by Taylor Cheney
The age-old idiom “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” could not be more true for Tom Feelings’ I Saw Your Face. This cliche reasoning is not because the book’s binding is misleading, or unpleasant to the eye in any way. It is because that while the story may look like it belongs in a library’s young adult section or stacked upon a little boy or girl’s bookshelf, the pages reveal a mature subject and a poetic depth that does not often characterize children’s literature.
The short story goes beyond the text to possess a narration all its own. While the story is about Feelings’ African heritage and his journeys and the faces he came across around the world, the text itself was written by his friend and colleague, Kwame Dawes. The Jamaican native has been an influential writer, poet and musician, including a cherished former English professor at the University of South Carolina. In the introduction to I Saw Your Face, Dawes explains the birth of the story and how the text was an emotional response to Feelings’ illustrations, who was also a former art professor at the University of South Carolina. Their sensational bond is unavoidable and is a “lasting testament to Tom’s kindness and visionary force.”
Each page carries a different face and expression following a story of survival, identity, and the quest for familiarity. Dawes writes that in all his travels, he always has this “peculiar sense of seeing faces that look so familiar” even though there is no way he could have before. From Suriname, to New Orleans, Mombasa, Savannah – these faces follow the writer that look the same but have their own defining characteristics about them. These are the faces of Dawes’ and Feelings’ culture, “full of ancient stories and dreams,” that do not haunt them, but instead exist as reminders that no matter where we go, our origins never leave us.
As part of the South Carolina State Library’s remodeling efforts, our web server will be periodically unavailable until Friday, December 14. The websites affected include our main website, DISCUS, WorkSC, StudySC, ReadSC, and DayByDaySC.
Outages are not planned to last longer than a few minutes at a time. If you find any of our sites offline, please try visiting again in a few minutes. We apologize for any inconvenience this will cause. Thank you for your patience.
With only 26 letters in the English alphabet, it is difficult to highlight all of South Carolina’s symbolic staples. However, author Carol Crane manages to pinpoint the state’s flora, fauna, and fascinating culture in these short boundaries in P is for Palmetto: A South Carolina Alphabet.
Crane cleverly presents a new identity that relates to the history of the Palmetto State with each letter. In doing so, Crane travels all over the state, ranging from Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand (for G) to the Upcountry (for U) while also providing a brief insight to its significance. As if the intricate watercolor illustrations don’t do enough (done by Mary Whyte) the book’s pages read like postcards – something you would want to share with a friend to show South Carolina’s lush history and landscape. “P is for Palmetto, our official state tree,” she writes, “It’s also a symbol on our flag, respected by you and me.”
In addition to P is for Palmetto, Crane is also the author of 21 other children’s stories, including P is for Peach: A Georgia Alphabet and S is for Sunshine: A Florida Alphabet. The book is contagiously fun to read, especially for young readers who will be anxious to learn what the next letter will represent (if they are not too distracted by the beautiful artwork). In addition, the story also leaves the reader with ‘A Path Full of Facts’ with questions and answers about South Carolina that you can learn throughout the book.
Crane’s work has the ability to function as both a favorite bedtime story and a descriptive (and more entertaining) history book. In fact, it may even teach a thing or two to a parent or teacher reading this!
by Taylor Cheney
Growing up, young girls are programmed to desire any type of hair they don’t already possess – literally, any. No matter how straight, free from frizz, or glossy a girl’s hair is, she will always convince herself that the curly, wavier, more voluminous roots would look better atop her little head. Nonetheless, there are numerous ways to surrender to this childish appetite, but Dinah Johnson suggests otherwise.
In her children’s book, Hair Dance!, Johnson writes passages teaching young girls, specifically African American, to embrace their beauty and their hair. Her book flawlessly includes brief and encouraging messages to growing women, complete with actual photographs taken by the illustrator, Kelly Johnson (no relation), of young girls and their different approaches to their favorite hair style. The short narration perfectly describes how deeply hair is interwoven within a girl’s personality,which at a young age, is one of the most important things to learn.
Johnson, an English professor at the University of South Carolina, gives descriptions of the various hair styles which have become so innately enveloped into their society. Johnson writes “strong hair growing into dreadlocks (caring hands make them love locks)” or to let one’s roots take their own form in their “nature hair, real hair, flower power strong hair.”
At the end of the book, Johnson leaves a powerful writer’s note explaining that “our culture values beauty and improvisation in every realm of life, and hair is no exception.” She encourages everyone to “work with it, play with it, style it, and treasure it as the Art that it is.”
Hair Dance! is one of the rare stories that teaches women of any race, ethnicity, age, to know who you are and revel in it – there’s more to life than just lather, rinse, repeat.
River of Words (ROW), the world’s largest youth poetry and art competition, is accepting submissions to its 18th annual environmental poetry and art contest, sponsored in affiliation with The Library of Congress Center for the Book. Young people in kindergarten through twelfth grade, from anywhere in the world, are invited to explore and interpret their own home grounds by creating poetry and/or art about the places they live. Students may enter on their own or under the tutelage of a teacher or youth leader, as part of a group. The contest is free to enter and entry forms may be downloaded from the organization’s website at http://www.stmarys-ca.edu/center-for-environmental-literacy/art-poetry-contest.
Grand Prize winners (eight in all), plus the ROW/KSOE Teacher of the Year will win a trip to the 2013 River of Words Youth Creativity Awards in San Francisco. The ceremony, emceed by ROW co-founders Robert Hass and Pamela Michael, will be held on April 21 at the San Francisco Public Library. Winners and finalists will have their work published in a widely-distributed anthology, River of Words: The Natural World as Viewed by Young People. In addition, an East Coast award ceremony, also emceed by Hass and Michael, will be held at The Library of Congress on May 7th .
The contest accepts poetry in English, Spanish and American Sign Language (ASL). Entries in other languages will be considered if they are submitted with an English translation. Students may enter as many times as they wish. Entries from the US must be postmarked by December 1, 2012. Foreign entries must be received by February 1, 2013. Winners will be announced in March.
WHAT: River of Words Youth Poetry & Art Contest
WHO: Children and youth in kindergarten through 12th grade (5-19)
WHEN: US entries must be postmarked by Dec. 1, 2012, Foreign entries must be received by Feb. 1, 2013
WHERE: Mail to River of Words, PO Box 5060, Moraga, CA 94575 USA
Winners and finalists will be selected by the following judges:
Poetry: Robert Hass & Pamela Michael
Spanish Language Poetry: Dr. Raina Léon
ASL Poetry: Ella Lenz & Susan Rutherford
Art: John Muir Laws
Students in some areas may also win recognition at the state or regional level. River of Words has coordinators in almost thirty states, many of which provide additional instructional materials and teacher training. Some states also mount state ceremonies and publish state River of Words anthologies.
River of Words is a project of the Center for Environmental Literacy in the Kalmanovitz School of Education at Saint Mary’s College of California. The Center promotes education initiatives that integrate nature and the arts into K-12 classrooms. The ROW Project inspires children and youth to translate their observations about their local watersheds and environment into creative expressions in poems and paintings. It also trains educators around the world in how to incorporate nature exploration, science and the arts into their work with young people.
by Taylor Cheney
Mary Alice Monroe, a New York Times bestselling author, is known for using the picturesque Lowcountry landscape as the backdrop to many of her adult novels, such as The Beach House and The Butterfly’s Daughter. In Turtle Summer, Monroe broadens her audience in this non-fiction children’s narrative about her findings along the seashore and the work she puts in to conserve the life of baby sea turtles.
Addressed to her daughter, her story is comprised in a “home-y” scrapbook format with a series of actual photographs taken by the illustrator of marine life and of the author, her family, and fellow conservationists doing what they can to preserve the native species. The book combines an instructing narrative, reporting their progress in protecting turtle nests – “marking it with an orange sign saying that it is protected by federal law” – and a maternal voice that she affectionately directs to her daughter – “You said the turtle tracks look like tire tracks!”. Turtle Summer is reminiscent of Turtle Tracks by Sally Harman Plowden in that they both blend an informative tone about the habitat of our coastline while still maintaining a fluid and humble story line.
In addition, Monroe provides a plethora of facts regarding loggerhead turtles, ways to identify nests, and how to make your own nature scrapbook. I think this book would be a perfect companion to an avid summer camp-er, or a way to educate your daughter, son, niece, nephew, student, brother, or sister if you’re fortunate enough to get out to any seaside.
For those looking to get in a “bind”, the book festival held annually at Francis Marion University is the place to be. Four nationally known and bestselling authors and poets, and their avid readers, will descend upon the university Nov. 8 and 9 at the Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival, which is free and open to the public.
The two-day festival will celebrate and promote literature and reading with renowned authors Larry Watson, Nikky Finney, Danielle Evans, and Todd Boss. There will be readings, lectures, and panel discussions. A number of fiction topics will be covered and there will be opportunities for book signings. For more information, visit http://peedeefiction.org/.
by Taylor Cheney
Melinda Long’s How I Became A Pirate follows a young boy on his spontaneous quest to become a reckless buccaneer, chart the seven seas, and learn that all that is gold does not always glitter.
