Moving house

Hello! This blog can now be found at www.bookstogether.net, where it will be updated on a more or less regular basis asr of May 2015. Thanks for visiting!


Warwick Hutton and The Silver Cow

I've just rediscovered the work of Warwick Hutton, a British author and illustrator of retellings--mythological, biblical, folk and fairy tales of all sorts. Hutton's illustrations are rendered in delicate pen-and-ink and watercolor wash, and characterized by spacious sea and landscapes; oversized yet oddly graceful figures, of both people and animals; and lots of interesting compositional elements. We own only one of his books, a retelling by Susan Cooper of The Silver Cow: A Welsh Tale (Atheneum, 1985), in which the Tylwyth Teg reward a farmer's son for his playing of the harp with a beautiful, bountiful silver cow--until the greedy farmer goes a bit too far, and loses her and all the silver cows that had been born to her: the treasures of his herd. (Hutton also illustrated Cooper's retelling of The Selkie Girl; I don't like selkie stories, so I haven't read that one.)

I especially like Hutton's own retellings of Greek myths, though; these include Theseus and the Minotaur (my favorite), Perseus, and Persephone, as well as the Homeric stories of The Trojan Horse and Odysseus and the Cyclops. All of these are, sadly, out of print. And Hutton himself, who was also a painter and, like his father John, a glass engraver, died in 1994 at the young age of 45. I've added his books to my "must buy if I see them at the used book sale" list. They are really lovely.


2014 Astrid Lindgren and Hans Christian Andersen Awards

Congratulations to Swedish author Barbro Lindgren, winner of the 2014 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for lifetime achievement in the field of children's literature (Barbro is no relation to Astrid, I don't think, but it's a nice coincidence!). Our favorite Barbro book is Oink, Oink Benny, illustrated by Olof Landstrom and translated by Elisabeth Kallick Dyssegaard (2008):

"Benny is going out. He is tired of hanging around inside. Benny's little brother is going out, too. He's also sick of hanging around inside.
"Stay away from the mudhole," says Benny's mama.
"Oink, oink,' says Benny.
Then Benny and his little brother head straight for the mudhole.
[from the jacket flap]

Of course they do.

And congratulations as well to Japanese author Nahoko Uehashi and Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello, recipients of the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Awards. Uehashi's Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (translated by Kathy Hirano, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu; Arthur A. Levine, 2008) won the 2009 Batchelder Award, which is how I came to read it; and Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness (2009) won a 2010 Batchelder Honor. Maybe now the rest of the series (there are ten books) will be available in translation, along with Uehashi's other fantasy novels.

But first, let's see something by Roger Mello! One of the lovely things about these awards is the hope that they will help make the work of international authors and illustrators more widely available.

[Coincidentally, I just finished 2008 ALMA winner Sonya Hartnett's novel The Children of the King (2012; first US edition Candlewick, 2014). Short version: I loved it.]


Where's Mommy? (Mary and the Mouse)

The very first book I reviewed on this blog (and I use "reviewed" loosely; perhaps better to say "mentioned") was Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara McClintock (Schwartz and Wade, 2007). So I was naturally curious about the companion book Where's Mommy?, which is out now, and am happy to report that it is just as charming as the original. It has the same parallel structure, too, picking up with Maria and Mouse Mouse at bedtime one summer evening, when they discover that their mothers (the original Mary and the Mouse) are missing. Separate searches lead them to the garden shed, and a surprise that readers of Mary and the Mouse will already suspect.

I wish I had larger images of McClintock's detailed illustrations, rendered in pen-and-ink, watercolor, and gouache, to share (see them at Schwartz and Wade's Where's Mommy? flickr set). The book takes place entirely in and around (and under) Maria's family's contemporary ranch house, all glass brick and stone--a perfect fit for the long horizontals of the double-page spreads. My favorite image is of the living room (it's in the flickr set)--besides the bookcase, which is ample, I especially like the painting on the wall: it's a reproduction of Goya's portrait of Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga, with three cats (at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). The mouse family living below gets a print of Hunca Munca from Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Two Bad Mice.

 [Barbara McClintock is one of my favorite illustrators. Does anyone know whatever happened to Adele and Simon in China? It was supposed to come out Fall 2011.]


Happy International Book Giving Day

February 14 is many things, all of which I love. Among them is International Book Giving Day, celebrated around the world since 2012. It's easy to celebrate: just give a book, leave a book, or donate a book. Better yet, do all three! This year, we chose a handful of books for each of the kids' teachers, for them to keep in their classrooms or give away to kids who might not have many books at home--but we'll have to wait til Tuesday to deliver them, thanks to the snowstorm ("Snochi") that closed school today.

This year's IBGD crocodile poster was designed by Hungarian illustrator Mariann Maray, and in the spirit of this worldwide book lovers' holiday it's available in lots of different languages. ¡Celebre el día internacional de la donación de libros!


A Nine-Year-Old's Guide to the ALA Awards Ceremony

I'm still collecting my thoughts on the 2014 ALA awards (weren't the Batchelder books the best?), but in the meantime, here are my nine-year-old daughter's. She joined me in Philadelphia after my committee work was over and got to share in the excitement of the awards ceremony--and the early wake-up call.

On the train ride home that afternoon (we took the Northeast Regional, which is not quite the same thing as the Transcontinental Railroad), I "interviewed" her about the whole experience, and she had some advice for future awards ceremony attendees and webcast watchers alike. Her recommendations are as follows (I just added the links):

Before the awards ceremony

  • I recommend trying to figure out what will win one of the awards. Just one, though--trying to guess the Newbery and the Caldecott would be too much.
  • I was on a Mock Caldecott Committee at my school this year and had read the winner and honor books, which made it exciting when they were announced. Also Knock Knock, which won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, and Nino Wrestles the World, which won the Pura Belpre Illustrator Award. They could have won the Caldecott, too.



  • Pick another award that you don't know a lot about and find out more about it. I didn't know about the Schneider and Stonewall Awards, but now I want to read some of those books, like Handbook for Dragon Slayers.
  • Think a lot about the awards and what it would mean to you if you won one.

The day of the awards (if you're lucky enough to go):

  • Look around you and just enjoy it.
  • There was a man on the Odyssey Award committee sitting across the aisle from me and he was enthusiastic about everything. That was great!
  • Booing is not right. There should be lots of applause for every book that wins, even if it was not your favorite.
  • The audio of Scowler was just creepy.

[Me again.] Out of the mouths of babes. I pretty much agree entirely, and especially with her point about the CSK and Belpre winners. Do you have anything to add?


2014 Cybils Reading Challenge

One of my favorite things about New Year's Day is the announcement of the Cybils shortlists. In the past, after being on a first round panel in the fall, I've set myself a Cybils Reading Challenge of one new-to-me book in each of the other categories before the winners are announced on February 14. It hasn't caught on anywhere else, though, and this year I am abandoning it in favor of reading all of the shortlisted books in one category (my favorite): Elementary and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction.

I definitely missed being on the first round panel (I had other book award commitments and couldn't apply), but I like the list this year's panelists came up with--especially Jinx by Sage Blackwood (HarperCollins, 2013), which exemplifies the qualities of literary merit and kid appeal that the Cybils recognize. I read Jinx early last year (maybe even late the year before), so I might reread it now and then treat myself to the sequel, Jinx's Magic (Katherine Tegen Books, 2014), which comes out on Tuesday.

Anyone else want to try this year's version of the Cybils Reading Challenge? Here's the complete Elementary and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction shortlist:

Where would you start?


Lobel's Lucia

Today is Santa Lucia Day, which may or may not mean anything to you depending on whether you're Swedish. I'm not, but my husband's grandfather was, and we celebrate the day with Santa Lucia buns and books (I've written about Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root and Hugo and Josephine by Maria Gripe here in other years, but somehow haven't gotten around to Kirsten's Surprise by Janet Shaw, from the American Girls Collection. Maybe next year). My son outgrew his starboy hat a couple of years ago, but my daughter still wears her (battery-operated) crown.

This lovely image of a "Lucia bride," wearing the traditional white gown and crown of candles, is by Anita Lobel, from Christmas Crafts: Things to make the 24 days before Christmas by Carolyn Meyer (Harper & Row, 1974). It's one of my favorite Christmas books, with international Christmas traditions and projects for every day. Some of them are a little dated (there's macrame), but many others have become our family's Christmas traditions, too: from making homemade advent calendars (December 1) to decorating a tree for the birds (December 23) and baking a chocolate yule log (December 24).

Lobel's black-and-white illustrations (and there are lots of them) are a big part of the charm of Christmas Crafts. I love Lobel's work any time of year, but at Christmas, don't miss her illustrations for The Night Before Christmas: A Victorian Vision of the Christmas Classic by Clement C. Moore (2000) and The Stable Rat and Other Christmas Poems by Julia Cunningham (2001). Come to think of it, A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Zeifert, with pictures by Anita Lobel (Knopf, 1986) is a Christmas story, too--and it's still in print. Happy Santa Lucia Day!


The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

I had been reading one chapter a night of Jostein Gaarder's The Christmas Mystery (1992; translated from the Norwegian by Elizabeth Rokkan, 1996) aloud to my daughter this advent. Sadly, we only made it to Day 6. The premise of Gaarder's book is good (if structurally familiar to readers of The Solitaire Mystery or even Sophie's World): Joachim discovers a magic advent calendar (yes! a magic advent calendar is good) in an old bookstore. Behind each door is a picture--and a tightly folded piece of paper telling another story, about Elisabet's journey across Europe and back two thousand years, to Bethlehem at the time of the Nativity.

Eventually Joachim's and Elisabet's stories interwine, but we didn't make it that far--Elisabet's story was a lot less interesting (or more philosophical) than Joachim's. Maybe I'll try again on my own, since I can read a lot faster than I can read aloud, although I am probably less patient than my nine-year-old.

Note: We are reading the English edition, illustrated by Rosemary Wells. The illustrations are not as magical as I would like, and other reviewers agree, preferring Stella East's illustrations in the Norwegian edition pictured here (Aschehoug, 1995). Maybe that would help?


Wayland by Tony Mitton and John Lawrence

Out of the lands in the chill, far North come legends from long ago. This is the story of Wayland Smith, the strangest of all I know.
Those are the opening lines of Wayland: The Tale of the Smith from the Far North, retold by Tony Mitton and illustrated with vinyl engravings by master engraver John Lawrence (David Fickling Books, 2013). Wayland (according to the author's note, which I read using Amazon UK's Look inside! feature) was a legendary smith who took a swan-maiden for a wife. When she leaves him, he dedicates himself to his work, hoping to win her back. Instead, he is captured by a greedy king and imprisoned on a sunless island, where he must hide the treasures he makes in an intricate maze. Ultimately, Wayland makes himself a pair of wings and flies off in search of his wife--and in Mitton's retelling, at least, they are reunited.

The cover of Wayland, with its checkerboard pattern of red flames and white feathers, only hints at the boldness and beauty of Lawrence's expressive engravings. Some of them are available to view online at Illustration Cupboard, which held an exhibition of Lawrence's work on this and other books (including Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials and T.H. White's The Once and Future King). And some of those are available for purchase, although I would be happy enough to have only the book.