Fuse #8

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Kidlit Drink Night Info - UPDATED INFO

Okay. Right. So. Here's the deal.

What you knew already: There is to be a Kidlit Drink Night on February 9th in celebration of the arrival of a whole host of happy healthy Class of 2K7ers in town to say nothing of those attending the SCBWI conference.

That much we've established. But the place and time have taken a bit of a dizzying turn.

What you knew erroneously: We are NOT meeting at Sweet & Vicious. Scratch that bar's pleasant atmosphere from your mind. I like doing the same thing over and over as much as the next fella (particularly if that same thing includes delicious overpriced rice pudding). Just the same, we've been asked to move the location to midtown so as accommodate the various authors & editors who will be attending the SCBWI Cocktail Party the same night. You want to meet famous people, right? Well all right then.

What you know now: There is to be a Kidlit Drink Night on February 9th at 7:30 at Bar 9. Fuse 8 at Bar 9. It has a nice ring to it. Please do not let the fancy Flash animation scare you away. My sources assure me that it is a nice place with "great tater tots". I could have reserved a back room or some such silliness but I don't think that'll be necessary. Just drop on by at some point from 7:30 onwards and hang out to talk children's books. I will be wearing an "I Am Kiki Strike" t-shirt, since it appears to be the only kidlit piece of clothing I actually own. That is, unless Leila decides that she would like to lend me her I Kicked Barney Northrup tee.

Bar 9 is at 807 Ninth Avenue. Be there or be square my beauties.

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National Gorilla Suit Day

National Gorilla Suit Day seems to come earlier every year, doesn't it? One minute you're packing away your suit with the mothballs, secure in the knowledge that you've done your duty and the next thing you know it's time again to frighten the neighbors and climb miniature versions of the Empire State Building.

Celebrate this year's great day in your own fashion. You'll be glad you did.

Thanks to Neil Gaiman for the link.


Higher Power of Lucky Sequel In the Works

Tis true! Thanks to Big A little a we know that in a recent Washington Post interview, Ms. Patron said the following, ". . . I'm working on a companion book; it's called 'Lincoln's Knot.' I'm about three-quarters of the way through."

Let us all hope too for the reappearance of the government cheese.

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Getting Your Children To Watch a Something With a Seussian Pedigree

I'm all for retro-children's television programming, but please explain to me how this works as a regular series:
Adapted from a book by Dr. Seuss and a 1951 Academy Award-winning short film, Gerald McBoing Boing revolves around a kid who speaks only in sound effects. The six-year-old can mimic almost any sound in the world, and he uses them in playful mischief around his hometown, a charming and carefree suburb. Boomerang has access to all 26 episodes, but will air only 18 during its first rotation.

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Harry Potter Reality Series Coming To the BBC

I'd try to top the title of this piece with one of my own, but why bother? It says it all. And with Barney Harwood hosting, how on earth could it go wrong?

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Cover Luvin', Had Me a Blast

Aussie Diana Wynne Jones covers.

The first came out last year...

That's the Aussie paperback version.

The next according to the Misrule blog is a new on coming out in March and edited by Sharyn November. This is the cover that apparently will be found in Australia, Britain, AND America.

I like the first. The verdict is being weighed on the second.

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International Alchemy Conference

In honor of the International Alchemy Conference (in Vegas, baby, Vegas!) I'm going to ask you to list your favorite alchemists in children's literature. There is, of course, the obvious choice of Nicholas Flamel from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone as well as a couple other books to boot. My personal favorite may well be the alchemist found in The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly. And it has nothing to do with the fact that we have the Newbery medal for that book in a drawer somewhere here at Donnell. Doesn't hurt, mind you, but it doesn't help.

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Tango Time

And just for the record, there is a rather nice interview with the authors of And Tango Makes Three at the SLJ blog these days. It's short but it does mention where they got the idea, the reactions they've received, and how they feel about its consequent banning or removal from picture book shelves. Go go.

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It Had Me At the Barns

Alkelda at Saints and Spinners turned me onto the fact that you can find Pete Seeger's Foolish Frog on YouTube. This constitutes my favorite short film to show to kids anytime, anywhere and I'm pleased as punch to present to you here today. Just for fun.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Man Who Yelled

Because sometimes you just need a little old school retro-Mo Willems action to start the day out right.

Please check your speakers before playing this properly. It can be a bit loud when it wants to be.

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Should You See Bridge To Terabithia?

It's a legitimate question. When the trailer for Terabithia came out people were a bit... shell-shocked I guess is the best word for it. Take a glance at it and you'd never know that the book was about two kids trying to escape the world around them by creating a fantasy land of their own. It looks far more in the vein of Narnia in the preview.

Well there was a showing of Terabithia at the recent Seattle Mid-Winter Conference and author Katherine Paterson was there, seeing it for the first time with a couple librarians. I did not go, so what I'm telling you now came to me via some of the librarians who attended. According to them, the movie is actually quite good. Apparently the fantasy elements are there to some extent, but they don't rule the film in the way that the preview implied. Ms. Paterson was, apparently, pleased with the final product and there was even a librarian present who spoke up and said that she had been on the Newbery committee that chose to give Terabithia the award proper back in 1978.

Until the reviews start to come out on February 16th, this is all I know so far. Still, I find it heartening. Walden may have its ups and downs, but when it's up it can be quite stirring. Aww... and it has Zooey Deschanel in it. You LOVE Zooey Deschanel, don't you? Of course you do. So here's hoping the book treads the same path as Heavenly Creatures (sans the matricide, of course).

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Live From the Set of Inkheart

Tuesday is hereby known as Movie Day. All children's books made into films will be announced on Tuesdays. That is, until I completely forget that I made this rule and start posting willy nilly like before.

Anywho, the Inkheart movie is coming to fruition and Independent Entertainment News has the scoop. I knew that Paul Bettany (yum!) and Brendan Fraser (oog!) were cast, but other facts had not yet tripped upon mine gentle ears, to kill a phrase.

Facts to remember from the article:
  • The third book in the Inkheart trilogy comes out in the Spring of 2008 and will be named Inkdawn.
  • Andy Serkis is Capricorn which makes me almost as unnaturally happy as when I heard about Bettany, though for entirely different reasons.
  • Helen Mirren is in it, which shall hopefully give Aunt Elinor that elusive subtlety she sadly lacks in the books (aw, go on . . . stone me for saying it).
  • Toto somehow got in the movie. Toto?
Thanks to Book Moot for the link.

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In Your Pants

Inspired by John Green's In Your Pants post on my new favorite blog Brotherhood 2.0 (after viewing, please be sure to view the accompanying musical adaptation of that old chestnut Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone From Your Pants), The Brookeshelf decided to take this infinitely immature and, let's face it, guffawable game and apply it to children's literature. The results have been pouring in.

My favorite suggestions thus far include . . .

Nancy's suggestions -
From Louisa May Alcott: An Old-Fashioned Girl in Your Pants
From Louis Sachar: Holes in Your Pants
From Linda Sue Park: A Single Shard In Your Pants.

Elaine Magliaro's suggestions -
From James Marshall: Miss Nelson Is Back in Your Pants
From Keiko Kasza: My Lucky Day in Your Pants
From Jack Prelutsky: The Beauty of the Beast in Your Pants

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Sutton Interview

And in case you missed it, there's a simply swell interview with Roger Sutton on Seven Impossible Things up and running. Apparently he could take down Seamus Heaney in a bar fight. Who knew?

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How's My Jury Duty? It's Grand!

So I was a good doobie. I went in for my Grand Jury summons, prepped and ready to serve my 2 weeks. The fear was that I'd find myself on a 6 month Grand Jury, which happens from time to time in the state of New York. Fortunately, when I came in it was clear that everything was going to be pretty standard.

Now I've never won a lottery a day of my life. Why should this be important? Because so many people volunteered for the two available Grand Jury dates that they decided to pick names out of a hat to decide on who should stay and who should be PNN (Present Not Needed). I'll never win a prize pig in a raffle, but neither will I be off of work for 2 weeks. My name was never called. I'm a little sad since I've never served on a jury before and I wanted to see how it would work. I could have gotten some much needed reading done too. Then again, now I can search for good kidlit links during my lunch break again which is something I could not do from a jury room in lower Manhattan. You go with what you've got.

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Review of the Day: Reality Leak

Reality Leak by Joni Sensel, illustrated by Christian Slade. Henry Holt and Company. $16.95.

Dangers abound in the world of children’s literature. The wary author, ear cocked to the wind, nose sniffing about for trouble, must be vigilant every step of the way. And when an author attempts their very first middle grade novel for children, the dangers are likely to increase tenfold. So ran my line of reasoning as I idly picked up and perused Joni Sensel’s, “Reality Leak”. The book, let us face it, has a charming cover design but how fares the material inside? I was prepared to be disappointed. I was, instead, truly delighted. Living up to its illustrations (and then some) Ms. Sensel brings child readers a book that wants nothing more than to entertain and be entertaining in the process. Mission, as you will see, most certainly accomplished.

It was a summer day like any other for eleven-year-old Bryan Zilcher. He was just sitting on the side of the highway in an attempt to sell some LemonMoo (lemon flavored milk of his own invention) when out of the back of a semi flies a wooden crate bearing the label, “WARNING: DO NOT LICK.” From this box emerges none other than Archibald Keen, a white-suited stick of a man who describes himself as the president of Acme, Inc. Without further ado Mr. Keen is off, purchasing the local defunct factory and hiring all the residents as employees without going into such dull details as what it is they’re actually going to MAKE when working for him. Bryan’s suspicious, and with good reason. It seems that strange things are happening all the time now. Notes appear out of toasters. Little girls blow bubbles in the shapes of letters. Trains appear to be running in a town where there are no tracks. Now it’s up to Bryan and his friend Spot (a girl who thinks she’s a canine) to investigate the real story behind Acme, Inc. and find out whether or not Mr. Keen’s intentions are noble or nefarious.

I referred vaguely to dangers associated with first time middle grade authors, and for a second there I was desperately afraid that “Reality Leak” would fall prey to one of the biggest mistakes a writer can make. When an author starts haphazardly throwing all the cool stuff they can think of into a story so as to make it kid friendly, they usually end up creating a gawdawful mess instead. Warily I scanned the pages of “Reality Leak” for any hint of undeserved goofiness and at first, to my chagrin, it looked like Sensel was doing just that. For a chapter or two it seemed that she’d given in to her worst whims and created ridiculous stuff without rhyme or reason. Really, the girl that thinks that she’s a dog seemed a clear indication of out-of-the-blue nuttiness. Then I read a little further and everything began to fall neatly into place. If there’s no rhyme or reason that’s because the book demands a complete and utter lack of it. Keep reading and everything begins to even out. The story’s plot has a well-thought out beginning, middle, and end and the arc of the tale melds beautifully. Even Mr. Keen (a worthy successor to Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka if ever there was one) with his quirks and potentially malevolent actions makes sense within the context of the writing. Just as you feel Sensel might plunge you off the deep end of cohesive storytelling never to return, she reels you back in so skillfully that you begin to wonder if she wasn’t playing with you intentionally all along.

The author seemingly draws her nutty occurrences from a host of different sources. At one point our heroes draw a black hole on the wall only to find a train is approaching them from inside that space they just drew. This reminded me of an old Sesame Street episode with some guys putting two sides of a picture of a hole together and then facing the train that approaches from within the finished image. Sensel also looks to old Warner Brothers cartoons as well as adding in some subtle flourishes that are entirely her own. Black and white rainbows, winking waffles, teabags that turn into mice, etc.

Now Sensel does attempt to bring in some serious family matter into this otherwise silly tale, and in a way I felt that this was unnecessary. In the story, Bryan’s mother left the family a couple years ago and since that time his dad has taken up with Tripper, the smart woman who runs the Post Office. And while Bryan doesn’t seriously mind Tripper, he begins to chafe when she starts setting understandable limits for him when his dad fails to. The problem is that this storyline doesn’t gel as nicely as it might. References to Bryan’s mother keep cropping up in spite of the fact that she doesn’t have any bearing on the story at hand and the boy seemingly doesn’t think of her all that often anyway. It’s not an intrusive element to the book, but it did come off as a little unnecessary at times, and that’s too bad.

Now it is a fact of nature that authors are not always given the illustrators they so richly deserve. First time authors of novels in particular tend to get the scrapings off the bottom of the barrel time and time again, so it’s just a pure pleasure to see Ms. Sensel place her baby in the competent hands of illustrator Christian Slade. Mr. Slade, a former Disney animator, has yet to make a permanent mark in the world of children’s literature. “Reality Leak” offers him, then, a remarkable start. Slade knows how to balance the cartoonish elements of this story with just the right amount of reality. I was particularly impressed with his characterization of the mysterious Archibald Keen. Here we have a fellow who is either good or bad, and it’s impossible to say whether he falls too far one way or another for most of the book. When he smiles the story says that, “That grin had too many teeth. It made the stranger look a bit like a jack-o’-lantern.” Later in the book Slade shows you what the author meant, but at the same time he has to be careful and make it impossible to say if the guy is malevolent or simply weird. The smile does indeed have too many teeth, but the eyes are almost sympathetic in spite of the bushy eyebrows above them. There aren’t an overwhelming amount of pen-and-ink illustrations in this book, but their occasional appearances in this story do complement the plot rather magnificently, and for this I am glad.

Kids who may enjoy this book include those youngsters in love with Blue Balliett’s, “Chasing Vermeer” series. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with Balliett as an author, personally. Her books always have characters idly walking along as clues go out of their way to trip them up. Sensel’s book, in contrast, has some lively child heroes who find peculiar clues and secret messages after a great deal of hard work. Bryan and Spot are active protagonists. He, for example, keeps a double-cased pillow full of files on his bed in lieu of a computer. When something weird happens he’s sure to write it down pronto rather than let actions just happen to him. But if you can lead kids into reading this story by comparing it to Ms. Balliett's work, all power to you.

I was a little disappointed to find that there have been blurbs of this book that give away the mystery Bryan and Spot are trying so desperately to uncover. Hopefully this will lessen as the book gains in popularity. As it stands, I wouldn’t hesitate to place this in the grubby hands of any grubby reader that happens to waltz into my library looking for a book that is fun and funny to boot. In spite of the record number of children’s book publications that climb with every fiscal year, few of the titles out there have as clear a sense of lighthearted glee as Joni Sensel’s, “Reality Leak”. Never disappointing and always surprising.

Notes On the Cover: Chalk another point up for Henry Holt & Co. As I mentioned before, authors aren’t always blessed when it comes to accompanying artists. And though I’ve never seen so much as a flicker of Christian Slade’s work before, this man has depth, kid-friendly appeal, and raw unvarnished talent. Plus as his website shows, he also sports an affection for corgis challenged only by the great Tasha Tudor herself. I’m looking forward to his Korgi graphic novel, whenever it happens to come out. But I digress… the cover of THIS book is superb. It exerts its influence on every casual observer, making it near impossible not to make this the very next book in their To Be Read pile. Great on every level.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

The Greatest Book Trailers I've Ever Seen In My Life

You may be a person who still views book trailers as nice but inconsequential. The ones you've seen have been pleasant to the eye, but in the end they look more like some graduate student's final thesis than an actual honest-to-goodness movie trailer. When will previews for books ever become as cool to look at as those that play in a theater?

Well, sir. I've seen the future and it is located at the First Second Trailers website. I have read neither of the books presented there (which is a shame since Lost Colony came out last year, if I'm not mistaken). Nevertheless, if you have EVER doubted the legitimacy of a trailer for books, this is bound to change your mind.

Wow. Just... wow.

