Loving Jellaby

I’ve been meaning to talk about Jellaby here for awhile. Jellaby is a fantastic new graphic novel for young readers by Toronto artist/writer Kean Soo. It’s about a little girl named Portia who finds a purple monster named Jellaby and is a real classic of the girl meets monster genre.

My youngest son was so taken with Jellaby that he drew this picture in homage to the book. I posted it here without realising he had copied it from page 87 of the book leading to a few online charges of plagiarism. It was my fault for not correctly making the connection and the reason this happened is that said son had become proprietary about a book for the first time in his life and had squirreled my copy away in his room before I could read it.

I’ve asked my little Jellaby fan to give me a bit of background on the book. Here’s what he said:

Portia is the main character of the book. She’s a girl who never thinks she can handle can handle anything, and she mostly doesn’t. Her plan is always to do something that would be a bit useful and she thinks that by then she will come up with another plan. Mostly she does.

Jason is kind of my favourite character because sometimes he’s quite a trickster. An example is when he’s on the phone to Portia’s mom and blocked his nose so he sounded like a grown-up and the mom fell for it.

The first thing I should say about Jason is that he’s addicted to just about everything: Godzilla, ramen, Dr. Seuss, ninjas and Mario games. He watches too many TV shows and plays too many video games. He looks at screens a bit too much.

The book Jellaby is very funny, especially the part where Jason puts his yellow hoodie on, pretending he’s a ninja. Really it’s supposed to be black and it looks really stupid.

I wouldn’t be scared to meet Jellaby because I watch a lot of Godzilla movies and I’m used to seeing giant purple monsters. Well, not really purple ones. Jellaby is not as big as Godzilla, doesn’t destroy buildings and he watches TV. He can actually fit in a building.

Jellaby is a purple monster that people think doesn’t have any thoughts but he really does have feelings and stuff. He’s kind of like a grown-up who didn’t go to school.

So let me just repeat: homage. The drawing was an homage. And I hope Kean Soo can forgive us. We're now looking forward to volume two of Jellaby. Meantime, you can visit The Secret Friend Society if you want to see more.


Fairy Tales Illustrated

Over at (inside a black apple) the lovely Emily Martin mentions her desire to do a set of picture book illustrations for Rose Red and Snow White.

Oh look:

Wouldn't this make a great board book?


Dangerous Readers

Doesn't this look fab?

Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly's Dangerous Alphabet - pubs this week from HarperCollins. Can't wait.

If you go here you can hear Gaiman interviewed by his daughter, Maddy Gaiman. She asks why he started wanting to write for kids and he answers : "...when you're a writer, and you have kids, your kids don't actually think you do anything really...."

Okay, he actually says more than that.

But, it's true, they don't.

Hungry @ Before Breakfast

Thinking about the writer's rooms feature at the Guardian got me wondering where I'd seen something similar lately. And here it is. Pictured above is writer/illustrator Jeremy Tankard's studio and the pic comes courtesy of the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog where you can find a great interview with Tankard.

We loved his first book, Grumpy Bird (Scholastic), and are looking forward to Me Hungry (Candlewick), which is in stores this week. Find out more and have a look around at Tankard's blog here.

Lego my Lego

I do like this feature the Guardian has about writer's rooms. Here's the study of Children's Laureate Michael Rosen:

I must confess I was tickled by this:

I'm not sure why I've stolen four little people from my children's Lego set. They are Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Denis Bergkamp and Mao Tse-Tung, though I don't suppose that's what Lego called them.

My own desk featured a Lego version of our family for the longest time. Then they wandered off - I think my face was required for some sort of Doctor Who tableau.


Portrait of the Novelist as a Young Girl

There's a fascinating essay with accompanying slideshow about Edith Wharton's home, The Mount, over at Slate. The property was facing foreclosure, but thanks to donations now has had something of a stay of execution. You have to go have a wander around Edith's former home, if only to see the leopard-print carpeted staircase. You can certainly see how the former Miss Jones was connected with the Jonses the rest of the world wished to keep up with.

