Archive for August, 2007

Picture Book Round-Up: Meet the Heat, the Sassy Tooth Fairy, an Ungrateful Badger, and Walsh’s
Clever Mice (Once Again)

h1 Saturday, August 11th, 2007

Let’s just get right to it in my efforts to get through my stack of Noteworthy — For One Reason or Another — 2007 Picture Books . . .

Heat Wave
by Eileen Spinelli
and illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Harcourt Children’s Books
July 2007
(library copy)

I don’t know how it is where you live, but here in the South, it’s hotter than two rats (maybe three or four) . . . ahem, getting to know each other in a wool sock. Or worse. Just angry, angry heat. Over one hundred degrees here in middle Tennessee. Eileen Spinelli’s new picture book, Heat Wave, is particularly fitting right now, taking us back to a time “long before stores, businesses, or homes had air conditioners.” There’s a hot spell, to say the least, in Lumberville: the sun’s sizzling and hair is frizzling, and the townspeople of Lumberville try their best to endure the heat in a variety of creative ways: “Pastor Denkins shortened his sermon. The Green Door Restaurant served fruit plates with orange sherbert. Abigail Blue and her little brother, Ralphie, opened a lemonade stand — three cents a glass . . .” Spinelli takes us through each day of the week with the heat managing to climb each time until “Saturday was the hottest day yet.” Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: This hardly counts…

h1 Friday, August 10th, 2007

Toro!…but see, I’ve got this thing.

I’m completely, utterly addicted to McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies, the website offshoot of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. The stuff they publish is just freaking hilarious. And brilliant. You probably already know this. But in case you don’t, you should check this out. This too. Oh, and this one.

I checked in today to see what was new, and lo behold, it’s an excellent essay: “How To Be A Bullfighter” by Sarah Walker. And – it has a POEM in it. Yay! I get to share it with you for Poetry Friday!

I know, I’m stretching here. But isn’t Poetry Friday supposed to be about sharing works that you love? And discovering new voices?

Look, if you aren’t already reading McSweeney’s, I feel bad for you, and I want to help, okay?

Fine. So. Okay then.

Here’s an excerpt from “How To Be A Bullfighter,” including the prayer poem:

Now you have to say a prayer over the pile of sand that was once the bull in order to honor your brave adversary. It should be in acrostic-poem form, of course, and go something like this:

Understand that I
Like bulls but I
Love killing them more than I like them,
although I seriously did like you. Amen.

The bull’s ghost will understand this and respect your honesty and it will not haunt you. If you fail to say the acrostic prayer, the bull will most certainly terrorize you from the afterlife for the rest of your days.

Now please read the rest of the essay. And thank you for indulging me.

*Update: Kelly’s got the Poetry Friday Round-Up at Big A little a. And she approved this post as an actual Poetry Friday entry. All is good.*

Picture Book Round-Up:
Best Friends (Imaginary or Not)

h1 Thursday, August 9th, 2007

Fred Stays With Me!
by Nancy Coffelt
and illustrated by Tricia Tusa
Little, Brown Young Readers
June 2007
(library copy)

“Sometimes I live with my mom. Sometimes I live with my dad. My dog, Fred, stays with me.” A young girl — who, in the opening spread, is being pulled in one direction by her mother and then the other by her father on two different days, though we only get brief parental glimpses of an arm here or a leg there — pulls her beloved dog along behind her on his leash. In fact, he’s her constant companion (“We walk together. We talk together. When I’m happy, Fred is, too. And when I’m sad, Fred is there”), even though she divides her time between parents. She shows us a bit of this life: that she has the same friends at the same school, but in one house she has a bunk bed, and in the other, she has a regular bed (“Fred sleeps on the floor”); at her mom’s, Fred barks at the poodle who lives next door, and at her dad’s, he steals her dad’s socks (“But Fred always has time to play”); and so on. Read the rest of this entry �

Co-Review: Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat
by Lynne Jonell

h1 Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat
by Lynne Jonell
Art by Jonathan Bean
Henry Holt
August 2007
(Review copies*)

Warning: A few minor plot spoilers included below . . .

Jules: I’ll try to briefly summarize the book here and then let Eisha begin with some thoughts on this intermediate-aged novel, the first novel written by picture book author Lynne Jonell.

“Emmy was a good girl. At least she tried very hard to be good,” opens the novel. She’s so good that she never talks back to her rather frightful nanny, Miss Barmy. And Emmy (age ten — but “almost eleven: hardly a little girl anymore”) is a bit disturbed that her parents — normally loving and affectionate — have changed so much, hopping from one vacation spot to the next, too busy to give her the time of day. “If you did better in school, I’m sure they would be pleased,” Miss Barmy tells her. Emmy just can’t win. And, since she really was a little too good, she likes to sit by the bitingly sarcastic, snarky Rat in her classroom. He talks to Emily. Yes, it all begins when she hears him snort one day and she wondered aloud, “Why are you always so mean?” She didn’t expect the Rat to answer, but he did.

Thus begins the novel. With the Rat by her side, Emmy embarks on an adventure to figure out why her parents have stopped talking to her, why the other children in school act as if she doesn’t exist, and why Miss Barmy forces her to drink and eat the strangest things.

Mommy Go Away!I Need a Snakeeisha: Well, I have long been a fan of Lynne Jonell’s picture books (especially Mommy Go Away! and I Need a Snake), so I expected Emmy to be quirky. But – dude. This was quirky, and dark, and original, and funny, and unpredictable, and just plain weird… I couldn’t really compare it to anything else, except maybe Roald Dahl.

Actually, yeah, that is a fitting comparison. It has Dahl’s edgy darkness in the twisted schemes of Miss Barmy. It has Dahl’s thinly veiled social commentary, in the neglectful behavior of Emmy’s parents and the other adults in their social circle toward their children. It’s got a wacky sense of humor – sometimes delving into a bit of gross potty humor, too. And it’s got a strong dose of the pseudo-scientific supernatural. Read the rest of this entry �

Picture Book Round-Up: Sweet, sweet freedom
(and lots of construction paper and glue)

h1 Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Let it Shine:
Three Favorite Spirituals

by Ashley Bryan
January 2007
(library copy)

I have two things to say right off the bat about this exuberant and breathtaking picture book: 1). I want you to just try to read it without humming along, and 2). ART TEACHERS, TAKE NOTE. Ashley Bryan has created spreads in this book that are truly brilliant in all their color and wonder — and all with construction paper and scissors (the latter depicted on the book’s end pages). I swear, I could pore over the illustrations in this book for hours (and, elementary art teachers, how empowering is it for children to see art work like this? No fancy-schmancy oil paints or expensive art equipment needed, thanks very much. Just paper and a pair of scissors. Not that it’d be easy, mind you, to create art quite like Ashley Bryan does, but it’s still empowering to introduce to children such an accessible medium).

Read the rest of this entry �

Wicked Cool Overlooked Books #3:
A co-review of Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of
Madness and Motherhood
by Adrienne Martini

h1 Monday, August 6th, 2007

It’s the first Monday of the month, and that means we get to highlight what we think is a Wicked Cool Overlooked Book. Colleen at Chasing Ray will probably have a round-up of other WCOB titles today, so — if interested — head over there.

How about we open this co-review (and, yes, brace yourselves: it’s actually a nonfiction title we have read here, people) with another review? ‘Cause, you see, we like this review and think it pretty much hits on the book’s good points. The book of which we speak is Adrienne Martini’s Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood (Simon & Schuster: Free Press; 2006; library copies), and in the interest of full disclosure, Adrienne is a friend of Eisha’s. And Jules also met her once through Eisha (and has corresponded with her just a wee bit since then). But, if you’ve ever read our review copy policy, you’ll know that we only review books we want to review and that we don’t just do favors for friends. Okay, so we got that out of the way. Onward and upwards then . . .

So, back to what I was saying: Since we usually like to begin co-reviews with a brief summary of the book, here is Publishers Weekly’s review of Adrienne’s book, which we feel succinctly summarizes what you’re getting when you read it (and, as we already mentioned, pretty much nails all the things we liked about the book):

Martini, a journalist and college professor, summons her blackest comedic chops to rehash her free-fall into postpartum depression—and the newfound understanding of her own upbringing that buoys her back up. Still mired in the oppressive Appalachia that chafed at her in childhood, she checks herself into the Knoxville psychiatric hospital shortly after giving birth, acquiescing to the “hillbilly Gothic patchwork” of suicides and manic-depression that scourge her family history. As her newborn daughter battles jaundice, her mother hovers intrusively as she awaits the mystical ability to breast-feed; Martini ponders her maternal fitness with a panicked despair nimbly rendered with dry humor and candid self-appraisal. Her misery, so jarringly at odds with the “bundle of joy” in her arms, throws open a window on her own mother’s severe depression, helping Martini to make peace with her family and its legacies. Unflinching honesty, mordant wit and verbal flair (she comes apart “like a wet tissue” after giving birth) save this memoir from soggy self-pity. In its humor and empathy, it’s a nonjudgmental resource for the thousands of mothers battling the “baby blues.”

