Archive for September, 2007

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #30: Featuring Boris Kulikov

h1 Sunday, September 30th, 2007

Jules: Eisha and I are excited to be featuring Boris Kulikov this week. We are huge fans of his illustrations, and he has sent us one this week from his upcoming illustrated title, The Castle On Hester Street by Linda Heller (originally published in 1982, but re-illustrated by Kulikov and to be published by Simon & Schuster in late October 2007). We have yet to see the book but were really thrilled that Mr. Kulikov decided to share with us an illustration which cannot be seen on his site yet. Here’s a description of the book from its home on Simon & Schuster’s site:

“A flying goat, buttons the size of sleds, and a castle on Hester Street are some of the widely imaginative stories Julie’s grandpa tells her about his journey from Russia to New York many years ago. But Grandma’s no-nonsense memories are far different from Grandpa’s tall tales.

This classic story, which reveals the immigrant experience with wit and warmth, won the Sydney Taylor Book Award when it was originally published with Linda Heller’s own illustrations. Now, on its twenty-fifth anniversary, The Castle on Hester Street is given new life with Boris Kulikov’s vibrant paintings.”

We can’t wait to see the book, and here’s one more illustration from it off Kulikov’s web site, which he has given up permission to share . . . Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: Biting off more than I can chew
with a little Wallace Stevens

h1 Friday, September 28th, 2007

apple.jpgI love Wallace Stevens, but in a complicated way. I love his imagery, and his intellect, and the way he leaps from thought to thought so effortlessly, like a stone skipping across water.

But I’m not going to pretend that I always understand him.

Reading a Wallace Stevens poem is work, and sometimes it’s frustrating work. But when I’ve read one of his verses for the, oh, seventh or eighth time, and the little threads linking one concept to the next start to show through, weaving the images together into a meaning I can maybe sort of grasp – it is so worth it.

Here’s a stanza from “Le Monocle de Mon Oncle” that I like both on its own, and as part of the entire poem:

This luscious and impeccable fruit of life
Falls, it appears, of its own weight to earth.
When you were Eve, its acrid juice was sweet,
Untasted, in its heavenly, orchard air.
An apple serves as well as any skull
To be the book in which to read a round,
And is as excellent, in that it is composed
Of what, like skulls, comes rotting back to ground.
But it excels in this, that as the fruit
Of love, it is a book too mad to read
Before one merely reads to pass the time.

I do love that last line. For even more of Wallace Stevens’s delicious imagery, read the rest of the poem here.

I think it’s about love, sex, and mortality. I could be wrong, though. It’s complicated. What do you think?

*note – Gina at AmoXcalli is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up. Go see her pretty pretty blog.*

A (Very Belated) Review of Christopher Grey’s Leonardo’s Shadow

h1 Thursday, September 27th, 2007

Leonardo’s Shadow:
Or, My Astonishing Life as
Leonardo da Vinci’s Servant

by Christopher Grey
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
September 2006
(review copies)

For the most part, we tend to cover only new titles here at 7-Imp (which mostly bums me out, but hey, we gotta have a focus; it’s hard enough to keep up), but I’m a bit slow in getting to one, published at the end of last year, that I want to make sure we tell you about, despite the fact that I’m, uh, approximately one year behind on the review. To boot, you can consider it an attempt on my part to try to compensate for the fact that we probably don’t cover enough historical fiction here at 7-Imp.

Here’s a book summary, taken straight from Grey’s site, so as not to goof and reveal too many plot spoilers:

“Milan, 1497. The height of the Renaissance. And for young Giacomo, servant to the famous Leonardo da Vinci, it’s the most difficult time of all. His master has been working on the Last Supper, his greatest painting ever, for the past two years. But has he finished it? He’s barely started! And the all-powerful Duke of Milan is after the artist to have it done by the time of the Pope’s visit next Easter. If Leonardo won’t hurry up, however, there’s a rumor that a young genius — Michelangelo — may be invited to finish it instead. Which means that Leonardo won’t be paid, and his debts are now so large that Milan’s shopkeepers are planning drastic measures against him.

It’s all down to Giacomo, and whether he can come up with a brilliant solution. But will his Master go for it? After all, Leonardo still doesn’t seem to trust him. He refuses to teach Giacomo how to paint, and he does not offer to help him find his true parents, or to explain the significance of the medallion, ring, and cross that he was carrying when Leonardo saved his life. But with the secret arrival of a powerful stranger, Giacomo is about to discover much more than the answers he has been looking for. And he will also receive an invitation to help arrange a meeting that could change his life — and the future course of history.”

Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry in the Air

h1 Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

I had wanted to post a book review today but didn’t quite get to it. Maybe later. And I know we at 7-Imp never committed to posting something daily, but I still want to show you something again anyway. Those people who saw it in our Sunday post, including Eisha, lurved it. So, here’s an encore (plus, maybe some readers missed it then).

It’s just too stinkin’ cool.

Here’s exactly what I wrote on Sunday. Enjoy . . .

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Wanna see some poetry in the air? I’m a bit partial to ASL myself, but, man, this just rocks. It’s a Quidditch match as conveyed in American Sign Language. Really, you don’t have to know ASL to understand it {rather, you can still appreciate it, even if you’re not fluent in ASL}, as his poem is mostly comprised of what are called classifiers, or ways of showing shapes and movement in ASL (or, if you’re a nerd: classifiers move through the signing space to iconically represent the actions of their referents). And this is hard to explain, but each sign begins with a letter of the alphabet, and he goes from A to Z (it’s a particular kind of ASL poem, and it’s especially clever how his last one is “Z” for Harry’s scar). This poem is short. And awesome. And, hey, you don’t have to turn up the volume. At first, the man is signing “An ASL Poem: Harry Potter and Quidditch.” That’s all you need to know. Then, just watch him go. (Thanks to my fellow interpreter friend, Judith, for the link!) . . .

Co-Review: Mokie & Bik by Wendy Orr

h1 Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Mokie & Bik
by Wendy Orr
with illustrations by Jonathan Bean
Henry Holt & Co. Books for Young Readers
June 2007
(review copies)

Jules: “Mokie and Bik lived on a boat called Bullfrog. They lived in it, on it, all around it—monkeying up ladders and down ropes, over the wheelhouse and across the cabin floor.” This is our introduction to Mokie and Bik, the two young children of this most unusual chapter book, who climb and crawl and generally scamper their way around this houseboat, while their father is off working his day job as a “parrot” (who will come home with a “pirate on his shoulder”) on his “ship-at-sea with clouds of sails on five tall masts and brrr-ooping broop for fog, and he salty sailed around the world.” The children live with their mother, an artist, who I thought was so savagely cool and who is depicted in my favorite illustration of the book with “her easel and her Art” and “roaring brrr-oaring down the road” on a “botormike,” telling the children, “{a}sk me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.” And their nanny, Ruby, lives with them; she can usually be found telling the children to “get out from underfoot!” The illustrations have been done by Jonathan Bean, an illustrator for whom I have already declared my great love this year (here and here and here and here and here. Whew).

Eisha, what did you think? The language in this title, I should add for those who haven’t read it yet, is quite distinctive. But I really fell in love with it:

Every morning, as the sun came up, when Mokie and Bik were still in their bunks in the bow, they heard Erik the Viking’s seagull boat chug-chug-chugging out to sea while the seagulls squawk wawk rawked and Erik shouted “No fisk yet for pesky gulls!”

Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #47: Author/Blogger Liz Garton Scanlon (In Ink & At 7-Imp)

h1 Monday, September 24th, 2007

We’re happy to have a cyber-visit today from author and blogger Elizabeth Garton Scanlon, who pens with her cyber-ink the most thoughtful and insightful posts over at her LiveJournal, Liz In Ink (“Technology makes me nervous so I thought if I used ‘ink’ in the title I could fool myself into thinking this was plain ol’ fashioned journal writing. Nothin’ to it. Ha,” she told us about the blog’s title).

It is really difficult to pick out the best posts over at Liz In Ink, because we fear we’ll leave too many out. Liz’s posts are consistently good, and when you take the time to visit, it feels like you have just stopped to have a brief visit with a friend over tea or coffee (or perhaps one impossible breakfast), slowing down to take a breath, notice the things around you, and ponder the world and its beauties. Does that sound like a bit much? Well, if so, so be it. But it’s true. Her posts will do that to you. And, speaking of noticing the things around you, this is probably one of her best posts ever, which nicely sums up the type of reflection she delivers (and which also touches upon a school visit, something she really enjoys and tends to blog about and which you can read about here at her site).

