Since I know many of BookPage's readers love to read children's and teen books themselves (or with their kids), I wanted to alert you to a couple recent recommendations on BookPage.com:
Editor Lynn Green interviewed both Andrea Pinkney and Jon Katz for issues of Reading Corner (sign up here).
Pinkney wrote Bird in a Box, a middle grade novel that takes place during the Great Depression. The story centers on a group of kids in Brooklyn who are captivated by boxer Joe Louis. Here's a preview of the interview:
Why was Joe Louis such an important figure for African Americans in the 1930s and ’40s?
When Joe Louis came onto the boxing scene, he symbolized tremendous hope for African Americans. Joe was boxing at a time when black folks in America were still considered second-class citizens, and when segregation was still a sad reality. But in boxing, one’s ability to swing hard in the ring has nothing to do with the color of their skin. Louis’s pounding punches showed the world that a black mother’s son had superior abilities.On the night Barack Obama won the presidential election, there was an overwhelming pride that welled in the hearts of many people. There was cheering in the streets. Tears of joy came to the faces of grown men. A black man had made momentous progress toward social change. This same pride and elation filled the night of June 22, 1937, when Joe Louis, “the Brown Bomber,” became the heavyweight champion of the world.
Is there a specific message you hope young readers will take from this book?
More than anything, I’d like young readers to know that even when it feels like life is giving you a beating, there’s always hope around what may at first look like a very dark corner.
Lynn interviewed Jon Katz about picture book Meet the Dogs at Bedlam Farm. Take a look at these main characters:
The picture book offers Katz's wisdom about dogs and life. Here's a preview of the interview:
Why did you decide to write a book for children at this point in your career?
Children are the purest and most intense animal lovers on the earth. They experience animals in a very particular way, unfettered by the many issues adults bring to their attachments. Animals are the beloved and imaginary comforters and soulmates of many children, as psychologists can attest. Kids talk to animals in very touching ways.
Animals are sometimes scary to them, but more often are very loving and never cruel or wounding. Animal fantasies are a seminal part of childhood development. The Bedlam Farm dogs run the gamut for kids—the troubled dog, the love dog, the serious dog, the healing dog. Until I wrote Meet The Dogs Of Bedlam Farm, I didn't quite realize how broad and familiar an emotional range Lenore, Frieda, Izzy and Rose covered.
We hope you enjoy these books. It's always a pleasure to interview authors, especially when they provide such thoughtful answers as Pinkney and Katz.
What children's books are you recommending lately?
Comedian Jeff Foxworthy has been making people laugh since the mid-1990s. Best known for his "you might be a redneck if" jokes, he also appeared on "Blue Collar TV" and currently hosts the popular game show "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?"
Now he turns his hand to children's literature with Hide!!!, and in a Q&A he tells BookPage why it's important for children to get off the couch:
"I recently read an article that said that children that play outside develop better problem solving skills and have a stronger ability to work within a group. But my generation, as parents, has been so overprotective that we have taken away many of those opportunities. I'm not sure how you fix it."
Today we got word from Abrams Books that a Diary of a Wimpy Kid balloon will debut in this year's Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. More than 50 million people will watch the parade on TV, in addition to 3.5 million in person—and one lucky reader will win the opportunity to be part of that crowd. A sweepstakes launched today by Abrams will give one winner and three guests a Thanksgiving trip to New York City and VIP grandstand tickets to view the parade.
There are 37 million copies of the Wimpy Kid books in print in the United States alone, and I know many readers are getting very excited for the Nov. 9 release of Jeff Kinney's fifth book in the series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth.
BookPage will mark the occasion with an interview in our November print edition. Contributor Alice Cary recently talked to Kinney at his home in Massachusetts, and though you can't read her full report just yet, she gave us a preview of her visit and shared a few BookPage-exclusive photos.
I headed to southern Massachusetts a few days ago to visit Diary of a Wimpy Kid author/illustrator Jeff Kinney. Five million copies of his new book, The Ugly Truth, will hit stores in November, prompting much excitement among fans—and great secrecy from Kinney’s publisher, Abrams, about the contents of the book.
Despite all of this fame and buildup, Jeff Kinney seems to be the nicest, most relaxed guy you'll ever meet. CNN was expected later in the day to film him, but Jeff appeared to have all the time in the world to visit with me. He admits that, at times, all the hoopla around his books doesn't feel real, and he certainly had some interesting stories to share.
All photos (c) copyright 2010 Alice Cary.
Jeff Kinney draws on the tablet in his hands, and Greg H. appears on his computer screen.
Kinney at his office desk, where he works. The walls are purposely bare so he won't be distracted.
Kinney in his office. The closet contains a lot of drawing pads!
(That's what those stacks are near his hand.)
Kinney signing books in his office. This is the spot where he sits for hours to think up ideas for the books.
Also in BookPage: Check out our illustrated Q&A with Jeff Kinney.
Three weeks from today, a movie version of Kathryn Lasky's bestselling Guardians of Ga’Hoole series—about a brave young owl's magical journey—will hit theaters. From the looks of the trailer, I think it'll be quite a show (and it's in 3D!).
To get you pumped up for the release, BookPage asked Lasky to answer a few questions about her role in the adaptation and impressions of the movie.
What was your reaction when you saw the movie version of Guardians of Ga'Hoole? Is the adaptation faithful to the spirit of your books?
I have not seen the movie in its entirety yet. In July I saw a rough cut and not in 3D and not fully animated. But the ninety minutes of what I saw was honestly the most spectacular ninety minutes of animation I have ever seen in my life! The scenes of flying—and mind you as I said this was not 3D yet—were absolutely breathtaking.
What came across loud and clear was how faithful this adaptation is to the spirit of the books and the characters. For nearly 10 years I have lived with these characters’ voices in my head and now to hear them and hear them voiced by such great actors like Jim Sturgess, Helen Mirren and Sam Neil was overwhelming to me. I started crying.
All I could think was ‘all this stuff in my head for so long and now it’s out there.’ This is strange to say but I almost felt as if I had been away—lonely and away for a long time and I was now back and being welcomed by long lost friends—even the bad guys!
Were you involved at all in the movie's production?
Oh yes I was involved to a limited extent. I made three trips to Los Angeles to discuss the movie both before the screenwriter and director were hired and then after. The screenwriter, John Orloff, called me throughout the process to consult with me on the screenplay. He was terrific—open to ideas, really probing me on how I viewed certain plot elements, characters, etc. I knew there were changes that would have to be made for a movie is not a book. But I was very comfortable how he and Zack Snyder, the director, handled these changes.
A complete screenplay was sent to me maybe eighteen months ago and I read it and wrote an extensive memo concerning things that I felt needed some adjusting and they really incorporated most of my changes. Zack, John and the producers Lionel Wigram and Donald De Line were very attentive to my suggestions. All of them good listeners.
Why should children read the book before they see the movie?
Of course it’s always wonderful if children read the book before the movie because then they know the story and the characters so well. But on the other hand I am sure there are instances where children might not be aware of a book, or had the interest or opportunity to read it. If they see the film first this might inspire them to go out and read the book and it will open them up to an equally rich and different experience.
In Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Capture, Soren is inspired by legends about the Guardians of Ga'Hoole. What legends do you personally find inspiring?
Probably and most obviously the Arthurian legends. The Guardians of Ga’Hoole is, I admit, very derivative of this cycle. As a child I read all the Greek myths and loved them but they seemed a bit removed to me compared to the Arthurian tales. I also loved the selkie stories, those tales of the seal folk who were seals in the ocean and became humans on shore. I generally love all shape shifter stories.
You have received many honors over the course of your career, from getting a Newbery Honor for Sugaring Time to seeing your characters transformed by Warner Brothers. Which award, accomplishment or honor are you most proud of?
Oh that’s kind of impossible for me to say. The best reward of all is just knowing that readers are connecting with what I write. An award like that doesn’t need a medal or a gold seal or a movie marquee.
BookPage is giving away two copies of The Capture (Book One in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series) in the next edition of Reading Corner. To receive our e-newsletter about books for children and teens, sign up here.
Author photo by Christopher G. Knight.
A couple of months ago I posted about the Baby-sitters Club prequel, and it was so much fun to read the comments. (“Oh my gosh, YES, I am excited,” wrote one reader. Another confessed to owning 100+ BSC books.)
Well, now I am happy to say (brag) that I spoke with Ann M. Martin herself on Tuesday. The BSC prequel, The Summer Before, will be available in stores two weeks from today, and on that date my interview will also be posted on BookPage.com.
Until then, I’ll tease you with a few tidbits:
The Baby-sitters Club. I’m proud to say it was totally my idea, even though the four of us worked it out together. “Us” is Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Kishi, Stacey McGill, and me—Kristy Thomas. But that was at the beginning of seventh grade, after the summer in which my friendship with Claudia nearly fell apart, Mary Anne began to find out who she was, Claudia experienced her first love, and an unhappy girl left New York City and moved to our town. It was quite a summer.
Coming to theaters near you this weekend: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, based on Jeff Kinney's best-selling middle-grade series. The movie hits theaters Friday, and the companion book, Movie Diary of a Wimpy Kid, is in libraries and bookstores today.
Judging from the trailer, the movie looks like a winning adaptation—likely to be a hit with the the 6- to 10-year-old set (and parents wondering how to pass the long hours of spring break).
Related in BookPage: Check out our Meet the Author featuring Jeff Kinney.
Last week I spoke to Newbery medalist Laura Amy Schlitz (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!) about her new release The Night Fairy (Feb. 23 from Candlewick). The middle grade novel tells the story of Flory, a fairy who loses her wings in an accident and must fend for herself in a garden alongside bats, praying mantises and other potentially threatening creatures.
As she learns to appreciate life in the daytime—Flory was born a nocturnal fairy, although she attempts to change her sleep schedule—the little fairy also discovers emotions like empathy and hope.
I predict that this charming story will be a hit with kids who love the outdoors and playing make believe—not only because of the text, but because the accompanying illustrations are truly works of art. Illustrator Angela Barrett studied at the Royal College of Art in England with Quentin Blake (best known for immortalizing Roald Dahl’s characters in cartoons). She has illustrated more than 24 books, and her depictions of Flory’s miniature world will enchant young readers. (Visit this gallery on The Night Fairy’s website for examples.)
On Feb. 23, you can read about Schlitz’s intriguing new project and her interest in fairy stories on BookPage.com. In the meantime, listen to an audio clip from the author. In it, she discusses the joyful moment of winning the Newbery Medal in 2008:
We’re giving away a copy of The Night Fairy to a lucky reader. To enter, tell us in the comments: Who is your favorite fairy from literature? I’ll vote for Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Deadline: Feb. 17 at 10 a.m.