Archive for September, 2007

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #45: Squee!* Kelly Fineman is here!

h1 Monday, September 10th, 2007

* (This seems to be Kelly’s favorite exclamation) . . .

Whew, it’s been a while since we’ve posted a blogger interview, but there are still a veritable slew of bloggers left with whom we want to chat it up. This week it’s Kelly Fineman of the LiveJournal, Writing and Ruminating. Kelly’s posts are always a) fun and b) informative to read, two of our favorite things about our favorite bloggers, if you haven’t already noticed. But the best thing about Kelly can be summed up well in a comment she made to us when she sent in her interview responses: When pointing out her rather bold yet candid answers to such questions as “what is your favorite word?” and “what is your least favorite word?”, she told us, “I tried very hard to be truthful instead of clever.” Yup, that’s what we like about her — and that’s what you can expect over at her blog.

Over at Writing and Ruminating — “I figured that what I’d be using the blog for is to talk about writing (and life as a writer), and to share my thoughts. Hence, ‘Writing and Ruminating: One Children’s Writer’s Journey'” — Kelly is, for one thing, always dependable for a good Poetry Friday entry. She’s a poet, in case you didn’t know it (read two of her original poems here and here), so of course she’s all SQUEE!-y over those Poetry Friday entries. In fact, want to read a funny story? Here’s what she said about Poetry Friday:

I thought I {had} invented {it} back in April 2006 after I did a month’s worth of poetry posts, only to find out that Kelly H. was there before me -– talk about Zeitgeist (here’s my post). I even called it Poetry Friday, only to find out much later that others were doing the same thing. Funny, right? . . .

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #27: Featuring Julie Vivas

h1 Sunday, September 9th, 2007

Jules: Many thanks to Julie Vivas, one of Australia’s foremost children’s book illustrators, and Kane/Miller Books for our illustration this week. This is a spread from Helen Manos’ Samsara Dog, originally published in Australia in 2006 and published this year by Kane/Miller in its First American Edition.

It’s not often that you come across a picture book, geared at young children, which addresses the subject of reincarnation. Manos, a practicing Buddhist, wanted to show this subject matter in as natural a way as possible and wrote this story of a dog who lives many lives — as a wild dog on the streets; with a biker gang; as a sniffer dog; with a street juggler; as a rescue dog; and more — “{moving} through a tunnel of light into his next life” each time. In the spread above, Read the rest of this entry �

Madeleine L’Engle
Nov. 29, 1918 – Sept. 6, 2007

h1 Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Madeleine L’Engle“I’ll help.” Mrs. Murry squatted at Mrs Whatsit’s feet, yanking on one slick boot. When the boot came off it came suddenly. Mrs. Murry sat down with a thump. Mrs Whatsit went tumbling backward with the chair onto the floor, sandwich held high in one old claw. Water poured out of the boot and ran over the floor and the big braided rug.

“Oh, dearie me,” Mrs Whatsit said, lying on her back in the overturned chair, her feet in the air, one in a red and white striped sock, the other still booted.

Mrs. Murry got to her feet. “Are you all right, Mrs Whatsit?”

“If you have some liniment I’ll put it on my dignity,” Mrs Whatsit said, still supine. “I think it’s sprained. A little oil of cloves mixed well with garlic is rather good.” And she took a large bite of sandwich.

“Do please get up,” Charles said. “I don’t like to see you lying there that way. You’re carrying things too far.” “Have you ever tried to get to your feet with a sprained dignity?” But Mrs Whatsit scrambled up, righted the chair, and then sat back down on the floor, the booted foot stuck out in front of her, and took another bite. She moved with great agility for such an old woman. At least Meg was reasonably sure that she was an old woman, and a very old woman at that.

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Poetry Friday (the Picture Book Week version):
Leo & Diane Dillon’s Mother Goose
Numbers on the Loose

h1 Friday, September 7th, 2007

Mother Goose Numbers on the Loose
by Leo and Diane Dillon
October 2007
(review copy)

I try to mix things up a lot here at 7-Imp by reviewing library copies as well as review copies, and I try to review titles from a variety of publishers — both big and small. And so I’m sorry that it has almost verged on Harcourt Week here at 7-Imp this week; this title I’m reviewing today is the fifth Harcourt title I’ll be praising this week (though, to be fair, I’ve reviewed fourteen picture books this week, including this one, so it’s not been one publisher all the time). They’ve just got some great new Fall titles out right now. So be it.

And how can I pass up reviewing Leo and Diane Dillon’s new title, which is about Mother Goose, on Poetry Friday during our self-proclaimed Picture Book Week? I mean, it’s Leo and Diane Dillon — the duo who have been illustrating beautiful, award-winning picture books for fifty years. Exclamation mark. Exclamation mark. And it’s Mother Goose, the mama of all poetry for children. And it’s a winner, this book is. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #44:
Author/Illustrator Adam Rex*
(*his name means “Terrible Man-Lizard”)

h1 Thursday, September 6th, 2007

Quick: Who is eight-and-a-half feet of a word-wrangler and picture-painter with a mighty oak for a paint brush and rattlesnake venom and moonshine for paint? It’s this buckaroo, Adam Rex, whose books (and web site and blog) we love and . . . hey, wait. How can we get some of that moonshine paint?

Really, Adam Rex’s book are like. no. other’s. We think he’s making some of the most dynamic, entertaining, sometimes terrifically bizarre, sometimes really poignant, sometimes wickedly funny, and always exquisitely-illustrated books for children today, so we’re very happy he stopped by for one impossible interview (or, uh, one sandwich with Frankenstein) before breakfast — or to put it in a lingo that perhaps the Old West maverick-version of Adam Rex would understand, we think he’s the whole kit and caboodle, and that is not a bluff, compadre. Simon pure.

Adam is an illustrator but has also penned and illustrated several books of his own. He has stated in previous interviews that it wasn’t easy to break into the world of children’s lit publishing. Having done the illustrations for the cards used in fantasy role-playing games (here’s a handy-dandy list, if that kind of thing turns your crank), such as Magic: The Gathering, it was difficult to convince folks in the realm of children’s lit to take a chance on him (“I found that my fantasy-game samples—which are geared more toward teens—just scared them. The phrase ‘Like this, but cuter and with fewer axes’ doesn’t cut a lot of ice with picture-book editors,” he said in this interview at Harcourt). But, well, we’re glad someone finally did give him a shot, because he has brought us some pretty — and some pretty amazing — books.

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Adam Rex Double Feature:
Pssst! and The True Meaning of Smekday

h1 Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Hey, pssst! Guess what? Adam Rex will be stopping by tomorrow here at 7-Imp for an impossible interview before breakfast (we’ll make it lunch — a sandwich, in fact — in honor of one of Adam’s books, a favorite of ours). And, in anticipation of his visit, we thought we’d take a moment today to review his two latest and greatest titles — his new picture book, Pssst!, which he both wrote and illustrated, and his first novel for children, The True Meaning of Smekday (here is its very own site), aimed at the 4-8 range*, if we have to pick age ranges here, which will be released next month. Adam also both wrote and illustrated Smekday as well.

We’re not only huge Adam Rex fans already, but we love these books. Actually, Jules has read Pssst!, and Eisha’s read Smekday, so we’re handling the reviews that way.

Without further ado then . . .

Pssst!; Harcourt; September 2007; (review copy)

* * *

Jules: So, here we have a new picture book from Adam Rex, and it’s a wild ride and a very funny story, one that I think would be well-paired with last year’s Hippo! No, Rhino (Little, Brown Young Readers) by Jeff Newman (which I reviewed here last year). And why is that? Well, for many reasons, including the fact that both books are a visual delight, but primarily because in both books, the young child protagonists visiting the zoo are way smarter and helpful than any adult could even pretend to be. Power to the Children and all that good stuff.

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Don’t Let the Pigeon Stop You From
Interviewing Mo Willems Before Breakfast!

h1 Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

We here at 7-Imp felt like it was some sort of small crime that we hadn’t yet interviewed Mo Willems, because he is one of our favorite author/illustrators and has been since he started creating books. We are grateful that he stopped by to rectify this matter (especially during 7-Imp’s random declaration of Picture Book Week), even though we’re sure he has the busiest of schedules right now.

If you are a devoted reader of our blog, that means you probably really care about and keep up with children’s literature. And if that’s the case, that means you’ve likely heard of Mo. Chances are, you (and your children and/or your students) already know and love Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, his picture book debut in 2003, for which he was awarded a 2004 Caldecott Honor, and the series of Pigeon books that followed, including The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog! (2004) and Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! (2006)The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! -- published in 2005, all published by Hyperion. Child readers can easily identify with the persistent Pigeon and what this Caldecott blurb from ALA amusingly calls the “emotional blackmail” he puts to use in order to get what he wants, while — at the same time — as a School Library Journal review of Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! put it, “{y}oungsters are thrust into the role of caregiver as the puerile pigeon attempts to talk his way out of the inevitable, coming up with requests that range from manipulative . . . to cajoling . . . to classic.” Ask any children’s librarian anywhere, and they’ll likely say: Just how exactly did we get by at story times before these wonderful read-alouds which invite audience participation from the children, giving them a chance to turn the tables and yell “NO!” repeatedly and enthusiastically?

And then in 2005, Mo was awarded a second Caldecott Honor for Knuffle Bunny (Hyperion), “a hilarious epic drama of miscommunication” (ALA blurb again — who writes those great things?) and what he calls at his site a “semi-autobiographical story” about a toddler named Trixie who joins her daddy on a laundromat errand in their Brooklyn neighborhood, only to leave her beloved stuffed bunny in the washing machine. And, well, we feel silly even describing it to you, ’cause if you love children’s lit, you’ve likely read this book (unless you’ve been living in a laundry machine) with its sepia-toned photographs upon which are superimposed cartoon drawings of people. Booklist called it a “comic gem” to which a lot of children and their parents all over this country responded: Word. (Knuffle Bunny was also made into a Carnegie Medal-winning animated short, featuring the voices of the entire Willems’ gang and some pretty kickin’ jazz by Robert Reynolds and Scotty Huff). Read the rest of this entry �

Picture Book Round-Up: I’m trying really hard not to type “Some Beary Good Picture Books” here . . .

h1 Monday, September 3rd, 2007

. . . Or how about Ursus-tastic?


Anyway, yes, it’s Picture Book Week here at 7-Imp! Just a random declaration of an entire week of lovin’ those picture books. Normally, we feature blogger interviews on Mondays, but this week will be a tad different. Plus, we’ll bring you our interview with Mo Willems tomorrow, so that’ll be fun.

We got things started yesterday with a little feature on Jonathan Bean at our kicks list, including an illustration he shared with us, and a picture book round-up. Here are some new titles all about bears that, for one reason or another, stand out to me. Think of it as a sort of Part Two to this post from May — some picture book titles you can’t bear to miss. Buh-dum-ching. As Little Willow pointed out last time, if Stephen Colbert (or shall we say Colbeart) hears of this, I’ll end up on ThreatDown, but I take my chances.

(Yeesh again. I’m just going to get right to it then) . . .

Old Mother Bear
by Victoria Miles
Illustrated by Molly Bang
Chronicle Books
February 2007
(review copy)

No cutesy, anthropomorphic teddy bears for you here in this lengthy and well-written picture book by Canadian author Victoria Miles with oil-and-chalk illustrations from Molly Bang. “Rare is the bear who lives to a ripe old age,” Miles tells us. The tale is fictionalized but is based upon a grizzly bear in the Flathead River Valley of southern British Columbia along the Montana border. Bruce McLellan, a biologist, observed a bear dubbed “Blanche” (or grizzly #385) and recorded her existence for posterity, and it is this bear around which Miles’ story revolves. In a dignified, reverent, and realistic manner (yet sometimes a bit lyrical: at the inevitable death of the bear in the book’s close — handled beautifully and lovingly by Miles — she writes: “In the night, a crying storm descended upon the slope. But the grizzly bear knew nothing of it. She was already gone, past drowse and beyond winter. Her memory she left with every cub she had ever reared; her body she released to the mountain”), she writes of the life of a grizzly bear living on a mountainside, starting with the birth of three cubs during a hibernation (and recalling the bear’s own birth twenty-four summers before) and ending with the spring of her twenty-seventh year when “the old she-bear awoke in a worn body.” We read about her nursing and nurturing her young; their emergence from the mountainside through the wet snow; tearing the meat loose from a deer for food for her family; hunting for ground squirrels during the spring; defending her young from a male grizzly while eating blueberries; the “slow, steady ache {that} accompanied her everywhere” as spring continues in the mountain and her cubs grow; and another winter hibernation. In the third summer of her cubs’ lives, they left their mother: “And every summer, when the huckleberries were ripe, both {sisters} would trace the tracks of their mother up into the alpine meadows.” Miles handles the old mother bear’s death at the end of the book with great respect and even tenderness: Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #26: Featuring Jonathan Bean

h1 Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

Jules: Many thanks this week to Jonathan Bean for contributing an illustration from the seven-kinds-of-wonderful The Apple Pie That Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson (Simon & Schuster; July 2007) for our kicks list today. Here we see the young girl in the book just waking and spotting her farmer father trotting off to that apple tree to start plucking apples in order to bake his daughter that scrumptuous apple pie, “warm and sweet,” which she and her papa eventually share with the farm animals who live there with them and who have their eyes set squarely on that delicious concoction throughout most of the book. If you haven’t seen this picture book yet, you’re in for a treat (excuse the bad pun). The illustrations are most beautiful. In an illustrator’s note in the book, Jonathan explains that each illustration is composed of three separate drawings, done on separate sheets of vellum paper, with only the colors red, yellow, and black, having scanned the colors into his computer. You really just have to see this lovely creation.

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Jules’ 7 Picture Books Kicks

h1 Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

Here are my 7 Kicks for this week, my Part Two, if you will, to today’s 7 Kicks post. These are seven picture books that I read this week that made me happy in one way or another, all in the name of kicking off Picture Book Week here at 7-Imp . . .

Kick #1
The Apple Pie That Papa Baked
by Lauren Thompson
Illustrated by Jonathan Bean
Simon & Schuster
July 2007
(personal copy)

May I pretty please just send you to Betsy Bird’s wonderfully detailed review of this title (parts one and two)? She covers the all-around brilliance of this picture book, Lauren Thompson’s original cumulative tale about a young girl’s delight in the apple pie (“warm and sweet”) her farmer father has baked for her — starting with the apples, “juicy and sweet,” that he plucks from the tree on their farm — with the little girl’s help after she wakes in the morning and sees him trotting off with a ladder and a basket for the apples. As Betsy pointed out:

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