Archive for March, 2008

Nonfiction Monday: I’m Tail Over Teakettle for
L is for Lollygag

h1 Monday, March 31st, 2008

If you’re a wordsmith or a wordsmith wannabe, here’s a book for you. Bust my buttons! It’s the cat’s meow, an indubitable lollapalooza — and that’s no codswallop (nor is it flapdoodle, claptrap, tomfoolery, shenanigans, malarkey, or even blarney). You need to find yourself a copy by hook or by crook, or you may find yourself feeling a bit woebegone. (I can try to not pepper this post with words and expressions from the book, but it wouldn’t be as fun, now would it?).

Chronicle Books released this little gem of a book this month, developed and compiled by Molly Glover with additional text by Kate Hodson. It’s called L is for Lollygag: Clever Words for a Clever Tongue (geared officially at ages ten and up), and — as someone who has always loved a good, juicy word — I am all atwitter about this title. This is for you word-nerds, like me, who feel a bit of ennui with your typical dictionary or even your typical alphabet book — you must go and take a look-see. This is a world in which “A” is for alakazam, “B” is for boondoggle, and “C” is for catawampus. (Amusingly enough, “X” is for nothing, since — as the book points out — “X can be a lot of fun: X marks the spot, X-ray vision, planet X, generation X, X-Men, signed with Xs and Os . . . and you can’t play Tic-Tac-Toe without good old X. But most of the tongue-tickling X words don’t actually begin with X.” Lisa Graff would be happy. And, though I’m seriously digressing here, I have to add that my favorite adaptation to that pesky letter is when They Might Be Giants make up a country called “West Xylophone” in their “Alphabet of Nations,” one of their children’s songs, which I’ll add to the bottom of this post — appropos to very little, but just for fun.)

So, yes, they’re all here, words that are deliciously fun, tripping off one’s tongue: hoi polloi, flibbertigibbet, fussbudget, loosey-goosey, mizzenmast, jittery-skittery, kit and caboodle, snollygoster, and spindle-shanked (I’ve always wanted to be spindle-shanked myself). The definitions are concise and full of swagger, brief and often amusing. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #56:
Featuring Laura Nyman Montenegro

h1 Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Jules: What a pleasure it is to have Laura Nyman Montenegro here today to share some art work from her latest title with us! If you’re already familiar with some of Laura’s previous titles (here’s just one of my favorites), then you already know about her beautiful line-and-watercolor spreads and, as the above Just One More Book!! link put it well, her stories of “confidence, creativity and acceptance.” And here’s something not-to-be-missed: A Spring ’08 feature on Laura at The Prairie Wind (newsletter of the SCBWI-Illinois chapter), in which Laura talks about what a person’s bookshelf reveals about him or her — and elaborates on her own mother’s bookshelf, as she viewed it as a child:

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Poetry Friday: Forgetfulness

h1 Friday, March 28th, 2008

Jules here. My turn for Poetry Friday was last week, but Eisha graciously helped me out and posted instead, ’cause I was having a busy week. And she was going to post this week, too, since I’m travelling for work as you read this (which means I won’t be able to respond to comments, should there be any, as I’ll be company meeting’ing all day in Boston). However, I went ahead and typed my Poetry Friday entry early, as I was inspired by something — and so that Eisha could get a Poetry Friday break, too.

I talked to my mother today (Tuesday, as I type this), and she was telling me the state of my grandmother, Grace, who is in a nursing home near where my parents live. They visit Mom-Mom just about every day, and my mother told me that she sleeps more and more and seems to be getting smaller. She’ll be 97 this year, so this is not a surprise. She’s most certainly nearing the end of her long life, and her memory went several years ago. She might be able to tell you the name of the road she lived on when she was eleven, but I’ll walk in the room and she won’t recognize me or my daughters.

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One Shot World Tour: O Canada! with Jessica Meserve and Martha Brooks

h1 Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

jules: It’s another multi-blog One-Shot World Tour Day (our most recent one being a visit to Australia with our Margo Lanagan interview last August, though I could have sworn we participated in another One-Shot Day. Ah well, moving on . . . ). Today several blogs will be writing about Canadian authors, and I thought I’d talk a bit about an illustrator whose work I think is one-to-watch, and that would be Jessica Meserve. Granted, she was born in New Hampshire, apparently, but she now lives in Edmonton, Canada. Just humor me here. I really want to tell you about this book.

As I mentioned in this recent post about Jessica’s debut title (Small Sister; Clarion Books; May 2007), Meserve studied illustration at Edinburgh College of Art, worked in publishing as a children’s book designer, and is now freelance illustrating. And Jessica’s done the illustrations for a new early chapter-book from Candlewick, Daisy Dawson Is on Her Way! by British author Steve Voake (just released yesterday, according to this link).

And I’d like to say that this book will so entirely wrap you around its finger and not let you go. Fortunately for us all, the front jacket flap says that “Steve Voake introduces beginning readers to a little girl with a big heart.” Yes, that emphasis is mine, and color me jumping-up-and-down, since that statement indicates we might have a series on our hands here.

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Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #70:
Sara Zarr (and Jules and Eisha weigh in
on Sweethearts)

h1 Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Check it out, ya’ll: we’ve got Sara Zarr in da house. That’s right, National Book Award finalist, Cybils nominee, generally kick-ass writer for young adults, Sara Zarr.

She first hit the scene with Story of a Girl, which won rave reviews and landed her in the NBA nominee camp for its gritty, funny, touching, and – yeah, why not? – inspiring depiction of a girl who makes a really bad decision and has to figure out how to live with the ugly consequences. But unlike a lot of teen novels, in this case the consequences of having sex at 13 with the wrong boy aren’t tangible (pregnancy, STD) – instead, Deanna has to deal with becoming a legendary “slut” in her small town, falling from her father’s favor, and wondering if she’ll ever be asked on a normal date by a nice boy. As School Library Journal said in a starred review, “This is realistic fiction at its best. Zarr’s storytelling is excellent; Deanna’s reactions to the painful things said to her will resonate with any reader who has felt like an outsider.”

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #55 (the Sunday-and-Monday-’cause-it’s-Easter Version): Featuring Kelly Murphy

h1 Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

'Poppies' by Kelly Murphy; visit www.kelmurphy.comJules: IT’S SPRING! And here are some poppies for you, courtesy of the very talented Kelly Murphy, an illustrator whose work Eisha and I adore. We’re so glad she’s stopped by today to share some new art work from some upcoming projects. This one, actually, is already featured on her site. Please do go see her re-vamped site. It’s seven kinds of awesome, people. Very beautiful. Anyway, Kelly gave us permission to pick which images we love the most — as well as sent us some new stuff, which we’ll get to in a minute — and it was very hard to pick, indeed. But here are two more:

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Poetry Friday: Confluences come when they will… or, how to get from Lucinda Williams to the Siege of Leningrad in a single blog post

h1 Friday, March 21st, 2008

Soviet ski troops near the Hermitage Museum heading to the front.Here’s something you might not know: Lucinda Williams, an excellent songwriter for whom Jules and I share a deep and abiding love, is the daughter of a poet. I think I had maybe read that in an interview or two, long ago, and then more or less forgot about it. But I recently stumbled across this article about the two of them, and my interest was piqued. So I looked up Miller Williams, and I found out that he read a poem at President Clinton’s second inauguration. I also discovered this poem, “The Curator.”

There are images here that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Seriously.

The poem takes place during the Siege of Leningrad in WWII. The narrator, a young curator at the State Hermitage Museum (Did you see Russian Ark? Yeah, that place), describes how the museum staff had prepared for the German onslaught by packing up the paintings and storing them elsewhere. But they left the frames hanging on the walls to make it easier to rehang the paintings when it’s safe again…

Nothing will seem surprised or sad again
compared to those imperious, vacant frames.

Well, the staff stayed on to clean the rubble
after the daily bombardments. We didn’t dream—
You know it lasted nine hundred days.
Much of the roof was lost and snow would lie
sometimes a foot deep on this very floor,
but the walls stood firm and hardly a frame fell.

Here is the story, now, that I want to tell you.
Early one day, a dark December morning,
we came on three young soldiers waiting outside,
pacing and swinging their arms against the cold.
They told us this: in three homes far from here
all dreamed of one day coming to Leningrad
to see the Hermitage, as they supposed
every Soviet citizen dreamed of doing.
Now they had been sent to defend the city,
a turn of fortune the three could hardly believe.

I had to tell them there was nothing to see
but hundreds and hundreds of frames where the paintings had hung.

“Please, sir,” one of them said, “let us see them.”

And so we did. It didn’t seem any stranger
than all of us being here in the first place,
inside such a building, strolling in snow.

A gallery in the HermitageThere’s one of the images that has seared itself into my brain: soldiers, standing in an opulent gallery strewn with rubble and snow, staring at empty picture frames while the curators… well, you really must read the rest of the poem. Goosebumps guaranteed.

Apparently this is based in fact, too. Here’s an article from an exhibition at the Hermitage about the Siege years that describes what life was like for the curators:

“The museum not only withstood the bombings, but continued its routine work, safeguarding its exhibits and buildings, hosting surrealistic tours of its vacant halls… The starving defenders of the Hermitage found solace in the thought that core collections would survive though they themselves might die.”

Amazing, isn’t it? What a story. And what a poem. And what a weird confluence of topics in this one blog post.

*** edited to add… ***

Poetry Goddess Elaine is on round-up duty at Wild Rose Reader. Do check out the other entries, if you haven’t already.

Illustration Matters: War and Peas with Scott Magoon and Tricia Tusa’s Beautiful Blue Room

h1 Thursday, March 20th, 2008

It’s time again for a look at some of my favorite new picture books — with the added bonus of taking a peek inside at some of the art work.

So, Adrienne and I are composing a list of our favorite Slightly Demented Picture Books and why we love them so. One of the books you’ll see on that list — whenever we actually post that thing, the idea for it having been born last August, I think (can someone please give me three more hours in each day?) — is Kara LaReau and Scott Magoon’s Ugly Fish, which I raved about here at 7-Imp over a year ago. Good things like Ugly Fish happen when LaReau and Magoon put their heads together, so I was thrilled to see they have a new one from Harcourt, Rabbit & Squirrel: A Tale of War and Peas, to be released this May.

If you’re wondering what exactly we mean by “slightly demented picture books,” well…you’ll have to tune in later and check out our list, huh? But, as a teaser and as Adrienne put it so well, they are those books that we love and that kids love that make some adults uncomfortable, ones that tell big truths about life in one way or another. We think Ugly Fish most definitely fits comfortably in that category, and more on that later. Is Rabbit and Squirrel’s tale one that is going to make some parents squirm a bit? No. But does it tell big truths about life? You’re darn tootin’ it does (sorry, my four-year-old’s vocabulary is encroaching its way into my own), in this case a bit of commentary about nothing less than war and peace. Whoa.

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100 Naked Summers

h1 Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

That title might be lame, but at least I got your attention, right? That’s a rather pathetic amalgamation of the three titles I’m going to review today. Yup, it’s time for a short round-up of some new middle-grade titles I’ve read recently. Let’s get right to it then…

First off is Steven Herrick, Australian poet and free verse author, whose books I consistently adore, as I’ve made clear several times here at 7-Imp (see here for a review of The Wolf and here for By the River). Originally published in 2005 by Allen & Unwin, the first U.S. edition of Naked Bunyip Dancing has just been brought to us from Front Street. I know that free verse can be so used and abused that many of our loyal readers perhaps get twitchy when even hearing the phrase, but with Mr. Herrick, you’re in good hands.

This novel chronicles the school year for one Australian classroom 6C, a group of students who are a bit in awe of their unconventional new teacher, Mr. Carey, who has a beard, wears “flared trousers / and beads / and a T-shirt with the slogan / Meat is Murder on the front / and McDonald’s = McJunk on the back.” In his introduction to the class, Mr. Carey plays some Bob Dylan (“who sounds like / he swallowed a bag of marbles / and got two stuck up his nose”). Before the bell rings, Mr. Carey — whom the class has quickly dubbed “Carey, the scary!” and “the bearded beaded one,” though “Carey the hairy” is the name that sticks — tells the class that he hopes they’ll sing together and read some poetry after lunch. Ahem. They’re a bit blindsided by this, but Carey the Hairy quickly wins the adoration and devotion of all the students with his candor and creativity. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews
Before Breakfast #69: Kadir Nelson

h1 Monday, March 17th, 2008

Ever seen the art in an illustrated book and cried? Not because the book is particularly sad in any way, but simply because the art is beautiful, the emotions evoked so stirring, and the creator so artistically accomplished? As melodramatic as it may sound, we here at 7-Imp have had experiences similar to that when looking upon the beautiful oil paintings of illustrator Kadir Nelson. Actually, you can make that “author-illustrator” now, since Kadir penned as well as illustrated his latest book — We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, just published in January by Hyperion/Jump at the Sun. As if his blazing talent with paint brushes weren’t enough, leaving us speechless at every turn . . . now he proves he’s got the writing chops as well.

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