Archive for June, 2008

Lynn Hazen’s Imaginary Interview

h1 Monday, June 30th, 2008

Lynn Hazen’s Imaginary BlogHey, everybody. Have you had a chance to check out author Lynn Hazen’s Imaginary Blog? Well, this would be an excellent time to do so, because she just did a fun group-interview with me and Jules, Betsy of Fuse #8, and Cynthia Leitich Smith of Cynsations. She made us write a pyramid-shaped poem-like thingy about our blogs, which was a hoot. Go check it out!

Yllp Trev-zdzb*: Or, Fun with Super-Sleuth Talkin’

h1 Monday, June 30th, 2008

We’re speaking in code today, prompted by Alec Flint, Super Sleuth.

Anyone remember this recent post I (Jules, that is) wrote? It’s all about what I called EarlyEmergingBegin-
, books that fall somewhere between picture books for children and what are often called middle-grade novels. Well, things are comin’ up very EarlyEmergingBeginningInterChapterMediateReaders this week at 7-Imp — at least at the beginning of this week. Today, we’re hosting a book give-away* (which is the translation of our super-sleuth code up there), and tomorrow we’re going to chat with Gail Gauthier, author of two early chapter books herself.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #69: Featuring Fernando Falcone

h1 Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Jules: We have the ever-resourceful and thoughtful Little Willow to thank for our featured illustrations this week. Knowing that we like illustration and knowing that we have a particular fondness for Alice images, Little Willow passed on the web site of Argentinian illustrator Fernando Falcone to us. And then we all three ooh’ed and aah’ed over his art work featured over there; pictured here is A Mad Tea-Party (created in 2006). And then I shamelessly asked him if we could feature some of those illustrations over here at 7-Imp. Despite our language barriers (man, I wish I spoke Spanish), he agreed to let us show his art work. Isn’t it amazing? Eisha is travelling as I type this, but I believe her words when she saw the White Rabbit here were “positively terrifying” (and that’s a compliment).

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Poetry Friday: Emily’s Wild Nights

h1 Friday, June 27th, 2008

Wild nights!

Embarrassing confession: last week was my turn for Poetry Friday, and I COMPLETELY FORGOT. I didn’t forget that it was my turn, just forgot what day of the week it was. I was at that parade Thursday night, see, and got all bedazzled with visions of Volvos in tutus and Tibetan monks and stuff. Anyhoo, I’m sorry about that.

This week I’m trying to make up for it by sharing something extra-good: Emily Dickinson. I have a complicated relationship with ol’ Emily. I really hated her for a long time; I thought she was simpering, and that relentles rhythm: da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM… However, somewhere late in college I was assigned to write a paper on her (the horror!), and started reluctantly reading through a big anthology… And I was shocked. I’d only really been exposed to a handful of her most famous poems before, the ones that end up on greeting cards and stuff: “I taste a liquor never brewed,” “How soft a caterpillar steps,” “Because I could not stop for death,”… you know the ones. But that later business, when she was all rebellious and pissed at God and finally busting out of that limping hymn-meter… Whoa. It blew me away. Almost literally — those later poems are like little explosions all over the page. And knowing she had that kind of power in her, that kind of fierce emotion, made me go back and look at her earlier poems in a new way. So yeah… we’re on pretty good terms now, me and Em.

Here’s one of the good ones I discovered. It’s speaking to me particularly strongly today, since I’ve finally gotten on the Twilight-obsession bandwagon. Seems like a nice little ballad for Edward and Bella.

Wild nights—wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port—
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden—
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor, tonight,
In thee!

Yeah, I think Emily’s out of copyright protection now, so I shared the whole thing. But here’s a link to the Poetry Foundation’s more legitimate page, to appease my librarian conscience.

So, how about you? Did you always love Emily, or did you have to get to know her better, too? Or do you still hate her? Is it the Yellow Rose of Texas/Gilligan’s Island/Amazing Grace thing? ‘Cause that was really really hard for me to get past, I can tell you.

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Looking for the Poetry Friday round-up? Jennie at Biblio File’s got your back.

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with David Small

h1 Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

David SmallYou’d think we’d be pretty blasé about this kind of thing by now. I mean, we’ve been lucky enough to have interviewed a lot of cool, brilliant, amazing people over the past two years. You’d think we’d be all: “Ho hum, here’s yet another person with more talent in his little pinky finger than we’ll ever hope to have in our entire bodies. *Yawn.* Whatever.”

But no. It’s always a thrill when someone we admire is willing to cyber-hang with us. And we’re pretty much gobsmacked over this one.

Today, we’re talking with David Small. Yes, the David Small. We are just a teensy bit in love with him. But then, who isn’t? Eisha can date her crush to the first time she read Imogene’s Antlers, wa-a-a-ay back in her early children’s librarian days. That spread where Imogene is wearing doughnuts on her antlers to feed the birds pretty much knocked her flat. And it only got better with each successive book: David’s ability to convey everything you need to know about a character and exactly what he/she is thinking and feeling at a given moment is uncanny. Take a look at the gentle social satire evoked by Miss McGillicuddy’s long-suffering expressions in The Money Tree; the surreal hilarity of those bovine troublemakers in George Washington’s Cows; the irresistible charm of The Gardener; the painfully familiar heroine of The Library; the quietly luminous The Journey; the… okay, can’t-even-think-about-this-one-without-crying perfection of The Mouse and His Child; and the sweet, subtle grace of The Friend. Just, you know, to name a few faves.

David has been making picture books since 1981. As the biography at his site states, David’s books have been translated into several languages, made into animated films and musicals, and have won many prestigious illustration awards, including the 1998 Caldecott Honor for The Gardener written by his wife, Sarah Stewart, and the 2001 Caldecott Medal for So, You Want To Be President? by Judith St. George. “To date he has illustrated over 40 picture books,” the biography closes. “At an average of 40 pages per book, that makes around 1,840 illustrations, though someone ought to check that math.”

David has also done extensive work for national magazines and newspapers; his drawings appeared regularly in The New Yorker and The New York Times. Some examples of his editorial illustrations can be viewed here at his site. Pictured here is our Commander-in-Chief.

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The Claws That Catch at Guys Lit Wire

h1 Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

I’m only capable of such exuberant Carrollian language after having had a couple cups of coffee.

I’ve got a post over at Guys Lit Wire today. It’s all about Christopher Myers’ reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky from last year. Yes, I’m a bit slow in getting to this title, but better late than never. Here’s how the post starts out:

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Leave it to artist Christopher Myers to remind us that not all children’s books are merely the “products of wild imaginations and unfettered flights of fancy,” as they are often made out to be. “{M}y books are, more often than not, products of painstaking research,” he writes in the closing author’s note of Jabberwocky, Myers’ re-imagining of the classic nonsense verse by Lewis Carroll, published last year by Jump at the Sun/Hyperion.

And leave it to Myers to present us with another example of a picture book that appeals to teens. Myers takes this legendary poem—written over one hundred and thirty years ago and published in Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There by Carroll, the pen name for the Reverend Charles Dodgson—and sets it on the basketball court in a contemporary, inner-city setting: “The slithy toves” who “did gyre and gimble in the wabe” are jump-ropers, looking over their shoulder to see the Jabberwock’s entrance onto the basketball court. He’s a basketball behemoth, a cyclopean man with seven fingers, looming on the court, ready for a face-off. “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!”

You can read the rest here.

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Note: The June Carnival of Children’s Lit, “Fathers in Children’s Books,” is also up over at Susan Taylor Brown’s blog.

A Couple of Boys—And Ducks—Have Some Summer Fun

h1 Monday, June 23rd, 2008

As Jama pointed out last week, summer is upon us. Yes, last week marked the first official day of summer, much to my surprise. I had thought it was mostly already gone. Shows you what I know.

Nevertheless, this all brought to mind two picture book titles I have yet to talk about here at 7-Imp, two that are perfect summer-time fare and one that was recently awarded a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor in the Picture Book category.

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, written and illustrated by Marla Frazee, was released in March of this year (Harcourt) and has been met with all kinds of critical acclaim, including the aforementioned BGHB Honor. (If you follow the Amazon URL to which I linked the book title, you’ll see what I mean under “Editorial Reviews.”) It tells the story of two young boys, James and Eamon, who stay at Eamon’s grandparents’ house (Bill and Pam — and not this Bill and Pam, though I’m sorry to disappoint MotherReader fans) during a week of Nature Day Camp. Very little to no nature-observing actually occurs; the boys would rather be at Bill and Pam’s house watching television, jumping on the blow-up mattress downstairs, eating Pam’s banana waffles, and playing Nintendo. “Wanna go outside?” James asks Eamon one day via the speech balloons that pepper the spreads. “Nope,” Eamon answers, as they both stare out the window at the beach. “Nature camp was just so great,” says Frazee’s text on the following page above the rolling waves on the ocean. Read the rest of this entry �

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #68: Featuring Kyrsten Brooker

h1 Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Jules: Is it really true that British cats drink tea? Well, this globe-trotting cat, brought to life by illustrator Kyrsten Brooker, knows. He’s the star of Caroline Lazo’s Someday When My Cat Can Talk (Scwartz & Wade Books, April 2008), the story of one little girl’s fantasy about her cat. Someday when he can talk, he’ll tell her lots of things, including the story of how he “hopped a ship and where he stowed away” in order to launch his European adventure, including a trip to England, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Greece, and Holland. I love Kyrsten’s collage style (don’t forget to throw in some oil paints) and always enjoy her books (I reviewed Jacqueline Davies’ The Night is Singing back here in ’06). Kyrsten even opens the book with a map and itinerary of the cat’s adventures on the endpapers. These are illustrations which reward if you take the time to pore over them with your favorite wee one (and the book, I’m here to say, can also launch you into your closets for a search of your own globes and can lead to some informative geography discussions with children before you know what’s hit you). Read the rest of this entry �

Random Addenda: Elephant & Piggie, More Dementia, A Good Read-Aloud, and Betsy’s Caldecott Buzz

h1 Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Ever post about something and then want to add to it later? Or read someone else’s post and have an idea for them? Well, I’m taking care of that today with a short list of addenda. Just humor me.

Addendum 1. Remember when Adrienne and I posted about what we called Slightly Demented Picture Books, a post dear to our hearts that resulted in quite a handful of folks piping up to name their favorite demented books? Well, I keep running across books to add to the list (namely, why hadn’t I ever read Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile, which I stumbled upon recently? Sylviane Donnio’s I’d Really Like to Eat a Child seems almost an homage to Dahl’s book, published back in 1978. And I read ’em in the wrong order, but at least I finally found Dahl’s crocodile tale).

Anyway, there’s a new title out from Candlewick, Beware of the Frog by William Bee, set to be published next week, I believe. And it not only made me (and the children around me) laugh out loud, but it is also one of those titles that embodies the spirit of our definition of Slightly Demented. Hoo boy, talk about the food chain (as we did in our post):

Sweet little old Mrs. Collywobbles, looking like she came straight out of South Park and who lives right on the edge of a “big, dark, scary wood,” has a pet frog. And he’s the only thing that protects her from all the horrible and terrifying creatures that live in the big, dark, scary wood. Three of those horrifying creatures—Greedy Goblin, Smelly Troll, and Giant Hungry Ogre—believe they have the ability to one-up the frog. But they’re wrong, and the results of their attempts to do so are pretty funny. And then, just when you’re already hoo-ha’ing over this intrepid frog and Bee’s offbeat, wry depiction of his triumphs over the scary wood creatures, Bee brings, not one, but TWO bah-dum-ching moments at the book’s close, throwing the reader two punchline curve balls you don’t see coming. Calling it quirky doesn’t cut it. Everything about the book—the narrative and Bee’s left-of-center style, including all his close-ups and frog get-ups—is wonderfully wacked. It’s almost as if Bee is speaking directly to those parents all set on shielding their children from the Grimms-esque scary and mysterious elements of the world (the Giant Hungry Ogre sings, “I must have my supper—a juicy old lady cooked in lots of honey and butter”). Maybe not so much speaking to them as saying: Here, try this on for size. And did I mention I almost soiled myself laughing at it, as did my children? Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Giselle Potter

h1 Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Giselle PotterYou know those illustrators whose distinctive style of work you can recognize in approximately a femtosecond? Giselle Potter’s art work is like that. Her folk-art style, rich in color and full of whimsy (yes, “whimsy” gets overused in describing children’s books, but if anyone’s got whimsy—the good kind, not the saccharine-sweet kind—goin’ on, it’s Giselle, pictured here in her studio). Her style is not only instantly recognizable. It’s also playful and sometimes unpredictable and always a little delightfully offbeat. We at 7-Imp think she’s a true original, and we’re so pleased that she has stopped by for a cyber-breakfast to chat a bit with us. And what is her breakfast of choice? “A soft-boiled egg, toast, and coffee.” Coffee? Do we have coffee? Why, yes, we always do. Excellent. Let’s get right to it.

But, wait . . . If you’re new to Giselle’s work and want to know more about her titles-thus-far, don’t fret. She sent us a comprehensive list of her published titles, and I linked each one. Feel free to explore. If you’re not familiar with her books, we highly recommend them, and you’ll see that several of them have been reviewed here at 7-Imp. Her most recent illustrated title—Eugene Field’s Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, published by Schwartz & Wade this May—is a thing of beauty. Instead of trying to describe the deep, bold colors and Giselle’s beguiling interpretation of this old poem (Kirkus Reviews wrote, “{t}he hand-lettered text and mixed-media illustrations rendered in nighttime blues and greens lend an imaginative, dream-like quality to the ethereal text”), let me show you a few spreads from it. See for yourself:

Ah. Lovely, yes? I reviewed the book here in April if you’d like to read more about it. And, again, thanks to Giselle for stopping by. Without further ado . . . Let’s set the table for breakfast while asking Giselle about some of the basics: Read the rest of this entry �