Fuse #8

Friday, April 07, 2006

Extra! Extra! Entirely new kind of book that will SUH-WEEP the nation in one year's time!

Since I’m cultivating a Louella Parsons-ish persona in terms of kiddie litty (and I promise never to refer to children’s literature by that name again), I think I should report on the two illustrators I got to catch a sneak peak at today.

But first, I have news. You all know and love the regular Hot Men of Children’s Literature series on this blog. Ah, sweet men. But did you know that it is not necessarily a new idea? Until today I thought I was the only person to ever come up with this bald-faced act of blatant male-objectification. Now I have learned that there was once a Hot Men of Children’s Literature calendar. Can you imagine? Each month you would turn the page and find yourself looking into the dark dreamy eyes of Kadir Nelson or the ruffled devil-may-care glasses of Mo Willems. And who was it that told me of such an item? None other than Hot Man #4 in a series - Brian Selznick. Yes, my dears, I finally was able to let a Hot Man know that he’d made my list. Mr. Selznick said that he, in turn, was once the co-creator of the aforementioned calendar. This meant, obviously, that he might have some good suggestions. He did, and with those and some of the names suggested by my colleagues, I will soon launch the very first Vote for the next Beefcake posting.

But that comes later. Today, I saw the aforementioned Mr. Selznick and fellow illustrator R. Gregory Christie speak at the New York Public Library’s annual Summer Reading Meeting. Children’s librarians are lured to this meeting every year by the promise of meeting cool authors and illustrators. And let me tell you, Selznick killed. This guy had people eating out of the palm of his hand. First off, in explaining how he went about designing this year’s Summer Reading poster for the state of New York, he showed us a little info on Mad King Ludvig of Bavaria. Any speech that can somehow work in Mad King Ludvig already has my love. Then he talked about the children’s books he’s loved. Things like “The Hundred Dresses”, “Abel’s Island”, “Forever Amber Brown” (a tip of the cap to the departed Danziger), and finally Remy Charlip. Have you ever read a Charlip book? These are truly odd little affairs that defy explanation in a blog as simple and unassuming as this one. Mr. Selznick went on to say that he eventually met Mr. Charlip and found that he was a spiting image of silent movie director Georges Melies. So Charlip is now the model for an upcoming Selznick book on the fellow who long ago brought us “A Trip To the Moon”.

But that’s not why I’m telling you all this. I’m recalling today’s meeting because I’ve something very special to inform you of. A new book. An entirely different format. The type of thing that’s gonna knock the SOCKS off the kids and the reviewers alike. Selznick has come up with something never done in America before, or at least not at this scale.

Picture this: A book that is 500 pages long. 300 of those pages are just illustrations. Beautiful black and white two-page spreads. Selznick introduced the idea for this book by mentioning that normally pictures only complement the action in a tale. Spot pictures might add some details but spot pictures do not propel the narrative forward. There are exceptions like Roald Dahl’s, “Danny, Champion of the World”, but these are few and far between. This new book takes the notion of image and text to an entirely different level. The words are there, of course. Then the words disappear entirely and the viewer is taken on a kind of silent movie series of close-ups and selective images. When the words pick up you can see that the plot has progressed, but in a visual way. Add onto that the fact that this book involves a boy thief, an automaton with a secret in its gears, and a Remy Charlip-resembling old man and you’ve got yourself the hottest little number to burn up bookstore shelves this coming Spring of 2007. As of this meeting Selznick had 5 hours, no joke, to come up with a title for this book. He thought he might call it, “The Curious Invention of Hugo Cabrais”, so keep an ear out for anything along these lines in a year or so. I think we’ve got a 2008 Newbery winner already in the making…

The other illustrator was R. Gregory Christie. You may know him best by his pictures for, “Yesterday I Had the Blues”. Mr. Christie was certainly cute enough to make it into the Hot Men of Children’s Literature (I’m shallow… so sue), but the speech was a little odd. He spent a lot of the time showing us pictures of himself hanging out in clubs (where he would paint), going to his patron’s rented tropical island, hanging out at parties with swank high-end chefs, etc. He’s really talented, no question. It just got a little silly when he’d say something like, “Now I know you’re going to be a little shocked with this next picture” and then show a shot of himself painting in a dance club. Did he think we were 75 or had never heard of this newfangled fad called “dancing”? Puh-leeze, Mr. Christie. Give us SOME credit. He did mention that he has a book called, “Dear Musicians” coming out and that the book has some kind of a tie to Pete Seeger. He also has a really gorgeous YA title by Traci L. Jones appearing under the name, “Standing Against the Wind”. FYI.

All in all a successful meeting. Now go bug Greenwillow about getting review copies of this “Hugo Cabrais” book out pronto.


At 2:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a fascinating meeting! So glad I could tag along, via your narrative.

The only book I could recall that even came close to the Selznick endeavor is Silver Pony by Lynd Ward...and that was only 192 pages.

My favorite fairy story, well, elfin story: Aternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle.

Love your blog!


At 9:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously, you have way whoa more opportunities to live la vida kiddie loca than we do Out Here in The Sticks.

Please have the janitor nail the podium permanently in that northy-northwest location, thanks!

HUGO CABRAIS sounds absolutely, deliciously wonderful.

It's interesting, that just as the channel is narrowings for us kiddie lit writers (write pink! write fantasy! write YA!), the channel is opening for illustrators, those poor folk so long stuck doing nothing but the tried-and-true 28 half pages, 2 full spreads, and the coupla end papers of the picture book ghetto.

Ten years ago, interior illustrations in mid-grades were thin on the ground; graphic novels were unheard of (in kiddie lit, anyway); a 500-page book of mainly pictures would have been laughed out of the room.

Now, we got books like EDDIE TULANE and HUGO CALBRAIS to dream over.....yay!


At 12:13 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

I did wish that I could've asked Mr. Selznick how he got the clout to pull off this sort of thing. To the best of my knowledge (and if anyone here can correct me, please do) he's never won a Caldecott proper. He's relatively well-known but not in a Kevin Henkes kind of way. In short, why is Greenwillow (or whichever publisher he's going with on this) giving him this opportunity? A clue might be in the fact that an editor of his was once the owner of an independent children's bookstore in which Mr. Selznick worked when young. Could this explain this sudden rush of trust in an obviously talented man that is not yet a household name? *shrug*


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