Fuse #8

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Review of the Day: A Friendship For Today

A Friendship For Today by Patricia McKissack. Scholastic Press.

You can’t help but like Patricia McKissack. It’s part of the human experience. One glance at her books or a gander at her titles and you’re sold. She’s a remarkable author with that rare ability to switch gears between folktales, picture books, non-fiction, and novels without so much as a hitch. But as with any established author, you can’t just assume their latest book is going to be all that great. I mean, sure “A Friendship For Today” is based on a great premise. And the writing? Definitely keeps you involved and interested at all times. And I am not going to stand here and deny that McKissack seamlessly works in historical dates and facts without jarring the narrative or that the characters leap off the page with a depth characteristic of her writing.... oh fine. It’s a wonderful book. Another hit out of the park, it seems, from McKissack.

It would have been bad enough for Rosemary to have to deal with leaving her favorite segregated school for the new unsegregated one she's being forced to attend. And then there’s the fact that her parents are fighting all the time and her father has hooked up with some floozy from his job. But to top it all off Rosemary’s best friend J.J. (her boy friend NOT boyfriend) has come down with polio right before the start of school. It’s 1954 and now Rosemary Patterson is going to have to attend Robertson Elementary all by herself as the ONLY black girl in her class. The kicker? She has to sit next to nasty racist Grace Hamilton a.k.a. Grace the Tasteless. Yet as the year wears on, the two girls find that they may have more in common than they thought. It’s an unlikely friendship they share, but in a year like no other, Grace and Rosemary are going to put aside their differences and prejudices, if only for a little while.

What I primarily liked about this book (aside from the father getting his just desserts at the end) was the nature of the friendship Rosemary and Grace shared. The title is immensely significant here. What they have is a “friendship for today”. Not one that would last a hundred years or a million miles. It was born out of hardship and convenience and it’s nice and all, but at the end of the book you can see that Rosemary doesn’t set much store by it. I think this might serve as an excellent discussion point with young readers. Does Grace feel the same way about their friendship that Rosemary does? Will it last after all? Has Rosemary doomed it by calling it “for today”?

Now I’m not a huge fan of historical novels that drop famous names hither and thither without rhyme or reason. McKissack doesn’t really do this though, and for that I am grateful. There’s a brief discussion of Wilma Rudolph in this title, which I appreciated, but it feels natural. Rosemary, after all, is very proud of her own speed and J.J. suffers from polio so Wilma’s story is absolutely necessary to the story. I enjoyed too the fact that sometimes McKissack moves the focus off of Rosemary for a little while so that the book remains realistic. For example, at one point in the narrative we hear that another black child is getting some attention, this time for performing with the local orchestra. This isn't a book so unsure of itself that it has to make its heroine the focus of every big moment and plot twist every step of the way. "A Friendship For Today" is at peace with itself.

I think the reason this book stands apart from the pack really comes down to Rosemary herself. I liked her. I don’t always like heroines that speak in the first person (and in the present tense at that), but you can’t help but enjoy spending some time in Rosemary's company. She's the kind of person who says things like, “I know Grace would rather not have a colored friend. And I wouldn’t have picked her out of a catalog, either. But here we are.” You’re rooting for Rosemary from start to finish. When she walks into her new school all by herself, the only black kid there, you’re just as nervous as she is. McKissack brings her troubles home.

To some extent I think that McKissack sort of overdoes the happy ending. Not only are all conflicts resolved and all players better off than when they started, but even the villains have been redeemed. The nasty girl from school that called Rosemary the “N” word suddenly does a 360 by the and gets her father to allow her fellow student into his normally all-white restaurant. The book also begins to speed up as the end of the story grows close. One minute Rosemary decides on a whim to enter a spelling bee and the next she’s in the high school auditorium in the semi-finals. I also wish there had been a Historical Note in addition to the Author’s Note for some of the more interesting facts in the book. At one point after the schools have desegregated, a child that isn’t doing well in the new system is sent “down south where the schools are still segregated.” The understanding is that segregated schools could sometimes provide better educations than their desegregated, biased equivalents. How often did this happen? Was it common? Rare? Enquiring minds want to know.

That said, it’s a lovely little novel. Relatively short (under 200 pages) with a likable voice and a strong sense of decency, McKissack is comfortable in this genre. Her Rosemary is everything the author was herself taught to be by her parents; “... proud but not arrogant, firm but not stubborn, humble but not subservient.” This is a book that does its maker proud. Fine stuff.

Notes On the Cover: Essentially what happened here is that Scholastic took one cover and replaced it with another.

On the back cover you can see two pairs of legs wearing jeans/slacks and Airwalk sneakers. Insofar as I can tell, wearing jeans in the early 50s in the American South was not unheard of. I believe Ms. McKissack says as much in this book. Still, it certainly wasn’t common and Airwalks? Weren’t they established in 1986, or am I just making this up? Obviously someone at Scholastic freaked out when they saw how historical fictionish the original cover was and they plunked this very modern and very overly familiar image on instead. The new girls look like models. That’s supposed to be Grace on the left? How’d she get such great dental care? Her family didn’t seems the types to watch their kids' brushing all that closely. And Rosemary wasn’t allowed to wear her hair down for fear of looking too old, but she’s allowed to sport a plunging neckline like the one seen here? You guys weren’t even trying, were you? You just got the call to take a picture of a black and white girl of such n’ such an age, you picked the models, and that was it. Did anyone even read the book? The old girls had personality, spunk, and the kind of charm that made me want to look at this book in the first place. Naughty bad, Scholastic! No treat for you. Do yourself a favor and reinstate the old cover the minute you have a chance. “A Friendship For Today” just disappears with the hundreds of other covers when you fail to do anything to distinguish it.

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CCBC 2007 Choices

It's still in its rough form (sans annotations and the like) but the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) has put out its CCBC 2007 Choices list. I like how they break the list up into unique categories without a set number of items for each. There were a couple of things on here I was happy to see listed. We all have our pet books that we wish could have gotten more attention.

Things I Was Happy To See:
Yay, unappreciated books! Which isn't to say there weren't...

Glaring Omissions:
  • Where's Kathleen Krull's bio on Isaac Newton? Oh fine. I've heard your complaints about the lack of Endnotes or citations. Pfui. I liked the book just fine.
  • The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer? No list that includes both children and teen titles should forget this amazing little number.
  • To Dance by Siena Siegel? Other graphic novels made the list. So why not one of the best?
  • When You Were Small by Sara O'Leary? Actually, I'm not surprised. Everyone forgets this book. It may be the best picture book of 2006, but somehow it keeps falling through the cracks. The curse of small publishers, I guess.
  • Not a Box by Antoinette Portis? The surprise hit of 2006. No library should be without it.
  • And, of course, the Best Book of 2006 - Fly By Night. Nowhere to be seen. *sniffle*
That's what I love the most about big lists. You can natter away about what was and wasn't featured till you're hoarse. Personally, I think the New York Public Library's 100 Books For Reading and Sharing list is the best out there, but I'm more than a little biased.

CCBC Choices 2007 will be available at the CCBC after March 3, 2007.

Thanks to Cynsations for the link.

