Archive for May, 2007

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #26:
David Elzey at the excelsior file

h1 Monday, May 21st, 2007

Whew, this interview was almost difficult to snag. When we asked David at the excelsior file if he wanted to be interviewed in our blogger interview series, his response was one of interest and excitement, but he then said, “I haven’t even been at this blogging stuff for a year (at least not with kidlit) and I still feel as though I’m poking my way through the dark . . . there are so many bloggers out there, maybe they deserve it more than me?” Now, we think the last thing David would want us to do is make him out to be some sort of meek-and-mild saint, but it’s true when we say he’s (obviously) terrifically humble, even though we’ve said time and again (and again) here at 7-Imp that he’s one of our top-five favorite bloggers (do a search here at 7-Imp of “the excelsior file” and there are all kinds of links to David’s reviews, since — as Jules has stated here repeatedly — his reviews are always spot-on).

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #11

h1 Sunday, May 20th, 2007

It’s time for another installment of 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks . . . For those new to our series, this is where we all stop in every Sunday to report seven (more or less is fine) Good Things that happened to you (or that you read or saw or experienced or . . . well, you get the picture) this week. Absolutely anyone is welcome to contribute.

* * * * * * * eisha’s list * * * * * * *

Whew! It’s been a crazy busy weekend, and it’s still going on, so let me just give you the highlights.

1*  Friday night I saw an excellent event sponsored by my fave independent bookstore: Daniel Handler in conversation with Gregory Maguire. The idea was that they would talk about DH’s most recent adult novel, Daniel HandlerGregory MaguireAdverbs. But of course, when you have two guys that funny and smart and literate up on a stage… well, they talked about Adverbs, and about how tall Meryl Streep really is, and about the drinking game DH made up based on Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide… Dudes. It was hilarious.

2*  And while they were signing books afterwards, we were treated to a performance by a really good local band, Chop! Chop! I’d never heard them before, but I enjoyed it a lot – I was sad there weren’t any CDs to buy. I thought it was an excellent idea to provide entertainment while we stood around in line. Hey, book signing event organizers, take note! Read the rest of this entry �

Picture Book Round-Up, Part I’m-Gonna-Stop-Counting

h1 Saturday, May 19th, 2007

Yeah, I need to just drop the whole parts-to-a-whole idea on my picture book round-ups. If you haven’t noticed, I’m trying to be more productive when it comes to reviewing new picture books, and I have decided to review as many new titles as I can this year. Perhaps at the end of the year, I can say that here at 7-Imp I reviewed (or co-reviewed with Eisha) a Cybil winner or the Caldecott Honor or some such thing. Plus, I enjoy it immensely. Even if I didn’t have two young children who enjoy them, too, I’d be returning from the library with a huge stack of them every week.

So, I’m going to forgo the whole Part So-and-So idea and continue reviewing as many of them as I possibly can in various and asundry picture book round-ups. Onwards then . . .

The Little Red Fish
by Taeeun Yoo
Dial Books for Young Readers
March 2007
(library copy)

I made that book cover image huge on purpose. Isn’t that a handsome book? There’s no dust jacket; the book is covered in a rich red fabric; the black letters you see there (the title and author/illustrator) are embossed; the wonderfully weird small illustration centered there does not overwhelm the cover; and the endpages are mysterious and gorgeous. Keep going, and it gets even better. Yoo’s detailed watercolored etchings are simply divine. For the most part, they’re rather opaque, but then Yoo knows exactly when to bring the light in. The colors are primarily sepia-toned — nothing more than browns, blacks, and a bit of grey — until the fish appears in bright red . . . Yes, JeJe is visiting his grandfather at his old library in the middle of the forest, and he’s brought along his little red fish for the visit. It’s the first time JeJe’s ever seen the library, crammed with books wall-to-wall, and he’s amazed and explores freely. He soon falls asleep, and when he wakes, the room is dark and empty, and “{h}e felt as though he had been swallowed up by the darkness.” Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: Catherine Reef’s ’06 biography
of E.E. Cummings

h1 Friday, May 18th, 2007

{Note: Kelly at Big A, little a has the Poetry Friday round-up here this week} . . .

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old . . .

(E.E. Cummings; from Collected Poems, 1938)

I just finished reading Catherine Reef’s E.E. Cummings: A Poet’s Life (Clarion Books; December 2006; library copy). I’m a big ‘ol E.E.* fan, but I was surprised at how little I knew of his life. Reef does a fine job of not only bringing this unconventional, provocative poet’s life to the reader (from his birth in Cambridge in 1894 to his death in 1962 at his beloved Joy Farm in New Hampshire at the age of sixty-seven) in an engaging prose, but she weaves into the biography many details about and a respect and appreciation for his poetry. The book is meticulously-documented with Reef’s source notes as well.

Beginning with his early life in Cambridge, Reef provides a detailed description of the city during the late 19th century when Cummings was a wee child (having been the firstborn and christened Edward after his father, but using his middle name, Estlin), Read the rest of this entry �

Picture Book Round-Up, Part Four,
Beginning With The End

h1 Thursday, May 17th, 2007

The End
by David LaRochelle and
illustrated by Richard Egielski
Arthur A. Levine Books
January 2007
(library copy)

Teaching sequencing skills, anyone? You will want to experience this title, in which LaRochelle takes the traditional fairy tale structure and turns it on its head, saying “shh, shh, don’t speak” to conventional storytelling. And it’s delightful. I’m even going to tack a star onto this little review (though I’m not planning on making this a habit), just ’cause I like this book so much and just for fun and just so the star might catch your eye . . . When you read this one, you learn that “once upon a time a clever princess decided to make a big bowl of lemonade,” but that, in fact, is the final spread in the book (well, right before the closing title page spread). Read the rest of this entry �

Ain’t misbehavin’ (well, maybe just a little
if bootleg whiskey is involved) . . .

h1 Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

In Harlem Summer, Walter Dean Myers’ new novel (Scholastic; March 2007; library copy), we are welcomed into the steamin’ hot New York City borough of Harlem in the summer of 1925. Sixteen-year-old Mark Purvis just wants to land a record contract and play his sax in a hot jazz band. But when his family’s land down South is sold for back taxes, it’s Mark who is expected to get a job and contribute to the family’s income. His “snooty” Aunt Carolyn (whose “lips stuck out like she was holding a strawberry in her mouth”) finds him a summer job on 14th Street at The Crisis magazine, who needed “a Bright Young Man to work in its advertising department” for four days (from the chapter entitled “How the Ruination of My Whole Summer Started and I Began to Be a New Negro When I Wasn’t Really Through Being the Old Negro I Used to Be” — and, yes, all the chapter titles are that wonderfully long-winded). The Crisis magazine was founded in 1910, published by the then-newly-formed NAACP, and edited by the civil rights leader, poet, scholar, educator, and sociologist Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, who — along with many other well-known figures of The Harlem Renaissance — appears in this novel.

Dr. W.E.B. DuBoisEthel WatersLangston HughesMiss Fauset, Mark’s immediate supervisor, explains to him that the folks at the magazine represent what is being called the New Negro: “Dr. DuBois has said that the Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional people.” Mark is baffled and simply bummed that he has to wear a jacket and tie to work. Eventually, Mark meets such luminaries as Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Alfred Knopf, A’Lelia Walker, Effie Lee Newsome, Ethel Waters, and DuBois himself. To Mark, “it didn’t seem that exciting . . . I lived in Harlem and I figured that was about as black as you could get without being in Africa.” Read the rest of this entry �

Hear Ye, Hear Ye . . .

h1 Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

{Anyone else with children listening to Dan Zane’s new CD suddenly want to break into song when you hear “hear ye”? Alkelda?! Track #6, the “Choo choo Ch’ Boogie,” opens with Rankin’ Don a.k.a. Father Goose belting that out . . . but I digress}.

Anyway, Eisha and I don’t normally do posts announcing things such as the new issue of The Edge of the Forest, ’cause, well . . . we figure everyone else is covering it and that — if you have any sense — you read Big A little a anyway and already know about it. But this is just to say that you all should go over and read Volume II, Issue 5 (since I started the sentence that way, I’ll have visions of sweet, cold plums in my head all day), ’cause Kelly and her writers work so hard on this publication and it’s so very good. There’s a lot of great stuff in this issue, as always, including Little Willow’s feature on The Bermudez Triangle and how it’s currently being challenged in Oklahoma, which she was telling us about on Sunday. Kelly also tells us all about Tracy Grand’s JacketFlap.

Every issue is worth reading, and the articles never disappoint, but this is just to say that it’s there and kudos to Kelly and her crew for such an informative online monthly.

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #25:
Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray (and the
upcoming Summer Blog Blast Tour extraordinaire)

h1 Monday, May 14th, 2007

We here at 7-Imp are taking a break this week from chatting with The Blue Rose Girls (we’ll get to know Libby Koponen a bit more two weeks from now). And, during the interim, we’re going to take some time to chat with the smart, opinionated, dauntless go-getter of Chasing Ray, Colleen Mondor.

If you don’t frequent Chasing Ray, why then, we hope we can change your mind and turn you into a regular reader. Colleen states at the site itself that Chasing Ray is “all about the literary world and my place within it.” Even that sounds modest, ’cause when you visit her blog, you’re always rewarded — with detailed, thoughtful reviews on specific titles or her always-passionate take on general topics in the realm of literature, such as this post on the importance of print book reviews in today’s increasingly-prevalent online world, this post on blog tours, this post on censorship, or this post in which she spoke out about the recent comments that have been swirling around cyber-space about unpaid book-reviewing via blogs. She’ll occasionally keep you up-to-date on the blogosphere’s goings-on, such as she did here; she’s really knowledgeable and enthusiastic about YA literature; and she’ll sometimes write very candidly about her own fiction-writing or write beautiful personal posts, such as this one about her father and her son.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #10

h1 Sunday, May 13th, 2007

It’s time for another installment of 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks . . . For those new to our series, this is where we all stop in every Sunday to report seven (more or less is fine) Good Things that happened to you (or that you read or saw or experienced or . . . well, you get the picture) this week. Absolutely anyone is welcome to contribute.

* * * * * * * eisha’s list * * * * * * *

1* Well, if you read last week’s 7 Kicks post you already know I was in TN meeting my nephew for the very first time. I got to spend almost a whole week in his company, not to mention my mom, my sister (who also flew in from the other coast to meet lil’ Miles), my sister-in-law, and a lot of extended family. My elusive brother even made a brief appearance. It was a great visit. And I am so in love with Miles I just cannot stand it. He is so utterly amazing. Every little thing he does just blows me away. I’m trying very hard not to include a photo here. Very, very hard.

Ella Grace2* But I will show you a picture of Ella Grace. She’s my cousin’s daughter, who was born the same week as Miles even though she wasn’t due until June. She finally got to come home from the hospital – she’s up to 5 lbs, and is doing amazingly well. I can’t even describe what a thing it is to see her. She’s so impossibly tiny, so fragile, but already such a survivor. I don’t use words like “miracle” a lot, but it’s the only word that seems to fit.

3* And, as Jules mentioned, I got to spend an afternoon with her and the girls, which is always a good time. Every time I see Miriam and Ada I am just amazed at how smart, funny, sassy, and beautiful they’re turning out to be. Just like their mom. Read the rest of this entry �

Picture Book Round-Up, Part Three:
Leaving the nest (in more ways than one)

h1 Saturday, May 12th, 2007

Grumpy Bird
by Jeremy Tankard
April 2007
(library copy)

God, this book is funny. Just. so. funny. And, apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so; it garnered quite a bit of advanced praise and then managed to get some good reviews (from The Horn Book and School Library Journal to name just a couple). I have David Elzey’s review at The Excelsior File to thank for first making me want to go out and find a copy. Here’s what so funny: Grumpy Bird just wakes up pissed off. I love it. There are some of us for whom the phrase “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” simply has no meaning. There can be “a” wrong side? Both sides are always glaringly wrong and we wake up feeling as if the center of gravity were directly under our bed and need about, oh, at least one hour and several cups of coffee to facilitate actually speaking to anyone without grumbling and cursing and swearing. Read the rest of this entry �