Archive for April, 2008

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Frank Dormer

h1 Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

You know what’s great? Waking up and finding Frank Dormer in your kitchen. He’s tiptoe-ing around, so as not to disturb you in your pre-caffeinated state. He’s already put the Pop Tarts in the toaster, and has the kettle just about ready to whistle. So thoughtful. So generous. So… GAH!!! DUDE!!! Is that… Is that a frog under my napkin?!?

Very funny, Frank. What are you, like, nine?

But okay, now that we’ve peeled ourselves off the ceiling, we can admit that that’s what we like about him. There’s a sly, youthful quality to his illustrations. There’s a pronounced wit in the way he wields his pen and paintbrush. He’s a little offbeat, a little funky… and he’s swimming in talent.

He is also very generous. Last year, completely out of the blue, he created for us this fabulous beloved original illustration of the tea party scene from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland after our Sunday-kicks illustrator feature. Read the rest of this entry �

A General Announcement, Mainly for Publishers and Authors (but the curious are welcome, too)

h1 Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. He’s sad, because he’s got too many books and not enough time to read them, much less blog about them.Hello, all. We’ve decided to do a little bit of a reshuffle here at 7-Imp. Here’s why.

When we started this blog almost two years ago, we mentioned that we both like to read all kinds of books, from picture books on up to adult novels, and that we intended to talk about all of them, regardless of age level.

Well. A couple of things have changed since then. 1.) We now accept review copies from publishers, something we were hesitant about at first because we didn’t want to be burdened with any actual or perceived obligations to review particular books. And 2.) we’ve expanded our focus to include interviews, illustrator profiles, and a bunch of other features that aren’t necessarily book reviews. So, what difference does that make? It makes us very busy, a lot busier than we ever imagined we’d be, and we’re getting kind of overwhelmed by the stacks and stacks of books that generous review-seekers have sent us. In order to deal with this more efficiently, we’ve decided to amend our blog’s mission statement a little bit.

Ah, yes. Now Mr. Bemis has all the time in the world to read, read, read. Much better.From now on, when it comes to reviewing books, GENERALLY SPEAKING, Jules will be focusing on picture books and middle grade lit, and Eisha will be concentrating on young adult and adult lit. We still reserve the right to read and review whatever we please, and OF COURSE we’ll still collaborate on the occasional co-review, ’cause that’s really why we started this blog in the first place — to talk with each other about books, and bring other interested parties in on the conversation. But in general, if you’re someone who wants to offer us a review copy, that’s the way we’ll break it down.

To recap, here are the responsibilities and major areas of focus:

Jules — Reviewing picture books and middle grade lit; finding illustrators to profile; creative use of multi-colored and multi-sized fonts; organizing giant philanthropic multi-blog movements; and doing all the actual work that makes this blog readable.

Eisha — Reviewing young adult and adult books; contributing the occasional Poetry Friday post; and slacking off.

Hopefully narrowing our focus this way will help us get organized, and cut down on the volume of unsolicited review copies we get that fall outside our scope of interest, and therefore cut down on the guilt factor too.

Thank you for your attention. We now resume our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

* * * Jules edits to add:

Eisha wrote this and doesn’t give herself enough credit. And playing with font sizes and colors? Who? Me? Nah.

Nonfiction Monday: Leonard Marcus’ Golden Legacy

h1 Monday, April 28th, 2008

Last year, the Little Golden Book celebrated 65 years of existence, and in October Random House released Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way by children’s literature writer, critic, and historian, Leonard Marcus. I’m a bit slow in getting to my review of this beautifully-designed, handsome, 246-page book about the history of the Little Golden Book, as well as the illustrators and writers who wrote for them and the savvy marketing folks who sold them. And, if you’ve read a Marcus title before, you know that you get much more than just that — he also delves into the wider world of children’s publishing as a whole during the time of the rise of the Little Golden Book, takes a sweeping look at the cultural landscape of that time, and shows how the books reflected our postwar culture and how the line of books left a “deep emotional imprint” . . . and “an indelible mark on mainstream American culture.”

