May 31, 2009

Blogging for LGBT Families Day

Today we’re blogging for a specific purpose; we’re participating in the Blogging for LGBT Families Day, hosted by Mombian on June 1, 2009. And so, We Love Children’s Books fades to background and our sister company, Two Lives Publishing, comes front and center. At Two Lives, it’s all about books for kids in LGBT-headed families, and in addition to publishing, we also distribute titles in our niche. We’re not the only ones publishing these books, as our distribution attests – there are successful self-published and small publisher works out there and some large, mainstream publishers have put out books with an impact, like And Tango Makes Three. But, oh, we wish there were MORE! Our first titles (123: a Family Counting Book and ABC: a Family Alphabet Book were published 10 years ago and today, there’s still just a handful, and those books only begin to tell our families’ many and varied stories.

Recently, Bobbie spoke about the “State of LGBTI Themed Picture Books Today”(NJLA Conference, April 2009) and took part in the Many Voices panel on diversity in publishing at the SCBWI New England Annual Conference. Lots of engaging discussion, lots of support from allies, but the bottom line is change is slow. The percentage of children’s books published that speak directly to non-whites and non-heterosexuals is still quite small and given the current economic climate we don’t think we’ll see publishers doing more of what sells less. So what can we do to ensure that our families are represented – and not as an “issue” but as part of the fabric of our country’s day-to-day? What can you do?

Our thanks to Mombian, and to the Family Equality Council for sponsoring this effort.

May 28, 2009

Profile: Live Oak Media

Last week we visited friends in the beautiful Hudson River Valley. Debra and Arnie Cardillo are the owners of Live Oak Media, known for its amazing and award-winning readalong productions and unabridged audiobooks of first chapter books and middle-grade fiction. No strangers to awards, their production of Jazz written by walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Christopher Myers, won the very first Odyssey Award for excellence in audio production for children.

We snapped a few photos of the offices and warehouse, though they'll soon be outdated becaUSe they're moving into new digs next month!

Here's Debra, Liz and Bobbie.

Pictures of the warehouse.

Check out their website to learn more about their Behind the Scenes Interviews, a great e-newsletter, and my favorites, the Live Oak Music Makers!

May 21, 2009


The Cuckoo’s Haiku
written by Michael J. Rosen
illus. by Stan Fellows
Candlewick Press, 2009
Hardcover, 978-0-7636-30492

I’ve never been much of a birder; I just didn’t ‘get’ it. But over the last year my interest has sparked, probably because our traveling has meant I’ve seen many more types of birds, and now I just notice them more. This week I’ve seen my first red-winged blackbird, orchard oriole and rose-breasted grosbeak. If I had read books like The Cuckoo’s Haiku: and other birding poems, maybe my enthusiasm about bird-watching would have taken at an earlier age. I first saw Fellow’s art in Kathryn Lasky’s John Muir: America’s First Environmentalist, and I turned those pages over and over. What I like about his art here is how free and fluid the watercolors are, as if you’re viewing a sketchbook. Alongside the illustrations are notes about the birds and their habitat, written in script and so adding to the field book feeling. The book feeld good in your hands -- not too small, not too large. Twenty-four birds in all are profiled, arranged by season, and all are common to the author’s home in central Ohio. One of my favorites (for sentimental reasons) is about the crow.
American Crow

blooming apple tree
Round and white as one peeled fruit
Crow-seed at its core

The illustration of white lacy blossoms covering the branches where crows perch, angled one on top of each other, is a lovely image for the spare words. The love and respect for nature of both the artist and the poet is clearly evident.

May 19, 2009

A LGBTQ Roundup

I didn't intend to do a little roundup; it just sort of evolved on its own. It all began with a visit to the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester VT. One of several timely displays in the children's book area caught my eye -- weddings. There among Miss Spider's Wedding, Frog Bride, and Junie B. Jones is (almost) a Flower Girl was a copy of Uncle Bobbie's Wedding by Sarah Brannen. Yea!!! I love Vermont! This is just what I like to see -- being a part of and not singled out as different or an issue. (An aside -- wearing her Two Lives Publishing hat, Bobbie recently presented at SCBWI New England where Sarah was also a faculty presenter and at the New Jersey Library Association Conference they both presented on a panel about LGBT publishing for children. They were quite a team.)

Elizabeth Bluemle did a fine post about new titles for young children with LGBT parents on Shelftalker. (Another aside -- during our recent stay in Vermont, we planned to visit the Flying Pig Bookstore on our drive to Burlington but it was closed for Mother's Day.)

Elizabeth reviewed Mommy, Mama and Me and Daddy, Papa and Me, two delightful board books with two moms and two dads families written by Leslea Newman. Those titles are also the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Book of the Week.

I received an update about HRC Family Project’s Welcoming Schools program. You can download An Introduction to Welcoming Schools,a primer version of the Welcoming Schools Guide, a guide designed for use in elementary schools with tools, resources and lessons on family diversity, name-calling and gender stereotyping. Included is a list of LGBT-inclusive children’s books.

Last week I worked on some reviews for the Philadelphia Family Pride Newsletter. One of the titles I reviewed was 10,000 Dresses, a title I learned about from in-the-know Fuse #8. Thanks Betsy! Sorry I couldn't find the post to make a direct link
Here's my review:

10, 000 Dresses
Written by Marcus Ewert and Illustrated by Rex Ray
Seven Stories Press, 2008
Hardcover, $14.95
Ages 4-7

This is the first picture book we know of with a transgender child as the main character. While some reactions might be “Whoa! Why a trans book for so young?” we’ve heard that there is a need – kids can and do identify with gender at young ages.

Bailey happily dreams of dresses every night – gorgeous, original dresses made of “crystals that flashed rainbows in the sun,” “lilies and roses with honeysuckle sleeves,” and “windows which showed the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids.” But when she tries to tell her parents about the dreams and her desire to own dresses like the ones she dreams about, their negative reaction fills her with despair. “You’re a boy. Boys don’t wear dresses! . . . don’t mention dresses again!” Luckily Bailey meets Laurel who thinks Bailey’s designs are “awesome” and together they make beautiful dresses for themselves. Laurel’s understanding and acceptance of Bailey are a huge gift to her, as this empowering book will be for many children. Artist and graphic designer Rex Ray’s paper collages provide a colorful, retro-futuristic backdrop for Bailey’s story.

The analogy of a window and mirror is often used when talking about diversity in children’s books – the books provide both a mirror for self- recognition and a window to viewing the world outside. The author’s use of dresses made of mirrors and windows may be coincidence but It’s a nice touch.

May 15, 2009

Journeys in Nature

Bird, Butterfly, Eel
Story and paintings by James Prosek
Simon & Schuster, hardcover

I hadn’t read the author’s first book for children, A Good Day’s Fishing, but I did read his YA novel, The Day My Mother Left. I loved the gentle language of that book, the deep emotion, and the way that both art and nature were integral parts of Jeremy’s life. Prosek returns to the picture book format in his new title, a story of migration as exemplified by a barn swallow, monarch butterfly, and an American eel. The language here is simple and direct, perfect as an introduction to migration for young readers. “Bird lives in the barn at the end of the meadow, in nests she made of mud and straw. She loves being safe, high up in the rafters, away from the barn cats.” Rich watercolors fill the pages with realistic detail and color, showing us the bird, fish and insect habitats and journeys individually, as well as the three simultaneously on pages spilt in thirds. The cycle begins in summer. “With the cool winds of autumn, Bird, Butterfly, and Eel sense a change, feel restless, and know that this means it is time to leave the farm.” From their farm in New England they soon reach the ocean and then go their separate ways; a map displays the different routes each follows to reach South America, Mexico and the Sargasso Sea. The skillful use of language and pictures allow children to grasp the miracle and mysteries of migration. The creatures’ return is documented as spring turns to summer, “(A)nd the cycle begins again.” A section titled “Real Facts About the Bird, the Butterfly, and the Eel” provides more information including the need for conservation efforts. Really a lovely book. (And the endpapers too are lovely – black ink drawings resembling stamped art, of swallows, butterflies, eels, water lilies, and spidery milkweed puffs.)

May 14, 2009

It's All About the Backlist

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Candlewick Press, 9780763638122

We try so hard to keep up with all of the new children’s books being published that it really surprises me when one slips through. Somehow that happened with this book, published in 2006. I had never read it until Elise from Candlewick (one of my favorite people in the industry!) told me I should give it a try. Then, of course, it sat on my “to read” pile for a few months – but I am so glad it finally made its way to the top!
I admit to a certain predisposition for orphans, and bad girls, and the main character of this book is both. When Maud Flynn gets adopted from the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans by two elderly sisters, I was very happy for her, until I found out that they wanted her to join the family business – spiritualism. Maud is trained to help the sisters hoodwink a wealthy woman whose daughter has died.

At first she is happy to be included, and she is certainly clever enough to do the work, but as time goes on and it becomes evident that the sisters are using her, I was very pleased when she started making some friends who eventually help rescue her from her situation.

I am in awe of those authors who can weave together many small elements and end up with a big, glorious finish that will make you cheer and cry (but the good kind of cry). Laura Amy Schlitz is in that exclusive group – but of course last year’s Newbery committee figured that out too, didn’t they?

Sigh. I SO dislike it when I’m not on the cutting edge.