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1. The Farmer and the Clown

9781442497443 f3568 300x243 The Farmer and the ClownThings are beginning to heat up. Mock Caldecotts are being decided; best-of-year lists continue to be released; over at Fuse #8, Betsy Bird has made her final predictions.

It’s time to talk about a book that’s been one of my favorites all fall: Marla Frazee’s The Farmer and the Clown.

I find it difficult not to gush over this book. It is so simple and yet so profound: the classic “stranger comes to town” story brilliantly re-imagined and re-visioned. It works for me on both an intellectual and emotional level, so much so that I can start out discussing the composition of a particular page, say, and end up talking instead about the definition of family; love and loss. The search for belonging. What happens when we reveal our true selves to others. You know, the whole human condition.

So to prevent me going off the deep end, I’ll stick to bullet points and simply highlight some of the strengths of the book; some of the things that make it worthy of Caldecott consideration. I hope you will help me fill in the gaps in the comments.

  • THE EXPRESSIVENESS of the characters, through body language and facial expressions. To quote the Horn Book “Fanfare” citation: ”Rarely has posture been used so well in a picture book, here used to wordlessly portray the kindness of strangers who are thrown (literally!) together by happenstance but then changed forever.”
  • THE TENSION. The story itself has built-in tension — how are these seemingly opposite characters going to get along? will the farmer be able to comfort the child? will this be the child’s new home, or will the circus train come back? — so does the visual storytelling. As a reader/viewer I am pulled in two directions. I want both to linger over each spread to catch every nuance AND to turn the page to see what happens next. The picture book storytelling is perfectly balanced here.
  • THE LANDSCAPE. This has got to be one of the sparest landscapes ever depicted in a picture book. The horizon stretches unendingly beneath vast skies. There is no vegetation aside from the one tree on the one knoll. There aren’t even any haystacks to break up the emptiness (though there seems to be plenty of hay to make them with). The color palette is equally austere: brown, sere, desert-like. Does the empty landscape echo and make manifest the heart of the farmer? Or does it serve to keep the viewer’s focus on the characters, their interactions and emotions? I would say both.
  • THE ENDING. It is just open-ended enough. You close the book satisfied but also with a little room to fill in details yourself. It’s not the mind-blowing, drop-the-reader-off-a-cliff ending of Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. But the questions asked by the ending can be answered by a the story you’ve just finished reading. It’s a very organic, very satisfying kind of open-endedness. The answers are all in the spot illustration on the last page: in the farmer’s posture (relaxed, upright, hands in pocket — he’s contemplative, but not unhappy), in the hat he’s wearing, the hat HE chose to swap with the little clown; and of course in the presence of the circus monkey, the same size and shape and dressed the same way as the departed little clown.
  • THE MULTILAYEREDNESS of the wordless narrative. One of the most brilliant parts of the book is the very first page where Frazee uses a clean white background rather than that mottled sere brown — the page just after the little clown has been jettisoned from the train. Read it one way (with makeup in place): a little clown seeks to entertain an audience. He does a little dive move, he doffs his cap, he takes a bow. All part of a performance. BUT. Read it another way (if one could see through the makeup to the scared baby/toddler beneath): he points desperately to where he came from; he mimics how he fell from the train, he bends over in despair; he runs to the farmer to plead for help. I’m not sure I know of another picture book that accomplishes this layered interpretation.
  • THE VISUAL LINKS BETWEEN THE CHARACTERS. There are many. Even when they look like complete opposites — tall skinny old farmer all dressed in black; short round young child all dressed in red — there is a relationship between them. Note the reverse symmetry of the small clown and the tall farmer: the clown’s tall pointy hat is the farmer’s long pointy beard, in reverse; the clowns horizontal ruffle around his neck is the farmer’s flat hat on his head. Then when the truth comes out and the little clown’s true self is revealed, the link becomes closer and nearer: we see their equally bald heads, and the farmer’s red long johns match the child’s red clown suit. And at the very very end, the link between them is cemented when the farmer swaps their hats, placing his black hat on the toddler’s head and donning the tall red cone hat himself.
  • THE STORY’S DEPTH. This would have been just a sweet little story of friendship and love/loss/love…but the addition of the painted-on smile of the little clown asks SUCH deeper questions and adds so many deeper layers. And so by the end of the book, this reader, anyway, is entirely emotionally invested. Look at that oversized arm on the final double-page spread (the long horizontal arm balanced compositionally by the long horizontal train, by the way). Is the farmer’s arm waving goodbye? or reaching out, trying to hold on? There’s a phenomenal amount of feeling in that disembodied arm. I am not sure many other artists could invest so much emotion in an ARM.

