This is amazing good news. Great news, in fact. I’m happy and proud to say that my book, Bystander, is included on the ballot for the 2012 New York State Reading Association Charlotte Award.
To learn more about the award, and to download a ballot or bookmark, please click here.
The voting is broken down into four categories and includes forty books. Bystander is in the “Grades 6-8/Middle School” category. Really, it’s staggering. There are ten books in this category out of literally an infinity of titles published each year. You do the math, people.
For more background stories on Bystander — that cool inside info you can only find on the interwebs! — please click here (bully memory) and here (my brother John) and here (Nixon’s dog, Checkers) and here (the tyranny of silence).
Below please find all the books on the ballot — congratulations, authors & illustrators! I’m honored to be in your company.
GRADES pre K-2/PRIMARY
Bubble Trouble . . . Margaret Mahy/Polly Dunbar
City Dog, Country Frog . . . Mo Willems/Jon J Muth
Clever Jack Takes the Cake . . . Candace Fleming/G. Brian Karas
Lousy Rotten Stinkin’ Grapes . . . Margie Palatini/Barry Moser
Memoirs of a Goldfish . . . Devin Scillian/Tim Bower
Otis . . . Loren LongStars Above Us . . . Geoffrey Norman/E.B. Lewis
That Cat Can’t Stay . . . Thad Krasnesky/David Parkins
Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! . . . April Pulley Sayre/Annie Patterson
We Planted a Tree . . . Diane Muldrow/Bob Staake
The Can Man . . . Laura E. Williams/Craig Orback L
Emily’s Fortune . . . Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Family Reminders . . .
As often happens, the first few lines came into my head. I heard the voice of a young girl telling her stories. It soon became clear that she had certain issues with her younger brother Marvin. Sadly, the entire story did not come so easily. Once I had the beginning, it took a lot of plain, old-fashioned work to find my way to the end. 2. Once the idea came to you, what happened next? Did you jot it down right away? Let it simmer?
0 Comments on Once Upon a Baby brother - Talking to the author and illustrator as of 1/1/1900
Mrs. Spitzer is a wise teacher who knows many things. She knows about gardens. She knows about children. She knows how similar they are. And how they will flourish if tended lovingly.
It's that time of year again, school is drawing to a close. This metaphorical book is one of my favorite gifts to give to teachers. Usually, I will add a school photo with an inscription, either written by me or the kids. If you have a special teacher in your life, I'd highly recommend giving this to them. =o)
Children's books written by celebrities are growing in abundance. The latest books to join this category are The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah and The Very Fairy Princess by Julie Andrews.
I love "go to sleep" books. To this day, I can recite Goodnight Moon from memory because it was such a favorite with my entlings before bedtime. It is still my gift of choice as a baby shower gift.
Am I right in my feeling that children's bedtime rituals are being left behind these days? I hope not but frequently, in schools, I meet kids who live almost separate from their families. Each child has a cell phone for individual communication/texting and a computer and television in their bedroom. On different schedules, families often do not even eat dinner together, much less, share bedtime stories and tuck-ins.
I hope this is not indicative of a wider trend because there is something so important and cozy and meaningful about seeing a child safely off to dream land.
In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa, Harcourt 2008
A mother patiently and tenderly sees her little one off to sleep with fragrant flowers on the nightstand, a cozy quilt , and wind chimes. The little girl only likes the color blue and protests at each offering of tea, the quilts, flowers because they are not blue. When the mother turns off the light though, the moon fills the room with a beautiful blue light that Tricia Tusa renders in a soft blue wash.
Averbeck's text rocks as gently as a lullaby as Tusa's scenes grow quieter and quieter.
What a treasure.
Jim Averbeck website
Wynken, Blynken and Nod by Eugene W. Field, illustrated by Giselle Potter, Schwartz Wade Books 2008
I hear my mother's voice when ever I read this poem as it was in my childhood copy of The Bumper Book: A Collection of Stories and Verses for Children. Illustrated by Eulalie (Platt & Munk, 1946.) that she read to us when we were small. The imagery of the wooden shoe remains a vivid childhood memory. Giselle Potter illustrates this classic of childhood using the lines of the poem as part of the action as the young fishermen toss their nets "in the twinkling foam."
Potter includes a note about Eugene W. Field and the history of the poem at the end of the book.
Be sure to read the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast interview with Potter here.
Giselle Potter website
The Sandman by Ralph Fletcher, illustrated by Richard Cowdrey, Henry Holt 2008
A tiny little man named Tor cannot sleep. One day he finds a dragon scale. As he files down the scale's sharp edge, a breeze blows the scale dust into his eyes which results in "a great wave of sleepiness." When he awakens, he determines that the dragon scale sand can be used to help wide awake children fall asleep. Alas, he needs a supply of them to stay in business so he must go to the dragon's lair to get them.
Richard Cowdrey's illustrations called to me the moment I saw the cover. Tor's tiny home furnishings include a thread spool end table, pencil stub window frames, a thimble cup and a soup ladle bathtub. Cowdry was inspired by Tolkien's Smaug for his double page dragon illustration. Dragon lovers will rejoice at his rendering. The dragon scale sand gleams like emeralds and Tor's mouse-drawn cart is just too adorable. There is warmth and a bow to tradition in Cowdrey's artwork. He is the talent that paints the Guardians of Ga'hoole covers.
The Sandman, (like Jack Frost--see The Stanger by Chris Van Allsburg) does not have many stories told about him. In fact, I cannot think of one. This is a nice addition to bedtime canon.
Ralph Fletcher website
Richard Cowdrey website
Woman walks into a bookstore. Goes up to the clerk and tells them that she's an author and would like to sign copies of her book. Bookstore clerk agrees to this and within half an hour both store and author are happy. Little "Autographed by the Author" stickers are slapped on the title, thereby increasing the likelihood that someone might want to buy the volume.
The only problem? That wasn't the author. Just some schmuck off the street, and the clerk never bothered to do a check or anything.
To the best of my knowledge, the above situation has never occurred. Lisa Graff, who recently took her own autonomous signing to a B&N, speculates on the implications of letting any old person sign some books willy-nilly. I find myself intrigued. Let's say I walk into the Union Square Barnes & Nobles and say that I'm Kirsten Miller and I want to sign all their copies of Kiki Strike. What are the odds that they'd call me on that one?
And for that matter, I wonder what the stats are on signed books vs. unsigned books in terms of sales? We all think the autographed do better. What if that's not the case?
I actually had the opportunity to meet Avi in person at a book talk and I told him that my absolute favorite of his books was The End of the Beginning. He sighed resignedly (clearly he has heard that before) and said it was a book he wrote over the course of several days. He was trying to help a friend and aspiring author by telling him how easy it was to write, saying that he could complete a book in one day. He said that although he wasn't quite able to finish it in one day, he did finish it within a week!
It makes complete sense to me that my favorite (sorry, Avi!) of Avi's books, The End of the Beginning, was written in a brief amount of time. The End has a sweet and light touch and there is no evidence of over-thinking and complicating. Its collection of vignettes contrasts with the more elaborate plot lines of his other books. It concerns a snail named Avon as he leaves his cozy home looking for adventures with his new friend, an ant named Edward. The events that follow, while adventuresome to the heros, are humorous to the readers: guarding a caterpillar in her cocoon, dueling another snail, teaching a cricket a new song and, biggest of all, discovering the end (the beginning?) of the branch they've set out on.
The language is clever and endearing and Tricia Tusa's illustrations are precious. The whole book has a Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet spirit and the illustrations even evoke Ernest H. Shepard's whimsical style. It's a quick, refreshing and delightful read.
Very highly recommended!
There's quite a buzz in the kidlitosphere about Jim Averbeck's new picture book, In a Blue Room (read my review here).
I recently had the fortunate opportunity to interview Jim Averbeck. Here's what he had to say.
