I love the Guardian's How to draw... series by children's book illustrators. Today it's Jon Klassen with "How to draw...a bear thinking about something." The finished bear will look familiar if you've seen Klassen's I Want My Hat Back (Candlewick, 2011); I was under the impression that the bear in that book was rendered digitally, but you can draw (or rather paint) your own with brown ink or watercolor. After the success of the Oliver Jeffers-inspired moose, I think we will try to paint some Klassen bears this weekend. What do bears think about?
I'm waiting on not one but two books titled The Watcher in the Shadows this spring. The Watcher in the Shadows by Chris Moriarty, which comes out May 28 from Harcourt Children's Books, is the sequel to The Inquisitor's Apprentice (2011), an alternate--magical--history set in early-twentieth century New York City. I liked The Inquisitor's Apprentice lots (we shortlisted it for the Cybils that year), especially the representation of immigrant Jewish culture, and the line illustrations by Mark Edward Geyer: it was sort of like a fantasy/boy version of All-of-a-Kind family. Which is to say, not at all like All-of-a-Kind family, but with line illustrations.
The other Watcher in the Shadows is by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, who is probably more familiar as the author of the bestselling adult novel The Shadow of the Wind (trans. by Lucia Graves; Penguin, 2004) and its sequels. This is more of a gothic middle grade or YA, the third in a thematic trilogy originally published in the 1990s, in Spanish. It's set in a toymaker's mansion on the coast of Normandy in the 1930s: of course I'm going to read it. I read the first, The Prince of Mist (Little, Brown BFYR, 2010), in a cottage on the coast of Maine, as close to on location as it is possible to be this side of the Atlantic. The Watcher in the Shadows comes out June 18, so I will probably have to read it on the Metro.
So, I've been reading a little more YA lately--enough to make this list of YA novels that involve both a. kissing, and b. trips to Europe. What's not to love?
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (Poppy, 2012). Hadley falls in love with Oliver on a flight from New York to London for her father's wedding. Aside (or not): Hadley is understandably upset about her father's remarriage. He was on fellowship at Oxford over a year ago--still married to Hadley's mom--when he fell in love with a much younger woman, whom Hadley has thus far refused to meet. Adult readers must try to overlook this. Anyway, after a cinematic kiss (see cover), Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other at Heathrow, but fate and second chances bring them back together (twice!) over the next 24 hours.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (Dutton, 2010). Anna is inexplicably reluctant to go to boarding school in Paris, where she will meet a cute French boy (she should know, because her father writes romance novels). This book is like having a whole box of macarons. In Paris.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Dutton, 2012). Hazel and Augustus go to Amsterdam before one of them dies.
Just One Day by Gayle Forman (Dutton). Just one day in Paris with a sexy Dutch guy you just met at an underground performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, followed by a year of heartache and a sequel (Willem's side of the story, Just One Year, will be out this fall). Note to future Milly: Don't even think about it.
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick (Dial, 2012). Okay, this one is the opposite of Europe: almost everything happens, well, next door. But there is lots of kissing.
I read this article in yesterday's Washington Post ("Letter from Ireland: Snowdrops are a prize in full bloom," by Adrian Higgins, 2/20/2013), about the mania for snowdrop bulbs in Ireland, with great interest, partly because who doesn't love snowdrops in February? But mostly because I'm also interested in reading about the seventeeth-century Dutch mania for tulips. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be many middle grade or YA books set during the Dutch Golden Age: just The House of Windjammer by V.A. Richardson (Bloomsbury, 2003) and its sequels, The Moneylender's Daughter and The Street of Knives, which seem to involve a lot of seafaring and anyway are out of print. Maybe there are more?
Picture book readers, though, might like Hana in the Time of the Tulips by Deborah Noyes, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick, 2004). Ibatoulline's illustrations echo the style of the Dutch masters, particularly Rembrandt, who appears as a character in this book. And Noyes's work is always interesting, whether she's writing about tulips or wolf girls or Chinese princesses. And those are just the picture books!
It's as difficult to pin down The Mystery of the Fool and the Vanisher by David and Ruth Ellwand (Candlewick, 2008) as one imagines it would be to photograph a fairy (Cottingley fairies aside). Which is precisely what nineteenth-century photographer Isaac Wilde attempted to do while on an archaeological dig of a Neolithic flint mine somewhere in the English Downs. Wilde's account, transcribed from wax phonograph sound recordings, is documented here alongside photographs of the contents of a wooden box discovered by David Ellwand while walking on the Downs (in the footsteps, incidentally, of none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle); and framed by Ellwand's personal journal with additional notes from his photographic notebook.
All of this fails to capture the creepy gorgeousness of The Mystery of the Fool and the Vanisher, recommended to me by Zoe of Playing by the Book (via Myra of Gathering Books; thanks to you both!) because of my interest in manipulated photography and photographic processes--many of which (bromide, gold-toned albumen, gelatin silver, etc.) are represented in this book. According to the copyright page, however, the photographs were made "with necromancy and magic." And I'm inclined to believe it.
[All the more so because the book's website has disappeared. How long ago was 2008 in Internet years? You'll just have to take my word for it, or track down a copy for yourself (it's currently available for a bargain price on Amazon). Apart from the photographs, the artifacts are fascinating: my favorite are the spectacles with the lenses removed and replaced with holed flint stones. Or the mussel shell suit of armor.]
