Archive for July, 2009

Poetry One Day Early: Two Moments with Strangers

h1 Thursday, July 30th, 2009

There’s this friend of mine. We share books and music. I do that with a lot of friends, but he and I will actually swap a CD or a poetry anthology and keep it for long periods of time, then returning it with many new thoughts to share. For the longest time, we swapped this nearly perfect CD (Holy Celtic Folk Music! It’s over twenty years old now. Does it get any better than “Fisherman’s Blues”? No, my friends, it just doesn’t.) And he once returned my copy of Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit with his own pencilled notes in the margins. I suppose some people might chafe at such boldness, but I loved it. It made the book even more special, and the next time I read it, I read it in all new ways.

I’ve had his copy of Charlotte Matthews’ poetry anthology Green Stars for a length of time now that is perhaps verging on inexcusable. But today, for Poetry Thursday-Slash-Friday (why not post one day early?), I have one of her poems to share. If you like it, you can thank me and my patient, forgiving friend, Shannon.

Charlotte, a writing instructor at The University of Virginia, won the Fellowship of Southern Writers’ 2007 New Writing Award for Poetry for Green Stars, released in 2005 by Iris Press in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This poem, “Two Moments with Strangers,” which I once briefly mentioned before at 7-Imp, was originally published in Potomac Review — but is also included in the anthology Shannon probably wishes I’d give back already. This is a haunting story poem, one of my favorites of Matthews’.

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Fowl Play

h1 Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

“Chicken Little was not the brightest chicken in the coop.
He was very excitable and prone to foolishness.
One day he was doing nothing, his usual pastime, when an acorn fell from the sky and hit him on the head.”

Want to know the recipe for taking a remarkably old, classic, beloved fable and making it fresh and sassy and exciting — and seem as if it’s all-new? Well, wait a sec. If I knew that, I’d be writing picture books. But one way to do it is the following: You get the very prolific Caldecott medalist Ed Emberley and his daughter, who herself has created more than thirty books for children, and you convince them to create a book together.

Rebecca and Ed Emberley’s Chicken Little has been out a while (released by Roaring Book Press in March), but even though I’m just now getting around to this post, at least I’m getting to it, huh? Because I mean, really, dear friends. Did you take a look at that cover? The Emberley’s version of Chicken Little is wonderfully weird and a laugh-and-a-half. Or, as Betsy Bird put it back in March, “this book is utterly wacked, in the best possible sense.” I say that the Emberleys’ version can join hands with Scieszka’s equally wacked-out version of the tale from this classic. These two versions have all the spunk needed to revive a tale that is possibly as old as the 6th century B.C. (At least the story’s fundamental elements appeared that long ago.)

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A Visit with Author Mac Barnett and the Voice Inside His Head, Also Known as Adam Rex

h1 Monday, July 27th, 2009

“‘That’s not just any blue whale, Billy. That’s your blue whale. And it’s your responsibility to take him wherever you go. Now, hurry up and get moving.’

There’s absolutely no way she’s getting me to take that whale to school.”
(Click this image to enlarge — and all other illustrations and sketches in this post.)

A few weeks ago, when illustrator Dan “Bellyache” Santat stopped by, he mentioned an upcoming picture book, Oh No!, written by Mac Barnett (writer and strongman-for-hire), and showed lots of great art from it. Being the illustration junkie and all-around picture book nerd that I am, I visited Mac’s site. I saw that his very first picture book was named Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem (Hyperion), and I was immediately intrigued. I also saw that it was illustrated by none other than Adam Rex, and I, at once, began to scold myself for having missed the fact that ADAM REX HAD A NEW BOOK OUT. I mean, if you’re as huge a fan of Adam’s books as I am (can you say, one of my top-five favorite contemporary illustrators?), then shouldn’t there be, I thought to myself, some kind of Jedi-like, clairvoyant, preternatural Adam-Rex mind alert that makes me just FEEL he has a book out and that I need to hit the library or bookstore? No? Oh crap, I just got behind at his blog, and this is what I get for getting behind.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #125: Featuring Lita Judge

h1 Sunday, July 26th, 2009

“We kids had done it! All of Boston cheered.”
(Click to enlarge this image — and all of Lita’s images below.)

Jules: Welcome to 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks, our weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on 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.

Today, 7-Imp welcomes author/illustrator Lita Judge, who is here to share a bit of sneak-peek art from her forthcoming title, as well as some spreads from her most recent picture book (and the second title she’s both written and illustrated), Pennies for Elephants (Hyperion, June 2009). Pennies, based on actual events of the turn of the last century, tells the story of two young siblings, living in Boston in 1914, named Henry and Dorothy. They had only seen elephants “once in real life, when Grams took Henry and me to the circus. They were my favorites. Henry’s too,” says Dorothy when she sees a newspaper boy one winter afternoon on a street corner, yellling, “Pennies for elephants! Pennies for elephants! Send in your pennies, your nickels, and dimes!” It turns out that the Orfords, noted animal trainers there in Boston, were retiring from show business, yet the city of Boston couldn’t afford to buy the pachyderms—the performing elephants, named Mollie, Tony, and Waddy—for the zoo. Mr. and Mrs. Orford, however, were going to give the children of the city two months to collect $6,000 so that they could visit the animals at the zoo one day. Henry, then, gets a bright idea, and
“{w}hen Henry got an idea in his head, it was like fuel to a Studebaker.” Thus begins the tale of how the children in Boston saved their nickels, pennies, and dimes to purchase the elephants for the city — beginning with Henry and Dorothy’s “entire life savings combined,” one dollar and fourteen cents.

