Great profile of Oliver Jeffers over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

And the really good news is that Jeffers' next book, Up and Down is going to be another boy and penguin story.

Also, want to report that Jeffers is (as I suspected) one of the good guys.  My younger son sent him a note and he wrote back.  This puts him in the company of Mo Willems, Philip Ardagh, and Daniel Handler in my registry of writers who know how to treat their young fans.  Okay, so Handler was writing to me and I'm not - technically - young. Still you know what I mean.


Everyone Thinks They Can Write a Children's Book

Over at Cockeyed Caravan, film blogger Matt Bird (husband to children's book blogger Betsy Bird - such a small world, isn't it?) has transcribed one of my favourite speeches from one of my favourite episodes of one of my favourite shows.

The show is Black Books and the episode is the one in which Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey's characters decide to write a children's book.  I was so happy to see this mad little speech in print that I really can't bear not to steal it!  With thanks and apologies, here it is:
The first draft of the kids’ book is 1030 pages, and not entirely age-appropriate, but Moran can explain:
 “It’s perfectly simple: There’s the academic who survived the Stalinist purges and is now having flashbacks, his daughter whose long bitter marriage is collapsing around her and the journalist who is investigating the academic because he suspects he was never in Russia at the time and who falls obsessively in love with the daughter and then sacrifices his whole career to become a lens grinder in Omsk. What’s the problem? I don’t think we should talk down to children.”  
 “Yes, but, I have two tiny suggestions. Instead of the academic and the journalist and the daughter, perhaps it could be about an elephant.” 
[bitterly] “I see.What’s your other suggestion?” 
“Well, instead of the Stalinist purges, it could be about [delicately] losing a balloon ”
“An elephant who loses his balloon?” 
 “That’s it.” 
 [pause, then…] “But it would still be my story, in essence? My vision” 
 “Oh yes, completely.”
 [sudden mania:] “Let’s do it!”

You can watch the full episode here.


Foggy with a chance of freaking adorableness

Are you in Vancouver?  Then lucky you.  Because you can go to this:

We here in Olearyville love Foggy.  We also love all his other little friends.  And one day soon, I promise to talk about them here more.

But for now:  3 to 5 pm, March 20 at Collage Collage.  If I were you, I'd go.



Things I like:

-books that push at the margins of genre expectations
-serious subjects taken seriously but in a funny way
-stories about drinking that don't suffer from that Dylan Thomas-esque braggadocio
-Susan Juby*

So how lucky for me to find all these things in one neat package.  Nice Recovery (Penguin Books), Susan Juby's YA memoir, is out today - click through here to read an excerpt.

If you want to know why I like Susan Juby, I can best explain by pointing you to the following passages:

Books hoodwinked me into believing a set of lies about what was and was not important in life.  In books and in my family, having a good vocabulary was crucially important.  When I went to school it turned out to be a serious liability.
I've always wondered how other people experience alcohol, how their bodies interact with it, and how they feel after a few drinks.  I'l tell you how I felt.  Like I'd just been cast in the next John Hughes movie as the quirky but adorable female lead, who had coincidentally just been accepted to Harvard on a full scholarship and had recently won a gold medal in a popular sport.  

Remember those old public-service drug announcments featuring a brain and a fried egg?  You know the ones: This is your brain, then the image of the egg being fried: This is your brain on drugs.  Turns out these ads were fairly accurate, although our brains are likely being poached, soft boiled, or scrambled, depending on what substances we use to cook them.

And from there I would further direct you to her very funny Alice, I Think series and her recent novels Getting the Girl and Another Kind of Cowboy.

*Full disclosure:  I know Susan.  I met her after I interviewed her on the publication of her first book, Miss Smithers.  The thing is, even before I knew her, I knew I liked her work.  So I trust my judgment.  You can make up your own mind.


Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

Have you ever noticed how you can divide the world into people who loved Cat in the Hat as children and people who detested it?

This from Garrison Keillor's  Writers Almanac:
Dr. Seuss spent nine months composing The Cat in the Hat. It uses just 220 different words and is 1,702 words long. He was a meticulous reviser, and he once said: "Writing for children is murder. A chapter has to be boiled down to a paragraph. Every word has to count."
And here is a link to The Cat in the Hat translated into American Sign Language.