Fuse #8

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Blogging Resolutions

I'm taking a stab at this, having seen it on A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy, who in turn saw it on Semicolon. I hereby solemly swear in the coming year the following:

  • I will keep up the consistent flow o' info.
  • I will, however, limit myself to 2-3 reviews a week.
  • I will create at least one podcast in the new year. Let's give it a shot. I like the idea of podcasts and though I haven't the most dulcet tones in the world I'd love to pull a David Edelstein for the particularly snarky thoughts I have.
  • I will organize my desk. It is currently buried under five separate piles of books. In my dream I clear all that out, toss the desk, install a comfy chair, and work on my blog from a laptop there. Dare to dream, babies.

  • Moomin, Music, and Comics

    Sunday, Sunday.
    So my trolling of kidlit websites has yielded a couple goodies here and there. I'm itching to get back in the reviewing game, so we'll see how that goes this coming week. Until then, Children's Illustration has been uniquely helpful in terms of interesting tidbits out there. Some things mentioned recently that amused me include:

    • The fact that there was a Moomin cartoon out there from Japan. Apparently one of the voices died recently.
    • And that there's something out there called Kiddie Record King that will seriously blow your mind, man.

    Along the same lines as Kiddie Record King is also a website containing old comics from the past. It's a great project that takes comics that haven't been fully appreciated and digitizes them for public consumption. Says the site:

    Understandably, a publisher would be hesitant to take on the huge financial risk of publishing an obscure title or cartoonist, but digital reproduction offers no risk at all and allows for a terrific means of restoring, preserving, and making available again the vast amounts of material that have been unseen and unappreciated for far too long.

    Really beautiful. Hopefully they'll get a proper printing with support of this site.

    Thanks to Sandbox for the second link.

    Sad News

    Fans of Bookseller Chick's blog will discover that shortly before Christmas Day they received word that her store will be closing soon. As the daughter of a woman who worked in Kalamazoo's oldest independent bookstore, I know all too well the pain of closing a beloved location. Bookseller Chick is the only bookseller blog I read at the moment. She'll continue to post, fortunately, but it's certainly a loss.

    Saturday, December 30, 2006

    A Mock Newbery I Forgot

    I would be amiss if I did not mention my favorite Mock Newbery discussion of them all. When I was but a dinky MLIS student working for my degree, I participated in Gail Nordstrom's St. Paul/Minneapolis/Stillwater Mock Newbery/Caldecott discussion and had quite a good time doing so. As I recall, anyone could participate, but few knew about it. So if you happen to be living in the Twin Cities area and wish to get down and dirty with your own Mock Schtoof, this would be the place to go. Their reading list isn't too shabby either.

    For a listing of a couple Mock Discussions nationwide, please see this earlier posting.

    Nancy Pearl In the News

    Nancy Pearl has a wiki.
    For those of you who aren't familiar with the woman in question, a quick glance at your librarian action figures (you WERE all given librarian action figures at some point in your past, yes?) should remind you.

    I don't understand wikis very well, but I was pleased to see that there was a category entitled, My Child's Favorite Book where everyone is invited to say what their kids are reading/actually enjoying. I added my blog to the General Book-Related Blogs section, but hopefully Ms. Pearl will add a separate Kidlit Blog section all on her own. Until then, inundate her, my pretties! Let us not go ignored.

    Thanks to Galleycat for the link.

    Love Harold Bloom Or Hate Him...

    . . . you have to give the man credit when it comes to fiction that isn't Harry Potter. Now I've always felt that Mr. Bloom's sneering dismissal of HP was the literary snob equivalent of those evangelicals who wish to burn the boy wizard. If it's popular it must be populist, or something along those lines. But his defense of Little, Big is to his credit. So well done there, I guess.

    The Wind Up and the Pitch

    A person receives an advanced reader's copy of a book in the mail. They remove the book from its package, take a gander at it, and lo and behold there sits a letter inside the front cover. It's a pitch letter, explaining why you should read this book and how this magnificent title fits in to the general scheme of the universe. I never really thought much about these letters before, but a recent Galleycat piece asks Do Reviewers Care About the Pitch Letter? Well, do they? Punk?

    This particular reviewer who sits before you doesn't really care one way or another about the letters. Galleycat points out that the pitch may give you some idea of how important the publishing house finds this particular title, but should that matter in the end? It's worth considering in any case. If the pitch letter disappeared tomorrow, I suspect that few reviewers would even notice.

    Admittedly I'm Not a Katie Couric Fan Either, But...

    What's a Saturday without a little NRA funded graphic novel news?

    Yes, your long wait is over. Freedom In Peril: Guarding the 2nd Amendment in the 21st Century is coming and Wonkette has the scoop. Honestly, I'm having a very hard time determining if this is real or not. Even if it isn't, however, it's good for a laugh. A sad, bitter, dry little laugh.

    Thanks to Bookninja for the link.

    Friday, December 29, 2006

    A Spring 2007 Round-Up

    It's not too dissimilar from when you get back from Winter Vacation during college only to find that hardly any of your friends are around to talk to. Some bloggers are updating these days, but a lot of the regulars are off galavanting who-knows-where. So where does that leave my kiddie lit news items? In the lurch, that's where.

    Fortunately I've a big stack of Spring 2007 publisher titles just ah-sitting on my desk waiting to be inspected. Here are some of the titles I've seen that sound tasty. I could be wrong, not having seen them or anything, but the books I'm listing here caught my eye one way or another. Also, because these publishers are either small, schedule previews on odd days, or do not invite librarians to poke about their wares early (as Little, Brown & Co., Random House, and Greenwillow mostly kindly do) I have not seen any of these books presented before.

    Now, I'd link each and every one of these titles to Amazon, but that would take countless hours. Unless I've a note regarding their covers, you'll have to look these puppies up yourself.

    North-South Books
    We start with a small New York publisher, right off the bat. From them I've found the following of interest:

    Duck's Tale by Harmen van Straaten
    Dutch, it seems. North-South has smartly placed some striking disapproving-froggie art from this book on their Spring 2007 catalog cover and it suits them very well. This puppy looks enticing.

    Rapunzel by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm, illustrated by Dorothee Duntze
    I'm not a huge fan of the original story, but the art for this book is not usual. The "witch", for example, appears to be a heavyset 45-year-old woman of uncommonly good style and taste. We'll see how the actual book does.

    Cleverly putting Hugo Cabret front and center on their catalog cover, I was disappointed to miss their Spring Preview this year. Here's what I think of what they've got lined up anyway:

    Lily Brown's Paintings by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
    I'm a touch and go E.B. Lewis fan at best, but Angela Johnson has more than earned her stripes. I'm tentatively interested.

    Pierre In Love by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Petra Mathers
    The art isn't immediately interesting to me, but Sara Pennypacker's Clementine was one of the year's standouts. If she can write short as well as she writes long, we may have a hit on our hands.

    The Flying Bed by Nancy Willard, illustrated by John Thompson
    Great cover art on this one. I never fell for A Visit To William Blake's Inn like I should have, so maybe Willard can win me over with this puppy.

    A Friendship for Today by Patricia McKissack
    Uh-oh. We have a problem here. Now, the cover in the catalog is amazing. Even if it wasn't McKissack (talented out the wazoo, she be), it would still be something I'd want to read due to the cover alone. So I link to Amazon and I get this cover instead. Not half as striking and downright dull. I am, right now, on my knees praying that this was the old cover and that the catalog is the one who got it right. PLEASE, Scholastic, if you have any pity in your hearts then tell me that Amazon is wrong on this one.

    Roanoke: The Mystery of the Lost Colony by Lee Miller
    I like Roanoke, so I'll be checking this puppy out. Let's see if it reveals any new info.

    Main Street - A Scholastic imprint
    Main Street doesn't try to be the classy imprint. They know exactly what they want out of life.

    The Midnight Library series all by Damien Graves (?)
    Aw. They look cheesy but fun. I'll give 'em a go.

    And there seem to be some new covers on the Bailey School Kids series. Moving on...

    Good old Penguin. The sheer number of interesting titles suggests an interesting upcoming year.

    Summer Ball by Mike Lupica

    Lupica completely won me over when I read Heat. At this point in the proceedings, he can do no wrong.

    The Day the Stones Walked by T.A. Barron
    T.A. Barron for the young 'uns. It's a little odd that he's the first person in recent memory to figure out how freakin' cool Easter Island would be in the work of children's fiction, but I'm willing to go along with it.

    First Daughter: Extreme America Makeover by Mitali Perkins
    Partly because I just like Mitali. Partly because the girl on the cover really does look cool.

    How Underwear Got Under There: A Brief History by Kathy Shaskan, illustrated by Regan Dunnick
    Where would we be if there wasn't a great non-fiction title or two out there for the kiddies. National Geographic may have cornered the market on class, but books like this one might actually get picked up by their intended audience.

    Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer
    Another case of competing covers. In this particular case, I like the one on the author's website far more than the one that was in the catalog. The website cover has a very dark and funny sense of humor that will appeal to a wide swath of kidlets. The one in the catalog (which I can't find online and take to be a good sign) is, to put it mildly, oddly androgynous. From a careful scanning of the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Chat Board, however, I think I've determined that the one on Brewer's website is not only the better of the two but the one Penguin is going with. Whew!

    The Bravest Knight by Mercer Mayer
    Significant if only because I've just discovered that Mercer Mayer is a guy. I cannot believe this. My entire world has just shifted slightly to the left.

    Badger's Fancy Meal by Keiko Kasza
    With every Kasza book I yearn for another good readaloud. Nothing will ever reach the heights of My Lucky Day, but you never know. I keep on hoping.

    Camp Creepy Time by Gina Gershon and Dann Gershon
    Not content with a single kid-vampire cover/title, Penguin found it necessary to indulge in a little celebrity drivel. Then again, it's a fun cover. And who says the world isn't big enough for more than one vamp book?

    Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest by Matt Haig
    I wouldn't have suggested that they slap that particular title on it, but the cover art (which, sadly, I cannot find online) more than makes up for the pseudo-Harry Potteresque name.

    The Princess and the Pea by Rachel Isadora
    A) Because I like Rachel Isadora
    B) Because it's nice to see at least one princess story come along that features someone who isn't whitey white white.

    Yellowbelly and Plum Go To School by Nathan Hale
    This fellow is the artist who is currently working on Shannon Hale's upcoming graphic novel. Let's see how he fares in the picture book realm first and foremost.

    Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst
    Great cover. Lucky lucky first novelist.

    Stuck In the Middle: 17 Comics From an Unpleasant Age, edited by Ariel Schrag
    A little Daniel Clowes action is going on here alongside other GN luminaries. Sounds superb.

    The Last Girls of Pompeii by Kathryn Lasky
    Love the difficult-to-find-online cover (you're getting a hint here of how shallow I really am). Love the premise. Love Pompeii. I'm sold. Bring it on, Lasky!

    The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, illustrated by Charles Vess
    I've no particular reason for including this one, except perhaps that I'm hoping for some really good trickster collections here.

    Mystery Isle by Judith St. George
    Oh, thank God. A mystery. Considering how popular mysteries are, surprisingly few authors have the wherewithal to attempt them.

    From Charlie's Point of View: A Mystery by Richard Scrimger

    Three Cave Mountain by Per Olov Enquist, illustrated by Stina Wirsen
    And for the Swedish fans amongst us, a little outdoorsy adventure-stuff. Looks like its making a break for that elusive "classic" feel.

    I always love Kane/Miller's attempts to winnow out great picture books from around the globe.

    Who's Hiding? by Satoru Onishi
    It has a smooth simple feel that may be very charming if the text matching the images properly.

    Strong picture book selection this season is coming out of these three Random House imprints. I haven't seen these yet.

    Ginger Bear by Mini Grey
    Okay, truth? Mini Grey could write a picture book about an inanimate carbon rod and I'd be the first one in line to buy that puppy for all my friends and relatives.

    The Wicked Big Toddlah by Kevin Hawkes
    GREAT title. 200 points go to Kevin Hawkes for that one.

    Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas by Meghan McCarthy
    Well, of course. How could I not include this? And how come Atlas hasn't appeared in more non-fiction books for kids? Eh?

    Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford, illustrated by Valorie Fisher
    I was a little disappointed to read the description and find that Moxy Maxwell learns to love Stuart Little by the end. I was hoping she'd stick to her guns on that one.

    Into the Woods by Lyn Gardner
    So much buzz surrounds this one that I don't know how I couldn't read it. It sounds superb.

    Take-Off!: American All-Girl Bands During World War II by Tonya Bolden
    Dunno if any kid would ever pick this up, but I (for one) think it sounds delish.

    A Field Guide To High School by Marissa Walsh
    I don't read YA, but this one is hard to avoid. Suh-weet. I mean, talk about great cover art.

    The Confessional by J.L. Powers

    There also seem to be a couple new covers for Blood and Chocolate out there. I wonder if the upcoming film was an impetus at work.

    Farrar Straus and Giroux
    Look at these cool books. Like it would kill them to invite librarians over for tea. Sheesh.

    The Escape of Oney Judge by Emily Arnold McCully
    An evil Martha Washington? I can totally get behind that. I am exaggerating, of course, but not by too much. This appears to be a McCully title with guts.

    Dawn and Dusk by Alice Mead
    Iran fic. Name any. Any at all for kids. None come to mind? Then this book deserves a gander.

    Animal Poems by Valerie Worth, illustrated by Steve Jenkins.
    Steve Jenkins. Nuff said.

    The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Shelley Jackson.
    Hard to resist a title like that. Pretty fancy-schmancy art to boot. Few books have the ability to look like something you could grow to love from just a first glance. This is one of the few.

    How To Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor
    GREAT cover. Great title. Great premise. I am hooked hooked hooked. Give me this book!

    Way Down Deep by Ruth White
    Not a good cover. But Belle Prater's Boy was so good that we'll see if Ruth White's got the old magic back again.

    Ben and the Sudden Too-Big Family by Colby Rodowsky
    With a title that is guaranteed to make English majors everywhere shudder, this is one of those rare early chapter books. Too few exist to ignore this one.

    Daffodil Crocodile by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Tomek Bogacki
    I saw Ms. Jenkins talk this one up some months ago. She convinced me of Mr. Bogacki's brilliance. We'll see if this one is as good as its predecessor Daffodil.

    Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat
    Like Iranian middle grade fiction, Palestinian works are few and far between. This looks more than interesting.

    Hear Us Out! Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present by Nancy Garden
    Cause you just can't have enough of these on the shelves anyway.

    The Invisible by Mats Wahl
    I remember reading a story with a very very similar premise to this one. Boy starts to become invisible. Can't figure out why. 20 points to anyone who can name the book. It came out in the late 80s/early 90s and was YA, I think.

    A Hippo's Tale by Lena Landstrom
    If only because The New Hippos was so doggone cute.

    Oh, Harcourt. Why don't you court the librarian vote?

    Pirates Don't Change Diapers by Melinda Long, illustrated by David Shannon
    The sequel to How I Became a Pirate. Long overdue.

    My Life As a Chicken by Ellen A. Kelley, illustrated by Michael Slack
    Cause it's got a freakin' cool title. Dunno how the plot is, or if the author and illustrator are any good. But one cannot underestimate the power of the first impression.

    The Tale of Pale Male by Jeanette Winter
    The first of 2 Pale Male picture books ah-brewing. Meghan McCarthy's should be along any day now as well.

    Alligator Boy by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode
    Not all that dissimilar from Daffodil Crocodile, now that I think of it. Hmmm. A new trend?

    Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
    Not as cool a title as Evil Baby Genius would be, but cool enough. A bit of the old Artemis Fowl, eh?

    Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey
    Perhaps not the strongest premise in the world, but check out that cover. And Lloyd Alexander liked it enough to blurb it. Cool.

    So that's all I had on my desk. Should be enough for now...

    Oh. And what is UP with all the fairies?
    I thought that Scholastic was just being silly when I saw their Winx Club. Here's the byline for the series: "We are the Winx - six teenage fairies with a passion for fashion and a flair for magic." Shopping AND magic! You should see their platform shoes. Whoo-boy. Main Street (also Scholastic) got in the swing of things with The Jewel Fairies. Less sophisticated and definitely less appalling. And then, of course, Random House Golden Books has their own Disney Fairies line (oh Gail Carson Levine, what hath thou wrought?). Fairies are big at the moment. FYI.

    Thursday, December 28, 2006

    A Fine Fat Goose For Your Goodly Wife

    I'm back! Didja miss me? Didja even notice I was gone? No?

    Well I for one am glad to get back into the swing of things. You were all uncommonly kind in terms of drumming up manga titles I didn't know about before, by the way. I do appreciate it. As for the holiday season, I got all sorts of goodies for Christmas too. I got The Art of Reading: Forty Illustrators Celebrate RIF's 40th Anniversary (we have the cover art here at Donnell), a DVD of Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas (how did my husband know?), the Sabuda Wizard of Oz, and other assorted tidbits. But the loveliest of all these, was the goose.

    Remember when I lamented at length and in varying tones of sorrow that the Folkmanis goose, the greatest of all goose puppets (J.L. Bell's suggestion notwithstanding) was Out of Stock and unavailable? Moan loudly enough and the heavens themselves shall be wrought asunder and send you a saint in the form of Brian Selznick.

    You heard me. Christmas was coming and Mr. Selznick sent me a fat beautiful goose puppet. It's truly lovely. Soft and full and with a head so flexible that it fairly challenges my mouse for the throne of Most Expressive Puppet. Featured (the biggie) below:

    This is not just any goose, mind you. It has a history. Says my benefactor:
    "When I was working on The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins I was bitten by a goose in the park where the dinosaurs still stand in London. A bookseller gave me this goose puppet in honor of that somewhat painful incident."
    So here we have a children's literary goose with a fine pedigree that is just PERFECT for playing Saracen to my Mosca in future booktalks. I couldn't be more pleased. I spent all of yesterday cuddling my (which is to say, Donnell's) new toy. Should any of you care to stop by my library, I'll be happy to show it to you. Yay, Brian Selznick!

    If the Zombies Don't Get Us, the Robots Will

    Hide your women! The robots are here! Or, to be more precise, they're at Chicago State University where mechanical drones are replacing clerks in terms of shelving books. The uninformed Wired Magazine, who seems to believe that all that librarians do all day is shelve shelve shelve, has reported accordingly and offers us these enticing numbers.

    Robotic Librarians by the Numbers

    • Top speed of CSU’s robotic librarians: 7 mph
    • Average time for a robot to retrieve five books: 2.5 minutes
    • Average time for a student to retrieve five books: 2 hours
    • Capacity of CSU’s high-density storage: 800,000 volumes
    • Robots making out in the stacks: 0
    (2 hours to retrieve 5 books?)

    I warned my own clerks that the future was nigh. Somehow they were not distressed. What troopers.

    Where's Waldo's Sense of Indignation?

    Martin Handford would be turning in his grave. If he were dead, that is. Apparently the surprise bestseller of the past British Christmas season is none other than a political play on the old Where's Waldo? riff entitled Where's Bin Laden?.

    Things I learned from The Guardian article on the topic:
    • Where's Waldo? is actually Where's Wally? overseas (far more adorable a name, yes?).
    ... and that's about it.

    One can only pray that Handford is getting a cut. I'm no lawyer, but I'm not entirely certain that anything this lucrative falls under parody.

    Thanks to Galleycat for the link.

    I Just Think the Word "Umlaut" Is Funny

    I've grown very fond of the Children's Illustration blog as run by illustrator Julie Fromme Fortenberry (and how awesome a name is that?) as the months have gone by. Her posts are always interesting, and always touch on topics that no one else is bringing up. Case in point, her recent posting simply entitled Illustrators with Umlauts. Nuff said. And extra points for directing public attention to the entirely charming Anthony and the Girls.

    Did I Just Blow Your Mind?

    Off-topic madness time.
    Look at me! I'm made up of tons of tiny pics! Sadly, this is as close as I can get from here. Make one yourself and you can stare at your own face broken into hundreds of puppies, flowers, and difficult-to-ascertain body parts. Oh, Image Mosaic Generator. Is there anything you cannot do?

    Many thanks to Eric Berlin.

    Prolific Much?

    Somebody slip J.L. Bell a mickey. Most of us veg out during the holidays and let our blogs go to pot. Does he follow suit? No, sir. No, instead he hands us piece after piece of interesting tidbits. A Harry Potter forecast. Info on the First International Children's Literature Conference In India. M.T. Anderson and the Case of the Missing Plots. It's bloody embarrassing. I thought I might get some sort of head start over my fellows now that I've come back. Not much hope of that now, is there?

    Thanks to Oz and Ends.

    Last Days of the Cybils

    I'm simply awful. When was the last time I mentioned the Cybils? Well, we are in the high drama period now. The final days of sorting through all the nominees to get to the top five. In the Middle Grade Fiction committee, my group has settled on three definites and we're currently trying to winnow down the final two. Once we hear from a remaining member, all will be clear. And I assure you that when we've settled on the top five, you, my darlings, will be the first to know. Till then, fingernails are rapidly being chawed down to the bone.

    In Tom's Midnight Garden of Eden, Baby. Don't You Know That I Love You?

    I leave for a couple of days and just look what happens! One of the shining stars of kiddie lit ends up dead. Naughty naughty. What do you think is going to happen when I go to ALA? Are we going to find Maurice Sendak or Tana Hoban pushing up the daisies? What's that you say? Tana Hoban is also dead? Well what about Theodore Taylor? WHAT? Look here, my lovelies, we lost many fine and outstanding souls this year (Ernestine Gilbreth Carey comes to mind). Enough is enough. No one else is allowed to die, got it?

    Thanks to Read Roger for the Pearce heads up.

    Monday, December 25, 2006

    Happy Merry!

    That sorta sums up the weather right now, eh? I was counting on Michigan to deliver me some snow snow snow. Michigan is being coy this year. Not so much as a flake. *sigh*

    Now I've been saving all these tasty treats for you, just in time for the day in question. If you've come to check this blog on Christmas then consider this my gift to you. Happy holidays! Or, as the Bookseller Chick puts it, Happy Merry!

