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Review: Leave Your Sleep January 31, 2013

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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Leave Your SleepOne of the musical highlights of 2010 for me was ‘Leave Your Sleep’, a two disc set of children’s poems set to music and sung by Natalie Merchant. A few of the poems were familiar to me, but many were entirely new and their images were brought to life beautifully by Merchant’s lovely voice and intricate instrumental arrangements. Now a companion book of the poems has been published with a special CD and thanks to the amazing illustrations by Barbara McClintock, I have fallen in love with both the words and the music all over again.

Merchant collects poems from a wide range of time periods, placing Jack Prelutsky and Ogden Nash alongside Robert Louis Stevenson and Edward Lear. More obscure poets include Laurence Alma-Tadema, whose poem “If no one ever marries me” takes a refreshingly positive look at spinsterhood, considering she was writing in the early 20th century. Giants of poetry whose poems are sometimes less likely to turn up in children’s collections are also here, such as e. e. cummings and Robert Graves.

McClintock engages the eye perfectly for each selection, alternating between witty spot illustrations and gorgeous full page pictures. The spread for “The Blind Men and the Elephant” is as perfectly balanced a scene as I have seen in any picture book this year. The energy, expression and detail in her spot drawings had me constantly making comparisons to Arthur Rackham and Randolph Caldecott, particularly those that were historical, such as “Vain and Careless” or “Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience”.

My one complaint about this collection is that it does not include all the tracks from Merchant’s original project–the two disc set was perhaps too long to translate into book form unedited, but it made me sad that a few of my favorite songs were not skipped over. This is a minor flaw, however, in a delightful book that is perfect for any poetry lover (of any age) you know!

One of the spot illustrations from 'Equestrienne' by Rachel Field

One of the spot illustrations from ‘Equestrienne’ by Rachel Field


Night Before Newbery January 27, 2013

Posted by ccbooks in Nerd Line.
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I’m poking my head in here to give final thoughts on the ALA Youth Media Awards before the winners are announced tomorrow. The following are my favorites for each major medal, based purely on heart and not head.

Newbery Medal: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz.

This is probably the book I’ve re-read the most this year. I am definitely biased–being a puppeteer, I am the perfect audience for this book.

Caldecott Medal: Bear Has a Story to Tell illust. by Erin Stead, Chloe and the Lion illust. by Adam Rex.

What can I say? I’m a storyteller. These two books have very different styles of illustrations but I love how they both reflect the joys and pains of storytelling.

Printz Award: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

In terms of theme, plot and character, no other book this year made me think as much as this spy story.

I also want to say thank you to the three major award blogs that I have been following since the fall–Heavy Medal and Someday My Printz at School Library Journal, as well as Calling Caldecott at The Horn Book. I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of the online community that discusses and debates children’s literature each year and I hope that someday I’ll be able to go to an ALA Midwinter and meet more of you in person!


A (short) Pause January 7, 2013

Posted by ccbooks in Uncategorized.
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I’m going to be taking a short break from this blog for about a month. I wouldn’t bother announcing it like this (I don’t have such delusions of grandeur as to think that dozens of people read this blog regularly) but the post title will remind me, if I click on the page, that I have promised myself to step away for a bit. Take a breath. Enjoy the quiet. And then hopefully I’ll return around the time that ALA finally satisfies me (or not) with their choices for all the Youth Media Awards.

In the meantime here is an interview I really enjoyed, with William Alexander, the author of the National Book Award-winning Goblin Secrets. I admit that I was pulling for Bomb to win this award, but Alexander did impress me with his world-building as well as his use of theater and mask tradition. After hearing more of his thoughts and ideas in this interview, I’m looking forward to whatever he writes next.

*I also love the interview questions–as I was reading, I got the sense that this wasn’t your usual SLJ question list and about the time I got to the question featuring an A.E. Housman quote, I was thinking “Who is this interviewer?”….and then at the end I realized that it’s Gary Schmidt. OF COURSE. The man even writes brilliant interview questions! Life just isn’t fair.

F&G Goodness: 2013 Edition January 3, 2013

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A fantastic early Christmas present was waiting for me a few weeks ago at the store–a big box of F&Gs! That’s ‘folds and gathers’  in bookstore-speak–the advance copies of picture books that have the finished text and illustrations but are not bound in a book. Sometimes there is only a cover, with a summary inside or a sample of the text, but it’s usually enough to give a good taste of what the finished book will be like. Here are four new books; a combination of classic stories and authors along with new talent, that I’m excited to see later in the year.

Amelia BedeliaAmelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Fritz Siebel (50th Anniversary Edition)

Amelia, the maid who takes all directions way too literally has been spruced up in this anniversary edition. For people like me, who mostly remember reading Amelia’s stories in flimsy  small paperbacks, this full size version, with large color pictures has an amazing vintage feel. I always remembered particular mistakes of Amelia’s more than the illustrations, but now I can see that the rich colors and the subtle patterns in the wallpaper and clothing are really lovely as well. I’m looking forward to laughing at Amelia’s antics all over again.

A Special Gift for GrannyA Special Gift for Granny by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

We lost a great author when George passed away in 2012. This was one of her last projects, a gentle story about a boy who brings his grandmother a pile of stones. Slowly, neighbors and friends use the stones for various projects, but when it comes to the last handful, Grandma has a lovely idea for how to keep them close to her. The collage and acrylic illustrations make this a great one for grandparents and grandchildren to share with each other.

Giant Dance PartyGiant Dance Party by Betsy Bird, illustrated by Brandon Dorman

I can’t wait to read this to my creative drama class of three year olds and see them act out the furry blue giants who want to learn to dance. The protagonist, pigtailed Lexy has a problem: she loves to dance but is scared of recitals. So she decides to become a dance teacher and with the addition of those giants, high energy fun ensues. The colorful illustrations perfectly match Lexy’s optimism and can-do spirit and the last page hints at possibilities for an equally funny sequel. Betsy Bird is one of my favorite book bloggers and I’m excited to see more people discover her talents as an author as well.

That is NOT a good idea!That is NOT a Good Idea! by Mo Willems

Animal instincts come to the forefront in this fantastic new adventure from Mr. Willems. Structured like a silent movie, with the dialogue presented in frames on black pages, a fox invites a goose for a walk and then to dinner. Is this a good idea? Not according to the little goslings, who comment loudly on every move made. I think I can guarantee that once you have read this to a child, they will begin to mimic the goslings any time they see something even slightly dangerous. This is another one that I am sure I will act out  with my drama class, to thunderous applause.