Indie Press Spotlight #2

Ossiri and the Bala Mengro from Child’s Play Books is a delightful yarn of the Travelers (as Romani are called in the UK). Penned by Romani Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby with charming illustrations by Hannah Tolson this is both an entertaining tale and a book that gives a good sense of the Traveler life.

In A Horse Named Steve from Kids Can Press, Kelly Collier takes on confidence, bravado, hubris, and what it means or not to be exceptional in a wry way, both in her text and in her illustrations. Steve certainly thinks he is more than exceptional– whether young readers agree would make a great conversation. When I’m back in school next fall I definitely plan on giving this one a try.

Eric Veillé’s My Pictures After the Storm from Gecko Press has the physicality of a board book, but the content will entertain children far beyond the toddler stage. On one side are the “before” images and on the other the “after” ones. Starting with a storm we go on to every thing from lunch to a cannonball. Wacky and nutty in the very best way.

From Phaidon‘s First Concepts with Fine Artists comes Birds & Other Animals with Pablo Picasso. Each page of this board book features a simple, but perfect drawing of an animal by Picasso along with minimal text such as “Wasps like to fly, but grasshoppers prefer to hop!” that I believe is also Picasso’s, but am not sure. There’s a page at the end explaining who the artist was and a final spread with the sketchbook pages from which these animals came.

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Not Your Nice Little Bunny Books

Seeing all the sweet bunny books being touted for Easter makes me think of those that aren’t so, er, nice. Here are few that came quickly to mind. By all means suggest more in the comments.

You may be surprised to know that one of the first is Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit.  Potter’s Peter and other animal characters (she’s got quite a few bunnies) in her books tend to be selfish, silly, and not particularly nice.

A recent subversive one is Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, and Matthew Myers’s Battle Bunny. I wrote about reading aloud here. That is NOT a nice bunny!

I’m partial to Emily Gravett’s Wolves which is from the point of view of a bunny. Things may or may not go well — depends on which ending you prefer.

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Another oldie, but goodie is “The Story of the Wild Huntman” from Heinrich Hoffman’s brilliantly subversive Struwwelpeter.

As for the one in Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back,  hmm….

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Jules Danielson just recommended this one. You can get a taste here and here. Boy oh boy is that one bad bunny!

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Roxanne below reminded me of this “bopping them on the head” bunny.  I knew the rhyme, but not that it was adapted as a picture book.

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Impressions of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2017

Last year as I began planning my spring term sabbatical  I realized that I would be free to check-out the legendary Bologna Children’s Book Fair. And so I convinced Susannah Richards to join me and on Friday, March 31, off we went for a week at the fair.

While I had heard a lot about the fair from others, got plenty of advice, I still went with few expectations other than that it seemed to be more for buying foreign rights and not so much for the likes of me. I quickly discovered that while it was indeed mostly for rights, it also was rich in learning opportunities of all kinds. I wandered the halls in awe of the range of publishing from throughout the world, sat in with editor friends while they met with foreign publishers, went to some wonderful panels, saw amazing art and books, and met old and new friends from all over. Add in the marvelous city of Bologna and it was all in all a fantastic experience.

We arrived on Saturday, giving us the weekend to sightsee before the start of the fair on Monday. Wandering the streets of Bologna, stopping into bookstores, libraries, and more was wonderful. Everything I ‘d heard about this city was correct. Then we spent the bulk of Monday-Wednesday at the fair itself. It was incredible wandering the halls, setting in on panels, seeing art, meeting people, and more. A truly wonderful experience; I’m so glad I went. I realize now I didn’t take very many photos at the fair itself — probably feeling it would be too intrusive — but there are plenty elsewhere, say from at the fair’s site,  PW (I was quoted in this article of theirs), and here.  Here are a few I did take as I wandered the city and the fair.

The warm colors of Bologna are marvelous.

 

Bologna is known for its food. Here is a storefront featuring its famous tortellini (which deserves the accolades).

The Piazza Maggiore at night.

On Sunday there was a huge architectural annual competition on the piazza. This year the challenge was to create a thirteenth gateway to add to the twelve already around Bologna.

There were exhibits all over the city featuring children’s books. The fair’s guest of honor for the year included Catalan children’s book creators and there was a delightful exhibit of their work at the gorgeous Biblioteca Archiginnasio.

New York Times children’s book editor Maria Russo moderated a terrific panel featuring books on artists.

It was great fun being at the announcement of this year’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner Wolf Erlbruch whom I first encountered long ago via this book.

Looked for African publishers and found Golden Baobab. Representation was sparse for the continent and so I hope there will be more as years go on.

Aspiring illustrators were everywhere.

We visited the remarkable public library, Biblioteca Salaborsa.  There was a delightful exhibit, Rules of the Game, that cleverly allowed for interacting with books. Saw the Horn Book Magazine among their periodicals and was mighty impressed with their range of book offerings in so many languages.

It was a wonderful and most worthwhile experience, one I’m still processing.

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Kwame Alexander’s Phenomenal Closing Write-up for SLJ’s BoB

….Once upon a time, a poet made a decision that since there was no rubric for judging heart and pain and soul and love and vicious clubbing and death and love and magic and the audacity to hope, the criteria for judging the School Library Journal Battle of the Books would be, get this: remembering….

Please, please, whether you follow the BoB or not, whether you approve of the concept or not, read Kwame’s post — it is magnificent.

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Indie Press Spotlight #1

Recently I wrote a post celebrating independent publishers, something I’d long wanted to do. Now I want to take the next step — start a regular feature highlighting books from these publishers. So today is post #1.

John Cage, a remarkable avant-garde composer (perhaps best known for the work 4’33” which is performed as total silence), collaborated with textile artist Lois Long in the 1980s to create Mud Book: How to Make Pies and Cakes. Happily for us Princeton Architectural Press has brought back this delightful and charming little book. (It will be out this coming Tuesday.) As they describe it, this delightful object is: “Part artist’s book, part cookbook, and part children’s book, Mud Book is a spirited, if not satirical, take on almost every child’s first attempt at cooking and making. Through the humble mud pie add dirt and water!”  It is adorable and perfect for little ones who want to explore the world of making food (real or play).

A goat on the roof a New York city apartment building? That is indeed the case in Anne Fleming’s The Goat from Groundwood Press. The lives of a diverse group of apartment dwellers become entwined in this short, but rich story. Using a third person omniscient narration, Fleming moves readers from one character to the next — goat included. It may sound fantastical, but is done so convincingly that I’m ready to go look and see if there is a goat on my building’s roof!

I have Debbie Reese to thank for drawing my attention to David A. Robertson and Julie Flett’s When We Were Alone published by Portage and Main Press. Done simply, but with devastating clearness this is the story of a woman telling her granddaughter of her time in one of the boarding schools to which Canadian First Nation children were taken. She tells of the brutal methods used to strip them of their own cultures and how they managed to quietly, but firmly resist this. The lovely illustrations further the powerful emotional clout of this important book.

This last book is a bit of a tease as it won’t be available to October, but I wanted to put it on your radar nonetheless. It is Rosalie K. Fry’s Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry,  a reissue coming from the New York Review Children’s Collection. It is the spare and lovely story of Fiona McConville, a feisty ten-year-old who is sent to live with her Scottish grandparents on a wild and remote coastal area. The natural world, folklore, and family all come together in this gentle yet wondrous story that was the inspiration for the 1994 movie The Secret of Roan Inish (which I’m thrilled to see is available to stream as it is a wonderful family movie).

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Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe

There is a certain kind of book that can be tricky for me, a quiet, but emotionally powerful book. I see such books as teetering on tightropes — balancing just right the heartstrings-tugging, the poignancy, the tenderness, the provoking-of-tears. Too much and I feel manipulated, too little and I just don’t care. It is for this reason I was wary when beginning Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe, but I needn’t have been. It is to my mind an exemplar of this sort of book —- quiet, introspective, moving, witty, and emotional in all the right ways. I liked it so much, in fact, that I’ve added it to my goodread’s Newbery list.  Yes indeed, I think it is that good.

The novel takes place in a single day featuring four middle schoolers. In the center is Virgil Salinas, a highly introverted member of a large extrovert family who call him Turtle “Because he wouldn’t ‘come out of his shell.’ Every time they said it, a piece of him broke.” The exception is his Filipina grandmother Lola who calls him Virgilio, gets him completely, and tells him folk tales to bolster him through life’s challenges. Virgil has a crush on deaf and confident Valencia Somerset, but is too shy to let her know. And so he has become a client of the young psychic Kaori Tanaka who, with her younger sister Gen, intends to help him. Last of all there is Chet Bullens who has bullied Virgil unceasingly.

An encounter in the woods with Chet leaves Virgil in a life-threatening situation. Readers are firmly with him as he reacts to this, tries to figure out what to do, and considers some of Lola’s tales as a way to build strength in a dire moment. Here is where my admiration for Kelly’s writing really takes hold as she masterfully balances the emotionality of Virgil’s circumstances on that tightrope without a misstep. The threads of the other characters move in and out of Virgil’s difficulty. We get in Chet’s head and, while we learn more about what may have turned him so mean, we don’t forgive him for it. Kaori’s adult-like serene style is delightfully balanced with her little sister Gen’s humorously typical second-grader behavior. Interestingly, while these character storylines are all in third person, Valencia’s is in first person; from her tolerance of her father calling her an endearment she could do without (but loves because it is from him) to her forthright response to Chet, we easily see how crush-worthy she is.

There is suspense as we hold our breath wondering how Virgil will be saved, there is humor (especially from little Gen), there is the slow evolution of different personalities, and of what will be, we can be certain, a warm friendship between Virgil, Valencia, and Kaori beyond the book’s ending. It may be this is a book for introverts? I can’t say, but it provided all that I want in a book for children — an intriguing plot, beautifully articulated characters, tight and elegant sentences, wit, and opportunity for thought. Hello, Universe is one quiet, emotional book that I recommend highly.

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SLj’s BoB Round 2 Starts with Judge Javaka Steptoe

I like to think of these two books as pieces of music: One is like a work song, the other a classical concerto. In this way they are quite different and yet comparable, with one resonating for me more than the other.

Check out the lovely whole of the 2017 Caldecott winner’s decision between Congo in Freedom Square and When Green Becomes Tomatoes here.

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