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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Daniel Handler, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. An Interesting Comfort Book

I've had The Dark by Daniel Handler writing as Lemony Snicket, with illustrations by Jon Klassen. floating around the house for a little while because, quite honestly, I didn't quite get the first volume of A Series of Unfortunate Incidents by L.Snicket. Life is short, time is limited. Should I spend any of it reading another Snicket book?

Why, yes, I should.
 
What I particularly liked about The Dark was its coherence. It both seems to lead you astray, suggesting this is going to be a creepy piece of fluff or a clever joke, and then with that same material makes clear that all this time this was a very straight story. Anthropomorphizing the dark could mean turning it into a monster or it could mean turning it into a logical, calming follow.

Which way did Handler/Snicket go?

The Dark is a Cybils nominee this year in the fiction picture book category.

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2. A Children’s Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon Awesome

TheScieszkaStare e1364949716583 224x300 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon AwesomeThere are some days when you are so utterly floored by delight that all you can do is throw up your hands and say to the universe, “I’m out!”  That was yesterday.  I’m out, folks.  I hit the top.  It’s all downhill from here.  And I’m so young!  It’s sad when you peak at 34.

The source of this joy/woe is Allie Bruce at the Bank Street School for Children’s library.  As you may know, if you attended my Children’s Literary Salon on Alternative Children’s Librarians, Allie is Bank Street’s children’s librarian and a more talented young ‘un you could not hope to find.  She asked me if I could come in one day to speak to some of her sixth graders about book jackets.  And since that is a topic I could talk about all day and night, I readily agreed.

Oh.  And while I was there, Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler and Jon Klassen would stop by to do their very first dual presentation of their new book The Dark.

But wait.  There’s more.

Neil Gaiman would also be stopping by.  And Mr. Handler’s wife Lisa Brown.  And Jon Scieszka might come along.  As well as Kerlan Collection guru Lisa Von Drasek (newly appointed as a National Book Award committee judge).

So . . . there was that.

That morning I headed on over with my handy dandy FlashDrive, forgetting to bring my camera.  Luckily everything in my purse is a camera these days.  My phone is a camera.  My iPod is a camera.  My lipstick, extra shoes, and hairbrush may all well have cameras in them, for all I know.

My presentation seemed to go all right.  Allie was nice about it anyway, and though I was mildly unnerved when Lisa Von Drasek appeared, taking a picture with an iPad (it is hard to stay calm in the face of a large flat surface aimed at your head) I didn’t panic once.  For the record, the kids assured me that none of them liked the old cover of Okay for Now and did prefer the new paperback jacket.  They also agreed with me that the British cover of Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is heads and tails more interesting than the American one.  Duh.

When I was done I got to flit about.  In my flitting I saw that the Bank Street library’s children’s librarian’s office contains an ancient Jon Scieszka mask of yore.  The kind of mask that reminds you of Eraserhead more than anything else.  The mask is Lisa Von Drasek’s by right, and she had a fascinating story about when it was made and its original purpose.  Apparently when it first came out it was handed to a roomful of librarians.  Jon knew nothing about it and he walked in to see his own visage staring back at him from hundreds of faces.  “It was like Being John Malkovich“, he said.  Allie assured me that the kids who see it are fascinated.  Sometimes they commune with it on a near spiritual level.

CommuningWithScieszka2 500x375 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon Awesome

CommuningWithScieszka1 500x375 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon Awesome

Jon Klassen and Daniel Handler were slated to start signing a bunch of copies of their book but until they did we figured we’d hang out in The Quiet Room (which proved to be a bit of a misnomer).  I don’t own a clutch.  Not really.  So in lieu of one I tend to carry around a book.  Thus it was that the galley of Merrie Haskell’s Handbook for Dragon Slayers got lugged, poor thing, hither and thither, as I stuffed an interesting assortment of business cards, flyers, and Starbucks napkins into its pages.  Apparently I was worried that I’d have nothing to do and would need some entertainment.  Oh, the wrongness of little me.

Jon, Daniel, the remarkable Lisa Brown, her thoroughly enjoyable offspring (who had written one helluva graphic novel illustrated by his mom), Victoria Stapleton in shoes I should have caught on film, and a whole host of other folks flooded in.  Before long it was lunch.  Picture, if you will, what it is like to eat lunch across from Scieszka and Handler with Lisa Brown at your side and Lisa Von Drasek heading the table. I am not particularly good at socializing when overwhelmed.  I tend to get giggly.  And loud.  And I make strange little jokes that feed off of references that make sense only in my own head.  So while I was not particularly interesting at this gathering, the rest of the folks were superb.  In the future I’m taking my little audio recorder with me to capture this kind of situation on tape for the benefit of future generations.  See if I don’t.

GaimanKlassenSnicket e1364950548554 224x300 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon AwesomeSo then Neil Gaiman comes in.  That was nice.  He’s a bit beardy right now.  Much with the stubble, which has a pleasant graying sheen to it.  Shocker: He wore black.  I’m not shy around famous folks, but Gaiman is a tricky one.  He’s a very kind famous person.  If you introduce yourself to him he’ll look you dead square in the eye, shake your hand, and seem interested in whatever babble proceeds to emanate from your mouth.  But famous people on his level are a bit difficult to converse with casually, and because they are at a distinct disadvantage to you (you know who they are, but they meet hundreds of people every day and can’t remember you as well) you can’t rely on them remembering any past conversations you might have had.  So I just skipped the whole meet Gaiman part of the day and chatted with Jon Klassen instead.  And Jon is a true doll.  The kind of guy you’d try to weasel yourself into sitting next to at a dinner party.  I’m trying to pin down exactly what his personality reminds me of, but it’s hard.  In any case, I lamented with him that he’d used such great material on his Boston Horn Book Globe Award speech now that he had to write a Caldecott one (he’s almost done with it, Roger, don’t worry!).

Then it was time for the presentation!  We proceeded to the Bank Street auditorium, which was apparently built on the side of a mountain.  It’s one of those auditoriums where you get the distinct feeling that if you tripped and fell down the stairs they’d have to pluck your various limbs out of the four corners of the room post-landing.  We sat up top, the kiddos sitting beneath us, closer to the stage.  And what lively kiddos they were too!  I suspect they were fresh off of lunch and had had their fill of pudding pops or whatever it is kids eat today (Note to Self: Check and see if pudding pops still exist . . . ditto Hydrox cookies).  They were bouncy.  Very bouncy.  Tres bouncy.  Handler played some background music for them which, interestingly, did not seem to affect them one way or another.  And so the fun began.

Now Daniel and Jon had never presented together.  Their PowerPoint presentation had not even been finished as of the night before.  And here they were, with Gaiman, ready to wow a room on a brand new book for the very first time.

SnicketKlassen e1364950835631 225x300 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon AwesomeLadies and gentlemen, let us discuss the nature of comedic chemistry.  Think of all the great pairings of the past.  Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner.  Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.  Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  Now think of the great comedic children’s book pairings out there.  Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith.  Mac Barnett and Adam Rex.  Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (they get extra points for playing ping pong while they present).  But on this day we witnessed something new.  Something unique.  We witnessed, ladies and gentlemen, the greatest comic picture book pairing the world has ever seen.  I mean this honestly.

For you see, Mr. Handler had noticed something about Mr. Klassen.  He is a world class straight man.  A good straight man is exceedingly difficult to find.  You need someone who enjoys the spotlight but hasn’t the kind of ego that demands that they grab it away from their partner.  They need to be willing to be made a fool of, but the wit and cunning to turn it all around on their partner by the end.  In short, you need a Jon Klassen.

The entire schtick hinged on the idea that Mr. Handler (who proclaimed repeatedly that he was not Lemony Snicket to the pained cries of the delighted audience members) had zero respect for Mr. Klassen’s work on their book together.  In the course of their talk he disparaged Mr. Klassen’s clothes and talent.  Klassen, for his part, played along beautifully.  They alternated seemingly random slides of varying importance.  It was fairly clear that the slides were a combination of Handler’s old standbys (he’s in an old photograph phase right now that’s doing very well by him) with Klassen’s (in which he shows various important pieces of art from his youth, including a shot of Frog & Toad, and repeats how frightened he was of them when he was a child).

GaimanSnicket e1364950944343 224x300 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon AwesomeWhen Mr. Snicket starts to read the book with Mr. Klassen illustrating alongside him, the tension escalates.  Handler denies Mr. Klassen the shiny red apple he’d really like to eat.  He blindfolds him and makes him draw sans eyes.  He brings on Gaiman and claims he’s now going to read the book in his best Neil Gaiman imitation (Klassen makes fun of the “imitation” continually).  And then, when everything is reaching a crescendo . . . Klassen turns everything on its head and Handler runs off screaming.  I won’t give away why.  Bank Street recorded the whole thing and I’ll post it here when I can.

The kids, for the record, ate this thing up like it was a (perhaps nonexistent) pudding pop.  They laughed.  They screamed.  Mostly they screamed.  I’m not entirely certain if Handler and Klassen (and Gaiman for that matter) were ready for the level of identification the kids made with poor Mr. Klassen.  Handler told his blindfolded illustrator that both of them would blindfold themselves and then read and draw without their eyes.  This was, of course, a lie and the kids could not help but scream to Mr. Klassen that Mr. Handler was welching on his half of the deal.  There was an interesting level of desperation to their cries.  Handler’s an old hand in dealing with child panic and outrage, but Klassen dealt with it beautifully as well.  It was very satisfying to watch.  You should have heard les enfants terrible when Handler started eating Jon’s apple.

When the video is up and running I will let you know.  It’ll make your day.  Meantime, a big thank you to the folks at Little, Brown for bringing these heavyweights together and to Bank Street for hosting them.  And thanks, of course, to Allie Jane Bruce for inviting me and allowing me to report on what, without a doubt, was the highlight of the year.  Methinks I’ll go off and relive it a couple times just for kicks.

JennyBrown 500x373 A Childrens Book Fever Dream: Compounding Awesome Upon Awesome

Jenny Brown living the dream with Allie Bruce close by.

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3. Video Sunday: “I’ve promised it to Publishers’ Monthly”

See now, this is what I get for waiting when I see a good video.  I’ve been doing my Video Sundays a little less frequently since I like to do them when the content is primo.  The flipside is that sometimes I get scooped.  Such is the case with today’s video.  It is a delight and I have watched it multiple times, but it’s not as new as it once was.  No matter.  You will enjoy it thoroughly, I think.  Thanks to Jon Scieszka and, by extension, Lisa Brown for the link.

Next up, a triple threat.  He writes books like Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities (which I have read and thoroughly enjoyed).  He blogs at Mike Jung’s Little Bloggy Wog.  But the kicker?  He sings.  And goldurnit . . . he’s good.

Brother Iz step aside.  I may have to rework my children’s book boy band roster around to include him.  Dude has pipes.

Speaking of music, I am of the opinion that a catchy score can make or break a book trailer.  Example A: As the Crow Flies by Sheila Keenan and Kevin Duggan.  Catchy as all get out.

And where would this little trailer for the oh-so Canadian Little Jack Horner LIVE from the Corner be without its catchy tunes?  Only author Helaine Becker and illustrator Mike Boldt know for sure.

In other news, J.K. Rowling was in town.  Care to watch her chatter?  Here’s the uncut interview with Jon Stewart in all it Daily Showy glory.

Finally, our off-topic video comes to us from good man Mike Lewis.  As he says, it’s the reactions that make this one a classic.

Love it!

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4. Fusenews: Grumble fish

“Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.”

That would be an old line from a TV column in the Marin Independent Journal by one Rick Polito describing the film The Wizard of Oz.  My brother-in-law Steve brought it up this past Thanksgiving and I’ve been savoring it ever since.  What better way to kick off this lovely Friday morning then, eh?  The birds are singing.  The fish are grumbling.  Let’s get to it then!

  • Let’s get the me stuff out of the way first.  Lemme see, lemme see.  First off, over at the blog For the Future: What Today’s Youth Services Librarians Want the Next Generation to Know I answer some questions about the state of librarianship today, what to know, what to do, etc.  Then SLJ did a very nice write-up of a recent panel I moderated with the Women’s National Book Association.  It was a talk with industry professionals that examined how one goes about making a YA bestseller.  The article is good, but you will have to forgive my mugging in the accompanying photograph.  As god is my witness, I thought the angle the photographer took meant that I wasn’t going to be in the frame.  So I hedged my bets and posed, but in such a way where I look like I’m hosting a reality show and these are my ill-fated contestants.  Forgive me, Hannah.  I meant not to block you like that.
  • Speaking of advice to folks about the fine state of librarianship, if you have not read Kelly Jensen’s corrective You’re Going to Piss People Off do so.  Something to chew on for you newbies out there.  Heck, something to chew on for us oldbies as well.  Cause we do, man.  We do.
  • Oh, man.  Three words for you: Ed Emberly fabric.  Go wild, tootsies.  You know you wanna.
  • The gift giving season approacheth.  The pocketbook expandeth.  And the gift giving ideas dryeth up like a tiny puddleth.  That’s why it’s important to have resources on hand.  Resources like MotherReader’s recent 150 Ways to Give a Book.  Gift giving advice.  It’s the gift that keeps on . . . er . . .
  • I’m feeling old.  I have lived long enough to see books for kids appear and disappear only to potentially reemerge years later with the force of a petition behind them.  Hand me my cane, I am done, but not before I let you know about this rather fascinating attempt to garner online support.  Any of you remember the Wright & Wong series from a couple years ago?  Well before the current flush of books with kids with Asperger’s it was the rare pre-London Eye Mystery mystery series starring a kid with AS.  Now with so many folks clamoring for books of this sort to appear, an online petition has been created and the authors are putting out the word that they need support for it to come back.  To be honest, I’ve never seen this sort of thing before.  Let’s watch and see what happens.
  • Should you happen to read the interview with Daniel Handler in The New York Times you will no doubt curse as I did at those horrid little words, “INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED” found at the end.  Pfui.
  • I read with great interest the opinion piece What Should Children Read? which discusses the Common Core and reactions to it.  I should like to sit on it and process it for a while, though.  Seems to me one of the more interesting discussions on the topic.  I am torn.  A tip of the hat to PW Children’s Bookshelf for aiding in this confusion.
  • Several months ago the great and legendary editor Patti Lee Gauch spoke in my library with a talk entitled The Picture Books as an Act of Mischief.  Now that very talk has been typed up and put online over at Horn Book.  Huzzah, sayeth I.  And also hooray.
  • Daily Image:

You could be forgiven for wondering if artist and cartoonist Saul Steinberg ever made a children’s book.  To the best of my knowledge he did not, but many was the child like myself that grew up seeing his New Yorker covers hither and thither.  The discovery of this Saul Steinberg mask series pleases me to no end.  Some examples:

Thanks to Lisa Brown (see you this Saturday, yes?) for the link.

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5. Video Sunday: You had me at “giant ice cream”

I think the nicest thing about the internet, for me anyway, is that if you wait around long enough things that you’ve seen live will appear online and then you can let lots of people know about them.  For example, this video of Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman is not new.  It does, however, contain the only known record (known to me) of them both talking about the photograph game they would play.  The photo involving the catapult and the giant ice cream is a bit dangerous as it makes me giggle for long periods of time.

Next up, the only thing better than bad lip reading of Twilight?  Bad lip reading of New Moon.  True fact.

Read a really good independently published children’s book this week.  Self-published and remarkably fun.  It even has one top-notch book trailer to accompany it.  Check it out, peoples.

If the author’s name sounds familiar, that would be Ms. Lynn Messina of Little Vampire Women fame.  On an unrelated note, she also owns awesome boots.

Big time thanks to David Maybury for directing me to his link to this video of Laureate na nÓg Niamh Sharkey working with students from Griffeen Valley Educate Together on a Christmas Window for Hodges Figgis Bookstore in Dublin.

I’m now harboring fantasies of some store in New York doing something similar.  Books of Wonder maybe, though Bank Street Bookstore would probably get more foot traffic watching.  I mean, if Dublin can do it, we can too, can’t we?

And finally, for the off-topic video sometimes you just gotta give cred to the science/digital geeks.  Serious cred.

Thanks to BoingBoing for the link!

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6. Next Lemony Snicket Cover Revealed

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers has released the new cover for the next Lemony Snicket book. When Did You See Her Last? is coming on October 15th.

This is the second book in the “All the Wrong Questions” series, illustrated by Seth. The dispatch also included a YouTube conversation between Snicket and his pseudonymous creator, Daniel Handler.

Snicket also sent a curt letter along with the cover image: “Please immediately listen to

THIS which contains a top secret recorded conversation between Daniel Handler and myself, and see the attachment below, which depicts an undisclosed book cover. The more people who are made aware of this classified information the better chance we have of keeping our secret.”

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7. Lemony Snicket to Return in 4-Book Series

The fictional author Lemony Snicket will return in a four book series from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers called All the Wrong Questions. Graphic novelist Seth will illustrate the “authorized autobiographical account” of Snicket’s childhood.

The series will debut with Who Could That Be at This Hour? in October. The publisher will print one million copies of the first book by the fictional author since A Series of Unfortunate Events sold over 60 million copies. Snicket is the pen name of author Daniel Handler.

Here’s more from the release: “Drawing on events that took place during a period of his youth spent in a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, Snicket chronicles his experiences as an apprentice in an organization nobody knows about. While there, he began to ask a series of questions—wrong questions that should not have been on his mind. Who Could That Be at This Hour? is Snicket’s account of the first wrong question.”

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8. Lemony Snicket to Return in 4-Book Series

The fictional author Lemony Snicket will return in a four book series from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers called All the Wrong Questions. Graphic novelist Seth will illustrate the “authorized autobiographical account” of Snicket’s childhood.

The series will debut with Who Could That Be at This Hour? in October. The publisher will print one million copies of the first book by the fictional author since A Series of Unfortunate Events sold over 60 million copies. Snicket is the pen name of author Daniel Handler.

Here’s more from the release: “Drawing on events that took place during a period of his youth spent in a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, Snicket chronicles his experiences as an apprentice in an organization nobody knows about. While there, he began to ask a series of questions—wrong questions that should not have been on his mind. Who Could That Be at This Hour? is Snicket’s account of the first wrong question.”

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9. Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman

Dear Ed,

In a sec you'll hear a thunk. At your front door, the one nobody uses...I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened. And the truth is that I goddamn loved you so much...

The thunk is the box, Ed. This is what I am leaving you. Every last souvenir of the love we had, the prizes and the debris of this relationship, like the glitter in the gutter when the parade has passed, all the everything and whatnot kicked to the curb. I'm dumping the whole box back into your life, Ed, every item of you and me.


And the box does have everything from their relationship-- bottle caps and flower petals, ticket stubs and a coat, a protractor and some sugar... and the world's longest letter, detailing every detail of Ed and Min's relationship and where, and how it went wrong.

Ed is the jock, co-captain of the basketball team, with a string of popular girl girlfriends. Min is... not arty. Don't say she's arty. But she's smart and I guess we can call her alterna-girl. Not the kind Ed usually goes for. But he goes for Min.

We know it won't work for a number of reasons-- the premise of the book and the first page tell us it already ended. As an adult reader, you just know they're doomed from the set-up of personalities, but as Min details their relationship, pointing out all the red flags, you still end up cheering for them and their love and you hope they won't break up.

I love the structure-- the telling through the objects that Maira Kalman so beautifully paints. I love this book as an object-- the paper is heavy and glossy, like a coffee table book.

I had a hard time getting into it at first, but I think that was more about my head space than the book itself. But, because of it, I read it over the course of a month and in that drawn-out time frame, I became really invested in this doomed love. The way Min writes about it, it sounds like a relationship that slowly unravels and then you get to the moment of the actual break up and... Min, sweetie. You don't need 354 pages to tell Ed why you broke up. It's one sentence. He isn't worth the ink.

And that was a very disappointing end.

But, I did like portions of it. I like that Min was an "arty" girl who wasn't arty. I like that she thought she was so much deeper than she was. It was a bit annoying, but very, very, very true.  I was friends with Min in high school. I like that we never found out the exact deal with Ed's mom. I liked Ed's sister and I liked that we saw more to Ed than the stereotypical jock, but he was still a total popular boy jock.

My favorite was Min's friend Lauren, who would sing hymns at Min to torture her into spilling information. When Lauren was seven, she saw symbols in a speech balloon, and her super-Christian parents were too God-fearing to explain that the symbols meant fuck so freshman year she had this joke of saying "numbersign questionmark you" and "astrisk exclamtionpoint the world." If I were still in high school, hanging out with Min, this would be a speech p

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10. Amazon Exclusive Interview: Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman

Author Daniel Handler (who sometimes goes by Lemony Snicket) and illustrator Maira Kalman visited Amazon to chat about their new book Why We Broke Up, chosen by editors as one of January's Best Books of the Month. If we gave awards for most delightfully entertaining interviewees, these two would be shoo-ins.

 

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11. Top 100 Children’s Novels #48: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

#48 The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (1999)
43 points

Also brought me a huge list of new readers – boys and girls and teachers loved to read them out loud to the class. – Cheryl Phillips

I’m a Snicket girl, loving the play with wit and words in this Series of Unfortunate Events. – Pam Coughlan

Unlike other series no one had any desire to nominate a Snicket title other than this, the first. That helped its rating considerably.  Previously #71 it now leaps up to the 40s.  Not too shabby.  My encounters with the book precede my library degree.  When I lived in Portland, Oregon after college I started reading children’s books out of the blue (yet never dreamed I’d be a children’s librarian, odd as that may sound).  I read the first few Snicket books in Powell’s on a lark and loved them, so after the publication of #4 I went and saw Mr. Snicket speak.  He was wonderful, and the crowd was reasonable if not excessive.  Later, when he would command entire buildings like the Union Square Barnes & Noble, I missed the early days of Snicketmania.  Ah, nostalgic me.

Library Journal described the plot in this manner: “This series chronicles the unfortunate lives of the Baudelaire children: Violet, 14; Klaus, 12; and the infant, Sunny. In Bad Beginning, their parents and possessions perish in a fire, and the orphans must use their talents to survive as their lives move from one disastrous event to another. Surrounded by dim-witted though well-meaning adults, the Baudelaires find themselves in the care of their evil relative, Count Olaf, a disreputable actor whose main concern is getting his hands on the children’s fortune. When Olaf holds Sunny hostage to force Violet to marry him, it takes all of the siblings’ resourcefulness to outwit him. Violet’s inventive genius, Klaus’s forte for research, and Sunny’s gift for biting the bad guys at opportune moments save the day.”

In Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy (edited by Leonard Marcus) an interview was conducted with Daniel Handler, the face behind the Snicket.  The son of a man who escaped the Holocaust, Handler’s career as a children’s author began when his editor suggested (after reading an adult manuscript) that he write for kids.  The editor was Susan Rich, a woman we will now refer to as “Resident Genius” because I doubt that many editors would have seen the possibilities in Handler’s wordplay.  The ideas?  Not a problem.  “That’s what always happens to me: I have a clear idea for a story right away, and then as I’m writing it I find that it has more twists and corners than I knew.”  He told his editor it would be a thirteen book series.  She told him he’d be lucky if he could publish four.

The charm of the series is well defined by Sandra Howard in the August 25, 2001 edition of Spectator. “As a child I had an invented other child that I used to enjoy pretending to be; she had a permanently wretched time, always cruelly treated, slaving away. I’m sure Lemony Snicket’s constant exhortations to expect only the direst events to occur will have a happily morbid appeal and I found myself impatient to know how the orphans were going to get out of one scrape to be ready for the next. The tales are straightforward, no foe-defying magic, just companionable sharing of a disastrous state of affairs.”

It’s probably not too surprising that the first book Handler bought with his own money was Edward Gorey’s The Blue Aspic.  He was in first or second grade at the time.  His other influences

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12. The Rumpus Creates Letters for Kids Program

Over at The Rumpus, middle-grade author Cecil Castelluci will coordinate the new Letters For Kids program–a subscription service giving readers mail from authors who write for kids.

According to the launch page, participants will receive “two letters a month written by middle-grade authors like Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler, Adam Rex, Kerry Madden, Natalie Standiford, Susan Patron, Rebecca Stead, Cecil Castelluci, and more.” The service will cost $4.50 per month for U.S. readers, and $9 international readers. The project will expand upon The Rumpus’ Letters in the Mail program for adults.  Check it out:

Some of the letters will be illustrated. Some will be written by hand. It’s hard to say! We’ll copy the letters, fold them, put them in an envelope, put a first class stamp on the envelope, and send the letters to you (or your child) … Six is pretty much the perfect age to start checking your mailbox for actual letters. And if you’ve waited until you were ten, well, you’re four years behind but still, it’s not too late. And if you’re sixteen, that’s OK, there’s still something of the kid left. And if you’re sixty, well… OK. You’re young at heart.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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13. Ode to Libraries video

Thanks to the Huffington Post for sharing this quite, um, laudatory video of Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman performing, as you will, an Ode to Libraries.

I couldn't figure out how to embed the video so follow this link.  It's lovely.  And it features my FAVORITE instrument.  Guess which one.

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14. Review of the Day – All the Wrong Questions: “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket

All the Wrong Questions: “Who Could That Be at This Hour?”
By Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Seth
Little, Brown and Company
$15.99
ISBN: 978-0-316-12308-2
Ages 9-12
On shelves October 24th

Last year I was running a bookgroup for kids, ages 9-12, when the subject of children’s books adapted into films came up. We talked about the relative success of Harry Potter, the bewildering movie that was City of Ember, and the gorgeous credit sequence for A Series of Unfortunate Events. Then one of the younger members, probably around ten years of age, turned to me and asked in all seriousness, “Do you think they’ll ever make a movie out of The Spiderwick Chronicles?” I was momentarily floored. It’s not often that kids will remind me that their memories of pop culture are limited to their own experiences, but once in a while it happens. This girl couldn’t remember back five years to that very film adaptation. And why should she? She was five then! So when I see a new Lemony Snicket series acting as a kind of companion to the aforementioned A Series of Unfortunate Events I wonder how it will play out. The original series was popular around the time of that Spiderwick movie. Does that mean that the new series will founder, or will it be so successful that it brings renewed interest to the previous, still in print and relatively popular, books? Personally, I haven’t a clue. All I know is that the latest Lemony Snicket series All the Wrong Questions is a work of clever references, skintight writing, and a deep sense of melancholy that mimics nothing else out there on the market for kids today. That’s a good thing.

To be a success in Snicket’s line of work it’s important to know how to ask the right questions. And this is a problem since Snicket finds it difficult doing precisely that. He was supposed to meet his contact in the city. Instead, he finds himself whisked away to the country to a dying town called Stain’d-by-the-Sea. Once a bustling harbor, the town’s water was removed leaving behind a creepy seaweed forest and an ink business that won’t be around much longer. With his incompetent mentor S. Theodora Markson he’s there to solve the mystery of a stolen statue. Never mind that the statue wasn’t stolen, its owners don’t care who has it, and their client isn’t even a real person. When Snicket finds a girl looking for her father and learns the name of the insidious Hangfire things start to get interesting, not to mention dangerous. Can multiple mysteries be solved even if you keep following the wrong paths? Snicket’s about to find out.

What is more dangerous: Evil or stupidity? It’s a trick question since there’s nothing “or” about it. If there’s one lesson to be gleaned from the Snicket universe, it is that while evil is undesirable, stupidity is downright damaging. Many is the Series of Unfortunate Events book that would show clear as crystal that while stupid and ignorant people may not necessarily be evil in and of themselves, they do more to aid in evil than any routine bad guy ever could hope for. In All the Wrong Questions the adults in charge are still inane, but at least the kids have a bit of autonomy from them. Our hero, the young Snicket, is still omnipotent to a certain degree, and only cares to share personal information with the reader when the plot requires that he do so. And because the book is a mystery, he’s almost required to move about at will. He just happens to be moving between stupid people much of the time.

Of course the trouble with having Lemony himself as your protagonist is that the guy is infamous for never giving you good news. If adult Snicket is the kind of guy who warns off readers (in a voice that I’ve always connected to Ben Stein) because of his own sad worldview, reading this series means that we are going to see failure at work. We saw failure at work with the Baudelaires but with them it was always the fault of the universe using them as punching bags more than their own inadequacies. That means that the author’s trick with this book is to keep it from disintegrating into depression even as its hero ultimately screws up (yet seems to be doing the right thing the whole time). How do you pull this dichotomy off? Humor. Thank god for humor. Because like other post-modern children’s mysteries (Mac Barnett’s The Brixton Brothers, most notably) being funny is the key to simultaneously referencing old mystery tropes while commenting on them.

I always had a certain amount of difficulty figuring out how exactly to describe A Series of Unfortunate Events. The term “Gothic” just didn’t quite cut it. PoMo Gothic, maybe. Or Meta-Gothic. Dunno. The All the Wrong Questions series makes it much easier on me. This book is noir. Noiry noir. Noiry noirish noirable noir. As if to confirm this the author drops in names like Dashiell and Mitchum, which like all of Snicket’s jokes will fly over the heads of all the child readers and 82.5% of the adult readers as well (I kept a tally for a while of the references I knew that I myself was not getting, then just sort of stopped after a while). There are dames, or at least the 12-year-old equivalent of dames. There are Girl Fridays. There are mistaken identities and creepy abandoned buildings. There are also butlers who do things, but that’s more of a drawing room murder mystery genre trope, so we’re going to disregard it here.

Let us talk Seth. The man comes to fill the shoes left by Brett Helquist. He’s a clever choice since there is nothing even slightly Helquistian to this comic legend. This is, to the best of my knowledge Seth’s first work for children, though there may well be some obscure Canadian work of juvenilia in his past that I’ve missed. His work on the cover is remarkable in and of itself, but in the book he works primarily in chapter headings and the occasional full-page layout. The author must have relayed to Mr. Seth what images to do sometimes because there is a picture at the beginning and a picture at the end that continue the story above and beyond the written portions. As for the spreads inside, Seth does an admirable job of ever concealing young Snicket’s face. He also lends a funny lightness to the proceedings, not something I would have expected walking into the novel.

There is a passage in the book where Snicket reflects on his life that just kills me. It comes a quarter of the way through the novel and is the clearest indication to the reader that the action in this novel happened a long time ago. It goes on for a while until finally ending with, “Stretched out in front of me was my time as an adult, and then a skeleton, and then nothing except perhaps a few books on a few shelves.” Put another way, this isn’t your average mystery novel for kids. It’s not even your average Lemony Snicket novel. It is what it is, the first part in a new series containing a familiar character that need not be previously known to readers. I have no idea if kids will gravitate towards it, but if you’ve a hankering to recommend a beautifully written if uncommon mystery to kids that ask for that sort of thing (and they do, man, they do) hand this over. Worse case scenario, they don’t like it. Best case scenario it blows their little minds. Blew mine anyway. Good stuff.

On shelves October 24th

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Notes on the Cover: Recall if you will Mr. Snicket’s The Beatrice Letters. Was a book, or whatever the heck that was, ever more frustrating and enjoyable all at once? If there are any similarities to that cluster of documents and this book it lies in Seth’s art. I dare say the pictures you’ll see on this jacket may show scenes we are never privy to in the book itself. Note the shadow of the screaming woman. We know what that picture leads to, but we never see it in the book itself. Note now the spine. There’s a gorgeous little call number there that will undoubtedly get covered up by real call numbers in libraries throughout this great nation (oh, irony). For the record it reads, “LS ATWQ ?1” which makes sense when you think about it. But the thing that really made me give a deep sigh of contentment was under the jacket entirely. Look at the actual cover of the book here. Look at the spine and the cover. If I were to take this book and shelve it without its jacket next to my Nero Wolfe titles, and it would fit in like a dream.

Professional Reviews: Kirkus

Misc: Not to disparage the fine work of the Australian and New Zealand publishers of this book, but when you’ve hit gold why keep digging? Put another way, when handed the world’s most beautiful book jacket, why replace it with this?

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15. Odds and Bookends: August 28

Remembering Ted Kennedy, America’s Eulogist
Vanity Fair’s Todd Purdum remembers Senator Ted Kennedy as America’s “unofficial eulogist laureate.”

Frustrated Novelist Julia Child Finally Tops Bestseller List

Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking debuts at number one on the New York Times bestseller list this week.

Lemony Snicket Threatens a ‘Dreadful’ New Series
The Guardian features a humorous article announcing that “elusive author Lemony Snicket (aka author Daniel Handler) is working on a four-book series as a follow-up to the bestselling A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

Apple joins with Publisher to put First Picture Book on iPhone
The UK’s Winged Chariot Press is the first publisher to offer a children’s picture book for the iPhone, publishing The Surprise by Sylvia van Ommen.

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16. Conversations with Writers of Comedy

Every month the Library of Congress hosts numerous events through The Center for the Book. Yesterday, a colleague and I were able to listen to Leonard Marcus, one of America’s most respected authorities on children’s literature, along with special guest author Jon Scieszka, who is currently the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

Leonard Marcus began the discussion by talking about his new book Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy. In this book Marcus interviews thirteen favorite children’s book authors and asks them “what makes funny, funny?”

The book details stories from authors such as Judy Blume, Daniel Handler and Jon Scieszka who explain their first experiences with humor, their sources of inspiration, and how comedy has played a role in their lives. Jon and Leonard discuss the many different types of humor and how capturing the essence of humor on paper is a difficult, and often undervalued, skill. If you are interested in finding out what makes funny, funny – check out Leonard’s book today!

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17. Odds and Bookends: February 12

‘Mockingjay’ to Conclude the Hunger Games Trilogy
Scholastic released the title and cover art for the third and final book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. Mockingjay will be released on August 24, 2010 and will have 750,000 first printing.

Seeing How Far $100 Can Go
A Brooklyn writer is celebrating four years of giving her friends cash and asking them to find ways to donate.

Lemony Snicket: Interview
Philip Womack on Daniel Handler, the enigma behind Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

And it wouldn’t be a long weekend without a few reading lists:

Roundup: African-American history for young readers
USA Today features a nice list of four new illustrated books for kids celebrating African-American history.

Love stories: Top 10 Valentine’s books for your kids
Love is in the air! Laura DeLaney, the owner of Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise, shares her top 10 Valentine’s Day books for kids.

Presidential Library: A President’s Day Reading List

Kenneth C. Davis, author of Don’t Know Much About History, provides a reading list of Presidential biographies.

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18. Library of the Early Mind

There is a trailer for Library of the Early Mind, a documentary exploring children's literature here.  (Thanks to Quillblog for the link)

The title, apparently, comes from Adam Gopnik and an essay containing the following passage:

The Babar books are among those half-dozen picture books that seem to fix not just a character but a whole way of being, even a civilization. An elephant, lost in the city, does not trumpet with rage but rides a department-store elevator up and down, until gently discouraged by the elevator boy. A Haussmann-style city rises in the middle of the barbarian jungle. Once seen, Babar the Frenchified elephant is not forgotten. With Bemelmans’s “Madeline” and Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” the Babar books have become part of the common language of childhood, the library of the early mind.


You can read more here.


And since we are talking about Adam Gopnik, can I just say that his LOL piece is the funniest thing I have ever read.  Funny in that cringe-y way.

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19. I’ve Been to a Marvelous Party

With Noonoo and Nada and Nell…

No. Wait. Scratch that.  But I have been to a couple of marvelous parties as of late.  Under normal circumstances I don’t mention them all that often, but this week I’ll make an exception.  [Note: If you don’t like party posts, avoid this one at all costs.  Even if it does involve Lemony Snicket on a merry-go-round built for two . . .).

The two parties were very different, but of great interest to all parties involved.  The first I will mention was the party held last week to which all Kidlit Drink Night attendees were invited.  Mr. Robert Forbes (yes, THAT Mr. Forbes) was kind enough to invite us to attend a little soiree at The Forbes Gallery here in New York City.  Why would he want grimy children’s literature people mucking up his space?  Well, Mr. Forbes recently published a book of children’s poetry called Let’s Have a Bite, illustrated by the illustrious Ronald Searle.

Now, I had never been to the Forbes Galleries.  Truth be told, I had no idea that they were (A) open to the public and (B) awesome.  In point of fact, they are both.  And if you happen to be interested in visiting (which I highly recommend) I would suggest that you do so before November 22nd.  You see, until that moment in time the galleries have a magnificent selection of toy soldiers, toy boats, and old Monopoly games on display.  And what a display!  There is an art to their presentation.  A skill to the little hidden rooms in which you will locate them.  To top it all off, there was a retrospective of Searle’s from the last 40-50 odd years.  Should you be nowhere near New York right now, much of that same work is visible in this recent interview he conducted:

And what of the book itself?  Well, a special side room exists in the Galleries of the work Searle did for Mr. Forbes’s newest.  The two collaborated back in 2007 on a similar book called Beastly Feasts.  Both books contain poems with accompanying illustrations.  In what I imagine must be very much the spirit in which Mr. Searle works, Mr. Forbes served us lots of tiny food made out of the very animals featured in the poems.  Grilled octopus, turtle of some sort, as well as a little cheese fondue that was liable to tempt you into thinking that you’d never had anything quite so good ever before (a little mouse appears in each of the paintings in Mr. Forbes’s book).

As for Mr. Forbes himself I was rather expecting him to look like his portrait here:

10 Comments on I’ve Been to a Marvelous Party, last added: 10/13/2010

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20. Librarian Preview: Little Brown and Company (Fall 2011 – Winter 2012)

Previews, previews!  Lovely little previews!

And we find ourselves back at the Yale Club, across the street from Grand Central Station, and a whopping 10 minutes away, on foot, from my library.  There are advantages to living on a tiny island, I tell ya.

As per usual, Little Brown pulled out all the stops for the average children’s and YA librarian, in order to showcase their upcoming season.  There were white tablecloths and sandwiches consisting of brie and ham and apples.  The strange result of these previews is that I now seem to be under the mistaken understanding that Little Brown’s offices are located at the Yale Club.  They aren’t.  That would make no sense.  But that’s how my mind looks at things. When I am 95 and senile I will insist that this was the case.  Be warned.

A single day after my return from overseas I was able to feast my eyes on the feet of Victoria Stapleton (the Director of School and Library Marketing), bedecked in red sparkly shoes.  I would have taken a picture but my camera got busted in Bologna.  I was also slightly jet lagged, but was so grateful for the free water on the table (Europe, I love you, but you have to learn the wonders of ample FREE water) that it didn’t even matter.  Megan Tingley, fearless leader/publisher, began the festivities with a memory that involved a child’s story called “The Day I Wanted to Punch Daddy In the Face”.  Sounds like a companion piece to The Day Leo Said “I Hate You”, does it not?

But enough of that.  You didn’t come here for the name dropping.  You can for the books that are so ludicrously far away in terms of publication (some of these are January/February/March 2012 releases) that you just can’t resist giving them a peek.  To that end, the following:

Liza Baker

At these previews, each editor moves from table to table of librarians, hawking their wares.  In the case of the fabulous Ms. Baker (I tried to come up with a “Baker Street Irregulars” pun but it just wasn’t coming to me) the list could start with no one else but Nancy Tafuri.  Tafuri’s often a preschool storytime staple for me, all thanks to her Spots, Feathers and Curly Tails.  There’s a consistency to her work that a librarian can appreciate.  She’s also apparently the newest Little Brown “get”.  With a Caldecott Honor to her name (Have You Seen My Duckling?) the newest addition is All Kinds of Kisses.  It’s pretty cute.  Each animals gets kisses from parent to child with the animal sound accompanying.  You know what that means?  We’re in readaloud territory here, people.  There’s also a little bug or critter on each page that is identified on the copyright page for parents who have inquisitive children.

Next up, a treat for all you Grace Lin fans out there.  If you loved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat then you’ll probably be pleased as punch to hear that there’s a third

7 Comments on Librarian Preview: Little Brown and Company (Fall 2011 – Winter 2012), last added: 4/25/2011
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21. SLJ’s 2011 Day of Dialog: “The best thing about being a writer is that you have readers” – Katherine Paterson

So let’s get a grasp on what exactly it is I’m talking about here.  Day of Dialog.  A day when School Library Journal and roughly 1.5 billion children’s book publishers (read: 16, give or take) get together and attendees (who are mostly children’s librarians and children’s booksellers) get to witness a variety of interesting panels and previews of upcoming children’s books for the Fall season.  It tends to be held on the Monday before BookExpo so that it doesn’t conflict with anything going on at that time.  And since my library was closed that day for it’s big time Centennial celebration, I thought to myself, “Why not go?  I could report on what went on and have some fun along the way.”

Of course I had forgotten that I would be typing all that occurred on Dead-Eye the Wonder Laptop: Capable of carrying at least two hours of charge in its battery . . . and then dying altogether.  So it was that I spent much of the day seeking out outlets and either parking myself next to them or watching my charging laptop warily across a crowded room.  Hi-ho the glamorous life.

I was hardly the only person reporting on the day.  Swift like the bunnies are the SLJ posts on the matter including the article BEA 2011: Paterson, Handler, Gidwitz a Huge Hit at SLJ’s Day of Dialog.

Day of Dialog is useful in other ways as well.  It means getting galleys you might otherwise not have access to.  It means sitting in a nice auditorium with a belly full of muffin.  Interestingly the only problem with sitting in the audience when you are pretty much nine months pregnant (aside from the whole theoretical “lap” part of “laptop computer”) is that you start eyeing the panelists’ water bottles with great envy.  I brought my own, quickly went through it, and then found myself wondering at strategic points of the day and with great seriousness “If I snuck onto the stage between speakers, do you think anyone would notice if I downed the remains of Meghan McCarthy’s bottled water?”  I wish I could say I was joking about this.

Brian Kenney, me boss o’ me blog and editor of SLJ, started us off with a greeting.  He noted that he had placed himself in charge of keeping everything on track and on schedule.  This seemed like a hazardous job because much of the day was dedicated to previews of upcoming books, and there is no good way to gently usher a sponsor off of a stage.  Nonetheless, Brian came equipped with a small bell.  Throughout the day that little bell managed to have a near Pavlovian influence on the panelists.  Only, rather than make them drool, it caused them to get this look of abject fear that only comes when you face the terror of the unknown.  For some of them, anyway.  Others didn’t give a flying hoot.

“It wasn’t wallpapering.”
Keynote Speaker Katherine Paterson

Luann Toth came after Brian to introduce our keynote speaker though, as she pointed out, “Does anyone really need to introduce Katherine Paterson?”  Point taken.  Now upon entering the auditorium this day, each attendee had been handed a signed copy of a new novel by Ms. Paterson and her h

4 Comments on SLJ’s 2011 Day of Dialog: “The best thing about being a writer is that you have readers” – Katherine Paterson, last added: 5/31/2011
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22. HarperCollins Children’s Books at ALA Annual

We’re in ALA Annual Countdown Mode here in the office – it’s only one week away!  Dozens of boxes have been filled with galleys and we can’t wait to share them with you.  However, while galleys are certainly a huge incentive to come by Booth #1315 to say hi, we also want to offer up our OUTSTANDING list of authors and illustrators signing in our booth during the conference:

FRIDAY, JUNE 24

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Veronica Roth (DIVERGENT)

SATURDAY, JUNE 25

9:00 am-9:30am
Thanhha Lai (INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN)
Carolyn Mackler (TANGLED)

9:30 am – 10:30 am
Alex Flinn (CLOAKED)
Jack Gantos (GUYS READ: FUNNY BUSINESS)

10:30 am – 11:00 am
Kelly Milner Halls (SAVING THE BAGHDAD ZOO)
Bobbie Pyron (A DOG’S WAY HOME)

11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Kadir Nelson (HEART AND SOUL posters)

11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Katherine Hannigan (TRUE…(SORT OF))

12:00 pm – 12:30 pm
Patrick Carman (DARK EDEN galleys)

12:30 pm – 1:00 pm
Katherine Hannigan (BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA)

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Dan Gutman (THE GENIUS FILES: MISSION UNSTOPPABLE)

SUNDAY, JUNE 26

9:00 am – 9:30 am
Bob Shea (I’M A SHARK)

9:30 am – 10:30 am
Christopher Myers (WE ARE AMERICA)

10:30 am – 11:30 am
Rita Williams-Garcia (Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Winner for ONE CRAZY SUMMER)

11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Kevin Henkes (JUNONIA; LITTLE WHITE RABBIT)

1:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Claudia Gray (FATEFUL)
Maureen Johnson (THE LAST LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPE)

1:30 pm &

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23. Video Sunday: I’m gonna give you some terrible thrills

So I’m at a lovely Little Brown librarian preview earlier this week and the first special guest star of the day turns out to be none other than Daniel Handler a.k.a. Lemony Snicket.  A resident of San Francisco, I wasn’t sure why he was in town.  Turns out, he was on Rachel Maddow’s show talking about his recent Occupy Wall Street piece that had been making the internet rounds.  Maddow says that he’s a “cultural hero of mine” and then later that she is “dorking out” being in his presence.  The interview is great in and of itself, plus you get this fun bit at the start about what you do when the police have confiscated your generators.

Of course if I’d known he was in town I would have tried to hook him into saying hello at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival festivities.  Hosted in my library I’ll be blogging about it rather soon.  It was rather epic, I have to say.  Everything from a children’s musical about the birth of the Newbery Award to kids singing the plot of The Westing Game to Katie Perry’s “Firework” (a song that seems to haunt Mr. Kennedy wherever he may go).  Of course we ran out of time so we never got to show this final video.  I present it to you now because it’s rather brilliant.  As Ira Glass imitations go, this has gotta be up there:

This next link is here only because Travis at 100 Scope Notes spotted it first.  According to Reuters, the Japanese have brought The Magic Tree House books to life on the screen.  Apparently Mary Pope Osborne has always resisted film adaptations but the filmmakers so wowed her that she gave them the rights.  The result pairs nicely with that recent Borrowers adaptation, also out of Japan:

In other news, Newbery Honor winner Kathi Appelt recently interviewed Caldecott Award winner Eric Rohmann about his latest hugely lauded Halloween tale Bone Dog.  Perhaps I should have posted this before Hal

5 Comments on Video Sunday: I’m gonna give you some terrible thrills, last added: 11/6/2011
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24. Ypulse Essentials: Tablets Ownership Doubles Over The Holidays, Printz Awards Announced, Get Doodling For Google And Crayola

The number of Americans who have a tablet or e-reader (jumped significantly between December 2011 and January 2012, thanks to robust holiday sales, according to Pew Research. In fact, among Millennial adults, tablet ownership — at 24%... Read the rest of this post

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25. Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, 2012

By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: January 25, 2012

Winner


Honor Book

Honor Book

Honor Book

Honor Book

“The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a Topeka, Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association. The award is sponsored by Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association.” ~YALSA

©2012 The Childrens Book Review. All Rights Reserved.

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