Here's my story: I met Rita Williams-Garcia at ALA last summer. She was signing One Crazy Summer (Amistad). I hadn't come prepared to buy any books (I know; silly me!) and was counting out my loose change in hopes of having enough for one copy when someone at the booth took pity on me and let me have it for the cash I had on hand. I was debating whether to ask Ms. Williams-Garcia to sign it to Leo or Milly and decided to ask her to sign it to both, remarking that they could fight over who got to keep it after it won the Newbery. At that point, the same someone (thank you!) handed over another copy and Rita came out from behind the signing table, gave me a hug and whispered, "From your lips to God's ear." I hope so!
I'm posting my list of Caldecott Hopefuls (I don't even try to pick the winners; these are just some of last year's personal favorites) from a borrowed computer on our last night in London. Sadly, I scheduled our plane trip home such that we will be IN THE AIR when the ALA awards are announced tomorrow morning. It's going to be a long flight!
- Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan and Sophie Blackall (Viking Juvenile; reviewed here).
- Bunny Days by Tao Nyeu (Dial).
- Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick).
- Nini Lost and Found by Anita Lobel (Knopf).
- Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Salley Mavor (Houghton Mifflin).
- Young Zeus by G. Brian Karas (Scholastic).
- Dotty by Erica S. Perl and Julia Denos (Abrams).
Nonfiction edition (links are to my reviews of these titles):
- Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg, Sandra Jordan, and Brian Floca (Flash Point).
- Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle and Julie Paschkis (Henry Holt).
International edition (I know, not eligible, but these are MY Caldecott Hopefuls after all):
- The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska (Houghton Mifflin).
And that's it, except for the ones on my desk at home that I'm forgetting. Maybe the Caldecott Committee will remind me, or maybe they'll choose Art and Max by David Weisner (Clarion): a worthy choice! What are your personal favorites and/or Caldecott picks? Remind me.
Welcome to Nonfiction Monday at bookstogether! Please leave a comment with a link to your post (and a brief description, if you'd like); I'll update this one with your links throughout the day. Don't forget to come back and click through to later posts (including mine on Kathleen Krull's Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything; Viking Juvenie, 2010). Til then, have a merry Nonfiction Monday!
Mary Ann Sheuer of Great Kid Books features two animal books for young readers today: Creature ABC and Out of Sight. She writes, "Both are amazing visual treats, and would be great paired with a set of animal figures. While they are naturally perfect for young preschoolers and kindergartners, they are so visually stimulating that older kids love looking at them too!"
Jone reviews three books by Steve Jenkins at Check it Out (including my favorite, Bones).
Over at Shelf-employed, Lisa is featuring a new series, All Aboard! about trains - perfect for PreK - Gr 2.
Angela reviews the YALSA nonfiction award shortlistee Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing at Bookish Blather.
Shirley has Life-Size Aquarium at SimplyScience (we love the Life-Size books).
Abby the Librarian has a review of Bones by Steven Jenkins.
Welcome to Stacey Loscalzo, whose very first Nonfiction Monday post addresses her own bias against nonfiction.
Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Ritan of Bookendsat Bookends are writing about I Dreamed of Flying Like a Bird: My Adventures Photographing Wild Animals from a Helicopter by Robert Haas.
Alex Baugh of The Children's War posts about a book called Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayer with Helen Waterford and Alfons Heck.
Catherine Nichols of The Cat in the Hat posts a review of a book about sloths for beginning readers.
At Apples with Many Seeds, Tammy Flanders "is looking at how cities developed over several centuries and several continents. Metropolis [by Albert Lorenz] gives us plenty of information about cities, in a very graphic way, making the book accessible for strong and struggling readers. It's a time sink. Just so much to look at."
Robert at Wrapped in Foil says it's a busy time of year, but she still found time to praise The Bat Scientists by Mary Kay Carson.
Pink Me is in (finally, she says!) with Ballet for Martha: The Making of Appalachian Spring, by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca (this is one of my favorite nonfiction titles of 2010).
The Wild About Nature blog reviews EcoMazes: 12 Earth Adventures by Roxie Munro. And, "We are also continuing our celebration of the holiday season with another book giveaway! Stop by, read and enter for your chance to win!"
Time for bed
Tara chose an old seasonal favorite--Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory--for her first Nonfiction Monday Post.
Thanks for visiting Nonfiction Monday at bookstogether, everyone!
The image of an angel struck by an arrow featured in last week's Middle Grade Gallery is from The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh (Chicken House, 2010). According to the old story, illuminated on a manuscript page, the angel was buried by monks in the forest behind Crowfield Abbey over a hundred years ago. Now Master Jacobus Bone and his servant Shadlock are looking for the angel's grave, and they want William, an orphan boy living at the abbey, to help them find it. The mystery of angel, forest, and abbey combines elements from Christian belief (in angels) and British mythology (the fay); setting them in the medieval world of 1347.
The Crowfield Curse was nominated for a Cybil in the Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy category (which is how I came to read it). To subcategorize even further, it's the sort of book I think of as historical fantasy (which is also a sort of book I tend to like). There's a "Winter Timetable for Daily Life at Crowfield Abbey" at the back, and a hobgoblin! Authentic and atmospheric, it's also perfect snow day reading.
[I should note that by "Caldecott hopefuls" I mean picture books I happen to like a lot, not necessarily picture books that are likely to be recognized by that committee using these criteria (although one can hope). Really, I'm almost always surprised by the Caldecott (well, maybe not last year, when The Lion and the Mouse won). But for what they're worth, here are my quick takes on some 2010 favorites, starting with Big Red Lollipop.
In Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Viking), Rubina is invited to a birthday party and her mom, unfamiliar with the whole concept of birthday parties, insists that her little sister Sana attend the party, too. Sana is a brat at the party and then eats the lollipop from Rubina's goody bag ("I don't get any invitations for a really long time," says Rubina). When Sana gets a birthday party invitiation, should littlest sister Maryam get to go?
I should probably admit that I'm the bratty little sister in my family (hi, Maria!), so I speak from experience when I say that both Khan's text and Blackall's illustrations get the sibling and cultural dynamics just right. It's the expressive faces and easily readable body language of the sisters (and their mother) that tell the real story here. A spare, creamy background sets off the composition of the illustrations as well as the colors and patterns of the family's clothing.
Blackall did the cover art for last year's Newbery winner, When You Reach Me (written by Rebecca Stead; Wendy Lamb Books, 2009). The first page of Big Red Lollipop (shown below) recalls that image, but it's the bird's-eye views--particularly the one of Rubina chasing Sana around the first floor of the house--that are really striking. A graceful and gorgeous book.
This week in the Middle Grade Gallery, an illuminated manuscript, or rather a page from one, that holds the key to a mystery--and a curse:
[William] looked back at the page and tried to make out the details in the three small drawings at the foot of the page. They were enclosed by a border of crows amongst twirling branches and leaves.
The first picture showed a hill with trees growing on the top, and in the foreground a white-robed figure with feathered wings. There was what appeared to be the shaft of an arrow sticking out of its chest. A chill went through William as it dawned on him what he was looking at.
[Me again.] The passage goes on to describe the second and third pictures as well. Try as I might I couldn't find a medieval image of a "white-robed figure with feathered wings" (angels were much more colorful back then). William's angel probably would have looked more like this one, from Bede's Life of Cuthbert (England, N., last quarter of the 12th century), blue-robed and rainbow-winged. I think this manuscript is a good fit in terms of period and setting for the book in question, a lovely new middle grade novel set in a mythical, medieval world.
[The illuminations hold the key to the title of this book, too!]
The painting of the ruined Victorian house in last week's Middle Grade Gallery is from Searching for Shona, by Margaret J. Anderson (Knopf, 1978), a recently rediscovered childhood favorite. After Marjorie and Shona trade places on the train platform in Edinbugh, Marjorie is evacuated to Canonbie. She and another orphan, Anna Ray, are billeted with the Miss Campbells, middle-aged identical twins who own a dress shop. Marjorie and Anna find the house in the painting, empty (although not yet in ruins) save for a cozy playroom in the turret. Clairmont House becomes a refuge for them until the army requisitions it to house soldiers, and by the end of the war, the house is as the artist depicted it in the painting.
How is the painting connected to Shona? I don't want to give it away--if a middle grade novel about two girls, one from a privileged background (Marjorie) and another with only one clue about her family (Shona), trading places during the evacuation appeals to you (don't forget the abandoned house and the identical twin sisters, either), you really should try to find a copy of Searching For Shona. I will say that Shona's father, like John Piper (whose work I featured in the original post), turns out to have been a war artist. But there's more to the story than that, and it's all very satisfying.
Unfortunately, I didn't get many (any) other recommendations of children's books about the evacuation. Anna Hebner noted that in C.S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950), the four Pevensie children are evacuated from London to the Professor's country house (Lewis himself took in evacuees at his house in Oxford). A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones (1987) also begins with the main character's evacuation from London, although she only makes it as far the train station (this one's out of print, and Charlotte doesn't like it anyway).
As for realistic fiction, The Children's War (a blog dedicated to books written for children and young adults about WWII) has a review of In Spite of All Terror by Hester Burton (1968), and I'm looking for a copy of that one now.
But the books about the evacuation I most want to read are (perhaps not surprisingly) by Noel Streatfeild. The first is Saplings (1945), a novel for adults about the devastating effects of the war on a middle-class family with four children. It's available in a gorgeous Persephone Books edition (have you heard of Persephone Books?) and sounds very depressing.
The second is When the Siren Wailed (1974), a children's book written at considerably more remove from the war itself, and in which three working-class children are evacuated from London. The original edition was illustrated by Margery Gill and ends happily.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last month's giveaway for How the Sphinx Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland (Blue Apple Books, 2010). In that post, I asked commenters for their best behind-the-scenes-at-the-museum questions (such as this one from Janelle's daughter, who asks, "Why can't I touch that?").
Some of those questions--about curatorial work, exhibition design, conservation and more--are answered in The Nine Ton Cat: Behind the Scenes at an Art Museum by Peggy Thomson with Barbara Moore; edited by Carol Leon (Houghton Mifflin, in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1997). Now out-of-print (and maybe slightly out-of-date as well), The Nine-Ton Cat is a book for older readers (9-12 and up), who might be inspired to consider a museum-related career. It's loosely organized around a day at the National Gallery, beginning at 6am with a guard patrolling the halls and ending at 6m with a planning meeting for this very book.
In between, The Nine-Ton Cat takes you into the "private spaces" of the museum: the design studio, conservation lab, library, and greenhouse (yes, the National Gallery has its own greenhouses on site) for a close look at the work that goes on there. Detailed text, with lots of quotes from unnamed Gallery staff, and photographs contribute to the behind-the scenes appeal.
I would love to see an updated edition of The Nine-Ton Cat, perhaps in a larger, more clearly organized format (it's easy to lose your place, in much the same way that it's easy to get lost at the Gallery). In the meantime, congratulations to Christine Mingus, winner of How the Sphinx Got to the Museum! I think her elementary school students will love it.
[One of my favorite anecdotes from The Nine-Ton Cat: The head of the horticultural staff wishes that Rubens Peale (in a portrait painted by his brother Rembrandt, 1801) would water his geranium! It does look a little wilted, doesn't it?]
I skipped lunch the other day to watch the exhibition film for Arcimboldo, 1526-1593: Nature and Fantasy, currently on view at the National Gallery, which references the character of Boldo in the animated feature The Tale of Despereaux. That's Boldo in the image above, a character composed entirely of fruits and vegetables, pots and pans--distinctly resembling the composite heads painted by his namesake, the Renaissance artist Arcimboldo.
Unfortunately, I couldn't remember a character named Boldo in Kate DiCamillo's Newbery Award-winning novel The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread (illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering with no apparent debt to Arcimboldo; Scholastic, 2003) and was forced to reread it. In vain, as it turns out: Boldo (a sort of soup genie) was created for the movie version of the book (which I also watched this weekend). The animation, by London-based Framestore, employs a palette and lighting drawn from the Dutch Masters; and the movie also spotlights two portraits, one of the deceased Queen and another of Princess Pea. Altogether I prefer the movie. You can watch a video podcast (of the exhibition film, that is! It's narrated by Isabella Rossellini) here, or better yet, at the National Gallery til January 9, 2011.
[Here's Arcimboldo's Vertumnus (c. 1591, on loan from Skokloster Castle in Sweden) for comparison to Boldo. Note especially the apple cheeks!]
Children's book author and illustrator Steve Jenkins sets the standard for cut paper collage illustration in every one of his books (What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?, made in collaboration with Robin Page, won a Caldecott Honor in 2004). His newest nonfiction book is Bones: Skeletons and How They Work (Scholastic, 2010). You might think that bones, being mostly white, would be less interesting visually than the range of fins, fur, and feathers rendered in the rest of Jenkins's books about the animal kingdom (I might have, anyway); on the contrary, Bones is Jenkins at his best.
The bones themselves, cut from a limited palette of mottled creams and grays, glow against the solid background colors, but the best part is the arrangement of bones on the page, to inviting, eye-opening, often humorous effect (the gatefolded human skeleton waving at you is just one example). Jenkins's background in graphic design really shows here. Witty headings and compact text plus a More About Bones section at the back round out the book.
Bonus: Add up the number of bones in the human body as you read; you should end up with Jenkins's total (which would be...?).
[Nonfiction Monday is at Mother Reader today. Thanks, Pam!]