With Mother's Day coming up this weekend, we know that many of you are searching for a special gift to share with your mom. And since there are few better treats for a mom than the opportunity to read a few good books with their children, we've put together a list of our favorite new picture books that celebrate mothers of all kinds, from soldier moms to squirrel moms. Read about two of them here, and then check out the whole feature to read the rest.
Reviews by Robin Smith
Brayden Bunny loves his mom but bristles at some of her rules. When she lets him know it's time to get out of bed, he wishes aloud that he could go and live with his friends. His mother overhears, and soon Brayden tries living at a number of his friends’ houses. Missy Mouse’s house is fun—but messy. The Badger family smells of unwashed badgers. The Squirrel family lives so high up that Brayden instantly knows it will not work out. He loves being with Auntie Grace, but still . . . something is not right. What is missing?
More sophisticated, but no less loving, is Sean Qualls’ treatment of Langston Hughes’ poem Lullaby (For a Black Mother). Collage and watercolor play well together here, inviting little ones to sleep while introducing them to the poetry of Langston Hughes. Qualls’ palette is calm and filled with overlapping circles, mirroring the repeating nature of the poem itself. The mother is front and center, wearing her lace dress, collaged with words from books. She is always looking right at her beloved diaper-clad baby, which is just where children expect their mother's gaze to fall. I especially loved the winding musical notes with the chubby baby singing in delight. The repeating words, displayed in a pleasing, stylized large font, will invite older brothers and sisters to read right along with baby—always a plus!
• We're guessing you probably don't need any encouragement, or anything, but Qwiklit has put together a really fun list of 50 Reasons You Should Be a Bookworm.
• Tuesday, April 2, was International Children's Books Day, which the folks at Flavorwire commemorated with a list of 10 Celebrities' Favorite Children's Books.
• Raise your hand if you can relate to this simple but clever illustration of the writing process posted over on Picador's blog.
• Our reviewer describes Jill McCorkle's Life After Life as a "beautifully written, perceptive and poignant novel that will linger in readers’ minds for a long while." McCorkle's publisher, Algonquin, is giving away 30 signed copies of the book. Enter here to win.
• The New York Review of Books reports on the April 18 launch of the awe-inspiring Digital Public Library of America, which aims to be "a distributed system of electronic content that will make the holdings of public and research libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies available, effortlessly and free of charge, to readers located at every connecting point of the Web." That's one library we can't wait to visit.
• We're saddened by the news of Roger Ebert's death, which has us reminiscing about being on the receiving end of his illustrious "thumbs up."
• Could there be a more heavenly combination than books and cocktails? Reading through Flavorwire's list of 15 book-filled bars resulted in the immediate lengthening of our travel destination wish list.
• Speaking of heaven, we just heard about Out of Print, a new documentary about books screening later this month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Our fingers are crossed that it gets picked up for distribution so that it lands in one of our theaters soon.
• In the meantime, we'll settle for Book Riot's delightful "six-pack" of author interviews from The Colbert Report.
• Finally, we were excited to learn that on April 11 People.com will be hosting an online chat with Khaled Hosseini to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publication of The Kite Runner. Get all of the details here.
Happy news for children of the 1980s like me, via Galleycat: LeVar Burton, host of the iconic "Reading Rainbow," is planning a "Reading Rainbow"-themed flash mob.
No word yet on when/where this amazing event will take place, but you can sign up to receive updates about the mob here, and find updates on twitter by searching for the hashtag #readingrainbowflashmob. Here's hoping they stage 'em in several cities!
It's always a treat to hear that David Sedaris has a new project in the works. Even more exciting? Finding out he's going off the beaten path. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, a collection of fables being published by Little, Brown in October 2010, will be illustrated by celebrated picture book author and artist Ian Falconer, reports Publisher's Weekly.
Though fables might first seem an odd choice for an accomplished essayist, I think the form could be the perfect showcase for Sedaris' humor and imagination. What say you?
What a wonderful coincidence – Louisa May Alcott was born on this day in 1832, the same day as Madeleine L’Engle, in 1918.
Alcott was a favorite author of mine before I even knew how to read; my mom read Little Women to me out loud. When I did learn to read on my own, L’Engle was the author who best held my attention. From A Wrinkle in Time, to A Ring of Endless Light, to her memoirs, I think I read (and re-read) about 20 of L’Engle’s books.