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Tell Me This Doesn't Deserve Its Own Picture Book

Your job? Raise 16 baby pandas in a panda bear explosion at The Sichuan Wolong Panda Protection and Breed Center.

Can you take the cute? Well, can you? Punk?


Splotchy Artist

From a psychological standpoint, let's step back and wonder what it means when an artist decides to make one monster per day and display such curdled remnants of the brain on a blog entitled Stefan G. Bucher's Daily Monster. Surely this is indicative of a kind of "letting go". Being able to present your inner demons in a public might be a sort of catharsis... that is, if the monsters weren't so cute at the end.

I've been linking to a lot of artists just doing their thing lately. This one I like if only because Mr. Bucher uses a range of different pen and inks, which I find particularly interesting. Go wild.

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Slobodkin Website

Thanks to Gail Gauthier I just learned about this cool Louis Slobodkin website out there. Yeah, its Jim Flora one day and Slobodkin another. I'm apparently trapped in the 20th century.

Till now my only association with Slobodkin was his work on the Caldecott winning Many Moons by James Thurber. Remember when they reillustrated that puppy in '98? Ooooh. I'm still mad. Sure it was by fellow Caldecott winner Marc Simont, but for the last time sir, have you no decency?

In any case they've a lovely collection on this Slobodkin site of his covers, sculpture, and photos. And who even knew he did New Yorker cartoons? Neat stuff.

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Where Were You When You DIDN'T Receive "The Call"?

Everyone likes to talk about what one author or another was doing when they got the infamous call telling them that they won the Newbery Award. No one, to the best of my knowledge, has ever had the guts to say what they were doing when they didn't receive The Call. Chalk one up to Esme Codell for unapologetic gutsiness. She didn't get The Call but that doesn't keep her from writing a damn funny piece on her blog Planet Esme about her lack of Callness. What's more, I think she makes an excellent assessment of the surprise non-winners. Again, not something anyone's really sat down and organized till now. Kudos to youdos, Esme.

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Reviews of the Day: My Friend Is Sad AND Today I Will Fly

My Friend Is Sad by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books For Children. $8.99

Today I Will Fly by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books For Children. $8.99

Two reviews! Two! I’m giving you two reviews for the price of one. Now you just can’t beat that kind of a deal.

When creative people have children, it has a tendency to affect their work in some way. In worst case scenarios you’ll have celebrities of the Madonna-like persuasion churning out picture books like there’s no tomorrow. Politicians in turn may take time off to “spend more time with their family” (which sounds good even when it isn’t true). But what happens to those people already working in the realm of children’s entertainment? How are they changed by the experience? Take as you example, Mo Willems. Here’s a fellow who was working with Sesame Street and Nickelodeon long before dipping a dainty toe into the waters of children’s book publishing. He does so, along comes his daughter, and Mr. Willems starts changing the kind of work he does. He creates deeply personal picture books like, “Knuffle Bunny” that go on to win Caldecott Honors. He performs with his daughter in a Weston Woods video. And then, most striking of all, he decides to create a book series that his child would be able to read to him. Easy reader books are, to my mind, perhaps the most difficult books to write. It takes a genius like Dr. Seuss or P.D. Eastman to convey concepts and stories with simple words. How much harder would it have to be then to make such a book not only fun to read and easy to understand but also laugh-out-loud funny? Only author Mo Willems knows for sure. Fortunately for us, the Elephant and Piggie books, “My Friend Is Sad,” and “Today I Will Fly!” are entities that stand entirely of their own. If you've never seen funny easy reading, these will soon solve that woe.

“My Friend Is Sad”, is a straightforward little story. Gerald the elephant is mighty depressed and Piggie feels that it is her duty to cheer him up. First she appears before him as a cowboy, knowing how fond he is of them. Gerald is thrilled, then immediately sad. Next Piggie is a clown, but Gerald is STILL sad. When even a time-stepping robot won’t cheer him up, Piggie goes to apologize to her friend for being unable to make him happy. Gerald explains that he is overjoyed now because Piggie is near, but that earlier he was quite unhappy when he saw a cowboy, a clown, and “a cool cool robot,” and couldn’t share these things with Piggie because she wasn’t around. Reconciled the two sit contently, and Gerald remarks that he needs his friends. Piggie can’t help but reply to the reader, “You need new glasses . . .” and all is well. In the second book, “Today I Will Fly”, Piggie is intent on one thing. Flight. Gerald remains incredulous, but his porcine companion is not to be deterred. Hopping doesn’t help and a fine leap away from a vicious dog only means that she jumps particularly well. Soon a solution is found involving a helpful pelican. Impressed, Gerald comments that perhaps tomorrow he will fly as well. “Good luck’, murmurs Piggie with a wink.

I won’t lie to you. I’m a twenty-eight-year-old woman and I’ve been reading these books over and over since I laid my hands on them. I can’t explain it. “My Friend Is Sad”, in particular tickles my fancy. I have a hard time not snickering every time Gerald explains to Piggie why it is that the cowboy he saw made him sad. “But you love cowboys!”, explains Piggie, confused. Gerald smiles and says wistfully, “I do. I love cowboys.” Next thing you know he’s grabbed Piggie by the labels and screams while shaking, “But you were not there to see him!” This cracks me up. Gerald’s despair is so melodramatic and self-absorbed that when he shouts his sorrow over the “funny funny clown” (his knees have buckled by this point, his head thrown back) Piggie can't help but stare at the viewer with the skeptical half-mast expression of someone who feels that she is having her leg pulled. I’ve just gone through and counted at least sixteen different positions Gerald puts himself through so as to convey to the viewer his complete and utter wretchedness. Sixteen, folks. In an early reader. That's class.

Look, I’m not saying that I didn’t have any respect for Mr. Willems before this book. “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”, is obviously an exercise in letting a simple drawing speak for itself. But the Elephant and Piggie books require an entirely different set of muscles and for that my admiration has shot up. Simple images are one thing. Simple words are another. Take “Today I Will Fly!” as your example. Like “My Friend Is Sad”, it starts off with a single premise, becomes rapidly absurd, solves the problem (with one character staring incredulously at the other), and ends on a sly joke (curiously by the same person both times). And in both cases Piggie is trying to do something and failing. Interestingly enough, Gerald is the skeptic in the book where his good friend tries to defy gravity again and again. When Piggie comes around to agreeing that a mighty leap does not constitute flight, she declares resolutely, “I will try again!” Gerald looks particularly unconvinced as he exits stage right saying, “I will eat lunch,” and an overly enthused Piggie waves, “Good-bye!”. Comedy. You dissect it and it’s not funny anymore. So I can’t really say how it is that Willems found a way to make stories this straightforward as amusing as they are. That he did is enough for me.

What we may have on our hands here are the makings of an entirely new franchise. Think about the shocking popularity of critters like “The Cat and the Hat”, for example. I don’t want to suggest that someday there will be a filmed version of Elephant and Piggie starring someone like Mike Myers, but stranger things could happen. So before the hype and the overkill set in, take some time to discover this charming twosome on your own. These books may be one of those rare creations that turn the tables so that it is the adults who will be begging their children to read them an Elephant and Piggie book again and again and again. Another hit out of the park for the Willems man.

On shelves April 1, 2007.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

New Jim Flora Website

I'm sure you've suspected it all along, but now it's official. I am undoubtedly a shill for Big Flora. Jim Flora, to be exact. Now someone's gone and created a website in his honor.

I might have been able to avoid this magnificent children's illustrator.... and then I saw these record covers:

(Knock Me Your Lobes?)

And for the award of Most Likely To Be the Next Image To End Up On A T-Shirt Someday Award:

Cool website. Check it.

I Actually Really Prefer This To Its Original Intent

In a perfect world this would be on YouTube and I could just put it directly onto my blog.
Yet as Meghan McCarthy's video How Not To Draw An Alien shows, the world is not a perfect place. Sometimes your aliens suck. And sometimes your fans are glad they did.

Thanks to Children's Illustration for the link.


All That and He Sings Too

Tell me you're not even the slightest bit curious.

