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5 Questions for Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas written by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm, illus. by Molly Bang, Blue Sky/Scholastic, 5–8 years.
Under-the-sea reading for kids
In the Sea written by David Elliott, illus. by Holly Meade, Candlewick, 3–6 years.
Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems written by Kate Coombs, illus. by Meilo So, Chronicle, 5–8 years.
Dolphin Baby! written by Nicola Davies, illus. by Grita Grandstom, Candlewick, 5–8 years.
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola, Foster/Farrar, 5–8 years.
Summer fun for little ones
Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey by Mini Grey, Knopf, 3–6 years.
Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yee, Ottaviano/Holt, 3–6 years.
The Best Bike Ride Ever by James Proimos, illus. by Johanna Wright, Dial, 4–7 years.
The Shark King [TOON Books] by R. Kikuo Johnson, Toon/Candlewick, 5–8 years.
Great escapes (some quite literal!) for middle-grade summer reading
Tracing Stars by Erin E. Moulton, Philomel, 8–11 years.
Summer in the City written by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel, illus. by Marie-Louise Gay, Groundwood, 8–11 years.
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker, Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 8–11 years.
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage , Dial, 8–11 years.
Beach reads for teens
37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon, Holt, 14 years and up.
The Story of Us by Deb Caletti, Simon Pulse, 14 years and up.
Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman, Lamb/Random, 14 years and up.
Seize the Storm by Michael Cadnum, Farrar, 14 years and up.
These titles were featured in the July 2012 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.
Warm weather and long days create the perfect conditions for one of summer’s greatest pleasures: playing outside. Three new picture books and one early reader offer fun-filled adventures in the great outdoors, from the everyday to the out-of-the-ordinary.
The action-figure hero of Traction Man Is Here!, along with his sidekick Scrubbing Brush, hits the beach in Mini Grey’s Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey. Traction Man’s valiant security patrol of the family picnic comes to an abrupt end when a wave whisks the pair away, landing them in the clutches of another young beachgoer. Once again, the duo entertainingly inhabits the world-within-a-world of creative play. (3–6 years)
A young girl celebrates summertime in Wong Herbert Yee’s Summer Days and Nights. During her busy day — which includes chasing butterflies, jumping into a pool, and taking an evening walk — she asks questions about the various insects and animals she encounters. Meticulously layered and blended colored-pencil art captures both the warmth of summer sunshine and the coolness of shade beneath trees. (3–6 years)
In James Proimos and Johanna Wright’s The Best Bike Ride Ever, Bonnie O’Boy is so eager to ride her new bike that she takes off before learning how to stop. She rides over mountains and elephants, through downpours and windstorms, up the Statue of Liberty and down the Grand Canyon. Careful observers will realize that this whole thrilling adventure takes place in the safety of Bonnie’s cluttered backyard. Energy springs off the page; it’s no wonder that Bonnie wants to ride off without training wheels…or even training. (4–7 years)
For primary readers, R. Kikuo Johnson’s graphic novel/beginning reader The Shark King retells the legend of an underwater shape shifter married to a mortal woman who bears their son, Nanaue. Nanaue’s aquatic superpowers make living among mortals a struggle, but eventually he discovers where he belongs. In the illustrations, the characters’ rounded black outlines convey strong energy and emotion, while the panels and spreads feature a lush, colorful Hawaiian setting. (5–8 years)
Here are some more great summer reading suggestions from The Horn Book.
From the July 2012 issue of Notes from the Horn Book. For bibliographic information please click here.
Taking a trip to the beach this summer? These poetry and nonfiction picture books work swimmingly to teach children about ocean life.
David Elliott and Holly Meade’s In the Sea combines poetry and art to create memorable portraits of twenty different ocean creatures, including an octopus, golden starfish, moray eel, and blue whale. The tone of Elliott’s very short poems varies nicely, from lightly humorous to evocative and majestic, and Meade’s full-spread woodcut and watercolor illustrations are at once striking and simple. (3–6 years)
The creatures and allure of the sea are captured in Kate Coombs’s twenty-three poems and Meilo So’s splendid illustrations for Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems. Some of Coombs’s poems are comical while others are thoughtful. The ocean itself is the star of So’s beautiful art, whether in translucent underwater greens, intense blue against a dazzling white horizon, or simply as splashes of color and light. (5–8 years)
Dolphin Baby! is a lively story with scientific details about the developmental milestones in the first six months of a dolphin’s life. While Nicola Davies’s main narrative concentrates on one particular dolphin as he matures, smaller text on each spread provides more general information about the species. Brita Granström’s illustrations, set at various depths in the ocean, feature broad brushstrokes of every watery hue. (5–8 years)
Claire A. Nivola’s picture book biography Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle focuses on Earle’s intimate knowledge of the creatures she has spent over half a century observing. Accompanying the informative text are Nivola’s exquisitely detailed watercolor illustrations that are perfect for depicting the natural world. An author’s note explains why we all need to get involved in efforts to curtail the threats of overfishing, climate change, oil spills, and other pollutants. (5–8 years)
Here are some more great summer reading suggestions from The Horn Book.
