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Check It Out

Courier Article by Carol Banks
Sunday, May 7, 2006

May's Special Picks Wrangle Wacky Words and Woodworking

The Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library is celebrating 2006 as the Year of the Reader. Each month, several adult and children's/teen authors will be honored.

A featured author for May is Andrew Clements. Through my involvement with the Young Hoosier Book Award, I had the great fortune to dine with Clements at one of our annual awards banquets. He is witty, charming and a grand storyteller -- exactly what a reader wants. Better yet, he is an author both kids and parents like.

Double Trouble in Walla Walla, is a title for which Clements received one of his two Young Hoosier Book Awards.

Kids love the absurdity of words and the way different sounds play over their ears.

In "Double Trouble," in an ordinary classroom in an ordinary school in the ordinary town of Walla Walla, something extraordinary is happening to little Lulu. She is trapped in a word warp. Everything she says comes out double.

"My homework is all higgledy-piggledy. Last night it was in tip-top shape, but now it's a big mish-mash," she says to Mrs. Bell, her teacher.

On and on she babbles in double-speak. An alarmed Mrs. Bell takes her to Mr. Thomas, the principal. He also becomes bitten by the word "bug," so all three seek a cure from Mrs. Carter, the school nurse, who suggests they shout "all the rootin-tootin', crink'em-crank-'em, woolly-bully words (they) can think of."

So don't be a fuddy-duddy. Hip-hop right down to your nearest library and check out this super-duper read.

Frindle is all about the power of words and how a creative idea can go awry.

It all starts so innocently for fifth-grader Nick Allen. He's bored a bored with the boring dictionary studies that his teacher, Mrs. Granger, foisted upon his class.

And so a plot is hatched. What if he could "invent" a word? What if he could persuade his friends to use that new word in all their conversations? Wouldn't that just surprise Mrs. Granger?

"Frindle." That sounds good to Nick. What if he started calling a pen a frindle? Wouldn't everybody go crazy?

"May I borrow your frindle?" "I'd like to buy a frindle, please. A blue one."

Nick's attempt at subterfuge spreads faster than spilled ink.

"Frindlemania" takes over the classroom, the school and the town. Where will it end?

Workshop reminds me of a time when my cousins and I regularly visited our fathers' workshops. My father and my uncle were excellent woodworkers, producing kitchen cabinets, many lovely pieces of furniture and other decorative accessories. Both learned from their father, a fine craftsman who helped create exquisite cherry furniture for the now defunct Park Furniture Co. in Rushville, Ind.

Workshop is a true sensory delight. I could smell the freshly cut lumber and hear the whine of my father's drill. My eyes surveyed the completed project with delight.

You can have the same experience, thanks to the collaboration between Clements, who supplied the rhyming text about various tools used in a workshop, and Caldecott medalist David Wisniewski, who hand-crafted the detailed cut-paper illustrations. From the sawdust on the woodworker's shop apron to the finely grained handles of the tools, Wisniewski's artwork help make this picture book a nostalgic look at a unique art form.

Of his craft, Clements says, "Writing for children is a privilege."

Carol Banks is supervisor of the READ Center, Central Library's children's Department. Contact her at (812) 428-8222. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of the library.