Archive for February, 2009

Poetry Friday and Michael J. Rosen:
Haiku is for the Birds

h1 Friday, February 27th, 2009

There’s this book. It’s called The Cuckoo’s Haiku: And Other Birding Poems (Candlewick). It was written by the very prolific Michael J. Rosen and illustrated with remarkable grace by Stan Fellows and will be released very, very soon — in March. This poetry volume is designed to be not unlike a field notebook on birds — twenty-four North American birds from the Eastern Bluebird to the Dark-Eyed Junco — divided by seasons, starting with Spring and ending with Winter. (The Pileated Woodpecker opens this post.) A spare, evocative haiku from the mind and observant eye of Rosen accompanies each bird (“first feeders at dawn / paired like red quotation marks / last feeders at dusk” is the entry for the Northern Cardinal), as well as lush and—there’s no other word for it—beautiful watercolors from Fellows of these birds in their habitats that just shimmer right off the page. (His illustrations even include Rosen’s ardent notes about these creatures of the air. My favorites are on the American Goldfinch spreads: “travel in small groups, feeder is a tower of gold” and “funny — their song is ‘potato-chips, potato-chips.'”)

It’s a thing of beauty, this book.

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Seven Impossible Interviews
Before Breakfast #80: Daniel Pinkwater

h1 Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Jules: Here is the the semi-fictionalized version of author Daniel Pinkwater (from his 1993 title, Author’s Day, which he also illustrated). It’s a bit daunting to introduce Pinkwater this morning — and not just because he’s staring so intently at us here. He puts the very “pro” in prolific, not to mention we’re super-geeky fans of his books and have been for years.

And, since we at 7-Imp consider ourselves advocates of—to put it bluntly—children’s books that don’t suck (you’re welcome for that moment of eloquence), we’re also happy for his NPR-musings: As many of our devoted readers surely know, he is commentator over there at NPR’s All Things Considered and Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon, often promoting—with much passion and, at times, that irreverent wit we love—new children’s titles. (To be clear, he also comments on “the caprices and vagaries of life,” thank goodness, as his NPR bio puts it.)

“Pinkwater’s books are designed to be understood by children aged six to 14, but are read by people of all ages,” the bio adds. Ain’t that the truth. His fans are not only wide-ranging in age, but we are rabid, I say. Mention his name around one of us serious Pinkwater devotees, and you’ll hear hoots and squeals and hollers — followed by a long list of beloved Pinkwater memories. I’d say we’re cult-like. The Bad Bears books, illustrated by his wife, Jill (I covered one of those titles here back in ’07 when our images were tragically small); the Fat Camp Commando titles; the Werewolf Club titles; The Neddiad and its sequel, The Yggyssey, Pinkwater’s newest title, which opens with the ghost of Rudolph Valentino smoking a cigar in a little girl’s bedroom, and both of which Pinkwater made available online to read free-of-charge; and oh-so much more, including the ones we reminisce about below — they’re quick-witted, wonderfully far-fetched, entertaining, and flat-out funny-as-hell adventures. And we love ’em all. There. How’s that for adoration?

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All You Get to Keep

h1 Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

“There is a faith in morningtime,
there is belief in noon.
Evening will come whispering
and shine a bright round moon.”

I’m taking a moment here to tell you about Newbery medalist Cynthia Rylant’s new picture book, to be released in March from Abrams Books for Young Readers. It’s called All in a Day, and it makes me happy. I mean, “there is a faith in morningtime, there is belief in noon.” How much do you love that? The book’s illustrated with boldness and style by self-taught artist Nikki McClure, but I’ll get to that in a sec.

This is a simple (well, seemingly — Rylant makes it look and sound easy) text that nudges the reader, gently urging us to consider: Just what will you do with your today? She gives us some refreshing takes on this notion of twenty-four hours. And what a day’s promise means. Or can mean. She introduces the day as a “perfect piece of time to live a life, to plant a seed…You can make a wish, and start again…” And, as you can see below (though the text may be challenging to read), it’s also a fitting time to find our way back home. Ah, sweet. If a “day is all you have to be, it’s all you get to keep,” then in a hammock with mama, resting under the sun, looks like a good way of being to me. Read the rest of this entry �

Making of Ourselves a Light: A Visit with
Elisa Kleven and Ernst’s Carousel

h1 Monday, February 23rd, 2009

“That night, Ernst made the bird its own little carousel.”

Meet Ernst. There he is up above and here to the left with a bird he made himself out of the wooden tail of a carousel dog, which had fallen off as the carousel was getting closed up for the winter. Ernst’s story comes to us from author/illustrator Elisa Kleven. It will be released on March 1 from Tricycle Press.

Booklist has already weighed in on this story by writing, “{t}he clear, colorfully detailed, collage pictures celebrate the transforming power of art” (the geeky emphasis here is mine). As I’ve said so often here at the blog before that you might very well be weary of me saying it, this is probably my very favorite theme in the arts.