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The Reprinting Landmark Books

Why won't Johnny read?
Or rather, why won't Johnny read non-fiction? Maybe if there were more series titles out there, Johnny'd be more interested. So say two former employees of Houghton Mifflin.
They had noticed there's a strong nonfiction market for men -- adventure books such as Sebastian Junger's "A Perfect Storm" or Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air." But, said Hill, "it was clear that publishers were ignoring adventure, history, and nonfiction for 10-to-15-year-old boys." Hogan said, "If you look at what men read, there was no springboard for boys. If they want to read the kind of books they will read as adults, there is nothing to lead them into that area."
The idea is that series books do better than individual titles. So they're bringing back an old series by the name of Random House Landmark Books. My concern with that wasn't too far off from that of former ALSC President Caroline Ward who said, "One of the criticisms of that series in the 1950s and '60s is that it was somewhat fictionalized to sweeten the material. There is such interest in fact-checking and documentation today. We try to avoid narrative nonfiction if it has dialogue that is conjectural."

Plus, are they not tweaking any terms at all? Cause call me crazy, but isn't one of the problems with old non-fiction its... uh... colorful view of people who aren't white?

So I looked through some of the titles we have here at Donnell. We have about 100 of them, as it turns out, with titles like, Rogers' Rangers and the French and Indian War , Captain Cook Explores the South Seas, and Balboa, Swordsman and Conquistador. My boss, for one, was very excited to hear that this is being reprinted. But will they play in Peoria?

Thanks to Mediabistro for the link.

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What Do You Get Out of Blogging?

It's a legitimate question.

Me, I get the satisfaction that comes with playing a really intense video game. As I play, my user stats go up. It's the same sense of accomplishment you get when you've won a particularly difficult portion of Tetris.

Bookseller Chick wonders what it all means, though:
... what kind of content do you expect from your writers who blog? How about from the bloggers who aren’t (and never will be) “professional” writers? With the proliferation of writer blogs, group writer blogs, reader blogs and the personal blogs that blend all these things into one, I’ve really begun to question what I need from each source as well as how each affects my thoughts on the blogger. How much is too much? How much is not enough?
You don't want to hear me wax poetic on my own blogging because, frankly, that would be dull. I am very interested in the idea of "brand loyalty" though. Some people find a blog they like and stick with it through thick and thin. They find the idea of looking at more than one blog a day tiresome. I, on the opposite end of the spectrum, look at tons of blogs, if I'm able, so as to cull information for the following day. I have no brand loyalty, though there are certain places I prefer to visit first.

Head on over to this posting and offer your own thoughts. Some fine minds have already left their opinions.

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Hope They Do Something With the Mario Theme

I leave all info regarding children's music to my esteemed colleague Warren at Children's Music That Rocks. Last week the children of New York were on some kind of a break (Spring? Late Winter?) and the joint was hopping. As a result, I never had time to see what Warren had posted in his free time. As a result, I haven't seen until now his posting on the children's album ComputHer. How cool is this album? Says Warren:
With an almost fanatical loyalty to computer systems of yore, ComputeHer, aka Michelle, has created an album of hyperdanceable tunes using an old Game Boy, a Game Boy Camera, a Commodore 64, an Apple IIe, an Atari 2600, an old Nintendo, a couple of Texas Instruments educational games, and a keyboard here and there. She goes all out and issues her CD, Data Bass, in a 5 1/4 in. floppy sleeve to the delight of us oldsters.

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By the Way...

It has come to my attention that in the midst of my midnight blog-o-thon yesterday (the Random House 2007 Summer Preview) in a haze of last minute linking I managed to scramble a sentence here or there. I know this sounds odd, but I need the nitpicky amongst you to let me know when this happens. Half these posts are blearily double-checked after 12:30 a.m. and I miss stuff all the time. Please, I beg of you, correct my grammar. Mock my sentence structure. Curl your lip at my dangling participles. I'm only one little blogger (in spite of the opinion of the Children's Whidbey Writer's Workshop) and I mess up.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Random House Summer 2007 Preview

I think that last Wednesday I attended my third or fourth Random House presentation for librarians and reviewers. I'm beginning to get a real feel for these things now. I know to expect bagels, so when RH throws in a muffin or two I coo with pleasure. I know that there will be lots of gorgeous books, but that I may have to pluck out the Middle Grade from the Teen. I know that the goodie bags are forever o'erflowing. And I know that I should try to corner my favorite editors when I get a chance (though I always forget to... sorry, Jim).

But best of all, I'm starting to remember the names of some of these people. Schwartz & Wade are relatively easy when you consider that one is named Schwartz and one is named Wade (though they pulled a third person onto the stage with them this season, so I guess I'll have to refer to that person as "ampersand").

Anywho, I'm working off my notes taken during the Powerpoint sessions. We'll see how well I remember what occurred.

First of all, they're reprinting an old Golden Book title by Hilary Knight called The Circus Is Coming. Its Editor, Schuyler Hooke, was looking particularly dashing this day in a snazzy tie that displayed that old ultra-weird Milton Bradley board game Operation. Remember that game? Where the only thing you could ever get without setting off the buzzer was the Charley Horse, because it was easy to grab its little leg? And if you tilted the board then all the tiny pieces suddenly would get shifted about and you'd have to shake the game until they were set right again. Man, that was a weird creation.

Okay. Lost my train of thought.. uh... right! The Circus Is Coming! Well, Mr. Knight (who is STILL alive as it happens) had the original art from the 1979 book just sitting about somewhere, and they're going to reprint it all beautiful and colorful and with an additional spread that couldn't make it into the original publication. The spread is a tribute to South America and it was when I was looking at a large slide of it that I realized something. Scrotums be damned, people, have you ever seen Hilary Knight draw sexy ladies before? I hate to be the one to tell you this, but if Mr. Knight ever wanted a second career as a pin-up artiste, he already has a leg up. These women are literally draped all over the place from scene to scene. Actually, the guys aren't too shabby either. There was one well-muscled fellow in a one-piece leopard skin outfit that was all kinds of cute. Hot men of children's literature indeed.

The editors, I should mention, were very amused by the whole scrotum debate. The introduction to Isobelle Carmody's Magic Night began with the statement, "This is the haunting and compelling story of a cat and its scrotum." Not true, but a good line nonetheless.

They're re-illustrating The Ear Book by Al Perkins with pictures by cartoonist Henry Payne. Not entirely certain how I feel about that. And we learned that the son of P.D. Eastman is Peter Anthony Eastman who's coming out with Fred and Ted Like To Fly. Huh. Camp Babymouse is coming in May and a source at Comic Con this week-end told me that the one after that may involve ice skating.

Then Schwartz & Wade came on and got very matter-of-fact due to a Chris Raschka book written for seriously ill children. I know, I know. A skeptical eye is needed regarding such things, but I daresay this is a Raschka book I actually like quite a lot. His style, as with the 2006 Caldecott, was a bit loosey-goosey for my tastes. With The Purple Balloon, however, he's limited himself and gone all subtle. I liked it, and I'm not usually a fan of "message" books. This one deserves a gander.

The number one book this imprint is putting out that I want to see, however, is Clara and Senor Frog by Campbell Geeslin. I don't know who illustrator Ryan Sanchez is but I love love love the art in this book. With oodles of references to Diego Rivera, it's got a cool magical realism feel to it that's just sublime. I was less excited by Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little initially because I view Stuart with the same eye as the first children's librarian of New York Public Library, Miss Anne Carroll Moore. She didn't like it. Nor do I. Moxy, as it happens, ends up liking the book by the end which made me a little sad. When I was in third grade my teacher read Stuart Little aloud to us in class and when she got to the end I was furious. What kind of an ending was THAT? Anyway, Schwartz and Wade kind of turned me around on this book. First of all, it's a novel but it's illustrated with photos. Cool, huh? The images of Moxy? That's Lee Wade's daughter. The dog in the book? Schwartz's dog. And the mean mom? Anne Schwartz herself, in the flesh.

