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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!"
Statistics for A Fuse #8 Production
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I will, on occasion, get ideas for posts on this blog from friends and internet companions. Some of these ideas are good. Some of these ideas are unfortunate. And today’s idea? Top-notch fabulousness. It’s actually probably best suited for children’s librarians but the rest of you can stick around if you want. It is, after all, the brainchild of the daughter of a Newbery winner and her Newbery winning buddy. I kid you not.
For lo, little children, there is a fabulous school in Baltimore called The Park School. And at that school you will find what can only be described as the cream of the children’s librarian crop. This is because The Park School is serviced not only by Twig George, author and daughter of Jean Craighead George, but also by Laura Amy Schlitz, Newbery Award and Honor winner for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! and Splendors and Glooms respectively. And they aren’t merely good writers. They’re honest-to-god GREAT librarians to boot. Laura recently sent me the following idea that Twig concocted and it’s so cool that I begged her to allow me to post the information here. As you’ll see, this is a program that would be easy to conduct in your school library or public library (or children’s bookclub for that matter) simultaneously benefiting both kids and great books in your collection that simply don’t get enough circ. But I’ll allow Laura to describe it herself:
“I wanted to tell you, as a fellow librarian, about a little program we’re doing at Park. It’s called the BROWSE-O-RAMA. It began as the brainchild of Twig George. Both of us (Twig does K-2 and I do 3_5) have noticed that children don’t BROWSE enough; they read series, or they ask for their parents or librarians to hand them books, and while the former is harmless enough, and the latter has it’s charm (why shouldn’t they get some personal attention from the librarian, for crying out loud?) we were worried, because BROWSING is an essential skill. You need to be able to go into a bookstore or a library and open books and read pages and scruff through and come out with the right book. (The Browse-O-Rama motto is ‘Sink your claws into the best book you’ve never read!’ (The song goes to the tune of Oklahoma)).
So we decided to have a month-long Browsing Festival. Because I was doodling cats when we discussed it, Twig suggested that the cat could be the Browse-O-Rama mascot, because the cat is stealthy and curious, persistent and fastidious, good at sniffing and pouncing and curling up and purring. So we ordered cat tattoos, and made a big scroll called the Browse-O-Rama Wall of Fame, where distinguished browsers can sign their names and stamp the scroll with a paw print stamp. We started by having kids read wordless books (to sharpen observation skills and to slow them down) and then we searched the library for good covers and bad covers, for older books (because nobody ever looks inside our older books) for first sentences, alluring inside flaps…well, you can get the general idea. We plan to award particularly good browsers by painting their eyebrows with face paint, so that when they go home their parents will say, ‘What’s that gunk on your face?’ allowing the child the opportunity to say, ‘I BROWSE!’ Get it?
I tried one experimental class where the children leaped from cushion to cushion to Beethoven’s Fifth (Scherzo movement) and when the music stopped, they were to sit down on the nearest cushion and browse through the books on the nearest shelf. I have to tell you, this didn’t work too well. The energy that you use to leap from cushion to cushion is quite different from the energy you use to browse through books and I ought to have considered this. The children who got into pouncing were reluctant to browse, when the time came, and the children who became engrossed in browsing were disconcerted when the music started up and they were supposed to resume pouncing in time to the music. It wasn’t what you’d call a watertight assignment. However, nobody was hurt, and I greatly enjoyed watching them leap from cushion to cushion. It’s good to have a little chaos in the library from time to time.
Anyway, the thing that’s been surprising to Twig and me is, they are BUYING this. Two children told me they had dreams about the Browse-O-Rama! They are foaming at the mouth to have the cat tattoos (awarded to those students who could find the best and worse covers) or to sign the Wall Of Fame. And actually, they are browsing. They are taking out older books. They are finding stuff that they’ve never looked at before.
Our real aim was not to circulate older materials (though we’re for this, believe me) but to develop browsers–and I do think the children are more willing to take books off the shelf, really look at them, and consider something new and unfamiliar. We weren’t at all sure this was going to work, but I think it’s working, honest to Pete, it is.”
Betsy here again. What a great idea. As I may have mentioned before, in the public librarian sphere you could either do a whole program around this, or you could get your already existing groups to partake. For example, I used to run a children’s bookgroup for 9-12 year olds. It was a lot fun but I found that there were certain weeks where the kids would happily discuss the books for half an hour, leaving another 30 minutes for me to kill. My own solution had been to grab an array of new and old children’s books and to put them into brown paper envelopes. Then I’d tell the kids the titles and plots and make them guess if it was an old book or a new book. A lot of the time they’d want to check out the strange older titles, which made the entire exercise a kind of game in booktalking. Now imagine if I’d been able to do the Browse-O-Rama with them! I could have honed their browsing skills and given them some information they could carry with them through life.
Many thanks to Laura for the pictures. The one at the bottom here features Twig showing two different jackets of My Side of the Mountain (with the Wall of Fame in the background) and at the beginning of this post was the Browse-O-Rama sign. As Laura said of it, “I like it that the sign is tethered by a cast iron cauldron on one side (the cauldron is full of poems photocopied on brightly colored card stock) and a whale vertebra on the other.” The bookmarks seen here were designed by a 13 year old Park Student.
Thanks to Twig and Laura for the great idea. Now let’s turn those kiddos into some serious browsers!!
Don’t you hate it when you’ve saved oodles of links for a Fusenews only to find your computer apparently ate them without informing you? Fun times. So if I promised some of you that I’d post something and then I didn’t, remind me of the fact. Clearly me brain is running on fumes.
Stop. Before you go any farther I will show you something that will make you laugh. It is this post by my sister on making a particularly unique gingerbread creation. If nothing else the photos at the end will make you snort in a distinctly unladylike manner.
Please remind me the next time I wish to garner outrage to simply tap Philip Pullman. The man has sway. Big time sway.
This is fun:
The SCBWI is proud to announce the winner and honor recipients of the 2013 Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award. Congratulations to winner Eve Feldman, author of such works asBilly and Milly Short and Silly (Putnam) and Dog Crazy (Tambourine). Eve has been a children’s book author and SCBWI member for over twenty years. To learn more about Eve visit www.evebfeldman.com.
Two Honor Grants were also awarded to authors Verla Kay and Deborah Lynn Jacobs. Verla Kay is the author of Civil War Drummer Boy (Putnam) and Hornbooks and Inkwells(Putnam) among others. Learn more at www.verlakay.com. Deborah Lynn Jacobs is the author of the young adult novels Choices (Roaring Brook Press) and Powers (Square Fish). Learn more at www.deborahlynnjacobs.com.
Gift giving to a young ‘un when you yourself are without young ‘uns? Well, this post A Message to Those Without Children is dead on. She doesn’t mention alternatives but I can: What about books instead? Board books! Give it a whirl, prospective gift givers.
The most amusing part of this Harry Potter Swimsuit Line to my mind isn’t the content so much as it is the models they got to wear the outfits. Most of them don’t seem to have any clue what they’re wearing. However, #2 in the Snape dress model appears to have been cast solely for the part and #3 has the decency to look slightly embarrassed to be there at all. Thanks to Liz Burns for the link.
Speaking of HP, we all knew that the covers of the Harry Potter books were being re-illustrated here in the States. But how many of us knew that the Brits were planning on releasing full-color illustrated books with art by Jim Kay? Does the name Jim Kay ring a bell for you, by the way? You might be thinking of the art he did for A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. That was a far cry from that cutesy Harry picture included in the article. Suddenly I can’t wait to see what the man can do with Dementors. Thanks to Ben Collinsworth for the link.
Doggone it. Yet again I delayed posting my Fusenews a day and failed to mention Jarrett Krosoczka’s Joe and Shirl Scholarship Auction in time. Sorry Jarrett! Fortunately, the man is no stranger to auctions of every stripe. This past Sunday there was a big fundraiser for First Book Manhattan at Symphony Space. The actors involved were HUGE and Jarrett was the lucky guy who got to host (he even played Glowworm to Paul Giamatti’s Centipede).
As part of the fun, Jarrett created this cool art. The Dahl estate then signed off on it to be auctioned off to continue to benefit First Book. Like what you see? Then buy here!
This is probably going to be of the most interest to those of you who have an interest in comic book inking in general. Paul Karasik, who is the head of programming for Comic Arts Brooklyn, interviewed Jeff Smith while he (the creator of the Bone graphic novel series) inked a Bone illustration for the audience. I admit it. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff.
Thanks to Phil Nel for the link.
Someday I hope I’m a big enough picture book author that I’m able to encourage grown people to put tacos down their pants. It’s a dream, but I think it’s one worth pursuing. Note: Ignore the contest mention at the end. The date is long past, children. Long past.
Thanks to Lori for the link (and for starring in it!).
We had the pleasure of hosting French illustrator Marc Boutavant at a recent Children’s Literary Salon at NYPL last month. He is, as you may know, the man behind the art of Mouk, his best known picture book creation. There is, in fact, a Mouk television show debuting here. I, for my part, much prefer the French. The intro is just doggone charming. Can’t vouch for the show itself, but dig that catchy rhythm:
Speaking of television shows based on works of children’s literature, I was inordinately pleased to hear that they were turning Michael Rex’s Fangbone into a show of its own. Makes perfect sense. They’ve a fun little video element up right now where kids can vote on the animated voices and background sounds. Enjoy!
Oh yeah. This next guy’s embraced his time in France.
Probably fits in like a native.
I was pleased to see this Steve Jenkins video for his latest collage masterpiece The Animal Book making the rounds. If only because it gives you insight into how he creates his art.
Finally, for our off-topic video, a commercial. A blatant, sentimental commercial. And danged if it didn’t make me well-up. I must be getting soft in my old age.
For 102 years, NYPL has consistently been producing the same list highlighting some of the best books for kids in a given year. Now we’re pleased to announce our 2013 list and all the myriad titles it holds. Admit it. This is one of the most gorgeous covers on a booklist you ever did see, isn’t it?
This was, quite simply, too cool not to promote in some way. It’s precisely touching on a topic we’ve all been discussing for a while. I would kill to go:
The University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies is pleased to announce the 2014 National Latino Children’s Literature Conference to be held in Tuscaloosa, AL on March 13-14, 2014. This exclusive conference was created for the purpose of promoting high-quality children’s and young adult books about the Latino cultures and to offer a forum for librarians, educators, researchers, and students to openly discuss strategies for meeting the informational, educational, and literacy needs of Latino youth (children and teens) and their families.
Featuring nationally-acclaimed Latino literacy scholars and award-winning Latino authors and illustrators of children’s and young adult books, this exclusive conference is truly an unforgettable experience. Authors for 2014 include Margarita Engle, Meg Medina, Lila Quintero Weaver, Laura Lacamara, and Irania Patterson. Latino children’s literature publicist Adriana Dominguez will also present on the state of Latino children’s literature publishing.
Request for Proposals: We invite poster and program proposals that contribute to and extend existing knowledge in the following areas: Latino children’s and young adult literature, bilingual education, Latino family involvement in the school curriculum, Latino cultural literacy, library services to Latino children and their families, literacy programs utilizing Latino children’s literature, educational needs of Latino children, educational opportunities and collaborations with El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), Latino children’s responses to culturally-responsive literature, social influences of children’s media on Latino youth, Noche de Cuentos literacy programs in schools and libraries, creating cross-cultural connections with Latino children’s literature, and other related topics. Presentations and posters can share recent research or provide practical suggestions for current or preservice librarians and educators. The National Latino Children’s Literature Conference is both a research and practitioner conference and proposals are peer reviewed.
Program/Paper Proposals: Programs/papers can be a presentation of research or practical suggestions for teachers, librarians, and other educators. To submit your program/paper proposal, please provide the following information: a 250 word (maximum) abstract of your presentation along with the program title; the name of the program organizer; the names of all presenters and their affiliations along with their preferred contact phone, email, and address; and your preferred presentation day (Thursday, Friday, or Either) to conference chair Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to put “program proposal” in your subject heading.
Poster Proposals: Posters can be a presentation of research or practical suggestions for teachers, librarians, and other educators. To submit your poster proposal, please provide the following information: the title of your poster; a 200 word (maximum) abstract of your poster; the subject of your poster (choose Literature/Media Studies, Programs & Services in Libraries, Educational & Literacy Strategies, or Exemplary Programs); your name and affiliation; your preferred contact phone, email, and address; and your preferred presentation day (Thursday, Friday, or Either) to conference chair Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo at email@example.com. Please be sure to put “poster proposal” in your subject heading. Easels will be provided for posters and additional information about poster size will be provided with the acceptance letters.
The deadline for proposal submissions is midnight December 9, 2013 with notification of acceptance on or before December 18, 2013. More information is available on the conference website: http://www.latinochildlitconf.org/.
Finding books of historical fiction for kids about Native Americans is an oddly limited proposition. Basically, it boils down to Pilgrims, the Trail of Tears, the occasional 1900s storyline (thank God for Louise Erdrich), and . . . yeah, that’s about it. Contemporary fiction? Unheard of at best, offensive at worst. Authors, it seems, like to relegate their American Indians to the distant past where we can feel bad about them through the conscience assuaging veil of history. Maybe that’s part of what I like so much about Rosanne Parry’s Written in Stone. Set in the 1920s, Parry picks a moment in time with cultural significance not for the white readers with their limited historical knowledge but for the people most influenced by changes both at home and at sea. Smart and subtle by turns, Parry tackles a tricky subject and comes away swinging.
A girl with a dream is just that. A dreamer. And though Pearl has always longed to hunt whales like her father before her, harpooning is not in her future. When her father, a member of the Makah people of the Pacific Northwest, is killed on a routine hunt, Pearl’s future is in serious doubt. Not particularly endowed with any useful skills (though she’d love to learn to weave, if anyone was around to teach her), Pearl uncovers on her own a series of forgotten petroglyphs and the plot of a nefarious “art dealer”. Now her newfound love of the written word is going to give her the power to do something she never thought possible: preserve her tribe’s culture.
It’s sort of nice to read a book and feel like a kid in terms of the plot twists. Take, for example, the character of the “collector” who arrives and then immediately appears to be something else entirely. I probably should have been able to figure out his real occupation (or at least interests) long before the book revealed them to me, and yet here I was, toddling through, not a care in the world. I never saw it coming, and that means that at least 75% of the kids reading this book will also be in for a surprise.
I consider the ending of the book a bit of a plot twist as well, actually. We’re so used to our heroes and heroines at the ends of books pulling off these massive escapades and solutions to their problems that when I read Pearl’s very practical and real world answer to the dilemma posed by the smooth talking art dealer I was a bit taken aback. What, no media frenzied conclusion? No huge explosions or public shaming of the villain or anything similarly crass and confused? It took a little getting used to but once I’d accepted the quiet, realistic ending I realized it was better (and more appropriate to the general tone of the book) than anything a more ludicrous premise would have allowed.
If anything didn’t quite work for me, I guess it was the whole “Written in Stone” part. I understood why Pearl had to see the petroglyphs so as to aid her own personal growth and understanding of herself as a writer. That I got. It was more a problem that I had a great deal of difficulty picturing them in my own mind. I had to do a little online research of my own to get a sense of what they looked like, and even that proved insufficient since Parry’s petroglyphs are her own creation and not quite like anything else out there. It’s not an illustrated novel, but a few choice pen and inks of the images in their simplest forms would not have been out of place.
Now let us give thanks to authors (and their publishers) that know the value of a good chunk of backmatter. 19 pages worth of the stuff, no less (and on a 196-page title, that ain’t small potatoes). Because she is a white author writing about a distinct tribal group and their past, Parry treads carefully. Her extensive Author’s Note consists of her own personal connections to the Quinaults, her care to not replicate anything that is not for public consumption, the history of whaling amongst the Makah people, thoughts on the potlatch, petroglyphs, a history of epidemics and economic change to the region (I was unaware that it was returning WWI soldiers with influenza that were responsible for a vast number of deaths to the tribal communities of the Pacific Northwest at that time), the history of art collectors and natural resource management, an extensive bibliography that is split between resources for young readers, exhibits of Pacific Northwest art and artifacts, and resources for older readers, a Glossary of Quinault terms (with a long explanation of how it was recorded over the years), and a thank you to the many people who helped contribute to this book. PHEW! They hardly make ‘em like THIS these days.
I also love the care with which Parry approached her subject matter. There isn’t any of this swagger or ownership at work that you might find in other authors’ works. Her respect shines through. In a section labeled “Culture and Respect” Parry writes, “Historical fiction can never be taken lightly, and stories involving Native Americans are particularly delicate, as the author, whether Native or not, must walk the line between illuminating the life of the characters as fully as possible and withholding cultural information not intended for the public or specific stories that are the property of an individual, family, or tribe.” In this way the author explains that she purposefully left out the rituals that surround a whale hunt. She only alludes to stories of the Pitch Woman and the Timber Giant, never giving away their details. She even makes note the changes in names and spellings in the 1920s versus today.
I don’t know that you’re going to find another book out there quite like Written in Stone. Heck, I haven’t even touched on Pearl’s personality or her personal connections to her father and aunt. I haven’t talked about my favorite part of the book where Pearl’s grandfather haggles with a white trading partner and gets his wife to sing a lullaby that he claims is an ancient Indian curse. I haven’t done any of that, and yet I don’t think that there’s much more to say. The book is a smart historical work of fiction that requires use of the child reader’s brain more than anything else. It’s a glimpse of history I’ve not seen in a work of middle grade fiction before and I’d betcha bottom dollar I might never see it replicated again. Hats off then to Ms. Parry for the time, and effort, and consideration, and care she poured into this work. Hats off too to her editor for allowing her to do so. The book’s a keeper, no question. It’s just a question of finding it, is all.
Now that we’re all back at work (though, naturally, there are a LOT of librarians out there who had to work the day before and after Thanksgiving, and so a hat tip to them) we have time to ruminate on matters that are aided and abetted by ample time. Finding myself awash in 2014 materials but determined to finish reading as many 2013 books as I can, I still can’t help but notice certain interesting trends in the coming year. Trends that actually make me happy, that is. We’ll have plenty of time to think about problematic trends later on down the road.
Today we’re talking about backmatter.
WAIT . . . WAIT A MINUTE . . . DO NOT DARE CLICK AWAY.
Okay. So admittedly the term “backmatter” isn’t exactly a sexy term. Not like “infographic” or “Pinterest board” or what have you. But in this age of Common Core State Standards, it’s becoming vastly more important. Obviously in nonfiction, yes, but in fiction as well. I’m sure many of you have noticed the copious factual notes that are now gracing our works of fiction. Everything from science experiment ideas to historical points of interest.
Actually, when it comes to something like a work of historical fiction, backmatter can be critical to a book’s success in the education and library market. A kid could probably care less if their novel was stuffed full of factual importance in the last pages but for an educator working on a unit or a librarian who wants some reassurance that an author did their homework, this sort of thing becomes invaluable.
What I don’t think a lot of us consider is the role of the editor in all this. An author might have great grand dreams of stunning, magnificent backmatter, only to be told that there simply isn’t enough space. This all came to mind recently when I was reading Rosanne Parry’s Written in Stone. Aside from being just a great book about a 1920s reservation on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, it may honestly have more backmatter than any other work of middle grade fiction I’ve ever encountered. 19 pages worth, if we’re going to be precise, and it’s all amazing and reassuring. Yet if editor Jim Thomas had put his foot down and reeled in this amount of work, the end result wouldn’t have the same power.
Or look at the endpapers of Deborah Heiligman’s The Boy Who Loved Math. On the outset it’s a relatively simple picture book biography of a mathematician and his life made magnificently child-friendly. But look at that gorgeous backmatter. We’re not just talking additional points about the man’s life but drawn theorems and explanations about what LeUyen Pham’s art is doing. It’s jaw-dropping, and in an entirely good way.
Now in 2014 we’re going to see even more books putting, in some cases, as much effort into what comes after as what came before. I can’t help but think of this as a good thing. The only question becomes whether or not the mindset of editors will change and if some of this will become more obligatory than voluntary. Could it also be misused in certain cases?
New Yorkers are singularly single minded. It’s not enough that our city be rich, popular, and famous. We apparently are so neurotic that we need to see it EVERYWHERE. In movies, on television, and, of course, in books. Children’s books, however, get a bit of a pass in this regard. It doesn’t matter where you grow up, most kids get a bit of a thrill when they see their home city mentioned in a work of literature. Here in NYC, teachers go out of their way to find books about the city to read and study with their students. As a result of this, in my capacity as a children’s librarian I make a habit of keeping an eye peeled for any and all New York City related books for the kiddos. And as luck would have it, in the year 2013 I saw a plethora of Manhattan-based titles. Some were great. Some were jaw-droppingly awful. But one stood apart from the pack. Written by an Aussie, Herman and Rosie, author Gus Gordon has created the first picture book I’ve ever seen to successfully put its finger on the simultaneous beauty and soul-gutting loneliness of big city life. The fact that it just happens to be a fun story about an oboe-tooting croc and deer chanteuse is just icing on the cake.
Herman and Rosie are city creatures through and through. Herman is a croc with a penchant for hotdogs and yogurt and playing his oboe out the window of his 7th story home. In a nearby building, Rosie the deer likes pancakes and jazz records and singing in nightclubs, even if no one’s there to hear her. Neither one knows the other, so they continue their lonely little lives unaware of the potential soulmate nearby. One day Rosie catches a bit of Herman’s music and not long thereafter Herman manages to hear a snatch of a song sung by Rosie. They like what they hear but through a series of unfortunate events they never quite meet up. Then Herman gets fired from his job in sales and Rosie’s favorite jazz club goes belly up. Things look bad for our heroes, until a certain cheery day where it all turns around for them.
You can know a city from afar but never quite replicate it in art. I do not know how many times Gus Gordon has visited NYC. I don’t know his background here or how often he’s visited over the course of his lifetime. All I know is he got Manhattan DOWN, man! Everything from the water towers and the rooftop landscapes to the very color of the subway lines is replicated in his pitch perfect illustrations. Maybe the medium has a lot to answer for. I love the map endpapers that identify not just where Herman and Rosie live, but also where you can find a great hot dog place. I like how the art is a mix of real postcards showcasing everything from Central Park (look at the Essex House!!) to the Rose Reading Room in the main branch of New York Public Library.
But the art is far more than simply a clever encapsulation of a location. It took several readings before I could see a lot of what Gordon was up to. Here’s an example: Take a look at the two-page spread where Herman is leaving his office for the last time with all his goods in a box, while on the opposite page Rosie trudges home from the closing club, her high heeled red shoes sitting forlornly in the basket of her bike. The two images take place at different times of the day, but if you look closely you’ll see that they’re the same street corner. Yet where Herman’s New York is filled with loud angry voices and sounds, Rosie’s is near silent, a black wash representing the oncoming night. Note too that while Herman’s mailbox was a mixed media photo, Rosie’s is painted in a black wash with some crayon scribbles. It’s a subtle difference, but I love how it sort of represents how objects become less real when the lights begin to dim. And the book is just FILLED with tiny, clever details. From the pictures and instructions that grace Herman’s cubicle at work to the fact that Rosie clearly washes her clothes at home (the clothesline the runs from her bike to the old-fashioned vacuum tube television was my first clue) to Herman’s bed in the living room, Gordon is constantly peppering his book with elements that give little insights into who these two characters really are.
And that right there is the the crux of the book. Time and time again Gordon returns to this idea of how lonely it can be to live in a busy place. The idea that you can be surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people and feel as alone as if you were on a desert island is a tricky concept to convey to small fry. Herman’s whole personality, in a way, hinges on the fact that he’s terrible at his job as a telecaller because all he wants to do is talk to people on the phone, not sell them things. He longs for connection. Rosie, meanwhile, finds a certain level of connection through her singing gig. Once that gig leaves, her feelings of extreme loneliness echo Herman’s with the loss of his job. Their sole lifelines to the outside world have been severed against their wills. If this were a book for adults we’d undoubtedly also get a couple scenes of the various failed dates they fine themselves on (well, Rosie certainly… I’m not so sure that Herman’s the serial dater type). Kids understand loneliness. They get that. They’ll get this.
The book also plays on the natural inclination for a happy resolution, and the near misses when Herman almost meets Rosie and Rosie just barely misses Herman can be excruciating. You are fairly certain the two are made for one another (the natural tendencies of crocs to eat deer notwithstanding) so it can be particularly painful to see so many almost wases. This feeling is, admittedly, partly diluted by the fact that you’re not quite sure what will happen when the two DO meet. Are they going to fall in love? Well, not exactly. There may be a kind of child reader that hopes for that ending, but instead we’re given a conclusion where the two just learn to make beautiful music together, and in the course of that music happen to find financial success as well. This is New York, after all. Love’s great but a steady paycheck’s even better.
The truth of the matter is that Herman and Rosie could be set in L.A. or Minneapolis or Atlanta or even Sydney and I’d still love it as much as I do with its New York flavor, tone, and beat. It wouldn’t be exactly the same, but it’s the bones of the book that are strong. The setting is just a bonus, really. With original mixed media, a text that’s subtle and succinct, and a story that rings both true and original (for a picture book medium anyway), this is a city book, a true city book, to its core. Author Markus Zusak said the book was “Quirky, soulful and alive”. Can’t put it any better than that. What he said.
On shelves now.
Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.
Happy Turkey Day, y’all! A day to eat large birds, stare at large balloons, and generally feel happy. It’s not much of a post but I do have three little Thanksgiving links I’d love to share with you today.
This post is a year old but it’s just as cool as it ever was. Over at Book Riot Ms. Cassandra Neace listed all the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons that could be conceivably based on children’s literature characters. Anyone who can find an image of the Wild Thing balloon will have my undying love and approbation.
Happy Tuesday to you, one and all! Hope your weather isn’t as bitingly cold as ours has been. Time to warm up with some fresh and festive children’s literature tidbits. Personally, I’m trying to figure out why I wrote today’s headline a couple days ago. I’m sure there was a reason for it. Hmmm.
The recent NPR piece on Gertrude Stein’s children’s book reminds me that it would be great if someone wrote a fun article for The Horn Book that consisted of a systematic accounting of cases where adult authors wrote children’s books and failed miserably in the attempt (with the occasional success stories, i.e. Sylvia Plath, along the way). The article could take into account similarities between such books, or trends in more recent examples (today we have Salman Rushdie, Michael Crichton, etc. and back then we had Gertrude Stein, Donald Barthelme, etc.). So somebody go do that thing. I’d love to read it.
Best book lists are popping up hither and thither and yon. We recently saw the release of the rather massive Kirkus Best Books List for Children as well as this one from Publishers Weekly. Always interesting to see which non-starred books made the cut. Now SLJ announces that they’ll reveal their 2013 Best Books on Twitter. The big reveal is Thursday, November 21, 8 pm EST.
Allie Bruce has two fantastic blog posts up on the Lee & Low site these days discussing conversations she’s had with the kids in her school about race (amongst other issues) and book jackets. Part one is here and part two is here. This would be your required reading of the day. It’s fun and makes for a great conversation. Plus, I love how these conversations help to make kids into savvier consumers.
Oh! And while we’re over at ShelfTalker, they’ve updated The Stars Thus Far. Look at Locomotive! Doesn’t that do your heart good? I completely missed that it was the only children’s book this year to get six out of six. Wow!
Things You Might Have Missed Because I Sure As Heck Did: James Howe guest blogged over at TeachingBooks.net and his post is just the smartest thing. From personal history to a sneak peek into his upcoming 2014 title, this is just fantastic stuff. I tell you, man. Guest blogging is where it’s at.
This next one is just so cool. I’ve been hearing from various folks the ways in which they’ve been having Giant Dance Parties as inspired by my book. But NONE of them quite compare to this party that took place at the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University. The accompanying craft is just brilliant! They even made little roses. Awwww. Still not convinced? Then let this adorable child be the ultimate lure:
Resist if you can. You can’t! Thank you Dana Sheridan for the link!
If you’re anything like me you scanned through this admittedly very cool Most Popular Books of All Time piece and looked to see how the children’s materials panned out. Very well, it seems! And the top of the pops? Mr. Hans Christian Andersen himself. Now and forever, baby. Thanks to Aunt Judy for the link.
My workplace is so weird. Ask me sometime about the day Bjork came to visit Winnie-the-Pooh.
Stockholm’s Tio Tretto Library is so cool. If the kitchen didn’t clinch it then the sewing area would. Stockholm tweens are clearly the luckiest in the world.
Happy Video Sunday to you! I’m pleased to report that I had so many delightful videos today that I had to save some for an upcoming weekend. Woo-hoo!
So I’ve been pretty unaware of this Movies in Real Life series the improv folks started. More fool I since they created a pretty realistic Harry Potter doing his best British accent at Penn Station not too long ago.
Me with the talkety talk. If you are curious about the nature of my upcoming book with Candlewick, co-authored with Jules Danielson and Peter Sieruta, Rocco Staino was kind enough to tape me talking about it at a recent Candlewick preview. I find that no matter where I pause it, my eyes are bugging out in some fashion. Fantastico.
Speaking of Rocco, I do believe he is responsible for (thankfully) taping Barbara Cooney’s son Barnaby Porter (a great name in and of itself) speaking on her behalf at the recent Society of Illustrators Gala. This guy was amazing. I could have listened to him all night. And just because I’m mean, I’m going to save the follow-up video to this where he discusses what his mom used to do for Halloween for a Halloween post. It’ll be worth the wait.
And now, our feature presentation. I like to call it:
BRITISH CHILDREN’S BOOKS YOU DIDN’T READ
AND DIDN’T KNOW THEY WERE TURNING INTO FILMS.
You doubt me? Example A: The film is called The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box but it’s based on a G.P. Taylor novel (I kid you not) Mariah Mundi. A show of hands from all you Yanks who read that one.
Example B: I cannot believe this is happening but I’m thrilled. Years and years ago (2006, to be exact) I adored the Alan Snow novel Here Be Monsters, but nobody else seemed to care about it (sentient cheese notwithstanding). So you can imagine my shock and delight when I was in the movie theater the other day and saw a poster for a film slated to be released in September of 2014. They’re calling it The Boxtrolls but they couldn’t hide it from me. I can tell it’s the same dang book. And after watching this trailer, I already love it:
This one’s oddly lovely. Someone flew a drone around my library (“my library” is apparently how I now will be referring to the main branch of NYPL until the day I die). The lingering in front of the Gutenberg is a bit harrowing, but otherwise it’s entirely peaceful.
And finally, for today’s off-topic video, if you’re not a fan of French clowning you could well miss this one. At least I think it’s French. Whatever it is it’s mighty well done, and not just because the fellow playing the woman somehow manages to keep the same expression on his face the entire time.
AFTER TWO DECADES, LEE & LOW BOOKS CONTINUES TO GROW
WITH ACQUISITION OF SHEN’S BOOKS
November 18, 2013— New York, NY— LEE & LOW BOOKS, an independent
children’s book publisher focused on diversity, has acquired children’s book publisher
Shen’s Books. The acquisition is a new milestone in the growth of LEE & LOW
BOOKS, which published its first book twenty years ago and has maintained its
commitment to diversity in children’s books for two decades.
Originally based in California, Shen’s Books was founded as a retailer in 1985 and
began publishing books in 1997. Its books emphasize cultural diversity and tolerance,
with a focus on introducing children to the cultures of Asia. Titles include the popular
Cora Cooks Pancit, about a young girl cooking up a favorite Filipino dish with her
mother, and the Cinderella series, which features retellings of the Cinderella story from
cultures around the world.
“I am thrilled that our titles will be joining the amazing catalog of books at LEE &
LOW,” said Renee Ting, president and publisher of Shen’s Books. “There is no better
publisher I can think of to carry on the values and spirit of Shen’s Books and advance
the cause of diversity in children’s publishing.”
Shen’s Books will now become an imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, which will publish
both backlist Shen’s titles and new books. The Shen’s Books imprint of LEE & LOW
BOOKS will release seven reprints in early 2014, as well as one new title in the spring:
Summoning the Phoenix, a collection of poems about Chinese musical instruments by
Emily Jiang and illustrated by April Chu.
“We have admired the work that was done by Shen’s in the past, and we are honored to
continue their legacy,” said Jason Low, Publisher of LEE & LOW BOOKS. “LEE &
LOW’s emphasis on diversity, cultural authenticity, and high-quality artwork makes it a
perfect home for Shen’s Books.”
The acquisition comes a year after LEE & LOW’s acquisition of Children’s Book Press,
another California-based multicultural children’s book publisher. Since then, LEE &
LOW BOOKS has brought over 85% of Children’s Book Press’s backlist titles back into
print, with several more planned for the upcoming year.
LEE & LOW BOOKS is the largest children’s book publisher in the country specializing
in diversity. The company provides a comprehensive range of diverse books for young
readers, from Bebop Books for children just learning to read to picture books from its
LEE & LOW and CBP imprints, to gripping speculative fiction for young adults from
I am pleased as punch to announce that here at A Fuse #8 Production today we are showing off the world premiere of the book trailer of Ice Dogs, the upcoming 2014 middle grade novel by Terry Lynn Johnson. Created by Bookcandy, this trailer has everything I love in it. Live action (I’ve REALLY been enjoying the ones I’ve been seeing this year), dogs, and live action dogs. I am a woman of simple tastes.
For more info you can find Terry at her website here or her blog here. Many thanks to her for allowing me this reveal.
It’s official. Should I happen to leave New York City for any reason (I’ve been saying I would for years, but it’s gotta happen someday) and I work for a publisher I want to work for Chronicle Books. No, really. I don’t what it is about them, but I get a really good vibe off of that company. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re one of the few West Coast publishers you’ll find in the continental United States. They have that easy breezy San Francisco feel to them. Or maybe it’s just the tone of their books. Or the fact that they have been luring New Yorkers to their microclimates for years (hi, Tamra Tuller!). Whatever the case, it’s alluring. And so, this season, are their books.
Skipping entirely past their adult section (where in 2014 you’ll encounter titles like “50 Ways to Wear a Scarf” and “The Cheesemonger’s Seasons”) as well as their YA titles, we dive into the children’s books where they bob and glint like so many pretty little jewels.
First up! Middle grade! Chronicle hasn’t done much with MG novels in the past, but they aim to change all that. This is middle grade with a cover unlike any other out there (with the possible exception of Jenni Holm’s Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf). In The Meaning of Maggie by debut author and “award-winning copywriter” Megan Jean Sovern, the book follows Maggie herself. Self-described future President of the United Sates, Maggie Mayfield keeps a memoir of her life during the course of a year. Like Harriet the Spy without the guile, she’s an overweight heroine where that is not the point of the book in the least (name me five middle grade books where you can say the same . . . it can be done but it’s tricky). Unlike Harriet, Maggie sports a fun family, including a dad that loves Black Sabbath and family friends that are bikers. The crux of the novel lies in the fact that Maggie’s dad is diagnosed with m.s., and in fact a portion of the proceeds of this novel are to be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Ms. Sovern’s own father had m.s. and passed away a couple of years ago. The book already has blubs from Kathi Appelt, Wendy Mass, and Walter M. Mayes. Always a good sign.
Here is what all middle grade novels about Hurricane Katrina tend to have in common: They are some of the only books out there to have relatively contemporary African-American characters in them… and the ALL have dogs. Seriously. With the exception of You Survived Hurricane Katrina (which is a series anyway), this has been true of St. Louis Armstrong Beach, Buddy and Ninth Ward. Now we’ve a new book entering the fray and it’s Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana. Starring Armani Curtis (a girl), it follows her from the happy days of turning ten to the horrors of the Katrina. It may be the only book in which the hero actually enters The Superdome, and she is indeed separated from her family for a time. This is a debut for Ms. Lamana, who was a reading and writing instructor in the Ninth Ward when Katrina hit. And yes, there is a dog, but it’s not a major part of the plot. Still there, though. There’s just something about Katrina and canines . . .
Now we turn our attention to picture books, and this one appears to be a collaboration between an Italian and a Frenchman. I know Davide Cali best for this year’s really delightful graphic novel 10 Little Insects, and in a recent Children’s Literary Salon featuring Carin Berger and Marc Boutavant, Mssr. Boutavant name checked Cali. Well, Cali has been paired with Benjamin Chaud, the fellow behind The Bear’s Song, which was entirely delightful. Together, they’ve created I Didn’t Do My Homework Because . . . which features a boy with amazing hair and sideburns that Elvis himself would envy. Impeccably dressed in a grey suit with matching red socks and tie, our young hero goes through an extraordinary number of excuses, one after another, to explain why his homework remains unfinished. Someone at one point said it reminded them of the book What Do You Say, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin of yore. Could at that.
Author Germano Zullo isn’t exactly a household name here in the States, but that’s not for lack of trying on the small press’s parts. Whether it’s Chronicle or Enchanted Lion bringing his stories over, he’s here. His latest, and perhaps most accessible, book to date is Jumping Jack, illustrated once again by fellow Swiss (and one-namer) Albertine. In this book a show-jumping horse has difficulty following through, so to speak. Fortunately he has a sympathetic jockey who is convinced he can get to the bottom of the problem.
Now here’s a cause for celebration: Aaron Reynolds and Jeremy Tankard are doing a book together! Mr. Reynolds, as you’ll recall, is responsible for the recent Caldecott Honor winner Creepy Carrots (amongst another bazillion gazillion books) and Jeremy Tankard is a genius who does not do enough books. Seriously, someone should just force the man to crank out the product. We deserve more Tankard, consarn it! Well, for now we’ll be happy with Here Comes Destructosaurus! (how can you not just love that title?) which features a raging monster. Only thing is, the narrator is talking directly to the monster, taking him to task for his mess. It doesn’t take much effort to see the monster/toddler parallels at work here. And naturally the ending is great. I should say that I actually laughed out loud when reading this, and I don’t always do that. Awesome.
Those who know me will know why, personally, I was very happy to see a new series coming out of author/illustrator Micah Player called Lately Lily: The Adventures of a Traveling Girl. Player, remember, was the one behind Chloe, Instead and has even been doing the odd Hilary McKay book jacket on the side. With Lately Lily we meet the daughter of journalists that travel all around the world. The media tie-ins are already in the works, including Travel Flash Cards and a little yellow suitcase that’s full of luggage tags, activity cards, sticker sheets, games & doodle ideas, etc. Though Lily will travel to different books in the series, these aren’t really excuses just to see the cities. Rather, the books concentrate on just how awesome travel itself is. An alternative to some of those flight picture books we’ve seen coming out lately, then.
We seem to be sliding down down into the youngest of ages, but that’s okay with me. In Taro Gomi’s The Great Day the man behind Everyone Poops shows us “a little boy just having an awesome day”. It’s simple, talks with simple sentences just showing the basics of a day, and has a kiddo in it that isn’t white. So, basically, the combination of brown-skinned kiddo and Gomi the genius is enough to sell it to me right there.
And for fans of the epitome of all board books Peek-a Who? we have an honest-to-goodness sequel on our hands. Peek-a Zoo! is also by Nina Laden and though she took a bit of a hiatus for a while, she’s back, baby. I know my kiddo was a big ole fan of Peek-a Who? when she was a little ‘un, so it’s nice to see more along those lines. Similarly, Laden will also be coming out with the madcap Daddy Wrong Legs (good title) where you have to pair legs to torsos of everything from frogs and gorillas to skeletons and humans.
If 2014 is notable for nothing else it will be notable for the huge SWATH of Coraline designers and creators who have suddenly all decided to go into the world of children’s books. Here at Chronicle, author Sue-Ganz Schmitt and illustrator Shane Prigmore (who was the character designer of Coraline) are coming out with Planet Kindergarten. The first day of school is like any good holiday in that it doesn’t matter how many books already exist on the topic. There can always be more. In this fun take, Kindergarten is equated with space travel to another planet. Your teacher is the commander, your fellow students are aliens, it all makes sense. Ultimately our space-trotting boyo comes to have a great day, so that’s nice.
Okay. So I’ve been enjoying Britta Teckentrup’s books for years, particularly Animal 123 and Animal Spots and Stripes. In Candlewick’s catalog mention of her latest book Busy Bunny Days: In the Town, On the Farm, & At the Port they include two readalikes at the bottom of the page. One of these is Rotraut Berner’s In the Town All Year Round and the other is Around the World with Mouk by Marc Boutavant. Those are pretty accurate comparisons to what Teckentrup is working with here. Chock full of details, like a slightly more European Richard Scarry, what sets the book apart is that each of the three settings keep the exact same view of their town (or farm or port) but at different times of the day. Turn the page and it’s 7 a.m. Turn another and now it’s 10 a.m. Another and it’s 3 p.m. Add in a naughty badger who’s hidden (and up to no good) on every page and you have yourself a heckuva lot of fun. So cute!
Remember “Walter Was Worried” by Laura Vaccaro Seeger? That was the book where words turned into characters’ faces, expressing various emotions in the process. I haven’t really seen anyone else do something similar in a while, but that was before I saw Cat Says Meow: And Other Animalopoeia by Michael Arndt. Basically the book takes words that make up animal sounds and turns them into animals. It’s sort of hopelessly clever.
Following up on the success of Round Is a Tortilla, author Rosane Greenfield Thong and illustrator John Parra tackle a different concept. Where Tortilla was all about the shapes, Green Is a Chile Pepper is a colors book from start to finish. Like Tortilla it rhymes (“Green is a chile pepper, spicy and hot. / Green is cilantro inside our pot.”) this is yet another very rare picture book featuring Latino kiddos. Lovely on the eye. Rhymes to boot.
While I wouldn’t actually go so far as to call it narrative nonfiction per say, At the Same Moment Around the World will act as a nice accompaniment to nonfiction units. Since it shows off the notion of time zones (but not with real kids – hence the fact that it’s not really straight nonfiction), the book follows the everyday activities of children around the globe. Each section begins with the very nice “At the same moment” and then goes on to say what time it is for that particular part of the world. What it ultimately reminded me of, more than anything else, was When It’s 6 o’Clock in San Francisco.
Then we get a little French. The Ultimate Book of Vehicles promises much with a title like that. Created by Anne-Sophie Baumann and Didier Balicevic, the book is part of a new Chronicle imprint for preschoolers called Twirl Books. Twirl describes itself as, “Straight from Paris, curated with legendary French flair.” I kind of love that. Just as I kind of love that this book is the first I’ve ever seen for kids that includes a breathalizer test in one of the spreads. I sort of think that makes for an ideal teachable moment. The interactive elements to the book are lovely, but to my mind it’s the rocket taking off in one of the spreads that makes the whole book worthwhile.
But the most innovative of the books we saw had to be, without any doubt, Presto Chang-o!: A Book of Animals Magic by Edouard Manceau. I might have a little trouble describing exactly what this book is. You see, little flaps (that are also parts of the picture) can be manipulated and moved in such a way as to make a raccoon into a cauldron, a lion into a flower, or a clock into an owl, etc. You’ll have to play with it for a while yourself before you quite understand what I’m saying. It’s not exactly a flap book. More a . . . twisty turney pieces book (no no. . . that doesn’t work either). Whatever you call it, it’s cool and entirely unlike any other book you’ve seen.
And that’s the long and short of it! Many thanks to the good folks at Chronicle for showing us their wares. 2014 is shaping up to be a heckuva year.
Here’s a puzzler for you. See what you think. There’s been a lot of talk lately about nonfiction for kids and the importance of highlighting those books that adhere strictly to the truth. That means no invented dialog in biographies and no invented facts. If you conflate facts, you start getting into a murky, sticky area. As Walter de la Mare is reported to have said (and no, I’m not blind to the irony of not knowing if he actually said it), “only the rarest kind of best in anything can be good enough for the young.” That goes for our nonfiction too. If we can’t trust them with reality (albeit selective reality) what can we trust them with? So with all this in mind, a stanch staid steady trust in the real world at hand, what are we to make of books where the facts are all true (insofar as we know) but the illustrations are fanciful? No one is ever going to say that the Jesse Goossens book Jumping Penguins is anything but one-of-a-kind. The real question is whether or not you think its delightful flights of fancy help or hurt the material at hand.
Without so much as a howdy-do, Jumping Penguins leaps into the thick of it right from the start. Turn the page and here we have a rather delightful turtle birthday party looking at us. The turtle of the hour is wearing a party hat that reads “150” while before him (her?) other turtles pile on top of one another, Yertle-style. As your eye wanders to the text on the far right you start reading startling and interesting facts. There are 33 species of turtles. The largest weighs as much as a small car. The oldest tortoise of all time was 225 years old when it died. Flipping through the book you are struck by the variety of facts. Sometimes these can be incredibly short (including the near non sequitur “A polar bear is left-handed, as are most artists.”) while others fill out the page from top to bottom. Fun, original pictures filling near two-page spreads continue throughout the book. There’s no particular order to the animals, but by the end you feel you’ve seen a wide variety. An index appears at the end of the book.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you end a book. Jumping Penguins is memorable for many things, but it’s hard not really love the fact that the very last words you will read mere moments before closing the cover are, “Panther: A black panther is not a panther at all – it is a leopard that happens to be black.” Pithy and to the point. There is, however, a downside to Goossens’ cleverness. It’s a downside that probably does not exist in The Netherlands where this book (under the title “Springende pinguins en lachende hyena’s”, in case you’re curious) was originally published. The trouble is that aside from the Index, there is no backmatter to explain where exactly Ms. Goossens is getting her facts. We’re sort of taking it on faith that if you drop alcohol on a scorpion it will go crazy and sting itself to death. This would probably pose more of a problem if I could envision any way in the world in which this book could be integrated into a school curriculum. Fact of the matter is that it’s just a really fun, and rather beautiful, collection of animal facts. No more. No less. So while I wouldn’t necessarily go spouting these off without doing the most rudimentary of checks, I think we’re okay overall.
Not to say there aren’t some moments of confusion. In the seahorse section I already knew that the daddy seahorse is the one who actually lugs about the baby seahorses for long periods of time in his pouch. However, since Goossens doesn’t mention that the females really do give birth to the eggs in the first place, statements like “He gets pregnant again within a few days” can prove more than a little confusing. Alternately, I rather liked the longer words and vocabulary terms that are spotted throughout the text. The casual understanding that the reader is familiar with words like “vertebrae”, “defecate”, and “nocturnal” gives the child reader the benefit of the doubt. I’m rather partial to that.
Clearly illustrator Marije Tolman is supposed to be the main draw here. How else to explain the fact that ONLY her name appears on the spine of the book (the cover doesn’t sport any words at all, so there you go there)? Certainly the art here offers a whole second way of reading the book. What Tolman has done that’s so neat is to illustrate each section with this silly, upbeat style while at the same time including lots of little elements that tie directly into the descriptive text. The Scorpion section, for example, contains about five different little drawn vignettes of various scorpions. It takes a careful reading of the text to realize what they’re getting at. The scorpion wearing three pairs of sunglasses? Well, that connects to the line “Scorpions have six eyes and some even have twelve but they cannot see well”. Slowly you can pair up each picture with the statement, but what becomes clear is that the illustrations in this book will not make any sense unless you do more than skim the pretty pics. Fortunately those same pics are also funny as well as occasionally quite beautiful (I’m personally rather fond of the Giant Octopus).
What Jumping Penguins does better than anything else is simply set up an appreciation for the natural world by way of its modest peculiarities. I mean, what exactly are we supposed to do with the information that “A giraffe has no vocal cords. It has as many vertebrae as you do”? There is no practical application for the knowledge you will find here. And that, I would argue, is actually its strength. Without relying on a specific hook (or precedent, for that matter) the combined efforts of Goossens and Tolman present you with something that looks, at first glance, like a picture book. Linger with it long and it’s rapidly clear that the overwhelming sense at the end is that the natural world is an awesome place. How many other animal fact books can say so much? Read this and you’ll find yourself amazed that you never knew half these facts. This is a book to inspire that most impossible of feelings: Wonder.
On shelves now.
Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.
Those of you familiar with the Jackson 5 song I’ve referenced in my title are probably now throwing virtual rotten fruit in my general direction. Still, I can’t say it isn’t accurate. This weekend I am pleased to be a speaker at the SCBWI Indiana conference in Zionsville, IN. I haven’t been back in Indiana since my last college reunion in 2010. It’ll be good for me to fill the lungs with some pure uncut Midwestern air once more. A gal need to fill up before heading back into the NYC fray. While you read this I may be zooming up into the clouds above, so enjoy some ephemera in my absence.
Sure. On the one hand Spain’s reading net, highlighted by Boing Boing this week, looks AMAZING. But while it may work well for Spanish children, you just know that our kids would be leaping and jumping all over that thing within seconds. Plus, there appears to be a gigantic hole in it that’s just asking for trouble. Or maybe that’s how you get in. That would make sense.
Views From the Tesseract has reached its 100th post and as a result Stephanie came up with What Stories Have Taught Me in 100 Small Lessons. It’s nice without being sentimental. Plus, if you’re in the market for good quotes from children’s books, this here’s the place to go for your one stop shopping!
My l’il sis is at it again. This time she came up with a way to create comic book shoes. I cannot help but think that this might be possible with old Advanced Readers Copies. Or YA craft programs. Yeah. I think you can tell that the next time I go to the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet I’m recruiting Kate to help me with my outfit. She made one shoe superheroes and one supervillains.
For the record, she also did a post on how to make a hollow book. If you read it, just remember that the world is FULL of extra Harry Potter 7s. One or two less isn’t gonna hurt anything.
And while we’re feeling crafty, Delightful Children’s Books has come up with such a good idea: a Bookish Advent Calendar. Genius! I may have to steal this idea myself. If I do, though, I’d better get cracking. Start placing holds now. December is practically nigh!
On the more serious side of things, Marjorie Ingall writes great posts no matter where she is, but it’s her titles that consistently blow me away. At the blog Modern Loss (a site for “navigating your life after a death”) Marjorie wrote 5 Kids Books That Go There: The best of the ‘talking to kids about death’ genre (drumroll, please). It’s a strong five. I’m trying to think what I might add. This year’s Missing Mommy by Rebecca Cobb, maybe. That book ripped my heart from my chest and danced a tarantella on the remains.
*sigh* Well, if nothing else, this clarifies for me who exactly “McKenna” is and why folks keep asking me to buy her books. And Saige, for that matter. Alexandra Petri writes a rather amusing piece on what has happened to American Girl.
I’m far less upset about the fact that they’re turning What Does the Fox Say? into a picture book. For one thing, I’m weirdly thrilled that the Norwegian YouTube hit sensation has a Norwegian illustrator. And one that clearly has a sense of humor. Hey! Whatever it takes to get some new names from overseas into the American market. At the very least, I want to see it (though I’m fairly certain it is NOT the first picture book to be based on a YouTube sensation). Thanks to Playing By the Book and Matt for the info.
Today, I show something I may have shown before. It’s lithographs of famous books where the text from the story makes up the image itself. Here are some examples:
Like a bullet whizzing past your ear, I shudder when I consider how close I came to never hearing about Holly Webb’s mesmerizing, charming, purely delightful Rose. It’s an innocuous little book. Doesn’t draw a lot of attention to itself. The American cover, while attractive, simply shows a girl in a servant’s clothing and a white cat while the title swirls about suggestively. The book isn’t even available in the States in hardcover (!) but paperback, thereby guaranteeing that only the sharpest of sharp-eyed spotters will notice it on a library or bookstore shelf. Add in the fact that the reviews for the book have been good but remarkably sparse and you have yourself a recipe for a hidden gem. An unassuming little British import, this is Downton Abbey with magic. It’s Upstairs, Downstairs with a talking cat. It is, in short, one of those pure unqualified delights that I dearly hope folks will read. If they don’t, the publisher might not bring over the sequels and THAT, ladies and gentlemen, would be the true catastrophe.
Think about it a little while and you’ll see how lucky Rose is. Out of all the girls at St. Bridget’s Home for Abandoned Girls she was the one picked to work as a housemaid at the prestigious Aloysius Fountain’s home. Still, it’s strange. An alchemist in high demand, Mr. Fountain knows how to wield magic. That’s not the strange thing. The strange thing is that it seems as though Rose has some kind of power of her own. She can hear Gustavus the cat talk. She inadvertently saves Mr. Fountain’s apprentice Frederick from a misty monster. And then there are the pictures she sometimes conjures up . . . Rose is perfectly happy where she is, thank you very much. She doesn’t have much use for magic. But when children start disappearing and one of them is a friend to Rose, it seems as though it’s up to her to figure out who’s doing it and to stop them once and for all.
When world building, the children’s author has the unenviable task of setting up the rules without letting them override the plot. If you want to write a book for a 10-year-old, you have to resist the urge to go into intricate details. With Rose I sank into this universe like it was the world’s comfiest plush couch. The beauty is that magic is not something your average everyday person sees. It’s solely a plaything of the rich, though it does filter into some of the everyday details. Once Rose starts working for the Fountain household she gets to attend a church with some fairly magical patrons (and who wouldn’t mind having some moving stained glass windows to watch during boring services?). Plus it’s filled with great details, like Frederick’s grandfather who wished his corpse to be turned into a statue. It’s very easy to understand the class and magic details at work here. What sets it apart, I suppose, is how it deals with its storytelling.
It can’t hurt at all that Rose is an infinitely likable character. She’s got some spunk, and I can tell you that as a kid I would have adored her simply based on the fact that she tries to always follow the rules. When she does break them, it’s only in extreme situations. Generally, she likes her job and her position and can see herself continuing on in this manner for the rest of her natural born life. If only that doggone magic would let her.
When I try to think of books that would go well with Rose I come to the realization that it pairs marvelously with Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis. But from the other side of the fence, as it were. Kat is an upper class little lady who has a talent for magic, though it is not approved up for the well to do. Rose, in contrast, is in a world where the well to do have all the access to magic while it’s the working classes that scrape by without it. And it is this detail that may yet prove the series’ undoing.
If I were to have one objection, it’s not even necessarily a problem yet. But I worry about the implications that Rose may actually be from the upper classes and that’s why she’s capable of magic. Webb is as English and the English come and the book makes some assumptions that give an American gal pause. It seems clear that magic is expensive. That’s completely understandable. More problematic is the fact that apparently only the upper classes are even capable of wielding it. This is so well known that even a cat like Gustavus is aware of the fact (and, consequently, views Rose as an amusing anomaly). Now imagine what will happen if it turns out that Rose has rich and famous parents of some sort and that’s why this lower-class heroine is as capable as she is. That’s the obvious danger, but I’m hoping for something a little cleverer on Webb’s part. Since this is obviously only the very first in a longer series (the villain hardly gets to cackle before defeat, and is bound to have a backstory of her own that we are yet to be privy to) there’s lots of time to upset the rich=magic paradigm. At least I hope so.
One objection I’ve heard leveled at the book from other quarters is that the defeat of the villain hinges on her victimized children finding “hope”. Bull. Sorry, but clearly that particular reviewer had forgotten that while the whole “hope” bit served to save a dying kid, it had absolutely diddly over squat to do with defeating the big bad. That same reviewer commended the book for the fact that so much more attention is paid to the day-to-day workings of an upper class English home, and to that I agree wholeheartedly. There is magic in this book, and you will find it when you need it, but the politics of the servants prove to be just as enchanting as the . . . um . . . people doing the enchanting (as it were).
Harry Potter left a gap in our lives. It created a vacuum for fantasy, and for a couple years that void was studiously filled with quality middle grade fantastical tales. But as time has gone on, fantasies have filtered out of the system a bit. You’ll always find a few good ones in a given year, but few give you that same sense of simple pleasure we felt when Harry confronted the Mirror of Erised or faced off with a basilisk. Holly Webb isn’t trying to write the next Harry Potter. She’s just trying to write a fun little historical fiction alternate fantasy world. It just so happens that in the process she’s managed to conjure up a book that feels good from the get-go. Funny and smart, exciting but never forgetting the rudimentary details of day-to-day life, Rose is the kind of book you could kick yourself for missing. I almost did. Now all I can do is hunger for others in the series to come to the States. Do you believe in magic?
Folks, I’m working on a secret project that requires your help. Every year Mock Newberys, Mock Caldecotts, and even the occasional Mock Printz meet to cast their votes about what they deem to be the best books of the year. There is no single source collecting these Mocks, however, so the only way a person might hear about it is if the Mock group has a blog or posts their results on listservs like child_lit and ccbc-net.
I aim to change that. Friends, ‘mericans, countrymen, lend me your Mocks. If you’ve a Mock committee out there that you know of, please send me the results when you hear of them. You can post ‘em here or email me (my email is found my clicking my my name at the start of this post). I shall duly collect them and maybe even make a nice collected list for this blog, posting the results. It’s just fun to see what folks around the country feel about the “contenders”, don’t you think?
Took me a couple minutes to get into this one, but once I remembered the premise it helped. This is basically The Wizard of Oz redone with pop songs. A lot of which, sad to say, I have never heard of. Fortunately I could at least recognize the weird genius of the line, “You’re just a lion on the cold hard ground” from Taylor Swift’s “Trouble”. I’m not completely out of it. Plus you should check out The Wizard himself. A more badass Wiz I’ve yet to see.
Thanks to Marci for the link.
Next up, I’m just a tiny bit mad that there was a trailer for Boxers & Saints out there that was THIS GOOD and yet it took me roughly six months to discover it on my own. Your required watching of the day:
Um . . . may I work for Chronicle now? Please? I mean seriously . . . pretty please? No, honestly. I would work for you. Make me an offer. This video? I want to go to there.
The sole fault that I can find is that they do not properly credit everyone by name at the end. That is a mistake. I want to know who these folks are.
The Scholastic Reading Club blog Book Box Daily has a tendency to produce adorable videos. None so adorable as this, though. Here we have my friend Lori. Short of showing you puppies romping on a field, I could not display anything quite as cute. Particularly when she involves her siblings in her readings.
Finally, our off-topic video. I confess that had Stephany Aulenback not posted this on her blog Crooked House I probably would never have heard of artist Grace Weston at all. This might as well be called “Grace Weston: The artist you’d actually like to meet and hang out with for long periods of time”. Stephany says she has a “Mr Roger’s Neighborhood and Hieronymous Bosch” sensibility, and I see that but for me she’s filling the gap that The Far Side left in our hearts when Gary Larson fled the scene.
“. . . and then the laundry gets destroyed by ash!” *laughs hysterically*
Fun fact. A show of hands even. How many of you are aware the that the nonprofit National Center for Family Literacy has a brand new, bright and sparkling, name? Not I, said the fly. From here on in they are to be known as the National Center for Families Learning. Got that? Good, because it’s pertinent to today’s post. You see, the newly christened NCFL has paired together with Flame Run, a gallery in Louisville, Kentucky, and the result is the “Book Worm” glass exhibit. Which is to say, a range of artists working in the medium of glass brought to life their favorite characters and moments from children’s literature. As they say:
“It is our hope to use the mystery of glass art to inspire the magic of reading and learning. In “Book Worms” the ancient techniques of glass blowing will combine this historically social art activity with storytelling and an emphasis on family literacy. The exhibit will have a reception on November 1 from 6:00-9:00pm in celebration of National Family Literacy Day®. The glass studio will be open and families can sign up to blow their own glass ornaments; a portion of proceeds from all ornaments blown on November 1 benefit NCFL.”
And the pieces themselves? Well they range between . . .
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
CURIOUS GEORGE (IN SPACE, NO LESS)
BUNNICULA (WHICH VERGES ON THE BRILLIANT)
THE GOLDEN SNITCH
AND THE VELVETEEN RABBIT
Here is a complete listing of the authors and their works as well:
TITLE /ARTIST/ INSPIRATION
· ”The Monster Book of Monsters”, by Tiffany Ackerman, inspired by J.K. Rowling’sHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
· ”Pinocchio”, by Dean Allison, inspired by Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio
· ”The Giving Tree”, by Devyn Baron, inspired by Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree
· ”Astronaut George”, by Jason Chakravarty, inspired by H.A. Rey’s Curious George and the Rocket
· ”Green Eggs and Ham”, by John Chakravarty, inspired by Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham
· ”Rudolph”, by Bob Cox, inspired by Robert L. May’s Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
· ”Where the Red Fern Grows”, by Robin Hoerth, inspired by Wilson Rawls’, Where the Red Fern Grows
· ”Bunnicula”, by Evan Lolli, inspired by James Howe’s Bunnicula
· ”Harold and the Purple Crayon”, by Courtney Krammer, inspired by Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon
· ”Untitled” by Patrick Martin, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit
· ”Alice in Wonderland”, by Steve Scherer, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
· ”Hakken-Kraks Howl”, by Andy Schultz, inspired by Dr. Suess’ Oh the Place’s You’ll Go!
· ”Incognito” by Nicole Stahl, inspired by Don & Audrey Woods’ The Big Hungry Bear, The Little Mouse, and the Red, Ripe, Strawberry
· ”Honey Trouble” by Sergio Vettori, inspired by A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh
· ”Humpty” by Jennifer Umphress, inspired by L. Frank Baum’s Humpty Dumpty
· ”Some Pig” by Dorie Gutherie, inspired by E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web
· ”The Book of Kells” by Eoin Breadon, inspired by the Illuminate Manuscript, The Book of Kells
· ”The Velveteen Rabbit” by Amy Pender, inspired by Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit
· ”Burnt” by Lea Pate, inspired by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton’s Puff the Magic Dragon
A thousand thanks to Sara Crumley for passing along the info and photos. If you live anywhere near Louisville, go to this thing. Sure wish I could.
There’s a special thrill that fills me when I get to do a librarian preview of a publisher I’ve never done before. It does me good. Though I like what the big guys produce, it’s the little guys that truly have my heart. Case in point, NorthSouth Books. If they’re a bit unfamiliar to you, don’t worry about it. Turns out they’re the U.S. arm of Zurich-based NordSüd Verlag. They were mostly doing imports but now they’ve started acquiring original titles here in the U.S. Oo de lally. For more info on the company I suggest you read the recent PW article A New Chapter for NorthSouth Books, which gives a mighty thorough and in-depth look at the company.
So it was that Heather Lennon sat down with me to show me “the goods”, as it were, for the upcoming season. And sister, some of these are real doozies.
First up, we’re hitting you straight in the jugular. Leonce and Lena: A Comedy isn’t your average everyday book for kids. Written by Georg Buchner, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger and ultimately retold by Jurg Amann, the book is actually a German play. Reading it feels like nothing so much as a reading of The Fantastiks, which is an odd thing to say but I have my reasons. The story involves a prince and a princess engaged to be wed through an arranged marriage. Neither is particularly thrilled with the notion and through a series of misadventures they happen to flee, meet, and fall in love without realizing who the other is. The play was adapted here by “one of Switzerland’s most respected writers” and then Zwerger (who is famous in her own right) provided the gorgeous art. Since I live in New York and my young patrons often come in demanding plays and monologues for auditions and school shows, this certainly fits the bill.
The ABC of Fabulous Princesses by Willy Puchner would, if you just said the name and did not see the cover, give you the impression that the book is one of those catalogs of princesses. We see these from time to time, usually European in origin, containing various flights of fancy where the likes of variegated royalty are concerned. The difference in the case of Puchner’s book (first published in Switzerland under the title ABC der fabelhaften Prinzessinnen) and those others may be the fact that everyone in this book is an anthropomorphized bird. But as Heather put it, “There’s no point in being a small publisher without stepping out sometimes.” So it is that we read the story of Prince William and his quest to find the princess that will make the best match. Each of the 26 is an alliterative lass. Here, for example, is what you find when you get to Princess Beatriz.
“Princess Beatriz comes from Bogota. She is bashful, bright, and at times badly behaved. She likes bacon, blueberries, and banana bread. Beatriz is a bibliophile and spends her time reading best sellers while her beagle barks in the bookstore. She brings Prince William blueprints of the brilliant Baron Bluebeak and his band of brothers.”
This is accompanied with lovely illustrations where everyone is a bird, one way or another. The child reader is then charged with determining William’s best match at the end. It’s oddly enticing.
Call Me Jacob by Marie Hubner, illustrated by Iris Wolfermann is also originally of Switzerland but I can’t write out its original title because my computer doesn’t contain the correct characters. Now I don’t know about you, but in my library system there are a couple folks who have a distinct distaste for books with that distinctive European illustrative style. Jacob is obviously European when you first look at it, but inside the pictures have a very American flair (whatever that might be). The story concerns a boy named Matthew who wants to be called Jacob, a name which just happens to belong to his brave skateboarding cousin. As his week continues he appropriates the names of the boys who have talents and skills he desires. That is, until the moment he comes back around to good old Matthew. It’s sort of a My Name Is Yoon concept, but without the cross-cultural differences. Names have power, and part of what I like about the book is that it makes use of that understanding in a kid-friendly way.
At the moment the book I’m reading is the third Adam Gidwitz title that was released this past October, The Grimm Conclusion. So it’s all the more fitting to find myself learning about the upcoming picture book The Six Swans by the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Gerda Raidt. Those of you who know the original story might shirk away a bit since there’s definitely a section or two in which an evil queen fingers a mute girl with the crime of cannibalism and infanticide. Fun! But actually, this version really lightens the story without coming across as inauthentic. You are probably familiar with the story of the girl with the brothers turned into swans and how she must never say a word as she knits them sweaters. In some versions she’s making the sweaters out of nettles. In this one it’s starflowers. At any rate, the art is great and the story really well told. I can say with certainty that we’ve never had a really good Six Swans picture book. Time to start!
The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water is by Gemma Merino is adorable, but not in the treacly, sickly sweet sense. It follows a family of crocodiles and the one who simply does not care much for aquatic . . . . anything. He can’t play with his brothers and sisters or swim well or anything. When he gives it all he has and fails he’s left with a little cold. A little fire-breathing cold. Turns out, he’s not a crocodile at all but a dragon. “And this little dragon wasn’t meant to swim. He was born to fly.” Human nature naturally inclines towards stories of outcasts that come into their own. This one is perfect. It sort of reminded me of Guji Guji but it’s a bit better in terms of telling a story about embracing your own differences, no matter what they might be.
Two Parrots by Rashin Kheiriyeh is inspired by a story by Rumi. If that sounds vaguely familiar (parrots… Rumi…) it may be because a couple of years ago Disney/Hyperion published The Secret Message by Mina Javaherbin, which is based on the same story. The advantage Rashin has here is the art. Because there are certain madcap books that just earn my love in the strangest of ways. Here’s a good example. Check out the cover of this book:
Now check out the very first image we receive of the wealthy merchant (I apologize for the quality, which will be much higher in the final product):
Jon Scieszka once explained that the genius of David Shannon’s work on Robot Zot lay in part in the fact that he made the pupils in the eyes of his hero two different sizes. Nothing conveys wackiness better than that. In this story a parrot and his kin must trick a greedy merchant using their wits. It’s charming.
I think it’s always a good idea to wrap-up a preview with something jaw-dropping. Problem is, most previews don’t provide you with that particular thrill. Fortunately, this time around NorthSouth came through with flying colors. This book trailer is your required watching of the day.
Lindbergh by Torben Kuhlmann is German originally and it is undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous little books I’ve seen in a very long time. As you could see from the trailer, a single mouse wishes to escape across the ocean. Cats and owls attempt to stop him but through trial and error he finally hits on the ideal mouse-sized flying machine. The art brings to mind illustrators like Bagram Ibatoulline or Robert Ingpen. Always great to have a new name to play around with. And a new book, for that matter. Here’s the cover:
Thanks again to Heather for sitting down with me and showing me these lovely wares! Spring cannot come fast enough.
Here is how, as of the date of this review, Wikipedia defines the term “punk culture”. Ahem. “. . . largely characterized by anti-establishment views and the promotion of individual freedom.” Now look at your toddler. Go on. Give that kiddo a long, lingering look. Consider, for a moment, what makes a small child a small child. Do they believe in individual freedoms? Anyone who has ever attempted to herd a group of them will immediately answer yes. Are they anti-establishment? Well, what would YOU call the kid who draws on the hallways walls in permanent marker? Ladies and gentlemen the only logical explanation to draw from any of this is that toddlers are, and have always been, punk rockers. They have crazy hair, they create one-of-a-kind outfits of their own making, and they certainly have no problem with loud volumes. The evidence is extraordinary. It seems only fitting to hand them a counting book that displays as many different kinds of punks as possible. Looking for the mildest of subversions with a consistently sweet undercurrent, kickin’ art, and fun text? This punk’s for you.
A single, solitary, mohawked punk of the wide cuffed, purple coated, army boot variety goes walking down the street. He runs into his blue haired pal Noriko, she of the bunny-eared car, and then there are two. They, in turn, meet up with green dredded Kevin and the start jamming. It isn’t long before they’re getting ready for a big show, putting up posters, and getting everyone in town involved. More and more punks join the fun until by the slam-bang finish you’ve a party of twelve plus all their madcap friends. At long last it’s time to go home (even Noriko’s car seems to have conked out) and twelve happy punks sleep the night away.
If you have a toddler you read a lot of counting books. It’s part of the deal you sign when the hospital hands over your kid for the first time. “I solemnly swear to read my child an ungodly amount of counting books until the seas turn a boiling roiling red.” Or words along those lines. And when you read a lot of counting books certain patterns start to emerge. You get the distinct feeling that all counting books rhyme in some manner. I don’t know why this should be. It’s not like every children’s book author is actually GOOD at rhyming. They just usually feel obligated to give it a go. So many of them do this, in fact, that when one encounters a picture counting book that does NOT rhyme in any way, shape, or form, the adult reader is thrown. You want to make the cadences even, but the book fights you every step of the way. Such was my experience with “Happy Punks 123”. The first lines are “One happy punk looks around for his friends.” Even before you turn the page you’re attempting to predict the next line. Will it be “Two happy punks now peer through a lens” or “Two happy punks will soon make amends”? Nope. It’s “Are they at Slobotnik Square? Or Calvin Corner?” Turn the page. “Two happy punks sit on a stoop. They like to watch cars and talk to dogs. Hey, is that Kevin?” You see? Other books have set up these weird expectations and you expect John and Jana’s latest to fit the mold. It’s sort of perfect that Happy Punks 123 bucks that expectation by doing its own thing. That’s real punk rock, man. Awesome.
The art in this book is certainly shouldering a great big bulk of the fun. Nothing against the text. Even without its rhymes it’s a nice story of how one gathers friends throughout the day (without cell phones, which makes this downright utopian to some extent). But if the wrong illustrator had jumped on board this ship it would have meant the end of things. As it stands, the art has this laid back, friendly, colorful vibe. There are a lot of speech balloons and signs that mix script and print words. The very font of the book is of the typewriter variety and is snuggled seamlessly into the images. Design wise, the whole enterprise is a pleasure to the eye. It gets a little madcap near the end but with a premise of ever increasing punks you’d feel a bit cheated if it didn’t.
I also loved the subtle little jokes hidden along the way. On the cover, for example, you can see Noriko sporting a shirt that reads “ABCD & EFGH: Home of the Alphabet”. I’m no music guru. I won’t embarrass myself here by confessing how long it took me before I truly knew who Joey Ramone was. However, even I can recognize when a book might be making a reference to CBGB, the original punk rock music club of NYC. I also loved that it was a zombie running the music store (that could be a joke right there) and that they get their treats from “Ornery Penguin’s Gelato”. That’s not a reference to anything. It’s just the illustrator’s excuse to draw a testy penguin character. Who could blame them?
Since we’re dealing with the folks who created A Rule Is To Break: A Child’s Guide to Anarchy which earned its 15 minutes of fame when the Tea Party decided to make an example out of it, the inclination is to see whether or not John and Jana worked into a little subversion into the story. Did they? Well, I think it’s all in what you want to see. Yes, the sole antagonist in this book is an elephant. But go a little farther into the book and you’ll see he’s not the only elephant on the scene (a nice pink one works as a coat check girl at the club) and even if he were he joins the party at the end and has a wonderful time with the punks. So basically, Happy Punks 1 2 3 is a Rorschach test. You see in it what you want to see.
Basically this is a John Waters film made kid-friendly and picture book accessible. I don’t know that you’d necessarily call Waters “punk”, but then I don’t necessarily think you can slot Waters into any category all that easily. What this book really does is show a vast variety of different types of people, from hard-core rockers to straight edge hipsters. The punk aesthetic ideally celebrates all types of people, all the different ways they want to be (as long as they’re inclusive, obviously). And what John and Jana have done here is show that array, from robots to ultilikilted men to even elephants, if that’s what you’re into. The counting aspect works, and as per all potential bedtime books it ends with everybody asleep. From Portland to Williamsburg you’re bound to find folks loving the Happy Punks 1 2 3 vibe. It’s relentlessly cheery and the kind of book that makes you feel good after you finish it. World of counting books? Prepare to meet the latest, greatest addition to your fold.
On shelves now.
Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.
Admittedly this is happening this Saturday, so your window of opportunity is closing fast. That said, it sounds dee-lightful. Check out what the Bank Street College of Education has on the roster:
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Writers Lab Mini-Conference 2: “The Nitty Gritty”
8:30-9:00AM Registration and Coffee
9:00-9:30AM Opening Keynote – Beth Kephart on the Teaching of Truth
9:30-10:10AM On Reviewing – Roger Sutton from The Horn Book, Vicky Smith from Kirkus Reviews, Luann Toth from School Library Journal and Sarah Smith, children’s editor of The New York Times Book Review.
10:15-11:00AM Breakout Discussion on “Mentor Texts”
Oh, you lucky bugs. Do you know what today is? Today is the first day of Kidlitcon and for those of you still interested in joining (and who wouldn’t be?) you have a last minute chance to be a part of the fun. Always assuming you’re in the Austin area, of course, but I bet that LOTS of you are located in that general vicinity. As you’ll recall, last year Kidlitcon was held in New York City and we did very well indeed with the vast hoards of people. This year it’s a slightly smaller affair, but no less fascinating and fun. Full details can be found here but don’t worry if you’ve missed the opening ceremonies. The bulk of the action is on Saturday anyway, so you’ve still time to join. So go! Shoo! Why waste your time here?
I don’t know about you but typically I go through blog reading binges. I ignore my favorites for long periods of time and then I consume weeks’ worth of material in a single sitting. I did this recently with the beloved Crooked House. First, I enjoyed the fact that she highlighted the book How to Do Nothing With Nobody All Alone By Yourself (notable, if nothing else, for the Lemony Snicket quote which reads, “Every great book reminds us that we are all alone in the world. At least this one provides us with the means to entertain ourselves while we’re here.”) The second post that caught my eye was a transcribed selection from The Mermaid of Brooklyn which I perhaps enjoyed too much. Too too much.
Now some graphic novel news. There are two horns worth tooting today. First, there is the fact that I’m on ALSC’s Quicklists Consulting Committee and we recently came up with a newly revised Graphic Novels Reading List, broken down not just by age levels but by whether or not they’re black and white or color. In related news, kudos to the folks at Good Comics for Kids as well as Snow Wildsmith and Scott Robins for their A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids’ Comics: Choosing Titles Your Children Will Love. The SLJ blog and the useful book were both mentioned on the most recent episode of the popular NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. The episode Making Toddlers Into Nerds is a bit of a misnomer and they do a lamentable job of mentioning any children’s literature that isn’t either 50 years old or part of a huge series, but at least they get the graphic novels piece right.
Questions I never thought to ask until Marjorie Ingall made me: Why do chickens play an outsized role in Jewish children’s picture books? The answer may surprise you. Or, at the very least, you’ll be impressed with the amount of thought Marjorie has put into this subject.
This is a good one. Always at the forefront of the diversity issues, Lee and Low recently put on their blog the post Literary Agents Discuss the Diversity Gap in Publishing. The agents in question are Adriana Domínguez, Karen Grencik, Abigail Samoun, and Lori Nowicki. Much of what they’re saying echoes things we’ve heard from editors over the past few years. Check it out.
I received this message recently and figured you’d want to know about it. Ahem.
I just wanted to let you know that ABFFE’s 2013 holiday auction will take place on eBay from November 26 through December 2nd. Please let your colleagues and friends know that this is the best place to buy holiday gifts! More than 50 leading artists and illustrators contributed to last year’s auction and we are hoping for even more art this year. Once the auction is live, you will be able to access it from a link on www.abffe.org.
Me stuff. Recently I was lucky enough to serve on the New York Times Best Illustrated judging committee for this year’s books. If you haven’t seen the results I came up with alongside Brian Selznick and Steve Heller you have two choices. You could look at the fancy dancy NY Times slideshow of the winners here OR you could go on over to 100 Scope Notes and check out Travis Jonker’s truly lovely round-up with book jackets and everything here.
Just as I collect children’s literary statues from around the States (I’m STILL updating that post, people, so don’t worry if your favorites haven’t made it yet) I also like to keep tabs on museums of famous children’s authors and illustrators. You have your Eric Carle Museum, your Edward Gorey Museum, and apparently you also have a Tasha Tudor Museum. Or, at least, you will when it finds a new host.
You may or may not have heard about the SpotLit list, created by Scholastic Book Group with the help of scholars, teachers, librarians, and other specialists in the field. Well, two awesome infographics have been created to show off some of the facts behind it. I like them partly because they’re infographics and partly because in the group picture it looks like I’m snuggling up to Harry Potter while Hedwig swoops down mere moments before removing my cranium. This list discusses what the committee looked like and this list discusses what the books on the list consist of.
When a new library branch reopens in my city I don’t always report on the fact, but this recent article about the reopened Coney Island Branch is the exception to the rule. The place looks precisely how you’d want a Coney Island branch to look. Granted there aren’t any half naked mermaids or rides in the library, but those photographs on the walls are worth the price of admission alone.
Jon Klassen’s right. Interviews with the great illustrator Arnold Lobel are few and far between. When you can find one, you post it. And that’s just what he did. Thank you, Jon.
Hat tip to Travis Jonker. Without him I would have never known that there are TWO children’s literature podcasts out there that had escaped my attention. I need to upgrade the old sidebar on this blog, do I not?
And in the world of grants n’ such:
Greetings! There’s still time to apply for the ALSC Candlewick Press Light the Way grant. The deadline is December 1, 2013. This is a great funding opportunity if you have a project or program related to library service to children in special populations. The application is at this link: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/profawards/candlewicklighttheway
Today’s image may be classified as Best Fan Art Ever, or something along those lines. How many of you are familiar with Helen Frost’s lovely middle grade Diamond Willow? Well, it came out in 2008 or so but its fans continue to find it. Case in point, this young woman who, with her Chinook pet dog, reenacted the cover. Compare and contrast:
Utterly adorable. Many thanks to Helen for sharing this with me
Sometimes you just want to get your hands on some reliable nonfiction. The other day I was in the office and we’d spread out the vast quantities of nonfiction samples we’d been sent from a variety of publishers (all of whom shall remain nameless). And while some things were okay and other things were tolerable, so little of it was of the “Wow! Awesome!” variety. It would be disheartening if we didn’t have folks like Lerner to fall back on. And I’m not saying this to be all chummy with them. I honest-to-goodness really like their books. Are all Lerner books created equal? Of course not! But they fill gaps in my collection while at the same time providing books on subjects it would never have occurred to me to buy. And it tends to be reliable.
So! With that in mind, here’s how the Spring ’14 season is looking for ole Lerner Books these days.
First up, the Lightning Bolt Books series and their latest topic: “Animals in Danger”. We’re talking Endangered and Extinct Bird, Endangered and Extinct Mammals, even Endangered and Extinct Invertebrates. The lure is that a lot of these contain a heartening comeback story at the end of each book of some animal or critter that nearly went belly-up and then was saved at the last minute. I know plenty of kids that have to do endangered animal units for school, so it seems to me this makes for a much needed topic and category.
