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About the Book
"The year I turned sixteen, the media featured reports of a worldwide phenomenon – the emergence of Interspecies Telepaths, or ISTs."
When Christa Wilder mind-bonds with Magnus, a wolf pup, on a camping trip in Sakima National Park, her life changes forever. As the bond between Christa and Magnus grows stronger, other ISTs befriend them, including teenage Romy and her mountain lion, and Karl, a famous wildlife artist, and his golden eagle.
But not everyone is happy that ISTs exist or that wolves have been successfully reintroduced to Sakima, especially when wolves begin killing livestock on nearby ranches. Suddenly, with the first wolf hunting season about to open just beyond the park's boundaries, Magnus's pack is placed in jeopardy.
Even inside the park there is danger because a lunatic is slaughtering animals while staying one step ahead of the authorities. Next on the hit list: a wolf.
And, unbeknown to Christa, her brother, Josh, who went missing on his fifth birthday, has reappeared, but what sort of man is he? Why is he keeping his identity a secret?
Soon Christa is forced to commit to a new life full of challenges, friendships, learning, love and loss. With her psychic grandmother and her best friend, Ava, Christa will explore her spiritual beliefs, discovering a deep connection with nature and Spirit. But, most importantly, Christa will discover the sheer joy of the Mind Bond.
I want to start off by mentioning the things that attracted me to this book. I'm a big fan of mental abilities, especially telepathy. The concept of an interspecies bond caught my eye. The fact that the bond wasn't with aliens but with animals here on earth was also a perk.
The descriptions of the surroundings, people and animals were top-notch and gave me a good grasp on what things/places/animals/people looked like which made it very distinct in my mind's eye.
The characters, except those who were supposed to be shallow, were well-rounded with both good and bad points being exposed as I read along.
However, these three things were not enough to keep me hooked. I got 40% of the way through and stopped reading. The main reason is the pacing was so slow. I don't always have to have things move at lightning speed but when it drags on and on, I tend to get bored or annoyed.
The second thing that kept knocking my interest away was deep/detailed discussions about spiritually. Again, information about other cultures, beliefs, spirituality and other topics related to a person's heritage don't bother me. But when it overloads my mind and/or bogs the story down for me, I lose interest.
Would I recommend this book? I'm on the fence, so I will leave it up to you to decide.
Automattic is a distributed company — we all work from wherever we are. Right now, “where we are” is 197 cities around the world: New Orleans, USA. Montevideo, Uruguay. Tokyo, Japan. Vilnius, Lithuania.
Once a year, we get together somewhere in the world to meet, work alongside, learn from, and laugh with one another in an exhilarating, exhausting week called the Grand Meetup. This year, 277 Automatticians descended on Park City, Utah, for seven days in mid-September.
I flew across the country to spend time in a mountain lodge with a bunch of strangers I met on the Internet. And they are wonderful. #a8cGM
We introduced ourselves to new colleagues, reconnected with coworkers we haven’t seen since last year, and worked on ways to make WordPress.com even better. And of course, lots of us blogged about the experience, in words and images.
We were blown away by the brilliance and generosity of our colleagues…
I’m grateful to have met so many Automatticians from around the world who brought such kindness, curiosity, patience, fierce intelligence, creativity and humor to the time we had together. I’m grateful to have learned about their hobbies, families, personal journeys, quirks, pet peeves, amazing skills, unmitigated geekiness, and brilliant senses of humor.
And some of us got up close and personal with the wide Utah sky…
Happiness Engineer Jeremey DuVall realizes he’s just jumped out of an airplane.
We learned from one another, and had fun doing it…
I learned how to analyze data in Python with Carly, and went skydiving with Prasath. After discussing common security vulnerabilities with Anne, Cami and I plotted a podcast about absolutely nothing, and recorded part of our first episode…
If you asked me four years ago if I thought it were possible to enjoy working, I’d be dubious. If you asked me whether one could ever genuinely love and respect all their coworkers, I’d hesitate.
Over the past four years, the people of Automattic have demonstrated to me that it’s possible to do work you love with people you love. It’s not common — not yet — but it’s possible.
We worked, we played, we ate, we drank, we slept very little. We tried to make the world a better place, and if you think that’s me being dramatic you don’t know the people I have the honor of working with.
On the final day, Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg led us in a toast that summed up the reason we’re all here…
I’m really grateful that I get to work with the people I do, and on the problems that we work on together. It’s far from easy, in fact each year brings new challenges and I make mistakes as often as not, but it is worthwhile and incredibly fulfilling. A few hours ago I gave a closing toast and teared up looking around the room. So many folks that give their passion and dedicate themselves to jobs both large and small, visible and unseen, to help make the web a better place.
And when the week was over, heading home was bittersweet…
This morning was filled with so many hugs (and maybe a tear or two). I told myself that I was looking forward to returning home. To my own bed (although the sleep I got in the silence of the Park City night was the best I may have ever experienced). To regular exercise and home cooking. To the routine of my everyday life. And I was looking forward to that. And even though I knew I would miss my colleagues (it’s happened every time I return from a trip), the weight of the fog of sadness still surprises me when it descends.
I read their blogs. I like their Facebook posts. I retweet their Tweets. And I miss them.
Preschoolers and their grown ups had a great time rolling out, cutting up and building with the brightly colored dough. There was a fair amount of prep work involved to make the stove top dough, but the consistency of the finished product was fantastic. Try this program for some squishy, squashy fun!
A small but loyal following at Defenders of Wildlife recently put some Harts Pass Comics imagery to work on their blog. Kylie 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!Add a Comment
I just returned from doing two workshops at the Idaho Writers’ League 2014 conference in Idaho Falls, ID, and want to express my thanks and appreciation for being a part of the event.
I did my Crafting a Killer First Page and 3 Keys to Killer Storytelling workshops, and the writers who attended were sharp and talented. I had a great time talking writing with them—these events are always stimulating to me and I came away with ideas for the writing craft book I’m working on.
The conference was well-organized and featured professional speakers—I was very well cared for and felt quite welcome. I was lucky enough to be asked to come back next year, and I gladly said yes.
John Green’sThe Fault in Our Stars has been banned in the middle schools within the Riverside Unified School District (based in California).
Vanity Fair reports that a parent named Karen Krueger raised a complaint against the popular young adult novel because she “felt the morbid plot, crude language, and sexual content was inappropriate for her children.” Krueger convinced a committee of educators and guardians put it to a vote which resulted in this act of censorship.
Green shared his reaction to this situation on Tumblr. He claims to feel both happy and sad; the sadness comes from a desire “to introduce the idea that human beings die to the children of Riverside, California and thereby crush their dreams of immortality.” What do you think?
Wow, September flew by, didn't it? Yes, fall is in the air, the first colds of the season are making the rounds through our house, and the leaves are starting to change colour. There has been a flurry of activity here with the start of another hockey season for the kids, cadets for my eldest, and early morning cross-country practices. As for me, I am working away on the final art for another picture book as well as gearing up for the SCBWI CANEAST conference in Ottawa on Oct. 17-19. It also won't be long until I head off to St Lucia and Greneda for the Rainforest of Reading Festival in November.
To download the desktop calendar please select the screen resolution from the list above then right click and "save to desktop". Enjoy!
Talks with Roger is a sponsored supplement to our free monthly e-newsletter, Notes from the Horn Book. To receive Notes, sign up here.
Two-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.
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.
RS: 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.
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.
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?”
Attention, residents of Blogosphere-opolis: This is no ordinary review. This is a very special blog tour review, organized by First Second, who kindly supplied me with review copies of the new superhero graphic novels created by Paul Pope: Battling... Read the rest of this post
Spent some time in Ireland with my best travelling companion. We stopped to edit the final re-write of Bagger Island and spent a morning of total detachment overlooking the quiet water. What a magical place!
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.
Simon & Schuster has formed a partnership with a European eBook subscription service called Mofibo.
Mofibo users, who hail from Denmark and Sweden, now have access to Simon & Schuster’s backlist. This formidable collection contains more than 20,000 English and local language titles.
Simon & Schuster UK publisher Ian Chapman had this statement in the press release: “Scandinavia has long been an important international market for English language authors, and Mofibo’s early success makes evident the strong appetite for content in electronic form. A continental-based subscription service is a wonderful opportunity for reader, author, and publisher alike.”
In the September/October 2014Horn Book Magazine, reviewer Katie Bircher asked Garth Nix about Clariel, the long-awaited prequel to his high fantasy trilogy Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. Read the review here.
Katie Bircher: Do you think the walker chooses the path, or the path the walker? Which is it in Clariel’s case?
Garth Nix: This is one of those questions that doesn’t have an answer, or the answer changes all the time. In Clariel’s case, she chooses her own path, but there are definitely forces at work that both influence her choice and limit her selection of paths. Neither predestination nor entirely free will, but a mixture of both…
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 ____________.”
On October 21, millions of children and adults will come together to read a single book for Jumpstart’sRead for the Record®. The annual campaign celebrates literacy and brings awareness to the fact that children in need start kindergarten 60% behind their more affluent peers.
Participants will also be trying to break the world record for largest shared reading experience. In order to do so, more than 2,462,860 people will need to read this year’s selected book, “Bunny Cakes” by bestselling author and illustrator Rosemary Wells.
We’re helping educators and program leaders serving kids in need celebrate! If at least 70% of the children in your program are from low income families or military families, you can order the custom edition of “Bunny Cakes” in both English and Spanish through the First Book Marketplace.
In the last 8 years, Read for the Record has engaged 11.5 million children and put 1.6 million books into the hands of kids in need. We’re excited to help even more kids participate in this year’s celebration. To receive books in time to celebrate on October 21, be sure to order by October 6. Here’s to breaking a new world record together!
Do you work with kids in need? Sign up to access “Bunny Cakes” along with other great books and resources through the First Book Marketplace?
I read your blog every day, and I have also gone through posts in the archive. Still, I could not find the answer to a question that has been bugging me for a while.
Suppose I have a novel (draft version) and my chapters are stand alone.
Suppose I submit the first chapter, which is polished, to journals accepting unsolicited submissions for fiction. Of course, I would mention it is a novel excerpt.
Suppose it gets published. My question is: in the future, when I will be querying agents, having one chapter out there, published, will be seen as pro or con?
It's seen as a pro. This is called a "publishing credit." It's a Good Thing indeed. And you don't need to mention it's part of a novel in your submission to lit journals.
The reason it's a good thing is that someone else has seen your work, and liked it. That tells me that you can string sentences together nicely, or at least have been able to do so in the past. That's reassuring when you're reading queries.
And for all you crazed rodent-wheel running authors out there: NO you do not NEED publishing credits in a query. It's worse to list idiotic ones (I won honorable mention in the XYZ writing contest!) than to list nothing at all.
Back 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?
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
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
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
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?
The 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.
Next week is the release of STAR WARS: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight. To celebrate, I’ll be doing events in my hometown, New York City, Boston, Austin and Miami.
Along with some familiar faces from “a galaxy far, far away”, I’ll be presenting and signing at my favorite hometown indie bookstore, The Odyssey Bookshop. Space is limited, so you’ll need to RSVP sooner than later. If you cannot make it the shop can take your order and ship a signed book to you.
From there, I’ll zoom down New York for NY Comic Con where the STAR WARS fun continues. As well, I am signing at the Dark Horse Comics booth and giving out a FREE promotional print for my upcoming book, REALMS: The Role Playing Game Art of Tony DiTerlizzi. Here’s the New York Comic Con schedule:
Autographing: Promotional Print for “REALMS: The RPG Art of Tony DiTerlizzi” Saturday 12PM – 12:50 PM, Dark Horse Booth
This image of a classic Advanced Dungeons & Dragons kobold marks a return to my roots as an illustrator for the beloved roleplaying game. Along with collecting my artwork from Planescape, Changeling and Magic the Gathering, REALMS will also feature a series of new paintings of some of my favorite monsters and characters from the game that started it all. We’ll be giving out this 12×18″ print FREE at the Dark Horse Comics booth, so come on by!
Panel Name: STORMTROOPERS vs. RED SHIRTS Sunday 11AM – 11:45 AM ET, Room 1A18
Conflicts in galaxies far far away have entertained us since the dawn of science fiction, but it we owe it to Star Trek and Star Wars helped to bring science fiction to the forefront of pop culture. Tony DiTerlizzi (The Adventure of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight), Jack Campbell (The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword), Karen Bao (Dove Arising), Tony Abbott (Copernicus Legacy: The Serpent’s Curse), Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14), Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam (Etherworld) discuss skiffy upbringings and these two influential classics. A formal autographing will take place immediately after the panel at Table 19 in the autographing area.
While in New York City, I’ll be participating in “Star Wars Reads Day” at Books of Wonder along with some other notable Jedi, including Tom Angleberger.
STAR WARS Reads Day
Saturday, October 11th, 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Join us for this spectacular event in a galaxy far, far away…
TOM ANGLEBERGER Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus (Origami Yoda #6)
TONY DiTERLIZZI The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight
PABLO HIDALGO for Star Wars Rebels: A New Hero
MICHAEL KOGGE for Star Wars Rebels: Rise of the Rebels
MATTHEW REINHART for Star Wars: A Pop Up Guide to the Galaxy
Later in the month, I’ll be attending several book festivals, including:
Boston Book Festival Saturday, October 25th, 12:30 – 1:00 PM ET
First Church of Boston Auditorium
66 Marlborough St.
Boston, MA 02116
* I will be pre-signing books at 11:30 AM prior to my presentation
Texas Book Festival Sunday, October 26th, 2:45 – 3:30 PM CT
The Capitol, Extension Room E.2.028
1100 Congress Avenue, Between 11th and 12th Streets
Austin, TX 78701
*I shall be signing at the book signing tent immediately following my presentation.
Miami Book Fair November 21-23rd
Angela and I will both be presenting and signing at this favorite Florida fair. Look for schedule and details soon.
Author 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)
"Yes," said Tom bluntly, on opening the front door. "What d'you want?" A harassed middle-aged woman in a green coat and felt hat stood on his step. He glanced at the armband on her sleeve. She gave him an awkward smile. "I'm the Billeting Officer for this area," she bagan. "Oh yes, and what's that got to do wi' me?" She flushed slightly. "Well, Mr., Mr..." "Oakley. Thomas Oakley." "Ah, thank you, Mr Oakley." She paused and took a deep breath. "Mr Oakley with the declaration of war imminent..." Tom waved his hand. "I knows all that. Git to the point. What d'you want?" He noticed a small boy at her side. "It's him I've come about," she said. "I'm on my way to your village hall with the others."
Read this book. Read it. At the very least, you should consider watching the movie adaptation. I doubt you regret meeting Willie Beech and Tom Oakley.
Goodnight Mister Tom is set during the early months of World War II. For the most part, it is set in the English countryside. William (Willie) Beech is one of many children being evacuated to the country for safety reasons. Willie has been assigned to a widower, Tom Oakley. Willie isn't quite sure what to think about his new home? Everything in the country seems to surprise him including Tom's dog, Sammy. Tom isn't quite sure what to think about Willie either. He's a bit puzzled because Willie does act a bit off. It's not just the fact that he's never been out of the city. Willie doesn't know how to read or write even though he's almost nine. (He also wets the bed.)
Tom soon learns enough to get him good and angry. Willie arrives essentially with nothing but the clothes he has on. But his mom has included a belt with a note on how and when to use it on her son. Tom soon sees the evidence of abuse for himself.
It was oh-so-easy to care for the characters, especially Tom and Willie. As Willie spends time in the country, it is in many ways his first taste of safety and freedom. And love and kindness. And stability. And friendship. I loved seeing Tom with Willie. I loved his patience and firmness. I loved his kindness and encouragement. I loved seeing Tom work with Willie on his writing and reading. I loved seeing them read together every day. I loved seeing Tom encourage Willie with his drawing.
Willie also finds friends his own age. His best, best friend is a Jewish boy named Zach. Plenty of time is spent with Willie and Zach and their other friends and/or classmates.
The novel is both intense and ultimately satisfying. It it intense for multiple reasons. I expected it to be intense because of the war. And it was. I wasn't necessarily expecting it to be intense for psychological reasons. The novel is ultimately satisfying, but, don't expect sweet scene after sweet scene. The sweetness is found in friendship and hope, but, there are some bitter shocks as well.
I loved this one. I did. I loved, loved, loved the characters. I am so glad I read this one.