From the July 2012 issue of Notes from the Horn Book. For bibliographic information please click here.
Where the Wild Things Are (1963) written and illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 3–7 years.
In the Night Kitchen (1970) written and illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 3–7 years.
Outside Over There (1981) written and illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 3–7 years.
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present (1962) written by Charlotte Zolotow, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 3–7 years.
A Hole Is to Dig (1952) written by Ruth Krauss, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 5–8 years.
Little Bear (1957) by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 5–8 years.
Nutshell Library (1962) written and illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 5–8 years.
Chapter books and intermediate
Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life (1967) written and illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 7–10 years.
The Animal Family (1965) written by Randall Jarrell, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Pantheon, 7–10 years.
The Wheel on the School (1954) written by Meindert DeJong, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 9–12 years.
The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm (1973), selected by Lore Segal and Maurice Sendak, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Farrar, 7–10 years.
I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild’s Pocket Book (new edition, 1992) edited by Iona and Peter Opie, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Candlewick, 5–8 years.
We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993) written and illus. by Maurice Sendak, di Capua/HarperCollins, 5–8 years.
Brundibar (2003) retold by Tony Kushner, illus. by Maurice Sendak, after the opera by Hans Krása and Adolf Hoffmeister, di Capua/Hyperion, 5–8 years.
Lullabies and Night Songs (1966) edited by William Engvick, with music by Alec Wilder, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Harper, 3–7 years.
The Nutcracker (1984) written by E. T. A. Hoffmann, translated by Ralph Manheim, illus. by Maurice Sendak, Crown, 5–8 years.
Left to right: Roger Sutton, Maurice Sendak, Sergio Ruzzier, Frann Preston-Gannon, Ali Bahrampour, Denise Saldutti. Photo by Richard Asch.
Last year, I went to Maurice Sendak’s house to spend a day with the Sendak Fellows, four artists who were given time and studios to work on any project they desired, as well as access to Maurice for advice and encouragement. So who better to talk about his legacy? I asked each Fellow “what’s the most important thing you learned from Maurice?” (And, as a bonus, asked them for their favorite Sendak titles.)
1. Maurice confirmed so many things that I already felt but didn’t have the confidence to admit. He taught me that while creating books everyone else should be forgotten, even children themselves. As he said during our stay: “Kids…What do they know?” In his profound and wonderful way he repeatedly told us “don’t let the bastards get you.” Most of all, the fellowship made me utterly grateful and proud to call myself an illustrator and to be doing what I love.
2. I hesitate to say Where the Wild Things Are as it seems too obvious, but that book means the world to me — and for the wicked Wild Thing inside, I believe it always will. The Sign on Rosie’s Door was also a great love of mine as a child.
1. That I will probably never be able to get rid of self-doubt. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
2. The Little Bear books, which were among the very first books I saw. Those pen drawings made an everlasting impression on me.
1. It’s hard to pick out something I learned in any didactic sense. Maurice Sendak was himself a lesson: his integrity, his devotion to his art, his warmth and generosity to the fellows. I know that if I am ever tempted to make some concession or take the easy road, I will think of Maurice and be too ashamed to betray myself.
2. Part of me wants to pick In the Night Kitchen. Another part wants to pick the gorgeous drawings for Hector Protector. But my childhood self chooses Pierre, for whom I felt a perverse admiration for sticking to his principles even from inside the lion’s belly.
Denise Saldutti Egielski:
1. Live your life, he would say, be happy (he loved to laugh), it’s okay being different, it’s okay being sad or even frightened or frightening at times, let love rule, be brave and be bold, be yourself in your art, and then tell children anything you want. Maurice has had a profound effect on my life since he was my teacher when I was twenty and more recently when I was a Sendak Fellow. I feel like I’ll never stop learning from this great artist. I know I will never stop missing him.
2. Recently my sister sent me Somebody Else’s Nut Tree and Other Tales from Children by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I had never seen this book before, and now I can’t put it down — it’s so full of life, warmth, humor, sadness and all “gracefully illogical.”
There’s no need to leave Sendak behind when children begin reading for themselves.
Entirely original in approach and content is Ruth Krauss’s A Hole Is to Dig (1952), illustrated by Sendak. In this “first book of first definitions,” Krauss, with the help of children themselves, gives us such gems as “a seashell is to hear the sea” and “cats are so you can have kittens.” The illustrations are perfect whether they are making it clear that “buttons are to keep people warm,” or picturing the boy who feels he has thought of an excruciatingly funny definition: “A tablespoon is to eat a table with.” This can start children off on a fascinating game. (5–8 years)
Little Bear (1957) by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Sendak, was the first in publisher Harper’s legendary “I Can Read” series. Minarik and Sendak would go on to create four more books about Little Bear. Distinctive features include the imaginative quality of the story’s simple text, which divorces it from the feeling of controlled vocabulary, and the charm of its quaintly humorous drawings. Little Bear contains four play adventures, each in harmony with the instincts and interests of the young child. Mother Bear, in her full-flowing gown, conveys warmth and tenderness just as Little Bear has the playfulness, eagerness, and wistfulness of a child himself. (5–8 years)
Sendak’s Nutshell Library (1962) includes four tiny books in a box, each complete in itself with droll jacket, hard cover, and humorous pictures and funny text. One Was Johnny is a counting book in rhyme; Alligators All Around is a complete and original alphabet book; Chicken Soup with Rice has a lively nonsense rhyme for every month (each involving chicken soup); and “cautionary tale” Pierre is “a story with a moral air about Pierre, who learned to care.” (5–8 years)
Sendak’s self-styled trilogy about children confronting and mastering fear has inspired much debate and more than a few dissertations, but generations of children have managed all on their own to “only connect” with these three masterpieces.
Where the Wild Things Are (1963), Sendak’s best-known work and the 1964 Caldecott Medal Winner, has proved utterly engrossing to children throughout the decades. As well as the pictorial grotesqueries — both deliciously monstrous and humorous — they love the idea of a small boy, punished for his naughty “wildness,” dreaming up hideous wild things, taming them, and then becoming their king, before returning home to find his supper, still hot, waiting for him. This vibrant picture book in understated full color is a sincere, perceptive contribution to literature and bears repeated examination. (3–7 years)
The star of the 1971 Caldecott Honor Book In the Night Kitchen (1970), young Mickey falls “through the dark, out of his clothes . . . into the Night Kitchen.” Mixed into cake batter, he escapes in an airplane of dough and dives into a gigantic milk bottle — then is able to supply the cake bakers with the ingredient they need (milk). Line drawings of juxtaposed geometric forms are washed with subtly darkened tones of delicate color, and the bold whites and yellows add an element of luminosity to the eerie setting, a city transformed by night. (3–7 years)
In the 1982 Caldecott Honor Book Outside Over There (1981), goblins kidnap Ida’s baby sister, leaving a changeling made of ice. In hot pursuit, Ida hears “her Sailor Papa’s song” telling her to “catch those goblins with a tune.” The story is haunting and evocative; the art, with echoes of Sendak’s previous work, mature and masterly. The setting of the book is eighteenth-century pastoral — appropriate for a story that reverberates with overtones of Grimm, Mozart, and German romantic poetry. (3–7 years)
In addition to his authored work, Sendak was a generous picture-book collaborator, nowhere better demonstrated than in the 1963 Caldecott Honor Book Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present (1962), written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Sendak. The story has the quality of a realistic dream, wandering through scenes that change in tone from bright daylight with accents of cherry red through the blue of a starry moonlit night. The book is drenched in atmosphere, with glowing colors and lively depth in scenes that invite repeated and lingering enjoyment. (3–7 years)
Sendak drew and painted to music, and in his later career would design operas including The Magic Flute, The Love for Three Oranges, and his own Where the Wild Things Are, set by Oliver Knussen.
The Tony Kushner/Sendak collaboration Brundibar (2003) re-creates the story line of a Czech opera written by a Terezin concentration camp inmate and performed there by children whom the Nazis later murdered. It will be read on at least two different levels: adults will recognize the yellow stars sewn on the Jewish characters’ clothing and other ominous details while young listeners will want to know what happens next to the two little heroes, Pepicek and Aninku, who set out with an empty bucket to fetch milk for their ailing mother. Sendak’s crayon, colored-pencil, and brush pen illustrations feature rosy tones emphasized by bursts of crimson and yellow, or contrasted with intense blacks, browns, blues, and greens. Characters in nonstop action fill the pages, but there’s plenty of vivid white space to absorb them. (5–8 years)
Lullabies and Night Songs (1965), edited by William Engvick, with music by Alec Wilder, and illustrated by Sendak, is an extraordinary songbook, wholly enchanting in words, music, and illustrations. The editor has selected verses, in addition to some of his own, from poets notable and varied as well as many traditional pieces. The pictures – in muted yet luminous colors – are instantly engaging: by turns robust and delicate, mischievous and droll, tender and vigorous. The manuscript notation and the hand-lettered text contribute to the artistic whole. (3–7 years)
The mysterious, powerful, and slightly grotesque flavor of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s original Nutcracker is re-created through Ralph Manheim’s smooth, elegant translation (1984). The illustrations, spectacular and remarkably effective, are either taken from Sendak’s stage settings for the ballet or are newly drawn for this volume. Many of them show clearer and more pristine color and have a greater delicacy and lightness of line than do most of Sendak’s drawings (though there is an unmistakable, enormous Wild Thing peering from behind an island). Altogether a magnificent, splendid combination of talents — the author and the illustrator each worthy of the other. (5–8 years)
Sendak never settled for prettiness; his illustrations for folklore demonstrate a respect for the tales’ immense power.
The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm (1973), selected by Lore Segal and Maurice Sendak, translated by Segal and Randall Jarrell, and illustrated by Sendak, features Grimm favorites including “Rapunzel,” “Hansel and Gretel,” and “Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs.” In his meticulous drawings, Sendak ranges far and wide for methods of suggesting the imaginative depths inherent in the tales. There is a quiet intensity in the illustrations, each of which seems to have its own aura. Originally published as a slipcased two-volume set, then in paperback in 1976 as a joint volume, the book was reissued in 2003 in a handsome hardcover edition. (7–10 years)
Generously embellished with illustrations from full-page compositions to vignettes illuminating individual verses, this newly edited reissue of 1947’s I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild’s Pocket Book (1992) edited by Iona and Peter Opie, is certainly an event. The Opies’ rhymes belong to the hidden culture of childhood, chants learned in the schoolyard or on the street and never sanctioned by adult approval. In Sendak’s illustrations, the characters seem more like miniaturized streetwise adults than children — or perhaps they are reminders that the conventional images of childhood are far too idealized. (5–8 years)
In We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993), a passionate plea for social responsibility set to the text of two little-known nursery rhymes, Sendak created some of his most gripping and powerful images. In a setting of a dump, where homeless urchins live in shacks and cardboard boxes, two terrify rats steal a child and all the kittens in the area. Jack and Guy are challenged to play cards for “the kittens and the poor little kid,” but the rats hold the trump card. The double-page spreads with large images right at the surface pull us into the action and bombard us with emotion. Though readers will be alternately moved and repelled, this book should be studied and discussed. (5–8 years)
It’s a shame that Sendak’s only extended prose work for children is the wonderful Higglety Pigglety Pop, but his tender illustrations for novels by Randall Jarrell and Meindert DeJong demonstrate the artist’s reach beyond the picture book.
Sendak’s daring imagination weaves a simple rhyme into the complex and brilliantly original tale Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life (1967).Sealyham terrier Jennie, convinced that “there must be more to life than having everything,” packs her bag and confidently goes forth into the world. The fantasy is ordered and controlled, full of allusion, wisdom, and flashes of wit. The story is enormously extended by the pictures, each one a masterpiece of impeccable drawing, restraint, and emotional depth. (7–10 years)
At the start of the 1966 Newbery Honor Book The Animal Family (1965), written by Randall Jarrell and illustrated by Sendak, the Hunter lives alone in his log house. In time the mermaid comes to live with him; then he brings home a bear cub and a lynx kitten. The lynx finds a little boy whom the sea had cast ashore, and the family is complete. In so simple a thread of story, but in singing words, is caught the essence of family. Harmonious landscape drawings are a tribute to the sensitivity of the artist; they decorate and set a mood without trying to illustrate a story so universal in its emotion, yet so personal in its meaning. (7–10 years)
Sendak illustrated several novels by Meindert DeJong, among them the Newbery-winning The Wheel on the School (1954). The setting is the Dutch village of Shora, a place that’s always passed over when storks come to nest in neighboring villages. Young Lina and her classmates wonder why the storks (which bring good luck) don’t come to Shora — and as they wonder, things begin to happen. As always in this collaboration between masters, simple, atmospheric pictures add greatly to the mood of the book. (9–12 years)
While Where the Wild Things Are is (arguably? No.) the greatest Caldecott Medal winner ever, the children’s book awards from the American Library Association flourish in their own right, honoring each year’s most distinguished achievements in literature for young people. If you’re coming to the ALA convention in Anaheim, please join me for the Horn Book’s Live Five series of in-person interviews with this year’s winners including Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka, Newbery Medalist Jack Gantos, and Margaret A. Edwards Award winner Susan Cooper. A complete schedule of the interviews to come.
Editor in Chief
Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
In this special issue of Notes from the Horn Book we celebrate the June 10th birthday of Maurice Sendak, who died last month at the age of eighty-three. As well as being a master of illustration, Sendak was a great friend to The Horn Book. While he was best known for his picture books, we take the opportunity here to showcase the broad reach of his art.
There’s nothing like a familiar protagonist, setting, and illustrations to make easing into a new book a smooth ride for young readers. Two of these chapter books are entries in popular series; one is a sequel to an award-winning book from New Zealand; and one, while not part of a series, will be sure to attract fans of its well-loved author.
In Ivy + Bean: No News Is Good News, the girls want some cash, and Bean’s dad suggests they create a newspaper about life on Pancake Court. After they successfully collect money from their neighbor-subscribers, the friends realize they had better go find some newsworthy stories — and do they ever. Like Ivy and Bean, author Annie Barrows and illustrator Sophie Blackall feed off each other’s creativity with hilarious results in this eighth entry in one of the funniest young chapter book series around. (6–9 years)
Gooney Bird on the Map, written by Lois Lowry and illustrated by Middy Thomas, is the fifth book in the series. With February break on everyone’s mind, the conversation in Gooney Bird Greene’s second grade class constantly turns to three students’ fabulous vacation destinations. In this story about a sensitive subject, big-hearted Gooney Bird predictably comes up with the perfect group project to help everyone happily refocus on schoolwork. (6–9 years)
In Friends: Snake and Lizard, the beguiling pair introduced in Snake and Lizard now share a burrow and are business partners, too, “Helper and Helper.” Different as their habits and appetites are, their relationship involves the ongoing negotiation that gives this chronicle much of its humor. The two bicker constantly; still, the outcomes are fair, reasonable, and often capped with a delightfully ironic twist. Gavin Bishop’s colorful spot art reinforces the affectionate characterizations and the humor in this wise and funny text by Joy Cowley. (7–10 years)
Though not part of a series, Kindred Souls will be warmly greeted by Patricia MacLachlan’s many fans. Ten-year-old Jake has a close relationship with his grandfather, eighty-eight-year-old Billy. The mysterious arrival of a stray dog that glues itself to Billy adds a touch of magic that hangs in the air after Billy’s death, when we hear a rumor of a stray dog turning up at an ailing woman’s home in the next town. These are time-sculpted themes, and MacLachlan gives them her particular stamp of plain speaking and poetry. (7–10 years)
Whether Valentine’s Day puts you in the mood for a heartwarming read or a heartbreaking one, these four new YA novels about love (and love lost) offer some of each.
In Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Hadley misses her flight to London, where she’s grudgingly going to her father’s wedding. She meets Oliver, a charming Brit, on the next flight. Their in-flight bonding culminates in a mind-blowing kiss at the airport — and then Hadley loses Oliver in the crowd. This elegant romance features a determined heroine who’s not afraid to make her own destiny. (14 years and up)
Daniel Handler’s remarkable novel Why We Broke Up is written as a (very long) letter quirky narrator Min plans to leave on her ex-boyfriend Ed’s doorstep, along with a box of tokens of their relationship (illustrated sparingly by Maira Kalman). Through Min’s eloquent thoughts on the significance of each item, readers come to understand both why the couple broke up, and why that outcome is not what matters most in this story. (14 years and up)
Hazel has stage four cancer and doesn’t know how much time she has left. Augustus lost a leg to osteosarcoma but seems to be in recovery. After meeting in a cancer support group, the two quickly develop a relationship that’s as profoundly intellectual as it is emotional and physical. With its acerbic comedy, sexy romance, and meditation on life and death, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is funny, heartbreaking, and honest. (14 years and up)
In Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff, lines of sexuality and gender are intentionally blurred; connections in an alternative family of punk-rock street kids are strong and clear. Androgynous drummer Kid falls for guitarist Felix, but a devastating fire claims both Felix and their abandoned warehouse “home.” Though Kid feels lost without Felix, with another summer comes sweet-voiced singer Scout — and another chance at love. (14 years and up)
photo: National Geographic
Rick Bowers’s previous book, Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement was a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. The journalist and historian’s latest offering is another compellingly told and meticulously researched account of events surrounding the civil rights battle. Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate uses the appeal of popular culture to illuminate social movements, mass media, and historical research. The result is a complex history of organizations guided by both ideology and profit, people both well-meaning and flawed, and shifts in popular sentiment. Along the way, Bowers demonstrates how a historian works, digging past myths, examining original archives, and reaching tentative conclusions about what happened and why.
1. You went deep into archives on the battle over civil rights to write your last book, Spies of Mississippi (discussed here). Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan is about the intersection of that history with superhero pop-culture. How much did you have to learn about the world of comics?
Rick Bowers: I had to immerse myself in the history of comic books in general and in the Superman character in particular.
Superman was first dubbed the “champion of the oppressed” and only later became famous as the champion of truth, justice, and the American way. The original Superman had a strong social conscience that led him to thwart wife beaters, corrupt politicians, greedy industrialists, foreign dictators, and Nazi spies.
Spawned during the FDR years, Superman was a super New Dealer who stood up for the little guy and believed we could all work toward a better world. He reflected the ideals of the New Deal and the hopes and aspirations of immigrants.
Given all that history it figures that the Man of Steel would one day take on the men of hate. Superman was shaped as a force for openness and fairness and a positive future for all. The K.K.K. was openly anti-Semitic, hostile to liberal democracy, and wanted to turn the clock back.
2. The Superman radio shows at the center of your book were featured in Freakonomics in 2005, but then that book’s authors retracted the story as a myth. How did you go about finding out what most likely happened?
RB: I had the advantage of beginning my research in the wake of the Freakonomics kerfuffle. That debate suggested that the popular version of events was probably not one hundred percent accurate and challenged me to find the most important facts.
Sure enough, numerous documents showed that the basic story of Superman vs. the K.K.K. was true but that certain fabrications had become accepted as fact and had muddied the historical record.
This required me to establish the core facts and stick to those.
FACT 1: In 1946 the producers of The Adventures of Superman radio show aired a sixteen-part series entitled “Clan of the Fiery Cross.” It pitted the Man of Steel against a thinly veiled version of the K.K.K. that fooled no one. The series was wi
I was pleased to see that the 2012 Newbery committee displayed such excellent taste in its choice of a winner (Jack Gantos’s Dead End in Norvelt), and that for one of only two Honor Books it chose a book (Eugene Yelchin’s Breaking Stalin’s Nose) I thought no one but us had even read much less loved. And I would be remiss in my big-sister responsibilities if I did not share the fact that the Junior Library Guild went twelve for twelve in having previously selected for its subscribers the winners and honor books for the Newbery, Caldecott, and Sibert Medals.
At hbook.com, you can find a complete list of all the ALA winners and what the Horn Book loved, liked, and, eh-not-so-much, among them. What did you think?
Editor in Chief
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Five questions for Rick Bowers
Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate by Rick Bowers, National Geographic, 12 years and up.
Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers, National Geographic, 12 years and up.
Black & White: The Confrontation Between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor by Larry Dane Brimner, Boyds Mills, 12 years and up.
Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love written by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack Jr., illus. by Randy DuBurke, Chronicle, 10 years and up.
Nonfiction for primary-age readers
Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard written by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld, illus. by Priscilla Lamont, Knopf, 5–8 years.
North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration written by Nick Dowson, illus. by Patrick Benson, Candlewick, 7–10 years.
Talk, Talk, Squawk!: A Human’s Guide to Animal Communication written by Nicola Davies, illus. by Neal Layton, Candlewick, 7–10 years.
Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: The Story of Evolution written by Laurence Pringle, illus. by Steve Jenkins, Boyds Mills, 9–12 years
Chapter books you’ve been waiting for
Ivy + Bean: No News Is Good News written by Annie Barrows, illus. by Sophie Blackall, Chronicle, 6–9 years.
Gooney Bird on the Map written by Lois Lowry, illus. by Middy Thomas, Houghton, 6–9 years.
Friends: Snake and Lizard written by Joy Cowley, illus. by Gavin Bishop, Gecko, 7–10 years.
Kindred Souls by Patricia MacLachlan, Tegen/HarperCollins, 7–10 years.
Young (adult) love
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, Poppy/Little, 14 years and up.
Why We Broke Up written by Daniel Handler; illus. by Maira Kalman, Little, 14 years and up.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Dutton, 14 years and up.
Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff, Carolrhoda Lab, 14 years and up.
By: Roger Sutton
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Photo: Nicole Haley
After winning the 2011 Caldecott Medal for A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by her husband, Philip, Erin E. Stead returns with a second picture book, this one about waiting and planning and hope. And Then It’s Spring (5–8 years) grows out of a long friendship; see below.
1. What about Julie Fogliano’s (glorious) text helped you decide to illustrate it?
Erin E. Stead: Julie is a friend of mine who, like me, is quite shy about her work. I met Julie almost ten years ago when we both worked in a bookstore in New York (she was my assistant manager). For the majority of those years, I knew Julie was a writer but never saw a thing she wrote. Since I was the same way, I never put any pressure on her. Then one day, out of the blue, she emailed me a poem. I loved it. I know her, so I knew it was her voice, but I also thought it had the lightness and the seriousness that I (or my six-year-old self) could relate to. She told me she had received some advice to push the text into a more traditional story. I suddenly felt very protective of the original poem. Obviously, the next step was to send it (without telling her) to my editor, Neal Porter.
