Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Word order

The Boston Globe's thumbnail review for Captain America says the movie "packs a powerful, but predictable, patriotic punch." How is that different from saying that it "packs a predictable, but powerful, patriotic punch?"

I'm curious about which construction you all think is the more positive, because this is a trick reviewers use all the time, choosing between

a powerful, but predictable, patriotic punch
a predictable, but powerful, patriotic punch
a powerful but predictable patriotic punch
a predictable but powerful patriotic punch
a powerful--but predictable--patriotic punch
a predictable--but powerful--patriotic punch

to hedge an opinion or (more frequently in our circles) to "say something nice" even when you don't feel particularly enthusiastic. But I'm not sure readers agree about which placement does what. I think that the second adjective generally has more of an impact than the first, but you could argue that the phrase set off by commas will be read more parenthetically and thus more readily dismissed. And if you don't use the commas, do the adjectives become equal?

Monday, July 25, 2011

September/October starred reviews

The following books will receive starred reviews in the September/October issue of the Horn Book Magazine.

The Haunted Hamburger and Other Ghostly Stories by David LaRochelle; illus. by Paul Meisel (Dutton)

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka (Schwartz & Wade)

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (Farrar)

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck; illus. by Kelly Murphy (Dial)

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf (Candlewick)

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin (Holt)

A Little Bitty Man and Other Poems for the Very Young by Halfdan Rasmussen; trans. from the Danish by Marilyn Nelson and Pamela Espeland; illus. by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick)

Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert by Marc Aronson (Atheneum)

Orani: My Father’s Village by Claire A. Nivola (Foster/Farrar)

Feynman by Jim Ottaviani; illus. by Leland Myrick; color by Hilary Sycamore (First Second)

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say (Scholastic)

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman; illus. by Beth Krommes (Houghton)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Marvin Redpost v. Stanley Yelnats

This Guardian article about authors famous for the wrong book has me turning children's authors and titles over in my head. I do think Paula Fox's best book is One-Eyed Cat, not The Slave Dancer or Desperate Characters. I like Lois Lowry's Autumn Street more than The Giver, and Hilary McKay's The Exiles has it all over her books about the Cassons. In wake of my re-immersion in "Laura World" courtesy of Wendy McClure, I'm going with The Long Winter over any of the Wilder books with Little in the title.

Any iconoclasts feel like knocking something over?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Harry 76.5

Kazia Berkley-Cramer reviews the new Harry Potter movie over at Out of the Box. We just watched the first part of Deathly Hallows on TV the other night and I am still a little confused about the Horcruxes. Richard wanted to know why Voldemort and Harry were enemies, so I was at least glad to be able to know something about that.

[Cindy points out that the new movie is actually the second half of the seventh, not the sixth. Having given up halfway through the third I plead ignorance.]

Monday, July 18, 2011

With churned butter

Am reading @HalfPintIngalls' (aka Wendy McClure's) really engrossing The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, and I find myself unseasonably wishing for Laura's gingerbread.

Shocking? I hope so.

The Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature is gearing up for its biannual Summer Institute, this year themed "The Body Electric" and taking place July 28-July 31st. Simmons' favorites Jackie Woodson, Jack Gantos and M.T. Anderson will be there along with a host of others; hope to see you there.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July Notes

The July issue of Notes from the Horn Book is out, featuring "Five Questions for . . ." Sophie Blackall, a recent BGHB Honor honoree who seems to be everywhere these days and doing some great work. Also: new picture-book bios (talk about something that's everywhere), middle-grade fiction, and a roundup of the kind of YA novel the Wall Street Journal loves to hate.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Where Be There Dragon Ladies?

Margaret Tice has an article in the new SLJ, querying what the de-funding of supervisory youth services positions might mean for children's librarianship. If you missed them, take a look at Barbara Bader's acute portraits of two of the greats from NYPL: Anne Carroll Moore and Augusta Baker. In the latter, BB also has a good observation for those who think libraries can do without children's coordinators: "library work with children loses a spokesperson on the inside, and a representative to the outside: politically nullifying its two bases of support. Who’s to say, then, what’s good for children?"

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Five Questions for Paolo Bacigalupi

It was kind of neat to talk to Paolo in New Orleans, which, in Ship Breaker, is underwater. He said he wasn't nervous. The Printz Award winner and I discussed how far away the future of his book actually was, a fact left undetermined for readers to sort out for themselves. (Some people like their dystopias, far, far away; others like to believe they could occur tomorrow.)

I asked Paolo his thoughts about the infamous Wall Street Journal article and was happy that the first thing out of his mouth was not "YA Saves" but "that writer owes Sherman Alexie an apology." Amen--Megan Cox Gurdon took a gratuitous swipe at The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian while skirting around the issue of whether she had read it or not. Paolo agreed with Alexie (and me) that "books should give you a boner." (No, not THAT kind. Necessarily.)

Congratulations, Paolo!  I think Mike Printz would have loved Ship Breaker--he liked books that were rough and tough. Fans will be pleased to know that a book featuring the half-man Tool is forthcoming.

Five Questions for Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop

Hee hee, Nic is afraid of ticKs. I think someone should write a picture book, A Tick for Nic. I told our Sibert Medalists that I would speak on their behalf to The Grobster, aka Betsy Groban, publisher of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Books, about funding the intrepid pair for a trip to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, from whence they will return with a terrific book about squids and penguins. Or maybe that's two books. And I'm also happy to inform you that both Sy and Nic think (some) animals can love us back.

Congratulations, you two, and safe travels.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Five Questions for Brian Selznick

Brian has been a busy boy--not only is his Wonderstruck coming out this fall (I'm reviewing it for the September Horn Book) but Martin Scorsese's film of The Invention of Hugo Cabret will be out before Christmas. (In color AND 3-D, obviously intent on making miracles of a very different kind.)

I asked Brian if he had any plans for a little book (Wonderstruck being about a hundred pages longer than Hugo) and heavy-lifters will be happy he said "no, not really." But fans of his picture-book bios with Pam Muñoz Ryan will be happy to hear that the two are going to be working together again.

I also asked him if the boys in Wonderstruck were as, er, happy, as I thought they were and he didn't say yes, he didn't say no--but I'll save further speculation for my review, which I should be writing RIGHT NOW.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Five Questions for Rita Williams-Garcia

Poor Rita--three times in PUBLIC I made her join me in singing the first line of "It Was Right on the Tip of My Tongue (and I Forgot to Say I Love You)" by Brenda and the Tabulations, a group referenced in One Crazy Summer. Rita, I promise I will learn the rest of the song, and I'm working on "Dry Your Eyes," too.

Fans will be pleased to know there will be another book about Delphine, but not just yet--Rita is working on a novel about virtual reality. I like it when writers step out of their boxes, even when it's just to write about mice.

Rita is the same age as I (thus our overlapping mental jukeboxes), and I asked her what she thought was the most important lesson of the 1960s. She said that the 60s made everyone make choices--the status quo was so indeterminate that you had to find your own way. I'm sure glad she found her way to writing.

Thanks for stopping by, Rita--and thanks to to HarperCollins, who threw a swell dinner for Rita's Scott O'Dell win. Unfortunately, Elizabeth Hall, Odell's widow and the award's administrator, was defeated by the weather and could not join us, but I had a fine time singing (again) with Rita, meeting her daughter, and spending some time with her sworn sister, Rosemary Brosnan.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Five Questions for Bryan Collier

It was clear from the start of our interview that Bryan Collier sees Dave the Potter from the point of view of one artist to another--their eras were different, their circumstances, their mediums, but what compelled Bryan was the (open) question of just what caused Dave to create his pots and--even more mysteriously--inscribe poetry into their clay. Why do people make art? More prosaically, Bryan also told me how he found a model who looked like his vision of Dave, whose likeness remains unknown. Congrats to Bryan Collier on his Coretta Scott King Award and Caldecott Honor; agent Marcia Wernick profiles him here.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Five Questions for Tomie dePaola

At last! I have loved Tomie's books since being a children's librarian (even thirty years ago, he seemed to have picture books about everything), and we've worked together on some articles and two Horn Book covers, but we had never met. He looks like he drew himself. And a man of firm opinions: his favorite own book? Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs. Favorite fellow Wilder winner? Ashley Bryan. Digital future? Picture books will never go away. And--in another self-interested question--he said he'd love to illustrate a book of opera plots, and with his editor Nancy Paulsen sitting in the front row, I told him I wanted to write it. Tomie's old friend Barbara Elleman introduces him here.

Great to finally meet you, Tomie!

Five Questions for Erin and Phil Stead

Way to make me feel old. These two are completely adorable and I want their lives (and dog). When I asked them who their favorite Caldecott winners were, I loved that they both reached back to Evaline Ness, a choice both fresh and true to their DIY aesthetic. And despite being joined at the hip since high school, they each maintain a clear sense of artistic self, working in the same studio but (at least as I pictured it) back to back. Thanks for stopping by!

P.S. To the person who made my heart stop after the interview by insisting that it was pronounced "STEED," wrong.

Five Questions for Clare Vanderpool

With Clare, her being from Kansas and writing about Kansas and loving Kansas and all, I got to reminisce about Mike Printz, who ran an oral history project with his Topeka West High teens, documenting the lives of famous Kansans. (We did an SLJ article together called "E.T.'s Mom Phones Home," about how Mike's teens got Kansas actress Dee Wallace to come to their school.) But I was thrilled to hear that Clare's next book will be set in Maine, Vanderpool regarding Abilene's story as "finished" and laudably resisting the trend toward sequelization.

Her kids and husband were there, her sister was there, and, wow, is she poised. And, as she also demonstrated in her Newbery speech the next evening, very funny. Thanks for coming, Clare!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Five Questions for Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan, pointing out where he gets his ideas.

Rick Riordan, first up in our Live Five series at ALA, has to be one of the nicest people in the world. When I asked him if he had problems with people worried over "false gods," he couldn't even offer me a stern lecture for the would-be censors, saying that his books have mostly stayed off that particular radar, perhaps because his Percy Jackson and Kane Family Chronicles never take their source material too seriously. In my first of a few self-interested questions, I asked Rick if he had any plans to head north to Valhalla--my favorite pantheon--but he said no, the Greco-Romans and the Egyptians kept him busy enough. AND popular--the stage area was packed well before the interview began.

Thank you, Rick!