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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. Video Sunday: Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

Today we begin with something depressing (happy Sunday, everybody!). On April 4th, all of five days ago, the lovely blog Geekmom (which appears to be an offshoot of Geekdad) premiered the new Adam Rex / Mac Barnett book trailer for their upcoming picture book How This Book Was Made. When you see this trailer you will think to yourself, “Dang. I wish I could make book trailers like this.” Then you’ll look at how many views it’s gotten so far and it’s a mere (as of this post) 567. Citizens of the world, this will not do. This is a good trailer. It deserves our love. Let’s see those numbers pump up a little. And ah-one, and ah-two, and ah- . . .

Let’s see, let’s see. I always collect the links for a week or two and try and figure out if they’re actually any good. Most of them I dump. Lots o’ talking heads fall by the wayside but amongst them you’ll find something good. Example A:

This next one’s a bit random. I moved to Chicago and then decided that maybe my kids would actually be able to see the odd play now and then. But before I came, one slipped out of town before I could do anything about it. I aspire to someday see it personally with kids in tow. They may be in their 30s before it happens, but it’s doggone happening, YOU JUST WAIT!

In other news, Tim Federle, children’s book author and now the man behind Tuck Everlasting on Broadway, poses the ultimate question to Times Square tourists.

That first one drawn out a bit more . . .

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link!

Recently I’ve been reading some YA and one of the better novels to cross my path is this nice Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit. Book trailers are all well and good but it’s nice to try something new. Not that talking to Times Square tourists is all that new (see: above Tim Federle videos) but it beats the usual iMovie schtick.

And for our off-topic video, this is pretty much my favorite thing right now. If you took my sense of humor, distilled it down to a fine liquid, dehydrated that liquid into a powder, and then sneezed it into the face of a clown, that might come close to approximating what this video means to me. Best. Thing. Ever.

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27. Trailer Premiere: The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi

Let play a game.  I’ll write out a bit of a professional review from here at School Library Journal and you guess the book.  Here goes:

“A unique take on the classic tale ‘The Ugly Duckling,’ this is a humorous story of friendship and self-acceptance, set in a dim sum restaurant. … This narrative moves quickly, and the cheerful visuals do as much to tell the story as the text does. An amusing and fun addition for most collections.”

It’s about this point that you say to me, “Uh, Betsy? You just said in the title of your post that you were showing the book trailer for THE UGLY DUMPLING. Would that be the book?”  And then I’d glance up, see that you were correct, and say something like, “Right you are, fellow citizen!”

Yes, today we’re premiering the book trailer (the second this week) for THE UGLY DUMPLING by Stephanie Campisi, illustrated by Shahar Kober.  Just another average, everyday dumpling/cockroach friendship tale.

Enjoy!

Feel free to go here for more info on the book and some coloring sheets as well.  And many thanks to Mighty Media Press for the scoop.

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28. Fan Art: From Sheinkin to Wicks

Here’s an idea for a series on this blog: Authors and illustrators paying tribute to other authors and illustrators in the form of fan art.  Oh, it could work.  Why do I think it could work?  Because that’s what we’re doing today, folks.

Consider the author Steve Sheinkin.  You may know him from his award winning nonfiction books (with the occasional Newbery Honor tossed in for spice) or you may know him from his Walking and Talking series here on the blog.  What you may NOT know is that he is capable of fan art.  Particularly in the case of Maris Wicks and Human Body Theater.  But I’ll let him do the explaining:

Maris Wicks is an absolute master at the tricky art of combining information and entertainment. I’m a big believer that nonfiction books should not get extra credit for being healthy, and that’s the genius of her work – she doesn’t need it. My son David (age 6) and I are such huge fans of Human Body Theater, we were inspired to collaborate on this fan art, based on one of the drawings from that incredible book!

Since I’ve a four-year-old daughter who also went gaga for the book, I concur.  Here is the art:

Wicks1

Thank you to Steve and David as well as Gina Gagliano for setting this whole thing up.  And, of course, a big thank you to Maris Wicks for her delightful graphic novel.  If you haven’t read it, you’re missing out.

HumanBodyTheater

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29. Book Trailer Premiere: Fluffy Strikes Back by Ashley Spires

My daughter is four going on five at the moment.  And though she still reads her fair share of picture books, recently she has become enamored of graphic novels.  Particularly those with “bad guys” in them.  For this reason, I give great good thanks for Ashley Spires.  Granted, in her Binky the Space Cat series the “bad guys” my daughter seeks are bugs . . . but what bugs they are!  Now a new addition comes to the Binky canon.  And it is fluffy.  Ladies and gentlemen, our book trailer reveal of the day:

Not enough for you?  Well there’s a website as well, you lucky ducks.  A tip of the old hat to Kids Can Press for the lovely reveal.  Anything involving the decimation of insects has my love and admiration.  A great little book for those seeking “bad guys” or just a plain good story.

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30. Eight Recent Children’s & YA Books Collectors Should Grab

The other day I had lunch with a lovely collector of children’s books.  Children’s book collectors have always struck me as a the last great unknowable group of people with an active interest in children’s literature out there.  Where educators or librarians or even scholars have blogs and annual meetings and newsletters, collectors remain mysterious and unknowable.  There are just so many things I want to learn about them.  What makes a children’s book valuable in some way?  How do you determine which books are more worthy than others?  And most importantly, what contemporary books are collectors looking at right now?

When I asked some of these questions to my lunch companion, the collector suggested that I write a blog post with my top guesses as to which books will be worth the most in the coming decades.

Now let me be clear.  I have absolutely zip, zero, zilch idea of how this all works.  I have this vague sense that there’s this unknowable individual out there who carries with them the secrets of the universe and that THEY actually know this stuff.  There must be an art to it.  You want things that will accrue in value, but accrue for a variety of different reasons.  I know what is new.  I know what is popular.  And I know what could, based on what I know, be valuable.  That doesn’t mean these books will be.  Still, my nickname is “Bets” so . . .

Bearing in mind that uncut manuscripts are probably the best way to go anyway, here’s the gist of what I’m thinking should be on any good collector’s list.

Twilight

  • Signed galley of TWILIGHT

True story.  Before Twilight was released, it was included in a Little, Brown librarian preview.  This was before my time, so I’m getting this secondhand.  Still, what I’ve been told is that Stephenie Meyer was the super secret guest at that preview.  Remember, the book had not yet come out so no one knew who she was yet.  She signed copies of the Twilight galleys at this event.  Many of the librarians who received them gave them away to their TAG (Teen Advisory Group) readers.  So somewhere out there are signed galleys of Twilight.  Rare indeed.

Moon Over Manifest

  • A galley of MOON OVER MANIFEST

Unexpected Newbery or Caldecott winners always make for excellent collecting fare.  The rumor about this book is that when the ALA Youth Media Awards announcement was made that it had won the Newbery, Barnes & Noble had to recall all the copies they’d been preparing to pulp that very day.  It was such an unexpected winner that I suspect you’d be able to find that its ARC is of particular note.

DiaryofaWimpyKid

  • A first edition DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. Galley preferred.

Most series aren’t super hits the minute they get on the market.  For Jeff Kinney’s, it took about 2-3 books before the child reading public realized how great the titles really were.  That means that there are undoubtedly signed galleys of the first book that could have potentially been lost to the sands of time.  If you have one, hold onto it.

FineDessert

  • An F&G of A FINE DESSERT

The usual folded and gathered picture book galley is ephemeral.  It’s not meant to be held on to.  I’ve seen them turned into birdhouses and buttons and all manner of interesting things.  Now initially A FINE DESSERT had positive reviews, so it’s possible a lot of people held onto its F&G.  I doubt it, though.  Though some might have held onto it because they thought the book had Caldecott changes, I bet it was tossed more often than not.

My Name Is Jason

Jason Reynolds is poised.  Poised to break like the star he is, man.  Smart, funny, and a helluva good writer.  If you haven’t heard of him by now, brace yourself.  Yet when he was first starting out, this was his debut.  It was an unassuming little YA in 2009 and now it’s out-of-print.  The fact that new, never read copies are starting at $65.40 online is significant.  This book is a collectable, pure and simple.

BirthdayCakeWashington

  • A BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR GEORGE WASHINGTON signed by author or editor or illustrator

What is unclear to me at this time is whether or not there was ever an F&G (folded & gathered) version of the book for reviewers.  I certainly didn’t receive one, and I usually get the bulk of the Scholastic titles.  This leads me to think they trucked entirely in final copies.  Even so, before the book was pulled from publication there’s a chance that copies might have been available at the ALA Conference in January.  Any copy is going to be worth money but prices have dropped since the book was initially pulled, going for as low as $59.90 on Amazon.  This leads me to suspect that while the book will be worth something in the future, signed copies will be worth a lot more.

angelgirl

Do not think for a moment that Birthday Cake is the sole picture book that has ever been pulled from publication.  In 2008 Lerner pulled this Holocaust title.  The reason?  It had initially been sold as a true story.  When the facts came out that it was a myth, Lerner acted accordingly.  You can buy the book easily enough on Amazon (to the tune of $48) but considering its limited run and shaky history, I’d say it’s a good bet.

BigRedLollipop

With the dawn of Salaam Reads at Simon & Schuster (their Muslim children’s book imprint) there’s a marked increase of interest in Muslim-American books for kids.  One of the best is Rukhsana Khan’s.  It was included in NYPL’s 100 Great Books for Kids list and is a truly lovely title.  I’m thinking it may be one to watch, particularly first editions.

That’s all I’ve got, based on next to nothing at all.  I’d love to hear what else you think has a chance at monetary value in the future.  Always with the understanding that this is all just conjecture and speculation.

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31. Review of the Day: Don’t Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Don'tCallDon’t Call Me Grandma
By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Carolrhoda Books (a division of Lerner)
$19.99
ISBN: 978-1-4677-4208-5
Ages 4-7
On shelves now.

In 2016 a picture book won a Newbery Award. Which is to say, a picture book was declared the best-written work for children between the ages of 0-14. After its win there was a fair amount of speculation about what precisely the Newbery committee was trying to say with their award. For that matter, there was a fair amount of speculation about what it meant for children’s literature in general. Are we, as a people, less tolerant of loquacious books? Considering the fact that a book with 592 pages was a runner-up, I think we’re doing just fine in terms of wordy titles. Just the same, I hope that if anything comes out of this surprise award it’s a newfound appreciation for the picture book’s art of restraint. A good picture book shows but doesn’t tell. Don’t believe me? Read the original manuscript of Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are where he spells everything out for the reader. All these thoughts were in my head recently when I read the remarkable Don’t Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Tackling the almost nonexistent subcategory of grouchy great-grandparents, Ms. Nelson deftly encapsulates a woman’s personality and lifetime of experiences in a scant 32 pages.

“Great-grandmother Nell is scary.” You got that right, kid. She also does not hug, or kiss, or chase her great-grandchild for fun. Instead she sips an intoxicating beverage from a glass bedecked with a spider. She serves up fish for breakfast, buggy eyes and all. But she also has a vanity full of mysterious perfumes, lipstick as red as rubies, and memories as sharp and painful as the day they were made. And when her great-granddaughter sneaks a kiss, Nell is still scary. But that’s okay. “…I like her that way.”

Don'tCall2First and foremost, this is not a fuzzy grandparent (or great-grandparent) book. There are plenty of fuzzy books out there, filled to brimming with warm snuggly feelings. If that is the kind of book you require then grab yourself the nearest Nancy Tillman and content yourself accordingly. What we have here instead is a kind of character study. Whatever expectations you carry into this book, they will be upended by the text. Nell is an amazing character, one that I’ve never seen in book of this sort. Her prickly nature may well hide that “broken heart” she mentions obliquely, but it could just as easily hide more prickles. We get three distinct memories of her past, but it’s a single wordless two-page spread that probably says more about her than anything else. As an adult, I found myself speculating about her life. How perhaps she had dreams of dancing professionally but that she put those dreams aside when she had her children at a very young age. No kid is going to read into Nell what I have. That’s what makes reading this book so dynamic. Come for the prickly relative. Stay for the enticing, unknowable back story.

What I would really like to praise in this review, if nothing else, is just how deftly author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson parses words into sentences that swell with meaning. Take, for example, the moment when our heroine enters Great-Grandmother Nell’s bedroom. She considers playing with the cloth ballerina on the best but abstains, saying, “her expression makes me think she might tell.” Later she kisses her great-grandmother in her sleep. “Even asleep, Great-Grandmother Nell is scary. But I like her that way.” The very last line? “She won’t know”. It would be fascinating to see Nelson’s original manuscript. Was it just this sparse and spare? Or was it much longer and cut down to the bone in the editing process? Whichever it was, it works.

Don'tCall3The child in this book is much like the child who will be reading it with an adult. Both she and they sense that there is more at work here than meets the eye. And it is the art by Elizabeth Zunon that backs that feeling up. Elizabeth Zunon has been a force to reckon with for years. I first noticed her when she illustrated William Kamkwamba’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, though I unknowingly had already been a fan of hers when she illustrated Jeanne Harvey’s My Hands Sing the Blues. In Don’t Call Me Grandma she begins with a straightforward contemporary story. Even then, her endpapers start telling the tale long before the words do (not counting the title). She fills these early pages with strings of pearls. Fat pearls, small pearls, pink and gray and white pearls. Note that in the text there is just one mention of those pearls, and it’s in the context of a lot of other things on Nell’s dressing table. But Zunon is getting a grip on her personality in her own way. Because of her we get a distinct sense of Great-Grandmother’s style, poise, and dignity. There are fun little details too, like the family peering out through the window as Nell gives a singing bird what for and how to. Zunon also lends Nell a humanity on the sidelines. When her great-granddaughter looks around her room we see Nell observing affectionately from the sides (though she’d be the first to deny it if you accosted her with the evidence). Then there are the memories. Depicted as splotchy watercolors, Zunon subtly changes her style to indicate how some memories are crystal clear even as they blur and go soft around the edges. The two-page spread of objects representing other memories (everything from photographs of Civil Rights marchers to tickets to an Alvin Ailey ballet) will require giving child readers some context. Nothing wrong with that. Sit them down and explain each thing you see. Don’t recognize something? Look it up!

A woman of my acquaintance used to make a big show of objecting to any and all picture books that depicted grandmothers as white-haired, doddering old women, tottering on the very edge of the grave. To her mind, there should be at least as many books that show those women as resourceful, spry, and full of energy. Great-Grandmothers probably have few books where they’re wrecking havoc with the universe. Generally speaking they just dodder and die. There will be no doddering and certainly no dying in Don’t Call Me Grandma, though. Nell isn’t just a character. She comes off the page like a full-blown human being, warts and all (just an expression – Nell would take me to the cleaners if she heard me indicating she has any warts). Sharp and smart, this is one of those picture books I’d like to see more of. Which is to say, stories I’ve never seen before.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

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32. Ethics in Nonfiction for Kids

I’m not quite sure what it says about me that whenever I need to have a go-to Children’s Literary Salon I inevitably make it about ethics in nonfiction for kids. I think, technically, I’ve done this topic three times and each time it just gets more and more interesting. Case in point, this past Saturday’s Children’s Literary Salon in beautiful Evanston, IL. I hosted Barbara Rosenstock, Sally M. Walker, Candace Fleming, and Judith Fradin. And baby, we covered everything. Faux dialogue, what happens when the illustrations are inaccurate but the text is dead on, the world of nonfiction after A BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR GEORGE WASHINGTON, the works!

Now I recorded the whole thing but I recorded it as a Google Hangout. That means the audio is a bit more digitized than I’d like. You can make it out, but it’s tricky. So, y’know. If anyone wants to make a transcript you shall earn my undying love and quite possibly a chocolate chip cookie to boot.

In the meantime, enjoy:

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33. What Was the First YA Novel?

Telemaque2Things are ah-brewing and ah-hopping on the child_lit listserv this week!  And though my blog is primarily a conduit through which one learns about children’s book news, I couldn’t help but get utterly fascinated by a discussion of origin.  Particularly, the origin of the YA novel.

Fun with semantics!  So what do we mean when we say that something is a YA novel?  Couldn’t you say that any novel read voraciously by teens (during the dawn of a book’s publication) is YA?  So wouldn’t that mean that classics like Robinson Crusoe or Pamela or what have you would count?  Maybe, but for the purposes of today’s post let’s say the key is authorial/publisher intent.  If an author writes a book specifically with teen readers in mind, it is YA.

All this is a bit tricky when you consider that even defining teens as a separate group is fairly new to history.  Still, if you take all these considerations into account, it was Jenny Schwartzberg of the Newberry Library who passed along this fascinating information:

“. . . the first novel for adolescents or YA novel in our terms is Francois de Fenelon’s Les Aventures de Telemaque (1699) . . .”

Never heard of it?  Nor had I.  Fortunately in a separate posting Jenny explained further:

Telemaque1Les Aventures de Telemaque was specifically written for an adolescent prince, the Dauphin of France.  Fenelon was his tutor.  I believe he was 14 at that time but I would have to check.  After it was published it was promoted Europe-wide as appropriate reading for adolescents.  It continued to be published in many languages and read by young students into the 19th century before falling out of favor.  It was also popular with adults and is still regarded as a French classic.

YA is a slippery term even today, and people certainly didn’t think in terms of separate literature for children and adults as we do today, but when books are specifically promoted in the contemporary reviews and critical literature as appropriate for certain ages, I’d certainly accept them as such.”

The more you know.  Thanks, Jenny!

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34. Politics and Mainstream Children’s Literature in 2016

You may have seen the Guardian article the other day ‘Oh, what a big gun you have': NRA rewrites fairytales to include firearms.  The title pretty much is the whole story, except that these are tales posted on the NRA’s website and not (at this time) actual published books.  I was looking at the post and the books themselves and for whatever reason it made me think about the current crop of picture books for kids today about the candidate for president.  Candidate singular, you see, because of the people running, only one has several picture book biographies to her name.

Flashback: The year is 2008 and I’m attending a Simon & Schuster publisher preview.  Here is my write-up from the time.  What you will not find in the write-up was what happened when the John McCain picture book biography was shown to the librarians in attendance.  They were . . . let us say less than pleased as a whole, though obviously I cannot speak for everyone.  The editor, incensed, stood and suddenly made a passionate speech about having to show both sides of every story.  That we owe it to our young readers to have picture book biographies of the candidates of both parties.

Fast Forward to 2016: Now I cannot say what the future holds in political publishing.  All I can say is that at this moment in time, there are at least three picture book biographies out about Hillary Clinton and only Hillary Clinton.  They are:

hillary-rodham-clinton-9781481451130_hr

HILLARY-jacket-final

I confess that it was a co-worker who pointed out to me the red, white, and blue streaks in her hair. Totally missed that on a first read.

Hillary hc c

I’ll not comment on these individually (though I do a fantastic one-woman show reenacting the opening of one of these three books – see if you can guess which one).  What I will say is that in the children’s book publishing industry few find themselves surprised when only one candidate gets a book.  I’m no psychic, but I think it’s safe to say that we probably won’t be seeing a Trump or Cruz picture book bio from a mainstream publisher in the next year.  Now I could be wrong, but the difference between McCain and these two potential candidates is immense.  Quite frankly, McCain was better suited to the format.

So what does this say about the publishing industry of 2016 and is it the same or different from 2008?  No idea.  One thing is certain, though.  No matter who secures the Republican nomination, picture book bios of that person will appear.  They’ll just be coming from smaller, conservative presses.

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35. Review of the Day: When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

WhenGreen1When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons
By Julie Fogliano
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan)
$18.99
ISBN: 9781596438521
Ages 6 and up
On shelves now.

I don’t think I can adequately stress to you the degree to which I did not want to review this book. Not because it isn’t a magnificent title. And not because it isn’t pleasing to both eye and ear alike. No, it probably had more to do with the fact that it’s a work of poetry. I make a point of reviewing poetry regularly, though I’d be the first to say that it wasn’t my first language (if you know what I mean). I respect it but can occasionally find it tough going. I was determined to give this book its due, though. And the only way I could make myself physically sit down and review it was to read it cover to cover again. As I did so I was struck over and over, time and again, by just how melodious the language is here. Look, I’ll level with you. Seasonal poetry books are a dime a dozen. But what Fogliano and Morstad have created together is a lot more than just a book of poems for the changes of the year. This book manages to operate on a level that presents the very act of the seasonal cycle as positively philosophical, yet without distancing itself from its readership. It’s tricky territory, but together Fogliano and Morstad get the job done.

“from a snow-covered tree / one bird singing / each tweet poking / a tiny hole / through the edge of winter”. In the very first poem in When Green Becomes Tomatoes (a poem called “march 20”) the child reader is alerted to a change in the air. The snow is still present and the weather still gloomy, but there is hope on the horizon. Yet rather than turn the book into a paean to warmer weather, poet Julie Fogliano takes time to both celebrate and criticize the passing seasons. By the end of spring you look forward to summer and the end of summer leads to the relief of autumn, and so on and such. Accompanying these thoughts are small poems in lowercase and illustrations carrying the weight and expectations these seasons evoke in us. The end result can only be described in a single word: beautiful.

WhenGreen2Like I said, I’ve read a lot of poetry books for kids about the seasons in my day. The good ones have some kind of a hook. Like Joyce Sidman tackling it with colors in Red Sings from Treetops or Jon J. Muth writing the poems entirely as haikus as in Hi, Koo! A Year in Seasons. But Fogliano doesn’t really have a hook, and so I approached the title with trepidation. No hook? You mean it was just going to be . . . poems?! It takes the courage of your convictions to do a poetry book for kids straight these days. And it’s not true that Fogliano didn’t have one ace up her sleeve. A lot of works of poetry start in January (when the year itself technically begins). Using a technique of highlighting random dates, this poet begins the book on March 20th, the first day of spring. A small hook, sure, but at least it’s something.

As for the poems themselves, I was impressed not just with the writing, but with Ms. Fogliano’s grasp of what each season actually entails. There are a LOT of cloudy days, rainy days, and generally blah days in this book. They don’t weigh down the narrative or really make it all that gloomy. You just end up experiencing precisely the same feeling you have when you’re living those days. This is the rare book that acknowledges that spring doesn’t immediately mean sunshine and 55-degree temperatures. There’s a lot of snow and some mud and a whole ton of rain. Listen to how she puts it, though: “today / the sky was too busy sulking to rain / and the sun was exhausted from trying / and everyone / it seemed / had decided / to wear their sadness / on the outside / and even the birds / and all their singing / sounded brokenhearted / inside of all that gray.” It really isn’t until June that things even out, and I respect that. All the seasons are like that. It’s great to watch.

As you might have noted, the poetry found in this book straddles a line between being child-friendly and introspective (the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but neither are they always natural pairs). I found myself noting line after line after line that I wanted to quote. Here’s a small taste for each season.

On Spring: “shivering and huddled close / the forever rushing daffodils / wished they had waited.”

On Summer: “if you ever stopped / to taste a blueberry / you would know / that it’s not really about the blue, at all.”

On Fall: “october please / get back in bed / your hands are cold / your nose is red / october please / go back to bed / your sneezing woke december.”

On Winter: “a gust of wind / blew by my nose / i think i will be frozen soon / this living room / (all cozy chairs and fireplace) / has some real explaining to do.”

Some books of children’s poetry lean heavily on the works of other poets. I won’t presume to name her influences but if the July 12th poem is any indication then William Carlos Williams might have had some influence here. And maybe e.e. cummings too (with all that mudlicious mud).

WhenGreen3When she was much younger it’s clear that author Julie Fogliano made some kind of a blood sacrifice to the God of Perfect Illustrator Pairings. How else to explain how she has managed to work alongside such artists as Erin E. Stead and now Julie Morstad? Morstad is no newbie to the field, of course. I’ve been a big fan of her for years, starting with her art for The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson. Morstad’s great talent lies not necessarily in her waiflike black-eyed children, but rather in how she creates tone. Though there are plenty of sequences in this book of kids playing together or sharing food and soup, for the most part her characters go it alone. These poems are the contemplations of a young person with time and space and nature in spades. I don’t know that if I read Ms. Fogliano’s poetry without the art I would have picked up on that myself. Note too how cyclical the book is. The first poem is the last, sure as shooting, but so too is the person seen at both the beginning and the end. It’s the same kid wearing the same clothes, which makes a subtle implication that though a whole year has gone by, time is simply doubling back on itself. Not sure what to make of that one, frankly.

With poetry, we have to play the game of answering what ages we think the poems are appropriate for. This book poses a bit of a challenge on that front. Some are younger, some definitely older. This mix will allow kids of all ages to take part in the fun, even as the book asks questions like whether or not there is a space between where things begin and things end “or just a slow and gentle fading”. Enticing to the eye but, more importantly almost, alluring to the brain as kids parse what Fogliano is trying to say, this is a book that has the potential (with the right teacher or parent) to convert the formerly unconvertible to the wonders of poetry itself. The truth of the matter is this: Fogliano and Morstad will make poets of us all.

On shelves now.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

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36. Press Release Fun: Matt Bird and The Secrets of Story

WritersDigest

Reprinting PW deal announcements is not what I tend to do.  Today, however, we’ve a rather extraordinary occurrence.  Some of you may know that my husband Matt Bird is a bit of a blogger and screenwriter in his own right.  Add the term “published author” to that description now.  Publishers Weekly has just announced Matt’s latest book deal.  In short:

Bird Shares the ‘Story’ With WD

Matt Bird sold world English rights to The Secrets of Story to Phil Sexton at Writers Digest. Bird, who has an M.F.A. in screenwriting from Columbia, runs the popular writing blog Cockeyed Caravan, which offers tips and instruction on narrative craft. Stephen Barbara at Inkwell Management represented Bird, and the book, which is subtitled Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers, is set for fall 2016. Barbara compared Secrets to such iconic screenwriting guides as Robert McKee’s Story and Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, calling it the “21st-century answer” to those titles.

Lest you feel this is simply pure nepotism, I will point out that Matt’s book has much to say to you children’s and YA authors out there.  He speaks regularly on the podcast of editor Cheryl Klein and James Monohan (The Narrative Breakdown) and his advice on The Ultimate Story Checklist has been of particular use to those who write books for kids and teens (note that the link I just included starts with an image of Harriet the Spy).

For more information, see Matt’s post here.

Hurray!

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37. Fusenews: “Rich. Famous. That’s all I’ve got”

  • We’re diving right in today.  Check out this killer poster:

Censorship

Now if you’re one of the lucky ducks living in NYC, or will be there on the date of 4/16, you now have your marching orders.  This is an event held at Bank Street College of Education and in wracking my brains I can’t think of anything more timely.  You can see the full listing of the events here.  Wish I were there.  Go in my stead, won’t you?


 

  • New Podcast Alert: This one sports a catchy moniker that will strike some of you as familiar.  Kidlit Drink Night (which would also make a good name for a band, a blog, or a dog) is the official podcast of one Amy Kurtz Skelding.  There’s a bit of YA cluttering up the works, but enough children’s stuff is present to make it worth your pretty while.  Do be so good as to check it out.

  • Hey!  Hey hey!  The Eric Carle Honorees were named, did you see?  And did you notice that amongst them Lee & Low Books was named an Angel?  Such fantastic news.  A strong year of nominees.

 

  • So Phil Nel shared something recently that I’d like you to note. There is apparently a Tumblr out there called Setup Wizard which consists of the, “Daily Accounts of a Muggle I.T. Guy working at Hogwarts.” Phil suggests reading them in order. I concur. Thanks to Phil for the link.

 


  • I have lots of favorite blogs, but Pop Goes the Page clearly belongs in the upper echelon.  Two posts by Dana Sheridan (the Education & Outreach Coordinator of the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University) caught my eye recently.  Dana, as you will recall, is responsible for my little toilet paper tube profile picture on Twitter.  Well now she’s used her knowledge of all things cardboard to create the world’s most adorable subway system complete with Broadway posters.  In a different post Dana, in partnership with The Met Museum’s Nolen Library (the one for the kids), shows a killer display on taking care of your books.  It doesn’t necessarily sound interesting, until you see how they magnified a book eating buggy.

  • So the other day I’m talking up Evan Turk and his new book The Storyteller, as per usual, and I mention to a librarian that the guy not too long ago did some killer sketches of Chicago blues musicians.  Naturally she wanted to see what I was talking about.  After all, I practically live in Chicago these days, so if there’s a talented illustrator going about making Chi-town art, it’s well worth promoting.  I took her to Evan’s blog and there, beautiful as all get out, is the art.  Then I thought I might share it with you as well.  This is just a tiny smidgen of what he has up so go to his blog to see more. The sheer talent of it all floors me.

Blues1

Blues2

Blues3


 

  • Do you know who is awesome?  Sharyn November, former Viking editor, is awesome.  So awesome, in fact, that she has her own brand of tea.  You can buy this tea, if you like.  I’ll put its description right here:

“sdn tea was created specifically for the punk goddess of children’s publishing, Sharyn November. This deity, who is all sharp angles, quick wit, and extraordinary fashion, is a fiery force of nature–literally and figuratively. She already has her own time zone, so it’s high time she has her own tea. This blend is strong and highly caffeinated. Almost impossibly fruity on the nose, it tastes of warm spice and goes extremely well with a piece of chocolate and a cigarette.”


 

  • Do school librarians yield higher test scores?  You may have always suspected that was the case but a recent study out of South Carolina now has some facts so that you can put your money where your mouth is.  Are you a school librarian in need of justifying your existence to your employer?  You can’t afford not to read this SLJ piece.

 

  • I dunno.  I get Neil Patrick Harris playing Count Olaf in the new Netflix series of A Series of Unfortunate Events.  That makes sense to me.  It’s Dr. Horrible without the songs.  Sure.  But Patrick Warburton as Snicket?  Last time we had Jude Law, and I’m pretty sure that was the right move to make.  Puddy as Lemony Snicket seems to lack the right panache.

 

  • In America we have our Newbery and Caldecott Medals.  In England it’s all about the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards.  And unlike the States, they create shortlists.  Those shortlists have just been released for 2016 and (also unlike the States) they nominate books outside their nation.  So Canadians like Jon Klassen and Sydney Smith have a fighting chance.  I agree with Travis Jonker, though.  The alternate title for Sidewalk Flowers was a surprise.

 

  • On the old To Do list: Meet Jan Susina, the Illinois State English Professor who also happens to be an expert on children’s literature.  In a recent interview he produced this marvelous mention of Beatrix Potter: “Potter once said, ‘Although nature is not consciously wicked, it is always ruthless.’ Peter Rabbit is a survival story, not a cute bunny story.”  How perfectly that quote could have worked in Wild Things.  Ah well.  The entire interview is well worth your time, particularly his answer to the question, “What is the greatest secret in children’s literature?”  The answer will surprise you.  Thanks to Phil Nel for the link.

 

  • This Saturday I’ve a Children’s Literary Salon at 2:00.  Yet a couple months ago I hosted Jeff Garrett who spoke about his work with the Reforma Children in Crisis Project.  You can imagine how pleased I was to hear that ALSC will be donating $5,000 to the project as well.  Fantastic news.

 

  • Daily Image:

I was dumpster diving in the donation bin this week when an old book caught my eye.  Hate to say it, but this thing seriously disturbs me.  They just don’t make ’em like this anymore (phew!).

YourWonderfulBody

Run, girl, run!!  Or rather . . . skate, girl, skate!

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38. Video Sunday: “A man sits . . . in a setting . . .”

You know that nightmare you have where you’re up on a stage and you suddenly realize you have to give a TED talk but you have absolutely no idea what the subject is and you’re pretty sure you don’t have the little remote that’ll allow you to flip between slides anyway?  That one?  You don’t have that one?  I sure do.  I have that one all the time.  Which is weird because public speaking is a large portion of what I do for a living. Nevertheless there is something about the TED Talk format that utterly terrifies me. Whether it’s the  sheer size of the audience or the bright lights or the headset (it’s probably the headset) my innards freeze into tightly compacted fro-guts when I think about what a TED Talk would consist of.  That’s why I must doff my proverbial hat to the three authors recently featured in SLJ’s spotlight on writers doing TED Talks.  I’ll just post Mac’s here (which has . . . um . . . 123,740 hits as of this post) but be sure to check out Linda Sue Park and Jarrett Krosoczka as well:

One video you will not find on that post is this very recent one posted as of two days ago, starring Grace Lin.  She has that format down, man.  Down.

Thanks to Jarrett Krosoczka for the link.

I got this next one from Travis Jonker. Did I ever tell you about my childhood crush on Gene Wilder?  Seriously those eyes. Blue. So very blue. You can moderate all the debates you want, Willy Wonka.  I won’t mind.

Thanks to 100 Scope Notes for the link.

I think I want to steal this idea.  Last minute book reports is a grand idea.  And, bonus points, it has a theme song. I think they should do a children’s book edition on particularly long or dense titles.  But this will do in the interim.

So they say that Seth Rogan is making a Where’s Waldo film.

Of course, it’s already been done.

And for our off-topic video, I coulda done without the fainting but the tiny octopus is cute.

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39. Spotted! Author Visits

When I moved to Evanston from New York City I guess I thought my life would calm down a bit.  New York City’s all about the publisher previews, the author events, the crazy dinners for big name authors and illustrators, and it is clearly party central.  And for the most part Evanston is calm.  Quiet.  There’s a gigantic lake big enough to drown whole states just down the block from my library and bloodthirsty peregrine falcons tearing pigeons to shreds outside my window, but otherwise the action is slow.  At least that’s what I thought before I realized that Chicago (which sits just below Evanston) is basically another party central.  Author dinners?  We got ’em.  Gigantic book festivals like Book Expo?  Check and check, mate.  Add in all the booksellers, the fact that the American Library Association is based here, the active SCBWI networks and the existence of groups like the Center for Teaching Through Children’s Books and . . . . no.  No, I am not any less busy.  In fact, I seem to be busier.

Last week a couple authors came to town.  Good ones too.  One traveled from Britain and three from parts not-Chicago.  One came to Chicago and three came to my library.  So in tribute I give you . . .

DavidWalliams

This would be David Walliams posing while I do my best possible Stephen Colbert imitation.  Walliams is one of those celebrities-turned-children’s-book-writers but because he’s British and can walk down the street (in America) without getting mugged by fans, it’s cool.  If you are a fan of Little Britain then he will be familiar to you as he was one of the stars.  On this occasion he was in the States promoting his latest book Demon Dentist.  Of course I like him because of the first book of his I read years ago.  Do you remember The Boy in the Dress?  It came out in the States in 2008 and while it had a somewhat pat ending it was an interesting novel discussing cross-dressing (not transgender issues, which have only recently been addressed in middle grade fiction) in ways that I’d not seen in a book for kids before.

Not long after I was at my desk when I got a message from author Greg Neri.  He was in town and wanted to know if I was available to meet with him and some other authors?  But of course!

Neri&Friends

From left to right that’s Elana K. Arnold (THE QUESTION OF MIRACLES), Beth Fantasky (ISABEL FEENEY, STAR REPORTER), some librarian, and Greg Neri (TRU AND NELLI).  Apparently they were in town doing a tour of Evanston schools.  Random and delightful!  I was so pleased they came by to say howdy and now I’ll be reading all their latest books.  And stealing Elana’s coat.  Possibly not in that order.

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40. Newbery / Caldecott 2017: Spring Prediction Edition

What?  Who?  Now?  Yes, if you’re checking the calendar you’ll see that three whole months of 2016 have gone by and you know what that means.  Prediction time!

But Betsy, you say, that is quite simply the kookiest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s March, for crying out loud.  We’ve ten months until the next award announcement.  And all this is true.  And it is loopy to the extreme that I’m doing this.  Particularly when you consider my track record.  To date:

2008 spring predictions: I get one Caldecott right (How I Learned Geography)

2009 spring predictions: I get two Newberys right (The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The (Mostly) True Adventures of Homer P Figg)

2010 spring predictions: I get one Newbery right (One Crazy Summer)

2011 spring predictions: I get one Newbery right (Inside Out and Back Again)

2012 spring predictions: I get two Newberys right (The One and Only Ivan and Splendors and Glooms), and one Caldecott right (Green).

2013 spring predictions: I get two Newberys right (Doll Bones and One Came Home) and one Caldecott right (Mr. Wuffles).  But pride goeth before the fall.

2014 spring predictions: Zip. Zero. Zilch.

2015 spring predictions: I get two Newberys right (Echo and The War That Saved My Life)

The thing is, if I’d gotten Zip. Zero. Zilch. this time last year I might have given up the fun prediction game altogether.  But this isn’t really about accurate predictions, is it?  I mean, check out last year’s first listed Caldecott contender.  WHOOPSIE!  No, it’s about pinpointing the books that everyone should be talking about because they’re such great titles.

Now due to a new job where I’m not commuting to work every day (the hour train ride has turned into a sweet 20 minute walk) combined with my participation on the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee for 2016, I am not reading as many middle grade novels as I usually would.  I have made up for that by reading every picture book I get sent.  So you may see that I’ve a better grasp on Caldecott than Newbery this year.  Case in point:

2017 Caldecott Predictions

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell, ill. Rafael Lopez

MaybeSomething

See this here in my hand here?  This sign that says, “Rafael Lopez for Caldecott”?  I’m carrying it because sometimes it feels like every year I tout him as a real Caldecott contender (Drum Dream Girl had in in the bag, man!) and every year he slips through my fingers.  Well not this year.  This book (based on something he actually went out and did) is beautiful, socially conscious, and a title that kids actually enjoy reading multiple times.  I feel it this time!  It’s his year!

There Is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith

TribeKids

Smith hasn’t won a Caldecott since his Honor for Grandpa Green, but you could argue that this was because he wasn’t really putting his back into it.  This book (in 2016 alone there are four different books on collective nouns, did you know?) takes an esoteric idea and weaves it into a story about finding your tribe, both literally and figuratively.  This is a softer Smith than we usually see, and it may yield great dividends in the future.

Ideas Are All Around by Philip Stead

IdeasAllAround

If any book could do a little tap dance while singing the words, “Cal-de-cott, Cal-de-cott, nothing could be finer“, it would be this one.  It is also THE most esoteric picture book on this list.  It will probably receive criticism for seemingly speaking more to adults than children, but the art really is distinguished.  If anything this feels like a picture book from another country (I’m reminded of the works of Stian Hole in particular).  I’ll be interested in following the conversation surrounding this one in the future.

Cricket Song by Anne Hunter

 CricketSong

My wild card.  There are probably a couple wild cards on this list, but this one is subtle.  The author/illustrator splits the visual narrative into two distinct parts while pairing these images with a soothing text.  It’s a bedtime book in the classic sense but a clever one.  It also has a fox on the cover which, if you haven’t heard it before, is the unofficial animal of children’s books published in 2016.

The Storyteller by Evan Turk

Storyteller1

I’ve already talked at great length about this one but I’d be more than happy to talk about it some more!  Turk’s still new in this field.  He is at the start of his career in children’s books, but the time and the care and the attention and the sheer beauty found in this book is jaw-dropping.  Paired with a brilliant text to match, it has a lot to say about what the role of oral storytelling is in the electronic age.  Big themes.  Brilliant book.

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill, ill. Francis Vallejo

jazzday1

And speaking of brilliant books, meet Francis Vellejo.  Debut illustrator, and hopefully the man is currently fending off job offers from all the major publishing houses.  Vellejo brings to life a text that could have floundered in the hands of a less adept illustrator.  Plus, as a woman who majored in college in Art with a concentration in Photography, any Caldecott contender that uses photography in some way has my instant and abiding love. Hopefully the use of photographs published in some other form prior to this book’s publication won’t disqualify it from contention.

One Day in the Eucalyptus Eucalyptus Tree by Daniel Bernstrom, ill. by Brendan Wenzel

OneDay

Wenzel’s a fellow to watch in 2016.  He has several books coming out this year and each one is clever.  If I were to bet on just one I might look to this.  Naturally if there were any justice then author Daniel Bernstrom would win something for the rhythmic text here.  In lieu of that, Wenzel’s art is a fabulous complement to the twist on the Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly motif.  Besides, who doesn’t want to see vomiting snakes?

2017 Newbery Predictions

I shall direct you to the Heavy Medal 2017 Newbery Reading List, since what I have here today is fairly small in comparison.  I’m only really going to mention the books that I am certain have a strong fighting chance this early in the game.  These would be:

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

RaymieNightingale

So I turn to a friend of mine the other day and I ask her to give it to me straight.  “The latest Kate DiCamillo”, I say.  “Is it . . . meaningful?”  You see, I do very well with DiCamillo books when they involve pummeling carnies with errant baseballs, sweet talking toothless horses, or vacuuming up squirrels (to say nothing of giant donuts).  I do far less well when her books make a grab at the old heartstrings.  My friend assured me that while the book does not lack for heart, she was certain I would love it.  And, since we’re talking DiCamillo here, there’s no one in the world who would argue that it’s not a serious contender in 2017.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker, ill. Jon Klassen

Pax

DiCamillo aside, if we had to talk about the book that is managing to get the most Newbery buzz the earliest in the year, Pax is where it’s at.  I received a galley of Pax at the same time that I received a galley of The Nest by Kenneth Oppel last year.  Both books were illustrated by Klassen and I couldn’t help but think that the man had exquisite taste in manuscripts.  Since I had lobbied hard for Pennypacker to get some medal action years ago for her Summer of the Gypsy Moths, I feel this is an honor long since due.

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela Turner, ill. Gareth Hinds

SamuraiRising

So. Friggin’. Awesome.  Weirdly appropriate for the Newbery too, age-wise.  In spite of the fact that this is basically the Samurai version of Game of Thrones (something they mention in the ad copy for this book) the blood and guts aren’t visceral.  Instead you get an amazing examination of the world’s most famous Samurai warrior.  It’s nonfiction and Turner’s backmatter is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

There are some notable books that haven’t been mentioned here, but I want to hear from you.  What’s blowing you away this year?  What can’t you stop talking about?

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41. Children’s Week Bookmark Reveal (psst . . . It’s El Deafo related!)

Books. Kids.  This is pretty basic stuff.  One should read the other.  Preferable requently.  And I suppose that for some of us there’s a perception that urging children to read is a recent phenomenon.  An outgrowth of the digital age when kids have so many things to distract and entertain them.  Gone are the days when books were often the sole source of entertainment in the home.

Perceptions can be misleading.  Take Children’s Book Week.  It sounds contemporary, but actually it dates back to 1919, making it the the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country.  Maybe people had different reasons for pushing Children’s Book Week at its start, but the end results remain the same.  Kids reading books is good.  That’s why I’m mighty pleased to reveal the  Children’s Book Week bookmark art for 2016.

This year’s bookmark, commemorating the 97th annual celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading (May 2-8, 2016), is being designed by 2015 Children’s Choice Debut Author finalist Cece Bell, author and illustrator of El Deafo.  You hear that?!?  CECE FRIGGIN’ BELL!

Behold:

Children's Choice Book Week

Did you see that part where I mentioned that Ms. Bell was a “2015 Children’s Choice Debut Author”?  What’s that all about?  Well, each year kids vote on the Children’s Choice Book Awards.  We’re in our 9th year now.  Now the finalists for 2016 have been announced. Voting is now open at ccbookawards.com, and winners will be announced during Children’s Book Week.

And for more fun:

 

  • More information about the bookmark can be found here.
  • Each year, official events for Children’s Book Week give kids the opportunity to connect with their favorite authors and illustrators in person.In 2016, official events – including appearances by beloved children’s book authors & illustrators, children’s open mic nights, read-alouds, book-themed parties, and much more – will be held in all 50 states. Photos from last year are on view here. Event attendees receive complimentary Children’s Book Week posters and tote bags. You can see how these literacy celebrations are shaping up so far here.
  • Literary Landmarks to be designated each day of Children’s Book Week (May 2-8): The ALA-CBC joint committee is teaming up with United for Libraries to designate seven Literary Landmarks™ — one each day — during Children’s Book Week 2016 . (Sites must be tied to a deceased children’s literary figure, author, or their work).
  • The National Ambassador For Young People’s Literature:In early January, the CBC and Every Child a Reader in partnership with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress appointed heralded graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang to this prestigious position. As part of his mission to instill a lifelong love of reading, Gene Yang will be announcing the Children’s Choice Book Award winners during Children’s Book Week.

Thanks to the good folks at the CBC for the reveal!

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42. Review of the Day: Dwarf Nose by Wilhelm Hauff

DwarfNose1Dwarf Nose
By Wilhelm Hauff
Illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
Translated by Anthea Bell
Minedition
$19.99
ISBN: 97898888341139
Ages 8-12
On shelves April 1st

It seems so funny to me that for all that our culture loves and adores fairytales, scant attention is paid to the ones that can rightfully be called both awesome and obscure. There is a perception out there that there are only so many fairytales out there that people really need to know. But for every Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty you run into, there’s a Tatterhood or Riquet with the Tuft lurking on the sidelines. Thirty or forty years ago you’d sometimes see these books given a life of their own front and center with imaginative picture book retellings. No longer. Folktales and fairytales are widely viewed by book publishers as a dying breed. A great gaping hole exists, and into it the smaller publishers of the world have sought to fulfill this need. Generally speaking they do a very good job of bringing world folktales to the American marketplace. Obscure European fairytales, however, are rare beasts. How thrilled I was then to discover the republication of Wilhelm Hauff and Lisbeth Zwerger’s Dwarf Nose. Originally released in America in 1995 by North-South books, the book has long been out-of-print. Now the publisher minedition has brought it back and what a beauty it is. Strange and sad and oddly uplifting, this tale has all the trappings of the fairytales you know and love, but somehow remains entirely unexpected just the same.

For there once was a boy who lived with his two adoring parents. His father was a cobbler and his mother sold vegetables and herbs in the market. One day the boy was assisting his mother when a very strange old woman came to them and starting digging her dirty old hands through their wares. Incensed, the boy insulted the old woman, which as you may imagine didn’t go down very well. When the boy is made to help carry the woman’s purchases back to her home he is turned almost immediately into a squirrel and made to work for seven years in her kitchen. After that time he awakes, as if in a dream, only to find seven years have passed and his body has been transformed. Now he has no neck to speak of, a short frame, a hunched back, and a extraordinarily long nose. Sad that his parents refuse to acknowledge him as their son, he sets forth to become the king’s cook. And all would have gone without incident had he not picked up that enchanted goose in the market one day. Written in 1827 this tale is famous in Germany but remains relatively obscure in the United States today.

DwarfNose4I go back and forth when I consider why this fairytale isn’t all that famous to Americans. There are a variety of reasons. There are some depressing elements to it (kid is unrecognizable to parents, loses seven years of his life, etc.) sure. There aren’t any beautiful princesses (except possibly the goose). The bad guy doesn’t even appear in the second act. Still, it’s the peculiarities that give it its flavor. We’ve heard of plenty of stories where the heroes are transformed by the villains, but how many villains give those same heroes a useful occupation in the process? It’s Dwarf Nose’s practicalities that are so interesting, as are the nitty gritty elements of the tale. I love the use of herbs particularly. Whether the story is talking about Sneezewell or Bellyheal, you get the distinct feeling that you’re listening to someone who knows what they’re talking about. Plus there are tiny rodent servants. That’s a plus.

We like it when our fairytales give us nice clear-cut morals. Be clever, be kind, be good. This may be another reason why Dwarf Nose never really took off in the States. At first glance one would assume that the moral would be about not judging by appearances. Dwarf Nose’s parents cannot comprehend that their beautiful boy is now ugly, and so they throw him out. He gets a job as a chef but does not search out a remedy until the goose he rescues gives him some hope. I was fully prepared for him to remain under his spell for the rest of his life without regrets, but of course that doesn’t happen. He’s restored to his previous beauty, he returns to his parents who welcome him with open arms, and he doesn’t even marry the goose girl. Hauff ends with a brief mention of a silly war that occurred thanks to Dwarf Nose’s disappearance ending with the sentence, “Small causes, as we see, often have great consequences, and this is the story of Dwarf Nose.” That right there would be your moral then. Not an admonishment to avoid judging the outward appearance of a thing (though Dwarf Nose’s talents drill that one home pretty clearly) but instead that a little thing can lead to a great big thing.

DwarfNose2When this version of Dwarf Nose was originally released in the States in 1994 the reviews were puzzled by its length. Booklist said it was “somewhat verbose to modern listeners” and School Library Journal noted the “grotesque tenor of the book”. Fascinatingly this is not the only incarnation of this tale you might find in America. In 1960 Doris Orgel translated a version of “Dwarf Long-Nose” which was subsequently illustrated by Maurice Sendak. The School Library Journal review of Zwerger’s version in 1994 suggested that the Sendak book was infinitely more kid-friendly than hers. I think that’s true to a certain extent. You get a lot more pictures with the Sendak and the book itself is a much smaller format. While Zwerger excels in infinitely beautiful watercolors, Sendak’s pen and inks with just the slightest hint of orange for color are almost cartoonish in comparison. What I would argue then is that the intended age of the audience is different. Sure the text is remarkably similar, but in Zwerger’s hands this becomes a fairytale for kids comfortable with Narnia and Hogwarts. I remember as a tween sitting down with my family’s copy of World Tales by Idries Shah as well as other collected fairytales. Whether a readaloud for a fourth grade class, an individual tale for the kid obsessed with the fantastical, or bedtime reading for older ages, Dwarf Nose doesn’t go for the easy audience, but it does go for an existing one.

Lisbeth Zwerger is a fascinating illustrator with worldwide acclaim everywhere except, perhaps, America. It’s not that her art feels too “foreign” for U.S. palates, necessarily. I suspect that as with the concerns with the length of Dwarf Nose, Zwerger’s art is usually seen as too interstitial for this amount of text. We want more art! More Zwerger! I’ve read a fair number of her books over the years, so I was unprepared for some of the more surreal elements of this one. In one example the witch Herbwise is described as tottering in a peculiar fashion. “…it was as if she had wheels on her legs, and might tumble over any moment and fall flat on her face on the paving stones.” For this, Zwerger takes Hauff literally. Her witch is more puppet than woman, with legs like bicycle wheels and a face like a Venetian plague doctor. We have the slightly unnerving sensation that the book we are reading is, in fact, a performance put on for our enjoyment. That’s not a bad thing, but it is unexpected.

DwarfNose3When Zwerger’s Dwarf Nose came out in 1994 it was entering a market where folktales were on the outs. Still, libraries bought it widely. A search on WorldCat reveals that more than 500 libraries currently house in on their shelves after all these years. And while folktale sections of children’s rooms do have a tendency to fall into disuse, it is possible that the book has been reaching its audience consistently over the years. It may even be time for an upgrade. Though it won’t slot neatly into our general understanding of what a fairytale consists of, Dwarf Nose will find its home with like-minded fellows. Oddly touching.

On shelves April 1st.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Misc: Check out this fantastic review of the same book by 32 pages.

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43. Children’s Literary Salon: Ethics in Nonfiction

You know what the kids today are into?  Ethics.  Specifically, ethics in nonfiction.  Could anything be more fun?  Actually, no.  At least, not the way I play it.

As you may know I’ve started my Children’s Literary Salon series here in Evanston, IL and as luck would have it there are a slew of talented locals about who are actually willing to sacrifice a lovely Saturday afternoon with me.  This month I’m pleased as punch to host Candace Fleming (THE FAMILY ROMANOV), Judith Fradin (THE PRICE OF FREEDOM), Barb Rosenstock (THE NOISY PAINTBOX), and Sally M. Walker (WINNIE) for a talk about all the ethical issues surrounding nonfiction for kids these days.  But don’t take my word for it.  Check out this killer poster Evanston Public Library created for the event:

Ethics in Nonfiction

Bet you wish you could attend.  Bet you wish there was some kind of live video feed you could watch of the talk.  Well, guess what?  There is!  Check out the live Google Hangout here on 3/26 at 2:00 CST.  Yes, come on over (virtually) to see some seriously fantastic women talk on a subject with far reaching ramifications.

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44. Review of the Day: ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! / Olinguito, from A to Z by Lulu Delacre

OLINGUITO¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! / Olinguito, from A to Z
By Lulu Delacre
Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books
$18.95
ISBN: 978-0-89239-327-5
Ages 4-7
On shelves now

Adults, I have a little secret. Have you ever wanted to sound smart at dinner parties? Knowledgeable in the ways of the world and how it works? It’s easy to do if you know the secret. Come closer… I’ll whisper it to you. Read nonfiction children’s books. Seriously, do that and watch as your brain expands. If I can talk with any competency about the Donner Party or the siege of Leningrad or the Pentagon Papers, it is because I read nonfiction written for people half my age and younger. Most recently I learned about olinguitos. Ever heard of them? If not, you aren’t alone. These shy little rainforest denizens were only discovered and announced as recently as 2013. Not too much is known about them, which makes placing them into picture books a bit of a challenge. Author/illustrator Lulu Delacre had a plan, though. All she’d need to do would be to turn the story of the discovery of olinguitos into a bilingual/alphabet/nonfiction/search & find title. You see? Easy peasy. Or, put another way, so incredibly difficult that no one else would have ever attempted it. But that’s what I like about Ms. Delacre. Sometimes the craziest ideas churn out the most interesting books.

Olinguito1A zoologist from Washington D.C. is in the cloud forest today. He is searching for the elusive olinguito, a squirrel-like mammal that dwells in the trees. Along his path we meet the rainforest in an abecedarian fashion. From the A for the Andes to the M of moss and monkey, finally ending with Z for the zoologist himself, the book observes the many denizens that call the cloud forest their home. The book is entirely bilingual and backmatter (also bilingual) consists of notes on the “Discovery of the Olinguito”, facts about the Cloud Forest, information about the illustrations, hints on how to be an explorer, a heavily illustrated Glossary, “More Helpful Words”, and an extensive list of Author’s Sources.

I’ve read plenty of Spanish bilingual picture books in my day. In doing so, I’m a bit handicapped since I don’t speak the language. Still, there are things that I can observe from my end. For example, the difficulty Ms. Delacre must have faced in writing two texts, both of which had to contain specific letters of the alphabet. Now the primary language in this book, to a certain extent, is the Spanish. For each letter the Spanish sections get a lot more use than the English. Take the letter “J”. In the Spanish language section it reads, “Jigua jaguey y jazmin brotan, crecen en tal jardin.” Pretty straightforward. Now in the English: “Jigua, fig, and coffee trees sprout and grow in this garden.” Were it not for the “jingua” we’d be out a J. To be fair, sometimes the two languages get equal use of a letter. “I”, for example, is “insectos incredibles y una inerte iguana” and also “incredible insects, and a resting iguana.” However, more often than not the Spanish gets more words with the chosen letter. This is particularly true near the end of the book where the English translations at times completely do away with the letter at all. In “X” and “U” (surprisingly) not a single word in the English portions begin with those letters. What is clear is that the Spanish is the focus of the book. With that in mind, the book acquires another potential use; excellent reading for people learning Spanish.

Olinguito2It’s been a long time since I reviewed a Lulu Delacre book. I think the last time I seriously considered one was when Ms. Delacre illustrated Lucia Gonzalez’s The Storyteller’s Candle. There, the book integrated newspapers and other mixed media to tell the tale of two children introducing their immigrant neighborhood to the library. Here, the art is also mixed media but there’s a smoothness to it that was lacking in Storyteller’s Candle. In the back of the book Ms. Delacre mentions that there are real pressed leaves and flowers in every picture (something I entirely missed on my first, second, and third reads). There is also a zoologist in every picture, like a fuzzy little olinguito-seeking Waldo. Add in the colors, angles, and gorgeous spreads and you’ve got yourself one heck of a colorful outing. Ms. Delacre even mentions in her note at the book’s end that, just to be honest, these pictures are entirely too clear. “I decided to remove the clouds and limit the vegetation. I represented the fog and mist with squares of translucent paper framing the alphabetic letters. This allowed the species to be in plain sight.” Not only is she honest but creative as well.

I’ll level with you that I’m not entirely certain how one goes about using this book with kids. That is not to say that I don’t think it can be done and done well. But what Ms. Delacre has conjured up here isn’t a simple book. It’s not simplistic. The English text lacks much of the fun alliteration of the Spanish, which means the teacher or parent who reads this with their non-Spanish speaking children will need to span that gap themselves. It’s not a readaloud in the sense that you can just read it to a group without comment. This is an interactive text. You need to be spotting the zoologist, naming the vegetation and animals, flipping back and forth between the pictures and the glossary for clarification on different names, etc. In other words, this book requires the adult reader to be an active rather than passive participant in the reading process. Olinguito is more than mere words on a page.

There’s a soft spot in my heart for any book that proves to kids that there is more out there to find and discover than they might expect. The oceans haven’t been mapped out. Outer space remains, in many ways, a mystery. And hidden in the rainforests are tiny creatures just waiting to be discovered. Our world still needs explorers. If it takes one tiny mammal to prove that to them, so be it. A clever, lovely, wise little book. Knowledge of Spanish helpful, but not required.

On shelves now.

Like This? Then Try:

Professional Reviews:

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45. Fusenews: Different cultures. Same battlefield.

  • LeapYearHappy Leap Day!  Unlike Leap Day William here I have no candy to bestow upon the weeping children of the world, but I do have some keen links.  First and foremost, this old newspaper article (possibly The New York Times) courtesy of Andrew Fairweather.  It’s a little difficult to read here but it says, “THE QUESTION: As a librarian, what was the most unusual request ever made of you?” Between the voracious pygmy pig, the nightingale being attacked and the primo embalmer, these are some good reference questions!

AndrewFairweather

Thanks to Andrew Fairweather for the image.

  • Just in case you missed it, on Febrary 24th there was a great piece called “You Will Be Tokenized” in Brooklyn Magazine which moves heaven and earth to correct many misconceptions about working in the publishing industry today (monetary misconceptions amongst others).
  • I’m not one for wallpaper.

What’s that, you say?

You said there’s Carson Ellis wallpaper out there?

EllisWallpaper

I’ll take three houses’ worth, thank you.

Thanks to Alison Morris for the link.

  • Speaking of PW, if you didn’t follow their recent link to this story on publishing children’s literature in Russia, you need to double back and do so. This is the kind of story I’d like to hear about more often.  International publishing is absolutely fascinating to me and we hear so little about it.
  • Read that article and then follow it up with a brief examination of the talk, “Brown Gold: African American Children’s Literature as a Genre of Resistance.”  In one case you have a government cracking down on precisely what children can and cannot read (“Between the ages of 6 and 12, children were allowed to learn about illness but not death”).  On the other you have an examination of children’s books by, “Alice Walker, bell hooks, W.E.B. DuBois, Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou and James Baldwin…”  The sole problem with this piece is that it doesn’t delve into Michelle Martin’s speech or link to a transcript.  Still, I love pairing the authoritarianism on the one hand and the resistance on the other. Different cultures.  Same battlefield.  Thanks to Phil Nel for the link.
  • Daily Image:

And finally, Boing Boing recently highlighted these shoes from Irregular Choices.  And though they may require taking out a loan on your home, I wouldn’t say no if you wanted to bequeath them to me in some manner.  I’m a size 9 1/2, in case you’re curious: Alice1Alice2Previous shoe-related posts may be found here.

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46. Review of the Day: The Storyteller by Evan Turk

Storyteller1The Storyteller
By Evan Turk
Atheneum (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
$24.99
ISBN: 9781481435185
Ages 4-8
On shelves June 28th

Credit the internet age for doing what the television age never could. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is a movement around the world that can be interpreted as nothing so much as a direct response to our digital age. You may have noticed it in small things, like the rise of Steampunk or the sudden surge of interest in Maker stations and the kinds of “hacking” that look suspiciously similar to activities found in shop class in days of yore. All this comes about because people have come to believe that we do not create enough tangible objects in our day-to-day lives anymore. And while this is true, let us not forget that we do not create enough intangible objects either. I’m talking about storytelling, that ancient artform that is currently seeing a worldwide resurgence. It isn’t just the increase in storytelling festivals and podcasts like The Moth here in the States. Young people in countries worldwide are doing what their elders have desired for decades; they’re asking to be told a story. Taking his cues from the newfound interest of young Moroccans in Marrakech in the ancient storytelling tradition, author/illustrator Evan Turk uses the folktale format to craft an original story about storytelling, weaving, history, and language. The end result is a twisty turny story within a story within a story that challenges young readers even as it lures them in.

Once, in the great country of Morocco, storytellers flourished and the cities’ fountains flowed with cool, clear water. As time went on the people became comfortable and forgot about the storytellers, and so they disappeared over the years. So too did the fountains dry up, until one day a boy went looking for some water. What he found instead was an old storyteller. As the man told his tale he would end his story with a story within a story and the boy would find his brass cup filled with liquid. Even as this was happening, however, a desert djinn saw the drought as an opportunity to reclaim the cities that had previously held him back with their fountains. Yet when the djinn was set to level his town, the boy managed to delay him with his storytelling. And as he wove his tale, the people were able to refill their fountains until finally storytelling and water ran freely in the cities once more.

Storyteller2My brain is not what it used to be. Remind me again. What’s that term for a story that tells a story that tells a story that ends only when the innermost story doubles back and each tale is finished in turn? Is there a word such a thing? I suspect that the storytellers amongst us would know. The most obvious similarity to this book that comes to mind is, of course, the tale of Scheherazade. Indeed, the boy uses his stories to trick the djinn. And what could be a more natural comparison? In both tales it is storytelling that proves to be the saving of us all. Our thirst is quenched and we are tied to our history like never before. The obvious question then is whether or not Turk’s text is too complex for kids to follow. Sure, he distinguishes between the tales with different colored fonts, but will that be enough to allow them to remember what came before as they plunge deeper and deeper into the narrative? I think there may be some confusion at work, certainly. I wouldn’t necessarily hand this to a three or four-year-old. However, Turk’s text takes pains to remind the reader where the tale was before. The art helps as well. Confusion, such as it is, will be held to a minimum.

I first knew of Turk’s work when he illustrated Bethany Hegedus’s Grandfather Gandhi. In that book he integrated real spun cotton threads into the art, knowing full well the importance spinning had to Gandhi and his followers. In this book, weaving is the craft of choice so I wondered, not without reason, if woven threads would make their way into the art. As it happens, there are plenty of water-soluble crayons, colored drawing pencils, inks, indigo, sugared green tea, and even art created by heat gun and fire in the illustrations, but nothing so simple as thread. Turk mentions this on his publication page and he puts a little note to the reader there as well. It reads, “Look for a blue glimmer of hope to appear around each story!” and a small blue diamond appears. Naturally, I was curious so I looked. Sure as shooting, after each story’s text a diamond appears. However, as the stories appear within stories within stories, the diamonds grow more elaborate and decorative. Then, as the stories end one by one, the diamonds simplify once more. I began searching the art for more diamonds and here Turk doesn’t disappoint. If you look closely at the borders of the book, you see that the diamonds appear when there is hope and fade from blue to brown diamonds when hope dries up. As the storytelling increases the borders fill in more and more blue, just as the townspeople fill their fountains with bowl after bowl of water. Point out to a child reader the diamond motif and you are sure to be surprised by all that they find hidden in these pages.

Storyteller4I should probably say something about Turk’s art itself. When I reviewed Grandfather Gandhi I had difficulty putting into words precisely what Turk does with his images. So I looked at the book’s professional reviews. His art causes reviewers to use terms like “dynamic visuals”, “stylized” and “strikingly patterned”. They say his art displays “bold, expressive imagery” or that he “mixes carefully detailed renderings with abstracted expressions of emotional struggle.” I agree with all of that but no one mentions his faces and hands. The patterns here are striking and upon closer inspection they yield such marvelous details it wouldn’t take much for this art to spin wildly out of control, opting for an abstract approach to the proceedings as a whole. Instead, Turk centers his art through the hands and faces of his characters. Look closely and you’ll see what I mean. The old storyteller’s hands are gnarled and wonderfully expressive, even as his audience of one clutches a single brass bowl. The hands of a cunning neighbor stroke her child as she schemes, while a princess, escaping on the night before her wedding, holds up her hennaed hands in despair. Hands. Heads. Hearts.

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about diversity in children’s literature. Specifically, some of that discussion has concerned those books written by white people about other cultures. It’s not a new phenomenon but what is a bit new is the increasing understanding that if you are going to use another culture, you need to do your homework. If, for example, you are setting a story in Morocco, then you need to make the readers understand why you made that choice. That it wasn’t arbitrary. This is yet another of the many reasons I’m so impressed with Turk’s work here. That he sets his story in Morocco (contemporary Morocco, by the look of it) is deeply purposeful. The Author’s Note at the end explains further. From this we learn that Morocco’s public storytellers or hlaykia have told tales for “nearly one thousand years” and yet “Only a handful of master storytellers remain”. All is not lost, though. Renewed interest in storytelling has surfaced, specifically at a restaurant called Café Clock in Marrakech. Turk then closes with a small Bibliography of sources on everything from storytelling to carpet weaving. The book then is not an appropriation of an “exotic” culture done on a whim but rather a considered, thoughtful selection that serves as an ideal setting for a tale about storytelling then, now, and in the future.

Storyteller3It was once part of a children’s librarian’s training to know how to tell a story from memory. Here in America it was even considered part of a children’s librarian’s heritage, though in the last few decades it has been fast forgotten. There are still pockets that remember, though. That’s why books like Turk’s give me the oddest little sense of hope. As I mentioned before, storytelling everywhere is seeing renewed interest. It seems odd to say, but this book, wrapped as it is in classic motifs and themes dating back hundreds, even thousands, of years, is one of the freshest, most timely picture books I’ve had the honor to read in a long time. Visually stunning with a storyline to match, Turk is beginning to make good on his talents. This is a man with storytelling in his blood and bones. Our children reap the rewards. A can’t miss book.

On shelves June 28th.

Source: F&G sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

  • Frederick by Leo Lionni
  • Tell Me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb, ill. David McPhail
  • The Girl Who Saved Yesterday by Julius Lester, ill. Carl Angel

Misc:

See more images from the book here.

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47. Smell No Evil

There’s gold in them thar book sales!

So I’m at the Evanston Public Library in their booksale room and lo and behold this beauty jumps out at me.

Ccj6zyDWwAEbo8E

Putting aside the fact that this is without a doubt the first and only Sesame Street book that repeats the word “evil” in its title, it took me several viewings before I realized that there were three twiddlebugs at the top reenacting the famous three wise monkeys stance.

Now the book is a scratch-and-sniff title circa 1976 (and this is the 4th printing so it must have been popular).  One person on Twitter mentioned the fact that the covers says that this is “A Golden Fragrance Book”.  Were there others?  You BET there were!  On the back I found a listing of other titles.  They were:

  • The Sweet Smell of Christmas
  • The Winnie-the-Pooh Scratch and Sniff Book
  • Bambi’s Fragrant Forest [surely not a good idea]
  • A Nose for Trouble
  • Detective Arthur on the Scent
  • Little Bunny Follows His Nose
  • Max the Nosey Bear

I remember all too well how popular scratch-and-sniff books were when I was a kid.  I loved them.  I had one (the name long since forgotten so it might well be one of the books mentioned here) where you could scratch a chocolate ice cream cone and smell it.

So what is the history of the scratch-and-sniff book?  It occurred to me that there might well be scratch-and-sniff historians out there that have written long papers on this very subject, so I set off to find out.  I did find a Bookriot link called Scratch and Sniff Books for Grownups and an Economist piece on how scratch-and-sniff really works but the actual history appeared in the conflicting reports from Fiction Circus and Wikipedia.  Long story short, it was a novelty that served its time.

Might we see a resurgence in scratch-and-sniff in the future?  After all, tactile objects are all the rage in this, the digital era.  The internet cannot provide smells yet.  But scent is a fickle commodity.  Remember Smell-o-Vision or Moss Man, the pungent He-Man character that smelled like a particularly potent version of that Christmas tree that smoking drivers would hang off their rear view mirrors?  Smelling weird things is okay for a lark but it’s not the kind of thing you build a business on.

Still, I suspect the children’s book world has another scratch-and-sniff era coming.  And who knows?  Perhaps one day a Caldecott winner will be of the scratch-and-sniff variety.  And if you believe that I’ve got the loveliest little bridge over here that I’d like to sell you . . .

 

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48. Video Sunday: Great Scott!

Ack!  Too many good videos, too little time!  We’ve an embarrassment of riches today.  The only question really is where to start.  And the only natural answer is with Obama’s nominee for the Librarian of Congress.  Not much of a question there, really.

Next up, there is beginning to be a bit of a tradition of authors and illustrators recording videos of how they got “the call” when they won the Caldecott or Newbery (I almost wrote and/or Newbery, which is an interesting near flub).  Last year we had Dan Santat’s video.  This year, Sophie Blackall’s:

At this rate it may behoove us to just give the medals to people who are good at making videos.  And the Newbery Medal goes to . . . Tyler Oakley!

Now let’s get down to brass tacks.  People, there are awards out there that go beyond the mere borders of this great nation of ours.  And the Hans Christian Andersen Award is the greatest of these (though the Astrid Lindgren Award gives it a run for its money).  Now they’ve made a video for us that goes through the 2016 nominees.  I adore this.   I just want to meet all these people.  Suzy Lee!!!  Now, weirdly, I want her to adopt me.  And Iran! How cool is that?

This next book trailer seemingly has an international flavor to it, but is homegrown Americana through and through.  It may also be the most beautiful trailer of 2016 thus far.

Thanks to educating alice for the link.

Earlier this week, Phil Nel posted a killer post called Seuss on Film.  The piece is “a brief (but far from complete) collection of Seuss on film!”  Turns out, it was somewhat tricky getting Mr. Geisel on the old camera.  Phil’s a trooper, though.  He found newsreel after newsreel and has posted them on YouTube for our collective enjoyment.  You should really read his posting yourself.  In fact, I insist upon it.  And just to whet your whistle, here’s a jaw-dropping 1964 discussion with Seuss in New Zealand where he improvises answers to kids’ questions.

As for our Off-Topic Video of the week, I give this to you because I love you.  Really, truly, deeply love you.

1.21Gigawatts

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49. Building the Perfect Nonfiction Blog/Site

Recently I taught a course at National Louis University on social media as it pertains to various aspects of literature for kids and teens (I believe the official name of the course was “Social Media and P-12 Youth Literature”).  Never having taught before, I was a bit nervous.  Fortunately my students, a group of savvy teachers and librarians, made for a great group.  In our last face-to-face class we discussed nonfiction blogs, websites, and other resources that offer children’s book tie-ins.  In doing so we stumbled on the perpetual problem of finding the ideal nonfiction book website for use by educators.

It all got me to thinking.  What would the perfect nonfiction online site even look like?  Whether a blog or a website, surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to make one.  So we brainstormed the ideal one-stop-shopping location for folks pining for a website that has it all.

Today, I present that brainstorming to you.  For anyone out there who has too much time on their hands and a yen for nonfiction, here are the official suggestions for . . .

The Perfect Nonfiction Online Site

For Use by Teachers/Librarians/Parents

 

Must Have Aspects:

  • Includes brief reviews of great nonfiction titles that highlight key aspects of a nonfiction text. One of many reasons I wouldn’t be a good creator of such a site.  If you’ve read my reviews then you know that they revel in loquaciousness.  Fun for me, but impractical for teachers who don’t have time to linger on every single book on the site.  Longer reviews could potentially have a home on the site but these would have to be accompanied by bullet points that summarize the main points and discuss the quality of the text.  Long story short, teachers don’t have time for wordy reviews.
  • Good search capabilities (tagging, organizes posts by grade level/topic, etc.).  Lots of lovely reviews won’t do you much good if you can’t find them when you need them, after all.  This site would be best if it could enable teachers to find nonfiction resources quickly.
  • What standards does each book cover?  This is a reference to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which is of particular use to those teachers and librarians working in a public school setting.  Any site that contained this information for each book would be doing the world a service.  Some books come pre-loaded with this information.  For others, it would have to be conjured up from scratch.
  • Is specific about how each book could be used in the classroom. This ties into the previous note about CCSS.  Crafts, activities, video tie-ins, credible online sources, and even readalikes would be great additional information to provide with each book.
  • Text sets. The best way I can describe this one is to direct your attention to the book sets created by MyLibraryNYC.  See how they’ve grouped books together by subject and grade level?  This site would provide similar information.  I wouldn’t mind if a coupled also linked to fictional titles with nonfiction tie-ins to one subject area or another.
  • Personal experiences in using each book with kids. Okay, this one’s key.  Imagine if each book came with a section where teachers and librarians and homeschooling parents could include tips and stories on their successes of failures with individual books.  A testimonials area, as it were.  This could even cover the readability of each book. How is the content? Is it too high level for one grade level or another?
  • Links to educator guides.  Why do too much work when much of it already exists out there for public consumption?

You are now beginning to see why such a site as this does not yet exist (not for free, anyway).  The amount of work each title would require would be ginormous. Then again, think about what would happen if public teachers knew about this site.  It would be their most useful curricular resource.

Someday.

 

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6 Comments on Building the Perfect Nonfiction Blog/Site, last added: 3/8/2016
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50. Cover Reveal: Welcome to Wonderland by Chris Grabenstein

Okay, a little background before we launch into this one.  Before Chris Grabenstein wrote Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (a book for which he is justifiably famous) he wrote a whole heaping helpful of other books.  For decades.  Seriously, the man has paid his dues.  Now he has a new book out with absolutely zip, zero, zilch Lemoncello ties and I get to reveal the cover.  Here’s what makes me happy about this:

  1. There is a pink flamingo involved.
  2. Motels make me happy, which I’ll admit is odd but there you go.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you . . . Welcome to Wonderland.

Welcome to Wonderland

A beauty, yes?

And as a delicious little closing, here’s an interview I conducted with said Mr. Grabenstein last year. Note the truly amazing images behind his head.  Now THAT is what a children’s author’s home should look like people.  Stuffs stuffs n’ more stuffs.

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5 Comments on Cover Reveal: Welcome to Wonderland by Chris Grabenstein, last added: 3/10/2016
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