Neal wrote: “This is lovely. Would you be interested in illustrating?”
So I did. I’ve been able to work with two writers (my husband, Philip, and Julie) with whom I am very close, which has really worked for me. They both give me plenty of say and plenty of space. Julie’s books (I am wrapping up the second book now) are so interesting to work on. The texts are abstract, which allows me to make a lot of decisions about how I’d like to pull the reader through the story. It’s a lot of freedom for an illustrator. Most of the time that is wonderful, but there are always moments where I am lying on the floor of my studio in despair. I want to do her delicate texts justice. It’s a great challenge.
2. What picture book text from the past do you most wish you could have illustrated?
EES: Tough question for an illustrator. There are many books I would love to have illustrated, but I wouldn’t be able to do as good a job as the illustrator whose name is already on the book. James Thurber’s Many Moons is probably one of my top picks, although I am no Louis Slobodkin — let alone Marc Simont.
3. My favorite spring song is “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.” What’s yours?
EES: I haven’t been able to think of anything that tops Mel Brooks’s “Springtime for Hitler.”
4. You’re a signatory to the Picture Book Proclamation. Which of its sixteen “We Believes?” means the most to you?
EES: Tough question #2. I am not positive my answer would be the same every time you asked me. Four out of five times though, I would probably answer: “We should know our history.”
I don’t necessarily mean the books that have become part of the canon (although that is an excellent place to start). A lot of good books ca
“Absurd,” “preposterous,” “slapstick.” Know any middle-grade readers who like their stories like that? Here are three new novels that fit the bill.
In Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire!, Madeline, in the manner of many previous Polly Horvath heroines, has lost her parents. It turns out that they have been kidnapped, and capable Madeline engages the services of a couple of detectives. So much for sensible; bring on the absurd. The kidnappers are foxes; the detectives are rabbits; lovers of the zany will revel in this laugh-out-loud funny and highly original romp, illustrated with aplomb by Sophie Blackall. (9–12 years)
Adam Rex’s Cold Cereal takes place in the town of Goodborough, home to the Goodco cereal company, where new kid Scott is seeing things. Specifically, a rabbit-headed man, a unicat, and a leprechaun. When Scott discovers that he and his only friends, brainy twins Erno and Emily, are subjects in a dastardly Goodco experiment, the three set out to right some wrongs. Built on a happily preposterous edifice of a plot, this wacky adventure is consistently entertaining. (9–12 years)
In Andrew Norriss’s I Don’t Believe It, Archie!, ordinary kid Archie always seems to be in the middle of crazy happenings. For instance, his mother sends him out to mail a letter, but on the way he sees a piano racing down the street, then saves two people from being buried alive in gravel. Of course, he never mails the letter. Archie’s mother is unaware that anything exciting has ever happened; she is only exasperated that he hasn’t completed the errands. Each chapter ends with her frustrated “Honestly! I don’t believe it, Archie!” Hannah Shaw’s humorous black-and-white spot illustrations help move the action along in this benign slapstick comedy. (8–11 years)
As we (in the northeast, anyway) move from winter into “mud-luscious,” “puddle-wonderful” early spring, the outside becomes irresistible. Here are four new picture books celebrating nature and outdoor play to read after all that puddle-splashing.
A young bear explores his surroundings in Ashley Wolff’s Baby Bear Sees Blue. Baby Bear asks about the birdsong he hears, the fragrance he smells, the wings that tickle him. Each time, Mama gives him the answer, and Baby Bear stops to look at the corresponding color: blue jays, red strawberries, orange butterflies. Block print and watercolor illustrations capture both the natural world and the loving relationship between parent and child. (2–5 years)
In Anita Lobel’s 10 Hungry Rabbits: Counting & Color Concepts, Mama Rabbit plans to make vegetable soup for dinner, so her ten children — each wearing a different color — gather ten matching colorful ingredients: one purple cabbage, two white onions, three yellow peppers. Each ingredient appears in a large, realistic portrait with the corresponding color-coded number. Concept books don’t get much better than this. (3–6 years)
Audrey Wood’s Blue Sky presents a succession of double-page spreads showing skies, from “blue sky” to “sunset sky” to “moon sky.” The pastel illustrations feature a wordless story about a small boy and his family, who wait out a storm (“rain sky”) and then head to the beach, enjoying their day by the shore (“sun sky”) all the way through “star sky.” The progression through the day makes for a satisfying journey. (4–8 years)
In A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play, Marilyn Singer explores different kinds of outdoor games, from simple to complex. Singer’s range of poetry styles and forms complements the varied kinds of creative outdoor play throughout the day. LeUyen Pham’s slightly retro-feeling illustrations feature a multicultural group of children enjoying nature and imagination together. (5–8 years)
I’m so pleased to see the “kooky chapter books” Elissa Gershowitz reviews above. First, because they’re chapter books: while there is hand-wringing about the state of picture book publication and The Hunger Games is dominating the media, chapter books—which I define in A Family of Readers as the first place “kids get to be on their own, both as readers and as characters”—deserve more of our attention, especially as the population bulge of young people moves south. And, second, I love when the chapter book genre, too often characterized by series (however excellent) allows for some individuality and even strangeness, as in Sadie and Ratz (hands with minds of their own?) or in the 2012 Newbery Honor–winning Breaking Stalin’s Nose, about a young boy facing down the state in the Soviet Union of the 1950s. Books for teens and older children currently allow for a wide variety of reading tastes; if we give new readers similar riches we have a better chance of keeping them for life.
