Is there ANYTHING more satisfying than finishing off a trilogy (or a duet, or a series) of books that you've been connected to over a period of time?
We were dying to read Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins, the final book in the trilogy begun in The Hunger Games. Thanks to our friend Diana, we both devoured it over the past few days. It did NOT disappoint!!
Yesterday I was talking about the book to my friend Heather, from our fabulous client Children's Book World. I told her that luckily I was sick last Saturday and spent the whole morning in bed reading the book, and I commented to her, "Oh, I guess you can't do that much, with two kids."
She got a crafty look on her face and said "I call books like that the BAD MOMMY BOOKS because I put in the Thomas videos, sit them down and say "Mommy's going to read now!"
So there, all you literary anti-TV folks. There is a good side to kids watching TV, after all...
Well, now that I've read it, I can kick myself for letting this galley languish in my reading pile for the last few months. All the signs were there - it's published by Arthur Levine Books, edited by Cheryl Klein and recommended by my fantasy Queen, Tamora Pierce (she says it's "Splendid...a smashing read!") Tamora's right - it IS smashing, and I couldn't stop reading it once I started.
Bunce's main character, Digger, would be right at home with all of the lovely girls-who-fight, girls-who-steal, and girls-who-have-magic that Tamora's introduced us to over the years. She's just a great gal: a sneaky, fearless, compassionate little thief who finds herself keeping company with a noble family...Digger has a lot of secrets, but so does everyone else, and I just couldn't wait to get to the end to find out what they all were.
And the ending was SO gratifying...and yet...now I have to wait for the sequel, Liar's Moon. Aarrggh!!
Confession time: I kept avoiding this book because even though I love Lois Lowry, I just kept thinking "not ANOTHER book about a princess who trades places with a peasant..."
Surprise! I should have trusted my Lowry-instincts...it was fun, clever and completely original. When bored 16-year-old Princess Patricia Priscilla decides to trade clothes with her chambermaid and go to school, she has LOADS of fun and meets a handsome schoolmaster to boot. When she invites her new village friends to her big birthday ball, things at the castle get a lot more interesting.
This experience made me remember the advice I always hear when I attend a writer's conference: even if you have the exact same idea(s) that other writers do, NO ONE can write your story the way you can. And in fact, Lois Lowry herself told me that very thing once. She was visiting The Children's Book World in Haverford, PA (Lois loves that store and so do we!) I found myself alone in the back room with her for a minute, and panicked, blurting out that I was a big fan, also a writer, hoped that someday I could write like her - and then she gently said something about how of course I would write like ME, not like her.
Sigh. Plus, she was the first author I wrote a fan letter to, way back in 1984, telling her I worked in a kid's bookstore and loved her. She wrote back to say that she was a fan of bookstore managers! No wonder everyone loves her - she is SO gracious.
I'm supposed to write about ALA today but instead I signed up to play B I N G O over at From the Mixed-Up Files of Jennifer Bertman; a special brand of the game called Creative Spaces Book Cover BINGO. You can play too, it's not too late to join in.
I believe I have the lucky card because there are FOUR covers by Julie Paschkis and she's a real favorite of mine. We'll see.
Jennifer says this may be an annual event -- so cool! More fun than the regular game I think, and you only need to manage one card.
Most of our work entails sitting in front of a laptop screen or walking around with a cell phone pressed to our head or, in my case, staring into space waiting for some bit of creative inspiration to light upon me. But once and awhile we're out and about, as we were last week when we visited the Loudoun County Public Library to see George Ella Lyon, one of our clients, give a presentation and reading. Bobbie met George Ella a while back, but it was my first meeting. I'm such a huge fan of her work and wanted to just gush, but I felt I needed to maintain some facade of professional demeanor. Anyway, it quickly became a time among friends and book lovers. In between talks at two different branches we had lunch.
(most of George Ella's books were checked out!)
George Ella's presentation included slides, readings, and props (she's an avid journaler & showed some of her journals) as well as a song. She has a lovely voice, strong & clear, and sang the lullaby that forms the text of her picture book Sleepsong. George Ella engaged the kids right away and I admired the way she was able to craft the presentation to interest the various ages present. The photos of her presentation turned out lousy but here's one of the three of us; George Ella's in the middle.
She told us she grew up in a house that had a library built by her grandfather. Doesn't that sound wonderful?
The two branches we visited were both amazing pieces of architecture and design -- one of reasons I love visiting libraries all over is to see the multitude of interior and exterior design and imagination. Here are some photos of the children's area at the Rust branch. I'm a sucker for a nature motif.
Today's my birthday and I'm celebrating by posting this review -- because not only is today MY birthday but it's my twin sister, Bonney's, birthday too!
Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same!
Written and illustrated by Grace Lin
Little, Brown & Co., $14.99, hardcover, ages 6-9
Ling and Ting are twins and share the same eye color, pink cheeks and happy smiles. “People see them and they say, ‘You two are exactly the same!’ ‘We are not exactly the same,’ Ling says” and Ting agrees. With humor and cleverness, the six short interconnected stories in this beginning reader point out the differences between the two as well as the clear affection they have for one another. The stories of magic tricks, making dumplings, visiting the library present simple text mixed with understandable wordplay for young readers. Clear, uncluttered pictures on each page, framed with colored borders will also suit beginning readers who are sure to want to read more stories about this fun and unique pair.
Since the principals of We Love Children’s Books are also 2/3 of the engine behind Two Lives Publishing, we thought we’d make a post in support of Blogging for LGBT Families Day. Two Lives creates and sells books for children that portray their families; we sell a lot of books to LGBT parents but we have also helped supply these books to schools, where we hope they are reaching kids who don’t have LGBT parents.
We don’t have kids of our own but we have, of course, read the Two Lives books to our nieces and nephews and our (straight) siblings have been good about having honest and supportive conversations with their kids when questions come up about our relationship. Lately we’ve been talking about our commitment ceremony with our 6-year-old niece, who is very interested in weddings at the moment, and we were tickled when my sister related the following story:
In Kyra’s kindergarten class, one of the boys said something about his boyfriend. He was immediately teased by another boy in the class, who told him “Boys can’t have boyfriends.” So Kyra marched right over and said to them, “Boys can marry boys, and girls can marry girls, because my aunt has a girlfriend.” Go, Kyra!
Only a few weeks later, I was babysitting Kyra and her 4-year-old brother Keane, and we were playing with the Anne of Green Gables paper dolls I had brought. One of the dresses was a wedding dress, but Anne’s beau Gilbert wasn’t included in the paper doll collection – only her best friend Diana – so Kyra & Keane decided that Anne and Diana would get married. I volunteered to preside over the ceremony, since I’ve always been kind of in love with Anne myself…the kids enjoyed it all and it never crossed their mind that there was anything wrong with the game. Go, Kyra and Keane's Mom and Dad!
Anyway, the point is, by mixing books featuring LGBT families in with other books in the classroom and in libraries, kids from all kinds of families will have a chance to read them, to see what different families have in common, and to figure out that it’s no big deal if you have two moms or two dads. And when those kids grow up and have kids of their own, the world will be a better place for their open-mindedness.
I had my first visit to Powell's Books when we were in Portland OR for PLA. I have visited many many bookstores in my lifetime but this experience was absolutely incredible and even a bit overwhelming. We went twice -- first for a personal tour given by our friend Laura's cousin Sarah who works in the childrens' area at Powell's (can you imagine?) and then we spent hours on a rainy Sunday going from floor to floor, me with my multipage booklist searching for secondhand copies of mostly fiction. I got some good reads and found some astonishing "collectibles." I know I can shop Powell's online but nothing beats the experience of being there!
Happy Día - El Día de los niños/El Día de los libros, Children's Day/Book Day! We’re big Día fans and work with our client Pat Mora to promote it throughout the year. This year we celebrated with Díapalooza on Pat’s Bookjoy blog – check it out here!
We just happen to be in Santa Fe today, working with Pat, and it’s cold but as beautiful as ever. It just started snowing as I wrote that sentence – looks like another great day for reading!
I just finished the galley of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, written by John Green and David Levithan. I’ve enjoyed both of their past books, so it was fun to read this joint effort – and I think this truly is a story that’s never been told before. I’ve read just about every YA book with a gay character, but this is the first time I’ve read about a gay boy who is best friends with a straight boy. At the heart of the book is the friendship between Will Grayson (#1) and Tiny Cooper. Tiny is waaaaay out there, and Will’s been friends with him since third grade. Then the two meet Will Grayson #2 – he’s also gay, and Tiny falls for him while Will #1 loses his heart to Jane. Wrapped around this core is the everyday life of teens - high school, relationships, parents and friendships – and I enjoyed watching the two friends navigate it all together.
The Popularity Papers
by Amy Ignatow
Amulet Books/ Abrams, 2010
hardcover fiction, ages 9-13
Amy Ignatow’s debut novel is hilarious with a story (fifth grade girls want to crack the code of popularity) and format (almost graphic novel) that will absolutely delight readers. Lydia and Julia are best friends and concoct a plan for becoming popular -- observe the popular girls, record what they do and what they look like, and then conduct research experiments. We get to read their personal notebook that tells the whole story through handwritten notes and colorful, cartoony drawings. Their families -- Lydia’s single mom and Goth sister, and Julie’s two dads -- are right there with them. The results are sometimes unexpected, sometimes unwelcome, but true and often funny. There’ll be comparisons made to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and that’s a good thing.
We love books where LGBTQ families are just there, just part of the story.
I like writing book reviews but it's hard work for me. It's a fine craft and one I'd like to become better at, so I keep writing because I believe that's how I can become a better reviewer. Reading reviews is another way and I do more of that than I do writing. I've been seriously reading reviews of children's books for about 25 years, first as a bookshop worker, then many years as a children's book buyer and head of collection development for library wholesalers and now as a freelancer. I began writing them only 5 years ago and have alot to learn. There are many reviewers I admire, some review for print publications and some are bloggers. I admire their writing style and their evaluative sense. I consider K.T. Horning's Cover to Cover the definitive guide to evaluation and refer to it all the time.
Over the past couple of weeks the word trope has showed up in a number of reviews I've read. The first time I read it, I had to look it up. (From Merriam-Webster -- 1 a : a word or expression used in a figurative sense : figure of speech b : a common or overused theme or device : cliché ) Just yesterday I read a Facebook post that remarked "watch those tropes" with a link to an enlightening Salon article about overused words in reviewing and Book Review Bingo, a new game to play so you can test yourself. I'm off to play now -- hmmm, maybe I'll post my score.
Question: I bet the words used in the game are ones found in reviews of adult books. Are there different words that show up more frequently in reviews of children's and ya titles?
I'm not a real bird enthusiast, but possess a casual interest. There's a pair of horned owls at our RV park and I don't tire of listening to their eerie sounds or trying to catch a glimpse of them nesting in the palm trees. I've become more acquainted with birds of the desert as the park is full of doves, cactus wrens and, my favorite, Gambel's Quail. These three titles about birds caught my casual interest.
The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound: a birder's journal
by Sallie Wolf, designed by Micah Bornstein
This is a lovely book of poems and more about bird identification and behavior, a textual and visual record of observations designed like a actual journal. The poems are brief, only a few reach 16-18 lines, and are mostly descriptive with some thoughtful, emotional overtones. The ink drawings and watercolors leave an immediate, ephemeral feel as if they were swiftly done rather than studied. Quick but not sloppy. The arrangement is by season, beginning with spring. Alongside the free-verse poems are an occasional haiku, lists of birds seen, and short notes such as "April 23 -- First sighting of a white-throat -- I've been hearing them for about 3 days." The poems appear in a traditional serif font, while notes and lists are hand-written. The journal-like feel is carried throughout. A note reads "Illustrations done in watercolors and pen and ink on Sallie's original journal pages and on handmade paper, then scanned and manipulated in Photoshop." I appreciate the author sharing her love of nature in such a creative way. from one of my favorite poems "Robins Take a Bath"
Fluffy fledglings preen their feathers.
Four birds fly away.
Freshly groomed and tidy robins,
finished for the day.
Nest, Nook and Cranny
by Susan Blackaby, illustrated by Jamie Hogan
This one's only peripherally about birds, really. It's focus is animals and their habitats. The chapter headings -- Desert, Grassland, Shoreline, Wetland, Woodland -- each have a double page spread illustrating representative animals in the habitat. The untitled poems are a combination of free verse and various forms. Rather than noting the forms on the page where the poem appears they are noted in the back matter in a section titled "Writing Poetry" which also includes useful information about ideas and writing techniques like alliteration. The effective, black & white illustrations, done in mixed media and pastels and charcoal, complement and don't overwhelm the poems. One I like begins "The sweetest home sweet home must be a hive,/Humming with activities of bees. They never wipe their feet when they arrive;/They track their tacky nectar where they please." A gratifying melding of science, art and literature.
An Egret's Day
by Jane Yolen, photographs by Jason Stemple
Wordsong/Boyds Mills, 2010
Hardcover Nonfiction/ Poetry
Here's another appealing combination of science, poetry and art informing readers about the striking Great Egret, a migratory bird of the heron family. Double-page spread include a poem, short paragraph of factual information, and one or more stunning photographs of the bird in flight, on trees, in the water. As the title suggests the finely-crafted poems follow egrets from morning through evening and provide thoughtful observation. "Close-up" begins "As conscious of his beauty/As any Hollywood star,/The egret poses." and is accompanied by a head-and-shoulders shot of the bird, white feathers tinted with a rosy glow. The image, words and design work beautifully together. This is Yolen's and Stemple's fourteenth book together and they are a fine team.
Because we are always working in the community recreation hall (where the good wireless signal is) lots of the park residents have gotten to know us and what the heck we are doing on our computers all day. The other day, the woman from the fifth wheel across from us came over and said to me “I know you work in children’s books, but I wondered if you write them, too?” I asked her why – she used to be a teacher – and she told me that two of the other women in the park had shown her an old saguaro cactus, with multiple holes in it, that seemed to be serving as home for a variety of birds. “I think that would make a great kid’s book,” she explained.
I walked down to see it, and she was right – there must be about half a dozen holes in the cactus and birds were busy flying in and out of them. Kind of like an apartment building, I thought and then Ding! I remembered this book – Cactus Hotel – which I used to sell when I was working in a kid’s bookstore. I remembered it as a beautifully illustrated book.
Off I went to look it up on the Internet – sadly, it seems to be out of print, but I found it here at Powell’s and it sounds just like I remembered. We’re going to visit Powell’s this week while we’re in Portland for PLA, so maybe I’ll look it up and bring it back as a gift to the campground’s library.
I'm a huge fan of Julie Paschkis' art -- her colors and imaginative decorations are a visual delight. And I embrace the idea of sisters' collaboration. (Julie and her sister, Janet Lord, have shared credit for two previous picture books.) And, though I'm definitely a dog person, I like cats well enough. So, Where is Catkin?, is a natural as a picture book that delights and engages me. The story begins with young Amy and Catkin against a background of fantasical lush flowers and a shining sun. "Catkin sneeks through the grass./He sees something shiny and small./ Kerik-kerik. Kerik-kerik./Catkin hops ..." and is off to the hunt! Double page spreads full of bright colors against a black background, framed bottom and top by a decorative border in gold and orange-red, follow Catkin on the chase through the garden, as the cat hears various sounds and goes after a frog, a mouse, a snake. The borders also follow the story's progress as the animals chased but not caught populate the borders. Then, as the action shifts and Catkin is caught in a tree, the borders' placement changes. The last page portrays Amy with resucued Catkin in her arms, borders on all four sides, everyone happy and safe. Ahhh!
Serendipity! I just went to the wonderful Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog to check if there was an interview with Julie Paschkis I could link to. There is and it's dated today! Read it. Feast your eyes on images shown of art from Catkin.
I’ve been thinking more about retirement these days, because we’ve spent the winter in Tucson with the snowbirds at Desert Trails RV park. There are a few others who are working like we are, but almost everyone else is retired, and they are making it look great: hiking, playing games, biking, swimming, bird-watching and a zillion other fun activities.
But I’ve decided to let Desert Trails go when my time to relax comes along. I’m going to go with the Redwall retirement plan. If you’ve read every single one of the books in Brian Jacques’ fabulous series, as I have, then you’ll remember that some of the most beloved characters are the old moles, badgers and mice – the wise ones, the ones who can no longer fight in the battles but are still treasured members of the Redwall community.
Most of the time, the old ones just sit in the sun, bounce the Dibbuns on their knees, tell stories and of course – eat! The feasts at Redwall Abbey are legendary, and I for one can’t wait to eat my fill of buttercream scones, slurp my way through a vat of Shrimp ’N Hotroot Soup, and drink my fill of October Ale and Summer Strawberry Fizz.
And if I do get tired of eating, talking and dozing in the sun – well, no doubt there will be a villain laying siege outside our walls any day now…
Last week I went to my very first Babytime. Different from the traditional storytimes which are standard fare at libraries, Babytime focuses on emergent literacy activities rather than listening to stories read aloud. There's generally music, rhymes, and movement led by a children's librarian and moms and caregivers take part too.
I went with a friend, Geri, her daughter Jeanette and Jeanette's son Wade, a lively 8 month old. Wade goes to Babytime once or twice every week and loves it.The Pima County Public Library has an extensive schedule of Babytimes and Storytimes and their efforts are supported by local agencies like Make Way For Books.
What a delightful time! Imagine 20 babies -- some sitting on laps, some walking around the room, some crawling on a huge colorful quilt in the center of the floor. There were 4 sets of twins! Using a rhyme and a big bear puppet the librarian introduced each child to the group; then the group recited various rhymes like "Eensy Weensy Spider" and "Where is Thumbkin" (those are the ones I remember because they're familiar) aloud with accompanying movements, all the adults engaging with the babies; and we listened to songs. The scheduled Babytime is followed by 30 minutes of free time when the moms and aregivers can talk together and babies can play while soft music plays in the background. There were lots of books around the room for anyone to pick up and look at (and check out too.) Maybe I'll get to go again before we leave Tucson!
I’m sitting here paging through one of my favorite children’s books – I read it at least once a week, taking time to closely examine the pictures and laugh aloud at the simple text. It’s a very valuable book, a limited edition, called Kyra and Bobbie: Best Friends. Kyra is my 6-year-old niece, and a few years ago for my birthday my sister Jean (Kyra’s mom, a teacher and children’s book enthusiast) made this book for Kyra and I. We each have one – a print run of 2.
It’s the ultimate in niche publishing, isn’t it? A book with no marketing budget and very minimal production costs that’s guaranteed to reach (and delight!) its small audience – an instant classic destined to be read for years.
When I give talks about independent publishing to groups of would-be authors, I always make sure to say this: if all you want is to get your book or your story out into the world, you can do that yourself. You don’t have to wait for some far-off publisher to read your work, make a judgment about it and turn you down. With all of the print-on-demand technologies – heck, even with a color copier and a binding machine - you can be a publisher. And with the communication possibilities of the Internet and all of its accompanying social media, you can get your story out to its intended audience. Even if that audience is very, very small.
It’s time for a sequel to my Kyra book – her brother Keane was reading it with her and said to his mom: “I want to be in a book with Aunt Bobbie.” Start the presses…