    First up, the ongoing debate surrounding Clement Moore's classic poem. Which book deserves to be known as THE definitive edition of A Visit From St. Nicholas? It's the Christmas Eve Cage Match, brought to you by the ever informative What Adrienne Thinks About That.

    If the holiday season is placing you in close proximity with relatives you know only tangentially or that you actively avoid the rest of the whole year through, take out your Yuletide frustration on this innocent snowglobe and watch the tiny denizens scream in terror. That link actually came from Brooklyn Arden. No lie.

    It's also been too durn long since I linked to a podcast, wouldn't you say? What better then than a Holiday book booktalk podcast via none other than BookTalk (the Podcast).

    And if you haven't your own personal CD of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, featuring Boris Karloff, my bestest buddy Dan sends along an mp3 file for you. Enjoy it in the comfort of your own home or, better yet, alongside Gregory K's Oddaptation of the same.

    I'm back on Wednesday. See ya then.

    Saturday, December 23, 2006

    Manga Snob Needs Your Help

    Hi. My name is Betsy, and I'm a manga snob.

    I've been a manga snob all my life. At first, it wasn't a big problem. I could get through the days without having to know anything at all about the comics. But now I'm a children's librarian and I love graphic novels. Do kids want what I want all the time, though? No. They want manga. Which would be fine except that I am (as I may have mentioned before) a manga snob.

    So here's my question for you, the world at large. Good manga for KIDS (not teens). Does it exist? This is the post I'll leave up as I go off on Christmas vacation for the next four days or so. When I come back I'll weed through the answers and try to determine how y'all stand.

    Remember, I want good manga. Quality manga. Manga on par with Babymouse. Whatchu got?

    The Cinematical Review of Eragon

    Why see the movie when you can read a delightful review of this bit of treacle firsthand? Here is the list of things that reviewer Scott Weinberg does NOT want to see in a movie ever again.
  • A wizened old mentor teaching a young pupil to let something "flow" through him.
  • A scene in which someone rides the back of a dragon while whooping and cheering.
  • A young hero rushing off to save his friends despite being warned that such actions spell d-o-o-m.
  • An explanation from a henchman to a villain detailing why he came back empty-handed.
  • And it gets better.

    Striking a Blow For Independent Bookstores

    When an author tries to get out of the soul-damning machinations of publicity, they're often looked upon as batty or deranged. Remember when Jonathan Franzen didn't want The Corrections to be an Oprah book of the month? People just couldn't wrap their heads around that one. Less publicized is the case of British children's author George Walker. When his book Tales From an Airfield started doing well in bookstores, Amazon.co.uk picked it up against his wishes.
    "What they are actually doing is getting the independents to do their market research," said Mr Walker, a passionate advocate of independents. "When a book gets a certain amount of attention, they will attempt to stock it and cut the independents out. Not with my book!"
    Wow. That is one amazing guy. He's so dedicated to independent bookstores that he'll tell the biggest book retailer out there where they can shove their "help". He even promotes a British independent bookstore website. I think I'm in love. If any American publishers would care to pick up his book I'd be happy to buy the first 100,000 copies or so just to help get it off the ground.

    Thanks to Galleycat for the link.

    Company Letterhead and Reviews

    I don't often have to request a review copy of a book from a publisher these days. Just the same, the few times I try to do so I often run into the old "Fax a copy of your request on company letterhead" statement on the website. It's a bit of a bother, as my blog hasn't quite nailed down our, er, company letterhead as of yet. Perhaps I'll glue some fuses to a sheet of stationary. But now Ron Lieber with the Wall Street Journal states what many of us have only been thinking.
    Why, in late 2006, must reporters seeking review copies fax their request on company letterhead? Is fraud really so rampant that you can't accept an email suffix like @wsj.com or @time.com as proof that someone works where they say they work? Or is it not possible to take two seconds to Google somebody's name to check them out if it's unfamiliar?
    Galleycat has the link. And they're just as curious as to why publishers are so firmly attached to this somewhat out-of-date requirement, although more from the blogger perspective. I wonder as well.

    Friday, December 22, 2006

    When Was the Last Time You Told a Flap Writer You Loved Them?

    Remember remember the 15th of .... January (note to self: doesn't rhyme).

    The Flappies are due in to the Longstockings by 1/15/07, people. Flap copy on children's books gets little to no attention. I never look at flaps when I'm writing a review for fear of inadvertently copying some poor clever schlub's encapsulation of events (though I often go back after I've read the review to think, "ARGH! That was better!"). And do these schlub's get flap copy credit? They do not. It's a secret science that culls no attention and receives no praise. So grab some flaps, find your favs, and head on over to The Longstockings blog to give shout-outs where shout-outs are due to the flaps that won your heart in 2006.

    Underrated Writers 2006

    It's a rather good idea. In the wake of Time Magazine making YOU the person of the year (this particular YOU would like to thank all the other YOUs she's known throughout the years) The Syntax of Things has come up with an Underrated Writers 2006 list. And as you might imagine, it's not interested in underrated children's writers. If I had the power to do so (power = Web know-how) I'd create a kidlit version of this list and find some contributers of my own to suggest authors. Maybe next year, kids. Maybe next year.

    Thanks to Maud Newton for the link.

    In Like LeGuin

    I, personally, don't have a problem reading children's books on the subway (I really only get funny looks if I'm delving into my picture book stash). Still, there's always this undercurrent present in the kid book community that suggests that if you read them you're really not indulging in real a.k.a. adult literature. Tired of going to cocktail parties only to find that your fellow guests just don't get how cool the Bartimeaus trilogy is? Ursula LeGuin to the rescue. In her article Imaginary Friends published in the New Statesman, Ms. LeGuin defends the fantasy genre. One bon mot goes so far as to say that for adults that pooh-pooh fantasy, "There should be a word - 'maturismo', like 'machismo'? - for the anxious savagery of the intellectual who thinks his adulthood has been impugned." Sock it to 'em, lady!

    HOWEVER... woe betide you to read realistic children's fiction. LeGuin is willing to support fantasy readers. Realism, however, is another story entirely.
    Realism comes in three separate age categories, fully recognised by publishers. Didactic, explanatory, practical and reassuring, realistic fiction for young children hasn't much to offer people who've already learned about dump trucks, vaccinations and why Heather has two mommies. Realistic "Young Adult" novels tend to focus tightly on situations and problems of little interest to anyone outside that age group.
    Just as few adults read fantasy when they cross into maturity, so too do I suspect that Ms. LeGuin hasn't gotten her hands on any realistic children or YA novels written in the last ten years. How funny that she couldn't defend one form of fiction without beating down another.

    Just Put Some Buttons Behind Those Specs

    Two items regarding Coraline in all its many shapes and forms.

    Item number one: Harper Collins is getting in on the graphic novel game. Can't allow Scholastic to hog all the fun, I guess. As such Coraline the graphic novel is currently being penned by P. Craig Russell. You can see three of the unlettered pages here and two lettered ones here. Mr. Russell did some Sandman work back in the day and sports a rather nice blog for the GN-inclined amongst us.

    Item number two: Remember that Coraline movie that's getting filmed these days? Did you happen to catch who was playing the dad? It's John Hodgman, baby. Sometime This American Life contributor and best known for his appearances on The Daily Show and in Mac ads (to say nothing of his recent book), Mr. H will be playing both good Dad and bad Dad. I don't know who the casting director was, but this verges on the brilliant. A soft-spoken villain is always creepier than a outrageous one. No coincidence, I suspect, that Hodgman recently interviewed Neil Gaiman here in New York about his life and work.

    Gabbing About God

    Hot topic! Hot hot hot topic!
    So here's the deal. Recently Mother Reader read Hattie Big Sky which she thought was swell. However, it could not escape her notice that the book itself would fit in perfectly well into the world of Christian lit. Yet has any reviewer of the book noticed this until now? Not so much. So in a post entitled Inviting Discussion On Hattie Big Sky ... And God, our readerly mother goes right smack dab to the marrow of the topic. In short, what does it take for a book to be considered "religious"? If the characters are religious and living in the past is that any different from a work of fiction where characters are religious and living in the present?

    It's God talk! Go fill in your two cents. You know you wanna.

    Kidlit Book Blogger Meme

    Care for a meme? I found this one at Confessions of a Bibliovore and figured that if Kids Lit was participating then I would too.

    How many other kidlit blogs do you read?
    Look at my blogroll. See everything there? That's who I read, baby. And some that aren't too, for that matter.

    What's the most recent add?
    Z Recommends - Run by Jeremiah McNichols it's not technically a children's book blog. Just covers a single child's preferences, really. I like that it contains fabulous links like self-aware baby booties and the regular series of Innovative Filmmakers Who Will Blow Your Toddler's Mind.

    How often do you post a book review to your blog?
    Ugh. It used to be every day. Weren't those nice times? Now I'm shut down until the Newbery's announced. And even then I think I may have to do one every three days or so. The daily review days are long gone.

    Do you post about anything else?
    Anything that amuses me. If it regards book blogging, children's books, reviewing, or anything I find funny (look at the puppies and hedgehogs!) then it'll probably show up at some point.

    Do you only blog books you like, or the stinkers too?
    It's gotten harder, certainly. This isn't an I Love Every Book In the World! blog. On the other hand, life's too short to seek out bad books and review them. I blog what strikes my fancy as interesting. In the new year I'll be doing less reviews, but I'll also be keeping a close watch on books that may be overrated.

    How do you keep track of what you want to read?
    I pile them on my desk or start bugging my co-workers for them. What I want to read and have in ARC form far outweigh what I want to read and haven't received.

    How do you keep track of what you've read?
    I have a list of 2006 Books that contains all the books I've read cover to cover for the year. It's a lovely list. Plus it'll be very useful when I create my Golden Fuse Awards (containing such categories as Best Villain of the Year, Best Trend, and Best Wordless Picture Book).

    Do you work with kids?
    I do.

    In the age group of the books you mostly blog about?
    Yup. Life's too short otherwise. We seem to be living in a golden age of YA titles, however. So it's impossible to avoid doing at least a little YA coverage now and then.

    Do you read grown-up books?
    My husband wonders the same thing. Often. Once the Newbery is over and done with I'll get back to that People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn that's been staring balefully at me since I put it down in July. So, yes. Eventually.

    Lib Web Cat

    Researchy stuff.
    The Advanced Search page of lib-web-cats is designed to help identify libraries according to the library automation system they use, collection size, and affiliations.
    I found this in my rounds and thought it might be of interest to you. Basically you can search for library collections all over the country, if that happens to be your wont, by size and affiliations. It would be heavenly if you could limit your searches to children's collections and where the best ones are, but as of yet the site doesn't allow for that search term. If your library system has not submitted its information, consider doing so. The lib-web-cat is run by Marshall Breeding, the "Director for Innovative Technologies and Research for the Jean and Alexander Heard Library at Vanderbilt University", so it's on the up-and-up.

    It's Almost Heeeere....

    I heard a month or so ago about the spiffy little machine that could print, align, mill (mill?), glue and bind a book in seven minutes for your instant reading needs, but I hadn't given it much thought. Then I found out that New York Public Library is getting their very own Espresso machine (that's what they're called) in February.

    No word yet on which particular branch of the library is going to receive it first. Nor, for that matter, if the books will be free since you're getting them from a library.

    Wouldn't it be cool if mine got it? Visit Winnie-the-Pooh, get a free Winnie-the-Pooh book, and carry on your way? Tell me who to propose this too and I'll do so immediately.

    Thursday, December 21, 2006

    Surprise! The Seventh Harry Potter Title!

    Christmas is coming early this year.
    1. Go to http://www.jkrowling.com and choose the graphic interface (not text-only).
    2. On the main page, click on the eraser. This will take you to a room with a door.
    3. Click on the door in the mirror: It will open, revealing a Christmas tree.
    4. Click on the top of the main door: A wreath will appear.
    5. Click on the mirror above the Christmas-tree door: Garlands will appear.
    6. Click on the cobwebs: They will disappear.
    7. Click on the second chime from the right: It will turn gold.
    8. Drag the golden chime and it will become a key. Insert it into the lock, and the door will open.
    9. Click on the present, and it will unwrap.
    10. Click on the page you can see sitting inside the present. A game of "Hangman" will open.
    Once you read it you'll understand why my brother said, upon hearing it, "So much for Harry Potter and the Happy Bunnies".

    And if you're not much for games, you could also read it at the end of this article.

    Also (I keep adding stuff to this post) Galleycat had this to say on the matter:
    Though a release date has not been announced, the name announcement for the sixth book took place on June 29, 2004, with the book published on July 16, 2005. So if that is a precedent, then [the latest book] should be published approximately 383 days later, which would be January 8, 2008. We'll see if that prediction bears out...
    Make of it what you will.

    Thanks to The Leaky Cauldron for the tip.

    Book Crossing

    When all is said and done and the Newbery is picked and a certain someone I know is able once more to read books made in nations other than her own, that same someone is going to have a lot of books on her hands. A lot. So what does one do with a lot of books?

    Well, there's the option of donating them to school libraries that need them or to worthy causes. And on the slightly more flippant end of the spectrum, there's Book Crossing. It's like a catch and release program for literature. You register a book on the website and release it in a public space. Then, hopefully, someone else finds it, reads it, and releases it somewhere else. It's like when I was in nursery school and we tied messages to ends of balloons. Then everyone let go and hoped that someone would find the message and send us a postcard or something. Simpler times. When I was ten I heard that you should never release a balloon into the sky or a dolphin would come along and eat it and choke and die.

    No dolphins, as far as my research indicates, have come along and eaten any of these books. Unless the books smelled like salmon or something. But then the books were probably just asking for it.

    In any case, it's an option. For one or two titles it might be fun to "free". And as you can see by the recently released titles, many are in fact children's books.

    Thanks to Lisa Yee for the link.

    The Dirty Cowboy's Been Banned

    This shows you how behind the times I am. I never noticed that The Dirty Cowboy (illustrated by the illustrious Adam Rex) was banned from a southern Texas elementary school by the name of W.C. Andrews Elementary. Now fess up, people. Who just read that sentence and misread the name of the school as V.C. Andrews Elementary? I can't be alone in this.

    Thanks to Lisa Yee again for the heads up.

    It's a Festivus Miracle!

    Off-topic but what the hey.

    Also, this definitely constitutes the best AP headline of the year: 'Festivus' phenomenon boosts aluminum pole sales.

    Thanks to The Sandbox for the link.

    AAAUUUGGH! Ambergris!

    Remember that Encyclopedia Brown where a kid finds a huge pile of ambergris on the beach but when they go back it's gone and it's up to Encyclopedia Brown to track down Bugs Meaney and make him give it up? Do ya, do ya, do ya?

    Ever wondered what ambergris really looks like?
    Well here' s a pic.
    Amber it's not.

    Thank you Maud Newton. I think.

    Shakes Head In Mild Disbelief

    I mean no offense.
    I'm entirely certain that Kidsreads.com is a remarkable site.
    I'm certain that its staff is charming and that due to their efforts thousands of children have learned to love reading. They seem like they come from good people.
    I tell you all this because I've just seen their list of the Best Books of 2006 and I ... wow.

    Solely my opinion, of course. And I'm in strong agreement on some of the titles.
    But... wow.
    Just, wow.
    Weirdest list ev-ah.

    Pop-Up Wonders

    Y'all may have noticed the multiple articles out there discussing the sudden influx of "adult" pop-up books on the market today. To what do we owe this trend? Well, according to this article
    "Pop-ups appeal to adults because it allows them to revert back to their childhood experiences with things that amaze them. When an adult's eyes light up when turning the page of a pop-up, I know they've become kids again."
    No one who has ever picked up a Robert Sabuda or Matthew Reinhart book would disagree. The Boston Globe weighs in on the matter and gives some nice attention to the books recently published. I took issue with the mention of that gawdawful Hitchcock book, but appreciated that it was able to say, "Coming next year: 'The Pop-up Encyclopedia of Star Wars,' 'The Chronicles of Narnia,' and a sequel to the celebrity meltdowns book."

    I think I saw this briefly mentioned on another kidlit blog. I apologize for not remembering who posted it first.

    Thanks to Galleycat for the link.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    A Piece on New York Review

    This pans out nicely. The following article came out a mere day or two after I brought some attention to the New York Review of Books blog. From the Washington Post, reporter Bob Thompson sheds some much needed light on the wonders of reprinting lost treasures. I found this statement particularly spot on.
    And whatever the numbers, the books' reappearance makes booksellers and buyers happy -- reversing, in a tiny but symbolic way, the odious publishing trend toward keeping books in print for shorter and shorter periods of time.
    It has inspired me to add a little link section at the side of my blog entitled BRING IT BACK!!! They're my little treasures. Let me know if they hit your bookstore shelves anytime soon.

    Thanks to Bookninja for the link.

    If They So Much As Touch One Tine On Jughead's Crooked Crown, Heads Will Roll

    Librarians aren't the most adventurous souls. We might scale a mountain or fight wild wildebeasties in the buff, but change even the slightest period or exclamation point in a children's book we love and watch the fur fly.

    This is not a children's book technically. It's the kids of Riverdale. They're comic books, and certainly not the best out there. As I kid I wanted to root for Betty or Veronica, but neither were particularly appealing. Betty was nice and had a name similar to my own, but she wasn't the brightest and I couldn't get past her blond locks. Veronica had darker hair like mine, but was an evil snot. Still, I always had a grudging affection for the Archie series. And now LOOK at what's been done to them!

    It gives me the willies. You know what I'd compare it to? Justin Guarini's post-American Idol hairstyle change. Both strike terror on the second tier of your already shattered soul. Both also remind you that while you didn't much care for the original, you REALLY don't care for the "new" verison.

    Galleycat had their own take on the matter, complete with the above image of before and after.


    Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the heads up.

    What To Get Your Favorite Fictional Character

    Ah. Good. I haven't had a chance to link to Gotta Book in a while.

    Gregory K has a new idea I know you guys like new ideas. He wants people to submit ideas for gifts you'd get your favorite kidlit characters. Some suggestions are already mentioned. I was taken with an anonymous posting for, "Junie B. Jones -- The Elements of Style."

    My two cents for some 2006 characters.

    Mosca Mye - Fine Goose Exfoliant: For the Discriminating Fowl
    Francine Green - One DVD (to be played upon the invention of DVD players) of Good Night and Good Luck.

    Brain is sluggish and that's all I can come up with. Other suggestions are welcome.

    Peter Pan Sequel

    The fact that the film rights to Peter Pan In Scarlet have been sold won't raise too many eyebrows. After the intensive publicity campaign that book received, it would have been pretty shocking if someone hadn't plucked it for a big-screen adaptation. But who did this plucking? Not Hollywood.
    The property will be developed by the U.K. Film Council, which aims to promote British moviemaking; BBC Films, the movie arm of state broadcaster BBC; and Headline Pictures, a company co-founded by former BBC executive Mark Shivas.
    This, to my mind, is for the best. However, I wouldn't mind seeing Jason Isaacs getting a little more Pan-related work with this newest venture. Woof.

    Thanks to Cinematical for the link.

    Charlotte's Web: Point Counterpoint

    I heard about that nationwide Charlotte's Web reading that was being in conjunction with the film. As such, I had no opinions on it one way or another. But then not every blogger is as laissez-faire on the topic. Behold 50 Books and its piece Books: Is Any Reading Good Reading? No one wants to shill for corporations but I have been inordinately pleased by how quickly my copies of Charlotte have been flying off the shelves. Not all movies have this effect either. Our books didn't disappear half as quickly for Lassie and Flicka. Remember those films? No? Well there you go.

    It's the Final Countdown

    Sorry to quote Europe on you. I wanted something appropriately out-of-date AND uncool to preface this.

    Basically, I'm swamped, kids. We're nearing the ending days of Newbery reading. In short, I haven't any time for long drawn-out forty paragraph reviews of picture books. So reviewing is going to go on hiatus until the day the Newbery is announced. After that point my pile of mean-to-reads and 2007 ARCs (I'm looking at YOU, you delicious fire-throwing skeleton) will start popping up on this blog a little more regularly.

    Tuesday, December 19, 2006


    Hm. Not much to post today. So what better excuse need I have to drag this from my Wait Until Christmas files? Woe betide my readers when I like something. Fly By Night? I'll run that topic into the ground and dance a tarantella on the dust (re: one of my postings a little farther down). Emmet Otter? Baby, there's nothing I won't do to promote that little bit of down home eccentricity. For the Riverbottom Nightmare Band fans amongst you, enjoy.

    Honestly, until I rewatched this I had never noticed Chuck's (the bear) shoes. He acts like a tough guy most of the time, but get him on the stage and notice how shiny shiny he becomes.

    The same friend who sent me this also noted that Progressive Boink had a posting on the topic. It's touch and go for the most part (for example, the author is unaware that Jim Henson didn't come up with the story in the first place), but I did like that someone pointed out that the weasel sings like Neil Young.

    Thanks to Dan for the link.

    YA Schtoof

    I try to steer clear from YA topics in general. Not that I don't like Young Adult literature or anything. It's just that I have enough work cut out for me with all the free floating children's literary info in the world. Teen lit would serve to push me over the edge entirely, I should think.

    That said, here's some fun info that I can't help but point out. First off, it looks as if Ned Vizzini is filling in as a guest-blogger on Bookslut's blog this week. He has a distinctive voice. Almost enough to tempt me to read his regular blog as well. Almost.

    And from the man with whom I share a last name/life, this one's kind of funny. My husband is in the film program at Columbia and he mentions to me that he knows this fellow who's been doing book trailers. I act polite and ask if he's submitted the trailers to Book Trailerpark or anything. My husband hasn't a clue but he figures he'll pass along a link of this guy's work to me for possible blogging. He doesn't know the name of it and keeps referring to it as "the Nazi one". Well here's the link he sent. "The Nazi one" is book #1. See if it looks familiar to you.

