitting the other on the arm when they spied a Volkswagen Beetle, Gabby and her mom would trade swats and say “Black person!”

gdouglas 2In September 2011, while still not completely healed from a sprained hamstring and injured hip flexor, Gabby traveled to Texas to a World Championship verification camp at the facility owned by prominent gymnastics coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi. Gabby was chosen for a spot on the World Championship team at age 15, making her the youngest gymnast on the team. Her chances of making it to London were contingent upon a single competition, the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo. Team USA edged out Russia and China to win the gold, and Gabby’s performance on the uneven bar finals earned her the nickname “Flying Squirrel” from Marta Karolyi. Another hurdle to Gabby’s road to London had just been cleared.

Since Gabby’s meteoric rise from underdog to superstar, her personal brand—and her faith in God– has only gotten stronger. She has co-authored two books, created her own line of leotards called Gabbymojis, and appeared with her family in a docuseries on Oxygen called Douglas Family Gold. Her beautiful face has graced magazine covers such as Sports Illustrated, Time, Teen Vogue, People, and Essence, and endorsements for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Procter & Gamble’s “beauty brands,” Nike, and Mattel (Barbie), just to name a few. She cites former All-American collegiate football player and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow as an inspiration to speak publicly about her strong Christian faith. Gabby has said, “I don’t think I could have done it if he hadn’t been so bold about his own faith during interviews.”

By the time you are reading this, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will be off by leaps and bounds (Faithful Readers, y’all know I couldn’t complete a blog without at least one pun) and Gabby and her Fierce Five teammates will once again be vaulting (oops, I did it again) toward their dreams of bringing home more American gold.gdouglas 3

 


Sources and suggested reading:

  • Awesome Athletes: Gabby Douglas by Jameson Anderson (J 92 DOUGLAS)
  • “The Comeback Kid,” Teen Vogue, June/July 2016
  • Gabby Douglas by Jon M. Fishman (J 92 DOUGLAS)
  • Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith by Gabrielle Douglas and Michelle Burford (J 92 DOUGLAS)
  • Great Moments in Olympic Gymnastics by Blythe Lawrence (J 796.44 LAWRENCE)
  • Raising The Bar by Gabrielle Douglas (J 92 DOUGLAS)
The opinions expressed here in this fourth installment of the “Amazing Female Athletes” series belong solely to the author and are in no way representative of any other WCPL employees, their families, friends, and coaches. Ms. Parish has visited London in the past, and has also been referred to as a squirrel, but that’s about where the similarities between the author of the blog and the subject of the blog come to an abrupt dismount.

Beautiful Bruiser: Laila Ali

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

The name Laila loosely translates to “night blooming flower” in Arabic, but Laila Ali is certainly no shrinking violet. (Author’s note: I’m going to start incorporating a drinking game into my blogs. Darling Reader, whenever you encounter one of my obnoxious puns, take a nice deep pull of whatever beverage you have close at hand. Please drink responsibly.)

Laila Amaria Ali was born on December 30, 1977 in Miami Beach, Florida, to famed boxer Muhammad Ali (nee Cassius Clay) and his third wife, Veronica Porsche-Ali. Laila is the eighth of her father’s nine children. One might think that Laila led an easy life as the child of a world-renowned athlete, but her childhood was anything but placid. Her parents divorced when she was 7, and Laila made a number of bad decisions as a rebellious teenager — fighting, ditching school, boosting her mother’s car, shoplifting, credit card fraud — and spent time in a juvenile detention center, youth group homes, and later, jail. 1

Laila decided to begin boxing at age 18, after having what she called “a revelation” while watching a women’s match that was a preliminary bout to a Mike Tyson fight. She began training in earnest, adding strenuous workouts to her already busy life of owning her own nail salon and working on a business degree at Santa Monica Community College. In January of 1999, Laila knew that a conversation with Muhammad Ali about her new endeavor was long overdue, as her ring debut was quickly approaching. Laila’s father, who by this time had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (which many believe was exacerbated by the years of punishment he took from shots to the head in the boxing ring) was not at all happy that his daughter was following in his footsteps and entering into such a dangerous profession. Laila assured him that she would be fighting women, that she had Muhammad’s genetics, and that she would never again behave in a manner that would bring dishonor to him or to herself. After a long moment of stony silence, Muhammad spoke at last: “OK, come over here and show me your left jab.”

