Archive for February, 2007

Co-Review: American Born Chinese

h1 Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

So, we’ve finally read Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, with color by Lark Pien, the winner of the 2007 Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. It’s the the first graphic novel to be recognized by the Michael L. Printz Committee as well as a 2006 National Book Award Finalist
for Young People’s Literature

For those needing a bit of summary, we’ll take the fine, fine one written by the folks at VOYA:

“Three seemingly unrelated stories blend into a memorable tale of growing up Chinese American. The book begins with the ancient fable of the Monkey King, the proud leader of the monkeys. He is punished for entering the god’s dinner party by being buried under a mountain for five hundred years. Second is the story of Jin Wang, the son of immigrants struggling to retain his Chinese identity while longing to be more Americanized. The final story is that of Cousin Chin-Kee, an amalgamation of the worst Chinese stereotypes. Chin-Kee yearly visits his all-American cousin Danny, causing so much embarrassment that Danny must change schools. The final chapter unifies the three tales into one version of what it means to be American-born Chinese. This graphic novel first appeared as a long running Web comic on the Moderntales {Professional Webcomics} website, where it enjoyed an enthusiastic following.”

Jules: I guess I’ll start by saying that one of the many things that makes this book so durn good (how’s that for review-speak?) is that Yang succeeds in welcoming us into the world of a Chinese-American student while, at the same time, bringing us tried-and-true universal themes, primarly acceptance of one’s self. I am normally graphic-novel-challenged, but I couldn’t put this one down and found it funny and insightful and quite poignant in just the right spots — poignant without being overbearing.

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In the Night Kitchen with One Impossibly Tasty Interview Before Breakfast

h1 Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Andrea and Mark, the nice folks over at Just One More Book!! (JOMB), don’t need little ‘ol me to tell you to go listen to their great podcasts; for one, School Library Journal called them out on their greatness in January of this year. And, as I’ve admitted with a red face to Andrea before, I am sometimes podcast-challenged and don’t always get to their reviews and interviews (which they conduct over their morning coffee ritual, as they put it, and in their favorite coffee house), even the ones I really want to hear. But they always do things up ever-so nicely and professionally over there at their spot in cyber-space.

And, while we normally tend to focus on book reviews and Poetry Fridays (and, well, now interviews, too, I suppose) here at 7-Imp, let me steer you in the direction of JOMB’s post from yesterday in which they talk to Arthur Yorinks. Yes, the Arthur Yorinks, who for “thirty-five years has written and directed for opera, theater, dance, and film and is the author of over two dozen acclaimed and award-winning books for children, including the Caldecott Medal winner, Hey, Al“* — and, most recently, co-creator of Mommy? (and Andrea is always so dang humble about these kickin’ interviews they manage to snag all on their own — in her words, it’s “just me and Mark, our coffee and our love of children’s books”).

Now, I confess to having a HUGE bias towards the authors and author/illustrators of what was clearly (okay, arguably) The Golden Age of Children’s Literature — the time in which Yorinks met Sendak and Sendak came into his brilliance and shared it with the world and Ursula was around and all that jazz. But, even if you do not share my enthusiasm for that, you might find their interview with Mr. Yorinks interesting. Just look at a few of the many topics he talks to Mark about in the interview:

  • the current state of affairs (which Yorinks finds lamentable) of children’s book publishing, what with diminished funding for libraries and the subsequent dwindling influence librarians have today (compared to The Older Days and versus today’s world of commercialism and phenomena such as celebrity authors). Now, I hate to get all “nostalgia-isn’t-what-it-used-to-be” on ya (a wonderful lyric from a Sam Philllips song), but he makes some great points; Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #10:
Anne at Book Buds

h1 Monday, February 26th, 2007

As with many of the blogs we admire, there is much to dig about Anne and her site, Book Buds. First and foremost, we’re not sure if we’ve ever admitted this before, but we much prefer those sites that lean towards aesthetically-pleasing. (Images, please! O give us images!) . . . Anne’s got that goin’ on. Nice look at her site, particularly that header. Give us a well-designed header, and we’re happy. When accessing Book Buds, you are not overwhelmed with text text text (we still read those sites, but o they hurt the eyes!). She seems to have really put thought into the look of the site. Cyber-high five to Anne for that.

Anne is also one of your best picture book go-to gals. In fact, she focuses solely on picture book reviews at her blog and has a handy-dandy rating system: “I give from zero to four buds, which I draw like so *\ and it used to be much harder to get a lot of buds from me. But there are too many great books coming in and no time to waste on ones I hate, so it seems to me like I’m strewing buds all over the place.” We likey the book buds, especially when in a hurry (as most librarians are) and wanting to know the low-down on a book: Is it worth our time or not?

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Picture Book Review:
When Mama has a very bad (and rather scaly) day . . .

h1 Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Pija Lindenbaum’s When Owen’s Mom Breathed Fire (published in September ’06 by R&S Books; translated by Elisabeth Kallick Dyssegaard; my source: library copy) is what Kirkus Reviews aptly called a “shrewd fable” about . . . well, about one mother’s very bad day (or two) and a young child’s ability to cope with it. And it’s not only shrewd; it’s a wonderfully weird and peculiar and odd {can you tell I’m trying to avoid using the cliché-ridden “quirky”?} Swedish import.

In the book’s opening spread, we meet Owen — sitting at the breakfast table and hiding under a huge dragon head costume piece — and his mother, Bea, who “in the morning . . . goes completely crazy.” She’s a wicked talented multi-tasker for sure — she’s on the phone, drinking coffee, brushing her teeth, and blow-drying her hair all at once. Oh and she’s going berserk and snapping at Owen in the process. Off they run to daycare. Read the rest of this entry �

Four Random — But Kickin’ — Bits ‘O Info:
Poetry Friday, Punk Farm on Tour,
readergirlz, and The Camel Book Drive

h1 Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Hi there. Happy Poetry Friday to all. We don’t have a proper entry for today, but we would like to humbly submit for today’s poetry entry the below interview with Haven Kimmel, over which we are still squealing in excitement, since she’s one of our favorite writers. Haven began her writing career as a poet and wrote poetry under the name Haven Koontz (visit this link and scroll down for a list of some of her published poetry. Also, here you will see an excerpt of one of her poems, “Heartland”). She’s made it clear in several interviews that poetry was her first love.

And head here at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy for this week’s Poetry Friday round-up.

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Secondly, check out this beautiful cover art here. We give you a loud and resounding and heartfelt WOO HOO! when we say that not only did Random House debut this cover art yesterday for Jarrett J. Krocoszka’s October release of Punk Farm on Tour, but he also has agreed to let us grill him in an upcoming interview. He’s not only so impossibly nice that he’s agreed to answer our weird questions, but he also sent us that cover art (lest Random House think I just stole it from their site). We are big fans of Punk Farm as well as Jarrett’s other books, so we’re all agog over this news (yes, I said “agog.” I’m trying to use one word a day I’ve never used before).

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Next, we would be terribly remiss if we did not steer you in the direction of readergirlz, a new “online book community celebrating gutsy girls in life & lit,” in the words of the four YA authors who gave birth to this iniative: Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, Lorie Ann Grover and Justina Chen Headley. Here’s what they have to say about readergirlz: Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #9:
The One. The Only. Haven Kimmel.

h1 Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Dear Readers, our “Pinch Me” moment has finally come full circle. Not only did the impossibly-gracious Haven Kimmel agree to an interview with two squealing, hysterical bloggers who can offer nothing in return (except to promise never to bother her again), but she actually composed and delivered the answers during a week-long-and-counting migraine, and moments before she left on a reading/signing tour to promote the paperback release of She Got Up Off the Couch. Even if she weren’t such an amazingly talented author, we’d love her just for that. But she is an amazingly talented author, and in case you still haven’t taken our advice and picked up one of her novels or memoirs, we’ll throw together a little Haven Kimmel 101 before the interview proper. And then if her fabulous responses still don’t convince you to read her books already… well, heaven help you.

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Co-Review: A Drowned Maiden’s Hair

h1 Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

{Big ‘Ol Friendly Warning: Spoilers included. As usual, our co-reviews are really more well-suited to folks who have already read the novel and want to think further on it and, we hope, join in the conversation via the comments function} . . .

Jules: We’re beginning this co-review of Laura Amy Schlitz’s A Drowned Maiden’s Hair on the same day the Cybil winners are being announced. And — after reading the blurb about Schlitz’s title, which won the Middle Grade Fiction category — I’m feeling a bit daunted about reviewing now. I mean, just look at this great write-up:

“It’s a mystery story, it’s a ghost story, it’s delightfully gothic and eerie. In A Drowned Maiden’s Hair we have a protagonist with a very authentic child voice, and her motivations and feelings are described in clean, nuanced lines. Maud is also a person of her time and place; she never comes off as anachronistic. The story, too, is something of a time and place — the darkness of the Hawthorne estate was like an L.M. Montgomery novel gone delightfully to seed. The adoption of the plucky orphan by the wealthy lady is a trope of the Victorian novel, and yet does not come off as trite or formulaic. It is as if Schlitz had taken familiar characters and plotlines from Victorian fiction and injected them with a realism and emotional force that transcends its familiarity, making it seem new again. Truth — be it in the cries of a widower, or in a tearful confession — is what lets Maud see her true role and path, and ultimately brings redemption.”

Very nice. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #8:
Little Willow of Bildungsroman

h1 Monday, February 19th, 2007

Team 7-Imp is pleased to present this week’s blogger interviewee:

Little Willow of Bildungsroman!

We think Little Willow is just about the sweetest presence in the kidlitosphere. If you moved next door to her cyber-house, she’d totally be there ringing your doorbell to welcome you to the neighborhood with a big plate of freshly-baked cyber-cookies. However, she’s shy about using her real name or her actual photo on the web. So we improvised with the book cover on the left. (Okay, neither of us have read the book, but the cover seems to fit – playful, sunny, sweet… and it even has a cat!) By the way, in case you’ve wondered, none of the pics on her blog are actually of her, either. {Jules would like to add — with a bit of red in her cheeks — that she was once convinced that Little Willow and Anna Nalick were one and the same. Well, they’re not. She just outright asked Little Willow, and — even though it was a dumb-ass question — Little Willow was gracious about it}.
Read the rest of this entry �

Two lovely grandparental tales with an original folk tale, cautionary tale, and tall tale to boot

h1 Saturday, February 17th, 2007

The Littlest Grape Stomper
by Alan Madison and illustrated by Giselle Potter
Release date: February 27, 2007
Random House
My source: review copy

This is a bizarre, little tale that seems to be just the perfect fare for Giselle Potter. Ever wonder how the five Grape Lakes were formed? Wonder no further. Alan Madison is here to tell you. Enter the tiny village of Ear (unless I’m missing something big here, there is no rhyme or reason as to why it’s named Ear, but you can at least enjoy Potter’s opening spread in which Ear’s countryside turns into its downtown with buildings circling one another not unlike a cochlea). With a sparkling little rhythm, much alluring alliteration, and a pleasing degree of lyricism, Madison tells us that this tiny village, “nestled snugly in the Your Valley,” was known for making delicious grape juice. Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: I’m Glad It’s Not Otherwise

h1 Friday, February 16th, 2007

As we end Valentine’s week, in which we take the time to make a bit more demonstrative our love for our dearest ones (particularly those with whom we eat “dinner together at a table with silver candlesticks” — see poem below), I’m going to share something that a friend shared with me this week (madly mad props and thanks to Shannon). The poem, you see, is a lovely valentine to life itself. This is a new poem to me and a new poet, too — Jane Kenyon, who as you will read here, published four books of poetry in her lifetime and was married to Donald Hall, our current poet laureate. Kenyon died of leukemia in 1995, making this poem even more compelling.

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

Read the rest of the poem here at Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, which is a wonderful thing, no matter what you think of Billy Collins and his poem, “Introduction to Poetry” . . . oh my do I remember the long, heated discussion (always a good thing, though) at the Child_Lit listserv over that poem and what it has to say about the analysis of poetry.

Their image/logo here links straight to the Poetry 180 site itself. And here’s a list of all the poems and poets, if you’re inclined to go find yourself a new poet today, too.

Happy Poetry Friday to all.