    Lo and behold, my hubby knows Jon Haller. And Mr. Haller, interestingly enough, is currently working on a book trailer for Flotsam. I've seen book trailers for YA novels, but for a picture book it would have to be an entirely different beastie, yes? We'll see.

    New Blog Alert

    My blogroll is fairly humming with all the lovely booksellers, librarians, authors, illustrators, and editors out there. Still, I've always felt that there was something missing. A certain je ne sais quoi, if you will. Where, oh where, are all the Executive Director of The Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC) blogs out there?

    At last, the answer has come. It's called Pixie Stix Kids Pix and is run by one Kristen McLean.

    What sets it apart from the pack? Well apart from the classy header and tight Wordpress format, one cannot help but notice that Ms. McLean likes to review new books. Books so new, in fact, that they have not yet come out yet. For a time I lived under the mistaken impression that mine was the only Hugo Cabret review out there. This, we may see, is by no means the case. Ms. McLean's postings are regular and contain plenty o' personality. A site that bears watching, no doubt about it.

    Thanks to Kids Lit for the link.

    Listen To the Future

    It seems a pity. Right now I've the latest Rick Riordan book in his Lightening Thief series just ah-sitting pretty on my desk at work. I refuse to read it until I've read any of the books that came before, yet I will not allow myself to glance at books one or two until the Newbery is over and done with. In the meantime, I'm certain that there are kids out there dying to get their cute little paws on this top-notch object. So to assuage my guilt I direct you to Mr. Riordan's website. Scroll down a little and you can hear the man himself read the first chapter of The Titan's Curse. How sweet would it be if other authors followed his lead? J.K. Rowling reading the first chapter of the last Harry Potter book would be a truly excellent thing, don't you think?

    Thanks to Jen Robinson for the link.

    Checking Another One Off

    You can preach and preach till your voice is hoarse and people tune you out as easily as they would white noise, but when vindication comes your way all you can remember is how sweet it is. Consider this a roundabout way of me saying how happy I am to see that Oz and Ends has recently finished and enjoyed Fly By Night. YESSSSSS! How sweet it is. Who else hasn't read it?

    Monday, December 18, 2006

    You Make Everything Groovy

    The good people at Drawn can explain what this is far better than I can.
    ... the “Where the Wild Things Are” CG test from 1983. It featured John Lasseter’s (and Glen Keane’s) hand animated characters on 3D computer backgrounds done by MAGI Synthevision. Disney dropped the project, but both Lasseter and LucasFilm saw the potential of this new medium. John was hired by LucasFilm (later named Pixar) soon afterwards and, well...you know the rest.

    All the more interesting when you consider the upcoming Spike Jonze movie, non? If you somehow missed it, you may also wish to satiate your Wild Thing needs with Roger Sutton's recent adorable posting. Kudos galore to the poster known as o. darklady who commented, "And, might I add, Mr. Sendak, that Max's dinner isn't the only thing that is still hot."

    Thanks again to Drawn for the link.

    Slow News Day At NPR

    When the byline of an NPR piece is mildly insulting, you have to wonder from whence this curmudgeonly wind blows.
    Happy Feet is just one of a string of successful feature films aimed at children. Why are so many movies being made for young audiences? Is quality declining as a result?
    Yes. Obviously when children have a choice of movies to pick and choose between, quality suffers. Best that we give them Barnyard this year and then wait 6 months before another film of comparable quality comes along.

    Now I sense the generation gap is at work here and that certainly affects my perception of this piece. The reviewer discusses when Disney films came out once every few years and it was an event of great and holy magnitude. Not so when I was a child. In my generation, bad children's movies flourished. I remember with crystal clear perception seeing the live action Masters of the Universe or the Rainbow Brite movie, both of which I loved at the time. Disney was currently hitting its first low point then too. So when Mike Pesca says that, "...Disney almost never made a bad animated film", you know that age alone spared him having to view The Black Cauldron in a theater.

    The quality of some films is definitely down these days, and his mentions of dreck out there like Madagascar or The Wild or those 50 other CGI lookalikes is legitimate. Just the same, you can't really call Disney the be all and end all of children's films. He may sing the praises of Snow White, but let's not forget that Disney's current Princess line is just as insidious and ubiquitous as any of the Cars marketing going on in the world today. Snow White's on just as much lunch boxes and running shoes as any other film out there. My personal prejudices may be coming into play here, though. After all, when I made my list of the Top 21 Children's Films made from books, only 2 were Disney-based, and neither of those were animated.

    In This Corner

    It won't dethrone Unshelved anytime soon, but for those of you inclined to pepper your desktops with Internet links, you may be pleased to hear that yet another library-based comic strip has entered the arena. Turn the Page is low-tech, but for members of my profession it is bound to be read voraciously. Or, as the Unshelved mavens put it, "Soon all comic strips will be set in libraries."

    Speaking of Unshelved, please do check out their Sunday, December 17th encapsulation of wonderful wonderful Kampung Boy. The attention this book is finally getting is making me a touch jittery with glee.


    I'd heard about this Nancy Drew movie trailer on the child_lit listserv but only got around to watching it now.


    I didn't know it was even possible to make Nancy, Bess, and George all blond.

    All things considered, it could be worse. It does cause me to reconsider whether or not I should keep pushing for them to film Kiki Strike.

    The funny thing is that the "Get a Clue" tag line of the film is also the theme of New York state's 2007 Summer Reading Program.

    Ten points for not giving Nancy cleavage in the movie poster, by the way. As you can see, I'm grasping at straws here. Maybe we should all consider what DAJ on the child_lit listserv mentioned in conjunction with this film:
    In general, filmed Nancys have been more feminine than their print counterparts. Ilana Nash devotes a chapter of her _American Sweethearts_ to an excellent analysis of the changes between the series and the Warner Brothers movies and the way they weakened Nancy's character. The 1970s TV series didn't stop with just mangling Nancy, but also managed to conflate Bess and George into one person.
    I wonder if Borge/Gess was blond.

    Bone Cover Design

    I've talked on and off about cover design and the impact a good or bad cover can have on children's book sales. Until this moment, however, I've never really considered how the cover of a children's graphic novel can help or hurt its presentation. So once again today we turn to the ever informative Drawn. They've a piece entitled Cover Design: Bone that dissects various Bone related covers over the years through various reprintings. The general consensus by the end is that Scholastic's current covers are, by and large, well thought out, eye-catching, and impossible to resist when they're sitting on a library shelf. They're the best of the lot. And I can personally attest to the fact that when you give these books the proper presentation, they disappear off the graphic novel shelf within minutes. Scholastic's doing something right here, and I hope the rest of the publishing world is taking note.

    Thanks again and again to Drawn for the link.

    Blog and You Shall Receive

    A big thank you is going out to A Different Stripe for inclusion on their blogroll. I posted some information about the site last week, but hadn't expected them to take any notice. Additional thanks to them for making the blogroll alphabetical and for counting the "A" in "A Fuse #8 Production". I love it when people do that.

    Tintin My Hero

    There's a lovely little ode to everyone's favorite gun-wielding boy reporter in the article Tintin: One of the 20th Century's Great Heroes. Agree or disagree, the piece was inspired by Paris's Pompidou Centre and their current exhibit honoring Herge himself. Enthusiasts of Tintin will appreciate Nicholas Lezard's approach to this most popular character. Of course, you have to not mind the occasional heady sentence like,
    Just as Haddock and Tintin combine to form a fully-rounded view of the world, so Asterix represents, in its burgeoning comedy, the Dionysian approach as against Hergé's more austere, Apollonian line.
    Me like Tintin and Asterix too.

    I just had a conversation with a patron the other day as to why my library system does not yet carry both series. I urged patience. Similarly I also urge those Tintin fans amongst you to tell me which collected volumes you find of particular interest.

    Thanks to Bookninja for the link.

    Review of the Day: My Little Yellow Taxi by Stephen T. Johnson

    My Little Yellow Taxi
    By Stephen T. Johnson
    Red Wagon Books

    ISBN: 0152164650


    Ages 3-7

    No longer in print

    To succeed in the world of children’s book publishing, an author/artist needs to exhibit a certain level of flexibility. If your first book for kids is a rousing success you may certainly coast on that for a while, but eventually you’ll want to expand your horizons. The best artists out there, be they Paul O. Zelinsky, Maurice Sendak, or Faith Ringgold, know how to switch gears and try entirely new things. I mention all this because I cannot wrap my head around the books of Stephen T. Johnson. If flexibility is a talent then this man’s a veritable contortionist. Look at his past for a moment. He puts out Alphabet City and City By Numbers which were realistic and industrial and clever. Then at the same time there's My Little Blue Robot and My Little Red Toolbox, which made the idea of an interactive book more tangible than ever before. Turn around again and he’s putting out Hoops, Love As Strong As Ginger and The Tie Man’s Miracle, with yet another different look. Finally we come to 2006. On the one hand Mr. Johnson paired with Diane Siebert to put out the magnificently reviewed, Tour America: A Journey Through Poems and Art. Then you turn around again and in the same year is My Little Yellow Taxi. Taxi, truth be told, will encounter far more fans than Tour America if only be deint of its amusing premise. As long as you are able to break-in the book before your kid gets ahold of it AND you find a way to keep all the pieces together, this may well be the best loved title your entling ever receives.

    The book puts the child reader in the driver’s seat of a taxi cab. Literally. Kids are given the chance to operate their very own car. They can check their tire pressure with a removable gauge. They can look in the glove compartment, adjust the shiny shiny mirror, and even place the key in the ignition. This being a taxi and all, kids can also set the fare box so that the taxi is available for rides. Then, as you reach the back of the book, there is a little removable taxi just waiting to be driven over, under, around, and about for the car-loving child’s pleasure. Part book, part interactive toy, what My Little Taxi achieves is the ability to make books fun for book-phobic little ones.

    The nice thing about the title is that aside from the fare box, kids that read this book needn’t be familiar with what a taxi cab is. Just as long as they've seen a car, they’ll be happy. And trust me, cars are a continual fascination for some little ones. Often I’ll find myself directing children under the age of three to the car section of the library so that they can stare in wonder at the pictures of shiny automobiles. Put this book in their hands and their interest immediately skyrockets. Of course, in watching kids play with this book I’ve determined that left to their own devices, these future drivers of America haven’t the clearest of ideas on what to do with each page. For example, one kid removed the tire gauge and proceeded to move it about the carpet, making little “vroom vroom” sounds as he did so. Another took the car key and did his darndest to start the tires. With adults at their side, however, this book is a perfect learning tool. Not only is it accurate (albeit with a slightly outdated yellow cab as its guide) but you haven’t lived until you’ve sat in a room of ten librarians all playing “car” and waiting their turn to have a go at it.

    The objection to Johnson’s My Little books in the past is the quality of the construction. My Little Taxi, unfortunately, is no different. The book is simultaneously too well put together in some parts, and too poorly constructed in others. Take, for example, the driver’s side door. In one book the door broke clean off of the book itself on a first read, leaving at least one library patron more than a little perturbed. On the opposite side of the spectrum, my co-workers and I were convinced for a very long time that not all the doors in this book actually opened. The glove compartment, for example, seemed welded in place. After some extraordinary tugging and pulling and swearing and crying, however, we were finally able to wrest that little door open. So my advice to you is this: Find the strongest person you know and prior to handing this book to a child make them open every door, window, and tab allowed. Once an item is removed from the book it slides in and out with relative ease. Otherwise I doubt very much that the strength in your four-year-old’s arm is going to make much of a dent here.

    Now, we have a circulating copy of My Little Taxi in my library. This may or may not be a mistake. Many of the parts in this book are small. There’s a section that shows kids three different street signs, all of which are removable and all of which are small enough to lose. The problem with My Little Robot (aside from the fact that when you placed a heavy object on top of it you’d hear it squeal) was the missing components. I like to think that this will be less of a problem with My Little Taxi, but keep a sharp eye out at all times just in case.

    No, it’s not perfect. No toy with removable parts is perfect. I can’t imagine why a book should be any different. However, I will tell you that exactly one hour after I placed a copy of this book in my library’s display window, a patron walked up to me demanding the title immediately. When I told her that our circulating copies were all checked out she almost begged me to remove the display copy so that her daughter could see it. The book’s a hit with everyone and it pretty much constitutes a sure-fire 100% hit with any and all children under the age of 6 (some would say 8) you hand it to. Worth the clean-up.

    Out of print.

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    Sunday, December 17, 2006

    Come and Dance With Me Michael

    I know for a fact that some of you out there are coming to NYC for the holiday season. As you enter this noble burg, however, I will be high-tailing it to Kalamazoo, Michigan for my own private Yuletide soiree.

    You may wish to know then what there is to do in New York that comes under the heading of "free". The answer is not much. You're in luck weather-wise, certainly. At the moment I've half a mind to have a serious talk with the weather gods about our heretofore complete and utter lack of snow. So should the temperature continue at this balmy rate, why not check out some of the crazy window displays out there? For example, were you to cavort past the Macy's windows, you might see a story conjured up by none other than Michael Buckley. Not being a native myself, I don't know if this is a trend or not, but all the windows this year have accompanying text to go along with their flashy shows. While showing my mother-in-law around town I found myself staring in abject horror at the text accompanying the Saks 5th Avenue windows. They look nice, but happen to contain some of the most painful writing ever concocted by someone who thought they knew what constituted a children's story.

    Buckley's prove to be better. Bear in mind, however, that anything he wrote had to be approved and vetted *shudder* by the Macyites. Still, I think I may have to go over and check them out if only to get the taste of Saks out of my mouth once and for all. Bleaghh!

    Thanks to Alison Fargis for the link.

    No Cheesy Game? Then I'm Not Interested.

    What's better than the best book of the year? The best book of the year's cheesy online computer game. Low-tech? You betcha. But name me one other title where you get to lug around a homicidal goose. I'm suffering from the mild shock I received when I realized I'd not seen this before.

    By the way, anyone that procures for me an Out of Stock Folkmanis goose puppet wins my heart, my mind, and any other intangible parts of my self they wish to lay claim to. I'd love to do some booktalking with my very own Saracen on my arm. Can't you imagine me talking to kids as the goose hisses like a veritable fiend at them? And no, I am not shilling for Folkmanis. Any other full-sized goose puppets you can find are a-okay with me (which is to say, they don't exist).

    Thanks to Lisa Graff for the Fly By Night link.

    Point Taken

    Those THE END OF THE BOOK IS NEAR proselytizers haven't been raising their voices lately much, have they? One would think they've either run out of steam or, not entering any libraries or bookstores, think they've won.

    There may be a third option as well. Perhaps they saw these clever little ads. Anything is possible.

    Thanks to Eric Berlin for the link.