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1. Markus - Ich bin nicht Spiderman (offizielles Video)

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2. Gender Matters? Swedish Picture Books and Gender Ambiguity

guest bloggerBack in June, Laura Reiko Simeon wrote about how race is handled in Swedish picture books. We’re thrilled to host Laura again as she sheds light on how Swedish picture books handle gender and gender-ambiguous characters.

You sit down with your favorite 4-year-old to read a sweet, wordless picture book featuring a little duck swimming down the river. Quickly, without thinking too hard, what pronoun do you use to describe the duck? Do you say, “Look at him paddle past that shaggy dog!” or “What does she see in the sky?”

If you were like the mothers in a 1985 study, you would use masculine pronouns for 95% of animal characters with no gender-specific characteristics. A follow-up study from 1995 examined children’s use of pronouns and found that by age 7 they had absorbed and were repeating these same gender stereotypes. Listen to those around you: has it changed much since then?For children who may not yet be aware (1)

In the US, Sweden is widely regarded as a leader in gender equality, although many Swedes still see a need for greater progress. Meanwhile, our own biases are apparent, for example when we consider gendered toys. Compare this 1981 Lego ad, with its blue jeans and t-shirt-clad girl to the pink-infused products targeted at girls today. As with other social issues, picture books reflect concerns in society at large – but how they’ve done so is dramatically different in the US as compared to Sweden.

Some American picture books encourage acceptance of kids who break free from gender restrictions: Charlotte Zolotow’s William’s Doll, Cheryl Kilodavis’s My Princess Boy, and Campbell Geeslin’s Elena’s Serenade, among others. The point of these stories is that a character is acting in opposition to gender norms, but for children who may not yet be aware that they’re “not supposed to” do or like certain things, these well-intentioned books could introduce self-consciousness.

What have largely been missing from English-language picture books are deliberately gender-ambiguous characters that are neither being bullied nor defiant. They just are. Rather than focusing on the consequences (good or bad) of pushing against societal restrictions or elevating the rebel as cultural hero, they turn the focus on the reader. Do we feel uncomfortable if we don’t know someone’s gender? Why? Do we make assumptions about gender based on what someone is doing or wearing? Why?

We do have some characters – e.g. the diverse, roly-poly infants in Helen Oxenbury’s delightful baby books – that are non-gender specific, but they tend to be in simple, relatively plot-free books for the very young. They are distinct from the Swedish picture books in which pronouns are cleverly avoided and characters send deliberately contradictory gender signals. My earlier post about

Kivi and the Monster Dog

Kivi and the Monster Dog

Swedish approaches to ethnic diversity introduced the concept of not making difference the problem. There is a similar philosophy at work here.

The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books publishes annual “Book Tastings” that identify trends for the year’s publications. The theme for 2012 was “Borders and Border Crossings,” and one border was gender: not just sexual orientation or gender roles, but the concept of gender as an identifier itself.

The anti-bias publisher OLIKA has published several titles of this nature, but the one that made the biggest splash was Kivi and the Monster Dog by Jesper Lundqvist, the first children’s book to use the gender-neutral pronoun, “hen.” (In Swedish, “hon” means “she” and “han” means “he.” First proposed in the 1960s, “hen” was mostly used in academic research and hipster neighborhoods of Stockholm.) In this funny rhyming story, a small person, Kivi, wishes for a pet dog and ends up instead with a demanding beast that runs amok.

Åsa Mendel-Hartvig and Caroline Röstlund write about Tessla, a preschooler clad in gender-neutral clothes and boasting a mop of brown hair. In Tessla’s Mama Doesn’t Want To! and Tessla’s Papa Doesn’t Want To!, the child, in an amusing role reversal, creatively cajoles badly behaving parents into leaving the park, washing their hair, waking up on time or going to work.

interior page from Pom and Pim

interior page from Pom and Pim

Pom and Pim by Olof and Lena Landström may be the only Swedish gender-neutral book that has been translated into English. The first in a series, it features an adventurous toddler, Pom, who sends mixed gender signals: a boyish-sounding nickname, sparse curls, a long purple sweater, and a little pink toy (Pim). The story is told without pronouns, yet two professional American reviewers assumed Pom was male and referred to the character as “he.”

In Maria Nilsson Thore’s Bus and Frö Each on Their Own Island, two gender-ambiguous animals reach out from their lonely islands to become friends. One is shown variously smoking a pipe and knitting. In Jonatan Brännström’s The Lightning Swallower, we never learn the gender of the narrator, who is terrified of thunderstorms.

The Lightning Swallower

The Lightning Swallower

These books make a reader consider what markers are “masculine” or “feminine” – and why. They don’t dictate what you “should” do – rebel or conform – or offer value judgments about those who do either. In English-language books, feisty heroines reject traditionally female pursuits as “boring” (what about those girls who do love sewing and cooking?) and boys are persecuted for their love of pink and dolls (making these preferences seem risky to express). With their gender-ambiguous characters, Swedes have tilted the lens slightly and given us a whole new perspective through which to consider this topic. Can we change the terms of the discussion instead of framing everything in terms of binary gender categories? Where could that small but crucial shift take us?

Laura SimeonThe daughter of an anthropologist, Laura Reiko Simeon’s passion for diversity-related topics stems from her childhood spent living all over the US and the world. She fell in love with Sweden thanks to the Swedish roommate she met in Wales while attending one of the United World Colleges, international high schools dedicated to promoting cross-cultural understanding. Laura has an MA in History from the University of British Columbia, and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington. She lives near Seattle.


Filed under: Diversity 102, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Educator Resources, Guest Blogger Post Tagged: gender, gender roles, gender stereotypes, picture books around the world, sweden

0 Comments on Gender Matters? Swedish Picture Books and Gender Ambiguity as of 1/1/1900
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3. Back-to-School Word Scramble Answers

Back to SchoolBack-to-School Word Scramble AnswersCatGymnastics

for an awesome quiz! Would you like to see YOUR quiz in the Ink Splot 26 blog? You can add your ideas here!

Sonja, STACKS Staffer

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4. Defenders of Wildlife and Harts Pass Comics


A small but loyal following at Defenders of Wildlife recently put some Harts Pass Comics imagery to work on their blogKylie Paul, Rockies & Plains Representative at Defenders, does a nice job of summing up the recent trajectory of potential wolverine protection and in the final two paragraphs makes a case for reversing the recent decision to deny protections:

It is a fundamentally American value to protect our land, air, water, and wildlife – that’s why Congress enacted the ESA. If we’re not willing to protect one of the rarest mammals in the Lower 48, a species with fewer than 300 individuals left south of the Canadian border and one of the lowest successful reproductive rates known to mammals, how imperiled does a species have to be to gain federal protection?

Defenders of Wildlife currently has an open petition to tell Secretary of the Department of the Interior Sally Jewell – who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service – to reconsider the serious threats to the survival of wolverines and immediately reverse this unsupportable decision. Please take part!

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5. Eric Schmidt & Margaret Atwood Debut On the Indie Bestseller List

How Google WorksWe’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending September 28, 2014–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #7 in Hardcover Nonfiction) How Google Works by Eric Schmidt, III & Jonathan Rosenberg: “The authors explain how technology has shifted the balance of power from companies to consumers, and that the only way to succeed in this ever-changing landscape is to create superior products and attract a new breed of multifaceted employees whom Eric and Jonathan dub ‘smart creatives.’” (September 2014)

(more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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6. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I'm still incredibly busy with our three-month old little girl and haven't really had time for art, but I'm trying to keep my fingers in it and as such, I'll be participating in a group show next week.  This will be my first ever gallery showing, so I'm really looking forward to it!  I'll be showing only older work, but it's still a great chance to come and see original works up close by fourteen different artists.  If you're in the area, I hope you can make it!



A sampling of the pieces I'll be showing is here:
http://www.northtexasillustrators.com/project/phyllis-hornung-peacock/http://www.northtexasillustrators.com/project/phyllis-hornung-peacock/

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7. Got 33 Seconds? Check Out A Year in The Secret Garden

A new video by Marilyn Scott-Waters and Valarie Budayr in honor of their new book A Year in the Secret Garden.

With over 120 pages, with 150 original color illustrations and 48 activities for families to enjoy, learn, discover and play together, A Year In the Secret Garden is an opportunity to introduce a new generations of families to the magic of this classic tale in a modern and innovative way that creates special learning and play times outside in nature. This book encourages families to step away from technology and into the kitchen, garden, reading nook and craft room. Secure your piece of the magic today. Visit our website for more details and ordering information for A Year in the Secret Garden.

Thanks to Steph the Video Guy for the lovely animated intro.

The post Got 33 Seconds? Check Out A Year in The Secret Garden appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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8. Lena Dunham’s Wild Ride – Reinventing the Book Tour

lena-300x300She’s got ‘Portlandia’ star Carrie Brownstein and novelist Zadie Smith, ‘Prep” and ‘American Wife’ author Curtis Sittenfeld, poetry, live music, and food trucks, plus a set of artists whose videos she screened in bed. The ‘happenings’ sold nearly 8,000 tickets in less than a week. Starting today in New York City, Lena Dunham begins her 11-city ‘traveling circus of sorts that seems more like a roving Burning Man festival’ than a book tour, notes the New York Times. Lena told the Times:

‘I found the idea of a traditional author tour, where you go and stand behind the lectern and talk about yourself, I found it a little bit embarrassing, a little blatantly self-promotional and a little boring. I wanted it to have an arts festival feel, which is why we now have all these remarkable, special weirdos who I found on the Internet.’

(more…)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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9. A celebration of E.B. White, a fundraiser for First Book—Manhattan



I'm heading back to Broadway! I hope that you'll join me in supporting First Book—Manhattan as celebrated actors read from the works of E.B. White!

Last year's event was magical, and this year will prove to be no different.

Tickets are available at: http://www.symphonyspace.org/event/8497/Family-Literature/thalia-kids-book-club-terrific-tails-a-celebration-of-eb-white

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10. Technology Improves Teaching - Cintiq Monitor

When I was in school in the Mesolithic Age we actually drew on this thing called paper with devices known as pencils. Now days art students often draw on electric tablets or monitors even though we encourage our students to stick with the paper and pencils for a while longer. But all of this technology has not only sped up the illustration process and made it much easier to make corrections - it's also made it much easier to teach!



The Cintiq monitor by Wacom or other pressure sensitive graphics monitors have enabled teachers to perform "draw overs". I just started doing draw overs last year for both my online and UVU students. In the past I had to do a little drawing off to the side of my students work - it was good but really doesn't compare to actually drawing on top of their drawing to show what decisions I would have made. If I had done that on an original drawing on paper it wouldn't allow for seeing the students drawing without my "drawover" - in other words the original drawing would be altered forever with my crappy drawover on top. The student would have had no way to continue working on their drawing after my critique.

It is amazing for teaching online because we're only dealing with sketches that have been scanned and emailed to us. We have to be able to show our students what we're talking about - so this technology has actually been a key factor in us being able to teach online. Above you can see some of my UVU students work (draw a polar bear / Viking) and my rough little drawover which doesn't go into detail but focuses on general construction. It makes teaching so much more satisfying and  - fun!...Thank you Wacom!

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11. Spooky Sticker Activity Book

Spooky Sticker Activity Book

Illustrator: Simon Abbott
Publisher: Ticktock Books
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-1-78325-185-8
Pages: 64
Price: $8.99

Illustrator’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Halloween is coming, and it’s time to have some fun! The Spooky Sticker Activity Book will keep kids busy until October 31st. There are puzzles to solve, pictures to color and draw, and lots of reusable stickers to attach to the illustrations inside. Nothing too scary for young children – all the ghouls are smiling and friendly.

This enjoyable activity book would be a great addition to any child’s Halloween celebration.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


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12. The Rude Burl of Our Masks

One day when I was 12 years old and setting off on my newspaper route after school my mom said will you stop at the doctor's and pick up something for me and I grimaced and said something almost rude but not all the way rude and off I went on my bicycle. In autumn [...]

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13. Apply for a Free 3D Printer from 3D Systems!

3D Systems, in collaboration with YALSA, is committed to expanding young people’s access to 21st century tools like 3D design, 3D scanning and 3D printing.  The MakerLab Club is a brand new community of thousands of U.S. libraries and museums committed to advancing 3D digital literacy via dedicated equipment, staff training and increased public access.

3D Systems is donating up to 4,000 new 3D printers to libraries and museums across the country who join the MakerLab Club and provide access to 3D printing and design programs and services for their communities.  Libraries can apply to be part of the MakerLab Club via an online application. now until November 17th, 2014. Donated printers will be allocated on a competitive basis.

ELIGIBILITY AND MEMBERSHIP REQUIREMENTS
Membership in the MakerLab Club is available to libraries committed to creating or expanding makerlabs and/or making activities and to providing community access to 3D printers and digital design.

MAKER LAB CLUB BENEFITS
Libraries can receive up to four donated Cube 3D printers, as well as regular access to workshop curricula and content via webinars. Libraries will also receive exclusive equipment discounts and opportunities to win free hardware and software. In addition to resources and training library staff can join and participate in communities of practice in order to exchange ideas and best practices.

LEARN MORE ABOUT MAKING

Learn more about making in libraries via the resources on YALSA’s wiki, including a free webinar and downloadable toolkit.  And be sure to mark your calendar for March 8 – 14, 2015 when we celebrate Teen Tech Week with the theme “Libraries are for Making ____________.”

 

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14. Metaphorically Speaking

“Metaphor lives a secret life all around us. We utter about six metaphors a minute. Metaphorical thinking is essential to how we understand ourselves and others, how we communicate and learn, discover and invent.” – James Geary

If you haven’t watched James Geary’s brilliant TED talk about metaphors, you should! Ten minutes might break open everything you think you know about this topic.


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15. I Am NOT On Face Book

The requests to "friend" me on Face Book.  I forward links to news items from CBO but I am NOT using FB.  Please note that and do not send friend requests.

Thank You

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16. Gregory Maguire’s Next Book Has An ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Connection

Gregory MaguireWhen we last spoke with author Gregory Maguire, he told us he planned to sit in a “big long white noise period” to coax out his muse. He recently revealed that he has been working on an adult book with “an Alice in Wonderland connection.”

In an interview with School Library Journal, Maguire (pictured, via) mostly talks about fairy tales and his recently released young adult title, Egg and Spoon. At the very end, he offers a teasing snippet about his new project.

In the past, Maguire has written novels inspired by ”Cinderella,” “Snow White,” The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and A Christmas Carol. How do you predict he will remix Lewis Carroll’s beloved fantasy story?

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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17. Online Jeopardy Tool + YA Books and Authors Game

I love Kahoot! ( www.getkahoot.com ) because it's interactive, kids love to play it, it's quick to make and easy to reuse.  But as with all things, I like having a variety and some options, so I started looking online for a jeopardy game.  The first one I went to I couldn't get into, and then I stumbled on this website:
http://www.jeopardylabs.com

So easy to use!!  So I went to play with it, and created a jeopardy game based on YA authors and novels.  Here's the link:
jeopardylabs.com/play/ya-books-and-authors

Please use it with small groups, during lunches, with book clubs...however you'd like.  And if you create one, please share it as well!!

One other thing - You can create an account, but it'll cost 20.00 for a LIFETIME membership, which isn't much.  It will allow you to save your games & other bells and whistles.  If not, you need to remember the URL of the games you created and the URL for the edits, which can be tedious.

So, have fun and quiz on!! 



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18. Cybils Eve

Guess what!

Go on, guess!

Okay, fine, I'll tell you. Starting tomorrow through October 15, you get to nominate books for the Cybils! The world's only Children's and YA Blogger award opens its nomination period tomorrow, in thirteen categories from picture books to YA fiction, from book apps to poetry.

Anybody can nominate, and the books can be anything published in English in the US or Canada in the past year. 

Remember, each book (or app) can only be nominated by one person. So if you're going in, take at least a few faves in each category with you. 

More info here: Nominating for the Cybils.



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19. What Shape Is That Story?

This article is a post I wrote for the fabulous Writers Rumpus blog today, September 30th. While recently reading John Green’s Looking for Alaska, I was surprised by the shape of the story. I’ll get to that in a minute, but it reminded me of other authors who played with the structure of their narratives. […]

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20. The past is never dead.

On page 21 of Fourth Down and Inches, author Carla Killough McClafferty quotes an entry from the private diary of the coach of the Harvard University football team. In that entry, the coach, who was the highest second-highest paid employee of the university, recounts minimizing a player's concussion to avoid a PR disaster: "Since football is being severely criticized just at present, a case of concussion on the brain would be very serious.” The year? 1905.

Nothing has changed.

“The normally well-oiled public relations machine at the University of Michigan has been clanking badly in the past four days as the Ann Arbor school deals with the fallout from football coach Brady Hoke's decision to play a concussed player.”

Well, not exactly nothing. Now the coaches are apparently worse at handling the PR and they get paid more than anyone at the university. (Brady Hoke gets $4.6 million.)

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21. Marla Frazee Talks with Roger

marla frazee twr header Marla Frazee Talks with Roger

Talks with Roger is a sponsored supplement to our free monthly e-newsletter, Notes from the Horn Book. To receive Notes, sign up here.


marla frazee by james bradley 2 Marla Frazee Talks with RogerTwo-time Caldecott Honor recipient (for A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever and All the World) Marla Frazee’s newest picture book The Farmer and the Clown is already garnering talk of award recognition. Wordless, but rich with narrative and emotional resonance, The Farmer and the Clown portrays an unlikely friendship in which one party seems to rescue the other — but maybe that’s exactly backwards.

Roger Sutton: This is a really amazing book.

Marla Frazee: Thank you so much.

RS: The emotional quality of the story is incredibly powerful. So many of the pictures choke me up — they would probably have me sobbing right now if I didn’t have a reputation to maintain.

On your website you ask yourself a bunch of questions that you say people always ask you, and one of them is, “What is more important, style or concept?” Your answer: “I think the most important thing is emotional engagement.” How does an artist create that? As you’ve certainly done in this book.

MF: For me, I think it’s through time. If I’m sort of hooked into an idea, I try to play it out in my mind to see whether there’s something there to follow — what I would call the beating heart of that idea. If I can’t find it, I won’t be that engaged in the idea anymore. Even if I do find it, I often don’t know until many years later why it was compelling to me. As an example, when I started working on the Santa book [Santa Claus: The World's Number One Toy Expert], in the beginning I just thought it was really funny that Santa would be a toy tester. That was how the book started in my mind, and I played with the idea for years. It wasn’t until maybe seven years down the road, when I was on a long drive, that I realized he would have to know children really well, and know toys really well, in order to match the child and the toy, and that it was about gift-giving. It was about something we all aspire to know how to do — to give the right gift at the right time. Once I had that, the book started to make sense to me. Before that, it was just…

RS: This idea.

MF: Yes.

RS: What was the genesis of The Farmer and the Clown, emotionally?

MF: This one was very interesting, because I don’t know if you like clowns, but I don’t like clowns.

RS: Me neither.

MF: Most people don’t like clowns. But for whatever reason, I went to this clown show performance at my kids’ high school. The performers had worked on their clown personas for weeks, at least, and then acted in skits. It was set to music (there was no speaking), and it was really compelling and evocative and sublime. I loved it. I couldn’t get clowns out of my head afterward. So I thought maybe I should do a book about a clown town. Everybody’s a clown. They shop, they go to school. But somebody moves in who isn’t, who’s a serious person — what would happen? And then I reversed it out. Maybe it should be a serious town and funny neighbors who move in. There’s something funny about the new neighbors, and it’s a clown family.

RS: The clown comes to town.

MF: Yes. But then I was watching a Modern Family episode where Cam is a clown, and all his clown friends cram themselves into a Mini Cooper after a funeral. And I thought, “Well, there goes that idea.” Then I was playing with the idea of a little clown who was teaching a yoga class, but there was no story. And there wasn’t a story for a really long time. Then I thought of two characters — a serious, Amish-like farmer holding the hand of a very smiley baby clown, and they were walking together. It just hit me, that image. That’s where it started. And I thought, “There they are. Those are my characters.” Then it was a question of why are they together? What is the story that brought them together? It came from the fact that they both had such different personas, really, from what they truly were. We think: the clown has a big smile so that means he’s happy, and we maybe think the farmer’s a grump, but there’s more to him than that.

9781442497443 f3568 Marla Frazee Talks with RogerRS: We have that amazing scene of revelation where on the left-hand side of the spread, you see them getting to know each other. They’re talking. And then they’re eating. And then they’re washing up for the night, and the makeup comes off the clown’s face. And to the old man, at least the way I’m reading it — and of course, it being wordless, we can read it however we want to — it’s like a completely different person he’s now encountering. That he finally sees the clown as a baby, or a little child.

MF: I am so glad that’s how it struck you. Because to me that spread was the pivotal moment in the book.

RS: It’s huge. Completely unexpected.

MF: The thing that freaks me out about clowns is that they look a certain way, and they maybe act a certain way, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily feel a certain way. Underneath it all there might be something else going on. That’s true about everybody at times in our lives, and I wanted it to be a revelation about the farmer as well. This obviously isn’t what he expected his evening to be like.

RS: Right, and the farmer transforms from being dutiful to actually having an emotional stake in this child.

MF: I was originally thinking maybe it would take a few days for the circus train to come back, so there would be more time for their relationship to deepen and change. But there were issues about that, because I wanted it to be a real child who’s lost and scared. Once the child and the farmer got too comfortable with each other, a couple days in and we’d have a different relationship, and that wouldn’t work.

RS: It seems like you need to have either a 32-page picture book or a 148-page novel.

MF: Yes.

RS: I think you chose wisely.

MF: Thank you.

RS: You talked about the emotional engagement that brings you into a book, but then how do you create that emotional engagement for the reader? Or do you just cross your fingers and trust they’re going to have the same feelings you do?

MF: I don’t just cross my fingers. But I feel like that’s the big question when it comes to illustration — how do you convey emotion in a picture? Not only over the span of the book, but in each individual image, each spread. What are you trying to say emotionally, and how do you show that emotion? An incredible book that has inspired me on that topic is Molly Bang’s perception and composition book Picture This.

RS: That’s a great book.

MF: I also think of Trina Schart Hyman’s image on the back of the jacket of her Little Red Riding Hood, where she’s leaving the forest. It’s an incredible example of how the emotion of a scene can hit before the content does. We feel relief that this character — who we may not even see at first as Little Red Riding Hood — is leaving a dark and oppressive place. And then we start to see the elements. Oh, it’s Little Red Riding Hood. Oh, it’s the woods. Oh, it’s the village. I think she was trying to build the image so the emotion hits first. You feel either the loneliness or the joy first, and then you start reading the picture — ah! The emotion kind of smacks us, the viewer, before our brain engages. That’s something I aspire to. I don’t always get there, but I’m always trying to get there.

RS: Well, you certainly do here. Your ending is a killer. You pull us in with a warmth that keeps increasing as the book goes, but when we get to the end we realize, “Oh my god, these two are going to part.” It’s horrible!

MF: I know. In an early dummy, I had the farmer on page 32 walking toward us with the clown hat on, kicking up his heels, but that was not a true moment. This is not how he would feel. So I started to draw how I thought he would really feel, which was devastated, and I thought, “This is just a real downer.” It took a while to get to the idea of that monkey. I hope it feels somewhat inevitable, but it really did take a lot of soul-searching to figure out the feeling I wanted to leave this farmer with. I didn’t want it to be a devastating story.

RS: And it would be, without that monkey. The way the monkey is looking out at us and telling us, “Don’t tell the farmer I’m behind him,” pulls us into the story, so we feel like we’re part of something.

MF: That’s really important to me, because I wanted the reader to be part of the understanding of these two characters. It’s one of the reasons the book is wordless. I wanted us to perceive the characters a certain way, and to realize over time, after reading the book, that our perception was skewed as well, as maybe the farmer’s initially was toward the clown. We don’t know exactly how the clown perceives the farmer, but that was an element too.

RS: With the clown — you’re really honest about how a child would be when he realizes his family’s coming back. The long spread with the two of them and the approaching train, toot-toot, up there in the corner, where the clown is jumping up and down, and he’s all excited, and the farmer is protectively holding his hand, and watching out for him, making sure he doesn’t run onto the tracks, but the emotion of the kid, who’s so — you know, they don’t think about other people’s feelings, really.

MF: Right.

RS: And he’s just excited: “My parents are back!” But in the farmer’s posture, and in his little dot eye, you can see the sadness of the impending separation. Then the clown gives him a gift. He races back to say goodbye to the old man. And there’s that beautiful hug. And then they kiss. And I’m going to start crying.

When I look at wordless books today, they seem to mostly be becoming more and more elaborate. And this book is really stripped-down.

MF: I didn’t set out to do a wordless book. I set out to tell a particular story, and as I was telling it I realized it would be more powerful without words. It’s about impressions and misunderstandings of appearances. You get a slow understanding of who these characters are based on their behavior. I don’t necessarily think there was a whole exchange of language between these two. It was more about how they were acting with each other, and for me that was somewhat of a wordless exchange. This paring-down was how I arrived at doing the book in a wordless way.

RS: Did you create any kind of a text at all?

MF: In the very beginning I wondered if there should be one, but no, not really. That’s not unusual for me. When I did the book Roller Coaster I drew it out in thumbnails without words, and then the words came at a later point in the process. I think I was expecting that to happen with this book, and then I realized it wasn’t going to. I truly didn’t set out to do a wordless book, although I love them, sometimes.

RS: Sometimes they feel too much like a puzzle, on purpose. The challenge is to figure out what’s going on. Whereas this, to me, is more immediate: you don’t have to work at deciphering the action, which allows you to just become invested in these characters and their situation. There’s no plot puzzle to solve here.

