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About me: "Well, I work at the most succulent plum of children's branches in New York City. The Children's Center at 42nd Street not only exists in the main branch (the one with the big stone lions out front) but we've a colorful assortment of children's authors and illustrators that stop on by. I'm a lucky fish. By the way, my opinions are entirely my own and don't represent NYPL's in the least. Got blame? Gimme gimme gimme!"
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26. Review of the Day: Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Greenglass Review of the Day: Greenglass House by Kate MilfordGreenglass House
By Kate Milford
Clarion Books (an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
$17.99
ISBN: 978-0-544-05270-3
Ages 9-12
On shelves August 26th

When I was a kid I had a real and abiding love of Agatha Christie. This would be around the time when I was ten or eleven. It wasn’t that I was rejecting the mysteries of the children’s book world. I just didn’t have a lot to choose from there. Aside from The Westing Game or supernatural ghostly mysteries sold as Apple paperbacks through the Scholastic Book Fair, my choices were few and far between. Kids today have it better, but not by much. Though the Edgar Awards for best mystery fiction do dedicate an award for young people’s literature, the number of honestly good mystery novels for the 9-12 set you encounter in a given year is minimal. When you find one that’s really extraordinary you want to hold onto it. And when it’s Kate Milford doing the writing, there’s nothing for it but to enjoy the ride. A raconteur’s delight with a story that’ll keep ‘em guessing, this is one title you won’t want to miss.

It was supposed to be winter vacation. Though Milo’s parents run an inn with a clientele that tends to include more than your average number of smugglers, he can always count on winter vacation to be bereft of guests. Yet in spite of the awful icy weather, a guest appears. Then another. Then two more. All told more than five guests appear with flimsy excuses for their arrival. Some seem to know one another. Others act suspiciously. And when thefts start to take place, Milo and his new friend Meddy decide to turn detective. Yet even as they unravel clues about their strange clientele there are always new ones to take their places. Someone is sabotaging the Greenglass House but it’s the kids who will unmask the culprit.

To my mind, Milford has a talent that few authors can boast; She breaks unspoken rules. Rules that have been dutifully followed by children’s authors for years on end. And in breaking them, she creates stronger books. Greenglass House is just the latest example. To my mind, three rules are broken here. Rule #1: Children’s books must mostly be about children. Adults are peripheral to the action. Rule #2: Time periods are not liquid. You cannot switch between them willy-nilly. Rule #3: Parents must be out of the picture. Kill ‘em off or kidnap them or make them negligent/evil but by all means get rid of them! To each of these, Milford thumbs her proverbial nose.

Let’s look at Rule #1 first. It is worth noting that with the exception of our two young heroes, the bulk of the story focuses on adults with adult problems. It has been said (by me, so take this with a grain of salt) that by and large the way most authors chose to write about adults for children is to turn them into small furry animals (Redwall, etc.). There is, however, another way. If you have a small innocuous child running hither and thither, gathering evidence and spying all the while, then you can talk about grown-ups for long periods of time and few child readers are the wiser. If I keep mentioning The Westing Game it’s because Ellen Raskin did very much what Milford is doing here, and ended up with a classic children’s book in the process. So there’s certainly a precedent.

On to Rule #2. One of the remarkable things about Kate Milford as a writer is that she can set a book in the present day (there is a mention of televisions in this book, so we can at least assume it’s relatively recent) and then go and fill it with archaic, wonderful, outdated technology. A kind of alternate contemporary steampunk, if there is such a thing. In an era of electronic doodads, child readers are going to really get a kick out of a book where mysterious rusted keys, old doorways, ancient lamps, stained green glass windows, and other old timey elements give the book a distinctive flavor.

Finally, Rule #3. This was the most remarkable of choices on Milford’s part, and I kept reading to book to find out how she’d get away with it. Milo’s parents are an active part of his life. They clearly care for him, periodically checking up on his throughout the story, but never interfering with his investigations. Since the book is entirely set in the Greenglass House, it has the feel of a stage play (which, by the way, it would adapt to BRILLIANTLY). That means you’re constantly running into mom and dad, but they don’t feel like they’re hovering. This is partly aided by the fact that they’re incredibly busy. So, in a way, Milford has discovered a way of removing parental involvement without removing parental care. The kids are free to explore and solve crimes and the adult gatekeepers reading this book are comforted by the family situation. A rarity if ever there was one.

But behind all the clues and ghost stories and thefts and lies what Greenglass House really is is the story of a hero’s journey. Milo starts out a soft-spoken kiddo with little faith in his own abilities. Donning the mantle of a kind of Dungeons & Dragons type character named Negret, he taps into a strength that he might otherwise not known he even had. There is a moment in the book when Milo starts acting with more confidence and actually thinks to himself, “And I didn’t even have to use Negret’s Irresistible Blandishment . . . I just did it.” Milo’s slow awakening to his own strengths and abilities is the heart of the novel. For all that people will discuss the mystery and the clues, it’s Milo that holds everything together.

Much of his personality is embedded in his identity as an adopted kid too. I love the mention of “orphan magic” that Milford makes at one point. It’s the idea that when something is sundered from its attachments it becomes more powerful in the process. At no point does Milford ever downplay the importance of the fact that Milo is adopted. It isn’t a casual fact that’s thrown in there and then forgotten. For Milo, the fact that he was adopted is part of who he is as a person. And coming to terms with that is part of his journey as well. Little wonder that he gathers such comfort from learning about orphan magic and its potential.

I’m looking at my notes about this book and I see I’ve written down little random facts that don’t really fit in with this review. Things like, “I did wonder if Milo’s name was a kind of unspoken homage to the Milo of The Phantom Tollbooth. And, “The book’s attitude towards smuggling is not all that different from, say, Danny, the Champion of the World’s attitude towards poaching.” And, “I love the vocabulary at work here. Raconteur. Puissance.” There is a lot a person can say about this book. I should note that there is a twist that a couple kids may see coming. It is, however, a fair twist and one that doesn’t cheat before you get to it. For the most part, Milford does a divine job at writing a darned good mystery without sacrificing character development and deeper truths. A great grand book for those kiddos who like reading books that make them feel smart. Fun fun fun fun fun.

On shelves August 26th.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

First Sentence: “There is a right way to do things and a wrong way, if you’re going to run a hotel in a smugglers’ town.”

Professional Reviews:

Interviews: Milford reveals all with The Enchanted Inkpot.

Misc:

  • In lieu of an Author’s Note, Kate provides some background information on Milo and adoption that is worthy additional reading here.
  • Cover artist Jaime Zollars discusses being selected to illustrate the book jacket here.
  • Discover how the book came from a writing prompt here.

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27. Press Release Fun: Teachers Are Givers Contest

For what it’s worth, this contest is for librarians as well as teachers.

 

To Honor Educators and to Highlight the August Movie Release of “The Giver,” Walden Media Announces its “Teachers are Givers” Contest

Educators Will Receive Cash Prizes for Themselves, Their Schools, and Libraries as well as a Special Hometown Screening of “The Giver”

Los Angeles, CA – June 11, 2014 – Walden Media, known for its film adaptations of literary classics like “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” “Holes,” “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Charlotte’s Web,” as well as for the education materials and contests it provides to educators, today formally announced its Teachers are Givers contest. The contest highlights the upcoming release of “The Giver,” a film based on Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal winning book and international best seller that has become a staple in schools throughout the United States. Hitting theaters nationwide on August 15th, “The Giver” stars Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites, Meryl Streep, Taylor Swift, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush and Alexander Skarsgård.

 

To enter the Teachers are Givers contest, educators can visit www.walden.com and submit their ideas on how they use technology and/or social media to teach “The Giver.” Winners and their ideas will be highlighted on the Walden Media website in the Walden Media Teacher Hall of Fame. Each winner also will receive a personal cash prize of $1,000, a $1,000 donation to their school, and a $1,000 donation to their local library.

 

“We are so pleased to bring the literary classic “The Giver” to movie theaters this August,” noted Walden Media executive Chip Flaherty. “At its heart, “The Giver” celebrates the mentor relationship and the incredible impact an educator can have on a child’s life. This contest recognizes the significance of educators in our lives and attempts to reward the invaluable work they do.”

 

The inspiration for the Teachers are Givers contest came from an idea by Lori Johnson, a middle school teacher at Lexington Christian Academy in Lexington, Massachusetts. Ms. Johnson uses a “Six Word Challenge” to teach her students about the power of words. This lesson is based on the legend that Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a story in six words and builds upon the theme of “precision of language” found in “The Giver.”

 

The Teachers are Givers contest is just one component of the education materials and initiatives being developed in conjunction with the film release of “The Giver.”  To learn more about these materials as well as other education program initiatives supporting “The Giver,” visit www.walden.com.

 

About the Movie

 

The haunting story of “The Giver” centers on Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a young man who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Yet as he begins to spend time with The Giver (Jeff Bridges), who is the sole keeper of all the community’s memories, Jonas quickly begins to discover the dark and deadly truths of his community’s secret past. With this newfound power of knowledge, he realizes that the stakes are higher than imagined – a matter of life and death for himself and those he loves most. At extreme odds, Jonas knows that he must escape their world to protect them all – a challenge that no one has ever succeeded at before. “The Giver” is based on Lois Lowry’s beloved young adult novel of the same name, which was the winner the 1994 Newbery Medal and has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

 

For more information on the movie please visit https://thegiverfilm.com/

 

About Walden Media

 

Walden Media creates entertainment for the whole family through successful movies, award-winning books, and acclaimed television programs.  A Walden Media production celebrates a great book well told, a great life well lived, or an exploration that expands present possibilities – all while inspiring and entertaining its audience. Past award-winning films include: “The Chronicles of Narnia” series, the “Journey to the Center of the Earth” series, “Nim’s Island,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Bridge to Terabithia,” “Holes,” “Amazing Grace,” and the Sundance Audience Prize Winning documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman.’”

 

#       #       #

 

Press Inquiries

 

Dennis Dembia / Alice Chung

Rogers & Cowan

Phone: 310.854.8114 / 310.854.8226

ddembia@rogersandcowan.com / achung@rogersandcowan.com

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28. Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

Sloooooowly the predictions begin.  As I post this I’m hitting the sweet spot right between Book Expo and the annual American Library Association conference.  Which is to say, this is the moment in time when some folks have seen the fall galleys from BEA while other folks are about to see them at ALA.  On maternity leave, I am hampered significantly by what I see.  Most galleys are being sent to my workplace where they are out of my reach.  So while I’ve still seen a wide swath of things, I know that there are books I’m missing.  The fall prediction edition will be more complete, I am certain.  Plus, by that time we’ll see Heavy Medal and Calling Caldecott back up and running and predicting as well.

Meantime, I’m not the only one making predictions these days.  If you missed it, Travis Jonker did a heckuva great post when he predicted this year’s New York Times Best Illustrated.  These are books that might not be eligible for the Caldecott but that would be complete and utter contenders under different circumstances.  Worth your glance.

And now, some thoughts on the matter!

2015 Newbery Predictions

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

NightGardener  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

I’ve been very happy with the buzz surrounding Auxier’s latest.  When I reviewed it back in March I suspected that it had fine, outstanding qualities worthy of award consideration.  That suspicion has since been confirmed several times over by the multiple starred reviews and the online conversations I’ve observed.  Typical of the dark fantasy trend in middle grade in 2014 (aside from Snicker of Magic, everything’s pretty gloom and doom this year) Auxier’s book does what Doll Bones did last year, blending classic horror elements with deeper themes and questions for young readers.  His is a book that asks kids to question the nature of storytelling and lying (another 2014 trend, and a prevalent one that I intend to explore more thoroughly).  At the very least, I predict that this will be showing up on many many Mock Newbery lists this year.

Curiosity by Gary L. Blackwood

Curiosity  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

This is actually not garnering the buzz I’d expect of it this year.  Surprising since the release of a new Blackwood is a cause for celebration.  My suspicion is that the man has been out of the middle grade field for so long that new crops of young librarians are unaware of his work.  This is a true pity since Curiosity hits all the pleasure points of a Brian Selznick story.  With a killer cover and some superb writing, my hope is that the buzz is just on a low-boil and will be turned up significantly as we near the award season.  Perhaps this is my dark horse candidate this year, but I don’t think you should count it out.  It could definitely pull a Paperboy or Breaking Stalin’s Nose surprise win out of its hat.

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

AbsolutelyAlmost  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

For years I’ve wanted a Lisa Graff book to make it onto my prediction lists, but every time there was just something holding me back.  No longer.  The remarkable thing about Absolutely Almost is that it dares not to be remarkable.  Or rather, it celebrates kindness over being special.  I’ll keep my thoughts to myself for the review I’ll write of it but Graff has accomplished here is something incredibly difficult.  Plus I love the idea of a major award going to a book that celebrates Captain Underpants like this one does.

The Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin

NightingalesNest  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

Another dark horse, and maybe one of the more divisive books on this list.  Loftin makes a lunge for magical realism with her story, which is a very difficult thing to do in middle grade novels.  The controversy surrounding it concerns The Emperor and what he did or did not do to the story’s heroine.  To my mind, any child reader who goes through this story will only recognize that he stole the girl’s voice by recording it.  End of story.  But because this book can be read very differently by adults vs. children, that may inhibit its chances.  Only time will tell.  The writing, few can argue, is superb.

The Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Greenglass  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

One of my favorite books of the year.  Pure pleasure reading through and through.  I’ve heard it described as “Clue meets The Westing Game” and that’s not too far off.  We haven’t had a Westing Game kind of book win a Newbery in a while, unless you count When You Reach Me.  It would be awfully nice for a mystery to win once more, and Milford’s talents at creating a whole and complete world within her pages is stellar.  Definitely a contender.

West of the Moon by Margi Preus

WestMoon1  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

There are only two books out this year that I think are surefire Newbery contenders, and this is one of them (you’ll meet the other soon).  Preus is a marvel.  This book, again, taps equally into darkness and storytelling vs. lies while also managing to pluck all the use out of fantasy and yet remain fairly historical fiction-y.  It’s a quick read and a gripping one.  Additional Bonus: Lockjaw!

Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson

BoysBlur  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

Good buzz is surrounding Wilson’s latest, which is excellent.  I’ve already felt a little pushback to it, but the strong writing is working very well in its favor.  It’s not a sure thing, but if any Wilson book can finally make a decent lunge for the Newbery it is this.  Already I can predict that Heavy Medal will have a hard time with it (I would LOVE to be mistaken about this, though).  Plus it probably has the best book trailer of the year thus far.

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

BrownGirlDreaming  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

The frontrunner, as far as I can tell.  No question.  There is nothing one can call a sure thing when it comes to Newbery or Caldecott books.  Heck, a couple of years ago I would have said that One Crazy Summer was a shoo-in.  Shows what I know.  That said, if this book does not win the Newbery proper then there will be blood in the streets.  Gushing torrents of scarlet red blood.  In a year of #WeNeedDiverseBooks what a capper it would be to give the Award to what is, not only, the best book of the year but also one that stands as a necessary piece of African-American history.  Not that the committee can think in those terms.  All that they can do is say whether or not the book is one of the most distinguished of the year.  Spoiler Alert: It is.

That’s what I think in terms of the frontrunners.  But there are plenty of other books that people are discussing.  Consider, for example, Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin.  She won a Newbery Honor years ago.  Will she be able to recapture the magic with her latest?  Maybe, but not with this particular book.  It’s nicely done but as a woman hepped up on postpartum hormones, it tried to make me cry and didn’t quite get there.  That’s telling.  The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm is another fantastic and fun read (and pure science fiction, which is very rare indeed).  It feels like a slightly younger When You Reach Me, which is a fine and fancy pedigree.  But Newbery?  I didn’t feel it.  The Riverman by Aaron Starmer was definitely one I was thinking of when I first read it, but when I heard it was the first in a series that changed my interpretation of the ending.  Will the committee feel the same way?  The writing is, after all, fabulous.  Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana was a book I loved earlier in the year.  I still love it, though in the wake of other strong contenders I’m not sure if it’ll make it to the award finish line.  And, of course, there is Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd.  Forget what I said about Nightingale’s Nest.  THIS is the most divisive book of 2014.  The writing is very accomplished and it’s got great lines.  Plus it’s nice to see something But Newbery?  To win it’ll have to convince the committee that the (totally unnecessary and occasionally infuriating) cutesy parts are overwhelmed by the good writing.  Its win relies entirely on the tone of the committee.  I don’t envy them the debates.

Phew!  Moving on . . .

2015 Caldecott Predictions

Um . . no idea.  Honestly, I haven’t felt this out to sea in terms of the Caldecott in years.  I’m just not feeling it this year.  There are some superb books but surprisingly few of them grab me by the throat and throttle me while screaming “CALDECOTT!!!!”  in my ear.  I always fall apart on Caldecott predictions anyway.  Last year at this time I only mentioned two of the eventual winners, not even mentioning the other two (and HOW on earth did I fail to mention the glorious Flora and the Flamingo, I ask you?!?).  This year I just keep coming back to the books I mentioned in my spring prediction edition.  Fortunately, a couple additional books caught my jaded eye . . .

Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, ill. Jonathan Bean

BadByeGoodBye  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

Bean wowed the world last year with his Building Our House, a winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.  But you know what Caldecott committees really like?  Variety.  That’s why his latest change of style is so exciting.  The beautiful simplicity of Underwood’s text, which manages to tell a complete story with a minimum of words, is matched page for page by Bean’s art.  The pairing results in a particularly strong product and since Caldecott committees are extraordinarily interested in books that pair art and text well, it seems to me we may have a winner on our hands here.

A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey, ill. Floyd Cooper

DanceStarlight1  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

A Floyd Cooper.  An honest-to-god Floyd Cooper prediction. Considering the man’s output, this may strike some as surprising.  No one ever contests that he’s accomplished but he’s one of those perpetual Caldecott bridesmaids never brides (see my post on such folks here).  It doesn’t matter how gorgeous his art is, he gets passed by time after time.  Except . . . something about this book is different.  My librarians, for one thing, who have always been Cooper-tepid are GAGA over this.  It’s not just the fact that the text manages to do the whole Live Your Dream storyline without getting cheesy.  There’s some stellar art at work.  This is a bad scan, but if this book does well I think it’ll be because of this image:

DanceStarlight2  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, photographs by  Tim O’Meara

VivaFrida 500x500  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

Speaking of always bridesmaids . . . but this book.  I mean, just wow.  Not that a Caldecott committee has ever, to the best of my knowledge, awarded three-dimensional art (scholars, correct me!).  But that’s the wonder of this book.  It isn’t JUST three-dimensional art, but two-dimensional as well.  The book itself celebrates the very concept of being an artist (a swell thing for a Caldecott committee to reward) and as I learned last year, Ms. Morales has residency here in the States so she certainly could win this thing.  Some folks don’t like that it isn’t a straight biography but something a little more artistic and esoteric.  Pfui to them, sez I.  You simply cannot read this and not find it stunning.

