JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans. Join now (it's free).
Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Uncategorized, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 7,957
How to use this Page
You are viewing the most recent posts tagged with the words: Uncategorized in the JacketFlap blog reader. What is a tag? Think of a tag as a keyword or category label. Tags can both help you find posts on JacketFlap.com as well as provide an easy way for you to "remember" and classify posts for later recall. Try adding a tag yourself by clicking "Add a tag" below a post's header. Scroll down through the list of Recent Posts in the left column and click on a post title that sounds interesting. You can view all posts from a specific blog by clicking the Blog name in the right column, or you can click a 'More Posts from this Blog' link in any individual post.
So the other day, I got to thinking that my kids have had an insufficient dosage of Tomi Ungerer in their daily diets. Ungerer, if you are unfamiliar with him, has always been the enfant terrible of children’s literature. Having dared to publish children’s books for kids at the same time as his wildly erotic adult art for (obviously) adults, he was run out on a rail from the States, though he continued to make his books. The only story of his I’d ever read the children is Crictor, and I was toying with the notion of showing them No Kiss for Mother (which I don’t think I’m emotionally cohesive enough to tackle at this time) or The Beast of Monsieur Racine. In the end I took the easy route out and borrowed The Three Robbers from the library (partially inspired by that Salon post about the kid who only like to read about “bad guys”).
But even better than that is what they’re planning for Tomi’s 85th birthday. On November 28th (and they’re announcing this widely so I guess it won’t be a surprise) Phaidon will hand to the man a virtual birthday tribute “filled with drawing and written messages from friends and fans. The birthday greetings will be displayed on a dedicated page on the Phaidon website — www.phaidon.com/CelebrateTomi — and then printed and presented to Tomi for his birthday.”
They’re accepting entries for this right now, librarians, artists, writers, and fans. Do you want to submit? Submit! [looking at you, Sergio Ruzzier] Definitely check out some of the submissions so far. I like the Eric Carle, the Milton Glaser, and the suggestive one from Sarah Illenberger, but the Jean Jullien is my favorite by far.
I’ve grown a bit fond of the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe lately. Coming to it a bit late (I believe we’re on season 4 now, yes?) it took a Pop Culture Happy Hour episode to explain to me why the series was as groundbreaking and important as it was. This is advantage of having a five-year-old. When something like this comes up you can pretend you’re watching a new series for them when, in fact, you’re just curious for yourself. If you’re unfamiliar with Steven Universe I’ll try to sum it up quickly: In this world there are superhero female characters called “Gems”. Steven, our hero, is half-Gem, half-human, which is unique. The show then proceeds to upset stereotypical notions of gender and love.
If you pay any attention to the New York Times bestseller list, you might have noticed this book on the Children’s Chapter Books list a week or two ago:
It’s a Steven Universe book. There are a couple of them out there, written for kids to wildly varying degrees of competency. This one I intend to read soon. It got me to thinking, when I discovered it. After all, children’s literature and Steven Universe fuel one another in a more direct manner. The world of SU has television shows, movies, and bands that are unique and often very funny. They also have their own literature. For example, a common romance/scifi novel might look like this:
And children’s books are particularly interesting. When Steven is banned from television for 1,000 years he finds that he really likes reading. Two series in particular catch his attention: The No Home Boys and The Spirit Morph Saga. I just want to take a look at these books because I’m always interested in how children’s books are portrayed in works of pop culture.
The No Home Boys series is written by Dustylegs Jefferson. The original series apparently came out in the 1930s and was about two boys on the run, solving mysteries along the way. Sounds a bit like The Boxcar Children meets Hardy Boys. You might throw The Black Stallion in there as well, though, since there was also apparently a “disastrous graphic novel adaptation” of the book as well. One of the characters on the show writes this review of it:
“Some fans turned up their noses at the new adventures of the No Home Boys. The old series was a down to earth travelogue – a gritty portrayal of growing up during the Great Depression. The new series was full of magic demons, talking animals and ninjas. Sure it didn’t have the same campfire charm, but the expanded “Hoboverse” had much more character development and backstory for readers to sink their teeth into.”
To me this sounds like what happened with more recent Black Stallion books, though the graphic novel adaptation throws it squarely into the Hardy Boys camp as well. Whatever the case, I love the thought put into the series.
The Spirit Morph Saga is a bit different. It’s a multi-book series about a girl who discovers that she is a witch, gains a familiar (a talking falcon named Archimicarus), and attempts to rescue her father, who was kidnapped by a one-eyed man. Though some folks online compare the book to His Dark Materials, it bears far more similarities to Harry Potter and, in a strange way, Twilight. An entire episode of Steven Universe is based on the fact that at the end of the series the falcon turns into a man and marries Lisa in a big multi-chapter sequence. Connie, Steven’s best friend, is incensed by this. It’s rather delightful to watch.
Alas, Steven was granted his television rights again (though the set seems to be destroyed on a regular basis) so no new book series beyond these two have come up recently. There was, however, a trip to the local library. It was pretty standard stuff. A librarian was shushing the kids all the time. Computers were minimal. It looks like nothing so much as a library that has failed to get additional funding (which, considering the economy of Beach City, is not unbelievable). Ah well.
Here’s hoping for more faux children’s books series in the future. In the end, they say more about perceptions of children’s literature than anything else. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Folks ask me to reveal middle grade covers from time to time. Sometimes I say yes. Sometimes I say no. If you ever happen to be interested in my doing so then the following elements should ideally be combined:
A smarmy man with a mustache (handlebar preferred but not required)
An unnerved woman staring at the smarmy man with the aforementioned mustache
Admittedly, it’s only once in a blue moon when I can find such a book jacket to premiere, but when I can . . . magic!!
Aww. Just look at that. All the pieces are in place. And check out this description:
Twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson’s life turns upside down the day her mother’s boyfriend holds up a convenience store, and her mother is wrongly imprisoned for assisting with the crime. Ruby and her pet pig, Bunny, find their way to her estranged Aunt Eleanor’s home. Aunt Eleanor is a nun who lives on a peach orchard called Paradise, and had turned away from their family long ago. With a little patience, she and Ruby begin to get along―but Eleanor has secrets of her own, secrets that might mean more hard times for Ruby.
Ruby believes that she’s the only one who can find a way to help heal her loved ones, save her mother, and bring her family back together again. But being in a family means that everyone has to work together to support each other, and being home doesn’t always mean going back to where you came from. This is a big-hearted novel about trust, belonging, and the struggles and joys of loving one another.
Never heard of author Corabel Shofner? She’s new! She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in English literature and was on Law Review at Vanderbilt University School of Law. Her shorter (adult) work has appeared or is forthcoming in Willow Review, Word Riot, Habersham Review, Hawai’i Review, Sou’wester, South Carolina Review, South Dakota Review, and Xavier Review. And yes indeed, AlmostParadise is her first novel. The book will also be illustrated by Kristin Radwilowicz as well.
In Hammer of Witches fourteen-year-old bookmaker’s apprentice Baltasar, pursued by a secret witch-hunting arm of the Inquisition, joins Columbus’s expedition to escape and discovers secrets about his own past that his family had tried to keep hidden. In this BookTalk, Shana Mlawski shares her views on Christopher Columbus, working with students and what she’d wish for if she had three wishes.
Hammer of Witches deals with some hard topics (rape, abandonment, war, and torture). What do you hope readers take away from Hammer of Witches?
Shana Mlawski: When I was first outlining Hammer of Witches, I knew I wanted it to be an epic adventure about sorcerers in 1492 Spain, and that’s what it is. I didn’t go in thinking, “Oh, boy! I can’t wait to write about rape and torture!” It was more like, “Okay, it’s going to be about this wisecracking kid and a girl genie and a dragon and a golem and…”
But history is history. I’m not going to whitewash it. We have plenty of people doing that already. In the year of 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue—and Spain conquered Moorish Granada, the Inquisition tortured people, the decimation of Taíno civilization began, and the world’s largest Jewish population was sent into exile. It’s a complex, fascinating era, but it’s a tragic era, as well. Ultimately, though, Hammer of Witches is an optimistic book. It’s about that moment when you accept that the world is more complicated than you were led to believe, and it’s at that moment you can start trying to make a difference.
Do you feel like schools glorify Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the New World? Do you think schools need to paint a more accurate portrayal of his journey to students?
SM: The fact that we use the word “discovery” shows how skewed our view of the voyages can be. I prefer “contact” and “conquest,” words that remind us we’re talking about two groups: the European explorers and the Taíno living in the Caribbean at the time. If you ask me, the Taíno side of the story needs to get much more play in classrooms and in the media.
I’d also prefer if teachers stopped asking whether Columbus is a hero or a monster, as if those are the only two options. When we answer “hero,” we disappear the Taíno from history or write off their struggle as unimportant. To argue the “monster” side, we often pretend the Taíno were passive (if noble and pure) victims. The story is so much more complicated than that, and so much more interesting. History is only useful to us when we remember it’s about humans like us, not cartoons.
Baltasar befriends a genie in Hammer of Witches, who, unfortunately, can’t grant wishes. If you met a genie who could grant you three wishes, what would you wish for and why?
SM: Oh, I’m not going to fall for this one. I’ve seen and read enough “Monkey’s Paw”-type stories to get involved with a genie. Next thing I know I’ll be sitting in a post-apocalyptic library with my glasses broken and no one left alive to fix them.
How has working directly with middle and high school students impacted the kind of stories you want to share with YA readers?
SM: My teaching experience has definitely sharpened my desire to tell stories about characters from different backgrounds. When I was a young nerd-in-training, most of the available fantasy books were about white, Christian kids in the U.S., Britain, or U.K.-inspired settings (the big exception being Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea series). Although I’m white, those monochrome stories never reflected my experience as a child growing up in the New York Metro area. When I started teaching and tried to recommend books to my students, I saw how little things had changed. A black boy wanting to read about a kid who looked like him usually had to go for a “problem” book about drug use or gang violence, even if he wanted a sword-and-sorcery adventure. A girl looking for a Latina protagonist could find a book about the immigrant experience but not one about, say, sexy vampires. That’s why I’m not sucking up when I say I love that Lee & Low and Tu Books exist, and I’m incredibly proud to be part of the gang.
Did you have a favorite hero or heroine in a fantasy/sci-fi novel that inspires your writing?
SM: I don’t actively model my characters on heroes or heroines from other books, but that doesn’t mean inspiration doesn’t slip in from time to time. It does, but I usually don’t notice until long after I’ve finished writing the story. This time around, it occurred to me that the relationship between Baltasar and Catalina has a lot in common with the Taran/Eilonwy relationship in Lloyd Alexander’sChronicles of Prydain (although Bal has some Fflewddur Fflam in him, too). In any event, I’m cool with the connection, because Hammer of Witches is meant to be a play on Prydain-like stories. It’s what happens when you take that old quest story, brush off the dust, and stick it in the real world in 1492.
Shana Mlawski is a native New Yorker who writes educational materials and tutors middle and high school students. She has written more than a hundred articles for the pop culture website OverthinkingIt.com, some of which have been featured in The Atlantic Monthly, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and Ms. magazine. She graduated cum laude from Yale with a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing, and received a master’s in education from Columbia University Teachers College. Hammer of Witches is her first novel.
LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today as well, as hear from the authors and illustrators.
Synopsis: Born in 1905, Anna May Wong spent her childhood working in her family’s laundry in Los Angeles’s Chinatown. Whenever she could afford it, Anna May slipped off to the movies, escaping to a world of adventure, glamour, and excitement. After seeing a movie being filmed in her neighborhood, young Anna May was hooked. She decided she would become a movie star!
Anna May struggled to pursue an acting career in Hollywood in the 1930s. There were very few roles for Asian Americans, and many were demeaning and stereotypical. Anna May made the most of each limited part. She worked hard and always gave her best performance. Finally, after years of unfulfilling roles, Anna May began crusading for more meaningful roles for herself and other Asian American actors.
Anna May Wong—the first Chinese American movie star—was a pioneer of the cinema. Her spirited determination in the face of discrimination is an inspiration to all who must overcome obstacles so that their dreams may come true.
Awards and Honors:
Carter G. Woodson Award, NCSS
Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education
Choices, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
Veronicahas a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wondering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.
It seemed such an attainable goal. All I wanted to do was read every single picture book published in America in 2016. Was that too much to ask? I even had a system. I’d create a Google spreadsheet and write down every single title and rate it. That way I’d have an easy way of remembering what I liked and didn’t like later.
But I didn’t count on the patterns. Oh no. No, I did not.
You see, I’ve read a lot picture books this year. Not all of them yet. I still have a long shelf at work that’s creaking under the weight of the books I have yet to read. But since it’s October, the 2016 books have been replaced in the mail by 2017s. That means I could conceivably finish the remaining books soon. But before I do, I want to share with you some of the amusing things I’ve noticed about the titles I’ve read this year. Proof positive that if you do something for too long, the brain rebels by creating hitherto unseen connections.
Enjoy the following lists:
The Most Popular Titular Name of the Year: Lucy
Lucy by Randy Cecil
Lucy and Company by Marianne Dubuc
Lucy and Lila by Alison Fletcher, ill. Christopher Lyles
Lucy Ladybug by Sharon King-Chai
Lucy’s Lovey by Betsy Devany, ill. Christopher Denise
The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara, ill. Sara Kahn
Books With Definite Demands
Bring Me a Rock by Daniel Miyares
Choose Your Days by Paula S. Wallace
Come and Dance, Wicked Witch by Hanna Kraan, ill. Annemarie van Haeringen
Come Home, Angus by Patrick Downes, ill. Boris Kulikov
Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved, ill. By Charlotte Pardi
Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman, ill. Andy Elkerton
Don’t Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, ill. Elizabeth Zunon
Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh! by Sean Taylor, ill. Kate Hindley
Don’t Cross the Line! by Bernardo P. Caravalho, ill. Isavel Martins
Don’t Wake Up the Tiger by Britta Teckentrup
Follow Me! by Ellie Sandall
Follow the Moon Home by Philippe Cousteau & Deborah Hopkinson, ill. Meilo So
Kiss It Better by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, ill. Sarah Massini
Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol
Let Me Finish by Minh Le, ill. Isabel Roxas
Look Up by Jung Jin-Ho
Never Follow a Dinosaur by Alex Latimer
Never Insult a Killer Zucchini! by Elana Azone & Brandon Amancio, ill. David Clark
Open Up, Please! by Silvia Borando, ill. Lorenzo Clerici
Please Say Please! by Kyle T. Webster
Push! Dig! Scoop! by Rhonda Gowler Greene, ill. Daniel Kirk
Quick, Little Monkey! by Sarah L. Thomson, ill. Lita Judge
Quit Calling Me a Monster! by Jory John, ill. Bob Shea
Stop Following Me, Moon! by Darren Farrell]
Wake Up, City! by Erica Silverman, ill. Laure Fournier
Warning! Do Not Touch by Tim Warnes
(All these demands could have been created by either the Bossier Baby by Marla Frazee or Bossy Flossy by Paulette Bogan)
Good Morning, Good Evening, and Good Night
Good Morning Yoga by Mariam Gates, ill. Sarah Jane Hinder
Good Night, Baddies by Deborah Underwood, ill. Juli Kangas
Good Night Owl by Greg Pizzoli
Good Night Tiger by Timothy Knapman, ill. Laura Hughes
Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak
Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton
Little By Little
Little Bo Peep and Her Bad, Bad Sheep by A.L. Wegwerth, ill. Luke Flowers
Little Bot and Sparrow by Jake Parker
Little Brother Pumpkin Head by Lucia Panzieri, ill. Samantha Enria
Little Elliot, Big Fun by Mike Curato
Little Fox, Lost by Nicole Snitselaar, ill. Alicia Padron
Little Mouse’s Big Book of Beasts by Emily Gravett
Little Night Cat by Sonja Danowski
Little One by Jo Weaver
Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant, ill. Christian Robinson
Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith
The Little Tree That Would Not Share by Nicoletta Costa
The Littlest Family’s Big Day by Emily Winfield Martin
My Favorite Series: The “Bear Who” books
The Bear Who Couldn’t Sleep by Caroline Nastro, ill. Vanya Nastanlieva
The Bear Who Wasn’t There by LeUyen Pham
The Bear Who Wasn’t There and the Fabulous Forest by Oren Lavie, ill. Wolf Erlbruch
Best of the “How To” Books
How to Be a Hero by Florence Parry Heide, ill. Chuck Groenink
How to Be Famous by Michal Shalev
How to Build a Snow Bear by Eric Pinder, ill. Stephanie Graegin
How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace, ill. Andy Elkerton
How to Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder
How to Track a Truck by Jason Carter Eaton, ill. John Rocco
When In Rome
When a Dragon Moves in Again by Jodi Moore, ill. Howard McWilliam
When an Elephant Falls in Love by David Cali, ill. Alice Lotti
When I Am With Dad by Kimball Crossley, ill. Katie Gamb
When the World Is Dreaming by Rita Gray, ill. Kenard Pak
When Your Elephant Comes to Play by Ale Barba
As It Turns Out, “I” Have a Lot of Thoughts on the Matter
I Am a Baby by Kathryn Madeline Allen, photos by Rebecca Gizicki
I Am a Story by Dan Yaccarino
I Am the Mountain Mouse by Gianna Marino
I Have Cerebral Palsy by Mary Beth Springer
I Hear a Pickle (and Smell, See, Touch, and Taste It, Too!) by Rachel Isadora
I Heart You by Meg Fleming, ill. Sarah Jane Wright
I Love Cake by Tammi Sauer, ill. Angie Rozelaar
I Love Lemonade by Mark and Rowan Sommerset
I Love You Always by Astrid Desbordes, ill. Pauline Martin
I Love You Americanly by Lynn Parrish Sutton, ill. Melanie Hope Greenberg
I Promise by David McPhail
I See and See by Ted Lewin
I Wanna Be a Great Big Dinosaur
I Want a Monster by Elise Grave
I Will Love You Anyway by Mick and Chloe Inkpen
I Will Not Eat You by Adam Lehrhaupt, ill. Scott Magoon
I Wonder: Celebrating Daddies Doin’ Work by Doyin Richards
I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony
I’ll Catch You If You Fall by Mark Sperring, ill. Layn Marlow
I’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail
I’m Lucky I Found You by Guido van Genechten
Too Many Questions!!!
Are You Sure, Mother Bear? by Amy Hest, ill. Lauren Tobia
Can I Eat That? by Joshua David Stein, ill. Julia Rothman
Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly? by Dan Richards, ill. Jeff Newman
Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow
Have You Seen My Trumpet? by Michael Escoffier, ill. Kris Di Giacomo
How Will You Change the World? by Linda Laudone and S. Jane Scheyder, ill. Jacob Scheyder
Is That Wise Pig? by Jan Thomas
Playtime? by Jeff Mack
A Toucan Can, Can You? by Danny Adlerman, ill. Various
What Can I Be? by Ann Rand, ill. Ingrid Fiksdahl King
What Color Is the Wind? by Anne Herbauts
What Could It Be? by Sally Fawcett
What Do You Love About You? by Karen Lechelt
What’s a Banana? by Marilyn Singer, ill. Greg Pizzoli
What’s an Apple? by Marilyn Singer, ill. Greg Pizzoli
Where Did They Go? A Spotting Book by Emily Bornoff
Where Do Steam Trains Sleep at Night? by Brianna Caplan Sayres, ill. Christian Slade
Where Do They Go? by Julia Alvarez, ill. Sabra Field
Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie’s Chick? by Pat Hutchins
Where’s the Elephant? by Barroux
Where’s the Party? by Ruth Chan
Who Broke the Teapot? by Bill Slavin
Who Wants a Tortoise? by Dave Keane, ill. K.G. Campbell
Why? by Nikolai Popov
Why Do Cats Have Tails? by David Ling, ill. Stephanie Thatcher
Will You Be My Friend? by Susan Lurie, ill. Murray Head
Would You Rather Be a Princess or a Dragon? by Barney Saltzberg
If you’re a new writer, looking for ways to publish a book can be daunting. It’s great that we live in a time where there’s a wealth of information at our fingertips, but a simple Google search may not get you the results that you’re looking for. So where should a writer go to find resources on how to get published as well as resources on craft?
Below we’ve compiled a list of websites, interviews, and blog posts from our very own editors that discuss writing and the publishing industry. We hope these resources serve as a starting point for any budding writer embarking on their very first writing journey.
Advice for New Writers
In this blog post, editor Stacy Whitman answers questions with author Joseph Bruchac about writing, query letters, and publishing. You can also read the full AMA (Ask Me Anything) thread on Reddit here.
We’ve chosen the following sites as useful places to gain knowledge about the publishing industry and writing. We’ve even added a few links for illustrators. Click here for a list of recommended books for writers.
The Children’s Book Council (CBC)
CBC offers an up-to-date listing of its member publishers and contact names, as well as a diverse range of resources for writers and illustrators.
The online resource for children’s illustrators, publishers and book lovers.
Write for Kids
This site is dedicated to writing children’s books, with message boards and other helpful articles for published and aspiring writers. Recommended by Andrea Huelsenbeck.
Poets & Writers
A more adult-oriented site, but there are listings of calls for submissions for writers, a listserv for people to discuss writing issues, and other resources particularly for writers. They also have a news section where they keep people updated on the most recent happenings in publishing.
Pubishers Weekly (PW)
The electronic version of the print magazine. PW serves as a resource for following the publishing industry.
As we all know one of the best ways to catch an editor’s eye is to submit a grammatically correct manuscript. These should help:
The Elements of Style (online)
Believe it or not, this little manual which is required reading for every writing course is on-line. As far as convenience, I think the paper edition is more portable, but if you’re writing at your computer anyway and need to look something up you’re just a mouse click away.
The Society of Illustrators
Mission: To promote and stimulate interest in the art of illustration, past, present and future, and to give impetus generally toward high ideals in the art by means of exhibitions, lectures, educational programs, social intercourse, and in such other ways as may seem advisable.
We hope these websites, blog posts, and interviews serve as great resources for any writer preparing their work for publication.
Is there anything that we missed? Please share in the comments below!
Fill out the survey below and be entered to win a free print. You email address is collected for purposes of the giveaway only and won’t be added to my email list or shared or anything. The survey will be open until October 9 2016, and I will announce the print winner in the comments of this post on the 10th. The winner will also get an email. Thank you!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that if a parent or guardian reads a picture book to a child repeatedly, day in and day out, for weeks or even months on end, something is bound to happen to the child’s brain and that of the adult reader as well. I don’t mean to make this sound dire or anything. The child, as many studies have shown, benefits from the repetition and learns from it. For the adult, however, there can be side effects. And perhaps the most common side effect is Chronic Family Phrase Generation.
Example: You read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury constantly. Even if you have never seen this book performed in a storytime, you are aware that there are natural cadences to the text. You’ve read this so often that you have its natural cadences memorized. You have different voices for each of the sound effects. When the family runs from the bear you thump on the book like their frightened footsteps have come to life. And what is the result of all this hard work? Every time you go outside and the sun is shining and the breeze is blowing and the temperature is somewhere between 73-75 degrees you say aloud, “What a beautiful day.” And then, not five seconds later, “We’re not scared!”
Every. Single. Time.
That, my friends, is Chronic Family Phrase Generation. The upside of this is that everyone in your immediate family knows what you’re talking about when you use these phrases. It’s like a secret family passcode. If they ever kidnap you and replace you with an evil twin, all your family has to do to determine whether it’s you or not is to simply say off-handedly, “What a beautiful day.” If you don’t respond with that Pavlovian “We’re not scared,” then clearly you are the evil twin.
I think it’s actually really interesting to consider the qualities that make a written sentence into a family phrase. What must it consist of? The length? Where the stresses on each one of the words falls?
In my own home we have many such phrases, but only a couple occurred to me while writing this post. They are:
From Go, Dog, Go: “Up the tree. Up the tree. Up they go to the top of the tree.” These sentences are modified every time I’m trying to get the kids to go up the stairs. Also acceptable, “Go down dogs. Go down, I say.”
From The Daddy Mountain: “And that could be a catastrophe.” This one comes up randomly, but is very satisfying. I recommend placing the stresses on “that”, “be”, and the “tas” part of “catastrophe”.
I asked my husband if he had any growing up and he let me know that yes indeed, there were some. Both, to the best of his knowledge come from Dr. Seuss. They are:
“If such a thing could be then it certainly would be.”
“An isn’t has no fun at all. No he disn’t.”
This leads to a word of warning to the wise. The danger of all this, of course, is that someday your phrase can potentially remain but the source will have disappeared. In my own family growing up, for example, the phrase, “I swoop. I soar. I fly. Back up, back up!” was acquired somewhere. Possibly from a book, possibly from a film, possibly from a television show. The source has been lost but the phrase remains, only now every time we say it we cringe and feel obligated to follow it up with, “What is that from?”
So in the interests of research that will certainly never go anywhere, what are some of the family phrases in your home that you heard growing up or that you say now to your kids or grandkids, and that can claim picture books as their original sources? I wonder if any of your answers will repeat. Surely I cannot be the only person in the world doomed to say “We’re not scared” every time the day outside is beautiful.
Serving on award committees is a time-honored tradition amongst children’s librarians. The award ceremonies that come after? Gravy. This past weekend I was delighted to attend the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Ceremony, the Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium, and the presentation of the Scott O’Dell Award all in one fell swoop. To do this I had to travel in Boston. For whatever reason they did not pick up these three events and move them to Evanston for my own personal convenience. I shall have a word with the management, I assure you.
But in all seriousness, it was delightful. In particular Katrina Hedeen was delightful, somehow managing to simultaneously put out fires (metaphorical, though I’m sure she could wield an extinguisher with aplomb), calm nerves, and keep everything on schedule. She even typed up a handy little schedule which listed absolutely everything I would need to know during my time in MA.
For my part, I came to the town with two additional goals:
Meet Laura Amy Schlitz, Sharyn November, and Jeanne Birdsall for lunch. Those of you familiar with all three individuals are probably now wondering if the heavens themselves would split asunder at the conjoining of this magnificent triumvirate. More on that in a second.
Record an episode of the Horn Book Podcast with the multi-talented Siân Gaetano. In course of said recording, find a way to take over Roger’s job.
So there was an element of timing to this trip. Neither of these things, you see, were on Katrina’s original schedule for me. I would have to be quick, slick, and on time.
Now in any good story, there can sometimes be outside forces which throw your protagonist (notice I didn’t say “hero”) off their chosen path. In this case there was a bit of a baseball game of an important nature happening on Friday when I arrived. It didn’t slow me down much but it did mean that while most of my delightful lunch happened, I just missed Sharyn November by a hair when I had to book it to the podcast. Hence the lack of a killer selfie in this slot:
The podcast was a lot of fun. Julie Danielson, who spoke with Roger and Siân not long ago on her own episode, had advised me to eat the mic. Just devour it. Take large chunks out of it with my teeth. That really is the only way to be properly heard. I thought maybe I’d have some natural mic magnetic abilities that would allow me to draw it to my lips unbidden. This did not seem to be the case but Siân has this incredibly subtle way of drawing attention to the fact that you’re beginning to drift away while you are recording that is commendable. She’s a class act, that one. Our topic was “religion”, which should give you pause right there. I’m an odd candidate to talk about it but we had lots of interesting things to say. I’ll let you know when it’s up. They’ll be discussing VOYA on the podcast next (as is right) so I’ll be the week after that. It’s all good.
Roger, for the record, was not present at the recording since he was running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get everything in place for the ceremony that night. That meant that in addition to taking his place on his podcast (the first step, as I’ve mentioned, in my plan to supplant him on it entirely) I got to creep around his office like . . well . . a creep. And there, on the wall, was the cutest photograph of all time. I got Roger’s permission to post it here. It’s of Roger a number of years ago doing a storytime when he was still a children’s librarian. Check it out:
My plan for attending the ceremony consisted of following people who would know where we were supposed to go. This was a good plan. So I ducked into the ladies restroom to change. After a quick change we headed over, drank champagne, and I got to ogle the prizes that the winners of the Boston Globe-Horn Book receive when they win.
I don’t know if any of you have attended this particular award before. It’s Boston-based so a fair number of New Yorkers were able to travel up with relative ease. Still and all, I’d never been. As it turns out, winners of the awards receive silver bowls with their names engraved on the side. Honor winners get silver plates of much the same thing. And unlike awards like the Newbery and Caldecott, both the authors and the illustrators of each book received their own reward and make their own speeches. Pretty sweet.
As I was to learn, also unlike other professional children’s awards, the judges of the BGHB awards are placed upon the stage upon chairs that look like they hold more professional degrees than anyone whose tuchas they happen to cradle. The judges were placed in the front with Roger in the back.
Imposing, to say the least.
If a chair could disapprove of the state of your attire, this one would.
I was therefore very glad indeed that I’d opted to switch out my ratty, fluff-infested, possibly pungent black tights for my sleeker blue ones. I do not have particularly interesting legs, but at least they could claim to be colorful.
Listening to M.T. Anderson. For the record, if you find yourself on a stage sitting for long amounts of time, I highly recommend turning your legs into an interesting color. Not puce, though. Never puce.
In case you have forgotten, here were this year’s winners:
NONFICTION AWARD WINNER:
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan)
Three of the honorees couldn’t attend the ceremony. Each one sent in a nice little acceptance speech video in lieu of their actual selves. I will now proceed to rank their reasons in order of increasing extremity:
Sherman Alexie – Unable to attend due to a prior family commitment. Totally understandable.
Frances Hardinge – Unable to attend because she was officiating a wedding. Totally and completely understandable.
Yuyi Morales – Unable to attend because she was donating a kidney to a complete unknown stranger simply because it was the right thing to do. This is what we call in the business the greatest, most understandable reason a person could produce for not being able to attend an event.
The speeches, as you might imagine, were lovely. Laura Amy Schlitz, for example, did hers on the floor beside mic and without notes and I could only wish Frances had been there to hear her since I think those two would have gotten along like gangbusters.
Afterwards the judges had been invited to a Candlewick dinner, so we climbed onto what appeared to be a Candlewick Party Bus and made our way to a lovely little restaurant. No idea what the name was, but it was one of those places that try to make classic dishes interesting by throwing in peculiar little touches. For example, I got the chicken and waffles, but the chicken was topped off with guacamole. Not a bad addition by any stretch of the imagination but not something you normally see.
It was that nice, blearily checking in to my hotel room, that I realized I’d left my glasses, my only glasses, in the restroom across the hall from the Horn Book offices. Pfui.
The next day was cloudy, gloomy, and just packed with that kind of nasty misty rain that drifts under your umbrella and somehow manages to soak you in a low-level sheen of wetness anyway. But it could have been blue skies and birds singing sweet songs for me. I was going to meet someone for breakfast that is, to me, quite the celebrity.
I don’t know how many of you listen to the NPR Podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. For me, it is the only way I am able to understand any of the current goings on in the pop culture world. What is Steven Universe? What happened at the Emmys this year? What’s You’re the Worst? They answer all and they occasionally have a librarian on for her expertise. Her name is Margaret H. Willison and in addition to working full-time in a library she also records the podcast Two Bossy Dames. The kicker? She knew who I was and was willing to do breakfast with me! Bonus! I’ve always admired Margaret’s aplomb on PCHH since she is able to keep up with a quick and lively crew on a variety of different topics. Thinking on your feet in this manner is an enviable skill, but she wields her tongue adeptly. And, I am happy to report, she is just as sweet, funny, intelligent, and smart as you would hope her to be.
After this, I had to get my glasses back. Long story short: I did, but Simmons may wish to consider how easy it is to bypass those doors that require cards. Some of them simply aren’t turned on. Hence my recovery of my own glasses.
Meanwhile, back at the Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium the theme of the day was “Out of the Box”. Cathryn Mercier, the Director and Professor of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College gave the opening and welcome alongside Roger Sutton. Now if you watched Cathryn throughout the day, you would have seen her writing down a variety of different notes, longhand, on a pad of paper. These notes were then, by the end of the day, transformed into a speech that wrapped up all the pertinent points. It was extraordinary. She didn’t even transfer it all to a laptop and edit it. So well done there.
M.T. Anderson started off the day with a speech called “What’s Actually in a Box”. It may have discussed his intense dislike of Little Women. “Unboxing Nonfiction” was a panel conducted between Roxanne Feldman and Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes. During the course of their talk they spoke about the dire need to break wide open “the canonical boundaries of biography.” Then Steve Sheinkin spoke on the topic of “Get Me Out of the Health Food Aisle!: Rethinking Nonfiction”. LEGOs were involved in some manner. After lunch Roger Sutton moderated “How Jazz and Picture Books Are the Same Exact Thing” with Roxane Orgill and Francis Vallejo and then I got to interview Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Fred Koehler about their book One Day, the End. Turns out, they are a hoot. As a moderator you always worry that your subjects will just give one word answers to your questions. Rebecca and Fred worked like a perfectly tuned engine. You’d think they’d been friends for years, rather than a lucky pairing of author and illustrator by an editor. We were also able to determine once and for all whether or not the girl in the book picks up the ice cream that falls from her cone and places it back on that same cone from the ground or not. Squeamish readers may not like the answer.
“Unboxing Fiction” was a truly fascinating talk conducted by Joanna Long with Laura Amy Schlitz and Rebecca Stead. We found out that both authors were descended from hired girls who married above their stations. We learned what a bundling board is, as well as chaperoned kissing parties. Oh, it was amazing stuff. I can only hope the day was recorded in some way.
Finally Cathryn Mercier gave her (longhand) final speech and this was immediately followed up with by the presentation of the Scott O’Dell Award to Laura. There was champagne and chocolate cupcakes with blue frosting. Everything, in short, that makes life worth living.
My trip to the airport would have been in an overpriced taxi. Instead, winner Francis Vallejo, his girlfriend, his mom, and his dad all drove me to the airport themselves. They not only saved me money but were lively and wonderful companions en route, and I’d be an unappreciative beast if I didn’t thank them here. We got to talk a little Detroit, which always caps off a trip well.
And a thank you to the fine and fabulous folks of the Horn Book for babysitting me, putting me up, and generally allowing me to have a wonderful time. Thank you to Roger for selecting me for this committee. To the winners for your time and speeches. And to the attendees for coming up afterwards to say you read this blog from time to time. That’s awfully nice to hear. So thank you one and all, and if anyone reading this is so inclined, do be so good as to sign up to attend next year’s BGHB Award Ceremony. It’s supposed to be the official 50th anniversary, so you know the cupcakes are gonna be good.
Check out LEE & LOW BOOKS’ Building Classroom Community Unit for First Grade! The FREE and downloadableunit consists of eight read aloud lesson plans to inspire your best classroom community yet.
The start of first grade is ripe with opportunities for building long-lasting positive school behaviors and attitudes. Time spent building relationships and establishing social and academic expectations can pay dividends all year long.
Using a rich collection of diverse picture books to support this work lays the foundation for a classroom culture of appreciation and acceptance.
The Building Classroom Community Unit for First Gradeconsists of eight read alouds and provides a structured approach for this important work, yet the lessons are flexible enough for you to teach language and behaviors specific to your students’ population, preferences, and goals. Each lesson is intended for multiple days so that from the beginning students are exposed to close reading and the value of multiple readings. We believe the first eight read alouds, or roughly the first two months of school, are critical to setting the tone of your classroom community, read aloud procedures, and expectations for engagement.
review and build on the expectations for listening and discussion participation introduced in kindergarten, with a new emphasis on staying focused on a topic and building on others’ responses
encourage students to learn about one another through discussions of favorite individual and family pastimes and goals for the year ahead
engage in rigorous yet developmentally appropriate discussions about crucial topics such as individual strengths and challenges, managing disagreements kindly, and persevering through mistakes and difficult tasks
Each lesson may be used as a stand alone, but we hope that using these books as a broad unit will help lay the foundation for a strong classroom community with strong learning expectations. We designed the unit to spiral. Additionally, each lesson and book can be adapted for other grades (and we hope you will do this!).
Book extension activities encourage exploration of these topics through writing, drama, and art, as well as lay the foundation for collaborative learning during your year.
Now that my kids have reached the ripe ages of five and two, I’m finding myself more interested in picture books that pick apart the nature of sibling relationships in interesting ways . I don’t mean fighting. I mean that crazy pushmepullyou of loving each other to the extreme mixed with scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs annoyance. With that in mind, I’ve been trying to come up with a variety of picture books that celebrate this tricky balance. Books where it’s not all sweetness and light nor vinegar and . . . uh . . . darkness (note to self: work on metaphors before posting to readership).
Here’s just a quick smattering of some of my favorites at this precise moment in time.
I am now and forever Team BRL. Back in the day when I reviewed it I mentioned that for me this is a book about grace. Telling kids to forgive other kids is tricky, but telling them to forgive their little annoying siblings? Add in the fact that this is one of the very rare picture books you’ll find about a American Muslim family that isn’t about their faith in some way and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Speak truth to me, but softly. Give me picture books about siblings, but get a little heart in there. Now in some ways, I feel that Parkhurst’s book remains one of the funniest and most honest displays of sibling relationships I’ve ever seen. That moment when the mom says, “Sweetie, she’s two. You don’t have to do what she says,” just squeaks with familiarity. I am that mom. I live that mom’s life. Albeit with the genders of the kids switched.
A Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban, ill. Lillian Hoban
I’m in that weird position as a librarian where I know all the “classic” children’s picture books and I know to read them to my kids, but I’m still shocked when I finally discover that some of them are more contemporary, funny, and honest than a lot of the stuff being published today. Take Frances. Now there’s a character I hope we never lose. She has lots of great books but this may be my favorite. Clearly Russell Hoban knew children, because that relationship between Frances and her sister has all the qualities of a real sisterhood.
Nope. Still not back in print. Still weird. He just got a street named after him, guys. The fact this isn’t even a board book is bizarre. My son loves it, possibly because the baby gets to bean the brother upside the head with a teddy bear and all that brother does is sigh and get the kid out of his crib. But that shot of the messy baby kiss on his brother’s nose . . . I’m not a sentimental soul in the least, but that gets me.
I’m open to any and all suggestions for more titles of this ilk, if you have them.
LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year! To recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today and hear from the authors and illustrators.
Today, we are celebrating Chess Rumble, which explores the ways this strategic game empowers young people with the skills they need to anticipate and calculate their moves through life.
Synopsis: In Marcus’s world, battles are fought everyday—on the street, at home, and in school. Angered by his sister’s death and his father’s absence, and pushed to the brink by a bullying classmate, Marcus fights back with his fists.
One punch away from being kicked out of school and his home, Marcus encounters CM, an unlikely chess master who challenges him to fight his battles on the chess board. Guarded and distrusting, Marcus must endure more hard lessons before he can accept CM’s help to regain control of his life.
Awards and Honors:
Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, American Library Association (ALA)
Notable Books in the Language Arts, National Council of Teachers of English
Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, International Reading Association (IRA)
Top Picks for Reluctant Readers, BoysRead.org
G. Neri, an award-winning filmmaker whose work has earned him several honors. Inspired by his editor, Jennifer Fox, who had wanted to do an urban chess story for years and finally saw the possibility of making it come to life through him, Neri dove into the project with unbridled enthusiasm. “I loved the idea of using chess strategy as a way to approach life. I had dealt with a few teens who had come from troubled pasts and had difficulty finding an outlet for their inner struggle. So the idea of pairing a kid like this with a chess mentor who did not back down came naturally. It was a very organic process, and I let the characters tell me their stories.”
Neri hopes that readers will come away from Chess Rumble “think[ing] about their lives and the choices they make before they make them.” Pressed to continue, Neri says, “I hope they are intrigued to play chess, and maybe start thinking about acting on, instead of reacting to, negative situations. Acting considers what can happen if you make one choice versus another. Reacting just responds impulsively to the problem instead of thinking ahead three steps and maybe making a better choice.”
Two years ago I wrote a piece called The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting in which I raged unto the heavens against picture books where the artists put little work into bothering to figure out if knitting needles should be held up or down. Well, it’s time for me to apologize to those illustrators. If depicting knitting needles with the ends to the sky is irresistible to you, you’re in good company. Seems that every picture book illustrator of the past put you on the wrong path early.
Today, we rank the great illustrators history and see how precisely they’ve chosen to portray knitters. As a refresher, here is how you hold knitting needles:
The method of holding them with the ends up is not unheard of, but it is rare. For example, I tried to find a Google Image of that particular style for the piece and failed utterly.
From Worst to Best: Knitting in Children’s Literature
To be fair, I know very little about the fibers of Truffula Trees. It is possible that one has to . . . um . . . Okay, I’m not entirely certain what the Onceler’s family is doing here. They appear to be stabbing the fibers in a downward manner with their needles, miraculously producing thneeds. This exact image isn’t exactly from the book (I think it’s wallpaper) but it’s an accurate depiction of what Seuss drew. Whatever floats your boats, guys. Just don’t call it knitting.
Et tu, Eastman? I was merrily reading Robert the Rose Horse when I saw this image. I may have to give Eastman points for the inherent humor of it, though. Knitting without digits. Think about it for a moment.
I’m with you, kitten. Shocked SHOCKED that the great Garth Williams failed to get this right.
No word on whether or not Moominmamma . . . oh, wait.
Darn it. No pun intended.
Wait! This just in! I believe this is an image from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. If so, then this cat isn’t knitting but tatting. And if she is tatting then it’s possible the needles go up, right? So let’s just find an image of someone tatting.
So much for that.
I think we may have a winner. Yes, it looks like it. Granted, she’s put the knitting down on her lap to whisper “Hush” to the bunny in the bed, but I think it very likely that the needles were held correctly before then. Shall we give it to him?
Okay. Enough with the deceased. Let’s see how some of our contemporary masters fare in this game.
Didn’t see that one coming.
YES!! And Pinkney for the win! The cat’s needles are down, I REPEAT! The cat’s needles are down!
Paul O. Zelinsky
Considering how much work Paul put into getting the spinning wheel right in Rumpelstiltskin, it’s little wonder he’d get the knitting right in Swamp Angel.
Cheating a bit here. This is from one of Sophie’s Missed Connections pieces and not from a children’s book, but it at least proves that if knitting ever does come up in one of her books, she’ll know what to do about it.
I suspect I would have had a small heart attack if it turned out that Ms. Brett didn’t know knitting. She has, after all, portrayed some of the greatest illustrations of stitching ever seen in a picture book.
Notable missing illustrators aren’t listed here simply because I couldn’t figure out if they ever depicted knitting in their books. Hence the lack of John Steptoe, Maurice Sendak, Trina Schart Hyman, Grace Lin, Tomie de Paola, Yuyi Morales, and others. If you’ve inside knowledge on the matter, have at it. Other contemporary illustrators like Lauren Castillo or Jon Klassen can be found on the previous piece about knitting books in 2014.
So I’m no longer in New York City anymore as you might have noticed but that doesn’t meant there aren’t some fantastic events going on there. Free events. Free events at my old stomping grounds, NYPL. It’s all in conjunction with Banned Books Week and the guests are a bit on the famous side. Gene Luen Yang. Katherine Paterson. Rita Williams-Garcia. STRANGER THINGS!!! *ahem* In any case, behold below. I give you one heckuva fantastic week.
Banned Books Week annually celebrates the freedom to read. Highlighting the value of free and open access to information, Banned Books Week brings together librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types in shared support of the freedom to seek, to publish, to read, and to express ideas. The Library is hosting a series of events September 25-October 1 celebrating the freedom to read with some of your favorite children’s authors!
Join the New York Public Library in partnership with Sesame Workshop (the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street!) on Sunday September 25 from 10:30 AM-12 PM (doors open at 10:15 AM), as we welcome the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Gene Luen Yang, joined by his furry friend, Sesame Street’s Walkaround Grover, to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Sesame Street classic storybook,The Monster at the End of this Book. Yang will read aloud this time-honored tale (first published in 1971 by Little Golden Books) and will discuss his ‘Reading Without Walls’ initiative, which encourages readers to explore books of diverse voices, genres, and formats.
Join the New York Public Library Saturday October 1 from 2-3 PM as we welcome Katherine Paterson and her sons, David and John, to discuss Ms. Paterson’s enduring young adult classic THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS and new feature film version of THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS debuting in theaters and On Demand October 7.
After the success of the first #DVpit event in April, #DVpit is back for another round of Twitter pitching fun on October 5th and 6th! If you’re unfamiliar with this event, #DVpit is a Twitter pitch contest created to showcase pitches by marginalized voices and help connect them to agents and editors.
While the number of diverse books is increasing, the number of new diverse authors entering the field remains low. Significant barriers remain for authors of color, Native authors, disabled authors, and other marginalized voices. With that in mind, we are excited to share information on this special Twitter event! The information below is cross-posted with permission from literary agent Beth Phelan’s #DVpit website.
A Twitter Pitching Event, Hosted + Moderated by Beth Phelan
October 5, 2016: 8AM – 8PM ET for Children’s and Teen Fiction/Nonfiction
October 6, 2016: 8AM – 8PM ET for Adult Fiction/Nonfiction
What is #DVpit?
#DVpit is a Twitter event created to showcase pitches about and especially by marginalized voices. This includes (but is not limited to): Native peoples and people of color; people living and/or born/raised in underrepresented cultures and countries; disabled persons; people with illness; people on marginalized ends of the socioeconomic, cultural and/or religious spectrum; people identifying as LGBTQIA+; and more.
The first #DVpit took place on April 19, 2016 and was a national trending hashtag. There have been over 15 authors signed by agents as a direct result of this event so far, with editors from small to mid-size to Big Five publishers requesting to receive the manuscripts at submission stage.
#DVpit was covered by Bustle, Salon, YA Interrobang, and multiple blog sites like Lee & Low Blog and Daily Dahlia.
The event was created and is moderated by Beth Phelan, a literary agent at the Bent Agency.
When is the next #DVpit?
#DVpit will occur over two days. Please make sure you are pitching your work on the appropriate day; many of the agents and editors will only tune in on a specific day, to see the pitches in the categories they represent/acquire.
October 5th will be for Children’s & Teen Fiction/Nonfiction (picture books, chapter books, graphic novel, middle grade, young adult).
October 6th will be for Adult Fiction/Nonfiction (all genres, commercial and literary).
The event will run on each day from 8AM ET until 8PM ET using the hashtag #DVpit on both days.
What kind of work can you submit?
The participating agents and editors will be looking for a variety of work, including all categories of fiction for adults, teens, and children, as well as nonfiction—as long as they qualify per the description here.
Please only pitch your completed, unpublished manuscripts.
How do you submit?
The event will be broken up over two days, one for Children’s & Teen Fiction/Nonfiction (October 5) and the other for Adult Fiction/Nonfiction (October 6). Please make sure that you pitch on the appropriate day.
Your pitch must fit the 140-character max, and must also include the hashtag #DVpit.
Please try to include category and/or genre hashtags as well.
We will trust that your pitch is for a diverse book / you are a diverse author, but if you want a quick way to make the diversity in your work more apparent in your short pitch (and you can fit a few more characters), I also encourage you to include an abbreviation as an easier way to get that information across. Examples: OWN (to suggest #ownvoices), POC, LGBT, DIS (disability), IMM (immigration), etc. These codes are up to you—I’m in no place to judge or police how, or even if, you label your experience. Please remember they are optional. You will *not* be at a disadvantage if you don’t include them! If you do want to add, please make the abbreviation as clear and straightforward as possible for our agents/editors.
Please pitch no more than once per hour. You may use the same pitch, or shake things up by using different pitches for the same project. You may pitch more than one project at a time, as long as they are completed and unpublished.
Please do not tweet-pitch the agents/editors directly!
The event will run from 8:00AM ET until 8:00PM ET, so please only tweet your pitches during that block of time, on the appropriate day.
What happens next?
Agents/editors will “like” your pitch if they’d like to see material from you, so please don’t “like” other authors’ pitches. Please also do not retweet. To show support, you can always reply or quote-tweet with compliments.
Each agent/editor will have their own preferences for receiving submissions, so if you get a “like” from someone, please refer to their Twitter feed to see what they ask for, and how you can contact them.
All of these agents/editors are invested in finding more marginalized voices, so if you’re comfortable with it (and ONLY if you are comfortable with it), I encourage you to self-identify in your query, or just simply let us know that the story and/or character(s) reflect your own experience (or even in your pitch if you have the space and the inclination).
If you see that multiple agents/editors from the same company have “liked” your pitch, please contact them directly for their policy on multiple submissions, or reach out to me and I will be happy to find out for you.
Keep in mind that many agents/editors will get sidetracked with their usual work or unexpected crises and may have to revisit the feed after the event is over. So don’t be surprised if you receive “likes” after the period closes!
Our own Stacy Whitman, publisher of our Tu Books imprint, will be participating again this round. So get those pitches ready for October 5th!
If you need help with your pitch, check out these helpful resources here.
Mmmm. It’s that time again. The summer is beginning to cool its jets and with fall on the horizon I need to present the third in my yearly four-part prediction series. What was that fantastic quote Travis Jonker came up with the other day? Ah, yes.
“Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.” – Lao Tzu
And like Travis, we’re just going to run roughshod over that one. As ever, I will remind you that my ability to predict these things is a bit on the shoddy side. You might be better off reading the Mock Newbery and Mock Caldecott lists of Goodreads. That said, I can give you something those lists can’t: Scintillating commentary!! Unless you’re reading Heavy Medal or Calling Caldecott (both of which have just started up again). Then you’ll get commentary from a variety of different voices. Anyway . . .
Let’s do this thing.
2017 Caldecott Predictions
Ideas Are All Around by Philip Stead
I think I’m going to stick with this one. Here’s what usually happens when I mention this book on a prediction list. I say I don’t find it very kid-friendly and then someone responds that they know several kids who love it. They just happen to be older kids. One forgets that not all picture books are aimed at three-year-olds. Stead’s book pushes the boundaries. It may, in fact, be one of those very rare picture books written for a middle grade audience. With that in mind, a consideration of the text and image together takes on a different light entirely.
Not fish, nor fowl. Is it nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, poetry, or a picture book? The Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards placed it squarely in the picture book category (those judges must have been awfully smart, don’t you think, huh huh, don’t you think, huh?) though like Ideas Are All Around it’s for older readers. A bit of a trend here, eh? Maybe. After all, the last few nonfiction Caldecott winners (Finding Winnie, Locomotive, etc.) were on the older side as well.
Miracle Man by John Hendrix
Chant it with me! Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Now last time I did a prediction edition I mentioned the whole question about whether or not a Jesus book could win a Caldecott anymore (since, y’know, the first 1938 winner was Animals of the Bible). Now I’ve found out that I’ll get to talk with The Horn Book Podcast soon about religion and children’s literature in the 21st century. That should help me straighten out my thoughts on the matter. In the meantime, I’m keeping this one in the mix. As I mentioned before, it’s the wildest of my Wild Cards, but I think it may have an outside chance.
