Boy in the Dress

There's an excerpt from David Wailliam's forthcoming The Boy in the Dress included with this interview at the Timesonline.

The book has been dubbed by its publisher as Walliams's “first novel”, a description that the author dismisses with a chuckle (“I'd call it a children's book”). It tells the story of a young boy called “Dennis”, who is unremarkable in all but one respect.

How is he remarkable, you ask? Well, there's a clue in the title, and I don't think I'd be giving too much away by revealing that Dennis, while being attracted to the opposite sex, enjoys getting dressed up in girls' clothing, and posing as “Denise”.

The book is to be published this fall and I'm looking forward to reading it and to seeing what Quentin Blake does with the illustrations.


The Family Dictionary

An article by Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe and Mail this week suggests that it can be predicted which children will go on to post-secondary studies by the presence of a dictionary in the home.

A dictionary is not literally the ticket to university. It's more like a symbol of what's going on in the family, and what kind of family the prospective student comes from.

More research is now available suggesting that family income, while important, isn't the major determinant of who goes to university. It turns out that parents' own education levels – and, by extension, the importance they place on education – are more critical than income, and that what we might call “cultural” factors are more important than money.

Here's my question - can your preference in regard to said dictionary influence where your child will study?



Thanks to Betsy at Fuse#8 for the link.

And hey, that's Montreal's own Arcade Fire on the soundtrack performing Wake Up!


Taking the Curse Out of Cursive

I was very interested to read Maud Newton's take on cursive in the NPR piece she did on Kitty Burns Florey's Script & Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting.

I went looking for one of the teaching methods advocated by Florey and hit on Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting. You can order materials on the site - including guides for teaching young children (check) and guides for correcting bad habits in adults (check). You can also watch videos in which Ms. Barchowsky herself explains the methods.

On the Barchowsky site there is also a link to Gunnlaugur SE Briem's site which also contains very useful advice about teaching the italic method, and which contains this beautiful sample of the author's own handwriting:



Let the Wild Rumpus Begin!

Note: As you can see, I've misquoted the book in my title up there. It should be "let the wild rumpus start!" but for years I have mis-read it the other way. I want that extra syllable in there and the extra ring of formality in the language. With apologies to Mr. Sendak ... it just feels right. I just realised last night that I'd posted it this way when my son, reading me a bed time story, changed the word extraordinary to extraordinarily because it scanned better. Anybody else out there do this?


Top Ten Picture Books (with some notes)

The lovely and irrepressible Elizabeth Bird over at Fuse #8 (go ahead, just try and repress the woman!) recently announced she was starting a best picture books poll (see here). I've been meaning to make up a list of my own top ten but have been hampered by this pesky PK Syndrome*.

(Hello, I've just popped in and added a few notes. May pop back and add more pictures later if I get time.)

Top Ten Picture Books (in no particular order)

1. Sunny by Robin Mitchell and Judith Steedman

Robin Mitchell and Judith Steedman have created a whole series of these charming little books - so far we have Sunny, and Windy and then there's Snowy and Chinook and the latest installment, Foggy, will be coming soon. We were treated to a little sneak preview and it looks great. My son loves these books on such a deep personal level that he was inspired to build his own little clothes-pin character and named him Rainy.
You can buy these books - and also some lovely notecards - at the fabulous buyolympia.com site.

2. Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

It's hard to narrow this down to a favourite Oliver Jeffers title. The Incredible Book Eating Boy is quite simply brilliant. We were reading it just the other night and found new things to laugh at. Jeffers always has the best author photos and his bios are not too shabby either. In the one for BEB he says something to the effect that he once fed a book to his brother and that it taught him a lesson about recycling.

3. That's Not Funny by Adrian Johnson
This is a title that lies. This book is SO funny. It also is very useful for explaining the concept of schadenfreude to small children. If you aren't certain if that is necessary then perhaps you have never met any small children.

4. Jumpy Jack and Googily by Meg Rosoff, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Who knew a sock could be so funny?
Love Rosoff's books for older children and damn her, she's good at picture books as well. Want to read Meet the Wild Boars just on the basis of the title. And you must go look at Sophie Blackall's website - click through to bio and see the hilariously endearing self-portrait she posts there.

5. Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard

Jeremy Tankard has just published a sequel to this called Boo Hoo Bird. Apparently Grumpy Bird made Parents Magazine's list of 5 Books to Promote Good Behaviour. But I liked it anyway!

6. Little Pea by Amy Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace

Little Pea or Little Hoot? Which do I chose? It's like choosing between your much-loved children.

7. Yuck: A Love Story by Don Gillmor, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay

I love this story so much. I really must insist you go out and find yourself a copy. I shouldn't even have to explain why.

8. Olivia by Ian Falconer
Oh Olivia, how do we love you. We can't even begin to count the ways!

9. Flotsam by David Wiesner
There's nothing more heartbreaking to a writer than someone who can tell a story without words. And Wiesner's a real heartbreaker.

10. Beckett for Babies by Stephany Aulenback
You just have to go see for yourself. Go ahead. Click.

* PK: Peptually Knackered

Eric Carle

I love this quote from an interview with Eric Carle at the Guardian:

"I often joke," he says, "that with a novel you start out with a 35-word idea and you build out to 35,000 words. With a children's book you have a 35,000-word idea and you reduce it to 35. That's an exaggeration, but that's what's taking place with picture books."

You can read the whole thing here. Go ahead ... I'll wait.




Theodor Seuss Geisel (b. March 2, 1904)

It seems to be that people can be neatly divided into those who loved The Cat in the Hat as a child and those who most decidedly did not.

What I haven't quite worked out is what this reveals. Something to do with that Yeatsian anarchy loosed upon the world, no doubt.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss.

If you loved or hated that anarchic cat, why not tell me why in the comments section?