When we asked her about her blog’s features, she said, “I’m a Johnny-come-lately and haven’t ushered in a thing, except for boatloads of admiration for all the smart folk out here writing, reviewing and generally being creative inspirations. I don’t have any regular features, but I have an occasional post on Books I Wish I’d Written {Ed. Note: here’s a recent example, as well as this one}. And I try to participate in Poetry Fridays most every Friday. I really love poetry. But really, I think most of my posts are just slices of life.” But that’s just what we love about her writing over at Liz In Ink: It might seem on the surface as if she’s writing about climbing mountains, but it’s also a larger musing on one’s passions; she can write about how what she learns in yoga can resonate with her work as a teacher of writing — and make it interesting, whether you do either one of those things yourself; she writes about parenting with candor and humor and perception; and, lucky for us all, she knows that poetry is better off when we don’t always just assign it to Fridays only. And it’s at Liz’s dinner table where some imaginative conversation can lead to a post about literary utensils. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #29: Featuring Jarrett J. Krosoczka

h1 Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

Jules: ARE YOU READY TO ROCK, Y’ALL?!!! Okay, that was nerdy, but we’ve already established I’m a punk-hole. Moving right along then . . .

We’re ready to rock here at 7-Imp, because author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka has stopped by for our kicks this week, and he brought along some illustrations from his new book. You may have seen our co-review from this week of the Punk Farm sequel, Punk Farm on Tour (to be released in October by Knopf Books for Young Readers). In that co-review we also announced Jarrett’s creation of the new Punk Farm Space site, which you must go see if you’re also a Punk Farm fan.

Eisha and I have made it clear many times before here at 7-Imp (such as here, here, here, here, here, and here — whew) that we’re fans of Punk Farm and Krosoczka’s other books as well, so needless to say, we’re excited and it’s been rather like Punk Farm Week here at our site.

The illustration at the top is Punk Farm backstage at their recent concert in Maine (Sheep has just figured out what song to perform first for the eager crowd, having been inspired by their tour van), and the illustration below it is right after the show. The gang’s ready to roll and head out to their next gig in Florida, but Pig asks them to hold up just a bit. (Fame is getting to Pig just a bit in this new title). There are two more illustrations from the book at our co-review. Here’s what Jarrett had to say about the illustrations and the new book: Read the rest of this entry �

Talkin’ Trash

h1 Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

The Qwikpick Adventure Society
by Sam Riddleburger
Penguin Group
May 2007
(review copies)

Jules: Lyle Hertzog and his friends, Dave and Marilla, form the Qwikpick Adventure Society, which is named after the convenience store where Lyle’s parents work and where they all like to hang out in the small town in which they live. With no plans on Christmas day, they decide — after reading about it in the newspaper — to visit the antiquated sludge fountain at the nearby sewage plant, originally built decades ago and soon to be replaced in a sewer upgrade. Essentially, this is their last chance to see the “fountain of poop,” and they wouldn’t miss it for anything. This book is their report of the adventure, which Riddleburger presents in a rather multi-media format — with occasional hand-lettered font, as if on lined school paper; line drawings; the aforementioned newspaper article; photographs; and more. Plus, a haiku about the poop fountain. No kidding.

Eisha and I both read Qwikpick. Here’s our mini co-review on this one . . .

eisha: I thought this was a great little MG novel. I liked the format, with Lyle’s confessional hand-written inserts, occasional photos and ephemera tucked into the official typed “report.”

What stood out for me, though, was the strength of the characters. Everyone in the story was believable, and really interesting – even the minor players, like Larry the gas station manager who used to live in the break room, and Freddie the sewage plant manager. The great little details about them, like the record player and lava lamp that Larry left behind, and the Molly Hatchet tape that Freddie rescued from the sewage, flesh them out into quirky adults that I felt like I really knew.

Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: Poetry across the board —
Kuskin, Grandits, & Steven Herrick

h1 Friday, September 21st, 2007

I know I’m going to look insufferably and nerdily overachieving here, but I’m using my turn for this Poetry Friday to highlight three poetry books across the board, so to speak — picture book, middle-grade, and YA (actually, the Grandits book is more squarely aimed at teens, but it’d work just dandy for a middle-school reader as well). That’s because I can’t choose which to highlight today, not to mention I’ve been feeling rather behind on reviews lately. Here goes:

Green as a Bean
by Karla Kuskin
Illustrated by Melissas Iwai
Laura Geringer Books
January 2007
(library copy)