By the way, is there a connection between Random House and Hyperion that I don't know about? Both houses are putting out Ratatouille books in tandem with the upcoming Pixar movie. Then at one point they were presenting How Many Seeds In a Pumpkin? which is written by Margaret McNamara who is actually Hyperion editor Brenda Bowen. And finally they compared Moxy Maxwell to Sara Pennypacker's Clementine, which another Hyperion title. Me so confused.

Next we had Beverly Horowitz and Her Fabulous Seven. Seven beautiful editors all came up to present Bantam Delacorte Dell Young Reader books. I was sad to learn that the new series Indie Kidd by Karen McCombie is not a reference to Indie Rock. More's the pity. The Scary States of America by Michael Teitelbaum just looked like so much fun. They're not even putting it out in hardcover, but I don't care. It is, in the words of Stephanie Lane, a "legend-based road trip of terror." In it you learn "Fifty weird and terrifying stories based on true events." When I was a kid, this totally would have been the book for me.

In an odd twist, they're re-releasing Patricia MacLachlan's novels Baby and Journey in a single package and they're keeping the original Baby cover. I'm not entirely certain why this is. It's a nice cover image, but it doesn't really appeal to kids.

Then came a bunch of teen lit. We'll skip that. Not my bag, baby. Oh. Except for maybe Barbara Hall's The Noah Confessions. Hall is the former writer/director of Northern Exposure. Suh-weet! Plus I liked the by-line, "The crimes of the past need not ruin the future."

My loyalty, however, lies with fantasy. We got free copies of Michael Scott's The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. Every year a publisher banks everything on a fantasy title and this, apparently, is Random House's. They've already bought all six books in the series (bearing names like Magician, Sorceress, and Necromancer). It's a big old gamble and it sounds as if the books are pushing the old "eternal life = a good thing" idea. I was particularly proud of the attendee who was able to point out that the name Michael Scott must be a pseudonym since Michael Scot was once a great alchemist of the past. Nice catch fellow librarian/reviewer.

Listening Library got to speak for a while about their upcoming audio titles. And oddly, they started telling us about books from other publishers. Check out this cool cover coming from Laurie Halse Anderson:

What's so neat about this is that this is a Viking title. So Random House didn't seem to mind someone pitching other publishers at THEIR Summer Preview! Extra points to RH then. I've never seen another publisher do anything similar. In addition to Twisted we heard about Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks via Harcourt (this books seems to be going through several covers), Dragonsdale by Salamanda Drake (Eragon meets Stable Club, so help us God), and Marvelous World - Vol. 1 Marvelous Effect by Troy Cle. A fantasy with black characters in it? We haven't seen one of those in 20 years or so, I'd wager. In spite of the fact that the nice Listening Library lady actually said that people were calling this the "black Harry Potter" and used the term "urban" twice, I want to give this a read. The author self-published it originally, and then Simon & Schuster picked it up. The great surprise of the evening was a new Deborah Wiles book entitled Aurora County All-Stars. It involves a pug named Eudora Welty. What more do you need to know?

Best of all are these enhanced CDs they're going to start creating to accompany non-fiction audio books. In a pack of audio CDs, the last one with be a CD-ROM. You pop it in and suddenly you see all the photos from the book with annotations. You can even zoom in on the pics to catch little details you might miss in the book itself. So so cool. They showed some images from Secrets of a Civil War Submarine that really popped off the page.

Then Wendy Lamb stepped up to the plate. She talked up author Karen Day's Tall Tales so well that I actually got excited about a title that might not normally appeal to me. Lamb's smart too. She used phrases like, "small subtle turns that are earned," to lure librarians in. Rebecca Stead's First Light looks pretty good too. Unfortunately, I think Ms. Stead has tried to send me her book (she's a Class of 2K7er) about three times and I STILL have never received it. The only thing I can think is that the mailman has been pilfering them to read on his own instead. Lucky mailman.

The David Fickling Books/ Knopf/ Crown Books imprint people came up and we got a glimpse at the very fun Uneversaurus (pronounced you-never-saurus) by Aidan Potts. It's a whole new kinda dinosaur book with eye-popping illustrations (and a flashy pop-eyed cover) to wow the best of them. I'm excited about it. It's a new dino approach, which I appreciate. Then they showed us Into the Woods by Lyn Gardner which may have been up for a Cybil this year, considering it came out in Britain in '06. This book wraps up a mighty odd trend I've been noticing. Has anyone else spotted the huge numbers of Rapunzel books out this year? Into the Woods is about a daughter of Rapunzel. In the Wild (different book) is about a daughter of Rapunzel. And then there's Letters From Rapunzel, which is on my To Be Read shelf right now. Weird, huh?

Kat Got Your Tongue by Lee Weatherly is YA but I love the premise. 13-year-old Kat wakes up without her memory and finds that she's been a total jerk in the past. High concept? You betcha. I love me my high concept books.

Moving on, the queen of the inner lives of inanimate objects has a new book out. Ginger Bear by Mini Grey shows how one gingerbread bear manages to avoid the fate of being eaten. And there is a moment of post-doggy gingerbread carnage the likes of which have never been seen in a picture book before. Fantastic stuff. Equally fantastic is Kevin Hawkes' The Wicked Big Toddlah. This is the first book Mr. Hawkes has written AND illustrated in years and it shows. Set in Maine the idea is not too dissimilar from Ross MacDonald's Bad Baby, but I'd totally buy this one to complement the other.

Scribble by Deborah Freedman goes all fourth wall on us with realistic drawings interacting with their creations in ways Harold and his purple crayon could only have hoped for. Whale by David Lucas is cool simply because I'm luvin' me my Lucas. And they even managed to sell me on the idea of reprinting Nicolas, Where Have You Been? by Leo Lionni. When Janet Schulman (The Reissue Queen) explained the plot, I understood why she said this book has a message more important today than ever. Plus you can never go wrong by reprinting Lionni.

The Story of Charles Atlas: Strong Man by Meghan McCarthy marked the second appearance of a guy wearing a leopard-print one-piece bathing suit in one day. Awesome. The book looks fabulous, humorous, and other "ous"es as well. RH paired it will Michael Townsend's Billy Tartle In Say Cheese!. I liked the alternative comix look of the book, but the story remains to be seen. I do give the author points, though, for having a website called www.mikeisgreathelikeschocolatecake.com.

And look what's coming out on December 7th, just in time for the movie!

It's an omnibus. Three in one. We are going to give the cover artist the benefit of the doubt and pretend that the woman featured here is Mrs. Coulter or a witch and not a 31-year-old Lyra.

