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Love the ALSC awards? Sign up for two upcoming ALSC online courses taught by K.T. Horning! Learn about the history, terms, and definitions of these two great awards. Each of these six-week classes are open for registration. Hurry, registration is limited!
The Sibert Medal: Evaluating Books of Information
January 4 – February 12, 2016
The Caldecott Medal: Understanding Distinguished Art in Picture Books
April 4 – May 13, 2016
Detailed descriptions and registration information is available on the ALSC Online Learning section of the ALSC website.
Image courtesy of ALSC
The post Upcoming Awards Online Courses appeared first on ALSC Blog.
What distinguished 2015 picture book is going to join the ranks of Beekle, Amos McGee, Mirette, and those mosquitoes that buzz in peoples in ears and win the 2016 Caldecott Medal? The committee is just anxious to find out as you are! Did you know you can make the suggestions to the Caldecott Selection Committee? Yep, and we take your suggestions seriously. So if you opened a 2015 picture book and gasped at the breathtaking beauty on the page, let us know. If you marveled at the brilliant subversiveness when art plays against the expectations of the text, please share. If you have delighted in an illustrator’s exceptional technique in the service of storytelling or sharing information in a compelling way, do tell.
The 2016 Caldecott Award Committee is asking the ALSC membership to submit titles for consideration. The Caldecott Medal, along with Honors selected by the commitee, is presented annually to the to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in 2015.
You can read the complete terms, definitions, and criteria here, but please make sure the picture books you suggest demonstrate:
- Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
- Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
- Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
- Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
- Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.
Please remember only books illustrated by an American from the 2015 publishing year are under consideration for the award. Also please note that publishers, authors, illustrators, or editors may not suggest their own titles.
And on One Fine Day in January, likely a Snowy Day, All the World will find out which book will shine on for Many Moons.
Please send suggestions to Rachel Payne (Caldecott Committee Chair) at RPayneNYC@gmail.com
Today’s guest blogger is Rachel Payne, 2016 Caldecott Committee Chair.
The post Call for suggestions – 2016 Caldecott Award appeared first on ALSC Blog.
By: JOANNA MARPLE,
Blog: Miss Marple's Musings
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I suspect that even if you have only been writing for children for a short while, if you live in the US (and maybe elsewhere) you will know the name Betsy Bird, who was the Youth Materials Selections Specialist of New … Continue reading
The award acceptance videos from the 2015 Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet are now available. These speeches took place at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco. Below are the three videos from each of the winners. You can also watch the video of the full banquet (running time 1 hour 45 minutes 54 seconds). Enjoy!
Kwame Alexander – Newbery Speech
Dan Santat – Caldecott Speech
Donald Crews – Wilder Speech
The post Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet Videos appeared first on ALSC Blog.
By: Jaime Temairik,
Blog: The Official SCBWI 10th Annual New York Conference Blog
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|Dan as Daenerys Targaryen, he is a fan of GoT|
Lin says it is a wonderfully satisfying and emotional moment to introduce Dan Santat and I agree, he's the super best.
Dan came here in 2001, this Summer Conference is the first SCBWI conference he ever attended. He worried it was too expensive, but that worry was soon put to rest when his portfolio got noticed by editor Arthur Levine, and because of attending the conference,Dan got his first book contract.
In the many years of attending SCBWI events and conferences, Dan's noticed success stories of authors and illustrators, and some stories of people who are still finding there way. Dan says:
Your time will come, it's not a race to the top of the mountain, everyone finds their time.
One way to ease your trek on the road to publication is to improve your taste: Do you know if you have good taste? Do you know if what you're writing is good? Dan reads us this Ira Glass quote:
Dan lists some of the stories and genres he likes, and thinks improving your work and taste is due to understanding why you like things, don't censor or bias yourself. Dan likes:
Batman and Akira comics. Movies and TV shows like Moneyball, Game of Thrones, Lost, and Breaking Bad. Podcasts like This American Life and Serial. From all of these he is learning story style and technique, observing different points of view. Immerse yourself in life and culture, take these references, says Dan, and come up with a unique spin on things.
You must do a critical review of your work. Dan reads us some 1 star and 5 star Goodreads reviews for Where the Wild Things Are
(which has an overall rating of 4.2, by the way). Compare your opinions with others, there are crazy reviewers and there are good reviewers, the good reviews are useful pieces of critical information that can make your work better.
Study the fundamentals, but don't be rigid.
Learn by imitation, but don't become a clone. In art school, Dan copied Wyeth paintings in class because when you paint the strokes a master painter painted, your hands learn what your head doesn't quite understand yet. But be sure to make your art your own, Dan says, try to make work that is original to yourself once you begin to trust your inner instincts.
The exploration comes by doing: You have to make a lot of lousy paintings before you find one you want to put in your portfolio. Dan was working a full-time job when he decided he wanted to be published, so he started working from 10 pm to 3 am on his illustration work and after weeks and weeks of working like this and honing his craft, he'd made himself an illustration portfolio he could be proud of.
Form follows function. Dan shows us how good stories have things happening for a reason, you see it in everything from Back to the Future
to his very own Beekle
A few of Dan's final thoughts: Do what you love, and the work will find you. Don't think about the money, think about the craft, and working on your craft is the only way to improve. And don't give up!
By: Dan Bostrom,
Blog: ALSC Blog
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ALA Annual 2015
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Winners of the 2015 Pura Belpre awards (image courtesy of ALSC)
The ALSC award acceptance speeches from the 2015 ALA Annual Conference are now available from the ALSC website. Speeches includes the winners of these 2015 awards:
Each of these is available as a downloadable PDF. For a full list of 2015 ALSC Book & Media Award winners please see the ALSC website.
The post 2015 ALSC Book & Media Speeches Now Online appeared first on ALSC Blog.
The place: San Francisco. The occasion: ALA Annual. The party: Caldecott. From January 2014 – January 2015, I studiously studied. I looked at over 500 picture books, and along with 14 other intrepid souls, decided which of those were the most distinguished. Our committee is incredibly proud of our list of books. And this year at ALA annual, we got to celebrate with the distinguished artists in the class of 2015.
At the banquet – photo by Angela Reynolds
Starting with a great street party for Melissa Sweet (which included yummy tacos & a baby shower), and then the next night a dinner with all 6 honor winners, followed the next evening by “Dinner with Dan”, and then Sunday the Caldecott-Newbery-Wilder awards banquet, it was a wild and fun ride!
But it wasn’t just fine dining. At each of these events our committee got to have some quality time with the illustrators that we honored. And we felt honored to do that. Each one of them thanked us profusely. I can speak for myself only (though I have a feeling many of my co-committee members will be shaking their heads yes), but I felt like I should be thanking them for their work, for their contribution to children’s literature. In Dan Santat’s award acceptance speech, he said the Caldecott changed his life. I must say, it changed ours, as well, Mr. Santat. 15 people became fast friends, confidantes, cohorts, colleagues. We bonded over art, over time spent together, and yes, even tattoos. This great party we called San Francisco created memories to last a lifetime.
Beekle tattoo – photo by Angela Reynolds
At the banquet, I was asked by Mac Barnett if serving on the Caldecott Committee was exciting as it sounds. I had to say a resounding yes to that. And you know what folks, only an ALSC member can do this. I’ve been a member for 21 years, and yes, I worked hard to get to a place where I could serve on this illustrious committee. But so can you. If it is your dream (as it was mine as a starry-eyed grad student), then work towards it. The rewards are immense, and they go far beyond a fancy cocktail dinner (though those are certainly nice, too). Thanks to all the publishers who wined and dined us, to all my committee members who opened my eyes to so many viewpoints, to the illustrators and authors who make amazing books, and to ALSC for being there to hold up children’s books as shining stars. Thank you all!
The post The party that was Caldecott appeared first on ALSC Blog.
Good morning. I can’t sleep. It may be that I am still on EST or that I just so excited to be here. My first conference and I’m entering my second day.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the ALSC Preconference on celebrating the Honor Books. Wow. We all know KT Horning, but just hearing her speak and the wealth of information she had to share was amazing. I tried to take some old fashioned notes using a pen and paper. I could go on and on about what I learned. Here are just a few hightlights:
- Honors were called “Runners Up” until 1971
- The records are lost for who the Runners Up were in 1923, 1924 and 1927. What happened to them? KT Horning is determined to find out and I bet she will!
- Before 1958, an author could not win a second award. Would Robert McCloskey have won multiple awards before then if this rule had not been in place?
- Judy Freeman shared that we all must read Travis Jonker’s 6 Theories on “Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” on his 100 Scope Notes blog and to make sure to watch “The Best Book Trailer ever” there posted there as well.
- Another idea Judy shared that I will definitely use with students is to have them write sequels to the book.
The afternoon was filled with inspiration from all the authors and illustrators. I spotted Lauren Castillo behind me and screamed. When I did that, I completely startled her. So sorry!
And then there were the opening remarks by Roberta Kaplan on this incredibly, historic day in San Francisco. Plus I got quite weepy when Tech Logic gave the wonderful librarians from The Pratt Library in Baltimore an award. When I ran into one in the Exhibit Hall that evening, I (surprise-surprise) screamed. The bravery and dedication to the community from those librarians and staff amazed me from the days it happened.
I don’t know what today will bring but I hope lots of jumping with old friends, new friends, authors and just fabulous people.
–I am a K-5 librarian from upstate NY who is just so excited to be attending her first ALA Conference!
The post #alaac15 Reviewing Friday and looking ahead appeared first on ALSC Blog.
By: Dan Bostrom,
Blog: ALSC Blog
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ALA Annual 2014
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ALSC Award Acceptance Speeches (image courtesy ALSC)
The 2014 ALSC book and media award acceptance speeches evoked plenty of emotion. Some were funny and warm. Some were emotional and informative. You can read them yourself on the ALSC website! Download a copy of the PDF of each of the speeches:
You can also watch reaction videos from the 2014 ALA Youth Media Award winners. Videos of the award speech presentations and inspiration videos that concluded the banquet will be posted soon.
Blog: Liz's Book Snuggery
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[There is a video that cannot be displayed in this feed. Visit the blog entry to see the video.]
Author/illustrator Aaron Becker has the whole audience standing up and singing a variety of refrains. They are NOT from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
, but I AM having an out of body experience. . . .
OOOOOOH HOLY HELL, we all just sang JOURNEY!
Aaron shares this video of the Journey trailer:
As a kid, Aaron was always drawing, he shows us some of his drawings from 1978 of a few X-Wing fighters. AND he was always making books! He made his own Ed Emberley-ish how-to-draw books complete with bio photos and flap copy, but at the time, he thought this was just fun play and when he became an adult he'd have to give it all up, no more making books with pictures.
But in high school, though he never took an art class, he got an internship with a local commercial illustrator and realized you could get paid to make art. In college Aaron finally got into some art classes and Post-College Aaron started working in the fields of graphic design, and though he was getting paid to draw, it wasn't quite what he thought it would be. At an elderly 23, he felt like his days were slipping away, being filled with unfulfilling work and that maybe he did not need the security of his day job if it meant his life wasn't really worth living.
And so he did a web search and found:
Except it wasn't until eight years later, after initial children's book publisher rejections at some SCBWI events, time in art school studying illustration, working for various film and animation companies, and finally being laid off by an animation company, that Aaron found himself at a critical juncture. Now, with a new baby and no job, Aaron turned down a film industry job offer and followed his dream of making books with pictures and this is where Journey
's journey begins:
When you’re reading this, a lot of us will be heading or preparing to head to Chicago for ALA Midwinter. There are many things to be excited about during Midwinter–meetings, exhibits, seeing friends.
But not a lot actually meets the level of excitement, that the Youth Media Awards. This will be my first YMAs in person! I’m so jazzed. So I thought I’d take a moment and reflect on my favorite winners of past YMAs. Honestly, I could go on for pages and pages about this, but I’ll just do a quick overview because y’all are packing or flying. My very favorites of the Caldecott Medal, Newbery Medal, and Printz Award Winners:
I know this is everyone’s favorite, but it’s totally mine. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It won the 1963 Caldecott award. This book was written over 20 years before I was born, but I adored it as a child. I remember asking my mom to read it to me over and over and over again. And it holds up. I use this one in storytimes often, and I’m lucky enough to live near the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi and have seen some of the original art. It’s as gorgeous as you think it is.
The View From Saturday by E.L. Konisburg won the Newbery Medal in 1997. This is one that I was wild about as a child. I was 9 years old when this book came out, and I was part of a program in my school that was similar to the Academic Bowl Team. Well, not entirely similar. But it felt similar. My fourth-grade self resonated with this one DEEPLY. I actually have not read this one as an adult. A part of me is terrified that it won’t hold up. But it will, right? Because Konigsburg? This is the first time in my life I remember being aware that the Newbery medal is something that was actually awarded, and that the seal didn’t just magically appear on books in my school library. I remember my school librarian telling us that this book had won and being very excited because I had read it and loved it so much. Maybe it’s time for a reread?
The Printz Award is a little different. It’s a much newer award. The first Printz was awarded in 2000. I wasn’t really aware of the existence of the Printz until college library school, but I quickly became obsessed. I actually wrote my master’s project on the Printz. In doing so, I read many Printz and Printz Honor titles. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, the 2009 winner, is my favorite, and continues to be my favorite Young Adult title of all time. I understand that my approach to this book was different. I was an adult the first time I read it, upon the recommendation of a colleague at my library, unlike the other two titles, which I came to as a child. But this book, like the other two, changed me and stayed with me. Marchetta is now one of my favorite authors. I’m fond of telling friends that if she wrote ingredients lists on the side of cereal boxes, I’d have them shipped over from Australia to read.
That’s the thing I love about award winners, and all books. Remember this when you’re putting award seals on books next week and when you’re teaching classes about the Caldecott and Newbery and when you’re excitedly handing your tweens and teens the Printz Honor book you’ll know they love: these are the books that will stay with them forever. And we get to be a tiny part of that.
Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with kids ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.
The post YMA Favorites appeared first on ALSC Blog.
The ALA Youth Media Awards will be announced tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. CT in Chicago (that’s 9 a.m. for Martha and me). Here is a link to the live webcast.
Watching online is not quite the same as being in that huge ballroom full of book-loving early risers, fizzing with anticipation and hoping their favorite new books are about to be named. With luck, the microphone will pick up some of the reactions in the audience.
Robin will be right there in the room for the announcements. Martha and I will be in our own homes surrounded by the March book review section because we’re expecting ANOTHER foot or more of snow tonight and tomorrow.
Wherever you are, we will post the winners on this blog ASAP so we can all react to the announcements together.
The post Caldecott Award live appeared first on The Horn Book.
The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend
by Dan Santat; illus. by the author
Primary Little, Brown 40 pp.
4/14 978-0-316-19998-8 $17.00
Imaginary friend Beekle waits and waits for a child to think him into existence. When it doesn’t happen, Beekle sails off to the real world–a city full of boring adults–to find her. Santat’s bright digital illustrations capture the vivid land of imagination, the drab adult world, and the giggle-inducing expressions on marshmallow-like Beekle’s pudgy white face. SHARA L. HARDESON
From the Fall 2014 issue of The Horn Book Guide.
Nana in the City
by Lauren Castillo; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary Clarion 40 pp.
9/14 978-0-544-10443-3 $16.99
Visiting Nana in her new apartment in the city, the unnamed child narrator is initially unreceptive to the city’s appeal. Upon first impression, “the city is busy. The city is loud. The city is filled with scary things.” However, Nana promises to show her young visitor all the ways that “the city is wonderful—bustling, booming, and extraordinary,” and their tour the following day does just that. Here is a vital, independent grandmother for the new millennium, one who is just as likely to clap for a street performer or bring a pretzel to a homeless man as she is to knit with her cat or serve milk and cookies in her cozy kitchen. The loving relationship between her and her grandchild is clearly conveyed by their easy interactions, in particular the red cape she bestows upon the child to encourage bravery in a new place. Castillo’s simple, meaningful text is well served by her richly detailed, brightly saturated watercolors, which convey a city bustling with crowds, construction, traffic, and events, juxtaposing colorful foregrounds against monochromatic backgrounds to suggest that even more activity lies beyond the book’s depicted scenes. The accessible story arc outlines worthwhile messages about openness to new experiences and changing one’s perspective, all couched in the security of spending time with a loved one. The young narrator concludes: “The city is…the absolute perfect place for a nana to live. And for me to visit!” Readers will feel the same. CLAIRE E. GROSS
From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art
by Barb Rosenstock; illus. by Mary GrandPré
Primary Knopf 40 pp.
2/14 978-0-307-97848-6 $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-307-97849-3 $20.99 g
e-book ed. 978-0-307-97850-9 $10.99
One of the pioneers of abstract art, Vasily Kandinsky experienced “colors as sounds, and sounds as colors,” a neurological condition called synesthesia. Concentrating primarily on the artist as a child and young adult, Rosenstock takes known events and embellishes them with dialogue and specific sounds for the colors (“He brushed a powerful navy rectangle that vibrated deeply like the lowest cello strings”). GrandPré does a fine job showing color and sound as abstractions while presenting the artist and his surroundings in a more realistic manner. At first we see young Vasya as a proper and obedient child, surrounded by squared-off edges and dark colors. But when he receives a paint box as a gift and begins to hear sounds as he mixes the colors, the page compositions open up. As angles give way to swirls, GrandPré provides a visualization of the freedom that results when an artist finds his voice. An author’s note provides more information about the artist and four reproductions of his later work. Sources and recommended websites are included. LOLLY ROBINSON
From the January/February 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Jon Klassen
Primary Candlewick 40 pp.
10/14 978-0-7636-6229-5 $16.99
This adventure starts innocently enough: “On Monday Sam and Dave dug a hole.” The boys (indistinguishable save the color of their hats and Sam’s ever-present backpack) are fueled by chocolate milk, animal cookies, and a desire to find “something spectacular.” Alas, Sam and Dave unearth nothing, coming close to — but just missing — the precious gems that dot the subterranean landscape, and oblivious all the while. Eventually the chums stop for a rest, whereupon their canine companion, digging for a bone, inadvertently causes a rupture in the dirt floor underground that leaves the explorers falling “down, down, down,” only to land in what appears to be their own yard. But upon closer inspection, this house isn’t quite the same as before; a number of subtle differences go undetected by the hapless duo, but observant viewers will certainly take note. Barnett’s well-chosen words (“Sam and Dave ran out of chocolate milk. / But they kept digging. / They shared the last animal cookie. / But they kept digging”) and plentiful white space support readers. Klassen’s cross-section illustrations provide a mole’s-eye view of the underground proceedings, extending the spare text with visual humor. As in his previous books, Klassen shows an uncanny knack for conveying meaning with the subtlest of eye movements. How fitting that the wordless final spread features a knowing look between the dog and a cat familiar to Klassen fans; all that’s missing from the trippy conclusion is the theme music from The Twilight Zone. Mind-blowing in the best possible way. SAM BLOOM
From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
by Yuyi Morales; illus. by the author with photos by Tim O’Meara
Primary, Intermediate Porter/Roaring Brook 40 pp.
9/14 978-1-59643-603-9 $17.99 g
There have been several books for young readers about Frida Kahlo, but none has come close to the emotional aesthetic Morales brings to her subject, as a Mexican artist herself who understands the particular landscape of Kahlo’s imagination. By selecting several of Kahlo’s recurring symbols — monkey, dog, parrot, deer, hummingbird — she achieves artistic depth and lends child appeal to a very spare, ethereal text. Morales also incorporates Señor Calavera (a figure who recurs throughout Morales’s own work), representing the dance with death Kahlo engaged in all her life. Morales initially shows Kahlo as a puppet: made from steel, polymer clay, and wool, the three-dimensional figures (photographed and digitally manipulated inside double-page-spread collages) are works of art in themselves. The illustrations are accompanied by just a few words of text in both Spanish and English (“busco / I search // Veo / I see… // Juego / I play”) that leave readers with a dreamlike impression. As we enter Kahlo’s mind, the medium and style change, and the pages are illustrated with lush acrylics, showing her winged feet carrying her across the spreads, arrows whizzing past; one eventually hits her pet deer in the foreleg. This allusion to Kahlo’s famous painting The Little Deer may be lost on most young readers, but the accompanying text (“siento / I feel”) will get the basic meaning across. Morales (Niño Wrestles the World, rev. 7/13) once again impresses us with her artistry in an ingenious tour de force. KATHLEEN T. HORNING
From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
by Jen Bryant; illus. by Melissa Sweet
Primary Eerdmans 48 pp.
9/14 978-0-8028-5385-1 $17.50
Apt language and ingenious imagery combine to tell the life story of Peter Mark Roget, creator of the thesaurus. A solitary, though not unhappy, child, Roget spends his time keeping lists and ordering the natural and cultural wonders he finds in abundance. He studies to become a doctor, teaches, joins academic societies, raises a family, and continues to capture and classify the universe, eventually publishing his Thesaurus, a catalog of concepts ordered by ideas, in 1852. Bryant’s linear telling follows Peter closely, expressing his curiosity, sensitivity, and populist spirit in language that is both decorous and warm. Clever book design and visionary illustration add layers of meaning, as images come together in careful sequence. On the cover a cacophony of iconographic ideas explodes from the pages of a book. The opening endpapers arrange these same concepts in a vertical collage that recalls spines on a bookshelf. The title spread features the letters of the alphabet as stacked blocks, as a child manages them, and from there the pages grow in complexity, as Roget himself grows up. Sweet embellishes her own gentle watercolors with all manner of clippings and realia, corralling the pictures into order according to concept, number, or color. A timeline and detailed author and illustrator notes follow the narrative, with suggested additional resources and a facsimile page of Roget’s first, handwritten book of lists. And the closing endpapers, with the comprehensive classification scheme of the first thesaurus, fully realize the opening organizational promise. THOM BARTHELMESS
From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
This One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki; illus. by Jillian Tamaki
Middle School First Second/Roaring Brook 320 pp.
5/14 978-1-59643-774-6 $17.99
Rose Wallace and her parents go to Awago Beach every summer. Rose collects rocks on the beach, swims in the lake, and goes on bike rides with her younger “summer cottage friend,” Windy. But this year she is feeling too old for some of the activities she used to love — and even, at times, for the more-childish (yet self-assured) Windy. Rose would rather do adult things: watch horror movies and talk with Windy about boobs, boys, and sex. In their second graphic novel — another impressive collaboration — the Tamaki cousins (Skim, rev. 7/08) examine the mix of uncertainty and hope a girl experiences on the verge of adolescence. The episodic plot and varied page layout set a leisurely pace evocative of summer. Rose’s contemplative observations and flashbacks, along with the book’s realistic dialogue, offer insight into her evolving personality, while the dramatic changes in perspective and purply-blue ink illustrations capture the narrative’s raw emotional core. Secondary storylines also accentuate Rose’s transition from childhood to young adulthood: she’s caught in the middle of the tension between her parents (due to her mom’s recent abrasive moodiness and the painful secret behind it) and fascinated by the local teens’ behavior (swearing, drinking, smoking, fighting, and even a pregnancy; the adult situations — and frank language — she encounters may be eye-opening reading for pre-adolescents like Rose). This is a poignant drama worth sharing with middle-schoolers, and one that teen readers will also appreciate for its look back at the beginnings of the end of childhood. CYNTHIA K. RITTER
From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
The post Reviews of the 2015 Caldecott Award winners appeared first on The Horn Book.
The most prestigious honors in children’s literature, the Newbery and Caldecott medals, were awarded to Kwame Alexander and Dan Santat on February 2, 2015, at the American Library Association’s midwinter meeting in Chicago. Also announced at the gathering were the winners of the Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré, Michael L. Printz, Robert F. Sibert, and Mildred L. Batchelder awards and several other major honors. Follow the links below for more information about all the winning titles, including in many cases their reviews in The Horn Book Magazine
or The Horn Book Guide
Belpré Award (Author and Illustrator)
Coretta Scott King Awards (Author and Illustrator)
Additional ALA awards
Alex, Arbuthnot, Carnegie, Edwards, Geisel, Hamilton, Morris, Odyssey, Schneider, Steptoe, Stonewall, and YALSA Nonfiction awards
Best Fiction for Young Adults list
The post ALA Awards 2015: Horn Book reviews of the winners appeared first on The Horn Book.
I’ve been somewhat preoccupied this week since the ALA Youth Media Award announcements Monday morning. Here at the Horn Book, we swing into action putting up web posts with our reviews of the winning books. Over at my other blog, Calling Caldecott, the award announcement signals the beginning of the end of our blog season. We’ve already had our own mock Caldecott vote and were waiting breathlessly to hear what the real Caldecott Committee chose.
Every single year without fail, as soon as the awards are announced, the haters come out of the woodwork. Well, not exactly haters, but certainly people who are disappointed or think something went wrong with the committee because their favorite books aren’t on the list.
I became especially aware of them the year I was on the committee, but has this stopped me from joining in the after-the-fact whining? Not at all!
This year, the Caldecott Committee made a particularly bold choice in selecting a YA-level graphic novel as one of the honor books. While people normally think of the Caldecott as an award for elementary-aged books, if you read the award criteria you will find that they may select books suitable for children up to age 14.
I am especially intrigued by Robin Smith’s post this morning. She is one of the three bloggers on Calling Caldecott and this post reveals her reaction as a second grade teacher — and as a frequent book award committee member. Every year, her students look closely at a number of new picture books and hold their own mock Caldecott vote. Beekle, this year’s winner, is a really child-pleaser. There’s a truism that gets trotted out at this time of year: that these awards go to books loved by adults but that kids aren’t as likely to…shall we say, “get behind.”
If any of you teachers are familiar with the winning books, I’d love to hear what you have to say. In order to keep things a little less scattered, I’d recommend you respond right on Robin’s post this time.
The post Youth Media Awards and teachers appeared first on The Horn Book.
Well, I guess I’m flying my fangirl flag high on OOTB these days. After last week’s Sam & Dean post and Monday’s ALA Youth Media Awards announcements, I’m back with another “I can’t be the only one…” situation. Is it just me, or does unimaginary friend Beekle
look a lot like the Adipose babies from Doctor Who‘s “Partners in Crime” episode?
Of course, Beekle is sporting that cute little crown — and now a shiny gold Caldecott medal sticker to match!
More Doctor Who silliness here.
The post Caldecott-fandom crossovers, pt. 2 appeared first on The Horn Book.
The books! Photo by Angela J. Reynolds
Shovels in hand, 15 brave souls entered a room in a hotel in Chicago. We knew there was treasure to be found, we knew that we would have to dig deep into our year of looking at over 500 picture books in order to find the gems. We tried to find the right words (vocabulary, phrases, terms) to express how our favorite books met the criteria. We bravely donned our capes of red wool; we dreamed of art, and lost things, and finding friends. We picked up pebbles of wisdom, like stones at the beach that one summer. Our minds were filled with noisy colors. And together, we did the unimaginable.
It has been just two weeks since the 2015 Caldecott Awards were announced, and I still feel the warm glow of that experience. The seven books that our committee chose to receive those shiny stickers have me still reeling. I look at them and smile. Each one of them means something to me, and I have realized that our set of books is all about discovery. Just like Beekle on his heroic journey to friendship, our committee set out to find the most distinguished book published in 2014. There were many amazing books, and I know that each and every member of our committee has a few books that did not make our final list that they will always treasure. You just don’t spend that much time re-reading and looking closely without developing a relationship with the books. Together we found the books that we agreed met the criteria and rose to the top of the pile.
Caldesnacks! Photo by Angela J. Reynolds
Being on the Caldecott Committee has been a longtime career goal. Now it is a career highlight, and I have found 14 new friends that shared an experience (and a lot of great snacks) that no-one can know about (actually, I can tell you all about the snacks if you want to know). The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend, by Dan Santat, was announced on Monday, February 2. Sitting in the convention center hall, my hands were shaking. Never had the announcement of the awards been so personal, so exciting, so nerve-wracking. I had to remind myself to breathe. Since we knew who the winner was on Saturday night, one of our committee members thought it would be fun for us to wear crowns like Beekle’s after the book was announced. She made them on Sunday and kept them secret until the book was named on Monday morning. Donning that yellow paper crown marked one of my happiest moments as a librarian. Our committee was so proud of those books.
The Caldecott Buzz was enormous. In years past, I have chatted with others about the awards. I engaged in the “why didn’t my favorite book win” banter with friends and colleagues. I read the blogs with fervor, and sometimes even joined in on the second-guessing that naturally goes on each year. “What were they thinking?” is often bandied about when the awards are announced, and I fully understand why. These book awards mean a lot to us. They recognize, very publicly, that children’s books matter. They celebrate art and literature and story and make us look closely at books, and at ourselves. This year the comments, both in person and online, were somehow louder. I love hearing people’s reactions, and I enjoy reading the critical analysis that has resulted. For those who are disgruntled, upset, or still wondering why our committee chose the books we chose, I say, read the Caldecott Manual, linked here. Read the criteria. And read them again. Read them a third time. Our committee heeded (observed, abided by, adhered to) that manual; we read it many times. My copy has margin notes, tabs, highlighter, tea stains. The manual was our guide, our touchstone, our handbook. And because the committee deliberations are confidential, you’ll never know exactly what happened in that room, other than the fact that we did what we were tasked to do, and we chose a winner and six honor books. Celebrate that with us. Find the joy in those books, like we did. Find the readers who will love those books, because they are out there. And like the Newbery committee’s t-shirts said, “Trust the Process”.
The post Post-Caldecott appeared first on ALSC Blog.
As a member of the 2015 Caldecott committee, making “the call” to Dan Santat on the morning of February 2 was such a thrill. The good folks at ALA make it possible for you to experience it HERE. Once the announcements of the Caldecott awards were made public, the Internet buzzed. One of the first things I saw online after the announcements was this short video from Dan Santat. It melted my heart. I was running on adrenaline, very little sleep, and home-made ginger cookies at this point, and that little clip just really got me. Dan Santat’s first Tweet of that day was “I’m so bummed the Patriots won the #SuperBowl last night. My whole day is ruined.” I immediately thought, “The guy is funny!” You can follow him on Twitter @dsantat. When I got back to my hotel room, I saw this amazing craft from This Picture Book Life blog. It inspired me to create my own Snow Beekle once I got back home.
When I was home I really dug in to read the Caldecott news. There are several interviews that will give you more about Dan Santat, like this one from Publisher’s Weekly, this one from NPR, this one from Dan’s local station in Pasadena, and this one on the 7 Impossible Things blog. And there’s this fun podcast from Picturebooking.
So, there’s a lot of Beekle love out there, and it is well-deserved. This year’s Caldecott medal book is one that you can share at preschool storytime. There’s already a craft you can make (with preschoolers I’d use frosting scribblers instead of Sharpie marker to make the face because you know they are going to want to eat it). You can use The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend with older groups, too. It is a seemingly simple book, but so much is going on. Embedded in this story is the archetypal Hero’s Journey: Beekle leaves home on a quest, heeding his call to adventure. He leaves his normal world and ventures out into the unknown. He then experiences trials in that world: he is looking for something, and searches valiantly. Once Beekle finds what he is looking for, and has bonded with his new friend, he can return, and do the unimaginable. For more on the Hero’s Journey, and how Beekle relates, try this link.
Photo by Angela J. Reynolds
Look closely at that art! Each section of the journey is denoted by color and slight style changes, and fits the pacing just right. Look for the color yellow to tell you that change or something significant has occurred. Look at the emotion on our hero’s face when he meets his friend. Explore those end pages. Take that dust jacket off and revel in the lovely board cover underneath. Find the joy in this book that so many young children do. And don’t forget to look for the Beekle Bum – that image gets noticed every time I share this book in storytime.
Have fun with this book, and if you have more ideas on how to use it in storytime or in the classroom, share in the comments!
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Do you have a colleague who is a well-organized and knowledgeable manager, a skilled and articulate book evaluator, or an intelligent and creative leader in the field of youth services? Do you recognize one or more of these qualities in yourself? We are looking for ALSC members committed to our core values — Collaboration, Excellence, Inclusiveness, Innovation, Integrity and Respect, Leadership, and Responsiveness — to serve our association. The 2015 ALSC poll will open soon for voting, and it’s time to start thinking about next year’s slate of candidates.
The members of the 2016 ALSC Nominating Committee encourage you to make recommendations for the following positions for the spring 2016 ballot:
- ALSC Vice-President/President-Elect
- ALSC Board Director
- New to ALSC Board Director
- ALSC Fiscal Officer
- ALSC 2018 Caldecott Award Committee Member
- ALSC 2018 Newbery Award Committee Member
- ALSC 2018 Sibert Award Committee Member
- ALSC 2018 Wilder Award Committee Member
The deadline for member nominations for the 2016 slate is Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Simply fill out the online suggestion form at:
Suggestion Form for 2016 ALSC Ballot
We appreciate your assistance, and look forward to hearing from you.
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Let’s talk about This One Summer. I know many of you have already talked about it, and I’m sure some of those conversations have been very interesting. As a member of the 2015 Caldecott Committee that chose This One Summer by Mariko & Jillian Tamaki as an honor book, I’ll try to clear up some points that have lead to questions. According to the Caldecott definitions, “’A picture book for children’ is one for which children are the intended potential audience. “Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen and picture books for this entire age range are considered.” (Caldecott Manual, page 10) The Expanded Definitions also says, on page 69, “In some instances, award-winning books have been criticized for exceeding the upper age limit of fourteen. If a book is challenging, and suitable for 13-14 year-olds, but not for younger readers, is it eligible? Yes…” Yes, this book is for older readers. Here’s an interesting look at that question in Travis Jonker’s interview with the Tamakis.
This One Summer is a coming-of-age story about a girl entering adolescence and both appeals to and is appropriate for young readers age 12-14. Twelve, thirteen and fourteen year-olds fall well within the scope of audience for the Caldecott Medal and Honor books. Although this book is challenging in many ways, the committee found it to be “so distinguished, in so many ways, that it deserves recognition” as well as “exceptionally fine, for the narrow part of the range to which it appeals, even though it may be eligible for other awards outside this range.” (page 69 – Caldecott Manual). There are many people who do not realize that the Caldecott terms include books for older readers. I see this as an opportunity for us, as ALSC members and librarians, to deepen understanding of the award.
Committee member Tali Balas add sticker to the book. Photo by Angela Reynolds
According to The Caldecott Manual, a “picture book for children” as distinguished from other books with illustrations, is one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience. A picture book has a “collective unity of storyline, theme, or concept, developed through the series of pictures of which this book is comprised.” (page 10) The committee followed this definition closely, and This One Summer shows, through pictures, a collective unity of all three, with particular strength in storyline and theme. Graphic novels certainly provide us with a visual experience. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has a great article on using This One Summer in a classroom, which you can read here, and a “make your case” article for adding it to your collection here. And for those of you who are graphic novel fans, don’t miss this podcast with Mariko Tamaki. I love how she talks about the images being like paragraphs.
The Caldecott Committee, as directed by the manual, considered each eligible book as a picture book and made our decisions based primarily on illustration. The committee gave This One Summer an honor because of its excellence of pictorial presentation for children, as defined in the manual. If you haven’t seen it, take a look at the amazing use of just one color. Jillian Tamaki creates mood so vividly with her washes of indigo, deepening the shade when the plot gets darker. The story has much to do with water; the monochromatic blues remind us just how changeable a lake (and an adolescent girl) can be. The images in the book intertwine and play with the words, creating an authentic summer experience. I just love the image on pages 70-71 where Windy is dancing around the kitchen. It shows her personality, and Rose’s, perfectly: setting up the tension of youthful energy and quiet contemplation. There are many images throughout the book that give us this deeper insight. Go looking for them. They will astound you.
*Special thanks to fellow committee member Sharon McKeller for help with this article.
The post Let’s talk about Caldecott: This One Summer appeared first on ALSC Blog.
By: Roger Sutton
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by Janet A. Loranger
Thirty-seven years ago, Marcia Brown published her first picture book for children: The Little Carousel.* On June 28, 1983, she received her third Caldecott Medal for Shadow. Those years from 1946 to 1983 have encompassed one of the most distinguished careers in American children’s books. That her latest book has received such a signal honor and that she is the first illustrator to be awarded the medal three times are evidences of the undiminished vitality and richness of her contribution to the field. It is an uncommon achievement.
The nourishment of such a gift and such an achievement comes from many sources. Marcia grew up in several small towns in upstate New York, one of three daughters in a minister’s family. Everyone in the household loved music and reading, and her father also passed along to her, especially, his joy in using his hands. From childhood Marcia was allowed to use his tools and learned to respect and care for them. And from her own workbench and tools, in later years, have come the wood blocks and linoleum cuts that illustrate such handsome books as Once a Mouse… (1961), How, Hippo! (1969), All Butterflies (1974), and Backbone of the King (1966). Marcia feels that the most important legacy her parents gave her was a deep pleasure in using her eyes — for seeing, rather than merely for looking. Her keen delight in the details of nature and her acute observation of them are evident in all her books — most dramatically, perhaps, in the beautiful photographic nature books Walk with Your Eyes, Listen to a Shape, and Touch Will Tell (all Watts, 1979).
As a college student, Marcia was interested in botany, biology, art, and literature. During summer vacations she worked in Woodstock, New York, at a resort hotel and studied painting with Judson Smith, whose criticism and inspiration have remained an important influence in her life and art. After graduation she taught high school English, directed dramatic productions for a few years, and worked in summer stock. Some years later, she became a puppeteer in New York City and also taught puppetry for the extra-mural department of the University of the West Indies.
When Marcia moved to New York City, her interest in children’s book illustration drew her to work in the Central Children’s Room of The New York Public Library, where she gained invaluable experience in storytelling and an exposure to the library’s large international and historical collections. Here, too, she received encouragement from such outstanding children’s librarians as Anne Carroll Moore, Helen A. Masten, and Maria Cimino.
Marcia’s particular interest in folklore and fairy tales is apparent to anyone familiar with her books. Marcia believes strongly that the classic tales give children images and insights that will stay with them all their lives. To each of these stories she has brought her own special vision, her integrity, and a vitality that speaks powerfully and directly to children.
A very important influence in her life and in her books has been the stimulus of travel — that mind- and eye-stretching jolt out of the usual. Marcia has traveled widely in Europe, Great Britain, Russia, East Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East, including China. If she has a “home away from home,” it is Italy, the country with which she has felt most profoundly in tune. She lived in Italy, off and on, for four years, spending much of her time painting. Felice (1958) and Tamarindo! (1960) are books that grew out of her love for that country and her friendships with Italians. Marcia still writes to friends there, in Italian, and is able to converse with them in the language when she calls them on special occasions. France, too, has a special place in her life, and she spent over a year there; while living in Paris, she studied the flute with a member of the Paris Conservatory Orchestra. On a speaking trip to Hawaii she was so overwhelmed by the incredible beauty of the islands that she returned to spend many months and to do the research that was the basis for one of her most powerful books, Backbone of the King, a retelling of a great Hawaiian hero legend.
In the late 1960s Marcia gave up her long-time residence in New York City and moved to a small town in southeastern Connecticut. For the first time she was able to design and build a studio to fit her needs. It is a large room with a balcony at one end, a high ceiling with two skylights, and areas for doing painting, woodcuts, drawing, photography, sewing, and flute playing. The house is surrounded by hemlocks, and the woods nearby are filled with possums, raccoons, deer, squirrels, and birds. Not far from her property is the small river that provided the inspiration and the evocative winter photographs for her only filmstrip, The Crystal Cavern, published by Lyceum Productions in 1974. The plants, trees, wildflowers, and animals — and the changing seasons — are a constant source of stimulus and delight. Her greatest problem is finding time for all the interests she wants to pursue at home and also for going to New York to attend operas, ballets, concerts, and museums — and for traveling.
Most days, Marcia gets up early and spends some time reading while she has her breakfast. Just now, she is interested in the recently published book about a journey through the byways of America, Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon (Atlantic-Little). She finds many of the conversations the author had with residents of small, out-of-the-way villages the stuff of living folklore. Later, she might go to her studio and practice Chinese brush painting, a technique which first interested her in 1977 and which she began to study seriously, with a teacher, two years ago. Her paintings of lotuses, bamboo, plum blossoms, birds, and dramatic landscapes fill the walls of her living room and studio. She has begun to exhibit, along with other artists practicing the technique, and has sold several paintings.
If she has a sewing project, as she often does, Marcia will spend time on the studio balcony, where she has set up a sewing area. And each day, she faithfully practices her flute. She feels very fortunate to be studying with John Solum, a much-esteemed concert flutist, who lives in a nearby town. When she sews or paints, or works on illustrations, there is always music — as necessary to her as food. Her love of music and the dance and her deep understanding of them perhaps account, in part, for the grace, rhythm, and strength of her writing and illustration. Most certainly they are profound influences. Because her work requires solitude and long stretches of concentration, she often does not see as much of her friends as she would like to, but she accepts this fact as a price that must be paid.
Marcia Brown’s books have unquestionably stood the test of time. Nearly all of them are still in print — a certain proof of their enduring hold on generations of children. Never has Marcia been interested in passing fashions in children’s book illustration. She has worked in many media but not for the sake of variety; rather, she has always let the story and her feeling for it determine the medium and the style. Her particular vision and her uncompromising integrity have been rewarded in the past: two Caldecott Medals (for Cinderella in 1955 and for Once a Mouse… in 1962), six Caldecott Honor books, two nominations for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the University of Southern Mississippi Medallion for Distinguished Service to Children’s Literature, and the Regina Medal. Now, after so many years of creating memorable children’s books, Marcia stands in a unique position — one abundantly deserved. It is gratifying that the children’s librarians of America, the dedicated people who bring children and books together, have honored her in so special a way.
*Except where another publisher is indicated, all books mentioned are published by Scribner.
From the August 1983 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
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2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco (image courtesy of ALA)
ALSC and the ALSC Awards Preconference Pilot Program Task Force want to remind Annual attendees that registration slots for the 2015 ALSC preconference program are still avaialable. This program takes place 11:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Friday, June 26, 2015, at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco.
The program, entitled Distinguished and Diverse: Celebrate the 2015 ALSC Honor Books, will spotlight 2015 Honor Book recipients for the Newbery, Caldecott, Batchelder, Pura Belpré, Sibert and Geisel awards. The keynote speaker for the program is K.T. Horning, and there will be a panel facilitated by Judy Freeman.
The event will feature authors, illustrators and editors such as:
- Cece Bell
- Jacqueline Woodson
- Lauren Castillo
- Mary GrandPré
- Candace Fleming
- Yuyi Morales
- Jillian Tamaki
- Katherine Roy
- John Parra
- Patricia Hruby Powell
- Mark Siegel
- Christian Robinson,
- Jon Klassen
- Melissa Sweet
This is the first year that such a preconference will be held. The charge of the Awards Preconference Pilot Program Task Force is “to develop content and the program for a half-day preconference that will feature 2015 ALSC-only award honorees.” Based on the success of this year’s preconference, ALSC may or may not choose to hold similar events in connection with upcoming Annual Conferences. ALSC members receive a special discount (use code: ALSC2015) on registration.
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In just over 20 days, I will be heading to San Francisco. I will be joining thousands of librarians making their way to the annual conference. This year is perhaps the most special conference ever for me. As a member of the 2015 Caldecott committee, I get to see the medal bestowed upon Dan Santat at the Caldecott-Newbery Banquet on Sunday, June 28 (ok I KNOW it is actually called the Newbery-Caldecott banquet, but hey, I’m calling it my way this year). Pretty exciting stuff!
Angela’s Caldecott memory book signed by fellow committee members (photo by A. Reynolds)
There are plenty of things I am looking forward to. Conference sessions, Guerrilla Storytime, the exhibits, running into librarian pals, spending time with old friends. But honestly, I am really looking forward to seeing those 14 special people that I share secrets with (aka the 2015 Caldecott Committee). Since February, our committee has been chatting via email. We’ve sent links to one another, and proudly read interviews with “our” illustrators. We’ve shared joys and ideas. We’ve shared thoughts about what to wear to the banquet. We’ve booked tattoo appointments & planned outings in San Francisco (we even have an official social -butterfly coordinator). I think we are all looking forward to a reunion in San Francisco. I know we are looking forward to meeting the illustrators of the amazing books we chose. We are gleefully anticipating celebrations with creators and publishers. And we can’t wait to honor the books that we are so delighted by. More memories will be created, I am certain of that.
It is going to be whirlwind of a time. Living in the woods, far away from my ALA colleagues, I always look forward to this time to refresh, get inspired by Big Ideas, and rejuvenate. This conference is going to charge my brain’s batteries for good long while. Yes, I get sentimental about this whole librarianship thing this time of year. I’ve never once regretted that push from a grad-school professor who insisted I join ALA and ALSC. Yes, I have served on maybe the best committees ever. But ALSC has served me well, too. Thanks, ALSC, for being the way to stay in touch. See you in San Francisco!
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An editor’s dream — smart authors, smart artists. They save so much time. That is, they’re up to speed without undue heaving or the need for sand on the tracks (see Locomotive for more on the subject). My subject in this tribute is someone who is all three: author, artist, smart.
Given a pencil, Brian Floca doodled young and was still happily at it when, in the spring of 1991, we met in Providence, Rhode Island, in (unaccountably) an empty office in the Department of Egyptology at Brown University. Doodles, by then, had become a comic strip in the campus newspaper. As a junior at Brown, Brian was also studying with David Macaulay at nearby Rhode Island School of Design (what a treat, then, to read in The Horn Book’s review of Locomotive that the back endpaper cutaway illustration of Central Pacific engine Jupiter surely “would make David Macaulay proud”).
It was Avi who arranged our meeting. He was seeking an illustrator for a 400-page gleam in his eye that became City of Light, City of Dark (1993), an early entrant in the recent resurgence of graphic novels. Brian had been recommended. He did some sample pen-and-inks: lots of energy; inventive perspectives; a touch of the sinister, which Avi’s tale required.
Before that first project was published, Avi had dreamt up a second — a fantasy called Poppy (winner of a 1996 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award). The three-inch mouse heroine emerged first in what the illustrator describes as “cartoony pen-and-ink” but then matured magically in velvety pencil. From gargantuan cityscape to atmospheric woodland, this young man could draw anything.
I hadn’t yet read any of Brian’s own story ideas. Turned out he was not only a skilled draftsman, but also a witty writer, sometimes wacky, sometimes tender. The first text Brian brought me was a goofball romp about a boy in a natural history museum, The Frightful Story of Harry Walfish (1997), though not till he’d finished, for Orchard, Helen Ketteman’s Luck with Potatoes (1995). Years later, I mean years, he admitted that before Helen’s book he’d never done any watercolor illustrations requiring book-length focus. But focus he did…on a departure, and also in watercolor: Five Trucks (1999), which Booklist starred and which prompted the reviewer to ask: “If picture books about trucks are so easy to do, why do we see so many poor ones and so few as good as this?”
A stylistic throwback followed, Dinosaurs at the Ends of the Earth (2000) about explorer/naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews. Not quite nonfiction (Brian imagines some dialogue), the book spreads as wide as the Gobi Desert; the text, mostly arrayed horizontally, is lengthy and looks it. Great rectangles of words. But the writing is alive, a throwback only in its long-lined form.
As a kid I loved poring over Holling C. Holling (but oh, those long texts) and the informational books by Edwin Tunis (dry as tinder, yet the drawings captivated). Fifty years later, here was Brian Floca of Temple, Texas, an artist who could bring to life gizmos, vehicles, feats, and all manner of things that go and do and make noises. And not go on and on for paragraphs. Here was an artist to channel that one-time kid who liked “process” and long-looking. I hope it’s clear that we’d hit it off as friends from the beginning, but now the making of books about the workings of things had become a connecting passion.
The Racecar Alphabet (2003) was the first brainchild: rambunctious, even raucous, with an alliterative text only 205 words long. One NASCAR driver we heard from via e-mail reads the book to his son regularly and praised Brian for the accuracy of art, car info — and sound effects. For a further example of those, see Lightship (2007).
“A committee member” asked for a lunch-break look at our copy of Lightship in the Atheneum ALA booth.
She’d heard that the text was “strong.” It was Lightship that alerted the world that this young man could not only illustrate and pace a book beautifully, he could also write. Brian’s texts thereafter arrayed themselves vertically; visually spare, like ribbons floating to allow room for art, they often read like poetry (think of the glorious Moonshot in 2009, and now Locomotive). The words brim with emotion even when it is facts he’s presenting.
Since his beginnings, Brian has been a working illustrator. His website makes clear that his range is impressive —
animal, vegetable, mechanical. I have a most personal collection of hand-drawn postcards and notes the Society of Illustrators could make a show of; a recent highlight is a pen-and-ink Jupiter, puffing a great blast of thank-you flowers.
Locomotive began life in 2008 as an homage to a wondrous big chugger such as Jupiter, when Brian’s flight of Apollo 11 was still on the drawing board. It soon became clear that locomotives, especially those engines destined for transcontinental travel, bore on their wheels the great weight of nineteenth-century America. Homage
became paean. Had to. Thirty-two pages became, progressively, 40, 48, 56, 64. Research led him this way and that — into many an account of the heroism, ingenuity, venality, and even crime behind the country’s westward expansion. These elements, outside the immediate focus of Locomotive, make appearances in the narrative in supporting roles, which, it is hoped, will lead readers to other books, other stories. But the stars of Locomotive had to remain the locomotives themselves (several were required to make the Omaha-to-Sacramento trek); sometimes even pieces of their stories fell to the cutting room floor.
Nearly a victim of the streamlining ax was the KA-BOOM! explosion picture. (Brian said: “Boys will like it; I hate to lose it, but…”) Lots of the book hit the floor at one time or another, great puddles of remarkable art, often without room for itself in the narrative, offshoots of story for which there was no space or time. The nights of the journey had to be documented with rhythmically placed dark pages; lighting for existing scenes had to be changed from midnight to sunlight — perspectives had to be juxtaposed. Locomotive was pulled apart and reassembled many a time. Like a machine itself, this book was built.
And as with the pictures, the text too was an assemblage. I must have read it a hundred times and yet I am always impressed with how the skein of language supports the visual story. For by now, after a long, evolutionary, and iterative process, a story had emerged — of one family traveling westward, propelled by a sequence of Union Pacific and Central Pacific locomotives. Listen to the book read aloud. Through its words, it presents the experiences of one boy (a stand-in, surely, for the artist himself) lucky enough to see and see more and hear and hear more — a whole world opening up to him.
At the touching end, the simplicity of the family’s reunion seems to me just right — no bustling background, just feeling. Full but spare, the text here through the arrival in San Francisco was sifted and shifted well into final proofing stage. The book ends with the art/text version of a hug. And extends to the back of the jacket, which shows six grown boys loving a machine — just as three grown boys, Brian principally, but also the designer, Michael McCartney, and I, have loved the tinkering, the polishing, the priming of this book for its journey from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first.
Brian Floca has opened a world to me.
And now, what’s next? Back to the man who put this crew together: Avi and his Old Wolf. Brian has illustrated in rich pencil the fable-like tale of an aged wolf-pack leader determined to feed his hungry pups (does he or doesn’t he have one more kill in him?), a boy with a birthday bow-and-arrows who knows about killing only from video games, and a raven who knows about everything.
After that, there’s a picture book starring a cat behind the wheel—a vehicle-sized cat or a cat-sized vehicle? Only the artist knows for sure…
I am grateful that there’s to be a future for us. Thank you, young sir, for the ride so far. I have learned much.
Your pal, D
Brian Floca is the 2014 Caldecott Medal winner for Locomotive. From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
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