Today, Elisa is stopping by for a brief chat, all as a result of my nerdy fan-dom and me asking her simply, what inspired Ernst’s tale? And her response—you can consider this a sort of “in her own words” post—is so thoughtful and so deeply beautiful, I think, that this has become one of my favorite 7-Imp posts. (And, of course, it helps that I really adore the book.) I’m so pleased she was willing to stop by our impish little art and literature salon, have some coffee with me (you may remember from my interview with her last October that she’s a fellow strong-coffee fan), and talk about some of the larger ideas behind this picture book. I know for a fact that Elisa didn’t want to come across as the interviewee on, say, Oprah’s couch who is baring her soul a little bit too much for everyone’s comfort. This made me laugh; I totally get that. But she’s got too much subtlety and mystery in her soul for that; instead, what she gives us here, I believe, is a perfect, little window into a bit of the artist’s and author’s process — while still leaving room for our own interpretations. And I find it to be such a truly lovely manifesto of sorts on that wonderful theme of the power of art to heal.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #103: Featuring Bryan Collier

h1 Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Jules: Once upon a time, I wanted to interview the insanely talented collage illustrator and author Bryan Collier. Well, I shouldn’t say once upon a time, since I will always want to interview him. But last year—and, actually, the year before, too—I tried as hard as I could to snag an interview through both the publisher Henry Holt and all by myself with my own stubborn determination by my side. Hard as I and the nice Henry Holt publicist tried, it just didn’t pan out. Not that Collier isn’t also insanely nice: I met him once, and he is a very personable, friendly fellow. And if you read the “about” page of his site, you’ll see that he is all about going into classrooms to talk with teachers, librarians, and students about books and art. But, hey, blog interviews probably aren’t for everyone. Which is a-okay.

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Poetry Friday: I’m fudging it again

h1 Friday, February 20th, 2009

Blackfoot RiverIt’s prose, not poetry. I’m sorry. But for some reason this passage from Norman Maclean’s story “A River Runs Through It” popped into my head the other day and won’t leave me alone. So, think of it as a prose poem, and enjoy.

This excerpt is at the end of the story, where Norman and his father are talking about his brother’s death:

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Putting the Sin in Syncopation Oh Yeah

h1 Monday, February 16th, 2009

If there’s one thing I want my girls to appreciate, as they grow, just about as much as I hope they’ll appreciate art, it’s music. When someone from the Chicago Review Press emailed to ask if I’d be interested in Duke Ellington: His Life in Jazz with 21 Activities, I wasn’t so sure. I’ve been way pickier about review copies lately, for different reasons. But it’s the Duke! My interest was piqued, especially since it’s one of those books that a music teacher or music-appreciation instructor would really dig: It includes twenty-one hands-on activities all in the name of engaging students a bit more. Okay, I was sold. I had to see it.

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7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #102: Featuring Polly Dunbar

h1 Sunday, February 15th, 2009

“‘Quick!’ said Doodle. ‘There’s a feast!'”

Jules: Hello? Anyone out there? I’ve been checked out all week with some kind of dastardly flu-like thing. And a big pile of work. A big pile of work that stuck out its tongue at my dastardly flu-like thing and said it had no pity for me. (This is, ultimately, a good thing, since self-pity gets one nowhere, though it didn’t make it any easier to have that pile of work saying nah nah nah nah nah in my face.) I’ve felt rather removed from everything all week and like I’m finally just now emerging, since—as of yesterday morning—the room was spinning a little less and words on the computer screen were a little less jumpy. I hope all our devoted Sunday kickers are doing well and that you all come along and kick away and share your fabulous lives today.

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Valentine’s Day, Cephalopod-Style

h1 Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

The 54th plate from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (1904), depicting organisms classified as Gamochonia; image in the public domainWell, my blogging plans for today were thwarted by some flu-like something or other that has rather inconveniently visited my home this week. But, lucky for us here at 7-Imp, the ever-so blog-friendly J. Patrick Lewis will occasionally stop by to share some new poetry, as he does at many other blogs. And how nice is it to get a random poem from one of children’s literature’s most talented and prolific poets and authors? Very. And the opportunity to share it? Even better.

So, yes, J. Patrick Lewis has made it easy for me today. I get to let him do the talkin’. In this case, it’s a Valentine’s Day poem, which will appear in COUNTDOWN TO SUMMER: A POEM FOR EVERY DAY OF THE SCHOOL YEAR, to be released by Little, Brown in June of this year. Did we have a Valentine’s Day poem? he asked me and Eisha. No, we didn’t, but now we do. And an adventurous, sea-faring one at that. And one involving amorous octopi sweethearts, three words which I never thought I’d put together. I even had to look up “bosun,” but now I’m in-the-know.

Thanks, Pat! Hope everyone enjoys this. If it doesn’t make you smile, then shiver me timbers! You need to stop and take a break.

Seven Impossible Interviews
Before Breakfast #79: Ed Young

h1 Monday, February 9th, 2009

“A Chinese painting is often accompanied by words. They are complementary. There are things that words do that pictures never can, and likewise, there are images that words can never describe.” — Ed Young (at Embracing the Child)

Jules: How can we even begin to describe, as the big fans we are, how exciting it is to have renowned Caldecott medalist Ed Young stop by for a chat today? Young has brought us over eighty illustrated picture book titles — visually-delightful works of the imagination, as well as countless adaptations and re-tellings of the old folk tales and fables of our world, often rendered in paper-collage. If I were asked to name a contemporary illustrator whose works provide a truly exciting visual experience, no matter the book’s tone, Young would be the first to come to mind. Whether he’s using the bold, bright collage of a book like The Emperor and the Kite (written by Jane Yolen and published in 1967) or bringing us ethereal impressionistic paintings, such as in 1989’s Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China, it’s always dramatic. Always striking. Always infused with an elegance. You look at his illustrations, and you can see the poet in him.

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