Archive for August, 2007

Under the Radar Review:
Such a Pretty Face ~ Short Stories about Beauty

h1 Friday, August 31st, 2007

Such a Pretty Face: Short Stories about Beauty

Such a Pretty Face:Short Stories about Beauty
edited by Ann Angel
Amulet Books, May 2007
(ARC copy – quotes may differ from final published version)

I really like short stories. But short story collections based around a theme, especially in books aimed at young adults, can be really hard to pull off. They can seem gimmicky and didactic, kind of “here’s what some out-of-touch executive type thinks teens want to read about.” I was wary of this particular title, Such a Pretty Face: Short Stories about Beauty, for just those reasons. I worried that it might be a series of tales about self-conscious “typical teens” overly preoccupied with their weight/skin/hair/shoe size/etc. I’m pleased to report that this was not the case. This collection really does work, thanks to the incredible assemblage of talented authors and the editorial stylings of Ann Angel*.

The stories all feature teenage protagonists and explore different facets of the concept of beauty. There’s a lot of variety in tone and style, ranging from poignant (“Red Rover, Red Rover” by Chris Lynch, about a hospitalized boy who’s in love with a nurse he’s never actually seen), empowering (“What I Look Like” by Jamie Pittel**, in which a girl experiments with her appearance as she establishes her own distinct identity), romantic (“Bella in Five Acts” by Tim Wynne-Jones, about an undersized boy and a beautiful, suicidal girl), and wacky (“Bad Hair Day” by Lauren Myracle, in which a homecoming queen is beset by a supernatural chin hair).

One of the more bittersweet offerings is “Bingo” by Anita Riggio, about a depressed boy whose bubbly best friend tries to save him from himself:

Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #42
(The Radar-Books Edition): Nancy Crocker
(with some picture book love thrown in as well) . . .

h1 Thursday, August 30th, 2007

author Nancy Crocker{Note: For the rest of today’s Radar-Books schedule, scroll down to the bottom of this post} . . .

It’s arguable whether or not Nancy Crocker’s first novel, Billie Standish Was Here (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), qualifies as a Radar-Book, as in a book which has been entirely too overlooked. In the grand scheme of things, it’s still a fairly young novel, having been released just this past June, not to mention it has received consistently good reviews: “Set in the late 1960s and early ‘70’s, this tender, touching account of intergenerational friendship provides rich historical context for two memorable female characters who redefine the meaning of family and love” (starred review in Kirkus Reviews), and “{t}his story is beautiful, painful, and complex, and the descriptions of people, events, and emotions are graphic and tangible” from School Library Journal. It was even chosen as a Summer 2007 Children’s Book Sense Pick.

But I’m still declaring it under the radar, because it didn’t get a whole heapin’ dose of blog buzz: The only other blog review I knew of was Kelly Herold’s from July, and I just found this one at a blog called Hypothetically Speaking.

Plus, to be perfectly honest, it is a great excuse for me to interview the author, Nancy Crocker, pictured above.

It’s the summer of 1968 in the small town of Cumberland, Missouri, and Billie — from whose perspective the entire novel is told — is eleven years old. Not only does she not register in her parents’ radar on any level whatsoever (other than providing her food and shelter, as if she’s simply a pet to feed), but the town, way past its heyday, suddenly seems even lonelier than normal after a long period of “bone-soaking rain.” School has ended for the summer. Daily, Billie finds herself alone in her room, as usual, her parents never there. When they are there, she is ashamed and afraid to speak up, doing so making her feel flat-out strange (after her mother makes one particularly hateful comment to Billie, she winces: “When she caught me off guard she could still make me wonder just when it was that she decided to stop taking care of me altogether”). After venturing out one day, she sees and hears no one, wondering why the town seems abandoned and feeling as if she might shrink. As she’s about to turn back for home, she sees and speaks to the neighbor across the street, Lydia Jenkins (“{s}he looked like every grandma in the world”) and learns that the town members are afraid the levee may break. Though everyone else seems to be off working to shore up levees against the river, Billie’s parents, Lydia tells her, are still working in the field every day, as always, Billie’s father having remembered that when the levee broke in ’51, there was enough time to sandbag before the water got to town. Eventually, Billie comes to learn that Miss Lydia is the only other person besides her family to stick around, and a friendship with her is born out of circumstance.

Here’s what else I wrote about Billie Standish in my review this past May of an advance proof of the novel: Read the rest of this entry �

Wednesday’s Radar-Book Schedule and
Another Reason to be Excited About
7-Imp’s Picture Book Week

h1 Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Here is Wednesday’s Radar-Books schedule. Don’t know what we’re talking about? Just getting caught up? Read here for an explanation.

And remember that next week will be Picture Book Week here at 7-Imp. Here is another great, new picture book in order to help get you geared up for 7-Imp’s Seven Impossible Posts About Picture Books next week.

This type of rumination might be a) irritating or b) the perfect way to rile up some readers, but I want to boldly say that, of the author/illustrators working today who most reflect the spirit of the Great and Almighty Sendak (whom I worship), Polly Dunbar is right up there at the top of that list. And I say “irritating,” since it could well be argued that we don’t need to be looking for Sendak imitators, but that’s not what I’m getting at — Dunbar also manages to have a style all her own. But not only do her line drawings have the loose, relaxed, uncluttered child-centered appeal of Sendak’s early work (think the Ruth Krauss titles he illustrated), but with this new title of hers, in particular (Penguin, released by Candlewick this past June; my source: review copy), she doesn’t tiptoe around the fears of children (Sendak’s greatest strength of all his many superpowers) with her child-chompin’ blue lion. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain a bit more about the book . . . Read the rest of this entry �

Tuesday’s Radar-Book Schedule and
One Reason to be Excited About
7-Imp’s Picture Book Week

h1 Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Here is Tuesday’s Radar-Books schedule. Don’t know what we’re talking about? Just getting caught up? Read here for an explanation.

And remember how we announced yesterday that next week will be Picture Book Week here at 7-Imp? Well, I (Jules here) figured that each day this week, leading up to next week, I could highlight one new and noteworthy-for-one-reason-or-another picture book in order to get you geared up for 7-Imp’s Seven Impossible Posts About Picture Books (next week). So, Reason #1 to Love Picture Books Right Now is . . .

Mary and the Mouse, The Mouse and Mary by Beverly Donofrio and illustrated by Barbara McClintock (Schwartz & Wade Books; September ’07; review copy). This book is irresistible in so many ways, the kind of picture book you want to pick right back up and re-read a few times — and any young child anywhere in your vicinity with whom you share this book will be pretty much riveted, too. Read the rest of this entry �

Monday’s Radar-Books Schedule
(and 7-Imp’s Picture Book Week)

h1 Monday, August 27th, 2007

Don’t forget that the multi-blog “Recommendations from Under the Radar” event — explained here at this post of ours from Saturday — starts today. Each day this week, we will be posting the Radar-Books schedule for you so that you can easily find others’ posts, and we’ll be contributing our own Radar posts this Thursday and Friday.

We know that’s not a radar image. It’s a hypno-spiral, urging you to be sure not to miss this week’s wonderful posts at over fifteen different blogs.

And, in the name of coming attractions and looking ahead, guess what next week is? 7-Imp has declared its own unofficial . . .

Picture Book Week (woo hoo!)

(Maybe later we’ll come up with an altogether more creative name for that) . . . We will be bringing you little picture book treats left, right, and center for an entire week — reviews and interviews, including cyber-visits from Mo Willems and Adam Rex, and more. So, if you love picture books, it’ll be the week for you. If you aren’t sure, get in line behind TadMack and let us convert you. Just say yes to picture books. Come on, all the cool kids are doin’ it.

{Sorry for the annoying marquee announcement there, but we couldn’t resist. Okay, uh, now this entire post — between that and the hypno-spiral — is giving us a headache} . . .

On to today’s Radar schedule then. Go, read, and enjoy!

Monday, August 26, 2007:

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #25: Featuring Michael Foreman

h1 Sunday, August 26th, 2007

{WHITE OWL, BARN OWL. Text Copyright © 2007 Nicola Davies. Illustrations Copyright © 2007 Michael Foreman. Reproduced by permission of Candlewick Press, Cambridge, MA, on behalf of Walker Books Ltd., London}

Jules: Many thanks to Michael Foreman and Candlewick for this illustration today. Just look at this lovely image from Nicola Davies’ and Michael Foreman’s White Owl, Barn Owl (released this past April and reviewed here this week by Jules). This is a beautiful book — well-written, well-designed, and including both a fiction narrative and non-fiction facts about the common barn owl, these things merged together with eloquence and ease. And Michael Foreman’s illustrations are almost breathtaking, especially the ones showing the owl in flight. Have you ever really stopped to consider how seven-kinds-of-prolific this man is? Go here and scroll down a bit. My oh my, I bet he’s capable of way more than seven impossible things before breakfast.

A huge heapin’ thanks to the honorable Mr. Foreman for letting us feature this gorgeous illustration today, the moment in which the young girl and her grandpa first spot the barn owl’s pale face in the nest box they have created for him.

On to our kicks then . . . By way of explanation for any new folks (who we hope will leave their lists), our weekly 7 Kicks list is 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.

* * * * * * * Jules’ list * * * * * * *

Oh lordamercy, what oh what did I do to deserve such a fabulous, kicks-worthy week? Here we go:

Read the rest of this entry �

Recommendations from Under the Radar

h1 Saturday, August 25th, 2007

image created by Little WillowHi there. Just a quick note to tell you about yet another multi-blog event about books organized by Colleen Mondor, this one entitled “Recommendations from Under the Radar.” As Colleen explains in her post about the event next week and its origin:

“Next week the same group that brought the Summer Blog Blast Tour and recent One Shot World Tour of Australia to life will be posting about books we all individually feel have been overlooked. Some of them might have been award winners in the distant past, and some are even out of print, but all of them are books that each of us have enjoyed and want to tell more people about. We’re calling the event ‘Recommendations From Under the Radar’ (or Radar Books for short) and we really hope you guys will check us out and, more importantly, track down some of these great books as well.”

Colleen has posted a master schedule as well — a schedule for the entire week — at Chasing Ray. You can go here to see it, and we will post the schedule for each day next week here at our blog. And what will 7-Imp’s contribution be? you may wonder.

This means that next week here at 7-Imp, we’ll be focusing on these Radar Recommendations. Each day we’ll type up the schedule of Radar Books for the day so that it will be a cinch for you to locate which blogs are talking about what books. And, of course, on Thursday and Friday we’ll also feature our Radar Books — as well as Jules’ interview with the very talented and delightful Ms. Crocker. The following week we’ll get back to our regular reviews and interviews and such (Jules, for one, has a huge stack of books yet to review).

And tomorrow, as usual, we’ll be here with our Kicks list, featuring the seven-kinds-of-awesome Michael Foreman.

* * * * * * *

{image created by Little Willow}

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #41
(and a lame Poetry Friday entry):
Minh at Bottom Shelf Books

h1 Friday, August 24th, 2007

Jules: We’re doing things up a little bit differently today here at 7-Imp. First of all, our apologies to Poetry Friday for the lack of a poem here this morning, but we’ll get back to it. We promise. Or, okay, to make it work, how about this:

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
We have a new blog
we’d like to share with you.

Ahem, rather pathetic. But, poof, I just made this a Poetry Friday entry, albeit a lame one.

We have an entry today in our blogger interview series, and what is a tad bit different is that this blogger, Minh over at Bottom Shelf Books, is fairly new to the kidlitosphere in the grand scheme of things. We still have a long list of bloggers we have yet to — and really want to — interview, and many of them have been blogging much longer. But, well, we just couldn’t help ourselves — not to mention, if you haven’t already noticed, we pretty much post about whatever inspires us at the moment. That’s just how we roll here in 7-Imp Land. So, Eisha and I had already discovered Minh’s blog and were immediately hooked, and then he emailed us a question and we corresponded a bit, and we found ourselves saying, “Hey, up for an interview?” (Additionally, we’ve only interviewed two — count them, two! — male bloggers thus far, and that would be Roger Sutton and David at the excelsior file, unless you include Hank Green in that list. Shame on us. Not to sound all token-y, but it’s time to shine a spotlight on some XY chromosomes again, even though it’s probably fair to say the kidlitosphere is female-laden).

Read the rest of this entry �

Picture Book Round-Up: “He respects Owl, because you can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right.” *

h1 Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Three new picture books. Three owls: One nestling into a home, one throwing a tantrum, the other rather grumpy-looking and just trying to get some sleep already. Let’s get right to it then . . .

White Owl, Barn Owl
by Nicola Davies
and illustrated by Michael Foreman
April 2007
(library copy)

It always makes me happy to see a new title illustrated by the mighty prolific Michael Foreman. And his illustrations in this one are simply enthralling (look at that cover). In this book by zoologist and author Nicola Davies, a young girl sets out with her grandpa on a frosty winter day to make an owl nest box. Carrying the box for the nest across “the tussocky field,” they place it high in an old oak tree. As they wait and wait to see their owl, the girl learns a bit about owls (what barn owl pellets are, the probability that the owl will come to the nest tonight, etc.) . . . And in what looks like hand-written text on many of the illustrations, we are treated to some more fun facts (“Barn owls have favorite perches that they come back to again and again” and “In winter, barn owls have to fly miles every night to hunt enough food, so it’s hard to find them then”). Finally, one spring night, they spot a pale face in the box (in a lovely illustration by Foreman, which he has agreed to share with our readers this Sunday, ’cause I love this book so much I just had to ask). Eventually, the girl gets a close-up look at the beautiful, pale owl:

I could see the tiny ruff of feathers around its face, like stiff lace. I could see the speckled browns on its back. I could see the shine of its big dark eyes. I could have reached out to touch its velvety softness.

And then “it raised its wings like an angel and took off” (another eye-popping illustration that you just have to see for yourself), as we learn from that small, handwritten-esque font that owls’ wing feathers are especially soft so that they can move through the air silently and fly up to their prey without being heard. Read the rest of this entry �

Picture Book Round-Up: The Wonders of Night
(“more alive and more richly colored than the day”)*

h1 Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

At Night
by Jonathan Bean
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books
for Young Readers

July 2007
(review copy)

Jonathan Bean is having one impressive year. And I’m basing that solely on this picture book and his illustrations for Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell (co-reviewed here) and Mokie & Bik by Wendy Orr (co-review to come). I still have yet to see what is, by all accounts, the luscious The Apple Pie That Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson (but will get my hands on it as soon as I can, my friends).

So, what do you do when you can’t sleep at night? For the young girl in Jonathan Bean’s latest picture book (which he both wrote and illustrated), who can’t seem to doze off in her snug bedroom as she listens to her mother and father and sister and brother and their “quiet breathing,” it’s easy: Get inspired by the breeze blowing through the window and follow it up through the door and up the stairs — with pillows, a sheet, and blanket in hand — to the roof, “where the small breeze joined the cool night air.” There she sits on the roof of her house in the city, gazing at the sky and pondering “the wide world all around her,” smiling. Finally, she can sleep. And, on the final page, we see her mother has joined her with her cup of coffee in hand.

Now, let me tell you about the wonder of this book: It is about the quiet, hushed, magical wonder of night itself. Read the rest of this entry �