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The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life
by Lois Ehlert; illus. by the author
Primary Beach Lane/Simon 72 pp.
3/14 978-1-4424-3571-1 $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-3572-8 $10.99
In a generously illustrated picture book memoir, Ehlert speaks directly to her audience, particularly readers who like collecting objects and making things. Aptly titled, the book is jam-packed with art from her books and photos from her life, beginning with pictures of her parents, the house she grew up in, and the small wooden table where she was encouraged to pursue her own art projects. Along the way, we see how autobiographical her books have been. There are her mother’s scissors and her father’s tools (used in Hands, rev. 9/97), and her sister’s cat (the star of Feathers for Lunch, rev. 11/90). The small,
square volume uses the same distinctive typeface seen in most of Ehlert’s books and serves as a reminder of her unique color sense and recurring subjects:
flowers, leaves, fruits and vegetables, cats and birds. In addition to the large text for children, she includes smaller hand-written notes to fill in details, much as her books use a smaller sans serif text to label birds, plants, etc. We are treated to a description of her creative process including reproductions of thumbnail illustrations and detailed sketches. In the final stage of building collages, she uses whatever is at hand and enjoys making messes. “I use old tools to create texture; I splash paint with a toothbrush or rub a crayon over my grater.” Ehlert emerges as a woman who lives a good life surrounded by the objects and colors that make her happy. She wants the same for her readers, ending the book with “I wish you a colorful life!”
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Cindy found this one, The Light at Tern Rock by Julia Sauer, a Newbery Honor Book in 1952–and originally published in the Horn Book Magazine in 1949. This would seem to break the award’s rule about “original work,” that the “text is presented here for the first time and has not been previously published elsewhere in this or any other form.” But maybe the rule was different then? Or perhaps here as so often, he says, drawing his emeralds warmly about him*, the Horn Book was above any such petty restrictions as criteria.
K.T. Horning, do you know?
The post Moving moments No. 2 appeared first on The Horn Book.
The Impossible Knife of Memory
by Laurie Halse Anderson
High School Viking 371 pp.
1/14 978-0-670-01209-1 $18.99 g
Hayley Kincain has spent the last five years riding shotgun in her father’s rig, discussing fractions and evolution — an on-the-road version of home schooling. Constant movement has helped keep the past at bay for both Hayley and her dad, a recent veteran plagued by graphic flashbacks and screaming nightmares. When they settle down so Hayley can attend her hometown high school for senior year, the dangerous memories threaten to overtake them both. Hayley’s caustic observations about the “fully assimilated zombies” who swarm the halls and the oxymoronic “required volunteer community service” are trademark Anderson. Old friend Gracie shares childhood memories with Hayley, but her stories draw blanks. What Hayley does remember, and can’t forgive, is her father’s girlfriend Trish walking out on them. Now Trish has reappeared, and Hayley blames her for making Dad’s drunken rages and blackouts even worse. How can she possibly care about math? Sweet, “adorkable” Finn offers to tutor her; he is smart enough to take it slow, and as she falls for him he even coaxes her to dare to think about a future. As ever, Anderson has the inside track on the emotional lives of adolescents; she plays high school clichés for laughs but compassionately depicts Hayley’s suffering as well as the hurts of Finn and Gracie, whose families are struggling with their own demons. The novel’s theme is woven artfully throughout as both Hayley and her dad fight the flashes of memory that are sure to tear them apart unless they confront them once and for all.
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In the March/April 2014 Horn Book Magazine, reviewer K. T. Horning asked author/illustrator Byron Barton about My Bus, his latest transportation celebration. Read the starred review here.
K. T. Horning: Joe from My Bus and Sam from My Car (Greenwillow, 2001) seem to lead parallel lives. And yet Joe’s passengers are animals and Sam’s are people. Do they reside in the same town, or even the same universe?
Byron Barton: Joe and Sam live in neighboring communities. They have different bus routes. The area has changed somewhat over time, but it is only by chance that, on one day, Joe had only cats and dogs for passengers. On another day and another bus route Joe or Sam could have chickens, pigs, or people on his bus. They all love to ride on buses, cars, trains, boats, and planes.
The post Byron Barton on My Bus appeared first on The Horn Book.
The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to
Their Younger Selves
edited by Sarah Moon, with
contributing editor James Lecesne
Middle School, High School Levine/Scholastic
5/12 978-0-545-39932-6 $17.99
Inspired by mentors in her own childhood, editor Sarah Moon asked sixty-four gay, lesbian, and bisexual writers, illustrators, and publishing professionals to write letters to themselves at a younger age — names such as Marion Dane Bauer, Jacqueline Woodson, Gregory Maguire, Brian Selznick, and a host of others. The resulting letters combine advice, reminiscence, funny stories, and encouragement for readers struggling with their sexuality. As with any collection with such a narrow focus, repetition is a problem, but panels from graphic novel creators help to break up the text and vary the pace, and a few of the writers arouse interest with truly surprising revelations (David Levithan, for instance, writes about bullying, but from the perspective of being the bully; Martin Moran writes about the sexual abuse that led to his award-winning book The Tricky Part). A mostly secular exploration of growing up gay, the book has regrettably little advice for gay and questioning teens grappling with religious dilemmas. Still, with its repeated exhortations to relax more and worry less, this book might be a life-saver for some — and could function as an author list, as well, for teens wanting to read more about People Like Us.
Rush for the Gold: Mystery at the Olympics
by John Feinstein
Middle School, High School Knopf 314 pp.
5/12 978-0-375-86963-1 $16.99
Library ed. 978-0-375-96963-8 $19.99
e-book ed. 978-0-375-98455-6 $10.99
Timed to coincide with the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Feinstein’s sixth sports mystery novel again features teen reporters Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson—except that this time Susan Carol is a world-class swimmer in the 200- meter butterfly and Stevie is now her boyfriend. Speedo, Nike, Under Armour, and the Disney Channel are all interested in her, and Susan Carol only has to win a gold medal or two to gain lucrative contracts. She didn’t train to be a celebrity or a “show pony for corporations,” but thanks to her father, who falls prey to the agents’ offers, Susan Carol does indeed become a “human billboard” and America’s latest athlete/sex symbol. She is only important to the agents as long as she wins, and Stevie wonders just how far a corporation would go to ensure victory for its client. It turns out that the answer is “too far”; hence the mystery for Stevie to solve—a little too quickly and neatly, perhaps, but Feinstein’s legions of fans will revel in the intrigue at the Olympics and the excitement of Susan Carol’s races.
- Philip Nel illuminates 1950s America in an adapted excerpt from his new book about Crockett Johnson, Ruth Krauss, and the FBI.
- Christine M. Heppermann on her experiences as a work-for-hire writer of series nonfiction.
- Susan C. Griffith calls for a reframing of discussion surrounding racism and The Cay.
- Susan Dove Lempke answers the question: “What Makes a Good Manners Book?
- Sight Reading: Leonard S. Marcus on picture-book fonts.
- Books in the Home: Andrea Fox finds parenting advice in The Secret Garden.
- Minjie Chen and Betsy Hearne discuss a growing new trend in China: private children’s libraries.
- From The Guide: Re-imagined Classics.
- Cadenza: Elizabeth Thomas spoofs court TV in “Judge Judy in Storybook Land.”
Why We Took the Car
by Wolfgang Herrndorf; trans. from the German by Tim Mohr
Middle School, High School Levine/Scholastic 250 pp.
1/14 978-0-545-48180-9 $17.99 g
e-book ed. 978-0-545-58636-8 $17.99
Two teens abandon their lackluster lives and hit the Autobahn in this audacious tragicomedy. Mike Klingenberg, boring and unpopular, lives a life of quiet desperation at his Berlin junior high. New kid Tschick comes to class drunk and might be in the Russian mafia; he’s not winning friends, but at least everyone’s paying attention. So when Tschick rolls up to Mike’s house in a hotwired car and proposes a road trip without a map, destination, or driver’s license, Mike says yes. Although the telling begins at its ignominious end, their story is, in many ways, a traditional road trip: the characters ponder their existence and gain independence while mastering the stick shift, evading local police, and encountering a collection of increasingly weird locals. Mike’s narration is an anxious stream of wry humor and linked anecdotes, but the moments when his façade slips are abrupt and startling windows into the pain of social exclusion and the aching loneliness of being fourteen. A sharp coming-of-age journey, hilarious and heartrending in equal measure.
The post Review of Why We Took the Car appeared first on The Horn Book.
Table of Contents
|Leonard S. Marcus
||An Interview with Neal Porter
A renowned publisher shares his insight
into the current state of picture books.
|Jon Scieszka and Molly Leach
The classic Horn Book article — now in color.
||Just Enjoy the Pictures:
Hand-Crafted Versus Digital Art
“Mixed-media” in the twenty-first century.
||An Interview with Molly Bang
The perennially experimenting
artist turns to nonfiction.
||Do Great Work and the Rest Will Follow
On race and gender in
art school and beyond.
||Sidebar: My Life as an Art Student
Painting or Illustration?
Two schools of thought.
||Looking for Art Notes
A call for more illumination
on the copyright page.
As Pretty Does
Stretching the definition of
the picture book form.
Illustrators reveal their favorite art media.
Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Erin E. Stead
Philip C. Stead
Gene Luen Yang
|Human Mistakes and Trembling Lines
Gouache and I
The Common Thread
In Service of the Book
Push the Paint
Pen, Ink, Watercolor, Repeat
My Next Medium
Paint & Pixels
Gliding on Paper
For the Fear of Failure
What a Find!
A New Freedom
How to Draw Comics the Yang Way
||What Makes a Good…?
What Makes a Good Book Cover?
From The Guide
Wordless Picture Books
A selection of reviews from The Horn Book Guide.
|Robin L. Smith
Reading Picture Books 101
Just follow these simple steps.
|March/April Starred Books
Index to Advertisers
Index to Books Reviewed
||Cover: photo of her studio by Grace Lin.
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The post The Horn Book Magazine — March/April 2014 appeared first on The Horn Book.
Back in 1998, the Horn Book Magazine published a special issue devoted to picture books. With articles about picture book history, reviewing and writing picture books, and a baker’s dozen of first-person “Studio Views,” it became a children’s lit classroom staple and is easily the most requested special issue we’ve produced.
We ran out of copies of the Picture Books issue many years ago, although I am happy to say we have now put it online. I am also very happy to present you with this year’s special issue, Illustration (which includes one of the original Picture Books issue articles, “Design Matters” by Jon Scieszka and Molly Leach — now in color!). Note the broadening of theme: just as picture books themselves expanded beyond their traditional preschool audience in the 1980s, so have illustrators gone on to stretch the very definition of the form. While the selection of the 500-some-paged Invention of Hugo Cabret for the 2008 Caldecott Medal will probably always be a controversial choice, there is no doubt that it, along with the entrance of comics and graphic novels into the realm of children’s book respectability, makes us all think more broadly about what we mean by a “picture book.” Not to mention the resurgence of illustrations in middle-grade fiction, from Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid and Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate to the winners of this year’s Newbery Medal (Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses, illustrated by K. G. Campbell) and Scott O’Dell Award (Kirkpatrick Hill’s Bo at Ballard Creek, illustrated by LeUyen Pham). Illustrators are showing up everywhere in books for youth these days, and we’re delighted to bring you another thirteen Studio Views (also in color!) from members of the present generation.
The New York Times’s report that picture books were in trouble (“Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children,” 10/7/10) was being debunked as soon at it was printed. Publishing has always been a game of trending, tacking, and correcting course as interests change and populations shift. But perhaps the alarm did force us all to make a little bit more noise about a genre whose virtues were being out-shouted by blockbuster/doorstopper YAs. And noise was something we had all become very good at since 1998, when social media meant AOL. Defenses of the picture book flew through cyberspace, campaigns to tout their use were disseminated among blogs and Facebook and Twitter. Such dialogue (and surely it’s time for a better word when it comes to conversations that routinely involve thousands of people) continues, as you can see on our Calling Caldecott blog and all the other virtual spots where pixels dance in defense of paper. While technical advances in the creation of illustrations have (as Julie Danielson shows us) made mixed media a term even more mysterious than ever, to my mind the children’s book community, fostered by the internet, has had a far greater effect on picture books than have the latest advances in Photoshop.
Are we in a picture book boom? No, and I am glad about that, because the last picture book boom that ran from the 1980s into the 1990s wasn’t pretty. I must immediately correct myself to say that it was too pretty, with lots of big, beautiful, empty books whose pictures forgot they had a job to do. I woke this morning to Facebook scoldings about an Oregon Department of Education report that too many of the state’s kindergartners were not academically prepared for first grade, that is to say, they did not read well enough. To echo another social media meme, Leave the Kindergartners Alone! It’s our job to read to them; it’s their job to look at the pictures; it’s the pictures’ job to join the story with the imaginations of those who read it and those who hear it. As the many examples in this special issue demonstrate, that job continues to be performed admirably.
The post Editorial: As Pretty Does appeared first on The Horn Book.
by Byron Barton; illus. by the author
Preschool Greenwillow 40 pp.
4/14 978-0-06-228736-6 $16.99 g
In a companion volume to My Car (rev. 11/01), we ride along with Joe as he drives Bus #123 across a bold-hued landscape populated with feline and canine passengers. “At my first stop, one dog gets on my bus. / At my second stop, two cats get on my bus.” After four stops, he points out he has five dogs and five cats riding on his bus. And here’s where the real fun for toddler transportation enthusiasts begins: Joe drops off one dog and two cats at a boat (“They sail away”), two dogs and one cat at a train, and one dog and two cats at a plane; the last little dog (“My dog!”) goes home with Joe in his car. Beyond the initial excitement many young children will feel as they share Joe’s journey and see the departing animals through the windows of their various vehicles, there is so much here for repeated readings (and there will be repeated readings). Barton ingeniously introduces the basic concepts of cardinal and ordinal numbers, addition, subtraction, and sets, but he does it all so subtly that even parents may not realize they’re getting a math lesson. And yet it’s all there for little brains to absorb and work out on their own as they “sail, ride, and fly away” again and again. Illustrated in Barton’s signature style, with bold, flat colors and with only the most important visual details included, this is a welcome companion to My Car.
The post Review of My Bus appeared first on The Horn Book.
Growing up in the heart of the South, I saw firsthand how people were excluded based on skin color. I was taught that the rules weren’t the same for blacks and whites, but I also witnessed game-changers such as John Lewis and Coretta Scott King, who rose in spite of that fact. I never thought that being black or a woman would preclude me from any opportunities in life. I graduated in the top ten percent of my high school class and got into every college to which I applied.
My mother, an educator and guidance counselor, took me on a tour of my top ten schools. We met with professors, financial aid officers, and other students so that I could make an informed decision. My mother had been discouraged from pursuing her own dreams of becoming a singer, and so she always nurtured my talent. Although she herself couldn’t draw a straight line, she knew that my success would depend on my choosing a strong art program. The great news was that schools wanted me. The bad news was that most scholarships went to science majors and athletes. Undeterred, I took out thousands of dollars in loans — money I wasn’t sure I’d ever make back as an artist.
Syracuse University was my first choice. Though not in New York City (my childhood dream), it was the picture I had in my head of what college looked like. I had terrible anxiety surrounding the cost of college and the stigma of being labeled a starving artist, so I enrolled in communications design, taking illustration and creative writing as minors. I was one of only two black students in my class — both female. There was one other black student in the class ahead of me who took me under his wing as a baby designer. He pleaded with me to stay in design because, as he put it, “We need more black women.”
After my first year of design, I missed drawing and painting, and so I switched to illustration. I was then the only black female in that program. I found freedom as an illustrator and saw growth in my work. But I didn’t see myself reflected in illustration’s history. Where were the black editorial illustrators, comic makers, and book illustrators? Norman Rockwell was great, but his town didn’t look anything like mine. Maxfield Parrish was wonderful, but his angels and elves didn’t look like the ones in my head. Though most celebrated illustrators didn’t look like me, they were my only models.
I spent a semester studying abroad in Florence, Italy, and then returned to Syracuse for my senior year. There, I found that one of my instructors was Yvonne Buchanan, a black female illustrator. I was really excited to see her published work, which primarily reflected African American history. I also remember being introduced to the art of Jerry Pinkney, which made me think, “If this is what illustration is, I have a long way to go!” But I’d found a spark. I began studying the field more on my own and developing projects that might move my career forward. I worked with a local author in Atlanta that summer and made my first picture book dummy.
Senior year ended, and my future was uncertain. I had sent out promotional postcards and gotten some nice feedback, but nothing loomed on my horizon. Still, I returned home to Atlanta optimistic. I had my degree and was confident in the knowledge and experience I had gained. After some time, I landed some small freelance illustration jobs — including an easy reader with Jen Frantz, a young editor at Lee & Low Books — made a few more failed attempts at getting picture book work, and painted some commissioned portraits. Eventually a full-time position for an art teacher with the Atlanta Public Schools opened up and I took it, promising myself I would apply to grad school once my three-year provisional was up. While reading to my students every morning, I finally found myself in the pages of books like Storm in the Night, C.L.O.U.D.S., and Dancing in the Wings. These stories were about kids whose experiences reflected my own. Seeing those books gave me permission to explore ideas that interested me. I was ready to move on to the next phase of my art journey.
During my third year of teaching, I was accepted into the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual Arts (finally — New York City!). I worked alongside nineteen other talented artists, and four of us immediately made ourselves known as “the book illustrators.” My competitive nature was fully engaged as part of “the fabulous four.” For two years, we shared books, critiqued and encouraged one another, did group portfolio drop-offs, and met with publishers. When graduation came, two members of our group — Jonathan Bean and Taeeun Yoo — landed book deals immediately, then Lauren Castillo, but not me. I was talented. I worked hard. I had knowledge of the industry and had been published in the past. I hit the pavement with my portfolio, thinking surely someone would use me, but nothing happened.
My mother had taught me to exhaust every possibility before looking to another solution, so that’s what I did. My friends helped me stay positive in those dark months. I sought guidance from Pat Cummings, who was one of the only other working black women book illustrators I knew at the time. Pat gave me a lead on part-time work assisting illustrator Christopher Myers, and on a design job where I was the only black person working in the children’s art department. I showed my colleagues my own illustration work and was told it was nice, but no book contract followed. A few weeks later, I took in samples of two of my friends’ work, and they both got offers within the month. What a blow to my ego! I was frustrated, then sad, and then angry. I worked harder and stopped making images that I thought editors wanted to see. Instead I made images that I enjoyed.
Through a serendipitous encounter at the 2007 Original Art Show opening with editor Jen Fox, then at Lee & Low Books, I landed my first big manuscript, where I found an opportunity to use the ideas and visual language that I had been experimenting with all along. That opportunity launched my career. I won the 2009 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award for Bird, written by Zetta Elliott.
It’s strange being black and a woman in a field that has historically celebrated white male contributions. Before I was published, I wondered if the only way in was to write and illustrate stories about slavery and black history. When all of my graduate school friends landed book contracts before me, at times I thought, “Is it because I paint black people?” I talked myself down from that ledge, but why was I up there to begin with?
After my books were out in the world, interviewers would ask questions like, “Why do you only paint black people?” To which I would reply: My choice of characters isn’t what defines my style; it’s how I paint them and the world around them. Would you ask a white male artist why he doesn’t paint black people?
My New York chapter closed after eight years. I went home to Atlanta, with plans to try living in Paris for a year. During that time, though, my mother lost two brothers and an aunt, and I was glad to be there to support my family. Paris would have to wait. Coincidentally, illustrator R. Gregory Christie, whom I had met in New York, had recently moved to Atlanta. One day over lunch he encouraged me to apply to a position at Maryland Institute College of Art, having already given the search committee my name. I applied, gathering up all of my stories, successes, and failures from the past. The next adventure was calling.
As a professor of illustration, I understand how important it is to be visible and accessible to other artists who are looking for guidance. I now have a range of books under my belt, and my attitude about the industry has certainly shifted. Looking to the future, in addition to collaborating with talented authors I know that I will be illustrating stories I write myself, and I will do my part in reflecting a more inclusive vision of our world. The industry still has a way to go in publishing stories that reflect our diversity. As an artist and illustrator of picture books, I look forward to being a model for those who are looking for themselves in their pages.
From the March/April 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Illustration.
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How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas
by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm; illus. by Molly Bang
Primary Blue Sky/Scholastic 48 pp.
5/12 978-0-545-27322-0 $18.99 g
Although it stands alone well, this book is a companion to Bang’s My Light (rev. 5/04) and Bang and Chisholm’s Living Sunlight (rev. 5/09). The authors bring a fresh perspective to the topic of food chains, focusing here on the critical and voluminous ocean-based plant life—plankton—and the transfer of energy and nutrients from the sun to these microscopic plants to ocean animals and back. After a brief overview of food chains and photosynthesis using a more-familiar land-based example, the narrative moves to the ocean. At the surface of the water, sunlight is absorbed by microscopic phytoplankton and eventually transferred to ocean animals through consumption of plankton by those in the shallower layers; for those where light cannot reach, energy is transferred through consumption of the animal and plant remains that drift downward. Energy-filled illustrations use glowing, brilliant colors—pulsing yellow sunlight hitting an electric blue sea; the delicate green skeletal spikiness of the microscopic plankton—and also contrast the “marine snow” (the remains of animals and plankton that sink down) with the inky depths where intriguing, transparent red and blue animals reside. These are sophisticated concepts for the target audience, but the authors employ clear and age-appropriate explanations, well-chosen text and visual analogies, and a series of rhetorical questions to excellent effect. Several pages of notes will be included in the final book.
Summer is the season for recreational reading, outdoor activities, fun, sports, and, this year, the Summer Olympics. In The Horn Book Guide, there’s never a shortage of sports-themed books, from high-interest bait for reluctant readers to entertaining diversions for voracious ones. The following sports-books-done-right for upper-elementary and middle-grade readers are all recommended in recent or forthcoming issues of the Guide.
Fitzmaurice, Kathryn A Diamond in the Desert
258 pp. Viking 2012. ISBN 978-0-670-01292-3
Gr. 4–6 In 1942, Japanese American boy Tetsu attempts to find dignity and purpose while living within the humiliating confines of the Gila River Relocation Center. Helping build a baseball field in the inhospitable desert provides some emotional relief; playing the game well further eases his anger. Informed by real-life memories of Gila River’s baseball team members, this novel delves deeply and affectingly into the human condition. Reading list, websites.
Florian, Douglas Poem Runs: Baseball Poems and Paintings
32 pp. Harcourt 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-68838-1
Gr. K–3 Fifteen poems (sixteen if you count the back cover) center on a baseball team’s season. Each entry features Florian’s signature wit and brevity: “With greatest greed / I take my lead. / My greatest need / Is speed” (from “Base Stealer”). The poems are set against double-page spreads with summery mixed-media illustrations featuring rubber-limbed baseball players—both male and female.
Freitas, Donna Gold Medal Summer
232 pp. Scholastic/Levine 2012. ISBN 978-0-545-32788-6
Gr. 4–6 Top gymnast Joey loves her sport and can’t understand why her best friend would quit just to have a social life—or why Joey’s older sister quit after winning Nationals, or why their parents find competitions too stressful to watch. A former competitive gymnast, Freitas provides an absorbing look at the challenging but rewarding life of a thirteen-year-old athlete.
Gutman, Dan The Day Roy Riegels Ran the Wrong Way
32 pp. Bloomsbury 2011. ISBN 978-1-59990-494-8
Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Kerry Talbott. A grandfather narrates the true story of Roy Riegels, the football player who ran the wrong way and cost his team the 1929 Rose Bowl championship. Digitally enhanced illustrations reflect the juxtaposition of past and present as Grandpa’s story alternates with an old-time radio announcer’s call of the game. An author’s note reveals how “Wrong-Way Riegels” moved on from his famous mistake.
Lang, Heather Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion
40 pp. Boyds 2012. ISBN 978-1-59078-850-9
Gr. 4–6 Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. From the hardships of her Georgia childhood through the 1948 London Olympics at which she won gold and became a legend, this biography stands out for the lesser-known details it includes (e.g., Coachman’s dance performance aboard the London-bound ship). Cooper’s grainy sepia-hued pastels are striking; endnotes with more about Coachman and the historic 1948 Olympics support the thorough text. Websites. Bib.
Lupica, Mike Game Changers
207 pp. Scholastic 2012. ISBN 978-0-545-44315-9
Gr. 4–6 Talented, tough eleven-year-old Pop Warner football player Ben dreams of being quarterback of his team—but he’s short. As the season wears on and quarterback Shawn (the coach’s son) flounders, Ben proves he’s ultimately the right guy for the position. This story of football, friendship, and learning to be true to oneself is full of satisfying sport
May/June 2012 Horn Book
I want to thank you for publishing the piece by Hilary Rappaport (“On the Rights of Reading and Girls and Boys”). I really appreciated seeing some of my concerns about the gender divide in reading articulated so well. I have examined my biases related to literature and preferences, and have made adjustments in the way I think about them, as a result of the Guys Read movement. I’m glad for that. But I, too, am troubled by the push to further compartmentalize our young people by dividing the world of books into those for boys and those for girls.
I’m a huge fan of Jon Scieszka, but after hearing him speak at ALA in 2005, I was distressed to the point of writing him a letter, excerpted here:
I was troubled by your speech, especially considering that you spoke after a teenage boy who was gutsy enough to talk about how much he loves being in a book club and reading a huge variety of things. Not all boys (or girls, for that matter) fit the very specific gender roles you outlined. Not all boys like hockey, even if your son does. Not all boys are going to be satisfied with books that are pulled into a separate section for guys, and many girls will be less likely to pick up books if they are labeled as “guy” books.
