Archive for July, 2007

The “G” Stands for Ginormously* Talented . . .

h1 Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

I love G. Brian Karas’ work as an illustrator, his relaxed lines and the warmth and humor that seeps from his work with his signature sketchy style. I always look forward to seeing his new titles. Here’s a short post about two of his illustrated titles from this year that I’ve been wanting to write about for what seems like forever now. (Karas also illustrated the just-released How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara — Random House, July 2007. Review to come) . . . And if you’re a fan of Karas as I am, well, we at 7-Imp might just have a treat for you a couple weeks from now.

Tippy-Tippy-Tippy, Hide!
by Candace Fleming
and illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Ginee Seo Books (Atheneum)
January 2007
(library copy)

Mr. McGreely and those three little bunnies are back (having debuted in Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! in 2002). McGreely is looking forward to a peaceful winter, but those bunnies are determined to get inside: “‘Ah,’ he sighed. ‘Time to snuggle in for winter.’ But . . . Tippy-tippy-tippy, pat. Knocka-knocka-knocka.” Yup, here they come. And, even though he slams the door in their wee bunny faces, nails the mail slot shut, plugs the chimney up, boards up all the windows, and bricks in both his doors (he’s mad, I tell ya), you can’t keep those bunnies out. Well, maybe just a little. And, well, you’ll just have to let the plot unfold for you when you read it, but I will say that Fleming brings things full-circle with a pleasing “Muncha, muncha, muncha!” to close out the book.

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Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #38:
Tanita Davis (a.k.a. TadMack) of Finding Wonderland

h1 Monday, July 30th, 2007

We are happy to bring to you an interview with Tanita Davis, a.k.a. TadMack, from Finding Wonderland, “the WritingYA Weblog.” TadMack and aquafortis (otherwise known as Sarah, whom we will interview next-ish) run the YA-lit treehouse over there, and it’s one of our favorite blogs. As the blog’s front page says, ” . . . welcome to our humble treehouse: a sanctuary and not-so-secret hideout for fans and writers of YA lit. News, advice, links, and fun stuff, straight from the keyboards of our always-intrepid, sometimes-torpid reporting staff. Come on in!” If you weren’t already a frequent reader of their blog — which stemmed from a West-Coast-based writing group who met online on a weekly basis to support each others’ writing and share their love of YA lit, now with posts from TadMack and aquafortis only — then you probably noticed their kickin’ interviews during the recent Summer Blog Blast Tour. They kicked things off with their impressive and exclusive interview with Gene Yang.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #21: Featuring Frank Dormer

h1 Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Happy Sunday, and welcome to our weekly 7 Kicks list, the meeting ground for listing Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week (whether book-related or not) that happened to you. (If you’re new, please know that everyone is welcome) . . .

Have you noticed that we’ve gotten into this fun, new tradition of featuring a different illustrator every Sunday? Check out this week’s!

Back at the end of June, Adrienne over at WATAT did up a wonderful post on beginning readers, actually in two parts: Beginning Readers that Don’t Make Me Want Me to Fall Into a Stupor, Parts One and Two. And, as I (Jules, that is) mentioned over at her site, that got me to thinking about the wonderful Aggie and Ben beginning reader (Charlesbridge, 2006), written by Lori Ries and illustrated by Frank Dormer. And good news: There will be a sequel to those three Aggie and Ben stories. So says our featured illustrator this week, Frank W. Dormer, who this week is sharing with us an illustration from — not the upcoming Aggie and Ben title (but we still had to explain how it is that we came to think of Frank Dormer this week!) — but an upcoming picture book title, Not So Tall for Six, written by Dianna Hutts Aston (An Egg is Quiet), coming in ’08 from Charlesbridge. Isn’t that illustration great? Here’s what Frank had to say about it: Read the rest of this entry �

Some Impossibly Great Poetry (And a Couple Pets) Before Breakfast

h1 Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Blog break, schmlog break. Here are two books I’ve been meaning to talk about for forever now, both illustrated by Steve Jenkins, who is some kind of talented and a favorite of mine and a favorite of my children. (I mean, does it get any better than Actual Size?) . . .

Animal Poems
by Valerie Worth
and illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
March 2007
(library copy)

I’ve been sittin’ on this wonderful anthology of poetry by the late Valerie Worth for the longest possible time now (thank you, Nashville Public Library, for your loooong circulation periods), enjoying it and trying to find some time to tell you about it.

Now, I know I’m all the dang time shoo’ing you over to David’s reviews at the excelsior file (obviously, I respect his reviews), so you may not be surprised that I’m going to quote him again. In his review of this title, he wrote, “It’s so nice to pick up a book of poetry for young readers that doesn’t condescend to the notion that young readers need poems that rhyme.” Hallelujah, I say. My thoughts exactly when I read these detailed, vivid poems about animals. There’s not a bad poem in here, each one pithy and precise, covering a wide range of animals from the camel to the cockroach and bringing each forth in a new light, sometimes even providing commentary on the way we, as humans, live. Here’s an excerpt from her poem about the cockroach, one that speaks near and dear to my fears (I truly am starting to believe I have a phobia): Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: Travelers Beware!

h1 Friday, July 27th, 2007

*** This week’s roundup is hosted by MsMac at Check It Out. So, um… check it out.***

I wouldn’t trust that little one, if I were you…(Sorry for the overly-large pic, but I couldn’t resist. It’s so spooky.)

So, hello there. Long time no blog. I was supposed to be covering for Jules’s blog vacation this week, but as you may have heard, I moved last week and things didn’t exactly go according to plan. Here’s a few highlights:

* The U-Haul truck we rented was too small, and we had to take it back. Of course, there weren’t any larger ones available on such short notice.

* The movers we hired to help us load said U-Haul graciously worked out a deal to move us in one of their trucks, complete with unloading at the end. Money we didn’t expect to spend, but at this point it seemed like the answer to a prayer. And it even gave us an extra day to finish packing, which we needed.

* Then… they got lost on the way to Ithaca, and because we’d forgotten to exchange cell phone numbers with the mover-guys the husband and I spent a couple of hours sitting in our empty new apartment wondering if, say, the truck blew up, or they’d driven off a mountain…

* Right after they did finally pull up (yay!), a thunderstorm started (crap!).

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Reminder: Chillin’ with The Griswolds

h1 Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

See that kicked-back, sleepy girl (who happens to be my three-year-old when she was but wee)? She is reminding you that this week is Jules’ blogvation (which, apparently, is a word in cyber-land, meaning — of course — blog vacation). What am I going to do? Will I be at the beach or something? Ah, the ocean. I wish. But I will be taking it easy. My right wrist needs the typing break, and I’m going to use the time to try to catch up on some reading and catch up on my picture book reviews. Eisha committed to posting this week, but she and her husband just pulled off a major move to another state, and moving is rough — not to mention getting settled and trying to get internet connection, etcetera etcetera. And they had some unforeseen obstacles in the move, too (as a Southerner, I’m required to say, “bless their hearts”). So, if she can’t post this week, well, the world will still spin on its axis without 7Imp for four days. We’ll return on Sunday — with our 7 Kicks lists and a new featured illustrator. See you then!

p.s. For your reading pleasure during our hiatus and in honor of taking breaks, go here to read TadMack’s posting yesterday at Finding Wonderland of Naomi Shihab Nye’s “The Art of Disappearing” (from the anthology, Different Ways to Pray, 1980) a poem I’ve always loved (here’s the end of it):

. . . When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #37: Saint and Spinner, Farida Dowler (a.k.a Alkelda)

h1 Monday, July 23rd, 2007

{Note: What excellent timing! Alkelda is hosting the current Carnival of Children’s Literature today over at her site. Go see!}

Okay, so Farida (otherwise known as Alkelda over at her wonderful blog, Saints and Spinners) may not appreciate being called a saint. That’s a lot of pressure. But Jules, in particular, has gotten to know her a lot more lately, and she’s a good, kind person. So there. Saint she will be in our world.

Farida is pictured here with her daughter, who goes by “Lucia” at her site. “Everyone in the House of Glee has a saint’s name or pseudonym, with the exception of Brad the Gorilla, my tenant,” Farida told us. “Brad will probably be outraged that he doesn’t get his own interview. Maybe I’ll interview him for Saints and Spinners just to appease his wrath. I don’t want a gorilla hurling rotten bananas at me from the top of our hutch, after all.”

We at 7-Imp think that Farida’s blog (Saints and Spinners, that is — for the record, she has another blog that serves as her “gig website”) is one of the most distinctive kidlit blogs out there. As a professional storyteller (who also has her M.S. in Library Science) who shares folktales that appeal to all ages (using finger-puppets and instruments to accompany traditional and original songs for toddlers and preschool children; “My favorite stories contain fools, tricksters, and unconventional heroes,” she writes at her site), Farida uses both her gig site and her Saints and Spinners blog to talk about storytelling, her storytelling techniques and props, stories (of course), saints (of course — Farida says, “{I feature} Stories of the Saints, especially when there are specific anecdotes about them”), children’s music (both traditional and contemporary), other musicians who create music for children, mix tapes for her readers; thoughts on parenting (here is Jules’ very, very favorite post of Farida’s on parenting), her gardening, and sometimes her own personal life and adventures with her daughter — without ever getting uncomfortably personal. She also contributes to Poetry Fridays. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #20: Featuring Karen Peris

h1 Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Welcome once again to our Sunday meeting ground for listing Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week (whether book-related or not) that happened to you. If you’re new, please know that everyone is welcome.

Jules: Normally, we feature a children’s book illustrator here at our lists every Sunday. But this week we are featuring an artist and singer/songwriter musician named Karen Peris. Those of you who read this post of mine from early July may remember who she is. If you missed that, let me briefly explain that Karen is one of three members of one most remarkably wonderful band, entitled The Innocence Mission. And, when Karen kindly allowed me to post the lyrics in their entirety to one of her songs (in the post I mention above), I took the opportunity to ask her if we could feature the beautiful art work from the cover of their children’s lullaby CD, Now the Day is Over, released in 2004. Fans of well-crafted children’s CDs may want to know that this is a most excellent collection of standard and traditional lullabies as well as a few song choices not typically considered lullabies that they play and that Karen sings as lullabies (such as, “Once Upon a Summertime,” “What a Wonderful World,” and “Moon River,” which I can promise you is the most gorgeous version of “Moon River” you’ll ever hear). I also must add that there is an original lullaby on this collection of songs (“My Love Goes With You”), written by Karen, that absolutely slays me with its transcendent beauty and includes such nuanced and peaceful and flat-out gorgeous piano-playing by Karen herself (really, it has this perfectly-placed piano note in it that almost makes me weep every time) . . . I could talk lullabies forever. They fascinate me (traditional, contemporary, world lullabies — you name it), and this is one of my favorite lullaby CDs ever ever ever (and I had always hoped they’d do a lullaby CD, when lo and behold! They released one the very year my first daughter was born).

I thought the cover art was very fitting for our blog’s purposes, and Karen sent that image as well as another image from the CD, both sprung from her mind and created by her hands. Aren’t they lovely? (And, as Eisha pointed out, the cover image — while still totally Karen’s creation — has a real Georg Hallensleben feel, does it not? Which is a good thing, in our book) . . .

Thanks so much to Karen. We are thrilled that she was willing to share her art work. Be sure to visit their site if you want some good, new music in your life. The information about the lullaby CD is here (you might want to hear it, whether or not you have children or even if yours are grown. It’s a lovely, peaceful way to end — and start — one’s day). A portion of the proceeds benefits children’s charities.

Next week we’ll get back to another children’s book illustrator, and we’re excited, but you’ll have to come back then, won’t you, to see who it is?

Now on to our lists . . . Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: America’s Favorite Children’s Poet,
Shel Silverstein . . . In the Buff

h1 Friday, July 20th, 2007

{Note: Today’s Poetry Friday round-up is over here at Mentor Texts & More}.

Yes, in the buff. Nudey camp! Nudey camp!

(Just trying to get your attention again).

But really, there is a bit of Uncle Shelby’s bare bum in this book.

Seriously now, I was drawn to the New Books shelf at my local library last week, only to see this new release, Playboy’s Silverstein Around the World (Simon & Schuster, May 2007), complete with a foreword by none other than Hugh Hefner (the reverent and well-crafted introduction having been written by Mitch Myers, who — according to this link — maintains the Shel Silverstein Archive in Chicago). Yes, this is for those of you who may like Silverstein’s children’s poetry — even if just a little — but would perhaps like to see another side of him, the adult-oriented side (he was a screenwriter, songwriter, playwright, and more — writing both plays and screenplays with none other than David Mamet), the as-far-away-as-possible-from-The-Creator-of-The-Giving-Tree side. And, since more of his children’s work — and very little of his work for adults — is in print, this is a fascinating look at Silverstein and his globe-trotting ways. Ultimately, Silverstein’s travel write-ups for Playboy were “overtly autobiographical, ” as Myers writes, so it’s quite the insightful look into Silverstein and a bit of his life for approximately five years.

Hefner explains in the foreword that he met Silverstein in 1956 after Silverstein had just returned to the U.S. from military duty in Japan. He brought his drawings to the Playboy office, at that time a fledgling magazine, hoping to get some work as a cartoonist. Despite being hired and having success at the magazine and much camaraderie with Hefner and the other cartoonists — LeRoy Neiman, to name one — Shel wanted to return to Japan (“I had been in Japan and I’d been a star,” Silverstein recalled. “Now I was nothing. I had already sold stuff to Playboy and felt very good about it–and even that wasn’t enough”). When Shel told Hefner about his plans to leave, Hefner’s offer was for him to draw while there; indeed, Hefner had the idea that Shel would be Playboy’s “traveling representative, sending back recollections in the forms of cartoons.” And he wanted Shel to include himself in the cartoons, something he was reluctant — but eventually agreed — to do.

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Confessions and Compulsions
(two YA reviews)

h1 Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Author and historian J.L. Powers has penned her first YA novel, The Confessional (Knopf; July 2007; review copy), and it’s a compelling read, told from the perspectives of multiple students at an El Paso high school. They are reeling from the recent destruction of a local bridge by a Mexican national, a suicide bomber protesting — to “the President and People of the United States” — the treatment of immigrant workers: “First, I am a Mexican, not a terrorist. Yet when I am caught crossing the river to go to work, your Border Patrol makes me bend over, looking for explosives up my butt. They used to look for drugs. Now it’s all about Al-Qaeda.” One student — MacKenzie Malone, from whose perspective the novel is told for the first three chapters — responds in a letter to the Editor by asking for a pause in the Cinco de Mayo celebrations this year in the name of “suitable mourning and remembrance,” angering a lot of the Mexican students with whom he attends school. On the same day that MacKenzie fights violently at the school’s basketball courts with another student, Bernie Martinez, he (MacKenzie, that is) is found dead in his neighborhood, having been stabbed repeatedly.

Thus begins the novel’s alternating points-of-view, as a closeted gay student, the “peacemaker,” the “infiltrator,” “Mr. Invisible,” and others (six voices in all) tell their story, examine their own prejudices (and others’ — “Do any of us realize the million stupid truths about the people we love?” wonders one student), and try to come to terms with MacKenzie’s death and who may have been responsible for it. The word “gritty” gets overused in describing novels like this — which examine in a no-holds-barred way the minds and attitudes and mores of so-called inner city male teens — but, well, it’s gritty as hell. As it should be, too. Powers doesn’t hold back on the drug use, violence, tough talk, sexism, and rampant homophobia. Read the rest of this entry �