I've been reading Hermione Lee's Edith Wharton and came across the following quotation from Wharton's memoir, A Backward Glance:

My first attempt (at the age of eleven) was a novel, which began: 'Oh, how do you do, Mrs. Brown?" said Mrs. Tompkins. 'If only I had known you were going to call I should have tidied up the drawing-room.' Timorously I submitted this to my mother, and never shall I forget the sudden drop of my creative frenzy when she returned it with the icy comment: 'Drawing-rooms are always tidy.'

That picture of baby Edith appears here where you can also learn more about The Mount. As my son would say, "Oh look, she's a ginger."


Flap flap

Look at this book cover:

Isn't that Googily adorable? In a demented Humpty Dumpty with George Bernard Shaw's eyebrows sort of way?

Just paid a visit to the website of artist Sophie Blackall. I flipped to her Bio page and her little author cameo nearly made me choke on my coffee. It's terribly funny and you really ought to do yourself a favour and go have a look here.

Back? Blackall's work is new to me, but I'm going to be watching out for her from now. Last night, my darling boy and I read the Meg Rosoff book Jumpy Jacky & Googily. Twice. Other parents of small children are now nodding their heads. But I ask you, have you ever had to read the jacket flap three times? It was the "About the Author" and "About the Illustrator" that got us going. I don't recall this ever happening before. And now we're jonesing for more Rosoff/Blackall collaborations. Luckily there's this:

Picture book reviews coming soon. Jumpy Jack and Googily by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall will feature along with others. Rosoff's latest (young) adult novel, What I Was is currently on the Carnegie short list. My review of What I Was is available at Monsters & Critics.


More Fairy Tales (for kids this time)

Well not so much for kids, but for the kids. While I was thinking about Fairy Tales, I took a quick jaunt over to the Endicott Studio which is full of all sorts of ways to lose an hour. But while you're there you can also lend a hand:

You support our children's charity every time you buy books recommended on the Endicott/JoMA site by following the book's link back to Amazon.com. This tags you as an Endicott customer, and we receive a small percentage of the sale.

If we haven't got a link to the book, CD, or DVD that you want to purchase, you can still be an Endicott customer by entering Amazon through the link below. This nets a smaller percentage than the directly-linked books, but every bit helps and goes to a good cause. Please bookmark this page for all your Amazon purchases -- and help us to help kids in crisis.

If you visit their Kids page here, you'll find a nice list of books you may have not even realised you needed like Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature by Alison Lurie or Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins.

21st Century Fairies

Too busy reading - of all things - to contribute much of use here today. But if anybody out there is looking for something to read themselves I could recommend these odd little fairy tales over on the Guardian site. They've been there awhile but I just stumbled across them. Hilary Mantel, Nogozi Adichie and Audrey Niffenegger all give their modern rendition of a fairy tale.

And while, I'm at it, can I also recommend checking out Steph Aulenback's Grim Stories, More Grim Stories and Still More Grim Stories over at McSweeney's. I don't think I've mentioned my love of these here before but I did use them in the class I taught this year. I think we need a book of these. Please.



Okay, my latest (sad) obsession seems to be watching versions of the song Wuthering Heights on youtube. But you really have to check this out:

It's the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. What's that you say? You didn't know there was such a thing? Now you do.


A comic tragic hero

A recent article about manga versions of Shakespeare over at the CBC has reminded me of my intention to post about Classical Comics and the beautiful graphic novel versions of Macbeth that Karen Wenborn so kindly sent me.

When I saw the headline on the CBC site, I did think that Classical Comics were getting a little love, but it turns out to be a different company altogether, one called Self Made Hero. Their site makes it sound as though they've taken a few liberties with Macbeth: "In this version of Shakespeare’s tale of murder and the supernatural, Samurai warriors have reclaimed a future post-nuclear world of mutants." I just hope the witches aren't sewer-dwelling turtles. Will have to see the books to make up my mind on this one.

But I do heartily endorse the approach Classical Comics takes - great graphics combined with a faithfulness to the text. And they even publish different versions for different levels of readers.

You can go here and see for yourself as Classical Comics have ever so generously posted on their site links to pdfs of samplers of the original text version, the plain text version and the quick text version.

Here's a page from the original text version to tempt you:

If you're interested in the subject, there's a recent Times article here.


There's an article about the podcasting children's book reviewers Mark Blevis and Andrea Ross from Just One More Book up online from the Ottawa Citizen.

This is the kind of thing I would put in a round-up of news if I ever got organized enough to do such a thing.


I seem to be caught in a game of tag ... this morning's mail led me to the following from the Bookwitch:

This week’s game would seem to be some blog tagging exercise where the victim has to bore their readers with three sentences from their nearest book.

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

I am rather belatedly reading Jacqueline Wilson’s latest book, My Sister Jodie. Sentences number six to eight on p123 go something like this:

She kicked too hard and hurt her foot. “Ow!” she moaned, hopping on one leg. She wasn’t good at balancing on just one high heel and nearly toppled over.

This mad chain blog thingy could only have come from one place, Crime Always Pays. You silly man. Haven’t you got nappies to change and sleep to catch up on? Oh, well. But you people who I’m about to tag had better remember it’s nothing to do with me. The lucky victims are Lowebrow, Julie Bertagna, The Green Knight, Sara O’Leary and Jen Robinson.

So I am tagging: Mrs O'Kana, BookLust, Jennifer Lanthier, We Heart Books, Crooked House.

Please don't hate me!

And here's my post over at Bookwitch:

The book at my elbow is sitting here on my desk to remind me to email some interview questions off to Melanie Little. Her book is called The Apprentice’s Masterpiece: A Story of Medieval Spain (Annick Press) and it is a YA verse novel.

Here goes:
“As if I am a window/
in a fancy new home,/
covered, but only with glass.”


What Matters is The Work

There's an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin about her new novel, Lavinia, over at The Wall Street Journal. (Thanks to Endicott Studio for the link.)

Here's a taste:

Ms. Le Guin did as much historical research as she could about the Bronze Age. The early Latins were farmer-warriors, she said, and their world wasn't the "sick, luxurious empire of the TV sagas" but "an austere people with a strong sense of duty, order and justice." It's possible, Ms. Le Guin wrote, that they didn't even have wine or olive oil. "But I couldn't imagine Italians without wine and olive oil," she wrote in her afterword. "If it's any excuse, neither could Virgil."

Imagination is one of Ms. Le Guin's favorite words, and she doesn't think there's enough of it in America. In a 1974 talk, "Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?" she lamented Americans' "moral disapproval of fantasy," and their tendency to look on works of the imagination "as suspect or as contemptible."

Apparently this is Le Guin's second foray into historical fiction, following the 1979 Malafrena which sounds kind of fascinating. Some folks may already know her as a writer of fantasy and science fiction.

Lavinia gives a speaking role to Lavinia, formerly a supporting character as the intended bride of Aeneas in Virgil's The Aeneid.

Lots of great stuff at Le Guin's blog here.

I particularly liked this bit:

My parents never encouraged me in the sense of making a fuss about what I wrote or praising my determination to write. They encouraged me greatly in the sense that they believed that if you have a talent, you ought to work hard at it.
When I was getting near college age, my father talked with me about getting a 'salable skill' — learning a trade that I could live on. Because most writers don't earn enough from writing to buy catfood, this was wise advice. I loved languages, so I went into French and Italian literature in college, and went on for higher degrees that would qualify me to teach.
Then when I got married, my husband never questioned my right to write. This is fairly rare, especially in husbands. My advice to young writers is, if you can't marry money, at least don't marry envy.
When I was young, the few older writers I knew were encouraging; and the writers who are my friends now are generous people with a strong sense of community. I keep away from writers who think art is a competition for fame, money, prizes, etc. What matters is the work. (Ursula K. Le Guin)


There's a nice line up of writers, illustrators and writer-illustrators at the Vancouver Island Children's Book Festival - happening in Nanaimo at the end of May.

Linda Bailey
Wallace Edwards
Sarah Ellis
Adrienne Mason
Simon Rose
Arthur Slade
Bill Slavin
Andrea Spalding
Mélanie Watt

If you are anywhere on or near Vancouver Island with a child in tow then why not plan to drop in. I would if I could!
(thanks to Tough City Writer for the link).



How did I not realise that it was Kate Bush was singing over the credits at the end of The Golden Compass? Was it maybe because I was coping with a grouchy seven-year-old who had fallen asleep on my arm and then announced loudly: "That was the worst movie ever! It was only ten minutes long!"

You can listen to Kate Bush's Lyra right here which is what I am doing right now.

Where are our lives
If there is no dream
Where is our home

I love Kate Bush and was thinking about her this week because of coming across the Puppini Sisters's absolutely whackadoo rendition of her classic Wuthering Heights.

Heathcliff, it's me--Cathy.
Come home. I'm so cold!
Let me in-a-your window.

Sheer brilliance!


A Good Egg

From the poetry department ...

The video is the work of something called Paperhand who are a husband-wife duo from Oregon named Jo James and Dylan Curry.

I went and checked out their eBay store: Cart Before the Horse but couldn't find that beautiful Humpty Dumpty doll.

There was this though:

A very fetching, if slightly contrary Mary.

Fine Art

A new and interesting book arrived yesterday - looking forward to sitting down and spending some time with it. It's called Show & Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration by Dilys Evans (Chronicle Books).

I'm quite interested in this distinction between children's illustration and fine art and like the way Evans conflates the two so neatly in her title. I always find fine art one of those faintly cringe-worthy phrases ... a bit like creative writing, but I do see the necessity of making a distinction. Still there are a number of children's illustrators out there whose work I find very fine indeed. Evans choses to profile 12 illustrators including the fabulous Brian Selznick, Lane Smith, David Shannon and Trina Schart Hyman.

Here's a little of what she has to say in her introduction:

Ultimately, my hope is that this book might help all of us who value children's books to find a universal language to use to talk about art on the page; a vocabulary that helps describe this unique form of artistic expression with greater clarity and common understanding. And that we will then take that vocabulary and use it to explore the many other wonderful books that are on our shelves.

In this regard, we truly suffer from an embarrassment of riches. Children's books have never looked better or been more important. They are one of the few quiet places left where a child can go to be alone, and to travel worlds past, present, and future. They are often the first place children discover poetry and art, honor and loyalty, right and wrong, sadness and hope. And it is there between the pages that children discover the power of their own imagination.
(Dilys Evans)


Frog and Toad are Friends

I really badly want these Frog & Toad figures:

Spotted them hanging out in the little house over at Crooked House. Thanks, Steph. Apparently you can buy them here.

And if you haven't ever heard the Arnold Lobel recordings of the stories then you don't know what you're missing.

Misery Journal

You need this:

But to understand why you will have to go here first.


Oh look - Strindberg and Helium are on youtube! So here you go: enjoy.

Mama's Little Darlings Love Short Lists

Shortlists for the 2008 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards , the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Carnegie Medal are up.

I'm not going to post all the lists but do go check and them out. Meanwhile here are the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz nominees.


The Aunts Come Marching
By Bill Richardson (author, Vancouver, BC) and Cynthia Nugent (illustrator, Vancouver, BC)
Publisher: Raincoast Books
The Boy from the Sun
By Duncan Weller (author/illustrator, Thunder Bay, ON)
Publisher: Simply Read Books
Grumpy Bird
By Jeremy Tankard (author/illustrator, Toronto, ON)
Publisher: Scholastic Canada Ltd.
The Painted Circus: P.T. Vermin Presents a Mesmerizing Menagerie of Trickery and Illusion Guaranteed to Beguile and Bamboozle the Beholder
By Wallace Edwards (author/illustrator, Yarker, ON)
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend
By Mélanie Watt (author/illustrator, Montreal, QC)
Publisher: Kids Can Press

Dancing Through the Snow
By Jean Little (Guelph, ON)
Scholastic Canada Ltd.
By Kenneth Oppel (Toronto, ON)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Elijah of Buxton
By Christopher Paul Curtis (Windsor, ON)
Publisher: Scholastic Canada Ltd.
A Perfect Gentle Knight
By Kit Pearson (Victoria, BC)
Publisher: Penguin Group (Canada)
Rex Zero, King of Nothing
By Tim Wynne-Jones (Perth, ON)
Publisher: Groundwood Books

The Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards are funded by the Ruth Schwartz Foundation. Congratulations to all the nominees.


Is it all right with you if I just spend the next few days wandering around the internet looking at pictures of things I like? Do I really have to read this stack of student work? Really? Thankfully, some of it is pretty darned good.

If you're not under a similar obligation you might want to go have a browse round at bb-blog.

While there, I found another artist whose work really appeals. Her name is Lisa Hurwitz and you can buy her work over at her Etsy shop.

Why am I such a pushover for little guys in striped shirts?


Don't Let the Pigeon Get Away

My favourite seven-year-old came home from the school book fair today with a Mo Willems pigeon book heretofore unknown to us - Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late. I am now eagerly awaiting bedtime so that it can be read to me.

We love Mo Willems. At the outset of pigeon-mania around here, my companion in reading sent Mo an email suggesting he write a book called Don't Let the Pigeon Drive my Brother Crazy. And Mo wrote back! He suggested that Euan write that one himself and so he did. (It's around here somewhere). I was terribly impressed that someone who must have about 27 million small fans is still troubling to answer his emails.

Lots of fun to be had here for Pigeon fans.


Boisterous Children

There's a really excellent article by Jonathan Jones over at the Guardian. It has the enviable title of "Wild Things, I Think I Love You." (Thanks to the wildly loveable Betsy Bird over at Fuse #8 for the link).

Jones makes an interesting connection in reference to the illustration style employed by Sendak:

At first sight it might seem Max, the hero, is a bad boy pure and simple. We first meet him wearing a white wolf suit, banging a nail in a wall with a hammer almost as big as he is; on the next page he's chasing a dog with a fork. But the style reveals something else. Sendak deploys deep perspectives and immaculate hand-drawn cross-hatching recognisably derived from Hogarth, whose art also happens to be full of joyous, naughty, boisterous children - children of nature in the language of the 18th century.

I had to go look for myself:

And look, there's Max's great-great granddaddy banging his drum.

I'd recommend that anyone truly wild for Sendak goes out and finds a copy of a book called A Caldecott Celebration: Seven Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal by Leonard S. Marcus (just published in a 10th anniversary edition). Somewhat lifeless title but a fascinating book. Good stuff here for fans of William Steig, Chris Van Allsburg, Robert McCloskey and others, but the real prize in the kinderegg for me was the inclusion of photos of the early (1955) dummy for Where The Wild Horses Are, Sendak's original conception for the book and the 1963 palm-sized dummy for Where the Wild Things Are.

You can see pics of both over here at a page belonging to Wally Hastings filled with great stuff on Sendak. As for me, I'm off to wander around on Marcus's site and make a list of things I need to have. More later.

[Two minutes later.] Okay, that didn't take me long. Having recently finished Marcus's bio of Margaret Wise Brown, Awakened By the Moon, I'd already been planning on hunting down a copy of Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, but this I really, really need: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; illustrated with photographs by Abelardo Morell; introduction by Leonard S. Marcus. I think you need this one too - take a look at the photo-illustrations here and tell me I'm wrong. The Morell book titled A Book of Books is a real treasure too.


Everybody's Alice

Alice illustrations over at Hugo Strikes Back and courtesy of Educating Alice (naturally enough).

Who knew there were so very many Alices out there. Check out one of my favourites IASSEN GHIUSELEV who illustrated the beautiful Simply Read Books edition.


Double Lives

Interesting new book on writing and motherhood - two of my favourite subjects - launching next month in Montreal. Double Lives, edited by Shannon Cowan, Fiona Tinwei Lam, and Cathy Stonehouse

But I couldn't help wondering if a launch for a book about writing mothers should make some provision for daycare? Hmm?

Here's more about the book at the McGill-Queen's University Press site.

Oh and hey, a contest! You have about twenty-four hours left to enter. What are you waiting for?

Anyone who has lived the life of an artist while raising a family is intimately familiar with the unique challenges and
rewards this lifestyle presents. We want to hear your stories. McGill-Queen’s is inviting all parents, mums and dads,
who are also artists – writers, visual artists, performing artists – to submit a piece of creative writing, (500 words or less),
about your personal experiences as artist / parent. How do you balance parenthood with your artistic practice?
Did your work change after you became a parent? Any words of wisdom for other artist parents?

Please email your submission to our publicist by 15 April 2008.
Five winning entrants will receive a complimentary copy of Double Lives, and have their story posted on the McGill-Queen’s web site.


Found a very cool mag while browsing around Mahar Drygoods the other day.
It's called LMNOP - it's online and it's free. What more do you need to know? Oh yes, it's very pretty too - full of things for kids, things to do with kids, things to read with kids. Basically kid stuff.
Check it out here.


The Point (and we do have one)

An interesting interview with Sheila Barry of Kids Can Press over at the blog Cynsations (via Tough City Writer).

Here's a brief excerpt:

What qualities do you look for in a manuscript?

This is one of the hardest questions to answer, but of course it is a question that gets asked a lot. I guess that I look for a manuscript that surprises or enlightens me in some way. It is true that there are no new stories out there to be told, but it is also true that there are always new ways to tell a story. So I look for freshness, for originality of thought, for something in the use of language, whether it's in the voice or in a turn of phrase, that suggests this manuscript was written by someone who really has something new to bring to children's books.

I also look for some evidence that the person writing the manuscript likes children, remembers being a child, and thinks of his or her work as being first and foremost an art or craft--not just a medium for teaching children lessons.

I don't think that the point of children's literature is to teach morals or math or even reading. The point of it is to introduce children to words and images that have come together to create a work of art. So I guess I look for manuscripts that have been written as art, not as teaching tools.

Cynthia Leitich Smith (she who put the Cyn in Cynsations) is a YA writer and also teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Doesn't it seem like a good sign that there is such a thing now?

If you're curious you can listen to a clip from Leitich Smith's latest, a gothic YA novel called Tantalize here.

The Simple and the Profound

Wandering around (as I do), I found Shaun Tan's site online. Many people now know the Australian author's work because of the success of The Arrival but he's been around for awhile, doing all sorts of interesting stuff. Tan and I share a publisher, and on his site he makes particular note of the Simply Read edition of his book The Rabbits.

Here's an excerpt from an interesting essay available here:

The idea of a picture book, as a literary art form, carries a number of tacit assumptions: picture books are quite large, colourful, easy to read and very simple in their storyline and structure, not very long and (most significantly) produced exclusively for a certain audience, namely children, especially of the younger variety. Picture books are generally put on the shelves of bookstores, libraries, lounge rooms and bedrooms for young children, where they apparently belong. Picture books are synonymous with Children’s Literature. But is this is a necessary condition of the art form itself? Or is it just a cultural convention, more to do with existing expectations, marketing prejudices and literary discourse?

The simplicity of a picture book in terms of narrative structure, visual appeal and often fable-like brevity might seem to suggest that it is indeed ideally suited to a juvenile readership. It’s about showing and telling, a window for learning to ‘read’ in a broad sense, exploring relationships between words, pictures and the world we experience every day. But is this an activity that ends with childhood, when at some point we are sufficiently qualified to graduate from one medium to another? Simplicity certainly does not exclude sophistication or complexity; we inherently know that the truth is otherwise. “Art,” as Einstein reminds us, “is the expression of the most profound thoughts in the simplest way.”

And here's an image from The Rabbits:


Stand Up for Your Rights

This isn't new, but I've just stumbled upon it while reading Free the Blog about the Free the Word! world literature festival happening in London this week.

You can download your own free copy of this Quentin Blake poster here at the Walker Books site..

Pretty Little Things

While browsing around on Tiny Showcase I came across some beautiful images by Jen Corace ... and she is illustrating children's books. In fact her latest collaboration is just out. It's called Little Hoot and here's a pic I snagged from Jen's blog:

Jen Corace also illustrated Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Little Pea which was an absolutely adorable story of a wee fellow who didn't want to eat his candy. The new book riffs off the same concept by giving us the story of a little owl who doesn't want to stay up late.

I also found some lovely limited edition prints by Corace over at the fabulosa Mahar Dygoods site:

Watch for a review of Little Hoot here when I get my picture book round-up rounded up.


Tiny Showcase

Have just been having a browse around on Tiny Showcase - followed a link for a Jellaby limited edition print for the boy (more on that in a minute), but it's not only limited - it's gone. Too bad. This is generally my luck with Tiny Gallery - I first came across them because they had listed something of Julie Morstad's but I missed that too. And here's one more that I've missed:

The image is titled "Ninjitsu Parade" by Scott Kennedy and you can see it here.

What I want to know is whether anybody's talking to this guy about illustrating children's books. Because I like my picture book artists to be artists.

Here's a little bit about Tiny Showcase from their website:

Tiny Showcase was created by Jon Buonaccorsi and Shea'la Finch in November of 2004.

We are lucky enough to be surrounded by a group of friends who are amazing and talented people.
We started thinking that it would be really nice if we could create a forum and community where all of this incredible talent could be showcased. Pricing was an issue - most of our friends aren't exactly rich, so we began exploring a smaller medium where the artist could make some money on smaller pieces of artwork. The art enthusiast, on the other hand, gets to take home their piece of artwork for around the same price as a CD, book or record...

Each week we pick a new piece of tiny artwork and turn the work into a limited-run print production. Each run is printed on archival Hahnemühle German Printmaking Paper. The archival ink is specially treated and sprayed, giving it an archival lifespan of over 60 years.

You sort of need to see the end product to get the full effect, but each piece really is a beautiful specimen.

Beginning in 2005 we introduced a new pricing structure where a percentage of the money from each print sold is donated to a charity chosen by the artist. This raises the print price slightly, but now the artist, as well as their favorite charity, benefit from each piece sold.

Check them out - life is short, art is long.


Just Henry

First things first. I love the name Henry. There seem to be a number of Henrys out there right now - all of them under three foot tall & all of them adorable. Henry also happens to be the name of the main character of my series of picture books (is two a series? are we there yet?).
So I was intrigued by this new novel called Just Henry by Michelle Magorian. Somebody recommended it to me and so I asked the Publishers Group Canada publicist, Jennifer, about it and she very kindly sent me an ARC. She warned me that it is huge, which it is. 882 pages huge. It's like a turquoise paper brick. I don't have a problem with reading that many pages - just with carrying them around with me. And since buses and metros are the main place I get my reading done this presents something of a problem. Reading in bed is the other option, but my wrists weary at holding this up at the end of the day.
Tonight, I propped it up on the table to accompany my late-night, post-teaching, solitary supper of pasta. And for some reason I started at the back. Which is when I realised that this is an Egmont Press publication. I am intrigued by Egmont. I may even have a bit of a crush on them. (Listen to this: "Egmont Press is about turning writers into successful authors and children into passionate readers, producing books that enrich and entertain." I love that kind of talk.) I think I stumbled on their website through Bookwitch and need to find out more. But I did find their statement on "Ethical Publishing" included in this bound proof a little odd in one respect. I am all for "Made Fairly," and "Responsible Forestry" makes sense - although I think encouraging writers to write shorter books might go a fair way to saving a few more trees - but the logic behind "Safety First" eluded me. Here's what the text says:
"Naturally, all of our books meet legal safety requirements. But we go further than this; every book with play value is tested to the highest standards - if it fails, it's back to the drawing board."
What exactly are these legal safety requirements, I am forced to wonder. And does my carpal tunnel risk not apply here?
I am considering customizing one of those fancy harmonica holders to bear the weight of Magorian's 800 plus pages. (And, I must ask, was this necessary? The font seems designed for near-sighted seniors more than adolescents.) But I will prevail. The pub date is May 7th and I expect to have read the book before then. Incidentally, has anyone out there read Goodnight Mister, Tom? Well, apparently 1.2 million people did - but anyone within the sound of my voice?

Things I want

I am overcome with an absolutely inexplicable desire to make curtains at the sight of this fabric.

It's available through the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art shop, where you can also buy Very Hungry Caterpillar bedding.


The Hard Sell

There's a depressing article about the Bologna Children's Bookfair over at The Economist.

Here's a taste of the bitter pill:

THE children's book fair in Bologna this week was full of the bubble and squeak that such events elicit. But a serious sub-theme lurked: how to revive picture books, those lavishly illustrated creations that teach children to love books long before they can read them....

I don't actually read The Economist, so thanks to Achukablog for the link. The article talks about the prohibitive cost of picture books, and how in the current market that's making them a very hard sell. It's a bit of a heartbreaker.


The Big Picture

You can look at a bunch of pretty pictures here at The Guardian site.

Here's why:
The Booktrust's Big Picture award celebrates the UK's best new illustrators. Twenty-seven were longlisted this year, and the 10 winners were announced by Michael Rosen at the Bologna children's book fair on March 31 2008.
Here are examples of work from all 27, with the 10 winners appearing first.

Oliver Jeffers is in there for his beautiful The Incredible Book Eating Boy and some other illustrators new to me, including a couple that look pretty darned wonderful.

Like Alex Deacon:

and Mini Grey:


The Way from Halifax to Toronto

Oliver Jeffers will be in Toronto, reading and signing copies of his latest book, The Way Back Home at Mabel's Fables (662 Mount Pleasant Road) at 2pm. So if you're in Toronto head on down there. And while you're there ask him how he liked Halifax and why he didn't stop by Montreal.


Another Kind of Award

Oh hey look, Another Kind of Cowboy by Susan Juby is shortlisted for the CLA 2008 Young Adult Book Award. So are some books by some other nice folks but I haven't read theirs yet and I very much liked Susan's. Not that I'm playing favourites. But have you read Susan's book?

Another Kind of Cowboy is about two teenagers, both of whom are training to ride dressage. I had no idea what dressage is, but thanks to the book have gone so far as to watch videos of it on youtube. One of the things I liked best about Another Kind of Cowboy is that while one of the two main protaganists is gay, it's not a story about him being gay. He just is. If you see what I mean. Susan Juby is simply a master when it comes to capturing teen angst. And did I mention that she's funny too?

The Sweetest Thing

This may be very poor form, but I just had to post this because it is so darn cute.


Happy Day After International Children's Day. I finally picked up Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened By the Moon by Leonard S. Marcus today (as recommended by Steph over at Crooked House.) And it's wonderful - I'm loving it.

But I was startled on flipping through the pictures in the centre, to find a picture of Margaret Wise Brown's book Little Fur Family covered in real fur! (Darragh, are you reading this?) I've tried to find the pic of this edition online and can't, but I did find a copy for sale and it's only $1200 US. I did find a photo of Margaret Wise Brown that I very much like and here it is:

It is on a site devoted to Brown and her work which you can visit here, if you're in the neighborhood.


Happy International Children's Day

You did know it was International Children's Day today, didn't you? No, me neither.
Luckily Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are more on the ball. Here's an excerpt from their press release today:

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of a rare children's picture book written in 1945 about Canadian soldiers in Holland.
LAC purchased the book, Hi Ha Canada, on March 7, 2008, from the Antiquariaat Gemilang bookstore in Bredevoort, The Netherlands. It was selected because it reflects the important role of the Canadian army during the Second World War and it adds to LAC's vast collection of books about Canada. Few children's books describe the celebrations at the end of a war, especially in terms of Canada's role. The book's superb craftsmanship, excellent condition, rare paper and limited edition make it a treasure for collectors.
"This book is a rare gem," said Ian E. Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada. "The use of illustration and rhyming verse in this publication gives us fascinating information about the Dutch people's perception of Canada as liberator during the Second World War. Hi Ha Canada is a fine addition to LAC's Children's Literature Collection."
The book was written by Mart Kempers, an award-winning Dutch graphic designer, illustrator and painter who was interested in creating atmospheric rather than realistic depictions of scenes. The story illustrates details of daily life such as friends playing together, and a family in a garden having tea with Welfare biscuits and chocolate bars given to the Dutch during food rationing by Canadian soldiers. The Canadian maple leaf is prominent and street scenes depict traditional pastimes and architectural elements including gabled roofs. There is a sense of wonderment and happiness conveyed throughout the book, using text and imaginative artwork.
LAC's Children's Literature Service contains over 150,000 books published in English, French and other languages, a world-class reference collection, and a significant collection of literary archives and original children's book illustrations. In 1967, the International Board on Books for Young People declared April 2 as International Children's Book Day to celebrate the love of reading and to call attention to children's books.

There's also story in the Ottawa Citizen here. Thanks to Bookninja for the lead. I love that title: Hi Ha Canada - wish I'd thought of it first. That and writing a book in rhyming Dutch.

For more on International Children's book day you can visit the IBBY site here where you will find this lovely image:

What's IBBY? I thought you'd never ask.
The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) is a non-profit organization which represents an international network of people from all over the world who are committed to bringing books and children together.

And what could be better than that?