Tag Archives: awards

Children’s Picture Book of the Week : The Ring Bear

This week’s book pick is The Ring Bear by N.L. Sharp, a picture book for children that I’ve always considered one of my favorites and one that I love to point people to. The Nebraska Center for the Book honored it as one of the best books for children.

The Ring Bear

As a bookseller with a healthy children’s section, I know a lot of boys who are in the same position as Robert, the hero of our tale.

Robert loved bears. Real bears and stuffed bears and bears in books. Black bears and brown bears and polar bears. He even loved to eat bears. Graham cracker bears and cinnamon bears and chocolate bears. So he wasn’t surprised when his mom said he was going to be the ring bear in his Aunt Jane’s wedding.

When Robert’s told that he’ll be wearing a suit – “a black suit with a tail, a white shirt, and a red bow tie,” he’s pretty sure he has this whole wedding thing down. He’ll look like a panda bear!

The boy proceeds to rehearse, on his own, by growling at animals, eating “berries” and drinking “honey” so as to be the very best bear he could be for the ceremony.

When finally Robert learns the truth that there are no bears in weddings, a foot-stomping fit ensues. But when Aunt Jane impresses on him just how important he is to the ceremony, Robert relents, becoming what everyone said was the best ring bearer ever.

I just love the way little kids edge into the rational world. At a certain age, they pay very close attention to every word coming from an adult’s mouth, but their comprehension can be muddled by the residue of magical thinking we treasure in all our kids. I remember my niece almost cried when her grandmother told how a friend of my father’s had “got his goat.” Though Allison had never seen or heard of her grandfather’s goat, she circulated on the edge of the adult conversation with a sad look on her face. Finally, she asked, “Did he give it back?” My puzzled mother said “Give what back, honey?,” to which Allison replied “His goat!”

This would be a wonderful book if you need to prepare your child for a wedding or any kind of formal ceremony. And it’s certain that your child will never, ever be fooled about the concept of being a ring bearer.

The Ring Bear
by N.L. Sharp, illustrated by Michael T. Hassler, Jr.
Dageforde/Prairieland Press (HC) $17.99


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(Inn)Ovation: Educator Paul Hankins

Welcome to a first-time feature at NewAlbanyBooks – The (Inn)Ovation Award. It takes creativity and persistence to earn this plaudit, and today’s honoree is Paul Hankins.


NewAlbanyBooks Blog (Inn)Ovation Award

Paul is an educator at Silver Creek High School, teaching 11th-grade and AP English. And while he is a frequent visitor to the store (and friend of this blog), today I want to recognize Paul’s “virtual” contribution to the enrichment of not only his SCHS pupils, but of students, writers, and education colleagues around the country and the world.

Any teacher of reading and writing has an obligation to provide good reading material for his charges. The better ones are always looking for new and exciting books that will reach the students “where they live” and that will instill a lasting appreciation for books.

Paul, in his professional capacity, is a voracious reader and a prolific reviewer. It’s obvious that he considers his job to be more than a 40-hour paycheck. I’ve known him to practically consume a book in a day, which is no small feat when you have a wife and children to care for, as he does.

One of Paul’s “outside” ventures is his participation in a reading program called The Centurions of 2011, which you can find on Facebook if you search. In 2010, members pledged to read 100 books during the year. Quite a few of them actually accomplished that goal. This year, Paul and the group have pledged to finish 111 books and to share their progress with the Facebook group on a monthly basis.

While the typical young adult book (novels, mostly) is a shorter read than most adult books, that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment. A good number of the readers, Paul included, do not limit their reading to professional dictates, reading across genres and age-groups.

As impressive as that is, it is not enough to earn our first (Inn)Ovation ribbon. No, Paul has created a hugely impressive online community called Reading and Writing in Kentuckiana, which is “Now Serving the Whole Country” after beginning as a local project within Paul’s classroom.

The shorthand appellation for the community is RAWInK, and it’s run primarily through the .ning engine, an online tool that provides tightly controlled interactivity. Paul told me he chose it, in part, because it was important to give students free rein to build and design the content themselves. Equally important was the administrative ability to keep others out. Accordingly, to join RAWInk, you must apply and be approved by the network administrators.

Over the course of about 18 months, the site has grown from a one-school workshop to an international clearinghouse for secondary school teachers and students – and the authors who write for them.

Some of the biggest names in YA literature are affiliated with the site and provide content. The student administrators keep the site populated with videos, audios, reviews, blog postings, lists, and much more. Periodically an author will make a live, interactive appearance on the site, either for teachers or students – and sometimes both.

We at the store are proud to recognize Paul Hankins, prime creator of RAWInk, the online reading and writing Web network, with today’s (Inn)Ovation ribbon. (And yes, Paul, you may download this cherished graphic image to display as you wish.)


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A Movie the Way a Book Should Be Made: True Grit

You probably saw True Grit in theatres back in 1969, or at least on cable during the intervening 40 years. At the time, the aging John Wayne was seeking out roles that he could comfortably occupy, and the film industry awarded him with his only Oscar® during the 1970 awards ceremony. But in 1968, Charles Portis provided the skeleton for that film with his aptly titled novel … yes, you guessed it: True Grit.

True Grit
Charles Portis Rides Again

Wayne’s film is not the equal of the new Coen Brothers iteration of the novel, which hews tightly to the dialogue offered up by Portis. Jeff Bridges (with eyepatch covering the right eye where Wayne covered the left), inhabits the role of U.S. Marshal Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn. Hailee Steinfeld reprises Kim Darby’s 1969 role of Mattie Ross, and Matt Damon fills in as LeBouef, the Texas Ranger played by Glen Campbell in the first film.

The movie itself has a relaxed intensity. That is, Portis’s intention was to deliver a story about Mattie more than a story about Rooster, and the Coens allow that to come through in the new film without sacrificing Portis’s incisive comic touches. For Rooster Cogburn, very little ruffles him, and this rubs off on the 14-year-old Mattie, too, so that violence and death are not unexpected things for either of them, though Mattie is forced to face a few shocking moments. It is a small story well told.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which votes for and awards the Golden Globes, do not seem to care for the work of Joel and Ethan Coen, and the 2010 movie received no Golden Globe nominations. That will not be true for the Academy Awards® next month, and maybe Portis will earn some reflected glory in the adapted screenplay category. A nomination seems likely for the movie, the actors, the technical crew, and the writers, and who knows?

May I suggest that you pick up a copy of True Grit whether you’ve seen the movies or not? I recommend it.

True Grit
by Charles Portis
Penguin PB, 1968, reprinted 2010


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Before They Were Movies, Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of our Golden Globes preview (watch Sunday night on NBC). Yesterday, all 4 of the movies we looked at were based on memoirs, biographies, or otherwise true stories. Today’s batch includes 2 books that did not exist until the movie (original screenplays made into book form as shooting scripts), 1 true story, and 1 quirky novel.

Still no love for True Grit by Charles Portis, made into a film by the Coen Brothers.


starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
directed by Christopher Nolan
shooting script by Christopher Nolan

In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date: Inception. You can read the shooting script, an original by the director.


Kids Are All RightThe Kids Are All Right
starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening
directed by Lisa Cholodenko
shooting script by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg

Two children conceived by artificial insemination bring their birth father into their family life in this, a script co-written by the director, available in the store as the shooting script.


The King's SpeechThe King’s Speech
starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter
directed by Tom Hooper
book by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi

The story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it. The book is based on the journals and diaries of Lionel Logue, the therapist, played by Rush in the film.


Barney's VersionBarney’s Version
starring Paul Giamatti , Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman
directed by Richard J. Lewis
from the book by Mordecai Richler

The picaresque and touching story of the politically incorrect, fully lived life of the impulsive, irascible and fearlessly blunt Barney Panofsky. The book is told in the first person, it gives us the life (and what a life!) of Barney Panofsky–whose trashy TV company, Totally Useless Productions, has made him a small fortune; whose three wives include a martyred feminist icon, a quintessential JCP (Jewish-Canadian Princess), and the incomparable Miriam, the perfect wife, lover, and mother.

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Before They Were Movies

The countdown is on to Sunday’s Golden Globes Awards on NBC – plus, it has been a particularly stressful week for me. So, I’m cutting my workload on the blog by offering up books that have been made into films.

For some bizarro reason, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association gave no nominations to True Grit, the Coen Brothers movie based on the Charles Portis novel. Yes, we have that. But we’ll just wait until Oscar® time.

Herewith, some of the lauded movies of 2010 that you’ll see mentioned Sunday night and the books from which they came.Accidental Billionaires

The Social Network
– starring Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara
– directed by David Fincher
– from the book by Ben Mezrich

This is the fictionalized story of Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook.


Between a Rock and a Hard Place127 Hours
– starring James Franco, Kate Mara
– directed by Danny Boyle
– from the book by Aron Ralston

Tells the story of Aron Ralston, the rock-climbing athlete who, in order to save himself from remaining trapped in a rock fissure, amputated his own arm.


Hard SellLove and Other Drugs
starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway
– directed by Edward Zwick
– from the book by Jamie Reidy

Viagra field sales rep Jamie Reidy (Gyllenhaal) finds himself in a surprising relationship with free-spirit Maggie (Hathaway) in a third real-life nominated film.





Casino JackCasino Jack
– starring Kevin Spacey, Ruth Marshall
– directed by George Hickenlooper
– from the book by Norman Snider

Spacey takes on the role of a lifetime portraying D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose lavish generosity to politicians and his exploitation of eager American Indian tribes landed him in prison.

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