While I can’t show you Robert Byrd‘s gorgeous interior art for Africa is My Home, I can show you the cover in the following book trailer. (And if you are at BEA, do stop by the Candlewick Press booth for a more comprehensive look or, even better, come to my Thursday 3:30 signing of F&Gs of the complete 64 page book.)
After seeing many tantalizing mentions of Tara Books over the last few years, I was delighted to receive Joydeb Chitrakar and Gita Wolf’s The Enduring Ark and get a firsthand look at one of their creations.
It is said from time to time, the world is re-made. Ancient stories talk of an age when a huge flood destroyed the earth, leaving nothing behind. … You may have heard it before, but great tales must be retold – and so I will tell it now in my way, as I have heard it said.
So begins Gita Wolf in her version of that old story in The Enduring Ark, but even before we read this text we’ve seen a huge eye seemingly merging into water signaling to us that this will be a retelling like no other. That is because of the unique accordian-style book making and Joydeb Chitrakar’s vivid illustrations done in the West Bengali Patua style of scroll painting. Readers can immerse themselves in Wolf and Chitrakar’s intertwined words and art by conventionally turning the pages or by opening the book to view them all at once. Water flows through the book from that first enormous eye of warning, tinkling through the gentle stream at Noah’s home, on as he collects his creatures, rising with the flood, and ending with the water merging with a rainbow of hope. The Enduring Ark is a spectacularly gorgeous book, one well worth reading again and again.
And Tara Books is a remarkable publisher, a co-operative founded by writers and designers and committed to feminist and egalitarian principles and gorgeous visual bookmaking. Based in Chennai, South India, many of their books are completely handmade and they are focused on celebrating the range of Indian art. For a fascinating look at how their books are made and more I recommend taking a look at their blog.
BEA is, as many know, the premier bookseller trade show, which has been held in NYC for the last few years. Years ago I made it to the floor and remember it as incredibly big and wild, getting coveted ARCs, crazy guys in costumes promoting books, tasty treats, swag, and being completely blown away by it all.
And so when Candlewick contacted me about doing a signing for my forthcoming book at this year’s show I was thrilled and nervous. Thrilled, as it is making the long road to publication real, and nervous, as I remembered that autographing hall full of long lines for the famous and the rest just…er…sitting there. Fortunately, I’m doing an in-booth signing rather than one in that intimidating autographing area and will be supported by all the great Candlewick books and folk. And so for anyone who might be there, I will be signing on Thursday at 3:30 stapled full-color F & Gs of the 64 page book.
Finally, I have to say that seeing my name on the BEA website is very, very cool!
I am a big fan of subversive books, say the ”recommended inappropriate books for kids” featured in Lane Smith’s Curious Pages. That said, I also have observed that kids respond better to some of these more than others, an issue I explored years ago in a Horn Book article “Pets and Other Fishy Books.” So when I ran into Jon Scieszka a few months ago and he excitedly told me about the forthcoming Battle Bunny, I was intrigued but also wary — was this a book kids would get or would it be something more amusing for adults? Then an advanced copy of the book showed up in the mail and I took it to school to see what my students thought.
First of all, let me try to explain just what it is (and how tricky it was to read aloud). If you look at the cover above you can perhaps see that it appears to be a sweet book of the Golden Book sort, originally titled Birthday Bunny, that has been erased, scribbled on, and reworked by…someone. I began by showing the cover to the kids and we discussed what that original book was; some of them knew Golden Books, but all of them appreciated that it was meant to be one of those sweet little journey books they’d all read when very small. Next we explored the scribbles — evidently someone named Alex had received the book from his grandmother for his birthday (there is an inscription on the inside front cover), wasn’t too happy, and decided to make it into a completely new story. And so he thoroughly erased the original title and put his own in instead. As for the interior, he crossed-out text, added new words and art, and turns the story into something completely different.
The first day I tried reading the book aloud on my own— alternating between the original text and Alex’s. The next day I invited one child to join me, reading Alex’s story and then had the kids take over completely — one reading Birthday Bunny and the other reading Battle Bunny. They had a great time! It may well be that the best way to take in the book is solo or with one other child, but I still think it was a blast to read this way. The group reacted, pointed out small things to one another, and just had a lot of fun. Jon tells me they are planning on providing a copy of The Birthday Bunny online for kids to print out and rework just as Alex did. Great idea!
So for those like me who go for this sort of thing (and not everyone does, I know), Battle Bunny is an excellent addition to the world of subversive books for children.
Betsy Bird has a charming contest inspired by Sophie Blackall’s remarkable mailing, of hers and Matthew Olshan’s book The Mighty Lalouche, to a bunch of folks in the old-fashioned way — wrapped in brown paper with string accompanied with a letter sealed with wax. Having received one of these lovely, lovely packages I’m not going to participate in Betsy’s contest, but urge others to do so. And even if you don’t wish to do so, I highly recommend reading the contributions there already. They are varied and all so moving!
My own memories of packages are many. First of all, as a child living in East Lansing, Michigan where my father was a young professor, I recall the periodic packages that would come from my grandfather in New York City, filled with food that my parents loved and could not find in the Midwest — largely German as that is what they were. And then there were the packages my parents sent to me when I was in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone in the 1970s. I think there was also food in those, but most of all I remember toothpaste, the brand I liked which was unavailable in Freetown.
I need to ask my 4th grade students about their experiences with packages. Maybe at camp? Certainly, they aren’t receiving letters the way I did as a child.
The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, an organization committed to fighting censorship, will be holding its 19th annual Children’s Book Art Auction at BEA, an event that is always a highlight for attendees, on Wednesday, May 29th. In addition to their wonderful array of offerings, they are having a special Maurice Sendak Memorial with artists paying homage to the great American artist.
And this year, they’ve something new: an online auction for those who can’t come to the live one in person. It begins this coming Sunday, May 18th, and runs for a week. You can preview the art here. I’ve always heard of booksellers’ excitement about purchasing original art at the auction and now the public can too!
Historical fiction has an interesting place in the world of children’s literature. Regularly celebrated by adults with awards like the Newbery, these books nonetheless raise the question of whether the intended audience feels the same enthusiasm. What I’ve observed as a classroom teacher is that while not in the multitudes that flock to the goofy fun of Wimpy Kid or the wild fantasies of Percy Jackson, there are still plenty of young readers who can’t get enough of the past.
Those among them who find the excitement and anguish of World War II especially fascinating, along with others who enjoy a gripping wartime tale whatever the time period, are going to relish Shirley Hughes’s realistic adventure, “Hero on a Bicycle.” A much-lauded British creator of picture books like the Alfie series, the octogenarian Hughes was inspired to write this historical novel for older children by a family she met during a postwar visit to Italy.
Read the whole review here.