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Living in a time of unprecedented information surveillance, also lends itself to an unbelievable amount of information privilege for much of the “democratized” world. We feign emotions with character smiley faces and iconography as our communications float rapidly over a network of intangible speeds, sometimes coated with an algorithm of encryption and sometimes, not. Identity is, at best, both catastrophic and creative. So as we celebrate and converse about National Privacy Week, it is sort of interesting to think about privacy, not only in the way we might shroud our communications, but also in terms of economics, commodity and modality.
In the early 19th century, the postal system was financially demanding for some people [not unnecessarily unlike today] *and* was the scarcity of paper. Tom Standage writes in the Victorian Internet : “In the nineteenth century, letter writing was the only way to communicate with those living at a distance. However, prior to 1840, the post was expensive. Postal charges grew high in England due to the inflationary pressure of the Napoleonic Wars. Different from the way mail operates today, the burden of payment fell to the receiver, not the sender; prepayment was a social slur on the recipient. One had to be financially solvent to receive a letter. If the recipient could not afford to pay for a letter, it was returned to sender. Any reader of Jane Austen’s Emma (1815) knows that to save costs, cross writing was common — a writer turned his or her letter horizontally and “crossed” (or wrote over) the original text at a right angle rather than use an additional sheet of paper. Folded letters with a wax seal may look quaint, but like cross writing, this was also a pre-1840s cost cutting measure since that same missive, posted in an envelope, would receive double charge.”
A cost-cutting measure indeed, however, and not insignificant it created a system of visual encryption one might employ for secrecy, but also as a device of post-modernity and compositional ingenuity. In 1819, John Keats constructed a crossed letter discussing both the merit of prescriptive living for labor workers, only to be written over at an angle by his poem, Lamia, about a man who falls in love with a snake disguised as a woman. “The non-linearity of meaning is generated as an excess against the unidirectional drive of information, like the snakes that weave around the staff of a caduceus or the turbulent wake of a forward-moving ship; meaning is the snake and the wake of information.”  Quite a metaphor to create, as a perception of romanticism, in era of rapid change. Sound familiar? When in doubt, think smart, choose privacy.
We have a suite of 19th century letters in our collection of cross-writing, or “cross-hatching,” check out the images:
 Livingston, Ira. Arrow of Chaos: Romanticism and Postmodernity.
Several years ago, I tuned into the Tony awards telecast eager to find out whether Ragtime was going to beat The Lion King. (It didn't.) I made my new boyfriend watch the whole thing with me, even though he didn't care at all about the results. The next day at his work, his colleagues were talking at lunch about what they had watched on television the night before. "Anyone watch the World Cup?" someone asked. Several people had. "How about the NBA Playoffs?" Again, a lot of murmurs of agreement. My boyfriend said, "Hey, did anyone watch the Tonys?" Dead silence.
I've always loved that story because I think it's a fairly good representation of the Tonys in popular culture. They have a very limited audience- you have to physically go to New York and see the original productions. You really can't tell who is going to win Best Choreography if you listen to the cast album. This is completely different from the Oscars, because you can see the nominated movies anywhere.
Also, that boyfriend is now my husband, and I still make him watch the Tonys with me every year.
This year, I'm particularly excited to find out how Hamilton will do at the Tonys. Let's start with this question: How many Tonys can Hamiltonactually win?
It's eligible for the following 13 categories:
1. Best Musical
2. Best Book of a Musical
3. Best Original Score
4. Best Orchestrations
(These four categories can only be won by new musicals).
5. Best Direction of a Musical
6. Best Choreography
7. Best Scenic Design of a Musical
8. Best Costume Design of a Musical
9. Best Lighting Design of a Musical
10. Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
11. Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
12. Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
13. Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
(These nine categories can be won by either new musicals or revivals- which means the field is much larger for these awards.)
The current record is held by The Producers, which won 12 Tonys and was nominated for 15. The Producerswon every single category for which it was nominated, which is a rather incredible acheivement. The three nominations that The Producers didn't win were in the acting categories because multiple actors from the show were nominated for the same category. The one category it didn't win, is also the only one it wasn't nominated for: Leading Actress.
The Tony Administration committee has ruled on eligibility for certain parts in Hamilton, and whether they belong in the Lead or Featured Actor categories. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom, Jr. and Phillipa Soo will all be considered in the Lead categories.
If Hamilton gets nominated in all thirteen categories- then it is within striking distance to go for the record. The Producers only had three eligible performer categories, but with the decision to put Phillipa Soo as a Leading Actress, Hamilton now has all four performer categories available.
