Archive for September, 2007

Seven Impossible Interviews #46: HipWriterMama

h1 Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Vivian's self-portrait. Her mirror-photo-taking-skills are impressive, no?We have a rare and wondrous event here on 7-Imp: an interview with a blogger that one of us has actually met in person! Eisha got to talk to Vivian Lee Mahoney, a.k.a. HipWriterMama, very briefly at Grace Lin’s birthday party back in May. It was a fleeting encounter, but she was every bit as gracious and funny and, well, hip as you’d expect her to be from her fabulous blog.

If you read HipWriterMama, you already know that it’s jam-packed with thoughtful commentary on writing, reading, and raising her three girls. But if you haven’t put it on your regular roster of blogs, then we’ll let Vivian tell you about HipWriterMama’s excellent original features:

Inspiration Monday
“I started this feature because of a rejection letter. I finally realized I should be grateful for this letter—while it was a rejection, it was a personalized letter from and editor. After some thought, I decided to write posts to inspire myself and anyone else who happened to stumble across my blog to keep on moving toward those goals.”

Cool Books for Boys
“I started Cool Books for Boys for research purposes. Selfish, isn’t it? I wanted to get a better idea of what would be considered a “successful” boy protagonist and what boys like to read. And I figured other people who be interested in this too.”

Great Books for Girls
“Since I have all girls, I wanted to find strong girl role models in children’s literature for those times when they really aren’t going to want to tell me everything. (See this post.)”

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Co-Review: Punk Farm on Tour and Punk Farm’s
New PunkFarmSpace Site, a 7-Imp Exclusive . . .
(we’ve always wanted to say that)

h1 Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Punk Farm on Tour
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf Books for Young Readers
October 2007
(advance proofs)

*** Note: Scroll down below this co-review for a
kickin’ announcement
(via author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka) which will make you Punk Farm fans really squealy-happy . . .

Jules: They’re back! Cow, Sheep, Pig, Goat, and Chicken, that is. When we met the gang in 2005 in Punk Farm (Knopf Books for Young Readers), Eisha and I were both impressed with the droll humor of the book and the explosive, dynamic, all-around rockin’ illustrations by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. In that title, the gang rocks out with “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” while Farmer Joe sleeps. This time, Farmer Joe heads out for the Tractor Society Conference in Reno, but meanwhile, back at the farm . . . well, the gang sneaks out on a cross-country Punk Farm concert tour, no less. Unfortunately, their beat-up, worn-down old tour van is threatening to ruin their plans, and Krosoczka uses this premise to give us a glimpse into Punk Farm’s current tour hit, “The Wheels on the Van” (thanks to some quick thinking on the part of Sheep).

Eisha, you told me in an email that Punk Farm on Tour=awesome, and I’d have to agree. Would you like to elaborate?

eisha: Happy to, Jules . . . Read the rest of this entry �

Joey the Jittery

h1 Monday, September 17th, 2007

Joey’s back in I Am Not Joey Pigza (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; July 2007; review copy), though Jack Gantos stated previously that the books would stop at the line where trilogies are drawn (read here to find out why Gantos kept writing). I, for one, am happy he didn’t close the book on the intrepid Joey.

I’ve noticed this book is being generally praised, though I’ve heard a few half-hearted (as in still mostly enthusiastic) grumbles here and there (as in, I liked this but . . .). But when I read this from Kirkus Reviews — “This is Gantos at his best, and that’s saying a lot” — I think I literally cheered and said, word. ‘Cause this is exactly how I felt when I finished the last page and closed the book. I’m a big fan of a) Joey and b) Gantos, so let me state that bias up front, if I must. I didn’t think it’d be possible for him to improve upon the Joey saga, but he has — again.

Carter Pigza, Joey’s “no-good squinty-eyed bad dad,” is back. It’s no coincidence that Joey’s mom is suddenly all starry-eyed, as well as the recipient of lavish gifts, and that — soon after — Carter comes knockin’ at their door, much to Joey’s surprise. He’s had a small stroke of luck with playing the lottery, and he’s back to take up his post as father and all-around family man, going so far as to insist that each member of the family changes his or her name. Hence, the book’s title; Joey is now supposed to go by Freddy Heinz (Carter was inspired by a catsup bottle), and his parents are now Charles and Maria (“‘But he’s changed, Joey for real,'” his mother tells him, “with admiration in her voice. ‘Only his name,’ I shot right back. ‘That’s like some kind of stupid pet trick.'”). Carter — rather, Charles Heinz — also moves the entire Pigza clan past the city and into the tiny apartment adjoined to a neglected, old roadside diner, which he plans to renovate into the brand-spankin’-new diner called The Beehive — this after Charles and Maria’s “rewedding,” which, at one point, had me laughing so. very. hard. that I had to put the book down for a minute and compose myself (it was the adult-size bicycle helmet over the bandage around Joey’s head which got to me, especially that Charles had spray-painted it white and Maria had put little heart stickers and cupids around the edge, though the re-wedding vows themselves, said in all sincerity with Maria’s friends chiming in with their “She forgives,” are classic — “I forgive you for all the times you called me a lifelong loser”; “I forgive you for trying to run me over with your motorcycle last year”). Read the rest of this entry �

Checking in and Touching Base . . .
including a Blogging For a Cure Update

h1 Monday, September 17th, 2007

Jules here. We had a blogger interview with the fabulously hip HipWriterMama planned for today, but we will feature that on Wednesday of this week. Tomorrow we have a surprise for our readers, particularly those of the picture-book-slant. And I hope to actually review a middle-grade or YA book some time soon, perhaps even today?? We had Radar Week and then Picture Book Week and then the Robert’s Snow call to bloggers . . . whew. We’ll get caught up on reviews soon.

image from Robert's Snow by Grace Lin, used with permission in our May '07 Lin interviewHere is a finalized list of all the blogs who will be participating in the upcoming multi-blog effort to drive traffic to the Robert’s Snow site during their online auctions. All the snowflake-makin’ illustrators from this initial list have been snagged up by over 60 blogs, and we’ll be featuring them and their ’07 snowflakes and directing wannabe snowflake-buyers to the auction sites (I posted the Call to Bloggers on Thursday, and by Saturday evening we had all the bloggers we needed for over 150 illustrators!). Details as to when that all begins are to come soon . . . (If there were more hours in my day, those blogs in the linked list would be hyperlinked for you, but for now you’ll have to cut and paste if you want to visit some of them. Isn’t that an impressive turn-out?).

To be clear, there were many bloggers who expressed interest in participating but sat back and offered to let others highlight, promising to help spread the word and publicize this multi-blog, cross-posting effort when the time comes (or even assist other bloggers), such as Read Write Believe; Robin Brande; Journey Woman; JacketFlap; The Reading Tub; Miss Erin; Jen Robinson; Bottom Shelf Books; Roz Fulcher; Liz In Ink; and I’m sure more that I’m perhaps forgetting. I’m mentioning this now a) out of gratitude and b) ’cause they’re not on the linked list (the linked list features bloggers who will actually be highlighting a snowflake-makin’ illustrator — or two or three or four or five).

Many thanks to all you bloggers out there for your interest in this event . . . And, again, more details later as to when the illustrator-features begin. Until then . . .

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #28: Featuring Trudy White

h1 Sunday, September 16th, 2007

Jules: This week we’re pleased to feature Australian illustrator Trudy White, who is probably best known for the internal illustrations she did in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006). Trudy’s latest book is called Could You? Would You?, first published in Australia in 2006 but just released in the U.S. by Kane/Miller (yes, we know we featured a Kane/Miller book last week as well as an Australian illustrator, and we try to mix things up here at 7-Imp, but how can we pass up the opportunity to feature both Julie Vivas and Trudy White, even if one after the other?). Could You? Would You? is a book of questions that, as Mindy pointed out in her review at, is a great title to use as a prompt for encouraging children to write — or to just explore and wonder about the world around them. Pictured above is the first illustration from the book, the “Could you fall asleep with all these animals? Would you wake up early or sleep in late?” page. Pictured below is a spread from the book, both sent from Trudy.

I have played with this book with my 3.5 year old, and — while some questions were a bit too sophisticated for her age — most of them really made her stop and think, and even older children will likely jump to answer each question with curiosity and enthusiasm. It’s that kind of book. And this is definitely one of those books that transcends the children’s lit label; a lot of adults, particularly of the meditative, I-wonder-if slant, would enjoy this one. Trudy’s spare drawings are both graceful and sprightly and possess her signature whimsical, relaxed style . . . As her site states, “Trudy White likes to work with pencils, watercolour, ink, nib pens, brushes, biro, computer graphics programs, collage, acrylic paint, oil paint, and textas, in books, on small pages, on large rolls of paper, on canvas and on wood. She also likes to make things out of clay and plasticine. She writes in longhand and on a computer. At the moment she is interested in owls, typography, languages and strawberries.”

Trudy suggested that we include a selection of questions from Could You? Would You? and let kicks-listers — any of you who are perhaps inclined to do so — post responses to any or all of them this week (as well as list your kicks, too, we hope). I love that excellent idea. And if you answer the questions, your name will also get put into a virtual hat, and SEVEN OF YOU CAN WIN A COPY OF THE BOOK!!! (courtesy of Kane/Miller). It really is a fun, thought-provoking (by its very nature) title, and I particularly recommend it for teachers and school librarians (who work with students of any age, in fact, from elementary to high school).