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You know it’s spring when, in any available yard or park, kids can be found kneeling on the ground, inspecting the local bug population. These four picture books will help answer kids’ questions about their favorite neighborhood critters as well as about a bunch they’re unlikely to encounter in real life.
One insect you won’t find in your backyard (unless you live in the Amazon) is the titan beetle, with jaws “powerful enough to snap a pencil in half.” Kids have the opportunity to marvel over this and numerous other beetles in Steve Jenkins’s The Beetle Book. Colorful cut-paper beetles stand out crisply from the white backgrounds. They’re remarkably detailed, right down to the intricate patterns on wing casings and the delicate nature of the insects’ legs. (5–8 years)
Profiles of eight insects (and one spider) that make their own dwellings are presented in Roxie Munro’s Busy Builders. As always, Munro expertly employs perspective, on one page zooming in close enough to see the hairs on an insect’s legs and the shape of its antennae, and then on the next backing out to feature the geometric details of its home. Detailed explanations on the construction techniques and purposes of the structures are interwoven with facts about life cycles, food sources, and habitats. (6–9 years)
In Douglas Florian’s UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings, puns and wordplay enliven the poems, and rhythmic verse echoes bee behavior, as much with sound as with sense (“I’m a nectar collector. / Make wax to the max. / A beehive protector. / I never relax”). A paragraph of facts elucidates each spread, but the real energy here is in the deceptively casual watercolors that illustrate this offbeat and attractive book. (5–8 years)
As selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, poets including X. J. Kennedy, Alice Schertle, and Kristine O’Connell George celebrate Nasty Bugs. Kids who love bugs for their yuck factor will appreciate these verses about lice, ticks, bedbugs, stink bugs, cockroaches, and more. Will Terry’s luridly vivid illustrations show the anthropomorphic critters up-close and personal. Three pages at the back provide scientific information about each bug. (6–8 years)
Our Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards judges (Lauren Adams, Megan Lambert, and chair Thom Barthelmess) will finish their deliberations this month. I will be announcing the winners on Thursday, June 7 at 1:00 P.M. at BookExpo America in New York City. The press conference will take place in the Librarians’ Lounge (Booth #2148), and all BookExpo attendees are invited. There will be snacks and special guests, I am told. If you can’t be there, check out www.hbook.com later that afternoon, as we will be webcasting a video recording from the event.
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Five Questions for Paul O. Zelinsky
Z Is for Moose written by Kelly Bingham, illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky, Greenwillow, 4–8 years.
Perfect animal shenanigans
Animal Masquerade by Marianne Dubuc, trans. by Yvette Ghione, Kids Can, 2–5 years.
Silly Goose’s Big Story by Keiko Kasza, Putnam, 2–5 years.
Ballerina Swan written by Allegra Kent, illus. by Emily Arnold McCully, Holiday, 3–6 years.
No Bears written by Meg McKinley, illus. by Leila Rudge, Candlewick, 3–6 years.
The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins, Houghton, 5–8 years.
Busy Builders by Roxie Munro, Cavendish, 6–9 years.
UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian, Beach Lane/Simon, 5–8 years.
Nasty Bugs selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Will Terry, Dial, 6–8 years.
The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence, Putnam, 8–12 years.
Two Crafty Criminals!: And How They Were Captured by the Daring Detective of the New Cut Gang by Philip Pullman, illus. by Martin Brown, Knopf, 8–12 years.
Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind by Tom Angleberger, illus. by Jen Wang, Amulet/Abrams, 8–12 years.
Rebel Fire by Andrew Lane, Farrar, 9–13 years.
YA sci-fi and fantasy you’ve been waiting for
A Million Suns by Beth Revis, Razorbill/Penguin, 12 years and up.
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, Dial, 14 years and up.
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