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May 2009 Archives

Pam

Book Expo America

Posted by Pam on May 28, 2009 at 9:01 AM in Authors and Illustrators
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Tomorrow I'll be on my way to New York City for Book Expo America (BEA). I've never been to this yearly event, but I understand that it's like being a kid in a candy store, except for bibliophiles. At BEA, the publishers reach out to booksellers, librarians, bloggers, and authors hoping to create buzz and collect purchase orders for their newest releases. They give away Advance Reader's Copies (ARC's) and posters and bookmarks in the hopes of launching the next Harry Potter series. Or in this economy, to make a decent profit.

Perhaps the best part of the whole convention is the author signings. Publishers bring in tons of authors to make appearances and sign books. There are thirty special signing tables set up where authors rotate through the schedule in one hour blocks, and there are also times when authors are signing at the publishers booths. The schedule is maddening. Will I be able to fit in both Scott Westerfeld and Katherine Paterson at 3:00 p.m. on Friday? Jon Scieszka at the Simon & Schuster booth and Rosemary Wells in the autograph area at 4:00? I'm already missing my favorite, Mo Willems, because I'll be on the bus ride up to the city. Ah, Mo. I shouldn't be greedy, having been to several of his signings and a few of his presentations, but a Mo opportunity shouldn't be missed if at all avoidable.

Adult books and their authors actually dominate BEA, but focusing on the children and teen books is one way for me to keep this event manageable. A few authors who are normally associated with adult books will be signing their children's titles, and I'm curious about the reception they will receive. For instance, James Patterson is signing at the Little, Brown booth, but for a new teen book Witch & Wizard. Meg Cabot is there, not for her adult books or the Princess Diaries series, but for her newer middle-grade series, Allie Finkle. Personally, I'd like to see both, but am less willing to wait in a long line than perhaps their other fans.

I have a list of authors and illustrators that I'm hoping to see including: Suzanne Collins, David Lubar, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Peter McCarty, Sharon Draper, Linda Park, Maureen Johnson, Jon Agee, Peter Reynolds, Barry Lyga, Bruce Lansky, and Jerry Pinkney. I have many other favorites who are signing books when I am otherwise engaged. How about you? Which authors and illustrators you would want to meet?

Susan

Diverse Board Books

Posted by Susan on May 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM in Board BooksRecommendations
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I love when I get comments that inspire posts of their own. Let me share with you a comment that Andromeda made on this post about board books:

"I am interested in finding out what board books you and other readers enjoy that include diverse characters. I have spent quite a bit of time looking for board books that feature black and brown faces and families, as well as multi-ethnic groups and families. I don't think there are enough of these books, particularly for infants and toddlers. I like Jabari Asim's books and Andrea Davis Pinkney's. What else have you found?"

Excellent question! There are lots of old and new board books that fit the bill. Plus, it gives me a chance to talk about some of my favorite board books that I haven't mentioned yet.

Ten Nine Eight.jpgFor starters, take a look at two classics: Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang and On Mother's Lap by Ann Herbert Scott with illustrations by Glo Coalson. They're both great to read before bedtime. For an intriguing story about the creation of Ten, Nine, Eight, check out Molly Bang's website.

Busy Fingers and Busy Toes written by C.W. Bowie and illustrated by Fred Willingham are both fun and engaging books.

Peekaboo Morning.jpgRachel Isadora's Peek a Boo Morning was recently released as a board book last year. Hopefully, her picture books Peek a Boo Bedtime and Uh Oh! will be in board book format soon.

Cheryl Willis Hudson has several board books illustrated by George Ford: Let's Count Baby, Goodnight Baby, and Animal Sounds for Baby.

My Aunt Came Back by Pat Cummings is sadly out of print, but a library is a good place to look for it.

Baby Dance.jpgBe sure to check out Baby Dance by Ann Taylor. I love the exuberance and joy that radiates from both the father and his beloved daughter in Marjorie Van Heerden's illustrations.

I'm not usually a fan of books written by celebrities, but I like the rhythm and beat of Please Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tanya Lewis Lee. The illustrations by Kadir Nelson always make me laugh and empathize with the parents. It's available in hardcover and paperback too.

Babies love to look at pictures of other babies, and there are a number of books that do that extremely well. If you take a look at the various board books that show baby faces, you'll find a rainbow of beautiful faces.

Tickle Tickle.JPGHelen Oxenbury has four wonderfully simple and adorable books: Tickle Tickle, All Fall Down, Clap Hands and Say Goodnight.

Take a look at the delightful Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers. I love Marla Frazee's playful illustrations. Also, there's Roberta Grobel Intrater's Baby Faces series. For an international perspective, look for Global Babies by the Global Fund for Children.

Who Toes Are Those.jpgIf you're not familiar with the authors Andromeda mentioned above, Jabari Asim's books are great: Whose Toes are Those? and Whose Knees are These? And check out Andrea and Brian Pinkney's Family Celebration Books: Pretty Brown Face, Watch Me Dance, I Smell Honey and Shake, Shake, Shake.

I've had a particularly tough time finding Asian American characters in board books (except for books of baby faces.) Hopefully, someone like Grace Lin will get into the act.

Thanks for getting me started. I'd love to see additions to this list. Does anyone have suggestions?

Jen

Outdoor Reading

Posted by Jen Robinson on May 25, 2009 at 3:00 AM in Recommendations
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Happy Memorial Day! In honor of the holiday that marks (in the US, anyway) the start of summer, I'd like to talk about outdoor reading. I was inspired in this by a recent post at Australian blog The Book Chook. Blogger/reading advocate Susan Stephenson (one of the organizers of the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour from earlier this year) shared several of her favorite childhood reading spots (including "halfway up our huge jacaranda tree"). She closed by asked her readers "Where do you read?".

Part of my response (in the comments) was: "when I was a kid I read in the car (for even the shortest of drives), up in a tree in my yard, on the roof of our house (love those dormer windows), and on a raft in the lake (you have to swim with one arm holding the book up, it's a bit awkward, but worth it)." I SO wish I had photos, especially of the skinny little kid swimming out to a raft, holding a book up in the air.

momson.JPGWhat the most memorable of my childhood reading spots have in common, I realize now, is that they are all out of doors. It's been quite a while since I climbed up into a tree to read. But reading out of doors, particularly in some scenic location, remains one of my greatest joys. I'll go a step further, and say that it's how I recharge, how I heal myself, how I do what I love while remaining connected to the world. (Image credit: photo by taliesin, made available for use at MorgueFile.)

One of the best days that I have ever spent was during a vacation to Bar Harbor, Maine not long after college. We stayed at a tiny hotel with individual cabins, right on the ocean. After several days of hiking together, I sent my boyfriend off on his own one day to tackle another mountain. I spent the entire day on a chaise lounge on a little peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by water and trees, reading. Even now, when things are stressful, I travel back in my head to that oasis of a day. It continues to make me happy. And it's perhaps not a coincidence that on the day, quite a few years later, that the same boyfriend asked me to marry him, he left me sitting on a deck facing the Pacific Ocean, reading, while he was off making preparations.

Something about the outdoor reading actually sharpens my memories of my surroundings. I can still remember what beverages I drank that day in Bar Harbor, and what books I was reading. I can feel the wooden raft on Echo Lake, in New Hampshire, and picture the gray water. I can sketch the way the branches came together on the tree in my side yard. I can smell the tar on the roof. And I'm not a person who is generally blessed with a good memory. Reading and spending time out of doors are far from incompatible. And in fact, they can enhance one another.

GirlReading_Carolina_Antunes.jpgSummer is here, and that means that it's time to start talking about summer reading programs for kids. You can find resources about summer reading here at PBS, at Reading Rockets, and all over the Kidlitosphere (I'll follow up with more links in a future post). But to me, summer reading for kids is about much more than lists of recommended books. It's about more than having time to read books outside of school (although that is a wonderful thing). To me, summer reading is about reading out of doors, on a beach, on a raft, on a sun-warmed rock, in a weathered rowboat, or up in a tree. Summer reading is about the smell of sunscreen and salt and chlorine. It's about feeling the sun on your shoulders, and having to angle the book to reduce the glare. It's about shaking the sand out of your book, and having the lower part of the pages get warped from resting on your wet bathing suit. (Image credit: photo by Carool, made available for use at MorgueFile)

IMG_2627.JPGOne of the marvelous things about books (as Susan mentioned in her post) is how portable and sturdy they are. You can take them anywhere. You can read them in bright sunlight. If you're careful, you can even read them in the middle of the lake. Might I suggest, then, as you plan your family's outdoor events for the summer, that you think about bringing along a book or two. Or ten. Wouldn't it be nice, thirty years from now, for your kids to be able to share their memories of the fabulous places that they read books as children? (Image credit: photo by Wallyir, made available at MorgueFile.)

What does summer reading mean to you? Did you ever read outdoors when you were a child? Did you have a favorite spot? Does your child? I would love to hear your feedback! Happy Memorial Day!

Pam

Thursday Three: Cybil Winners

Posted by Pam on May 21, 2009 at 9:08 AM in AwardsRecommendations
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Since Jen talked about the Cybils awards on Monday, I'm making my Thursday three about the Fiction Picture Book, Nonfiction Picture Book, and Easy Reader winners.

How to Heal a Broken Wing
by Bob Graham
BrokenWing.jpgA pigeon is hurt on the city sidewalk, and everyone walks by -- except one boy and his mother. They bring the bird home, take care of it, and let it fly away. I'm keeping the plot simple, so that I can leave room to say that I have not shown this book to one adult yet who hasn't been deeply moved by it. Kids may see the simple story first, and then the kindness beneath. Adults can see the deeper levels of helping others, healing wounds, and letting go. Or even, as I told my seventh grader, "that sometimes we're the bird." Bob Graham's illustrations are wonderful, and truly tell the story more than the simple text. Look for the way the pictures gain color as the decision is made to Do the Right Thing (see a hint of it on the cover). It's an amazing book.

Frogs
by Nic Bishop
NicBishop.jpgThe brilliant cover will draw you into this nonficition book, and the fantastic photos will keep you there learning more about frogs than you ever thought you wanted to know. This guy is the Monet of nature photography, drawing out the color and essence of all the creatures he captures on film. The text is pretty simple, making it perfect for the late preschool to early elementary crowd. While those with arachnophobia may want to skip an earlier title in this series, Frogs shouldn't raise any alarms -- especially when the deadly poison dart frogs are so cute!

I Love My New Toy!
by Mo Willems

I Love My New Toy.jpgMo Willems has found continued success with his early reader series featuring Elephant and Piggie, and deservedly so. This is a man who can convey more humor and emotion with four pen strokes than an entire season of SNL. In this title, Piggie has a new toy, but doesn't know what it is. In trying to identify it, Elephant breaks it. In the end, everything is fixed -- the toy and the friendship. The expressions and situations are funny, but what wows me about this title is the entire range of feelings captured in one little easy reader book. There's pride, delight, remorse, anger, embarrassment, irritation, forgiveness, and love. That's packing a lot in! If you haven't seen this series yet, you need to. (Um, now might be good, since the book is bargain priced at Amazon to reduce inventory.)

Susan

Fun with board books

Posted by Susan on May 20, 2009 at 12:00 AM in Board BooksRecommendations
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Picture book author Mo Willems writes that "books aren't temples; they're playgrounds. They're meant to be played."

Since I talked last week about picture books that didn't turn gracefully into board books, it seems only fair to show the other side of the coin. I picked these two books because I think they are successful adaptations, and also because they're lots of fun to play with.

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
Good Night Gorilla.jpg

The spare text and lush illustrations make this book a surefire winner. You could read this book again and again and still not discover everything that makes it so special. Here's a few fun things to look for in this deceptively simple book.

On the first page, under a crescent moon, there's a pink balloon wrapped around the door of the gorilla's cage with a banana attached to the bottom of the string. The mouse gnaws a hole in the string and releases the balloon, but he takes the banana with him. Can you find the mouse and banana on every page? How about the pink balloon? Or the moon?

(Note: it's easier to find the objects in the hardcover or paperback editions because they are bigger, but it's possible to find them in the board book too.)

The color of each key matches the color of each animal's cage. (For example, the gorilla's cage is orange, so it is opened with an orange key.) Once the cage is opened, the key stays in the lock. The zoo keeper's wife collects all the keys when she locks the animals back in their cages. When she gets back into bed, you can see the ring of keys on the floor.

Each animal has a doll in their cage (with the exception of the lion, who has a bone.) My favorite is the elephant who has Babar lying on the floor of his cage. And, there's a well known Sesame Street character in the armadillo's enclosure.

As the animals walk through the hallway in the zoo keeper's house, take a close look at the walls. All of the family photos have the zoo animals in them. And take a look at the photograph on the zoo keeper's bedside table. (You can see it best on the last page). It's a picture of the zoo keeper, his wife and the gorilla.

Aside from all of that, one of the things I like about this book is that there are so many different ways to read it. You can narrate what's happening in the story. Or not. You can make up silly animal voices when they all say good night. Or not. You can spend the whole time looking for the hidden objects. Or not. The book is your oyster.

Freight Train.jpg Freight Train by Donald Crews

Don't be fooled into thinking that this Caldecott Honor book is simply a list of parts of a train. The magic comes in the second half. The train speeds through the book and makes the reader feel they are really watching it go by.

This book translates well into the smaller format and no illustrations were harmed to make the board book.

