Jun 28, 2014

ALA Acceptance Speeches: HORN BOOK

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? 
Except when what happens there is the annual American Library Association Conference for 2014. It's happening RIGHT NOW, June 26-July 4, 2014,  as I sit at home typing this.

Life has its compensations, though. Because I subscribe to The Horn Book Magazine, I can actually read some of the award winners' acceptance speeches before they are given, thanks to the early arrival of my July/August issue. Of course, I'd rather have a seat at the ticketed presentation events, but I'll get there one of these days. For now, though, I can't even  provide a link so you can read them. Until the big event occurs, that content will be blocked. 

For now, I'll post links to the titles and winners for a few major awards. I encourage you to check them out. After the big day, when links to text (and, I hope, videos) become available, I'll update this post and add them. 

I just had to say for now that the magazine, the conference, the books themselves are celebrations of the best of the best in literature for young readers. I say that deserves to be announced this very minute!

Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 2013
I'll start with Caldecott Medal winner, Brian Floca, for the illustration of LOCOMOTIVE.
I urge you to check out this astonishing book, and its creator. Reading his acceptance speech was as informative as it was engaging and provided insight to the time, talent, and collaboration that resulted in this remarkable book. That few nonfiction picture books have ever won the Caldecott Award could have been seen as an impediment, but it outshines any preset expectations. 

LINK will be here: 

Candlewick, 2013
Newbery Medal Winner, Kate DiCamillo, for the distinguished text of FLORA AND ULYSSES. This was quite the year for her, since she has also been the 2014 National Ambassador for Young people's Literature. DiCamillo's acceptance speech is rich with her personal history as  reader from a family of readers. Hers is as much an acceptance and thank you speech as it is an homage to the immeasurable value of books in her life and in the lives of us all. 

It will be worth returning to read it when the link is added here:

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013
The Coretta Scott King Medal for Illustration was awarded to Bryan Collier for KNOCK KNOCK. I adored this book from the first time I read it and each time after that. Reading Collier's acceptance speech revealed nuance and layers that eluded me despite careful exploration. I beg you to read and carefully examine this book for yourself (as well as his other titles), then check back to read his speech for yourself after it is linked, here:

The Horn Book Magazine - Bryan Collier Aceptance

Amistad Press, 2013 
The Coretta Scott King Medal for text  was awarded to Rita Williams-Garcia for P. S. BE ELEVEN. This remarkable book depicts urban life in the 1960's. My favorite quote from her speech is, "Life back then screamed for change like an angry baby in a funky diaper. Change. Me. Now!" 
Her voice and language in this book is just as compelling at being able to plant the reader firmly in the time, place, emotions and circumstances of her story regardless of the reader's age or actual circumstances. 
Read the book, please, and also check out Williams-Garcia's speech when it is linked here: 

As I type, review, and post this, the ALA conference continues. These notables and many others will be signing books, giving interviews, and generally basking in well-earned acclaim. Allow yourself a peek at why they are so deserving by reading their books and exploring their websites and other titles.

Jun 18, 2014

A Moment with the Meerkats

I'm taking a shortcut for a few weeks to  keep this blog active without draining my time from things I really need to do. I've spread myself too thin in the past few weeks, resulting in some oversights and errors that leave me embarrassed about my rudeness to others.

I have continued reading, reading, reading, and have added notes about those titles to my Goodreads ratings and reviews. For several weeks now I'll dip back into those files and share them here, especially if they are books with impressive power!

Simon and Schuster, BYR, 2007
For this post, I'll feature a title that impressed me as particularly versatile and powerful, a book that may not have caught your attention before this.  
I'm excited to introduce you to 
MEERKAT MAIL, by Emily Gravett. This author/illustrator has twice won the coveted Kate Greenaway Award, the Birtish equivalent of our Caldecott Award. 

Anyone who has known me is already chuckling, and here you'll see why:

Here's what I had to say on GOODREADS:

Disclaimer: I was a meerkat fanatic long before these remarkable little critters hit popular culture- when everyone thought they were some breed of cats! I'm also mildly furious that I didn't write this myself. 
LB Kids, 2001
Just as well, since I couldn't have done it this well, including the remarkably science-filled comical illustrations. The use of postcard inserts reminded me of the Jolly Postman books, and the subtle wording in them reflects equally sly humor. The degree of science incorporated in both the story and the illustrations is astonishing, and the layers of humor/information on each and every page make it ideal for rereading.
Older readers could use this as mentor text for creative ways to write fiction/non-fiction blended text.
Underlying all those plusses are two powerful messages- 
1) Be careful what you wish for (there's no place like home- click-click your red shoes) 
2) Lessons learned from family are often the most important ones (stay together/watch out for that jackal!).

I hope you'll take a look at MEERKAT MAIL, and explore the power it has in store for you. When it comes to categorizing this one, it offers connections for all these explorations:

adventurecircle-storycommunitiesconceptscuriositydifferencesexpressions and emotionsfamilyfictiongeographyhumorinnovative-formatinteractive-flapmentor-writingmiddle grademulti-agenature, elements of both fiction and non-fictionpicture-booksciencevocabulary-development, and young-elementary readers.


Jun 12, 2014

ERIC ROHMANN- Words of Wit and Wisdom

I've attended presentations in which Eric Rohmann entertains, informs,  and inspires kids. I've attended others in which he entertains, informs, and inspires educators. Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend a full day workshop in which he directed his attention to the people who attempt to create picture books that entertain, inform, and inspire kids of all ages. 

The workshop was open to writers as well as illustrators. Unless you've made a serious effort at writing a picture book, that may seem strange. None of us who attended had the slightest doubt about the value of his messages, examples, and intent. Every word, even the punchlines and banter, found their way to the heart of the work on picture books, whether writing or illustrating. 

Picture books are not coffee table collections of fine art, although the art involved is often nothing short of brilliant. Recent posts about Wendell Minor's body of work should make that clear. in fact, the format known as "picture book" demands a mastery of not only art or story, with all the talent, technique, and finesse that both entail. Picture books demand a  seamless weaving of those in ways that defy description, but can be observed, practiced, and mastered. 

The bottom line is Eric Rohmann is just such a master. What's more, he is a master teacher, able to adjust his message and content to the appropriate audience, consistently delivered with humor and an approachable style. 
You may already be his biggest fan and not know it if you adore his books but never paid attention to the name. It happens all too often. But then, that's the paradox of being such a master- the work takes center stage, its power outshining any details like names and credits because the reader's attention is so fully absorbed by the story itself.

I won't commit the sin of listing in detail the specific advice or the grand themes he addressed. I will say that if you ever have half a chance to attend one of his presentations you should knock down walls to get there. You won't regret it. For sheer entertainment value alone, he can't be beat. The value, though, extended far beyond entertainment. Our day was filled with wit and wisdom, as the post title indicates. But in the case of Eric Rohmann, this is no cliche or trite label. His words, demonstrations, and examples were revealing in the moment, resonant upon reflection, and resilient. They apply to picture books of every type, aimed at every audience, on every topic. They transcend classics published seven decades ago through to the most cutting edge current titles. 

Now that's impressive. Thanks, Wisconsin SCBWI, and thank you, Eric Rohmann.
Co-RA, Michael Kress-Russick; Illustration Chairperson Deb Gross; Erik Rohmann

Jun 8, 2014

Berry Season Has Arrived!

I'm borrowing a post today, due to special circumstances. Here's my list of reasons:

  1. I'll need several days to prepare a post about a remarkable picture book workshop I attended on Saturday, 
  2. Berry season has arrived and it deserves our attention- NOW!
  3. SHELFTALKER created a better picture book post about berry season than I could have!
1) When you read my post about the workshop you'll understand why it required some reflection, digestion, and attention to do it full credit. 

2) After our interminably long and severe winter, having berries ripen is an event even more incredible this year than it's ever been before. 

3) SHELFTALKER is the frequently posted blog by the amazing Josie Leavitt and her talented staff at the Connecticut indie-bookstore everyone loves, THE FLYING PIG. Their blog appears in a Publishers Weekly newsletter I receive digitally. If I've done things right, you should be able to read their full post here.

Just in case you don't have time to do that, or the link gives you fits, (it was doing that for me, but this one seems more reliable,) here are some of the picture books she recommends.

Berry Season 

Josie Leavitt -- June 5th, 2014  Publishers Weekly Digital Newsletter

She starts off with the best of the best, Caldecott-winning classic by Robert McCloskey:

"Of course, Blueberries for Sal is probably my most favorite book about berries. In a humorous mix-up, Little Sal and Little Bear almost switch moms in the quest for blueberries. This classic book really captures the joy of picking berries and the sounds the berries landing in the metal pail…"

Then there's JAMBERRY, by Bruce Degen.

"...Exuberant rhyme make this berry-hunting book a delight and will get kids ready for all manner of berry that might come their way…"

Next up is a modern classic, loaded with color and comedy,  that every child loves:

"...One of the best storytime books is The Little Mouse, the Red-Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear, about a mouse and bear who both love berries…"

Then Josie tops off the list with a new release I haven't yet read. I'm as eager to get my hands on it as I am to gobble berries, since it's the latest release from the amazing Liz Garton Scanlon:

"...The Good-Pie Party, which turns the sadness of a girl moving into a celebration of friendship and the joy of sharing pie. There’s also the older book, The Blueberry Pie Elf, about an blueberry-loving little elf with a large appetite for pie…"
Whether you're picking your own, stopping at a favorite farmer's market, or stocking up at the supermarket, plan to stop by your library or indie bookstore and introduce these berry-picking picture books into your reading diet.

Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.