Where did you get the idea for In A Blue Room? Did you base it on any of your own childhood bedtime memories?
You know, so much of writing happens on a sort of intuitive, subconscious level that it is hard to pinpoint when an idea is born, much less where it came from. I do know that with “In a Blue Room” I had decided to write a story that was a combination concept book (about colors) and a bedtime book. Then I threw in the concept of the five senses and story of a mother/daughter relationship. I tossed a few more things into the mix hoping that from all this complication simplicity would be born.Then, through multiple revisions, I somehow ended up with the 221 words that make up the story. If anything of my own childhood crept into the story, it was the love and care I received from my own mother. No doubt Alice’s patient mom finds her roots there. Of course, my mom had six kids, so I doubt I ever got the kind of time and attention Alice does in the story.
This is your first book. What inspired you to write for children?
The untold riches available to children’s authors… Seriously, when I was in the corporate world I realized that so much of your life is spent at work, that you better love what you do. I thought about what I spent most of my leisure time on: Reading! I thought it would be a coup if I could get someone to pay me to do that. Until I figure out how, I decided writing was the next best thing. I write for children because I am really just a big kid.
How long did it take you get published once you decided you wanted to write this book?
The oldest version I could find in my files was from September 2002. So, I guess that means it took 5-1/2 years from inception to publication.
Is Alice named after anyone in particular?
When I wrote In a Blue Room, I knew I wanted it to have the feel of a classic picture book - simple lyrical language about a timeless, universal experience -with a twist at the end. So when I chose a name for the little girl in the story, I chose a name from a classic of children’s literature. She’s named for Lewis Carroll’s Alice.It was probably pretty presumptuous of me. I also liked the soothing sound the name has.
What were your first impressions of the illustrations when you saw them?
When I first received the black and white sketches, I was blown away. Tricia had extended the original ending in a way that I found breathtaking. I don’t want to say too much, because I want people to experience it for themselves, but she leaves the reader with the idea that the blue room of Alice’s story is our shared “blue room” of planet earth, which helps explain why, even though Alice’s room is yellow at the beginning, the text saying Alice is “in a blue room” is correct. It’s really quite a remarkable interpretation.
Do you have another favorite book that Tricia Tusa has illustrated?
I teach a class on how illustrators can bring “more” to a picture book than the text shows without hijacking it. One way is for them to bring a broad, universal story down to a personal level. I use Tricia’s book “The Magic Hat” (written by Mem Fox) to illustrate this. I love the ending, where the great, powerful magician of the story, the owner of a magic hat that transforms those who wear it into something else, removes the hat and is revealed to be a little boy. I suppose Tricia does just the opposite for “In a Blue Room.” She brings a very personal story up to a universal level, literally.
What do you love the most about writing?
Too many things to name:Getting lost in the story… The way word choice can support what you are trying to say... The puzzle-like beauty of language… Oh! And then there are the hours, which are basically whenever I make them. Punctuation, however, I hate.
Did you have any favorite children's books when you were a child?
D'AULAIRES' NORSE GODS AND GIANTS was one I read over and over.I couldn’t pronounce half the names in it; Thor was always wielding his hammer mjolnir against Utgardsloki while Odin sat on Lidskjalf.What a bunch of jawcrackers! But I loved the stories.I also remember being moved (though I wouldn’t have called it that in the first grade) by The Giving Tree.
What authors have most influenced you?
Maurice Sendak and Ray Bradbury
When you're not writing, what can we find you doing?Mostly feeling guilty because I’m not writing.
What can we expect to see from you next?
That depends on the labyrinthine course of publication. I actually sold my first book, “Little Spoon-Ears,” in 2002. About once a year, the publisher contacts me to tell me they’re 100% behind the book. Maybe they’ll accidentally publish it in the next year or so.
What do you hope children get out of In a Blue Room?
I hope children get pleasant dreams and their parents get a good night’s sleep.
Thanks so much for your time Jim, and I wish you the best of luck!