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #60: Featuring Nicoletta Ceccoli

h1 Sunday, April 27th, 2008

Jules: Eisha and I were almost left speechless when we saw the illustrations we’re featuring today, ones from Italian illustrator Nicoletta Ceccoli. But not speechless enough to tell you a bit about her visit this morning to 7-Imp.

Back at the beginning of March, I reviewed Kate Bernheimer’s The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum (Schwartz & Wade, February ’08). That review is here. I was so taken with Ceccoli’s illustrations in this title—and then I visited her website and fell in love a bit more—that I took a chance on contacting her to see if we could feature her one Sunday. Lucky for me, she reads and speaks English, and she said yes! About the mermaids above, Nicoletta told us: This is a “sample proof I did for an upcoming book I’m illustrating for Houghton Mifflin, titled Dignity of Dragons . . . it will be all about mythological creatures . . . it is a very interesting theme for me. I also wanted to show you some work taken from a show I had last year in a Seattle gallery, Roq La Rue . . . these works (the tower and the angel) are not done for a story or a book.” Read the rest of this entry �

Poetry Friday: The Poets Upstairs…

h1 Friday, April 25th, 2008

Hey, I think it just moved. Did you see it?There are serious perks to having poets for upstairs neighbors. Like, they loan me books. And take me to readings by excellent authors. And invite us up to play Rock Band. And introduce me to hilariously surreal products on a cool new blog.

Also, I keep thinking someday I’m going to write something with the title “The Poets Upstairs” because I just like saying it. So it’s inspiring, too. For now, I get to use it as the title of this post, because one of them had a poem published recently in Goblin Fruit, and it’s so great I had to share it with you guys.

Goblin Fruit, in itself, is worth your attention. It’s a journal devoted to “poetry ‘of the fantastical,’ poetry that treats mythic, surreal, fantasy and folkloric themes, or approaches other themes in a fantastical way.” Really, really good stuff there. And the Spring 2008 issue includes, front and center, the very fairy-tale-ish “Nesting” by Dana Koster:

When you are born I will say: love me
as I loved my own mother — desperately,
as though love could stitch a path to the dead

and I will guard you with the greed of ancestry…

Read the rest here (you’ll have to click on the poem’s title). I love the whole concept of this poem – it feels like the beginning to a great story. The bird/egg imagery hints of the Leda myth. But the lines about the desperate love of a mother and the loss of a year for each question asked remind me of all those fairy tales (Thumbelina, Momotarō, the Gingerbread Man, etc.) that start off with a lonely woman who wants a child so very badly… and she gets it (or at least, something almost a child). But there’s always a catch, a price to pay, something lost in the bargain.

This is maybe the best perk yet from The Poets Upstairs. Hope you enjoy it too.

* * * edited to add: * * *

Today’s Poetry Friday roundup is being hosted by Tricia of The Miss Rumphius Effect. Git along, lil’ dogies.

Also, because I think Dana would particularly appreciate it, check out this version of the Leda myth I accidentally stumbled upon. I don’t know what this guy’s deal is, but when you click on the image links, you get photos featuring anatomically-correct ersatz-Barbie dolls posed as mythological characters. Ew.

Some More New Titles for National Poetry Month: Animals, Insects, and One Dutch Lullaby

h1 Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Well, it’s still National Poetry Month last time I checked, and I had wanted to talk about poetry in April way more than I have. But I’ve managed to get to some new picture book poetry anthologies today. Actually, the first one is an exception — it’s not an anthology, but it is still a perfect fit for National Poetry Month. Let’s get right to it, then . . .