For her first professional boxing match on October 8, 1999 at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York, the 21-year-old Laila weighed in at 166 pounds, placing her in the Super Middleweight class. Laila’s first match was attended by many fans and journalists, primarily because she was Muhammad Ali’s daughter. Her opponent, April Fowler, described by WomenBoxing.com as an “out-of-shape novice,” was knocked out by Laila just 31 seconds into the first round. Laila’s boxing career was firmly launched, and she went on to compete in a total of 24 matches over the next eight years. She retired undefeated, after defeating Gwendolyn O’Neil by technical knockout in the first round in South Africa on February 2, 2007 in her last professional fight.2

After retiring from boxing, Laila didn’t sit around counting her money and polishing her belts. She had already appeared in a music video for Canadian rock band Default and had guest starred on the George Lopez show, so her transition from professional athlete to professional actress was not a difficult one. (Author’s note: I wonder if, in addition to her boxing prowess, she inherited any of her famous father’s flair for theatrics.) In mid-2007, Laila was a participant in Dancing With The Stars; she partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and they finished the competition in third place, coming in behind Apolo Anton Ohno and Julianne Hough in first place and to Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson in second. In 2008, Laila hosted the revival of American Gladiators with former wrestler Hulk Hogan, and the two became close friends. In his memoir My Life Outside The Ring, Hogan credits Laila with saving his life when he was in a downward spiral of depression over his impending divorce and a family tragedy, and was self-medicating with rum and Xanax and becoming increasingly suicidal. “She called with no agenda, just to say hi and check on me,” Hogan said. “It snapped me out of it . . . (hearing) her voice saved my life.”

3On July 23, 2007, Laila married former NFL player Curtis Conway, and they have two children together: Curtis, Jr. and Sydney. She continues to be a highly sought-after public speaker, and in addition to eloquence and athletic prowess, Laila also inherited her father’s philanthropic spirit. Muhammad Ali’s generosity was legendary, and Laila is very active in many charitable causes—Feeding America and Women’s Sports Foundation, to name just two. She is an inspiration to many, and earned her place in our “Amazing Female Athletes” series.


Sources and suggested readings:

 

The opinions expressed here in this third installment of the “Amazing Female Athletes” series belong solely to the author and are in no way representative of any other WCPL employees or their families and friends. Additionally, the author neither floats like a butterfly nor stings like a bee, but she has in the past threatened to bite noisy or unruly patrons.

Keep Your Eye On The Ball: Amazing Alex Morgan

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

Soccer sensation. Olympic gold medalist. Social media star. Gorgeous product spokesperson. Savvy businesswoman. Published author. All of this and so much more encompasses the phenomenon that is Alexandra Patricia Morgan, or “Baby Horse,” as she was once called by her teammates on the US Women’s National Team for her unbridled (oh, y’all knew I couldn’t get through one of my blogs without at least one pun) speed and strength.

1Alex was born on July 2, 1989 to Pamela and Michael Morgan and grew up in Diamond Bar, California, with two older sisters, Jeni and Jeri. Alex played multiple sports growing up, and began playing soccer at age 5 for the American Youth Soccer Association (AYSO), and began playing soccer at the club level for Cypress Elite, based in Orange County, at age 14. But it was long before then, at the age of 8, when Alex declared to her parents that she was going to be a professional soccer player and was going to represent the United States in the Olympic Games someday. She has certainly realized those lofty goals, and more.

At age 17, Alex was called up to play for the United States’ under-20 women’s national team, and she played for the Golden Bears at the University of California at Berkley, from 2007-2010. She finished her college career ranked third all-time in goals scored (45) for the Golden Bears, and graduated one semester early with a degree in Political Economy.

2On January 11, 2011, Alex was the first pick overall in the Women’s Professional Soccer draft by the Western New York Flash. Never one to wait around for something to happen, Alex scored her first professional goal for the Flash in the team’s home opener against the Atlanta Beat on May 1, 2011, resulting in a 3-0 win for Alex’s new team. In ensuing years, Alex has been on the roster for the Seattle Sounders Women (along with US National teammates Hope Solo, Sydney Leroux, Megan Rapinoe, and Stephanie Cox) for the 2012 season; the Portland Thorns FC from 2013-2015; and was traded in October 2015 to expansion team Orlando Pride, where she is currently on the roster.

In addition to her professional play, Alex has been an integral part of the US Women’s National Team. She became a starting player for the US in January of 2012 in the final match of the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Olympic qualifying tournament. Once again, Alex asserted her dominance, scoring twice and providing two assists to teammate Abby Wambach that day, resulting in a 4-0 win over the Canadian hosts and securing her spot as a starter. Her prowess was crucial in the USWNT’s road to the final; she scored the winning goal in the semifinal against Canada in stoppage time during the 123rd minute of the game, sending the United States to the gold medal match against Japan. In that exhilarating 2-1 finish, Alex assisted on a Carli Lloyd header to secure the gold for the United States. For her excellence on the field, Alex was named by US Soccer as the 2012 Female Athlete of the Year, and she was honored by Diamond Bar High School by the retiring of her number, 13.

3Lest you think that “Baby Horse” is a one-trick pony (sorry, sorry), you need to know that in addition to being a world-class athlete, Alex is also a published novelist. In 2012, she signed with Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing to write a series of books called The Kicks. The main characters are four female middle schoolers, and the books focus on themes of friendship, leadership, and (of course), soccer. The first novel of the series, Saving The Team, was released on May 14, 2013, and debuted at number 7 on the New York Times Best Seller list for Children’s Middle Grade.   Alex has signed endorsement deals with Nike, Panasonic, Coca-Cola, and Bank of America and has appeared in advertisements for GNC, ChapStick, Bridgestone, and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. On January 24, 2016, Alex received the key to the city of her hometown of Diamond Bar, California.

Alex announced her engagement via Twitter to professional soccer player Servando Carrasco on December 9, 2013, and they were married on New Year’s Eve of 2014 in Santa Barbara, California, in the presence of their family, friends, and teammates. Alex brings the same tenacity that she demonstrates on the soccer pitch to fighting for pay equality for women athletes. She joined fellow USWNT teammates Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Hope Solo on March 31, 2016 in filing a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against U.S. Soccer claiming the women’s team should be paid the same as the U.S. Men’s National team. “We ultimately decided to file this motion for all the little girls around the world who deserve the same respect as the boys,” Alex wrote. “They deserve a voice, and if we as professional athletes don’t leverage the voices we have, we are letting them down. We will not let them down.” This, darling readers, is one of the many reasons that Alex Morgan is not only an amazing athlete, but an amazing person.

 


Sources and suggested reading:

  • Alex Morgan (J 92 MORGAN) by Jon M. Fishman
  • World Soccer Legends: Alex Morgan (J 796.3340) by Illugi Jokulsson
  • The Girls of Summer (796.3340 LON) by Jere Longman
  • Saving The Team (J F MORGAN) by Alex Morgan
  • Breakaway (J 92 MORGAN) by Alex Morgan
  • www.alexmorgansoccer.com
  • www.ussoccer.com/womens-national-team

 

As ever, the opinions and viewpoints expressed here, in this second installment of my “Amazing Women Athletes” series, are the sole province of the author and not representative of any other WCPL employees, their families, or their housepets. Additionally, the author may have been witnessed in the past screaming obscenities in the general direction of her TV while the USMNT and USWNT are playing.

 

Most Memorable Moms in Kid-Lit

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

 Mother’s Day will be celebrated in America this year on Sunday, May 8. Now, Darling Reader, I like and respect your intelligence and taste, hence I will not tell you the egregious lie that motherhood is all sunshine and lollipops and playdates in the park, even if your kids are as fabulous as mine. Honestly, some days are monsoons and Brussels sprouts and grouting all the bathrooms in your house. So the following list of amazing moms is not presented with the intent to make you feel less-than about your own life, but to remind you that they are fictional characters. I’d like to think that even Marmee March would quickly morph into Mommie Dearest if she had to hear the words “I don’t have anything to wear!” for the fifty-eleventh time, or “Why is there never anything good to eat in this house?” as they stand in front of a fully-stocked refrigerator and/or pantry. Not that my children would ever do that. But I digress . . .

Here, in no particular order of magnificent Mom-ness, are some of my personal favorite mothers from children’s literature:

CharlotteCharlotte’s Web by EB White (J F WHI) Yeah, I know, most people don’t love on the arachnids, but Charlotte the Spider is such a kind and wise mother figure to Wilbur the Pig. She becomes his staunch defender, and eventually saves his bacon (OMG, I’m so sorry, I couldn’t resist.) SPOILER ALERT: even the most jaded reader will be hard-pressed to hold back the tears at the book’s close, with Charlotte’s life ending as her wee hatchlings’ lives are just beginning.CharlotteWeb

Mother BirdAre You My Mother? PD Eastman (J E EAS) This book, about a baby bird who escapes from his egg a bit too early and goes in search of his mother (who is away from the nest procuring a tasty worm for her precious fledgling) is an excellent book to read for Mother’s Day. Birdlet asks a whole host of characters, from the living (kitten, hen, dog, cow) to the inanimate (car, boat, airplane, steamshovel), if they are his mother. With each response, Little Wing learns that they are not in fact his mother. Haven’t we all been this little bird at some point in our lives? Whether we’ve temporarily gotten disconnected from our mom in the wilds of Kroger or are living hundreds of miles away from her in a dirty cold unfriendly town somewhere above the Mason-Dixon Line, that desperate feeling when you just really, really need your mother is all too real. SPOILER ALERT: with an assist from the steamshovel called Snort, Birdie does in fact find his mother, and his dinner.are-you-my-mother-cover-image

Molly WeasleyHarry Potter series by JK Rowling (J F ROW) The matriarch of the boisterous Weasley clan, Molly Weasley is a desperately needed maternal figure for our beloved Harry. She is the center and the moral compass of a large and raucous family, and is by turns gentle nurturer and fierce protector; the part during the Battle of Hogwarts, where Molly defends her daughter Ginny from the ghastly Bellatrix Lestrange, always makes me smile. I mean, a mom of a bunch of redheads with a magic wand? Righteous!grid-cell-14969-1375222023-8

SarahSarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (J F MAC) Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton answers widowed farmer Jacob Witting’s advertisement for a mail-order bride, and travels from her seaside home in Maine to vast, landlocked Kansas to meet Jacob and his children, Anna and Caleb. Will she like them? Will she stay? Does she sing? Anna’s and Caleb’s longing for a mother to love and to love them back nearly leaps from every page. Strong, independent, kind Sarah completes the Witting family.SarahPlain

Marmee/Mrs. MarchLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott (J F ALC) Literary moms don’t get any better than Marmee, or Mrs. March, mother of the March daughters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (AKA the Little Women.) Kind, charitable, and loving, Marmee holds the March household together throughout the Civil War and Mr. March’s long absence serving as a chaplain. She can always be relied on, no matter what.LittleWomen7

Raksha/Mother Wolf —The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (J F KIP)  Although the snide query “What, were you raised by wolves?” is generally not indicative of someone having an abundance of grace and good manners, one could certainly do worse than having a mom like Raksha (which means “protection” in Hindi and other languages.) Not only does she save Mowgli the man-cub from being Shere Khan’s tasty tiger treat, but she takes him into her pack and raises him as her own. “And it is I, Raksha the Demon, who answers,” said Mother Wolf angrily. “The man cub is mine! He shall not be killed! He will run with my Pack and hunt with my Pack. In the end, you hunter of man cubs, you frog eater and fish killer . . . . he will hunt you!” Really puts the car rider line at your child’s elementary school into perspective, doesn’t it?jungle_book

So, Darling Reader—regardless of your location or your circumstances, may you all have a blessed Mother’s Day.

