Archive for November, 2006

One of YA literature’s greatest writers
brings us an unforgettable character

h1 Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

cornelia-kenn.jpgWhew. Where to begin? This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn by Aidan Chambers is his tome — 808 pages that take us into the mind, the heart, the soul of one teenaged Cornelia Kenn. And it completes what he calls his Dance Sequence of novels (“a dance because it was while I was writing Dance on My Grave that I realised there would be six novels,” he writes on his site. “Together they paint a portrait of a certain kind of youthful life, of becoming adult in the last years of the twentieth century and the first of the new millennium. Each is especially concerned with particular kinds of experience.” Read the above Dance Sequence link to read more about this, his six-novel sequence). To say This is All is verbose is to put it mildly; I dare say that I’ve yet to read a more comprehensive — and fascinating — look at a teen’s inner life. This is one addictive read. I found myself exasperated with and frustrated by and seduced by and in love with this character — often all on one page. Read the rest of this entry �

What do peas, palindromes,
promenading pigs, puerile perseverance,
and one’s particular peculiarities have in common?

h1 Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

{So, I never said titles were my strength} . . .

What they have in common is that they’re the subjects of some more entertaining ’06 picture book titles, ones I’ve been meaning to tell you about for a good while now but am finally getting to. So, let’s get right to it, shall we?


  • What?The Princess and the Pea adapted by Lauren Child and captured by Polly Borland
  • About? — You know the classic tale by Hans Christian Andersen; Child has given it some snazz and some oomph and lots of her usual frill with a spirited, italics-heavy re-telling.
  • Why It’s Mostly Worth Reading — If you like tiny things (Eisha, o Eisha, have you seen this one?), you will squeal over this book. Child and Borland created a miniature world for the story, Child having Read the rest of this entry �
  • Susanna Clarke and Mr. Gaiman; or, Fairy Tales for Grown-ups

    h1 Sunday, November 26th, 2006

    I read two fantasy short-story collections recently – Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, and The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke – and it turned out they both had a lot in common, so I thought I’d tell you about them together.  Both are by highly-regarded fantasy authors (although Gaiman is very well-established in all kinds of media, and Clarke just blazed onto the scene a couple of years ago with her brilliant, amazing Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell), both collections have stories that tie in to previous novels, both were very high on my to-read list for Fall 2006, and both were satisfying in their individual ways.

    Fragile ThingsFragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman.  This collection of short stories, poems, and odds-and-ends is a must-read for any Gaiman fan.  Most of the pieces have appeared before in various anthologies, websites and Tori Amos tour booklets, but he’s included a fabulous Introduction that describes the where/when/why/how of each piece’s origin that gives an interesting glimpse into the workaday world of a writer, plus gives a new context to pieces you might have seen before.  I was lucky enough to see Gaiman at the Children’s Literature New England conference in 2005, and I was happy to find a couple of the pieces he read collected here:  “Locks,” a poem about a father telling his daughter (and the other way around) the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears; and “Instructions,” a poem that acts as a guidebook to anyone who wanders into a fairy tale – here’s an excerpt:

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    Katherine the Pretty Good

    h1 Saturday, November 25th, 2006

    An Abundance of Katherines An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.

    I can’t think of any young adult novels published in 2006 that were more highly-anticipated than John Green’s sophomore effort, An Abundance of Katherines.  Hardly surprising, given all the critical acclaim and general reader-love he raked in over his first novel, the Printz-winning Looking For Alaska.  If you read the lit-blogs you probably caught at least one interview on his blog tour this past September/October (a seriously cool idea – I wish more authors would do that), or maybe saw a review or two.  Well, now Julie and I have both read it, and are ready to throw our opinions into the blogosphere, with another of those co-posting dialogue thingies we like to do.

    Read the rest of this entry �

    Poetry Friday: Nostalgic for the Classics

    h1 Friday, November 24th, 2006

    *{Note: Today’s Poetry Friday round-up is at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy} . . .

    Hello, Dear Readers.  Happy day-after-Thanksgiving.  Did you all make it through okay?  Personally, I’m having trouble reaching past my tummy to the keyboard, but I’m okay with that.