Further info available at The Lovely Mrs. Davis Tells You What To Think.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Happy FLD, You Wacky Canucks!

Today is Family Literacy Day in Canada. Celebrate by reading your favorite Canadian.


Brain fried. Cannot think of authors.

Okay, new plan. Celebrate by naming your favorite Canadian. I can think of Polly Horvath. How 'bout you?

Award Winning Links

I just happened to stumble on these as of late and thought that they might be of some interest to you.

First off is some info direct from Cynthia Lord's blog. Here's what she said when she received the Newbery call: "As Jason would've said in RULES, I am touched by this More than words." *sniffle* Many thanks to Jen Robinson for the link.

In terms of the Newbery winner proper, let's look at this from the perspective of the book's illustrator. Here are Matt Phelan's early cover sketches for The Higher Power of Lucky. I'm kinda attached to picture #1.

And I'm sure you already saw this, but the Publisher's Weekly article on Patron and Wiesner is of particular interest. I just wish that I'd thought to tape The Today Show segment. On Wiesner the article noted:
The next morning he headed to The Today Show, where he's an old hand by now. "I've been through all the hosts," he says. "Jane Pauley for Tuesday, Katie Couric for The Three Pigs, and this time we had the gang [Ann Curry, Al Roker and Natalie Morales]! I thought maybe I'd get Matt this time."

Yeah, well. Nice work if you can get it.

Speaking of Flotsam, check out this book trailer a buddy of my husband produced not that long ago. I can't imagine how hard picture book trailers must be to create. This reminded me of a Reading Rainbow segment, with all the cross fades and slightly animated illustrations.

And it sounds silly, but I only just now found the webcast of the announcements yesterday. Bon appetit, m'hearties.

Unemployed Piracy? I'm In!

Speaking of the most recent Publisher's Weekly, check it out:
Natalie Babbitt has written her first novel for children in 25 years, and Michael di Capua Books at Scholastic will publish it this May. Jack Plank Tells Tales tells of an out-of-work pirate in search of a new career. Babbitt has illustrated her middle-grade novel with black-and-white drawings throughout. She is the author of 14 books for children, including Tuck Everlasting , The Search for Delicious and Knee-Knock Rise, which won a Newbery Honor in 1971.
Okay. Admit it. You didn't know she was still kicking around, did you? I just realized that she hasn't published a book since I was 3-years-old. Mine eyes are now firmly fixed on every ARC that comes in my door. Scholastic's probably doing the happy happy joy joy dance as we speak.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Come Follow Follow Follow Follow Follow Follow Me

Laura Ljungkvist was most recently known in the literary children's world for her work on the 2006 picture book title Follow the Line as published by Viking. If you've taken a trip to the Museum of Modern Art anytime recently you may have also seen her art grace the window displays of their gift shop and catalog. Now she has a sequel to her ultra-mod title. Follow the Line: Through the House is coming out in May or so. Here are some sneak preview pics of the work. Clicking on them offers a clearer view, I've found.

I was lucky enough to see an early manuscript of Ms. Ljungkvist's latest, which means I cannot in good conscience review it here. The most I can do is show these selected scenes. Them's purdy, no?

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The Future of Recorded Books?

One of my co-workers came back from the ALA Mid-Winter Conference with a small object in a VHS case. It appeared to be a copy of Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks but... different somehow. Inside the box was a portable light-weight object with room for a single battery, headphones, and a string from which to hang the aforementioned object around one's neck.

At first we couldn't wrap our heads around what we were seeing. It's called a PlayAway and it's basically a self-sustaining audio book that plays entirely on its own. You plug in, turn on, and go. I kept assuming that it plugged into the Flash drive of one's computer, but this is not the case. It's an audio book you play in the palm of your hand.

Now it seems to me that aside from the question of who's going to be stuck with the job of replacing the batteries, this is a magnificently good idea. Think about it. Current audio books require special hardware at home. Either a tape player, a CD player, or a computer with a disc drive. The PlayAway needs none of these things. You check it out of your library and off you go.

Have any of you seen these in your own local branches? I wonder what problems might attach themselves to such a critter. Is this the future? If so I would like to suggest some method of recharging the PlayAways that doesn't involve batteries. That can lead to no good in the end, I suspect.

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The Ultimate Author/Illustrator Map of Residence

Let's discuss whether or not this would be a good idea or a bad idea. What if there were a database, map, website, or other useful online listing of all the children's authors and illustrators out there organized by their place of residence? I ask you this because many times I've found that residents of a particular area of the country, be it Virginia, California, or Pago Pago, would like to invite an author or artist to their school but aren't entirely certain who's local.

I think this might be beneficial to everyone. It would give people working in the field more exposure. It would allow schools, bookstores, and libraries the chance to meet up with their local celebrities. Everyone would benefit.

Does such a thing exist or are we going to have to make it ourselves? And is it even a good idea? Thoughts on the matter?

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Briefly Noted

A couple points of interest, this fine and frisky Friday morn...

Ever wonder what it takes to make a Newbery Honor book? Darcy Pattison just turned me onto this posting circa 12/6/06 where author Kirby Larson discussed the various revisions it took to make Hattie Big Sky the book it is today.

And this came out a little while ago, but is only now available online. The New York Public Library's 2006 100 Books for Reading and Sharing (a.k.a. their best books list) is up and running. There may be a title or two on there that you've not seen before. Go give it a glance.

Kelly from Big A little a posted this yesterday and it's a hoot. Insofar as we consider A Christmas Carol children's fare (not SOLELY children's fare, but kid-friendly just the same) we may, by extension, claim Dickens as our own. Two points of interest then. The first is an online game where in the player is meant to survive Dickens' London. If you've little interest in that arena, you may prefer the fun encapsulation of his life as presented by pointy-nosed legless people.

And a great great debate is simmering on Roger Sutton's blog regarding the most recent Newbery books and a certain something they all had in common. I'll excuse myself from commenting, but y'all should offer your own two cents. Some good ideas are being weighed.

The Mo Album

I was feeling all slick when my co-worker informed me that Mo Willems was responsible for the art found in and on the Park Slope Parents CD. Once again Brooklyn is at the top of its game, borough-wise. "Park Slope Parents, New York City's largest online parenting group and a resource for countless Brooklyn parents and kids, has released a CD of children’s music featuring 17 songs by well-loved musicians celebrating family life in the big city." I loved that they were kind enough to mention reviews from three of my favorite children's music blogs out there: Zooglobble, Kids Music that Rocks, and The Lovely Mrs. Davis Tells You What to Think.

Then I saw that Mr. Willems already posted about it.
No scoop for me.

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The Future of Children's Television?

Funny story. I mentioned just before the last ALA Conference that I would be attending a January 16th panel discussion at Marymount Manhattan College on The Future of Children's Television. I've had some time to digest what I heard that night and my thoughts are mixed. On the one hand, the future of children's programming seems secure. The people on this panel were willing to talk about everything from web-based programs, to Flash animation, to the proliferation of preschool television shows. On the other hand, I grew a bit concerned regarding the quality of these future shows, to say nothing of the present.

In a way, it came down to a head to head at several times between two very interesting women. In one corner of the ring you have Alice Cahn. Ms. Cahn is the sort of wry witty woman you just wanna grab a bagel with and chat all night with. A former Director of Children's Programming at PBS and is currently the VP of Programming and Development for the Cartoon Network's preschool businesses. She is also a hoot.

In the other corner, Twila Liggett who created my best beloved, Reading Rainbow. She's done other notable work in her life, but for certain members of my generation, that's really all you need to know. She knows quality children's programming.

Back and forth the two women went on a host of different topics. The place of marketing in children's television was of particular interest indeed. Ms. Liggett admitted that Reading Rainbow should have done more to get their name out there but pointed out that the in-your-face nature of all those gadgets and furbelows marketed to small children these days is a pity. Cahn countered that it was necessary, now more than ever.