Trisha reviewed the biography Louisa May Alcott, by Harriet Reisen, earlier in the month. On comparisons between Alcott and her heroine Jo March, she wrote:
the real Louisa was just as intelligent, hot-tempered, rebellious and ambitious as her fictional counterpart. But the true story of Alcott’s life is both more tragic and more triumphant than anything she cooked up for her favorite little woman.
The book has been adapted by PBS for their American Masters series. (The film debuts Dec. 28.) After the jump, watch outtakes from PBS’s "Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women."
Revisiting childhood and teen favorites seems to be a trend right now. In Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, Lizzie Skurnick writes about beloved YA novels. (Read an interview with Skurnick.) In Everything I need to Know I learned From a Children’s Book, Anita Silvey asks over 100 people to choose a book from childhood that changed their worldview.
Alcott and L’Engle certainly inspired my love of reading. What books or authors are your childhood favorites?
Today’s a big day in Harry Potter-land. J.K. Rowling has said in interviews that Harry’s birthday is July 31, and the author’s own birthday is today, too. (She was born July 31, 1965.)
Harry’s birth year is a bit more mysterious. Lifted from FactMonster.com:
“Near the beginning of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone it says that ‘tomorrow, Tuesday, was Harry’s eleventh birthday.’ July 31 doesn't fall on a Tuesday very often. Most readers of that first book assumed that, because it was published in 1997, Harry attended Hogwarts during the 1990s. In 1990, July 31 fell on a Tuesday. This would mean that Harry was born in 1979. . . . But wait—this theory is contradicted by evidence in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in which Harry helped celebrate Nearly Headless Nick’s deathday anniversary on October 31, 1992. Harry was 12 at that time. So this would mean that Harry was born in 1980.”
BookPage has featured quite a bit of Potter coverage through the years. Here is an interview with actor Jim Dale, the voice of the Harry Potter audio books, a review of Chamber of Secrets (from 1999!), and a feature about Half-Blood Prince.
And just for fun, let’s revisit some of Rowling’s best birthday-themed prose.
From Goblet of Fire:
“Aunt Petunia didn’t know what was hidden under the loose floorboard upstairs. She had no idea that Harry was not following the diet at all… on Harry’s birthday (which the Dursleys had completely ignored) he had received four superb birthday cakes, one each from Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, and Sirius.”
And Chamber of Secrets:
“Harry left through the back door. It was a brilliant, sunny day. He crossed the lawn, slumped down on the garden bench, and sang under his breath: ‘Happy birthday to me… happy birthday to me…’ No cards, no presents, and he would be spending the evening pretending not to exist.”
Anyone have a favorite Harry Potter scene they’d like to share? Or thoughts on the new movie?
We read with interest Nicholas Kristof's column on the importance of summer reading for children—and plenty of other people did, too. The column rose to the top of the most viewed list at nytimes.com. But surely we won’t be the only ones to question Kristof’s reading recommendations. Almost every book on the list was published decades ago (the two exceptions being Harry Potter and the Alex Rider series). Among Kristof's picks for summer reading were the Hardy Boys, Freddy the Pig and Little Lord Fauntleroy. That’s like telling my teenage son to go see a movie, and suggesting that he choose between Gone With the Wind and The Philadelphia Story. Great films, no doubt, but not as likely to interest kids as a well-done recent release.
We all love the classics, but aren’t there plenty of newer books that would hold the attention of children—and teach them a little something as well? Of course there are, and The Book Case is here to prove it! For technical support, we asked husband-and-wife children’s book experts Dean Schneider (a recent Newbery selection committee member) and Robin Smith (an upcoming Caldecott committee member) for quick, off-the-top-of-their-heads recommendations of a few recent children’s books worth reading.
The universe of superheroes is unfairly dominated by guys, don’t you think? What we need is a little gender equity to balance SpiderMAN, SuperMAN and BatMAN. Children’s book author Jarrett J. Krosoczka is doing his part to promote female omnipotence with a new series that features a school cafeteria worker with special powers. The series debuts in late July with the release of book one, Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, told in graphic novel format for ages 7 to 10.
Now, before the first book even hits shelves, comes the exciting news that Universal has snapped up film rights to the series with Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler on board as star and executive producer. We can’t wait to see Poehler as the apron-clad Lunch Lady who dishes out justice along with chicken patties and sloppy joes. And we’re thrilled to see the talented and super-nice Krosoczka get this very special recognition. So thrilled, in fact, that we immediately had to find out if he'd ever imagined something like this in his wildest dreams:
“Well . . . let's not get too far ahead of things,” Krosoczka says via email, proving that his feet are still on the ground. “The books aren't out just yet, so I don't want to jinx anything. But there is so much momentum as I head into the release date. I've been promoting these books in my school visits for years now and people are eager for new age-appropriate graphic novels. And of course the news about Universal and Amy Poehler's interest is just incredible!”
Of course we couldn't resist a few more questions for Jarrett:
How did the movie deal come about?
Back in January, The Gotham Group (who manages the film rights to my books) asked if I was interested in their being attached to Lunch Lady as producers for a possible live-action feature. I was thrilled by this news and signed on. I've been a fan of Amy Poehler for a very long time now, so we sent her a copy of the first Lunch Lady book. She loved it! Two writers were attached (Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern) and they, along with Ms. Poehler pitched the project to Universal. And Universal loved it!
How did you come up with this character?
Back in 2001, I visited my old elementary school (Gates Lane School) to speak about the publication of my first book, Good Night, Monkey Boy. There, I ran into Jeannie, my old lunch lady. She started telling me about her grandkids—which blew my mind! My lunch lady had kids, who then had kids? She had a life outside of the cafeteria. So it got me thinking . . . what would a lunch lady do when she wasn't a lunch lady. She'd fight crime!
What’s your favorite thing about the Lunch Lady?
I'm having a blast with the action and the absurd humor in these books. On one page I can have Lunch Lady fighting robots with her fish stick nun-chucks, on another page she is elated that she'll be making chicken patty piazza for lunch. She's a very fun character and I hope people love reading about her as much as I've enjoyed writing about her.
A second book in the series, Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians, will also be published on July 28, with a third title planned in December and a fourth next summer. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Krosoczka has written and illustrated nine picture books, including two Punk Farm titles. For more fun facts about this imaginative and clever guy, check out his website, which includes a bio, a short bio, a serious bio, a fake bio and a faker bio. And don't miss the audio clip that reveals how to pronounce his last name—a name we'll all be hearing more about.
Am I imagining this or have chickens become fashionable? In my suburban neighborhood, a few trendsetters are keeping chickens in their backyards -- it's against code restrictions, but if the neighbors don't tattle and the chicken coops are hidden from street view, the homeowners get away with it. And they're rewarded with a steady supply of delicious fresh eggs.
If this is a trend, debut author Jane Berentson is tapping into it in her new novel, Miss Harper Can Do It, on sale Thursday. Annie Harper is a third-grade teacher who finds solace in the companionship of a pet chicken when her boyfriend ships out for a 392-day military deployment. ("Wow, Annie," a friend tells her. "You have a garbage disposal, a dishwasher, and a chicken.") To prove that there are those among us who keep chickens not only for food, but also as pets, Berentson has produced a video about pet chickens on Staten Island:
Chickens are all the rage in children's books, too, with several new picture books touting the glories of our feathered friends. One of our favorites is Tillie Lays An Egg by Terry Golson. In finely detailed photos by Ben Fink, Tillie gallivants around the farm, laying her eggs in unexpected places. Pre-school teacher Allison tells us that her students love to spot Tillie's eggs and beg to hear this book read aloud again and again. And here's the best part: little ones (and their interested parents) can watch the real-life Tillie and her chicken companions on Golson's live hencam. Be sure to click on "Inside" for a second view inside the chicken coop (eggsactly!). Why am I suddenly craving deviled eggs?
Over at A Fuse #8 Production, a reader poll ranks Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes as number 15 on a list of the Top 100 Picture Books of All Time.
We share the love for Henkes' naughty-but-lovable heroine, and have for quite a long time. Back in 1996, when Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse was first published, we interviewed Henkes about the book and his inspiration for the story. In a sequence of events that's still hard to believe, Henkes also describes how he made a trip to New York at the age of 19 and landed a book contract with Greenwillow on his second day in the city. Although there are thousands (and thousands) of book reviews and features in the BookPage.com archives, this interview remains one of our most-read articles, year in and year out. Which proves two things: there's no explaining the mysteries of web traffic, and very few book-related sites on the web offer the length and breadth of the BookPage archives. Try browsing through BookPage.com yourself (including the flip-through version of the current print edition) and stay tuned for the long-awaited and totally redesigned site that will put more book news and recommendations at your fingertips.
More on Kevin Henkes: When Lilly returned for her Big Day in 2006, readers learned more about the memorable mouse and her creator in this illustrated Q&A.