MF: I first came up with these two characters then wondered: How did they end up being in the same place, holding hands like this? As I was thinking about it, it almost offered a little film to me. The beginning pages of the book were very clear, to the point where the farmer walks across the field and sees that clown.

RS: The farmer kind of looks like the long arm of the law as he’s approaching.

MF: And I thought, “I have to get this down on paper. I don’t want to lose it. But I don’t know what’s going to happen after this moment.” So I worked on thumbnails and little dummies, trying to nail down the story so it didn’t disappear. There’s something about it operating like a film but then having to freeze. I love animation, and I’m very inspired by it. Sometimes I think certain ideas that I’m playing with would be better done as animation than in a picture book, where you have to choose that exact moment to portray. And you have the page turn, which is unique to the picture book — it’s such an incredible tool, but it can sometimes get in your way. I always spend a lot of time in those initial explorations trying to figure out: is this form the right form for this story to be in, and if so, how do I tell it? I feel like those initial explorations are really the architecture. I think that’s why I said in the beginning it takes time. I can’t imagine doing it any faster. Because some of those realizations just take so long to come to me. It’s not immediate.

RS: You just have to let them wander around in your head for a while.

MF: I do. This book was very dreamy. Once I had the picture story in place and it was just a matter of executing it, it was also a really dreamy experience for me to sink into the actual time of making the pictures. The world was so spare.

RS: It’s a very dreamy landscape as well.

MF: Thank you. I really wanted it to feel like that. That’s how I was feeling about it. There’s just something about those two characters being so by themselves, in their own world for that short time

RS: It’s kind of amazing when you think about what we can get away with in picture books. If you just described this situation — a child gets tossed off a train, in the middle of the desert, and there’s this old man, and he comes and takes the child to his house.

MF: Trust me, I know. Those closest to me will ask, “What are you working on?” and I’ll say something like what you just said, and they’ll say, “Oh my god. Are you serious?”


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22.

On the heels of her successful young adult novels, Coe Booth recently released Just Like a Brother, a middle grade novel about two foster brothers, Jerrod and Kevon.

Jarrett doesn’t trust Kevon.

But he’s got to share a room with him anyway.

kindalikebrothersIt was one thing when Jarrett’s mom took care of foster babies who needed help. But this time it’s different. This time the baby who needs help has an older brother — a kid Jarrett’s age named Kevon.

Everyone thinks Jarrett and Kevon should be friends — but that’s not gonna happen. Not when Kevon’s acting like he’s better than Jarrett — and not when Jarrett finds out Kevon’s keeping some major secrets.

Jarrett doesn’t think it’s fair that he has to share his room, his friends, and his life with some stranger. He’s gotta do something about it — but what?

KINDA LIKE BROTHERS is the story of two boys who really don’t get along — but have to find a way to figure it out.

I was recently able to connect with Coe to find out a little more about her and her new book!

 

What book(s) are you currently in the middle of reading?

I’m always reading a bunch of books at the same time. Right now, I’m reading Pointe by Brandy Colbert, Outside In by Sarah Ellis, I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin, and Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher.

How do you hope your writing engages young people?

More than anything, I hope kids see themselves in the pages of my books. I don’t want them to think of bronxwood hi-resbooks as only being about other people. It’s about them, too. When I was growing up, I rarely saw books about people like myself, especially contemporary books, which is what I wanted to read. So I hope my books can be mirrors for kids.

You just got back from a cruise! I think the last time we chatted on Twitter, you were in Paris. Do you have a favorite destination?

Coe.1A B+WI love traveling, and I do it every chance I can. I’ve been on a bunch of cruises because it’s my family’s tradition to go on one every other year — sort of like a mini family reunion. As for Paris, I try to spend a few months there every year because… well, because it’s Paris! And because it’s a city that just inspires me. However, my favorite place in the world (so far!) is the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It’s the most gorgeous place I’ve ever seen. It’s so beautiful it doesn’t look real! There are so many places I’d like to visit; I have a bucket list that’s out of control!

Your fiction would be labeled ‘realistic fiction’. Has it ever gotten too real, too painful for you while writing?

I don’t really think anything can be too real. I’m always pushing myself to go to those places that are painful Tyrell cover hi resfor me to write because I know there are kids experiencing the things I’m writing about in their real lives. There’s never a reason to hold back. Even though it’s hard to write some of those scenes, I think it’s important to try.

You’re building quite a body of work! Do you think you have an overarching theme or message in the books you’ve published to date?

I don’t think I have a theme, and I hope I don’t have a message! I do think most of my books center around kids who are trying to do the right thing despite the difficult surroundings they’re living in. Their neighborhoods are often tough, and their home lives are complicated, too. They’re basically good kids — not perfect! — just trying to hold it together and make it through.

I think many of us have the perception that writers sit in a spot all day with cold cups of coffee and write, write, write. It seems though, that being a successful writer involves a lot of mixing and mingling both with follow writers as well as with the general public. Can you talk a little about that? How many of these opportunities are created by writers and how many by their publishers? I think I’m asking ‘just how much work is involved in becoming a successful writer?’

Being a writer in New York City is probably a lot different than being a writer in other places. There are so many writers here! So, yes, there are lots of opportunities here to meet up with other writers and spend the Kendra cover hi resday writing in a coffee shop. We do this a lot. We also see each other at book parties and readings, where we get to hang out with readers. And the YA authors in NYC meet up socially every month or so. It’s all very informal, organized by the writers themselves, not the publishers. Writing can be a very lonely career, so it’s nice meeting writer friends for lunch and writing whenever we get the chance. Having said that, there are definitely times when I need to pull away from the “book scene” for a few months. There’s always so much going on here in NYC, it’s easy to get caught up in everything and not spend enough time actually writing!

What led you to Jarrett’s story?

Years ago, before I was writing full-time, I worked as a child protective caseworker in the Bronx. I investigated child abuse and tried to help keep families together after they had gone through traumatic situations. When I had to remove kids from their homes temporarily, I would place them in foster homes where, quite often, the foster parent already had biological children. I was always curious what it was like for those kids. How did they handle these foster kids coming and going? Was it hard for them to avoid attaching to these kids, knowing they were only going to be there for a certain length of time and then they’d be leaving forever?

These are the kinds of questions that sparked the idea for Kinda Like Brothers. My story is told from the point of view of the foster mother’s biological son, Jarrett, a kid who is very used to the fact that babies come and go from his life all the time. But when Kevon, a boy who is around his own age shows up, everything is turned upside down. It’s not so easy for Jarrett to remain detached, especially after he starts learning the difficult circumstances of Kevon’s life.

Kinda Like Brothers is middle grade. How was it different to write for that age group?

Before I began writing it, I thought I would need a different approach or I would have to change the way I write to make this middle grade. But really, I didn’t change very much at all. Obviously, an eleven-year-old boy has different interests and concerns than a sixteen year old, but I didn’t feel the need to change my writing style. And I really didn’t want to water down the story just because the readers would be younger. I wanted my characters (and the story) to be complex, just like the lives of a lot of kids growing up in the inner city.

What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity means accurately reflecting the world — the entire world.

Thanks so much for the interview! I wish you much success and happy travels!


Filed under: Authors, Interview Tagged: Coe Booth; author interview; African American

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23. Philip Weinstein to Pen Jonathan Franzen Biography

franzenAuthor Philip Weinstein plans to pen a biography profiling writer Jonathan Franzen. Reportedly, Franzen himself has given his “blessing” for this project.

Bloomsbury will publish Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage in Fall 2015. Weinstein has conducted a two-hour interview with Franzen; he will also source information from Franzen’s autobiographical essays. The book will also include an analysis of the new novel that Franzen has been working on.

In an interview with The New York Times, Weinstein explains the concept of the book: “It doesn’t pretend to be a full-scale biography. It’s too early for that. He’s in full career mode. Someone later, a generation from now, will do that biography. It’s a report on who he is.” (via Gawker)

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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24. Your Story 62: Submit Now!

Prompt: Write a short story, of 750 words or fewer, that begins with the following sentence: I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.

You can be funny, poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

Use the submission form below OR email your submission directly to yourstorycontest@fwmedia.com.

IMPORTANT: If you experience trouble with the submission form, please email your submission directly to yourstorycontest@fwmedia.com within the body of your email (no attachments please).

Unfortunately, we cannot respond to every entry we receive, due to volume. No confirmation emails will be sent out to confirm receipt of submission. But be assured all submissions received before entry deadline are considered carefully. Official Rules

Entry Deadline: November 24, 2014

Your Story Entry Form

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25. Why the Gap?

I haven’t posted here since June for a simple reason: coping with a huge storm of sorts that blew my way. My mother had not been so well, so in January a pacemaker was installed. Rehab and all that. Then April 26th she had a stroke. Rehab again, driven by the delusion of optimism. We […]

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