After the ALA youth media awards, including the Caldecott and the Newbery, come the Notables. This year I was particularly pleased to see More by I.C. Springman (illustrated by Brian Lies; Houghton Mifflin, 2012) make the list, mostly because I sympathize with Magpie. After Mouse offers Magpie a marble, Magpie goes on to collect a few things (a red lego brick, an Austrian schilling), then more. And more. Magpie's a hoarder! And would be right at home on my desk.
Although More is meant to be a cautionary tale, I tend to agree with Sophie Blackall, who "can’t help thinking the magpie is only going to wait until the mouse is looking the other way before he spies a shiny guitar pick and starts all over again" (NYT review of More, 5/11/2012). Don't ask me how I know. I will say, though, that we all pored over Brian Lies's illustrations, picking out familiar objects from among Magpie's collection of things. I love that Lies, magpie-like, collected many of the objects that appear in the book from (ahem) his own desk drawers. More reason to keep them.
Congratulations to Adam Rex, who won our Mock Caldecott Award for Chloe and the Lion (Hyperion)! Committee members liked the three-dimensional quality of the illustrations--the stage sets and Sculpey figures--as well as the way the representation of the dragon lion changes depending on who is supposed to be drawing him [Note: Author Mac Barnett actually did some of those drawings!]. They also liked the interaction between the author and the illustrator(s), Hank included, at the heart of Chloe and the Lion.
The committee named four Honor books:
- Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs as retold by Mo Willems (Balzer+Bray).
- One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David Small (Dial).
- This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Candlewick). [I subbed this title in yesterday.]
- Unspoken by Henry Cole (Scholastic).
We would happily have named more but had to stop somewhere!
Congratulations all around, and especially to our hard-working committee, who read and discussed thirteen (13!) books this snowy Saturday morning. Whew. Debriefing to follow; now I need a nap.
Tomorrow morning, just as the real Caldecott Committee is starting its second day of meetings at ALA Midwinter in Seattle, a small group of third-graders (and some parents, too) will gather at my house for a Mini Mock Caldecott of our own. In the meantime, I decided to add another handful of books to the five (six) I was originally considering--the more, the merrier!
I tried to choose (from other Mock Caldecott book lists, mostly) books that complemented one another--books about dogs (Homer and Little Dog Lost), books that convey the feeling of cold (Little Dog Lost and One Cool Friend), etc. Also books that third graders might like--so no Baby Bear Sees Blue, although it would have paired nicely with Green. Here's the rest of the list:
And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin Stead (Roaring Brook).
Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf).
Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex (Hyperion).
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Balzer + Bray).
Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic by Monica Carnesi (Nancy Paulsen).
One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David Small (Dial).
Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop (Little, Brown).
I'll share more about the process--and, of course, our results--on Saturday afternoon. Wish us luck! I have no idea what will win.
[A very occasional feature in which the Books Together Test Kitchen (that would be me and my kids) prepares a recipe from the back of a picture book. This one makes a moist delicious chocolate cake.]
We seem to check out The Bake Shop Ghost by Jacqueline K. Ogburn (illustrated by Marjorie Priceman; Houghton Mifflin, 2005) several times a year: on Valentine's Day, for Milly's birthday, at Halloween (although it's not really that kind of ghost).
It's a lovely, longer picture book about the ghost of Cora Lee Merriweather, who haunts her bake shop, scaring away an international assortment of bakers, until pastry chef and new proprietess Annie Washington promises to "Make [her] a cake so rich and so sweet, it will fill me up and bring tears to my eyes. A cake like one I might have baked, but that no one ever made for me." Annie has to bake a lot of cakes before the sweet and satisfying conclusion, but thankfully the one at the back of the book comes out perfect every time.
The Bake Shop Ghost was featured on NPR way back when and even made into a short film (starring Academy-Award nominated Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Annie); it doesn't seem to be available on DVD or streaming, but the trailer at least is true to the book. Which, I am happy to say, I finally bought.
Notes from the Test Kitchen
- The recipe calls for 4 tablespoons of buttermilk powder (look for it in a tin in the grocery store baking aisle, or order a bag from King Arthur Flour). If you don't have buttermilk powder, substitute one cup buttermilk for the water. And if you don't have buttermilk, use a scant cup of milk + one tablespoon fresh lemon juice (let sit for ten minutes first). Just don't let the buttermilk powder (or lack thereof) stop you from baking the cake.
- Use a bar or two of your favorite dark (bittersweet) chocolate rather than baking chocolate. We like Callebault.
- No need for frosting (although you certainly could). Try it with raspberries and whipped cream instead. It's nice for Valentine's Day, too, baked in a heart-shaped pan.
[Sadly, the hardcover copy I bought has an inane blurb embazoned on the cover ("This book is yummy!"). At least it looks sort of like the little owl is saying it.]
As far as I'm concerned, every day is a good day to give a book--but especially International Book Giving Day, which happily coincides with Valentine's Day (another of my favorite holidays). It's a day dedicated to getting books into the hands of as many children as possible, and it's easy to celebrate: just give a book, leave a book, or donate a book. I'm starting with my own two kids, who (it must be said) already get a lot of books. So, in the true spirit of International Book Giving Day, we're also donating books to the kids' classroom libraries as well as to the pediatric unit of Georgetown University Hospital, with thanks for taking such good care of Leo last year.
[The adorable International Book Giving Day logo was designed by Viviane Schwarz, whose There are cats in this book (Candlewick, 2008) is one of our very favorites. There are no cats in this book is lots of fun, too! And they would both make great gifts for kids ages two to five.]