Monthly Archives: December 2015

For 2016 I want…

a better world for children now;

forgiveness instead of vengeance;

trust, lots and lots of trust;



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Britain’s Favourite Children’s Books….

…at least according to someone or someones, I’m not quite sure who.

I happened to notice some tweets about this yesterday so went looking. The 100 titles were announced by Nicolette Jones on a major television show featuring celebrities in and outside the British children’s literature world.  Evidently there is more about it in Jones’ Sunday Times article today, but since it is behind a paywall, I haven’t access so haven’t been able to find out who made the selections, criteria, etc. Was it Jones, a panel, who and how? If anyone can tell me how to find out, I’d appreciate it.

It is the usual eclectic mix that any such list always is with quite a few old chestnuts including my beloved Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at #12 (out of 100). But one big, shocking missing item was Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights (in the US it is known as The Golden Compass). Here are some of the tweets about that:

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This seems a very strange decision to me given some of the others on the final list that seem equivalent to the Pullman as far as age range goes. In addition to Patrick Ness’s and Siobhan Dowd’s A Monster Calls there are Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engine titles, the latter Harry Potter titles, and Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books to name some I am familiar with (there are others I wonder about too, but haven’t read). Most puzzling and why I’d like to know more about the selection process.

Britain’s Book Trust did something similar — that is, create a list of 100 favorite children’s books —  resulting in a very different list, one that does include His Dark Materials. They also provide information about how they came up with their titles, something I’ve been unable to discover about the one revealed yesterday.


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The 2016 Book I’m Most Excited to See is…

Melissa Sweet‘s picture book biography Some Writer: The Story of E. B. White. (Look around here if you don’t know why. To say I’m a fan of Charlotte’s Web is to put it mildly.)  And I have to wait until October?  The little I’ve seen (Melissa shared a smidgen at an ALA presentation last summer) is mouthwatering. Here’s the current blurb (no cover image yet) from the publisher:

In this stunning, first-ever fully-illustrated biography of legendary author E.B. White, Sibert medalist and Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet uses White’s letters, photos, and mementos, as well as her original collaged art, to tell the true story of one of the most beloved authors of all time.



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Diverse Cast for J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter Play - The play starts 19 years after the last H Potter story ended. Photo caption -  L-R Paul Thornley (Ron Weasley), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger) and Jamie Parker (Harry Potter) at the Palace Theatre. Photo by Simon Annand Photo from

The play revolves around the middle-aged Ron, Hermione, and Harry.  More about it and, especially, the response to the casting of a black actress as Hermione here, here, and here.

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Book Fan Art

Providing a visual interpretation of a story is a tried and true way of responding to a book. I did it as a kid and so do kids today. Now when I was a kid in the 1960s there was no Internet and so no easy way to publish my art. And so I did it pretty much for myself alone. But now there are so many places to publish your art — now better described, I suppose, as book fan art. I’ve just come across this one at the Guardian via Jonathan Stroud’s terrific article on why he likes the art so much.  He notes:

Written reviews give you some idea about whether you’ve succeeded, naturally, but it’s not healthy to pay too much attention to reviews, either good or bad. And even if they’re brilliantly written (which they often are), they are intrinsically anecho of the writer’s reaction to the text. Yes, you get a good idea of what they liked or didn’t like, but you don’t experience their response first-hand – as something fresh, vibrant and living. Fan art provides precisely this effect. As its name implies, it’s both an enthusiastic reaction to your book, and an independent creative act in its own right. For the author, that makes it doubly thrilling.

And the art is indeed fabulous!

And for anyone interested in my fan art (though I’d probably have bristled at that term as I aspired to be a professional illustrator), here’s a drawing of Meg from A Wrinkle in Time I did at age eleven.  As an adult I also did illustrations for Alice in Wonderland — you can see them here and Kipling’s The Elephant’s Child — you can see some of those here.



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In the Works: SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books 2016 Edition

So we’ve got the contenders and we’ve got the judges — all are incredibly awesome. The contender announcement will be in a few weeks and I just can’t wait!

For anyone who is new to this, let me explain. Starting in 2009, over at School Library Journal, we’ve been doing a tournament-style book game. We choose 16 fabulous books from the previous year, invite 16 wonderful writers to judge, and then watch it take off.  Every year is new and different. Since we select the contenders before ALA’s Youth Media Awards announcement, we are always curious how many end up among our contenders. And then, if we do have them there, how do they fare? Newbery winners, when they are among them, tend to not do so well — often they are out in the first round. No matter how famous you might be. Say in 2009 when Judge Jon Scieszka picked Sid Fleischman’s The Trouble Begins at Eight over Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. (You can find that decision here.)

We have no criteria –the judges may and do come up with many different ways to come to a decision.  Say Judge Lois Lowry who, handed the The Hunger Games and Octavian Nothing in 2009 wrote:  “How, then, to choose? Maturely, I am basing my decision solely on petulance, vengeance, reverse nepotism, and payola.” (You can read her whole fabulous decision here  — scroll down to find it.)   Or check-out runner-up Octavian‘s creator M. T. Anderson’s smart judging of two Darwinian titles in 2010 here, memorably titled, ” DARWIN VS. TATE: MANO A MANO (with opposable thumbs.)”

Some judges do essays, some do other things. Say Judge Barry Lyga who began his 2010  Pen vs. Brush thus:

I drop two books on the table in the Turf Club. No big surprise. Bobby and I are always bringing things to read. We’re at the races four days a week, but we’re not degenerate gamblers. Sometimes an hour goes by before there’s something worth betting.

 Sammy, another regular, picks the books up. Weighs them. The cover of Mal Peet’s Life: An Exploded Diagram features a lethal-looking rocket. On Allen’s Say’s Drawing from Memory, a dreamy boy in a blue sweater and blue socks appears to be flying.

“What’s the deal?” Sam asks.

“I have to decide between them,” I tell him. “It’s like a match race.”

We’ve been so fortunate with the writers who take on the judging roles. Some might surprise you. Say, Jeff Kinney who boldly decided between Schmidt and Selznick in 2012 and James Patterson who, in 2013 made a firm decision between Schlitz and Nelson. No Suzanne Collins or J. K. Rowling yet, but we can dream, can’t we?

Winners have been dystopias, graphic novels, fiction, nonfiction, and for many different ages. But it is really the journey, the excitement in seeing what the judges will decide and do that is what makes this so much fun. And, of course, it is a way to continue to appreciate books from the year before even as we become absorbed in those of the current year.

Every year is new and different. I urge you to check out the site, the previous battles, and get a sense of this incredibly wonderful thing I am so honored to be part of, SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books.


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One More Alice Panel

Hope some of you around NYC this Saturday stop by NYPL’s main branch (the one with the lions) to listen to Dana Sheridan of Princeton’s Cotsen Library moderate a conversation all about Alice with me and illustrators Charles Santore and Robert Sabuda.  Should be fun!  All the details are here.

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