Archive for December, 2007

Poetry Friday: Missing Fairies, Stolen Child

h1 Friday, December 14th, 2007

Oona from LegendLet me just say up front that I’m really enjoying my duties as a panelist on the Young Adult Fiction Nominating Panel for the Cybils. I’ve been reading a TON of books, and a lot of them I probably wouldn’t have even heard about if they hadn’t been nominated. It’s been a great experience so far, and I’ve got some new favorite books that I should really write about someday soon.

That said: I’m starting to really miss fantasy. I mean, straight-up teen fiction is great and all – dating, drugs, gossip, gangs, religion, rebellion, class clowns, abusive parents, terminal diseases… there’s some great stuff to be said about all of it. But I guess I can only take so much reality-based fiction in one three-month sitting. I’ve been starving for faires, unicorns, wizards, goblins… heck, even a little telekinesis or a ghost or something would be nice. Come January, I’m going to have to go on a BIG OL’ FANTASY BINGE. Anyone who’s got a recommendation (I’m looking at YOU, Fantasy Panel people), you can just leave it here in the comments. Much obliged.

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from a classic William Butler Yeats poem that’s inspired both a song by The Waterboys and a novel by Keith Donohue (co-reviewed by me and Jules last year):

“The Stolen Child”

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you
can understand.

Click here to read the whole thing. And don’t forget to leave me your Fantasy recommendations! Pretty please!

Review: The Linden Tree by Ellie Mathews

h1 Thursday, December 13th, 2007

I get review copies from Milkweed Editions, a nonprofit literary press, though you woudn’t know it, since I’m so hopelessly behind on many of my reviews (that aren’t picture books). If you’re not familiar with this publisher, you should be. You can read about their history and mission here. Actually, I’ll give you their mission right here, straight from their web site. And why am I doing this? ‘Cause I feel like I have to, since they send me review copies? Nah. I can’t be bought that easily. Heh. It’s ’cause they have some really great books and one slammin’ mission:

“Milkweed Editions publishes with the intention of making a humane impact on society, in the belief that literature is a transformative art uniquely able to convey the essential experiences of the human heart and spirit. To that end, Milkweed publishes distinctive voices of literary merit in handsomely designed, visually dynamic books, exploring the ethical, cultural, and esthetic issues that free societies need continually to address.”

In this post from June, Eisha featured an anthology of poetry by Éireann Lorsung, published by Milkweed this year (I also have a review copy, and it’s amazing stuff. We were going to attempt a co-review, but it’s the kind of anthology we feel like we need to read and re-read and re-read again. It’s not the most accessible poetry, but that certainly doesn’t make it inferior. The poems are elegant, sometimes provocative, sometimes playful, always well-crafted. But they also bring me something new upon each read, not to mention that some elude me, honestly — but in a good, let-me-just-ponder-them-a-bit-more way. Thus, the absence of our co-review). Milkweed has many interesting non-fiction titles (for adults), in particular, some of which I hope to review soon. Anyway, even though they release only twelve to twenty new books each year, this includes children’s titles (“we are one of two nonprofit presses that publish children’s literature”). Here is a review of one, which I finished a while ago and am just getting around to, a novel aimed at intermediate-aged readers: The Linden Tree, written by Ellie Mathews and published by Milkweed this year.

Read the rest of this entry �

A Quick Note About a 7-Imp Book Give-Away
(and then go read our interview below with kidlitosphere royalty)

h1 Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Eisha and I are pleased as punch to say that we’ll be interviewing Kimberly Willis Holt next week. I believe she’s on one of those so-called, new-fangled blog tours, meaning you’ll see her stop at a few other places, too, but we’re just happy she’ll be stopping here at all. We will take any reason to chat with her, as we’re both quite fond of her writing.

So, that interview will be next Wednesday, December 19th, and in anticipation and celebration of it, we (well, really Henry Holt and Kimberly Willis Holt) are giving away a copy of Piper Reed: Navy Brat, her newest title, which also happens to be a chapter book and which I also happened to review here, should you want more information on it. Best of all, Kimberly will be autographing this free copy of Piper Reed. Wahoo! If you’re interested in winning a copy, just leave a comment here. I suppose I can put all the names in a hat and convince my three-year-old daughter to draw a name from said hat when the day’s done. How does that sound?

Don’t forget today’s interview — just below this post — with the one and only Tasha Saecker of Kids Lit.

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #59: Tasha Saecker of Kids Lit

h1 Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

It truly is some kind of small crime that we have not yet interviewed Tasha Saecker in our ongoing blogger interview series. We have no hard-and-fast rhyme or reason to whom we interview when, but Tasha’s blog about children’s lit, Kids Lit, is practically a dinosaur in the kidlitosphere, considering the very young age of many blogs. Kids Lit is approximately five years old, which doesn’t sound like much, but that’s considered ancient in the kidlitosphere; you’ll see in the interview below that Tasha states that there were very few blogs about children’s lit when she began hers: “I think there were about five of them when I started,” she told us. It’s for this reason that Tasha was the perfect blogger to present on the basics of kidlit blogging at the recent 1st Annual Kidlitosphere Conference in Chicago. She started us all off with a talk on how to get started blogging, how to do reviews, what blog formats seem to work best, etc.

