Archive for March, 2007

Poetry Friday: Bob Barner profiles the
animal du jour in rhyming text

h1 Friday, March 16th, 2007

{Note: The Poetry Friday round-up is here at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy} . . .

Penguins, penguins everywhere . . . Ain’t it the truth? They’ve made their way down the red carpet recently, so to speak — and more than once, too. (Mind you, I haven’t even seen these movies yet, but even those living under rocks know that penguins are all the rage) . . . When it comes to children’s lit, the penguin craze holds true as well: Last year we had Sebastian Meschenmoser’s Learning to Fly and Jean-Luc Fromental’s and Joelle Jolivet’s 365 Penguins, to name just a couple — not to mention 2005’s And Tango Makes Three (by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson with illustrations by Henry Cole), which still gets attention for all the wrong reasons.

So, along has come Bob Barner (probably best known for 1996’s Dem Bones) to bring us (via Chronicle Books; February 2007; my source: review copy) Penguins, Penguins, Everywhere! And, though penguins seem to be The Hip Animal of the Moment, one gets the sense that Barner is not just jumping on the pop-culture bandwagon here; after all, he’s highlighted other creatures in our crowded world at other times in his long career (he’s written and illustrated over twenty-five titles), such as 1999’s Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #13:
M.T. Anderson (who is not really seven monkeys, six typewriters,
and a Speak & Spell,* no matter what he tells you)

h1 Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Once upon a time (last December, to be precise), Eisha and I embarked on a co-review of M.T. Anderson’s The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party, and we were pleasantly surprised to receive an expression of gratitude from the author himself, thanking us for our detailed (or rambling, depending on your point of view) commentary. And, ever the gentleman, he never once commented upon the fact that we got a bit punchy in that review, too, what with Eisha sharing the savagely funny interrupting-cow knock-knock joke and my slaphappy suggestion that Anderson consider a contemporary soundtrack for the novel, with two characters named Bono and Prince. Brilliant. If I’d known Anderson himself would be reading that, I’d have not, oh I dunno, been such a moron.

And then, after corresponding a bit and valiantly asking for an interview (with fingers crossed behind our backs), he not only acquiesced but also — instead of sending a photo, as we requested — visited Eisha at the library branch where she works in Cambridge. Yes, they’re practically neighbors, it turns out. And so they briefly visited — along with Anderson’s charming (says Eisha) girlfriend — and snapped some friendly photos for the blog. Since I couldn’t be there, being down here in the South as I am, we conducted some digital editing and added my disembodied head into one photo, as you can see below. We have M.T. to thank for that delightfully macabre idea. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #12:
Susan Thomsen at Chicken Spaghetti

h1 Monday, March 12th, 2007

Seven Things We Love About Susan Thomsen and Chicken Spaghetti:

1. Susan can write. We mean, really write. Unlike some of us, she has actually made a living writing and editing for some pretty noteworthy publications.

2. She’s a great team leader. Eisha had the supreme pleasure of serving on the Cybils Nominating Panel for Poetry, of which Susan was Chair. She was a dream to work for — always available, always agreeable, always there for questions or guidance, but totally let us do our thing however we wanted to.

3. She’s got great taste. Her reviews are insightful and pithy, and it’s always interesting to get her perspective on how books go over with her son and the first graders she reads to.

4. She’s a generous and kind feedback-giver. She even emailed us once out of the blue, just to say something sweet about our blog. Aw.

5. She does things like this — “a meta-list of the Best Children’s Books of 2006” — and even updated it very recently. As Eisha commented at that link, “mercy, woman, when do you sleep?” Read the rest of this entry �

Come and Play

h1 Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Jules: I have an idea for a new series of sorts on this, our impish blog (if you haven’t noticed, the nickname we’ve been granted, which has stuck, is 7-Imp). I’m reading this brilliant, little-known book called The Book Thief. Have you heard of it? Yes, I’m just a bit slow in getting to it. Anyway, I was just emailing my Four Favorite Readers in All the World about a passage in it that is just so beautiful, and it gave me this new 7-Imp weekend-series idea. I didn’t think I’d have time for blogging this weekend, but I’m just all inspired now.

So, at the risk of sounding like Oprah, the idea is that every weekend we can cyber-gather and discuss what Beautiful and/or Kick-Ass Things Happened to You or That You Read or That You Noticed This Week (yes, I need a better name for the series. Any ideas?). If you’re a Patty Griffin fan, as Eisha and I are, you may have heard or read her discuss in several interviews that, since the world is just scary – what with wars and suffering and environmental destruction and many other innumerable dreadful things — it’s nice to take moments to notice the good (a recurring theme in her music as well). Sure, she’s not the first person to say this, but, hey, it’s on my mind, as I just read an interview with her.

I shall begin:

1> The aforesaid moment in The Book Thief (spoiler coming up): When Liesel finds Rosa –- after Hans has left for the war — sitting with his accordion strapped to her and her fingers hovering over the keys in the middle of the night. “There was . . . an acknowledgement that there was great beauty in what she was currently witnessing, and she chose not to disturb it.” Even better is the fact that Zusak brings relief to this heart-shattering, soul-shaking poignancy (can you tell I liked that part?) by having Rosa snore again and having Liesel think, “{w}ho needs bellows . . . when you’ve got a pair of lungs like that?”;

2> The lyrics to and one-word chorus (“sun”) of “Burgundy Shoes”; the piano in “Someone Else’s Tomorrow”; and the guitar feedback in “Getting Ready” on the new Patty Griffin CD;

3> The fact that we have three great interviews coming up, one of them being with M.T. Anderson, who visited Eisha at her library this week just to get a photo for the interview and in which they’re holding my disembodied head. Confused? The interview will be posted soon, so you’ll just have to wait;

4> My daughter turns three on Monday and may actually have a pony at her party (her part-time pony that lives at her grandfather’s). A pony at a child’s birthday party – it’s terrifically cliché, huh? Now we just need to add a clown. Best of all, she’ll be getting good books for her birthday, including the new Polo adventure; Punk Farm, which she really wants to own yet somehow hasn’t ‘til now; and Steve Jenkins’ and Robin Page’s I See a Kookaburra, which she seemingly can’t live without. I also love the imagination of a three-year old. I’ve been reading The Higher Power of Lucky this week (did you all know that the word “scrotum” is on the first page?), and she picks it up, pretends to be reading it by making up a stream of nonsense words, and has named it The Lost and Found Girl Who is Good. As far as I can tell thus far (I’m about half-way through the book), that would actually suffice as an alternate title for the book, no?

eisha: I love Jules’s idea, and I’m totally game. Here goes:

1> Well, you already mentioned that M.T. Anderson showed up at my library to have his picture taken with me, along with his charming girlfriend, and we just talked books and Nashville and blogs and awards and stuff, and I had such a great time. Why don’t excellent authors just drop by my little library branch and hang out with me all the time, I wonder? Sure, I might not get a lot of work done, but still…

Feathers 2> I just finished Jacqueline Woodson’s new middle-grade novel, Feathers, this morning. I immediately turned back to the beginning and started it over. Yes, even with the huge pile of TBRs I’ve got sitting around. It’s that good. I’m going to write more about it, of course, but I’m hoping I’ll get to see her Monday night at a reading (if I can figure out how to get from my library to that one in less than 30 minutes), so I’ll probably wait until after that so I can include that experience in the review.

3> Last night I tried White Sangria for the first time. It’s really good!

Jules: Anyone else? What do you think of this series idea? Will you play weekly? What would you call it? Is it just a bad idea?

Poetry Friday: To Be of Use —
Naomi Shihab Nye, Marge Piercy, & Haven Kimmel

h1 Friday, March 9th, 2007

{Note: Today’s Poetry Friday round-up is being handled here by Kelly at
Big A, little a} . . .

So, one of the books I’m currently reading is The Solace of Leaving Early (Doubleday; 2002). At the risk of sounding like we here at 7-Imp are All Haven Kimmel All the Time (which wouldn’t be a bad way to be), I am reading it because I’ve always wanted to (yes, Eisha handled the questions about her novels when we interviewed her, since I had read the memoirs but am just now getting to the fiction — hey, when I tried last, I had a newborn. And, let me just tell you that writing this good deserves the kind of attention you can’t give when you have a tiny, needy, hungry human demanding your attention) . . . Where was I? O yes, not to mention we just might be getting an advanced copy of Haven’s upcoming novel, which is part of a trilogy which includes Solace. Needless to say probably, Solace is rockin’ my world, people.

And a few things that I have read thus far in this novel have brought to mind two of my favorite poems I’d like to share with you on this Poetry Friday. Here’s how it goes — First, I read the following in this engrossing novel of Haven’s: Read the rest of this entry �

Picture Book Review: A marshmallow-eatin’ pig,
evil bunnies, and two very good friends

h1 Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Best Buds (Alfred A. Knopf; January 2007; my source: review copy) is the first book in a series entitled The Adventures of Max and Pinky by Vermonter Maxwell Eaton III (what is it about Vermont that makes it churn out — or at least draw to it — talented children’s book authors?), this story inspired by a book Eaton created for an elementary school Spanish class.

Bald-headed Max loves to hang out with his best bud, Pinky, a piglet who lives for marshmallows. Eaton establishes right off the bat that they’re best friends, always have been, and always will be, giving us a quick glimpse of Max and Pinky in their younger days and a peek into their future. They love adventure, and every Saturday, in fact, is Adventure Day.

Read the rest of this entry �

Picture Book Review: Satoru Onishi’s Who’s Hiding?

h1 Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

Satoru Onishi’s Who’s Hiding? (2007) has been reviewed heavily ’round the kidlitosphere, I’ve noticed. I was holding off on telling you about it for that reason, but . . . well, it’s so good that it’d be a small crime to not give it an enthusiastic shout-out here at 7-Imp.

This is another slammin’ Japanese import from the folks at Kane/Miller (who are having a wonderful year thus far, are they not? They’ve been churning out the loveliest books). Onishi’s bio at their site states that “Satoru Onishi was hiding when we asked for author information.” Heh. Good one. But I wish we knew more about Onishi, ’cause this book will draw preschoolers to it in the same way that preschoolers are drawn to Goldfish crackers, screaming at the top of their lungs if you break the slightest little element in their routine, and playing in their underwear. Can you tell I’ve spent the day with one of these creatures? Where was I? Yes, it’s a preschool magnet, and I’d like to see more of what Onishi has done/will do. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #11:
Robin Brande, Author and Blogger Extraordinaire

h1 Monday, March 5th, 2007

Robin Brande is so amazing to us. We may yammer on about being busy with Jules’s kids or Eisha’s jobs or whatever, but check out Robin’s blog bio: “…she is or has been various combinations of the following: a lawyer, yoga instructor, black belt, entrepreneur, community college instructor, Wilderness First Responder, insurance agent, outdoor adventurer, Girl Scout leader, and Sunday school teacher.” Add to that list “soon-to-be-published author” – her first YA novel Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature is set to be released by Knopf/Random House in August, and has already been nominated by ALA as one of the Best Books for Young Adults for this year!

She’s no slouch as a blogger, either. Her smart, funny commentary on “writing, reading, and other vital matters” has earned her a loyal following – or maybe it’s the fact that she gives away FREE CHOCOLATE to total strangers every month. Seriously. Free chocolate. Even though, in an incomprehensible display of willpower, she herself gave up chocolate eight months ago. You can also check in with her pretty much every Thursday for a discussion of the previous night’s Lost episode. Her blog also features a book club, of sorts. As she describes it, it is the… Read the rest of this entry �

Picture Book Round-Up:
Five Illustrators Work Their Magic
(Plus JOHN BURNINGHAM, who is some kind of god)

h1 Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

Edwardo: The Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World
by John Burningham
Alfred A. Knopf
March 2007
My source: review copy

Let me admit right off the bat my heartfelt admiration for all things John Burningham. Big bias here. Love him. Can you tell from this post’s title? His works send me on an express train to Happy-ville. When I read that he had created a new book, I squealed — and would have done a few flips and somersaults were I a gymnast. The book is about Edwardo, “an ordinary boy,” as we’re told on page one. Sometimes he kicks things, is too loud, is nasty to other children, chases cats, leaves his room a mess, etc. But the adults in his life tell him — when he commits these customary childhood crimes — that he’s the ________est boy in the whole world. Fill in the blanks with roughest, noisiest, nastiest, cruelest, messiest . . . you get the picture. And, as a result, Edwardo becomes more and more cruel, nastier and nastier, noisier and noisier. Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: My New Favorite Poet, Alan Dugan

h1 Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Poems Seven by Alan DuganA couple of weeks ago Nancy at Journey Woman shared the amazing poem “Love Song: I and Thou” for PF, and I fell deeply in love.  Somehow I’ve gone my whole life without ever hearing of Alan Dugan, and I set about to rectify that.  I checked out Poems Seven today, and after an hour of flipping around in it at random, I can’t understand how I ever lived without him.  What amazes me is how he’s able to create these incredibly potent images with such a direct and understated style.  No florid vocabulary, no theatrics, just pure hard poetry, as bracing and beautiful as standing on a rocky New England beach in the middle of winter.  Thank you, Nancy.

Here’s a bit of another new favorite poem, “Against a Sickness: To the Female Double Principle God.”

She said: “I’m god and all
of this and that world and love
garbage and slaughter all the time
and spring once a year. Once a year
I like to love. You can adjust
to the discipline or not,
and your sacrificial act
called ‘Fruitfulness in Decay’
would be pleasing to me
as long as you did it with joy.
Otherwise, the prayer ‘Decay,
Ripe in the Fruitfulness’
will do if you have to despair.”

Love it? Me too. Read the rest here.

{Note: Today’s Poetry Friday round-up is here at Big A, little a} . . .