Archive for March, 2008

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #54: Featuring David Merveille

h1 Sunday, March 16th, 2008

Jules: This is one of those Sundays in which we’re really featuring a book (as opposed to, say, an illustrator stopping by to share something new or not-seen-before), this one a (mostly) wordless picture book, entitled Jukebox, published by Kane/Miller this year (originally published in France in ’07), and created by French illustrator David Merveille — ahem, make that “illustrateur.” Having gotten these spreads from the publisher, since I think this book is awfully fun, I did email David to see if he wanted to send us some commentary about the book and perhaps talk about his creation of the art work therein, but alas! I had to send my email in l’Anglais, and I have no idea if he understood me (my high school French has receded into the far corners of my memory, and it is très mauvais — at least, I think that means very-bad-as-in-LOUSY).

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Poetry Friday: Sometimes only Edna will do

h1 Friday, March 14th, 2008

EdnaFor the past couple of days I’ve been fighting off a raging blue funk. No particular reason, really – just a combination of seasonal affective disorder, travel fatigue, the endless grind of the job search, politics, world events, Dreamweaver 8, and… okay, fine, I’ll say it: PMS.

Blah. Blah-de-blah-blah-blah. Whatever.

Times like this, I gotta call in the big guns. Plath? No, did that already. Lowell? Nope, him too. Sexton? Meh. Millay?

Millay… Yeah, that’s it. When it comes to blue funks, Edna St. Vincent Millay knows how to throw down. Here’s “Spring”, a perfect little jewel of a downer poem:

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?

Ahhh… Nothing like a little Edna to make me feel like I’m in good company. But you really have to read the rest of the poem. The last line is the best.

*edited to add…*

Jama’s hosting the round-up today at Alphabet Soup. AND she’s got a contest going for anyone posting about Bob Dylan lyrics. So, here’s a couple verses from one of my favorites, “Song to Woody.” Thanks, Jama!

I’m out here a thousand miles from my home,
Walkin’ a road other men have gone down.
I’m seein’ your world of people and things,
Your paupers and peasants and princes and kings.

Hey, hey Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song
‘Bout a funny ol’ world that’s a-comin’ along.
Seems sick an’ it’s hungry, it’s tired an’ it’s torn,
It looks like it’s a-dyin’ an’ it’s hardly been born.

Illustration Matters: Choung, Dormer,
Lemaitre, and Tankard are in the house

h1 Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

It’s time once again to take a look at some of my favorite new picture books, but instead of merely reviewing them, we’ll take a peek inside at some of the art work therein, thanks to either the illustrator him or herself or the publisher. I have four books this week, and — since it would pain me to have to pick a favorite — I’ll put them in alphabetical order by illustrator. Yup, everything’s coming up Eun-hee Choung, Frank Dormer, Pascal Lemaitre, and Jeremy Tankard this week. Let’s get right to it then.

So, just take a look at what Minji is up to while her mother is away at the salon, getting her hair dyed a blazingly cool shade of red (illustrations used with permission from publisher):

This is from Minji’s Salon by South Korean illustrator Eun-hee Choung (Kane/Miller, February 2008), who was awarded the grand prize in the Korean Published Arts Contest in 2005. Her goal is to “make unique picture books,” and she undoubtedly succeeds with this one, originally published in South Korea in 2007.

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7-Imp’s 7 Picture Book Tips for Impossibly Busy Parents #4 (the Almost Julie-Paschkis-Edition)

h1 Monday, March 10th, 2008

I’m going to do this week’s list the lazy-blogger’s way by pretty much just rounding up others’ reviews of these titles (others’ thought will be in this fetching shade of blue — woot! Fun with HTML colors!), since my oldest turns four this week, and we have some serious partying down for which to get ready, people.

If you’re new to this feature, it’s where I’ll talk about some books that were, for the most part, released last year, the idea being that your local library should have them (no reviews of advance copies, not out for two more months or so, are allowed here). In fact, every book on my list this week was one I retrieved from one library or another, so I’m really hoping yours will have them, too.

Let’s get right to it. Again, I’m going to include review excerpts from others, but only if I agree with them, of course of course of course. Heh. And these titles will cover a wide age range. I’m not going to narrow this week. They’re all over the place, the only common denominator being that they’re all what I think are good — or great — books. And, since there are so many more and these are but seven, do tell me what you’ve been reading this week with your own wee ones.

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
by Kadir Nelson
Jump at the Sun/Hyperion
January 2008

Okay, wait, so this was released this year, and you might have to wait a bit at your local library to get this one into your hands, but it’s worth the wait. OH MY, have you SEEN this book, the one that received Caldecott buzz — as in, 2009 buzz — during the first month of the year? This is the first book Nelson has both written and illustrated, and it’s a jaw-dropping wonder of a thing. Nelson, using an “Everyman” player as the narrator, tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through the decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947. Publishers Weekly calls it “a sumptuous volume that no baseball fan should be without” and adds, “while this large, square book (just a shade smaller than a regulation-size base) succeeds as coffee-table art, it soars as a tribute to the individuals . . .” Don’t miss Betsy Bird’s detailed review of it over at A Fuse #8 Production, including her memorable opening (“Nope. Sorry. Not fair. Kadir Nelson, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’ve completely overdrawn your account in the creativity department. I could accept that you are one of the greatest living illustrators making his way today. I didn’t even mind how young and talented you were. That was fine. But dude, did I actually have to learn that you were a remarkable writer as well?”) and closing (“It’s a one-of-a-kind book, the like of which you have not seen, nor ever will see again. A triumph.”) Kelly Fineman also covered this title over at the wonderful, new blog dedicated to nonfiction and authored by a whole slew of fabulous nonfiction authors and illustrators, I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids):

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Two Co-reviews: Our Favorite Freaks of Nature

h1 Monday, March 10th, 2008

Jules: Well, hello there on this Monday. I’m going to take a break from Nonfiction Monday today, as Eisha and I are trying to get caught up a bit here on reviews of a couple titles from last year. For no particular reason, other than sometimes just being slow, we have yet to talk about these two YA titles that we dug and dug hard.

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Last August saw the release of Robin Brande’s first novel, Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature, released by Alfred A. Knopf. This “ambitious YA debut” (Publishers Weekly) was met with critical acclaim and was chosen as a 2008 ALA Best Book for Young Adults; a Fall 2007 Book Sense Children’s Pick; and a 2008 NCSS/CBC (National Council for the Social Studies and Children’s Book Council) Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies.

The novel tells the story of high school freshman Mena Reece. She’s cleared her conscience by doing what she considered the right thing (regarding a young man named Denny Pierce) by her friends, her church, and her family — but, as a result, none of them are speaking to her. Needless to say, her school year is not starting off well (“My life might really improve if I could just stop feeling so committed to the truth”). She does make one friend in her science lab partner, Casey, who happens to be brilliant as well as, Mena comes to realize, funny and cute and entirely not afraid to be himself. Since her former best friends have cut her off (“Ahh, that’s sweet—you made a new little gay friend already,” one of them tells her snidely), Casey’s pretty much all Mena has right now. And when her science teacher, Ms. Shepherd, begins a unit on the topic of evolution, Mena finds herself both fascinated by and caught up in a new controversy between those former best friends from the conservative church her family attends and those aligning themselves with Ms. Shepherd, trying to keep intelligent design from being taught in the school. As a result, Mena undergoes her own personal evolution, as she considers the subjects of religion, science, indoctrination, faith, freedom, and much more.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #53: Featuring Zachary Baldus
(The Obscenely-Cute-Kids-We-Don’t-Know Edition)

h1 Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Jules: Meet “Batgirl.” This is a commissioned piece by artist Zachary Baldus. Eisha and I are pleased to be featuring Zachary this week, who first came to my attention with his captivating cover for the new YA novel, The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher, which I reviewed here, complete with Zachary’s illustration (with and without the cover text). Zachary has done a slew of other book covers — see here (Scholastic), here (Puffin Books), here (Putnam Books), and here (Random House) for some examples. When I saw his web site, I knew I’d want to ask him to stop by here one Sunday. Fortunately for us, he said yes.

Zachary gave us free reign to choose our favorite images from his site. This proved difficult for me and Eisha. I mean, there’s this, this, this, and this. And then we also liked some of his weirder (that’s a compliment), darker stuff, such as this and this. And then there’s the eye-popping art work he’s done for comics, such as this and this (don’t click on the latter if you don’t wanna get freaked. right. out).

So, that’s one too many “this”es, but my point is that it was hard to pick a favorite. Nevertheless, we’re going to share some below, the first one being one that Zachary sent us that is not featured on his site, a panel from a page he did for an upcoming issue of American Splendor.

As a reminder, 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 well as featuring artists like Zachary). New people are more than welcome to leave their lists. We hope you’ll share your kick-worthy moments from the week.

