Archive for December, 2007

What the Cybils and Chief Wiggum Have in Common –
and Happy New Year from 7-Imp!

h1 Monday, December 31st, 2007

Jules here. I wanted, even though I mentioned this yesterday, to remind everyone that the shortlist titles in some — but not all — of the Cybils ’07 categories will be announced on January 1st. And that includes the category I organized and on which I served as a panelist, Fiction Picture Books.

I think our shortlisters for Fiction Picture Books are wonderful titles; I’m happy with the list and anxious to share it with everyone. There were three titles I had in my mind as Ones That Would Make Me Moan and Wail and Kick and Scream and Pout Like a Two-Year-Old If They Did Not Land Squarely on the Shortlist (including an illustrator whom I wanted to appear on the list in one way or another), and only one of them made it*. For a moment, I considered standing on my rooftop and yelling, in the words of Chief Wiggum, “you know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society.” My own barbaric yawp across the rooftops of a small town in middle Tennesee. But, nah, I love the rest of the shortlist; it’s an impressive collection of picture book titles; I’m proud of it; and I particularly loved creating and molding it into shape with my Cybils ’08 peeps: Marcie at World of Words; MotherReader; Annie at Crazy for Kids’ Books; and Cheryl Rainfield. I was telling Cheryl yesterday if we channeled her passion for good books, we could power the globe. But if you channel the passion of all four of those panelists put together, you could power . . . uh, the . . . uh, solar system. Or the universe AND its screened-in back porch. Ahem, it’s hard to take that metaphor any further.

But you get the idea.

So, be looking for our shortlist at the Cybils blog tomorrow! This post over there will remind you which shortlists will be revealed tomorrow — and which on January 7th (Eisha’s category, Non-fiction Picture Books, falls into the latter category, though she is a nominating panelist for Young Adult Fiction, whose shortlist also will be revealed at that later date).

Oh and also, HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ONE AND ALL! Wahoo! My self-imposed blog break (well, minus this post and yesterday’s — Ooh! Ooh! R. Gregory Christie stopped by! Go see) might extend a bit further into the week, as it’s almost 2008, which so completely needs to be celebrated; my husband still has off work; and I’m still just kicking back a bit. But you know I’ll be back soon and running my mouth about books.

Happy ’08! In the words of Mark Twain, “now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

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* Actually, there were a couple other titles that I’d put in the screaming and pouting category, but I didn’t have to argue for them, as it was immediately clear that we all loved them and they’d ez-ily made the shortlist.

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #43: Featuring R. Gregory Christie

h1 Sunday, December 30th, 2007

Jules: Well, hello there! Eisha and I have been taking a holiday blog break for a while here, and — as I type this — I’m still not even sure she’s done with her holiday travelling. I hope she is and is able to contribute her kicks this week.

You may have noticed last week that we went ahead and kicked it old-skool style — and then some — with Arthur Rackham at our very brief kicks post. Well, we had originally planned to feature some new art work from the talented R. Gregory Christie, but we re-scheduled that for this week. We were worried no one would see it last week, due to the busy holidays, and we hope that folks are around to see it this week, too, since we’re excited to be featuring it.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #42

h1 Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Hi to all, and happy holidays! We’re not exactly listing kicks today, since it’s such a busy time of year. But for anyone who might have stopped by (and you’re still welcome to leave your kicks), here’s a 1915 illustration by Arthur Rackham, a bit of Charles Dickens in the spirit of the holidays. Since the Edwardian times featured rather prominently in my post from yesterday, I figured we’d quickly feature the man considered the leading decorative illustrator of the Edwardian period.

My big kick is that my family and I get to visit with Eisha and her husband today. I think I even get to meet her punkin’ head sugar britches nephew, whom she loves so. Happy happy and merry merry whatever-you-celebrate to all our readers and our 7 Kicks community. We’ll be on a holiday break for a while, but we’ll see you soon!

Books, Bells, and Whistles

h1 Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

It’s really time I took a blog break for the holidays, but here’s a post which I’m slidin’ in right before all the gift-giving begins. These are the types of books I don’t normally review here at 7-Imp: They’re all what are labelled “novelty,” I suppose, in one way or another. But I thought I’d go ahead and cover them here for anyone who might be looking for last-minute gift ideas. These are Books Plus Some, the “plus” being pop-up features, fold-out pages, 3-D surprises, parts to assemble, some dragons, some ocean liners, even a tutu. Without further ado . . .

Dragonology: A Field Guide to Dragons
by Dr. Ernest Drake
Edited by Dugald A. Steer
Candlewick
October 2007

This would simply be a stinkin’ cool gift for someone. How’s that for professional-sounding? This is Dr. Ernest Drake’s (bah-dum-ching) purported scientific study of/field guide to dragons, including an introduction to dragon-spotting, the migration and habitats of the creatures, equipment and fieldwork notes, notes on dragon evolution and extinct dragons, and then sixteen pages of classified dragon species — from the European Dragon (Draco occidentalist magnus) to the Tasmanian Dragon (Draco semifascia). Lastly, there are four pages of an admittedly non-exhaustive list of Pseudo-Dragons (“{t}he keen field dragonologist may, if he or she is lucky and observant, come across various creatures that appear to be related to dragons but that are, in point of fact, not dragons”). The book itself includes pages designed to look fading, antiquated, yellowing — with details such as water drops and cup stains on the pages. The pages in the classification section also include little fold-up flaps on the bottom of each page, providing information about the egg of each species. And, best of all, there are the pieces to twelve dragon models included in little pockets all inside the book. And they’re not difficult to assemble. Recommended for your budding fantasy-lover who especially loves to construct models. More information can be found here at the Ology World site, complete with the nameless British librarian.

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Poetry Friday: E.E. Cummings’ “little tree”

h1 Friday, December 21st, 2007

This week, I’m sharing E.E. Cummings’ holiday poem, “little tree.” Here’s the beginning:

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid

And you can read the rest here. The spacing is a little off here; there should be a significant amount of space after “see,” but WordPress won’t let me do that. (And the above link to the entire poem disregards those spaces, too, but if you’re super interested, just go get E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962, and take a gander there. Great book).

This poem was originally published in Cummings’ Tulips & Chimneys, his first published work in 1923 (first one after The Enormous Room).

I’ve read about and seen different picture book adaptations of this poem, including Deborah Kogan Ray’s lovely, gentle version from 1987 (pictured here — I couldn’t find an image any larger). But I had no idea that Chris Raschka illustrated one in 2001 (published by Hyperion and pictured above). I’ll have to go find this one, since I’d love to see Raschka’s contemporary take on the poem.

Happy holidays to all!

MORNING ADDENDUM: Wow. Do you want to read a really powerful poem that Elaine Magliaro shared at the Blue Rose Girls’ site? Check it out.

The December Carnival of Children’s Literature
And Free Books and Such

h1 Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Wait. Pssst. Before I get to these two short announcements . . . Did anyone else see yesterday that I am not the lucky winner of a Cow or Pig original painting by Jarrett J. Krosoczka in the Punk Farm Raffle? Bummer. But I’m happy for those who won, who seem to practically ALL LIVE IN THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS. HEY, UNFAIR! For serious, I’m happy for them, and all the money goes to two good causes. Apparently, the most tickets were bought for Cow and Pig (Pig was one I went after, since my almost-four-year-old daughter likes to walk around doing the RAY ROO and RAY REE that is Pig’s guitar-wailin’, so I guess the odds were stacked against me there). And, as it turns out, Cow is everyone’s very favorite; a whole slew, to be precise, of tickets were bought for her painting. It’s always cool to see such reverence for female drummers. BOOM CRASH. And, even though I didn’t win, it was worth it to watch the raffle of me losing, all for Jarrett’s cheesy game-show finger gun and wink at the close of his video.

The December Carnival of Children’s Literature is up at Big A, little a. Kelly Herold did a fine, fine job with it. The carnival this month is about biblio-gift-giving. Enjoy!

Also, Chronicle Books has announced two contests if you’re interested in trying to win some free books — or, bonus!, an author visit — for yourself or your classroom:

First is the Taro Gomi Squiggles & Doodles Creativity Contest. Here’s a bit of info on this contest: “Five Grand Prize Winners will be awarded a deluxe set of art materials, a limited edition print autographed by Taro Gomi, the Taro Gomi creativity collection of books from Chronicle Books, including Squiggles, Doodle All Year, and the phenomenally best-selling Doodles and Scribbles . . .” I’ve received a copy of Squiggles, and it’s pretty kickin’, very reminiscent of The Anti-Coloring Books of my childhood, as I mentioned previously at 7-Imp. Anyway, you or your child has to enter the contest if you wanna win, so go read all about it here.

The second contest is the Ivy & Bean Friendship Contest for elementary teachers and their classrooms in which you can win a school visit from author Annie Barrows (the Runner-Up will receive a classroom set of autographed books). Here’s the info. Very cool, especially for more financially-strapped schools.

Now, if you’re so inclined, go and try to win some free stuff for you or your child or your classroom or another random child who might be starving for some good-quality literature — and stuff to scribble and squiggle and doodle in, to boot.

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #60:
A Cyber-Breakfast and Chat with Kimberly Willis Holt

h1 Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

There’s been a significant amount of Kimberly Willis Holt love goin’ on at 7-Imp in our relatively short existence (here she is to the left as a child with her sailor dad). You may have noticed last year that Eisha and I were quite fond of Kimberly’s picture book, Waiting for Gregory (Henry Holt), with the beautiful and eye-popping illustrations of Gabi Swiatkowska. We raved about it here last year in early November. It was one of our top-five favorite picture books of ’06. And then there was Part of Me: Stories of a Louisiana Family (Henry Holt) — another of Kimberly’s titles from ’06, a series of short stories tracing the roots of a Lousiana family over four generations — which I reviewed here. Most recently, I reviewed Kimberly’s latest title, a chapter book entitled Piper Reed: Navy Brat (Henry Holt), the story of a sassy, young girl whose father, a Navy aircraft mechanic, is transferred yet again and her family must move to a new home in Pensacola, Florida. With help from her sisters, whom most days she can do without, and a surprise from their parents, Piper manages to find happiness in her new home.

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For the Holidays: Mother Goose and Beyond

h1 Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Need some gift-giving ideas for the children and teens in your life? Well, you just know that you want to give them some poetry anthologies. And you need some advice on that, you say? Well, fret no more. We have another feature up at the Poetry Foundation, this one all about poetry anthology gift recommendations — ranging from audio collections to classics to contemporary anthologies — chosen from the Essential Children’s Collection at the Poetry Foundation’s site. Enjoy!

Holiday Titles Round-Up, Part Five:
Quite Possibly, the Finale

h1 Monday, December 17th, 2007

So, here’s another round-up in my Holiday Book Challenge 2008, quite possibly my last round-up, since a). I’m getting busy myself with holiday preparations right now; b). so is everyone else, and I’ll be surprised if anyone even reads this at all; and c). if anyone is actually paying attention and taking notes and procuring titles, then I better get this done now, almost one week before Christmas, and not post any reviews any later. Some of these aren’t specifically “holiday” titles — just rather snowy. Enjoy.

The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll
by Patricia C. McKissack
Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Schwartz & Wade Books
September 2007
(review copy)

This Christmas title opens with an author’s note about how McKissack was inspired to write this story while researching the forthcoming Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt, illustrated by Cozbi Cabrera (and which several places online said was published this year by Random House, though I haven’t seen it. One blogger who seems to be in the know says it’ll appear in ’08). McKissack visited a Mrs. Mary Lee Bendolph in Boykin, Alabama, and was entertained by stories of her childhood during the Great Depression in an all-black town identified as the “poorest place in America.” In McKissack’s story, it’s Christmas during the Depression, and three young African-American sisters are wondering if Santy Claus, who only shows up “once in a while,” will be visiting this year. Nella, the middle child, from whose perspective the story is told, longs for a Baby Betty doll and is delighted to find one on Christmas morning — along with some English walnuts, peppermint candy sticks, oranges, and raisins. When the three girls fight over the doll and their father shames them for fighting over a gift and orders them to “{w}ork this out and no more squabbling,” Nella reminds her sisters that she hoped and asked for the doll, even though they told her she wasn’t likely to receive one. As she tries to play with the doll (“I wish you would do something more than sit around like a spot on a toad”) while hearing her sisters pal it up outside, she finally decides to join them, handing the baby over to her sisters. They all have a tea party with the doll on the book’s final spread. Both author and illustrator have captured well a specific moment in time in the poor, rural South of the Great Depression — McKissack with her vivid characterization, traced with light moments of humor, and her detailed text and Pinkney with his luminescent pencil and watercolor illustrations of a poor family with very little possessions but lots of warmth and joy in the home. Best of all, it sings with a universal truth: Who wants that long-coveted, fancy-pants gift when there’s no one to share it with?

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story
by Lemony Snicket
McSweeney’s
October 2007
(library copy)

The story begins in a “tiny village more or less covered in snow.” The children of this village have their faces pressed to the window, looking for the man they suspect will bring them gifts; instead, they hear an awful noise, coming from one of the cottages (“This cottage was already regarded with some suspicion, as it was the only place not decorated with flashing colored lights at this time of year”). It was a family baking a latke, and the latke — not unlike the Gingerbread Boy — began to scream, once he was put into a pan full of very hot olive oil. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #41: Featuring Janet Morgan Stoeke, Minerva Louise, J. Patrick Lewis, and National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day

h1 Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Jules: This image is just for Eisha this week! She loves loves loves Ms. Minerva Louise. And then I reviewed the wonderful Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve (here) at the beginning of this month and thought, hey, maybe Janet Morgan Stoeke would be willing to share some Minerva Louise art work with us. Lucky for us, she was.

Somewhere, from far away in Ithaca, New York, I can hear Eisha squealing right now.

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