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
by Eugene Field
Illustrated by Giselle Potter
Schwartz & Wade
Release date: May 13, 2008

I’m trying to be better about not posting about books way way WAY before they get released, but I’m including this striking picture book in today’s in-honor-of-National-Poetry-
Month round-up, as it’s a children’s poem written over one hundred years ago by American writer Eugene Field — and it’ll be just a matter of weeks before this title hits the shelves anyway. Field was an essayist (known for his humorous essays) and a journalist, but he was best known for his children’s poetry (“He believed children should indulge their daydreams and imaginations before they must assume the responsibilities of adulthood,” writes illustrator Giselle Potter at the book’s close). This is a new picture book adaptation of the timeless poem by Potter. Much like illustrator Rebecca Gibbon, whose most recent picture book I reviewed here this week, Potter’s spreads—speaking from a dimensionality standpoint, or spatial extent, not as in quality—come across as rather flat and her perspective often slightly askew, giving her illustrations a classic folk-art feel. I’ve always been a fan. I love the sense of joy that pervades her work, the rich tones of her watercolors. And, boy howdy, let me tell you that with this title, she takes “rich” to an all-new level. This is a night-time tale after all, and Potter’s not joking around about her blues. These are deep, luxuriant evening blues and strong, robust browns (such as, of the wooden shoe carrying the three wee ones through the sky). In a fascinating Illustrator’s Note at the close of the book, she writes: Read the rest of this entry �

Straight Talk About the Food Chain

h1 Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Adrienne Furness from WATAT is gracing 7-Imp with her presence again this week. This time she and I (Jules, that is) are having a conversation about our favorite Slightly Demented Picture Books. Hubba wha? you say. Adrienne will kick it all off with an explanation. Enjoy! And we hope folks will join in and add to our list . . .

Illustration by L. Leslie Brooke, from The Golden Goose Book, Frederick Warne & Co., Ltd. 1905Adrienne: Back in August, Jules and I began bonding over our shared love of what we’ve decided to call Slightly Demented Picture Books. It started with Jules’ review of Bob and Otto, written by Robert O. Bruel and illustrated by Nick Bruel. She and I have been talking about Slightly Demented Picture Books ever since.

So what makes a picture book slightly demented?

These are books that we love and that kids love that make other adults uncomfortable. My favorite example is the version of The Three Little Pigs that I tell in my preschool storytimes. I like the more traditional version where pigs one and two get eaten. There is none of this being saved by the smarter brother. No deus ex machina woodcutter. Kids love this version of the story. They huff and puff right along with the big bad wolf, and they nod or giggle in a satisfied way when the wolf gets a good meal and moves on. Cautionary tales make sense to them: those pigs make their homes out of inferior materials and suffer the consequences. That’s life, and I think this kind of story helps children make some sense out of a world they often find mysterious and difficult.

My telling of this story bugs adults. Every time I share it, at least one or two ask me if I’m not worried about warping the children. Honestly, I’m more worried about the telling where pigs one and two are saved. The theme of the original story has to do with the way our actions have consequences. Versions in which the first two pigs are saved by the pig who built his house out of bricks suggest that someone smarter will be there to bail us out when we do something stupid. I think the real problem is that adults hate to talk to children about the ways in which life is difficult. I think they hope the children won’t notice.

Of course they notice, and so do we. In that spirit, we’d like to offer you some of our favorite picture books that tell big truths about life in a way that makes us laugh a little. Or a lot. Read the rest of this entry �

Nonfiction Monday: Oh, Alice!
(And Elizabeth! And Margaret!)

h1 Monday, April 21st, 2008

It’s Nonfiction Monday, and I never finished Part Two of last week’s picture book round-up, so consider this it.

I thought I’d talk today about a handful of new picture book biographies of three trailblazing, unconventional women who all thought—and lived—outside the box. And, since it doesn’t get much better than the first one, let’s get right to it…

Yes, first of all, there’s What to Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy! by Barbara Kerley and with illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham (Scholastic; March 2008).

“I can be president of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly DO BOTH.”
— Theodore Roosevelt

Have you seen this book (which pretty much revolves around the fabulous Roosevelt quote above)? As I mentioned over at Diane Chen’s School Library Journal blog when Eisha and I guest-blogged over there two weeks ago, this is another one of my top-three favorite titles thus far from this year (I mean, just look at that cover, Alice tear-assing through the White House gardens on her bike. That’s fabulous and funny in seven different directions). Oh, and I must digress for a moment and quickly add the other two are Jim Averbeck’s In a Blue Room with illustrations from Tricia Tusa (Harcourt) and Bonny Becker’s A Visitor for Bear with illustrations from Kady MacDonald Denton (Candlewick). I’m placing my Caldecott bets now. In April. Why not?

Anyway, back on track here. Kerley quite successfully gets the attention of young readers right off the bat in this title: “Theodore Roosevelt had a small problem. It wasn’t herding thousands of cattle across the Dakota badlands. HE’D DONE THAT. It wasn’t leading the Rough Riders as they charged up Kettle Hill. HE’D DONE THAT, TOO . . . Her name was Alice. Alice Lee Roosevelt was hungry to go places, meet people, do things.” Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #59: Featuring Peter Brown

h1 Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Jules: When Eisha and I co-reviewed the wonderful Kaline Klattermaster’s Tree House by Haven Kimmel this past February, we featured some of the book’s interior illustrations by Peter Brown, which made our long post way more entertaining to read. And I took that opportunity to ask Peter if he’d let us feature him one Sunday; lucky for us, he said yes. Peter is the creator of the Chowder books and also did cover and interior art for both Barkbelly and Snowbone by Cat Weatherill, which we’ve covered here and here at 7-Imp (the latter with Betsy Bird). Visiting Peter’s site (one of two, the other dedicated to Chowder himself), I also see that his first book is one I must find and read, seeing as how his description for it at his site begins with: “Have you ever been pooped on by a bird?” and is, apparently, about a penguin and what he does when “he feels the humiliating sting of goose poop on his favorite jacket.” (I say there’s nothing like a bit of scatalogical humor on your Sunday morning). That was in 2005 when Publishers Weekly called Peter “a promising new talent.” And writers might get a kick out of visiting here and clicking on “Books” and then “How I Work” to see Peter’s trenchant, illuminating commentary into this complicated process called writing.

Peter stopped by this morning to share these wonderful illustrations, to tantalize us with work from a forthcoming title, The Curious Garden, due to be published in Spring 2009. Here’s what Peter had to say about it:

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Poetry Friday: An Interview with The Poetry Seven (Or, Cutting Loose Over Cutting a Swath)

h1 Friday, April 18th, 2008

Last week on Poetry Friday, you may have seen the unveiling of one mighty creative collaborative poetry project, a sonnet entitled “Cutting the Swath.” It was written by seven women—authors, teachers and/or librarians, poets, bloggers—who each wrote one verse in the sonnet and then put them all together and edited it into what is called a crown sonnet. Those women are Sara Lewis Holmes, Laura Purdie Salas, Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Liz Garton Scanlon, Tanita S. Davis (TadMack), Andromeda Jazmon (Andi), and Kelly Fineman. As Liz explained it in her post last week, in which the sonnet in its entirety was shared:

A Crown Sonnet is a string of seven interconnected sonnets. Each sonnet after the first one will use the last line from the preceding sonnet as its first line. The final sonnet (#7) uses the last line of sonnet six as its first line AND the first line of the very first sonnet as its last line. The perfect book-end.

As I read this sonnet, I (Jules here) found myself wishing I were only The President of the World and could command the editors of Time Magazine or, I dunno, even Rolling Stone (these women are rock stars, you know, for doing this) or some such major publication to do a cover story on this. ‘Cause . . . . well, WOW. No matter what you think of the final product—the force of nature that is the sonnet itself these women created—the process of collaborating thusly is pretty amazing, and so I thought the least I could do was talk to them about it. 7-Imp may not have the readership Time does, but perhaps some of our readers might be interested in this idea of collaborative writing. Yes, this post rivals the length of a novella (I didn’t want to cut corners on Cutting a Swath), but if you’re interested in the workings behind such a massively creative project, as I am, then this might be just the read for you: Settle down. Get a cup of coffee. And read for a bit.

Read the rest of this entry �