It seems like there must be ways to validate and highlight a variety of reading while not pigeonholing people into behaving a certain way. Libraries have traditionally been a haven for boys who are not your typical “guy guys” (as James Howe puts it), and it makes me cringe to hear someone as charming and well-respected as you are implying that there is only one type of boy.
Please pass on my thanks to Hilary Rappaport for her column!
Elk Mound, Wisconsin
From the May/June 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine:
Cynthia Ritter asks A Bus Called Heaven author/illustrator Bob Graham about the idea behind his new picture book. Read the full review of A Bus Called Heaven here.
Cynthia Ritter: Was your inspiration for the book a real bus?
Bob Graham: I did see such a bus parked in the street, and I learned our granddaughter Rosie had looked inside.
I said, “What did you see, Rose?” A girl of few words, she replied, “Candles.” It was not the vehicle’s contents that inspired my first scribbling, it was the image of a child on tiptoe peering into the windows of an old bus with a package-taped sign reading “Heaven.”
A Bus Called Heaven
by Bob Graham; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary Candlewick 40 pp.
3/12 978-0-7636-5893-9 $16.99
“The bus brought change to Stella’s street…Stella changed, too.” It’s quiet, pale Stella who takes her thumb out of her mouth and steps onto the bus that has been abandoned outside her house, claiming it for the whole neighborhood. “‘It could be…ours,’ she whispered.” And it’s Heaven (according to the sign taped on to the front of the bus) that provides this ethnically diverse, lower-middle-class group of people space to build a community. Everyone pitches in: cleaning the broken-down, trash-filled vehicle; giving it a cheery paint job (designed by Stella, carried out by two of the Street Ratz gang caught tagging the bus); and donating furniture, a goldfish and a dog, Mrs. Stavros’s bus-shaped cake, books, and Stella’s old table soccer game. Tough bikers, a rabbi, little kids, old people, an imam—all co-exist companionably in Heaven. Graham’s inviting ink and watercolor illustrations vary perspectives dynamically. Close-up, detailed panels celebrate difference, while expansive single- and double-page views pull back to place this little urban utopia in a bleak industrial landscape. Heaven is threatened when a tow truck shows up in the midst of the “music and dancing…picnics and laughter” to haul the “obstruction” to the junkyard. But Stella’s passion (and her impressive table soccer skills) helps win over the junkyard boss and win back the bus. Here, when a priest, a rabbi, and an imam step onto a bus called Heaven, it’s not a joke. It’s simply the way life should be.
By: Roger Sutton
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“If this book doesn’t win the Caldecott Medal I’m going to kill myself.” I heard that from Zena Sutherland, quoting Ursula Nordstrom, while Zena and I were at Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum in 1982, viewing an exhibition of the complete original art for the book in question, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.
That book did of course win the 1964 Medal, a very nice cherry on top of Sendak’s five previous Caldecott Honors (which would be joined by two more in later years). For Sendak, the best part of Where the Wild Things Are’s success was the financial security it brought (“It bought me my house,” he told me) and the freedom to do the projects he liked: “I took good advantage of [its] popularity to illustrate books that I passionately wanted to do without having to worry if they were commercial or not.” While the publishing economy of today might have encouraged Where the Wild Things Went and Where the Wild Things Went Next, Sendak mostly left the (considerable) spinning-off to others in order to to do what he wanted in a career that would include big books and small books, color and black-and-white, books by himself and books by others, opera and ballet design. Most Caldecott Medalists can’t afford to rest on their laurels; Sendak could, and didn’t.
When I look through the roster of Caldecott winners (seventy-five as of this year), I see dozens of fine books, but only three classics: Make Way for Ducklings, The Snowy Day, and Where the Wild Things Are. And of those, only the third has made the leap from the children’s bookshelf to become, as well, a touchstone of twentieth-century American art and culture. Maurice would sometimes complain about his other work being overshadowed, but come on, I would say, that’s huge. If sometimes he knew this and sometimes he forgot, what matters most is that it didn’t make one bit of difference either way to his work.
When I was speaking at the Eric Carle Museum recently, someone asked me if I thought Where the Wild Things Are could be published today. It’s an impossible question, because that book gave artists and publishers and librarians and children a new way to read. Its belief in an audience that could compose its own music for three wordless spreads and draw its own picture on the final page was generous. Its messages—that you can imagine without restraint, yell your head off, and still be altogether worthy of love—remain.
Here’s a sneak peak at the new, beautiful July/August 2012 special awards issue of The Horn Book Magazine! If you’re going to ALA, you can pick up your free copy at The Horn Book/School Library Journal/Library Journal Booth #2234. Supplies are limited, so stop by anytime for a ticket; the Magazines will be available for pick-up on Monday. We’ll also have posters!
Don’t forget, you can see Roger’s Live Five interviews of some of your — and our! — favorite authors and illustrators throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday. We’ll post video on our website after the show.
Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls
by Mary Downing Hahn
Middle School, High School Clarion 330 pp.
