Archive for January, 2008

Poetry Friday: A Firefly folk ballad, and a special hat.

h1 Friday, January 18th, 2008

The man they call JAYNE… in his cunning hat!There’s this wonderful episode of Firefly called “Jaynestown,” where the gang sets out to do business on Canton, a little backwater planet that uses slave labor to harvest clay. While there, they discover that a botched robbery a few years before has led the “mudders” to revere Jayne – crass, mercenary, borderline-despicable Jayne – as a folk hero. Since I saw it again the other night, I can’t get the mudder’s tribute song out of my head. So once again I’m stretching the concept of Poetry Friday to indulge my own obsessions. Here’s the chorus to “Hero of Canton,” or “Jayne’s Theme,” depending who you ask:

Oh, He robbed from the rich
and he gave to the poor.
Stood up to the man
and he gave him what for.
Our love for him now
ain’t hard to explain.
The hero of Canton
the man they call Jayne.

Click here to read the rest of the lyrics; or better yet, watch the clip from the show:

And… here’s a website, where you can buy your own version of the cunning hat that Jayne’s mom sends him in the mail in the episode “The Message.” It totally gets shipped to you in a box with funky Firefly-esque postmarks all over it, and a handwritten copy of the letter from Jayne’s mom. Serious! And it’s even for a good cause: the knitter is funding her autistic daughter’s occupational and speech therapy with the proceeds. My sister-in-law and her husband got ’em – but then, they had to, ’cause they’re Firefly fans AND THEY TOTALLY LIVE IN CANTON!!! Okay… Canton, North Carolina… but still. Awesome.

The real heroes of Canton, the folks they call Jenny and JohnThanks, as usual, for indulging me. Next week we’ll have some proper poetry, I’m sure.

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #61: Camille Powell, a.k.a. Miss BookMoot

h1 Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Eisha and I couldn’t be happier that school librarian Camille Powell (or, Miss BookMoot — “Jenny Holm called me that one time and I quite liked the sound of it,” she told us) is our first blogger interview of this new year. We already liked her blog BookMoot and had the pleasure of meeting her briefly in Chicago at the 1st Annual Kidlitosphere Conference, but then she gave us the fabulous responses below in this blogger interview, and we like her even more. If I could only hand-pick school librarians for my daughters . . . Ah, if only. Camille would be first on the list. And if you read BookMoot, you probably know well her passion for school librarianship and getting good books in the hands of children. However, if you don’t read BookMoot on a regular basis, then keep reading. Her thoughts on “good books” in this introduction to her short Q & A and her response to the Pivot what-turns-you-on question (and what-turns-you-off, for that matter) show your more run-of-the-mill librarians what having commitment to and passion for school librarianship is all about. Snap, snap. (And could there be a lovelier, more sincere response to the prom-date question?).

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Most Anticipated Titles of ’08

h1 Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

New year. New titles. Pretty exciting. In no way does this mean I’m going to ignore my ’07 review or library or personal copies of titles that I have yet to read. I’m still working on those, believe it or not.

But if you head over to Chasing Ray today, you’ll see that Colleen is talkin’ titles that she can’t wait to see this year, and she’ll be rounding up other bloggers doing the same (yes, only one day after the big awards were announced — YES, HUGO! — but we Book Nerds are like that, revelling in last year’s great titles and looking ahead to the new ones). Here’s my stab at a list, though invariably I’m going to overlook some thrilling title I will have forgotten about (not to mention some publishers still haven’t announced new releases for the year yet). I’m also a little bit nervous, to be honest, as this list will reveal in a most glaring fashion my fiction bias (sorry, non-fiction) and my near-obsession with picture books. But just humor me. I’ll do my best.

(Note: If I were really organized, I would have started noting release dates before I started feverishly listing titles. But I linked to the publisher on each title if you’re really dying to get a release date yourself. For Henry Holt and Farrar, Straus and Giroux links, you’ll be taken to the search page or a main page of new titles, and you’ll have to either type the title in yourself or just browse and search. Oh, one more note: I’m leaving off some brand new titles that have been recently acquired and added to my to-review stack. New reviews to come then, as my schedule allows).

All Things Illustrated

* Any new Elephant & Piggie titles Mo decides to share with the world (Fuse has the titles in her own most-anticipated-titles list from today);

* Any new Mo picture book (is this a sneak peek into a new title perhaps?);

* The forthcoming titles LeUyen Pham shared with us in October;

* Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Sean Qualls (I already have an ARC from Henry Holt, and it’s good stuff. Review to come);

* Big Bad Bunny by Franny Billingsley and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (a Richard Jackson book for Atheneum Books);

* Buster Goes to Cowboy Camp by Denise Fleming (Henry Holt);

* A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee (Harcourt);

* The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Gris Grimly (HarperCollins);

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Review: Lulu Atlantis and the
Quest for True Blue Love

h1 Monday, January 14th, 2008

Lulu Atlantis and the Quest for True Blue Love
by Patricia Martin
Illustrations by
Marc Boutavant
Schwartz & Wade
January 2008
(review copy)

Meet Lulu Atlantis. She’s feeling a bit overshadowed by Sam, her new baby brother; is convinced her mother would rather not have her around; and is trying her best to acclimate to life without her father, who is “away on his crusades” (when the story opens, he’s off to save “the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus”). Her best friend, a daddy longlegs spider who wears a top hat and white gloves and calls her “miss” (and whom no one else can actually see), is her trusty companion and joins Lulu in her earnest quest for the meaning of True Blue Love. Together — and throughout the four related, chapter-divided stories of the book — they explore the world under the Umbrella Tree, the large mulberry tree, “studded with luscious purple berries,” at the bottom of her lawn on Sweet Pea Lane; brave grouchy ‘ol Farmer Wallenhaupt’s pond to find Lulu’s Frog Prince; rescue a yogurt-eating skunk who calls her “toots” and says things like “darn tootin'”; and meet — in the laugh-outloud funny, most outstanding story in the book — the three chefs of the Gangster Bakery (that would be Scarecrow, Lefty-Righty Louie, and Jimmy Creamcheese) in their search for the secret ingredient for Mother’s oatmeal. There’s also Princess Fancy, Lulu’s archnemesis, the haughty stray cat who shows up in the final story, descending through clouds and silver stars at night, in a hot air balloon.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #45: Featuring Eric Rohmann

h1 Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Jules: Welcome to our weekly 7 Kicks list, the meeting ground for listing Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week (whether book-related or not) that happened to you.

We’re featuring Eric Rohmann today, which is quite a thrill. I’m a huge fan of his books and the beautiful art work he creates. If you’re not familiar with his books (well, you know you know the Caldecott winner, My Friend Rabbit), here’s one place you can begin, a link that includes another link to a bibliography. The above illustration is from his new picture book, A Kitten Tale (released this month by Knopf Books), which I raved about maniacally in this post (hey, 7-Imp is — mostly and for all intents and purposes — a fan site, and Eisha and I are geeky Rohmann fans. And he doesn’t disappoint with this title, which just adds to his already impressive track record). Summary if you don’t want to read the afore-linked review I wrote: A Kitten Tale is a wonder. It’s a splendid tale for the very young. Here are three more images (I hope the colors on these illustrations are right; they look slightly different than the ones in the ARC I have, but it could be an artifact of my computer). And p.s. these images are just for Little Willow.

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Poetry Friday: Galway Kinnell

h1 Friday, January 11th, 2008

So, my upstairs neighbor (a poet) loaned me a couple of books of poetry over the holidays. Due to my Cybils duties, I haven’t been able to open them until recently. One of them is by Galway Kinnell, and I’m loving it. So I thought I’d pay my neighbor’s good deed forward, and share him with you all.

“The Correspondence-School Instructor Says Goodbye to His Poetry Students”

Goodbye, lady in Bangor, who sent me
snapshots of yourself, after definitely hinting
you were beautiful; goodbye,
Miami Beach urologist, who enclosed plain
brown envelopes for the return of your very
“Clinical Sonnets”; goodbye, manufacturer
of brassieres on the Coast, whose eclogues
give the fullest treatment in literature yet
to the sagging breast motif; goodbye, you in San Quentin,
who wrote, “Being German my hero is Hitler,”
instead of “Sincerely yours,” at the end of long,
neat-scripted letters extolling the Pre-Raphaelites:

I swear to you, it was just my way
of cheering myself up, as I licked
the stamped, self-addressed envelopes,
the game I had of trying to guess
which one of you, this time,
had poisoned his glue.

Click here to read the rest of the poem. It gets even better.

YA Round-Up: James Jauncey,
Siobhan Dowd, and Kathe Koja

h1 Thursday, January 10th, 2008

It’s a new year, and new titles may be rolling in (both review copies as well as new additions to my local library’s shelves), but I’m still catching up with 2007. Here are reviews of three YA titles I read and enjoyed over the holidays. Let’s get right to it.

The Witness

by James Jauncey
Young Picador
August 2007
(review copy)

In the Fall of last year, Scottish author James Jauncey presented this taut, edge-of-your-seat dystopian thriller to the world of YA lit, and it seems to be vying for most under-the-radar title of the year, according to my web search. Jauncey had me at the book’s opening where he quotes, before the book begins, the brilliant composer Arvo Pärt (“If you approach silence with love, music may result”), but I digress. Set in the Scottish Highlands at a time in “the not-too-distant future” during a violent war over land ownership reform (and based on Scotland’s very real Land Reform Act of 2003), we meet eighteen-year-old John MacNeil, who is the sole witness to a bloody massacre at the hands of the despotic government, in conflict with terrorists who oppose their tyrranical reign. After eventually returning to the scene of the violence, he finds Ninian, a young, mentally-disabled boy, terrified into silence (John later learns Ninian has Fragile X Syndrome). The two flee into the mountains, pursued by soldiers and up against the harsh winter landscape, with John’s goal being to find his own father and return Ninian to whomever his family may be, eventually discovering the boy has strong ties to the rebel cause, ties John couldn’t have possibly imagined.