How has it taken me over three-quarters of the year to find this title? It’s wonderful. Portions of it were previously published in 1960, but here it is now with warm, ebullient illustrations from Melissa Iwai. In this rhyming text, Kuskin — winner of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry, among many other honors — offers the child reader a series of imaginative hypothetical questions: “If you could be green/ would you be a lawn/ or a lean green bean/ and the stalk it’s on?/ Would you be a leaf/ on a leafy tree?/ Tell me, lean green one,/ what would you be?” . . . The other hypothetical questions proposed to the reader involve being square, soft, loud, small, red, fierce, blue, and bright (“Tell me, quite bright one,/ what would you be?”) with a slightly surreal mind-bender proposed at the end. It’s a book to delight and engage in, to share with a group of children at story time, and ponder the world around and the qualities of it. And, as the Booklist review pointed out, Kuskin uses the sound of her words and their meaning to great effect (“If you could be small/ would you be a mouse/ or a mouse’s child/ or a mouse’s house/ or a mouse’s house’s/ front door key?”). Iwai’s imaginative acrylic paintings are soft, fanciful when they need to be and playful-with-perspective in just the right spots. A lively pre-school book, to share either one-on-one or in an interactive story time hour.

Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems
by John Grandits
Clarion Books
May 2007
(library copy)

This is a follow-up title to Grandits’ 2004 anthology of original concrete poems, entitled Technically, It’s Not My Fault, also published by Clarion Books (which I’ve not read but Eisha enjoyed), this title following Jessie, a high schooler with fervent opinions about her pesky younger brother, Robert (who narrated the first anthology); designing her own clothes; volleyball; her cat; “stupid pep rallies” (“I’m not feeling peppy, and the pep rally isn’t helping”); and much more. Book and magazine designer Grandits scores with these visually-enticing poems whose very shapes echo their subject matter, the words and type and design coming together to make a poem and a picture — an hourglass for “Allergic to Time,” a graph which charts out Jessie’s day in “My Absolutely Bad Cranky Day,” and the spray of a shower in “All My Important Thinking Gets Done in the Shower.” Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Tri-Reviews Before Breakfast #2: Featuring Jen Robinson and Memoirs of a
Teenage Amnesiac

h1 Thursday, September 20th, 2007

US cover of the title

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
by Gabrielle Zevin
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
September 2007
(advance reading copies)
Note: The U.S. cover is pictured here;
the U.K. one, below

We’re here to discuss Gabrielle Zevin’s second YA novel, her first one being 2005’s Elsewhere (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a 2006 ALA Notable Book and a Quill Book Award nominee, in which the afterlife is portrayed as a place where its inhabitants age in reverse until they reach infancy and are then sent back to Earth and reborn. She has also written one book for adults, Margarettown, and several screenplays.

In this novel, we meet seventeen-year-old Naomi, who takes a tumble down her high school steps one day after losing a coin toss with her best friend and co-editor of the yearbook, Will, over who should go back into the building to get the yearbook’s camera. She wakes to find that the past four years of her memory have been wiped clean and that she’s being assisted in the ambulance by a rather handsome fellow student about whom she knows nothing. Thus begins her journey of self-discovery as she tries to put back the puzzle pieces of her life, trying to remember Ace, her boyfriend; the complicated relationship she had with Will; why her parents are divorced; and why it takes her father a good while to tell her he’s now engaged. There’s also the issue of her mother’s new family, including a half-sister Naomi doesn’t remember at all.

We’re happy to host Jen Robinson for this, our second tri-review, the first one being fairly recently with Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production and linked here, if you missed it. It was a pleasure to chat with Jen about this book. She’s a very astute reader, that one. Not to mention she graciously put up with our busy schedules while this was composed (we started this review one month ago!).

Watch Out: Some spoilers in the review below . . .

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Jules: Jen, we’re excited to have you tri-reviewing with us! What did you think of the novel? I, for one, really enjoyed it, though I admit it took some convincing for me to swallow the premise. I was scared of the whole amnesia set-up – in a this-is-a-bad-soap-opera-narrative kind of way. But kudos to Zevin for making it work. It quickly became entirely believable for me, and I was really wrapped up in what I thought were such honest and perceptive characterizations. And, of course, Zevin is using memory loss as a way to explore issues of – the very nature of – identity; I guess making it a temporary and partial amnesia worked better for me. A full-fledged one might have been harder to swallow. And, though I’m getting ahead of myself here, I found the ending to be pitch-perfect and perfectly charming. Yes, I used the over-rated “charming” in a review, but it really fits here.

Did you like it? And how did it compare to Elsewhere for you? I have yet to read that one, though the premise sounds fabulous to me. Read the rest of this entry �