A quintessential writer of supernatural stories, Hahn here gives readers a glimpse at real ghosts from her past, a 1955 murder of two teenage girls near her home. She takes that situation, retains the original setting, provides immediacy through a present-tense narration, and produces a top-notch coming-of-age mystery. Nora, just finishing her junior year of high school, has three friends (Ellie, Cheryl, and Bobbi Jo) and two dreams (to be popular and have some boy love her and thus give her value). When an unknown gunman kills Cheryl and Bobbi Jo on the last morning of school, the townspeople assume that bad-boy Buddy, Cheryl’s ex-boyfriend, is guilty. As Nora works through her grief, she remembers seeing Buddy immediately after the murder and comes to believe he’s innocent. Setting creates the story here as much as plot or characters do. Like girls of today, those of the 1950s gossiped, read magazines (but True Confessions rather than People), and listened to music (Little Richard instead of Justin Bieber). But, in a gutsy authorial move, Hahn shows greater differences. For example, there are Nora’s limited options past high school; the casual smoking; and language, from harelip to moron jokes, that was standard for that time rather than this one. By grounding the circumstances so specifically and convincingly, Hahn emphasizes the universality of growing up and facing death.
The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall
by Mary Downing Hahn
Intermediate Clarion 153 pp.
Florence is happy to leave the orphanage for the home of a newly found great-uncle, but she isn’t long inside Crutchfield Hall when she senses that Something Is Not Right. Hahn, the author of ghost stories as well as rousing historical fiction, here combines the genres for a truly scary period tale. The setting is a country estate in late Victorian England, the weather distinctly Brontëan, and the ghost is classic Hahn: a mean little girl made only meaner by her accidental death. When said ghost, Sophia, says through her grave-stained teeth to Florence, “I need a friend, and so do you. We could be like sisters, sharing secrets,” readers will want to run—but Florence is the kind of vulnerable, relatable heroine who will make them stick around to be sure things turn out all right for her. They do, if only just, in an ending that is satisfying but touched with uncertainty: is Sophia truly at peace? Brrr!
All the Lovely Bad Ones
by Mary Downing Hahn
Intermediate, Middle School Clarion 182 pp.
Travis and his sister Corey love to make mischief, so a summer’s stay at their grandmother’s reputedly haunted Vermont inn holds much promise. A flashlight, makeup, a filmy white scarf, and some well-timed screams allow the kids to freak out the other visitors, but soon enough the game isn’t funny: “You and your sister may have begun this as a game,” says one of the guests, “but the ghosts are awake now. Putting them back to sleep will not be easy.” Hahn expertly combines the comedy of spectral hijinks and bumbling ghost-busters with a dark backstory of abused children and the malevolent guardian who torments them even in death. Here’s an author who really understands how to put a scary story together, unafraid even to use an appearance by Old Nick himself for an extremely satisfying finale.
Wait Till Helen Comes
by Mary Downing Hahn
The author has written a gripping and scary ghost story that develops hauntingly from a rather slow beginning. When Molly’s mother and new stepfather announce that the family will be moving to an old church in rural Maryland, Molly and her brother Michael are
Just as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, real appreciation of a picture book depends on more than a first taste, or a first look; truer evaluation becomes possible only after savoring every nuance. At first glance, illustrations may delight us with their beauty — their drafting, palette, forms, composition; with how they embody emotion, or childhood itself. One artist charms with humor, well-paced action, or visual harmony. Another captures the imagination with a beloved character or a story distilled to its irreducible essence.
But to seek a year’s “most distinguished” illustrations — to choose a Caldecott winner — is to look again: to tune in to rhythms, consider trajectories, discover details and connections; and to hope that such particulars will offer the kind of epiphany E. E. Cummings called “everything / which is natural which is infinite which is yes.” A detailed study of some of 2011’s best picture books, medaled and not, made me both more critical and more appreciative. It revealed limitations, missed on first reading, of some appealing titles; contrariwise, in the best ones, I now perceived finer crafting, richer meaning.
Here, then, are some books that seemed to merit serious consideration for the award, or that helped illuminate issues involved in a final choice. Several of these arrest the eye with their extraordinary simplicity. One such, I Want My Hat Back, was frequently mentioned as a Caldecott contender. In Jon Klassen’s neatly balanced compositions, a bear — still as a statue through much of the book — meets other near-immobile creatures in minimal settings. Only the animals’ alert, stylized eyes suggest the drama that will finally erupt on a revelatory solid-red page and set up the story’s sly conclusion. Klassen’s digitally created illustrations are austere. It’s those eyes that focus attention on what’s seen (and unseen) until memory triggers the bear’s retrospective vision — a clever scenario, elegantly rendered.
Patricia Intriago’s Dot, composed as it is of simple shapes and lines, is even more spare. Yet this able graphic designer telegraphs a lot with her graphic forms, using small additions and alterations in size, conformation, or color to convey motion and emotion, sound, taste, and more, including the night sky. Another virtuoso performance is Michael Hall’s exploration of the transformative possibilities of collages improvised, like tangrams, from squares. Like Dot, Hall’s Perfect Square is an exercise in graphic possibility, but Hall brings more ingenuity and a sense of story to the process. He tears, snips, or otherwise divides each square, then reassembles it in a simple scene, with a new color each weekday. On Sunday, the square — cleverly escaping its shape’s constraints — becomes a window through which the earlier scenes are recapped in a rainbow finale.