It’s also for this reason — as well as her consistent, smart book reviews, of course — that she has influenced many other bloggers. Many of the kidlitosphere bloggers we’ve featured in our interview series have cited Tasha’s Kids Lit blog as being an inspiration of one sort or another: Kelly Herold of Big A little a; Sheila Ruth of Wands and Worlds; Jen Robinson; and Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production, to name a few. In fact, at the risk of sounding very This Is Your Life (which means, you know, that you’ll just have to shed a tear — and dramatically — at some point, Tasha), we thought we’d ask some of them to include some thoughts on Tasha and her blog. Here’s what they had to add to our interview today: Read the rest of this entry �

Holiday Titles Round-Up, Part Four: Two Tween Tales

h1 Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Judy Moody & Stink: The Holly Joliday by Megan McDonald and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (Candlewick; September 2007; review copy)
* * *
Babymouse #7: Skater Girl by the brother-and-sister wonder duo, Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House; September 2007; review copy)

Here are my . . .

Seven Reasons to Add These Two Books to Your Holiday Reading Stack, If You’re So

. . . Which is Rather Gimmicky, I Know, but I’ve Got a Lot to do This Week Yet Still Want to Mention These Books. So Be It.

Judy Moody & Stink: The Holly Joliday:

Read the rest of this entry �

A Short Entry (of Sorts) in my Holiday Round-up

h1 Monday, December 10th, 2007

It’s Sunday night, and I’m trying to talk about a book here, but I’m too distracted, playing around at the web site of The Poetry Foundation. And I found the short poem “Christmas Tree Lots” by Chris Green. It’s not exactly uplifting, so if you want such a thing right now, look elsewhere. But, even as someone who has a real, live tree currently in my living room (trying its best to stay alive with the water we give it), I really like this one — and I always like reading the other point-of-view. The entire poem is one huge metaphor that evokes sadness, but I can still appreciate the poet’s craft. It’d be almost pointless to put an excerpt. If you’re so inclined, you can read the entire thing here.

Consider this my late entry for Poetry Friday, since last Friday we were having too much fun chatting with MotherReader. Actually, I take it back: Poetry doesn’t have to be relegated to just Fridays. Enjoy.

P.S. My Web search of Chris Green took me here, “Hair Tips for Poets,” quite an enjoyable read. And I’m really intrigued, as this link also tells us that he has an anthology of poetry entitled The Sky Over Walgreens — 2007 even. How can you not love that title? I’ll have to explore this.

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #40: Featuring Gabriela Böhm

h1 Sunday, December 9th, 2007

Jules: Today, we’re happy to feature art work from German blogger and painter Gabriela Böhm, whose blog, Kampfhorn (“wee but powerful”), caught my eye a few weeks ago. And when it did, I saw this illustration we’re featuring here, and I fell in love with it (here’s the post where I initially saw the illustration, entitled “Gratitude is a force”). And then I saw posts like this (oh yes! Rilke) and this, the Goddess of Illustration. I love it. So, I asked her if we could feature some of her paintings here. For the record, Gabriela, who goes by Ella, is not an illustrator of children’s books (though don’t you think she should try her hand at it one day?), and I know that’s who we usually feature here. But her paintings were too good to pass up. Here’s a little bit about Ella, which she shared with us:

“Three facts about me and my art:

  • Because I love photography, you will sometimes find photographic effects in my drawings or paintings such as vignetting, fisheye perspective and grading. (Short) animation and movies are also a huge influence.
  • Experimenting with different textures (e.g. Nepalese paper) — either to paint on or to use as part of an image — is also something I am excited about.
  • Animals fascinate me and often find their way into my work.

(Why is it so hard to talk about what you do?!?)” 😉

You can also read more about her here at her blog’s “About” page (she’s a fighting squirrel, but you’ll have to go read to find out what that means). We thank her for letting us feature “Gratitude is a force,” and she also sent us a new illustration, “Trick or Treat,” which would have been perfect for Halloween (but is just as perfect now, too). Just look at that! Read the rest of this entry �

The Two Best Books of This Season

h1 Saturday, December 8th, 2007

Yes, the two best books. I hesitate to type “holiday season,” ’cause one of them isn’t technically a holiday title, but it is about to be released and it’s quite snowy, so I’m putting it into this category.

First, yes, it’s true that Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present in all its seven kinds of blinding awesome-ness and glory has been re-released this year. You may remember that I mentioned it in this post, and several others chimed in with their love and adoration for this fourteen-year-old book by John Burningham. And someone said he thought it’d been re-released and then someone else agreed and then my hopes soared and then . . . yes! I confirmed it. Seven cheers for Candlewick. They’ve re-released it (“a new midi edition,” back by popular demand and all that. I suppose the world loves Harvey as much as I do). You can even view an interior spread of the book here at Candlewick’s site. If there’s anything to the notion of karma, why then I’m living well, ’cause I even got a review copy. I admit it takes some adjusting to view it in its smaller format, but it’s still Harvey. And it’s still wonderful. My ramblings from last year about why you need to read this book are here.