I’ve heard that The Farmer and the Clown doesn’t work for two- and three-year-olds. Well, no. Is it supposed to? Do people think that because the clown is a very young child, the book also must be for very young children? The age of the baby/toddler clown does not determine the audience for this book. It’s for reader-viewers who are interested in determining and decoding the situation, reading the postures, the facial expressions, watching the specific yet universal story unfold.

And no, it’s not all that funny. Again, is it supposed to be? I am not sure that all Marla Frazee books have to be laughfests. The book does have small moments of humor (the juggling eggs sequence, for instance), but it’s the kind of humor that might evoke a smile rather than a guffaw. I think readers are too involved in the pathos of the situation, the drama, the tension, to want or need to do a lot of giggling. But since the Caldecott committee is charged with looking only at the books of 2014, a comparison to Frazee’s earlier work should not apply.

Can the Caldecott committee ignore their expectations of what a Marla Frazee picture book should be? Will they see the genius of this book?

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2. All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom

johnson all different now All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom I have written about and talked about this book a lot elsewhere, so it seems time to put my finger on why the Caldecott committee should take a close look at All Different Now.

Before I start, I want to dispel a myth I hear a lot. It goes something like this: this is really a Coretta Scott King Award book, so the Caldecott committee will figure it will win there and might not pay much attention to it. NO. NO. NO. That’s not how it goes.

The Caldecott committee is not allowed to think or talk like that. It doesn’t work like that. When I was on Caldecott, Dave the Potter was honored by both committees. Each committee works independently of the other. I know because I have been lucky enough to serve on both the Caldecott and the CSK committees. So, I would never be surprised to see this book (or any eligible title) honored by both. It should happen more often, actually, that a book is honored by a number of committees. Though each committee has its own manual and criteria (and here I am talking about every committee, whether it’s part of the American Library Association or not), every committee is hoping to identify the best book, best art, best story of the year. I am thinking of the year Steve Sheinkin’s Bomb won in a gazillion categories: I wanted the wealth to be spread, but understood how it happened that one book pleased so many constituencies. So to repeat, there is no communication between the committees. And on the Monday morning when the awards are announced, everyone in the room is surprised (or disappointed) at the same time.

On to All Different Now. Angela Johnson and E.B. Lewis have created something special here. For those of you who might not know, Juneteenth refers to the anniversary of the day that slaves in Texas heard the news that the Civil War had ended and that slavery had been abolished. Plantation owners kept the information away from their slaves, and Union soldiers had trouble getting into Texas to tell them. Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19th 1865; hence the moniker Juneteenth. The excellent back matter tells the reader everything that was probably skipped in American history classes.

But this is not a history book; this is a story imagining how people reacted to the news that they were finally free, that things were “all different now.” Lewis’s painterly style is perfect for this story. Using a child narrator, Johnson and Lewis tell the story of the news of Emancipation spreading from the port to the town to the country and to the fields in one stunning paneled spread. Look closely at the astonished faces of the women, the suspicious looks from the men, and the jubilant body motions of the people in the cotton field. Lewis and Johnson imagine the feelings: anger, jubilation, confusion, gratitude, frustration. Somehow Lewis is able to paint all those feelings. He also shows how strong the family is in the story: at the beginning we see the children warm under a quilt and next we see a mother or sister taking care of the children. Everyone, from one-hundred-year-old Mr. Jake to the baby in Aunt Laura’s arms, is cared for; everyone understands the seriousness of the news they have just received.

Lewis’s watercolors use color and tone to tell this story. Muted greens and browns tell the story of the first half of the book; a more hopeful blue enters at the halfway point. The white of the beach pushes away the brown of the field, and the girls’ white dresses pop against the night sky and the burning fire. The night scenes are somber.

I love the final spread, where the only words are “all different now.” The little houses are closed up and the people are leaving. For what? To go where? The text does not reveal where they are going, allowing the reader to imagine herself into the story.

I return to the cover often. The outstretched arms of so many women (and one man) give me a little chill. And sometimes a little chill is all it takes for someone to champion a book. I would champion this one, if I were on the committee.

 

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3. Five Family Favorites with Patricia Dunn, Author of Rebels by Accident

Patricia Dunn, author of Rebels by Accident, selected her family’s five favorite books with the help of her husband Allan Tepper. They are a beautiful collection of diverse characters and plots.

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4. BA-BA-DOOK.

babadook poster BA BA DOOK.A horror movie about an evil children’s book is, understandably, not everyone’s thing. But given that I’m both a horror fan and a big kidlit nerd, I’ve been waiting for Australian indie film The Babadook to hit US theaters since I first saw the trailer online several months ago. Despite its cleaning up at Sundance, the movie’s US release is so limited — only two local cinemas are showing it, one in a theater the size of a living room — that the screening my boyfriend and I attempted to see over the weekend was sold out. We wound up watching it at home on demand…which was probably for the best, since it minimized the number of people I bothered with my shrieking.

The Babadook was partially based upon director Jennifer Kent’s short film Monster, about a child who’s afraid of his plush monster toy and his mother who’s exasperated by his fear — only to come face-to-face with the real monster. The Babadook expands upon and complicates this plot. Its protagonists are young widowed mother Amelia (Essie Davis) and her son Sam (Noah Wiseman). Sam has both an active imagination and serious behavioral problems: he builds weapons, in preparation for “when the monster comes,” and takes them everywhere; has nightmares that prevent him from sleeping through the night; and is ostracized by other children for both his monster obsession and his dead father. With Sam’s seventh birthday (also the anniversary of his father’s accidental death) approaching, money tight, and Sam out of school due to his weapons-smuggling, Amelia is nearing her breaking point.

Then Sam chooses Mister Babadook, a book that mysteriously appears on his book shelf, for a bedtime story.

The book is a bit crudely written and illustrated, but creepy nonetheless. Direct-address text accompanied by black-and-white pop-up illustrations inform the reader that supernatural creature Mister Babdook will come out of the darkness of your closet, ceiling corner, etc., to watch you, and “you can’t get rid” of him once you’ve seen him. (It’s actually not unlike the story line of Liniers’s What There Is Before There Is Anything There.) Reading Mister Babadook exacerbates Sam’s intense fears about monsters and disturbs Amelia, who responds by first hiding, then tearing apart and trashing the book. When it reappears on their doorstep — pieced back together and with even darker content, this time depicting a Babadook-possessed Amelia harming Sam and their pet dog in pop-ups that seem to move on their own — Amelia suspects she and Sam are being stalked. Of course, the truth is much worse.

The movie’s supernatural element is legitimately frightening. The Babadook’s inhuman sounds and movement give me the serious heebie-jeebies, and the idea that underneath his already-scary-as-hell gaping-maw-and-claws exterior lies something that will make you “wish you were dead” doesn’t help. As promised by the book, Amelia and Sam can’t get away from the creature — or each other — and are trapped in their own home, cut off from any real help. The limited setting (mostly the house’s interior plus a bit of their small town) and cast contribute to the film’s claustrophobic feel.

But what’s especially effective is the way the supernatural horror works with the more insidious horror of a parent fast approaching a psychological break. Sam is a very difficult child; Amelia is grief-stricken, sleep deprived, financially strapped, isolated, and emotionally unsupported — in a word, desperate. It’s not hard to imagine Amelia harming Sam, herself, or someone else in a rage or in a fugue state, with or without any malevolent supernatural influence.

Other horror films (perhaps most famously The Shining) also depict a stressed parent manipulated by otherworldly forces towards hurting his or her family, but I can’t think of one whose parent-off-the-deep-end is as convincing or sympathetic as Davis’s Amelia. Her vulnerability makes her moments of Babadook-fueled (or just unhinged?) violence that much more disturbing. As Sam, Wiseman is both frustrating and genuinely endearing, an impressive feat given his very young age.

Is the Babadook real, and has monster-fighter Sam been right all along? Or is it a delusion shared by mother and child? You’ll have to watch the movie and decide for yourself. And if it reaches its crowdfunding goals, Mister Babadook may soon be available as an actual pop-up book — eek!

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5. Fanfare 2014 Notes

Da-da-da-daaaaaa! It’s here: the Fanfare special edition of Notes is arriving in subscribers’ inboxes right now.

We began with a long longlist, then fought it ou— er, cordially discussed the options until we whittled it down to twenty-nine favorites of 2014. With picture books, fiction, folklore, poetry, and nonfiction, there’s something — probably several things — for everyone.

Notes (and its occasional supplements Nonfiction Notes and Talks With Roger) will be back to regularly scheduled programming in January.

fanfare notes 14 Fanfare 2014 Notes

Read the issue online or subscribe to receive the monthly Notes from the Horn Book newsletter. For more recommended books plus author and illustrator interviews, check out the newsletter archives.

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6. Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen | Storytime Standouts

Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen is the first in our series of posts looking at the 2013 Caldecott Medal and Honor Books

Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon KlassenExtra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
2013 Caldecott Honor Book published by Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers



When young Annabelle finds a box of yarn and knitting needles, she begins by knitting herself a colorful sweater. Once the sweater is finished, she looks for friends and neighbors to outfit in warm wool creations. It is not long before she transforms her dreary, wintry grey town into a cheery, cozy world using the apparently endless supply of yarn. When an archduke arrives and offers to buy the magical box and its contents, Annabelle refuses him. He decides that he must have it and sends robbers to get the box from her. Extra Yarn spread

A fascinating fairy tale that explores generosity and community, Extra Yarn is best suited to children aged four years and up. Fans of Jon Klassen will enjoy spotting some of his trademark characters wearing Annabelle’s cozy gifts.

2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award

Extra Yarn at Amazon.com

Extra Yarn at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts - Raising Children Who Love to Read

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7. Best Selling Middle Grade Books | December 2014

This month, Secrets of a Christmas Box, a fantasy novel where the Christmas Tree ornaments come to life once the family go to bed, is The Children's Book Review's best selling middle grade book.

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8. Fanfare!

The Horn Book Magazine‘s choices for the best books of 2014. Sign up now to receive  the fully annotated list in next week’s issue of Notes from the Horn Book:

Picture books:

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)

My Bus written and illustrated by Byron Barton (Greenwillow)

The Baby Tree written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Paulsen/Penguin)

Draw! written and illustrated by Raúl Colón (Wiseman/Simon)

Gaston written by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Christian Robinson (Atheneum)

The Farmer and the Clown written and illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane/Simon)

Once Upon an Alphabet  written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel)

Viva Frida written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, with photos by Tim O’Meara (Porter/Roaring Brook)

Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors written and illustrated by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash (Porter/Roaring Brook)

 

Fiction:

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic)

The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos (Farrar)

My Heart Is Laughing written by Rose Lagercrantz; illustrated by Eva Eriksson; translated from the Swedish by Julia Marshall (Gecko)

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Delacorte)

Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire (Candlewick)

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (Feiwel)

The Turtle of Oman written by Naomi Shihab Nye; illustrated by Betsy Peterschmidt (Greenwillow)

West of the Moon by Margi Preus (Amulet/Abrams)

This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki; illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (First Second/Roaring Brook)

 

Folklore:

Little Roja Riding Hood written by Susan Middleton Elya; illustrated by Susan Guevara (Putnam)

 

Poetry:

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko; illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Candlewick)

How I Discovered Poetry written by Marilyn Nelson; illustrated by Hadley Hooper (Dial)

 

Nonfiction:

Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth written by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm; illustrated by Molly Bang (Blue Sky/Scholastic)

El Deafo written and illustrated by Cece Bell; color by David Lasky (Amulet/Abrams)

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus written by Jen Bryant; illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans)

The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond written by Patrick Dillon; illustrated by Stephen Biesty (Candlewick)

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade/Random)

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker written by Patricia Hruby Powell; illustrated by Christian Robinson (Chronicle)

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands written and illustrated by Katherine Roy (Macaulay/Roaring Brook)

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Paulsen/Penguin)

 

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9. We’re golden

CC books 2014 300x300 Were goldenI think we would all agree that last year was a remarkable year for picture books. And that last year was SO spectacular, SO impressive, that this year might have felt a little…flat. I’ve even caught myself feeling kind of bad for the current Caldecott committee — 2013 would be a tough act to follow.

But this week, here at The Horn Book, we finalized our Fanfare list, our choices for the best books of 2014, and it was really hard to narrow down the picture book choices. Narrow we did, though, and yet: of the 29 books on the list, fully 15 — more than half — are picture books, from story books to folklore to poetry to biography to science.

Also this week, I saw the Huffington Post’s Best Picture Books of 2014 list, which Minh Le prefaced thusly:

“After the last fantastic year in picture books, it was hard to imagine 2014 reaching the same heights. And indeed, my initial impression was that this year’s offerings fell short of 2013′s stellar crop. However, as I sifted and sorted through the piles of books to put this end-of-the-year post together, the list of quality books kept growing. By the end, I was as convinced as ever that we are living in a new golden age of picture books.”

Are we convinced? I am. True, this year has fewer picture books that just scream out for Caldecott recognition (although these do exist! “Fewer” doesn’t mean “none”). But there’s a remarkable breadth and depth this year, a host of quieter treasures that deserve appreciation and admiration.

So, yes, I’m convinced. And encouraged and pleased — on behalf of the field, on behalf of the art form that is the picture book, and on behalf of the kids who are the beneficiaries of all this wealth. And also on behalf of this year’s Caldecott committee, who will have no lack of great books on the table come Midwinter.

But what about you? How do you see this year’s crop of picture books versus last year’s?

 

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10. Best Selling Kids Series | December 2014

Best Selling Books for Kids: This month, our best selling kids series is The Marvel Heroes of Reading line of early readers.

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11. Santa Snoopy Holiday Book Giveaway

In Celebration of 50 Years on TV for A Charlie Brown Christmas, enter to win a Santa Snoopy book prize pack! Giveaway begins December 6, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends January 5, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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12. Becoming an Author Means Embracing a Life of Crime

Before I became a writer, I had no idea being one also meant embracing a life of crime. I don’t know why. All the signs were there – the saying “every great lie has an element of truth”, T.S. Eliot’s immortal “Good authors borrow, great authors steal”, and the infamous Faulkner adage, “Kill your darlings” (Faulkner actually stole that saying from Arthur Quiller-Couch).

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13. Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold

sidman winter bees 300x259 Winter Bees and Other Poems of the ColdBaby, it’s cold outside. Time to look at this very wintry book.

Taking it from the top…

We notice the arresting cover: the leaping fox; the contrast between the fox’s red coat /dark paws and the white, snowy background; the overlay of snow in the air.

Open the book to see endpapers the color of a winter twilight.

Right off the bat there’s an attempt to involve the audience, visually: that fox on the cover (what is it about to pounce on, we wonder); the moose looking straight at us from out of the title page; even the vole on the front flap seems to be looking at us. (I imagine this was a calculated decision, given the nature of the subject: winter being the least active season of the year. All this pulls the audience in before the majestic double-page spreads begin.)

Immediately we notice the sense of texture on the page; the overlay of falling or swirling or even just imminent snow. You can almost breathe this book; you can feel the frozen air in your lungs. There’s a lot of accomplishment on evidence in this book, but the palpable air in this book may be its most remarkable quality.

Then we are presented with one double-page spread after another of majestically composed winter scenes featuring a range of animals, large and small. We notice the care taken to present scenes from an animal’s-eye view, the arresting perspectives, the palette that somehow communicates the sense of cold and yet uses warm colors in spots — and sometimes more than that. Particularly the orange-red of the fox, the bees’ hive, the beavers’ lodge, the chickadees’ breasts. (The cover -and title-page type presages this constant contrast between cold and warm, with the word winter in a chilly blue-purple and the word bees in that orange-red.)

My favorite two spreads in the book, however, feature no animals at all. (I will not be able to be eloquent enough about them, so be sure to take a look for yourself.) A closeup of a single branch opens the book (coming directly after the title page and before the table of contents). On the left hand page, we see the branch as it would look in autumn; as our eye travels toward the right, that same branch gradually morphs into what it would look like in winter. At book’s close (just before the final glossary page), the left-hand page shows the branch in winter, and now as our eyes move to the right, the branch morphs into spring, with the snow disappearing and small buds beginning to appear. And on the tip of the branch? Green. A bud just flowering into leaf. Taken together, those two spreads are the most elegant depiction of the changing seasons I think I’ve ever seen.

About his process for creating the illustrations for Winter Bees, Rick Allen writes (on the copyright page): “The images for this book were made through the unlikely marriage of some very old and almost new art mediums. The individual elements of each picture (the animals, trees, snowflakes, etc.) were cut, inked, and printed from linoleum blocks (nearly two hundred of them), and then hand-colored. Those prints were then digitally scanned, composed, and layered to create the illustrations for the poems. The somewhat surprising (and oddly pleasing) result was learning that the slow and backwards art of relief printmaking could bring modern technology down to its level, making everything even more complex and time-consuming.”

Does this matter? Would a knowledge of the laboriousness and complexity of the artist’s process influence the Caldecott committee? Is the committee even allowed to take such information into consideration? or must they ignore it and simply consider the finished product?

Your thoughts are welcome.

 

 

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14. My Writing and Reading Life: Romina Russell, Author of Zodiac

Romina Russell is a Los Angeles based author who originally hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina. When she’s not working on the ZODIAC series, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.

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15. Last call for Selfie Sweepstakes

selfiesubs Last call for Selfie SweepstakesA reminder that the due date for entries in the Selfie Sweepstakes is December 15, next Monday. Those who predicted I would be swamped with entries were wrong; right now there are about a dozen submissions. If the next week does not bring a deluge, I’ll be able to comment on each of the submissions here on the blog in the coming month. I have no idea if I will find a winner.

I think the relatively few submissions tell us something valuable about the intersection between old media and self-publishing. While it is true that some commenters said they wouldn’t submit because they thought the contest was rigged and obnoxious, more complained about the requirement of a 2015 publication date. They explained that self-published books don’t work on the same calendar as trade books do; that when a book is ready to go, it goes. Others insisted that the publication date was immaterial because good books are timeless, etc. But book reviewing is part of the news business, not simply artful critiques of whatever books we feel like writing about. I also worry that the lack of a pub date can mean a lack of other things as well–a distribution plan, for example. If the only way a book can be ordered is to mail a check to the author’s house, then it is too difficult for a library to order. To the self-publishers who complain that Baker and Taylor does not want their business, I ask, sincerely: why?

Someone recently pointed out in a comment on my original rant that it is unfair to characterize self-published children’s books as “mostly pretty terrible” when trade publishers routinely publish plenty of crap. Yes, they do. But the difference is that the trade publisher believes that any book they publish will have an audience. A self publisher is more inclined to believe that any book they publish should have an audience, which is a very different situation indeed.

See you all next week, and good luck!

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16. 7 Underwear Books for Kids: Including One Big Pair of Underwear

Laura Gehl is the author of One Big Pair of Underwear, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, which released in September. There are a number of underwear books for kids... Read the rest of this post

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17. Ripley’s Fun Facts & Silly Stories 3: An Interview with Ripley Publishing

In this interview, we discuss Fun Facts & Silly Stories 3, the third title in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not® successful Fun Facts and Silly Stories series.

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18. Fun Facts & Silly Stories: The Big One!: An Interview with Ripley Publishing

As the world authority on all that is unbelievable, we're supper excited to chat with Ripley Publishing, an arm of Ripley Entertainment Inc. and the owner of the internationally famous trademark Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

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19. Some people smarter than I

baby foot in mouth 200px Some people smarter than IWhile putting my thoughts back in to fully bake–just kidding, I’ve ditched that recipe–I wanted to share some of the valuable links people provided in the comments to my last post and on Facebook. And let me say again how grateful I am for your bearing with me. I think a lot about what it means to be a man in children’s books (why, for example, do so many of us talk about book awards like they are sports?) but my post of last Friday was not only half-baked, it was clueless as to what was happening in the kitchen and the nation.

So here’s some reality. Jackie Woodson has issued a statement in which she is definitely taking the high road:

“I’d rather continue to move the dialogue forward in a positive light rather than a negative one. This is a moment when our country can grow and learn and better understand each other. It would be nice to put the energy back where it should be — on the books and what the books are saying and doing – Redeployment is an astounding novel, Glück is nothing short of an amazing poet. I don’t know Osnos’ book yet but I plan to read it. Brown Girl Dreaming is about writing and about the history of this country. But more than that, it’s about what this conversation should be — a coming to understanding across lines of race.”

