Monday, August 30, 2010

2011 Caldecott Predictions

Caldecott predictions already? But, Susan, it's only August.

Yes, I know. But 2010 has been such a fantastic year for picture books that I want to get my predictions in early, before everyone else starts making them. I've seen one beautiful, poignant, funny, wonderful book after another.

Where to start? Here are some of the ones that have stood out from the crowd for me.

There's the beautiful and touching City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Williams, with amazing watercolor illustrations by John Muth.

There's the funny and spunky Dotty by Erica Perl, illustrated by Julia Denos.

There's Feeding the Sheep by Leda Schubert with wonderful text and exuberant pictures by Andrea U'ren. (Don't write this one off as just another "how something is made" book.)

There's the endearing and deceptively simple How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills. (See my review here.)

But, I'm afraid that these books (along with a few others) are going to have to slug it out to see which ones get Caldecott honors.

Because this one blows them all away.

I can hear a question forming on your lips. It sounds something like this:

"David Wiesner?! AGAIN?!! Doesn't that man have enough awards??"

And I have a question for you in return.

"Have you read Art & Max?"

When you do, you'll see that this incomparable illustrator has topped both the competition and himself. Again. Talk about a genius. When a copy of this book finds it's way into your hands, savor it. Read each panel slowly. Spend some time with it. Take a look at this video.

And then, sit back, and wait for January 9, 2011 when we'll find out if Wiesner becomes the most decorated Caldecott Medalist in history.

Book overload

I've got books all over the house. In bedrooms, closets, bathrooms, on the floor, in bookcases... you name it. Books are everywhere.

Several months ago, I finally got things organized. All the books were on the shelves, neatly divided into categories. And everything was lovely and easy to find. It looked like this.

But then, I went to the ALA (American Library Association) Annual conference. And this year's convention happened to be local, so I got more books than usual. Well, that's kind of an understatement.

Here's a picture of the bellhop's cart when I checked out of the hotel. (Yes, I needed a hotel room... where else would I have stored all the books during the conference?) Keep in mind that every bag on the cart is full of books.

Between that minor influx of books, and the fact that I let my children read the books and take them off the shelves, my library went from that beautiful picture at the top of the post, to this.

After two months of work and several failed organizational methods, I've finally done it. Here's what it looks like now (in alphabetical order, no less.)

That's just the picture books, though (and this picture doesn't even show all of them). Let's not even talk about all the other books waiting to be shelved... or the other eight bookcases in the house.

Let's see how long I can keep it up this time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Welcome back

If you're a regular reader of Wizards Wireless, you may have noticed the glaring lack of posts here for a long, long time. That's because I've been blogging over at Booklights for PBS Parents.

Sadly, Booklights is coming to a close. But while I'll miss writing over there, I'm also really excited about writing here again.

And for you comic strip fans, I've also started a new blog called Comic Strip Art.

Welcome back and stay tuned! I've got a stack of wonderful books I can't wait to write about.

Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Write a Book by Dan Brown

Play Dan Brown Libs! Just fill in the blanks to write your own bestselling novel.

A handsome, brilliant, superhuman man named ______ happens to be doing something in the famous city of ________ when the local Secret Service-level police force named _______ drops by to accuse him of the awful murder in the book's introduction of a brilliant person named _______.

The protagonist eventually joins forces with a beautiful, sexy woman named ___________. Somehow, they end up being wanted by every police force in the entire country of _______.
During the inevitable vehicle chase, there's lots of time to come to the brilliant realization that a secret society called _______ is involved. The society members include every famous person that ever existed.

Many, many pages pass. The protagonist performs countless feats that are physically impossible, no matter how many laps a day they swim in the Harvard pool. Endless information about symbolism, secret societies and the city of ______ is recited... all of which ends up having very little to do with the plot. The bad guys go to a ridiculous amount of expense and effort to keep the _______ safe, which ends up being a relatively unimportant object.

The villain is not the person the reader thought it was going to be, but is instead ________. Someone named ________ who was supposed to be dead suddenly resurfaces at exactly the right moment. The handsome protagonist and sexy woman end up exonerated, in a hotel room, having lots of.... room service.

The end.

The book sells millions of copies.

Tom Hanks and a much younger woman star in the movie.

If you want to write a book by your favorite children's author, try this post.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

ALA conference tips

Need some advice for the American Library Association conferences? Try these tips and tricks:
  • If you ask anyone what their advice is for the annual conference, they will answer "wear comfortable shoes."
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • If there's an event/luncheon/ceremony that you really want to go to and it costs money..... go. Often, people who buy tickets for events are unable to attend because their plans change. It's easy to find free tickets to events during the conference… keep an eye open for listserv postings and ask people with similar interests if they have a ticket they're not using.
  • You have to pay for the books at the author signings. Hardcovers are $10, paperbacks are $5. If there's an author you love, it's worth it to lug their book with you from home so you don't have to buy it at the conference. If your favorite author is sitting right in front of you signing books (even if you own the book and forgot to bring it)- buy the book and get it signed. It's worth the $10.
  • Try to say something to authors that they don't hear all the time. The more specific you can be the better. Instead of saying to a picture book author "I love your illustrations," say "I love the detailed tiger picture in this book. How long did it take you to draw that?" "Why did you dedicate the book to your brother-in-law?" If you know any of their previous lesser known books- definitely mention them.
  • Make a list of author signings, and a list of publisher booths that you really want to see. To get an extremely hot or popular book, arrive at the booth 15-30 minutes before the signing.
  • Put everything that sounds interesting to you on your schedule. You never know where you'll end up and it's good to know the locations and room numbers of all possible events.
  • Take pictures of the authors you see- no matter how stupid you feel about doing it- you'll be grateful ten years later when they win the Caldecott or the Pultizer.
  • Even if you're not looking for a job right now, get your resume reviewed at the Placement Center. It's always good to have a current copy of your resume handy, and it's great to get such wonderful, professional advice from library managers. If you plan to get your resume reviewed, go immediately to sign up for a slot..... even before you pick up your registration badge. All the weekend's sessions can fill up by the end of Friday.Plan lunch and dinner breaks, otherwise it's really easy to skip meals and wind up hungry and exhausted. Go to lunch and dinner with an old (or new) friend.
  • Soak it all in and don't be shy. Talk to everyone.... lines are great places to meet people. Go to the informal happy hours, get-togethers for your college, interest group, etc. Collect all the ribbons for your badge you can- for all the divisions you belong to. Makes a great talking point.
  • Use the bag check at the convention center religiously so you're not lugging so many books around. Keep coming back to it to dump your books. At the end of the day, sort through all the books and freebies you've picked up and take the ones you really want. Ship everything home (even if you're local).
  • You don't have to do every last thing on your schedule. Make sure to linger to talk to your favorite authors. Place hooky from a session or two. Go sightseeing. Take a nap if you need one.
  • Go to the booths of the large publishers. You'll find multiple copies of books laid out on the floor or on tables in big stacks. These are free and you can take them. Be sure to check back at the booths several times during the conference because, they'll put out different books on different days. Smaller publishers are unlikely to have free books available.
  • Ask for books you're interested in. Publishers bring tons of books with them, but don't have the quantities to put every book out in a stack for everyone to take. If there's a book you're dying to read, find out who the publisher is, go to their booth and tell them what book you're looking for. If they don't have a copy with them, they may be able to send you one after the conference is over. Or not. But, it's always worth it to ask. And, even if you don't get to walk away with one, they'll probably have a copy on display that you can take a look at (which is particularly useful for picture books).
  • Don't take everything you see. There are tons of free handouts available at ALA. Take only what you're interested in (or what a friend or colleague who didn't get to go would be interested in). If there's a free book or an ARC (advance review copy) that you already have access to, or have absolutely no interest in or use for... leave it for someone else. The same rule applies for fliers, tote bags, pens, and all the other freebies you'll see. Don't worry; you'll still acquire tons of free stuff.
  • Talk to the vendors. Don't just look at them as a source of free books. ALA gives you a chance to share your opinions with the publishers and ask them about your favorite and forthcoming books. The exhibit booths are staffed by editors, publishers, owners and salespeople. They may know an interesting detail about an author or the creation of a book that will help you "sell" a book when you get back home. And they'll be interested to hear your feedback about their books and products. And ask them any questions you have. They know a lot more about their books than what's in the catalogs.
  • ALA has a free shuttle bus service runs from the convention center to every conference hotel. It's invaluable. Use public transit too, of course… but give yourself permission to take cabs too. Sometimes, the time savings really makes it worth it.
  • You can never have too many business cards. Even if you have a professional card (and especially if you don't) make cheap personal ones to pass out. You can buy ready to print blank cards from Staples or Office Depot.
  • Don't enter a drawing, raffle, fill out a coupon or hand over your Expo Card to be scanned, unless you want to be on that company's mailing list. If you do, it's a great way to get their catalogs, and get a free gift.
  • Enjoy every minute and go again next year.
  • Ask everyone you see for more advice. You never know what hidden gems you'll uncover.

Got some advice of your own? Please share it in the comments!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Calvin and Hobbes, 15 years later

Are you a fan of Calvin and Hobbes? (Who isn't?) Then check out this interview with cartoonist Bill Watterson, his first in over 20 years. I have a lot of respect for him for never allowing his characters to be commercially licensed. Also, I think he makes a valid point in the article about knowing when to walk away.

For the first time ever, Calvin and his stuffed tiger will legally appear on something other than a book. The United States Postal Service is releasing a collection of "Sunday Funnies" stamps in July, 2010. Ironically, the Calvin stamp is included with several long running comics that haven't known when to leave the party.

Archie first appeared in 1946, Beetle Bailey in 1950, Dennis the Menace in 1951 and Garfield in 1978. All are still being published, even if the original creator has passed away or is only marginally involved. In stark contrast, Bill Watterson drew every panel of Calvin and Hobbes and it only ran from 1985 to 1995.

As a children's librarian, I can tell you that Calvin isn't going away anytime soon. In fact, it's probably the most popular series at our library. Here's a post I wrote for PBS Booklights about the magic of Calvin and Hobbes.

In 2006, Andrews McMeel released a beautiful three volume set called The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. I've never read it. Do you know why? Because it contains every single strip. If I don't read it, there's always a possibility that I'll find one more book or one more strip I haven't read.

Have you read every Calvin and Hobbes strip and wish there were more? Check out Frazz, currently in the newspaper and on the web. It's got a similar philosophy and sense of humor that Calvin does, with its own quirks thrown in. It's one of my favorite comic strips.

Do you wish Calvin and Hobbes was still running or do you think Bill Watterson walked away at the right time? See the poll on the sidebar.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Susan's last minute Caldecott, Newbery and Geisel predictions for 2010

Look, it's a new post!

I've been predicting the Caldecott and Newbery Medal books for a while (okay, 2 years) and think I should give this year a shot before we all find out the answers in a few hours. I'm going to try to get these in just under the wire. The press conference is very, very early tomorrow and I have to wake up in a few hours. Did I mention it was early?

There's only one winner I'm going to guess outright... that the Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney will win the Caldecott Medal.

If it doesn't win... there will be gasps if it shows up as an honor and dead silence if a different book wins the medal. Pinkney has won five Caldecott honors and zero Caldecott Medals. But I don't think he should win just because of that (and actually the committee is specifically not allowed to take that into account.) I really think he illustrated the best book of the year, and that's why I hopes he wins.

Caldecott honors: Hard to predict. No clear favorites this year but a lot of possibilities. Here's a couple that may or may not show up on the list:
  • Otis by Loren Long
  • Alphabeasties by Sharon Werner (check this one out, it's very cool)
  • All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee
  • Moonshot by Brian Floca (I'm not sure where this one will end up. Caldecott? Newbery? Sibert?)
  • Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Jon Muth (this one will never end up on any of the lists, but it's my long shot favorite and well worth checking out)
Newbery Medal: I think this one is a lot harder. There are several very strong books, any of which could win. I'm not sure which one will get the medal and which ones will get the honors. But I wouldn't be surprised to see any of these books turn up on the Newbery list:
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (I would love to see this book win).
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (could end up anywhere- either the medal or an honor)
  • Crossing Stones by Helen Frost (also a possibility for the Printz).
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice by Phillip Hoose (this one may end up winning the whole shooting match: the Newbery, the Sibert, the new YA non fiction award, etc. Or it will end up on a multitude of honor lists.)
I think the Geisel might surprise us.
  • Mo Willems could win for the third year in a row, but I don't think so. (Although you never know). I predict an honor for him.
  • Duck, Rabbit by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (a book that's gotten a lot of Caldecott buzz, but I think is more likely to win the Geisel or an honor.
  • Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas (might be a surprise winner).
The Siebert is impossible to guess this year. It was a very good year for non-fiction. Here's some titles that may show up:
  • Moonshot by Brian Floca
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice by Phillip Hoose
  • Written in Bone by Sally Walker
  • Mission Control- This is Apollo by Andrew Chaikin (it would be very interesting if this book appeared on the Caldecott list).
  • The Frog Scientist by Pamela Turner
  • Marching for Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge (could up end on the Newbery list too).
For a complete list of all the awards (and their criteria) and how to follow the press conference live, see this post.

To see my previous prediction posts, try my last minute picks and my earlier choices for 2009. I also predicted Trouble by Gary Schmidt early on, but alas. Here are my predictions from 2008 and my scorecard.

Congratulations to all the lucky people who recieve those 6 am life changing phone calls. Hopefully, the winners don't live in California... like Brian Selznick and Neil Gaiman, they'll get their phone calls at 3 am.

I can't wait to see what happens in a few hours.

Hey, look! What's that over there on the sidebar? A bird? A plane? Nope. A new poll! Actually two new polls... which ALA award winners are you the happiest about and which ones shocked your shorts off.

Update: How did I do? The ALSC award announcements are here, and the YALSA announcements are here.

Got an opinion? I'd love to hear it.