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth

HiKoo  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

Never count out a Muth.  Though this book has far less lofty ambitions than his past Caldecott win, it has heart and lovely watercolors.  This could easily be sidelined altogether, or go for the big gold.  Certainly hard to say at this point.

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman

ThreeBearsBoat  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

It’s my personal #1, which makes me worry for its future.  When I get emotional about a book I find it sometimes hampers my view of its award chances.  That said, no one doubts the sheer beauty of the art here.  Soman’s always been someone to watch, even when working on something as popular as the Ladybug Girl series.  Can he win hearts and minds with bears?  I say yes.

Firefly July and Other Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

FireflyJuly  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

We know Sweet is automatic Caldecott bait, but you’re never quite sure which of her books will attract the committee.  This book isn’t afraid to be long and strong on the poetry.  I’ve heard grumbles in some quarters that the poems don’t always necessarily pair with one season or another, but that’s nothing against the art.  Still, it might affect its chances in the end.

Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk

GrandfatherGandhi 478x500  Newbery / Caldecott 2015: The Summer Prediction Edition

If any debut deserves love it’s this one.  A remarkable combination of art and heart, with different styles and a heckuva great take on the subject matter.  Turk’s one to watch and this book is already one of the year’s favorites.  Even if it doesn’t win, it bodes well for the artist’s future.

In terms of books getting some nice buzz, I’ve heard some folks mentioning The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat.  I love me a good Santat and Dan certainly poured his heart and soul into this one.  So why don’t I think it’s a surefire winner?  Hard to say.  The art is certainly nice enough. Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch by Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes hasn’t shown up on a lot of lists, but Anne Isaacs has a way of writing books that catch the eye of award committees.  My own librarians are very taken with this latest effort, and Hawkes should at least get a mention if only for the sheer disgustingness of his desperadoes.  Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson is one of those books that should, by rights, be a Caldecott contender.  Indeed there are some stirring images here.  Unfortunately there’s something off about this particular Nelson book.  It’s hard to pinpoint but it lays in the art.  Nelson’s due for a big gold someday.  This, however, probably won’t be “the one”.  Breathe by Scott Magoon is absolutely lovely and I would love Magoon to get an award one of these days.  It definitely belongs to the whale trend of 2014.  Will it get an award?  It may be too subtle for that.  We’ll see.  Finally, Sparky! by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans, is the book getting a lot of the buzz.  I loved the story and the art but while I found it lovely and funny by turns I didn’t feel the award hum at work.  I think Appelhans is definitely one to watch.  You’re just going to have to keep watching.

For additional thoughts, be sure to check out the Goodreads lists of Newbery 2015 and Caldecott 2015 to see what the masses prefer this year.

So!  What did I miss?

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29. Video Sunday: Not that anyone doubed LeVar’s godlike qualities

A couple thoughts on that video. First off, it is sung by author Deborah Underwood (whatta pretty pretty voice, eh?) and editor Arthur A. Levine (whatta pretty pretty voice, eh?) at what Vimeo calls an “agency retreat in Brandon, Vermont”. So I had to wonder what precisely an “agency retreat” really is.  Well, there’s a perfectly logical explanation for it right here.  I wouldn’t mind having the chance to go on a retreat but what I really want is to be in a band.  Anyone wanna start one with me?  I can’t play any instruments but I do know all the word to “Shoop” by Salt n’ Pepa.  Does that count for anything?

And now, ladies and gentlemen . . . . why we love LeVar Burton.

ReadingRainbow 500x307 Video Sunday: Not that anyone doubed LeVars godlike qualities

Thanks to Jules for the link!

Our Kickstarter video of the day (since we always have at least one per Video Sunday these days) is a good one.  Remember the Slate article that came out earlier this year called “This Is What a Librarian Looks Like”?  Well the fellow behind the piece wants to go to ALA and do something with a huge swath of librarians.  And for a modest sum of $3,000 too.  Granted he’s already doubled his goal, but no reason why he shouldn’t triple it, eh?

AlexandriaStillBurns 500x375 Video Sunday: Not that anyone doubed LeVars godlike qualities

 

Oh my! A hat tip as well as a big thank you to Travis Jonker for locating this video of author/illustrator John Hendrix. As a big time fan of his work, I found this a real treat.

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.

I wasn’t able to make Book Expo this year and, by extension, wasn’t able to attend the BEA Children’s Breakfast.  So this Mem Fox speech at said breakfast is NOT persuading me that I wasn’t missing anything, people.  Doggone it.

And for your off-topic video of the day, ain’t nothing hotter than women who make classical musical funny and incredibly difficult all at the same time.  Love this stuff.

 

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30. Posthu-must we?*

GoodnightSongs Posthu must we?*I was listening to a Pop Culture Happy Hour show the other day when the topic turned to posthumous works published after a creator’s death.  When is it okay to raid a dead author or illustrator’s drawers for unpublished material? Is it ever okay?  And is there a significant difference between works that someone finished midstream vs. works they finished entirely but never submitted?

All this comes to mind this year since the Margaret Wise Brown trunk of never ending material has yielded yet another composition.  Perhaps you are unfamiliar with this trunk.  You see when MWB died in 1952 she left behind a trunk, a literal trunk I say, of unpublished works.  Publishers Weekly gives you the inside scoop on the matter here.  This year we’re seeing the publication of Goodnight Songs which brings to light many of her lyrics, each with its own separate illustrator.  Yet this is hardly the first MWB book to hit bookstore shelves (I’m quite partial to a different title called The Fathers Are Coming Home, illustrated by Stephen Savage).  Nor is she alone in posthumous output.

Over the years the estates of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein have shown no qualms in bringing to light many an unpublished title.  Remember Daisy-Head Mayzie?  No?  How about Runny Babbit then?  Like Tupac Shakur they just keep churning out the titles.  More recently we’ve seen Diana Wynne Jones and Eva Ibbotson publishing books after their demise.  However, in those cases the authors were pretty much done with their books.  Does this difference matter?

I’ve been trying to think whether or not there is a children’s literature equivalent to the case of A Confederacy of Dunces.  Has a children’s book ever debuted a dead hitherto unknown author?  Not to the best of my knowledge though if you know of such a case please let me know.

Daisy Head Mayzie Posthu must we?*The fact of the matter is that we live in an era when it’s very difficult for anything or anyone to really “die”.  All the cartoons from my youth have been rehashed and reimagined for younger generations.  Heck, my kid watches a television show where characters from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood have grown up and had kids of their own (stand-by for my take on the weirdness that is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood in the future).  It is simply in keeping with the times that authors would continue to publish and republish long after their own demises.

Let this serve as a warning to the authors of today then.  Margaret Wise Brown died when she was 42.  You could go at any time (Happy Friday the 13th, everybody!).  If you have something you’re hanging onto that you do NOT want to see published, trash that puppy.  Be it physical manuscript or a file saved on your desktop, your works are no longer your own once you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.

For a similar but significantly different take on the matter please be so good as to indulge in the College Humor piece I Think They’re Running Out of Material for New Shel Silverstein Books which contained the following:

“These poems were never meant to be read,
If you’re seeing them, that means I’m dead.
Please don’t be a jerk,
Stay away from my work,
And go raid Dr. Seuss’s instead.”

*With apologies to Glen Weldon who came up with the phrase first.

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31. Review of the Day: Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

HugMachine Review of the Day: Hug Machine by Scott CampbellHug Machine
By Scott Campbell
Atheneum (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
$16.99
ISBN: 978-1-4424-593509
Ages 3-7
On shelves August 26th

Do you remember that old Shel Silverstein poem “Hug O’ War”? This may be considered sacrilege but did you ever notice how the guy could do something brilliant one moment, like “Sister For Sale” and then turn around and do something just doggone maudlin like “Hug O’ War” the next? Here’s a taste of what I mean: “Where everyone hugs / Instead of tugs / Where everyone giggles / And rolls on the rug”. You get the picture. The trouble is that hugs are hard. Adults love ‘em. Kids love ‘em. But writing about them inevitably drops you into sad saccharine territory where even great men like Silverstein find themselves inextricably mired in goo. It takes a sure and steady hand to navigate such territory. For that reason I think you need to take a close look at what Scott Campbell’s done with Hug Machine. There’s nothing wrong with writing a sweet picture book so long as it’s smart and/or funny. It’s harder than just pouring sugar in there and hoping people go along for the ride, which may explain why the market is glutted with schmaltz. Forget the “cute” picture books that make obvious overtures for your heartstrings. Opt instead for something that comes by its adorableness honestly. Hug Machine, man. It’s just the best.

Just call this kid a hugaphiliac. If there’s something out there he can wrap his arms around, he’s going to hug it. In fact, he’s so incredibly good at hugging that he has dubbed himself a “Hug Machine”. “No one can resist my unbelievable hugging,” says he, and he’s right. And what does the Hug Machine do on an average day? Well, it might hug everyone on the street. It might hug animals that are easy (turtles) and animals that are hard (porcupines). What does it eat? Pizza. And what does it hug? Everything! But when the day is done and the Hug Machine can hug no more, it takes a special set of arms to get the Hug Machine back in business again.

Some folks just take to the picture book form like a duck to water. I wish I could say that every cartoonist out there has the knack, but it just ain’t so. Many’s the time I’ve picked up a book from an artist I admired, hoping against hope that the transfer from adult to children’s books was seamless, only to find they just didn’t have what it took to speak to the small fry. Now the nice thing about Scott Campbell is that he’s sort of eased his way into the form. Under the name “Scott C.” he has penned many a grand book for grown-ups, like The Great Showdowns. Now we see his picture book authorial debut in Hug Machine. The verdict? I’m happy to report that all is well and right with the world. Here is a man who knows how to pack humor and heart all within a scant 40 pages.

This isn’t Campbell’s first time at the rodeo, of course. The man has tackled the wide and wonderful world of picture books before. If he wasn’t drawing romance stricken zombies on the one hand (Kelly DiPucchio’s Zombie in Love) then it was Bob Dylan lyrics (If Dogs Run Free) or, my personal favorite, dragons with conflict resolution issues (Robyn Eversole’s East Dragon, West Dragon). What do these all have in common? Probably just the simple fact that Campbell was doing the art on these books. Not the writing. And in at least one or two cases the art clearly outshone the texts. So how does he fare when he’s doing his own book? Magnificently, I’m happy to report. Because while I loved the art here, it was the text that made it work. Consider, for example, the section where The Hug Machine (there really isn’t any better term for him) encounters a porcupine. The porcupine laments, “I am so spiky. No one ever hugs me.” Turn the page and the boy has outfitted himself in a catcher’s mask, pillow on the middle, and oven mitts. The text reads, “They are missing out!” It is a wonderful phrase and not one you’d necessarily expect to see in a picture book. For whatever reason it reminded me of the wonderful wordplay of fellow picture book author/illustrator Bob Shea. To my mind it takes a special kind of talent to pluck just the right words out of the ether and to apply them at the perfect moment.

I mentioned earlier that Campbell, under the name of “Scott C.” created such amusing fare as The Great Showdowns. A bit of that aesthetic comes to mind when you check out the endpapers of this book. It necessitated an explanation to my three-year-old about what exactly a checklist is. You see, on the front endpapers of Hug Machine you see a range of different characters, each next to a little box. Turn to the back of the book and on these endpapers each character has been checked off. A child reader could easily spend hours matching each character to its appearance in the book. By the same token, kids could also have a great deal of fun just counting the number of hugs in this book in total.

I’ve little doubt that there will be an adult out there who is disturbed by the notion of a kid hugging complete strangers. I would point out, though, that we don’t actually know whether or not the people he’s hugging are strangers or not. For all we know he lives in a small town and is knows every person’s name, from the picnickers to the joggers to the construction workers. And that pretty much encapsulates any possible objections I could possibly find to the book. It would be an ideal readaloud for storytime (I’m jealous of the librarians and booksellers who will get to use it) to say nothing of reading it one-on-one. A real keeper. Share it with your own resident hug machine today.

For ages 3-6.

On shelves August 26th

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Professional Reviews:

Other Reviews: The Early Career Committee of CBC

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32. Fusenews: Of talking tigers and square penguins

  • So the big news this week was that a writer at Slate decided that now was an ideal time to take a potshot at adults reading young adult books.  And, as you might expect, everyone got quite hot under the collar about it.  To arms!  To arms!  Considering that this sort of thing happens pretty much every time a new YA book hits the mainstream I wasn’t quite as upset as some.  Honestly, I thought Roger Sutton’s piece Why Do We Even Call It YA Anymore? was much more along my own thinking.  I could not help but enjoy Marjorie Ingall’s response as well.
  • Calvin Hobbes 300x225 Fusenews: Of talking tigers and square penguinsIt’s one of those stories that’s just so crazy you don’t quite believe it at first.  So about a year ago I attending a lovely dinner for Stephan Pastis, author of the book Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (as well as the other Timmy books that would follow).  Stephan was one of those fellows just filled to the brim with stories.  And, as luck would have it, his stories were about syndicated cartoonists; one of my favorite things in the world to talk about!  I heard him wax eloquent on the subject of Gary Trudeau, Berkeley Breathed, you name it.  He even had ties to Charles Schulz (a fact that served me well when I interviewed Sparky’s wife Jean).  But when I dared to ask if he’d ever met the elusive Gary Larson or Bill Watterson (of Far Side and Calvin & Hobbes fame respectively) he confessed he had not, though Watterson had once sent him a nice note about one of his comics.  Well bust my buttons, but recently Pastis got a lot more out of Watterson than a mere note.  He got three illustrated comic strips!  Read this post to learn how he did it and why this is as extraordinary a fact as it is.  Wowza!
  • I was very sad to hear about the recent death of legendary children’s book editor Frances Foster.  Read this remarkable interview with her from Horn Book, conducted by Leonard Marcus to get a sense of the woman we just lost.  PW provided a very nice obituary for her here.
  • Essentially, this is kind of a real world case of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, but with a dark dark twist.
  • The voting may be over, but I can’t help but love the collection of different Penguin Random House logos that dared to combine the publishing behemoth.  My personal favorite?  Right here:

Penguinhaus 500x500 Fusenews: Of talking tigers and square penguins

  • I’ve oohed and cooed to you about the fact that Shaun Tan’s rather brilliant picture book Rules of Summer has an accompanying app with music by the amazing and fantastic Sxip Shirey.  However, when I mentioned this fact before the app was not available for purchase.  Now it is.  Go get that thing then.  You can even hear a selection of Sxip’s music for it here.
  • Speaking of Rules of Summer, did you see Travis Jonker’s predictions of what he thinks will win the New York Times Best Illustrated Awards?  Sort of a brilliant list to predict (and I think he’s completely and utterly dead on with his selection).
  • Brain Pickings recently featured a selection of photographs of fictional meals from your favorite books.  The photos are from the book Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals.  Though not strictly limited to children’s literature, it contains a handful of tasty treats worth noting.  Be sure to check out the meals of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, Heidi, and a Chicken Soup With Rice that will knock your socks off.
  • Just a quick shout out to my fellow metropolitan librarian Rita Meade who just sold her first children’s book.  Go, Rita, go go go!
  • One minute he’s winning a Tony.  The next minute he’s turning The Dangerous Book for Boys into a television show.  Wait . . . say what now?
  • Did you guys happen to see Grace Lin’s rather remarkably good Cheat Sheet for Selling Diversity?  Selling, heck.  This should be disseminated into all the MLIS programs in the States.  Future children’s librarians should be memorizing it by heart.  THIS is how you handsell to a kiddo or a parent, guys.  And Grace did all the work for you!

Daily Image:

Fairly brilliant!

SidewalkEnds Fusenews: Of talking tigers and square penguins

Thanks to Marci for the link.

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33. #DadsRead Because Dads are Awesome

Howdy, folks!  We’re approaching Father’s Day here which makes today’s post a bit premature.  Then again, the concept of dads reading to their kids is for forever, not a single day.  You see Zoobean is launching this campaign in conjunction with The Good Men Project from June 2 – June 15, just in time for Father’s Day. It’s called the #DadsRead campaign and is designed to get dads reading.  Always a good thing.

I was asked if I wanted to do something in conjunction with this campaign.  Of course, I don’t have to go very far to find an example of a man reading to a kid.  I’ve got one of those.  One man, two kids.  So in honor of the campaign, here is the resident husband and one of the resident children and the many books they love to read.

And yes. This is just an excuse to show pics of my cute kid.  To say nothing of my cute spouse.

Reading Heads by Matthew Van Fleet

MattLily1 #DadsRead Because Dads are Awesome
Reading Good Morning, Toucan by Dwell Studio
MattLily2 500x433 #DadsRead Because Dads are Awesome
Reading the pop-up edition of The Very Hungry Caterpillar
and the board book edition of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
MattLily3 #DadsRead Because Dads are Awesome
Reading Water in the Park by Emily Jenkins
MattLily4 500x342 #DadsRead Because Dads are Awesome
For more information on The Good Men Project you can follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or G+.

For more information on Zoobean you can follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or G+.

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34. Review of the Day: Roller Derby Rivals by Sue Macy

RollerDerbyRivals 245x300 Review of the Day: Roller Derby Rivals by Sue MacyRoller Derby Rivals
By Sue Macy
Illustrated by Matt Collins
Holiday House
$16.95
ISBN: 978-0-8234-2923-3
Ages 5 and up
On shelves July 1st

In my next life I will come back as a roller derby queen. Since the majority of my adult life has come and gone in complete and utter ignorance of this sport, I figure that means it’s too late for me now. But the more I learn about the sport the more I like it. Women on roller skates knocking the bejeesus out of each other in a circular fashion? Yes, please! Not that the sport has ever been particularly well documented in children’s literature. Generally speaking, roller derby tends to show up in YA literature more often than not. Since kids don’t have roller derby teams in elementary school or junior high, fiction leaves them high and dry. That means nonfiction would have to be the place to go, but until Sue Macy decided to write Roller Derby Rivals there wasn’t much to find. Meticulously researched, funny, and fast, Macy and Collins (who perfected their partnership in their previous title Basketball Belles) give us a highly original sports book like no other. A slam bang offering (with an emphasis on the “slam”).

The year: 1948. The place: New York’s 69th Regiment Armory. The event: Roller derby, baby! It’s here that two derby rivals, Midge “Toughie” Brasuhn and Gerry Murray give life to the game. Toughie’s the bad guy in this storyline. A down and dirty girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Gerry’s the glamour girl and the crowd favorite. In a typical game the two take potshots at one another. It’s the era of television and the sport is more popular than ever. But the truth? These two gals are actually friends, and one couldn’t exist without the other. An extensive Author’s Note, Roller Derby Time Line, and listing of Sources and Resources (including Film Clips, Web Sites, and Books) alongside Source Notes and Roller Derby Rules at the start of the book give the tale context.

When writing this book, author Sue Macy had to decide what era of roller derby to cover. She definitely wanted to cover a rivalry, but would she go with something recent or older? Ultimately she went with an older rivalry, and one that wasn’t as well known today. The derby of the 40s and 50s was really something. Here you had post-war women quietly going back to their roles as wives and mothers, and meanwhile on the television other women were knocking the stuffing out of one another on a rink. As Macy puts it, “The bruising, brawling women of Roller Derby were a throwback to the raucous war years, when women’s achievements knew no bounds.” Finding examples for kids of occasions when the women of the past weren’t Donna Reid can be tricky. Here’s one such example.

One thing I’ve never really realized about the sport of roller derby is how similar it is to professional wrestling in terms of “story”. There’s a reason that roller derby, wrestling, and boxing became the most watched sports during the rising of television programming. As Macy explains in her Author’s Note, “they took place indoors and in a confined area, so camera operators could control the lighting and focus on the faces of the participants as well as the action.” Little wonder that personality became an integral part of the sport as well. You had your heroes and you had your villains. Macy acknowledges this in the text for only the briefest of moments right at the end when she writes, “Fans would be shocked to learn that the two women, sworn enemies on the track, actually get along just fine. After all, they need each other. Every hero needs a villain. And every villain needs a worthy opponent.” Admittedly I would have liked the book to spend just a little more time on this topic. The showmanship of roller derby becomes an important part of the sport and one begins to wonder what’s real and what isn’t (and if the audience is implicit in this show or unaware that it’s happening). But I suppose those aren’t suppositions for a picture book, no matter how cool the subject matter might be.

A friend of mine recently pointed out to me that I’m a hard-core stickler for accuracy in my nonfiction picture books. To be blunt about it, I’m not very nice. If I think that a book is dodging accuracy for the sake of interest (including fake dialogue, merging or making of characters, etc.), I get very down on the whole kerschmozzle. How then to judge a book where the original television footage is lost? It’s not as though Macy isn’t just as much a stickler for accuracy as I am. Heck, the woman’s first four books were edited by Marc Aronson, so backmatter and factual writing is important to her. In the case of this book her backmatter includes “An important Notice from the Author and Illustrator” in which they note that since no television footage of the December 5th match survives they had to recreate it from their sources. “All dialogue and skating action are dramatizations based on our research.” Some folks may balk at where their suppositions take them, but I think Macy keeps it pretty within the realm of possibility at all times.

Illustrator Matt Collins gives the entire enterprise a kind of hyper reality. He has a lot to play with here, too. From women flying over rails into audiences to the look and feel of the late 40s/early 50s, this is a cool enterprise. One shot of people gathered outside an appliance store to watch the televisions there has a brilliant view of the seams up the back of a mother’s pantyhoes. There’s an attention to detail here worth noting. You are left in no doubt of the time and place.

One objection I’ve heard to the book is that the Author’s Note is so interesting it makes the rest of the book pale in comparison. I don’t happen to agree with that assessment, though. That’s sort of kicking a book for having interesting source material. It also suggests that though the picture book is interesting, what the reader really wanted was a chapter book on the subject. And believe me, a chapter book on Gerry and Toughie would be fabulous, but that’s a different project. What we have here is a picture book that wants to show a rivalry and does so. And professional rivalries in children’s books can be rare things. Few books for kids tell the really interesting stories about political or sports rivals. Rollerderby Rivals just proves that you’ve gotta start somewhere.

If you tell a kid to find a nonfiction picture book about a sport, nine times out of ten they’ll grab a book about baseball. That’s because baseball makes for perfect children’s literature. Fiction, nonfiction, you name it, baseball is king. Once in a great while another sport will get their day in the sun, but it’s rare. For once, I’m happy to read a book about women. And since finding a book that discusses TWO female athletes at the same time is almost impossible (single bios proliferate but multiples, not so much) it’s just an extra treat that Roller Derby Rivals is as enjoyable as it is. Not like anything else out there, and worthy of note. Ladies and gentlemen, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

On shelves July 1st

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Interviews: Sporty Girl Books talks with Macy a bit about this project.

Videos:

A simply lovely book trailer for this book, featuring roller derby expert Gary Powers:

Curious to see what Toughie really looked like?  I sort of adore this film she starred in.  Love the narrator too.

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35. Press Release Fun: Sponsor a child for the Summer Illustration Art Academy

Illustrators Making a Difference for 30 At-Risk Youth in NYC

The Society of Illustrators will make a difference in the lives of 30 at-risk youth ages 9-13 from the most vulnerable neighborhoods in New York City this July through their Summer Illustration Art Academy. This project with the Department of Parks & Recreation is supported in-part by private, corporate and government grants including New York State Council on the Arts.

Students attending the Academy learn multi-media drawing techniques from several prominent illustrators and comic artists. Using NYC cultural, historical and scientific institutions as their learning labs they will and gain greater insight into the life of an illustrator.

Each student receives a backpack filled with art supplies, textbook and Academy T-shirt for easy identification while traveling to such famous NYC landmarks as the Central Park Zoo, Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York Tansit Museum, American Museum of Natural History and Queens County Farm Museum. Students will also engage with a teaching artist at Materials for the Arts for a full-day, hands-on program learning the art of 3-D illustration. The Society provides nutritious lunches and orients the youth to the program at their Museum of American Illustration located in an 1875 Carriage House on East 63rd Street.

This year’s roster of renowned Academy instructors include: Melinda Beck, Stephen Gardner, Brendan Leach, Josh Neufeld, Wendy Pop, and Marc Scheff.  They integrate their illustration and comic expertise with the NYS Learning Standards in the Visual Arts to provide students with holistic outcomes-based curriculum.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Community involvement and support are vital to ensuring that the camp continues.

The total cost for one child’s camp experience is $500, which includes transportation, art supplies, back pack, tee shirts, text book, lunch and snacks, site fees and instructors.

Please help us make the Summer Illustration Art Academy possible by making a tax deductible donation.

* $500 Donation:Send one child the the Academy for 1 full week.

* $300 Donation: will fund a child’s supplies, instructors and site fees for 1 full week.

* $200 Donation: will support a child’s supplies and instructors for 1 full week.

* $150 Donation: will cover the cost of a child’s transportation for 1 full week to such sites as the NY Transit Museum and The Rubin Museum.

* $50 Donation: will buy lunch and snacks for one child for 1 full week.

Your donation at any level you can afford will contribute to this worthwhile program. 

Click here to donate now.

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36. Librarian Preview: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

macmillan Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)And the hits just keep on coming!  Ain’t no party like a Macmillan party, cause a Macmillan party has superior brownies.  So there I was, HUGELY pregnant with some major back pain attending my penultimate librarian preview in a publisher’s home base (I actually have three more to write up after this, so no worries about me running out anytime soon).  As you may know, Macmillan is based out of the Flatiron Building here in NYC and a nicer little ancient structure with teeny tiny elevators you will never meet.

Now a Macmillan Librarian Preview is a bit different from any other publisher’s preview.  First off, superior desserts.  So superior, in fact, that it takes an act of will not to eat large quantities of them.  Second, they hold their previews in the afternoon, post-lunch, and end at the end of the work day (5ish or so).  This allows you the chance to arrive on time, not particularly bleary-eyed, feeling guiltless when you go home afterwards.  Third, they assign each attendee a group and then the groups go off into separate rooms.

I have been to (rough guess here) ten or so Macmillan previews over the years.  I’ve seen them change and evolve over time into the clever current layout.  And not once, NOT ONCE, had I ever been allowed to be a part of the group that stays in the first meeting room.  Which is to say, the group that has access to those previously mentioned delicious snacks.  But now I must credit the magical powers of my pregnant stomach.  I got the first room!  I got it!!  Oh frabjous day, calloo, callay!  Pardon me while I chortle in my joy.

And so it was that I sat in on the preview, finding that now I had to concentrate my willpower on NOT eating the delicious snacks, one after another.  I tell ya, man.  I ain’t never satisfied.

Onto the preview!

Farrar Straus Giroux

If You Were a Dog by Jamie A. Swenson, ill. Chris Raschka

IfYouWereDog 500x497 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

It’s not as if Chris Raschka has to prove that he’s capable of drawing dogs or anything.  I mean, he bloody won a Caldecott Award with one such book not too long ago.  In the case of this particular title, we’re seeing a slightly squared off Raschka at work.  The author is Jamie Swenson, whom I am delighted to report is a children’s librarian from Wisconsin.  In the book a kiddo imagines being a dog, cat, fish, frog, and dinosaur.  I particularly liked the line about being a “dino-eyed, perching-raptor sort of bird.”  Extra Added Plus: In the vein of The Hello Goodbye Window (another Raschka award winner) the kid is mixed-race with a light mom and dark dad.

Rupert Can Dance by Jules Feiffer

RupertCanDance Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

You can never predict a Feiffer.  For a couple years now he’s been pairing his art to his daughter Kate’s writing, yielding such lovely titles as My Side of the Car (which I personally am really quite fond of).  From time to time he’ll still strike out on his own, though.  I consider some of his solo picture book efforts true classics (see: Bark, George and The Daddy Mountain as two examples).  Now we meet Rupert, the dancing cat.  Since Feiffer’s picture books often have interesting back stories, one can only hope the tale behind this tale will come out someday.  In this book a cat that likes to dance en seul is discovered by his human owner.  Unfortunately, her attempts to “help” result in him pulling away and quitting his high-stepping altogether.  Things eventually reach a happy conclusion, and I couldn’t but think that the story was an excellent metaphor for when parental “help” offered to children is rebuffed in much the same way that Rupert rebuffs his mistress.  Consider pairing this with Flora and the Flamingo or Penguin Cha-Cha.

And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst, ill. Sophie Blackall

TwoBoysBooed 500x407 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

I’m all about helping kids deal with disappointment and failure.  Seems to me a healthy thing to do.  Recently I reviewed The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, which shows kids that getting things wrong over and over again can actually be a good thing.  Along much the same lines comes the latest from the author that brought us Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  So basically, we’re talking about a woman with some experience with disappointed boys.  In this tale there is a small classroom talent show going on and our hero is going to sing.  Trouble is, there are a LOT of kids before him and he really has to wait before his singing happens.  Told with rhythmic text and some really nice little flaps that you lift, it doesn’t hurt matters any that the art is by Sophie Blackall, one of my favorite illustrators of regular everyday kids.  When our hero does finally get his chance, most everyone applauds though two boys do boo him.  Fortunately, it doesn’t hurt him one jot.  And brother, if you can survive being booed as a kid then you are emotionally and mentally set for LIFE!  What a cool idea for a book.

Little Humans by Brandon Stanton

LittleHumans 498x500 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

So I’m walking down the street with my husband the other day and he says to me, “You know what the Humans of New York guy should do?  He should make a book for kids.”  I was mighty pleased to be able to say, “It’s out this October.”  So there you go, folks.

The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos

KeySwallowedJoey Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Sometimes a book jacket artist is so obvious you feel as if they’ve always been the artist on a series.  Lane Smith’s covers of the Joey Pigza books?  Yes, obviously.  He did those years ago, right?  Nope.  And why no one thought to pair Smith and Gantos together before now is baffling.  I mean, talk about a match made in heaven!  These guys complete one another.  As for the fact that there’s another Joey Pigza on the horizon, woohoo!  Do you remember how angry some folks got when the last one came out?  I remember some librarians complaining because at the end of #3 Joey really seemed like his life was coming together.  Then it all fell apart in #4 (I Am Not Joey Pigza).  In #5 he’s still dealing with some major problems and if I were a betting woman I’d say it’s likely that there are no easy answers.  One thought about the title, it’s going to make keyword searches for the first book just the teensiest bit more difficult now.

Spirit’s Key by Edith Cohn

SpiritsKey Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

More keys.  I have to remember how they were describing this one.  If I’m remembering correctly then they said this was “Savvy meets Because of Winn-Dixie” (a “meets” I have certainly never seen before).  I heard their description of this book but for some reason I just wasn’t able to get my fingers to write down the information correctly.  Here’s the official summary then: “By now, twelve-year-old Spirit Holden should have inherited the family gift: the ability to see the future. But when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does to read its owner’s destiny, she can’t see anything. Maybe it’s because she can’t get over the loss of her beloved dog, Sky, who died mysteriously. Sky was Spirit’s loyal companion, one of the wild dogs that the local islanders believe possess devil spirits. As more dogs start dying and people become sick, too, everyone blames the dogs–except for Spirit. Then Sky’s ghost appears. His help may be the key to unlocking her new power and finding the cause of the mysterious illness before it’s too late.”

Feiwel and Friends

Frankenstein’s Fright Before Christmas by Nathan Hale and Rick Walton

FrankensteinFright Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

I never really noticed it before but Frankenstein sort of looks like a shorter, more undead version of Hale’s Hangman from the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series.  See?

Hangman 210x300 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Sorry. That was random.  I just love the Hazardous Tales series so much I’ll use any excuse to talk about ‘em.  Anywho, here we have the sequel to Hale and Walton’s rather successful Frankenstein which, as you may recall, was a parody of Madeline. Looking at the book I was definitely reminded of The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Not the worst thing to think of when looking at a new book, wouldn’t you say?

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

RainReign Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Right now this is the book I feel guiltiest for not having read yet.  To give us a taste, five pages of this book were read aloud.  And yup.  That was pretty much all it took to get us all very very VERY interested.  Yes, you could say that it looks rather familiar since it is yet again an Ann M. Martin dog book.  But the individual voices of the characters, in particular the father and the daughter, are amazingly well delineated.  With a heroine with Asperger’s who finds numbers and homonyms comforting, this was the take away line from the preview: “You may not like her, but you’ll love her.”  Oooo.  Well played, Feiwel and Friends.

Zorgoochi Intergalactic Pizza: Delivery of Doom by Dan Yaccarino

Zorgoochi Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

What does it say about a publisher when they have not one but TWO books for kids coming out the same year featuring outer space heroes that deliver pizzas?  Over at the First Second imprint they’ve already published James Kochalka’s The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza.  Now Feiwel and Friends are coming out with a middle grade novel about an independent space pizza company (never buy your space pizza from corporate sellouts, sweethearts).  Copiously illustrated by Yaccarino and nicely designed, there is a moral to this tale: “Aliens aren’t good tippers.”  It’s an interesting size for a middle grade, coming in at a slightly larger than usual 6″ X 9″.  And since the story does, at some point, involve talking garlic, I officially approve.  Insofar as I’m concerned, all books should involve talking garlic in some way.  It just makes sense.

Coming Home by Greg Ruth

ComingHome 495x500 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Okay.  Fess up.  How many of you have watched those YouTube videos of soldiers returning home, being greeted by their loved ones and haven’t teared up?  Here, I’ll give you a challenge.  Watch this and don’t cry.

Now admit that this is a great idea for a picture book.  Greg Ruth was last seen creating the creepy as all get out graphic novel The Lost Boy.  Switching gears entirely, he’s now penned a picture book that will be out just in time for Veteran’s Day.  In this tale, a boy waits for his mom in an airport.  As he does we see family after family greeting returning soldiers home.

Henry Holt

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies

StormWhale 500x434 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

I’m the kind of parent who always makes a big show of reading the author’s name when I read a book aloud to my kiddos.  As a result, the name “Benji Davies” is VERY familiar to me.  That’s because here in the States we primarily know him through his Nosy Crow imports like the Bizzy Bear series.  Turns out, the man has loads of other books under his belt, and they do not all happen to involve wide-eyed board book bears.  This book sort of looks like a combination of One Morning in Maine meets modern Japanese prints.  With beautiful saturated color the story follows a boy, his fisherman father, and their cats.  One day the boy finds a small whale on the beach and brings it home.  Imagine this to be a companion to Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers.  Then head on over to the 100 Scope Notes post on the proliferation of whales in children’s books this year.

This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne

ThisBookAteDog Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but after the publication of Herve Tullet’s Press Here, its overwhelming success led to a string of copycat picture books.  And they all basically did the same darn thing, but with a mild twist here and there.  *snore*  If you’re going to make an interactive picture book where the format is key to the storytelling, at least put a little originality in there, people.  Originality is the name of the game with Byrne’s latest.  This is a book that uses the gutter (in layman’s terms, the middle of the book between the pages) as part of the plot.  It’s funny and quirky and really rather clever.  It would also make a GREAT readaloud picture book.  Just sayin’.

Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato

LittleElliot Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

I consider this one a love letter to New York City.  It reminded me in equal turns of Gus Gordon’s Herman & Rosie and Dan Santat’s Beekle.  In this story a small polka dotted elephant (the polka dots are awfully light) finds that he is just too small in this way too big city.  Fortunately, he soon finds a friend who makes the experience of NYC a little more manageable.

Classic Comics: Pinocchio by Kate McMullan, ill. Pascal LeMaitre

Pinocchio Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Fun Fact: Did you know that in the original tale of Pinocchio it wasn’t a whale that swallowed everybody’s favorite wooden boy but a shark?  You can thank Disney for mucking up your memories in that respect.  McMulland and LeMaitre (who may sound familiar to you because he illustrated Andrea Beaty’s Ted books) have created an early chapter book hybrid graphic novel series in two-colors based on classics.  First up (working off the original text) is Pinocchio.  Next: Robin Hood.

Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen

CentaurRising Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

In some ways, Jane Yolen is the queen of the hybrid humans.  I can’t tell you how easy it has been over the years to hear the pleas of mermaid loving girls and then hand them Yolen’s Neptune Rising (check out the cover and you’ll see what I mean).  Her latest is a bit of historical fiction with a title very similar to that old merman tale.  Here’s the official publisher plot: “One night during the Perseid meteor shower, Arianne thinks she sees a shooting star land in the fields surrounding her family’s horse farm. About a year later, one of their horses gives birth to a baby centaur. The family has enough attention already as Arianne’s six-year-old brother was born with birth defects caused by an experimental drug—the last thing they need is more scrutiny. But their clients soon start growing suspicious. Just how long is it possible to keep a secret? And what will happen if the world finds out?”

Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Yona Zeldis McDonough,

ill. Jennifer Thermes

LittleAuthorBigWoods Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

The most interesting thing about this is that the cover and interior illustrations evoke most clearly (and we have to assume, deliberately) the original illustrations of the Little House books by Helen Sewell.  Knowing, as they do, that the Little House books are most accessible to slightly older children, this book makes Laura & Co. applicable to younger folks.  Recipes and crafts are also included.

And Away We Go by Migy

AndAwayWeGo Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Balloons are very big with Macmillan this year (as you will soon see with an upcoming Philip Stead book).  In this cumulative story a fox gets a hot air balloon.  As he travels, more and more animals join for a ride, bringing something with them.  That’s when things get a little crazy.  Think of a book like The Mitten only set in a hot air balloon and you’ll have the right notion.  Plus, you’ve gotta love the retro look that one-namer Migy has cultivated here.  Sweet.

Strongheart: The World’s First Movie Star Dog by Emily Arnold McCully

Strongheart Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

There is something deeply askew in the universe this year.  I like dog books.  Books.  Plural.  I keep bloody running into dog books that I enjoy and I am NOT a dog person.  If it’s not Stubby the War Dog by Ann Bausum then it’s Tuesday Tucks Me In by Luis Carlos Montalvan or Kathi Appelt’s Mogie: The Heart of the House.  Know what these all have in common?  They’re all based on real dogs.  McCully’s is no different.  Before Lassie, before RinTinTin, there was Strongheart.  A former soldier dog from Germany, Strongheart could march and obey orders but he didn’t know how to play.  That meant he was an ideal actor (and don’t worry, the man who got him taught him to play as well).  He became a real sensation of the 1920s, and his on-screen exploits even inspired the owners of RinTinTin.  Pair this book with the aforementioned Stubby as well as Meghan McCarthy’s Balto for other books about dogs-turned-Vaudeville and onscreen stars.

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman

TalesBunjitsuBunny Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

If I were to list my favorite picture books of all time, I would be ashamed not to mention Chickens to the Rescue and Katie Loves the Kittens, two of my favorite books.  In the same vein as such series as Usagi Yojimbo comes an early chapter book series about a martial art that is entirely for bunnies.  Short little stories and a single color (red), John himself has long studied martial arts so he knows from whence he writes when he includes such elements as bunchucks (they’re made of carrots).

Three Pickled Herrings by Sally Gardner, ill. David Roberts

ThreePickledHerrings Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

To a certain extent I’m including this because I enjoyed the first book in the series so very much.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you all how charming Operation Bunny: The Fairy Detective Agency’s First Case by Sally Gardner (which came out earlier this year) is.  If you haven’t read it yet then tsk tsk tsk.  It’s a pure delight.  Very much in the Dahl vein, only slightly more refined.  In any case, to know that there’s a second book coming out is just icing on the cake.  I will be reading this.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

HowWentDown Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

As per usual I have a tendency to skip mentioning all the YA in a given preview and as per usual I make exceptions here and there.  Kekla Magoon will always be such an exception as she is exceptional.  What we have here is a kind of Trayvon Martin storyline.  A black boy has been shot by a white man.  Done in a  Monster style (there are multiple voices and conflicting viewpoints) the crime has already happened.  Lots of people feel conflicted about the crime.  A politician who honestly feels this was a horrible thing to happen discovers that it does wonders for his poll numbers.  A person who honestly didn’t like the victim now has to deal with his death.  Great cover (love the hoodie).  A must read.

The Book of Three (50th Anniversary Edition) by Lloyd Alexander

BookThree Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

It’s been fifty years since Lloyd Alexander introduced the world to Prydain.  That’s long enough for people to have forgotten the lamentable Disney film based on them and to remember only Alexander’s wit and wisdom.  In this lovely new celebratory cloth-bound edition they’ve amped up the original cover and included an introduction from Shannon Hale.  The foundling stories are now included in the back, which is a clever idea.  Other books in the series will be coming soon too.

Roaring Brook Press

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

VivaFrida 500x500 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Are you excited?  You should be.  But you should also not rush to conclusions.  If you’re looking for a straight picture book bio of Frida Kahlo then this is not the book for you.  Written in both English and Spanish, Morales utilizes her impressive artistic skills to create this utterly beautiful mixture of illustration and models.  With extremely simple text the book is less about Frida’s life and more about her inspiration as an artist.  Biographical information is included at the end, but this is a book to hand to budding artists.  It reminded me of Yuyi’s previous, fantastic, experiment with models with Tony Johnston’s My Abuelita.  And speaking of Tony Johnston . . .

Sequoia by Tony Johnston, ill. Wendell Minor

Sequoia 500x498 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Looks like we finally have a companion book for Jason Chin’s Redwoods.  The difference is in the complete and utter absence of humans.  In this book the tree is the true protagonist.  Using poetic language, the book examines a single sequoia.  Readers are encouraged to occasionally turn the book on its side from time to time to read it.  Very cool stuff.

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting the Great White Sharks of California’s Farallon Islands, by Katherine Roy

NeighborhoodSharks Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Great cover, right?  There are a number of reasons to be excited about this particular book.  I heard about it a year or so ago and have been anxiously awaiting its appearance ever since.  This is the first book in the brand spanking new David Macaulay imprint at Macmillan.  As the editors put it this is, “the most up-to-date book on sharks you will find.”  Consider Ms. Roy a debut to watch.  Gotta love that title too.

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

SebastianBalloon Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

The other balloon book of note.  Here we have a new Stead, coming out at the same time as his interview site Number Five Bus Presents.  To hear his editors speak of it, it’s a book about loneliness, friendship, quests, “and realizing your heart’s desire.”  I found it to have a distinctly “classic” picture book feel to it.  Plus, the man does a good bear.  That’s important too, right?

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea, ill. Lane Smith

KidSheriff 500x389 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Look, I’ll level with you.  I love Bob Shea and I have great fondness for the work of Lane Smith, but neither of them guarantee a slam dunk of a book every time.  And yes, putting them together is fun but even that wasn’t enough to sway me.  I had to read this puppy before I’d write it off as brilliant.  And fortunately, it stood up to the test.  Maybe that’s because it’s so bloody odd.  Travis Jonker will tell you that the biggest trend in children’s books this year is whales, and he’s right.  But if I were to pick a very strange sub-trend, I’d go with Westerns Featuring People Riding Tortoises.  Don’t believe me?  Well, we have this and we also have the new Anne Issacs title Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch.  Sure, it’s only two but it’s two in the same year.  That’s gotta mean something.

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, ill. Hadley Hooper

IridescenceBirds Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

The way editor Neal Porter describes getting the pitch of this book, he was an event with Ms. MacLachlan and asked what she was working on.  She told him it was a book that would never get published.  Gotta watch yourself around Neal Porter though.  Them’s fighting words.  Challenge accepted!  So basically what you have here is a book consisting entirely of two sentences.  Two long run-on sentences, but still.  Just two.  Meant to be read aloud, this pairs well with the aforementioned Frida book because like Frida it has less to do with being a strict biography and more about what it means to be an artist.  Illustrator Hadley Hooper may look somewhat familiar to you, by the way, since his last book was that cool bio Here Come the Girl Scouts.

Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents by Lita Judge

BornWild 490x500 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

A new Lita Judge is always cause for celebration.  Going a little bit more cuddly than her previous forays into birds and dinos, this book talks about the different things that babies need from their parents.  The book follows the current trend of including a younger readaloud text alongside nonfiction background information for older readers.  It’s a clever way of making a single book accessible to a range of ages.  Clever, yes?

Edible Colors by Jennifer Vogel Bass

EdibleColors 500x500 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

As a mother who attempts to break the cycle of picky eating with her own children (and the universe says, “Yeah. Good luck with aallllll that”) I instinctively gravitate towards any book that includes photographs of healthy food.  The first thing I thought when I saw Jennifer Vogel Bass’s latest nonfiction picture book was of April Pulley Sayre’s Rah Rah Radishes and Go Go Grapes.  In the same vein as Eating the Alphabet, the book consists of different colors and the fruits and veggies that are those colors.  I’m very curious to see how Bass tackles blue.  For the photos, Bass actually grew most of the foods here, going to her local markets for the rest.

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson

StarStuff 500x386 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

With the new Cosmos television show I’ve been saying for quite some time that somebody needed to do a Neil deGrasse Tyson picture book bio.  Well . . . this ain’t it.  Ain’t it, but it’s the next best thing.  Carl Sagan for the kiddos!  Considering that in my own youth my sole understanding of who Sagan was consisted of a Bloom County cartoon (points to anyone who can name which one) this is a step in the right direction.  This story tells how Carl got into science and ends with the Voyager project, golden records and all.  So now at long last we’ve something to hand the Cosmos watchers!  Woohoo!

The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Tougas

GrahamCrackerPlot Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

Huh.  Is that a Jeff Newman cover I see?  Hard to tell.  I should have asked at the time, actually, but I was too distracted by (A) The cool title and (B) the fun sounding plot.  In this tale by debut author Shelley Tougas, Daisy and Graham decide the time has come to bust her dad out of jail and escape to Canada.  The entire book is told in the form of a letter to a judge about the events as they occurred.  As you might be able to tell, not everything goes according to plan.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

ScandalousSisterhood Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)
Clearly somebody has been making blood sacrifices to the gods of good cover design.  That somebody must be Julie Berry.  In this Victorian farce seven girls in a boarding school make an unusual choice when their headmistress drops dead at tea.  Rather than report the fact, they decide to pull a Summer of the Gypsy Moths and bury the body themselves, telling no one.  Of course, that does still mean that her killer is out there.  Now tell me you’re not intrigued.

First Second

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

JuliasHouseLostCreatures 500x397 Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)

I know that you already love his Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels, but that series just wrapped up.  So what’s the next step for Mr. Hatke?  How about picture books?  Because this book has been available through Netgalley, some of my librarians have already read it and they are BIG time fans.  In this story Julia opens up her house to a range of odd creatures, and then must domesticate them (read: Get them to do their chores).  For some reason, this felt like a good companion to this year’s The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara.  And it definitely reminded me of that old Cartoon Network show Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.

Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics, edited by Chris Duffy

AboveDreamlessDead Librarian Preview: Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group (Fall 2014)
A far cry from Nursery Rhyme Comics, eh Duffy?  So this would be the second YA title to grace my round-up.  I wouldn’t necessarily mention it except that I love all the books that Duffy edits and this ties in so well with all the WWI units we’re hearing about this year.  Taking real poetry written by WWI soldiers in the trenches (called “trench poetry”) each poem is accompanied by a different cartoonist’s work.  A quick warning that this is being marketing for adults, but it has definite YA crossover potential.  FYI.

And that is that!  Many thanks to Macmillan for the lovely preview.  And thanks to you all for reading.

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37. My First Re-Review: The Qwikpick Papers – Poop Fountain by Tom Angleberger

Here’s something I’ve never done before.  For years I’ve been waiting for the moment when a book I loved and reviewed dipped out of print only to come back again.  Since I’ve only been doing this gig since 2006 I wasn’t sure what that first book would be.  Then, this year, I got my answer.  Back in October of 2007 I reviewed a book by a newcomer going by the moniker of Sam Riddleberger.  The book?  The Qwikpick Adventure Society.  I absolutely adored it, floored by some of the new things it was doing.  Years passed and no one paid the book the appropriate amount of attention it deserved.  Then Mr. Riddleberger decided to publish under his real name, Tom Angleberger, and next thing you know he’s written a little book by the name of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and the world was never the same.  What with his earlier efforts out of print and his name so incredibly bankable, I had high hopes that this might not be the last we’d seen of Mr. Riddleberger/Angleberger.  Then this year, behold!  Do mine eyes deceive me?  No!  It’s back!  New cover, new title, old book.

So for today’s Flashback Wednesday we’re going to reprint that old review I did of the book . . . slightly modified.  There are a couple mentions in the original review of things published “this year” that had to be updated.  I’m going to keep the parts about the rarity of trailer park kids that aren’t abused, though in the comments of my original review Genevieve mentioned that The Higher Power of Lucky could be considered another alternative.  Fair enough.

Enjoy!

Qwikpick 200x300 My First Re Review: The Qwikpick Papers   Poop Fountain by Tom AnglebergerAs a children’s book reviewer there is one fact that you must keep at the forefront of your mind at all times: You are not a kid. Not usually anyway. And because you are not a kid, you are not going to read a book the way a kid does. I keep talking in my reviews about how your own personal prejudices affect your interpretation of the book in front of you, and it’s bloody true. I mean, take scatological humor in all its myriad forms. When I read How to Eat Fried Worms as an adult, I didn’t actually expect the hero to eat worms (let alone 30+ of them). And when I read Out of Patience by Brian Meehl I really enjoyed it until the moment when the local fertilizer plant became… well, you’d have to read the book to grasp the full horror of the situation. Actually, Out of Patience was the title I kept thinking of as I got deeper and deeper into The Qwikpick Papers. Both books are funny and smart and both involve gross quantities of waste to an extent you might never expect. I am an adult. I have a hard time with poop. Poop aside (and that’s saying something) there’s a lot of great stuff going on in this book. It’s definitely a keeper, though it may need to win over its primary purchasing audience, adults.

Lyle Hertzog is going to level with you right from the start. In this story he and his friends, “didn’t stop a smuggling ring or get mixed up with the mob or stop an ancient evil from rising up and spreading black terror across Crickenburg.” Nope. This is the story of Lyle, Dave, and Marilla and their club’s first adventure. The kids say that they’re The Qwikpick Adventure Society because they meet regularly in the break room of the local Qwikpick convenience store where Lyle’s parents work. When it occurs to the three that they’ll all be available to hang out on Christmas Day, they decide to do something extraordinary. Something unprecedented. And when Marilla discovers that the local “antiquated sludge fountain” at the Crickenburg sewer plant is about to be replaced, they know exactly what to do. They must see the poop fountain before it is gone. The result is a small adventure that is exciting, frightening, and very very pungent.

Someone once told me that this book reminded them of Stand By Me, “except no dead bodies and no Wil Wheaton.” They may be on to something there. Author Tom Angleberger works the relationships between the kids nicely. It’s a little hard to get into the heads of all the characters considering that we’re seeing everything through Lyle’s point of view, but the author does what he can. As for the “sludge fountain” itself, kids looking for gross moments will not be disappointed. You might be able to sell it to their parents with the argument that it’s actually rather informative and factual on this point (though I suggest that you play up the relationship aspect instead).

There are few kid-appropriate taboo topics out there, but if I was going to suggest one I might say it was the issue of class. Oh, you’ll get plenty of books where a kid lives a miserable life in a trailer park and gets teased by the rich/middle class kids in their class about it, sure. Now name all the books you can think of where the main characters live in a trailer park and that’s just their life. Or have parents that work in a convenience store and there isn’t any alcohol abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, etc. I swear, a kid who actually lived in a trailer park these days who tried to find a book containing kids like themselves would have to assume that abuse was the norm rather than the exception. So when I saw that both Lyle and Marilla lived in a trailer park and it wasn’t a big deal, that was huge for me. Also, sometimes a book with kids of different religions or ethnicities will make a big deal about the fact. Here, Lyle’s Christian, Dave’s Jewish, and Marilla’s a Jehovah’s Witness and not white but not identified as anything in particular. Quick! Name all the Jehovah’s Witnesses you’ve encountered in children’s books where the story wasn’t ALL about being a Jehovah’s Witness! Riddleburger is making people just people. What a concept.

I’ve been talking a lot this year about books that don’t slot neatly into categories. The kinds of books that mix genres and styles. The Qwikpick Papers will be classed as fiction, no question about it, but its prolific use of photographs certainly separates it from the pack. For example, there’s a moment when the kids are trying to figure out what to do for Christmas. One of them suggests opening a fifty-gallon drum of banana puree that’s been sitting behind an empty Kroger store and there, lo and behold, is an actual honest-to-goodness photograph of a rusty, decaying, very real banana puree barrel. I don’t know whether to hope that Mr. Angleberger took the picture years ago and was just itching for a chance to get to use it, or that he created the barrel himself for the sole purpose of including a photo of it in his book. I also enjoyed the hand-drawn portions. The comic strip All-Zombie Marching Band deserves mention in and of itself (though technically William Nicholson’s The Wind Singer did it too).

I say that the poop, the sheer amount of it, will turn off a lot of adults. At the same time though there are plenty of moments that will lure the grown-ups back in again. Particularly librarians. Particularly librarians that have ever attempted an origami craft with a bunch of kids. For these brave men and women Lyle’s line about the process of doing an unfamiliar animal will ring true. “You follow the instructions through like thirty-four steps and all of a sudden there’s this funky zigzag arrow and on the next page it has turned from a lump of paper into a horse with wings.” YES! Exactly! Thank you!

All in all, I’m a fan. The characters ring true, the dialogue is snappy, the unique format will lure in reluctant readers, and talk about a title custom made for booktalking! There’s not a kid alive today who wouldn’t want to read the book when confronted with the plot. It has ups. It has downs. It has a great sense of place and a whole lot of poop. Take all angles into consideration when considering this book. On my part, I like it and that is that.

On shelves now.

Like This? Then Try:

Other Blog Reviews of the Original:
Professional Reviews of the Original: Kirkus

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38. The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

In the world of children’s literature we are creatures with short memories.  The new and shiny is always far more preferable to the old and worn.  I’ve been in the children’s book reviewing game for roundabout eight years now and I’ve fallen in love with a fair amount of titles.  But time goes on and I end up forgetting so many of them.  Fortunately, I long ago had the idea of creating this handy dandy wiki of all the books I’ve reviewed.  It’s been invaluable to me over the years, reminding me of the books I loved when they first came out.