The heart of the story is John, a complex hero and rather tortured soul. Read the rest of this entry �

Alice’s Seven Picture Book Tips for Impossibly Busy Parents #1: From Mama Goose to cantankerous canines

h1 Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Jules here, actually. Alice is a bit waylaid. The Queen yelled a rude comment about her head and it being, ahem, off’ed. And then Alice protested: Something about the Queen and the King and the Knave and everyone else all being nothing but a pack of cards, and, well . . . this is her predicament at the moment. So, I’ll take over and tell you about Alice’s New Idea for 7-Imp in ’08, numero two (the first one being revealed last Sunday. Do go see, if you missed it and if you’re so inclined).

For my part, when Eisha and I started this blog, my goal was to reach out to mama friends who would ask me for children’s lit book recommendations. Turns out that our audience here has been entirely different — primarily, other bloggers, publishers, authors, illustrators, editors, even literary agents, etc. Basically, a big ‘ol gaggle of Children’s and YA Lit Nerds (and I say that ever-so lovingly and respectfully. Of course of course. You’re my peeps, and I love you all).

But this new series, “Alice’s Seven Picture Book Tips for Impossibly Busy Parents,” would have those parents I initially had in mind as the audience. The idea is that I will list seven new picture books for busy parents as often as I can pull it off. I’d love to say once a week, but I reserve the right to not meet that goal (hey, we bloggers do this for fun, and I have to let work-that-pays come first, so I may not get to it every week, by all means). And here’s my challenge: I’ll have to be brief. ¡Aye Carumba! Can I do that? Yes, I’m up for the challenge. In my typical picture book round-ups (which I vow to continue as well), I do one paragraphs, but these will have to be even shorter, methinks, for those terrifically busy parents. Read the rest of this entry �

Wicked Cool Overlooked Books #4: The Museum Book: A Guide to Strange and Wonderful Collections

h1 Monday, January 7th, 2008

Not only is the Wicked Cool Overlooked Book series Colleen Mondor’s brainchild, but I also have her to thank for telling me about this book, released in September of last year by Candlewick. You’ll see at the end of this post excerpts of and links to other reviews, meaning you can argue its under-the-radar-ness with me, but it’s true that there haven’t been any reviews of it in Blogistan (as my husband calls it) — none that I can find anyway — so I’m stickin’ to my decision to feature it today.

Geared at the 9 to 12 age range, The Museum Book: A Guide to Strange and Wonderful Collections is a 51-page book in picture book format that I would argue would also work quite well with high schoolers interested in history, particularly your collectors and curator-wannabes. It was written by Carnegie Medal-winning Jan Mark, one of Britain’s most distinguished children’s book authors, who passed away about two years ago. If you’ll allow me a quick digression here, this obituary at Guardian Unlimited, for whom she reviewed books, is a good read. And I love this first sentence, reminding me of the whole idea behind Wicked Cool Overlooked Books and the second sentence just making me laugh: Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #44: Featuring Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Ashley Smith

h1 Sunday, January 6th, 2008

Jules: Welcome to our first kicks list of 2008! Our weekly 7 Kicks list is the meeting ground for listing Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week (whether book-related or not) that happened to you. As our readers and fellow kicks-listers know, we feature a different illustrator every Sunday when we gather to list our kicks. But one of my New Ideas in ’08 is to feature — on the first Sunday of every month — a student illustrator or a newly-graduated illustrator wanting to break into children’s books. I am excited about this idea more than I can say, the opportunity to see tomorrow’s children’s book illustrators. Who doesn’t wanna see some new blood? Plus, maybe the next Maurice Sendak or Ruth Krauss will pass our way. I’m just sayin’. You never know. And it’s thanks to Jarrett J. Krosoczka and Anna Alter (thank you! thank you!), to whom I turned for assistance, that I already have some students (or new grads) lined up for the next couple of months. Oh, and as for this week’s featured illustrator — our first one ever in this new feature — I have Little Willow to thank. She pretty much just read my mind and emailed and said, “look at this new illustrator’s site I just stumbled upon?” That Little Willow is puh-sychic.

So, let’s get right to it. Who has graced our post this week? Her name is Ashley Smith, and she just graduated in December from Brigham Young University – Idaho with a BFA in Illustration (“Upon writing this — 22 days, 10 hours and 37 minutes later — I am thrust into the harsh realities of post-graduation-freelance-job-search,” she told us, “but I am certainly not complaining. A vacation from the frenetic vigors of five years of deadlines has been a welcome change; however, my creativity thrives on those deadlines, so I am looking forward to a new life defined by them”).

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