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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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Creating Children’s Books: Collaboration and Change
A Symposium in Honor of William Steig and Atha Tehon
Creating Children’s Books: Collaboration and Change honors the contributions of William Steig and Atha Tehon to the world of children’s literature during late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries.
The symposium will explore the creation of children’s books from both the writer/illustrator and designer/publisher perspectives, looking at the role of collaboration in the process and considering the future of children’s books from various perspectives, including that of diversity.
Atha Tehon worked closely with the renowned editor and publisher Phyllis Fogelman, both of whom championed the work of African-American and Native American authors and illustrators, among others. The symposium is sponsored by the Muriel Pfaelzer Bodek Fund for Library Public Events of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries with additional funding from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.
The symposium takes place in conjunction with two fall exhibitions in the University of Pennsylvania Libraries:
As the Ink Flows: Works from the Pen of William Steig explores the life and career of the artist, cartoonist, and children’s book author/illustrator William Steig. The exhibition highlights materials from the recent gift of over 2,500 original drawings, notebooks and scrapbooks, correspondence, books, posters, and other materials made by Jeanne Steig, his widow, to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, supplemented with loans from his family.
The School of Atha: Collaboration in the Making of Children’s Books celebrates the life and work of Atha Tehon, children’s book designer and longstanding Art Director for Dial Books for Young Readers.
For questions and queries, contact Lynne Farrington, Curator of Printed Books, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts (firstname.lastname@example.org; 215-746-5828).
Free and open to the public (please show photo ID at entrance)
Class of 1978 Pavilion, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Van Pelt Dietrich Library Center, sixth floor
3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
So I’m sitting at a Tri-Library Book Buzz event in NYC the other day, which is basically this massive librarian preview event where publishers of every stripe hock their wares in a lickety-split fashion. I like to go because it lets me see a lot of the little publishers who don’t get a lot of airtime otherwise. Naturally I’ll be writing this up soon.
When Sterling stepped up to the plate they mentioned that they’ll be publishing in January 2015 a new book in their “Good Question” series called Did Columbus Really Discover America? Living in an era where the Common Core demands books to discuss opposing viewpoints, I was heartened to see that the publishing copy for this book raises the question “How did Columbus treat the native people?”, a question that is too often assiduously forgotten particularly at this time of year. Indeed it’s very difficult to be a Materials Specialist these days when the subject of Columbus comes up. Teachers assign bios. Therefore we must have them. Yet how many are actually any good? Sure could use someone’s blog post on this topic [raises eyebrows in Debbie Reese's general direction].
Yes, it’s Columbus Day yet again. The world’s weirdest holiday for contemporary Americans. On the one hand we public employees get the day off. On the other, we sort of have to conveniently forget why we get the day off. Now I could just plug my most beloved Columbus book of all time A Coyote Columbus Story by Thomas King to you yet again, but let’s try something a little different. Some links appropriate to the day instead.
First up, I’m just going to alert you to a recent Children’s Literary Salon I helped put together at NYPL on the subject of contemporary YA Native authors and the learning curve both they and their white editors had to go through. PW wrote it up in their piece Writing Native Lives in YA: A NYPL Panel Discussion and did a heckuva nice job with it too. Editor Cheryl Klein’s podcast The Narrative Breakdown will also be posting the recording of the talk soon, so look for me to link to that in the near future.
I reminded in the course of the conversation of the amusing post from last year What if people told European History like they told Native American history. Good for your eyeballs, if you missed it.
Finally, Debbie Reese had a really lovely post up in 2011 that I saw someone link to recently that deserves notice. Top Board Books for Youngest Readers is a great survey of a very difficult topic. My babies both read Cradle Me and Learn to Count with Northwest Coast Native Art and I can attest that they’re fabulous.
Now go ye and celebrate some other Italian. I suggest Fiorello H. LaGuardia. He wasn’t perfect but there was a nice musical made about him and that’s reason enough in my book to pay him heed.
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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, Cookie Monster
, Dav Pilkey
, George Takei
, Lemony Snicket
, librarian videos
, Neil Numberman
, Sesame Street
, Video Sunday
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A veritable plethora of dancing librarians greet you this weekend. Now I’ll be the first to say that if you’re going to have librarians or library patrons dancing in a video then the video has to be pretty darn impressive in some way. Life’s too short otherwise. But thing is, these folks are pretty extraordinary. Take, for example, this one from the Texas A&M University libraries as a kind of orientation to their services. Sure, the song’s been overdone but at least they gave it a bit of class:
Thanks to mom for the link.
Then there’s Nashville. I just had the pleasure of speaking alongside my co-author Julie Danielson (of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast fame) at the Southern Festival of the Book. While there I had time enough to catch one quick sneaky peek at their library. It’s a lucky thing I didn’t see any of their librarians or I was have fangirled out on them after watching this video. I’m a sucker for a talented hand puppet artist:
Then, in other news, old timey footage. The deeply amusing Lemony Snicket video. The YOU CHOOSE THE MYSTERY campaign has begun. Beguiled? Entranced? Confounded? You will be:
Start following the mystery here. It’s like that old Choose Your Own Adventure series except, y’know. Less disembowling.
While I am indeed the mother of a 3-year-old I’ll confess that when it comes to contemporary children’s television programming I’m more liable to pull out the classic Electric Company / Sesame Street / School House Rock DVDs than turn on something from the 21st century. Still, I’ve succumbed to the lures of Daniel Tiger (extemporized upon here) but I’ve only dipped a toe in current Sesame Street schtoof. Maybe that’s why I was so shocked when I saw today’s video. Cookie has always spoofed contemporary film (Chariots of Fur, anyone?) but rarely so in-depth. Wowza.
While not strictly children’s book related, regarding the book as object is certainly of any interest to those parents, teachers, and librarians dealing with kids who put their books through the paces physically. Plus Chronicle does the best videos so I’d be amiss in not posting this:
Neil Numberman (with whom I am in competition for Best Alliterative Picture Book Author Name… and he’s winning) takes on the arduous process of creating a picture book cover and turns it into time lapse art. Behold:
How to Make a Children’s Book Cover (in 1:16) from Neil Numberman on Vimeo.
Hat tip to Greenwillow Books for the link.
And while Banned Books Week may have gone, as long as banning continues so too will the need for remarkably sane (and fun) little videos like this one from Dav Pilkey calling for just a little common sense:
And finally, for today’s off-topic video, Michael Arndt turned my attention to this little beauty. It’s The Missing Scarf, a multiple award winning short film that feels, at first anyway, like a picture book. Stick with it. As it continues you start to really get into the feel (and George Takei should, insofar as I can tell, narrate everything in this world from here on in). I should warn some of you that in spite of its fluffy feel, the ending would prove a bit bleak for the younger kids so be wary and warned and enjoy!
The Missing Scarf from Eoin Duffy on Vimeo.
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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, Best Books of 2014
, Reviews 2014
, 2014 poetry
, 2014 reviews
, Bilingual picture books
, Lee & Low Books
, Meilo So
, Pat Mora
, picture book poetry
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Water Rolls, Water Rises: El Agua Rueda, el Agua Sube
By Pat Mora
Illustrated by Meilo So
Children’s Book Press (an imprint of Lee & Low Books)
On shelves now.
Sometimes I wonder what effect the televised ephemera I took in as a child has had on my memories and references. For example, when I pick up a book like Pat Mora’s beautifully written and lushly illustrated Water Rolls, Water Rises: El Agua Rueda, el Agua Sube I immediately flash back to an old Sesame Street episode I enjoyed as a kid that showed a water sapped desert landscape made vibrant once more with the appearance of rain. Taken by itself, such a ran is an event that happens every day on Earth, and as such it’s the kind of thing tailor made to inspire a poet’s heart and mind. Poetry, sad to say, is not a form of literature that I excel in as a student. I can appreciate it, even quote it when called up to do so, but my heart belongs to prose first and foremost. If I have to read poetry, it helps to read the best of the best. Only really stellar poetry can crack my shell of indifference. And when you pair that really good verse alongside art that makes you want to stand up and cheer? That’s when you have a book that won’t just win over crusty old fogies like me, but also its intended audience: kids. Because if a book like Water Rolls, Water Rises can make me stop and think about the natural world, if only for a second, imagine what it could do for an actual child’s growing brain. Better things than old Sesame Street segments, that’s for sure.
We start slowly and watch the roll of the tides and the rise of the fog. The water is blown, then slithers and snakes, and in one particularly beautiful passage glides “up roots of tulips and corn.” After that, things pick up a bit. In swells the water sloshes, in woods it swirls, and it all culminates in storms and thunder and “lightning’s white flash.” Then, just as suddenly, all is calm again. Water rests in an oasis and slumbers in marshes. The book concludes with water joyfully “skidding and slipping”, “looping and leaping” until at last we pull back and view for ourselves our blue planet, “under gold sun, under white moon.” The bilingual text in both English and Spanish is complemented by illustrator Meilo So’s mixed media illustrations and contains both an Author’s Note and key for identifying the images in the book in the back.
Now I’ll tell you right now that I don’t speak a lick of Spanish. I’ve the rudimentary single words and phrases culled from years of watching the aforementioned Sesame Street but there’s nothing substantial in my noggin. Therefore I cannot honestly tell you if the Spanish translation by Adriana Dominguez and Pat Mora matches the English text’s spare verse. Certainly I was impressed with the minimal wordplay Mora chose to use in this book. As someone prone to wordiness (I think the length of this review speaks for itself) I am always most impressed by those writers that can siphon a thought or a description down to its most essential elements. It’s hard to say what you’ll notice first when you read this book. Will it be the words or the art? Mora’s cadences (in English anyway) succeed magnificently in evoking the beauty and majesty of water in its myriad forms. Read the book enough times and you begin to get a real sense of the rise and fall of water’s actions. I also noted that Mora eschews going too deep into her subject matter. The primary concentration is on water as it relates to the landscape worldwide. She doesn’t dwell on something like water’s role in the human body or pepper the text with small sidebars pertaining to facts about water. This is poetry as it relates to liquid. Nothing more. Nothing less.
The bilingual picture book is fast becoming a necessity in the public library setting. Just the other day someone asked if we could have more Bengali/English picture books rather than just straight Bengali, because the parents liked reading both languages to their kids. Yet sadly in the past our bilingual literature has had a rough go of it. Well-intentioned efforts to give these books their own space in the children’s libraries have too often meant that they’re scuttled away in some long-forgotten corner. The patrons who need them most are often too intimidated to ask for them or don’t even know that they exist. So what’s the solution? Interfile them with the English books or all the other languages? Wouldn’t they be just as forgotten in one collection as another? There are no easy answers here and the thought that a book as a beautiful in word and image as Water Rolls could end up forgotten is painful to me.
Since this book travels around the world and touches on the lives of people in different lands and nations it is, by its very definition, multicultural. And to be honest, attaining the label of “multicultural” by simply highlighting different nations is easy work. What sets artist Meilo So’s art apart from other books of this sort is her fearless ability to upset expectations. I am thinking in particular of the image of the wild rice harvest in northern Minnesota. In this picture two children punt a boat through marshland. Their skin is brown, a fact that I am sure Ms. So did on purpose. Too often are white kids the “default” race when books that skate around the world make mention of the U.S. It’s as if the publishers forget that people of races aside from white live in America as well as the rest of the world. As such So elevates the standards for your average round-the-world book.
Every book you pick up and read has to pass through your own personal filters and prejudices before it makes a home for itself in your brain. Let us then discuss what it means to be an English-only speaking American woman looking at this book for the first time. I pick up this book and I instantly assume that the cover is sporting an image of Niagara Falls. On the back of the jacket I come to a similar conclusion that we’re viewing Old Faithful. Thus does the American see the world only in terms of those natural wonders that happen to exist within her own nation’s borders. Turns out, that waterfall on the front is Victoria Falls, found between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. And that geyser? Strokkur in Iceland. With this in mind you can understand why I was grateful for the little key in the back of the book that clearly identifies and labels (in both English and Spanish) where each location in the images can be found. It was interesting too to see each credit saying that the image was “inspired by” (“inspirada por”) its real world equivalent. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about accuracy in works of illustration in picture books. Mostly I’ve been thinking about historical accuracy, but contemporary landscapes raise their own very interesting questions. If Meilo So came up with the “inspired by” label then it may well be that it was thought up to protect her against critics who might look to her view of the Qutang Gorge, say, and declare her positioning of this or that mountain peak a gross flight of fancy. Since she is illustrating both distinct landmarks (the Grand Canyon, Venice’s Grand Canal, the coast of Cabo San Lucas, etc.) alongside places that typify their regions (a fishing boat at sea in Goa, India, a well in a rural village in Kenya, etc.) it is wise to simply give the “inspired by” designation to all images rather than a few here and there so as to avoid confusion.