 


As always, the random ramblings that are revealed here are the sole province of the author and may not be reflective of the opinions of any other WCPL employees, their children, or their pet pigs. The author has been compared to a mother wolf in the past, but sadly, she does not possess a magic wand.

 

Hilariously Humorous Children’s Books

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Deptartment

Hey, no kidding! April is National Humor Month. So, in no particular order of hilarity, here are 7 raucously funny children’s books to help you celebrate:

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! By Mo Willems (J E WIL) AR level 0.9, Caldecott Honor book
Pigeon just wants to drive the doggone bus. He begs, pleads, whines, and offers a bribe to the reader to let him drive the bus, to no avail. Pigeon’s frustration drives him to have a spectacular little meltdown when he doesn’t get his way, but as he is ranting and carrying on, a ginormous red semi pulls up, and Pigeon’s dreams of driving are rekindled.pigeon_bus_cover_lg

Olivia by Ian Falconer (J E FAL) AR level 2.0
Olivia has been one of my personal favorites for more than a decade. I mean, how can you not admire and adore this charming, creative, confident, stylish creature? The original book spawned many more Olivia titles and an eponymous television show, but the whole Olivia experience — and often, parenthood itself— can be summed up by the last page, where Olivia’s mother kisses her goodnight and says, “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.”410E4S3D33L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Duck! Rabbit! By Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (J E ROS)
“Hey, look! A duck!” “That’s not a duck. That’s a rabbit!” And thus ensues the spirited debate over what, exactly, it is.51g38hPe5dL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca) and Lane Smith (does not rhyme with Fresca). (J E SCI) AR level 3.4
“Oh, man! What is that funky smell?” And that’s not even the funniest line from this rollicking collection of short stories that totally lends itself to reading aloud in funny voices. Why, this anthology is so hilarious, it even comes with a SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: It has been determined that these tales are fairly stupid and probably dangerous to your health. Most of the stories are twisted variations on classic fairy tales; for instance, “The Stinky Cheese Man” is a modern retelling of “The Gingerbread Man.” Unhinged, I tell you!StinkyCheeseMan

He Came With The Couch by David Slonim (J E SLO) AR level 1.5
After an exhaustive search, Sophie’s family has finally found the perfect couch. But there’s just one catch to the couch: a mysterious blue Muppet-ish creature is currently ensconced upon it. Sophie and her family try valiantly to remove him (and also cure his raging case of upholsterosis) but to no avail. In the end, the little blue dude proves his worth when he saves Sophie from calamity.51rwrbUpQSL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (J E STE) AR level 2.2
This charming book will resonate with anyone who has ever attempted to get a child to wind it down to bedtime with a nice, relaxing story. Little Chicken wants Papa to read her a bedtime story, but she just can’t bear to see Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, et. al. make such potentially dangerous mistakes, so she keeps interrupting the stories and putting her own spin on the endings. Stein’s sweet story demonstrates that being an active participant in the storytelling process can be satisfying and very funny.Interrupting-Chicken-Book-Cover

The Cat In The Hat by Dr . Seuss (J E SEU) AR level 2.1
Seriously, what list of humorous children’s books would be complete without the rollicking tale of the stovepipe-hatted feline troublemaker who shows up on a boring, rainy day with the sole mission of showing two well-behaved kids how to have a little fun? Yes, Cat completely trashes the house, but he cleans up his mess just in the nick of time, subliminally imparting a lesson to Sally and her brother (who was never officially named in the book, but was christened “Conrad” in the 2003 film adaptation, just so you’ll know.) Also, an ethical matter to consider is imparted in the final pages:

“And Sally and I did not know what to say.
Should we tell her the things that went on there that day?
Should we tell her about it? Now, what should we do?
Well . . . what would YOU do, if your mother asked you?”

9780449810866Laugh it up, Faithful Reader—


***As always, the viewpoints espoused here are solely those of the author and not in any way reflective of the opinions of WCPL employees, their families, or their pet chickens. Also, the author’s last name doesn’t rhyme with Fresca, either.)

%d bloggers like this: