Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


A Little Cake?

On Friday, we had the publication party for HOOP GENIUS: HOW A DESPERATE TEACHER AND A ROWDY CLASS INVENTED BASKETBALL. Pictured above at the Red Balloon Bookshop in Saint Paul are my brilliant editor Andrew Karre and his son Edmund. Check out those rosy cheeks on Edmund. We had another snowy night, but that did not deter folks, and I was particularly pleased to have David representing the Spuds. I wish you all could have been with us for some cake and wine.



I love contests and I love children's books, so I always look forward to the ALA announcements regarding their prize winning books of the year. I'll admit that sometimes I have thought, "My goodness, how could anyone have ever chosen THAT book as a prize winner! I can't imagine any kid - or many adults - ever enjoying it!" But the times that I have sat on award panels, for the Minnesota Book Award and the Sid Fleischman Humor Award, the other judges that I've worked with have always been thoughtful, considerate people who have taken their task very seriously. I have to trust that this is the case with the ALA awards as well, and even when I don't agree with their decisions, I believe that the judges undertake their monumental task with as much care and thought as all the other judges I've worked with.

This year most of  my guesses for the awards were in the ballpark. I hoped SLEEP LIKE A TIGER would win the Caldecott (it was an honor book). I hoped CODE NAME VERITY would win the Printz (it was an honor book). But my Newbery choice, WONDER, did not even make an honor nomination, which I think was a surprise to many. Medal or not, it's still a winner.

I recommended the book in an earlier post, but if you don't know the story yet, it is about a 10-year-old boy with a severe facial deformity starting his first year in public school. It is told from the viewpoint of multiple characters, as they encounter Auggie and are changed by the experience. At the heart of the book is the message: choose kindness.

If you haven't read it yet, by all means do so. Even my friends who do not regularly read children's books have found this to be a prize-worthy read.


Caldecott contender

Wishing success and recognition to one book does not wish away the same for another. I was disappointed last month when Ashley Wolff's much discussed Baby Bear Sees Blue did not take home the Caldecott medal or even an honor. That bear is blue.

I have admired Ashley's signature blend of graphic linocuts and glowing watercolors since the mid-80s, which marked the beginning of her illustration career and my first publishing job as a design assistant at E.P. Dutton, her publisher at the time. I myself like to work in both linoleum cuts and watercolor and I was in awe of Ashley's skills. Ashley has had a long successful career and shown she can work well in many mediums. Her first instinct, to combine print and paint, has remained my favorite. Ashley brings a sweetness and richness to the page. She composes scenes with close-ups for a sense of intimacy, and then pulls back up for glorious scenic views.
There is a wonderful cadence to the text and surprise on each page turn. Ashley is a master at picture book form. Baby Bear Sees Blue needed a blue ribbon!

I look forward to watching Ashley create many more winners. I'm especially lucky because after many years of admiring her work, when I moved to California I got to know Ashley personally, and better yet we are in the same critique group!


What was missing last week?

Last Monday was the once-a-year celebration of all that is children's lit: the announcement at ALA of the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and other top awards in children's literature. Beforehand there is always speculation about which titles will win, and after the names are called, there is always discussion about the newly crowned winners. Here at One Potato...Ten, our topic this go-round is about a title we really enjoyed over the year that we thought might get a nod at this year's awards. This is by no means a second-guessing or argumentative thing, just a way to give a shout-out to some terrific books. So here was one of my favorites from the year:
See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles is about twelve-year-old Fern, who feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she’s not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn’t know he’s gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there’s Charlie: three years old, a "surprise" baby, the center of everyone’s world. He’s devoted to Fern, but he’s annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn’t for Ran, Fern’s calm and positive best friend, there’d be nowhere to turn. Ran’s mantra, "All will be well," is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it’s true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.

I highly recommend it!