After soaking in the art page by page I wondered then how much control Ms. Mora had over these images. Did she designate a country and location for each stanza of her poem? The book sports an Author’s Note (but no Artist’s Note, alas) that mentions the places Ms. Mora has traveled too. Look at the list of locations and they do, indeed, appear in the book (China, Holland, Peru, Finland, etc.). So I make the assumption that she told Ms. So what country to draw, though I don’t know for sure.
As a mother of two small children, both under the age of 4, my interest in early brain development has been piqued. And like any mother I berate myself soundly when I feel like my own personal prejudices are being inflicted on my kids. I don’t go gaga for poetry but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t read it to the kiddos as much as possible. Fortunately, books like Water Rolls, Water Rises make the job easy. Easy on the eyes and the ears, this is one clever little book that can slip onto any home library shelf without a second thought. Sublime.
On shelves now.
Source: F&G sent from publisher for review.
Like This? Then Try:
- Water Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija
Public Relations Consultant to the Grolier Club
One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature
A Holiday Presentation at the Grolier Club
Powerful narrative, unforgettable characters, illustrations that stir the imagination, and insights that engage the mind and heart—literature for children is forged from the same enduring elements as literature for adults. Children’s books with these qualities often shine for generations, with some achieving landmark fame. A few such books ultimately go on to enter the canon of classics of children’s literature.
The Grolier Club’s milestone public exhibition, One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature, showcases one hundred books of this caliber, printed from 1600 to 2000. On view from December 10, 2014 through February 7, 2015, the show includes such beloved books as Robinson Crusoe, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, Peter Rabbit, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Winnie-the-Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, The Cat in the Hat, Where the Wild Things Are, and Harry Potter. These classics and others—many famous today, some only in their time—will bring smiles of enjoyment to adults and children alike. The curator and children’s book authority Chris Loker has secured loans from major institutions, among them the American Antiquarian Society; Beineike Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University; Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University; Houghton Library, Harvard University; The Morgan Library & Museum; and distinguished private collections.
The books are organized according to key themes in children’s literature: Fairy Tales & Fables, Nursery Rhymes, Faith, Learning, Poetry, Girls & Boys, Animals, Fantasy, Adventure, Novelties, and Toys. This arrangement allows viewers to see genres of literature for children from early forms of instructional and devotional primers to exuberant expressions of rhymes, stories, novels and picture books. First or early editions are displayed wherever possible, some of them extremely rare.
The oldest book in the exhibition, Orbis Pictus, published in Nuremberg in 1658, is a schoolbook in simple encyclopedic form for young students of Latin (the text is in both Latin and German.) Used for two centuries throughout Europe, it is an early effort at integrated text and pictures, and thus shows a pivotal step in the development of the illustrated book for children. The New-England Primer is one of only two extant copies printed in 1727 (the earliest known surviving edition.) In print for over 200 years, this was the first reader for many young Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries, and thus one of the most frequently read books in the United States.
Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book (Vol. 2), published in London in 1744, is an exceptionally important book, although not well known today. It is the first known collection of English nursery rhymes, gathering together the earliest recorded versions of ditties crooned to babies such as “Sing a Song of Sixpence,” “Hickory, Dickory, Dock” (here titled “The Mouse ran up ye clock”), “Mary Mary Quite Contrary,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” and “Cock Robin,” among others.
Songs of Innocence, written, illustrated and published by William Blake in London in 1789, contains his short lyric poems for children. It is the third in Blake’s series of illuminated books—the earliest examples of artist’s books. Created by this 18th century British visionary, poet, author, painter, illustrator, printer and engraver, this copy—one of fewer than forty copies made–has never been out of print, and is an artistic masterpiece.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll [pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson], illustrated by John Tenniel and published in London in 1865, is one from the first edition that the author withdrew and suppressed. However, 50 copies from that edition had already been distributed, and today only a few more than 20 of those are known to reside in private or institutional collections. This particular copy is both unique and remarkable as Lewis Carroll edited it by hand in his trademark purple ink in preparation for his publication of The Nursery “Alice.” An unprecedented work of fantasy, enriched with wordplay, nonsense verse and a deep vein of mathematical and logical puzzling, this book invites interpretations on multiple levels, and since publication has never ceased to fascinate children and adults around the world.
The first half of the 20th century saw the explosion of ground-breaking picture books that presented color-saturated illustrations entwined with enticing worlds: Velveteen Rabbit, Millions of Cats, The Story of Babar, Story of Ferdinand, Madeline, Curious George, Make Way for Ducklings, Le Petit Prince, Eloise, and perhaps the most colorful of all, Goodnight Moon. In the second half of the 20th century there are equally glorious picture books that celebrate color, texture and message: The Snowy Day, Where the Wild Things Are and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Where the Wild Things Are, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, was published in New York in 1963. A landmark artistic accomplishment, this picture book is beloved throughout the world by children for its vivid illustration and compelling story of Max, the boy who sails to an island inhabited by Wild Things. Sendak’s integration of pictures and text widened the path for the modern author / illustrator. His obituary in the New York Times described him as “widely considered [to be] the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century.”
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling, published in London in 1997, is the most contemporary book in the exhibition. The first of J. K. Rowling’s seven fantasy novels, it is a tale full of magical realism about three young friends at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This book is from the initial print run of just 300 copies, all of which went first to public libraries. In terms of fame, the Harry Potter books unleashed an unprecedented publishing phenomenon, and today have been printed in over 70 languages, making devoted readers out of millions of children and adults alike.
Displayed along with these one hundred books are over 50 historic artifacts that demonstrate the interrelationships between these famous books and the culture of their era, including original book art and illustration, autograph letters, manuscript drafts, antique toys, early dolls and games, antique horn books, ivory alphabet discs and other children’s objects, all of great interest in their own right.
One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature is the sixth in the “Grolier Hundreds” series. The Grolier Club has previously organized only five such exhibitions in its 130-year history, focusing previously on English literature (1903), American literature (1946), science (1958), medicine (1994) and fine printed books (1999). These admired exhibitions have set the standard for book collecting and reading enjoyment in their fields, and the organizers expect no less from this new addition to the Grolier Hundred canon.
Maurice Sendak, famed author of Where The Wild Things Are, believed, “You cannot write for children. They’re much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them.” This concept—that on its way to becoming famous a book needs first and foremost to be of interest to children—underlies the choice of books represented in this exhibition. The Grolier Club believes that the books presented in this historic show will long remain a source of interest, and of joy and wonder, to children of all ages.
Accompanying the exhibition is a 320-page, hardbound catalogue with color photographs of all one hundred famous children’s books plus four scholarly essays, available for purchase at The Grolier Club and through Oak Knoll Books (http//www.oakknoll.com), exclusive distributors of Grolier Club publications.
A Colloquium “Journeys Through Bookland: Explorations in Children’s Literature” takes place Tuesday, January 20, 2015 from 1-5 pm, with a cocktail reception to follow. This colloquium brings together six children’s literary experts who will lead participants through highlights in the history, present, and future of the book for children.
The exhibition and catalogue have been made possible in part by the generous support of Bring Me A Book Foundation, Mountain View, CA; Gladys Kreible Delmas Foundation, NY; Furthermore Grants in Publishing, A Program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund, NY; and Pine Tree Foundation of New York.
CURATOR’S PUBLIC TOURS OF THE EXHIBITION:
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 1-2 pm
Thursday, December 11, 2014, 1-2 pm
Tuesday, February 3, 2015, 1-2 pm
Wednesday, February 4, 1-2 pm
Curator Chris Loker is available for interviews and tours of the exhibition.
VISITING THE GROLIER CLUB:
The Grolier Club, founded in 1884, is America’s oldest bibliophile society, with a mission to foster appreciation for the art, history and production of the book and graphic arts.
47 East 60th Street
New York, NY 10022
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm
Admission: Exhibitions are open to the public free of charge
For further information please contact:
Jennifer Sheehan, Grolier Club Exhibitions Manager
Susan Flamm, PR Consultant to The Grolier Club
Have a seat, children. Let me tell you a little tale.
The year was 2000. I was a recent college graduate making her way in the world, fighting the good fight against an inevitable career in librarianship (a fight that I happily lost in the end). While tooling around Portland, Oregon I came across the wild televised stylings of one Steve Irwin and it was love at first sight. The fellow was a nutcase in the best sense of the term. Whether he was fleeing hippos or climbing trees to escape Komodo dragons I was very attached to his boyish looks and seemingly genuine enthusiasm. With my friends we would buy little documentary videos of his personal life. When he died it wasn’t a surprise (see: previous mentions of his escapades) but it was shockingly sad. This was a fellow with so much life and vitality to him. Sure, sometimes he could be a bit much but he was just so doggone endearing. And then poof! Gone.
Fast forward. The year is 2014 and Grosset & Dunlap have hit the 100th book in their Who Is? / Who Was? / Quien Fue? series. I’m a fan of those books. They’re quick and catchy and act as good gateway nonfiction for longer bios. Well with the 100th book looming, Grosset & Dunlap held this book contest, which ran from March 1st through June 1st, 2014, and allowed readers to cast their vote for the personality they wanted to see featured in the 100th biography in the series. Say they, “With over 67,000 votes cast in total, Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin was the winner with over 14,000 votes. Runners up included religious icon Mother Teresa, the country music group Florida Georgia Line, King of Pop Michael Jackson, and Kenyan political and environmental activist Wangari Maathai. Who Was Steve Irwin? will be released in Summer 2015.”
They asked if I wanted to take part in the cover reveal of the latest and you know what? I still love old Steve. I would have devoured his videos as a kid. He had pep and verve, a sense of humor and an honest-to-goodness love of the natural world that trumped everything else. So here you go, Steve my man. This one’s for you. You deserve it:
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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, book jewelry
, conspiracy theories
, Crockett Johnson
, E.B. White
, food blogs
, funny books
, Jarrett Krosoczka
, Jon Scieszka
, Louise Rennison
, Monica Edinger
, Philip Nel
, Ruth Krauss
, Symphony Space
, The Book Smugglers
, Add a tag
With Comic Con NYC later this week, publisher previews on the rise, and various work-related meetings, talks, and speeches I’m just the teeniest tiniest bit busy this week. But no matter! It is you, dear readers, that give me what for and how to. For you I would forgo all the sleep in the world. And as luck would have it, my 5-month-old baby is currently taking me up on that offer.
- Sometimes when I am feeling pensive I attempt to figure out which authors and illustrators currently alive today will, in the distant future, be so doggone famous for their works that people make pilgrimages to the homes they once lived in. I suspect that the entire Amherst/Northampton area will become just one great big tour site with people snapping shots of the homes of Norton Juster, Mo Willems, Jane Yolen, and so on and such. Thoughts of this sort come to mind when reading posts like Phil Nel’s recent piece A Very Special House in which he visits the former home of Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson. It is entirely enjoyable, particularly the part where the current owners reenact a photo taken on the porch with Ruth and Crockett 65 years later.
- So they announced the Kirkus Prize Finalists last week. Those would be the folks in the running for a whopping $50,000 in prize money. The books in the young reader category are split between two picture books, two middle grade titles, and two YA. You can see all the books that were up for contention here and the final books that made the cut here. Heck, you can even vote on the book you’d like to see win and potentially win an iPad for yourself. I don’t think they needed the iPad as a lure, though. I suspect many folks will be voting left and right just the for the fun of it. Thanks to Monica Edinger for the links.
- In other news, we have word of a blog made good. Which is to say, a blog that figured out how to make a living off of its good name. When people ask for YA blog recommendations I am not always the best person to ask. I don’t monitor them the way I monitor children’s book blogs. Pretty much, I just rely on folks like bookshelves of doom and The Book Smugglers to tell me what’s up. Now The Book Smugglers are becoming publishers in their own right! eBook publishers no less. Nice work if you can get it.