Here is a link to Nikky Finney’s “Choking on a Watermelon.” And David Perry’s post, which was one of the first critiques I saw. Laura Ruby shared this beautiful post from Ashley Ford; and Sarah Hamburg provided some historical context with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ thoughts on Forest Whittaker’s encounter with racism in an UWS deli. And I am very grateful to have found a comparison-gainer, thanks to Kate Messner, in a Princeton freshman who has “checked his privilege and apologizes for nothing.”

Please also see relevant Horn Book resources, which Elissa and Katie began curating after we published Christopher Myers’s “Young Dreamers,” one of the most important essays I’ve seen come through this office and for which I will be forever grateful to Christopher for sending it our way.

That’s it for today–I am now off to engage in the annual bloody battle also known as the Fanfare discussion.

 

 

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20. Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear | Book Review

A beautifully illustrated book about food, togetherness, and the unique world of childhood.

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21. Crankypants Monday

badsanta1 620x330 Crankypants MondayInteresting discussion about holiday library programming over at SLJ. I have two questions.

First, as is so often true when we are talking “on behalf” of children, I want to know if Santa-in-the-library is genuinely offensive to non-Santa people, or is this a case of one party being offended in advance on behalf of another? Without even asking.

Second, where would you draw the line? Some conservative Christians, for example, have taken exception to Harry Potter. Does that mean no Harry Potter programming? Taking into account cultures and/or parents that frown on dating (let alone pre-marital sex), do we decide to forgo booklists or reading club discussion of YA romances? And you might as well jettison any and all folk material from story hour for fear of offending animal rights people, animals-don’t-talk people, anti-princess people, and purist people who want to make sure LRRH ends up in the wolf’s belly. Commenters over at SLJ have pointed out that the American holiday that does not piss somebody off simply doesn’t exist, and I would add that if you decide to decorate for nothing more than the seasonal changes you are still opening yourself up to accusations of paganism, Darwinism and/or climate change denial/hysteria. Because this is America and this is how Americans are these days.

None of this is to justify your Christmas decorations on the grounds of “majority.” Because this is a library, where we say fuck the majority and try to do the best we can for as many people as possible. So celebrate everything: better the risk of your bulletin boards and story hours going over the top than the deadly peace of guaranteed non-offence.

 

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22. Preview January/February 2015 Horn Book Magazine

jan15cover 200x300 Preview January/February 2015 Horn Book MagazineHorn Book Fanfare: Our choices for the best books of 2014.

Coverage of the 2014 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards: judges’ remarks, speeches, photos.

A Second Look: Barbara Bader examines The Planet of Junior Brown.

Elissa Gershowitz on “What Makes a Good Award Acceptance Speech?” The Horn Book‘s (unsolicited) advice.

Audrey M. Quinlan asks, “What Makes a Good Math Storybook?”

From The Guide: Math Picture Books.

 

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23. Starred reviews, January/February 2015 Horn Book Magazine

SissonSagan Starred reviews, January/February 2015 Horn Book MagazineThe following books will receive starred reviews in the January/February 2015 issue of the Horn Book Magazine. Coming this Wednesday: Fanfare, our choices for the best books of 2014.

Once Upon an Alphabet; written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel)

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich; written and illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach (Knopf)

Supertruck; written and illustrated by Stephen Savage (Roaring Brook)

The War That Saved My Life; by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley  (Dial)

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny; written and illustrated  by John Himmelman (Holt)

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future; by A. S. King (Little, Brown)

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos; written and illustrated by  Stephanie Roth Sisson (Roaring Brook)

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24. Best New Kids’ Christmas Books | 2014

In the spirit of the most wonderful time of the year, we've put together a list of the best new kids' Christmas books that capture the holiday magic. We know you'll love our Christmas Books booklist!

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25. Best Selling Picture Books | December 2014

We think it's so fun that one of our all-time favorite Christmas books is our best selling picture book from our affiliate store this month—we just love Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's Stick Man. As per usual, we've shared our hand selected titles of the most popular picture books from the nationwide best selling picture books, as listed by The New York Times.

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