Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
I'm of two minds but mostly I like it. The announcement of contenders allows librarians--and kids--the chance to invest themselves in the process and thus the award. It also allows for two chances of outrage, joining "they didn't even nominate X" to "they picked Y?!," that second chance currently the only one available to Newbery, Printz, etc. watchers. Outrage is good for an award and has kept the Oscars going for decades. (Go see Slumdog Millionaire, by the way.)
On the other hand, I've talked with NBA finalists and winners who hate the whole horse race aspect of the thing, disliking being put into competition with their peers and, frequently, friends. The thinking seems to be that literature is meant for better things and finer feeling. We all know that the Oscars are essentially a sham, driven by politics and money as much as by sincere regard for a film's achievements, and are happy that, whatever their failings, the ALA book awards are largely free from such pressures. (Yup, they are.) The knowledge that one of a certain five books is going to win an award makes the whole publisher's-dinner drama (that's not a post in itself, it's a chapter. Of my memoir.) at ALA more suspect than usual, yes? Luckily, the stakes are small.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
The Tale of Two Mice (Candlewick) written and illustrated by Ruth Brown
Quinito, Day and Night / Quinito, día y noche (Children’s Book Press) written by Ina Cumpiano, illustrated by José Ramírez
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (Harcourt) written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Little Panda (Houghton) written and illustrated by Renata Liwska
Ways to Live Forever (Levine/Scholastic) by Sally Nicholls
Heroes of the Valley (Hyperion) by Jonathan Stroud
Lincoln Shot: A President’s Life Remembered (Feiwel) written by Barry Denenberg, illustrated by Christopher Bing
Christo and Jean-Claude: Through the Gates and Beyond (Flash Point/Roaring Brook) by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Holt) by Deborah Heiligman
Let me particularly commend your attention to the last, Charles and Emma, which wins my personal award for Book Least Likely to Capture My Interest but Did. I'm thinking it might make a nice retirement gift for the soon-to-be-former First Couple.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Blumenfeld has offered conflicting statements, saying the publisher of authors such as Philip Roth and Guenter Grass had "temporarily stopped acquiring manuscripts," but later acknowledging the policy didn't apply to education and children's books and a mystery book imprint.I don't know where or when this later acknowledgment was made.
Newsflash--I was interrupted in my posting by the surprise visit of Marianne Carus, founder and editor-in-chief of Cricket Magazine. She was in the building with her husband Blouke visiting Jackie Miller down at Reach Out and Read. Marianne is Great Ladydom in spades.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
He does bring up a moral question that vexes me, though. If I want a copy of, say, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (which Betsy Hearne says I do), am I morally required to go out of my way to purchase it at an independent bookseller? There are two small independents in my neighborhood, but I can't go into either with the assurance they will have any given book I am seeking--one is mostly remainders (Jamaicaway Books and Gifts) and the other is too random (Rhythm and Muse). I can go to the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge on my way home from work if I take an extra bus and train, but both Borders and Barnes & Noble are on my subway line. I always drop a hefty wad of cash at the Brookline Booksmith when we go over to Coolidge Corner for a movie, but that trip requires a car (and, thus, driver, thus Richard). As far as I can tell, Boston supports no full-service independents. What's an enthusiastic non-driving reader to do? On the one hand, shopping at an independent is, in the particulars, more fun, and I invariably buy more books than I had intended to. And in general, the existence of independents, with their handselling and appeal to big readers, allows more kinds of good books to flourish. But it has been my experience that immediate gratification wins out over virtue when shopping or reading (this is why I don't shop online). It says something great about reading when you just can't wait to get your mitts on a book--but it also makes it unlikely that you will wait until you can plan a day around its purchase.
I think what I miss most about Chicago is living a five-minute walk from Unabridged Bookstore. That place is heaven.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
No, Joe, what you have turned off is the water supply, rendering both the pipeline AND spigot irrelevant.
Last week Bravo completed a four-city casting tour for a new series tentatively titled “The Fashion Show,” whose winner will be chosen by viewers rather than a panel of fashion experts, as it is on “Project Runway.”
Color me not excited. While it's true that American Idol similarly involves its audience in choosing a winner, I don't think anyone would tune in were it not for the hijinks of Randy, Paula and Simon, whose cutups and comments prompt as much of the voting as do the contestants themselves.
This is why no one gets as excited about children's choice book awards as they do about those chosen by "experts." There's no arguing with popularity--something is or it isn't. But when a committee of alleged authorities does its bestowing, a conversation is started, even if the opening salvo is What Were They Thinking?
Friday, November 21, 2008
I've noticed that the recent panels of judges for the award have been composed exclusively of writers. When I judged it back in 1999 (When Zachary Beaver Came to Town was the winner), the panel was three critic-librarians (Hazel Rochman, Zena Sutherland, me) and two writers (Veronica Chambers and Mary Ann McGuigan). I wonder what difference it makes? There is rarely overlap between the ALA awards and the National Book Awards, and I wonder if it is a difference between expert readers and expert writers. Not to say that one cannot be both.
I'm reminded, though, of those winners of the Screen Actors Guild awards who gush that the SAG award is way more gratifying to receive than an Oscar because it's given by "the actors." In the words of the immortal James Marshall, "oh, sure."
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
That's one Caldecott acceptance speech you won't find in the Horn Book, although maybe there is a recording of it buried deep, deep in the ALA archives at the University of Illinois. Winning for Song and Dance Man, Stephen Gammell spoke off-the-cuff for what I think was fifty-two minutes. At one point he introduced us to the lint in his pockets. Waiters cleared tables. The lights were flashed off and on. Poor Elizabeth Speare, winner of the Wilder medal, must have been wondering if she would live to give her speech. And James Marshall was kicking me under the table and barely suppressing his mirth.
Last night couldn't match that one for drama but I was deeply impressed with the engagement the panelists brought to the subject. We talked about Marshall's artistic techniques, lauded his sometimes overlooked gift for writing, assessed his impact on the field, and pondered just why kids respond with such immediacy to his books. What we didn't get to was his legacy of smart-alecky back-talking--Scieszka and Smith owe him their careers (which they acknowledge) and don't even get me started on Dav Pilkey's Dumb Bunnies. Was Marshall the picture book's first sarcasticist?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Matthew Whoolery and his wife aren't blaming the school district for what happened on the bus but they do think all parents need to be careful about what they say and teach their children.
Whoolery and his wife couldn't believe it when their second and third graders got off the bus last week and told them what other students were saying.
"They just hadn't heard anything like this before," said Whoolery. "They were chanting on the bus, 'Assassinate Obama. Assassinate Obama.' Then adding in a name sometimes of a classmate on the bus, 'Assassinate Obama and Kate.'"
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Saturday, November 08, 2008
My own question is about Amazon review overload. It looks to me like customer reviews at Amazon have become an increasingly insidery sport, fun for the reviewers themselves but too overwhelming, in numbers and attitude, for someone wanting to buy a book. There are some excellent reviewers there (hi, Fuse!) but also a lot of amateurism--in the pejorative sense--involving competition among the reviewers themselves to one-up each other. I wonder if and when Amazon will decide that this doesn't help them sell books. Or does it?
Friday, November 07, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
11/08/08 P.S. If you click the link and just see a couple of photos cycling it means the webcam is offline. Check back later.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson's opera The Mother of Us All is a wildly fantasized biography of Susan B. Anthony, who, wondering and worrying over whether her celebrity has obscured her cause, asks of her supporters (in her tremendously moving final aria), "Do you know because I tell you so, or do you know do you know?"
You know. Go vote.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
But can I just say how much I have always loathed W. C. W.'s poem about the plums in the icebox? We-coulda-made-pie versus some poet's fucking sensitivity--is it even a contest?
As I said in the comments on yesterday's post re Palin's reading choices, "What are you reading?" and "What is your favorite book?" aren't as easy to answer as they look. Both the presidential candidates give clearly deliberated answers (so would I), meant to convey Who They Are. I'm more interested in knowing what they read off the clock--beach, bedtime, bathroom.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
People: What do you like to read?
Palin: Autobiographies, historical pieces--really anything and everything. Besides the kids and sports, reading is my favorite thing to do.
People: What are you reading now?
Palin: I'm reading, heh-heh, a lot of briefing papers.
People: What about for fun?
Palin: Do we consider The Looming Tower something just for fun? That's what I've been reading on the airplane. It's about 9/11. If I'm going to read something, for the most part, it's something beneficial.
I don't know if you have to be a reader to be President (although I did find myself liking GWB a little more when he said he was reading Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons, a terrible book I thoroughly enjoyed) but I am reflexively suspicious of someone who only reads "improving" books and claims to love reading. They are lying about one thing or the other.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Why do schools and libraries keep buying them? Is it because book-based assignments are more manageable, or because a book feels more authoritative than the Internet? Lack of imagination? Fear? Laziness? To me, it feels like it all comes down to control, a favored emotion found in grownups dealing with the young. Series books promote the idea that they have things covered, you don't need to look anywhere else, that the things that are essential about, say, Nebraska, are the same things essential to Delaware. India, like Denmark, is "a land of contrasts." Everything you need to know is here, in a collection of books that look and sound the same on purpose. It's all under control.
Luckily, kids don't read this way!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Good question, and she got some good answers. (Thanks, Gail, for the tip.)
It's a question we also face in reviewing--when do we mention the ethnicity or skin color of a character and when do we not? Sometimes, relaying details of the story will make things clear enough, but it's tougher when reviewing everyday-life-type stories, especially picture books, where the characters happen to be one color or another in a way that has no particular effect on the story or theme. And, as Justina Chen Headley points out in Mitali's post, we tend to mention skin color only when that color is not white. Awwwwwkward. I remember when Ms. magazine made a go of using "European American" wherever white people showed up in a story but it didn't last.
(And, really, there should be some kind of prize for the awkward ways in which well-meaning children's writers signal skin color: "Kathy's cocoa-brown-with-a-hint-of-whipped-cream face glowed warmly as she reveled in the attention of her more boringly-tinted friends." Yeah, I made that up but you know what I mean.)
Monday, October 20, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Hyperion)
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum)
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (Simon and Schuster)
What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (Scholastic)
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (Knopf)
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Monday, October 06, 2008
The Pencil written by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman (Candlewick).
Old Bear written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow).
Who Made This Cake? written by Chihiro Nakagawa, illustrated by Junji Koyose (Front Street).
The Graveyard Book written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean (HarperCollins).
Rapunzel’s Revenge written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale (Bloomsbury).
Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve (Scholastic).
There’s A Wolf at the Door written by Zoë B. Alley, illustrated by R. W. Alley (Porter/Roaring Brook).
The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade/Random).
Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out (Candlewick).
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
But--to quote one former SLJ editor speaking of another former HB editor--I think she is all wet. The main problem with Silvey's argument is that she's comparing the popular appeal (which is in any case not part of the Newbery's criteria) of current winners with that of winners from earlier decades. But the question before each committee is not "how does this book stack up with the great books of the past?" but "how does this book stack up with the others published in the same year?" It's easy to compare, say, Kira-Kira with The Giver and find the first book wanting in terms of wide resonance, but what book published in 2004 should have won instead? To make this argument work, Silvey needs to name names, and not those cherry-picked from the Newbery's long and (sometimes) illustrious past.
In the humble beginnings of the Newbery Award, its founders clearly sought a book that would have broad appeal. As children’s book historian Leonard Marcus reminds us in Minders of Make Believe (Houghton, 2008), back in 1922, when the first Newbery was awarded, ALA allowed any librarian who worked with kids—even part-time librarians—to nominate one title. The Story of Mankind (Liveright, 1921), nominated on 163 of the 212 ballots, won that year. Obviously, the founders cared deeply about the opinions and needs of those who worked directly with children.
But librarians are still allowed--encouraged--to nominate books for the Newbery, and the awarding committees still largely comprise librarians working with children. What has changed? One thing that hasn't: complaining about the winners.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
[Update--the link was to a German blog titled "Boston Globe Horn Book Awards" filled with English words and sentences strung together in a way that occasionally made sense but more often were simply madly stream-of-consciousness insanity. Apparently now it takes you to another site. This is the kind of spamming I don't understand. I mean, the gold-farm people want your money but this didn't have anything like that.]
Friday, September 26, 2008
But who can top her? Lisi Harrison (The Clique), that's who, caught by Chasing Ray in a delicious quote that, with any justice, will come back to haunt her:
"I don't mean to brag -- but I get literally thousands and thousands of letters, thousands and thousands of e-mails from these girls, and I do read them and not one of them has accused me of perpetuating poison into their world and their society," she said. "Every one of them says, 'I suddenly realize that it's not so important to be popular anymore. I used to be like this with our friends, but we've all changed. Truly. I really, really mean it.'"
Which would you rather read thousands and thousands of times? I suddenly realize that it's not so important to be popular anymore or Where do you get your ideas?
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Of all the devices that devalue the function of criticism, the bar of stars is among the most pernicious. It suggests that artistic creation can be ticked off like a school essay and subjected to a set of SATs, in which the individual, expert guidance of teachers and examiners is set aside for the one-rule-fits-all solution of 21st century politicians.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
In middle school I knew a girl who "objected" to Huckleberry Finn because of the racism and her mother said something and she read something else. In private she told me she tried to read it and it was so boring she just told her mother she had a problem with it so she could read something else. I was 12 and knew that was wrong (and slightly jealous because it was boring).
Lolly emailed me, "It made me wonder what other experiences like this people have had while still in the thrall of a children's book." It reminded me of when I saw Independence Day one summer day in New York, emerging afterwards into the full-on Manhattan Friday five o'clock rush hour just like the mad dash from the aliens the New Yorkers made in the movie. They ARE here. I also remember a train trip on a rainy day through a wooded portion of Connecticut while listening to an audiobook of The Fellowship of the Ring--full-on cognitive assonance!
Monday, September 22, 2008
From the NYT report on the Emmy Awards, interviewing David Shore, executive producer of House:
“There are awards for [popularity]; they’re called ratings,” Mr. Shore said. “There are really good shows on cable, and even if only 10 people are watching them, if they’re good they should be recognized.”
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
"Ki raro au!" hei tā ikā.
E kore pai ki āu!
Ki raro!" hei tā ikā
"E KORE au hia takā!"
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Coleen Salley died yesterday. Her professional life was spent mostly at the University of New Orleans, where she was a distinguished professor of children’s literature, and that’s the excuse most of us in children’s book publishing used for inviting her out for dinner whenever we were within hailing distance of a bayou. But the real reason was that she was the funniest person ever born. When Colleen began to wrap her smoky southern drawl around a story, we cradled our drinks and prayed that story would never end. In her 70s, she began writing down some of those tales she’d been telling. If you never met Coleen, search for one of the several audio books she recorded over the years, then imagine her sitting across your table. That might give you some sense of the terrible loss so many of her friends are feeling today.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I had to explain this phenomenon to another editor today. (Don't ask why.) I call it That Marilyn McCoo Thing. Back when "One Less Bell to Answer" was the number one song in America, the Fifth Dimension made a guest appearance, as themselves, on It Takes a Thief. On the show, they were recording "One Less Bell to Answer," and lead singer Marilyn McCoo was insisting on finishing the song with an odd sequence of four dissonant chords. She would not be moved, even though everyone around her--Billy, Lamont, Ron, Florence and the recording engineers--said it was a bad idea. Well. It turned out that Marilyn's brother had been kidnapped by bad guys who threatened to kill him unless the song was recorded with this ending--because the sound waves of the chord sequence, when played over the radio, would cause a bomb, secreted in a ship-in-a-bottle that sat on the desk of someone the bad guys wanted dead, to go off.
So when you ask someone to murder their darlings, be careful.
Monday, September 15, 2008
And to paraphrase Florence King, when will liberals learn to think before they speak? To complain that Sarah Palin "has a small town mind" is not helpful.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Pullman then clutches his rhetorical pearls for this response:
The people who matter most?
Whoever wrote that – whoever read that and believed it – needs to be reminded that without us, without our work, our talent, our willingness to put up with almost anything in the way of reduced royalties, humiliating treatment over jacket design, endless travels to this bookshop, that school, that library, anything to help our books reach the readers – without us there would be no editors, no designers, no marketing teams, no publicity people, no secretaries, no helpful personal assistants, no senior executives, no expense account lunches, no pension schemes, no company cars, no sales conferences in attractive places, no publishing industry whatsoever. Any of the people who do those other things could be replaced with very little difference. Take us away, and you’ve lost everything. The people who matter most? Authors and illustrators are the people who matter most, and no publisher with any sense of what’s right and true would have allowed that sentence, and that attitude, to stand.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Friday, September 05, 2008
The poem is a good one and can be found at the link.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
I wouldn't elect Sarah Palin to anything, but this old censorship charge is really reaching. As far as we know, as mayor of Wasilla she asked the public library director three times about the possibility of removing "objectionable" books from the collection. Three times the director said no. (Positively biblical!) Then Palin tried to fire the director but changed her mind. Unless that former director (who is not talking) tells us otherwise, we have no reason to believe that Palin's request went beyond the hypothetical.
This is actually pretty typical of people who get power--and three-year-olds, come to think of it. They want to see how far they can push it. Mayors, school superintendents and library trustees alike are often surprised to discover that they don't get to personally decide on library purchases or discards. It's the librarian's job to explain to them why this is a bad idea and arguably illegal.
I'm reminded of the time when Chicago aldermen removed--at gunpoint--a satiric portrait of the late Harold Washington from an exhibition at the School of the Art Institute. THAT was censorship. But just asking? Nope.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I'm leaving tomorrow for Sedona to marry the other one off; I'll be sure to steer clear of the legendary cougar in the canyon. With any luck, her tired, grizzled mate will be sucked up by one of these. See you next week.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I want to add my two cents to the opinions on whether it's offensive to the mentally challenged. I know Ben Stiller has said that he's making fun of actors, not people with disabilities. Still, the movie is geared toward a younger crowd and I fear a lot of those teenagers and college students will leave the theater thinking “retard” is an okay word to use.
Where to start? First, go see the movie if you want to have an opinion of it. Second, don't patronize "the younger crowd" (sounds like something Alice would say!) by assuming that they view movies as life manuals. Were big sisters the world over corrupted by how mean you could be to Jan? The assumption that "they" won't "get it" underestimates young people, prompts an impulse to control what they see/hear/read, and infantilizes the rest of us. It's a power trip.
The controversy about this movie reminds me of the worst-titled children's book ever, Someone Called Me a Retard Today . . . and My Heart Felt Sad. While it's difficult to argue with the book's theme--name-calling is hurtful--it missed the point that "retard" is an insult thrown around promiscuously, so much so that the term "mentally retarded" is no longer used to describe those individuals who actually have mental disabilities, a point excellently made by YouTube's Retarded Policeman and his brother.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
"The word 'twat' was used in context. It was meant to be a nasty word on purpose, because this is a nasty character," said a spokesperson for Random House. "However, Jacqueline doesn't want to offend her readers or her readers' parents, so when the book comes to be reprinted the word will be replaced with twit."
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
It's easy for us Brits to assume that such sentimental spin will backfire but, having lived in the US for three years, I can assure you that Americans are made of gooier stuff.
I love this query; it's requests like these that make us think about what books for kids do and don't do. Off the top of my head I think of that Joan Bauer book about a girl with a passion for shoe-selling,
P.S. I put Harriet the Spy in the tags because she's the most passionate person I know in children's books, plus I've just started listening to Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost, an adult mystery that begins, anyway, with a very Harriet-like third-grader.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I'm so old I remember when Amazon was cool.
Apropos of nothing, I have drops in my eyes from an opthamology exam this morning and am thinking about an incredibly lame Betty Cavanna novel where the heroine's sweet but plain best friend finally gets a date only because the guy who's askin' has just been to the eye doctor and can't see clearly. Hilarious, right?
Monday, August 18, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
And, especially for teachers, this issue provides a link to TeachingBooks.net that gives free access to Notes-related content (curricular connections, author videos, etc.) on their site. Lemme know how this works out for you.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Friday, August 08, 2008
Is it right for me to discourage a kid’s reading choice? No. But is it right for me to give a kid a book that I think is probably not appropriate? At the risk of sounding censorship alarms, or being seen as an “uncool” librarian, my answer is again, No. I just don’t feel comfortable giving a sixth-grader one of these books—all popular titles that, in my library, are shelved “over there” in the teen area, through the door and around the corner from the children’s room.
I don't see how these positions (not discouraging a reading choice and not giving a kid an inappropriate book) are reconcilable. I recognize that the author recognizes that the question is a difficult one, and I agree that some books are too mature for some kids. But I think she errs on the side of caution where I would rather give the kid what she asks for (an eleven-year-old wanting Twilight is an example she cites), hold my breath, and hope for the best. What we don't know from the essay is how easily kids are allowed to dodge the librarian's best intentions entirely and simply go to the YA or adult books by themselves. That would have been my own strategy as a sixth-grader, particularly if I had had a previous encounter with a librarian that made me feel snooped upon or deflected. While I hate librarians who don't move out from behind the desk, there's a little too much leading patrons by the hand going on here.
What the essay does not take up--and what so few arguments for restricting access do--is what she thinks is going to happen if a child reads a book he or she "is not ready for." Really, what? Sexual thoughts, anxiety, nightmares? Maybe, but by no means necessarily--and, while I hate to quote Dick Cheney, so what? Kids have sexual thoughts, anxieties and nightmares anyway. Normal, healthy kids. And as Liz points out, what's more likely is that a kid simply will breeze past what she doesn't understand: "Deenie had masturbation? As a kid, I had no idea."
"There has been a real revolution" in books that "have more kid appeal," especially when it comes to boys, says Ellie Berger, who oversees Scholastic's trade division. "It's a shift away from the drier books we all grew up with."
And I would love to know whose ass this statistic was pulled out of:
Last year, U.S. publishers released 261 new works of juvenile fiction aimed at boys, more than twice the number put out in 2003, according to Bowker's Books in Print database. There were 20 nonfiction entries for boys, compared with just four in 2003.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Here's a taste:
"Fuck that Amy, Give me the bottle." Beatrice had just downed her third shot that night and was reaching for the entire bottle of Jack Daniels as her drunk friends looked on, laughing their heads off. Her alcoholism had just begun that past month. It was two twenty am and she was already high, getting drunker by the second.
She was a victim of unrequited love.
She had fallen into a downward spiral of depression, and only one man could pull her out.
Winifred Foster went to work every morning, no matter how hungover she was from the previous night. 7:00am at the local diner, close to where the spring used to be. She was now 107 years old. But to her 'friends' and colleagues, she was 17 year old Beatrice Allen, new to the town of Treegap since a year ago, when she had grown tired of Tokyo. Winnie had dyed her naturally chocolate hair black, and bought some hazel contact lenses to hide her vibrant green-blue eyes. She did this in fear that somebody should recognize her, over time. She kept a low profile, and traveled around a lot, blown off lots of replaceable friends, but she did this because she could not risk the secret of Tuck Everlasting.
The spring had survived, she was still the rightful owner of the wood, she refused to sell it. Even if she had wished to, no buyers would be able to track her down. So many years of aliases, and fake IDs. Her actual identity was a mystery to anyone who wanted to find out. She only faintly remembered the 'Man in The Yellow Suit' now, but he was still there, taunting her somehow. Maybe it was her remorse, for not being there when her mother died, for faking her death and leaving everyone behind. It wasn't her fault she had begun getting older and not a thing had changed. She had no choice but to run. She had a new life to expect then. Now? After nearly one hundred years, and still no Tucks. She had no idea what to expect.
And as she poured some water for a kind gentleman in his booth, she wondered if she could make it another day, in her meaningless existence. She contemplated drinking herself into alcohol poisoning; but 'of course', she thought with a bitter laugh she would never die.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Monday, August 04, 2008
I'm interested in the ethical propriety of returning a book because you didn't like it. Can't imagine doing that myself--the reader is paying for consuming the intellectual content, not just for the physical item. I'm equally interested in the whole question of the difference between readers and fans, if there is one. One distinction the Meyer debates seem to bring to the fore is the way fans personalize the object of their affection--the ones who hate Breaking Dawn feel that Meyer has betrayed them and must suffer; the ones who like the book feel they need to be "loyal" to the author: "You do realize Stephenie Meyer reads these don't you? How disgustingly mean can you get? Stephenie Meyer wrote this for us, the twilighters. Her fans."
What makes people behave this way? I'm aware, of course, that the Amazon posters are probably a distinct subgroup of Meyer's readers, or do her books inspire this kind of Ayn Randy cultishness?
Friday, August 01, 2008
From Bearport, Meish Goldish's Deadly Praying Mantis
From Lerner, Sandra Markle's Praying Mantises: Hungry Insect Heroes
Nothing* p.o.'d the late Zena Sutherland more than a nonfiction children's book ascribing virtue or venality to animals.
*Except maybe simultaneous translation in dialogue, as in "'Hola, Juan!' exclaimed the pretty teacher to the new brown-eyed and chubby-cheeked boy, 'Hello.'"
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Traction Man Meets Turbodog (Knopf) written and illustrated by Mini Grey
Ghosts in the House (Roaring Brook) written and illustrated by Kazuno Kohara
The Cardboard Piano (Greenwillow) written and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins
Dinosaur vs. Bedtime (Hyperion) written and illustrated by Bob Shea
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves (Candlewick) by M. T. Anderson
The Hunger Games (Scholastic) by Suzanne Collins
Tender Morsels (Knopf) by Margo Lanagan
Nation (HarperCollins) by Terry Pratchett
All Stations! Distress!: April 15, 1912: The Day the Titanic Sank (Flash Point/Roaring Brook) written and illustrated by Don Brown
The Way We Work (Lorraine/Houghton) written and illustrated by David Macaulay
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The TV debut of the Teletubbies was not at all surprising to those of us who had read John Christopher's When the Tripods Came.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Have you noticed how much the web likes to talk about itself? That's what I find worrying!
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Of course she had her limitations and of course she went down fighting, but children's literature and librarianship owe her plenty.
Friday, July 18, 2008
That theme of bridging cultures (I know WSS is based on R&J, but making the Montagues and Capulets into Jets and Sharks throws us into contemporary contexts) came to me yesterday when I was editing a Guide review of The Umbrella Queen, a picture book by Shirin Yim Bridges and Taeeun Yoo. Apparently based on the "umbrella village" of Bo Sang in northern Thailand, the story is about a little girl, Noot, who longs to paint umbrellas the way all the women in the village do, but instead of painting the traditional patterns of flowers and butterflies, she paints elephants. The Thai king comes to judge the umbrellas in the annual contest and names Noot the winner, "because she paints from her heart." It's a nice enough little story, but has an unacknowledged dynamic that shows up time and again in American books for children about "other cultures," allegedly honoring different cultural norms but in fact contravening them to celebrate the spirit of individual expression. (Historical fiction does this too, as Anne Scott MacLeod wrote in a brilliant essay for us.) It's a case where the story's need for conflict subverts its simultaneous claim on cultural authenticity. There's no story if Noot happily paints flowers and butterflies, but the fact that she triumphs by painting elephants says, in effect, that the tradition that inspired the story isn't worth holding on to. Can you have it both ways?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
So I'm a little impatient with the argument that we should be worried about brand names in YA fiction. I could certainly get into a fine frothing if the YA series actually whored themselves out to the highest brand-name bidder, which would be both sneaky and lazy: if it doesn't matter if your heroine wears Chanel or Balmain you haven't thought hard enough about her. But that's not what's happening, and I am more scandalized that the Times article pimped this possibility so heavily only to reveal that it had no basis in fact. Yet.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
If any M.L. S. student is in need of a thesis topic, I think it would be very interesting to examine sequel-publishing over time. We've always had 'em, I know, but do publishers these days routinely encourage writers to follow a successful book with a related one? Or have they always?
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
And to those of you who have already signed up, thank you--the circulation of Notes has doubled since the first issue, which makes us very happy indeed.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Not that a career as a gold farmer isn't an interesting one.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Harriet Dancing, by Ruth Symes and Caroline Jayne Church. "A hedgehog's feelings are hurt when the dancing butterflies won't let her join in."
Giant Meatball, by Robert Weinstock. "A reckless, oblivious jumbo-sized meatball bounds into a small town, unintentionally terrorizing its residents."
Really--between those two, what more could you need?
Sunday, July 06, 2008
The long pants: with Linda Sue Park at the N/C banquet; photo by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
The short pants: with Elizabeth Law and Doug Pocock at Disneyland; photo by lassoed stranger.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Get your collector's edition now! While the limitations of technology (and the absence of a thrilling soundtrack and a screaming crowd) means that the tour de force with which Brian Selznick opened his Caldecott speech won't have quite the same effect on paper, those same images can still be yours for as long as the acid-free paper holds out. Likewise, you won't get the same dramatic impact of Laura Amy Schlitz's bravura performance, but you will get every single word she rather breathtakingly memorized for a notes- or paper-free delivery. (As I've noticed about prior speeches, the thing on the page can be astoundingly different from the thing as written--what drew laughs in Schlitz's speech Sunday night often provokes a more meditative response in print.)
You will only find the speeches in the printed Magazine, (which can be ordered from khedeen at hbookdotcom) but we have uploaded a selection of other articles, including profiles of Selznick and Schlitz by their editors, Simmons prof Amy Pattee on Sweet Valley High (and reflections by several authors on their own adolescent "guilty pleasure" reading) and my editorial on just why Newbery girls and the swingin' teens of Sweet Valley are sisters under the skin.