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The Horn Book editor's rants and raves. Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996
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||The Madman of Piney Woods
by Christopher Paul Curtis
|No Printz for the princes
||The Children of the King
by Sonya Hartnett
(What Would Baba Yaga Do?)
|Egg & Spoon
by Gregory Maguire
|Slow and steady didn’t win the race
||The Turtle of Oman
by Naomi Shihab Nye,
illustrated by Betsy Peterschmidt
||The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza
by Jack Gantos
||West of the Moon by Margi Preus
|Not its day in the sun
by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm,
illustrated by Molly Bang
||My Bus by Byron Barton
||Draw! by Raúl Colón
|There. Are. No. Words.
||The Farmer and the Clown
by Marla Frazee
From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015.
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Dan Santat is one of the hardest-working people in publishing. This is widely known among his followers on Twitter and Facebook, who often see him burning the midnight oil, and the editors and art directors at the several publishing houses with which he’s worked.
This is obvious in the number of books that bear his dynamic illustrations, in everything from picture books and chapter books to graphic novels. This is undeniable, because last year he created over five hundred pages of four-color illustrations.
This is unheard of.
But what Dan does isn’t just hard work. It takes a lot of guts too, a blind leap of faith that gave him the drive to sleep for only four hours a night for ten years, so that he could, time and again, turn in consistently great work — all while raising two young sons, Alek and Kyle, with his wife Leah, and taking care of a menagerie of pets.
Like Beekle, Dan Santat has been on a journey.
He was born in Brooklyn in 1975 to Adam and Nancy Santat, a Thai couple who immigrated to the United States in 1968. When he turned three, his parents moved the family to California, where they both eagerly awaited the day their only child would become a doctor.
When Dan graduated from the University of California, San Diego in microbiology, he found himself pulled by a calling that he’d had for many years but had never acted on. Rather than going on to dental school, he instead enrolled at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. There he saw something familiar — other students just like him who dreamed of a life filled with art. This is also where he met one of his closest friends, illustrator Peter Brown.
He then sailed through unknown waters and took on many different jobs, from texture artist and 3D modeler to concept art designer for video games, until he reached the children’s book world. In 2002, he met Scholastic editor Arthur Levine at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference, which led to his first book, The Guild of Geniuses. Aside from developing a Disney animated television series, The Replacements, it was all books from there on.
Children’s book publishing is a strange place. The process is slow. It takes a lot of work. And most people don’t get paid very much.
In 2010, Dan was offered what most people would call a dream job. Google approached him, wanting him to become one of their Google Doodlers. Taking that job meant financial stability for his family. It would prove art school wasn’t a mistake. It would change his life.
He turned the job down.
It was not an easy decision, but he loved creating children’s books, and deep down, he knew he would look back and wonder “What if?” He also thought about the example he was setting for his sons and how he wanted them to also follow their dreams no matter how difficult. Determined to have no regrets, Dan became a work machine.
He took on as many projects as he could, always pushing himself to make the next book better. He woke up every morning at 6:30 to help his boys get to school and worked until 2 a.m. He illustrated over sixty books, and in 2014 alone, he had thirteen books published that featured his art. He drank so much coffee that he began roasting his own beans, even creating his own brand he called “Surly Asian Guy,” which he shared with friends, family, and colleagues. The coffee is bold, strong, and a touch bitter, but still quite pleasing — a little like Dan himself.
This grueling routine went on for years, and Dan assumed he could do it for more, but 2014 was rough. Family health emergencies led to hospitalizations, and multiple deadlines for big books left him with as few as twelve hours of sleep in an entire week. He was exhausted, and on his birthday last October he shared the following in a blog post: “I want and expect far too much than what I may be capable of. I’m thirty-nine and I feel tired.”
A few weeks later, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend began to appear on year-end “best of ” lists. Minh Le at The Huffington Post blog named it the Best Overall picture book of the year, and in his review he wrote, “As with all great books, Beekle has an air of inevitability about it. As if somewhere out there is an island of perfect stories just waiting for the right person to come along and imagine it into being.”
Up until then, Dan was known for his action-packed illustrations, full of humor and high energy, as seen in books such as Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World, The Three Ninja Pigs, and Chicken Dance. Beekle’sstory reflected his softer side and was inspired by Dan’s first child, his son Alek. Like Beekle imagining his real friend, Dan had wondered, before Alek’s birth, what his child would look and be like. A few years later, on Alek’s first day of school, Dan eased his son’s worries about making friends. “All it takes is one,” he’d said, just as when Alice finally meets Beekle and his friendship opens up for her the possibility for more.
The name “Beekle” itself comes from Alek’s first word, an early attempt at “bicycle.” There’s a video of one-year-old Alek pedaling a tricycle at Christmas, cheerfully exclaiming, “Beekle!” At the time, Dan’s wife Leah said the name would make a great picture book character. Years later, “Beekle” became an unimaginary friend.
The book began as a very short script, a few black-and-white sketches, and one full-color sample. Beekle had one eye, a hat and scarf, and a story that hinted at journey and adventure. Since he’d written only one picture-book text, and that over ten years earlier, writing did not come quickly to Dan. He took an ambitious approach at first. At one point, the story was a metaphor for the creative process, a tale of how
an author and illustrator come together on a picture book. But then he took a step back and adhered to the old adage of “speaking from the heart.” The minute you meet Dan you can tell he’s a captivating storyteller and speaker, and he soon realized that all he had to do was take those words out of his mouth and put them onto paper.
Throughout the process, Beekle and his story changed. Dan believes that in character design, every single element must serve a purpose. So Beekle got two eyes, because there was no reason for him to have just one. Beekle became even more amorphous, an ambiguous blob, because he was meant to be dreamed up by a shy young girl who thought she didn’t deserve any imaginary friend, much less an awesome one. Like a white sheet of paper, Beekle represented possibility and imagination.
He was also bestowed with a crown; while Beekle was simple and indistinct, he was always a king in Alice’s mind. He got one of the cutest butts in picture books, because creative director Dave Caplan would exclaim, “Look at that tuchus!” every time he saw it, and Dan, ever a professional with publishers, aimed to please.
While Dan took out some of the layers of the story, he added much to the overall design and illustration. The endpapers feature various children with their imaginary friends, each one specifically paired with the child’s interests. In the front endpapers Beekle stands alone, and in the back, there he is with Alice. The case cover reveals a cruder Beekle, as though he were hand-drawn by a child — in this case, we imagine it was done by Alice. On the front cover and in the book we see that while adults never pay attention to Beekle, animals do. The colors embark on a journey too, from the psychedelic rainbow palette of the imaginary world to the dark grays and blues of the real world. As the sun sets, Beekle sits perched atop a bare tree waiting for his friend, the sepia tones in the background matching his melancholy, and when he meets Alice at last, the world blooms with bright color.
Though the story itself took a step away from being about the creative process, the message is still there, on the pages where Alice shares her drawings with Beekle — each one echoing the previous pages in the story. So he got that in there after all. Touché, Dan.
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend is the culmination of hard work and hard-earned experience. With this book Dan felt he had finally reached his destination, which is why, for the first time in his career, he allowed himself a little hope. He thought that if all the stars were aligned, he might be in the running for a Caldecott Honor. That was all he could imagine.
When his cover appeared on that last Caldecott slide at the ALA Youth Media Awards, cheers erupted, and everyone, from the publishers he’s worked with to the large and loving community of authors and illustrators who’ve had his back for years, knew.
Dan Santat had done the unimaginable.
Dan Santat is the winner of the 2015 Caldecott Medal for The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend (Little, Brown). From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015.
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It is Friday afternoon and I’m sitting in a restaurant in Vancouver, B.C. In an hour, I will give my final talk of a two-day visit. In these two days, I’ve visited a number of schools in Vancouver — both independent and public. As I stood in front of each crowd, I was astonished by a thing I’ve not encountered for many years now — being the only African American in an otherwise incredibly diverse room. I kept thinking to myself — “We are all almost here.”
At the Hudson Children’s Book Festival in May, a young white reporter asked me, How has the award changed your life? I looked at her a moment, then said, Which award? She fell silent, looking confused. I was not inclined to fill the silence. In Brown Girl Dreaming I write, “Even the silence has a story to tell you. Just listen. Listen.” So I listened to the space grow between us — knowing the answer she would give was not the answer I wanted to hear. I knew her answer was going to come from her own sense of what is important in the world as she knew it. I held up the book and pointed to the CSK seal on it, letting more silence sit between us before I began in (as my partner likes to refer to it) my Joho Manner, to calmly and quietly break things down for her.
The Coretta Scott King Honor Award was given to me for the first time in 1995 for my book I Hadn’t Meant To Tell You This, a story of two girls growing up in Chauncey, Ohio — one wealthy and black, the other poor and white. Both being raised by their fathers. Because the book dealt with issues of, among other things, a deeply flawed health care system, friendship across lines of economic class, and sexual abuse, I was stunned and so pleased that the committee had awarded this book. But in 1996, when my novel From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun was given an Honor, while I was still young and nervous and new to the world of young people’s literature, I just thought, “Wow!” I had never dreamed that a book with a gay mom would even get published, let alone win a CSK Honor Award. I realized then that there were some people in this world who had my back — some people letting me know: “We got you.” Both of these moments changed my life.
And again my life was changed when the CSK committee gave the Author Award to my book Miracle’s Boys in 2001. That year, we learned that employees at the hotel where the awards ceremony was to be held were picketing. When the CSK members refused to cross the picket lines and, instead, canceled the ceremony, I knew I had found my people. In the way of our people always finding a way to make a way out of no way, my publisher and other publishers came together and organized the CSK Tea that Bryan Collier, the CSK Award winner for illustration, and I spoke at. The morning before that tea, I learned I was pregnant with our daughter, Toshi. To stand in that room and be among new family and old family, a generation coming, kindred spirits and people who deeply, deeply believed in me, was life-altering. And the years after these awards, when the CSK committee chose Locomotion and Each Kindness as Honor Books — launching those books into the world with their blessing, believing deeply…in me — these events have forever changed my life.
The first time I read Rudine Sims Bishop’s writing and understood the work I was brought here to do, my life was changed forever. The first time Deb Taylor brought me to the Enoch Pratt Free Library, my life was changed forever. The first time I hugged Walter Dean Myers, sat beside Virginia Hamilton and basked in the warmth of her smile, snapped a photo with Tom Feelings, read Stevie by John Steptoe — my life was changed forever. Every time I get to be in a room with Dr. Henrietta Smith, my life is changed.
So while there are some who will try to find ways to erase the magnitude of this award, the amazingness of us and our work — there are many more who know the importance of our stories in the world. So to the Coretta Scott King committee who chose Brown Girl Dreaming as this year’s award winner, I say Thank You — you have, once again, changed my life. To my editor, Nancy Paulsen, who dug so deeply into the pages of this story and helped me to believe that there was some sense to this journey, and a purpose, I say Thank You — you continue to change my life. And to my Penguin Random House family, whose passion comes through with every email and phone call and visit to the office and dinner and champagne toast — I say Thank You. To my past editor, Wendy Lamb, who said “Write what you want,” and my past agent, Charlotte Sheedy, who said “We need to find you a home” and found me Nancy Paulsen — I say Thank You. To my present agent, Kathleen Nishimoto, whose energy and dedication and joy just…just makes me smile — I say Thank You. To my single mom, who, during the Great Migration, somehow got four kids from Greenville to Brooklyn and made sure we were all educated — in memory, I say Thank You. To the Woodsons and the Irbys who are still on this planet and the ones who have moved to the next place, I say Thank You. And to my family — my amazing partner, my glorious children, the aunts and uncles (two of whom are on this stage with me—Chris and Jason!—and Kwame, when you come to Brooklyn, we’re gonna rope you in, too!), and to the rest of our village who change our lives by being here to help us through every single day — I say Thank You!
From left to right: Christopher Myers, Kwame Alexander, Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Rita Williams-Garcia. Photo courtesy of Jason Reynolds.
I am deeply honored. We are here because of our ancestors and elders and the people who hold us up every day — thanks for helping all of us never forget them or the way each of us finds a way to make a way out of no way — every single day. Thank you so much, all of you who believe in Diverse Books, who believe in keeping young brown children — and all children — dreaming.
Jacqueline Woodson is the 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Award winner for Brown Girl Dreaming (Paulsen/Penguin). Her acceptance speech was delivered at the annual American Library Association Conference in San Francisco on June 28, 2015. From the July/August 2015 Special Awards issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Read editor Nancy Paulsen’s profile of Jacqueline Woodson. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015
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Photo: Marty Umans
One of the greatest joys of my career has been seeing Brown Girl Dreaming come to life and reverberate as it has been handed from reader to reader.
I have been lucky enough to work with Jacqueline Woodson for almost twenty years. She was the very first author I signed up when I became the publisher of G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Her lyrical writing sang to me. Her voice was so strong and clear and evocative. I also loved her spare style, how she could make magic happen with an economy of words. Since then I’ve edited six of her amazing picture books; Brown Girl Dreaming is the tenth novel we’ve worked on together.
I never know what I am going to get next from Jacqueline, and I am always happily surprised. The muse strikes her, and then she sends her stories to me at various stages in the creative process. Some of the picture books, such as Show Way and Each Kindness, were practically perfect and complete when I received them. The main challenge for those titles was finding the right illustrator. The early drafts of the novels usually come in with much of the story in place, but lots of holes to fill in. So I start by asking questions. I love every character and always want to know more. With Brown Girl Dreaming — a memoir in verse — boy, did I want to know more about a character I loved!
When I received the first draft of Brown Girl Dreaming in 2012, I knew I was holding something special in my hands. Many of the poems from the first section were already there, including the opening one, which begins:
I am born on a Tuesday at University
a country caught
between Black and White.
Right from the beginning, we know we are going to get a story that is deeply personal but also one that tells of a shared history—the racial divide that is part of America—and readers will experience it from the eyes of a child who has lived in the North and the South. And because of the book’s title, we know we are in the hands of a dreamer, a young girl who has hope and aspirations. She is an observant student of the world around her. I love how she contemplates who she might become in the future by her admiration of those who have come before her:
I do not know if these hands will become
Malcolm’s—raised and fisted
or Martin’s—open and asking
or James’s—curled around a pen.
Through Jacqueline’s eyes we see, and then feel, the terrible injustice that a dignified black woman, her beloved grandmother, had to live through on a daily basis:
We walk straight past Woolworth’s
without even looking in the windows
because the one time my grandmother
they made her wait and wait. Acted like
I wasn’t even there. It’s hard not to see the
my grandmother in her Sunday clothes,
with a flower pinned to it
neatly on her head, her patent-leather
between her gloved hands—waiting
long past her turn.
As we witness her grandmother’s ordeal, our hearts are broken by something we cannot fix. But we gain such insight into how families like Jacqueline’s figured out ways to fight back, ways to bring about the change the world so desperately needed:
This is the way brown people have to fight,
my grandfather says.
You can’t just put your fist up. You have to
gently. Walk toward a thing
But be ready to die,
my grandfather says,
for what is right.
As I read each draft of Brown Girl Dreaming — and, as Jacqueline says, there were so dang many of them! — I wanted more and more answers. I wanted to know about the love she felt for both her Southern and Northern roots and what it felt like to have a special place in her heart for each of them. I wanted to know what it was like when her mother bravely went off alone to search for a place to bring up her four children, a place that would offer them the most freedom and opportunity.
Looking for her next place.
Our next place.
Right now, our mother says,
we’re only halfway home.
And I imagine her standing
in the middle of a road, her arms out
fingers pointing North and South.
I want to ask:
Will there always be a road?
Will there always be a bus?
Will we always have to choose
The book grew from three parts to five, as it became clear that more ground needed to be covered for the many facets of Jacqueline’s life. Please tell me more about your religion, I asked. What was it like to go door-to-door as a Jehovah’s Witness and have to introduce yourself to strangers? And in the telling, more stories emerged. Jacqueline’s grandfather (called “Daddy”), as it turned out, did not embrace organized religion. Her uncle, while in jail, converted to Islam. And in living through all this, Jacqueline
grew more open and empathetic to other people’s beliefs:
But I want the world where my daddy is
and don’t know why
anybody’s God would make me
have to choose.
One of the best parts of editing this memoir was learning about how storytelling was a part of young Jacqueline’s life. How she could hold her classmates rapt by repeating stories even before she learned to read. How she knew, early on, that there was enormous power in words:
I want to catch words one day. I want to
then blow gently,
watch them float
right out of my hands.
And so she has. Jacqueline’s words in Brown Girl Dreaming float off the page; they first linger and then stay even longer with the reader. When the thirty drafts were done, and Jacqueline and I both agreed at the same time that the story was complete, we had advance reading copies made. I gave out the first ones to librarians and educators at the Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio in early 2014. John Schumacher and Colby Sharp shared their copies with Paul Hankins and with Donalyn Miller, who wrote in a Nerdy Book Club blog post about reading the galley on her way home from the convention:
As I read, a silver thread flowed out of Brown Girl Dreaming, and twined up my wrist to my chest — connecting Jackie’s family to me and making them part of me. Following Colby’s scribbled brackets around lines and folded page corners like messages for me to find, he was with me in the book, too. That thread connects me to Jackie now, but it also connects me to Colby, Jillian [Heise], and everyone who will ever read Brown Girl Dreaming.
I love that Jacqueline’s writing has the power to connect us. It reminds us of so many universal parts of growing up: competing with siblings, feeling content in the heart of your family, being confused by a million messages coming at you, struggling to make sense of the senseless, and ultimately finding the power of your own voice. Reading a memoir like Brown Girl Dreaming reminds us that each of us has a voice and needs to find it in our own time; that everyone’s story is important; that we become stronger by dreaming our dreams and sharing our stories; and that books have the power to make the world a better place.
And so I thank Jacqueline Woodson, as well as all the librarians and teachers and booksellers who have worked to get this book into the hands of so many readers. You are all changing the world.
Profile of 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Award winner Jacqueline Woodson. From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Read Jacqueline Woodson’s Coretta Scott King Author Award acceptance speech for Brown Girl Dreaming. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015.
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Table of Contents
“Coretta Scott King Awards 2015″ by Deborah Taylor
“A group of established creators and some very intriguing newcomers.”
“Coretta Scott King Author Award Acceptance” by Jacqueline Woodson
“A profile of Jacqueline Woodson” by Nancy Paulsen
“Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Acceptance” by Christopher Myers
“A profile of Christopher Myers” by Jason Reynolds
“Caldecott and Newbery 2015″ by Thom Barthelmess
“Some meaningful, curious, and thought-provoking juxtapositions.”
“Caldecott Medal Acceptance” by Dan Santat
“A profile of Dan Santat” by Connie Hsu
“Newbery Medal Acceptance” by Kwame Alexander
“A profile of Kwame Alexander” by Nikki Giovanni
“Wilder Medal Acceptance” by Donald Crews
“A profile of Donald Crews” by Nina Crews
“2015 Mind the Gap Awards”
The books that didn’t win.
“What the Survey Doesn’t Say” by Roger Sutton
Diversity by the numbers.
“Some Vacation: This One Summer” by Leonard S. Marcus
Thoughts on this one book, honored by both the Caldecott and Printz committees.
A Second Look
“It’s Like This, Cat” by Kathleen T. Horning
“The 1964 Newbery winner was difficult to select” — ah, do tell!
Books in the Home
“#WeGotDiverseAwardBooks” by Megan Dowd Lambert
Reflections on awards and allies.
From The Guide
A selection of reviews from The Horn Book Guide.
On the Web
July/August Starred Books
Index to Advertisers
Index to Books Reviewed
Cover © 2015 by Dan Santat. Page 2 art from Firebird. Illustration © 2014 by Christopher Myers.
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A Home for Bird has been on my radar for a long time. I was on a recon mission at ALA for new books and I sneaked a slow peek while the Roaring Brook folks were busy. It took me a while to read it because I kept slowing down. There is just so much to take in.
I need to admit right now that I love the loose, crayon-y strokes in this book. From the very first page (which is really the dedication page), I admired those strokes. The junker of a truck (“Careful Moving Co.”) is exactly the kind of truck my dad would have loved. There it is, spilling over with junk: a rug, chair, birdcage, fishing pole and all the rest. The grey dog hanging off the back of the truck strikes the chord many of us feel when we move. And, what’s this? A little bird has flown the coop, or been tossed out during the bump that has caused the back wheels to leave the road.
Well, that was quite a start.
The rest of the book is filled with the sort of delights that are fun to discuss. Vernon, a sweet frog with the heart of a collector, finds Bird. But, bird says nothing. Vernon concludes that Bird is missing his home, and he is just the frog to find it. The journey, “into the great unknown,” has many twists and turns until Bird does find his home. It’s these twists and turns that are so deeply satisfying. Seeing Bird in a mailbox and in another bird’s nest is sad and fun at the same time and, at some point in the visual narrative, the young reader (and older one, too!) begins to have that delicious feeling of recognition. Oh, yes, those ARE the birdcage and the tablecloth from the truck. Is that the beachball on the road? And the teddy bear! And the dog!
When Bird finally is home, Vernon is happy. It’s got that “And it was still hot” feel, doesn’t it?
Though the words are beautifully understated, this is all about the illustrations. You can understand the plot, characters and emotions from these special (in Caldecott terms, “distnguished”) pages. Still, we have a number of great themes here: friendship, home, working together, caring for others. Then there are the satisfying visual clues that draw the reader completely into the story. The art feels fresh and innocent, all gently handcrafted. If you read Jules Danielson’s interview with Mr. Stead, you will understand the work that went into this seemingly simple book. Water-soluble crayons and gouache play very well together, but, with no computer involved, the slightest mistake means starting all over again.
But, I am glad he stuck with it.
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Everyone here is busy reading and re-reading the books of 2012 in preparation for our Fanfare choices for the best books of the year. (Last year’s list.) Any and all available copies get pulled into service, meaning one editor might have the finished book, another an ARC, another an ebook or audio version.
God knows I love me my gadgets, but is anybody else worried about the end of browsing? A character pops up you don’t quite remember reading about before, but checking back through what you’ve read in an ebook looks more efficient than it is: on my Kindle I have to call up the search box, enter a word
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Next post about books that made a splash at the beginning of the year but fade by the end. Horn Book stars that don’t make it onto Fanfare (and some that weren’t starred but grow on us and DO find a place on the Fanfare list). In the next few weeks Robin and I will concentrate on the books that are still being discussed and that seem like very good contenders. Or that others are discussing but we don’t think should be on the list.
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Darn you, Charlotte Zolotow committee! You beat me to the punch, awarding this fine book your award last week! The CCBC website explains, “The Charlotte Zolotow Award is given annually to the author of the best picture book text published in the United States in the preceding year….The award is administered by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, a children’s literature library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Each year a committee of children’s literature experts selects the winner from the books published in the preceding year. The winner is announced in January each year. A bronze medallion is formally presented to the winning author in the spring during an annual public event that honors the career of Charlotte Zolotow.” If you have never attended the Zolotow celebration, you are really missing out. First, you get to go to Madison, Wisconsin, and second, you get to be with people who love children’s books, and third, the lectures are always terrific.
So, this lovely book won an award for the text. Do the illustrations hold up as well as the words?
If you have not read Each Kindness, please do. I just gave a talk to 80 or so second graders at a local school and this (along with Island) was the book they appreciated the most. This school does a fantastic Caldecott exploration each year, and by the time I drag in with my little dog-and-pony show, they have some strong opinions about current picture books. I get to tell the story of how I got to be on the committee…blah blah…but then I get to sneak in a few questions about what they are liking and not liking. When I held up Woodson’s book, there was a collective intake of breath and a murmur of oohs and ahhs.
Second/third grade might be the perfect age for this one. Somewhere around this time, kids start to notice things like clothing and wealth and what makes kids fit in or not. These are the same grades where teachers find themselves reaching for The One Hundred Dresses, a book which deals with a similar theme.
Let’s look at the art, shall we? Lewis’s watercolors never disappoint, do they? The first spread is a lovely school shot– rural school, snow-covered. A lone child walks up the front steps. Turn the page and Lewis captures the perfect feel of a New Kid. Maya’s eyes are cast down, the teacher is holding her hand, and the perspective lets us know that she is not comfortable. Her clothes reflect the text–her clothes look a tad ragged, especially for the first day. Turn the page and we see the other main character, the narrator Chloe, looking out the window at the reader, a sour look on her face. Maya is faded in the background, but she has a little smile, a little hope on her face. The playground page is almost too painful to look at–three little girls, holding hands, while Maya walks with her hands behind her back. Lewis puts a bit of sunlight around the girls and has the rest of the group looking at Maya. No one is including her.
The art goes on, gently documenting the social strata of this classroom. Chloe rejects Maya and sets the tone for the rest of the class. The seasons change, Maya keeps trying to fit in, but Chloe and her friends do not allow it. We see her in her fancy (but used) dress and shoes or holding the wrong doll and her eyes always remind us of her pain. Even while she skips rope, she skips alone.
The story and illustrations change once the teacher (finally, I say) gets involved. Maya is absent when the teacher presents a lesson on kindness that finally gets through to Chloe. We see the faces reflected in the ripples of the bowl of water–a nice change of perspective. The art now highlights Chloe. First, her somber face stares at that stone that stands in for the idea of kindness. Then, her eyes are cast down (like Maya’s) on her way home, slowly walking how from the school with the backpack seeming to drag her down. The next page is the only dark page in the book–Maya’s empty desk which will stay empty. The last two pages let us know the truth–that Chloe will never get a chance to make it better. Chloe looks sad and sorry, her body slightly slumped as she contemplates what has happened. She becomes smaller on that final page turn, less powerful, but with a hopeful shaft of light pointing to the future.
This is a true teacher’s book–with plenty to talk about in a classroom. Will the committee find it too teacher-y or a new classic in the literature of bullying and kindness?
What say you?
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Here are a few pictures from my day. I did not take pictures at the publisher breakfast. It was a tad crowded and I was balancing a coffee cup on my knee. But I did get to hear about a bunch of new books. Always a good thing. Some librarians had volunteered to help out in the presentations. There was storytelling. At 7:00 AM. I am not really a storytelling sort of girl at any hour, so that was a little rough on me. However, I did love thinking about that new Brian Pinkney book.
I am having some issues with these silly pictures…so I will just caption them and hope for the best!
I visited the Horn Book booth for a bit.
I ran into two of my favorite guys. One is Roger Sutton. The other is my husband, Dean Schneider, fresh off his book committee work.
The Notables Committee members have a LOT of books to consider…and they cannot have a list of four hundred books…
Here they are, talking about Notable books.
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Aside from one dinner with a college friend and another with MVP and Barbara Bader, I spent ALA Midwinter in the exhibits drumming up business and listening to publishers, who had mostly two things on their mind: the Common Core and bullying. Wait, am I being redundant?
As far as the Common Core goes,
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Jimmy the Greatest!
by Jairo Buitrago; illus. by
Rafael Yockteng; trans. from
the Spanish by Elisa Amado
Primary Groundwood 48 pp.
5/12 978-1-55498-178-6 $18.95
e-book ed. 978-1-55498-206-6 $18.95
What happens when a boy from a nondescript small town grows up to be a talented boxer? Most would dream of bigger and better places, but not young Jimmy. When gym owner Don Apolinar encourages him to start running (despite his missing shoes), Jimmy decides he will become a boxer, inspired by a box of clippings and books about Muhammad Ali. When his trainer leaves to make his fortune, Jimmy makes a poignant and surprising decision to stay and support his little town with a library and a fixed-up boxing gym. This town could be anywhere in the tropics, but the (Colombian) author and illustrator do not identify it, giving the book more universal appeal. The background colors of the illustrations—the brilliant blues of the sea and the tempered beige of the sand—highlight the stylized brown villagers, including lanky Jim and bearded Apolinar. Understated poetic language permeates the whole story, but the last page soars. “There are no elegant houses / or fancy things. / But we’re really great. / We dance and we box / and we don’t / sit around waiting / to go someplace else.” In a world where so many must leave their homes to find work, it’s inspiring to see Jimmy able to do a truly great thing, right where he wants to be.
LR thinks star looks best when there is no box around it.
To make this happen, first place star as you normally would (i.e. default alignment: left, full size)
It will look like this in post (hit Preview to see it with white box):
Then back in draft, click on art and select icon for editing (little landscape picture)
In Advanced Settings tab (below) under Image properties type 0 (zero) after Border and Horizontal space. When you hit Update, this will automatically change the code in the Styles box to what you see in the screenshot here.
Now when you hit preview it should look like this:
Finally, put the cursor between the star image and first letter of title and add a space:
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The Morning News started its tournament of books yesterday with a match between Louise Erdrich’s The Round House and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I thought the critic, Edan Lepucki, did a great job of assessing each book’s strengths and shortcomings and coming up with a winner. Today, the match between Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son and Maria’ Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette is judged by a more milquetoasted Elliot Holt, but I found a useful link in the commentary. I seem to have missed Jacob Silverman’s “Against Enthusiasm” when it appeared in Slate last August, but I hope every member of the kidlitosphere reads it.
Our sis School Library Journal begins its Battle of the Books on
Monday Tuesday and I’ll be over here critiquing the judges in brackets of two and allowing one to “move forward,” where, eventually (and if I’ve done the math right) one shall face the BoB’s Big Kahuna judge, Frank Cottrell Boyce. I’m not doing this to be mean–unless somebody drives me to it–but to test my frequent assertion that there’s too much diplomacy in children’s book discussion (again, see the Silverman essay linked above). I am also interested in exploring what kind of criticism these non-professionals will employ: will they argue from personal taste, moral significance, reader appeal, aesthetic value? Each or all of these can work; what matters most in this contest is that the judge is able to express a clear preference for one book over another and say why. The prize is two one-year subscriptions to the Horn Book Magazine, one to the winning judge and another to the library of his or her choice.I’ll be judge and jury (shades of SLJ’s Lillian Gerhardt: raise your hand if you’re old enough to remember her infamous Billy Budd Button and Huck Finn Pin!)
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Mark Siegel, editorial director and founder of Macmillan’s graphic novel–only imprint First Second Books
also author/illustrator of Moving House
illustrator of several picture books (Seadogs by Lisa Wheeler, Long Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant) and another graphic novel for children (Boogie Knights by Lisa Wheeler)
my first introduction to Siegel was To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel, his wife Siena Cherson Siegel’s memoir of her experiences as a preprofessional student in the School of American Ballet.
With Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid in the Hudson (First Second, October 2012), Seigel
surreal magical realism
hefty graphic novel
Captain Twain, captain of a steamboat on the Hudson River, rescues a harpooned mermaid and nurses her back to health.
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My SLJ colleague Kathy Ishizuka was over on Facebook shaming herself over her lack of full participation in Screen-Free Week, which is going on as we speak. I didn’t even know about it and now I feel TWICE guilty: once for my ignorance and again for enjoying The Bletchley Circle so much last night.
Bowing to the times, Screen-Free Week is a descendant of TV-Turnoff week, and adherence to it means no computer use except where required for work (or school, I’m guessing) nor video- and cell phone-gaming (buh-bye Fairway) along with no television. Kathy and I were wondering what the rules were around ebook readers: I’m guessing that is up to the individual conscience, but the exception (which I would surely carve out for myself) only points out what I think is the essential wrong-headedness of the initiative. Certainly, I watch too much TV and goof around on the computer more than is good for me.
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Table of Contents
Title by Roger Sutton
On the Web
Month/Month Starred Books
Index to Advertisers
Index to Books Reviewed
Cover art and page 1 © go here
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true star of this app is the unusual format: users swipe from page to page in all directions, following the trajectory of flowing “strands of hair”
map showing the direction of your choices — and the consequences: options blocked off
Gris Grimly-esque art, Lemony Snicket type narrator
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By: Roger Sutton
Blog: Read Roger - The Horn Book editor's rants and raves
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The settings of these narrative nonfiction titles span decades and geography — from WWII Denmark to contemporary Malawi — but the issues they explore are incredibly timely.
When heavy rains, then drought, devastated his country of Malawi and the corrupt government didn’t respond, young William Kamkwamba used his scientific ingenuity to help people in need. His windmill made from “bottle-cap washers, rusted tractor parts, and [an] old bicycle frame” was a success; soon William dreamed of conquering darkness, pumping water to the villages, and fighting hunger. Cowritten with Bryan Mealer, Kamkwamba’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition (illustrated by Anna Hymas) is inspiring — a well-told true tale of one young man’s passion for science making his world better. (Dial, 9–12 years)
Phillip Hoose introduces readers to a little-known resistance movement in The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club. When Hitler invaded Denmark, teenaged Knud Pedersen (with his brother Jens and some mates) decided that “If the adults would not act, we would.” First using civil disobedience then employing increasingly dangerous acts of sabotage against the country’s Nazi occupiers, the group inspired widespread Danish revolt. Hoose brilliantly weaves Pederson’s own words into the larger narrative of wartime Denmark, showing how the astonishing bravery of a few ordinary Danish teens started something extraordinary. A 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Book and an outstanding addition to the WWII canon. (Farrar, 11–15 years)
Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin’s March: Book Two picks up where the previous volume left off in relating Lewis’s personal experiences of the civil rights movement. Dramatic descriptions, along with Nate Powell’s vivid black-and-white illustrations, relate direct action campaigns in Nashville (sit-ins at fast-food restaurants and cafeterias, “stand-ins” at a segregated movie theater), Freedom Rides into the “heart of the beast” in the Deep South, and the 1963 March on Washington, where Lewis spoke alongside Dr. King. Among the many excellent volumes available on the subject of civil rights this is a standout, the graphic format a perfect vehicle for delivering the one-two punch of powerful words and images. (Top Shelf Productions, 11–15 years)
In Tommy: The Gun That Changed America, Karen Blumenthal traces the history of the Thompson submachine gun (a.k.a. the Tommy gun) and its times. After the Spanish-American War, Army officer John Thompson believed that America needed a lightweight, automatic rifle. The Army did not share his opinion, so Thompson left the service and developed his own weapon, completed with superior bad timing on Armistice Day in 1918. Without a ready military market, the Tommy gun wound up in the hands of crooks and bootleggers. Blumenthal shows the complexity of gun culture then and now with thorough research and impeccable documentation. (Roaring Brook, 11–15 years)
From the June 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.
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Perfect for Father’s Day read-alouds, these picture books show a variety of dads—from those on lily pads to those in eucalyptus forests, from fantasy kingdoms to suburban parks—raising, teaching, and loving their children.
In David Ezra Stein’s Tad and Dad, little frog Tad loves his father so much that he can hardly bear to be away from him, even at night. Kids will chuckle at Tad’s energetic bedtime antics; parents will laugh with grim identification when Tad starts to swim and grow but still crowds onto Dad’s lily pad to sleep. Stein uses color to great effect in this little book that is both a celebration of the father-child relationship and a good-night book that will hold up to repeat readings. (Penguin/Paulsen, 2–5 years)
In The Big Princess by Taro Miura (a companion to The Tiny King), a childless king finds a bug-size princess in the castle gardens. His and the queen’s love for her grows daily, but, worrisomely, so does the princess. How to stop her from physically outgrowing the castle (and hence the family)? Miura’s digital collages feature improbably harmonizing elements: brightly colored, blocky geometric shapes coexist with photography, while characters whose faces assume Hello Kitty–like blankness nevertheless live out emotional scenes. (Candlewick, 3–6 years)
Bernard Waber‘s Ask Me gives an idyllic view of an ambling, chatting father-and-daughter pair. But there’s more to their walk than meets the eye; the queries and responses they share capture the kind of give-and-take that gradually refines a small child’s language. “Ask me what I like.” “What do you like?”…”I like bugs.” “Insects?” “No, bugs.” With spare, informal colored-pencil lines; welcoming white space; and an eye for color, action, and witty detail, Suzy Lee depicts the two figures in a landscape littered with bright autumn leaves. This outing might inspire young listeners to form their own questions or can help tuck in a toddler with a sweet good night. (Houghton, 3–6 years)
Claire Saxby’s nonfiction picture book Emu relates the life cycle and habits of those birds through the story of a male emu who raises his young in an Australian eucalyptus forest (with this species, the female departs after egg-laying). Graham Byrne’s spiky digital illustrations perfectly display the emu’s hairlike feathering and their awkward-looking flightless movement. Each double-page spread includes the main narrative, in slightly larger type, along with additional statistics and facts about emus in a smaller, more casual font. (Candlewick, 5–8 years)
From the June 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.
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Unusual Chickens for the
Exceptional Poultry Farmer
by Kelly Jones; illus. by Katie Kath
Intermediate Knopf 213 pp.
5/15 978-0-385-75552-8 $16.99
Library ed. 978-0-385-75553-5 $19.99 g
e-book ed. 978-0-385-75554-2 $10.99
Moving to a farm inherited from her great-uncle may not be city-girl Sophie’s first choice for improving her family’s financial situation, but she’s determined to make the best of it. Chickens would make the farm more interesting, so when she finds a flier in the barn advertising the titular fowl, she writes in. Responses from “Agnes” at Redwood Farm come in the form of an extensive correspondence course in chicken-raising, and in the meantime decidedly unusual chickens find their way to the farm: Henrietta has telekinetic powers, and Chameleon is aptly named. Sophie quickly becomes devoted to her flock, but so does Ms. Griegson, a neighbor with her own interest in chickens with superpowers. It’s new-girl Sophie’s word against Ms. Griegson’s in a town unused to new people, especially new families with one white and one Mexican American parent; to the townspeople’s credit, they ultimately give Sophie the benefit of the doubt. The epistolary format consists mostly of letters in Sophie’s earnest voice; often the addressee is either her late abuelita or her great-uncle Jim in various iterations of the afterlife (“Mictlan”; “Heaven’s Dance Party”; “Valhalla, maybe?”). Sophie’s unique way of figuring life out on her own makes her easy to root for and provides entertainment beyond the inherent humor of chickens. Black-and-white illustrations match the mostly light feel of the text.
From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
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Exceptional Poultry Farmer appeared first on The Horn Book.
The cute monsters from Originator‘s Endless Alphabet, Endless Reader, and Endless Numbers are back…en español! Endless Spanish (May 2015) follows much the same format as Endless Reader to teach basic Spanish vocabulary. There are two modes, “Spanish immersion” or “Spanish with English translation.”
Begin at A and work through the alphabet to Z, or start anywhere you like by choosing a letter from the main menu.
The narrator pronounces a word beginning with the selected letter as that word appears in lowercase. Los monstruos dash across the screen, scattering the letters; drag them into the correct order. As you drop each brightly patterned, monster-featured letter into place, the letter says its sound in a silly voice, followed by the narrator saying its name.
A sentence using the featured word in context (e.g., for amigo, ¡Los monstruos están muy contentos por tener un amigo nuevo!) appears and is read by the narrator. Then the featured word is knocked out of the sentence; it’s pronounced again as you place it correctly. One or two other Spanish sight words such as algo (something), bonito (pretty/nice), muy (very), and que (that), which are presumably included in additional letter packs, are highlighted in each phrase as well. The sentence is followed by a brief, humorous animation explicating both the word’s meaning and the gist of the sentence.
“The monsters are very happy to have a new friend!”
Tap to repeat the narrator’s pronunciation of the featured word or the contextual frase as many times as you’d like. In English-translation mode, the narrator gives you the English counterpart of the word/sentence, too.
The silly monsters and the funny situations they get themselves into introduce new vocabulary in an engaging way. Upbeat background music, sometimes with a bit of mariachi flavor, adds to the app’s friendly feel. I’ve been trying — and failing — to brush up on mi poquito de español; perhaps I’ll add Endless Spanish to my rotation of Spanish-language learning apps alongside Mango Languages and Duolingo. Endless Spanish is certainly more fun!
Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.0 or later). The free preview gives you one word for each letter of the alphabet up through F: amigo (friend), bien (good/well), casa (house), dijo (said), encontró (found), and flor (flower). Additional words must be purchased separately ($4.99/pack). Recommended for preschool users and up.
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Translating Madame Villeneuve’s and Madame Leprince de Beaumont’s eighteenth-century French into contemporary American
English for our picture book Beauty and the Beast was indeed a transformative event. In addition to the dramatic change in language, there were other differences, surprises brought on by time and the filter of many others before me. The process taught me (a former journalist who stumbled into the realm of children’s literature) which themes had survived over the 275-year written history of “La Belle et la Bête” and which had become “refined” or sweetened for easier consumption.
In this tale (in our version, told in the first person by Beauty), three main themes survive: love, magic, and the power of a promise. These were illustrated again and again. Love makes Beauty sacrifice her life for her father (love will make you do right; love will make you do wrong). Magic makes the prince into a beast. And promises make everyone behave.
It has been said many times that the only thing permanent is change. If done with enough imagination and purpose, change can be transformative, even magical. Sometimes it’s physical, beyond the control of ordinary people: what really controls the climate? Other times it’s mental, metaphysical, due to a new perspective or new information. In all cases it seems that change is going to happen, ready or not.
It seems to me that high on the list of things with the power to transform is hope. The belief that things will change for the better if only faith and purposeful acts are applied.
Our version of “Beauty” is an act of hope, the belief that when given a new and different perspective on an accepted story with universal themes of love, magic, and promises made, we can transcend the notion that only some people are equipped for change. That universal feelings like love, fear, and hope are in fact found in all people. And that the story is just as powerful no matter what the cultural setting. Most audiences appreciate and even cheer at the idea that someone would sacrifice her own safety in the hope of protecting someone she loves. And that kindness and love can magically transform a beast into a prince.
–H. Chuku Lee
* * *
Fairy tales, like folktales, are continually transformed by the folks who tell them. So the dicey bits have been cut from “Rapunzel”: thorns don’t gouge out the prince’s eyes, Rapunzel doesn’t get pregnant. And Cinderella’s stepsisters don’t carve up their feet in order to cram them into the glass slipper.
The timeless appeal of “Beauty and the Beast” may stem from our desire to believe that pure goodness can conquer the most terrifying of beasts. After seeing Jean Cocteau’s film La Belle et la Bête, I realized there was more to the story I thought I knew well. In the reference section at the library, I found a dusty version of the tale, written by Madame Leprince de Beaumont in 1756. The text was beyond my translating abilities, but Chuku’s former incarnation as a diplomat in Paris helped him unravel the archaic French.
His version, told from Beauty’s point of view, seemed elegant and contemporary. And I wanted to update Beauty as well, to show her as a young woman of color whose world clearly evokes Africa. The Beast’s scarifications even suggest a particular tribe. But although classics transcend time, trends, and cultures, some elements of the story seemed etched in stone: it had to be a rose, and the Beast had to be part animal. “Beauty and the Beast” has more than its share of classic themes: love conquers all, true beauty lies within, appearances can be misleading, magic can save the day…But Chuku hit upon one I hadn’t considered before, one that resonated with me while illustrating the story. For me, it has become the new timeless theme at the heart of the story: the power of a promise.
From the May/June 2015 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Transformations.
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Tad and Dad
by David Ezra Stein;
illus. by the author
Preschool Paulsen/Penguin 40 pp.
4/15 978-0-399-25671-4 $16.99 g
Poor Dad. Poor Tad. Neither frog is getting any sleep in his (lily)pad. Tad loves his dad so much that he can hardly bear to be away from him, even at night. Whether Tad is a wiggling tadpole, swimming everywhere with his dad, or a jumping frog with legs, he doesn’t want to sleep alone. “‘Why are you in my bed?’ said Dad. ‘So you won’t miss me,’ I said.” Parents everywhere, especially those with night-wandering, bed-sharing toddlers, will laugh with grim identification when Tad starts to swim and grow and jump and catch his own breakfast, just like Dad, but still crowds onto Dad’s lilypad at bedtime. And, when night comes and the growing froglet dreams and practices his new skills in his sleep (“So that’s what was kicking me…”), little ones will chuckle at Tad’s enthusiasm and Dad’s growing exhaustion. Relaxed circular and rectangular frames signal Dad’s more mature bearing, while Tad’s energy is uncontained, often filling the whole spread. Stein uses color to great effect to show the lap-listener that this little gem is both a celebration of the father-child relationship and a good-night book. See Tad and Dad snoring together on the last page? The world is blue and black, lit only by the moon. ’Night, Tad. ’Night, Dad. Like every good go-to-sleep book, this one will hold up to many repeat readings.
From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
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