Archive for April, 2009

Farewell to Poetry Month with
(Who Else But) Mama Goose…

h1 Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Well. It’s the last day of April, folks. Though I’m a big believer in poetry every day of the year, I’ll miss National Poetry Month 2009. I thought we’d say goodbye to it with the one and only matron of children’s literature, Mother Goose.

There are a whole slew, to be precise, of Mother Goose collections out there. And, by all means, if you want to know the weird and wonderful stories behind how these weird and wonderful rhymes came about, pick up a copy of Chris Roberts’ entertaining Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme (first published in 2004 by Granta Books). I blogged about it here, back in the Dark, Dark Times When Our Images Were Lamentably Small.

As I mentioned back then: Heavy Words Lightly Thrown is a raucous and very fun read. And you gotta love a book that takes its title from a Smiths’ song anyway. Who knew that the lullaby “Rock-a-bye, baby” (pictured left as British author and illustrator Tony Ross illustrated it) could be a warning about hubris? And that “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” above, is all about taxation? And that one saucy explanation for “Jack and Jill” is:

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A Brief Breakfast Chat with the
Creators of Bella & Bean

h1 Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

“I’m a poem!” shouted Bean.

Meet Bean. She’s tried so hard to get the attention of her best friend, Bella, who is a poet — and busy writing. “‘Yoo-hoo, Bella,’ said Bean. ‘See my new hat?’ ‘I don’t have time for hats, Bean,’ said Bella. ‘I’m writing new poems…I can’t think about rivers and moons when you are talking about hats,’ said Bella.” Bean really wants to go for a walk with her friend, and—even though Bella figures a walk to the pond would be lovely, indeed—she simply wants to finish her poems.

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More Poetry for April: From the Frothy to the Freaky

h1 Monday, April 27th, 2009

“No human being can survive / The cold of Drifig Prime, / For there your body freezes / In abbreviated time. / You soon lose all sensation / In your fingers and your feet, / You feel your heart grow weaker, / Then completely cease to beat.

Your bones are icy splinters, / And your blood solidifies. / Your flesh becomes so frigid / It begins to crystallize. / Your eyes are sightless marbles, / And your brain, turned brittle, splits. / You topple onto Drifig Prime, / And shatter into bits.”

I hate it when that happens. Remind me not to vacation in the outer reaches of the solar system again.

I’m here today, during this last week of National Poetry Month 2009, to share some poems from new picture book poetry collections. That opening poem is from Jack Prelutsky (with art from Jimmy Pickering), but I’ll get back to that in a moment. I’m here to talk just a bit about each title, but I’d rather let some art from each book—as well as some poetry, of course—do most of the talking.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #112: Featuring Wendy Wahman

h1 Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Dog-lovers might be particularly happy this week to see that we have a visit from artist Wendy Wahman, who has mostly done editorial art in her career but is now venturing into the world of children’s books. Don’t Lick the Dog: Making Friends with Dogs, which will be released at the end of this month from Henry Holt, is—for all intents and purposes—a how-to manual for children about approaching and interacting with dogs, but it’s way more fun and funny and snazzy (or “jazzy,” in the words of Kirkus) and playful than your typical manual. I could have really used this as a kid and, actually, even now, as I found the tips helpful myself: Now I know what to do if a dog, for one, is grumbling at me and wearing that “ugly wrinkled frown” face.

I’ll let more of Wendy’s art work from the book speak for itself here. (You can click on each image to see it larger and in more detail.)…

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Poetry Friday: Genesis, Dylan Thomas-style

h1 Friday, April 24th, 2009

…burning ciphers on the round of space, heaven and hell mixed as they spun.If you’ve known me for very long, then you probably know that I have a very… let’s call it “complicated” relationship with organized religion. What you may not know about me is that, in spite of it, I do still love the Bible. At least, I love parts of it, as mythology, and as literature. For example, I think Song of Solomon has some of the most beautiful passages of any love poem ever written. I mean, how great is this: “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.” Wouldn’t you swear that was Sappho?

I also love the first chapter of Genesis. That line about the holy spirit moving upon the waters always gave me chills. So of course the first time I heard “The Creation” by James Weldon Johnson I was totally blown away. Such a powerful retelling, with such rich imagery… but that’s a post for another day.

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Earth Day 2009: Anna Alter and
What to Do with Your Old Red Shoe

h1 Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

I invited author/illustrator Anna Alter over for some 7-Imp coffee this morning (remember, too, when she stopped by way back in ’07 when our images were tragically small?) to celebrate Earth Day with some ideas for re-using your old red shoe, as well as your bits of old crayons, used wrapping paper, excess toys, ripped shower curtain, and even more. What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?: A Green Activity Book About Reuse is Anna’s newest title, just in time for Earth Day, and released in March by Henry Holt.

This is a craft book, and it works on every level, seeing as how it has 1) Anna’s appealing menagerie of anthropomorphized animal characters (you know you can’t resist bunnies in swimming trunks and shades), 2) practical ideas for reuse (with precise instructions for projects, step-by-step instructions that also don’t manage to condescend to the child reader), 3) rhythmic, buoyant narrative poetry included at the opening of each spread, and 4) Anna’s cozy, warm, oh-so-inviting, and detailed acrylic artwork. Why am I ennumerating my points this morning? I dunno. Not enough coffee yet? Onwards and upwards, though…

In other words, it makes the idea of recycling and reusing fun for children. And, I’m sorry, but HOLY CRAP and oh chirren (as Haven Kimmel would say), I get scared when I think about the state of our planet and all our bloomin’ JUNK, and it’s way past time to be casual about taking better care of it. (My apologies to the probably ever-so-eloquent Anna Alter for that moment of INeloquence on my part). The book makes a great addition to school units on environmentalism, as well as for homes in which parents are eager to teach their children about their carbon footprint. (Well, we’re not talking specifically about greenhouse gases here, but you know what I mean.)

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Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Sean Qualls

h1 Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Boy howdy, have I been looking forward to this interview. Sean Qualls is one of my favorite new illustrators, one whose career I follow with great and geeky interest. His mixed-media artwork (mostly painting, drawing, and collage) never fails to surprise, and I must add, as odd as it might sound, that I particularly love his consistent use of circles. (See the sketches and spreads below for Dizzy and Before John Was a Jazz Giant as excellent examples of my point, what with the “the sounds dreamily dancing through the air amid streaming ribbons of music,” as School Library Journal put it in their review of the latter title, a 2009 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book.) And, in the words of Kirkus, Sean’s got his own unique “sonic iconography,” and he’s got it down pat.

You know, like this:

A Precious Moment

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No One Does the Food Chain Quite Like Steve Jenkins

h1 Monday, April 20th, 2009

I’ve posted here at 7-Imp about author/illustrator Steve Jenkins and his torn- and cut-paper collages several times before, including this interview from over a year ago. I’ve made my fondness for his books quite clear. When I asked him recently if he could share some spreads from his new title, he said yes. Lucky me, because I love this book. It’s called Down Down Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea (to be released in early May by Houghton Mifflin), and just when I thought that Steve’s books couldn’t possibly get any better or more interesting…

Viewed from space, the earth looks like a watery blue ball. Oceans cover more than two-thirds of the globe’s surface, and well over half the planet lies beneath water more than a mile…deep. We have explored only a fraction of the oceans. In fact, more humans have walked on the moon than have visited the deepest spot in the sea.

This is how Jenkins opens the book, then telling us we’ll be descending from the surface of the ocean to the sea floor, travelling through “one of the most extreme environments on earth.” In fact, in the next spread we see that he actually begins above the surface, showing us that sometimes, “without warning, the creatures of this hidden world burst into our own…sea creatures sometimes leap from the water into the air…” (great white shark, flying squid, spinner dolphin, etc.) Indeed, he eventually takes us to the deepest spot in the sea, in which almost seven miles of water rest above our heads, to the Challenger Deep. In between, he puts to use his usual charms on each and every spread: His richly-textured images and detailed visual data, as well as his ability to lay out sea-life facts in an engaging manner, appealing to a wide variety of ages. (My own very young children, who are drawn to Jenkins’ titles like candy, actually use the book as a toy—though we’ve read it precisely seven bajillion times, too—putting their small dinosaur creatures on the book’s sea spreads to interact with the ogrefish, goblin sharks, deep-sea jellyfish, and giant squids.) My favorite fun fact? Bioluminescence—when animals can produce their own light, as most of the sea life that live below the sunlit layer of the ocean do—is the most common form of animal communication on earth. Who knew.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #111: Featuring Beppe Giacobbe
(And a Little Carin Berger)

h1 Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Jules: See those cars, in-and-outing? I’m one of those, on my way to East Tennessee for a Very Exciting Day, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

This morning, 7-Imp welcomes acclaimed Italian graphic artist Beppe Giacobbe. Well, I wish I were welcoming him, but I wasn’t able to get in touch with him to see if he’d like to stop by, to say hello (in either Italian or English), and to show us some other art work — though I tried. Bummer. Because I love his art work, which is new to me and which I first saw in the new picture book by the award-winning and quite prolific author (AND poet AND essayist AND reviewer AND even more), Robert Burleigh, entitled Clang! Clang! Beep! Beep!: Listen to the City, to be released in early May by Simon & Schuster (Paula Wiseman Books). I can at least show you two spreads from that today. Here’s the other:

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Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #82
(The Poetry Friday Edition): Laura Purdie Salas

h1 Friday, April 17th, 2009

I’m happy to welcome author/poet/blogger Laura Purdie Salas this morning, a big cup of strong, pipin’ hot coffee extended as we get ready for a 7-Imp chat. I’ve wanted to interview Laura for a while, though some folks may remember that she stopped by exactly one year and one day ago with the rest of the Poetry Seven for a group interview. Today, though, she’s goin’ it solo, and she’s here to talk a bit about her new book, Stampede!: Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School, published this month by Clarion and illustrated by Steven Salerno, as well as discuss her blogging and other writing.

Laura is a former teacher and has written over fifty books for kids and teens. She writes nonfiction titles, as well as poetry, including 2008’s Write Your Own Poetry, geared at upper-elementary and middle-grade students. Last year, she also published ten poetry titles with Capstone Press, a set of books in which she incorporated a number of poetic forms. Her web site has lots of information about her titles and also includes information about her writing presentations and school visits. For Stampede, Laura’s first trade picture book, she conducted an online launch party, an intriguing idea for us wallflowers of the world. I asked her about it, and she discusses that a bit below. Laura also blogs over at her LiveJournal home, often presenting writing challenges and ideas for other writers and poets, such as this recent example, and always sharing the results with her readers.

I thank Laura for stopping by. Let’s get right to it . . .

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