Here are Trudy’s selected questions from the book (hey, this all makes me think of this recent-ish post over at Read Write Believe): Read the rest of this entry �

Blogging for a Cure: An Update

h1 Saturday, September 15th, 2007

Grace Lin image, used with permission in our May 2007 interview with herHi, everyone. The response to the recent post about our multi-blog effort to drive traffic to the upcoming Robert’s Snow online auctions was overwhelmingly positive. Whoa. THANK YOU to each and every blogger who posted about this and spread the word and/or signed up to feature an illustrator. I especially want to thank those who posted about it, because I (Jules) haven’t had time to read all the posts yet, and I’m sure there were some lovely ones written. And I want to commend all the bloggers for being so patient and gracious about choosing folks. There was never once a moment of bickering over choosing one illustrator over another; not that I expected you all to be that way. Thanks for making it easy.

As of this moment in which I’m composing this post (Friday evening), we have had approximately sixty children’s lit bloggers/authors/illustrators/editors/etc. (but all bloggers, of course) respond, wanting to feature snowflake-makin’ illustrators, and some emails are still trickling in. Approximately 145 illustrators (of the 156 we were given) have been snatched up to be featured by bloggers. That leaves ten-ish illustrators left, whom I have no doubt will get snagged in no time flat. In other words, I really think we’ll get the entire list covered; there are more to come who have yet to finish their snowflakes, according to Dana-Farber, but even if this is all we get covered, that’s a lot.

I am 99.9% sure I’ve gotten back to everyone, but if, by some chance, you emailed me and I missed getting back to you, oh please please do contact me again. And, if so, I apologize, but — again — the emails came pouring in. I am pretty darn sure I’ve crossed all i’s and dotted all t’s here, but I’m just saying, for the record . . .

Thanks again to one and all. We will keep our 7-Imp readers up-to-date on when exactly this will all be launched. Please be patient while we work out the details; obviously, organization is key here. If you are a blogger who will be participating, let me quickly say that you should have gotten a big ‘ol email about the entire event (an update of sorts — actually, a few emails by now), so if — for some reason — you did not receive it, let Jules (who promises to get back to middle-grade and YA reviews soon!) know asap at seventhings *at* blaine *dot* org.

As someone else put it, let it snow!

Poetry Friday: James Wright

h1 Friday, September 14th, 2007

ponies-eat.jpgI just discovered James Wright, and I’m so enamored of so many of his poems that it’s hard to choose just one to share. But I think I’ll go with one of his happier ones, something lovely and wild. Something with ponies.

“A Blessing”

…We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs…

Read the rest of the poem here. And have a lovely Friday.

Call to Bloggers: Blogging For a Cure . . .

h1 Thursday, September 13th, 2007

publicity image for Robert's Snow, used with permission from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Click on image to launch the Robert's Snow siteBy now, you have probably read the very sad news of the death of Robert Mercer, Grace Lin’s husband, at the end of last month, due to cancer.

You may remember from our May ’07 interview with Grace that she was the driving force behind the Robert’s Snow: for Cancer’s Cure fundraising effort after Robert was initially diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma and after writing Robert’s Snow (Viking Books; 2004) soon after that diagnosis. The fundraising effort entailed the auctioning off of special snowflakes, created by children’s book illustrators, whom Grace had gathered together in the name of raising money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). The auction raised a great deal of money in its first year after the publication of this book, which features these illustrators, many of them award-winning, and their creatively and uniquely designed wood snowflakes for the cause. One hundred percent of the royalties from the book’s sale went to the DFCI to support sarcoma research. Robert’s Snow is in its third year and has already raised more than $200,000 for Dana-Farber. (You can see the 2005 snowflakes here).

This year, more than 200 well-known children’s book illustrators from around the world have been given a five-inch wooden snowflake to decorate at will. Like actual snowflakes, each design is unique. The 2007 online auctions for bidding on these hand-painted snowflakes will take place in three separate auctions, open to everyone, from November 19 to 23, November 26-30, and December 3-7. You can read here for more information (the image above is a publicity image for the upcoming auctions, used with permission from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. You may click on the image itself to launch the Robert’s Snow site).

What we in the kidlitosphere community want to do to help drive traffic to the site for this year’s auctions and help raise money for the cause is highlight at our blogs the illustrators who have created snowflakes for these upcoming ’07 auctions — as well as post the unique snowflakes they have made (one at a time at each blog, which the DFCI has graciously given us permission to do), ultimately driving as much traffic as we possibly can to the Robert’s Snow online auctions. Many bloggers have expressed a desire to do something, and we think this can be our unique contribution. If you are a blogger interested in doing so (and we need all the help we can get), here’s how it will work:

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Responding to the MotherReader Challenge:
Best Books of 2007 (So Far) — Picture Books
(and A Bit of Poetry Thrown in As Well)

h1 Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

Remember when MotherReader did this last year? In September, she asked the kidlitosphere to come up with their top picks of the year (thus far, that is), and then she compiled everyone’s choices into that master list linked there. Well, she’s suggested it again for this year. Here’s what she had to say about it:

“We can consider it a public service toward next summer’s reading lists, and school librarians’ fall ordering, and just plain reading choices for people everywhere. If you want to join in, post your ‘Best Books of 2007 (So Far)’ in any or all of the categories: Picture Books, Early Elementary, Elementary, Middle School, High School. Mix in your nonfiction or graphic novels by the age categories. Narrow it down to five choices per category (I know it will be tough) . . . My ultimate plan is to pull together the posts into one big list by the middle(ish) of September . . .”

I had to read and re-read and re-read again that narrow-it-down-to-five-choices part. I know MotherReader is a laid back, easy-going gal and will not care if I post more than five, but I’m gonna try to follow the rules here. Limiting to five will be hard — but perhaps the mental exercise will be good for me.

And I want to add my usual disclaimer: I have not read everything. I mean, it truly is some kind of crime that I haven’t yet read Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s Cowboy & Octopus. Can I just say that a) I don’t get review copies from Viking Juvenile, and b) I don’t understand for the life of me why the OPACs of both library systems I use do not even register the title. Hubba hubba wha? This is also some kind of crime, but I digress.

I’m going to tackle Picture Books here, followed by a small stab at Poetry, because that is all I feel qualified to do. I read middle-grade and YA on a regular basis, but I’ve read way more picture books this year. I counted and I’ve reviewed approximately 115 picture books from ’07 (thus far) here at 7-Imp. I’ve read more than that, but most of them that are making my lists below are ones I’ve reviewed here (since I review the ones that I think are outstanding in one way or another), so I’ll link my choices to my reviews — which include why I loved it; the month of publication; the publisher; the web sites, if applicable, of the author and/or illustrator; and all that important stuff, if you care to know it. Here goes:

* * * * * * *

Jules’ Seven (Changed My Mind at the Last Minute! PSYCHE! We are “7-Imp,” after all) Top-Pick Picture Books Thus Far This Year:
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Some Random Tidbits: 7-Imp’s very own original artwork; The Cybils 2007; an Adam Rex contest; and Eisha’s meme response

h1 Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Hi there. Three random announcements here at 7-Imp on this Tuesday.

First, we are truly excited to share our very own 7-Imp art work here at the blog, thanks to illustrator Frank Dormer. In July, we featured an illustration from Frank’s upcoming illustrated picture book, Not So Tall For Six, written by Dianna Hutts Aston (to be published in ’08 by Charlesbridge). And can you even believe that this was Frank’s response? He created this original, action-packed Mad Tea Party illustration just for us and posted it at his blog. We were rather squealy-excited about this wonderful image, and then he told us, yes, it’s ours to do with as we please! So, we decided to put it on our new “Featured Illustrators” page (a definite work-in-progress — we’re, essentially, compiling a list of the illustrators we feature every Sunday, as well as a growing list of those illustrators or author/illustrators we have interviewed), replacing the Tenniel Alice image in that template with Frank’s (it just took a while, as 7-Imp’s tech support, a.k.a. Jules’ husband, had to figure out how to place the new image in the template on that page). Go see, and tell us what you think! The page is kind of like 7-Imp’s art gallery; maybe we can even put thumbnail images there one day. Anyway, it’s perfect with Frank’s Alice scene up top. Many, many thanks to Mr. Dormer! . . . Maybe as time goes by, we can have a different Alice image for each page (although we will probably always be married to the Tenniel image on the blog’s very front page. We started out with it and want to stick with it for as long as 7-Imp is alive. We’re sentimental that way).

* * * * * * *

Secondly, remember The Cybils last year? Well, it’s that time of year again — it’s time for The Cybils 2007. Here is Anne Boles Levy’s post on it, in which she declares that this year’s sequel to The Cybils will feature some new bloggers, a new site design, and belly dancers. Hoo hah! And here’s the blog for now, which Anne re-worked a bit, and the new site of which she speaks will be unveiled soon. Kelly Herold is hard at work on this new home page, where the domain name will be parked. Daily posts will begin there on September 17th, and nominations will open October 1st.

We at 7-Imp will be heading two separate categories this year. Yes, between the two of us, we’re covering the world of picture books: Eisha will be heading the Non-Fiction Picture Books category, and Jules will be the organizer for the Fiction Picture Books category. We’re honored to be doing so and really looking forward to the awards again this year. We’ll have continual updates here at 7-Imp.

Seven cheers for Cybil-ance all around! . . .

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