Many thanks to Zachary for visiting and sharing some art work this week. Here are just a few more images from him: Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: Bread crumbs and Memories

h1 Friday, March 7th, 2008

from 'Childhood's Favorites and Fairy Stories'; Project Gutenberg; illustrator unknownAs mentioned yesterday, I happily stumbled upon the site for Fairy Tale Review, an annual literary journal devoted to contemporary fairy tales and a co-publication of The University of Alabama Press. It’s edited by Kate Bernheimer, an assistant professor of creative writing at The University of Alabama, who penned her first children’s book, a beguiling creation covered here at 7-Imp yesterday. Fairy Tale Review even has its own blog for keeping up with the latest news. This publication looks fabulous and is in excellent hands (check out the distinguished Advisory Board).

The current issue of Fairy Tale Review includes some poetry. One poem, “Diana, Hunting Words,” by the late Sarah Hannah — “equally fervent about the Monkees and Metallica” (I had to throw that in; she seemed like a fascinating person) — is accessible here in this current issue.


But today I’m going to share another one by Brent Hendricks — from a previous issue — entitled “Hansel.”

He decided to do it anyway—walked out the door
and dropped his first memory at the driveway’s edge.
It was the beginning scene, way back when,
of the kid with the miraculous leg of wood
galloping across a neighbor’s yard.

And on from there. At the city line
he left his grandmother’s smile
and by the time he strolled the frontage road
his friends from high school were roadside trash.

In the suburbs he unloaded his father’s funeral,
a cast of lovers, the Mexican sunset
that glazed the ocean red,
all images littering the path he walked
like bread crumbs leading back somewhere.

You can read the rest here. Happy Poetry Friday. The round-up is at The Simple and the Ordinary today.

{Note: I really wanted to include in this post this illustration by W.C. Burgard, but I didn’t think to ask him for permission in enough time. But go check it out, if you’re so inclined.}

Illustration Matters: Friendship and Ferocity
with Ceccoli and Karas

h1 Thursday, March 6th, 2008

So, I’m not so sure about this “Illustration Matters” title for this new series of sorts I’m trying out, but since I have no brilliant replacement for it, I’ll forge ahead . . .

Now, just feast your eyes on this lovely piece of art work (used with permisson from Random House) from illustrator Nicoletta Ceccoli:

This is from The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer, released last month from Schwartz & Wade Books. This is Bernheimer’s first children’s book. She’s the Editor of the literary journal, Fairy Tale Review (really, how great is that and why haven’t I heard of it before? If other bloggers have talked about it, well, I’ve missed it, what with me being perpetually behind on my blog-reading, it seems. Anyway, maybe I’ll talk a bit more about this fabulous publication on Poetry Friday). In this profile of her at, she talks about reading children’s books to her daughter and getting discouraged. She also talks about how writing one was the hardest thing she’s ever done, thereby helping fight the prevalent notion that writing for kids must be easy — “I wanted it to be really accessible, almost effortless, to the reader; to get it to feel that way took a lot of effort. I didn’t want it to talk down to the child at all, and I didn’t want it to talk up to the adult either . . . I didn’t want any winks to the adult.” I, for one, am glad she tried her own hand at one. It’s a beguiling thing, this book. “I wanted it to be a book that you might read as a child and remember as an adult,” she said in the aforementioned feature. I think she might have succeeded.

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Wings and Faith with David Almond and Polly Dunbar

h1 Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Let me hear it for David Almond, my friends. I really don’t think there’s anyone else quite like him writing for young adults today. He’s an extraordinary storyteller, creating stories memorable for their originality and striking in their beauty and mystery. His latest title is My Dad’s a Birdman (Candlewick; April ’08), an illustrated novel for younger readers with art work from one of my favorite illustrators, Polly Dunbar. And it “reads like a playful fairy tale,” wrote the UK’s Times Online. This is a relatively short, twenty-chapter illustrated novel for the 8+ age crowd, and it’s just such a lovely, lovely read. It’s tender and touching and celebrates life with an unabashed joy that made me instantly want to read it a second time, which I, indeed, did. I also found it to be rife with symbolism — but not in a Lit-101 kind of way that made me want to throw the book across the room. This is David Almond we’re talking about. He’s a master storyteller, and he handles the characters’ underlying grief with an impressive subtlety. But I’m getting ahead of myself . . .

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Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #68: Franki and Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

h1 Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

There is a reason you will hear a lot of kidlitosphere bloggers say that they wish Franki Sibberson (pictured right) and Mary Lee Hahn (left) of A Year of Reading were their children’s teachers (Jules has uttered that before, too. Or maybe muttered. Or both). If you’re not familiar with their blog, then know their tag line (if that’s what that is called at the top of one’s blog under the title) is: “Two teachers who read. A lot.” So, not only are they teachers who read, but they’re smart and funny and fun and passionate about books. And they have lots of devoted readers, too, as you’ll see in a minute.

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