Speaking of requests I hear a lot, this is one that I wish to high heaven would go away and yet it never will. I’m talking about “character building” books. Books that by dint of even being read will miraculously transform your child into a better person through their cheery texts. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad books of this ilk are assigned to children every day in schools. So while I loathe and abhor them, I am infinitely grateful to Lerner for at least doing a couple decent ones on the topics we’re used to being asked for. Case in point, the “Show Your Character” series. They’re multicultural and act as a slightly older version of Stuart J. Murphy’s “The Way I Act” series.
So here’s the deal with Common Core. I’ve nothing against it myself. Just the way it’s implemented some of the time. But even as I say that, there are aspects to CCSS that are difficult to deal with. I’m thinking in particular of the areas that are required and need written material, but where there’s very little in the marketplace. Particularly in the case of early civilizations. Second and third graders are supposed to be learning about China or Mesopotamia, but where the heck is the series written at an earlier reading level? Meet the new Searchlight Books series “What Can We Learn from Early Civilizations?” Each book is written on a easier level than a lot of books out there, and they cover everything from how these civilizations influence us today to folklore beliefs associated with those civilizations. Plus anything that touches on Ancient Egypt is all good with me.
In the biography part of the world, finding stuff on contemporary scientists is a bit slapdash. The “STEM Trailblazer Bios” series covers a range o’ folks, from robotics developers to game designers. And there are even some women! I don’t usually write out all the titles when I cover a series, but in this case I’ll make an exception. In this series you’ll find the books:
Alternate Reality Game Designer Jane McGonigal
Flickr Cofounder and Web Community Creator Caterina Fake
Google Glass anId Robotics Innovator Sebastian Thrum
iPod and Electronics Visionary Tony Fadell
YouTube Founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim
And FINALLY, after all these years, Astrophysicist and Space Advocate Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’ve been waiting for a Tyson bio for years and years and the fact that no one has done one yet just baffles me. Glad to see someone somewhere picked up the slack!
I’ll confess to you that in many ways this round-up is mighty NYC-centric. Because New York kids care diddly over squat about monster trucks and rally cars, I have chosen not to mention series like the “Dirt and Destruction Sports Zone” series. By the same token, kids in this city have a thing for fashion. Go figure. All the more reason then that they might like the “What’s Your Style?” series coming out. Basically everything from boho to edgy to pretty to streetwear gets its own book. Knowing next to nothing about fashion myself, I trust Lerner to do right by my kids.
Have you guys seen that Blue Apple Books series where you follow a single object, be it a sphinx or dino bones or an asteroid from discovery (or in some cases, rediscovery) to their place in museums? How the Sphinx Got to the Museum is one such example. Well full credit to the upcoming book Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey, since it takes a similar, if distinctly more biological, trip. Starting in El Boxque Nuevo in Costa Rica we see a place where farmers grow butterfly pupae. Why? To ship to museums around the world, of course. What, you think those butterfly exhibits grow themselves? Written by Loree Griffin Burns with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz, we follow a single butterfly pupae, and then go through all the requisite butterfly lifecycle details. In a market where all the butterfly books kind of blend together, this one’s going to stand out.
We all love the Scientists in the Field series, bar none. I love that series. You love that series. But let’s fact it, they’re not the only scientists out there with books to their names. Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman (photos by Annie Crawley) at first sounded nothing so much asTracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion. The difference is the focus. In this book we follow a research expedition studying the accumulation of plastic in the Pacific. Through this story we see a lot of prepwork, including how to live on a ship, sea sickness, cooking, etc.
I’m a big fan of children’s or teen books that do original research not found in adult titles. It’s unclear to me, but this may fall into that category. Secrets of the Sky Caves: Danger and Discovery on Nepal’s Mustang Cliffs is written by Sandra K. Athans. The focus, however, is on her brother, Pete Athans, the mountaineer. Pete’s the kind of guy who climbs Mt. Everest on a regular basis (seven times as of this post) but this book focuses on what happened when he decided to explore the caves of Mustang (pronounced moo-stang). Apparently they’re near impossible to get into, located in remote Nepal. In this book you get to see his discoveries including (and here I’ll quote the catalog text) “murals to ancient texts to human remains”. And they say there’s nothing left to explore anymore . . .
When I was in high school I had an English teacher who let us in on a little secret. Certain movements of the body could be translated to explain what a person was thinking or feeling (God only knows what this had to do with English literature). He showed how showing a palm might mean one thing or where your eyes automatically go when you’re lying. I felt like this was the secret to the universe and if I just knew all these secrets I could rule the world (or, at the very least, become the next Sherlock Holmes). Sadly, there was no book I could find that explained these things. Now Lerner has produced Every Body’s Talking: What We Say Without Words by Donna M. Jackson. It is PRECISELY the book I wanted when I was young. For librarians, this will be the world’s easiest booktalk. Hey, kids! Want to know how to effectively lie to your parents? It’s all here! My co-worker Amie, upon hearing about this book, pointed out that it might actually be of a lot of use to autistic kids or those on the spectrum, since decoding physical bodily clues make up a lot of their existence. Smart thinking there.
So you know how I continually vow that I’m not going to report on any YA these days in these previews? Well, that lasts just about as long as it takes to discover awesome YA nonfiction. After that point I’m a puddle. I melt. I am helpless in the face of awesome YA nonfiction. Probably has something to do with the fact that there’s so little of it to choose from. Or, it could be that Lerner comes up with the BEST ideas for books.
Example A:The World Series: Baseball’s Biggest Stage by Matt Doeden. The World Series has a century long history, so it’s fitting that there should be a book out there that looks into it in depth. It covers everything from the wacky moments (“the bloody sock” may mean something to some of you) to the heroic ones. Baseball on the field has pretty much remained the same over the decades. But off the field? The climate has completely changed for the players. Watch the changes take place here.
Example B:Chasing the Storm: Tornadoes Meteorology, and Weather Watching by Ron Miller. Ron, for the record, actually traveled with a group of storm chasers to figure out how they did their work. We’ve tons of fiction in our collections that talks about storm chasers (the “Storm Runners” series by Roland Smith comes to mind) but very little in the nonfiction department. This book shows you not only how to become a storm chaser, but includes information on things like making your own weather station in your backyard. Nicely done.
Example C: When a big event takes place and you wonder which major publisher will produce the first really good title on the topic, Lerner’s usually the first to come to mind (check out how quickly they made a book about the latest Pope when he was named last year). In Curiosity’s Mission on Mars: Exploring the Red Planet by (again) Ron Miller, the book looks at Mars from a cultural perspective. Chock full of diagrams and images as well as mentions of past and future missions, this’ll make a nice little companion to books like Cars On Mars and other Mars-centric selections.
Example D: K-Pop: Korea’s Musical Explosion by Stuart A. Kallen. This is one of those cases where you don’t notice a phenomenon until it’s pointed out to you. If you’d asked me prior to the publication of this book to name the top South Korean performers out there, I would have been hard pressed to answer. But there’s Psy and, of course, Rain (whom I think of every time I hear someone mention that current CW show Reign). Historically The Korean War was how American soldiers with their rock and roll introduced the form to the nation. Now it’s huge, and has a book of its very own.
Example E: Years ago I saw this great documentary of found footage called The Atomic Cafe. Oddly, it was the very first place where I learned about the Bikini Islands and what we did to them post-World War II. No books in school ever touched on the topic and no textbook mentioned it. Now Bombs Over Bikini: The World’s First Nuclear Disaster has been written by Connie Goldsmith thanks in large part to a information that was just recently declassified. Between 1948-1956 the United States released 67 nuclear bombs. This is the book that discusses what happened and the accidents that occurred as a result.
Example F:Traumatic Brain Injury: From Concussion to Coma by Connie Goldsmith (who, for the record, is a nurse) is probably as timely as timely could be. But this isn’t just another book about the wide and wonderful world of football related concussions. This book has a much broader approach, looking at the science behind what a concussion is and the different types that occur. Since 52,000 die each year from them (not including all the unrecorded traumatic brain injuries), 1.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with TBI each year. This is the book that looks into what happens and why.
Okay. Enough of that teen stuff. Let’s get some firm footing in the world of children’s books instead.
There is a legend that surrounds the 18th-century composer Scarlatti (which, in and of itself, is a marvelous name). The story says that his most famous melody was created after he heard his cat walk across the keys of his harpsichord. Scarlatti’s Cat by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer (illustrated by Carlyn Beccia) follows the legend to its logical end. Pulcinella is the cat in question and she dreams of playing her own compositions. It’s not until the timely appearance of a mouse, however, that she gets her big chance. There’s a nice twist at the end on who gets the cat after Scarlatti gives her away. Cute and musical.
2014 appears to be the year of Mumbet. Next year Harper Collins will produce the young reader’s edition of Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies by Cokie Roberts (illustrated by Diane Goode) and there is a brief mention made in that book of Mumbet, a woman I’d never heard of before. Now in Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle (illustrated by Alix Delinois) we hear her story. In 1781 a slave in Massachusetts just named Mumbet went to court for her freedom (and her daughters’ for that matter). The amazing thing is that she won the case! Here’s her story.
In the past I’ve said that fairytales and folktales are the hardest books to find in a given year. Well, thanks to the efforts of small publishers I no longer believe that to be the case. Now I lament the lack of poetry on our shelves. Poetry, good poetry, is danged hard to find so whenever I hear of something I take note. Lerner has just started the Poetry Adventures series, and they’re kicking off with Brian P. Cleary’s If It Rains Pancakes: Haiku and Lantern Poems. It’s a continuing series, so we’re bound to find more than just these, but they make for a good start. The rules are clearly stated for each poem and the pictures keep things fun.
Laura Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija paired together back in 2012 to make the soft and simple A Leaf Can Be . . . Now they’re back with Water Can Be . . . which follows much along the same lines. This goes through the roles water plays and since it’s incredibly simple (“Water can be a . . . Tadpole hatcher / Picture catcher”) it’s ideal for very early units on water. Basically it does for water what Picture a Tree did for trees. They’ve also paired with Water Aid, so that’s where some of the profits will go.
Poetry is hard to find. Graphic novels? Less so. Yet I’m still amazed that more time isn’t spent trying to find great ones for the kiddos. Granted, the good ones can take years and years to make. Still, there are ways around that. I was then very happy to see a new GN series coming out of Lerner. Tao, the Little Samurai by Laurent Richard (illustrated by Nicolas Ryser) is basically a very young Naruto. A boy who excels in pranks and jokes dreams of someday becoming a martial arts master. My only question? How do you pronounce the hero’s name? Is it Tao or Dao? Questions, questions . . .
We have lots of middle grade books featuring deadbeat parents, but it can be hard to find just the right balance between stupidity/slime and real affection for their kiddos. The new series “The Berenson Schemes” by Lisa Doan (illustrated by Ivica Stevanovic) takes an interesting tack. In Jack the Castaway a boy has two parents obsessed with get-rich-quick schemes. Perfect. Ideal for fourth graders, it reminds me of nothing so much as “The Unseen World of Poppy Malone” series (parent-wise anyway). Oh. And Jack ends up shipwrecked on a tropical island avoiding a shark. So there’s that too.
Last but not least, here’s a smart idea for a very different fiction series. Called “The Cryptid Files” these books by Jean Flitcroft, these stories are of cryptozoology, much as you’d find in Suzanne Selfors’ “Bigfoot Terror Tales”. In each book (starting with The Lock Ness Monster) our heroine Vanessa globe trots trying to finds and prove that cryptids exist.
And that’s the long and the short of it folks! Many thanks to Lindsay Matvick for sitting down with me and showing me her wares. Here’s a long and nonfiction heavy 2014!