Lois Ehlert’s art, too, is rooted in graphic design. In RRRalph, she composes a dog from amusingly recognizable objects like buttons, a pop-top, and a zipper. Ralph, a character of buoyant, spread-dominating energy,enacts such pun-ready sounds as wolf, rough, and bark. Printed in handsome boldface, Ralph’s “words” and the large-type commentary by his unseen human are as intrinsic to the striking design as Ralph himself. These minimalist titles may not have the singular quality that evokes that rare sense of Cummings’s “Yes”; still, they’re entirely worthy, fine just as they are.
|Most likely to haunt award committees
||Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann
|Better luck next time
||Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke,
illustrated by Lauren Tobia
|Tragic and tragically overlooked
||America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell by Don Brown
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance
of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming
The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf
|Best Cold War book left out in the cold
||Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet
|Best year-round Christmas book
(think of the money you’ll save!)
|The Money We’ll Save by Brock Cole
|Science made simple (youngest)
||Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes
|Science made simple (oldest)
||Feynman by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Leland Myrick
|Best animal survival stories
||Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Vicky White
Naamah and the Ark at Night by Susan
Campbell Bartoletti, illustrated by Holly Meade
|Best human survival stories
||Bluefish by Pat Schmatz
Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
|Best swamp survival stories
||Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story
by Thomas F. Yezerski
Chime by Franny Billingsley
|Batteries not required
||Press Here by Hervé Tullet
By: Roger Sutton
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From the May/June 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine:
Reviewer Christine Hepperman asks Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey author/illustrator Mini Grey about a new favorite character. Read the full review of Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey here.
Christine M. Hepperman: Will Beach-Time Brenda reappear in future books, maybe headline a series of her own?
Mini Grey: Oooh—there’s an idea. Poor Brenda might have to wrestle with some undignified situations in the ordinary world, but perhaps save the day through the power of cocktail snacks, canapés, and optimism. I can see her battling household appliances and all sorts of other horrors and having to get very very dirty. But she’d need a sidekick—or could she share Scrubbing Brush?
Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey
by Mini Grey; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary Knopf 32 pp.
5/12 978-0-375-86952-5 $16.99
Library ed. 978-0-375-96952-2 $19.99
The adventuresome duo from Traction Man Is Here! (rev. 3/05) and Traction Man Meets Turbodog (rev. 9/08) hits the beach for a manly day of scuba diving, picnic security duty, and…makeovers? Once again Grey’s action-figure hero and his sidekick Scrubbing Brush inhabit the fanciful world-within-a-world of creative play. Though the boy who totes the pair along in his beach bag is nominally in control of their actions, once they’re underwater exploring a tide pool, or left alone together on the picnic blanket, they take on lives of their own. Traction Man’s valiant campaign to keep Grandma’s dog Truffles away from lunch while the family swims comes to naught when Truffles carries him off and buries him in the sand. Scrubbing Brush digs Traction Man out, but then a wave whisks them both away, landing them in the clutches of another young beachgoer, who has her own ideas of how to play. Grey takes obvious delight in poking fun at Traction Man’s machismo by dressing him in a pink sarong and plunking him into an ice-cream party with some Beach- Time Brenda dolls. As usual, the wry cartoon art is teeming with animate characters—even the picnic quiche has a face. In the end, there’s a refreshingly gender-neutral pooling of resources as Beach-Time Brenda and her pal help the boys dig an “exploration hole to the Center of the Earth,” after which the whole crew floats happily on a “pinkly paisley inflatable dinghy.” Relaxation accomplished!
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Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses
by Ron Koertge; illus. by Andrea Dezsö
High School Candlewick 88 pp.
7/12 978-0-7636-4406-2 $19.99
A much-honored poet and novelist retells, in free verse and from various points of view, twenty-three familiar tales (mostly Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault). With a contemporary sensibility and voice, Koertge pitches directly to teenagers. Beauty’s Beast, though allowing that “her love…transformed me,” is still nostalgic for the time when his teeth were fangs and Beauty “almost wanted / me to break her neck and open her / up like a purse.” For the Ugly Duckling, “Grief is a street he skates down”; the swans, surrogate parents, beg, “Please don’t go away like / that again. We were worried sick.” There are several eager risk takers here, like the queen who outwits Rumpelstiltskin, then exits in a red cape, seeking a wolf. A few stories later, Red Riding Hood’s condescending account to her mother is a perfect parody: “I’m into danger, / okay? What? You said to tell you the truth and be, like, frank.” It’s also a swell mix of the comical, concrete, and macabre: “Anyway, it’s weird / inside a wolf, all hot and moist but no worse than flying / coach to Newark.” Dezsö’s choice of cut-paper illustrations is brilliant, a nod to Hans C. Andersen’s skill in that medium despite the radically different tone. Her stark silhouettes are peculiarly appropriate to such gruesome scenes as “The Robber Bridegroom” dismembering a bride, though the lurid gore is in a comfortably distancing black and white. Need to grab a restive class’s attention? Seek no further. And take note: “Wolf ” has the last word: “This is our forest…Perfect again when all your kind is dead.”