Also, don't be surprised if it receives more than thirteen nominations. Hamilton is likely going to have the same problem as The Producers. If multiple actors get nominated in the same category (which I would expect), it won't be possible for Hamilton to win all of its nominations.
How many possible Tonys could Lin-Manuel Miranda personally go home with? If he was nominated for every available category andhe won all of them, I see four Tonys on the list above that could wind up on his mantel. Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical and Best Orchestrations (which he collaborated on). The award for Best Musical is given to the producers- and he didn't produce the show. But the possibility of seeing the same person win both the composing and writing awards and an acting award and an arrangement award- that is a phenomenal and exciting possibility.
I have an image in my head from when Norah Jones won so many Grammys in the same night that she could barely hold them all. I keep thinking about this picture every time I think about what a photo of Lin at the end of the Tonys might look like.
In The Heights was nominated was for 13 Tonys and won 4. Lin-Manuel Miranda was personally nominated for two: Best Score (which he won) and Best Actor (which he lost). (As a footnote, I'll mention that In the Heights was also nominated for Best Sound Design, a category that no longer exists.) But Hamilton is a whole different ball game. It's a hit, it's a hit, it's a palpable hit. A crazy lottery, standing room only, sold out forever hit. A show doesn't have to be a monster hit like Hamilton to win Tonys, but it doesn't hurt.
For me, a lot of the drama is going to be in the Actor categories. Ignoring the other shows for a moment- if it was a match-up between just Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) and Leslie Odom, Jr. (Burr)- who would win? (Oh, the irony, given that the show itself is a matchup between Hamilton and Burr.) Common sense probably tells us Lin, but I have to say that Leslie was show-stoppingly phenomenal.
What about the Featured Actors? The ensemble work was all exceptional and it is difficult to rank one above another. If I absolutely had to, I would say Daveed Diggs (Lafayette/Jefferson) and Chris Jackson (Washington) were truly standouts. So was Jonathan Groff (King George III), even through he was only on stage for a few moments. Okieriete Onaodowan (Mulligan/Madison) was also terrific, but there may not be enough room in the nominations.
On the actress side, both Phillipa Soo (Eliza) and Renee Elise Goldsberry (Angelica) were outstanding, so I'm glad they won't have any other competition in their categories from within the show, unless Jasmine Cephas Jones (Peggy/Maria Reynolds) gets nominated as a Featured Actress.
We can't ignore those other shows forever. Here's a listof eligible new shows that will be vying very hard not to be shut out.
The Tony nominations will be announced on Tuesday, May 3 and the Tony Awards will be on Sunday, June 12.
Both Madison (Mads) and Billy have their futures ahead of them - futures heavily shaped by their mothers. And, perhaps, by each other. But when the story starts, when their stories first intersect, only one of them is present: Mads, when her morning swim leads her straight into the path of a body, a woman who has taken her own life: Billy's mother.
Though the premise outlined above may sound grim, Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti is buoyed by hope: hope for better days, hope for positive change. The story is led by two characters who struggle to take control over their own lives while they search for reasons or answers related to recent events. Written in third person, the book flips back and forth between Billy and Mads, allowing the reader to see both perspectives - which is especially interesting when they are in the same scene, so the dual narrative allows us to be privy to both characters' thoughts. The third person style also permits a cool omniscient element, with occasional phrases directing the reader's attention to something - almost like a finger pointing, "Look there," "Remember this moment later" - that are more like gentle nudges than pushy wink-wink moments.
Billy and Mads, both post-high school and both innate caretakers, have found jobs they love: Billy works at a no-kill animal shelter and literally rescues dogs, while Mads babysits a baby girl that she wishes she could protect from the world. But neither of them are happy at home. Billy now lives with his grandmother, a woman full of cruel remarks and judgements about her late daughter, while Mads is staying with her aunt, uncle, and cousin for the summer while she takes real estate classes at Bellevue Community College - all part of her mother's plan for Mads to become her working partner the second she passes the licensing exam.
But once Mads and Billy meet, once their lives collide, their futures change. Or is it that their options change, and their true futures reveal themselves? It is not easy to alleviate the burdens of the abandoned or create a map for the lost. It takes courage to face the ogres of depression and loss. With strength of spirit combined with gut instincts and personal truths, Mads and Billy find their way out of the deep and onto their next journey.
Art thou pale for weariness Of climbing heaven, and gazing on the earth, Wandering companionless Among the stars that have a different birth,- And ever-changing, like a joyless eye That finds no object worth its constancy?
