Archive for the ‘Picture books’ Category

(joint post)

You missed it? Too bad.

Mo Willems believes author talks should be experienced, not documented. So during yesterday’s visit to the Cambridge Public Library, after posing for a brief photo shoot, he asked everyone in the audience to refrain from taking photos or video. Or “I will shame you.” His words, not ours.

Tom Warburton, left, and Mo Willems, right. (more…)

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Patience the lion
                        Patience, one of the stone lions guarding the NYPL,
                       where KidLitCon was held. Photo by Sondy Eklund.
Jen: a first-timer’s thoughts of kidlitcon
  • wear comfortable shoes
  • bring business cards. or knitting. Both will help you make connections with other bloggers.
  • do start your day with a large, sturdy and most importantly, empty, tote bag. It will most certainly be full to bursting with new ARCs by the end of the day
  • if you have traveled from afar, swing by the post office to mail your ARCs. Flat rate shipping is great.
  • or, hawk them to a blogger who is willing to love them more and, more importantly, will carry them home.
  • don’t feel overwhelmed by all the bloggers who are way more prolific reviewers and well-read than you. They possess a wealth of information and are incredibly witty and nice about sharing it.
  • thanks to Maureen Johnson, I’ll probably think of insecure authors every time “werewolf cages” are mentioned in conversation
  • after the panel Critical Reviewing and “Niceness,” I am itching to write a review that’s more critical and not merely nice. At the same time, I can only say what worked for me, what didn’t, and why.

Lisa: (more…)

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Gardening Vicariously

And now it's spring!

My gardening skills are pretty limited–I can barely keep a cactus alive, let alone anything that needs actual care. But I do like visiting (and sampling from) friends’ gardens. Today being the kind of perfect spring day where everyone’s outside doing garden-y stuff, here’s a list of picture books to help set the mood:

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illus. by Erin Stead: is every bit as charming as A Sick Day for Amos McGee.

The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin: anyone who likes their gardens to be edible, rather than simply ornamental, should read this book.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown: there’s something WALL-E-esque about the discovery of this tiny garden in the middle of a bleak, brown city.

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith: okay, this one isn’t really about gardening, but it made me temporarily inspired to create my own topiary zoo.

Plant a Little Seed by Bonnie Christensen: will inspire kids to join or start a community garden.

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney: a classic–one that treats the world like one gigantic garden.

My Garden by Kevin Henkes: another classic, and possibly my favorite, no doubt due to the chocolate rabbits strewn over the lawn.

Other suggestions? Chime in in the comments below.

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Oink Goes the Princess

Review: The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett (author) and Poly Bernatene (illustrator), pub. Sept 2011

This tongue-in-cheek retelling of “traditional” princess tales reads like a cross between the Prince and the Pauper and your favorite changeling tale. When the queen drops her baby over the castle walls (by accident, sort of), the princess lands on a straw-filled farmer’s cart, and the baby pig that was sitting in the cart bounces up, up, up, straight into the castle. By the time the queen turns around, she’s convinced a bad fairy has transformed the princess into a piglet. Meanwhile, the farmer below the castle gates thanks the good fairies for changing the pig into a baby girl.

The girl, now named Pigmella, is raised by the farmer’s loving family, who soon forgets that she was a pig to begin with. But the queen can never forget the pig is supposed to be a princess, so the ladies-in-waiting spend their time chasing the unruly pig (dubbed Priscilla)  and stuffing her into dresses. The comedy of errors continues for years, as Pigmella grows up to be smart, and nice, and clever, and Priscilla just keeps getting…pinker.  (more…)

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Self-Plagiarism of the Best Kind

I was flipping through Extra Yarn (written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen, pub. Jan. 2012) when I came upon a most familiar character:

It’s a nice homage, or sly wink for Klassen fans of I Want My Hat Back (Sept 2011).

I prefer to think of him as the same bear, one who’s mellowed out and traded his beloved hat for a rainbow yarn sweater.  (more…)

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The British cover for Dead End in Norvelt (thanks to Fuse #8 for the tip): so much better than ours.

Um, wow. So Dead End in Norvelt got the Newbery! It was, as Jen predicted, a dark horse triumph. And while I’m still sad at the lack of recognition for Sir Gawain, Okay for Now and Amelia Lost, Gantos’ win makes me positively gleeful. We don’t often get laugh-out-loud funny Newbery winners: The Higher Power of Lucky often made me smile, as did The Tale of Despereaux. But I have to go back to Holes (1999) to find one that made me laugh. Norvelt packs enough humor to transform the most reluctant readers into bookworms (the title of this post references one of the more memorable scenes), and that may be the greatest prize of all.

As for the other award winners (full results from today’s ALA Youth Media Awards here), here are some scattered thoughts:

  • This seems to be the year where books won in unexpected categories. After all the Newbery/Caldecott agonizing over Wonderstruck, it was great (and so fitting!) to see it win a Schneider Family Book Award. Same with Drawing from Memorys Sibert Honor and I Want My Hat Back! in the Geisel category. It all seems so obvious in retrospect.
  • Breaking Stalin’s Nose (Newbery Honor book) reminds me of Moon Over Manifest from last year–something totally unexpected, which I’m now quite looking forward to.
  • I’m ecstatic to see the Printz Committee honor The Returning. This is one of those books that reels you in slowly and doesn’t let go, but the slow pacing means it could use an awards-push to generate publicity.
  • Okay for Now got recognition for the audio book. I’ve always wondered about Doug’s voice–I imagine it’s either quite deadpan or darkly sarcastic. Now’s a good time to find out.
  • Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul won a well-deserved Coretta Scott King Award, though I’d hoped for Bird in a Box to get an award as well.
  • I haven’t read A Ball for Daisy or Blackout, but Me…Jane and Grandpa Green both deserve as much recognition as they can get.
  • Susan Cooper’s Margaret A. Edwards Award! I feel so lucky to have discovered her books this year (or rather re-discovered after a failed attempt to start the series years ago), and even had the chance to meet her during The Exquisite Conversation.

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(Note: this is a joint post by Jen and Lisa)

Review: Tricia’s Michigan, a documentary from Polivision Productions (source of review copy: free online streaming provided by the producers)

The famous keeping quilt

Tricia’s Michigan opens with a leisurely drive through Union City, Michigan, a tiny village with two major claims to fame: it was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, and it’s the place that author/illustrator Patricia Polacco calls home.

Anyone who’s read Polacco’s books (Pink and Say; The Keeping Quilt) knows that the stories are often inspired by Polacco’s family history and the history of Union City, where she grew up. Most of us will never get the chance to tour Polacco’s childhood home, so Tricia’s Michigan does the next best thing by bringing us there with an immersive documentary.


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Now that 2011 is officially over, I can finally start compiling the requisite end-of-year lists. Last year I posted my most memorable reads of 2010. This time I’m going for books that I loved, but which I think were overlooked in some way:

Migrant by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (March 2011)

NYT named this one of the best illustrated books of 2011, so it’s gotten its share of praise, but I haven’t heard much chatter elsewhere. I can honestly say it’s the first picture book I’ve encountered on migrant workers, and it’s written with sensitivity and grace. Anna, the little girl at the heart of the book follows her family from Mexico to Canada in search of seasonal work. She’s old enough to wish for a stable, more “normal” life and young enough to escape the hardships through daydreams. Arsenault’s fantastic illustrations bring Anna’s imagination to life, and the family’s unusual background (they’re Mennonites from Mexico who speak a dialect of German) emphasizes the universal challenges faced by migrant workers all over the world. A wonderful, wonderful book. (more…)

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I took a quick trip to NYC on Saturday and made sure to stop by the main branch of the public library. I’ve wanted to see the Children’s Center for years now, and it turns out to be ever cooler than I’d imagined.

Library entrance

Mural inside the Children’s Center


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I kid you not–Dec. 15 is officially Cat Herders Day. So whether you actually herd cats for a living, train them for tournaments or find yourself facing a seemingly insurmountable task, today’s a day for celebrating such challenges.

Go ahead. Herd me. See if I care.

Over at The Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, Anita Silvey has a great post on Wanda Gág’s Millions of Cats–a classic statement on the futility of bossing cats around.

Ironically, I’ve just finished a book with the least cat-like cat I’ve ever read: Lula in Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan (Oct 2011). This cat is so chill it’s content being dressed in baby clothes and hauled around like a doll. Unrealistic? Perhaps, but Waiting for the Magic thrives on the impossible, and there’s plenty of magic (both fantastical and wordsmith-wise) as Lula, four dogs and two kids conspire to reunite a broken family. By turns poignant and hilarious, it’s a brilliant book to read any day of the year, but especially fitting for today.

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