Archive for June, 2008

Father Knows Best

h1 Monday, June 16th, 2008

I set out once again—like last week—to make this a Nonfiction Monday post, but this book also does not officially get lumped into the nonfiction category, though it’s based on an experience the author/illustrator had as a child.

Ah well. I’m going to tell you about it anyway, because it’s a beautiful thing.

How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevtiz, released in April by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, has already—in its relatively short existence—garnered a whole heapin’ ton of critical acclaim: Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #67: Featuring Gianna Marino

h1 Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Jules: Happy Sunday to one and all . . . We’re happy you stopped by today, as we’re featuring some work this morning from artist and illustrator Gianna Marino, a.k.a. “Boomerang.” (And that’s because she’s done a wee bit of travelling in her lifetime, as you can read about here.)

As I was linking to Gianna’s site in the fairly recent Jim Averbeck interview (even though I’ve linked to her site before), I went and explored there and fell in love with her botanicals, painted in gouache and all featured here at her site. Pictured here is her Himalayan Blue Poppy, and below is “Chocolate Cosmos.” She also has some mixed-media paintings featured here, created using Japanese and mulberry papers, pencil sketches, gouache paint, and acrylic glazes over canvas. At her site, she writes: Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: Choose Your Own Adventure

h1 Friday, June 13th, 2008

Yes, you get choices today for this Poetry Friday entry, and that would be because I had Poetry Friday plans and then kind, thoughtful Alkelda came along and stood them on their head.

Your first option today is a more traditional Poetry Friday entry — an actual poem, that is, though it’s hardly reverent in nature. Your second option is a more non-traditional entry: Song lyrics and a performance.

Or you can go with both options. I happen to like them both myself.

Option A

My girls and I read Perrault’s Cinderella yesterday. The four-year-old listened attentively and all wide-eyed (the two-and-a-half-year old jumped around like a monkey on crack, as usual, after about two minutes of the story, but this is to be expected). I was reminded, after reading it, of my old and tattered copy of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, so I pulled it off the shelf in honor of the recent post on “demented” stories that Adrienne and I did. Dahl’s version of Cinderella is the first poem in this anthology.

Whoa. I had read these before — but a long time ago. This is far from your feel-good Cinderella (hence, my goofy image at the top of this post). This is some seriously offbeat stuff. Beheadings. The Prince calling Cindy a “dirty slut.” And the ending? She chooses a “simple jam-maker by trade / Who sold good homemade marmalade” instead.

Good goin’, Cindy. Always good to marry one talented with baking (and the one who, uh, doesn’t call you names). Even better than royalty, I say. Not to mention, Dahl’s prince is choppin’ off heads, leftrightandcenter. Read the rest of this entry �


h1 Thursday, June 12th, 2008

I know that title is horribly unfair. You have your books for those first learning to read, often called Emerging Readers or Beginning Readers. You have your Chapter Books, sometimes further delineated into Early Chapter Books. And then sometimes these early chapter books are called Early Readers. And I suppose all of them fall into the general category of Intermediate Readers.

But I lumped ’em all together into one seriously lame title for this post, because I tend to give them the cold shoulder way too often here at 7-Imp. I don’t set out to do so, but I’m such a huge picture book fan that most posts end up being about them or the people who have created them, and if I’m not doing that, I’m talking about a novel.

So, here’s my attempt to run down some new titles within the broad category of books that are between picture books and those novels for older middle grade students (or older).

Let me say right off the bat: I’ve read some of these; others I’ve just started; and some I’ve yet to crack open. I’d love to hear from those who have read these, particularly those who have read the ones I’ve yet to start. Bottom line is that all of them are books that caught my eye for one reason or another and that I’m interested in telling you about or reading.

Also, before I begin, there are of course Mo’s new beginning-reader titles (here and here and pictured above). Sadly, I have not seen them yet. Anyone want to share their thoughts on these?

Erica Silverman’s Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa are back, this time in Rain or Shine, released by Harcourt in April. These are beginning readers for the child just learning, and I promise that with Kate and Cocoa he or she will have a yee-haw good time (you knew a “yee haw!” was coming, right?).

If you’re not familiar with Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa, this is the fourth book in the series. The first one was named a Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor Book (“the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States”). There’s lots of child appeal here in these books with our endearing characters in Kate, a “cowgirl from the boots up,” and her horse, who can speak and who in this new installment of the series gets spooked by a thunderstorm; feigns illness to avoid work; suffers a brief attack of extreme vanity in trying to ditch wearing the rain sheet he considers “silly”; and tries to locate the pot of oats at the end of the rainbow. As always, Cowgirl Kate knows all too well how to deal with Cocoa’s not-so-shining moments, their tight friendship always pulling them through any rough spots. Betsy Lewin’s illustrations capture well the affection in their friendship. A winning emerging reader series all-around. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Tricia Tusa

h1 Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Tricia TusaIt’s that time again, time to sit down with one impossibly talented illustrator before breakfast. Rather, over breakfast. Tricia Tusa’s here, joining 7-Imp for a cyber-feast. And what is Tricia’s breakfast of choice? “Two eggs over easy, three pieces of bacon, two pancakes, hot Red Mate tea with milk and honey, a handful of vitamins. If there is time, I will juice kale, parsley, carrots, cucumber, beets, apple and lemon together. I feel more secure starting my day with a large amount in my belly.” That, my friends, is a real breakfast. As long as I can add my coffee, I’m more than happy with that meal. And especially the company.

Tricia’s been wow’ing me lately with her illustrations, and in 7-Imp’s world, I’ve recently run my mouth about In a Blue Room, written by Jim Averbeck (Jim is interviewed here), published this year by Harcourt, and last year’s Fred Stays With Me!, written by Nancy Coffelt and published by Little, Brown Young Readers.

But here’s the thing. As you will see below, Tricia has illustrated about FIFTY books. (Note her response to the can-you-list-your-books-to-date question: She’s illustrated so many that even she’s not sure how many total she’s graced with her paintbrush.) And I can’t find a Tricia Tusa bibliography online anywhere. It PAINS me to not include a comprehensive list of her books to-date, but . . . well, you read the same thing I did: There are FIFTY, folks. Not to mention, I’m sure you, our devoted readers, know how to do title searches. So, I’ll leave that rewarding search up to you.

Spread from In a Blue Room (Harcourt, 2008)

That said, I feel rather like a poseur gushing about her illustrations when I’ve seen exactly two of her books. Ahem. Shameful, I know. But, hey, a girl’s gotta start somewhere. I really like what I have seen, not to mention you can bet I’m off to do a library search for her previous titles. I predict that one day really soon I’ll be walking in the door with a hugely huge stack of Tusa-illustrated titles to explore. That’s my plan anyway.

While we’re setting the table for our breakfast chat, let’s get the basics from Tricia. But first I want to thank her for stopping by. And how much do I love that she shares her quirky brainstorming techniques (see her various ways of cocooning below)? A whole, whole lot. What a fun interview this was, and many thanks to her. Read the rest of this entry �

Mystery, Magic, and Memory in the Texas Bayou

h1 Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

As I mentioned this past Sunday, I took a blog break last week just to get caught up on some reading. As it turns out, this very intriguing novel was staring me in the face. On the back of it, author Alison McGhee is quoted as saying, “{r}arely do I come across a book that makes me catch my breath, that reminds me why I wanted to be a writer—to make of life something beautiful, something enduring.” Whoa. Well, maybe I’m a sucker, but statements like that pique my interest. Or, as Betsy Bird put it in her review of this title, “{w}hen you pick up a copy of The Underneath by Kathi Appelt and you read the words, ‘A novel like this only comes around every few decades,’ on the back cover you’re forgiven if you scoff a little. Uh-huh. Suuuuuure it does. But doggone it if it isn’t true.”

Once I picked this one up, I was spellbound. Couldn’t put it down. I fell into the world of Gar-Face and the muddy Bayou Tartine and the Alligator King pretty hard, and I couldn’t pull myself out ’til I was done with the book. And I couldn’t do much else ’til I finished it either; sure, I managed to feed myself and my children and I suppose I remembered to take care of my personal hygiene (oh wait, my immediate family would make sure I did so), but everything else was pretty much neglected for the length of time I was in Appelt’s world.

Good thing, then, that I was blog-breaking when I stumbled into The Underneath, released by Atheneum in May.

I’m feeling mighty daunted, too, at the notion of trying to describe the book to you. Or finding the words to describe how enchanting the writing is or how expertly the story is constructed. And not everyone will agree with that latter statement; the School Library Journal review, describing the book as Southern Gothic, wrote “the constant shift of focus from one story line to the next is distracting and often leads to lost threads.” I didn’t lose any threads while reading, but, hey, to each his own. As Betsy put it well (I know I keep quoting her, but it’s no mystery that I adore her reviews), “{b}ound to be one of those books that people either hate or love, I’m inclined to like it very very much. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t weird, man. Really freaky deaky weird.” So, there you have it: A book people will either love or hate. Hmm . . . Perhaps. But put me in the former category. And with bells on. Read the rest of this entry �

R – E – S – P – E – C – T

h1 Monday, June 9th, 2008

I wanted to force this post into the Nonfiction Monday category, but it won’t quite fit. This is Nikki Giovanni’s and Chris Raschka’s brand-new adaptation of Aesop’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” and—to be sure—those fables of Aesop are lumped into the 398.2s. But, not only does this not qualify, I think, for the “facts first” mission of Nonfiction Monday, but Giovanni has also really elaborated on this tale, adding a new cast of characters (literally — the book opens with a spread which depicts our “cast”) and turning it into an argument for the respect for and compensation of an artist for his/her work. I speak of The Grasshopper’s Song: An Aesop’s Fable Revisited, illustrated by Raschka, and published in May by Candlewick.

“Jimmy Grasshopper was furious,” the book opens. He’s complaining to Henry Sr., a bird who eventually becomes the counsel to Jimmy-as-plaintiff with his partners (Robin, Robin, Robin, and Wren). Jimmy says he sang songs and played music all summer for the industrious ants while they harvested their food — yet the ants are shutting him out from any of the rewards. “Even in the evening, when we were all tired, I played a melody to keep up our spirits. I never thought they would turn their backs on me. It’s just not right.”

But things aren’t so black and white, as it turns out. Henry Sr. is reluctant to take the case: “You provided a service they didn’t request.” Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #66: Featuring Philip Huber

h1 Sunday, June 8th, 2008

Jules: Welcome once again 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.

This week we’re featuring illustrator Philip Huber, who is a professor of art at Lock Haven University, a Fulbright scholar, received his Master’s degree in illustration and a Master of Fine Arts degree in visual communications at Syracuse University, and who illustrated this year’s A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry by Marjorie Maddox (also a professor at Lock Haven; Marjorie teaches English and is the director of the Creative Writing program there).

Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: Relaxing in the tub with Amy Lowell

h1 Friday, June 6th, 2008

ahh…Whoa, hey… Now there’s an image I didn’t really mean to invoke…

Yeah, it’s me. I’m still here. I didn’t actually intend to take a blog break along with Jules – but with one thing and another, it kind of worked out that way. Sorry, y’all.

But let me tell you something: SUMMER has finally come to Ithaca. The husband and I just got our little air conditioner stuck in the window, and not a minute too soon – they’re predicting temps in the 90s tomorrow. We get thunderstorms about every other day, everything’s green, most of the flowers are gone, and those fuzzy black-and-yellow caterpillars are EVERYWHERE. Seriously, looking too closely at the trunk of any given tree is like watching a sci-fi movie. I made the mistake of cutting across the grass in my flip-flops, and got a caterpillar sandwich between my foot and shoe. Aside from that ickiness, though, it’s pretty glorious. Makes me want to take things a bit more slowly, savor the new warmth, soak in the green…

So here’s an excerpt from a poem that celebrates taking it easy, indulging in a little me-time, just lazing around watching ripples in the bathwater… “Bath” by Amy Lowell:

Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling. I move a foot and the planes of light in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me.

Click here to read the whole poem – it’s got lovely bits of imagery, so you’ll want to savor it slowly. Then, in homage to Robin Brande and her erstwhile Friday List, do something nice for yourself today. Take a bubble bath, buy that perfect black cardigan you’ve had your eye on, go for a walk in the sunshine… or the rain… or the caterpillars. It’s summer, people! Relax. Enjoy it.

We’ll see you all again on Sunday.

* * * * * * *

Sarah Reinhard is on round-up duty today. When you feel like it, you know, just mosey on over there and see what other poetry fans are posting today. No rush. Whenever.

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #65: Featuring Up-and-Coming Illustrator, James Hindle

h1 Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Jules: It seems like just yesterday that we started featuring student or newly-graduated illustrators at the beginning of each month here at 7-Imp, but it’s already June. JUNE, I tell ya! And this is our sixth one. Yeesh, before you know it, it’ll be December and snowing. Where does the time go?

And we’re happy that illustrator James Hindle agreed to share some art work with us. He sent us a handful of images, but how can we not open up with cupcakes? (And cupcake tattoos and a cupcake belt buckle, at that. Has Fuse, the self-proclaimed cupcake fanatic, considered these things?). This is “Bake Sale” from 2007. James, who lives in Massachusetts, has some more illustrations and comics featured at his web site,, and here are some of the ilustrations he sent us for today’s feature (the first, untitled; the second, “Bed Head”; and the third, “The Tall Man,” all from 2007): Read the rest of this entry �