Part of the experience of a book fair, and not one overly discussed for a reason, are the partnerships and the collaborative aspects of the book trade. You don’t necessarily have to go at this alone. Your comrades have your back (or your spine, [excruciating pun intended] which plays out when scouting or acquiring other material to add to the overall inventory. How many times have you heard, “Oh, X, would love/need this!?” If you are willing and able, then serendipity has its moments, in addition to critical partnerships.
It was excellent for me to work along side Brian Cassidy, veteran bookseller and long-time Lux Mentis booth partner; Michael Laird, newly discovered witchcraft buddy; book goddess, Kara Accettola; the adorable and sharp, Jonathan Kearns; and equally as adorable and bright, Simon Beattie. I would also like to recognize, the entire Pirages team [good lord, ya’ll need a drink], Ed Sanders and Travis Low [horns up], Fuchsia Voremberg [hugs], Tom Congalton, and Ashley Wildes. I think Ashley encompasses the entire fair sentiment in one image:
Ashley diffuses the situation with mermaid-like qualities, as Kim wishes Ian to contract mind fleas. [Note: drinks handled with appropriate care]
It would be remiss to not recognize some of the book artists and book binders, very important, as representing strong work is a pleasure and a privilege. Both Colin Urbina and Erin Fletcher make overwhelmingly inspiring work, glad to have them in both physical form and function appearing in New York; Michael Kuch, again mind-blowing work; Peter Bogardus; Russell Maret, exceptional new work; Nancy Loeber, representing both fairs [shadow fair]; Christina Amato; Leslie Gerry; Mindy Belloff; María Verónica San Martín; Peter Koch; newly acquired book artist Alexandra Janezic; and of course, the dynamic duo of Marshall Weber and Felice Tebbe at Booklyn. [Do I sound like a broken record or an Oscar speech? geez.]
So, what’s next? Fortunately, we were able to jump over to the “shadow” shows both uptown and across the street to visit both book artists and snap up some “brutally cool” items for down the road to make appearances in iterations of catalog lists forthcoming. What did strike our fancy this year? A selection of things that caught our eye:
The book in its wonderful camel on wheels home #dada
In honor of the 100th birthday of the emergence of the Dada movement, we are sharing the unique artist book created by Rolf Lock embodying Hugo Ball’s Karawane. In full leather boards, the exquisite hand illustration and lettering was executed on sandpaper…because…it was. It is housed, as one would expect, in an olive wood camel, the book at rest forming its hump…because…it is.
The text of the Ball’s poem, written in 1916, is as follows:
Every fair set-up and break down is a challenge, an adventure, and a chore. In the art world, “installation” is where the vision becomes cemented for the curator or artist. Without being to fussy, installation at a book fair is similar, in that, a bookseller has the option to design visual gestalt with a display, to tell a story, or even to offend, dazzle, and educate. With that, part of the concept is driving an aesthetic attachment for a potential person to immediately hone in on something they absolutely desire to acquire for personal or pragmatic reasons.
Again, the thematic diatribe of Lux Mentis to “mock conventionalism” emerges case by case with groupings of “sex, death, and devil,” artist’s books, fine press, esoterica, and other bits of seemingly harmless or seemingly objectionable material. The process can sort of look like this:
What is important to note is while we go gangbusters with stuff, selection is important, as well as time management, you can fiddle around with one shelf for hours, believe me. That being said, all in all, installation was smooth and considerate, every shelf both notes and confronts a narrative. See for yourself.
Next time: Gettin’ granular, or how to give good looks and books.
Like my comrade, the illustrious scribe of Bibliodeviant, I will also traipse through a serial recount of *my* first New York ABAA Book Fair in a similar fashion and how the sideshow, that is Lux Mentis, embellishes the landscape of the book trade and book collecting like the carnival we seem to entertain. Inspired, though by the words of Mr. Kearns, I would like to address the idea of bookselling as identity and image briefly.
Girl, get a grip
After working over 20 years in library land and visual arts culture, I’ve worn several hats. However, not just one will underscore my identity, which to some I apparently wear openly and ripe for criticism. We can model ourselves in such a way that the world might fantasize about librarians in that perverse and/or cryptic and ‘monkish’ kind of way, or we can shine bright like a diamond* with a freak flag of superb owning up to our singular individuality, our own individual prowess to flourish and thrive in this profession.
Basically, the same perception applies to hungry, curious, and experienced visitors at your book fair booth, in your house, your library, your bookshops. You never know what they might bring to the table. Same goes for your fellow booksellers. So, regardless if you have marked skin, blue hair, fancy tweeds, tortoise shell glasses or honest awkwardness, we corral a fierce sense of advocacy for printed and written matter that gives these manifestations of glory multi-generational lives that are passed through a series of hands, hearts, and minds. We have the opportunity to support and create libraries, research, passions, and histories for people, otherwise drowning in the mediocrity in the world. We will find success in those connections, rather than in a litany of judgment based on gender, appearance, and other personal identities.
I could further throw a tirade of shade*, but rather, let’s tunnel into the rabbit hole of New York. As others have mentioned, New York is on fire with grit and action, unlike any other metropolitan in the US, however like I mentioned in a previous blog, the city is a hotbed for bibliophilic intellectualism and performative ingenuity. The New York Antiquarian Book Fair is a force and now I know compared to the somewhat laissez-faire attitude of California (as least Pasadena), I understand why it operates as such. The Park Armory building is a gorgeous architectural example of late 19th century Gothic revival design suitably fitting to encase a labyrinthine maze of booksellers. I felt sort of enveloped in a skeletal shell, ironically housing the biblio-madness for the next few days.
Before set-up started on Wednesday, I can’t slide by without saluting a few notable events and people. Through a blizzard (ha!), we made our way through the quiet snow of Massachusetts to the insanely talented home of Michael Kuch, artist, to pick up the latest iteration of work debuting at the fair [images to follow]. We also lavished in the presence of Marvin Taylor and Charlotte Priddle at the Fales Library & Special Collections, NYU where I pawed around the stacks a bit, as well. Lastly, I would be lying if I wasn’t fidgeting like a 3 year old needing to pee, because I was able to see the Mystery and Benevolence exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum. Get your secret handshake on.
To be continued…[Next up, witness me!*]
*If any of you get my pop culture references, you are Gucci. Yes, I am a metalhead who listens to Ri-Ri.
One thing that still surprises me is how much little kids are fascinated by sharks. Shark books in my library are always checked out - even more so than dinosaur books. In light of this, I am truly surprised that Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks written by Skila Brown and illustrated by Bob Kolar is the first book of its kind I have encountered. Happily, Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks is a treat to read, both for Brown's playfully informative shape poems and for Kolar's colorful, watery illustrations that handsomely capture the (often beautiful) subjects. I don't usually include so many illustrations from a book in a review, but Brown's range of shark subjects and Kolar's illustrations are so fantastic, I wanted to give you a really good idea of all that Slickety Quick has to offer.
Wisely, and with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, Brown kicks off Slickety Quick with a poem about the great white shark - in the shape of that distinctive fin. Thirteen species and their poems, along with brief facts, follow and their variety might surprise you.
Brown's poems are as dramatic as her subjects and very fun to read out loud, especially the poem about the hammerhead shark for two voices, above. The pages of Slickety Quick are so fun to pore over and readers are sure to learn about sharks without even realizing it!
On his websiteKolar mentioned that he loves creating the end pages of his books and this is where I realized I had reviewed a book illustrated by Kolar back in 2011 and, tickled by the end pages, I included them in my review of Nothing Like a Puffin by Sue Soltis. And, I also realized that I had reviewed Skila Brown's unforgettable debut novel in 2014! A verse novel set in Guatemala in 1981, Caminar tells the story of a young boy caught between the military government and guerillas fighting against it.
It was bound to happen, with the prevalence of tattooed folks in America these days. Tell Me a Tattoo Story, thoughtfully written by Alison McGhee and gently, lovingly illustrated by Eliza Wheeler is a sweet story that, based on the many tattoos I have seen on people in my community and on the internet and in magazines, is an idealization of this current cultural trend. Tell Me a Tattoo story posits that there is intention, thought and meaning behind a father's tattoos, which I am sure is the case in many instances. That said, I have a hard time reading this book and not thinking about some of the tattoos I have seen, tattoos that shouldn't be seen by kids or explained to them...
The plot of Tell Me a Tattoo Story revolves around a father telling his son the impetus behind his tattoos. From a dragon to remind him of the book his mother used to read over and over to him (not mentioned by name, but the illustration makes it clear it is The Hobbit) to words his father often said to him, to memories of falling in love with his wife, he explains his ink to his young son.
McGhee's words sometimes tell a different story from Wheeler's illustrations. A tattoo on his stomach marks the "longest trip" he ever took. A page turn reveals the father in army gear, marching with his troop across a desert, gazing a photo of his wife in his hand, his "Be Kind" tattoo showing on his arm. Dad also has a tattoo over his heart, showing the birthdate of his son. The whole text is told in the father's voice, with him answering questions asked by the son that do not appear on the page. It can feel odd at times, but I think it was a smart choice on McGhee's part. It keeps Tell Me a Tattoo Story from being too cheeky or winky, although it teeters on the border of hipsterdom. As someone who believes that there is a book for everything that comes up in life, I wholeheartedly support Tell Me a Tattoo Story.
Faith Erin Hicks is the author and co-author of two of my favorite YA graphic novels, Friends with Boys and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong and now the superb first book in a trilogy, The Nameless City. The Nameless City has the feel of the animated series The Legend of Korra, the spinoff of Avatar: The Last Airbender, both of which I love, and both of which are and will soon be graphic novel series.
The world of The Nameless City is an ancient one with a vaguely Asian/Egyptian feel to it and her geography is brilliant. The Nameless City sits at the mouth of a great mountain pass where a massive arch has been carved out of the stone, allowing the the River of Lives to reach the sea. On one side of the pass are the Liao and Yisun nations, on the other, the Diao. Because of its location, the Nameless City is forever being invaded by one nation after another, who then changws the name. Eventually it comes to be called the Nameless City by everyone - except the natives, who are referred to as the Named.
Kaidu is from the Dao nation, one of many Dao children sent to the Nameless City to train to be part of military behind the safety of the palace walls. Once there, Kai meets his father, General Andren, for the first time. Andren takes Kai on a walk through the Nameless City, outside the safety of the palace walls, and Kai is clearly shaken by the poverty and homelessness he sees. But, it's also where he first sees Rat, a Named girl who has the remarkable skill of being able to fly across the tops of the tiled roofs of the city and perform a sort of ancient parkour.
Enemies at first, Kai and Rat forge a wary friendship that I think will lead to great changes for all over the course of the trilogy. There are themes of conquest and colonialism that make Rat and Kai's friendship all the more fascinating. The Nameless City, while a long and rich graphic novel, also leaves you feeling like you are just getting to know this ancient place. I can't wait for the second book in the series, The Stone Heart, which, in an interview with the L. A. Times, Hicks promises will be bonkers!
Monster & Son, written by David LaRochelleand marvelously illustrated by Joey Chou, is a treat to read. LaRochelle's sweet rhyming text suggests the rowdy playfulness between father and son while Chou's illustrations evoke the midcentury work of Mary Blair, in influential artist with Walt Disney who left her imprint on everything from movies like Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan to the character designs for the Disneyland ride, It's a Small World. Together, a parade of movie-monster father and son cryptids cavort across the pages of Monster & Son.
Monster & Son begins, "You woke me with a monstrous roar, my brave and fearless son." The San Francisco Bay becomes the playground for a frolicking little monster plucking busses and cars off the Golden Gate Bridge. A day filled with "rough and rowdy fun" unfolds as fathers and sons, from Loch Ness Monsters to Frankensteins, Swamp Creatures, Yetis, Sasquatches, dragons, werewolves, mummys and more have fun together. LaRochelle's rhymes are perfectly pitched and, while he uses words that work with the monster theme, they are perfectly suited to human fathers and sons.
Monster & Son nears and end with King Kong cuddling his yawning son, helicopter and shrieking pilot in his hand, saying, "Your fearsome yawns won't frighten me. I'll hug you strong and tight." Dracula kisses his son goodnight, ending with these words, "then gently tuck you into bed while whispering . . . good night."
Monster & Son makes for a perfect Father's Day or baby shower gift that will be read over and over.
As a two time Newbery Medal winner, Newbery Honor winner and National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, a new book from Kate Di Camillo is a big deal, especially one like Raymie Nightingale. DiCamillo's books span a range of reading levels, from easy readers like Bink & Gollie and Mercy Watson to more nuanced novels like The Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn Dixie. Whatever the reading level or subject of a book, you can always count on Di Camillo's distinctive eccentricity, sort of a Southern Gothic for kids.
Raymie Nightingale is set in 1975 in a small town in Central Florida. Di Camillo creates a world you can almost feel and smell, where the searing summer sun heats the sidewalks so that they are still warm at five in the morning and a blinding glare comes off Lake Clara, named after a woman who may or may not have drowned herself there while waiting for her husband to return from the Civil War. A third person narrator lets us see into the mind and heart of ten year old Raymie Clark, who has just suffered a great tragedy. Two days before the story begins, her father "had run away from home with a woman who was a dental hygienist," leaving Raymie with a sharp pain shooting through her heart every time she considers it. I think my favorite thing about Raymie Nightingale and the character of Raymie herself is the way that she experiences and describes her emotions. As a child, I know I had no idea that the physical sensations I felt in my body might be connected to emotions I was experiencing, and have Raymie as a guide would have been invaluable. Di Camillo quickly switches from locating feelings in Raymie's heart to finding them in her soul. Sometimes she feels like her soul is shriveling, other times, it feels like it is "filling up - becoming larger, brighter, more certain," almost like a tent.
Raymie has a plan to get her father to notice her and return home. She is going to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition and get her picture in the newspaper. But first, upon the advice of his secretary, she has to learn to twirl a baton from local champion, Miss Ida Nee. Beverly Tapinksi and Louisiana Elefante are also taking lessons from Miss Ida Nee in order to ensure a win in the Little Miss Florida Tire competition. Beverly wants to sabotage the contest for reasons of her own and Louisiana wants the $1,975 prize money so that she and her grandmother can stop stealing canned food from the Tag and Bag. While never learning to twirl, the three girls do find themselves forming a quick and close bond as they are thrown into, or walk into, a series of curious, quasi-dangerous events. From an attempt to do a good deed at a nursing home that ends with a hair raising fright, to jimmying a lock and stealing a baton from a room covered, floor, walls and ceiling, in green shag carpet, to a midnight rescue and a shopping cart ride that ends in a pond that once was a sinkhole, the girls each have the chance to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.
As an adult reading Raymie Nightingale, the true gift of this novel and Di Camillo's writing is her ability to concisely and gently convey that period of childhood when you start to take notice of the ways of the adults around you and also feel like you might have some amount of control over your own life and your ability to steer the ship. Like most kids, Raymie might be able to see the adult world but she doesn't really understand how it works or how to work with it. And, while her attempts might fall short or flat out fail, Raymie has Beverly and Louisiana by her side and they will always be the Three Rancheros.
Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell and illustrated by Bob Shea is a fantastic new book that is a perfect introduction to haiku for older readers and a wonderful book of poetry (and guessing game) for little listeners. I love haiku, but the often abstract nature of the poems can make teaching it to kids - as well as getting them to appreciate it - a challenge. The format of Caswell's book makes grabbing and keeping reader's interest easy. And, while Guess Who, Haiku is intended for toddler aged readers, her word choice is richly descriptive and varied, again, making this book a superb teaching tool.
The format of the book, as seen above, lets readers guess the subject of the haiku, always prompted by the sentence, "Can you guess who from her/his haiku?" A page turn reveals the subject of the poem with a jaunty illustration from Shea, who's bright, Easter egg palette and happy faces will definitely delight little listeners. After the first poem, following haikus are introduced by the subject of the previous poem, as such:
This bird has a haiku just for you.
from a lily pad
keen eyes spy a careless fly
a sticky tongue - SNAP!
Can you guess who from her haiku?
Guess Who, Haiku is so fun to read out loud. Caswell includes a final page about the structure of haiku that is easy to grasp. If you read Guess Who, Haiku with older children, be sure to have a paper and pen nearby as I have no doubt they will want to try writing their own haiku!
I read hundreds of new picture books every year. Some are dreadful. Most are good. A few are great. And occasionally, a very special book or two makes you want to grab people on the street and tell them about the amazing new book you just read.
Like this one.
Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat accomplishes so much between the covers of a picture book.
It's daring, dynamic and filled with a multitude of meanings. The art blends several styles simultaneously. The colors are bold, brilliant and constantly surprising. It's beautiful, fun, silly, and touching all at the same time.
The constant change from gorgeous full page spreads to small graphic novel panels is arresting. The devices used to keep the reader going in the right direction are creative and well-employed. It's very fun to hand this book to other people and watch the book turn around and around as they figure out how to read it for the first time.
And the details! How I love all the tiny, little creative details hidden in nearly every page. The color contrasts. The facial expressions. The endpapers. The outfits the parents wear. What is hidden underneath the dust jacket. On and on and on. Every time I read it, I find so many more fantastic details.
I don't want to call it a follow-up to Beekle, because I don't want to compare it to Beekle at all. It feels like every time a successful author has a new book, it is inevitably compared to their past achievements. I thought it might be refreshing to talk about the new book without the comparisons.
Disclaimer: I've probably read and studied Beekle far more than the average bear (or human) since I was a member of the committee that awarded Beekle the Caldecott Medal, so truly, this isn't about a lack of familiarity with Beekle.
Try reading this one aloud. There's so much brilliance in the text. The overarching words about the road and where life may lead you could almost be taken out and read separately from the pictures and still be poignant. And the speech bubbles are in the language that children speak and and are funny on another level.
