Ten writers for children. All with something to say.



I am going to second David's nomination of Bluefish as one of the best books I have read recently. It is beautifully paced and depicts characters that we often see in schools but not nearly as often in fiction. It's a book that grows as you read it and the characters stick, particularly Velveeta and her love of words. The title Bluefish comes from something we all know, but the significance is not apparent until you read the book. Then it becomes obvious and heart-breaking. Another book that I highly recommend is Life on Mars, by Tracy K. Smith, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize this year in poetry. It's an excellent collection about life, space, and her father. I have been dipping into it for days to reread poems that challenge and delight. Happy reading.


Picture Book Books

As a picture book maker, I am always on the lookout for new books on Picture Books. Leonard Marcus's newest book: SHOW ME A STORY, WHY PICTURE BOOKS MATTER is a wonderful compilation of interviews he has done over the years with 21 acclaimed illustrators. In his describing his interviews, Marcus writes: "I am on a kind of mad quest for the vital thread that links an artist's life story to the stories and images for which he or she is known. How does a young person grow up to become an artist? What childhood experiences prepared these particular 21 men and women-- or left them unprepared-- for what was to come in their creative lives? What was it that inspired them, and where did they find the courage required, and who gave them the help and guidance that sent them on their way? And why  of all art forms did they choose the picture book to be their life's work and passion?"  Marcus later describes the interviews as "a honeycomb of memorable tales about growing up and coming into one's own..." --  I love the image this creates! Anyhow, if you enjoy reading about the lives of fellow creators of picture books, I recommend this book!
I just recently picked this book up so I have not finished it quite yet, but I am learning quite a bit about illustrators from outside the United States. The authors are both British so there are several British picture book makers featured including Edward Ardisson, John Burningham, and Quentin Blake, but also many others from the European continent. It begins with a brief history of the Picture Book and continues with essays on contemporary printing today, publishing today from a publisher's perspective as well as a chapter on independent publishers which I have not read yet, but look forward to! Mostly what I love about this book is that it is filled with full-color illustrations to go with all of their talking points-- it is a beautiful picture book of the picture book!


The loss of a great one...

I think anyone who loves children's books was sad today when they heard about the loss of Maurice Sendak. Many words have been said, and I won't add to them. I will just say that this is one of the first books I learned to read. And one of the first books I loved. Anyone else have a favorite?


The Healing Power of Art

Books where troubled kids find solace in art always resonate with me. OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt had an unusual angle. Audubon prints displayed in the library captivate fourteen-year-old, Doug Swieteck. The author must be an artist or art historian himself; his descriptions of the compositional elements in each Audubon print read like art lessons. In fact, one of the librarians teaches Doug how to draw based on the prints. Each chapter begins with a different Audubon print and the visuals weave into the overall theme.

This would be a great book to study for writing craft. I was in awe of how the author created an emotionally complex story and tied every last detail together in surprising ways. This made the book deeply satisfying. I'll include the synopsis from the author's website:

"As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. As Doug struggles to be more than the "skinny thug" that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer—a fiery young lady who smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain. In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival."