I just got in last night from spending four days in Germany. I KNEW I was missing the Patriots game Saturday night so kept my fingers crossed and indeed, they really came through for me once again.

I did NOT know I was missing the Newbery/Caldecott announcments because I hadn't kept track of when that was happening. So it was after I got home and got an email from a friend who said, "What did you think of..." etc. that I went the the ALA website to catch up.

I don't read very many children's books. Last year I was completely unaware of any of the winning titles. This year I had heard of some titles being talked about, but I hadn't read them. And yet.. And YET:

Way back months ago, I talked on this very blog (I just looked it up. September 2nd) about Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village—the Newbery Medal winner— and recommended it. So I feel prescient and smug. Nah, not smug. But thrilled for the author...and the illustrator, because even though the medal is for the text...this book is perfectly, beautifully illustrated.


In Germany, I visited my granddaughter's class. She is in 8th grade, and here I am with her and her classmates (Nadine is fifth from the left, in a dark red shirt). She translated for me while I talked a bit about writing, and books, and my books in particular. The kids had prepared questions, which they asked in English (they study English in school but most are not yet fluent) and their questions...and their clothing...were much the same as those things in American schools.

Similar, as well, to American schools, the public schools in Germany are hard up for money. The library is inadequate, there is a shortage of teachers, etc. etc.

Ironically, I came home to find an email from my friend Middy, who illustrates the Gooney Bird Greene books. She had been visiting her daughter, who lives and teaches in Finland. Here's a photo of Cynde, Middy's daughter, reading one of the Gooney Bird books to some Finnish children.


And here is something Middy said in her email:

The schools, the three that Cynde teaches at, are magnificent. Great design and of course wonderful color. Everyone takes their shoes off at the door, and walks around all day in their stocking feet. They can bring slippers but no one does....The place is absolutely spotless ! Wonderful teachers' rooms, terrific art work all through the school along with the kids' stuff. We in this country are such bozos. I feel such shame after seeing what that small country has done in such a short time. Remember, they really got hit bad in WWII.

She also mentioned that Finland is starting to put libraries into shopping malls! What a great idea!

I don't know that I would call us "bozos" in this country but it does seem that some places, like the Finland she describes, have a pretty good set of priorities.

Nadine, my granddaughter, had her nose in a book all weekend, and it was the German translation of Book 2 of the Stephanie Meyer trilogy about vampires. I haven't read any of those but it was great to see a young person so completely caught up in a piece of fiction that she didn't want to eat or sleep.

Wish i had been one of MINE she'd been so absorbed in!