    I’ve been thinking this morning about Thanksgiving, and its place in the Fall-to-Winter holiday continuum.  Julie was right, it is a very nice holiday, all about taking time to recognize what’s most important to us – family, friends, and the pleasures of home and hearth.  I think it’s become a way to galvanize us, too, for the uberstressful capital-H-Holiday season.  In a few weeks, when we’ve been fighting crowds in malls and standing in checkout lines for days on the quest to get exactly the right gifts for those we care about, we can look back on Thanksgiving, remember being surrounded by those very same loved ones, maybe eating a fabulous pecan pie baked by the very relative whose name we are currently cursing because she is so very hard to shop for – and take a breath, and remember why we’re putting ourselves through this, why we do it over and over again every year:  love.

    I may only be thinking in these terms because my husband and I didn’t go home this Thanksgiving.  We live literally a thousand miles away from our extended families, and just don’t make it to Tennessee for every holiday.  We still cooked up a big meal, though, and we made the dishes that remind us of home.  (Okay, so we bought the pecan pie.  I can’t do it as well as my mom, but Whole Foods is pretty close.)  So I’m feeling very nostalgic right now.  And that may be why, when I went to my pile of Cybil Poetry nominees to choose one to write about, I was drawn to the Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, compiled and illustrated by Jackie Morris.

    Barefoot Book of Classic Poems

    If I were stranded on a desert island and could only take one book of poetry with me, this would not be a bad choice at all.  Read the rest of this entry �

    The best holiday of the year

    h1 Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

    Jules posting here — and on behalf of Eisha. I don’t know if this is Eisha’s favorite holiday — Thanksgiving, that is — but I think it’s probably mine, because it’s the least commercialized and everyone’s not running around all insane trying to buy gifts for those distant (or not-so distant) relatives or co-workers or you-name-it whom they don’t even really like. Instead, you sit down with your friends and/or family or friends who are your family and feast and take a moment to be grateful for what you have. Aw, nice. You don’t have to be all obvious about it, all Tiny-Tim-God-Bless-Us-Everyone about it. Even if you yourself just pause in one quiet moment to take stock of your life’s joys, it’s a nice thing. So, happy Thanksgiving, and in honor of it, I’m going to share a piece of writing I stumbled upon that I had written down years ago in a journal — the words of Thoreau, writing to H.G.O. Blake, once a Unitarian minister, in December of 1856:

    Read the rest of this entry �

    Tall Tales: A Wisconsin Legend, Giants Calling, and
    Sartorial Bargaining in the New England Woods

    h1 Monday, November 20th, 2006

    pancakes-for-supper.jpgHave you seen Anne Isaac’s Pancakes for Supper!, illustrated beautifully by Mark Teague? Aw, you need to. Isaacs, writing with great poise, is re-envisioning Helen Bannerman’s Story of Little Black Sambo but sets the story in New England. In an author’s note of sorts, we are told, “Isaacs blends elements from American storytelling traditions and Bannerman’s tale, while introducing animals indigenous to North America . . .” And, as the School Library Journal review put it well, it’s a “clever, respectful take on an iconic tale.” Read the rest of this entry �

    Children’s Book Week and
    the Continuing Picture Book Round-Up

    h1 Saturday, November 18th, 2006

    Happy Children’s Book Week 2006! Yes, it continues ’til the 19th — that is, tomorrow — and we here at Team 7ITBB (as Eisha and my husband, who serves as our tech support, call ourselves when we have our cyber-water-cooler-team-huddles) haven’t missed it yet. It’s never to be forgotten, my friends, and it’s my personal favorite week of the year, book-wise and library-wise (sorry to Banned Books Week and Teen Read Week). Click on the logo to the left to visit the savagely cool Children’s Book Council (who really want to hire me as a Telecommuter Who Will Do Whatever They Ask; they just don’t know it yet) to celebrate. And, in honor of Children’s Book Week, let’s get right back to the huge stack of picture books I want to tell you about. More to come, but here are a handful for now . . .

  • What?Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai
  • About? — A little girl’s new balloon is her new best friend, although — to her dismay — it’s blown away by a gust of wind but remains there by her window all night, looking “just like the moon.”
  • Why It’s Worth Reading Excellent! — This lovely book, a Japanese import, captures a toddler’s emotions ever-so well, never at one moment patronizing in tone and quietly observing the simple fact that objects like balloons can become their best friend for the day. The book’s text swings from Emily’s words to her mother’s with great ease, managing to avoid being awkward; in fact, the text flows smoothly and rhythmically while at the same time attaining a great simplicity. And the illustrations (reminiscent of the great Marie Hall Ets), done in pencil-and-wash sketches, convey the story with primarily browns and grays with a bit of blue and subtle red and with one important exception — the bright, sunny-yellow balloon. And this is just one instance of the book’s wonderful child-centeredness. Perfectly paced and tenderly rendered for toddlers, it’s got the makings of a classic.
  • What?Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O’Hara by Elvira Woodruff and illustrated by Adam Rex
  • About? — Darcy Heart O’Hara, a young Irish girl who neglects her chores to observe the beauties of nature and everyday life, shares “family memories” with her homesick parents and siblings after the O’Haras are forced to immigrate to America in the 1840s (yes, the book’s official summary, lifted word-for-word; those summaries are a handy thing)
  • Why It’s Worth Reading — O goodness, Adam Rex is immensely talented (read here for my review of his delightfully demented poetry anthology Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich). In this pretty picture book, he brings Darcy’s world and beautiful face to life using charcoal and graphite pencils and oils on paper. As for Woodruff’s text, it’s a lovely thing — descriptive and poetic. And she’s not afraid to just straight up tug at our heartstrings big-time (but, not to fret, without too much smarm). And her words and Rex’s illustrations work some seamless magic, my friends. Rex doesn’t miss the details (important to the thread of this story) with his powerful, emotionally-charged artwork. A timely, touching book that shines a singular light on the oft-discussed issue of immigration. For another thumbs-up review, read Kelly’s here at Big A little a. And, as she points out, this one’s really for the older elementary student (as opposed to, say, a preschooler) — ages 7 and up.
  • What?The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst
  • About? — Who else? The “younger, wiser sister” of the Gingerbread Boy, whose “dash through life was ended in one greedy gulp by a sly fox pretending to help him cross a river.”
  • Why It’s Worth Reading — Because we need what Kirkus Reviews calls our “empowered-girl, fairytale remakes” Read the rest of this entry �
  • Poetry Friday: DiTerlizzi’s Creachlings
    and Three New Anthologies

    h1 Friday, November 17th, 2006

    *{Note: Visit Chicken Spaghetti for this week’s Poetry Friday round-up} . . .

    gzonk1.gifFor this Poetry Friday, I’ll briefly mention three new children’s poetry anthologies that are out, but I want to begin with Tony DiTerlizzi’s handsome new picture book, G is for One Gzonk!: An Alpha-number-bet Book, written in rhyming text as a tribute to the nonsensical rhymes of Dr. Seuss and Edward Lear. We meet DiTerlizzi’s alter ego, Tiny DiTerlooney, our young author/illustrator of this book, who tells us to “{s}ay goodbye to boring books/ where ‘bears can bounce a ball’/ and turn the page/ I’ve set the stage/ and nothing makes sense at all,” as he creates his “masterpiece” of an alphabet book. Yes, this is for all of you who have read so many alphabet books that you find yourself immediately wondering what the author could possibly come up with for letters “X” and “Z,” assuming it will be “xylophone” and “zebra” or “zoo.”

    Read the rest of this entry �

    Sold by Patricia McCormick

    h1 Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

    sold.gifIf anyone was paying attention to my most recent post, I kind of left you hanging with the bold statement that I’d just read the best book I’ve read all year. Here it is — Sold by Patricia McCormick. This is the most powerful and emotionally compelling book I’ve read in a long time. And I’m not alone in my admiration for this book knowing no bounds. This one is a National Book Award Finalist.

    Read the rest of this entry �