I am surprised not to see more about Edward Carey’s Iremonger Trilogy, the last of which — Lungdon — has just been published. I first learned of it after reading an enthusiastic New York Times review for the first volume, Heap House. (I see now that it got several starred reviews and ended up on many 2014 best of the year.) I got my hands on it right away and then couldn’t wait for the second which came out this spring. Having just finished the final book, I can say that the whole trilogy is terrific.
The story is of the Iremonger family, who live in the huge and sprawling Heap House, outside of London, in an alternate Victorian steampunkish, gothic, fantastical universe. This singular and snobbish family oversee the heaps, piles of trash from the city of London (or Lungdon as they call it) from which they are exiled. They are a harsh family with a very odd aspect — all have “birth objects,” things they must keep near them at all times. Among them is Clod who has a unique condition — he can hear the objects. His birth object, for example, a universal bath plug, repeatedly mutters “James Henry Hayward.” And into the world of the Iremongers comes Lucy Pennant, a girl from the city who arrives to work as a servant at the House. Over the course of the three novels, the world of the Iremongers and the residents of London are changed forever.
Told through a variety of voices, the story is rich and compelling. Carey’s world building is superb. These Iremongers and Heap House reminded me again and again of the equally weird world of Mervyn Peake’s marvelous Gormenghast books. The characters are similarly strange, the language ornate and original, the place fabulously described, and the plot riveting. In addition to being a terrific read, the books themselves are gorgeous, full of Carey’s art. Dark at moments, emotionally charged at others, this is one superb series.
Last month I went to a top-secret location to meet with my top-secret collaborators where we did something very top-secret: select this year’s New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books. It has been, as you might imagine, hard to keep such a top-secret, but we did until yesterday when and our choices (and ourselves) were revealed here. Being part of this jury was a longtime dream come true so my thanks to children’s book editor Maria Russo and Pamela Paul editor at the Book Review, for making it happen. It was a delight to work with my fellow jurors, Marjorie Ingall and Frank Viva, starting out with over 2000 books and ending up with ten. Focusing on the artistic merit of each book, I was struck by what a remarkable year it has been for illustrated children’s books — with so many wonderful titles, limiting ourselves to ten was challenging indeed. Congratulations to all! (You can see some interior spreads from each book at this post by Travis Jonker.)
Big Bear Little Chair
Written and illustrated by Lizi Boyd
A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat
By Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall.
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras
By Duncan Tonatiuh
Leo: A Ghost Story
By Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Madame Eiffel: The Love Story of the Eiffel Tower
By Alice Brière-Haquet. Illustrated by Csil.
The Only Child
Written and illustrated by Guojing
By Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Patrick McDonnell.
By JonArno Lawson. Illustrated by Sydney Smith.
The Tiger Who Would Be King
By James Thurber. Illustrated by JooHee Yoon.
Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower
By Greg Pizzoli
The recent USBBY conference here in NYC was terrific and I enjoyed writing it up for SLJ. You can read my report here.
Lisa and Jen over at Reads for Keeps have just posted “Daleks in the Library: the Sequel” which is very amusing indeed. Having somehow missed the original I went back to see it here and learned that it was inspired by Katheleen Jenning’s The Dalek Game. Very fun stuff for Doctor Who fans (and probably meaningless for everyone else:).
Being a big Doctor Who and Patrick Ness fan, learning yesterday that the latter will be writing a teen spin-off of the former was a most excellent birthday present for me.
Yesterday on International World Peace Day I was invited to a small gathering to celebrate UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall’s forthcoming A Prayer for World Peace and its gorgeous illustrations by the distinguished Iranian artist Feeroozeh Golmohammad. The publisher describes the book on their website thus:
● Jane Goodall is recognized the world over for her commitment to natural preservation, and for efforts to being peace to all parts of the world.
● A perfect book for generations of readers who are awakening to the suffering caused by human activities such as animal abuse, environmental degradation, and war.
● This is a prayer that appeals to all humankind, regardless of creed or background. It’s a truly universal message of hope.
Jane Goodall is a world-renowned naturalist who brings her passion and her quest for understanding between all the Earth’s creatures to the fore in this beautiful and affecting prayer for world peace. She asks us all to rise above our dogmas, to bring a spirit of generosity to the living world around us, to pray for justice and for those who are suffering. Illustrated with rich and colorful artwork, this is prayer that’s both personal and universal – one that will speak to people of all ages from all backgrounds. It is the kind of prayer we most need now.
A Prayer for World Peace is a gorgeous, extraordinarily moving book. One, indeed for all ages. The art is glowing, connecting with the Goodall’s passionate phrases to be indeed a call for world peace. And Jane Goodall. After a day of speeches at the UN she was exhausted, but still could not stop talking about peace, children, her Roots & Shoots initiative to make a difference, and so much more. On the fly, she ranged from everything going on the world from refugees in Europe to the dreadful effects of cows and methane gas to events in Burundi. I’ve read much about her, say Anita Silvey’s recent Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, but this was the first time I can recall meeting her. Aside from being in complete and utter awe of Jane herself — she is a real life hero — I was incredibly moved that she had a small plush chimp there looking very much like her beloved Jubilee as described in Patrick O’Donnell’s charming picture book biography, Me…Jane.
I could not resist a few starstruck photos:
Thank you ipgbooks, Deborah Sloan, and mineditions for inviting me to this special experience.
Today, a group of thoughtful white librarian allies launch the blog, Reading While White. Their mission statement:
We are White librarians organizing to confront racism in the field of children’s and young adult literature. We are allies in the ongoing struggle for authenticity and visibility in books; for opportunities for people of color and First/Native Nations people in all aspects of the children’s and young adult book world; and for accountability among publishers, book creators, reviewers, librarians, teachers, and others. We are learning, and hold ourselves responsible for understanding how our whiteness impacts our perspectives and our behavior.
We know that we lack the expertise that non-white have on marginalized racial experiences. We resolve to listen and learn from people of color and First/Native Nations people willing to speak about those experiences. We resolve to examine our own White racial experiences without expecting people of color and First/Native Nations people to educate us. As White people, we have the responsibility to change the balance of White privilege.
The first post will go live at 11 EST today. Meantime check out their FAQs and Resources for Further Research. The history these six librarians (see their names below) have as allies and the timeliness of this makes me certain this is an important blog to follow.
The contributors are: