What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week
(Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Matt Phelan)

h1 March 25th, 2011 by jules

Dear readers, my Kirkus column for this week is up over at their site this morning. Here’s the link. This time, I discuss Lois Lowry’s new children’s novel, Bless This Mouse, illustrated by Eric Rohmann. And I’ve got a question for readers, so head on over and join in the discussion, if you’re so inclined.

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And, if you missed last week’s column, it’s here. That’s my review of Ann Stott’s and Matt Phelan’s new picture book, I’ll Be There, as well as a discussion of what I call, for lack of a better phrase, love-you-forever type picture books, all focused on the love between parent and child. Readers weighed in last week with lots of great comments and suggestions, and I’ll gladly take more suggestions, should folks have them. Here are some illustrations from the book, and in fact, they are ones specifically mentioned in the review:





(Click to enlarge spread.)

Here’s a spread from 2008′s Always (Candlewick), also by Ann and illustrated by Matt, another tale which, in the words of Kirkus (for their review of it), “explores the expansiveness of a mother’s love”:


(Click to enlarge spread.)

And, just because I also mention it in the Kirkus column, here’s an illustration from last year’s Flora’s Very Windy Day (Clarion)—can you even stand how beautiful this illustration is, too?—written by Jeanne Birdsall and also illustrated by Matt. (Here was my Flora post from last year, complete with a visit from Jeanne.)


“‘Will you give me that little boy?’ asked the sparrow. ‘He could sit on my eggs.’”

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I’LL BE THERE. Text copyright © 2011 by Ann Stott. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Matt Phelan. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

ALWAYS. Text copyright © 2008 by Ann Stott. Illustrations copyright © 2008 by Matt Phelan. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

FLORA’S VERY WINDY DAY. Copyright © 2010 by Jeanne Birdsall. Illustrations © 2010 by Matt Phelan. Illustrations and sketches reproduced by permission of the illustrator and the publisher, Clarion Books, New York.

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5 comments to “What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week
(Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Matt Phelan)”

  1. “Love-you-forever” books: cool!

    The jumping-in-puddles two-page spread is like a master class, via a half-dozen small lessons, in how to capture a highly kinetic subject in simple static 2D brushstrokes.

    o/t: This week’s Kirkus item isn’t up this early (I sorta wish I weren’t :) ), but that first illustration reminds me that I recently found a site devoted to shoelaces: “Bringing you the fun, fashion & science of shoelaces.”

    What a world, eh?


  2. John, only YOU would find the site devoted to shoelaces, and that’s a compliment.

    Also, you missed a calling in children’s-lit reviewing, I say. To your second paragraph I say: Yeah. What he said.


  3. More Matt Phelan! Oh Joy! I am so in love with the expression he capture! I dare say I will love it forever…

    Great post… Thank you


  4. THIS is what I WOULD HAVE said at Kirkus, if there were any other way to comment other than having a FB account, which I do not have:

    Wow, Jules, this book sounds hilarious, and I do love that young readers come away with an idea of the parts of a cathedral. It sounds like there’s a bit of amusement for adults to enjoy as well – pure Lowry!

    I agree with Sally Apokedak — there’s a lot of static in Christian circles as to what constitutes a “Christian” book, and while there seem to always be people trying to grab hold and put things into this category, there are equally strong-minded gatekeepers trying to shove books out! When I write, I try to depict characters behaving in a loving, moral and ethical way, and occasionally put in instances where the character attends a church or a youth group outing, but that’s generally where I draw the line, unless writing for a specifically Christian publishing house. In any event, I am against proselytizing, denominational dogma, and moralizing in ANY children’s book (or any book at all, really).

    This book doesn’t sound particularly like it either proselytizes, shows characters as church-y, or has allegorical symbolism. It simply takes place in a church, yes? We can argue that this is a normalizing churchgoing.

    When we talk about diverse and multicultural fiction, we talk about the importance of each child seeing themselves depicted. _BLESS THIS MOUSE_ sounds like a book which allows children who attend church to see a bit of their world reflected, in a way which is inclusive and non-threatening to non-church going children. To me, that makes it simply a splendid example of inclusive children’s fiction, which is a big WIN on all fronts.


  5. Tanita, I don’t know why Facebook is the only way for leaving comments. I’ll post your comment there later.

    No proselytizing in this book, no. Thanks for weighing in. If you end up reading, come back and we’ll talk about all the big, beautiful, crunchy words in it. And, yes, I loved the map of the church that it opens with.


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