- Louise Rennison wrote a rather amusing little piece about how her British slang doesn’t translate all that well across the pond, as it were. Fair enough, but don’t go be telling me we Yanks don’t know humor. That’s why I was pleased to see that at the end of the article it says, “Louise Rennison will be discussing humour on both sides of the pond, and other interesting things, with her fellow countryman Jim Smith (author of Barry Loser and winner of the Roald Dahl Funny prize 2013) and American author Jon Scieszka (author of many hilarious books including Stinky Cheeseman and most lately Frank Einstein) – in a panel event chaired by Guardian children’s books editor Emily Drabble, run with IBBY at Waterstones Piccadilly, London, on 7 October 2014.” Why that’s today! Give ‘em hell, Jon! Show ‘em we know our funny from our droll. Then find out why their Roald Dahl Funny Prize is taking a hiatus. It’s not like they lack for humor themselves, after all.
*sigh* That Jarrett Krosoczka. He gets to have all the fun. One minute he’s hosting the Symphony Space Roald Dahl celebration and the next he’s hosting the upcoming Celebration of E.B. White. I mean, just look at that line-up. Jane Curtin. David Hyde Pierce. Liev Schreiber (didn’t see that one coming). Oh, I will be there, don’t you doubt it. You should come as well. We’ll have a good time, even if we’re not hosting it ourselves.
- This may be my favorite conspiracy piece of 2014 (which is actually saying something). Travis Jonker lays out 6 Theories on the End of Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Needless to say, I’m firmly in the “dog as Jesus” camp.
- And speaking of conspiracy theories, were you aware of the multiple theories that abound and consist of folks trying to locate the precise geographical coordinates of Sesame Street? There’s a big Sesame Street exhibit at our Library of the Performing Arts right now (by hook or by crook I am visiting it this Sunday) and that proved the impetus for this piece. Lots of fun.
On Saturday November 8, 2014, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art (NMAA) in Washington, DC will host the 22nd annual Children’s Africana Book Awards (CABA). CABA was created by Africa Access and the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association* to honor authors and illustrators who have produced exceptional books on Africa for young people.
And who’s that I see on the list of nominees? None other than Monica Edinger for Africa Is My Home! Two Candlewick books are listed, actually. Well played there, oh ye my fellow publisher.
I admit it. I’ve a weakness for paper jewelry. Today’s example is no exception:
Wood pulp. A marvelous invention. Thanks to Jessica Pigza for the image.
The New Victory Theater presents
The Snail and the Whale
Beloved Bedtime Story Hits Stage for Limited Engagement
October 18 – 19, 2014
New York, NY (September 9, 2014) – A tiny snail’s big adventure blazes a trail to the Big Apple when London’s Tall Stories (The Gruffalo, New Vic 2004; Snow White New Vic 2003) collaborates with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler on the stage adaptation of the award-winning story The Snail and the Whale (Blue Peter Book Award, 2005). Created for ages four to seven, The Snail and the Whale runs at The New Victory Theater, New York’s premier performing arts venue for kids and families, for a limited engagement from October 18-19, 2014.
Seen through the eyes of an intrepid young girl and her seafaring father, The Snail and the Whale captures the amazing journey of a small snail who travels the world by hitching a ride on the tail of a humpback whale. Together they spy penguins on icebergs, find fiery volcanoes and dive down to deep water caves, discovering that even little friends can be big heroes. Combining storytelling, live music and sound effects from a viola player on stage, the production incorporates every line from the original book, a specialty of Tall Stories’ adaptations.
“This story uses the characteristics and personalities of the animals in the book to shape the characters on stage,” says Toby Mitchell, director of The Snail and the Whale. “The little girl is adventurous and risk-taking like the snail, and the father is solid and brave, just like the whale,” he continues.
This stage adaptation of The Snail and the Whale was inspired by the work of UK’s Storybook Soldiers, an organization that helps British military personnel abroad record bedtime stories for their children back home. It was discovered that one of the soldiers’ favorite books to record was The Snail and the Whale, and Tall Stories saw a parallel between the story’s protagonist and a child wanting to join a parent aboard a navy vessel. To devise the show, they worked with Storybook Soldiers’ founders Kirsty Alderson and Rosemary Meeke and listened to various soldiers’ recordings of this epic tale.
The Snail and the Whale stars Patrick Bridgman as the Whale/Dad, Lucy Grace as the Snail/Daughter and Rosalind Steele as the Viola Player/Narrator. The show’s creative team includes Toby Mitchell, director; Olivia Jacobs, creative producer; Isla Shaw, set designer; James Whiteside, lighting designer; Richard Heacock, composer; and Pete Foster, company stage manager.
Watch a trailer of Tall Stories’ The Snail and the Whale on the New Victory website.
The Snail and the Whale is supported, in part, by a Presenter’s Grant from The Jim Henson Foundation.
Performance Schedule: 4 performances
Saturday 10/18 11am and 3pm
Sunday 10/19 11am and 3pm
The Snail and the Whale has a running time of 55 minutes and is recommended for everyone ages 4 through 7.
General Ticket Information
Tickets for The Snail and the Whale at The New Victory Theater (209 West 42nd Street) are $17 for Members and $25 for full price tickets. Theatergoers who buy tickets to three or more New Victoryshows qualify for free Membership, with benefits including up to 35-percent savings on tickets all season long, invitations to special events and unlimited free ticket exchanges. Purchase tickets online or by phone at 646-223-3010. Beginning September 2, the New Victory box office (209 West 42nd Street) is open Sunday and Monday from 11am-5pm and Tuesday through Saturday from 12pm-7pm. For more information, visit the New Victory website.
About Tall Stories
Tall Stories is a not-for-profit theater company that creates entertaining and imaginative performances for audiences of all ages. The company is a registered charity which tours the UK and the world. Since 1997, when Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell founded the company, Tall Stories has toured as far afield as Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Dubai, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Poland, Singapore and the U.S. The Gruffalo has been released on DVD by the Really Useful Group and a picture book has been published based on the Tall Stories show The Snow Dragon.
About The New Victory Theater
The New Victory Theater introduces extraordinary performing artists from around the world to extraordinary audiences in New York City, bringing kids to the arts and arts to kids. Created in 1995 for young New Yorkers, their families and schoolmates, The New Victory Theater presents a diverse season of international companies at low ticket prices year after year. Through the theater’s award-winning education programs, The New Victory continues to provide access to schools and communities of New York City who seek to experience and engage with the work on our stages, often for the very first time. The Off-Broadway theater’s contributions to the cultural landscape of the city were celebrated by the prestigious New York critics’ organization, The Drama Desk, which presented The New Victory Theater with a 2012 Special Award for “providing enchanting, sophisticated children’s theater that appeals to the child in all of us, and for nurturing a love of theater in young people.”
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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You know, it’s been a while since I showed you some of the fan-freakin’-tastic Wild Things videos we’ve been playing on the old Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature website. I know some of you haven’t gone over to it lately so I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s a quickie synopsis of everyone since the last time I wrote them up on this blog. In order:
Dan Santat on Beekle:
Tom Angleberger on The Qwikpick Papers:
Andrea Davis Pinkney on The Red Pencil:
CeCe Bell on El Deafo:
Duncan Tonatiuh on Separate Is Never Equal:
Barbara Kerley on A Home for Mr. Emerson:
Kate Milford on Greenglass House:
Nikki Loftin on Nightingale’s Nest:
Sergio Ruzzier on A Letter for Leo:
And finally, Candace Fleming on The Family Romanov:
There are a couple more coming and then we’ll be kaputski! Woohoo!
By: Betsy Bird
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By Skila Brown
On shelves now
Survivor’s guilt. Not the most common theme in children’s books these days. Not unheard of certainly, but it definitely doesn’t crop up as often as, say, stories about cupcakes or plucky orphans that have to defeat evil wizards. Serious works of fiction do well when award season comes along, but that’s only because those few that garner recognition are incredibly difficult to write. I’ll confess to you that when I first encountered Caminar by Skila Brown I heard it was about a kid surviving Guatemala’s Civil War and I instantly assumed it would be boring. Seems pretty silly to say that I thought a book chock-full o’ genocide would be a snorefest, but I’ve been burned before. True, I knew that Caminar was a verse novel and that gave me hope, but would it be enough? Fortunately, when the time came to pick it up it sucked me in from the very first page. Gripping and good, horrifying and beautifully wrought, if you’re gonna read just one children’s book on a real world reign of terror, why not go with this one?
He isn’t big. He isn’t tall. He has the round face of an owl and he tends to do whatever it is his mother requires of him with very little objection. Really, is it any wonder that Carlos is entranced by the freedom of the soldiers that enter his small village? The year is 1981 and in Chopan, Guatemala things are tense. One minute you have strange soldiers coming through the village on the hunt for rebels. The next minute the rebels are coming through as well, looking for food and aid. And when Carlos’s mother tells him that in the event of an emergency he is to run away and not wait for her, it’s not what he wants to hear. Needless to say, there comes a day when running is the only option but Carlos finds it difficult to carry on. He can survive in the wild, sleeping in trees and eating roots and plants, but how does he deal with the notion that only cowardice kept him from returning to Chopan? How does he handle his guilt? And is there some act that he can do to find peace of mind once more?
This isn’t the first book containing mass killings I’ve ever encountered for kids. Heck, it’s not even the only one I’ve seen this year (hat tip to The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney). As such, this brings up a big question that the authors of such books must wrestle with each and every time such a book is conceived. Mainly, how do you make horrific violence palatable to young readers? A good follow-up question would have to be, why should you make it palatable in the first place? What is the value in teaching about the worst that humanity is capable of? There are folks that would mention that there is great value in this. Some books teach kids that the world is capable of being capricious and cruel with no particular reason whatsoever. Indeed Brown touches on this when Carlos prays to God asking for the answers that even adults seek. When handled well, books about mass killings of any kind, be it the Holocaust or the horrors of Burma, can instruct as well as offer hope. When handled poorly they become salacious, or moments that just use these horrors as an inappropriately tense backdrop to the action.
Here’s what you see when you read the first page of this book. The title is “Where I’m From”. It reads, “Our mountain stood tall, / like the finger that points. / Our corn plants grew in fields, / thick and wide as a thumb. / Our village sat in the folded-between, / in that spot where you pinch something sacred, / to keep it still. / Our mountain stood guard at our backs. / We slept at night in its bed.” I read this and I started rereading and rereading the sentence about how one will “pinch something sacred”. I couldn’t get it out of my head and though I wasn’t able to make perfect sense out of it, it rang true. I’m pleased that it was still in my head around page 119 because at that time I read something significant. Carlos is playing marbles with another kid and we read, “I watched Paco pinch / his fingers around the shooter, pinch / his eyes up every time . . .” Suddenly the start of the book makes a kind of sense that it didn’t before. That’s the joy of Brown’s writing here. She’s constantly including little verbal callbacks that reward the sharp-eyed readers while still remaining great poetry.
If I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, the destruction of Carlos’s village reminded me of nothing so much as the genocide that takes place in Frances Hardinge’s The Lost Conspiracy. That’s a good thing, by the way. It puts you in the scene without getting too graphic. The little bits and pieces you hear are enough. Is there anything more unnerving than someone laughing in the midst of atrocities? In terms of the content, I watched what Brown was doing here with great interest. To write this book she had to walk a tricky path. Reveal too much horror and the book is inappropriate for its intended age bracket. Reveal too little and you’re accused of sugarcoating history. In her particular case the horrors are pinpointed on a single thing all children can relate to: the fear of losing your mother. The repeated beat in this book is Carlos’s mother telling him that he will find her. Note that she never says that she will find him, which would normally be the natural way to put this. Indeed, as it stands the statement wraps up rather beautifully at the end, everything coming full circle.
Brown’s other method of handling this topic was to make the book free verse. Now I haven’t heard too many objections to the book but when I have it involves the particular use of the free verse found here. For example, one adult reader of my acquaintance pretty much dislikes any and all free verse that consists simply of the arbitrary chopping up of sentences. As such, she was incensed by page 28 which is entitled “What Mama Said” and reads simply, “They will / be back.” Now one could argue that by highlighting just that little sentence Brown is foreshadowing the heck out of this book. Personally, I found moments like this to be pitch perfect. I dislike free verse novels that read like arbitrary chopped up sentences too, but that isn’t Caminar. In this book Brown makes an effort to render each poem just that. A poem. Some poems are stronger than others, but they all hang together beautifully.
Debates rage as to how much reality kids should be taught. How young is young enough to know about the Holocaust? What about other famous atrocities? Should you give your child the essentials before they learn possibly misleading information from the wider world? What is a teacher’s responsibility? What is a parent’s? I cannot tell you that there won’t be objections to this book by concerned parental units. Many feel that there are certain dark themes out there that are entirely inappropriate as subject matter in children’s books. But then there are the kids that seek these books out. And honestly, the reason Caminar is a book to seek out isn’t even the subject matter itself per se but rather the great overarching themes that tie the whole thing together. Responsibility. Maturity. Losing your mother. Survival (but at what cost?). A beautifully wrought, delicately written novel that makes the unthinkable palatable to the young.
On shelves now.
Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.
Like This? Then Try:
There’s this fellow I know. Tim Federle is his name. You might know him from his rather extraordinary and charming middle grade books BETTER NATE THAN EVER and FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE. Both books focus on a theater kid finding his way on Broadway. They are charming, effervescent, and irresistible, much like their author.
In my book WILD THINGS: ACTS OF MISCHIEF IN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE, my co-writers and I tackled the notion of children’s authors doing adult things, living adult lives and the reaction from the public on the matter. Very much what Tim’s doing here. Then there’s the fact that years ago SLJ fielded complaints when they published a picture of me with some children’s literary bloggers in a bar. Needless to say, when Tim suggested I do a post with him that talked a bit about his adult, but still children’s literature related, book HICKORY DAIQUIRI DOCK, I felt this was definitely a topic I wanted to visit.
Betsy: So you traipse between the world of writing children’s books and the world of drinks with children’s book names. Do you find them intersecting in weird ways at all?
Tim: Not so much weird ways as unexpected ones. I was planning my tour for Five, Six, Seven, Nate! when the owner of Inkwood Books in Tampa suggested we do school visits in the daytime and a cocktail event for the parents at night. It was a big hit.
Betsy: Historically, whenever a children’s book author tries to do anything adult they get chastised mightily. There’s this understanding that writers for kids can’t have adult lives. With that in mind, have you gotten any pushback against TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD?
Tim: Knock on wood — so far, I’ve actually had lots of librarians quietly slink up to me in signing lines for my middle grade books and slide over their personal copy of TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD. I’m always happy to advise them to “read responsibly.” HICKORY DAIQUIRI DOCK is a board book featuring cocktails inspired by classic nursery rhymes, so I’m hoping the crossover audience expands even more. Provided they are at least 21, obvi.
Betsy: Is there a BETTER NATE THAN EVER inspired drink in there? If not, could there be?
Tim: Ha! Maybe chocolate milk spiked with Red Bull, for a teenage boy needing focus and energy to perform on Broadway. (Note: do not try this at home. Or ever.)
Betsy: Where did you get the names of the drinks? Are they all from you or do you have to credit some folks with a couple of them?
Tim: Most of the HICKORY DAIQUIRI DOCK drink recipe titles — from “Ring Around the Rosé” to “Bloody Mary, Quite Contrary” — came from a combo of my own little head and also crowd-sourcing on Twitter. I asked my friends and followers for suggestions and got a happy deluge. And I had a nifty cocktail consultant help make sure the drinks weren’t just funny but also delish.
Betsy: Do you have a favorite?
Tim: The book is beautifully illustrated (by the fabulous Eda Kaban) and my favorite is probably “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar,” which features a new dad pressing his face against the glass of his formerly favorite bar.
Betsy: And will there be a follow-up?
Tim: I’m cooking up a TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD sequel, whereas HICKORY is more of a companion book. I’m in my mid-thirties, and so many people in my life are having babies — I wanted to create something cheeky and sweet to mark the occasion for my friends; I’m hoping HICKORY DAIQUIRI DOCK will be the premiere baby shower gift for generations to come Or a Holiday gift — it’s out this December.
Betsy: Thank you, Tim!
By the way, I’d be amiss in not mentioning that Tim’s first cocktail book got a mention on an obscure little television program by the name of Jeopardy. As such . . .
Thanks for stopping by, Tim!
Tim Federle is the author of TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD: COCKTAILS WITH A LITERARY TWIST, which was named the 2013 Goodreads Cookbook of the Year and called “a joy” by the London Evening Standard. Tim’s forthcoming cocktail book, HICKORY DAIQUIRI DOCK: COCKTAILS WITH A NURSERY RHYME TWIST, has been declared “more fun at a baby shower than a Diaper Genie” by the Tampa Bay Times. Though Tim is not a parent himself (that he knows of), he is a very cool uncle. Say hi at TimFederle.com and connect on Twitter and Instagram @TimFederle.
Folks, you know me. Half the time I forget to even mention these swell little events that happen, absolutely free I might add, in my library. But this Saturday’s panel . . . well, it’s special. It’s sort of a once in a lifetime panel. You’re not going to see this kind of thing pretty much anywhere else. So if you’re in the area in any way . . .
New York Public Library’s Children’s Literary Salon is pleased to announce our event on Saturday, October 4th at 2:00 p.m.
Native Fiction and the Editorial Process
Join editors Stacy Whitman (Tu Books/Lee & Low) and Cheryl Klein (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic), Onondaga author Eric Gansworth (IF I EVER GET OUT OF HERE), and Abenaki author Joseph Bruchac (KILLER OF ENEMIES) for a discussion about writing, discovering, editing, and publishing Native fiction and what the editors and their authors learned along the way.
This event will be held in the South Court Auditorium in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (42nd St. & 5th Avenue). No reservations necessary.
For a complete listing of all upcoming Salons, you can find the calendar here.
I don’t do all that many trendwatch posts on this site, if only because it’s impossible to keep track of them all. One minute you’re seeing tons of picture books involving whales. Another minute you’re noticing more than one book about encouraging your pet to become atheist (see this and this). If you do notice such things you are inclined to put your discovery into some sort of context. What do atheist children’s books say about the state of the world today? How do we equate whales with ourselves? That sort of thing.
One particularly odd little trend of middle grade fiction this year (which is to say, books for children between the ages of 9-12) involves our fine feathered friends. I’m not talking about nonfiction like Feathers: Not Just for Flying or Have You Heard the Nesting Bird. Nor am I referring to picture books like Flight School or I Hatched. Nope. Middle grade. And I’m a bit baffled by what I find.
First off, it was early in the year when I noticed two books with those coincidental similarities you sometimes find in our field. Every year there will be some titles that resemble one another by complete coincidence. At the beginning of this year they were Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin and Bird by Crystal Chan. The similarities weren’t overly obvious but they were there. They both slot into that “A stranger comes to town” plotline. Here’s a plot summary for Loftin’s book:
It doesn’t seem right that a twelve-year-old boy would carry around a guilt as deep and profound as Little John’s. But when you feel personally responsible for the death of your little sister, it’s hard to let go of those feelings. It doesn’t help matters any that John has to spend the summer helping his dad clear brush for the richest man in town, a guy so extravagant, the local residents just call him The Emperor. It’s on one of these jobs that John comes to meet and get to know The Emperor’s next door neighbor, Gayle. About the age of his own sister when she died, Gayle’s a foster kid who prefers sitting in trees in her own self-made nest to any other activity. But as the two become close friends, John notices odd things about the girl. When she sings it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before, and she even appears to possibly have the ability to heal people with her voice. It doesn’t take long before The Emperor becomes aware of the treasure in his midst. He wants Gayle’s one of a kind voice, and he’ll do anything to have it. The question is, what does John think is more important: His family’s livelihood or the full-throated song of one little girl?
And here’s the publisher plot summary for Chan’s:
Jewel never knew her brother Bird, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Her parents blame Grandpa for the tragedy of their family’s past; they say that Grandpa attracted a malevolent spirit—a duppy—into their home. Grandpa hasn’t spoken a word since. Now Jewel is twelve, and she lives in a house full of secrets and impenetrable silence. Jewel is sure that no one will ever love her like they loved Bird, until the night that she meets a mysterious boy in a tree. Grandpa is convinced that the boy is a duppy, but Jewel knows that he is something more. And that maybe—just maybe—the time has come to break through the stagnant silence of the past.
Both stories involve a dead sibling and a family’s ability (or inability) to cope after the fact. Bird wasn’t quite as reliant as magical realism as far as I could tell, but there was a distinct mystery about it. And, of course, the idea of children as birds, for good or for ill.
Later in the year more bird books started cropping up. When Beyond the Laughing Sky by Michelle Cuevas appeared it has some striking similarities to Nightingale’s Nest as well. The plot summary reads:
Ten-year-old Nashville doesn’t feel like he belongs with his family, in his town, or even in this world. He was hatched from an egg his father found on the sidewalk and has grown into something not quite boy and not quite bird. Despite the support of his loving parents and his adoring sister, Junebug, Nashville wishes more than anything that he could join his fellow birds up in the sky. After all, what’s the point of being part bird if you can’t even touch the clouds?
Far more of a magical realism title, the book takes the idea of a bird-child to the next level. This one has actually hatched from an egg and has a beak.
And none of this even counts books like Nest by Esther Ehrlich which involves birdwatching in some capacity. It’s a very different kind of title, but it fits with this overall theme.
I suppose that in the end birds are perfect little metaphor receptacles. Whatever the case, they yield some pretty darn interesting books.
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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There comes a time when I have so much news for a Fusenews that it paralyzes me and rather than write one up I just let my files accrue more and more schtoof until the vicious circle ends with a massive deletion. Today some of this stuff will strike you as a bit out of date, but the bulk is pretty darn fun.
- Anytime I write a post that involves race in some way I gird my loins and prepare for the worst. The worst did not occur yesterday, however, when I wrote about moments of surprising racism in classic children’s books. Perhaps everyone was distracted by Jonathan Hunt’s post on The Present Tense. Now THAT is a hot and heavy discussion!
- Oh, Cotsen Children’s Library. Is there anything you can’t do? Because, to be perfectly frank, I think even the prospect of interviewing Philip Pullman would render me effectively mute. And then there was that AMAZING piece on the woman who makes Harry Potter miniatures. Seriously, this is your required reading of the day.
- Because I love Kalamazoo in all its myriad forms, this caught my eye. For you Michiganders out there:
In February 2014, 95 youth librarians, youth library workers, and students gathered at Clinton-Macomb Public Library for a truly excellent day of professional development, idea-sharing, networking, and learning, unconference style. In 2015, we’ll gather April 24th at Kalamazoo Public Library. Hosted by Lisa Mulvenna (Clinton-Macomb PL), Anne Clark (Alice and Jack Wirt PL, Bay City), and Andrea Vernola (Kalamazoo PL), the MI KidLib Unconference will feature relevant and engaging sessions decided on by participants at the conference. And as is typical of an Unconference, it’s FREE to attend. Registration begins in January 2015.
Here are the session notes from last year in case you want to see what we learned together. We hope you’ll join us and spread the word to anyone who’s interested in youth services in libraries!
- If you had told me even two years ago that I would be the de facto mathematics librarian, ideal for moderating events like the Science & Mathematics Panel of Jordan Ellenberg, “Science Bob” Pflugfelder, and Benedict Carey at the Penguin Random House Author Event for NYC Educators, I would have been utterly baffled. And yet here we are. Know any teachers in the NYC area? Because the whole kerschmozzle appears to be free.
- Things That I Didn’t Know Existed Until Recently: Apparently the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center created a site called BookDragon that seeks to create a site for multicultural children’s literature. And not just of the Asian Pacific nature either. It’s a true multicultural site and a fun one to scroll through. Check it!
- This came out a while ago so I’m sure you already saw it, but just in case you didn’t, the Marc Tyler Nobleman Kidlit Mashups are nothing short of inspired.
Oh man. Iron Man as a goodnight picture book done in a homemade cut paper style. Not a real book. Should be though. Thanks to Marjorie Ingall for the link.
One of my favorite illustrators, Aaron Zenz, wrote me the following message you would be very wise to read it, oh those amongst ye with an artistic bent. This art gives light and life and meaning to my day:
We play this game on our second blog every three years or so, and I believe you’ve made note of it in the past. So I thought I’d let you know this time around also that we’re letting professional illustrators and artists dip into the 8 year archive at Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty to reimagine Z-Kid art once again:http://www.isaacgracelily.blogspot.com/2014/08/8yearcelebration.html
There have been some great kid lit contributors in the past like Nathan Hale, Charise Harper, Jarrett Krosoczka, Renata Liwska, Adam Rex… And even though the call just went out for this new round, kid lit folks Julie Phillipps and Doug Jones have already hopped on board (both of them have also played all three times!)
- My sister wrote me the other day to ask for a recommendation of a great children’s book about a jellyfish. I complied then found out why she wanted to know. I love it when she succeeds in her crazy plans on her blog but truth be told she’s awfully hilarious when she fails. It’s a Jellyfish in a bottle [FAIL].
It’s nice to have friends who know boats. Particularly when they start critiquing classic works of children’s literature. My friend Stefan Driesbach-Williams recently posted this familiar illustration:
Then he wrote, “I’m seeing a cutter with a loose-footed staysail and a boomkin.”
But it was the response from his nautical friends that made my day. One Levi Austin White responded with the following:
“Aye! Captain Max has only got his smallest storm stays’l aloft like a prudent mariner, although his main looks really drafty and dangerously powered up.
He seems to have his main trimmed in all the way, but headed dead downwind. That seems like a disastrous combination considering his mains’l tuning. I don’t see any reef points on his main though, so perhaps he’s outta luck.
Any news on his journey? Did he survive the storm? The way the seafoam is scudding across the wave tops, I’d say that he’s on the lee shore of a low lying island, with 50-70 kts windspeed. Looks properly vicious.
Best of luck, Captain Max. May the seas be forever in your favor.”
I think many of us have done this at some point. You’ve picked up a favorite old children’s book to read to your own kiddos. Everything’s going smoothly and you’re all having a fabulous time. Then, WHAMMO! Surprise! It’s racist!
Have no idea what I’m talking about? Well today we’re talking race and we’re talking classic children’s books. It’s a match made in heaven!
A couple things inspired this post and the first was when I received a copy of the new edition of If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss. Ladies and gentlemen if prior to reading this book you had asked me whether or not Dr. Seuss was ever racist in a picture book I would have laughed you off. WWII political cartoons? Sure. But his books? Not unless you count that theory about The Cat in the Hat and the elevator operator. Then I bring this book home and my husband proceeds to read it to my daughter. It’s all going well for a while . . . then we have some problems.
There are the little African guys, grass skirts and all:
There’s the Arabic fellow where it is suggested that he be collected along with his steed.
And then there’s this:
The text honest-to-goodness uses the term “slant-eyes” at one point.
You see, when it comes to surprising racism, we all sort of expect Native Americans and African-Americans to fare poorly. We tend to forget how AWFUL Asian people had it, and they show up all the friggin’ time. Whether it’s The Cricket in Times Square (see this rather lovely critique of it here) or Cheaper by the Dozen (check out the chapter “Chinese Cooking”) it’s out there. But the most unexpected racism? Voila:
Surprised? Many of us have heard the tale of how the Oompa Loompas were changed from African pygmies to something significantly less offensive in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. So why does no one recall that Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator has its own cringe-worthy moment? I suspect because it isn’t accompanied by any art. You see, there’s a moment when the President calls the Prime Minister of China . . . I’ll just leave it at that. Let your imagination fill in the details.
Not that there aren’t surprises in books where Native American and African-Americans fare poorly. We all know the Little House books are racist but we forget the details until we stumble on them. Then there are the fuzzy cases.
I was having dinner with librarian Kyle Lukoff and we were discussing these types of books. Heck, that conversation was the real impetus for this post. We covered the usual suspects (Pippi in the South Seas, Doctor Doolittle, etc.) when Kyle pointed out a book that might not be out-and-out racist but sure is unfortunate. Remember the Mr. Men books? Of course you do. So do any of you guys remember this fellow?
Author/illustrator Richard Hargreaves was an Englishman so one can hope that the term “uppity” perhaps did not have the same connotations in his part of the globe as here. Maybe. It’s just awfully odd that the only brown-skinned Mr. Men character I can think of happened to get that particular moniker. The scan here makes him look possibly purple. It would be better.
For my part, lots of my favorites have one element that drives me crazy: cannibals. Lots of my dearly beloved books from childhood turn out to be just chock full of them. From The Thyme Garden and Magic by the Lake (both Edward Eager) to Bednob and Broomstick and The Phoenix and the Carpet, seen here:
So fess up. What’s your childhood favorite that caught you off guard years later?
It’s the blatant self-promotion game! Starring me! Forgive me, folks, but a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do. Don’t worry. I’ve at least one post lined up for later this week that will involve children’s books that are surprisingly racist (fun!). Until then, I’d be honored if you were so good as to join me this Saturday:
What: A book signing at Bank Street Bookstore (610 W. 112th St., NY, NY) for Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature.
When: Saturday, September 27th at 2:00 p.m.
Why: Because we like you. M-O-U-S-E.
Three creative minds collaborated to write this insider tell-all about the mischievous boys and girls who’ve written some of your favorite contemporary children’s books. Bank Street Bookstore hosts one of them, Betsy Bird, on Saturday, September 27 at 2:00 p.m. to discuss one of the fall season’s widely anticipated releases.
Wild Things, written by leading kids’ lit bloggers Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter Sieruta, goes behind the scenes with anecdotes and backstories highlighting some of the most beloved children’s book authors and illustrators in the post-Harry Potter children’s publishing world. Get the inside story on some of the most controversial children’s authors working today.
Be sure to go here for more info.
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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By Princesse Camcam
Enchanted Lion Books
On shelves now.
Have you ever read a picture book multiple times, enjoying it with each and every read, and then find later that it was wordless . . . and you didn’t even notice? Now THAT is the mark of an effective title. The publisher Enchanted Lion Books prides itself on its “Stories Without Words” series, and deservedly so. They import wordless picture books from abroad, format them into these long, slender books, and subsequently prove to the world that good storytelling is universal. It goes beyond language. The latest in this long line of beauties is, to my mind, the most impressive offering to date. Fox’s Garden by author Princesse Camcam (who edges out Sara Pennypacker, Mary Quattlebaum, and Robert Quackenbush in the Best Children’s Author’s Name contest) is ostensibly a very simple story about kindness and unexpected rewards. Combined with remarkable cut paper scenes that are lit and photographed in an eerie, wonderful way, this is a book that manages to simultaneously convey the joy that comes after a simple act of kindness as well as the feel and look of winter, night and day.
On a cold and windy night, when the snow blows in high drifts, a single fox plunges onward. When a warm, inviting village appears in a valley she makes her way there. However, once there she is summarily rejected by the hostile townspeople, at last taking refuge in a small greenhouse. A small boy spots the fox’s presence and goes to offer her some food. When he finds her, he sees that she is not alone. Newborn kits suckle, so he leaves the edibles at a safe distance and goes inside to bed. In the early morn the fox and her brood prepare to leave but before doing so they leap through the boy’s window, planting flowers in his floor so that he wakes up to a wonder of blossoms of his very own.
The fact of the matter is that I’ve seen cut paper work in picture books before, whether it’s the scale models in books like Cynthia von Buhler’s But Who Will Bell the Cats? or the distinctive Lauren Child style of The Princess and the Pea. But books of that sort are part cut paper and part dollhouse, to a certain extent, since they utilize models. Titles that consist of cut paper and lighting alone are rarities. Even as I write this it sounds like such a technique would be some fancy designer’s dream and not something appealing to kids. Yet what makes Camcam’s style so appealing is that it combines not just technical prowess but also good old-fashioned storytelling. The glow that emanates from behind some of the homes in the snowy winter village looks infinitely appealing. You can practically feel the heat that would strike you as you entered through one of those doorways. Even more impressive to me, however, was the artist’s ability to capture winter daytime cloudy light. You know that light I’m talking about. When snow has blanketed the earth and the white/gray clouds above give off this particular winter gleam. I’m used to complimenting illustrators on how well they portray winter light in paint. I’m less accustomed to praising that same technique in sliced up paper.
The shape of the book itself is an interesting choice as well. The publisher Enchanted Lion specializes in these long thin books, so I wasn’t quite sure if the book originally published (under the name “Une rencontre”) in the same format. To my mind it feels as though it was always intended to look this way. Just watching where the gutter between the two pages falls is an interesting exercise in and of itself. The first two-page spread shows the fox struggling, belly low, through snowdrifts. She’s on the right-hand page, the desolate woods behind her. When she spots the village she is on the left page and the town looks warm and inviting on the opposite side. Distant, because of the nature of the layout, but comforting. Interestingly the only time the two pages show two different scenes is when you see people kicking and yelling at the fox. In contrast to the rest of the book the two different images make everything feel tense and angry. Landscapes are calming. From there on in everything is a two-page spread, sometimes presenting a close-up shot (there is an amazing image of the happy fox in the foreground on the left page, while the boy is in the distant doorway of the greenhouse on the right) and sometimes an image of distance, as with the final shot.
It isn’t just the art that had me fail to recognize that the book was wordless. Camcam’s vixen seems to tell whole stories with just a glance here and there. She’s a proud animal. You understand that even as she’s kicked and cursed she’s retaining her dignity. The boy’s act of kindness may be given because he sees a creature in need, but it seems as though it’s just as likely that he’s helping her because she is worth worshipping anear. And though she and her brood do something particularly un-foxlike near the end she is, for the most part, not anthropomorphized. The storytelling sounds so oddly trite when I summarize the book, but it doesn’t feel trite in the least. You could easily see this book adapted into a ballet or similar wordless format. It’s a naturally beautiful tale.
Let’s examine that word for a second. Beautiful. I don’t use it enough when I’m describing picture books. It’s not the kind of word you should bandy about for no reason. If I called every other book “beautiful” it would diminish the importance of the word and I couldn’t use it when something as truly stunning as this. It’s the kind of book that doesn’t feel like anything else you’ve seen or read. True and lovely and entirely unique. A book to borrow and a book to own.
On shelves now.
Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.
Like This? Then Try:
Professional Reviews: A star from Kirkus
Misc: You can see a whole mess of spreads from the book over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Howdy, folks. I have news for you. Did you have any idea that a children’s literature online show called KidLit TV was in the works? Nor did I until I stopped by Roxie Munroe’s studio the other day. She informed me that man-about-town Rocco Staino had been by with an honest-to-goodness film crew to talk to her about this new series. Calling itself, “The video resource for the greater kidlit community” it’s launching this fall. Here’s the first video so far:
Okay. I admit it. I’m a sucker for cute kids. Thank goodness they don’t do many lemonade stands in my neighborhood or I’d be without a dime in my pocket. So when I saw this video about the Dr. Seuss Wants You! Indiegogo campaign, I was hooked. These gals are trying to raise funds so that their school library can have its very own librarian. Resist their cuteness if you can!
Thanks to AL Direct for the link.
You know what I love? Shakespeare. You know what I love even more than Shakespeare? Graphic novels. You know what I love even more than Shakespeare and graphic novels? Book trailers. Now all three of the things I love have combined in this trailer for The Stratford Zoo Presents MacBeth. I have read and loved the book (Lady MacBeth as a spotted animal = brilliance). Originally premiering on Watch. Connect. Read., do be so good as to enjoy it.
Many of you have probably seen this but the IKEA BookBook ad is rather charming.
Which, in turn, is not too dissimilar from this faux Amazon Prime Air Launch ad.
Thanks to Michael Stusser for the link.
Ooo. Lisa Von Drasek! Now that she’s moved to Minnesota (I am not even kidding when I say how envious I am) I don’t get to see her around and about anymore. Fortunately somebody out there (U of M, presumably) did this kickin’ recording of her conversation with Kate DiCamillo. For those of you more familiar with Kate, come for the DiCamillo, stay for the Von Drasek.
By the way, this is the first I’ve ever heard of IFLA. Anyone else out there feel as out of it as me?
Good old Ed Spicer. Not only does he come out for every book signing I do in Michigan but he records my blabberings and puts them online. This recent posting went up in conjunction with Wild Things but was filmed several years ago. If you’re interested in me with the talkety talk, enjoy.
As for today’s Off-Topic Video, I am thoroughly indebted to Dan Santat. It’s the final ceremony of Star Wars done without the soundtrack. As my friend Dan McCoy said of it, “Over and above the comedy, this actually let me see Star Wars with new eyes, for the first time in decades, which is amazing.”
Many thanks to Dan Santat for the vid.
COLUMBUS CHILDREN’S BOOK FESTIVAL RETURNS SEPTEMBER 20
Authors, Illustrators and More to be Featured at Free Outdoor Event at the Columbus Public Library
(Columbus, GA) – The long-awaited Second Annual Columbus Children’s Book Festival returns to the grounds of the Columbus Public Library on Macon Road on Saturday, September 20th.
The event is free and open to the public.
The first event, held in 2013, brought thousands to the Library on a rain-soaked day to see authors such as R. L. Stine and Jane O’Connor.
This year’s Festival promises to be even bigger with well-known authors, illustrators and entertainers coming to town for free presentations and autograph sessions that are designed for the whole family. Books will be for sale, as will food, beverages and snacks.
Complete event information, including author and performer schedules can be found on the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries’ website www.cvlga.org. Interested parties may also contact the Library at 706-243-2669.
FEATURED AUTHORS AND ILLUSTRATORS (detailed biographies at the end of this release)
The featured authors and illustrators represent some of the most famous and most highly-regarded talent working in the field of children’s literature and entertainment, including:
· Famed Muppeteer Caroll Spinney who has portrayed Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch in over 4,000 episodes of Sesame Street.
· Christopher Paul Curtis, the iconic author of the young adult classic The Watson’s Go To Birmingham – 1963 and other novels.
· Alyssa Satin Capucilli, creator of everybody’s favorite puppy Biscuit and author of over 100 books for children.
· Acclaimed international storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy, author of The Library Dragon and Martina the Beautiful Cockroach.
· Michael P. White, award-winning artist and illustrator of The Library Dragon and Harriet’s Horrible Hair Day.
· Galactic Quest Comic Books featuring Sonic the Hedgehog artist Tracey Yardley and Herocats creators Kyle Puttkammer and Marcus Williams.
MEET AND GREET WITH THOMAS & FRIENDSTM
A very special Meet & Greet will take place when Thomas & Friends™ pull into the station. Bring your friends and family, and don’t miss the opportunity to meet Everyone’s favorite No. 1 blue engine, and get your photo taken! Be sure to bring your camera to capture the special day.
ENTERTAINMENT AND OTHER EVENTS
Joining the Festivities will be entertainers such as Adam the Juggler, All Hands Productions Puppet Theatre, storyteller Mama Koku and Molly the Clown. Jubilee Farms Petting Zoo will be in operation onsite from 10:30am-12:30pm. There will also be character greetings from Biscuit, Where the Wild Things Are Monster, Skippyjon Jones and The Very Hungry Caterpillar throughout the day.
Additional activities during the event include Craft-O-Mania, a series of craft projects for children inspired by the Festival authors, and the Simple Steps Garden, an area of play, reading and crafts for babies, toddlers and the pre-schoolers.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
The Festival will run from 10:00am to 4:00pm on Saturday, September 20th. The event will happen rain or shine.
The Festival kicks off with an opening ceremony at 10:45am awarding area students who participated in the annual Children’s Book Festival Young Writers Contest.
The author’s appearances will be as follows. All authors will appear in the Festival Main Event Tent located on the front lawn of the Library, with autograph sessions immediately following their presentations:
11:00am CAROLL SPINNEY
12noon ALYSSA SATIN CAPUCILLI
1:00pm CHRISTOPHER PAUL CURTIS
2:00pm CARMEN AGRA DEEDY
3:00pm MICHAEL P. WHITE
Thomas and FriendsTM will be greeting fans at 10:30am, 12:30pm and 2:30pm in the Library Auditorium.
Galactic Quest Comics will have their own tent and will be meeting fans throughout the day.
FRIENDS OF LIBRARIES BOOKSTORE
One of the Libraries’ support groups, The Muscogee County Friends of Libraries, will be running the Festival Bookstore during the event. Books from all of the featured authors, plus additional works, will be on sale. This will be a prime opportunity to pick up books to be autographed by your favorite author. The Store will accept cash and Visa, MasterCard and Discover credit cards.
SPONSORS FOR THE EVENT
A wide range of community organizations have agreed to sponsor the event this year, including:
The Muscogee County Library Foundation, Aflac, the Muscogee County Friends of Libraries, Pratt & Whitney, The Housing Authority of Columbus, GA, Publix Supermarket Charities, the Hughston Clinic, Muscogee Moms, WRBL News 3, theColumbus Ledger-Enquirer, Sunny 100, CBS Outdoor, and the Speakeasy and Twelfth Street Deli.
FEATURED AUTHOR BIOGRAPHIES
CAROLL SPINNEY - Named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, Big Bird has captivated children around the world for more than 30 years. A puppeteer since he was eight years old, Caroll Spinney has been the man inside the bird from the beginning. Also playing Oscar the Grouch, his characters have been seen on more than 4,000 shows in 148 countries.
Spinney is the author of The Wisdom of Big Bird (And the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers, an inspirational memoir in which he shares the wisdom that he has gleaned over the years from his work creating and portraying one of the world’s most beloved characters. In an honest and endearing tone, Spinney vividly recalls a life enriched by pursuing and attaining his childhood dream.
Starting with a show in his neighborhood barn, for which he charged two cents admission, Spinney set out to be “a puppeteer on the best kids’ show in the world.” After attending art school in Boston, he launched his television career in Las Vegas, where he created a show titled Rascal Rabbit in 1955. Returning to Boston, he first joined the Judy and Goggle Show as a puppeteer, and then moved over to The Bozo Show where he stayed for ten years.
Since achieving worldwide renown on Sesame Street, Spinney has made guest appearances on many other television shows, always as Big Bird and Oscar. He has performed in specials with Julie Andrews and Bob Hope, starred in his own 90-minute special, Big Bird in China, in 1982 and made appearances in the second and third Night of 100 Stars, Broadway’s televised tribute and fundraiser for fellow thespians. Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird marked Spinney’s motion picture debut in a starring role.
Spinney has earned four Emmy Awards, two Gold Records, and two Grammy Awards. Sesame Street has won numerous awards for its groundbreaking work.
CHRISTOPHER PAUL CURTIS - The second oldest of five siblings, Christopher was born and raised in Flint, Michigan which has been used as a prominent setting in several stories including The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 and Bucking the Sarge. Graduating from Flint Southwestern High School, Christopher immediately did two things: 1) enrolled at Flint’s campus of the University of Michigan and 2) applied for a job at Fisher Body Plant No. 1, a General Motors assembly facility. This was extremely typical for many young adults. Most blue-collar jobs, particularly in the “Jungle” where Christopher worked, were often heavy-duty, hard-working tasks, requiring minimal educational skills at best. The pay and benefits couldn’t be beat, so for high school graduates that wanted a significant income right out of school, General Motors was the ticket.
Of all the various departments one could work, the “Jungle” was easily one of the worst. The Jungle was where the manufacturing process began, various sizes and shapes of metal being welded together at sequential work stations that eventually became the body frame of the automobile.
Once the car’s basic skeletal frame was established, one of the first things to get added were the doors. This was Christopher’s work station. During the 70s, Fisher Body produced three models – the Electra 225 (also known as a “deuce and a quarter”), LaSabre and Riveria. Because the doors were so big and quite heavy, the company set the job up for two men to alternate installing the doors on every other car coming down the assembly line. This went on each night for eight or more hours, about 60 cars per hour.
Christopher and his coworker decided that instead of working every other car, they would work every 30 minutes. This allowed Christopher time to do other things — besides reading novels (one of his great passions), he began writing to overcome the boredom. Some of the writings were letters; others were sketches of stories that, like his character Bud Caldwell (Bud, Not Buddy), began the colorful sojourn which led him to become one of America’s leading authors of children’s literature.
Christopher currently lives in Detroit, Michigan and in his free time still enjoys reading, playing basketball and collecting music.
ALYSSA SATIN CAPUCILLI - Alyssa Satin Capucilli is the imaginative author of books for both pre-schoolers and beginning readers. Her creations include lift-the-flap books for toddlers that feature gentle, lovable characters and easily identifiable objects as well as a series of beginning readers starring Biscuit, a rambunctious golden-haired puppy whose adventures are brought to life by illustrator Pat Schories.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1957, Capucilli developed an early love of books, and looked forward to weekly trips to the library with her mother and sisters. “I could hardly wait to choose a special book from all of the books that lined the shelves,” she once recalled to Something about the Author (SATA ). “As a matter of fact, my sisters and I would often play library at home! We would take turns pretending to be the librarian, and we would recommend books to each other, check them out, and tell each other to ‘SSSSHHH!’” Among Capucilli’s favorite authors were Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, and Beverly Cleary, whose stories about Henry and his dog, Ribsy, she loved. “The funny thing was, although I loved to imagine myself as different characters in books,” Capucilli added, “I never imagined that the authors who created them were real people!”
Capucilli’s first published book was Peekaboo Bunny, a lift-the-flap book published in 1994. Illustrated by Mary Melcher, the book helps small children navigate in a garden, and it was popular enough to prompt a sequel, Peekaboo Bunny Friends in the Snow.
Capucilli introduced a new character to young readers in Biscuit. A small, soft-eared, lovable puppy the color of freshly baked, golden biscuits, Capucilli’s Biscuit bounds into the life of a young girl, quickly becoming her best friend as she interprets his “Woof, Woof” to mean many things. From wanting a small snack before bedtime to being tucked in snugly under layers of blankets, the activities of Biscuit and his young owner are depicted in “oodles of contextual clues,” easy-to-read sentences, and “repetitive word and phrases,” according to School Library Journal reviewer Gale W. Sherman. “I find that inspiration for stories and characters comes from so many places: our memories, our family, our friends, our pets, our own observations and our own wonderings,” Capucilli explained. “I first got the idea to write about … Biscuit after watching my daughter dog-sit a neighbor’s huge golden retriever! But deep inside, I think that the ‘Biscuit’ stories are really about that puppy I always imagined I would someday have, from when I was a young girl, reading and dreaming.”
The Biscuit books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies in many formats throughout the world. She is also the author of dozens of other books, including the popular Katy Duck series.
CARMEN AGRA DEEDY - Carmen Agra Deedy has been writing for children for over two decades. Born in Havana, Cuba, she came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1964. She grew up in Decatur, Georgia, where she lives today.
Deedy began writing as a young mother and storyteller whose NPR commentaries on All Things Considered were collected and released under the title, Growing Up Cuban In Decatur, Georgia. The pithy collection of twelve stories soon garnered awards, among them a 1995 Publishers Weekly Best Audio (Adult Storytelling) and a 1996 Parents’ Choice Gold Award.
Her children’s books have won numerous awards.
The Library Dragon received various children’s state book awards and has sold near half a million copies. In 2003 the book was her home state’s choice to represent Georgia at the Library of Congress’s National Book Festival.
The Yellow Star was the recipient of the 2001 Jane Addams Peace Association Book Award (Honor), presented to Ms. Deedy at the United Nations by Mrs. Kofi Annan. It also received the 2001 Christopher Award, the 2000 Parent’s Choice Gold Award, the 2001 Bologna Ragazzi Award (for best international children’s book), the 2002 WOW Award (National Literary Association of England), among other notable awards and honors. It has been translated to over a dozen languages.
Martina the Beautiful Cockroach was presented with the 2008 Pura Belpre Honor Award, the 2008 NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Book Award, the 2008 Best Children’s Books of the Year (Bank Street College of Education), the 2008 International Latino Book Award, the Irma Simonton and James H. Black Award (Honor), the 2008 E.B White Award (Nominee), and the 2009 ALA Odyssey Audio Award (Honor), among others.
One of Deedy’s more recent children’s books, 14 Cows for America, is based on an astonishing gift Americans received from a Maasai village in Kenya, following the events of 9/11. The book was released in September of 2009 and is a New York Times Bestseller. The Wall Street Journal described it as a “. . . moving and dramatically illustrated picture book.”
Deedy is now expanding into the world of chapter books with The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale. This is a story of deception, intrigue, and derring-do that reveals the unlikely alliance between a cheese-loving cat and the Cheshire Cheese inn’s mice in Victorian England.
Deedy has spent the past twenty years writing and telling stories. She has been an invited speaker at venues as varied as The American Library Association, Refugees International, The International Reading Association, Columbia University, The Smithsonian Institute, TED, The National Book Festival, and the Kennedy Center.
MICHAEL P. WHITE - Michael was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his Associate of Arts degree from The Art Institute of Atlanta. Michael spent many years doing local and regional art festivals before illustrating his first book. His artwork has been featured in many galleries including a show highlighting his book illustrations at the Hudgens Center for the Arts. He has illustrated four children’s books: The Library Dragon (winner of the 1997 Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award, an Honor Book for the 1997-1998 Florida Reading Association Children’s Book Award) and its sequel The Return of the Library Dragon, both by Festival author Carmen Agra Deedy; The Secret of Old Zeb (winner of an Award of Merit from the Southeastern Library Association) with Carmen Agra Deedy; and Harriett’s Horrible Hair Day with Dawn Lesley Stewart.
Michael loves having his dream job — working with students of all ages on how one idea can create a story. Michael lives in Atlanta with his wife, Traci, his daughter, the lovely and talented, Madeline; and five dogs.
Introducing the all new “Walking and Talking” series by Steve Sheinkin!
I’m always on the lookout for folks I consider double threats. In the children’s and YA book biz that translates to mean people who can both write and draw. Take someone like Kadir Nelson, for example. One day he’s doing his spectacular art, merry as you please, and the next he turns around and shows that he can write books like We Are the Ship. Is that fair? It is not! And now we have a similar situation in the case of National Book Award finalist / Newbery Honoree / even-more-honors author Steve Sheinkin. One moment he’s writing Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, and the next he’s drawing comics.
Comics? Comics! Why? Well, in his own words:
“I love to draw comics, and I meet lots of great writers at various events I go to, so I figured—why not combine the two? The idea is to interview children’s and YA authors and turn the interviews into short comics. Thanks to John Corey Whaley for bravely agreeing to star in this first one.”
Is it any wonder I leapt at the chance to host these? Here then is the first starring Printz winner John Corey Whaley (of Where Things Come Back and Noggin). It marks an entirely different way of interviewing some of the luminaries in the field.
For more info on Steve and his myriad works, head on over to www.stevesheinkin.com. And stayed tuned for more of these comics. This is only the beginning.
Not too long ago I linked to a letter Amazon had released regarding their spot o’ trouble (to put it mildly) with the publisher Hachette. In my post I encouraged authors to tell me what they thought about it and they did, but not on my blog itself. And why should they? With all the power Amazon wields it would be foolish to draw their ire so directly. As such, I received one email that particularly caught my attention. Together we decided that it was worth publishing, though it would have to remain nameless. Here then is one perspective on the Amazon letter from a writer caught up in the midst of it all.
“Hi, Betsy –
Per your request for opinions from Hachette authors on the Amazon/Hachette ebook pricing fight, here are some thoughts I wish I had time to shape into more concise/coherent form:
As best I can tell, Amazon’s larger strategic purpose in keeping ebook prices as low as possible — and what Hachette emphatically does NOT want — is for ebooks to become so much less expensive than physical books that they kill off bricks-and-mortar bookstores, making Amazon and ebooks pretty much the only game in town.
As a children’s book author without much name recognition, this is bad for me on two levels:
1. The ebook market for kids’ books is much smaller than for adult books.
Children’s books, especially MG, have been much slower to migrate to ebooks than adult titles in general and adult genre titles (romance, mystery, sci-fi) in particular. Since the large, large majority of sales of MG titles are still physical books, the death of real bookstores would likely be disastrous for MG kids’ book sales.
Amazon’s claims of price elasticity — the “we’ll sell x at this price, but 1.74x at the lower price” or whatever — are limited to the Kindle sales channel and don’t take into account the potential loss of sales from sources other than Kindle. If I sell 1.74 times more books on the kindle…but my sales at physical bookstores plummet because the bookstores no longer exist…am I better off? My guess is no.
I’m also skeptical that price elasticity is the same for kids’ books as it is for, say, adult mystery novels — not sure that 1.74 number would be true for a MG title. But again, that’s less important than the fact that Kindle sales represent a very small fraction of the total pie of MG book sales.
For an author like me without a James-Patterson-sized following, discoverability is huge. Fewer physical bookstores mean fewer opportunities for audiences to discover new writers both via hand-selling by booksellers and display space. A world in which Amazon is the primary gatekeeper is one in which the only new authors who break out are the ones Amazon promotes. Having had one of my books end up on Amazon’s “best of the year” list, I know that getting on an Amazon list definitely sells books…and not being on their list (as in the case of other books I’ve written) means you DON’T sell books.
All things being equal, I’d rather not leave the decision about whether my books get wide exposure in the hands of a single bookseller.
Some other observations:
Unless I missed something, none of Amazon’s public arguments in favor of its position have addressed the fundamental problem with lowering ebook prices — that if those prices fall far enough, the business model for physical bookstores will be unsustainable, and they’ll gradually disappear (or suddenly disappear, like Borders did). Amazon keeps bringing up the publishers’ resistance to adopting paperbacks half a century ago, but a hardcover-to-paperback transition didn’t fundamentally threaten the existence of physical bookstores the way books-to-ebooks does.
And while an all-ebook (or primarily ebook) ecosystem might be just fine for adult genre writers, it’ll almost certainly suck for MG writers. Can you think of a single MG kids’ book writer (Amanda Hocking comes to mind, but she’s YA) who’s launched their career or built a significant audience via ebooks? There are a bunch of successful examples in adult genre fiction, but none that I know of in MG. Rick Riordan and R.J. Palacio have both released ebook-only short works that hit the bestseller list, but those were companion pieces to works that had become phenomenally successful as physical books first.
As far as I can tell, kids and their parents just aren’t discovering new MG authors through ebooks. Maybe that’ll change in the near future, but I’m skeptical — based on my experience with both readers and my own kids, even digitally native kids seem to gravitate more toward physical books than ebooks.
On a semi-related note (since what’s at stake in the Amazon fight isn’t just the viability of traditional bookstores, but traditional publishers), I’d like to add that I’ve personally benefited enormously from having been traditionally published, both financially and creatively. My current book has a ton of illustration, which has meant a lot of heavy lifting in the graphic design department. While I could have self-published my more traditional, non-illustrated MG titles without sacrificing much in the way the audience experiences the story, if I’d tried to do the current book without the help of Hachette’s art department, the results would have been ugly.
Given how many kids’ books rely on illustration, I suspect the art and design support that traditional publishers provide is a much bigger deal overall for kids’ books than adult titles.
Moreover, Hachette’s marketing support, even for less prominent titles on their list, is much more substantial than I can accomplish independently, no matter how much I spend out of pocket on publicists, building a social media presence, etc.
Long story short, I’m on Hachette’s side. It may be that physical books and bricks-and-mortar bookstores are doomed over the long run, but as a non-prominent writer of middle grade kids’ books, anything that extends their lifespan — and keeps not just bookstores but traditional publishers healthy — seems to be good for me as an author.
As someone once said (was it a French guy? I can’t remember) — I apologize for not having the time to write you a shorter letter.”
A message for school librarians: ALA is now accepting applications for the 2015 Sara Jaffarian Award. The award recognizes K-8 schools for exceptional programming in social studies, poetry, drama, art, language arts, culture, or other humanities subjects.
Apply by Dec. 15 at www.ala.org/jaffarianaward. More information below.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
ALA Public Programs Office
CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office is now accepting nominations for the 2015 Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award for Exemplary Humanities Programming.
School libraries, public or private, that served children in grades K-8 and conducted humanities programs during the 2013-14 school year are eligible. The winning library will receive $5,000.
Applications, award guidelines and a list of previous winners are available at www.ala.org/jaffarianaward. Nominations must be received by Dec. 15, 2014. School librarians are encouraged to self-nominate.
Applicant libraries must have conducted a humanities program or program series during the prior school year (2013-14). The humanities program can be focused in many subject areas, including social studies, poetry, drama, art, music, language arts, foreign language and culture. Programs should focus on broadening perspectives and helping students understand the wider world and their place in it. They should be initiated and coordinated by the school librarian and exemplify the role of the library program in advancing the overall educational goals of the school.
Named after the late Sara Jaffarian, a school librarian and longtime ALA member, ALA’s Jaffarian Award was established in 2006 to recognize and promote excellence in humanities programming in elementary and middle school libraries. It is presented annually by the ALA Public Programs Office in cooperation with the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). The award is selected annually by a committee comprising members of the ALA Public and Cultural Programs Advisory Committee (PCPAC), AASL and the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC).
Funding for the Jaffarian Award is provided by ALA’s Cultural Communities Fund (CCF). In 2003, a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities kick-started a campaign to secure the future of libraries as cultural destinations within the community. Since then, CCF has grown to more than $1.7 million, serving libraries as they serve their communities through the highest quality arts and humanities programs. To contribute to CCF, visit www.ala.org/ccf.
About the ALA Public Programs Office
ALA’s Public Programs Office provides leadership, resources, training and networking opportunities that help thousands of librarians nationwide develop and host cultural programs for adult, young adult and family audiences. The mission of the ALA Public Programs Office is to promote cultural programming as an essential part of library service in all types of libraries. Projects include book and film discussion series, literary and cultural programs featuring authors and artists, professional development opportunities and traveling exhibitions. School, public, academic and special libraries nationwide benefit from the office’s programming initiatives.
About the American Association of School Librarians
The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.
About the American Library Association
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 57,000 members in academic, public, school, government and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.
By: Betsy Bird
Blog: A Fuse #8 Production
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Best Books of 2014
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Now we’re in the thick of it. Do you hear that? That is the clicking ticking sound of the reanimation of the Heavy Medal and Calling Caldecott blogs. They’re a little groggy right now, trying to get their bearings, figuring out which foot to try first. But don’t be fooled by their initial speed. Very soon they’ll be acting like well-oiled machines, debating and comparing and contrasting like it’s nobody’s business. But why let them have all the fun? Time for a little predicting on my end as well! I’ve been discussing these books with folks all year and through our debates I’m getting a better sense of the titles that are more likely than others to make it in the end. So, with the inclusion of some fall books, here’s the latest roster of predictions. Please note that as the year goes on I tend to drop books off my list more than I add them. This is also my penultimate list. The final will appear in December.
2015 Newbery Predictions
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
It’s so satisfying when you like a book and then find that everyone else likes it too. This was the very first book I mentioned in this year’s Spring Prediction Edition of Newbery/Caldecott 2015 and nothing has shaken my firm belief that it is extraordinary. It balances out kid-friendly plotting with literary acumen. It asks big questions while remaining down-to-earth. And yes, it’s dark. 2014 is a dark year. It’ll be compared to Doll Bones, which is not the worst thing in the world. I could see this one making it to the finish line. I really could.
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
You know what? I’m sticking by this one. Graff’s novel has the ability to create hardcore reader fans, even though it has a very seemingly simple premise. It’s librarian-bait to a certain extent (promoting a kid who likes to read Captain Underpants will do that) but I don’t think it’s really pandering or anything. It’s also not a natural choice for the Newbery, preferring subtlety over literary largess. I’m keeping it in mind for now.
West of the Moon by Margi Preus
Notable if, for no other reason, the fact that Nina Lindsay and I agree on it and we rarely agree on anything. As it happens, this is a book I’ve been noticing a big backlash against. It sports a complex and unlikeable heroine, which can prove difficult when assessing its merits. She makes hard, often bad, choices. But personally I feel that even if you dislike who she becomes, you still root for her to win. Isn’t that worth something? Other folks find the blending of historical fiction and fantasy unnerving. I find it literary. You be the judge.
Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson
I could write out yet another defense of this remarkable novel, but I think I’ll let N.D. Wilson do the talking for me instead:
brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The frontrunner. This is Woodson’s year and we’re just living in it. I’m waiting to hear the concentrated objections to this book. Waiting because I’m having a hard time fathoming what they might be. One librarian I spoke too complained it was too long. Can’t agree myself, but I noted her comment. Other than that, nobody disagrees that it’s distinguished. As distinguished as distinguished can be, really. If it doesn’t get the gold (look at all the nice sky-space where you could fit in a medal!) I will go on a small rampage.
Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon
Betcha didn’t see that one coming. You were probably expecting a discussion of Revolution or A Snicker of Magic or something, right? Well darling, I’ll confess something to you. I like simple books. Reeeeally simple books. Books so simple that they cross an invisible line and become remarkably complex. I like books that give you something to talk about for long periods of time. That’s where Hanlon’s easy chapter book comes in. What do I find distinguished about this story? I find the emotional resonance and sheer honesty of the enterprise entirely surprising and extraordinary. And speaking of out-there nominations . . .
Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers
Face facts. Jeffers is a risky Caldecott bid, even when he’s at his best. The man does do original things (This Moose Belongs to Me was probably his best bet since moving to America, though I’d argue that Stuck was the best overall) but his real strength actually lies in his writing. The man’s brain is twisted in all the right places, so when you see a book as beautifully written as this one you have to forgive yourself for wanting to slap medals all over it, left and right. A picture book winning a Newbery is not unheard of in this day and age, but it requires a committee that thinks in the same way. I don’t know this year’s committee particularly well. I can’t say what they will or will not think. All I do know is that this book deserves recognition.
Let the record show that the ONLY reason I am not including The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos in this list is because it does require a bit of familiarity with the other books in the series. I struggle with that knowledge since it’s long been a dream of mine to see a Joey Pigza book with the Newbery gold and this is our last possible chance to do just that. Likewise, I’m not including The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis only because knowledge of Elijah of Buxton makes for a stronger ending to the tale But both books are true contenders in every other way.
And now for the more difficult discussions (because clearly Newbery is a piece of cake….. hahahahahahahaha!!! <—- maniacal laughter)
2015 Caldecott Predictions
Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, ill. Jonathan Bean
I only recently discovered that if you take the jacket off of this book and look at it from left to right you get to see the entire story play out, end to end. What other illustrator goes for true emotion on the bloody blooming jacket of their books? Bean is LONG overdue for Caldecott love. He’s gotten Boston Globe-Horn Book love and Ezra Jack Keats Award love but at this moment in time it’s downright bizarre that he hasn’t a Caldecott or two to his name. Hoping this book will change all that.
A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey, ill. Floyd Cooper
I’m sticking with Floyd here. The man’s paid his dues. This book does some truly lovely things. It’s going to have to deal with potentially running into people who just don’t care for his style. It’s a distinctive one and not found anywhere else, but I know a certain stripe of gatekeeper doesn’t care for it. It’s also one of three African-American ballerina books this year (Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer by Michaela and Elaine DePrince, ill. Frank Morrison and Firebird by Misty Copeland, ill. Christopher Myers anyone?) but is undeniably the strongest.
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, photographs by Tim O’Meara
People don’t like it when a book doesn’t fall into their preexisting prescribed notions of what a book should do. Folks look at the cover and title of this book and think “picture book biography”. When they don’t get that, they get mad. I’ve heard complaints about the sparse text and lack of nonfiction elements. Yet for all that, nobody can say a single word against the art. “Stunning” only begins to encompass it. I think that if you can detach your mind from thinking of the book as a story, you do far better with it. Distinguished art? You better believe it, baby.
Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman
Seriously, look me in the eye and explain to me how this isn’t everybody’s #1 Caldecott choice. Right here. In the eye.
Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk
What can I say that I haven’t said a hundred times before? I’ve heard vague whines from folks who don’t care for this art style. *sigh* It happens. I’ll just turn everything over to the author for her perspective on the story behind the story then.
Remy and Lulu by Kevin Hawkes and Hannah E. Harrison
Okay, try to think of a precedent for this one. Let’s say this book won the Caldecott gold. That would mark the very first time in the HISTORY of the award itself that two unmarried artists got a medal for their work, yes? And yet the book couldn’t exist without the two of them working in tandem. Remy and Lulu is an excellent example of a book that I dismissed on an initial reading, yet found myself returning to again and again and again later. And admit it. The similarities in some ways to Officer Buckle and Gloria can only help it, right?
I don’t think I gave this book adequate attention the first time I read it through.
Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray, ill. Kenard Pak
I heard an artist once criticize the current trend where picture book illustrators follow so closely in the footsteps of Jon Klassen. And you could be forgiven for thinking that animator Kenard Pak is yet another one of these. Yet when you look at this book, this remarkable little piece of nonfiction, you see how the textured watercolors are more than simply Klassen-esque. Pak’s art is delightful and original and downright keen. Can you say as much for many other books?
This is one of those years where the books I’m looking at have NOTHING to do with the books that other folks are looking at. For example, when I look at the list of books being considered at Calling Caldecott, I am puzzled. Seems to me it would make more sense to mention Blue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes, Go to Sleep, Little Farm by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, or Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg by Debi Gliori (wait . . . she’s Scottish and therefore ineligible?! Doggone the doggity gones . . .).
For additional thoughts, be sure to check out the Goodreads lists of Newbery 2015 and Caldecott 2015 to see what the masses prefer this year.
So! What did I miss?
By: Betsy Bird
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At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Trasures of Mawangdui
By Christine Liu-Perkins
On shelves now
When I say the word “mummy” what springs into your mind? Movies starring Brendan Fraser? Egypt and scarabs and rolls of crumbling papyrus? Absolutely. But what if I told you that recently the best-preserved mummy in the world was found? And what if I told you that not only was she a woman, not only was she surrounded by treasure, but she was also Chinese. Now I’ve known about mummies in South America and frozen on mountains. I know about bog bodies and bodies that were dried out naturally in deserts. But I had no idea that there even was such a thing as a Chinese mummy. In At Home in Her Tomb author Christine Liu-Perkins breaks everything down for you, bringing us a story that’s part forensics, part history, part family story, and all interesting.
Same old story. One minute you’re happily munching muskmelons. The next you’re dead and your corpse has been interred with miniature servants, silk paintings, scrolls, and countless other treasures. And the story might stop right there, except that in two thousand or so years nothing changes. Your body does not rot. Your treasures stay complete and unchanging. So when archaeologists excavated the tomb of Lady Dai, they can be forgiven for being completely astonished by what they found. In At Home in Her Tomb author Christine Liu-Perkins takes you not just into the mystery surrounding Lady Dai’s astonishingly well-preserved body, but also into ancient China itself. A more complete and exciting (and I use that word sparingly) glimpse into Qin and early Han Dynasties for children would be difficult to find.
Why do we love mummies as much as we do? I think it might be a mix of different reasons. Maybe we’re so attached to our own bodies that we find a weird bit of hope in the fact that they might last beyond the usual prescribed amount of time allotted to an average dead carcass. My husband, I should note, hasn’t been completely thrilled with the fact that I leave this book lying about as much as I do. As he rightly points out, what we have here is a bloated corpse book. He’s not wrong and it’s not a particularly attractive dead body either. So why the fascination? Why should I care that her joints were still movable when they found her, or that her fingerprints and toe prints were clear? I can’t rightly say, but it’s a curiosity that kids share with adults. We want to know what happens beyond death. The next best thing, it seems, is to find out what happens to our bodies instead.
There was a time when the television show C.S.I. inspired whole waves of kids to dream of jobs in forensics. Naturally the real world applications are a lot less fast-paced and exciting than those on television. At least that’s what I thought before hearing about forensic anthropology. Author Liu-Perkins brings it to vivid, fascinating life. It’s not all that’s alluring about this title though since the layout of the book is rather clever as well. Rather than just stick with a single narrative of the discovery of the body and tomb, the author punctuates the text with little interstitial moments that talk about what everyday life for Lady Dai might have been like. Liu-Perkins allows herself a bit of creative freedom with these sections. Obviously we have no idea if Lady Dai “sigh[ed] in weariness” while tending her silkworms. To eschew accusations of mixing fact and fiction without so much as a by your leave, Liu-Perkins begins the book with an Introduction that sets the stage for the interstitial Lady Dai moments. She writes how the artifacts from the tomb caused her to imagine Lady Dai’s life. From there it seems as though the historical fiction sections are directly tied into this statement, clearly delineated in the text from the longer factual sections. Authors these days struggle with making the past live and breathe for their child readers without having to rely on gross speculation. This technique proves to be one answer to the conundrum.
Admit it. A lot of booksellers and librarians are going to be able to hand sell this book to their customers and patrons by playing up the gross factor. Just show that shot on page 24 of the corpse of Lady Dai and a certain stripe of young reader is going to be instantaneously enthralled. Maybe they’ll take it home for closer examination. Maybe their eyes will then skim over to the text where phrases like “her eyeballs had begun falling out” lead to the factors that explain why the decay in the body stopped. They may then flip to the beginning and start reading front to finish, or they might skim from page to page. Honestly, there’s no wrong way to read a book of this sort. When you’re dealing with a title about the “best preserved body in the world” you’re already in pretty awesome territory. Credit then to Christine Liu-Perkins who gives the subject matter her full attention and presents it in such a way where many children will willingly learn about Chinese history in the process. A beautiful book. A heckuva mummy.
On shelves now.
Source: Final copy checked out from library for review.
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What is it about the alphabet that gives artists the license to get weird? Historically, the alphabet book is one of the earliest American children’s book forms. You know. “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” That kind of thing. I’m certain someone has already written, or is in the process of writing, the full-blooded history of American abecedarian outings for the young, so I won’t delve into such matters to any great length.
Now every year we get some wacky alphabet titles in the mix. The usual art books. Coffee table picture books, if you will. I’m used to seeing one of them, two max, in a given year. So you’ll forgive me for being so surprised when I saw not one, not two, but a whopping FIVE esoteric picture books come out in 2014 to varying degrees of artsy fartsyness. They’re also rather hugely enjoyable in their own odd little ways.
With that in mind we’ll begin with the most accessible and work our way out from there.
Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
You may have heard me mention this Jeffers title in my recent Newbery/Caldecott prediction list for the fall. The book creates one short story per letter of the alphabet, making it a devilishly clever creation. Definitely falls into the older kid category of picture bookdom, but I’d argue that the stories and art are so much fun that it won’t have a hard time maintaining a child’s attention.
Take Away the A by Michaël Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
And you thought they couldn’t come up with an original concept for a picture book anymore? Ha! Check this puppy out. In it the book goes through the alphabet, taking away a single letter from each word so as to produce a new one. The text reads:
“Without the A
the BEAST is BEST.
Without the B
the BRIDE goes for a RIDE.
Without the C
the CHAIR has HAIR.”
Back me up on this when I say no one’s ever done this before. They haven’t, right? Just brilliant.
Work: An Occupational Alphabet by Kellen Hatanaka
Now we’re getting a little more design-y. The book is ostensibly a listing of different jobs by letter (though, as my husband pointed out, just try and make a living as an “explorer” or “mountaineer” these days). Hatanaka has this smooth digital style that’s easy on the eyes. I did actually attempt this one with my three-year-old, thinking (for some reason) that the lure of the jobs would hold her attention. It didn’t but that could just mean it’s for older children. Certainly there are a lot of visual gags in here that will appeal primarily to them.
Alphabetics: An Aesthetically Awesome Alliterated Alphabet Anthology
by Patrick and Traci Concepcion, ill. Dawid Ryski
And here we go. Your first clue that kids may or may not be the primary audience for this book? Well, it contains a zombie smoking a cigarette (recall the recent cigar brouhaha with The Scarecrow’s Wedding?), a “sultry seafaring sailor” by the name of Stella, and a “hellacious Harley hog”. On the other hand it had an entry on “Gus the gregarious giant with geek-chic glasses” which definitely appeals to the Portlandia in me. This is sort of an Urban Outfitters alphabet book. Looks nice in a small studio apartment. Children need not necessarily apply.
Alphabetabum: An Album of Rare Photographs and Medium Verses by Chris Raschka and Vladimir Radunsky
(Not to be confused with the other Chris Raschka alphabet book Talk to Me About the Alphabet)
Apparently these photos are from Radunsky’s personal collection with Raschka providing three line verses per letter. They primarily feature West European, white kids and Kirkus was down on the book because it found it too snarky. Not a problem I particularly had, though again I question whether or not an actual child would want to have anything to do with this book. Rather, I would hand this to teen fans of Edward Gorey that buy old photos in antique stores for fun (which is to say, myself circa age 15).
Any others I may have missed that are in the same vein? Surely there’s another one out there sporting a 2014 publication date. Surely.