Recently I was talking with somebody about recommended but too little loved titles and the subject of D.M. Cornish’s absolutely jaw-dropping Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy came up.  I was singing its praises like crazy and it occurred to me that there are loads of titles I just don’t sing the praises of enough.  To simplify matters, I decided to make a list of recommended books for the middle schoolers of the world.  These are books that, as far as I’m concerned, deserve a lot more attention.  Some you will have heard of.  Many will be new to you.  All of them are memorable and amazing by turns.  These are the books I’ll never get out of my head . . . . in a good way!

The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry

WingedGirl1 The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

So I’m kind of cheating right off the bat.  Anyone who reads me may be aware that The Winged Girl of Knossos is my dream Bring It Back In Print title.  A Newbery Honor winner of 1934, it doesn’t feel the least bit dated.  And don’t be fooled by the lame cover.  In this book you have a girl who hanglides, goes deep sea diving, and frickin’ does gymnastics off of the backs of live, angry bulls.  Did I mention she also lives in Ancient Greece?  Put a new jacket on it and watch in amazement as kids read it again.  Just sayin’.

Dragon Castle by Joseph Bruchac

DragonCastle The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

Okay. You know what this really reminds me of?  I have no idea why, but something about the tone and feel of this book feels like Frozen to me.  It’s something to do with the humor and the characters, I think.  When this was released I wasn’t exactly rushing to pick it up.  But when I finally did and read it cover to cover I was shocked by how thorough and truly enjoyable it was.  And look what they did to it!  Generic name, generic title, etc.  The only indication that there might be something awesome beneath this cover is the fact that the author is Joseph Bruchac.  If you want to shock a kid by giving them a book they love in spite of its packaging, this is the one to hand over.

Wabi by Joseph Bruchac

 wabi The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

Two Bruchacs in a row?  Well, he’s worth it.  And this book was just the most awesome thing.  A love story and a kind of superhero tale all at once, I loved how Bruchac mixed together myth and just awesome epic storytelling.  Seriously, hand this to the kid that’s into DC/Marvel/superhero movies.  It’s not as big a change of pace as you might think.

Monster Blood Tattoo by D.M. Cornish

foundling The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

There is no justice in the world.  If there was then every single one of you would know this three book series.  You’d be able list ably the characters and to say the names of every person on this book jacket.  An Australian series, Cornish created what might well be the most original series I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.  This is a world entirely unlike any other and my sole regret in life is that there are only three books thus far.

The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey

VengekeepProphecies The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

Most of the books I’m mentioning today came out a while ago but this one was released as recently as 2012.  That said, you may have missed it and that would be a true shame.  Funny fantasy is hard to do.  And funny epic fantasy?  Almost impossible.  The only word I can use to really describe this series is charming.  It’s utterly the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen.  And a thrill as well.

The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge

 LostConspiracy The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

If you read only one book on this list today, read this one.  I had a hard time not listing every last single Hardinge book on this list.  To be fair, I limited myself to just one title.  This is a book I think about constantly.  It’s the kind of book I wish I had the talent to write.  It’s the best middle school novel I’ve ever read or will ever hope to read.  And I wish to high heaven someone in America would start importing Hardinge’s titles again.  I miss them.

Thresholds by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

thresholds The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

So weird to me that with this gorgeous cover and the crazy writing inside that this book isn’t better remembered.  It’s basically the movie Alien, but if the Alien in question were a good guy instead of a bad guy.  Intrigued yet?

Departure Time by Truus Matti

departuretime The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

This is probably the only translation on this list.  What I loved about the book most was probably the fact that it took the notion of an unreliable narrator to a logical extreme.  This read like Sophie’s World but for kids.

The Boneshaker by Kate Milford

The Boneshaker The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

This August you’ll have a chance to read Kate’s latest novel The Green Glass House (and read it you will, but more on that later).  Before you do, go back and read this book.  I like my creepy titles nice and psychological.  Milford provided with this amazingly, incredibly twisted, scary, delightful tale.  Honestly, you’ve never read ANYTHING like this before.  Not even Ray Bradbury.

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri

ghettocowboy11 The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

 

 

When this came out I went a little crazy over it.  It wasn’t just the fact that it was Greg Neri writing it (though that certainly didn’t hurt matters any).  It was also the great storyline, characters, and original premise.  I think it actually made it into paperback, which was a relief.

Larklight by Philip Reeve

 Larklight The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

You know I have a weakness for humor with my genre fiction.  Well funny science fiction isn’t exactly common these days.  Full credit them to this crazy cool series.  I loved each book Reeve wrote, but it’s hard to top the first one.  Hand this to budding Firefly fans.

The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski

 CabinetWonders The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

Before Marie started getting all those loads of starred reviews for YA novels like The Winner’s Curse, she was a middle grade fantasy author.  You know how nine times out of ten the Steampunk genre doesn’t work with middle grade?  Meet the one time it does.  Memorable characters, talking mechanical spiders, a prince so evil he could make Joffrey on Game of Thrones blanch, this book series had it all.

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz

 DrownedMaidensHair The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

Every time I look at it I remember that though it should have won a Newbery, somehow this book by Schlitz did not.  Yet it’s amazing.  The only book I would honestly call a companion in spirit to The Secret Garden.  Utterly, thoroughly, entirely, amazing.

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton

boybearboat1 The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

The weirdest book on this list (and THAT is saying something. I think in my review I called it Waiting for Godot for kids.  I stand by that and I stand by this book.  Every librarian I know who read it said the same thing about it too.  “It’s so weird . . . but I kind of loved it.”  Yup.

Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor (ill. Jim DiBartolo)

DreamdarkBlackbringer The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

Speaking of YA authors who wrote middle grade before they broke big, Laini Taylor is remembered for many things but not for her first series.  Yet the fairies of Dreamdark were amazing in their construction.  You can’t read this book and not understand that Laini was special and amazing.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi (ill. Yuko Shimizu)

 Moribito The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

It’s an animated series in Japan.  A book with a woman so kickbutt that you’re aware that if she were a man there’d be a whole slew of movies about her already.  When folks ask for something fast paced and filled with action/adventure, nothing beats this book.  Absolutely nothing.

Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson

LeepikeRidge The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books

I love his latest book Boys of Blur.  Sure I do.  But no one can deny that it was Leepike Ridge that showed us all what the man was capable of.  Should have gotten more attention.  Maybe someday it will.

So spill.  Your forgotten favorites.  Go.

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39. Review of the Day: brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

BrownGirlDreaming Review of the Day: brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodsonbrown girl dreaming
By Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books (an imprint of Penguin)
$16.99
ISBN: 978- 0399252518
Ages 9-12
On shelves August 28th

What does a memoir owe its readers? For that matter, what does a fictionalized memoir written with a child audience in mind owe its readers? Kids come into public libraries every day asking for biographies and autobiographies. They’re assigned them with the teacher’s intent, one assumes, of placing them in the shoes of those people who found their way, or their voice, or their purpose in life. Maybe there’s a hope that by reading about such people the kids will see that life has purpose. That even the most high and lofty historical celebrity started out small. Yet to my mind, a memoir is of little use to child readers if it doesn’t spend a significant fraction of its time talking about the subject when they themselves were young. To pick up brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is to pick up the world’s best example of precisely how to write a fictionalized memoir. Sharp when it needs to be sharp, funny when it needs to be funny, and a book that can relate to so many other works of children’s literature, Woodson takes her own life and lays it out in such a way that child readers will both relate to it and interpret it through the lens of history itself. It may be history, but this is one character that will give kids the understanding that nothing in life is a given. Sometimes, as hokey as it sounds, it really does come down to your dreams.

Her father wanted to name her “Jack” after himself. Never mind that today, let alone 1963 Columbus, Ohio, you wouldn’t dream of naming a baby girl that way. Maybe her mother writing “Jacqueline” on her birth certificate was one of the hundreds of reasons her parents would eventually split apart. Or maybe it was her mother’s yearning for her childhood home in South Carolina that did it. Whatever the case, when Jackie was one-years-old her mother took her and her two older siblings to the South to live with their grandparents once and for all. Though it was segregated and times were violent, Jackie loved the place. Even when her mother left town to look for work in New York City, she kept on loving it. Later, her mother picked up her family and moved them to Brooklyn and Jackie had to learn the ways of city living versus country living. What’s more, with her talented older siblings and adorable baby brother, she needed to find out what made her special. Told in gentle verse and memory, Jacqueline Woodson expertly recounts her own story and her own journey against a backdrop of America’s civil rights movement. This is the birth of a writer told from a child’s perspective.

You might ask why we are referring to this book as a work of historical fiction, when clearly the memoir is based in fact. Recently I was reading a piece in The New Yorker on the novelist Edward St. Aubyn. St. Aubyn found the best way to recount his own childhood was through the lens of fiction. Says the man, “I wanted the freedom and the sublimatory power of writing a novel . . . And I wanted to write in the tradition which had impressed me the most.” Certainly there’s a much greater focus on what it means to be a work of nonfiction for kids in this day and age. Where in the past something like the Childhood of Famous Americans series could get away with murder, pondering what one famous person thought or felt at a given time, these days we hold children’s nonfiction to a much higher standard. Books like Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s No Crystal Stair, for example, must be called “fiction” for all that they are based on real people and real events. Woodson’s personal memoir is, for all intents and purposes, strictly factual but because there are times when she uses dialogue to flesh out the characters and scenes the book ends up in the fiction section of the library and bookstore. Like St. Aubyn, Woodson is most comfortable when she has the most freedom as an author, not to be hemmed in by a strict structural analysis of what did or did not occur in the past. She has, in a sense then, mastered the art of the fictionalized memoir in a children’s book format.

Because of course in fiction you can give your life a form and a function. You can look back and give it purpose, something nonfiction can do but with significantly less freedom. There is a moment in Jackie’s story when you get a distinct sense of her life turning a corner. In the section “grown folks’ stories” she recounts hearing the tales of the old people then telling them back to her sister and brother in the night. “Retelling each story. / Making up what I didn’t understand / or missed when voices dropped too low . . . / Then I let the stories live / inside my head, again and again / until the real world fades back / into cricket lullabies / and my own dreams.” If ever you wanted a “birth of a writer” sequence in a book, this would be it.

At its heart, that’s really what brown girl dreaming is about. It’s the story of a girl finding her voice and her purpose. If there’s a theme to children’s literature this year it is in the relationship between stories and lies. Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener and Margi Preus’s West of the Moon both spend a great deal of time examining the relationship between the two. Now brown girl dreaming joins with them. When Jackie’s mother tells her daughter that “If you lie . . . one day you’ll steal” the child cannot reconcile the two. “It’s hard to understand how one leads to the other, / how stories could ever / make us criminals.” It’s her mother that equates storytelling with lying, even as her uncle encourages her to keep making up stories. As it is, I can think of no better explanation of how writers work then the central conundrum Jackie is forced to face on her own. “It’s hard to understand / the way my brain works – so different / from everybody around me. / How each new story / I’m told becomes a thing / that happens, / in some other way / to me . . . !”

The choice to make the book a verse novel made sense in the context of Ms. Woodson’s other novels. Verse novels are at their best when they justify their form. A verse novel that’s written in verse simply because it’s the easiest way to tell a long story in a simple format often isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Fortunately, in the case of Ms. Woodson the choice makes infinite sense. Young Jackie is enamored of words and their meanings. The book isn’t told in the first person, but when we consider that she is both subject and author then it’s natural to suspect that the verse best shows the lens through which Jackie, the child, sees the world.

It doesn’t hurt matters any that the descriptive passages have the distinct feeling of poems to them. Individual lines are lovely in and of themselves, of course. Lines like “the heat of summer / could melt the mouth / so southerners stayed quiet.” Or later a bit of reflection on the Bible. “Even Salome intrigues us, her wish for a man’s head / on a platter – who could want this and live / to tell the story of that wanting?” But full-page written portions really do have the feel of poems. Like you could pluck them out of the book and display them and they’d stand on their own, out of context. The section labeled “ribbons” for example felt like pure poetry, even as it relayed facts. As Woodson writes, “When we hang them on the line to dry, we hope / they’ll blow away in the night breeze / but they don’t. Come morning, they’re right where / we left them / gently moving in the cool air, eager to anchor us / to childhood.” And so we get a beautiful mixing of verse and truth and fiction and memoir at once.

It was while reading the book that I got the distinct sense that this was far more than a personal story. The best memoirs, fictionalized or otherwise, are the ones that go beyond their immediate subjects and speak to something greater than themselves. Ostensibly, brown girl dreaming is just the tale of one girl’s journey from the South to the North and how her perceptions of race and self changed during that time. But the deeper you get into the book the more you realize that what you are reading is a kind of touchstone for other children’s books about the African-American experience in America. Turn to page eight and a reference to the Woodsons connections to Thomas Woodson of Chillicothe leads you directly to Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Page 32 and the trip from North to South and the deep and abiding love for the place evokes The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963. Page 259 and the appearance of The Jackson Five and their Afros relates beautifully to Rita Williams-Garcia’s P.S. Be Eleven. Page 297 and a reference to slaves in New York City conjures up Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. Even Jackie’s friend Maria has a story that ties in nicely to Sonia Manzano’s The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano. I even saw threads from Woodson’s past connect to her own books. Her difficulty reading but love of words conjures up Locomotion. Visiting her uncle in jail makes me think of Visiting Day as well as After Tupac and D Foster. And, of course, her personal history brings to mind her Newbery Honor winning picture book Show Way (which, should you wish to do brown girl dreaming in a book club, would make an ideal companion piece).

It’s not just other books either. Writers are advised to write what they know and that their family stories are their history. But when Woodson writes her history she’s broadening her scope. Under her watch her family’s history is America’s history. Woodson’s book manages to tie-in so many moments in African-American history that kids should know about. Segregation, marches, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. One thing I really appreciated about the book was that it also looked at aspects of some African-American life that I’ve just never seen represented in children’s literature before. Can you honestly name me any other books for kids where the children are Jehovah’s Witnesses? Aside from Tom Angleberger’s The Qwikpick Papers I’m drawing a blank.

The flaws? Well it gets off to a slow start. The first pages didn’t immediately grab me, and I have to hope that if there are any kids out there who read the same way that I do, with my immature 10-year-old brain, that they’ll stick with it. Once the family moves to the South everything definitely picks up. The only other objection I had was that I wanted to know so much more about Jackie’s family after the story had ended. In her Author’s Note she mentions meeting her father again years later. What were the circumstances behind that meeting? Why did it happen? And what did Dell and Hope and Roman go on to do with their lives? Clearly a sequel needs to happen. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this.

I’m just going to get grandiose on you here and say that reading this is basically akin to reading a young person’s version of Song of Solomon. It’s America and its racial history. It’s deeply personal, recounting the journey of one girl towards her eventual vocation and voice. It’s a fictionalized memoir that nonetheless tells greater truths than most of our nonfiction works for kids. It is, to put it plainly, a small work of art. Everyone who reads it will get something different out of it. Everyone who reads it will remember some small detail that spoke to them personally. It’s the book adults will wish they’d read as kids. It’s the book that hundreds of thousands of kids will read and continue to read for decades upon decades upon decades. It’s Woodson’s history and our own. It is amazing.

On shelves August 28th.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Other Reviews: Richie’s Picks

Misc: A look at the book and an interview with Ms. Woodson from Publishers Weekly.

Videos: In this opening keynote from SLJ’s Day of Dialog in 2014, Ms. Woodson talks about the path to this book.

Jacqueline Woodson keynote | SLJ Day of Dialog 2014 from School Library Journal on Vimeo.

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40. Video Sunday: But he was STILL hungry

Well, had this post just about wrapped up when the whole computer crashed on me.  Viva la internet!  Let’s see if I can recover what I lost.

First off, the best thing in the world.  Best.  The world.  Ever.

He is, for the record, on Twitter now.  I’m a bit reluctant to tell you this since I like being one of his few followers.  Ah well.  It was there that I discovered this video as well.  Oh, Huffington Post.  You knew not what you wrought.

Bet Angelina Jolie looks positively easy in comparison now, eh?  Geez, he’s good.

Meanwhile, also at BEA, we had other authors singing.  Michael Buckley brings us Lionel Ritchie while Gareth Hinds, Phil Bildner, and Tom Angleberger juggle behind him at the BEA silent auction.  Not so silent now!!

Thanks to Alvina Ling for the link.

Switching gear away from singing (but focusing just as much on white men standing in front of crowds doing things) this was taken in Australia.  It’s at a bus depot where a lot of preachers have a tendency to stand on milk crates.  Or, in this case, read from the true word of caterpillars.s

Five Hail Marys and four ripe red strawberries.  Thanks to Marci for the link.

Well good one, America.  I hope you’re happy now.  You just made LeVar Burton cry.

By the way – the folks getting upset about this?  Do we truly have nothing else to be upset about?  Let the blooming Rainbow have its day.

Now, of course, that every Kickstarter gets this kind of support.  Case in point, Literary Lots.  The idea?  “Literary Lots will transform 2 vacant lots near inner-city libraries into four-week literary spaces for children in Cleveland. Working together with local artists around themes from specific children’s books, we will re-create places, concepts, and images from these books…”  Nicely done.  The video is a bit off on its year (it says 2013 by accident) but the idea is still a nice one.

LiteraryLots 500x372 Video Sunday: But he was STILL hungry

Thanks to Pink Me for the link.

In other news, ALA recently released a controversial movie it produced (?!) back in 1977 called The Speaker.  They’ll be showing it at the upcoming ALA Conference in Vegas as well.  Why the controversy?  Well, as their press release put it:

The film depicts a high school Current Events club that decides to invite a white supremacist professor from a local college to address the student body and the controversy that ensues. It was intended for schools, libraries and other organizations to encourage them to discuss the true meaning of the freedom of expression, particularly regarding “tolerance for ideas we detest.”  Many ALA members objected to the film’s subject matter and the process by which the film was produced.  After contentious debate at the 1977 Annual Conference, multiple ALA bodies voted down proposals to remove the organization’s name from the film.

So in case you’ve 42 minutes to spare . . .

And finally, for our off-topic video, the bloody thing that crashed my computer in the first place.  And you know what?  Worth it.  Check out what happens when you sing an 800-year-old Icelandic hymn in a German train station.

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41. Fusenews: The Bear grumbleth “mum mum”

Honestly, I don’t quite know why I even bother doing Fusenews posts on Saturdays.  As you might suspect, my readership dips considerably when the weekends hit, but an old Fusenews post is like a week old fish.  Time does it no favors.  As such, I shall cut through my seething envy of everyone at BookExpo this week (honestly, why are you folks having SO much fun anyway?) and pretend that Maureen Johnson’s tweets about how bad the coffee is there will convince me that it’s not that interesting anywa . . . wait a minute . . . they’re giving away copies of that Scieszka/Biggs early reader series in the Abrams booth?!?!  WAAAAAAHHHHHH!

  • NumberFiveBus Fusenews: The Bear grumbleth mum mumNew Site Alert: We begin with the big, interesting, important news.  Phil and Erin Stead aren’t just Caldecott Award winners.  No siree bob, they also happen to be innovative interviewers.  Having just started the site Number Five Bus Presents (I approve of the title since it fits in nicely with 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast, A Fuse #8 Production, and 9 Kinds of Pie . . . we just need a blog that uses the number 6 to fill in the gap), the two are conducting a series of conversations with book makers.  There will be 9-12 episodes per “season”.  So far they’ve spoken with Eric Rohmann (consider this your required reading of the day) with many more interviews on the way.  You can read the reasons why they’re doing this here.  Basically it boils down to them wanting to connect to fellow book makers in what can often be a lonely field.  If I were a professor of children’s literature, I would make everyone in my class subscribe to this site.  Many thanks to Jules for the tip!
  • About a month ago I was at an event where a venture capitalist with an interest in children’s literature was asking how much money a new children’s book prize should pay out.  “$20,000?  $30,000?” he ventured.  We all sort of balked at the amounts, assuring the man that any author would be grateful for $10,000, let alone a larger amount (the authors in the room, as you might imagine, were gung ho for the original mentioned amounts).  Meanwhile, had I but known, the people at Kirkus were debating the self-same thing.  Only when they came up with their brand new book prize monetary amount, they decided to play for keeps.  On October 23, 2014 some amazingly lucky children’s or YA author will win a $50,000 (you read that number right) prize for their book.  All it needs to have done is receive a star from Kirkus to be eligible.  The initial announcement in The Washington Post made the big time mistake of saying that the youth award would only go to YA.  Happily, the subsequent Kirkus announcement clarified that this was not the case.  Man.  I really really want to be on that jury someday.  The power!
  • Just a reminder that the Kids Author Carnival will be up and running here in NYC today (Saturday).  Got no plans at 6 tonight?  Now you do.
  • Aw, what the heck.  Need a new poster for your library?  How bout this?

DarthVaderSummerReading Fusenews: The Bear grumbleth mum mum

You can download the PDF here if you so desire.

  • Sure, the blog post Trigger Warnings for Classic Kids Books is amusing, but I would bet you dollars to donuts that at least half of these “objections” have been used in legitimate attempts to ban or remove from shelves these books somewhere, sometime.
  • I did not know that Sun Ra and Prince were both influences on Daniel Handler but when said, it makes a certain amount of sense. PEN America’s biweekly interview series The Pen Ten recently interviewed the man and justified my belief that the most interesting authors are the ones that don’t give the same rote answers in every single interview they do.  Of course good questions help as well.
  • In L.A.?  Wish you were in New York attending BookExpo?  Wish you had something in your neck of the woods to crow about?  Well, good news.  If you haven’t heard already, the Skirball Cultural Center is featuring the show The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats from now until September.  Lucky ducks.
  • Speaking of BookExpo (and is there anything else TO speak of this week?) I was much obliged to the folks at Shelf Awareness for their #BEA14: Pictures from an Exhibition post.  From that amazing diversity panel at SLJ’s Day of Dialog to singing sensation Michael Buckley and the Amazing Juggling Authors to James Patterson’s $1 million given out to bookstores (way to go, Watchung Booksellers!) it’s a great post.
  • Adult authors that write books for children are hardly new.  They’re also rarely any good.  Sorry, but it is the rare adult author that finds that they’re a natural in the children’s book realm as well.  There are always exceptions (heck, Neil Gaiman won himself a Newbery so howzabout THEM apples, eh?) and one of them might be Jo Nesbø.  Over at The Guardian, Nesbø discusses how he decides in the morning whether or not to write his gritty adult crime thrillers . . . or the fart books for kids.  Frankly, I’ll always be grateful to Nesbø because of the day I was sitting at the reference desk in the Children’s Center at 42nd Street and a group of young female Norwegians came in asking for Norwegian children’s authors.  Thank goodness for Nesbø and Peter Christen Abjorsen.
  • Somewhat along the same lines, this has very little to do with anything (to the best of my knowledge the only children’s book she ever penned was The Shoe Bird) but if you have not already read Eudora Welty’s New Yorker application letter, you’re welcome.  Suddenly I want to see the biopic of her life with the character of Eudora played by Kristen Schall.  Am I crazy?
  • It took them a bloody long time but at long last the Bologna Children’s Book Fair has announced when the 2015 dates will be.  So . . . if anyone feels like sponsoring me to go I wouldn’t, ah, object or anything.  *bats eyelashes charmingly*
  • A library can lend books.  It can lend tablets.  It can lend laptops even.  But lending the internet itself?  NYPL is currently doing just that (or is about to). In this article you can see that, “The goal of this project is to expand the reach and benefits of free access to the Internet provided by The New York Public Library (NYPL) to underserved youth and communities by allowing them to borrow portable WiFi Hotspot devices from their local libraries for a sustained period of time.”  We’ll just have to see how it works out, but I’m intrigued.
  • Tell me this isn’t awesome:

AnimalSounds Fusenews: The Bear grumbleth mum mum

As you can see, this is a selection of animal sounds found in the Orbis Sensualium Pictus (or The World of Things Obvious to the Senses drawn in Pictures), also known as the world’s oldest children’s picture book.  And if you can read through it and not suddenly find the song “What Does the Fox Say?” caught in your head then you’re a better man than I.  Thanks to AL Direct for the link.

  • When I read the i09 piece 10 Great Authors Who Disowned Their Own Books I naturally started thinking of the children’s and YA equivalents.  So far I can think of at least one author and one illustrator off the top of my head.  The author would be Kay Thompson of Eloise.  The illustrator I’ll keep to myself since he’s still alive and kicking.  Any you can think of?
  • “In France, I can publish a funny picturebook one month and a YA novel about revenge porn the next.” Maybe the best thing I read all day.  Phil Nel directed me to this absolutely fascinating piece by Clementine Beauvais called Publishing Children’s Books in the UK vs. in France.  Just substitute “UK” for “US” (which isn’t that hard) you’ll understand why this is amazing reading.  Obviously there are some difference between the UK and US models, but they share more common qualities than differences.  Thanks to Phil Nel for the link!
  • How many illustrators sneak pictures of their previous books into other books?  Travis Jonker accounts for some of the titles doing this in 2014.  Along the same lines, how many authors put in in-jokes?  It was my husband who pointed out that Jonathan Auxier put a sneaky reference to his blog The Scop into The Night Gardener this year.  Clever man.
  • Daily Image:

I have good news.  You can order this as a poster, should you so desire.

AnimalAdvocacy Fusenews: The Bear grumbleth mum mum

Thanks to Lori for the link!

 

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42. Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

Here we are on the cusp of summer.  It always surprises me when the weather gets warm and yet the kids are still in school here in NYC.  Still, they’ll be out soon enough, running into my libraries with their summer reading lists clenched in their hot little hands.  Here in New York City each school, each teacher even, can have their own reading lists.  There is absolutely no consensus amongst them.  Some things in life are certain, however.  By and large, the same books show up over and over on the lists.

With all this in mind I received the following message from a fellow children’s librarian.  As her crie de coeur says, there are few things quite as disappointing in life than handing a kid a book only to see their face fall in despair when they see the cover.  Or, as she put it:

I am building a book order to replace some terrific—and completely unread—books in my elementary library, and I just wanted to take a moment to rant about book covers.

I want to replace these books with new copies with covers that might actually attract children:

Dear Mr. Henshaw

Summer of the Swans

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

The Giver

I’m sure there are more. But alas, I cannot replace these books with new copies with more attractive covers, because an attractive cover does not exist. ARRGGHHH!

Why won’t someone somewhere create covers equal to the quality of these books?? If no one does, they are doomed to a listless life on the library shelf, pulled out only far enough for the cover to be seen, then summarily shoved back into their shelf slots. What an injustice.

Hmm.  Each one of these is a classic and in some cases their covers are considered untouchable by the masses.  But no book jacket is so perfect that it couldn’t stand an upgrade.  Let’s take a look at the offenders, shall we?

DearMrHenshaw Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

Ah, Mr. Henshaw.  Now not all of us know this, but this art was actually done by the great Paul O. Zelinsky back in the day.  It’s a lovely cover . . . if you live in 1983.  It’s that bowl haircut that does it in now.  For a second that haircut came back in, but not any longer.  You could certainly keep the interior art if you were married to it, but that cover could stand an upgrade, yep.

SummerSwans7 Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

A 1971 Newbery Award winner and a book that has not fared well in the old book jacket department.  As you can see, it’s going the boring dreamy route.  Past covers have been little better.  They have included:

SummerSwans1 Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

SummerSwans2 Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

SummerSwans3 Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

SummerSwans4 Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

SummerSwans5 Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

SummerSwans6 Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

We’re not looking for anything crazy.  Just a cover that feels like it belongs in the 21st century.

By the way, back when Travis Jonker was bestowing new covers to old Newbery winners, he included this book.  You can see his results here (and it’s still better than what we currently have).

MixedUpFiles2 500x500 Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

This one is going to raise some hackles.  After all, Ms. Konigsburg illustrated this cover herself, and some folks have a real, personal connection to it.  Interestingly enough, there have been other iterations of this cover.  Three of the alternative covers were just variations on the same theme (making this cover a photograph rather than a drawn image, but retaining the look).  You can see them in my summary of this book as part of my Top 100 Children’s Book Poll.  Only one cover has been significantly different and it was this one:

MixedUpFiles Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

Seems to me another upgrade would be well in order.  Like my librarian reader, I too have had difficulty hand selling this book thanks in large part to its cover design.

And finally . . .

Giver1 Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

You may recall that just as Ms. Konigsburg did her cover, so too did Lois Lowry take this photograph.  The book has seen other covers over the years, but none of them are what you might call particularly thrilling.

 

Giver7 Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

Giver4 Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

Giver3 Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

This one doesn’t bother me the way the others have.  I hand this book to kids and they don’t cringe.  More to the point, the upcoming movie has created a new cover.  Voila:

Giver Un Crie de Coeur: The Masses Demand New Book Jackets (Please?)

I don’t mind it, but I could have lived without the gigantic sticker on the cover mentioning Taylor Swift.

What are some book jackets of days of yore that you wouldn’t mind seeing repackaged?

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43. Review of the Day: The Grudge Keeper by Mara Rockliff

GrudgeKeeper1 266x300 Review of the Day: The Grudge Keeper by Mara RockliffThe Grudge Keeper
By Mara Rockliff
Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
Peachtree Press
$16.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-729-8
Ages 4-7
On shelves now.

If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that the phrase, “There’s no use crying over spilled milk” was invented with the intention of comforting a two or three-year-old. Small children, one learns, are capable of great waves of hurt at the smallest, silliest things. You want to really know why the picture book Pete the Cat is the massive success it is? Because at its heart it’s about letting go of peripheral annoyances in everyday life. Children lack perspective. And when kids get a little older, they may still need some reminding on this front. Grudges and imagined slights abound for a certain kind of kid on a regular day-to-day basis. So while I wouldn’t necessarily say that there was an outright need for a book like The Grudge Keeper, by the same token it has a message in it that it couldn’t hurt a kid to hear. That and the fact that it’s a rather charmingly illustrated and written little beastie make it one of my understated favorites of the year.

You would think that a town where no one keeps a grudge would be the happiest place on earth. But for all that Old Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper, does a good job of cataloging every tiff and squabble in his home, the denizens of Bonnyripple just keep on finding more reasons to complain. Every day they load the old man down with their petty squabbles until the inevitable happens. One day a horrid wind comes along and manages to blow the old man’s home apart. Grudges are strewn everywhere, and only by digging through them to rescue Old Cornelius to the townspeople begin to see how utterly ridiculous some of their problems really are. Grudges disappear. Fences are mended. And by the end, Bonnyripple learns that life’s too short to hold onto your grudges OR to give them to someone else to hold onto. Sometimes you’ve just gotta let ‘em go.

GrudgeKeeper2 300x175 Review of the Day: The Grudge Keeper by Mara RockliffAuthor Rockliff dandles language like a toy. Her thesaurus must be positively exhausted after all the different connotations of the word “grudge”. In this book we hear about ruffled feathers, petty snits, tiffs, huffs, insults, umbrages, squabbles, dust-ups, imbroglios (my personal favorite), offenses, complaints, accusations, quibbles, low blows, high dudgeon, left-handed compliments, and pique. It’s not just the words, though. It’s how Rockliff integrates them into the text. The book has all the trappings of a folktale without actually being one. You’d be forgiven, then, for forgetting that it isn’t a classic tale handed down from mother to child for generations. From that first sentence (“No one in the town of Bonnyripple ever kept a grudge. No one, that is, except Old Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper”) to the last, the book has a delightful tone and a complete, satisfying structure.

It wasn’t that I was necessarily unaware of artist Eliza Wheeler. I’d seen her nice work on Miss Maple’s Seeds and it was entirely charming. For this book, Wheeler pulls out her usual roster of dip pens, Indian ink, and watercolor. The book itself is paiGrudgeKeeper3 300x160 Review of the Day: The Grudge Keeper by Mara Rockliffnted in a soft green/gold glow, like the pages have a slightly yellowed tinge to them. Wheeler also does a darn good job of distinguishing amongst the characters. Read the book twice and suddenly you get a sense of their personalities. Read it a third time and you even begin to get a sense of the layout of the village itself. No small feat. And I don’t know if author Mara Rockliff necessarily envisioned that her goat and cat would have narratives of their own, but that’s what Wheeler gave them. Besides, you’d have to have a pretty cold heart not to love a goat in a top hat. All he needs is a monocle and he’d be the talk of the town.

Folktales will always have a place in the realm of children’s literature. They remain the number one most efficient way to dole out lessons to the kiddies without sounding like you’re trying to teach them something. But new folktales are always welcome and that’s precisely what The Grudge Keeper really is. Timely in its telling, Rockliff and Wheeler together manage to make a book that feels simultaneously fresh and classic all in one go. Beautifully rendered and written, there’s nothing begrudging in my praise of this work. If you want something that could be read by countless generations of kids thanks to its classic feel, this little title has your number. Sublime.

On shelves now.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

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44. “How I Met Julie Andrews” or “Braggy Braggy, Name Drop, Braggy”

VeryFairy 300x272 How I Met Julie Andrews or Braggy Braggy, Name Drop, BraggyDon’t say you weren’t warned.

I don’t want there to ever be a single day where I don’t realize how lucky New York City public librarians can be.  Ours is a weird, privileged, one-of-a-kind world.  When I moved to this city, I knew it believed itself to be the center of the universe and that by moving here I would slowly, over time, come around to its point of view.  It also scared the crap out of me.  My vision of NYC was formed by bad 80s films where you can’t walk the street without being mugged in an alley (Fun Fact: There are almost no alleys in New York City).  But I took a position as a children’s librarian in Greenwich Village and it soon became clear that there was something awesome about this place.

One plus?  Celebrities.  They’re friggin’ everywhere.  I mean, they live here so if you keep your eyes open you can spot them with great frequency.  And in Greenwich Village they actually use the library.  Our library guard was particularly good at catching them as they entered.  Of course, she had her own specialized list of who ranked as a celebrity.  Michael Richards, yes.  That guy in the movie The Warriors who clinked the bottles and said “Oh Warriors, come out and playeeeeeee!!”, yes.  I had the pleasure of helping Julia Stiles with a reference question about Long Day’s Journey Into Night on one occasion and doing a toddler storytime for Hope Davis and her tot on another.

Then there are the publishers with their celebrity books.  Once I started getting on those lists I was able to meet folks putting out the books.  Folks like the Vice-President’s wife (current) and her book about bringing the troops home, for example (see what I meant with the title of today’s post?). Or Chris Colfer from GLEE and his middle grade novel (which I was invited to and didn’t attend).

But through it all there was only one celebrity I ever wanted to meet.  Only one that I wanted to see firsthand.  The one . . . the only . . .

Friggin’ Julie Andrews.

I mean, come on.  Who wouldn’t?  We’re talking one of the greatest Broadway and movie stars of all time.  The woman who manages somehow to be just as nice in person as she is in the public persona.  I knew she was in New York City promoting her books from time to time.  I was tempted to swing by to see her at Books of Wonder whenever she did something there.  But all those people . . . surely my day would come.  Surely I’d be able to meet her myself, if only for an instant.  I just didn’t expect that it would happen when I was 8 months pregnant is all.

Little, Brown & Co. was kind enough to extend an invitation to myself and several other social media types to a lovely tea with Ms. Andrews in the building where their offices are kept.  I had never actually been anywhere near the Little, Brown offices, and thus COMPLETELY neglected to look for the Mr. Tiger Goes Wild statue made entirely out of LEGOs.  It reportedly looks like this:

Mr.LegoTiger How I Met Julie Andrews or Braggy Braggy, Name Drop, Braggy

Blast!

In any case, I arrived to a little room full of cupcakes, teacups, and tiny chocolate desserts.  This is a bad position to be in if one is a pregnant woman.  Unlimited cupcakes.  Think about that for a minute.  The women (for they were all women) started to arrive and they included bloggers and writers from places like Parenting Magazine, PopSugar Moms, GeekMom, and others.  That meant I was present as press, not as a librarian.  Duly noted.

When Ms. Andrews did arrive she did so through a surprise door on the opposite side of the room.  And she was not alone!  In her presence was her daughter and co-writer Emma Walton Hamilton.  Together the two have penned the Very Fairy Princess books over the years.  You may or may not be familiar with them.  Well, in this interview with Stephen Colbert from about two years ago she explains them better than I ever could:

 

As we got into the discussion I began to remember that Ms. Andrews began her career as a children’s author long before any other celebrities else thought it would be a good idea.  And she didn’t just walk into it and start doing one off picture books, like so many lazy celebs of today.  No, she started out doing honest-to-goodness novels.  Mandy and The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles, and books of that sort.  The picture books she does today with Emma are just the latest in a long career that has spanned many a fine decade.

