28 January 2009

Rave Reviews: Gully's Travels by Tor Seidler

Tor Seidler is one of those authors I always feel that I should read more of. I mean, he's written about rats and his Mean Margaret is illustrated by Jon Agee--major attractions as far as I'm concerned. I have read Toes, which I enjoyed immensely, and highly recommend. And last night I finished Gully's Travels. I had ordered it on-sight once I saw it in a publisher's catalog (there are authors in which waiting for the review is not necessary.) My faith was rewarded. This is a book about friendship, loyalty, and discovering what is important in life. All told from the point of view of a dog. An exotic Lhasa Apso, to be exact. The story of Gully's incredible journey is told with a delicacy and wisdom that is a bonus if found in a book for adults, never mind one written for the 8-12 demographic. And the illustrations of Brock Cole compliment the text with their deceptive simplicity and immense range of expression (while I'm praising Brock Cole, let me make a plug for 2007's original fairy tale Good Enough to Eat.) Read it today!

26 January 2009

On My Reading Radar--The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Well, after this morning's Newbery Committee announcement, this is sort of a no brainer! It's one of those books that I've been meaning to catch the next time I saw it come across the circ desk. But now that it's the 2009 winner, I'll step up my efforts. I've already ordered a second copy for our collection. I wonder how the imminent release of Coraline in theatres played into this, if at all. Will the success of one project help the other? More importantly, will anyone now borrow our copy of the Coraline GN, which has not circulated as well as I thought it would?

As for the other winners, I'll say just this--not my favorite crop this year. A lot of hard sells on the lists, at least from a librarian point of view.

23 January 2009

Great Hooks

Not twenty minutes ago I read an article in Publisher's Weekly about the necessity of high concept ideas when trying to sell a book. The principal holds the same for children's literature. And now, as I'm weeding my way through the 398's, I've come across this: A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse to Me. Well! Who wouldn't want to read about that?! Talk about a title with a hook--it's a veritable hitching post. Sadly, our copy has not circulated since 2004. Wake up people! There is some fantastic nonsense verse going to waste on our shelves.

22 January 2009

Rave Review: The (Mostly) True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Ever on the look out for recommendations for boys, I picked this one up with high expectations: it's written by Rodman Philbrick and the cover illustration is by David Shannon. That's pedigree! And I must say, I was not disappointed. This is a funny, action-packed, winning book that will appeal to both boys and girls.

Homer P. Figg and his older brother Harold are orphans who are under the protection of their truly despicable uncle Squinton Leach, the meanest man in Maine. When Squint illegally sells an under aged Harold into the services of the Union Army, twelve year old Homer sets off to track him down and free him. With the sass and wits of Huck Finn, Homer lies his way in and out of mishaps and crosses paths with an array of Characters (emphasis on the capital 'C'.) Sometimes, not even the truth can keep Homer out of trouble. And as his adventures become more outlandish, it is sometimes difficult for new acquaintances to differentiate between fact and fiction. With the Civil War as the backdrop to the story, Homer's and Harold's fates come to a head on the fields of Gettysburg in a sequence that is as much high-flying adventure as it is a poignant observation of war.

Homer is an outstanding protagonist that readers can cheer for from start to finish. His voice is clear and distinct, right from the opening paragraph:

"My name is Homer P. Figg, and these are my true adventures. I mean to write them down, every one, including all the heroes and cowards, and the saints and the scalawags, and them stained with the blood of innocents, and them touched by glory, and them that was lifted into Heaven, and them that went to the Other Place."

Kids will love this book. They might not even recognize it as historical fiction, despite the fact that it unfolds during a pivotal time in this nation's history. Homer's cares and concerns, his focused intention of finding his brother, and his longing for his Dear Mother are sentiments that any reader can relate to, even without a Civil War.

16 January 2009

Have YOU heard of Tintin

Here is a rather curious article from the BBC. It talks about how Tintin is nearly an unknown character in Britain, and even less well-known in the States. I find this to be an amazing assertion: as a child I clearly remember reading Tintin serialized in Children's Digest; I read his books as a child; his popularity continues today, with his books flying off the shelves at work (long before I created our graphic novel collection, I might add.) And any child of the 80's will remember The Thompson Twins. While Tintin is not as mainstream as, say, Spider Man or James Bond, he is by no means an unknown. Get it right, Auntie!

On My Radar--The Twilight Prisoner

After enjoying The Night Tourist so much, I'm pleased to see that a sequel is coming out in April. I have to admit that I thought the first book was pretty well contained, so while I'm happy to read more adventures, I'm almost not sure that that's necessary. At any rate, we can all look forward to a Night Tourist movie, at some point.

