As far as I’m concerned, every good blog post should begin with fiction starring Gregory Peck. What we have here is one of the luscious finds boasted by Greg Hatcher over at the site Comic Book Resources. I’m a big fan of Hatcher because when he does round ups like this one he always takes care to mention a lot of collectible children’s literature. In this post alone you’ll see what the going price is for a good old hardcover Oz or Narnia title, as well as his discovery of Millions of Cats. I remember that when I conducted by Top 100 Picture Books Poll that Millions of Cats was the surprise Top Ten winner. Folks continually forget to give it its due.
- Collecting Children’s Books has the usual plethora of wonderfulness up and running for your consideration. First Peter discovers and prints out the complete shortlists of Newbery contenders between the years of 1973-75 (something I wish they still did) and then in a different post considers the state of recent children’s books and whether any of them have been made into Broadway musicals. None that I can think of, since A Year With Frog and Toad isn’t exactly contemporary. Coraline did sort of make it to Broadway a year or so ago (or was that considered off-Broadway?), but that’s the only one I can think of.
- Hey hey! While we were all sleeping the candidates nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award were announced. You can see the full list of candidates from countries all over the country here. If I had the time and ability I would familiarize myself with all those names that are unknown to me. On the American side of things, however, here are the USA representatives: Ashley Bryan, Eric Carle, Julius Lester, Grace Lin, Walter Dean Myers, Anne Pellowski, Jerry Pinkney, Reading is Fundamental, and Allen Say. Good luck, guys (and well played Grace for being the youngest). Here’s hoping some of you make it to the final consideration. After all, the Lindgren is the largest monetary award a children’s writer or illustrator can win.
- It was a good week for finalists of all sorts, actually. The National Book Award finalists were released last week and included Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird, Laura McNeal’s Dark Water, Walter Dean Myers’ Lockdown, and Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer. How interesting it is to me that non-fiction didn’t make even a sin
I do love books by Julius Lester.
Day of Tears? Fantastic! I had to read it for a lit conference and was extremely disappointed by the discussion we had on it. No one could get beyond "Gee, Slavery really sucked" to discuss why Lester's tale of it was such a powerful stand out in a sea of stories about the same general subject. No one brought up that it was one of the few stories to really explore the emotional impact instead of the physical one... powerful stuff.
In the hands of a lesser storyteller, The Old African would have been absolutely dreadful instead of being as wonderful as it is.
Most recently, I read Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire
. This is classic Greek Myth, but told in a vernacular, Southern African American story telling style.
Because of Lester's great skill, it totally worked and I loved it.
Psyche is beautiful to the point of it being a burden. Cupid is the son of Venus and a total mama's boy. When Venus (who is aging) is jealous of Pysche's incredible beauty, she orders Cupid to poison her with destructive love. (I have to say I was reminded of that exchange in Love Actually
"I have say I'm a bit relieved, I thought it was something worse." "Worse than the total agony of being in love?!")
Anyway, of course, Cupid falls in love with her. He enlists Apollo's help. Apollo is not a fan of Cupid, so tells Psyche's father that she will marry a great monster.
In the end, Venus attempts to seek revenge and true love--both Psyche's love for Venus and various other deities' love for Psyche is put to the test.
I know some readers will (and are) annoyed by the storyteller's voice and his meditations on story, beauty, love, and lust, but I really really enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed the comments on how much work love is. You don't get that truth a lot in YA literature.
Shout out to Bookshelves of Doom
for bringing it to my attention.
Now, to catch up on something I read last year, I didn't like Time's Memory
nearly as much.
And here's where Lester's genius is more of a burden than a blessing-- I simply expected more from him.
spirit embodies Nat, a young man who is a slave on a Virginia plantation. He's in love with the Ellen, the plantation owner's daughter. Nat's father is the leader of a bloody slave revolt.
Highly mystical and spiritual, it just didn't work as well as it should have and ultimately left me dissatisfied. However, there is a lot going on in the book, so I would highly recommend it for book discussions.
Another I read at the same time, which won the Coretta Scott King Award is Sharon Draper's Copper Sun
This is another fantastically written story about slavery. There isn't as much under the surface, but it tells the story of Amari, from her time in Africa through the middle passage and slavery. It also tells of her friendship with Polly, an indentured servant. The two run away--but instead of going North, they go South, to Spanish controlled Florida.
What I really liked about this book was the unflinching look at many things we usually don't see. We usually don't read of the coastal slave castle before being put on the boats, or how other Africans helped round people up to be sold.
We know of, but usually don't see in fiction, the rape of women by lonely sailors every night.
I also really appreciated how nuanced the characters were--there were good people and and bad people and people who were good and bad. Some of the good people where white, some of the bad people were black. Many authors, when telling a story of slavery, go the understandable route of making all white people bad. Or really, really good. Draper writes people as she knows them. No one's all good or all bad. And goodness doesn't fall on color lines.
By doing so, she writes a very accurate and incredible tale of slavery that covers what we learned in history class, and a whole lot more.