In terms of the Very Fairy Princess series, the books are co-written by Ms. Andrews and Emma, her daughter.  And the story behind this collaboration is rather lovely.  You see, when Emma was five her parents were separated but perfectly cordial.  Then Julie had an idea on how to give their child something from the two of them.  She wrote Emma story called Charlie the Englishman and then Emma’s father illustrated it for her.  Years and years later this book found a new life as Simeon’s Gift, illustrated by Gennady Spirin, a book published in 2003 that appears to still be in print to this day.

But before that happened, Julie was, as I said, just writing middle grade books for kids.  It really wasn’t until she started writing her memoirs that she was approached by publishers asking if she had any picture book ideas.  And it was with the advent of her picture books that she started collaborating with Emma.  And as they learned, writing picture book turned out to be much more difficult than novels.  Early books included Dumpy the Dump Truck (created for her now 17-year-old grandson).  Then Simeon’s Gift and a couple others.  Then, in time, the Very Fairy Princess series.  Also inspired by a grandchild (now 10), the series follows a girl who loves her some fairy princess-type stuff, but also has banged up knees and messy hair.  The latest Fairy Princess book tackles the shock that comes when you’ve had female teachers all your life and then one day you find out that your next teacher is going to be a man.

In terms of their writing process, Emma is located here in NYC but Julie has to jet set around the country quite a bit.  That means their collaboration must rely to a certain extent on webcams and Skype.  Emma’s role in the writing relationship is structure.  She gives the books their bones.  Julie’s, in her own words, does “flights of fancy”.  The little things that make it word “musically and cinematically”.  And have any of the stories in the books been inspired by real life?  You bet!  For example, I didn’t know that Julie grew up a child of the Vaudeville circuit.  Her mother and step-father were part of that life.  Well, one day her mother let Julie pack her own suitcase when they were traveling.  And by some quirk of fate she remembered everything . . . except her shoes.  What to do?  Well, the solution was to paint her socks for the performance to make it look like she was wearing shoes.  And they might have gotten away with it too, had she not left a lovely little line of tiny white footprints in her wake.  That story made it into one of the Very Fairy Princess books (albeit in a slightly condensed version).

I was initially astonished to hear that neither Emma nor Julie have ever met Christina Davenier, the illustrator of these books.  I know that authors don’t always have the chance to meet their illustrators but after all these years I would have figured they’d have run into one another.  This becomes slightly less surprising when one learns that Ms. Davenier is French (a fact I had forgotten, considering how many children’s books she does here in America in a given year).  The fact that she is French doesn’t really come up, though she does have to be gently corrected when the kids in the book show up in cricket uniforms or something like that.  When asked about the collaboration with the artist, Emma and Julie said that Davenier’s style is to take their notes when they have them.  Gennedy Spirin, when he did his Julie Andrews book, is the kind of artist who gives you the product when it is finished.  Notes are not part of the process.

Now is Ms. Andrews as nice as the world would have us believe?  ‘Fraid so.  And so, for that matter, is her daughter.  The two couldn’t say enough about librarians and teachers and they were NOT pandering to that kind of crowd (which was mostly made up of 20-something women who work in the media).  “They are in the trenches” was the librarian line.  Dang right.  Then later she said this: “Bookstores are disappearing, but libraries cannot.”

Citing her influences, Ms. Andrews confessed a predilection for A.A. Milne (though, as her 10-year-old granddaughter pointed out recently, “Eeyore’s really passive aggressive isn’t he?”).  And in spite of the fact that like Kay Thompson Ms. Andrews is a movie star turned picture book author, Eloise wasn’t a real influence on her books.  She did, however, play Eloise’s nanny in the movie version of the books, a fact I had completely forgotten!  So though a reviewer of The Very Fairy Princess called the heroine, “Eloise meets Hilary Clinton”, that was just coincidence.

My sister said she wouldn’t believe that I met Ms. Andrews if I didn’t show her photographic proof. As such:

JulieAndrewsGroup 500x375 How I Met Julie Andrews or Braggy Braggy, Name Drop, Braggy

Note the strategic placing of the book.  It hardly worked.  Also, I broke the cardinal rule of not wearing black in NYC.  Blame it on the maternity wear then.

Big time thanks to Little, Brown for the invite and to Ms. Andrews and Ms. Hamilton for taking time out of their schedules to talk to us.  Oh.  And yes.  Ms. Andrews did mention my baby belly and we had a lovely conversation about my kiddos.  I was reminded of something Ms. Andrews said when she was asked how one created such a close bond with one’s offspring.  After all, she and Emma are a wonderful example of a mother-daughter partnership.  Ms. Andrews’ response on how to bond with your kids?

“Read to them.”

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45. We Interrupt Our Regular Blogging for This Special Announcement

How was your Friday yesterday?  Cause here’s how I spent mine:

BabyBird We Interrupt Our Regular Blogging for This Special Announcement

Ain’t he just adorable?  So forgive the spotty blogging in the coming weeks, folks.  I’ve a son to raise.

Woot!

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46. Fusenews: “What’s the matter with kids today?” – with apologies to Bye, Bye, Birdie

Giving birth!  All the kids are doing it these days.  And you know what giving birth means, right?  It means having a little extra time to blog and get my non-work related projects done.  Though, naturally, I wrote 50% of this post a day ago and then must have failed to save the darn thing.  *sigh*  C’est la vie, kids.

  • NYPLExhibit 300x199 Fusenews: Whats the matter with kids today?   with apologies to Bye, Bye, BirdieI was called upon recently to speak with a writer from the National Endowment for the Arts.  The topic?  Why Children’s Books Matter.  Done in conjunction with Leonard Marcus’s exhibit at the main branch of NYPL I answer all sorts of questions.  Mind you, it was a oral interview so I wasn’t able to parse my own speech.  Read it and you’ll get a real sense of what it sounds like to talk to me (weirdo grammar and all).
  • Let’s talk exhibits again.  This time, those in Chicago.  Particularly those in Chicago involving Edward Gorey.  You lucky midwesterners.  Thanks to Mr. Schu for the link.
  • And going back to the topic of NYPL, I recently interviewed middle grade author Claire LeGrand.  Claire is the organizing genius behind the upcoming Kids Authors Carnival happening this month on the 31st.  Talking with me, she answered some of my questions about the carnival, the authors who will be there, and where the idea came from in the first place.
  • Summer Reading is coming up.  Want a reading list for your kids?  ALSC came up with this one and it’s rather nice.
  • Hat tip to Travis Jonker for the hat tip to my book (co-written with Jules Danielson and Peter Sieruta).  It’s coming out in August fer sure, fer sure, and Travis included it in his 10 to Note Summer Preview 2014.  Thank you, man!!
  • Oh, I rather love this.  25 Movie Cameos by the Authors of the Original Books.  Because there are children’s book adaptations included that I never knew about.  Michael Morpurgo?  Louis Sachar?  They forgot Wendy Orr in Nim’s Island, Brian Selznick in Hugo, and David Levithan and Rachel Cohn in Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist but no one’s perfect.  Love the snarky comment about Stephenie Meyer, by the way.  Thanks to Cynthia Leitich Smith for the link.
  • Woo-hoo!  The next Kidlitosphere Conference (the greatest, biggest, best conference of children’s & YA literature bloggers) is nigh.  Nigh, I sez, nigh!  The focus is on diversity, the location is Sacramento and the guests include everyone from Shannon Hale to Mitali Perkins.  Don’t miss it.
  • New Podcast Alert: Little, Brown & Company’s School & Library division has their own podcast channel?  Well, who the heck knew?  Not I, said the fly.  And then there’s the podcast Dear Book Nerd which appears to have some connection to the great and grand Brooklyn children’s librarian Rita Meade.  I am so out of it.
  • Kids aren’t reading!  No way, no how, not happening.  Unless of course they are.  Common Sense Media recently decided that kids weren’t reading anymore and they went and made a huge deal about it.  Two alternate takes on the study are worth noting.  The first is from Forbes.  The second, from Liz Burns.  And quite frankly, I probably don’t have to tell you that it’s Liz’s take that I prefer.

LionsLittleRock 206x300 Fusenews: Whats the matter with kids today?   with apologies to Bye, Bye, BirdieNothing I love more than a new children’s book prize.  Particularly when I get to help to narrow down the contenders.  The New York Historical Society was looking for great books of American history, either fiction or nonfiction for kids.  The winnerThe Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine.  She gets a $10,000 prize and is the inaugural winner.  Check out the other finalists here and an interview with Kristin about the book here.

The big news last week, aside from the birth of my baby Bird, was the Rush Limbaugh win at the Children’s Book Choice Awards.  It wasn’t a surprise but it did make for some good think pieces.  And Travis Jonker, bless his soul, rounded them up for you.  Amusingly, I had to miss the banquet because of back pain.  Had I attended I not only would have gotten to see that particular person give a speech but there was a fire scare that made everyone go outside.  Methinks this was not the worst year to miss.

Wait just a minute there . . . there’s a children’s literature conference in Hawaii and I’m only NOW hearing about it?  Man!  Now there’s a place I’d love to speak.  Pity I’d have to win a Newbery Honor to do it.

  • Daily Image:

It was St. Martin’s Press that advertised this one originally.  I don’t know where they got it, but it’s such a brilliant display that I just had to share it with you.  Libraries and other bookstores take note (and copy at will!).

BlueBooks Fusenews: Whats the matter with kids today?   with apologies to Bye, Bye, Birdie

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47. Review of the Day: A Pond Full of Ink by Annie M.G. Schmidt

PondFullInk1 241x300 Review of the Day: A Pond Full of Ink by Annie M.G. SchmidtA Pond Full of Ink
By Annie M.G. Schmidt
Illustrated by Sieb Posthuma
Translated by David Colmer
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
$16.00
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5433-9
Ages 7 and up
On shelves now

International children’s authors are great. They’re just not particularly well known in America. There are various reasons for this. Some of it has to do with the dearth of international children’s book importing. Bringing a book over sometimes requires translation, and there’s often little hope of the writer or illustrator touring if English isn’t a second language. Then add to this the fact that all the major children’s book awards in the U.S. have to go to American residents. Once in a while there’s an exception to these rules, of course. You’ll get a Shaun Tan or a Mem Fox (both Aussies, but you know what I mean). Generally, however, we dwell in ignorance and have to make an effort to know who else is out there in the world. Consider then the case of Annie M.G. Schmidt. If international children’s book authors are rarities on our fair shores, what are we to make of international children’s poets? Finding poetry for children here in the U.S. is a tricky enough proposition as it is. Add in the international element and it’s little surprise that Schmidt’s name rings few bells. Fortunately, our ignorance is our children’s gain. A Pond Full of Ink proves a charming collection of Schmidt’s work, translated expertly, original to its core.

“A fairy tale author I know / starts work every day when the roosters crow.” So begins the first poem in this collection of children’s poet Annie M.G. Schmidt. Twelve poems, judiciously edited, perfectly selected, are paired with the ribald art of illustrator Sieb Posthuma. Readers who flip through the pages will encounter everything from thieves that covet the moon to a teakettle with musical aspirations. The end result is a collection that is silly, subversive, and sly by turns.

PondFullInk3 Review of the Day: A Pond Full of Ink by Annie M.G. SchmidtSo what do we know about Annie M.G. Schmidt? Well, I looked about and heard at least one person refer to her as, “something like the Dutch Astrid Lindgren, [who] never broke through in the English-speaking world.” That would be translator David Colmer’s description. Looking her up I found various sites praising her, saying things like “almost everyone in the Netherlands is able to recite at least a line or two from one of her songs or poems. Her children’s books have become a national institution.” We might call her the Dutch Dr. Seuss then. As this is pretty much the only book of Ms. Schmidt’s that we have here in the U.S., A Pond Full of Ink has a lot of promise to fulfill. Fortunately, and as it just so happens, the book is charming. Akin to something along the lines of Shel Silverstein in terms of the unconnected ridiculous, Schmidt dwells on the silly and the thoughtful alike. Every person I know who has read this book has his or her own individual favorites. For my part, I was quite partial to “The Furniture”. Kids will pick their preferences. In fact, the book would actually be ideal for children’s book groups since each child would have their own personal faves.

Just as I was unaware of the existence of Ms. Schmidt, so too was I unfamiliar with the art of Sieb Posthuma. Dutch too, Mr. Posthuma gives this book a distinct flavor entirely of his own. In fact, a little digging found that for this book Mr. Posthuma actually won the 2012 Gouden Penseel or Golden Paintbrush, the top prize for children’s books originally published in The Netherlands. One sees why. There’s a sly, clever quality to Posthuma’s art here. From the vampire fanged little girl of “Nice and Naughty” to bespectacled deer of “Aunty Jo” you can’t help but like these characters. Best of all, the book isn’t afraid to take a moment to just enjoy the art. There are several wordless two-page spreads that offer a quiet accompaniment to their preceding poems. Like the lush greenery of “Aunt Sue and Uncle Steve” or the blue and red vision of sea and land after “Three Elderly Otters”, Posthuma has been given the chance to muse.

PondFullInk2 300x188 Review of the Day: A Pond Full of Ink by Annie M.G. SchmidtIt’s not that I haven’t heard objections to the book. Some folks I’ve shown this too have questioned the translation, saying that only some poems really spoke to them. For my part, I think the translation keen. For one thing, David Colmer, the translator, had to translate rhyme. I just can’t even begin to imagine how hard that must be. Not only must the poems scan but rhyme as well? It’s at this point that one begins to wonder how the invisible hand of the translator plays into the text. With some digging I discovered that David Colmer is an Australian translator of Dutch literature based in Amsterdam. He seems to do particularly well when it comes to translating poetry and works for children. As a four-time winner of the David Reid Poetry Translation Prize, the man also appears to know what he is doing. I cannot even begin to fathom how one aligns scansion and rhyme in translation. All I can do is trust that Colmer does it well.

For my part, the only real objection I had to the book was the design. The poems are written in a typewriter-like font. No problems there. But occasionally the poems appear in large, unwieldy clumps. When integrated with the text, as they are with the poems “Three Elderly Otters” or “The Man Who Writes Fairy Tales” they can be lovely. But in cases like “Belinda Hated Getting Clean . . .” even adult readers will feel daunted when faced with a full page of tiny poetic type without so much as a break or an indentation to be seen. I don’t suppose there was much that could have been done about this when the book was translated for America, but it’s a pity just the same.

It is encouraging to think that though Ms. Schmidt was never brought to America in her lifetime, posthumously her words can fulfill their destiny decades after her death. A Pond Full of Ink does not attempt to be anything other than what it is. A short, smart selection of fun poems for kids of every age. A small clever treat, consider its loaded silliness for your own personal collection.

On shelves now.

Source: Advanced reading copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Other Blog Reviews: Children’s Illustration,

Professional Reviews:

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  • So how did translator David Colmer tackle this book?  Get the inside scoop here.

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A book trailer!  Who would have thunk it?

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48. Benjamin Chaud: You Know Him. You Just Don’t Know You Know Him.

Tell me and tell me true, what do the following have in common?

BearsSong Benjamin Chaud: You Know Him. You Just Dont Know You Know Him.

PomeloBegins Benjamin Chaud: You Know Him. You Just Dont Know You Know Him.

DidntDoHomework Benjamin Chaud: You Know Him. You Just Dont Know You Know Him.

From the title of this post you have no doubt concluded that they all share the same illustrator.  However, had you asked me prior to my recent meeting with French artist Benjamin Chaud, I don’t know that it would have necessarily occurred to me.

Over the years I’ve noticed Chaud’s work, but only in the vaguest possible sense.  You see, I’m a big fan of the Pomelo books by Ramona Badescu, published by Enchanted Lion Books here in NYC.  Each title stars an odd pink elephant-type of character.  Pomelo is a strange little fellow, and I do mean little since his best friends include snails and dandelions.  He also sports a hopeless crush on a frog in a case of unrequited pachyderm/amphibian love.  Kermit and Piggy have nothing on Pomelo.  The books that have made it to American shores include:

PomeloColor Benjamin Chaud: You Know Him. You Just Dont Know You Know Him.

PomeloBigAdventure 500x389 Benjamin Chaud: You Know Him. You Just Dont Know You Know Him.

But my favorite by far has to be . . .

PomeloOpposites Benjamin Chaud: You Know Him. You Just Dont Know You Know Him.

Because, quite frankly, if you want the kookiest opposite book of all time, this is it, folks.

Well, I was pleased as punch to learn that Mssr. Chaud was in town for ten days, visiting the States and the kids that are here.  I swear, when Herve Tullet moves to Brooklyn he’d better embrace a role as host for all his incoming countrymen.  Publisher Claudia Zoe Bedrick invited me to nosh and meet Benjamin and so we did!  At Le Pain Quotidien, no less.

So what does your typical French artist do when visiting New York City?  Well there’s MOMA, of course.  And Central Park.  There’s Rockefeller Center and bookstores like Book Court and, naturally, NYPL’s current exhibit The ABC of It.  But the best part was hearing about his visits with the kids.  Chaud took a trip to The Lycée Français de New York, a bilingual school for kids of all ages.  While there he met with 106 “very enthusiastic” children and created art with them.  And here we can see the results of his visit to Book Court:

BenjaminChaud1 500x373 Benjamin Chaud: You Know Him. You Just Dont Know You Know Him.

BenjaminChaud3 500x373 Benjamin Chaud: You Know Him. You Just Dont Know You Know Him.

 

BenjaminChaud2 500x373 Benjamin Chaud: You Know Him. You Just Dont Know You Know Him.

As you can see, Pomelo comes easily to the man’s pencil tip.  So easy, in fact, that he had time to create some fun little off-the-wall images of Pomelo in his own shoes:

PomeloNY Benjamin Chaud: You Know Him. You Just Dont Know You Know Him.

PomeloNY2 500x384 Benjamin Chaud: You Know Him. You Just Dont Know You Know Him.

I love these.

Talking about Pomelo naturally lead to a discussion of the differences between French and American picture books.  Claudia had some interesting things to say about the changes made to the aforementioned Pomelo’s Opposites when bringing to the book to the States.  We talked about changing certain images from “good” and “bad” to “right” and “wrong”.  Or why the opposite of cucurbit made the final cut.  And we talked about Pomelo himself and his journey.  Since his true author is Ramona Badescu this was all conjecture, but we talked about what it would mean if in his last book he went so far as to die.  And then we got to thinking about picture book characters in series and if any of them have ever died.  At the time I couldn’t come up with any, but since then I was able to think up one.  The Sally books by Stephen Huneck followed a Labrador on various adventures, finally ending with Sally Goes to Heaven.  But it’s a bit of a rarity.

So we talked about the approach of death in various books for small children.  The European picture books have a comfort level with death and dying we lack here in the States.  Here in the U.S. you can discuss death, but only if it is the ONLY topic at hand.  In other countries, death can be far more of the narrative.  It was an illuminating conversation, worthy of a post in and of itself.

In the end, I bid farewell to Benjamin Chaud and thanked him for his time.  With the latest Pomelo book out this year (Pomelo’s Big Adventure) as well as a sequel to last year’s The Bear’s Song (you can see it in my recent Chronicle librarian preview) he’s certainly slated to become better and better known.  And for that, I am well and truly pleased.

Thanks to Claudia for the meeting and to Benjamin for being willing to meet.

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49. Video Sunday: Pregnant iguanas galore

This may sound a little crazy, but even though I’m on maternity leave for three months or so, this video made me nostalgic for my system. It’s the rather remarkable Why Libraries Matter short documentary from The Atlantic. Beautifully shot and LOOK! There’s Rita Meade again! Somebody give that gal her own show.

While we’re loving our libraries, let’s keep on keeping on.  Here’s Brooklyn Public Librarian Alla Roylance on her own journey and time in the library.  And yes, there are pregnant iguanas involved.

Oh, what the heck. One more.  Here’s a piece on how popular our storytimes are.  Shout outs to Danielle Kalan and Rachael Payne, who both appear in this piece.

Storytime 500x279 Video Sunday: Pregnant iguanas galore

I know he’ll soon be living in Brooklyn for a year, but I’d never had a chance to see the man behind Press Here actually speak.  Et voila!  Herve Tullet discusses his latest book.

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link!

Actually, 100 Scope Notes had most of the good videos this week.  Like John Green’s 47 Charming Facts About Children’s Books.  Tell me this isn’t awesome.

Of course Fact #18 may be untrue.  I did some research for my upcoming book Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature (how’s that for a plug, eh?) and though it didn’t make the final cut I have evidence that suggests that it was Potter’s MOTHER and not Potter herself who insulted young Roald.  I do not, however, have any evidence to suggest that it wasn’t Ms. Potter who yelled at Diana Wynne Jones’s sisters for swinging on her fence.  That story appears to be legit.

And for our off-topic video, a very amusing video for Les Miserables fans.  It’s what happens when you run the lyrics to One Day More through a Google translator and back again.

Thanks to Marci for the link.

 

 

 

 

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50. Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Lest we grow complacent in our maternity leave, I’ve quite a few librarian previews just ah-waiting postings.  And what better way to begin than with Lerner Books here?  Everyone’s favorite Minnesotan publisher came to town in the guise of Lindsay Matvick.  We ate pizza.  We talked shop.  We heard about what Lerner has on offer and what we can expect this coming fall.  So hold on to your hats, folks.  This is one of those previews that just get better and better the deeper you go.

First off . . .

Why Is the Statue of Liberty Green? by Martha E.H. Rustad

WhyStatueLiberty 500x500 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Good old, Cloverleaf Books.  The faithful series on nonfiction topics we do indeed get questions about.  In this particular case we’re discussing the “Our American Symbols” series.  Covering everything from the Lincoln Memorial to The Star-Spangled Banner, the books cover the basics (“Why are there stripes on the American Flag?”, etc.) and then fill their rears with backmatter (there’s gotta be a better way of saying that).  In the case of the flag, for example, there are projects for students on how to design your own flag.  That sort of stuff.  Keen.

Helper Robots by Nancy Furstinger

HelperRobots Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

I took one look at this cover and thought to myself, “Help me do what exactly?”  This is one of the books in the “Robots Everywhere!” series, coming out with Lightning Bolt Books.  It’s not the first robot series out there, but it may well be the first one that gets any kind of reviews.  Each book covers different types of real world robots.  Robots you use in the home, robots you use in space, robots that help us with the weather, etc.  Turns out the robot on the cover of this particular book is a robot that diffuses bombs.  Okay.  That’s something I might actually need help with.

What Are Nonfiction Genres? by Valerie Bodden

WhatNonfiction 500x411 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Awwwwww, yeah.  Kicking it back literary genre style.  So this would be the “Name That Text Type” series, and it’s pretty self-explanatory, all things considered.  Each book tackles a different genre with written examples of the text type and guidelines on how to write in that particular genre.  I picked the Nonfiction Genre book as the one to present here because I like the genre types included: Persuasive, Memoir, How-To, and Biography.  We CERTAINLY get those requests in the library.  Particularly the “How-To”.  More on that later.

What’s So Great About New York? by Ann Malaspina

WhatsGreatNY Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

In spite of what it might look like, this isn’t yet another state book series.  Each title is about a state, sure, but unlike the Enchantment With the World books, or their equivalents, these books take a travel guide approach.  Each one discusses what there is to actually DO in the states in question.  Which, let’s face it, could be really useful for some kids.  The series also uses infographics and will highlight Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. in addition to the usual 50 states.  It’s called the “Our Great States” series and there will be eighteen to begin this season.

Finding Out About Nuclear Energy by Matt Doeden

FindingOutNuclear Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Two Words: Opposing. Viewpoints. You and I both know that in the world of CCSS, those little words carry a great big weight.  Finding books that actually contain said opposing viewpoints can also be tricky.  In this series (the “What Are Energy Sources?” series) kids read about the pros and cons about everything from Hydropower and Solar energy to Geothermal and Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas.  The series covers what companies want to do vs. what the government wants them to do.  We got into a whole discussion of BISAC codes at this point and how one would go about putting information about opposing viewpoints into the records when we got to this series.  Librarian shop talk.  It’s all the rage.

Economics Through Infographics by Karen Latchana Kenney

EconomicsInfographics Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

For this “Super Social Studies Infographics” series I could have gone with US History or World Geography as various topics, but I suspect that Economics appealed to me the most because that’s the book that I myself would want to read.  Having already done the “Super Science Infographics” series, Lerner wanted to tackle some of the trickier topics in the social studies world.  So expect lots of geography and history.

Your Head Shape Reveals Your Personality by Christine Zuchora-Walske

YourHeadShape Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

This would be the “Science Gets It Wrong” series.  To make their case, the books build on the scientific method to cover everything from whether or not your handwriting can predict your personality (spoiler alert: it can’t) to whether or not bulls get mad when they see the color red (they don’t).  They’re myth busting books.  Best of all the books show that science is not just black and white and it certainly isn’t always right.

Plan a Sleepover Party by Stephanie Watson

PlanSleepover Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

 

Remember the What Are Nonfiction Genres? book when I was cooing over its discussion of How To books?  Well, consider this a full-fledged How To series.  “Party Time”, for so the series is called, show kids how to host everything from a birthday or outdoor party to a holiday or sleepover shindig.  I wondered at first if they’d be read more by adults than kids, but they’ve certainly got some good kid-friendly elements to them.  Recipes that kids could actually do.  Sample playlists.  So there you go.

Playing Pro Basketball by Martin Gitlin

PlayingProBasketball Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Lots of kids play with the notion of what it would be like to be a famous sports star.  But this “Playing Pro Sports” series is the first I’ve seen that covers what that would actually entail.  From training to diets to superstitions and interviews, it’s actually a good job skills book.  And lord knows we can’t keep our job opportunity titles on the shelves.  They’re saying this is for grades 4-8, and each was vetted by former pro athletes.  So far they just cover football, basketball, baseball, and hockey.  I have my fingers crossed for WNBA one of these days.

Movies and TV Top Tens by Sandy Donovan

MoviesTV Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Let’s say you wanted to make a series that could take on a certain aspect of The Guinness Book of World Records in some fashion.  One method might be to do what the “Entertainment’s Top 10″ series is trying here.  Each book covers different top ten lists in a different area of the entertainment industry.  So you’ve got music and theater, sports, technology, and movies and TV.  Based on facts with verifiable data, the books are loaded with history too, apparently.

A Timeline History of Early American Indian Peoples by Diane Marczely Gimpel

EarlyAmericanIndian Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

This year I’ve been having a heckuva time with a big chunk of the biographies being written for kids.  Because you know what a lot of schools require that these books eschew?  Timelines.  Sometimes it feels like no one cares about timelines anymore.  Well, in the “Timeline Trackers” series, we get to see history in a big old line.  Loads of primary sources are on these pages (another CCSS requirement) and I was much intrigued by the first volume which focuses entirely on Early American Indian Peoples and nothing else.  About bloody time too.

Get a Job Making Stuff to Sell by Ryan Jacobson

GetaJob Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

I always feel a bit bad for kids who want to make money these days.  Lemonade stands will only get you so far and paper routes are going the way of the dinosaur.  Add in the fact that I live in a city where serious faced ten-year-olds would approach my reference desk asking for books about Wall Street and this series will find a happy home here.  It’s the “You’re in Business” series and it’s for kids under the age of 16 who want jobs.  Entrepreneurs, if you will.  Covering everything from making homemade soap to crafting cell phone covers, the books also give you information on how to fill out a job application, and things like that.

The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats by Sandra Markle

CaseVanishingLittleBrownBats 500x500 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

You thrilled to The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs.  You were awed by The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees.  Now it’s time to learn about “white nose syndrome”, which sounds like a disease out of a horror film more than anything else.  Bats, as it happens, are integral to our ecosystem and this book shows what scientists are currently doing to save those little brown bats that are disappearing like mad.  Bees get all the attention, but bats are just as important.

When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses by Rebecca L. Johnson

WhenLunchFights 500x500 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Remember Zombie Makers?  The book that was guaranteed to give you nightmares as it systematically cataloged the parasites, insects, molds and more that were capable of turning living organisms into zombies?  Well, author Rebecca L. Johnson is back and she brought along some defense mechanisms.  Not for the squeamish, this book shows that sometimes the key to survival can be pretty darn weird.  Meet frogs that poke their bones through their skin to make claws and termites that blow themselves up for the greater good.  Great photographs too, though you may not want to look at them right after eating.

Ghost Walls by Sally M. Walker

GhostWalls Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

One thing I like about the Lerner info sheets is that they take a special amount of time to include the Dewey Decimal Numbers with their books.  This one?  975.  Sally Walker has been behind books like Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland so digging up the past is nothing new to her.  In the case of this particular book, Sally concentrates on a building that sat silent for two centuries.  In its day the homestead was privy to a range of different travelers and stories.  Now researchers are going back to it to unlock its secrets.  Or, as the book puts it, “coaxing history from the crumbling walls.”

Ghostly Evidence: Exploring the Paranormal by Kelly Milner Halls

GhostlyEvidence Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Librarians, back me up on this one.  When it comes to middle grade nonfiction about ghosts we have next to nothing to offer.  So when I saw this book by the woman who brought us books on Sasquatch and aliens, I knew we were onto something good.  With a great deal of fun research, Halls gives us the science behind “the hunt”.  Ghost hunt, that is.  The book takes a scientific approach and includes lots of interviews with firsthand accounts.  It’s not just stories, though.  There’s also lots of backmatter and even a listing of haunted places to visit.  Now THERE’S a summer vacation trip worth recounting!

Arctic Thaw by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson

ArcticThaw Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

We’re getting into the middle school and YA titles now, which I usually eschew.  But these are so friggin’ cool I couldn’t help but include them!  First off, this little puppy.  There are lots of climate change books out there.  Now how many can you think of off the top of your head that discuss the shipping lanes that are now opening up thanks to our warming world?  This book examines the indigenous groups, countries, and companies all vying for this space.  The book also focuses on what is happening and what should be done, though it avoids becoming overtly political.

Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom by Rebecca L. Johnson

ChernobylsWildKingdom Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

If you’ve been watching the news stories then you probably know already that it’s been twenty-five years since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.  The area was turned into a 1,100 square mile Exclusion Zone and no humans can live there.  But animals?  Thanks to the lack of humans the place has turned back into its natural state.  And what’s weird is that the animals appear to be surviving just fine in the radiation.  Consider this as a brilliant nonfiction tie-in to all that dystopian fiction out there.  You want to see a post-apocalyptic world for yourself?  Behold.

Fad Mania! by Cynthia Overbeck Bix

FadMania Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Tell me that isn’t one of the greatest covers of all time.  Plus this is such a good idea for a book.  The title discusses different American fads as they have appeared over the last few years.  Everything from old timey fads like dance marathons to current ones like flash mobs.  Basically the book works to put current fads in perspective.  It examines when fads increase and the role of economics.  Plus, with the rise of the internet we’re seeing more and more of them.

Girls vs. Guys by Michael J. Rosen

GirlsVsGuys Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

“Developmental plasticity”.  Say it soft and it’s almost like praying.  That’s the buzzword (buzzphrase?) I took away with me when I learned about this book. Called the YA take on Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, the book looks at the differences between the genders.  Written in a Q&A format, it examines how environment, nutrition, sleep, and sensory stimulation shape your personality.  And for the record, “developmental plasticity” refers to “the way that environment and experience can entwine to alter genetically determined gender behavior.”  Learn something new every day, doncha?

Remaking the John by Francesca Davis DiPiazza

RemakingJohn Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Fun Fact: November 19th is World Toilet Day.  Put it on your calendar right now, and I’ll wait to continue until you are done.  Okay, ready?  So in this book we get all the poop on poop (which is a line from a different poop-related book for kids).  Telling us that as of right now 40% of the world’s population doesn’t have proper sanitation, the book ropes the global sanitation crises into a look at the history of human waste.  You get the down low on what it was like in the past, as well as what it’s like for some folks today.  Best of all, it mentioned that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had a challenge to Reinvent the Toilet for those nations and communities that need ‘em.

Saturday Night Live by Arie Kaplan

SaturdayNightLive Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Now there’s a thought.  Teens like TV.  Why not take something with history, like Saturday Night Live, and give kids the 411 on it?  Coming out in tandem with the 40th anniversary of the show, the book covers the highs, lows, and controversies of the last-night comedy show.

Transgender Lives by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

TransgenderLives Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

First off, you can’t really get the cover from this image.  It’s reflective foil that, when you look at it, shows your own face.  Cool, right?  Well, since the publication of Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta, we’ve started seeing an increased comfort in YA fare on the transgendered.  In this particular case, author Kirstin Cronn-Mills was working on this for quite a few years.  The book introduces seven different people, discussing their lives and stories.

Up for Sale by Alison Marie Behnke

UpForSale Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Probably the toughest book on the list.  As you can see, it’s a book on contemporary human trafficking, but not a single kind of trafficking situation.  No, it hits on all the different aspects of trafficking, even the human organ trade.  At the same time author Behnke talks readers through the legal reforms and advocacy being done on behalf of the victims.  Since a significant number of people trafficked are teens, this makes for a perfect YA nonfiction tie-in.

Sometimes You Barf by Nancy Carlson

SometimesYouBarf 500x500 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

“Here’s the deal: Sometimes you barf . . . But it’s okay.  You get better!”  For kids that have barfed in public, there’s really not a book for their plight.  Nancy Carlson has therefore managed to come up with a topic that everyone needs in their libraries but that, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever asked for before.  Excellent.

Santa Clauses by Bob Raczka

SantaClauses Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Think of it as a literary advent calendar.  Starting with December 1st, the book systematically does one poem for each day, counting down to Christmas itself.  The poems themselves are haikus (this is Bob Raczka we’re talking about, after all) and the art by Chuck Groenink is really rather remarkable.  I don’t know how nobody thought of this before, but I’m happy it’s finally going to happen.

Dear Wandering Wildebeest by Irene Latham

DearWandering 500x500 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

More poetry, thank goodness.  Not like we see a bunch of it in a given year.  In this book the entire ecosystem of a watering hole is looked at with poetry and facts.  The poetry yields poems with titles like “Triptych for a Thirsty Giraffe”.  The facts discuss what’s actually going on in each spread.

Who Was Here? by Mia Posada

WhoWasHere 500x419 Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Here in New York we don’t get much call for teaching our kids about animal tracks.  In other parts of the country, though, it’s a given.  In this book, all the prints are rendered in actual size.  From camels to moose to kangaroos, you get a global look at animal tracks from all over the world.

BirdCatDog by Lee Nordling

BirdCatDog Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

If poetry is rare this year then comics are even rarer.  So imagine my relief when I saw this graphic novel.  A wordless graphic novel at that.  Each page allows you to read the three stories (of the bird, cat, and dog) together or separately, as you prefer.  I don’t know this Meritxell Bosch of which they speak.  All I know is that in my next life I want to come back as someone named Meritxell.  If there’s a cooler first name out there, I haven’t heard of it.

I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached

IRememberBeirut Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

If anyone remembers A Game of Swallows, then they should be mighty excited to read this follow-up to the award winning book.  Born in Lebanon in 1981, A Game of Swallows chronicled one family’s escape.  In this prequel of sorts, you see what was going on outside the walls of their home.  Lots of little details are included, like Zeina going out to collect shrapnel with her brother for fun.

Fat & Bones by Larissa Theule

FatBones Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

I’ve actually read this one!  Partly just to see whether or not it really is YA or if it could fit in a middle grade library.  And after reading it . . . yeah, I guess YA is the right place for it.  It’s not that the content is anything too terrible.  It’s just a mature little book.  A middle school library could probably hold onto it without difficulty.  Told as slightly supernatural short stories, the book makes for a fun quick read.  The art brings to mind Stephen Gammell and his Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.  Seems to me Adam S. Doyle was the guy they should have called when they had those puppies re-illustrated.

Knockout Games by G. Neri

KnockoutGames Librarian Preview: Lerner Books (Fall 2014)

Finally, we have ourselves a G. Neri.  I wish he’d do more middle grade, but since he has a picture book coming out this year (a bio of Johnny Cash, no less) I guess I can’t complain.  This book plays off of that relatively recent news story about teen randomly knocking out strangers in something they call “knockout games”.  But the games aren’t new and Neri’s been working on this book for years.  Heck, in the back of the book there’s even a note from a St. Louis librarian attesting to the validity of this story.  In this tale a girl would be filmmaker is contacted by the leader of a gang.  He wants her to film his exploits and as she does the book takes on a kind of Man Bites Dog turn.  Definitely YA.

And that’s all she wrote!  Thanks to Lindsay and the good folks at Lerner for giving me a peek at the wares.  Cheers!

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