And then secondly . . . Wow. Wow. Wow. Eric Rohmann’s new picture book. It’s already exciting enough to hear he has a new one, but then to get an ARC and to hold it in my hands when it’s so damn near perfect. It really is fabulous. It’s called A Kitten Tale (Knopf Books for Young Readers), and it’s a splendid tale for the very young. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Tri-Reviews Before Breakfast #4: Featuring MotherReader, Elephant, and Piggie

h1 Friday, December 7th, 2007

Our apologies to Poetry Friday, which we love and adore, but we started this tri-review in mid-August. O yes, we did. It’s taken us this long. No more delays then. Here is 7-Imp’s absolutely riveting current tri-review. Go get your popcorn now, and come back, read, and enjoy.

Jules: Mo Willems, picture book creator extraordinaire, has graced the world of children’s lit with a new beginning reader series, the Elephant & Piggie books. And heaven bless him, because they are very funny and clever and . . . Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s just say they’re All Mo All the Time -– each and every book.

If you missed the first two -– My Friend is Sad and Today I Will Fly!, both released in April of this year by Hyperion -– then, run! Don’t walk! Run to the nearest bookstore or library, especially if you have those so-called emerging readers in your home, because the books -– met with rave reviews all-around -– are . . . well, as Booklist put it, they are “{a}ccessible, appealing, and full of authentic emotions about what makes friendships tick . . . {they} will put a contemporary shine on easy-reader collections and give Willems’ many fans–whatever their age or reading level–two more characters to love.” In July of this year, the following two books in the series, I Am Invited to a Party! and There Is a Bird on Your Head!, were released (also by Hyperion, whom we thank for review copies of these titles).

And how can we discuss Mo’s new beginning reader series without, arguably, the biggest Mo fan in the kidlitosphere, Pam Coughlan, a.k.a. MotherReader? So, we invited her to a tri-review of these titles and are thrilled she said yes.

MoReader, we are happy to have you here! I could go on and on about why I think these books work so well, but I’m sure we’ll all get into that. I’ll add quickly now before letting you really begin here that the very first time I read one of these, my three-year-old daughter was with me. We had picked up My Friend is Sad at the library and were really excited, as we’d been waiting for it. We sat down right there at the nearest table and took a gander, and we immediately were doing those nerdy hyperventilating laughs -– in a library, no less -– because it was almost painfully funny. So, we just packed up to take them home where we could laugh louder. I think that one’s my favorite, since the slapstick genius of all the Elephant & Piggie titles is at its best in that book, in my humble opinion.

What do you think? As a Hugely Huge Mo Fan, are you just crazy about them? Disappointed, by chance? Are they all you thought they’d be? Read the rest of this entry �

Holiday Titles Round-Up, Part Three: Do Olivia, Osbert, Otto, and the others deliver?

h1 Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve
by Janet Morgan Stoeke
Penguin Young Readers Group
September 2007
(library copy)

Minerva Louise has many fans, and I don’t think they’ll be disappointed with this new title, all about Minerva’s confusion on Christmas Eve. To be sure, it’s not anything new and still the same formula: Minerva is slightly feather-brained, and the child reader gets to be in the know, in on the joke, one step ahead of the protagonist. But it works every time, due to Minerva’s unassuming charm. And Stoeke writes with a clarity and conciseness that is perfect for the preschool-aged crowd — and even for beginning readers (Stoeke makes it easy to put those beginning inferencing skills to work). “If ever a chicken was meant to enjoy Christmas Eve, it’s the eternally upbeat, perpetually ingenuous Minerva Louise,” wrote the Horn Book review (which you can read in its entirety here). Beginning the book with Minerva’s perspective from outside the house (“Minerva Louise loved the way the snow sparkled on the house with the red curtains”), she works her way closer to the home and ends up inside. And all along the way, she’s baffled and bewildered, as is usually the case: She thinks the lights on the trees outside are fireflies, “all dressed up in party colors!”; she sees reindeer on the roof and thinks they’re goats; and she thinks the angel atop the tree is a “pretty white hen” who’s “been laying the most beautiful eggs! They are all over the branches.” The illustrations are simple shapes with simple details, outlined in black, and this time there’s a bit more of a kick in color, what with the Christmas reds and greens goin’ on. The final illustration makes for big laughs from the preschool crowd (and this adult, too): Minerva gets a present from Santa (“the farmer in the red hat”) and promptly throws it aside after opening it to sit in the warm tissue paper inside the packaging with a joyful smile only Minerva can give. Funny stuff. Long live Minerva.

Where, Oh Where, is Santa Claus?
by Lisa Wheeler
Illustrated by Ivan Bates
October 2007
(review copy)

It truly is hard to come across outstanding holiday titles, but I really like this one. There are only so many situations Santa can get himself into, only so much trouble that can be concocted for him, to make the conflict for a new Christmas title. Usually, it’s a play on A Visit from St. Nicholas, more commonly called The Night Before Christmas, which can get old. But Wheeler keeps things uncluttered for the youngest reader in this title; Read the rest of this entry �