Finally, the best was saved for last. For who should be the guest speaker at this event but a first time novelist of unassailable pedigree. Yes indeedy it was


You may remember Robin from her website. She's prone to sending out delicious chocolates at a moment's notice and now she has her very first YA novel out. Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature (I can't find a cover online anywhere, so you're going to have to trust me when I say that it's cute) sounds delicious. Ms. Brande, looking elegant in her extremely cool glasses and suit, explained how she researched the topic, putting her lawyer background to good use. We were then treated to a rip-roaring story of how Ms. Brande was once kicked out of her evangelical high school church group. It's a magnificent tale. It involves hypnosis and possession. You simply must ask her to tell it sometime. All in all, it was a great way to cap off the day. I need to read her book.

And now the moment you've all been waiting for. The first... the foremost... the finest...


Why not have some fun with it? Especially when they put on QUITE a good show.

I don't pay much attention to YA titles by and large, but editor Cecile Goyette of the Knopf Books for Young Readers imprint really knows how to sell a book. Take, for example, Last Dance At the Frosty Queen by Richard Uhlig. In spite of its deathly dull cover featuring a frosted ice cream cone made out of neon lights and the non-descript byline, "Small town, big entanglements, one life-changing girl," Ms. Goyette took her mike and said to the gathered crowd, "I have two novels to tell you about. Here's the one with all the sex." By the time she was done I suddenly found myself wanting to read a YA novel (something I try not to do, under normal circumstances). The fact that she used the term, "Our time of scrotal consternation," and then moved on to The Confessional by J.L. Powers with a slick, "Okay, and now one that only has a lot of violence and profanity, and that's it!" tipped her over the top for me. Ms. Goyette, you may present YA novels to me any old day of the week.

MOST INTERESTING POWERPOINT VS. BOOK DESCREPANCY: I don't wish to be snarky (at least, not right now) but I was a little fascinated by this mix-up between the Powerpoint and the book being discussed. The Secret of the Painted House by Marion Dane Bauer is a new Stepping Stone Book that looks pretty darn swell. No doubt this is helped in part by illustrator Leonid Gore. Classy roots, no? But oddly enough the listed illustrator on the Powerpoint was Tristan Elwell, which was cool cause I like Mr. Elwell (he once stopped by my library to chat). But I couldn't figure out how his name got in there. A mystery.

BEST COVER - MIDDLE GRADE: I almost caved and gave it to Moxy Maxwell for sentimental reasons, but the real winner this season goes to N.D. Wilson's upcoming Leepike Ridge. This title could go any which way, but after a glance at the cover all you're gonna want to do is read it. The sense of vertigo you get from the image is intense and will draw all kinds of readers in, boys and girls. Well chosen. Unfortunately, I can't find an image of it to place here. You'll have to take my word on this one.

BEST COVER - YA: I said it before (Spring 2007 Round-Up) and I'll say it again. Marissa Walsh's cover for A Field Guide To High School is magnificent. Whatta cover. Maybe it won't appeal to teens the way it appeals to me, but this puppy has everything, to my eyes. It's fun, and silly, with a the mix of archaic high school images from the 50s combined with creepy crawlies. And again, I can't find an image to put here.

BEST DISEMBODIED FEMALE AWARD: A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry. Yes, the good news is that they're rereleasing Lois Lowry's old classic text. The bad news? Somebody got a good strong wiff of Katherine Paterson's Bread and Roses, Too cover and thought, "Hey! Why not do the same, only show the torso of someone carrying flowers rather than bread?" Check 'em out:

Off with their heads!

MOST INTERESTING COVER CHOICE: That would have to go to Sonia Levitin's Strange Relations. Here's the cover:

... and here's the description of the book:
A summer in paradise. That's all Marne wants. That's all she can think of when she asks her parents permission to spend the summer in Hawaii with Aunt Carole and her family.

But Marne quickly realizes her visit isn't going to be just about learning to surf and morning runs along the beach, despite the cute surfer boy she keeps bumping into. For one thing, Aunt Carole isn't even Aunt Carole anymore—she's Aunt Chaya, married to a Chasidic rabbi and deeply rooted in her religious community. Nothing could be more foreign to Marne, and fitting into this new culture—and house full of kids—is a challenge. But as she settles into her newfound family's daily routine, she begins to think about spirituality, identity, and finding a place in the world in a way she never has before.

This rich novel is a window into a different life and gets to the very heart of faith, identity, and family ties.
Looks like they didn't get much farther than the first sentence when they designed this puppy. The book sounds cool, though.

BEST [BLANK] MEETS [BLANK] DESCRIPTION: We have a three-way tie on this one. Delacorte had to present its chick lit, so they got all creative on us and began tossing things together. The Celebutantes: On the Avenue by Anthony Pagliarulo is basically Paris Hilton meets Nancy Drew (they didn't describe it this way, obviously) but only if you turned Paris into triplets named (and I am not making this up) Madison, Park, and Lexington. This book also chops off the cover girl's head, which I didn't actually mind. Prom Dates From Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore was more Veronica Mars meets Buffy meets Nancy Drew. The only problem is that the premise (demons attack prom) was EXACTLY from a Buffy episode, so I'm afraid it loses points on originality. No, the best of the three really had to be fellow chop-the-head-off-on-the-cover title What If ... You Broke All the Rules by Liz Ruckdeschel and Sara James. It's Choose Your Own Adventure meets chick lit. I'm SOLD! No, seriously. I am. I love Choose Your Own Adventure books. I doubt, however, that the kids in this book are going to die with the same frequency of the original series. More's the pity.

BEST IMPRINT: This isn't very fair, but it's how I feel. David Fickling Books gets two big big thumbs up from me. Granted, they only presented three books, but each one wanted to own immediately, if not sooner.

But really, isn't everyone a winner? If Sunday night's Oscars taught us anything, they taught us that.


Dylan Hears a Who

Well. Well this is.... well. Um.

Dude. I think you just blew my mind

Thanks to the child_lit listserv for the link.

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Boys and Guns

"Tintin has always been like the comic book version of soccer."

So sayeth The Sandbox, and The Sandbox is correct. What I have here for you today is a four minute trailer for a PBS documentary that aired a few months ago on Herge, the creator of Tintin. This is particularly well-done and worth your while. You have four minutes to spare, doncha? Of it The Sandbox says, "PBS interviewed some of the best artists in the North American market and asked them about the Hergé mystic and how it effects them and their work. This is a great exposé." Check it.

Thanks to The Sandbox for the link.


To Talk of Many Things

I saw this on The Brookeshelf yesterday and was charmed by it. Yes, it is crude. Very crude. But it is also so benign and funny that its slapdash flavor just makes it all the cuter. Thank you, Brooke.


Monday, February 26, 2007

The Honors Come Together!

2007 Newbery honorees Jennifer Holm, Cynthia Lord, and Kirby Larson have banded together to offer their support to their winner. On each of their sites you will find the following statement:
As the Newbery Honor recipients we wanted to share our feelings on the current Newbery discussions. We are delighted and honored to be in the wonderful company of Susan Patron and her incredible book, The Higher Power of Lucky. We support her creative vision and hope that the present controversy will not overshadow her remarkable achievement. Readers everywhere, young and old, are truly lucky to have such a book in their schools, libraries, stores, and in the world.

• Jennifer Holm, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book, Penny From Heaven (Random House Books for Young Readers)

• Kirby Larson, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book, Hattie Big Sky (Delacorte Press)

• Cynthia Lord, author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book, Rules (Scholastic Press)
You know what that is, folks? That's class. Pure unadulterated class.

The L.A. Times then has an article on how Ms. Patron is getting the last laugh. Apparently Lucky is doing mighty well money-wise. I wouldn't mind seeing some stats on past Newbery winners and how well they sold as well.

And this amazing Kerfuffle Analysis of Scrotumgate in its entirety is available for viewing on Pixie Stix Kids. Its superior analysis is due, in part, to the clever use of charts and graphs. For example:

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Comic Con-fabulation

On Saturday I had the great good fortune to have free access to something wholly new to me. Comic Con. A convention of graphic novel enthusiasts, video game fans, gamers, geeks, and the like. Nerdapalooza? Entirely. But a heckuva lot of fun for someone who's entire range of convention knowledge begins and ends with ALA. If I was walking in looking for people resembling librarians, however, I was in for a surprise.

The entire convention was housed in the Jacob Javits Convention Center, a building vying for the much desired Ugliest New York Structure Award. Built entirely out of what look to be Ray-bans the concentrated windows meant only one thing. Inside it was hot as an oven (sans the "whole shack shimmy"). Packed to o'erflowing comic enthusiasts, some of whom could learn a thing or two from this miraculous invention called deodorant, the temperature outside the building was -2 while inside it hovered around 94 degrees.

If you can get over the humidity switcheroo, however, it's a marvelous place to visit. Especially if, like myself, you are NOT a comic book geek (I make no excuses for my other forms of geekyness, of course). Inside were lots of costume-wearing babes and fellers. The babes were always in tip-top shape. The fellers, making some kind of statement I guess, were inevitably packing beer bellies. Walking in there was a very large gaming area. You could play the American Idol game (sing on key or you're toast), the newest Dance Dance Revolution, the newest Guitar Hero, or a host of other games I'd never heard of. On the second floor were artists signing all sorts of stuff. Aside from Raina Telgemeier (she did the new graphic novel Baby-Sitters Club books) and Fun Home author Alison Bechdel(who I was way too chicken to talk to) I didn't know a single person there.

My sights, however, were intent on finding the publishers I loved. I learned too late, and to my cost, that had I come on the Friday before I could have had the whole place to myself between the hours of 10 and 4. That's when the "professionals" were allowed to wander around on their own. Maybe next year then.

Okay. Now the real info. Whence the swag? Which is to say, who was giving it out and who wasn't?

Basically, if you're accustomed the loads of free books available at ALA Conventions, the Comic Con seems pretty skimpy in comparison. There were lots and lots of graphic novels and comics being sold, sure. But free stuff, by and large, was only being done by the major publishers I already knew. Scholastic, for example, fell over themselves to give me stuff. I got two paperback copies of the graphic novel Baby-Sitters Club series (the third one Mary Anne Saves the Day is out in September), the Goosebumps #2 Terror Trips, and a handout that talks about upcoming titles. I was particularly intrigued by a Holly Black book called Good Neighbors, something by a Greg Ruth called The Woodland Chronicles, and Walker Bean by Aaron Renier. Eyes are to be kept peeled for these.

Penguin's booth was sporting two bound ARCs (I've never seen anyone take the time to bind an ARC before) of The Midadventures of Benjamin Bartholomew Piff. I heard the premise for this book at Listening Library's presentation at the Random House Summer 2007 preview last week (summary of THAT pending). It's a neat idea. There are three rules regarding birthday wishes and until now, no one has ever successfully obeyed all three rules. Benjamin Piff, as it happens in the first, and there are two books of his adventures thus far. So that was nice.

Little, Brown & Co. (which is to say The Hatchette Group) didn't have anything for kids. Ah well. You know who did, though? Random House. And man oh man did they weigh me down with goodies. First of all, check out this cover:

They don't hardly make 'em like this no more. How was I going to pass that up? The colors, by the way, are probably going to be brighter on the actual book. And if I was going to take Wildwood Dancing then I certainly should take Tomorrow's Magic. Apparently this was a book beloved of Tamora Pierce who was shocked to find it out-of-print. It's magic in a post-apocalyptic future. Music to mine ears. I also got me a copy of Billy Hooten: Owlboy, which has a rather adorable cover. When I first heard about the book I wasn't too interested. Then I saw the Jeff Smith blurb on the cover. Turn out that the illustrator did the prequel to the Bone series. Thought I'd give it a go as a result. Still, it's a straight to paperback title, so we'll see how well it actually holds up. The fellow giving out this stuff was so nice that he double bagged my swag, then tied a third bag into a makeshift handle so I wouldn't hurt my hands. Aw.

I actually ended up with some comic booky comics as well. I mentioned the Mouse Guard books before in the past. They look like Redwall via .... well, actually they just look like Redwall. They had five free Mouse Guard comics which was cool and all, but they haven't been bound together yet. Lackaday. I can't imagine my library system adding unbound comics to their collection, so I guess I'll just have to wait until they're made library-friendly.

One series I am very interested in getting my hands on are the Flight books by Kazu Kibuishi. Villard Graphic Novels is not forthcoming with their goodies, and there weren't any copies of Vol. 1 in sight. Insofar as I can tell the series is A) Gorgeous and B) Kid-friendly. I'd really like to confirm that second suspicion, however, so if anyone has any Flight info on them, I'd be grateful.

Apparently there was a First Second booth squirreled away somewhere, but I missed it. *growl* On my way out I saw a panel discussion which included the artist who will be drawing the new manga version of Erin Hunter's Warriors series. No free copies though, so no word on whether it's good or not.

That's all, folks. I'll do a roundup of what I saw at the Random House Summer Preview session sometime this week.

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Read Only If You Love LOST

LOST has always had lovely tie-ins to children's literature, making it the kidlitiest (not a word) friendly show on television today. Whether Sawyer's reading Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, they're meeting a supposed balloonist named Henry Gale, or a copy of A Wrinkle In Time floats to the surface, the series has more than one finger in the children's literary pie.

One influence we've never thought to tie-in to the storyline, however, is Moomin. Some of you may be familiar with Tove Jansson's adorable comic strip/book series and all that it entails. Have you ever sat down and read Moomin from cover to cover, though? Author Matt Madden did and his revelations are fascinating. The Moomins crash on an island. Mama Moomin kills wild boars for supper. They dig, find metal, discover a hatch, and when they go inside they discover, "an abandoned cave where ancient Moomins used to live, where they were involved in mysterious, sinister activities, as the explorers learn through cryptic signs on the wall of the cave." Check out his blog for more info.

Thanks to the First Second blog for the link.

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Making the Lord of Darkness Work For You

Why leave the fate of your car to wimpy Claws and too-often-ignored alarms? Now there's a system that's bound to protect the needs of your family, while drawing on the powers of dark itself. Yes, it's the Eye of Sauron Theft Protection System.

We're not entirely certain what the Eye of Sauron does to potential thieves, but rest assured that it's nasty. Nasty nasty nasty.

Thanks to Out of Ambit for the link.

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Movie Tie-In Covers

It raises heckles faster than greased lightening. You walk into a bookstore, idly pick up an old favorite, and find a movie cover slapped haphazardly on your favorite title. Right now we're seeing the Bridge to Terabithia movie on an old classic, but at least it sells books right? Less easy to justify was the entirely ridiculous Ella Enchanted cover with Anne Hathaway sparkling those pearly whites at us. And even worse still? Steve Martin on a republished edition of Cheaper By the Dozen. We circulate one of these at work, and I can only justify handing it out by imagining the shock on the child readers' faces when they realize how distant the movie was to the original title.

So it was that The Guardian wrote a recent article entitled Trials and Adaptations that crows beautifully over this topic. The piece is unapologetically British (with references to things like the Richard and Judy Book Club rather than Oprah) but the point remains the same.

Thanks to the Bound To Read MySpace Blog for the link.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Review of the Day: Faeries of Dreamdark - Blackbringer

Faeries of Dreamdark - Blackbringer by Laini Taylor, illustrated by Jim DiBartolo. G.P. Putnam's Sons (an imprint of Penguin Young Readers' Group). $17.99

If you read only one fantasy book this year, read this one.

Gotcher attention, eh? I think that if you knew me, you’d know that I don’t throw out statements like this willy-nilly. I’ve read enough books for children and teens to know that no matter how good a story seems while you are reading it, there’s bound to be another that steals your heart a day or two later. Good books are published every single day, and declaring one to be the be all and end all of any category is just plain wrong.

That said, if you read only one fantasy book this year, read this one.

I mean it. First time author Laini Taylor has written a doozy of a debut. It’s one of those books you read and then find you can’t put down. I repeatedly found myself on the New York City subway system in a state of frustration every time I arrived at my stop. Somehow, Taylor is able to write a fantasy novel so compelling that you can never put it down because you've found yourself at a particularly exciting moment. Separating itself from every other fantasy series out there (an accomplishment in and of itself) Taylor’s written a book with just enough humor, tension, excitement, hope, joy, and pure unadulterated despair to please even the most jaded of fantasy loving kiddies. And it’s about freakin’ fairies.

Funny story. Remember that old fairy tale about the guy who found a genie in a bottle and when he opened it he was granted three wishes? Well, it won’t surprise you too much then to hear that these days whenever a human finds a bottle their first instinct is to uncork the sucker. Problem is, genies aren't the denizens of these bottles. Demons are. And when the demons are let loose upon the world there’s only one gal with the guts to put them in their place. Magpie Windwitch just happens to be the granddaughter of the West Wing (it’s a long story), a fairy, and she's traveling with her seven crow companions. Her job is to track down and recapture these wayward devils by any means possible. She’s good at her job, but little of her training prepares her for the darkest creature let loose yet. Called the Blackbringer, this nasty piece of work is intent on destroying the world, and its chances happen to be pretty darn good. To defeat it Magpie will have to cross over to the world of the dead, befriend the flightless, scurry, kill, confront the creator of the universe (who is SUCH a pill these days), and discover her true past. If you didn’t know her, that might sound like a tall order. If you knew her, it would still sound like a tall order, but at least you’d know she’ll tackle it with everything she's got.

Hopes were not high when I first picked up this book. I’ll level with you here… author Laini Taylor was previously best known for a line of fairy ornaments called “Laini’s Ladies”. From that you might imagine the book to be a sweet little flower fairy tale with a lot of dew-sipping and moonlight dances. Thank God for Laini’s husband Jim DiBartolo, then. Basically, it’s going to be hard to sell any book with the word “faeries” in its title to the male fantasy-reading public. That’s where Jim comes in. His illustrations for the book are fairly spare, with less than ten dotting the book. Still, Mr. DiBartolo has nailed the tone of his wife’s text. The image of Magpie on the cover is perfect. She looks like she means business. All the characters in this book look that way, actually. There’s nothing soft, flower fairyish, or namby-pamby about these sprites. And one can only hope that exposure to the Artemis Fowl books will have given readers an inkling of the kick-butt nature of faeries in general.

Not that there isn’t a healthy dosing of humor to boot. The crow brothers that accompany Magpie at all times act like a feathered version of Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men, language and all. They smoke cigars and put on plays at the drop of a hat (which is particularly amusing when you consider the lack of opposable thumbs and all). Every character here (except maybe the villains) has a sense of humor, and it’s an honest one. Taylor doesn’t have to force the jokes. They come naturally and lighten an already quick and fancy book.

Okay, but what’s the most important thing in any fantasy novel? The quality of writing, duckies. First and foremost there’s the language in this book. Taylor’s managed to create a kind of new speech that is infinitely understandable, but at the same time distinguishes itself from the pseudo-Gaelic slang so many other authors indulge in. There’s a great deal of pleasure to be taken in phrases like, “hush yer spathering,” or, “it shivers me,” or, “un-skiving-likely.” . She’s also a keen ear for lush otherworldly descriptions too. Some are gorgeous and remarkable. Others are so horrific you’re half amazed no one’s thought of them before. “Its mottled brown skin had the texture of dried gut stretched over a skull, and so crude were its features it seemed to have been sculpted in the dark, and with one obvious omission: it had no mouth.” I won’t describe any more except to say how it goes about GETTING a mouth is grotesquely unique.

Of course, the inevitable comparison here is going to be with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The funny parts and mix of fantasy and horror placed alongside a heroine with supernatural powers who fights demons? Yeah. We’ve seen it before. The thing is though, this isn’t a Buffy rip-off. It’s powerful in its own right with its own distinctive mythology and unique world. Then again, it can definitely be boiled down to one girl saving the world. Why? Well, as the book explains at one point, “As with each devil she captured, she was the only one trying.” The nice thing about having Magpie as your heroine is that even when you’re worried for her, you’re not so worried that you don’t trust her. She may have the manners of a pit bull and the self-grooming talents of a mangy cat, but she’s tough and fun and will take on anything her size or larger if you let her.

You know what I liked about this book? No rhyming prophecies about the future. Can I tell you how rare it is to find a fantasy that doesn’t contain at least one, if not more, poorly rhymed prophecies about a “chosen one”? Okay, so fine. Magpie is kind of a chosen one. But she doesn’t have to solve any riddles about it and her destiny isn’t written in stone on an ancient parchment somewhere or anything. Besides, as the book puts it so perfectly, “She decided finally that it’s not so bad to find out you have a destiny when it’s something you were going to do anyway.” And by the way, when someone dies in this book it matters. It matters intensely. This isn’t one of those books where people die left and right and the stoic hero doesn’t feel the loss. Nuh-uh. If someone dies Magpie feels mourns it up. This is something not all authors think to do, and I for one appreciated it.

Oh. And there’s a warrior prince that knits. And a horrid little scavenger imp who enjoys putting his toes in his nose. And a host of other interesting, terrible, wonderful things all packed together in this book without ever feeling rushed or overused. For all its 400-some pages, “Blackbringer” moves at a remarkable clip, never getting bogged down or slow it doesn't sacrifice character or plot for the sake of action. Laini Taylor’s balancing act with this novel should be studied intensely by those wannabes that want to break into the world of fantasy writing for kids. It’s one-of-a-kind and worth a taste. I meant what I said and I said what I meant. If you read only one fantasy book this year, read this one.

Notes On the Cover: Fierce. As I mentioned in the review, the problem here is going to be selling this book to boys who think fairies fey. What G.P. Putnam's Sons should do is sell this to the Tamora Pierce market. Pierce fans are the perfect potential readers for this series. They like their fantasy smart and to the point. Female protagonists don't scare them off and they'll appreciate the humor. I think this cover should help. Plus I love how Jim counters Magpie's intense expression with flowers in her hair.

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Nice Encapsulation of Back-In-Print Titles

Those of you who, like myself, are fans of bringing back out-of-print titles, you may appreciate Loganberry Books' collection of Back In Print Favorites. It's not entirely up-to-date but it does show a variety of titles from an assortment of publishers. Worth a gander anyway.

Thanks to Book Book Book for the link.


How Not To Sell a Book

Dear Authors and Illustrators,

There are many ways not to sell a book.
This is one of them.

Please do not do this to yourself. I will totally buy your book before I see you put yourself in this position. For the love of God, put away your credit card. I mean it.


Fuse #8


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why the Paltry Postings?

Well, it's Saturday for one thing. So there's that. But I'm actually at the New York Comic Con today. Librarians, you see, get in free. Cool, huh? While I missed Stephen Colbert's appearance yesterday, I still should have a good time scouting out halfway decent GN fare for the kiddies. More tomorrow. Here are two postings to tide you over until then.

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Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

Hey, look! It's Matt Phelan! The illustrator of The Higher Power of Lucky. Super nice guy, that Matt.

And look! He has a blog. A nice little blog on which to place various sketches and thoughts.

And hey! He's just posted some pictures of Neil Gaiman's Endless characters from his Sandman graphic novel series. In honor of my appearance at Comic Con today, I thought this tied in rather nicely. Well done all around (and good job, Matt, at getting a letter to appear on Neil's blog).

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Best Summaries of the Week Yet

Monica Edinger has summed up the Great Scrotum Debate of '07 with a post that takes into account children's reactions. If you're not sick of this topic by now (and with a name like "scrotum" how could you be?) head on over and take a look-see.

Mediabistro did a great round-up as well, showing how many of the librarians quoted in the original New York Times piece are doing some serious backpedaling in terms of whether or not they'd purchase the book. I like that Ron Hogan knows his Newbery winners. Frisby Forever!

Oh. And extra ballsy points going out to Kane/Miller Publishers. Taking advantage of the state of the world today, they've had the wherewithal to post a review of their own book Lucky which just happens to be about..... a dog. No scrotums that I can see, but note the position of the dog's rear. If anyone wanted to inspect it, they'd be more than able.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Poetry Friday #2

All sorts of poetry-related thingy things for you this fine and frisky Friday morn.

First up, another poem you've ne'er seen before. Me madre explains it thusly:

"Prairie Home Companion Joke Show was on last week -- it was listening to one of those years ago that made me notice the recurring words "joke," "blonde," "bar," "lightbulb" and "rabbi." A sestina doesn't rhyme; it takes the six end-words of the first line and reuses them so that if the first stanza is 123456, the second stanza is 615243 and so on until they've worked back around, then you have to reuse them all in three lines at the end -- and, if possible, keep anyone from noticing it's a sestina."


Tell Me If You’ve Heard This One

Surprise is what we value in a joke
we think, a different reason for the chicken
to cross, a deeper basement to the blonde’s
bemusement, some new group screwing in a lightbulb,
odder animal walks into a bar,
the final wise word from the patient rabbi.

A priest, a Baptist minister and a rabbi
walk into a bar. Barkeep says “Is this a joke?”
Sure, and a good one, a world where every bar
is just as apt to host a talking chicken
as an ecumenical conference, but no lightbulb
ever flashing on above the blonde.

It’s compensation, making fun of blondes,
just like giving the punchline to the rabbi.
The proud are humbled, the oppressed triumph, the lightbulb
goes on – we get it, and laugh. A joke
turns power upside down until a chicken
can be the hero and walk into a bar.

And everyone seems happy here, bar
none, not just the always-welcome blonde
but those who’d be justified in feeling chicken
about walking in, the solitary rabbi
stranded amid goyim who wouldn’t get the jokes
he tells at home, grateful that these lightbulbs

are dim. You’d have to be a pretty dim bulb
not to know that everyone in this bar
has been the butt of the lowest kind of joke,
history’s hotfoot, fate’s yanked-out chair. Blondes
took over one dark night and riddled the Polaks, the rabbi,
Cletus hazed Rastus, but yo’ mama fried that chicken

so good everybody was happy, even the chicken.
It’s verbal potluck: Luigi brings a bulb
of garlic, knock-knock the drummer delivers pizza, the rabbi
adds a little schmaltz, everyone in the bar
is flaunting their roots, eventually even the blonde,
The melting pot’s a plate, a glass, a joke.

“Rabbi, how many moths to screw in a lightbulb?”
asks the blonde chick at bar, “Only two.” “No joke?”
“But like us, you’ve got to wonder how they got in there.”

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Poetry Friday Continues...

There's nothing more poetic than a little Minnesotan legislature.
No. Really. There isn't.

Much thanks to the BB-Blog for the link.

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Scrotem, Totem, Float 'Em, Note 'Em, Wrote 'Em, Vote 'Em

Nothing inspires the soul like a finely honed sense of indignation. Last Friday a Jo Knowles offered the following challenge: "Send me your scrotum poems! Or better yet, post them on your own blogs! Come on, you know you want to! Let's (figuratively) embrace the scrotum! Show the librarians and teachers who will use the book that we support them, and maybe inspire those who are on the fence to take a risk." I've mentioned in the past that poetry ain't my bag, baby. But that isn't to say I haven't heard a good one here and there.

The first is your haiku of the day:

The dog's glistening
scrotum a big Newbery problem
for small minds.
- Ed Cutler

From the child_lit listserv:

Two of my sons are home from school due to the holiday. One is 12 and the other is 7. I asked them if they would giggle if they heard their teacher read the word "scrotum" in a book. They both started giggling, and I asked the younger one if he knew what it meant, and he started singing, lustily, to the tune of the "Comet" parody:

"Scrotum; it is a piece of skin
Scrotum; it holds your testes in
Scrotum; don't overload'em
Or your scrotum will surely explodum."

And if that STILL isn't enough for you then I give you this from the Blue Rose Girls' Elaine Magliaro

BOOK TALK 2007: A Poem
Dressed in uniforms of blue,
The word police arrived at two.
With laser eyes, they scanned our pages
And locked our naughty words in cages.

Then up we cried: “You’ve taken text!
Will you remove our pictures next?”
“Your pictures?” one policeman said.
“We only take the stuff that’s read.

Your naughty words must be excised.
Let all your authors be advised
To watch their words when they compose
Their poetry…and all their prose.”

Warning given…the men in blue
Then turned to leave. They bid adieu.
We books now left with words deleted
Feel somehow, sadly, incompleted.

Who’s got a solution antidotal
For the current row o’er something scrotal?

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Two News Items, Each More Beautiful Than the Last

I don't know where to begin.

Oh, who'm I kidding?

Variety reports that Martin Scorsese is a potential director for Brian Selznick's, Invention of Hugo Cabret. There. Now it's out. Obviously none of this is set in stone. It's at the speculation stage right now. What we do know for certain is that the screenwriter is one John Logan of Gladiator/Aviator (he likes "tors") fame. Stirring, no?

And then there's the Inkheart movie. Dark Horizons has been kind enough to post some photo stills from the shoot. Here are my top 3 picks:

Dustfinger looks a bit drugged out, but in a good way. It works for him.

Yeah. I'm sorry. I'm still not seeing this guy as Mo. The guy with the words on his face, though? Nice look.

Words fail me. I doubt they'll fail the critics.

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She Made It

Ordering starts here.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Huxley, the Dark Side, and Regrets of a Rhyming Nature

I'm going to preface this by saying that I depressed myself all day when I discovered that we came THIS close to calling this subject The Great Scrotum Debate of '08. We almost got there, people. Oh lackaday, lackaday.

So here's something to cheer me up then. Both Julius Lester and Neil Gaiman have chosen to weigh in on the topic on their sites. Mr. Lester quotes Aldous Huxley with a stirring, “God is even in one’s own posterior when at last one has crawled full circle and seen it revealed in its full glory.” Gaiman, for his part, says, "I've decided that librarians who would decline to have a Newbery book in their libraries because they don't like the word scrotum are probably not real librarians (whom I still love unconditionally). I think they're rogue librarians who have gone over to the dark side." Amen, brother.

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Notice How She Keeps Covering Her Ears

You might wonder what the typical workday of a New York City public librarian looks like.

It looks like this. Every single day. It's amazing I get any work done. Sorry about the sound quality.

Wouldn't be so bad if I could just find my glasses after repeatedly flinging them willy-nilly. Old habits die hard, I guess.

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Holes ala Happy Days

So I'm rummaging around the old posts of Kids Lit circa 2005 in search of a piece I know that she posted back then and look what I find instead. An old Variety article circa 2005 talking about the possibility of turning Holes into a TV show. Obviously this idea fell through, but the concept was pretty interesting. Walden Media wanted to turn the book into a half an hour series with in-depth looks at some of the characters who didn't get a fair shake in the film. This could have been a great kid/teen drama. Heck, season two could have been Small Steps. I'm a little disappointed this didn't happen. We might have actually have gotten a chubby Stanley on a screen somewhere.

I also found this 2005 Nestle Childrens Book Award winners. Anything look familiar to you? Every single title was eventually published in America (some more successfully than others). I should be paying closer attention to this award, I guess.

Thanks Kids Lit!

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I Love the Term, "A Wal-Mart Middle Earth"

I haven't gotten around to watching the new Bridge To Terabithia movie quite yet. Do you know how hard it is to justify seeing a children's film in a city where your average ticket price is $10.75? I've received some mixed reactions from people who have seen the film already too. One of my fellow Newbery committee members enjoyed it quite a lot. Ditto a girl who came in yesterday with an ash cross on her forehead. But then there was the patron who explained to me in minute detail just how much she didn't like the film. And the reviews have been mixed, to say the least. It's received a relatively high 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, though.

Who shall settle this debate? Well, yesterday Roger Sutton linked to a very nice review of the film via one Martha V. Parravano. It certainly gives you a look from all sides of the movie itself. I think I'll Netflix this one, if you don't mind.

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Does Siding With the Fish Make Me a Bad Person?

This morning I'm off to a Random House preview of... Summer books I think. It's too early in the year for Fall previews, right? Must be summer. I'll recap it sometime in the next few days, regardless.

At any rate, the last time I was at the Random House librarian preview I was munching bagels and watching them present the upcoming Annotated Cat In the Hat, edited by Philip Nel (official HMOCL numero uno). Now Newsweek has done a piece on the book and it is most certainly worth your time. Even if you don't consider yourself a Seuss aficionado, click on Images 1 through 5 at the top of the screen to see some of the good doctor's before and after sketches. That's worth the price of admission right there.

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Sale! Sale! Sale!

I get a lot of junk mail in my oh-so-awful Hotmail account. Hotmail is convinced that no matter how many times I've said no, I really really need a degree from Phoenix University. I've informed Hotmail that this is not the case. I've explained to it that I have an MLIS degree that I'm perfectly content with. I've held said degree up to my computer screen so that Hotmail will see it and stop letting Phoneix University spam into my mail. Nothing works.

So when I saw a post with the title "Fwd: Winter sale: 50% off selected fiction and non-fiction", I was not impressed. Not even when I saw that whoever was writing me knew my name. Then I got over myself and actually read the e-mail.


Remember the New York Review of Books? Well they've this sweet habit of republishing classic children's book titles when no one else will. The Lost Island by Eilis Dillon. Mistress Masham's Repose by T.H. White. Captains of the City Streets by Esther Averill. The Wind On the Moon by Eric Linklater. That sort of thing.

So basically NYRB is having a big old 50% off sale, where you can buy any of those four books I just mentioned for half off. Might as well go buy yourself a classic. I hear nothing but good things about the T.H. White book, after all. I keep meaning to read it myself, but have never gotten around to it. You'll have to let me know how it is.

The sale ends March 11th, by the way. FYI.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lucky Scrotum '07 - Bringing It On Home

Gelf Magazine's motto is "Looking Over the Overlooked". Qualification enough for their recent piece Youth Literature Is Full of Scrotums, it seems. It's a response to the librarian quotedin the recent New York Times article who sniffed that scrotums have no place in children's literature. Trust Gelf to prove her wrong.

Now calling some of these books "Youth Literature" comes as a bit of a stretch, but I admire their tenacity. A box of chocolates to the poor intern who must have been despatched to the local library to scout out any and all books in which that word might appear (and for the librarian who would have helped).

As for the debate that rages on, I feel that a recent Onion article on a related topic ties in beautifully.

Thanks to Kids Lit for the first link and Bookninja for the second.

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The Good Times Are Killing Me

I come into work and Pooh grabs me by my elbow the minute I step out of the elevator. It's like he's been waiting for me or something. "Have you heard?", he says anxiously. His breath is particularly sweet. Obviously he's been dipping into that special Hunny we got him last year. The misspelled stuff so hard to find in America.

"Have I heard what?," I say testily, yanking my arm away. He turns on his heel and is back in 3 seconds with a computer printout in his paw. "Disney Loses Court Ruling Over Winnie the Pooh Rights," he reads. "Sound familiar at all?"

"Since when have you started reading Bloomberg.com?," I ask. I shift through the papers, reading. "And who's this Slesinger guy that won?"

Pooh moans in a kind of exaggerated fashion and collapses onto a footstool. "A publisher.
Apparently he acquired the U.S. and Canadian merchandising rights to me and mine," he indicates Kanga, Eeyore, Tigger, and Piglet who're engaged in a game of euchre in the corner. "He got them from that Milne fellow in 1930."

"Really?" I read on. "So where does Disney come in? Aren't you, like, their second highest grossing character of all time?"

Pooh mumbles something about a mouse under his breath. "Yes, of course. Disney got some rights from Milne's widow in 1961. But I just cannot tell you what a nightmare all this has been for me. Never knowing exactly when my likeness will be used. Getting calls at all hours of the night from people who want a statement. I'm just glad it's over."

"Silly old bear," I say with a smile. He can be a pain but the guy has his heart in the right spot. He even joined in on the euchre game a little later. Eeyore, as you might expect, totally got creamed.

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Could Easily Be a Children's Book

Slow children's book news day, I guess.

When that happens I like to daydream what it would be like to be a children's book author. I imagine finding obscure, wonderful occurrences in daily life and transforming them into a fun children's book. Take as your example this:

Looks like a rather odd little painting doesn't it? What you are seeing here are at least 8,910 people in North Dakota who've joined together to break the Guinness world record for snow angel-making. Michigan had the title last year, and N.D. snatched it away. Now the battle's on. Rumble snow style. As a former Michigan native, I must side with my homeland, but my cheers go on for those crazy North Dakotains (North Dakotarians? North Dakotants?) for their pluck and sense of humor.

Thanks to the BB-Blog for the link.

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