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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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It’s always time to feed the animals at Lazoo Zoo! (2013). Move from habitat to habitat dishing out all sorts of delicious foods — from reasonable fare such as bananas and grapes to more ridiculous entrees such as burgers, birthday cake, and even a saxophone — to a motley crew of eleven animal residents.
The food dispenser comes equipped with fruits and veggies; after several minutes of game play, hidden foods will begin to appear. Touch to add them to your collection. And if you don’t see your favorite food items on the menu, you can create them, or any other doodles, in the available paint shop using standard drawing tools and a nuanced color palette.
Be careful which foods you offer up, though: some animals are pickier than others. The monkey’s bib will clue you in to whatever snack he’s jonesing for, while the lion scratches outlines of his choices in the sand. They have no qualms rejecting what’s been given to them.
Other animals incorporate parts of their latest meal into their physical features. The chameleon changes colors. The giraffe’s spots change depending on what he’s eating. And when the monkey gets too full, he grows a colorful coiffure. For extra giggles, take a chance and feed the tiny bird at the edge of the pool a few times. See what happens.
The animation offers some funny surprises and silly sound effects, both of which keep things interesting and fresh. The characters and brightly colored settings are kid-friendly and inviting.
The app is more activity than linear narrative, and with neither text nor audio instructions to speak of, it’s best just to click around until you get the hang of it. There are five fanciful play areas to explore, and once you’ve doodled a bit, you’ll start to notice your own artwork peppering the posters on the zoo walls. While our iPad 1 doesn’t support the photo booth feature, later models will allow you to take photos with the animals of your choice. Delightful gameplay best suited for users ages two and up.
Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch (requires iOS 5.1 or later); free.
The post Lazoo Zoo! app review appeared first on The Horn Book.
Readers of this blog this past fall will know exactly why I am linking to this month’s School Library Journal‘s cover story: kudos to Brian Floca, Locomotive, and our own Robin Smith!
The post Worlds collide appeared first on The Horn Book.
The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life
by Lois Ehlert; illus. by the author
Primary Beach Lane/Simon 72 pp.
3/14 978-1-4424-3571-1 $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-3572-8 $10.99
In a generously illustrated picture book memoir, Ehlert speaks directly to her audience, particularly readers who like collecting objects and making things. Aptly titled, the book is jam-packed with art from her books and photos from her life, beginning with pictures of her parents, the house she grew up in, and the small wooden table where she was encouraged to pursue her own art projects. Along the way, we see how autobiographical her books have been. There are her mother’s scissors and her father’s tools (used in Hands, rev. 9/97), and her sister’s cat (the star of Feathers for Lunch, rev. 11/90). The small,
square volume uses the same distinctive typeface seen in most of Ehlert’s books and serves as a reminder of her unique color sense and recurring subjects:
flowers, leaves, fruits and vegetables, cats and birds. In addition to the large text for children, she includes smaller hand-written notes to fill in details, much as her books use a smaller sans serif text to label birds, plants, etc. We are treated to a description of her creative process including reproductions of thumbnail illustrations and detailed sketches. In the final stage of building collages, she uses whatever is at hand and enjoys making messes. “I use old tools to create texture; I splash paint with a toothbrush or rub a crayon over my grater.” Ehlert emerges as a woman who lives a good life surrounded by the objects and colors that make her happy. She wants the same for her readers, ending the book with “I wish you a colorful life!”
The post Review of The Scraps Book appeared first on The Horn Book.
Cindy found this one, The Light at Tern Rock by Julia Sauer, a Newbery Honor Book in 1952–and originally published in the Horn Book Magazine in 1949. This would seem to break the award’s rule about “original work,” that the “text is presented here for the first time and has not been previously published elsewhere in this or any other form.” But maybe the rule was different then? Or perhaps here as so often, he says, drawing his emeralds warmly about him*, the Horn Book was above any such petty restrictions as criteria.
K.T. Horning, do you know?
The post Moving moments No. 2 appeared first on The Horn Book.
As we (WE?, the staff snarks) pack up the offices for our move at the end of this month, it’s just one madeleine after another as old toys and treasure unveil themselves from the shadowed recesses, bringing with them the little joies and horreurs of années passées.
Martha uncovered this copy of Magid Fasts for Ramadan, a pleasant little chapter book we reviewed back in 1996. This was my first object lesson in the necessity of careful proofreading, as it was not until the final pass through the July issue blues that we saw that somewhere along the line the title in the review had been changed to “Magid FEASTS for Ramadan.” So much for cultural sensitivity!
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The Impossible Knife of Memory
by Laurie Halse Anderson
High School Viking 371 pp.
1/14 978-0-670-01209-1 $18.99 g
Hayley Kincain has spent the last five years riding shotgun in her father’s rig, discussing fractions and evolution — an on-the-road version of home schooling. Constant movement has helped keep the past at bay for both Hayley and her dad, a recent veteran plagued by graphic flashbacks and screaming nightmares. When they settle down so Hayley can attend her hometown high school for senior year, the dangerous memories threaten to overtake them both. Hayley’s caustic observations about the “fully assimilated zombies” who swarm the halls and the oxymoronic “required volunteer community service” are trademark Anderson. Old friend Gracie shares childhood memories with Hayley, but her stories draw blanks. What Hayley does remember, and can’t forgive, is her father’s girlfriend Trish walking out on them. Now Trish has reappeared, and Hayley blames her for making Dad’s drunken rages and blackouts even worse. How can she possibly care about math? Sweet, “adorkable” Finn offers to tutor her; he is smart enough to take it slow, and as she falls for him he even coaxes her to dare to think about a future. As ever, Anderson has the inside track on the emotional lives of adolescents; she plays high school clichés for laughs but compassionately depicts Hayley’s suffering as well as the hurts of Finn and Gracie, whose families are struggling with their own demons. The novel’s theme is woven artfully throughout as both Hayley and her dad fight the flashes of memory that are sure to tear them apart unless they confront them once and for all.
The post Review of The Impossible Knife of Memory appeared first on The Horn Book.
I assume you are all waiting next to your mailbox for the newest Horn Book magazine. It’s ALL ABOUT ILLUSTRATION, people! While you are waiting, here are a few teasers that have been released early for your picture book pleasure. Let me walk you through the digital content while you wait for the whole gorgeous magazine to get to you.
- First, here is a link to the last time The Horn Book published a special edition about picture books. The “Studio Views” from 1989 are right here. Isn’t that amazing?
- Second, this article about design by Jon Scieszka and Molly Leach is being reprinted in the new print edition, too.
- And right here is a fabulous piece by smart person and frequent Calling Caldecott poster Julie Danielson about media.
- KT Horning, friend and brilliant reviewer (remember the guest posting on our blog??) has this review of My Bus by Byron Barton for your reading pleasure.
- Wonder just what it takes to be recognized as a new illustrator? This piece by Shadra Strickland will challenge your assumptions and make you appreciate (and read and buy) books by new illustrators and by illustrators of color.
Stay warm, check your mailbox, and settle in for some good reading about picture books and their makers.
PS And, in case you missed it, Lolly has a new blog! It’s all about teaching with good books. Join in the discussion right here.
The post Picture Book Fix, the linked-up edition appeared first on The Horn Book.
In the March/April 2014 Horn Book Magazine, reviewer K. T. Horning asked author/illustrator Byron Barton about My Bus, his latest transportation celebration. Read the starred review here.
K. T. Horning: Joe from My Bus and Sam from My Car (Greenwillow, 2001) seem to lead parallel lives. And yet Joe’s passengers are animals and Sam’s are people. Do they reside in the same town, or even the same universe?
Byron Barton: Joe and Sam live in neighboring communities. They have different bus routes. The area has changed somewhat over time, but it is only by chance that, on one day, Joe had only cats and dogs for passengers. On another day and another bus route Joe or Sam could have chickens, pigs, or people on his bus. They all love to ride on buses, cars, trains, boats, and planes.
The post Byron Barton on My Bus appeared first on The Horn Book.
by Byron Barton; illus. by the author
Preschool Greenwillow 40 pp.
4/14 978-0-06-228736-6 $16.99 g
In a companion volume to My Car (rev. 11/01), we ride along with Joe as he drives Bus #123 across a bold-hued landscape populated with feline and canine passengers. “At my first stop, one dog gets on my bus. / At my second stop, two cats get on my bus.” After four stops, he points out he has five dogs and five cats riding on his bus. And here’s where the real fun for toddler transportation enthusiasts begins: Joe drops off one dog and two cats at a boat (“They sail away”), two dogs and one cat at a train, and one dog and two cats at a plane; the last little dog (“My dog!”) goes home with Joe in his car. Beyond the initial excitement many young children will feel as they share Joe’s journey and see the departing animals through the windows of their various vehicles, there is so much here for repeated readings (and there will be repeated readings). Barton ingeniously introduces the basic concepts of cardinal and ordinal numbers, addition, subtraction, and sets, but he does it all so subtly that even parents may not realize they’re getting a math lesson. And yet it’s all there for little brains to absorb and work out on their own as they “sail, ride, and fly away” again and again. Illustrated in Barton’s signature style, with bold, flat colors and with only the most important visual details included, this is a welcome companion to My Car.
The post Review of My Bus appeared first on The Horn Book.
Growing up in the heart of the South, I saw firsthand how people were excluded based on skin color. I was taught that the rules weren’t the same for blacks and whites, but I also witnessed game-changers such as John Lewis and Coretta Scott King, who rose in spite of that fact. I never thought that being black or a woman would preclude me from any opportunities in life. I graduated in the top ten percent of my high school class and got into every college to which I applied.
My mother, an educator and guidance counselor, took me on a tour of my top ten schools. We met with professors, financial aid officers, and other students so that I could make an informed decision. My mother had been discouraged from pursuing her own dreams of becoming a singer, and so she always nurtured my talent. Although she herself couldn’t draw a straight line, she knew that my success would depend on my choosing a strong art program. The great news was that schools wanted me. The bad news was that most scholarships went to science majors and athletes. Undeterred, I took out thousands of dollars in loans — money I wasn’t sure I’d ever make back as an artist.
Syracuse University was my first choice. Though not in New York City (my childhood dream), it was the picture I had in my head of what college looked like. I had terrible anxiety surrounding the cost of college and the stigma of being labeled a starving artist, so I enrolled in communications design, taking illustration and creative writing as minors. I was one of only two black students in my class — both female. There was one other black student in the class ahead of me who took me under his wing as a baby designer. He pleaded with me to stay in design because, as he put it, “We need more black women.”
After my first year of design, I missed drawing and painting, and so I switched to illustration. I was then the only black female in that program. I found freedom as an illustrator and saw growth in my work. But I didn’t see myself reflected in illustration’s history. Where were the black editorial illustrators, comic makers, and book illustrators? Norman Rockwell was great, but his town didn’t look anything like mine. Maxfield Parrish was wonderful, but his angels and elves didn’t look like the ones in my head. Though most celebrated illustrators didn’t look like me, they were my only models.
I spent a semester studying abroad in Florence, Italy, and then returned to Syracuse for my senior year. There, I found that one of my instructors was Yvonne Buchanan, a black female illustrator. I was really excited to see her published work, which primarily reflected African American history. I also remember being introduced to the art of Jerry Pinkney, which made me think, “If this is what illustration is, I have a long way to go!” But I’d found a spark. I began studying the field more on my own and developing projects that might move my career forward. I worked with a local author in Atlanta that summer and made my first picture book dummy.
Senior year ended, and my future was uncertain. I had sent out promotional postcards and gotten some nice feedback, but nothing loomed on my horizon. Still, I returned home to Atlanta optimistic. I had my degree and was confident in the knowledge and experience I had gained. After some time, I landed some small freelance illustration jobs — including an easy reader with Jen Frantz, a young editor at Lee & Low Books — made a few more failed attempts at getting picture book work, and painted some commissioned portraits. Eventually a full-time position for an art teacher with the Atlanta Public Schools opened up and I took it, promising myself I would apply to grad school once my three-year provisional was up. While reading to my students every morning, I finally found myself in the pages of books like Storm in the Night, C.L.O.U.D.S., and Dancing in the Wings. These stories were about kids whose experiences reflected my own. Seeing those books gave me permission to explore ideas that interested me. I was ready to move on to the next phase of my art journey.
During my third year of teaching, I was accepted into the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual Arts (finally — New York City!). I worked alongside nineteen other talented artists, and four of us immediately made ourselves known as “the book illustrators.” My competitive nature was fully engaged as part of “the fabulous four.” For two years, we shared books, critiqued and encouraged one another, did group portfolio drop-offs, and met with publishers. When graduation came, two members of our group — Jonathan Bean and Taeeun Yoo — landed book deals immediately, then Lauren Castillo, but not me. I was talented. I worked hard. I had knowledge of the industry and had been published in the past. I hit the pavement with my portfolio, thinking surely someone would use me, but nothing happened.
My mother had taught me to exhaust every possibility before looking to another solution, so that’s what I did. My friends helped me stay positive in those dark months. I sought guidance from Pat Cummings, who was one of the only other working black women book illustrators I knew at the time. Pat gave me a lead on part-time work assisting illustrator Christopher Myers, and on a design job where I was the only black person working in the children’s art department. I showed my colleagues my own illustration work and was told it was nice, but no book contract followed. A few weeks later, I took in samples of two of my friends’ work, and they both got offers within the month. What a blow to my ego! I was frustrated, then sad, and then angry. I worked harder and stopped making images that I thought editors wanted to see. Instead I made images that I enjoyed.
Through a serendipitous encounter at the 2007 Original Art Show opening with editor Jen Fox, then at Lee & Low Books, I landed my first big manuscript, where I found an opportunity to use the ideas and visual language that I had been experimenting with all along. That opportunity launched my career. I won the 2009 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award for Bird, written by Zetta Elliott.
It’s strange being black and a woman in a field that has historically celebrated white male contributions. Before I was published, I wondered if the only way in was to write and illustrate stories about slavery and black history. When all of my graduate school friends landed book contracts before me, at times I thought, “Is it because I paint black people?” I talked myself down from that ledge, but why was I up there to begin with?
After my books were out in the world, interviewers would ask questions like, “Why do you only paint black people?” To which I would reply: My choice of characters isn’t what defines my style; it’s how I paint them and the world around them. Would you ask a white male artist why he doesn’t paint black people?
My New York chapter closed after eight years. I went home to Atlanta, with plans to try living in Paris for a year. During that time, though, my mother lost two brothers and an aunt, and I was glad to be there to support my family. Paris would have to wait. Coincidentally, illustrator R. Gregory Christie, whom I had met in New York, had recently moved to Atlanta. One day over lunch he encouraged me to apply to a position at Maryland Institute College of Art, having already given the search committee my name. I applied, gathering up all of my stories, successes, and failures from the past. The next adventure was calling.
As a professor of illustration, I understand how important it is to be visible and accessible to other artists who are looking for guidance. I now have a range of books under my belt, and my attitude about the industry has certainly shifted. Looking to the future, in addition to collaborating with talented authors I know that I will be illustrating stories I write myself, and I will do my part in reflecting a more inclusive vision of our world. The industry still has a way to go in publishing stories that reflect our diversity. As an artist and illustrator of picture books, I look forward to being a model for those who are looking for themselves in their pages.
From the March/April 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Illustration.
The post Do Great Work and the Rest Will Follow appeared first on The Horn Book.
This week on hbook.com…
Not on our site, but not to be missed: PW’s article about the CBB “Why Did THAT Book Win?” panel
Preview the March/April 2014 Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Illustration
From the March/April issue:
Articles from the March/April 1998 Horn Book Magazine Special Issue: Picture Books now available
Four recommended YA books for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week
Review of the Week: Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf; trans. from the German by Tim Mohr
App Review of the Week: Roxie’s Doors
Read Roger: “My sister AND my daughter”
Out of the Box:
See overviews of previous weeks by clicking the tag week in review. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date on our articles!
The post Horn Book Week in Review, February 24th–28th appeared first on The Horn Book.
“What is it?”
“It looks like a Disney princess movie!”
“It sounds like a Planet Earth episode.”
Well, not exactly, but not far off the mark, either.
Disney and author Jennifer Donnelly (A Northern Light, Revolution) are collaborating on a multimedia fantasy project set to debut in early May. The WaterFire saga is projected to include four novels, an enhanced e-book, a theme song, and an extensive website with video clips — in short, a franchise on a Disney-sized scale.
What we actually received, inspiring oohing and ahhing as well as the comments above, is a nifty little gadget created by PIM, or Printings in Motion.
Imagine a BLAD with marketing specs on the back — and inside, an embedded screen about the size of an iPhone’s. Open the cover and video begins playing: Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live a people of the water…
Buttons allow you to select between a book trailer and a “making of” short. It even came with a USB cord to charge it and/or play the videos on your computer screen.
Series-opener Deep Blue begins with Mediterranean Sea mermaid princess Serafina’s prophetic nightmares on the eve of her wedding. As the books go on, several mermaid princesses from other regions will be introduced as they fight together to protect merfolk from an “ancient evil” and impending war. In the making-of video, Donnelly says that Disney sent her a “comprehensive mermaid bible” about the characters and their cultures; she expanded upon their sketches and outlines as she wrote. It’s a bit disconcerting to think of well-respected author Donnelly taking so much direction from Disney.
PIM’s other clients include Yahoo!, HP, and Heineken. Will publishers — and presumably film studios, app developers, etc. — without The Mouse’s or Mercedes-Benz’s global reach be able to afford this technology to market their products? (As Roger exclaimed, “Good lord, how much did this cost?”) Is PIM the Next Big Thing in marketing, or a flash-in-the-pan fad?
Perhaps more importantly: is this PIM marketing ploy a little too much? And will the WaterFire books — with their clear Disney stamp — live up to it? Only time will tell.
The post The wave of the future? appeared first on The Horn Book.
Table of Contents
|Leonard S. Marcus
||An Interview with Neal Porter
A renowned publisher shares his insight
into the current state of picture books.
|Jon Scieszka and Molly Leach
The classic Horn Book article — now in color.
||Just Enjoy the Pictures:
Hand-Crafted Versus Digital Art
“Mixed-media” in the twenty-first century.
||An Interview with Molly Bang
The perennially experimenting
artist turns to nonfiction.
||Do Great Work and the Rest Will Follow
On race and gender in
art school and beyond.
||Sidebar: My Life as an Art Student
Painting or Illustration?
Two schools of thought.
||Looking for Art Notes
A call for more illumination
on the copyright page.
As Pretty Does
Stretching the definition of
the picture book form.
Illustrators reveal their favorite art media.
Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Erin E. Stead
Philip C. Stead
Gene Luen Yang
|Human Mistakes and Trembling Lines
Gouache and I
The Common Thread
In Service of the Book
Push the Paint
Pen, Ink, Watercolor, Repeat
My Next Medium
Paint & Pixels
Gliding on Paper
For the Fear of Failure
What a Find!
A New Freedom
How to Draw Comics the Yang Way
||What Makes a Good…?
What Makes a Good Book Cover?
From The Guide
Wordless Picture Books
A selection of reviews from The Horn Book Guide.
|Robin L. Smith
Reading Picture Books 101
Just follow these simple steps.
|March/April Starred Books
Index to Advertisers
Index to Books Reviewed
||Cover: photo of her studio by Grace Lin.
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The post The Horn Book Magazine — March/April 2014 appeared first on The Horn Book.
Back in 1998, the Horn Book Magazine published a special issue devoted to picture books. With articles about picture book history, reviewing and writing picture books, and a baker’s dozen of first-person “Studio Views,” it became a children’s lit classroom staple and is easily the most requested special issue we’ve produced.
We ran out of copies of the Picture Books issue many years ago, although I am happy to say we have now put it online. I am also very happy to present you with this year’s special issue, Illustration (which includes one of the original Picture Books issue articles, “Design Matters” by Jon Scieszka and Molly Leach — now in color!). Note the broadening of theme: just as picture books themselves expanded beyond their traditional preschool audience in the 1980s, so have illustrators gone on to stretch the very definition of the form. While the selection of the 500-some-paged Invention of Hugo Cabret for the 2008 Caldecott Medal will probably always be a controversial choice, there is no doubt that it, along with the entrance of comics and graphic novels into the realm of children’s book respectability, makes us all think more broadly about what we mean by a “picture book.” Not to mention the resurgence of illustrations in middle-grade fiction, from Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid and Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate to the winners of this year’s Newbery Medal (Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses, illustrated by K. G. Campbell) and Scott O’Dell Award (Kirkpatrick Hill’s Bo at Ballard Creek, illustrated by LeUyen Pham). Illustrators are showing up everywhere in books for youth these days, and we’re delighted to bring you another thirteen Studio Views (also in color!) from members of the present generation.
The New York Times’s report that picture books were in trouble (“Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children,” 10/7/10) was being debunked as soon at it was printed. Publishing has always been a game of trending, tacking, and correcting course as interests change and populations shift. But perhaps the alarm did force us all to make a little bit more noise about a genre whose virtues were being out-shouted by blockbuster/doorstopper YAs. And noise was something we had all become very good at since 1998, when social media meant AOL. Defenses of the picture book flew through cyberspace, campaigns to tout their use were disseminated among blogs and Facebook and Twitter. Such dialogue (and surely it’s time for a better word when it comes to conversations that routinely involve thousands of people) continues, as you can see on our Calling Caldecott blog and all the other virtual spots where pixels dance in defense of paper. While technical advances in the creation of illustrations have (as Julie Danielson shows us) made mixed media a term even more mysterious than ever, to my mind the children’s book community, fostered by the internet, has had a far greater effect on picture books than have the latest advances in Photoshop.
Are we in a picture book boom? No, and I am glad about that, because the last picture book boom that ran from the 1980s into the 1990s wasn’t pretty. I must immediately correct myself to say that it was too pretty, with lots of big, beautiful, empty books whose pictures forgot they had a job to do. I woke this morning to Facebook scoldings about an Oregon Department of Education report that too many of the state’s kindergartners were not academically prepared for first grade, that is to say, they did not read well enough. To echo another social media meme, Leave the Kindergartners Alone! It’s our job to read to them; it’s their job to look at the pictures; it’s the pictures’ job to join the story with the imaginations of those who read it and those who hear it. As the many examples in this special issue demonstrate, that job continues to be performed admirably.
The post Editorial: As Pretty Does appeared first on The Horn Book.
Last week was our first week with book discussion on this blog rather than our usual posts from teachers. I didn’t exactly blow the horn to announce them, so this week I’m trying something different, hoping more of you see — and join — the discussions.
So… *horn fanfare* …we hope you will join us in talking about the five books we’re reading for Thursday night’s children’s lit class at HGSE.
For March 6, 2014, we have two picture books, two easy readers, and one book about how art works:
Last week we read these books, and we’d love to let the conversation keep going:
And now, let the wild discussions begin!
The post More books to discuss appeared first on The Horn Book.
Here’s one of the two picture books we’re reading for our second class. What do you make of this one? For those of you who know your lit, this is a classically unreliable narrator. How do the text and art play off each other? If you can, try reading it aloud, ideally to a child. In my experience, kids who get the joke enjoy this book more than those who take it at face value. What do you make of that? (Mischief maker group, here’s another gift for your wiki page!)
The post This Is Not My Hat appeared first on The Horn Book.
Here another picture book for our second class. There are lots of books out there that tackle an emotional issue in a heavy handed way. I’m not a fan of those books, but I love this one. What do you think? Does it accomplish its goal? Would it appeal to a child in a similar situation? How does it avoid sounding preachy — or does it?
The post That New Animal appeared first on The Horn Book.
Mo Willems has become THE master of easy readers. With pre-book work includes Sesame Street and animation, he had the perfect training to create child- and teacher-friendly easy readers. I think he deserves every one of his many awards. What do notice in this deceptively simple book? What does he do with simple shapes and lines in the art and very few words to create distinct characters? Would you share this book with children who are learning to read?
(Note to the Mo fans out there: I recommended a road trip to Amherst MA to visit the Eric Carle Museum. While you are out there, save some time to visit the R. Michelson Gallery in Northhampton where you can see — and buy — original Mo Willems sketches of Elephant and Piggie.)
The post There Is a Bird On Your Head! appeared first on The Horn Book.
“Lift the flaps and step through doors into wonderful worlds that you can explore. Open the door to a fantasy — imagination is your key!” Welcome to Roxie’s Doors (OCG Studios and Roxie Munro, 2011), an interactive lift-the-flap search-and-find app based on author/illustrator Roxie Munro’s 2004 picture book Doors.
The rhyming text (with optional narration by either Roxie herself or male narrator Dirk Kennedy) guides readers through nine doors leading into a firehouse, train car, horse stable, doctor’s office, sailboat, refrigerator door, car repair shop, backstage at a theater, and a spaceship.
Text on the left-hand side of each screen contains five to nine words highlighted in bold red font to indicate objects (including a hat and an apple on every page) to look for behind the door on the right-hand side: “When you’re hungry and want a treat, open this door for good things to eat. Search for some meat and dessert that you freeze. Find bread and butter, eggs, milk and cheese. Explore this space for leftover stew. And look for a hat and an apple, too.” Tapping opens the initial door; opens other, smaller doors within the revealed room; closes doors; and moves objects.
When you’ve touched something the text asked you to find, the image is highlighted, a ding sounds, and the red word turns green, making this app a great word/image association learning tool. The text on the left-hand side is usually still visible once you open the main door as a reference to objects you still need to find. Touch the arrows at the bottom corners to move backward and forward through the app; a pull-down menu at the top of every screen also allows you to jump to different pages within the app and turn the narration and sound on and off.
The text on the first nine screens is only minimally narrative, but at app’s end waits “a door of a different kind — to fantastic worlds that will open your mind”: a book that tells the story of a “big day” in a medieval kingdom. Find a crying baby in one room of a castle, a princess in a tower room, a queen missing her king, and so on through a knight’s battle with a dragon and a jousting tournament. Unlike the app’s other sections, the story does not progress until you find each red-highlighted item or person mentioned; not every object to locate is hidden behind a door. But by this point in the app, you are (hopefully) an expert object-finder able to move the story briskly along.
My only minor complaint: with text taking up half of the screen, it’s hard to see all the objects inside some of the rooms (for instance, in the wide-view fire station scene versus in the close-up fridge). While this does add to the challenge of finding all the hidden objects, I found it much easier to navigate the castle story at the end because the scene filled the entire screen, with text popping up on scrolls in unobtrusive portions of the illustration.
This enjoyable app offers young children a combination of two things they love in books: lift-the-flaps and search-and-find. Available for iPad (requires iOS 5.0 or later); $2.99.
The post Roxie’s Doors app review appeared first on The Horn Book.
Anderson, Laurie Halse Wintergirls
282 pp. Viking 2009.
Lia, an anorexic and cutter, hears that her estranged friend Cassie was found dead in a motel room–after leaving Lia thirty-three messages. Cassie’s death tips the already fragile Lia into a vortex of self-destruction. Anderson conveys Lia’s illness vividly through her dark, fantastic thoughts. This stream-of-consciousness, first-person, present-tense work is tangled and illuminating.
George, Madeleine Looks
240 pp. Viking 2008.
Meghan Ball is the fat girl nobody notices. She’s hyper-aware, a keen observer of her classmates. Too-skinny Aimee Zorn is a talented poet who’s seriously anorexic. After learning that Meghan’s ex-friend plagiarized one of Aimee’s poems, the two plan the girl’s comeuppance. George’s writing is sharp and insightful, and her treatment of eating disorders never devolves into sermonizing or stereotypes.
Metzger, Lois A Trick of the Light
196 pp. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray 2013.
The narrator of this startlingly original book is a voice inside fifteen-year-old Mike Welles’s head. At first, the voice seems to be on Mike’s side, but then it tells Mike to lie (to doctors, parents, teachers), turns him toward self-destructive behaviors–and pushes him to starve himself. The narrative voice–Mike’s eating disorder, personified–is the star of this masterfully written novel.
Walsh, Marissa, editor Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?
216 pp. Clarion 2008.
In short stories and real-life anecdotes, fourteen well-known authors–from size “XS” Margo Rabb to “XXXL” Daniel Pinkwater–explore attitudes and societal expectations about body image. Their personal reflections are especially affecting. A message of self-acceptance is clear throughout, perhaps inspiring teens to feel more secure about their looks. Recommendations for love-yourself movies, songs, books, and websites are appended.
Reviews are from The Horn Book Guide.
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Why We Took the Car
by Wolfgang Herrndorf; trans. from the German by Tim Mohr
Middle School, High School Levine/Scholastic 250 pp.
1/14 978-0-545-48180-9 $17.99 g
e-book ed. 978-0-545-58636-8 $17.99
Two teens abandon their lackluster lives and hit the Autobahn in this audacious tragicomedy. Mike Klingenberg, boring and unpopular, lives a life of quiet desperation at his Berlin junior high. New kid Tschick comes to class drunk and might be in the Russian mafia; he’s not winning friends, but at least everyone’s paying attention. So when Tschick rolls up to Mike’s house in a hotwired car and proposes a road trip without a map, destination, or driver’s license, Mike says yes. Although the telling begins at its ignominious end, their story is, in many ways, a traditional road trip: the characters ponder their existence and gain independence while mastering the stick shift, evading local police, and encountering a collection of increasingly weird locals. Mike’s narration is an anxious stream of wry humor and linked anecdotes, but the moments when his façade slips are abrupt and startling windows into the pain of social exclusion and the aching loneliness of being fourteen. A sharp coming-of-age journey, hilarious and heartrending in equal measure.
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It’s not unusual for the Horn Book to receive submissions from adult publishers, and we recently opened a box from Lark, an imprint of Sterling Publishing (whose children’s books we do review). Lark books are crafts books – beautifully produced, sturdy how-to paperbacks about sewing, crocheting, jewelry-making, flower-arranging, etc.
Pretty Quilled Cards: 25+ Creative Designs Greetings & Celebrations and Packaging Your Crafts: Creative Ideas for Crafters, Artists, Bakers & More, while adult-aimed, do feature some lovely projects that could keep kids and their crafty caretakers busy on a stay-at-home snow day.
But… come on, Lark. Homebrew Beyond the Basics? We’d go to jail.
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Over on child_lit, Cheryl Klein has been asking for titles of books with big reveals, the ones with a surprise that make you rethink the whole thing. Like Gone Girl, The Thief, and most of Robert Cormier. I contributed Gene Kemp’s The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler, the 1977 Carnegie-winning title about an obstreperous but goodhearted kid about whom something is revealed only on the last page. (Interestingly, it’s a surprise that only dates the book today.)
Reviewers HATE these books, and it only gets worse as our reviews get disseminated to a wider audience, not just professionals selecting books for other readers, but readers themselves. I think I told you about the trouble we got in when a YA writer complained all over Twitter that the Horn Book review of her book gave away the surprise. (When I queried the reviewer about it, she said “That was the surprise?” Ouch.) And now in preparation for a Talks With Roger interview I’m reading Ilsa J. Bick‘s White Space, which is crawling with these suckers. Crawling. I guess they can’t all be The King Died and the Queen Died of Grief.
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This is one of our two easy readers (a.k.a. early readers) for our second class. We talked about the difference between picture books and easy readers. How well do you think this book works? Clearly it’s for somewhat more fluent readers than the Elephant and Piggy books. Do the situations match the age of the average new reader? What if a somewhat older child is learning to read at this level? Easy readers may not look as flashy as picture books, but in some ways they are more challenging to create. The author and illustrator must perform a balancing act to make the book inviting yet not intimidating. Imagine trying to create specific and engaging characters using very few words and clean, simple illustrations.
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Molly Bang‘s Picture This is her personal exploration as she tries to analyze the emotional effects of art. Most illustrators go with their gut as they compose their pictures, but Molly wanted to see if there were some rules involved as well. An experienced illustrator, she says she began to understand art and composition better through this exploration. This book was originally written for adults, but I know of some teachers, mostly in later elementary and middle school, who use the exercises in the second half of this book.
Did Molly’s explorations resonate for you? Help you understand pictures and illustration?
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