Hey, readergirlz! We have a #rockthedrop update for you, courtesy of Lorie Ann Grover:
YALSA has decided to discontinue Support Teen Literature Day in April. We've enjoyed celebrating the day for 8 years by rocking the drop through Operation Teen Book Drop. We've donated thousands of books to teens in hospitals and those on Tribal Lands. We've left young adult books around the world to be found by happy readers. Well done, all!
SO WE ARE GOING TO CONTINUE ANYWAY! We are going to #RocktheDrop in October, on Friday, the 14th, of Teen Read Week. Deal? For now, stash those books to the side, and we'll collectively drop them together next fall. We'll give you a heads up as the time approaches. Let's get those donation piles taller in the meantime.
Be ready to #RocktheDrop on October 14th, 2016. It's going to be a great addition to Teen Read Week. Ready, set, go!
Raybot is Adam F. Watkins's second picture book and his second book featuring robots. The story and text of Raybot don't offer much. But bear in mind that this is my adult opinion. Having read this book out loud to a couple of classes of kindergartners, I can tell you that they all gave Raybot a big thumbs up. That said, Watkins's lavish illustrations come very close to making you forget the weak story. His painterly illustrations are rich with color and depth and his characterization of animals blends a gentle cartoonishness with largely realistic representations that are a delight.
Raybot is a robot who lives all alone in a junkyard. One day he discovers part of an advertisement for a best friend that shows a boy with a bone. The recipient of the bone is a mystery, as the corner of the page has been ripped off, but Raybot knows one thing: the friend who loves bones says, "Bark!" Raybot fashions a metal bone them heads off into the world looking for the creature that says, "Bark!"
As you might guess from the lovely back cover illustration, Raybot travels the world looking for this friend. His journey ends when he meets a parrot who answers Raybot's "Bark?" with a "BARK!" Even better, this parrot seems to have a friend of his own, a puppy. Raybot ends with a trite realization about friends coming in all shapes and sizes, the trio walking home together.
Soon by Timothy Knapman, marvelously illustrated by Patrick Benson is my new favorite book to read out loud and to myself. Sadly, this fine picture book sat on my shelf for a year before I got around to reading it and reviewing it. I knew that Soon had to be a great book - a mother and baby elephant, the word "soon" and Patrick Benson's gentle illustrations, but I didn't know how truly great Soon is until I read it to a class of first graders. Before I began reading, I asked them if they knew how many minutes are in "soon." The answers were hilarious. The pacing and plot of Soon are ideal for reading out loud. Soon can be a quiet book and a loud book and the suspense is perfectly balanced, keeping even the wiggliest listener still and focused on the story. I can't believe that I lost a whole year of reading Soon out loud, but now that I have found it, Soon will be a story time staple in my library and a book I give as a gift often.
Soon begins on the endpapers. It is just before dawn and in the early grey light, a mother and baby elephant can be seen walking toward the hills in the distance. They have set out on a great adventure. It is cold and dark and they walk for a long time with little Raju asking, "When can we go home again?" and his mother answering, "Soon." This is a question and answer that is repeated over and over: as they try to pass quietly by the sleeping crocodiles, the slithering snake and the prowling tiger. Each danger brings a powerful response from Raju's mother, and this is where the story can get loud - if you want it to. Finally, the pair come to a mountain and Raju's mother tells him to hold tight to her tail as they climb to the top.At the top, Raju can see "all his world spread out before him." "It's beautiful, isn't it?" says his mother, to which Raju replies simply, "Yes."
The pair begin the long walk back to their "cozy little home." Raju is tired and his feet hurt and he had never been up so late. But, on the final pages of the book, he says to his mother, "When can we do it all again?" I have no doubt you know his mother's answer. The endpapers show a starry night sky, his mother's trunk resting on Raju's back.
It is such a joy to take listeners on this journey every time I read Soon out loud.
The epic romance continues between the two American coasts, as the beginning of the year jumps in two major ABAA Book Fairs… the California Antiquarian Book Fair (February) and the equally as engaging and immense, the New York Antiquarian Book Fair [April]. Each fair having their own peculiarities, personalities and local fanfare, and honestly, not without their own biases.
The California fair flips between their estranged cousins of North and South hosts; this year held inland Los Angeles, more specific a sparkling bright and colorful, Pasadena. Mind you, east coast or rather booksellers coming from anywhere else outside of Southern California almost know they are escaping frigid temperatures from their homes, this year was unseasonably hot with days reaching the upward 90s. Take care, so the books don’t sweat.
It is always within the scope of the best vice and virtue, so to speak, to bring out the “sexy.” Lux Mentis never shy to vice and more vice, taunts the sensibilities with color, format, and content with a moderate collection of items that fall under the “Sex, Death, and the Devil” tease. Partly to challenge the normalized sense of the book and partly to possibly offend a casual buyer who just might be tempted enough leave their morals at home.
Sex, Death, and the Devil
This year saw the debut of two major collections of material both very California and both very seething with equal parts naughty and “nice.”
The Daved Marsh Surfing Collection, a multi-faceted collection of books, magazines, pulps, and other ephemera, is a wild trip down the last several decades of surf history, but more so to capture the sleazy and exploitative end to surf culture. Daved Marsh, a surf bibliographer, first Gen SF punk, and rare book cataloger, coined the term “surfsploitation” to describe the lascivious, tongue-in-cheek, and racy nature of surf culture as seen through both mass and underground media. A visually compelling and downright dirty collection, it was a pleasure to have a snippet of material on view, and subsequently the collection found a new placement, ironically on the East Coast!
Daved Marsh Surfing Collection [top shelf]
Sorry, New York, but the West Coast represents a massive chunk of the punk scene beginning in the late 70s too! Also featured in California fair were bits of the SST Records Collection and the art of renowned punk artist Raymond Pettibon. SST Records, the brainchild of Black Flag guitarist, Greg Ginn, boasts not just punk ephemera, like punk show fliers, but correspondence from the administrative end of the operation, zines, and even a Henry Rollins poseable action figure! Lux Mentis displayed the highly collectible and just plain damn awesome, original Raymond Pettibon artwork, but also an original handwritten letter from Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, discussing the album and included lyrics. 40 years of punk this year, and we still can’t quit it.
Raymond Pettibon, “Black Flag – My War” SST Records
The satellite book fair, the LA Art Book Fair, was held downtown in Little Tokyo district; and without a doubt, the opening night was not a sight “untypical” of Los Angeles. The very hip and overly stylized gamut of young socialites grazed the scene. At one point, most tables saw bodies three deep. There were a couple of largely popular and personal favorites representing the fair, Printed Matter (the organizers), Division Leap, and the wildly adorable and politically poignant, Booklyn. We ended up snatching up a few dirty bits, as usual, but also chatted with our friend, Jenny Lens, prominent Los Angeles photographer and artist of the original LA punk scene.
Gay Pulp paperback collection
Also quite digestible this year, are the fine selections of artist’s books and fine press publications that many of the Southern California academic libraries acquired for their collections. Special collections libraries at major universities in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego maintain hugely representative and well-developed artist’s book collections, as always it is hugely delightful to pander to the collecting missions of these selective libraries. One of the major goals now and into the future is to support and advocate for emerging book art talent across the country. It would be my personal goal, also, to be a strong advocate for emerging book artists of color and queer and trans-identified book artists, so that their work is represented in library collections.
In some ways, it is a nice swap to talk about the New York fair in the future tense, just so everyone can get a whiff of what’s to come. New York is an uncompromising city, no doubt. However, in its small geographic metropolis, the city demands a major chunk of bibliographic and artistic liberties. We hope to envelope ourselves in the energy and intellect of New York’s prolific institutions and sharp book collectors.
To continue the saga of our highly tragic theme, more sex will available for our daring clientele, but also a twist on the devil with some occult thrown in the mix, with a nice glaze of death, death, and more death. A personal favorite of mine, death is a transgressive topic of interest this year, as we are seeing more dialogue surrounding “end of life” transgression, as well as, the fashionable Victorian morbidity culture.
It is on more than one occasion, onlookers say, “you have the best booth” and without tooting our horn *too* much, although there is something to be said for pushing the envelope by challenging the notion of “antiquarian,” “rare,” and even the book format. Collecting and developing collections is by no means regulated to just “old brown books” and certainly by example, content and context play into scarcity as much as edition and age. With that in mind, for you curious creatures, here are some selections of newly acquired material and other provocative items to taunt you with for the New York Antiquarian Fair this week (Booth B-21). [Not responsible for faint of heart, nor coddling of weak-minded morality].
Well, I had intended to get this blog active and engaging again…but the host decided to push the issue by deleting the entire existing blog (deleting a decade of posts). I had some backed up…and will be manually restoring a selection of them. I will also customize this theme again so it ‘fits’…but not until the NYC ABAA fair is over. Reasonably frustrated…but a fresh start is a fresh start. I hope you enjoy the new iteration (and welcome Kim Schwenk who will be doing some posting).