Jules: I’m going to give Eisha the honor of launching into our commentary on this memoir, since she was the one who told me about it and since she finished it before I did. I will quickly say, though, that — although I think this Publishers Weekly review nails the book — there is a distinct difference between your average, run-of-the-mill “baby blues” and what Adrienne experienced. The reticence surrounding postpartum depression is what makes people make uninformed comments like the last one in this review. Okay. There. I said that. Don’t want to diminish Adrienne’s soul-wrenching experience by letting that sentence in the review go unnoticed before we’ve even said what we thought about the book here . . . Okay, hit it, E-dawg. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #22: Featuring Taeeun Yoo

h1 Sunday, August 5th, 2007

Many thanks to our featured illustrator for this week, Taeeun Yoo. She is sharing with us two illustrations from her picture book title from this year, The Little Red Fish. This book is beautiful and so well-designed, and if you haven’t read it and are interested, Jules’ review of it from this past May is here. In the illustration above, JeJe — who is visiting his grandfather’s strange, rather mysterious little library in the forest — has finally found his pet fish (after falling asleep in the darkness of the library). This illustration depicts what happens when he picks up an old, dusty book next to which he thought he saw his pet’s tail flicker.

Read the rest of this entry �

Tagged again

h1 Friday, August 3rd, 2007

We’ve been tagged! It’s Nancy’s (aka Journey Woman’s) birthday; she’s 39 and asked us to consider thirty-nine reasons to be happy today. Consider it an early
7-(plus some)-Kicks list, but fear not! We’ll still be here on Sunday with our featured illustrator of the week and will be looking forward, as always, to reading your kicks this week.

We’ll divide our 39 reasons amongst the two of us. Here goes:

Jules’ Reasons:

1). It’s Nancy’s birthday!

2). The Alice image that illustrator Frank Dormer did just for us, which we’ll add to our site soon.

3). Corresponding with author/illustrator G. Brian Karas all week and lining up an interview and 7-Kicks-featured illustration with him.

4). Ditto for Mo Willems! (And Eisha and I anxiously awaiting the arrival of Knuffle Bunny, Too at our respective doorsteps).

5). Having a huge stack of Karas books to pore over in preparation for the interview.

Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: How You Get From Butterflies to
Lucy Van Pelt to the Tao Te Ching

h1 Friday, August 3rd, 2007

This photo today is compliments of my mother, Beverly Walker, who takes some really gorgeous nature shots, and it’s just one of many beautiful photographs she’s snapped. And I thank her for letting me borrow it for our blog today.

When I look at her photography — whether it’s of a sunset or, in this case, an insect getting all the nourishment it needs from the nectar of a flower — it feels like someone is reminding me to slow down, to want less, that we with our busy lives are foolish to be burdened with worry, though I suppose it’s our nature as humans. You know, the lilies of the field and all that stuff (that’s a lame attempt to quote Lucy in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when she says, “you know, deck them halls and all that stuff” . . . but, well, that wasn’t very effective, since I had to explain it).

Anyway, that brings me to my Poetry Friday entry for today. I had to go look this poem up; I had written it down around this time about two years ago, and I’m glad I did. It communicates what I’m trying to say, the thoughts that go through my mind when someone as talented as my mom captures a moment like you see above:

Stop being holy, forget being prudent,
It’ll be a hundred times better for everyone.
Stop being altruistic, forget being righteous,
people will remember what family feeling is.
Stop planning, forget making a profit,
there won’t be any thieves and robbers.

But even these three rules
Needn’t be followed; what works reliably
is to know the raw silk,
hold the uncut wood.
Need little,
want less.
Forget the rules.
Be untroubled.

— Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, “Raw Silk and Uncut Wood,” translated by Ursula K. LeGuin

cloudscome over at a wrung sponge has more butterflies fluttering by for you. Go see.

Tim Lott’s Fearless

h1 Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

{Note: I’m having fun with covers here and showing you all three that I have seen for the novel. The first one is the cover for the upcoming Candlewick release — unless they change covers at publication. And the next two are from Walker Books in the UK — I believe it was published in June of this year in the UK — the last one being the paperback cover. But don’t quote me on that} . . .

I tried really hard to like British author/journalist Tim Lott’s first book for young readers, a dystopian novel called Fearless (to be released this Fall by Candlewick), even hanging on ’til the very end. Lott was given the Whitbread First Novel Award for his adult novel White City Blue in 1999; his novel Rumours of a Hurricane was short-listed for the Whitbread Novel Award; and he “has carved out a niche for himself as one {of} British literature’s foremost social realists” (says the British Council Arts group). Fearless is about a young girl who, we learn in the novel’s chilling prologue (“The Night They Came”), is snatched one night by a man in uniform from a woman she believes to be her mother — but not until after she gives the young girl three objects: a picture of the girl’s grandmother and grandfather; an old silver watch that she said once belonged to the girl’s father; and a golden locket that encases a photograph of her mother on the day of her wedding. She is whisked away into the darkness with only these three things in her possession.

Read the rest of this entry �