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
Speaking of the Horn Book Podcast, there was an interesting discussion the other day with Jules Danielson of the 7-Imp blog about whether or not publishers should include information about how the art was made on the publication page of a picture book. Roger Sutton was asking if knowledge of how a book is made adjusts your interpretation of the art. I mentioned this to a friend and they pointed out that in 2016 we’re seeing a crazy amount of eclectic and interesting art in our contenders. From the found wood of Yuyi Morales’s Rudas: Niño’s Horrendous Hermanitas to the Moroccan influence and mixed media of Evan Turk’s The Storyteller (we’ll get to that) to the found wood (again) of this book, it has never been a better time to get creative with your medium. And anyway, this book just blew me away. Technically a bio won the Caldecott last year, but there’s no rule saying it can’t happen repeatedly. And how awesome would it be for a Steptoe to win the Caldecott again? Javaka completely deserves it with this book.
Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan
Okay! So graphic novels have been winning Newberys left, right, and center lately, right? Which is to say, Newbery Honors. On the Caldecott side, This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamaki essentially blew our minds when it won a Caldecott Honor two years ago (and it was YA!). This 1930s reinterpretation of the Snow White story is far younger than Tamaki’s book, and done in an elegant black and white style. It is, in its own way, very sexy but still child appropriate (I’ll have to review it sometime to figure out how that’s even possible). Phelan’s never won any Caldecotts that I can tell, but he’s also become more and more accomplished as the years have gone by. This book would be a risk for the committee, but it would also be a wonderful way of praising Phelan’s evident expertise.
Sometimes a Caldecott winner says something about the times in which we live. Turk’s book talks about the roles stories have in our lives. It folds a story within a story within a story and then backs out again without tripping up once. Visually it’s a stunner, with smart writing to match, but more importantly it’s speaking to the times in which we live. We are desperate for stories these days. This book speaks not just to that need but the solution. Aw, heck. It may even have a chance at a Newbery. Look at the art when you get a chance, though. It’s truly beautiful.
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, ill. Yuyi Morales
This book was already mentioned on Heavy Medal’s Ten Picture Books That Can Win the 2017 Newbery Medal. On the Caldecott side of the equation it’s already received a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor. It’s one of those books where the art slowly grabs you. There are circles within circles, connections upon connections. A long discussion of the book yields treasures. You will see things you missed many times before.
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Someone told me recently that this book is scientifically accurate. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the premise is that a single cat is viewed in a multitude of different ways by different animals. I haven’t looked into the veracity of this claim yet, but if true then it’s just another feather in the cap of a remarkable title. Word on the street says that Chronicle paid a pretty penny for the manuscript. From everything I can see, it was worth it in the end.
2017 Newbery Predictions
Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet
You know, you guys should really listen to that Horn Book Podcast sometime. It was Roger Sutton who mentioned this book and piqued my interest in it. I already had a copy at home since it came with rather peculiar swag. With the book came two little cut out stencils. One of a cloud. One of a whale. Aside from pitying the poor intern that spent at least a day cutting these out, it did interest me. Good cover. Good title. And Nesbet? That was the author behind that Cabinet of Earths series, right? Well I’ve been reading it and on some level it reminded me of The War That Saved My Life. Not the setting so much as just the pure enjoyment I’ve received while reading it. Roger said something similar himself. Nesbet has taken 1989 East Germany and just riddled it with interesting details and great writing. Y’all have to check this out.
It’s been (checks calendar) six days since this book was released. Have you read it yet? Have you, have you? Because I’d really like to talk to somebody about it. I think 2016 is going to be The Year of Difficult Writing for me. So many authors are taking risks, doing things no one’s done before, and creating art in the process. Mr. Bryan is no exception. I’ve never seen anything quite like what he’s done here. Naming this book as even an honor would be a powerful statement.
I actually did a double take when I reread my Summer Prediction Edition and found, to my shock and horror, that I had not included this book on the list. I must have read it right after I posted. In fact, I know I did since three or four readers named it as a top pick. Whole lotta religion in this one. And blood and guts too (this is Mr. Gidwitz we’re talking about) but talk about risks! He’s basically taking Christianity and Judaism and discussing them in a context almost never seen in middle grade historical fiction (fantasy? fiction?). Gutsy. Blood and gutsy.
Pax by Sara Pennypacker
Ah, Pax. Let out of the gate early in 2016 with a huge marketing push to match. It worked in terms of sales, of course. This book has already become a New York Times bestseller (no mean feat for a book that isn’t part of a series written by a man whose name rhymes with My Own Pen). It was the earliest book to garner Newbery buzz as well. Indeed, there’s a reason Heavy Medal chose it as one of the first books of the year to discuss. Love it or hate it, there is a LOT to chew on in this novel. It could either sweep the awards or not even get an Honor nod. Though, if I were a betting woman, I’d say it’s a clear cut Newbery Honor book.
The Newbery is not awarded for difficulty. If it were, Fleming would be a shoo-in. Instead, she’s written a middle grade nonfiction biography of a figure forgotten by most kids today. A biography hasn’t won a Newbery since 1988 (Lincoln, a Photobiography, in case you’re curious). So the chances of Fleming winning for this book are slim, but I’m a fan of the underdog. The writing is extraordinary, the topic impossible, and the take clever. We’ll see if the committee agrees.
Like Pax, this is one of those shoo-ins for discussion. Also like Pax it came out early in the year. Will the committee be burned out by the time they actually get around to discussing it? Considering how much there is to discuss about the book, not likely. If it wins the Award proper that will be DiCamillo’s third Newbery Award (not counting Honors). Something to chew on.
Mmm. Poetry. Slightly less rare than middle grade biography winners. After all, verse novels have won. Monologues done in rhyme have won. Even straight up books of poetry have, technically, won. One thing I have learned about this book is that not everybody shares my love of it. Like humor, the worth of poetry can prove subjective. Still and all, there’s a groundswell of support for it out there. One of the loveliest books of the year, by far.
Also known as the book I had to flip to the back of because it became too tense for me not to know how it ended. They keep comparing it to To Kill a Mockingbird in the ad copy, which I feel is a bit unfair. Any book compared to Harper Lee’s classic is going to end up with a raw deal. It’s an interesting take on prejudices and has, by far, the most evil bully in a book I have EVER read. I wouldn’t call it enjoyable in the same way as the Nesbet book, but it was deeply compelling and beautifully written.
AND NOW . . . THE BOOK THAT IS GOING TO BE SUPER FUN FOR THE NEWBERY COMMITTEE AS THEY TRY TO FIGURE OUT IF IT’S EVEN UP FOR CONTENTION OR NOT . . .
Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko, narrative and translation by David Jacobson, Sally Ito & Michiko Tsuboi
Haven’t heard of it? I bet not. I have not yet begun to sing its praises on this blog, having just read it, but this is without a doubt one of the most amazing books of the year.
Now this should be an open and shut case of a book that simply can’t be a Newbery contender. See how I mentioned that there was a translator or two involved in this book? Right. Books eligible for the Newbery must have originally been published in the United States. Case closed, right? Maybe not. This book is about the life of a celebrated Japanese poet for children who was rediscovered not long ago, and became famous thanks in large part to one of her poems circulating after the tsunami of 2011. It pulls no punches and reproduces original translations of her poems throughout the text.
So the book itself was originally published in the States, right? But the poetry spotted throughout the book comes from a Japanese anthology of Kaneko’s works. What this means is that even if the poetry has never been translated in this way before, technically the poems have been translated overseas before and therefore the book is not a Newbery contender. I think. If true this is a pity since I truly believe that anyone who reads this book will be utterly blown away by what they find inside. In any case, the author of the poetry is dead and I believe that may be an impediment to its Newbery qualifications as well. Ah well. Check it out when you get a chance. It’s really quite remarkable.
Last weekend I was at Salt Lake Comic Con. I had a great time talking to people and selling my art. During this time, I spoke to a few individuals who told me they are writing a book and are looking for an illustrator.
“Your style is perfect,” They say. “Just what I’ve been looking for.”
It’s always nice to hear that people like my art, but when someone says this to me I cringe inside. Not that these people have done anything wrong but I know these people are missing some crucial information about book publishing.
Three Things Beginning Picture Book Writers Need to Know About Publishing
1. The publisher picks the illustrator
I’m starting with this as the number one thing because if your writing a children’s book and you’re here, you are probably looking for an illustrator.
As a picture book writer, choosing the illustrator is not your job.
At this point, you may be thinking, “What if my publisher doesn’t pick an illustrator I like?”
I’m not going to lie. There is a possibility you might not like the artist they pick, but before you write this idea off think of the benefits.
Publishers work with hundreds of illustrators. They get tons of postcard mailers every day from illustrators. They have education and experience at finding artists and matching them to the right picture book text. They also hire the illustrator, have lawyers to create contracts that include important details like deadlines and rights, and they pay the illustrator what they are worth so that you, the writer, don’t have to.
On the other hand, you might know 3-5 artists who are really good. Out of these artists, one or two may have professional work experience. If they know how book publishing works, they’ll probably say no to your project. Sometimes, they may say yes if you have the budget for it. If you can pay them enough, then all you have to worry about rights, deadlines, and art directing. No biggie.
Save yourself some stress. Let the publisher pick your illustrator.
2. It’s hard work
If you read section one up there, you’ve probably realized by now this picture book thing is more difficult than you think. Don’t let this discourage you. It’s hard work, but you can do it.
When you write a picture book, you are writing a story. Your story should have a beginning, middle, and end. It doesn’t matter how short the text is, all stories have those three things. Even the board books I illustrated have a beginning, middle, and an end and they have less than 100 words each.
Picture books are about text and pictures. When you write a picture book, think about what the images might show and don’t put that in the text. There is no need to use lengthy descriptions of the characters or settings. Remember a picture is worth 1000 words. That means on every page there are at least 1000 words you don’t need to write.
Picture books these days are very short. Remember, parents and teachers read picture books out loud. Less than 1000 words is a great guideline, but lots of books have less than 500. Work on your drafts until you have the right amount of words for your story.
3. It’s not only your book once you involve an illustrator and publisher
Once you have a fantastic draft and you, start looking for a publisher you have to let some things go. In the end, it’s not only your book. The publisher and the illustrator also have their names on it, and they want to do they best they can to make it great. Just focus on the writing and trust the illustrator and publisher to make the book as great as they can, and everyone wins.
Here are some resources to find out more about writing and publishing your book
SCBWI.org is the Society of Children’s book Writers and Illustrators. They have great publishing resources and put together some great conferences all around they world where you can get more info about writing and illustrating picture books.
Stories Unbound Podcast is a great resource with interviews with published authors and illustrators. I got to be a co-host in a few episodes talking about attending conferences and setting up a critique group. Check it out.
The Purple Crayon is another great website with excellent info about children’s publishing. This website has the answers to tons of publishing questions. You’ll also learn stuff you probably never thought to ask.
Dive Into Reading! is LEE & LOW’s new line of early chapter books that focuses on supporting readers in each stage of their reading development.
The Confetti Kids series follows a group of five children from diverse backgrounds living in a friendly city neighborhood, and each book follows a different character as they learn about friendship and how to navigate common childhood experiences.
Synopsis: Lily moves from a quiet suburb to an apartment on a busy street in the city. Lily worries that she’ll never fit in. As she and her parents explore their new, multicultural neighborhood, Lily discovers that sometimes change can be a good thing!
Synopsis: It’s a warm, sunny day, and the gang heads to the neighborhood playground to play. What should they play? Pablo comes up with a great idea: to play pretend. It’s a game that everyone can do easily. They can pretend to be archaeologists, astronauts, and explorers. There’s no limit to what they imagine they can be!
You can purchase a copy of Lily’s New Home or Want to Play on our website here.
Veronicahas a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.
Folks, let me level with you. I only love two things in this world. Cats. And astronauts.
Okay, that’s a lie. I love a whole lot more than just those two things. But let’s say I was stranded on a desert island somewhere and I was told that I could have a book about only two of my favorite things in the world combined. Would I want a book on The Brave Little Toaster + Gene Wilder? Would I want a book on kookaburras + chocolate cake? Would I want a book on the dictamnus plant (YouTube it sometime) + the city of Amherst? Yes to all of these, obviously, but the coolest combination of all time, the one that would make a kind of strange illogical logical sense, would be (you guessed it) . . . .
Cats + Astronauts
Behold. The odd girl gets her wish.
Yep. A brand new graphic novel series from brand new author/illustrator Drew Brockington.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “This looks good. The only thing that could make it better was if there was a cat named ‘Waffles’ involved in some way.” Well, are you in luck. Check out this description of Book #1:
CatStronauts: Mission Moon
When the world is thrust into darkness due to a global energy shortage, the Worlds Best Scientist comes up with a bold plan to set up a solar power plant on the moon. But someone has to go up there to set it up, and that adventure falls to the CatStronauts, the best space cats on the planet! Meet the fearless commander Major Meowser, brave-but-hungry pilot Waffles, genius technician and inventor Blanket, and quick thinking science officer Pom Pom on their most important mission yet!
And it gets better. Because in Book #2 . . . well, read it for yourself . . .
CatStronauts: Race to Mars
Fresh off of their heroic mission to save the world, the CatStronauts–Major Meowser, Pom Pom, Blanket and Waffles–are taking a well deserved victory lap. Parades and fancy awards dinners are the new norm! But around the world, other cat space programs are watching–in particular the CosmoCats, the first cats to go to space! With national pride and scientific research on the line, the world rushes to be the first cats to Mars, and the CatStronauts are starting months behind! Can they catch up and prove their first space-changing mission was no fluke?
Did you catch that? Rival CosmoCats who technically got to space first? Heaven, I’m in heaven . . .
But wait . . . there’s more. An interior spread (you can click on it to make it bigger):
Hat tips and thanks to the good folks at Little, Brown & Co. for allowing me this appropriately kooky reveal.
Last week I was sick. Sick as a dog sick. Sick in that way where you feel the cool breezes coming through your window and have a fleeting glimpse of how lucky you are to be sick at the end of the summer rather than even a week earlier when your misery could have only have been compounded by hot winds and bright, horrible, happy sunlight.
In the midst of all this lovely blah-ness I was given the chance to speak with a German reporter about political picture book biographies. Thanks to the fever I’ve only a mild inkling of what I said (we’ll all find out together, yay!) but I do remember a long discussion of American picture book biographies and nuance. Look at the bios of Hillary out there for kids and you’re not going to find much within them beyond praise. How true is that of other picture book biographies? Are they capable of showing several sides of an individual or are they, by definition, only able to show the good sides of their subjects and never the bad?
I’ve been pondering this for the past week and I don’t know if I’m any closer to an answer. A picture book biography by its very nature is supposed to tell a child more about a subject. Moreover, that subject is supposed to be someone that child should learn and grow from as well as emulate in their own lives. You will not find picture book biographies of Hitler or Ted Bundy because that flies in the face of a picture book bio’s purpose in life. The only time you can come close is when you write a parody for adults like A Child’s First Book of Trump.
But is that actually true? I mean, if a kid is supposed to emulate a picture book biography’s subject and you don’t show their flaws and failures, doesn’t that automatically make the subject seem otherworldly and perfect? Isn’t there value in displaying the problematic areas and showing how someone surmounted them?
I set out to locate a couple picture book biographies of people who led complicated lives. How did their picture book biographers choose to handle their less than stellar personal qualities? When drawing up the list, I was surprised to find that the most examples involve drugs. I made a conscious effort to include some of those, but to come up with other personal failings as well.
Personal Difficulty: Died of drug overdose
Does the Book Address This? Sure, but not in the text for kids. Since the text pretty much just shows him as a kid, that was a given. Now one way these books get around the problem of a problematic life is simply to put all the less-than-stellar stuff in the backmatter. If a book does that, can you honestly say that it’s discussing a subject’s complicated life head-on? By the same token, it’s obviously there and has the additional advantage of being readily available to a teacher or parent IF and only IF they want to share it. In this case, mentioning Jimi’s death wouldn’t have made sense in the main body of the text.
Personal Difficulty: Got cozy with a Nazi
Do These Books Address This? Ah, nope. But I’ve a theory on this one anyway. Seems to me that when a person’s personal life involved drug abuse, or even physical violence, that’s something a picture book biography can work with. Sex, in any form, is far more difficult. Read on and you’ll see what I mean a little later.
Personal Difficulty: Drug addiction
Does the Book Address This? Yes. In fact, this turned out to be one of the very few picture book biographies I could find where the text written for kids discussed the fact that the subject of the book had personal failings. As I wrote in my review, “You see the days when his deep sadness caused him to start drinking early on. You see his experiments with drugs and the idea some musicians harbored that it would make them better.” There’s even an in-depth “Author’s Note: Musicians and Drug Use” section at the end. Now the author of this book, Gary Golio, also wrote the aforementioned Jimi Hendrix biography so he’s no stranger to writing about complicated men. If you seek complexity in a picture book biography, this is where you start.
Personal Difficulty: Several, but let’s just stick with the fact that he left his wife for Rosanne.
Does the Book Address This? Not really. It definitely mentions Rosanne and how much Johnny admired her, but the storyline stops strategically before they get togehter. If you want to get into the sticky subject of infidelity the text of the book won’t help you out. But could it even? Could any picture book biography tackle infidelity in any manner without the topic tipping everything in the text in only that direction? Can we state for the record, then, that infidelity cannot ever be discussed in a picture book biography?
Personal Difficulty: Family mental issues and drug addiction
Does the Book Address This? Yep. The problems with his mother are discussed at length in the text. The drug problems come up in the backmatter. This is a pretty good example of a book that has found the right balance in the public and personal, and has found a way to make an honest picture book biography that touches on the big issues and how they formed the man as an artist without letting them take over the book itself.
Robert Miller a.k.a. Tricky Vic
Personal Difficulty: Um . . . his whole entire life? Remember when I said you couldn’t write a bio of a villain? Well, Tricky Vic was more of an anti-hero, but that’s splitting hairs. This may well be the only picture book bio I’ve seen of a true shyster. He was a con man, and he didn’t exactly repent. Or learn. Or grow.
Does the Book Address This? The book doesn’t address anything BUT this! How did Pizzoli do it? There wasn’t even an outcry against this book when it came out. People were on board with it. I wonder if they saw it more as a history than a bio. I wonder too if the fact that Vic isn’t that well known contributed to the lack of protestation. If you wrote a biography of a famous sadist, people would assume the book was, by definition, in favor of that person. But if the person is low-level and not particularly well known it flies right under the radar. Much to chew on here.
Conclusion: Let’s say someone wanted to write a serious picture book biography of Donald Trump tomorrow and have it published by a major publisher. Let us also say that this person was not personally associated with Mr. Trump and wanted to present him as honestly as possible to a child readership. Finally, let’s say that this person wanted this to be a “good” book. Could it be done?
I don’t know the answer to this question. I told the reporter that American picture book biographies were capable of nuance, and I’ll stand by that. But they are also, by their very design, meant to inspire as well as inform. If you take away that initial intent, do you do harm to the form itself?
Deep thoughts for a Tuesday, folks. Be interested in your opinions.
Before my big move to the publishing industry, I worked in the corporate world of fashion and apparel (and a small stint in home furnishings). There were many times when I’d look forward to seeing what new styles would pop up on the runway during NYC Fashion Week. I’d even spend my lunch breaks gazing at every single design captured perfectly by photographers at the right moment. I knew in my head that most, if not all, those pieces I probably wouldn’t wear (and let’s be honest could never even afford), but anyone can dream.
When looking for the perfect piece to add to my wardrobe I’d mainly resort to stores that actually fit my price point including one of my favorites––Uniqlo. From their simple, yet modern designs to their commitment to quality and longevity, I knew that Uniqlo was the perfect place for me to shop and satisfy my need for stylish and affordable clothing.
Recently, Uniqlo, in collaboration with UK fashion designer Hana Tajima, introduced an entire collection featuring kebayas, headwraps, and hijabs. The Uniqlo website says, “From casual pieces including long, flowing skirts, tapered ankle-length pants, and blouses to more traditional wear like kebaya and hijab, this collection fuses contemporary design and comfortable fabrics with traditional values.”
Rarely have I seen a collection from an apparel company of Uniqlo’s size that directly serves anyone other than the mainstream demographic. And what I appreciate the most is that this collection was done with grace and respect.
Over the years, I’ve seen designers co-opt traditional pieces from other cultures to incorporate into their lines. One can argue that many of these designers have and still continue to appropriate aspects of different cultures in order to look edgy and daring while reaping the benefits of accolades and praise for their “newly inventive” designs. But there’s a huge difference between taking from one’s culture in order to make oneself look edgy, daring, or “exotic,” and serving a community with respect, dignity, and keeping the customers’ needs and values in mind.
Other companies including Oakley and Warby Parker have featured collections that are also designed to serve a specific demographic. A few years ago, Oakley introduced the Asian Fit collection, which Jason Low wrote about here, and recently, my favorite eyewear company, Warby Parker, came out with a Low Bridge Fit collection for “those with low nose bridges (if the bridge of your nose sits level with or below the pupils), wide faces, and/or high cheekbones.” Even Warby Parker’s ad for this collection features only models of color, something that I rarely ever see in the fashion world.
So what does this have to do with the publishing industry and Lee & Low Books?
In the publishing industry in particular, there seems to be this common thread that pops up from conversations regarding diversity and serving marginalized groups. We hear that books (and movies) with nonwhite protagonists “do not fit the mainstream” or “do not sell well.” This is unfortunately why we have such a huge diversity gap in children’s publishing. But what about the opportunities that are missed from ignoring entire demographics? Who’s to say that you can’t serve both? Marginalized readers deserve to see their experiences, their communities, their stories, properly represented in the books that they read and the media that they consume.
That’s why at Lee & Low Books we publish books about everyone, for everyone. Because everyone, no matter who they are, deserves to see themselves in books. Everyone deserves to know that their story matters. Everyone deserves to be properly represented––in books, in movies, in fashion, and in life.
This year is the fifteenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93.
It might seem impossible to believe, but this year’s incoming high school freshmen weren’t even born in 2001! So they might not be aware of some of the events that happened on that day.
That’s why I continue to post the essay below about my experience living in Manhattan a few dozen blocks from the World Trade Center on 9/11. I think it’s important we don’t allow the brave acts that so many men and women performed that day to be forgotten.
So if you have a few extra minutes in your day, please read on. And if you think what you read was important, please share it with a friend. There’s tragedy in the personal story I’ve written below, but there’s also plenty of inspirational heroism, too, I promise, starting with this, the boat lift on 9/11 that helped rescue some of my husband’s co-workers:
Meg’s 9/11 Diary
9/11/01 started out as one of those super nice fall days where the sky was cloudlessly blue and it was just warm enough, but not hot. My LA friends call that “earthquake weather.”
So we probably should have known something awful was going to happen, but most of us didn’t.
My husband had woken up early to go jogging before leaving for work at his job as a financial writer at One Liberty Plaza, which was across the street from the World Trade Center.
He has never been jogging again.
Not being a morning person, I was still asleep in my apartment on 12th Street and 4th Avenue, a few dozen blocks from the Trade Center, when the first plane hit. Our windows were closed and the air conditioning was on. I didn’t hear a thing until my friend Jen called.
Jen: “Look out your window.”
That is when I saw the smoke for the first time.
Me: “What’s happening?”
Jen: “They’re saying a plane hit the Trade Center.”
Me: “But how could the pilot not see it?”
Jen: “I don’t know. Isn’t that near where your husband works?”
It was. I couldn’t see his building from our apartment, but I could see the World Trade Center. The black smoke billowing from it had to be going right into my husband’s busy investment office on the 60th or so floor.
“I better call him to see if he’s okay,” I said, and hung up to do so.
There was no answer at my husband’s office, however, which was crazy, because over a hundred people worked there.
Were they all right? I didn’t know. I couldn’t get through to anyone anywhere. I couldn’t make any outgoing calls from either of my phones that day. For some reason, people could call me, but I couldn’t call anyone else.
It turned out this was due to the massive volume of calls going on in my part of the city that day, both on cell and land lines.
But I didn’t know that then.
Sirens started up. It was the engine from the firehouse directly across the street from my apartment building. It was a very small firehouse, but it was always bustling with activity. All the young, handsome guys used to sit outside it on folding chairs on nice days like the one on 9/11, joshing with the neighbors who were walking their dogs, with my doormen, with the neighborhood kids. The old ladies on my street always brought them cookies.The firemen, in turn, always had treats for the old ladies’ dogs.
Now all the firemen from the station across from my apartment building were hurrying to the fire downtown, throwing on their gear and urgently blaring the horn on their truck.
Every last one of those young, brave boys would be dead in exactly one hour. Their truck would be crushed beyond recognition. That firehouse would sit empty and draped in black bunting for months. No one would be able to look at it without crying.
Of course none of us knew it then.
I turned on New York 1, the local news channel for New York City. Pat Kiernan, my favorite newscaster, was saying that a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center.
Weird, I thought. Was the pilot drunk? How could someone not see a building that big, and run into it with a plane?
It was right then that Luz, my housekeeper, showed up. I’d forgotten it was Tuesday, the day she comes to clean. When she saw what I was watching, she looked worried.
“I just dropped my son off at his college,” she said. “It’s right next to the World Trade Center.”
“My husband works across the street from the World Trade Center,” I said.
“Is he all right?” Luz wanted to know. “What’s happening down there?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t reach him.”
Luz tried to call her son on his cell phone. She, too, could not get through.
We didn’t know then that our cell servers used towers that were located on top of the World Trade Center, and they all had stopped working due to the intensity of the flames shooting up the building.
We both stood there staring at the TV, not really knowing what to do. It was as we were watching that something weird happened on the TV, right before our eyes:
The OTHER tower at the World Trade Center — the one that hadn’t been hit — suddenly exploded.
I thought maybe one of the helicopters that was filming the disaster had gotten too close.
But Luz said, “No. A plane hit it. I saw it. That was a plane.”
I hadn’t seen a plane. I said, “No. How could that be? There can’t be TWO drunk pilots.”
“You don’t understand,” Luz said. “They’re doing this on purpose.”
“No,” I said. “Of course they aren’t. Who would do that?”
That’s when Pat Kiernan, on the TV, said, “Oh, my God.”
It’s weird to hear a newscaster say, “Oh, my God.” Especially Pat. He is always very professional.
Also, Pat’s voice cracked when he said it. Like he was about to cry.
But newscasters don’t cry.
“Another plane has hit the World Trade Center,” Pat said. “It looks as if another plane — a commercial jet — has hit the World Trade Center. And we are getting reports that a plane has just hit the Pentagon.”
That’s when I grabbed Luz. And Luz grabbed me. We both started to cry. We sat on the couch in my living room, hugging each other, and crying as we watched what was happening on TV, which was what was happening a dozen blocks from where we sat, where both the people we loved were.
We could see things flying out of the burning buildings. Pat said that those things were people. People were choosing to jump from their offices in the World Trade Center rather than burn to death. They couldn’t escape the flames, and rescuers couldn’t reach them.
But their offices were sixty to ninety floors from the ground. Some of them were holding hands with their colleagues as they jumped. Many of them were women. You could tell by the way their skirts ballooned out behind them as they raced towards the pavement below.
Luz and I sobbed. We didn’t want to watch, but we couldn’t stop. This was happening in our city, just down the street, to people we saw every day. Who would do this? Who would do something like this to New Yorkers?
That’s when my phone rang. I grabbed it, but it wasn’t my husband. It was his mother. Where was he? she wanted to know. Was he all right?
I said I didn’t know. I said I was trying to keep the line clear, in case he called. She said she understood but to call her as soon as I heard anything, and hung up.
Then the phone rang again. It was my husband’s sister-in-law. Then it rang again. It was MY mother.
The phone rang all morning. It was never my husband. It was always family or friends, wondering if he was all right.
“I don’t know,” I kept telling them. “I don’t know.”
Luz went up to the roof of my building to see if she could see anything more from there than what they were showing on New York 1. While she was gone, I went into my bedroom to get dressed (I was still wearing my pajamas).
All I could think, as I looked into my closet, trying to figure out what to wear, was that my husband was probably dead. I didn’t see how anybody could be down in that part of Manhattan and still be alive. All I could see were things falling —and people jumping — out of those buildings. Anyone on the streets down below would have to be killed by all of that. The jumping people couldn’t choose where they landed.
I remember exactly what I put on that day: olive green capris and a black T-shirt, with my black Steve Madden slides. I remember thinking, “This will be my Identifying My Dead Husband’s Body outfit. I will never, ever wear it again after this day.”
I knew this because when I worked at the dorm at NYU, we had quite a few students kill themselves, in various ways. Every time a body was discovered, it was so horrible. All the first responders involved in the discovery could never wear the same clothes we wore that day again, because of the memory.
Luz came back down from the roof, very excited. No, she hadn’t seen if the buildings in which my husband and her son were in were all right. But she’d seen thousands — THOUSANDS — of people coming down 4th Avenue, the busy street I lived on at the time. 4th Avenue is always heavily trafficked with honking cars, buses, taxis, bike messengers, and scooters.
Not today. Today all the cars and buses were gone, and the entire avenue was crowded with people.
“Walking,” Luz said. “They’re WALKING DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET.”
I ran to look out the window. Luz was right. Instead of the constant stream of cars I’d gotten used to seeing outside our living room window, I saw wall to wall people. They had taken over the street. They were coming from the Battery, where the Trade Center is located, shoulder to shoulder, ten deep in the middle of the road, like a parade or a rally. There were tens of thousands of them.
There were men in business suits, and some in khakis. There were women in skirts and dresses, walking barefoot or in shredded pantyhose, holding their shoes because their high heels hurt too much and they hadn’t had time to grab their commuter running shoes. I saw the ladies who worked in the manicure shop across the street from my building running outside with the flip flops they put on their customers’ feet when they’ve had a pedicure (the flip flops the staff always make sure they get back before you leave).
But today, the staff was giving the flip flops to the women who were barefoot. They were giving away the flip flops.
That’s when I got REALLY freaked out.
The manicurists weren’t the only ones trying to help. The men who worked in the deli on the corner were running outside with bottles of water to give to the hot, thirsty marchers. New York City deli owners, GIVING water away. Usually they charged $2.
It was like the world had turned upside down.
“They have to be in there,” Luz said, about her son and my husband, pointing to the crowd. “They’re walking with them, and that’s what’s taking them so long to get here.”
“I hope you’re right,” I said. But I wasn’t sure I shared her faith.
Then Luz ran downstairs to see if anyone in the crowd was coming from the same college her son went to, to ask if anyone might have seen him.
I was afraid to leave my apartment, though, because I thought my husband might try to call. Not knowing what else to do, I logged onto the computer. My email was still working, even if the phones weren’t. I emailed my husband: WHERE ARE YOU?
A friend from Indiana had emailed to ask if there was anything she could do. At the time, the only thing I could think of was, Give blood.
My friend, and everyone she knew, gave blood that day. So many people gave blood that there were lines around the corner to give it.
After a month, a lot of that surplus blood had to be destroyed, because they didn’t have room to store it all. And there turned out to be no use for it, anyway. There were few survivors to give blood to.
My friend Jen, the one who’d woken me up, e’d me from her job at NYU. Fred (out of respect for their desire for anonymity, I have changed the names of some people in this piece), then one of Jen’s employees, and also a volunteer EMT, had jumped on his bike and headed downtown to see if there was anything he could do to help.
Jen herself was organizing a massive effort to set up shelter for students who didn’t live on campus, since the subways and commuter trains had stopped running, and the kids who commuted to school had no way of getting home that night. Jen was trying to arrange for cots to be set up in the gym for them.
She ended up staying in the city too that night. She had no way to get back to her house in Connecticut.
Another co-worker from NYU, my friend Jack, did manage to reach his spouse, who worked in the Trade Center, that day. Jack used to train the RAs. He would ask me to “interrupt” his training with a fake administrative temper tantrum — “Why are you in this room?” I would demand. “You never reserved it!”— and then he and I would “fight” about it, and then after I left Jack would ask the RAs what would have been a better way to handle the situation . . . and by the way, did any of them remember what I was wearing? After they’d tell him, he’d have me come back into the room, and point out that every single of them was wrong about what I’d had on. This was to show how unreliable witness testimony can be.
Jack’s wife had just walked eighty floors down one of the Towers to reach the ground safely since the elevators weren’t working due to the flames, only to realize the guys in her IT department were still up there, backing up data for the company. Once she reached the ground, and saw how bad things really were, she tried calling them to tell them to forget backing up and just COME DOWN, but of course she couldn’t get hold of them because no phones were working.
So she went back up to MAKE THEM come down, because who doesn’t love their IT guys?
“Why did you go back up?” Jack asked her, when he finally reached her. By that time she, along with the IT guys, had become trapped in the fire and smoke, and couldn’t make their way down again.
“It seemed like the right thing to do,” she said.
Of course it did. She was married to Jack. Jack would have done the same thing. She told Jack to say good bye to their twins toddlers for her. That was the last time they spoke.
I can never think of this, or of Jack’s happy, cheerful greeting every time I saw him, or the stunned looks on the RAs faces when they realized we’d pulled one over on them, without wanting to cry. It seems so unfair that those twins have had to grow up not knowing their mother. And for what reason?
Another friend, a pilot who had access to air traffic control radar, e’d me to say all the planes in the U.S. were being grounded — that what had happened had been the result of highjackings. That it was a commercial jet that had hit the Pentagon, where my friend’s father-in-law worked (they eventually found him, safe and sound. He’d been stuck in traffic on his way to the Pentagon when the plane hit. Many people that day were rewarded for tardiness).
But another friend – a girl I’d worked with when I’d been a receptionist in my husband’s office, a girl whom I’d helped pick out a wedding dress, and who, since the big day, had quit her job to raise the four kids she’d had – wasn’t so lucky. She never saw her husband, who worked at the Trade Center, again.
Then, behind me, I heard Pat Kiernan on the TV say, “Oh, my God,” again.
And this time he really WAS crying. Because one of the towers was collapsing.
I watched, not believing my eyes. Since having moved to New York City in 1989, I had become accustomed to using the Twin Towers as my own personal compass point for the direction “South,” since they’re on the southern tip of the island, and visible from dozens of blocks away. Wherever you were in the maze of streets that made up the Village, all you had to do to orient yourself was find the Twin Towers, and you knew which direction to go.
(If you ever watched closely during the movie “When Harry Met Sally,” you can see the towers beneath the Washington Square arch in the scene where Sally drops Harry off when they first arrive in New York.)
And now one of those towers was coming down.
I don’t remember anything else about that moment except that, as I watched the TV in horror, the front door to my apartment opened, and, assuming it was Luz back from the street, I turned to tell her, “It’s falling down! It’s FALLING DOWN!”
Only it wasn’t Luz. It was my husband.
He said, “What’s falling down? Why are you crying?”
Because HE HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON.
Because my husband, being my husband, had picked up his briefcase after the first plane hit and said, “Let’s go,” to everyone in his department, took the elevators downstairs, and insisted everyone start walking for our apartment, because it was the closest place to where they were that seemed unlikely to be hit by an airplane.
(He told me later he’d worried they were going to try for the Stock Exchange, or the federal buildings you always see on Law and Order, and so had made everyone take small side streets home around those buildings, which is why it took them so long to get there).
They had to dodge the bodies of the people who jumped from the burning towers because they couldn’t stand the heat anymore. They saw the desk chairs and PCs that had been blown out of the offices so high above littering the street like tickertape from a parade. They saw the second plane hit while they were on the street, and ducked into a cell phone store until the rubble from the explosion settled. A piece of plane, nearly twenty feet long, flew past them, and landed in a parking lot, just missing Trinity Church, one of the oldest churches in this country.
And they kept walking.
I don’t know what people normally do when someone they love, who they were convinced was dead, suddenly walks through the door. All I know is how I reacted: I flung my arms around him. And then I started yelling, “WHY DIDN’T YOU CALL ME?”
“I tried, I couldn’t get through,” he said. “What’s falling down?”
Because they had no idea. All they knew was that the city was under attack (which they had surmised by all the airplanes).
So my husband and his colleagues gathered in our living room—hot, thirsty, but alive, the ones who lived in New Jersey wondering how (and if) they were going to get home. Eventually, that night, they managed to catch boat rides – see the film above.
Meanwhile, Luz, not wanting to go home until she’d heard from her son, who was supposed to meet her after class in my building, cleaned.
I told her not to, but she said it helped keep her mind off what was happening.
So she vacuumed, while eleven people sat in my two room apartment and watched the Twin Towers fall.
It wasn’t long after the second tower came down that our friends David and Susan from Indiana, who lived in a beautiful condo in the shadow of the Twin Towers with their two young children, showed up at our door, their kids and half the employees from their office (which was also in our neighborhood) behind them.
They had been some of the people shown on the news escaping from the massive dust cloud that erupted when the towers fell. They’d abandoned their daughter’s stroller and run for it, while shop owners tossed water on their backs as they passed by, to keep their clothes from catching on fire.
In their typical way, however, they had stopped on their way to our place to pick up some bagels.
For all they knew, their apartment was burning down, or being buried under ten feet of rubble. But they’d stopped for bagels, because they’d been worried people might be hungry. Or maybe people just do things in times like that to try to be normal. I don’t know. They didn’t forget the cream cheese, either.
I took the kids into my bedroom, where there was a second TV, because I didn’t think they should see what everyone was watching in the living room, which was footage of what they had just escaped from.
I set up my Playstation for Jake, who was seven or so at the time, to use, while Shai, just turning 4, and I did a puzzle on my floor. Both kids were worried about Mr. Fluff, their pet rabbit, whom they’d been forced to leave behind in their apartment, because there’d been no time to get him (their parents had run from work and grabbed both kids from school).
“Do you think he’s all right?” Jake wanted to know.
At the time, I didn’t see how anything south of Canal Street could be alive, but I told Jake I was sure Mr. Fluff was fine.
This was when Shai and I had the following conversation:
“Are planes going to fly into THIS building?” Shai wanted to know. She was crying as she looked out the windows of my thirteenth floor apartment.
Me: “No. No planes are going to fly into this building.”
Shai: “How do you know?”
Me: “Because all the planes are grounded. No more planes are allowed in the air.”
Me: “No. Just until the bad guys who did this get caught.”
Shai: “Who’s going to catch the bad guys?”
Me: “The police will catch them.”
Shai: “No, they won’t. All the police are dead. I saw them going into the building that just fell down.”
Me (trying not to cry): “Shai. Not all the police are dead.”
Shai (crying harder): “Yes, they ARE. I SAW THEM.”
Me (showing Shai a picture from my family photo album of a policeman in his uniform): “Shai, this is my brother, Matt. He’s a policeman. And he’s not dead, I promise. And he, and other policemen like him, and probably even the Army, will catch the bad guys.”
Shai (no longer crying): “Okay.”
And she went back to her puzzle.
Watching from my living room window, we saw the crowds of people streaming out from what was soon to be called Ground Zero, thin to a trickle, then stop altogether. That was when 4th Avenue became crowded with vehicular traffic again. But not taxis or bike messengers.
Soon, our building was shaking from the wheels of hundreds of Humvees and Army trucks, as the National Guard moved in. The Village was blockaded from 14th Street down. You couldn’t come in or out of the neighborhood without showing proof that you lived there (a piece of mail with your name and address on it, along with a photo ID).
The next day, after having spent the night on our fold-out couch in the living room, Shai’s parents snuck back to their apartment (they had to sneak, because the National Guard wasn’t letting anyone at all, even with proof that they lived there, into the area. For weeks afterwards, on every corner from 14th Street down, stood a National Guardsman, armed with an assault rifle. For days, you couldn’t get milk, bread, or a newspaper below Union Square because they weren’t allowing any delivery trucks — or any vehicles at all, except Army vehicles — into the area), and found Mr. Fluff alive and well.
They snuck him back out, so that later that day, we were able to put the entire family on a bus to the Hamptons, where they lived for the rest of the year.
As my husband and I were walking back to our apartment from the bus stop where we’d seen off our friends, we saw a familiar face standing on the corner of 4th Avenue and 12th Street, where we lived:
Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea Clinton, asking people in our neighborhood if we were all right, and if there was anything they could do to help.
I didn’t go up to shake the ex-President’s hand, because I was too shy.
But I stood there watching him and Chelsea, and something about seeing them, so genuinely concerned and kind (and not there for press or publicity, because there WAS no press, there was never any mention of their visit AT ALL in any newspaper or on any news broadcast I saw that day), made me burst into tears, after having held them in the whole time Shai had been in my apartment, since I didn’t want to upset her.
But you couldn’t NOT cry. It was impossible. Everyone was doing it …so much so that the deli across the street put a sign in its window: “No Crying, Please.” Our doormen were crying. Even Rudy Giuliani, New York City’s mayor (whom I will admit up until this crisis I had not particularly liked for cheating on his very nice wife, Donna Hanover, who used to be on the Food Network), kept crying.
But he also kept showing up on New York 1, no matter what time you turned it on, even at two in the morning, there he was, like he never slept, always crying but also telling us It’s going to be all right, which was BRILLIANT.
The same day we put Shai and her family on a bus to the Hamptons, September 12 — which also happened to be poor Shai’s birthday — companies (even RIVAL companies) all over Manhattan offered up their conference rooms and spare offices to all the businesses in the Trade Center and One Liberty Plaza that had lost theirs, including my husband’s company, so that they would be able to remain solvent, another act of kindness that never gets mentioned anywhere, but should.
Since he was the only person in the company who lived downtown, my husband was elected for the duty of removing all the sensitive data from their now mostly destroyed office, which meant he had to pass through the Brooks Brothers in his building’s foyer, from which he had bought so many of his business shirts and ties. The Brooks Brothers at One Liberty Plaza was now serving as Ground Zero’s morgue.
While under escort of the National Guard, he and guardsmen–the first to enter his floor since the event–found a body in an emergency stairwell. It was determined to be the body of someone from another office, who had probably suffered a heart attack while trying to evacuate One Liberty. The body was removed and taken to the morgue while my husband watched. (He threw away the clothes he wore that day.)
For the next week in Lower Manhattan, even if you wanted to forget, for a minute, what had happened on that cloudless Tuesday morning, you couldn’t. The front window of my apartment building filled with Missing Person posters of loved ones that had been lost in the Trade Center. The outside walls of St. Vincent’s Hospital were papered with them as well, and Union Square, at 14th Street, became an impromptu memorial to the dead, filled with candles and flowers. So did the front doors of every local fire station, including the one across the street from my building. The old ladies who used to bring cookies there stood in front of it and cried.
You couldn’t go outside during that week — until it finally rained Friday night, four days later – without smelling the acrid smoke from Ground Zero … and, in fact, you were encouraged to wear surgical masks outdoors. An eerie grey fog covered everything. Some of us tried to brave it by not wearing masks — like Londoners during the Blitz — meeting for lunch like nothing had happened, but the smoke made your eyes burn. I have no idea how the rescue workers at Ground Zero could bear it, and I’m not surprised so many of them now have respiratory diseases and cancer. I have no doubt that for some, the horrors of 9/11 will continue to be felt years from now.
It wasn’t until employees from a barbecue restaurant drove all the way to Manhattan from Memphis, and stationed their tanker-sized smokers right next to Ground Zero, and then started giving away free barbecue to all the rescue workers there for weeks on end, that the smell changed to something other than death. Everyone loved those guys. It was just barbecue.
Except it wasn’t just barbecue. It was a sign that, as the mayor kept assuring us, things were going to be all right.
But of course, for a lot of New Yorkers that day, things were never going to be all right again. While I was celebrating the fact that my husband had come home, Fred – Jen’s employee, the volunteer EMT who had ridden his bike downtown to see if there was anything he could do – couldn’t find his crew. This was before the buildings fell, before anyone had any idea those buildings COULD fall, when the police and firemen were still streaming into them, confident they could get people out.
The crew that Fred normally volunteered with were inside one of those buildings, helping people down the stairs. Fred couldn’t find them, because all the cell towers were down, and communication was so sketchy. Someone told Fred to drive a bus they’d found, to help evacuate people out of the World Trade Center area.
Fred didn’t want to be outside driving a bus. He wanted to be inside with his crew, saving people.
But since he couldn’t find his crew, he agreed to drive the bus.
Then the buildings came down. Later, Fred found out that the crew he normally volunteered with had been one of the many rescue squads buried under the rubble.
Like a lot of the rescue workers who lost coworkers in the attack, Fred seemed to feel guilty about having survived, while his friends had not. Even when all his NYU co-workers pitched in and bought him a new bike (after his old one got buried beneath rubble at Ground Zero), Fred couldn’t seem to shake his sadness. It was like he didn’t believe he’d done any good that day.
“All I did,” he said, “was drive a stupid bus.”
But that’s not all he did. Because remember Luz’s son?
Well, he showed up at my apartment not long after Jake and Shai and their parents did. Luz grabbed him and kissed him and shook him and cried, and when she finally let go of him, he told his story:
He had been heading towards — not away from – the towers, because he’d wanted to help, he said. A lot like Fred.
But suddenly, from out of nowhere, someone grabbed him from behind, and threw him onto a stupid bus.
“But I want to stay and help!” Luz’s son yelled at the guy who’d grabbed him.
“Not today,” Fred said.
And he drove Luz’s son, and all the other students from that community college to safety, just before the towers fell.
Fifteen years has passed since 9/11. A year or two after finding that body, and the company he worked for got back on its feet, my husband decided financial writing wasn’t for him. He decided to follow a lifelong dream: he enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. He got to work with chefs like Jacques Pepin. At his graduation, Michael Lamonaco–who ran Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the Twin Towers. Michael is another person who happened to be late to work on 9/11–offered my husband a job in his new restaurant.
My husband declined, however, because we were moving to Key West, where the pace of life is a little bit slower. Michael said he completely understood.
Luz and her family are doing fine. Fred is now married with two children, and head of his own division at NYU. Mr. Fluff did eventually die, but of natural causes. Jake is enrolled in law school, and Shai is now attending a college she loves. Shai’s mother says her daughter has no memory whatsoever of that day, or of the conversation she and I had, or of the promise I made her — that we’d catch the bad guys.
Shai, however, says she does remember our conversation, and that I was right: we did catch the bad guys.
Of course, now there are some new bad guys out there.
But the important thing is that we never forget . . . and that we all remember: we’re all in this together.
Ooo. Lots of adult books with smatterings of children’s literature littered about the pages today. Don’t even know where to start with this one. Let’s see, eeny meeny miney . . . MO!
Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books by Christine Woodside
This is the most interesting of the batch in many ways. This year saw the publication of the book The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, published by editor William Anderson. I know these letters well since Jules Danielson and I used them for our book Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature. Yet little did I know that the story of Rose Wilder was far more interesting than the degree to which she wrote the Little House books herself or whether or not she could swear like a sailor (she could). Listen to this part of the description:
“Rose hated farming and fled the family homestead as an adolescent, eventually becoming a nationally prominent magazine writer, biographer of Herbert Hoover, and successful novelist, who shared the political values of Ayn Rand and became mentor to Roger Lea MacBride, the second Libertarian presidential candidate. Drawing on original manuscripts and letters, Woodside shows how Rose reshaped her mother’s story into a series of heroic tales that rebutted the policies of the New Deal.“
Nope. Didn’t know that one!
Lois Lenski: Storycatcher by Bobbie Malone
Sometimes a book gets published and I sit in my library and think, “Is anyone else in the entire world going to really read and enjoy this besides me?” Then, after a moment, I’ll get a crazed look in my eye, stand up at my desk, and scream, “THEN I SHALL MAKE THEM ENJOY IT!!!!” Little wonder my desk is sequestered at the end of my floor, far from my cowering co-workers. This Lenski bio may have a limited built-in audience but for Newbery die-hards (Strawberry Girl fans, are you with me?) this is a must. Plus I really like the central conceit involving inherent class structures. Says the description: “Lenski turned her extensive study of hardworking families into books that accurately and movingly depicted the lives of the children of sharecroppers, coal miners, and migrant field workers.” Now somebody out there write me a comparative study looking at how Kate DiCamillo has done similar work with working class people in Florida, with a good compare and contrast of the two award winning authors’ work. And . . . go.
Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises by Lesley M.M. Blume
Okay. You’ll bite. What’s the children’s literature connection here? Is it the fact that the book’s about Hemingway and we know that his grandson Eddie Hemingway makes picture books? Is there going to be a revelation in the book that Hemingway based The Sun Also Rises on The Velveteen Rabbit (think about it . . . no, wait, don’t)? No, it’s a lot simpler than that. Its author, Lesley M.M. Blume, has made a veritable plethora of children’s books over the years. My personal favorite was her Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins, and Other Nasties: A Practical Guide by Miss Edythe McFate. Now she’s getting stellar reviews on the adult side of things. Bully for her, says I! Well done!
Love From Boy: Roald Dahl’s Letters to His Mother by Donald Sturrock
What We Know: 2016 marks 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl.
What That Means: Lots o’ books about Dahl. Some covering areas we’ve seen before. Others traipsing into new territory. I certainly haven’t seen this one before and as the mom of a 2-year-old boy it gets frighteningly close to teary-eyed territory. I also love this part of the book’s description: “Sofie Magdalene kept every letter her son wrote to her (sadly, her own side of the correspondence did not survive).” Tsk. Ain’t that like a boy.
The Best “Worst President” by Mark Hannah, ill. Bob Staake
Bob Staake cover and interior art. Nuff said.
Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary’s Portland by Laura O. Foster
One of my catalogers came up to me the other day, book in hand. Baker & Taylor has cataloged this book as 813.54 (literary stuff) but the book is clearly (Cleary-ly?) a travelogue. Indeed, open it up and you get a whole mess of delightful Portland, Oregon haunts. Where the HECK was this book when I was moving there, all those years ago? I would have lapped it up. As it stands, it’s really very delightful. Those of you planning to move there, or have friends or kids moving there, grab this thing. Like I say – Ramona invented the original Portlandia.
In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant, Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown by Amy Gary
Hold the phone. Now hand the phone to me. Someone else besides Leonard Marcus has written a biography of Margaret Wise Brown? Who is this Amy Gary type personage? Sez the description: “In 1990, author Amy Gary discovered unpublished manuscripts, songs, personal letters, and diaries from Margaret tucked away in a trunk in the attic of Margaret’s sister’s barn. Since then, Gary has pored over these works and with this unique insight in to Margaret’s world she chronicles her rise in the literary world . . . Amy Gary has cataloged, edited, and researched all of Margaret’s writings for the last twenty-five years.”
Oh. There you go then.
Okay. One more.
Looking for Betty MacDonald: The Egg, the Plague, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and I by Paula Becker-Brown
For whatever reason I feel like this is slightly more accessible than the Lois Lenski book. Probably because MacDonald had a career outside of children’s literature occasionally. “Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and The Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters.” Piggle-Wiggle is what she’ll go down in history for, but it’s nice to see another side of her as well. Could have put a little more work into that book jacket, though. Seriously, University of Washington Press. You weren’t even trying.