Monthly Archives: July 2009

Space, I Mean, Alaska, the Final Frontier

And getting up here I say it is the best road trip in America soaring through nature’s finest show. Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun. And then the extremes. In the winter time it’s the frozen road that is competing with the view of ice fogged frigid beauty, the cold though, doesn’t it split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs? And then in the summertime such extreme summertime about a hundred and fifty degrees hotter than just some months ago, than just some months from now, with fireweed blooming along the frost heaves and merciless rivers that are rushing and carving and reminding us that here, Mother Nature wins. It is as throughout all Alaska that big wild good life teeming along the road that is north to the future. That is what we get to see every day. Now what the rest of America gets to see along with us is in this last frontier there is hope and opportunity and there is country pride.

So I’m off to the last frontier myself tomorrow for a couple of weeks.  And let me tell you, the above bit from Sarah Palin’s farewell speech has me psyched!  Denali, midnight sun, Mother Nature, big wild good life, the road that is north to the future, and the last frontier — man, I’m hoping to see it all.   Now if you are so inclined, you can see Former Governor Palin give her speech here, but better by far see Commander Kirk himself present it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


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Filed under Other

Adaptations and Such

I’ve seen several expressions of relief by children’s book folk after they viewed the new Where the Wild Things Are movie featurette in which Maurice Sendak expresses confidence and appreciation for Spike Jonze’s vision for his book.  While I too am happy that it has met with Sendak’s approval, I also want to point out that Jonze is a very, very unconventional filmmaker and the film is likely to be a very different aesthetic experience from the book.  The two movies of his I’ve seen were smart, engaging, and seriously weird.  Just be prepared is all I say.

The first one I saw was Being John Malkovich — incredibly strange and very endearing, I thought.  Here’s the trailer:

The only other one I’ve seen is Adaptation. Given that its plot involves someone trying to adapt a book for a movie, well isn’t that what Jonze is doing with Where the Wild Things Are? In the case of Adaptation, it is a real book, Susan Orlean’s nonfiction book The Orchid Thief, and things go from bad to worse — hopefully that doesn’t happen with Max’s story! Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the new featurette mentioned above for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it.

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Filed under Classic, Film, Picture Books

Darkness Visible

Margo Lanagan’s amazing Printz-honored Tender Morsels slipped under the mainstream media radar when it was published in the US, but some have kicked up a ruckus in the U.K. where it was recently published. Fortunately, there are sensible mainstream reviewers too, say Stephanie Merritt at The Observer who considers it, “… one of the strangest and most moving works of children’s literature I have read in years.”  Yes!

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Filed under fairy tales, YA

Children and Mole Rats

A New York Times article “Children Without Clothes” provoked quite a few letters, including this one:

To the Editor:

Your article was balanced in presenting the varying perspectives that parents and guests have toward raising children.

The 40,000 members and their families who belong to the American Association for Nude Recreation have opted to raise children and grandchildren with an open, matter-of-fact approach to the human body. My wife and I have found this very beneficial as we have raised our own four children. They respect the sensibilities of others but would prefer skinny-dipping at our favorite nudist club to a sandy swimsuit, if given the choice.

As your article notes, in the early years you don’t usually have to teach kids how much fun it is to play without clothes on.

To help explain to them the appropriate time and place to be nude, there is a new resource available: “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed,” a children’s book written and illustrated by Mo Willems. The story provides a springboard for talking with children about social nudity, social customs and making choices.


Kissimmee, Fla.

The writer is the executive director of the American Association for Nude Recreation.

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Filed under animal stories

Tim Burton’s Alice, a Teaser Trailer

Hm….see what YOU think!


Filed under Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

A Trip to the Moon

No, not that one. This one.

Now I thrill as much as the next person of a certain age when I remember those real men walking on the moon 40 years ago, but since everyone else is posting great stuff about that I figured I’d go the oddball route instead.  So here are Georges Méliès’ gentlemen astronauts walking (and fighting and losing top hats and so forth)  on the moon 107 years ago.  107 years!

Brian Selznick made Méliès far more broadly known by featuring him in his Caldecott-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Some of us have been fortunate enough to see Brian narrate the above movie — with great drama!  For more about Georges Méliès and his trip to the moon go to the page on Brian’s site here.


Filed under Other

Coming Soon: Matt Phelan’s The Storm in the Barn


Matt Phelan‘s The Storm in the Barn is a beautiful, moving, and singular graphic novel, the story of eleven-year-old Jack Clark, his family, and his town during the 1937 Dust Bowl in Kansas.  Phelan’s palatte, sparse text, lines, and dusty images evoke the time and place perfectly.  It is a tricky thing to tell a tale that is both ultra-realistic and tinged with the supernatural, one that is both fable and historic.  Go too far in one direction and the story becomes overly moralizing; go too far the other and it just falls flat.  Phelan straddles the line perfectly. The atmosphere is thick with dust, with sadness, with pain, with wonder and, finally with hope.  Jack is a moving protagonist, worried about real things, inquisitive, scared, and ultimately brave.  This is an Americana story — the images harken back to the iconic photographs of Dorothea Lange, there are references to that very American literary fairy tale, L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.  Keep an eye out for it this fall — it is a wonder.


Filed under Children's Literature, comic, graphic novel

The Pura Belpré Award Celebration with Yuyi Morales’ Special Treat

I had always heard that the Pura Belpré Award Celebration was wonderful so this year I went and, yes it was!  The room was festively decorated, the presentations and speeches were moving, and it ended with a completely delightful dance performance by a troupe of little girls.

The highlight of the afternoon for me was the vivacious and talented Yuyi Morales who received an honor for the writing and the medal for the illustration of her charming alphabet book, Just in Case.


