28 February 2009

Musical Theater

I never thought I'd get the chance to combine this blog with my love of pop music, but at last I can! The BBC reports that the Pet Shop Boys, one of my all-time favorite bands, is writing a ballet based on a Hans Christian Andersen story. I've not yet been able to find a source that says which story they are using, so watch this space. Of course, the PSB have shown themselves to be quite literary in the past, naming one of their songs Can You Forgive Her, which Trollope enthusiasts will recognize as the title of the first Palliser novel (and PSB singer Neil Tennet mentioned that he was reading the book at the time of the song's writing.) Andersen himself is no stranger to adaptations in other mediums. It sounds like a match made in Heaven!


It sounds as if the damage at the National Library of Scotland was minimal. But still....floods + books = bad news.

25 February 2009

Cleanliness is next to Godliness. And evidently braininess too.

Okay, so perhaps I'm taking this a bit personally because I am not a tidy person by any stretch of the imagination. However, my husband is, and he's not a reader by any stretch of the imagination. So where does that leave this study, reported in School Library Journal about the link between early literacy and orderliness at home? My husband spends an inordinate amount of time cleaning our house (honestly, it's an obsession.) I spend a lot of time reading with our eight year old daughter (my obsession.) I refuse to accept that her early literacy skills, which were all age appropriate and heart-warming to this ole librarian, had anything to do with my husband's concern for straightened pillows and smooth duvet covers, even in a supplementary capacity. But clearly one of us is wasting our time.

I don't understand the drive behind studies like this one. It's like those articles that come out in Time and Newsweek every so often stating something insanely obvious such as, "Love makes you feel good". Wow. Did I need a ten page expose to tell me that? The secret to early literacy is books, books, books, and books, with a helping of books on the side. No need to reinvent the wheel. Sure, a quite room is a nice place to enjoy a book. Heck, even a quiet room that's tidy is a nice place to enjoy a book. But your child is not going to Harvard just because you kept an uncluttered house! Children from loud, noisy homes, find their own spaces for reading--their own quiet. There is something so clinical and contrived about studies like this, not to mention bogus, as if it's possible to pave the perfect path to send kids "along the road to learn" (to quote John Burningham.) But reading is a life-long work in progress that can't be boxed and presented as a set of ready made conditions. And well-intentioned as I'm sure this study is meant to be, all it's going to do is stress out parents (predominantly moms, I should think) who already feel that they are not adequately preparing their kids for life, and infuriate "professionals in the field" like myself.

23 February 2009

So you've already read Wimpy Kid......

......like, 3 or 4 or more times--all three books, as well as the on-line comic--and you're looking for something in the same vein. Then let me suggest Knucklehead, Jon Scieszka's autobiography. In this rather slim volume (and one guesses that there was so much more he could have included,) divided into bite-sized chapters just right for reluctant readers, Jon writes of his experience growing up as the second of six brothers. It's worth reading if only for the story of how he and his brother tried to extinguish an electric fire. Just like a real fire. By peeing on it. It's so nice to know that our Ambassador for Young Person's Literature isn't just any old stuffed-shirt. And this seems like a good opportunity to plug his Guys Read site, if you are not already familiar with it.

21 February 2009

Looking Good!

Despite the fact that there are a lot of books no longer in print that I think should be, there are also plenty of childhood favorites that are reaching anniversary stage. This is an excellent excuse for a reprint. And I must say, I have seen some rather nice new covers lately. Here's my current favorite. I love Mrs. Frisby's clutch!

(Okay, so this edition is actually about three years old by now. But I've have reprints on my mind, and we recently got this at work. I just wanted an excuse to post it!)

Just for Fun

So I, like many people, am totally addicted to Facebook. I'd probably be a better blogger if I wasn't constantly searching for Easter eggs, or sending goofy messages to my friends, or even updating my iread account.

But in an attempt to make my Facebook experience slightly more professional, I've set up a group called Children's Books That Deserve to be Republished. So if you are also a Facebook enthusiast, and you have some favorites that you would like to see back in print, then drop on in and leave it on the wall.

20 February 2009

What's up with Jasper Dash?

I thought my bummer of a Friday had taken a turn for the better when I saw in a Listening Library catalog Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Deleware by M.T. Anderson. I've been waiting ages for this book to be released. But as I looked on-line for ordering information for the book, I kept hitting dead ends. Baker and Taylor shows a hardcover edition coming out in September 2009 from Simon and Schuster as well as a paperback coming out in June from Houghton Mifflin. The audio book (via Random House) is due in May. So many publishers! So many formats! So many release dates! Jupiter's Moons! This is a mystery worthy of Master Dash himself. But I just want to read the flipping thing!! Next to M.T. Anderson himself I must be the the most anxious for this book to finally see the light of day.

16 February 2009

Rave Review: Chicken and Cat Clean Up by Sara Varon

Sara Varon is an author who cannot write often enough for me. But at least, if she makes me wait, the end result is always worth it. Her most recent wordless picture book reacquaints us with the city/country combination of Chicken and Cat that we met in, well, Chicken and Cat, way back in 2006. Cat is now settled into city living with Chicken, which means that he has to earn his keep. The industrious, pragmatic Chicken runs a housekeeping service, for which day-dreaming Cat is sadly unsuited. Fortunately, Cat finds his true calling, and it is not incompatible with Chicken's business, which leads to a satisfying conclusion and the possibility of more adventures to come (eventually.) This fantastic book, in which not a single word is uttered, reads as clearly as if every detail was spelled out. I won't say "less is more", because that implies that this is a simple book. Varon has blocked the story so effectively; she keeps the action small when needed and then spreads it across the page--two pages at one point--when the storytelling demands it. While the illustrations have a cartoon quality to them, not a single frame or page is wasted on unnecessary narrative. Chicken and Cat Clean Up is funny, sweet, and a little bit sentimental. It's also my Book of the Week.

15 February 2009

Elephant and Piggie love the Cybils

An appreciative Mo Willems comments on his Cybil award. Now that's gratifying!

14 February 2009

The Cybils 2009 Winners are Here!

The 2009 Cybils winners are now posted. And what a lovely Valentine's treat it is! The Cybils do not adhere to the same rules and criteria as the ALA awards, which means the entire spectrum of Children's Literature is available to them. Some of my favorites made the final cut, including, of course, this year's winner in the Easy Reader category (of which I was a panelist,) Mo Willems.

The great thing about the Cybils is that everyone can take part in the process by the sheer fact that the awards are nominated by the public. Considering the dialog that was generated before this year's Newbery announcement about the lack of relevance of recent winner's to today's readers, the Cybil method helps to do away with some of that frustration. As I said, the nominees are put forward by the public, whether they be involved in children's literature or not. You think a book was really great? Go ahead and nominate it! The author isn't an American citizen or residing in this country? That's okay--it's still eligible! The voting process itself is reasonably transparent, with frequent updates, via review, about the nominees. Then the final list of titles which has made its way through the initial panels are posted--progress is being made that everyone can follow.

I had a lot of fun this year with the Cybils, both as an observer and a participant. Congratulations to all the winners, and to the bloggers who spent a lot of time and effort putting together this truly excellent list of books

13 February 2009

Beezus and Ramona hits the big screen

Well here's a book-to-film adaptation that will definitely go down well at our house. Walden Media has announced that they will be adapting Beverley Cleary's Beezus and Ramona for release in March 2010. Of course, Ramona had her own TV series where Beezus was mainly incidental to the hi-jinks of her younger sister. But in the original book the sister-sister dynamic is much more prevalent, and Beezus is the central protagonist. Ramona didn't really become interesting or (if I'm honest) bearable, until she was a bit older, so this should be the film for beleaguered big sisters everywhere. And frankly, snagging Selena Gomez to play Beezus is a good move. The Wizards of Waverly Place star already has a built-in fan base, including the eager little eight year old at my house. Although, shouldn't she be on Ramona's side?

12 February 2009

Things I've learned from my in-box

So, I'm trying to tidy-up before the long weekend. I'm sifting through the rather large pile of publisher's catalogs, performer's postcards, and subscription offers in my sagging in-tray. And I learned this: Toot and Puddle have their own TV show. I don't know why this has particularly struck me. But it has. Why this series of books for TV? How many different ways can Holly Hobbie market herself? I've never heard of the tie-in, and I feel as if I should have. And they aren't the only literary pigs on TV, either; evidently Olivia has her own show now, too. I'm going to make a sweeping, uninformed generalization here--Olivia isn't suited for TV. Her books are so great because of their minimalist approach to story-telling. TV would be total overkill. Of course, I've not seen it yet so I could be TOTALLY wrong. But I'm making an educated guess.

Can anyone tell me otherwise?

02 February 2009

Well thank goodness!

There's subversive literature, and then there's this. Let's hope that the ALA and the CPSC can get things sorted out, so we can go back to worrying about the real dangers books present to children, like making their own choices and stumbling across the odd explative.

(Sorry, did that sound sarcastic?)

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