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Poetry Friday: “Would the talkers be talking?”

h1 Friday, July 24th, 2009

YAWP!!!Are ya’ll sick of hearing about how awesome my job is yet? Well, tough, because I have to share this with people who will appreciate it: I got to handle a postcard written by Walt Whitman today. Just a quick little note he jotted off to a Cornell librarian, no big thing. But his signature, right there, large as life – I kinda teared up a little.

It got me thinking, and talking to a colleague about, Whitman and his place in the American poetic canon. I’ll admit, I don’t love every single poem the man wrote. He’s got an odd voice: part journalist, part transcendentalist, with a liberal dose of frank sexuality. But there’s no denying his groundbreaking contributions to the free verse form, and the use of poetry as sociopolitical commentary. And at his best, he can seriously stir up the blood.

Like in this one, “Beat! Beat! Drums!” Take it, Walt:

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying,
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.

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Lions and Rabbits and Tutus, Oh My

h1 Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

I’ll explain in a second why there’s a ukulele here. It’s not as random as it looks.

This post is a respectful nod to two of my Top-Five Favorite Blogs in All the World (oh no sirree, no hyperbole there, even if I tend to get too “most”y at the blog here on a regular basis). And those would be the blogs of public librarian Adrienne Furness, What Adrienne Thinks About That, and the blog of storyteller Farida Dowler, Saints and Spinners.

First, Adrienne. I’ll get to Farida in a second. Promise. Read the rest of this entry �

To Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
with Grace Lin

h1 Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Right around the time that Grace Lin did a blog tour for her new illustrated novel, the already well-acclaimed Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, I was picking up my library copy of the book. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. Remember how I mentioned on Monday that I’m probably far into Overdues Territory with my copy of Brian Floca’s Moonshot? Well, that is keeping company with Grace’s novel, too. I just had to hold on to it a while longer to soak it all in some more, as well as enjoy the illustrations as long as I could. (Yes, I’m a huge supporter of my local library, funding services with my delinquent due-date fees. Noble me. I do what I can to help out.)

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Shooting for the Moon with Brian Floca
and Debbie Ouellet

h1 Monday, July 20th, 2009

“…The rocket is released! / It rises / foot by foot, / it rises/ pound by pound.”
(Click to enlarge.)

Today we celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the first manned mission, Apollo 11, to land on the Moon. Launched on July 16, 1969, it landed on July 20, and Mission Commander Neil Alden Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., became the first men to walk on the moon, while Command Module Pilot Michael Collins orbited above.

If you haven’t already seen a copy of Brian Floca’s Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, April 2009), you’re in for a big treat. And I’m going to give you a bit of a peek into the book today, since Brian indulged my over-enthusiastic request for some of the watercolor spreads from the book.

I’m stubbornly holding on to my library copy—I’m probably already in Overdues Territory—because it’s an excellent picture book. As in, I hope it sees some awards. As in, it would be just wrong if it didn’t. Yes, I’m a fan of Floca’s work, but this is a book that’s already been met with all kinds of wide acclaim: Kirkus, Booklist, The Horn Book, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and School Library Journal have all given it starred reviews. Publishers Weekly wrote that Brian’s rendition of the flight is “as poetic as it is historically resonant.” And, in the Washington Post, Kristi Jemtegaard wrote: Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #124: Featuring Jeremy Tankard
and Boo Hoo Bird

h1 Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Jules: Welcome to 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks, our weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on 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.

Do you see that above? Raccoon and Rabbit are sneaking some COOKIES. Sneaky sneakers. And they’re here because today 7-Imp welcomes back authorstrator Jeremy Tankard, who’s here to share some art, including that spread above, from Boo Hoo Bird (cover below), released by Scholastic in April. Regular readers know of my deep and abiding love for Jeremy’s debut picture book, Grumpy Bird (2007). I also have a special place in the 7-Imp portion of my heart for Jeremy, since he was the first-ever taker in my seven-questions-over-breakfast interview series, started back here in 2008.

Bird, of Grumpy Bird fame, is back in Boo Hoo Bird! Yes, he’s returned and has made a noun of the word “bonk.” This I love, because—no kidding—we do that in our house. I wish I could say that Jeremy called and got that tip from me, that I get all the credit for the “BONK” usage in Boo Hoo Bird, but that’s okay. I was happy to see it. I am also happy that Jeremy, who says a bit about the book below, includes a synopsis (well, the kind that doesn’t give away the ending), since it’s been a while since I turned in my library copy of Boo Hoo Bird. But I do remember this: The book is great. It’s very funny (what with Bird’s flair for histrionics). And I still get great pleasure out of soaking in Jeremy’s art. I still say: He’s one of my favorite new illustrators.

Let’s get right to it. Thanks to Jeremy for stopping by for a brief visit and for the art. (We’re even being treated to some art from early dummies of the book today.)

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Poetry Friday: Lilies

h1 Friday, July 17th, 2009

This is my brother and I when we were little. I was two years old here; he was three-and-a-half. People used to constantly ask my mother if we were twins. I remember this. As we grew, we maddened each other, as siblings so close in age do, but we wouldn’t have known what to do in a world without each other. In high school, we grew close. He was my best friend, and he very much shaped me, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not, into the person I am today. Donnie and my high school drama and English lit teacher, rather. They didn’t know I was watching and learning from them how to be a human in this world, but I was. Correction: Donnie knew. I put him on a pedastal too much. But that’s ’cause he was brilliant and talented and funny and clever and quick-witted and he had subtlety in his soul and he was mostly quiet and mysterious and so shy and there was no one else like him and I could go on and on and he was humble about it all. So humble. You wouldn’t even believe.

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