At the end of her acceptance speech she presented the following video. Enjoy!


Filed under animation, Art, Children's Literature

The Does and Don’ts of Conventioneering, ALA Edition

***Warning — this is a very self-indulgent post with lots of me in it.***

Do bring a wrap for the chilly convention center.
Don’t walk by a Payless while already in the convention city, think that perhaps 3 inch heels would indeed be more elegant for the Newbery Banquet than the cute little patent leather flats in suitcase, go in and try on $20 pair, buy them and then hobble about the night of the Banquet.
Do enjoy wonderful books personally signed by lovely authors at dinners.
Don’t get sucked into the “There’s an ARC, I better take it” situation and then have your shoulder sag and sag and sag as you take more and more and more.  (If you do, be sure to mail them though.)

Do network and have fun seeing old friends.

Random House gave Florence Parry Heide a lovely 90th Birthday Party.
Heide51SCVSNMZFL._SL500_AA240_I adore the above book as evidently does Lane Smith, another old friend, who has illustrated Florence’s latest book. (We first met many, many, many years ago when a student of mine took me along while she interviewed him — her mother knew his wife from college — in his incredibly cool NYC studio.)
51HgBMLbToL._SL500_AA240_Don’t even attempt to get a book signed by Neil Gaiman the day after he gives his Newbery speech. (This line is OUTSIDE the exhibits.  It was segmented and HarperCollins folk –editors included — were doing a fantastic job managing something that took many hours.  I wonder if anyone has done a signing at ALA quite like it.)

Do get prettied up for the Newbery Caldecott Wilder Banquet as did these lovely ladies I’m standing with: Patty Rosati, marketing wiz at HarperCollins and Jennifer Hubert Swan of Reading Rants).
Don’t overlook fathers and sons like Walter Dean Myers and Chris Myers.  Their forthcoming Egmont book, Looking Like Me, is going to be a hit, I predict.
wdm cm

Don’t overdo the confetti eggs!  Here are Starr LaTronica and Melanie Chang dealing with the result of one.

Do be as starry-eyed as you want after finally meeting someone you admire, have an extended conversation about reading aloud, and then go off to sit at his publisher’s table to see him get his Newbery Medal.
Don’t think you aren’t noticed when you slip back to the dais to twitter or something like that.
Do run around like everyone else taking photos for fun!
Here are Jenni, Kathi, and Ashley!

Don’t feel guilty for being unable to cover everything (partly because I’m a lousy photographer and my camera’s batteries were dead the first day).  It was just great to see friends, see new and forthcoming stuff, consider issues like translating (USBBY session on this was fantastic), blogging (the Booklist session on this was great too),  and just have a blast talking and talking and talking about what we all love so much — books.

Do go home tired, but happy.


Filed under Neil Gaiman, Newbery

Away to Chicago


I’m off shortly to ALA in Chicago where I will be seeing many friends from the publishing world — authors, illustrators, editors, marketers, publicity folks, agents, librarians, academics, reviewers, educators, teachers, bloggers, booksellers, and book lovers of all stripes. Can’t wait to see them all and do some socializing, gossiping, hear about and see new and forthcoming books, and otherwise have a grand time.

In addition to all the socializing and networking, I also plan to:

  • Stop by the Mo Willems reading at the Art Institute’s “Picture Perfect: Caldecott Award Books: 2006-2009) exhibit on Friday afternoon, 3-5.
  • Wander the exhibits on Saturday morning. (This is perhaps my favorite thing to do — see what is coming down the pike for all of us.  I’m also on the look-out for next year’s Battle of the Kids’ Books contenders.)
  • Meet up with some fellow child_litters for lunch on Saturday at the convention center food court (thanks to Cheryl Klein for organizing this).
  • Hopefully make it to the Saturday 1:30 session, “Books and Blogs: Made for Each Other?”
  • Sit in on the Notables meetings (their discussion list is available here) at various times.
  • Also on Saturday, at 3:30, get to the session, “Mixing it Up: The Process of Bringing International Children’s Books to the US” with Cheryl and others.
  • On Sunday at 1:30, go to The Pura Belpré Celebración; I’ve never been before and hear it is wonderful!
  • Be at the Newbery Caldecott Wilder Banquet on Sunday.  I went to my first one of these in 2002 when my dear friend Roxanne Feldman was on the committee that honored Linda Sue Park with the Newbery Medal for A Single Shard.  She arranged for me to sit at the FSG table where I had a blast with Jack Gantos.  Since then I’ve gone yearly and it has been wonderful each time.  Last year was, of course, particularly special because it was when I was on the Newbery Committee and we got to see one of the best banquet speeches to date by our winner, Laura Amy Schlitz.  Neil Gaiman is an amazing speaker (and, as this blog’s readers well know, I was a huge advocate for his book winning), but I’m dubious that even he can beat Laura’s mesmerizing presentation of  last year. Still he is NEIL GAIMAN, arguably the biggest celeb to win this award (biggest outside this world of children’s books, I mean), a great guy, and a wonderful storyteller in his own right — so I’m sure it is going to be one hell of a night.  I cannot wait!
  • Listen to Melba Beals on Monday morning.
  • Attend the presentation of the Batchelder, Carnegie, Geisel, and Sibert Awards later on Monday morning.

Sadly I am returning to NYC on Monday afternoon so cannot attend the Odyssey Award Presentation and Reception, the Printz Award Program, the Coretta Scott King Award celebrations (really, really sorry I can’t do these — I’ve gone to the amazing breakfast several times and this year there are more events to celebrate 40 years of the award), and too many other cool looking activities.


Filed under awards, Battle of the (Kids') Books, Neil Gaiman, Newbery