On a seemingly average day at the beach, Long’s curious narrator spots a pirate ship advancing towards him while his busy parents are off attending to parent-y tasks. The young boy, Jeremy Jacobs, is taken captive and hops aboard the swashbuckling ship, quickly making friends with Captain Braid Brew and his heedless crew. Immediately Jeremy is cast away into a dream land treasured with sea chanteys and fun – totally void of all boring, grown up responsibilities because “nobody tells pirates to go to bed, to take a bath, or to brush their teeth (maybe that’s why their teeth are so green).” Jeremy even attempts to teach the crew how to play soccer but being at sea poses obvious difficulties.
Every page is adorned with an enormous amount of colorful animation – so much so that the illustrator and the author successfully make the characters and the words simultaneously jump off the page. Short, emphatic phrases such as “Down the hatch!” and “Aargh! Soccer!” are consistently brought to our attention throughout the story, emphasizing the inebriated caroling commonly associated with pirates lost at sea.
Eventually our narrator learns that not having to change into pajamas is only cool for a little while and begins to miss - dare he say it? – his family. When the gallant crew is underway during a heavy rainstorm, clever Jacob takes it upon himself to steer the group in another direction – his backyard. His plan is achieved and Jacob even makes it in time for soccer practice.
Currently living in Greenville, SC, Long creatively captures the all too familiar feeling of not realizing how good you have something until it’s gone. The lovable Jeremy Jacobs has the ability to remind the reader of a time when the world seemed huge and the only option was to sail away and see it all for yourself…but at the end of the day, a good bedtime story and a warm bed is just as nice.
By Taylor Cheney
Even if you don’t live by the coastline, natives of South Carolina understand how turtles are a trademark to the state’s beaches and how important it is to provide a safe habitat for them to grow in.
In Sally Harman Plowden’s Turtle Tracks, the youthful narrator takes her yearly summer adventure to her aunt’s beach house where she spends her time leisurely swaying on hammocks, and curiously soaking up the flora and fauna of, based on the illustrations, what seems like Folly Beach.
A graduate from the University of South Carolina, Plowden creates an independently-minded young girl who finds a newly hatched turtle family and to her surprise, discovers a replication of her own brothers and sisters in them. The young girl joins a group gathered on the beach who are seeking to help the hatchlings get to the water safely.
The narrator becomes fascinated when she learns that turtles return to the same spot in which they were born to lay their own eggs. She thinks of how her own family returns to the same beach house every year, but “there are roads, signs, and people along the way to offer directions. For turtles, the sand itself is a trail that she cannot see, smell, or feel.”
This 28-paged story offers a fantastic read for any young, inquisitive mind interested in sea life and conservation. It also includes a list of detailed facts about Loggerhead turtles and what we can do to protect them. The detailed illustrations create a realistic view of the picturesque landscape and makes any reader feel as though they can feel the sand beneath their own toes and take in the salty smell of the ocean.
Janna McMahan to present in Speaker @ the Center series Nov. 15
Columbia author Janna McMahan will introduce the new book Literary Dogs & Their South Carolina Writers Thursday, Nov. 15 from noon to 1 p.m. as part of the State Library’s Speaker @ the Center series. McMahan, one of the writers featured in the new book, will read her essay, “A Name You Can Yell.”
In Literary Dogs & Their South Carolina Writers (Hub City Press, 2012) twenty-five of the Palmetto State’s most beloved authors introduce you to their most memorable dogs. There is Padgett Powell’s “Ode to Spode,” Josephine Humphreys’ paean to a poodle, and Roger Pinckney’s Daufuskie Dog-ageddon. Meet Marshall Chapman’s Impy, Mindy Friddle’s Otto, Beth Webb Hart’s Bo Peep, and more. From bird dogs to bad dogs, wild dogs to café dogs, get to know these canines and their literary companions.
The bag-lunch series is sponsored by the State Library’s Center for the Book. McMahan is the national best-selling author of the novels Calling Home, The Ocean Inside and Decoration.
Copies of Literary Dogs & Their South Carolina Writers will be for sale at this event.
The book, edited by John Lane and Betsy Teter of Spartanburg, is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. It sells for $19.95 at bookstores and online. Other authors featured include: Elise Blackwell, Christopher Dickey, Lou Dishler, Andrew Geyer, Dot Jackson, Dinah Johnson, Drew Lanham, Melinda Long, Kate Salley Palmer, Mark Powell, and Glenis Redmond.
Founded in Spartanburg in 1995, Hub City Press is an ambitious independent publisher that won four IPPY Awards in 2012. It has published more than 60 titles with books recently published or forthcoming by Ron Rash, John Lane, Kwame Dawes, Susan Tekulve and others. Hub City is committed to well-crafted and high-quality works by new and established authors, with an emphasis on the Southern experience.
For more information, contact Betsy Teter at (864) 577-9349 or email@example.com.
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