15 January 2009

Bob Graham Snags Zolotow Award

Bob Graham's understated and touching How to Heal a Broken Wing is the recipient of the 2009 Charlotte Zolotow award. I'm pleased to see not only recognition for this book, which is ineligible for the Caldecott due to the fact that Graham is not an American illustrator, but also recognition for Bob Graham himself. I have always admired his gentle storytelling, his humorous illustrations, and the way he has represented families that you don't often see in picture books: young mom's with nose rings, or mixed race couples. His books to me are distinctly Anglo--must be all those terraced houses in the background--but his themes are universal. Here are some of my favorites:

Oscar's Half Birthday

A young urban family decides to celebrate it's son's half birthday for no other reason then that a year is too long to wait.

"Let's Get a Pup" said Kate
After the death of the family cat, a visit to a local animal shelter provides a quandary--take home the young puppy that has adopted them, or the older dog that has stolen their hearts?

Rose Meets Mr. Wintergarten

A stray ball in a withdrawn neighbor's backyard leads to new friends and neighborly inclusion.

How to Heal a Broken Wing
Amongst the bustle of a crowded city square, a young child rescues a pigeon with a damaged wing.

13 January 2009

SEMLS Mock Caldecott 2009

It was more books and fun at this year's SEMLS Mock Caldecott Workshop. Eleven librarians (only 3 shy of an actual Caldecott committee) debated the pros and cons of over thirty illustrated books, ranging from the lyrical My Friend, The Starfinder (Illus. S. Gammell) to the dramatic Duel! Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Worlds (Illus. L. Day.) Our list included such unorthodox choices as the novelty book Swing! by Rufus Seder and the photo-laden Nic Bishop's Frogs (by, well, Nic Bishop!) Graphic novels were represented by There's a Wolf at the Door: Five Classic Tales (Illus. R.W. Alley) and wordless picture books also got consideration thanks to Trainstop by previous Honor winner Barbara Lehman. In the end, the 2009 winners were:

Caldecott Winner:
Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, illus. by Ed Young

Kitten Tale by Eric Rohmann
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee
Nic Bishop Frogs by Nic Bishop
Night of the Veggie Monster by George McClements

Come 26 January, we'll see how our selections hold up.

10 January 2009

What future for "Voyage of the Dawn Treader"?

The Guardian reports that Disney will no longer partner with Walden Media to produce the film version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I find this strangely annoying. I say "strangely" annoying because I have not been a fan of recent film adaptations of beloved books. I should be relieved--"Treader" is safe and can stay just as I remember reading it, rather than how someone chooses to translate it.

But I took umbrage with a comment in the article which stated that, while the decision was no doubt financial (Prince Caspian made considerably less money than The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe) part of the problem is that today's readers are not as familiar with the rest of the series. This is in marked contrast to the Harry Potter books, for example, which are equally popular from volume to volume. The thought that the Narnia books are somehow less than the Potter books just irks beyond measure! "Treader" as it stands in the Narnia sequence (the original one, by the way, not the reconfigured, chronological sequence thrust upon us in the 90's) is the bridge between the story of the Penvensie children and the rest of the chronicles. It also boasts one of the best opening lines ever in Children's Literature: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."

So now I want "Treader" to be a film, finances and nostalgia be damned!

08 January 2009

Starting the New Year Right!

Well, I'm back from holiday and back at work and happy to be in possession of both the new Fashion Kitty and Babymouse books. And this afternoon I've been having a right old chuckle at There was a Man Who Loved a Rat and other vile Little poems. Author Gerda Rovetch and illustrator Lissa Roveth--a formidable mother/daughter team--have produced a hysterical volume which combines the wit of Shel Silverstein with the visual sensibility of Edward Gorey (a comparison I typed up myself before reading almost the same exact sentiment on the book's web-page. So it must be true if someone else thinks the same!)

I quote:

"There was a man in Timbuktu
who found a lizard in his shoe.
He chewed it once. He chewed it twice.
The second time was not so nice."

The book had me at "loved a rat," and lives up to all the promise of those three happy words! I can't believe I missed this the first time around.

01 January 2009

Cybil Short Lists are Up!

The Easy Reader finalist shortlists for the Cybils is now available for your perusal (as are all the other shortlists, of course.) Out of a list of 30 titles, I think the ER panel did a great job of choosing five gems. Good luck to the judges as they hash it out amongst themselves to determine the creme de la creme.

As an aside, I have yet to determine my Book of the Year for 2008. 2007's winner, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, was such an easy choice. But there has been no stand out title for 2008, so I'll have to give it a lot of serious thought. Possibly on that long flight back to America....Watch this space.

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