Then comes the clincher. First, Ms. Cahn said that you, "can't make a bad choice in U.S. preschool programming", these days. She then announces that Barney was the best thing to ever happen to children's programming. Liggett countered that Barney was the WORST thing to happen to children's television.

Now Cahn's argument, if I heard it correctly, was that because of Barney, network executives saw that children's preschool programming could be incredibly profitable. The chain of events as she described it was Sesame Street to Barney to Dora the Explorer. So what you have now is almost every channel trying to fit the children's program niche. What Cahn didn't discuss, unfortunately, was quality. To my mind, Barney was a throwback. Before Sesame Street, children's programming didn't offer anything for parent viewers. As a result, parents were inclined to plop the fruit of their loins in front of the TV solo and take off to do other things. Sesame Street offered programs of interest to both adults AND children which, in turn, led to family viewing. If family viewing is seen as more desirable than leaving kids alone with only a telly for a friend, then the conclusion one draws is that mindless programming for children is something we should fight against.

Other panelists had equally interesting points to make. Stephen Gass was present and gave a new view. He's the current president of every baby company, inc. "which develops early learning products." And it's not called "baby programming", by the way. It's "Infant Media Space". Oh la la la la. So how are we to deal with people who market products to our babies? Haven't studies shown that exposing babies to television shows may hurt or stunt their little baby brains? According to Mr. Gass (and we must take this with a grain of salt) this is not necessarily the case. As I understood him, Mr. Gass said that there weren't any baby causal studies. Remember that whole theory that if you play Mozart for people it makes them smarter? Not so true, apparently. Gass explained that while not all programming for babies is good, certain kinds can be beneficial. The kicker is the sudden surge in Video On Demand (VOD) these days. Rather than wait around for the program they want, parents are increasingly just purchasing the programs they want to watch, when they want to watch them. This trend is supposed to increase, though it doesn't really take in effect those parents who can't afford to buy baby television whenever the mood strikes. This was a problem I had with much of the panel's discussions, but that's just me.

At one point an audience member asked about future programming. Will more picture books and children's titles be adapted into programming? "Look, we all want to make The Pigeon Steals a Hot Dog." Actual quote. And I suspect that with Mr. Mo's ties to Nickelodeon and Sesame Street that he knows full well what that would entail and has been steering clear of it thus far. Now, on the flip side I was able to overhear audience members before the presentation discussing this very topic. Their take was that networks are going to be less inclined to buy existing characters in the future because they want to own everything. But if a character has an already passionate fan base (as with The Pigeon), I suspect they'd make the occasional exception.

There was also some discussion regarding programming for older children. In a way, it's kinda died. ZOOM was cancelled. We don't have many contemporary Square One, 3-2-1 Contact, or Bill Nye the Science Guy shows available for kids. Now that preschool programming has been conquered, the next step for networks is to get a handle on older kids. What can we offer them?

And what else does the future hold? Panelists speculating on an Emmy category for broadband TV shows, perhaps. Or the $100 laptop, all thanks to Fisher Price. Maybe we'll have more on-demand programming.

The seminar cleared up some questions I'd had but had never really considered before. You know how every single children's movie contains at least one fart or burp joke in the trailer? Ever wonder why that is? Well Mr. Gass explained that the change came when cartoons weren't allowed to crush characters with anvils or chase them around with guns. Potty humor was increased so as to fill that violent void. He assured us, however, that "farting will be out soon." I'm trying to believe him. Remember the Charlotte's Web fart joke in the original trailer?

Then the moderator turns to the panel and asks what television show is currently on that they think is especially good. Crickets couldn't have chirped louder. Oh, Ms. Cahn was able to give not just one but two names, and I think they were indeed very good. She mentioned Peep and the Big Wide World (which my library system owns on DVD). It's a show that has garnered itself an Emmy or two. The other show was Ellen's Acres. If it doesn't sound familiar that's because it hasn't come out yet. For the most part everyone just lamented about the best of the cancelled shows they knew of. A Walk In Your Shoes was a kind of kid-friendly version of Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days. Behind the Scenes took a walk with Penn and Teller to examine the creative process of artists like, "David Hockney, Julie Taymor, Wayne Thiebaud, Matt Groening, David Parsons, JoAnn Falletta, Robert Gil de Montes, Carrie Mae Weems, William Wegman, Allen Toussaint, Bobby McFerrin, Nancy Graves, and Max Roach." It too is gone.

Ms. Liggett, however, was able to also conjure up at least one current remarkable show for kids. She announced that Reading Rainbow was still on the air. The statement was met with tumultuous applause (re: me).

Fun Facts:
Ronnie Krauss (author of 14 children's books) is currently creating a Nate the Great television series.

Leaving Marymount I met up with a delightful editor from Little Brown & Co. who recognized me. It wasn't until I got home that I realized why. This was a same remarkable woman who passed me the very last hardcover copy of The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin at the ALA Conference in New Orleans half a year ago. Anyway, she gave me the choice bit of information that someone somewhere is currently revamping... wait for it... The Electric Company. That's right. They are updating The Electric Company for a whole new generation. It is, and I don't use this term lightly, genius. Think about it.

And just to end this on the right note of whimsy I shared a cab ride home with two complete and utter strangers. This was one of them:

Honest, it was. Jill Pakulski is a nutritionist, actually, but she has her own show to boot. Here's the website.

The other cab rider had been a writer on several different television shows in the past. She did not divulge the shows on which she worked, but she brought up some significant points. The writer had hoped that the discussion would speak more to web-based programming. If television shows someday all end up free on the web, what does that mean for writers? Currently a writer gets paid every time their show plays on television. Would they get paid every time someone clicked on an online show then, or would they get cut out of the process altogether? It's a serious concern. We also discussed selling shows overseas. My cab partner mentioned that overseas they are more likely to purchase animated rather than live-action shows because it's easier to dub a cartoon than a living breathing person.

Very interesting stuff all around. If anyone attended other programs in the series I'd love to hear how they went.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Best Thing To Receive From a Patron Ever

Someone just handed me a quart of caffeinated milk as a thank you for helping them in the past.
I love this city.

ALA Notables List Is Up!

This past Mid-Winter I got a chance to sit in on the ALA Notables committee to watch them pick the best books of the year. Should you ever get a chance to attend a Mid-Winter conference, this is an activity that cannot be beat. Unlike those debates that go on behind closed doors, the Notables are chosen in an open room. At one end is the table with the committee members. At the other are chairs where anyone can slip in and watch the proceedings. I assume that it must make a huge difference to a person when they debate a book in front of its editors, but there would have to be a kind of thrill involved, right?

This year I was pleased as punch to recognize at least three people on the committee. Lisa Von Drasek, Rita Auerbach, and Katie O'Dell (who proves that I know librarians outside of the NYC area) were exemplary. It was also rather cathartic to have finished the Newbery and then watch people go through the very process I'd just completed. Better than a massage. Really.

And now the list is up. I was saddened by the gaping holes where A Drowned Maiden's Hair and Fly By Night should have been, but otherwise it's a great list. Lots of stuff that's been missed by other Best Book showings. Los Gatos Black On Halloween, for example, deserved greater attention this year. Definitely worth checking out.

I had a momentary lapse of judgment where I toyed with the idea of applying for an upcoming Notables committee, but I think I'll take a break of a year or two instead. I am not, after all, insane.

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Folderol and Fiddle-Dee-Dee

I'm afraid that not going to work has a detrimental effect on this blog. Fortunately I'm back at work today and ready to start fighting crime or whatever it is I do at Donnell (I've forgotten... it has something to do with rabbits, right?). UNfortunately, you're going to have to put up with a little more self-indulgence until that happens. First and foremost, I direct you to a blogger I've not seen much of until now. LibrariAnne has been around since September 29, 2003 but it wasn't until I saw her post No Blogging Allowed? that I found something that couldn't help but catch my eye. Me! Ms. Heathen (I personally believe she should have named her blog "The Heathen Tome") notes the possible shift in ALSC policy towards committee members that blog. She sites my blog as an example. As you will recall, I removed all my reviews of 2006 Newbery contenders (sans picture books) in November. Ms. Heathen questions any policy change that would stifle bloggers from reviewing while serving a committee. This will be a topic to watch in the coming months. I hope that if a policy change does happen that it's announced properly so that we all know about it.

In other news, Jane Yolen recently gave me a shout out on her blog. I'm in the "Distracting busy" section on the Jan 14-20, 2007 post. Again... that would be a good name for a blog.

Also, I learn from our faithful eBay bookseller at Bookseller Blog that, "First editions of Newbery and Caldecott Medal winners typically sell for a premium. Watch for them!" Well noted. I wonder what one signed by all the Newbery committee members would go for. Kidding! Kidding! That puppy's getting handed down to my grandchildren someday.

For fun, here's some proof that I was actually on the Newbery committee in the first place. Not that any of you have doubted it thus far, but what if I've been scamming you all this time? Well, here you may see me with author Kirby Larson, the same day she found out she won an Honor for Hattie Big Sky . . .

... and here's my committee. Ain't they swell? Nicest people on the planet, these. Not a single person was ever nasty or anything but kind, committed, and overwhelmingly intelligent. I'm the one trying desperately to win this year's Best Posture Award.

And In Other News...

I've spent all of today answering my e-mail, it seems. Still, these tidbits did manage to catch my eye when I wasn't expecting them to...

The results of the Lisa Yee contest are in. You know. The one were you had to change a single letter in a children's book title to come up with an entirely different title. My personal favorite was, "Fear Mr. Henshaw", but maybe that was just because I could see the entire movie play out in my mind. Moving on...

Fight fight, inner light! Kill, Quakers, kill!
Yes, my alma mater instincts are in full throttle with the appearance of my most recent alumni magazine. Earlham College holds a strong influence over every human being that happens to traverse its green green heart. As such, it was with more than a little delight that I saw that one of my fellow alumns is a YA author by the name of Margo Rabb. And not just any YA author, mind you, but one who has managed to get Michael Chabon to do the blurb on her latest book, Cures For Heartbreak. The book doesn't come out until February and already it's garnered itself starred reviews from SLJ and Booklist. I don't review YA myself, but for a fellow Earlhamite I might make an exception. In any case, I urge my YA reviewing fellows to take this book into consideration. It seems a pity that it was dumped on the marketplace so far away from the award season, but maybe it'll retain its drive till 2008.

Oh, and funny story. I'm apparently serving on a Grand Jury starting next Monday. The good news? Lots of reading can get done. The bad? No trolling for fun news during the day. We may have to go back to the old one-review-a-day model at this rate.

Animals That Should Have Their Own Picture Books - Part... Something Or Other

A rare frilled shark that everyone is calling "prehistoric" was caught live in Japan recently. Here it is...

GAH! Why is it that I find this animal more frightening than a great white? It must be that eye and Joker-like grin. When I lose my mind someday, THIS is the animal that will be haunting my dreams for nights on end. Maybe in a picture book he'd be less frightening...

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Review of the Day: The New Policeman

The New Policeman by Kate Thompson. Greenwillow Books (a Harper Collins imprint). $16.99.

The Irish children’s fantasy novel. It sounds like they’d be a dime a dozen, doesn’t it? Truth be told, it’s remarkably difficult to find one for kids if you happen to be perusing the shelves of your local bookstore. English? Can’t get enough of those. Welsh? Less common but Susan Cooper and Lloyd Alexander (both current residents of America) found much of their inspiration in that part of the world. Yet the Irish are a different beast altogether. Though they’ve a rich cultural background and more history than you can shake a stick at, their children’s fantasies have been slow in breaking into the American marketplace. Enter “The New Policeman”. A winner of the Whitbread Award and the Guardian Award for children's fiction, the book poses a simple question: Who knows where the time goes? The answer involves fairies, paganism, lost socks, and music.

Rumor has it that there are twenty-four hours in the day, but you wouldn’t know it to look at J.J. Liddy and his family. From sunup to sundown everyone has to bust a gut to get anything done. Fortunately, whenever J.J.’s family holds a ceili people always make time to come over and enjoy the music and dancing. Only this time, J.J.’s gotten rebellious. He’s just discovered that many people in town are convinced that his great-grandfather once murdered a priest and he's having a bit of a tiff with his best friend. J.J. doesn’t know where his loyalties lie, until he promises his mother that he’ll buy her a little extra time for her birthday. Little does he suspect that the true reason there aren't any minutes to spare is that they've been leaking into the fairy land Tir na n’Og. Now J.J. must navigate this dying world with the fiddler Aengus at his side and determine how best to locate this dangerous leak before it spells the end to both the fairy and mortal realms.

When I first began reading the title, I figured that the idea of no one ever having any time on their hands was a very adult concept. Yet as I read on and thought about it I saw how wrong this assumption really was. We live in a fast-paced world these days, and many kids haven’t a moment to spare anymore. After school activities and sports effectively munch up any moments that could otherwise be used for relaxation. Sometimes it really does feel that someone or something has been sapping our time away, bit by anxious bit. Thompson effectively taps into that feeling. In her book the buses are always late, no matter how quickly they drive. As a result, music almost stands as a kind of cure-all. Each chapter (most lasting no longer than a couple pages) ends with a page of sheet music and a title that’s applicable to the section just read. Thompson’s love of the art is unquestionable. No one has written a children’s book praising Irish tunes better than she’s done at this point in time.

Now I’ll tell you right off the bat that the book starts at a slow, leisurely pace. Kids looking for a dragon or a fight scene on page one are bound to be disappointed. Come to think of it, kids looking for a dragon or fight scene on pages one through four hundred and seven are also bound to be disappointed. You’re far more likely to find a high-spirited jig in these pages than a battle, bloody confrontation, or cackling villain. This is not a bad thing, but for kids that enjoy their Percy Jackson books, “The New Policeman”, may strike them as unbearably slow. And to be honest, for the first 130 pages, I can't blame them. Thompson sees no reason to rush things. Though her characters may be running about hurry-scurry without any extra time to do things, it isn’t until Part Two of the book that any visions of magic even begin to appear. And while I don’t want to encourage any writers to feel compelled to give in to the demand out there for action-based drama, nor do I think a slow-paced supposedly fantasy-based novel involving music and time should wait until 100 pages have passed to give child readers a taste of what they want. Had even the slightest drop of magic appeared earlier in the book that would have been fine. Thompson, unfortunately, seems to almost want to prevent child readers from getting too much fantastical satisfaction. There are “fairies” here sure, but they’re just regular human people who live forever, turn mortals into animals, and happen to be particularly good with music. Leprechauns supposedly haunt Tir na n’Og, but Thompson tantalizingly keeps them off-stage so that the reader never sees a single one. The only magical creature that looks and acts in a fantastical manner is a Puka who shows up for five pages and is never seen again.

None of this is to say that the book is badly written, of course. I just want to make it clear that when compared to fellow Irish fantasy, “The Hounds of the Morrigan”, by Pat O’Shea (and there are similarities), O’Shea offers you a little more bang for your buck. But of course the internal logic of Thompson’s world is spot on with lots to enjoy. She can describe the banjo as “a monstrous instrument”, and that, “they should have left it in America where it belongs”, with impunity. Thompson also steers clear of ever becoming too twee. When I saw that all the missing socks in the world end up in Tir na n’Og, that fact threatened to tip the tale into preciousness. Fortunately, it is explained to J.J. that if there are a lot of socks in a given area, that means that in his world there would be a house on that spot. Otherwise, crossing over might mean that the fairies end up in someone’s kitchen.

The fairies are charming but you couldn’t call them good. Certainly J.J. grows fond of them as a whole, but when you examine what it is that they do, it comes off looking pretty terrible. They exchange their own babies for that of regular mortals (hence the changeling idea) and then donate the real children to orphanages. There’s even a kind of Peter Pan effect due to the unchanging nature of Tir na n’Og that renders the inhabitants forgettable and apt to meet up with past loves decades after they should. They are, to put it plainly, adequately heartless. Thompson obviously knows her history well. When Aengus says that, “Caring is another of those things like worrying ... We’re useless at it,” you believe him.

Thompson does interesting things with Irish history as well. The end of beliefs in fairies and Paganism started when Christianity came in. At one point Aengus explains to J.J. that the reason that mortals never wanted to go to Tir na n’Og was that, “... they wanted time. They wanted to have pasts and futures. They wanted the ability to shape their world and to accumulate wealth and power. Christianity had just arrived, so they weren’t so worried about dying, now that they could look to an afterlife.” Certainly that particular religion doesn’t get much of a boost in this book, but Thompson ties in nicely the different religious eras of Ireland. I suspect that if I knew my Irish history better I could even match portions of this story to their real world historical counterparts.

And it’s just so... so... so bloody Irish! If you don’t know the legends of Diarmud and Grainne, this book won’t help you any. Really, it’s a fun read. Plenty for the patient reader to find and enjoy. The idea of fairies being regular people echoes neatly Elizabeth Pope’s, “The Perilous Gard”, albeit with more dancing and less symbolic human sacrifices. The right reader for this book is the child that is patient. The kind that won’t mind muddling through backstory and drawn out character development. Once the ball gets rolling Thompson can’t be beat, of course. And for fans of Eire and jigs named things like “The Priest and His Boots”, it will be a satisfying read.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Intrepid? I'm a Dodge!

Seven Impossible Things Before breakfast launched their remarkable Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast series while I was at ALA with a look at Liz B. of A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy fame. Now they've posted information on Fuse #8. It's neat. If I gave you my card at ALA and told you to look at my blog, this would be a nice thing to consult. And man, talk about research. They even found the old SLJ interview I did where I explained where the name "Fuse #8" comes from. Coo. A very nice series conducted by very nice people who have subsequently fed my very big ego.

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The 2007 Award Season - My Take

Though I cannot speak on the Newbery, I can comment on the other award winners this season and my take on what did or did not catch various committee eyes. Roast 'em, tenderize 'em, down they go....

First things first.

What Won:
You've got your proper award going to Flotsam by Wiesner, and then your Honors to Moses by Weatherford & Nelson and Gone Wild by McLimans. Basically the word on the street (street = my office) this award season was that Flotsam seemed like a done deal. Wiesner, remember, has already won two Honors and two Awards proper in the past. Chalk up number three on the big board. This makes me wonder if he holds the record for most Caldecotts garnered. Anyone know? Personally, I did feel that Flotsam was his best work. Three Pigs, for all its charms, was a fine read but not what I'd call exemplary. So while I feel a little sad that someone new didn't get "The Call", at least the winner was entirely deserving.

With all the picture books I reviewed this year, it's funny that I never tossed in my two cents on either of the Honor books mentioned. I could've reviewed Moses at any time, but I was reluctant to do so. For me, Nelson has done his best work here. Nine times out of ten he's the guy they bring in when a celebrity has written a book and they need jaw-dropping illustrations to sell it to the public. So my hope was that with this kind of subject matter he'd get some much deserved attention. Personally, I felt the text was good but not great. The call and response with God worked with mixed success. So I held off reviewing the book until I got a chance to better organize my thoughts. Now it has an Honor and I'm no closer to figuring out whether the text deserved Nelson's images. As for Gone Wild, the first place I saw this book was in the gift shop of an arboretum. It was a late 2006 release and missed most of the Best Book lists for that very reason. I'll need to give it another glance when I've a chance.

What Should've Won (should've is not a word, but I'm inordinately fond of it, so it stays):
I really felt that McClintock's Adele and Simon was her best chance at grabbing the committee's eye this year. I'm a fan of her work, a sentiment not universally shared I see. Also, Rex's Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich was SADLY lacking here. I'd heard some people say that the Caldecott would never go to something that edgy and ... well, fun, but I thought it had a fighting chance. And of course there was that crazy fantasy I had where When You Were Small got some much-deserved notice, but that was my private dark horse hope.

Coretta Scott King Author Award
What Won:
The very YA Copper Sun by Draper won proper with Nikki Grimes' The Road to Paris sweeping the Honor. Not many Honors this year, I see. But then, we knew that didn't we? I read Copper Sun and thought it entirely deserving of the award. Still, I could switch it with Road to Paris and not be the least bit upset. Both were great reading. Maybe since I'm a children's librarian I would have liked Grimes to get the number one spot, but that's just me.

What Should've Won:
These. No debate. Best choices, bar none.

Corretta Scott King Illustrator Award
What Won:
Moses, and rightfully so. Honors went to Jazz by Walter Dean Myers and Poetry for Young People by Benny Andrews. I couldn't argue with the Moses win. And I was pleased to see Jazz, as I considered that a particularly fabulous looking tasty treat. But where on earth did this Poetry book come from? Have you seen it? I certainly haven't. Is it YA? The press was Sterling, a company that I admittedly don't see all that much of. Still, I suspect that Mr. Andrews is very very pleased these days.

What Should've Won:
Again, I brook no contest. These were great picks. I must defer to their judgment Poetry-for-Young-People-wise.

The Michael L. Printz Award
What Won:
THE BEST DAMN BOOK THAT COULD'VE WON, THAT'S WHO!!!! Did anyone happen to catch the live webcast of the award ceremony? Cause when they announced American Born Chinese you can probably see me, front and center, leaping into the air in an expression of complete and utter delight. Such a remarkable and wonderful choice. I was thrilled to my core to hear it. The honors sported a few surprises as well. Sure, we all knew Octavian Nothing would get a mention. Ditto The Book Thief. I probably wouldn't have predicted An Abundance of Katherines off the top of my head, but I was happy with the win. You've all seen it already, I'm sure, but faithful self-documentarian John Green can be seen live and on the phone accepting the call. I'm a little jealous of the Printz committee as a result. Not only do they get to call at night, but they get to say, "You fucking won", which (let's face it) is exactly what I would love to tell people when they get great big awards. John's surprise caught me off-guard, though. I mean, he won the Printz Award already. Was it such a shock to get an Honor next? Guess so. Surrender by Sonya Hartnett is unknown to me, and I didn't remember seeing it mentioned by any of the YA bloggers in the past. A little help, people?

What Should've Won:
Debates on this topic will fly fast and furious. Personally, I had hoped that King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner and A True and Faithful Narrative by Katherine Sturtevant deserved some notice. I wonder if they were seriously considered.

The Mildred L. Batchelder Award
What Won:
The Pull of the Ocean which everyone says is fabulous. I was a little surprised to see The Last Dragon mentioned (though it did appear on the Horn Book Fanfare list this year), but had heard of The Killer's Tears before. But since I wasn't allowed to read any of these, I haven't any opinion on them.

What Should've Won:
It seems to me that The Book of Everything done got shafted, to put it plain. That's one book I devoured before joining Newbery, and I loved it. The problem with the book is that it's difficult to figure out whether or not to put it on YA or children's booklists, since the subject matter is advanced and the characters young. This would not have been a problem for the Batchelder Award since they don't split their categories into old and young, and yet it does not appear. A large hole indeed.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Beginning Reader Award
What Won:
Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways, apparently. I was seated next to someone who knew the author personally and was thrilled at the announcement. I've not seen any of this series yet myself, so I'm excited to give it a glance when I get back to work (Thursday). Then there was Move Over, Rover (again, I feel out of touch), Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride (well done there), and the delightful little Not a Box. I was just pleased as punch to see it included. I'd thought it might make a good Geisel book when I first read it, but the thought slipped my brain months ago.

What Should've Won:
Well, I'm fond of Not a Box and wouldn't have minded if it got the Award proper, but that's okay. And Aggie and Ben wouldn't have been out of place here. Ah well.

The Robert F. Siebert Informational Book Award
What Won:
Another loud hoot came from the audience when I saw Team Moon had won won WON WON! I'm so incredibly happy to hear that. Such a great, engaging, interesting book. Fun to read and the most deserving win of the Siebert I've seen in years. Just a great pick all around. Nice to see that Montgomery hit it out of the park again with Quest for the Tree Kangaroo. Keep this up and they'll soon start renaming it the Montgomery Award. I was pleased too to see Freedom Riders (not to be confused with Freedom Walkers). No doubt that the Siebert was one of the most satisfying categories to hear about. When I saw that To Dance had won, I was truly thrilled. A graphic novel Honor. Has it ever been done before? This was a day of GN firsts, both completely and utterly deserving.

What Should've Won:
Nuthin'. Well, maybe 5,000 Miles to Freedom by the Fradins wouldn't have been a bad choice. That's just such a fun book. I was hoping it might get a mention somewhere.

Andrew Carnegie Medal
What Won:
Also known as the Weston Woods Award. Not that Knuffle Bunny didn't deserve to win, but just tally exactly how many times anyone else has won that particular medal.

What Should've Won:
Video? Not my bag, baby. Perhaps we could turn this into a Book Trailer Award in the future?

Schneider Family Book Awards
What Won:
I was obviously pleased as punch to see Rules by Cynthia Lord get a mention. As for the other two books (the picture and the teen) I was curious. What's the consensus on The Deaf Musicians? I believe it was well-reviewed by and large, but I'd be interested in thoughts on the matter. Small Steps earned its mention, if only because the presenter did a double take at the word "Armpit" when she read the book summary aloud. It's hard to beat a character named Armpit, I tell ya.

What Should've Won:
A pity they don't do honors. I wouldn't have minded mentions of Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby or Singing Hands by Delia Ray.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal
What Won:
James Marshall. Roger Sutton's thoughts on the matter are far crisper than my own.

What Should've Won:
James Marshall. Hands down great choice.

Margaret A. Edwards Award:
What Won:
Lois Lowry for The Giver. I think I speak for everyone as a whole when I say, "She didn't win it for that book yet?" That'd be a fun award committee to be on, don't you think? And check out their past winners. If you're building a school library, this would be the list I'd use to fill your shelves.

Everything else I haven't an opinion on. David Macaulay won a lecture thingy? Cool beans. Adult books that won Alex Awards? Hon, I haven't read an adult book in months. It's all good.

By the way, I would like to thank you all for continuing to visit this blog in my absence. My stats hardly fell a jot while I was in Seattle, and Technorati informs me that 171 people now link here. I deeply appreciate it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My Newbery Half a' Year

I highly recommend that you get on a Newbery committee if you're at all able. Even if it's for six months rather than twelve, you've gotta give it a try. Yes, my dearest darlings, I've returned from Seattle. Last night saw me taking the red-eye from the Seattle airport to LaGuardia followed by sleeping in as long as I could justify. But now I am returned, refreshed, rested, and remarkably happy with the results.

I've looked over your Newbery guesses, and I have to say that the prize for best guess goes to Anonymous. Congratulations, Anonymous! I owe you a coke. To be honest, I checked your guesses on Sunday when I knew the winners but few others in the world (including the author) did. That was a bit of a thrill.

Was it a good year? It was. Am I happy with the choices we made? I am. Were there books that I wanted to win that didn't make it? Of course. The same could be said for every other committee member as well. And that, dear children, is why the good Lord invented the Cybils. Now I've made a quick once-over of youse bloggers out there, and the general consensus seems to be that you don't dislike the choices, but that few of you have actually read the winner. Kelly at Big A little a reviewed the book, but not as many other people have even gotten a chance to see it (though I was pleased to see that Mitali Perkins had written an Amazon recommendation). I reviewed it, of course, but I haven't yet gotten word as to whether or not I can repost my old reviews yet. I'll keep you informed.

Fun Fact: I helped write the Higher Power of Lucky press release. Which means that my little summary has now been the most widely read thing I've ever had a hand in.

Interestingly enough, much of the Mid-Winter Conference concerned ALSC's upcoming policy change regarding bloggers and award committees. Nothing's been decided one way or another, but I assure you that debate has been hot and heavy on many front as to how to best proceed.

But you realize what all this means, don't you? I'm FREE! I can spout off on any topic I choose again! Any topic aside from anything regarding the 2007 Newbery, of course. But this coming Newbery season? Oh-ho, my chickens, watch out!

Now then. The Call, as you are all designating it. That's the moment you live for. It's the only thing that will get me out of bed at 5:30 in the morning willingly. The Call went smoothly this year. All the committee members, as you may or may not know, get to place a telephone conference call so as to alert all the winners. The Chair must be very clear when informing the lucky ones that the winner is the winner and that the honors are just honors. Apparently there has been some confusion surrounding this in the past. Now I'm not sure how much I can say about the calls themselves. I suspect that the winners may want to give these tiny details in their acceptance speeches and that it would be callous of me to one-up them at this time. So here's what I can tell you: 1. Everyone was in and answered the phone though one person was, as far as I can ascertain, chasing their cat through some snowdrifts and missed our first two tries. 2. One person was awake because she was planning on watching the webcast. We told her she should probably do so anyway. 3. Kirby Larson actually attended the official announcement in person and I got to meet her. She's a native of the state and just the sweetest gal. Her SCBWI fellows were, to put it mildly, delighted.

Now that The Higher Power of Lucky has won, there's only one thing left to decide: How to decorate the banquet hall for the Newbery/Caldecott banquet this coming June?

Various Suggestions That Will Only Make Sense If You've Read the Book:
  • Place one block of government cheese on everyone's plate to play with.
  • Large selections of Fig Newtons and Mint Milanos should be available.
  • One copy of Are You My Mother? for every guest.
  • Intricate knots should decorate the napkins at every table.
  • Parsley for everyone!
I picked up loads of goodies in the Convention Center by the way. With my newfound freedom I'll be able to review them, each and every one. We'll never go back to the one review a day idea, but I may try for an every other day attempt at first. I'm going to make a couple new rules too. No negative reviews before the official publication of a book. If I don't like a book by a first time author, I won't review it at all (unless it gets unwarranted attention). Just kids stuff. More graphic novels. And if I don't review a book you sent to me, that doesn't mean I didn't like it. I get, as you may suspect, a lot of books to look over.

Of course, in some ways I'm no less busy. I've some ideas for articles, and maybe books, and maybe professional review sources and oodles and oodles of stuff. Today, though, I'm going to settle for answering my e-mails. It's good to be home. It's good to blog again.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Guess That Book!

I am gone. I have hopped a plane for Seattle and as you read this I am undoubtedly sitting on a tarmac somewhere waiting for my plane (#43 in line) to take off. Once I arrive it's five fast-paced days of debate and consensus. I'm very excited. The best part? Informing the winners at 6:30 a.m. (Seattle time) that they've won. It's enough to make you want to have 50 Newbery honors, just so you can make that call again and again. I'm living for that moment.

But of course, this all means that I am away from blogging. I don't own a laptop so I won't be updating anything at all. I won't even glance at Fuse #8 while I'm away either. Nope. So when the winners are announced you'll have to find out by some other means.

Or you could watch it LIVE! Like you were there and everything.

Following a successful 2006 pilot, the American Library Association (ALA) will provide a free live Webcast of its national announcement of the top books and video for children and young adults - including the Caldecott, King, Newbery and Printz awards - on January 22 at 7:45 a.m. PST. The award announcements are made as part of the ALA Midwinter Meeting, which will bring together more than 10,000 librarians, publishers, authors and guests in Seattle from January 19 to 24.

You simply go here at 10 a.m. PST/1 p.m. EST and all will be revealed.

So let's have some fun in my absence. What do you think will get the Newbery proper? Go on, don't be shy. Write in your number one, and ONLY your number one, pick. I'm curious to see how many of you get it right. As you shall see, there is a reason why no high stakes gambling involves children's literary awards.

So what'll win?

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