Saturday, June 30, 2007

Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet

Where to start? This event was incredible...

I LOVED it. It was my first one- but I'm hooked now- I have to keep mortgaging my house to go again in the future and forevermore.

I committed the ultimate crime of not being invited by a publisher- and sat in the cheap seats in the waaaaaay back. The TV screens were essential... otherwise all I could see was David Wiesner and Susan Patron shaped blobs.

The good thing was that the people in the back got to the recieving line first- so I got to talk to EVERY author... before they started hurrying people along. I had talked to Kirby Larson at 10 am in the morning at her book signing- and when I saw her in the recieving line hours and hours (and tons of people later- for her) and she remembered MY NAME. Amazing. (And I wasn't wearing a name tag). I asked her how on earth she had done that- because she had met vast quantities of people that weekend- she said something to the effect of that she never forgets a fan- not one who loved her book so much. I had gushed all over Hattie Big Sky that morning- which I'm crazy about. That may have been the highlight of the night for me.

Speaking of Kirby Larson, it took a while for her to get to the stage after her name was announced.... and sitting in the way back I couldn't see what was going on. I started to wonder if she had bad seats too (which couldn't be possible) or if she had gotten lost on the way up to the podium. She cleared up the mystery with a very poignant post on her blog.

Jennifer Holm, author of Penny From Heaven looked incredibly glamorous. And she also remembered who I was! from when she visited my library school children's lit class. The Newbery committee chair mentioned that Jenny had had a baby two weeks ago (and she got huge applause)- but actually she gave birth TEN DAYS earlier- she was short-changed with the 2 weeks comment.

David Wiesner's speech was fantastic- I thought he had the right to phone it in- this being his third one and all. But he hit it out of the park. I saw him the next day at his book signing for Flotsam and said I was grateful he didn't title the book Cheese (he mentioned it his speech that he had briefly considered calling it that). He said he was grateful too- and thank god for his editor.
Here's the view from the cheap seats of David Wiesner... keep in mind that I had to STAND UP to get this picture. Read Fuse #8's post about what it looked like to those who were near the stage.

And Susan Patron- wow. Her speech was just amazing.... I was transfixed... and hung on every word. I had read Maybe Yes Maybe No Maybe Maybe- and that telling stories to her younger sister in the bathtub thing finally made sense. I liked when she paused for an earthquake (you won't find that in the recorded speech!) When I mentioned it to my husband later- he said- (and I can't believe he remembered this detail about her)... "she's from California.... she's much more attuned to possible earthquakes." I lived in California for two years... and yes... I paid a lot more attention to earthquakes.

They ended the banquet with the Carnegie Medal winning video of Knuffle Bunny. My three year old son LOVES Knuffle Bunny with an unbelievable passion. I had checked the viedo out of the library because I was planning on going to the Siebert/ Carnegie/ Geisel/ Batchelder award ceremony (which I miraculously made it to- the highlight was when Trixie Willems was carried up by her dad and thanked the crowd.) Anyway, my son watched Knuffle Bunny once and said "More knuffle?" Who was I to refuse? (It's only 7 minutes.) So he watched it again- actually TEN more times that night- and then the next night and then the next (well, you get the idea). So I've seen the movie approximately 495,267,922,589 times... and then they played it AGAIN while I was trapped in my seat at the banquet. ARGH! Although I do love it- and I was glad everyone saw it- I was VERY grateful when it ended.

What a wonderful wonderful evening. I can't wait for next year!

American Library Association annual conference

I'll be posting lots more about the ALA convention.... but first I just wanted to say how wonderful it was. The best part was meeting people who were as into books as I am, and who took the time to listen to what I had to say and act interested (even if they were a Newbery medal winner).

I think (I've almost) recovered from it.... at least, I think I can feel my feet again.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy!

What a wonderful book. I love Sandra Boynton's books- but I think this one is particularly special. What's so great about this 26-word book, you ask? I'm not sure everyone would think that "rough rough rough" makes engaging text... but the book isn't written for everyone... it's written for babies. And they're the ones who it really works for.

There's approximately three words a page, almost all of which repeat (which is perfect for a little, impatient listener), the book is over-sized (so it's easier for kids to see and turn the pages), the pictures are simple and not overly complicated.... and.... best of all.... there's an activity for the baby to do on every page. Touch and feel books, especially simple ones like this one, are a HUGE hit with babies.

By the way the "rough rough rough" line is on the same page as a picture of a dog, who has a "rough" paw... but when you read it aloud it sounds like "ruff ruff ruff" which is a pun even a baby can get.

It's funny to look at the publisher's picture of this book.... because the version I own has most of the cover ripped off, a sticky brown substance somewhere in the middle, and the egg shells are completely torn off the birds on the last page. Which goes to show you, even board books can't withstand the love and rough handling of a baby.

This book is of my favorites (and more importantly, one of my son's favorites) and it works every time with every baby I've met.

Board books for babies

I'm sure this will be the first post of many on this topic.... because I'm very opinionated about it.
Why? Because when I had a baby, I got lots and lots of board books (from friends, from the library, from the bookstore, from the library bookstore etc.) Which can be wonderful.
But my baby wasn't really interested in them.... they were mostly repackaged versions of other books that are incredibly popular such as Guess How Much I Love You and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. They were too long (sometimes more than a sentence per page... which asks a lot of a baby's attention span) and neither of us were enjoying the reading experience very much. Which broke my heart, because I had always heard you should read to your child from a young age- and I always wanted to read to my child- and here I had a child who couldn't care less about books.

Then, my friend Danielle recommended Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy! a touch, skritch, & tickle book by Sandra Boynton. It was the first time my son was actually independently interested in a book... he crawled over to feel the cover. And suddenly... I realized that I needed to find books written for babies. And so began a quest... and I ended up writing a rather longish paper about board books for library school. I'll post the board books in the links section that I think really work for babies (I've field tested them all carefully).

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

This book is pretty well known now, but I thought I'd mention it because I love it so completely. This was author/illustrator/animator Mo Willems debut book. It came out only a few short years ago (2003) but now Mo and his pigeons and knuffle bunnies seem to be everywhere (which is fine with me).

I have to admit, at first glance, it appears to be relatively unsophisticated, but deeper examination reveals its complexity. Illustrated in an extremely straightforward fashion with flat colors and a black crayon, the artistic style is not beautiful or breathtaking but it expertly conveys the story and character with just a few lines. The immaturity of the pigeon is well suited to this child-like style of illustration. Willems uses every inch of space to tell his story, including endpapers, title page and even the covers. He also employs subtle changes in background color and excellent use of white space. Through these techniques and a hysterical and simple text, the conflict slowly and expertly builds to a very clear and humorous climax. The flawless unity of illustration and story make this book so compelling... and makes my three year old laugh every single time he reads it (which is a LOT).

The Knight Bus

As a promotion for Harry Potter 7, Scholastic has sent the triple decker Knight Bus on a tour of libraries around the country. It boggles the mind why the book needs any marketing and promotion at this point, but who am I to complain? I got to go on the bus.
The pictures are much better on the Scholastic website linked to above, but I'm posting a couple of the ones I took in order to point out a few things (and to see if I can figure out how to successfully post pictures to this blog.)

Here's the thing that impressed me the most: they had the driver's seat on the LEFT (because it's a British bus, of course.) Also, the seat is an armchair with the big wheel described in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This seat is pretty obviously for show... it looks like a real seat on the right hand side folds down for the actual driver.

The bus is actually a double-decker bus (although it is painted on the outside to look like a triple decker) and the windows are also painted on. The actual bus is filled more with computer equipment than with wizard furnishings. Each person on the bus (and who has filled out an extensive release form) has a chance to record a 20 second video about why they love Harry Potter.

I was one of the only adults on the bus... and I peppered the Scholastic crew with questions. They said they get a lot of strange looks driving from city to city and a lot of near accidents as people on the interstate come to virtual standstills (while driving!) to pull out their cameras. Only one person (the driver) actually rides in the bus... the rest of the staff are in a different vehicle.

Just imagine the looks they get at truck stops and toll booths.

What does Wizards Wireless mean?

It's an obscure Harry Potter reference. So obscure, that it appears only three times in the books (if you've found more mentions, let me know!) It's the radio station that wizards listen to- and it seemed like the perfect name for a blog created via a wireless connection. All the major, non-obscure Harry Potter references like The Leaky Cauldron are already taken, so I thought I'd try something off the beaten path.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What's this blog about?

I get asked constantly for book recommendations for kids and thought I'd finally post them all in one place. A (growing) list will appear in the links and lists portion on the side of the page... but I also plan to discuss them- and why they made my list and what makes each one so good.

Most blogs about children's books highlight the up-to-the-minute current books... which I think is absolutely wonderful.

I have a somewhat different approach... to talk about books, no matter the publication date, that really connect with their readers (particularly if their readers are under the age of ten).

You also may have noticed that my blog is subtitled "Life, children's books and Harry Potter" so I may as well openly confess that I am a Harry Potter nut. Sadly, the last book of the series is coming out in a few short weeks, but I think there will be a lot of unanswered questions and interesting things to mull over- even after all the frenzy has died down.

I'm also a very avid reader of comic strips (the kind that appear in the daily newspaper) so I also plan to highlight some of my favorites- and talk about current developments (like: What the heck was Lynn Johnston thinking?)

So- there you go- reviews of children's books (and things related to children's books), Harry Potter, comic strips, and who knows what else.

Who am I?

Good question. I'm almost a children's librarian... currently slogging my way through grad school towards a master's in Library Science. I love children's books... and get excited about things like seeing David Wiesner in person. (who just won a THIRD Caldecott medal- the man is amazing).

I love talking about books, about Harry Potter (not very original- but they really are my favorite books), about kids (I have a very cute and adorable one), about books for kids... and we'll see what else comes up.


I think I'm the last person in the world to start a blog.

Why start now? I was sitting at a table in a bar this past Saturday (not something I usually do)... with 15 very cool people who were as interested in children's books as I am. What made it interesting was that virtually everyone present had a blog (at least 10 of the 15).... so people were introduced by the screen names- not their actual names.

I thought, what the heck, I can do this too. I have way too many opinions that I share with anyone who will listen. So I thought I'd give it a try... despite the fact that my 18 year old cousin informed me that "blogs are so three years ago."

So- welcome... and thanks for reading.