Try playing with it. Make train sounds while reading it. Or sing it. Or clap your hands to the beat of this extremely rhythmic book. Or let your child show you the colors on each page. Or count the railroad cars. The possibilities are endless.

Now that I've got you looking for hidden things in books, take a closer look at the tender and the engine. 1978 on the side of the tender refers to the year the book was published. The letters N & A on the black steam engine stand for the initial of the authors' two daughters: Amy and Nina.

For more ways to have fun with books, check out the great suggestions in the Mo Willems article I quoted above.

Looking for more on board books? Stay tuned.

Jen

The Cybils Awards

Posted by Jen Robinson on May 18, 2009 at 6:00 AM in AwardsRecommendations
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CybilsLogoSmall.jpg Are you, as a parent, teacher or librarian, looking for well-written, kid-friendly books to recommend to your kids? If so, I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to learn about the Cybils awards. The Cybils are a series of book awards given by children's and young adult book bloggers in nine categories. The Cybils awards highlight books that have both literary merit and kid appeal. Anyone can nominate books (one nomination per person per category), resulting in a wide array of nominated titles (see the 2008 nomination lists here). Nominated titles in each category then go through a rigorous two-round selection process, the first to identify a short list of five to seven titles, and the second to select a winner. The judges for this process are children's and young adult book bloggers, including parents, teachers, librarians, authors, and literacy advocates. People who read, review, and recommend children's books every day.

The Cybils awards were founded by Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold. More than 80 participants are involved each year from the Kidlitosphere, in addition to many members of the public who nominate titles. I've been on the organizing committee for the Cybils since the awards were launced in 2006. My current title is Cybils Literacy Evangelist. Booklights' own Pam Coughlan was the organizer for the Fiction Picture Books category this year, while Susan Kusel was a tireless promoter for the Cybils (especially the new Easy Reader category) at Wizards Wireless.

The Cybils winners and short lists are an excellent source of well-written, engaging titles. They've been called the "organic chicken nuggets" of the children's book world. One of the best things about the Cybils is the range of categories, fiction and nonfiction for different age ranges, along with poetry, graphic novels, and fantasy and science fiction titles. The Cybils short lists have something for everyone!

Here are the Cybils winners to date:

EPNewToy.jpgEasy Readers
2008: I Love My New Toy by Mo Willems, Hyperion. This is the first year that the Cybils has included an Easy Reader category. You can find the full list of nominated titles here.

GraveyardBook.jpgMiddle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction
2008: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, HarperCollins.
2007: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, Disney/Hyperion.
2006: Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud, Hyperion: Miramax.

HungerGames.jpgYoung Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction
2008: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Scholastic. My review.
2007: Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Bloomsbury USA Children's Books.

BrokenWing.jpgFiction Picture Books
2008: How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham, Candlewick Press.
2007: The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County, written by Janice N. Harrington and illustrated by Shelley Jackson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
2006: Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt, Kids Can Press. My review.

RapunzelsRevenge.jpgMiddle Grade Graphic Novels
2008: Rapunzel's Revenge written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale and illustrated by Nathan Hale, Bloomsbury USA.
2007: Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel written by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin and illustrated by Giovanni Rigano and Paolo Lamanna, Hyperion.
2006: Amelia Rules, vol. 3: Superheroes by Jimmy Gownley, Renaissance Press.

EmikoSuperstar.jpgYoung Adult Graphic Novels
2008: Emiko Superstar written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Steve Rolston, Minx.
2007: The Professor's Daughter written by Joann Sfar and illustrated by Emmanuel Guibert, First Second.
2006: American Born Chinese by Gene Yang, First Second.

LondonEye.jpgMiddle Grade Fiction
2008: The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, David Fickling Books. My review.
2007: A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban, Harcourt. My review
2006: A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama by Laura Amy Schlitz, Candlewick. My review.

YearWeDisappeared.jpgMG/YA Nonfiction
2008: The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir by Cylin Busby and John Busby, Bloomsbury USA. (I nominated this title!) My review.
2007: Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
2006: Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman, Holiday House.

NicBishop.jpgNonfiction Picture Books
2008: Nic Bishop Frogs by Nic Bishop, Scholastic Nonfiction.
2007: Lightship by Brian Floca, Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books.
2006: An Egg Is Quiet written by Dianna Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long, Chronicle Books. My review.

Honeybee.jpgPoetry
2008: Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose by Naomi Shihab Nye, HarperCollins.
2007: This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness, written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, Houghton Mifflin.
2006: Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes, Houghton Mifflin.

disreputablebig.jpgYoung Adult Fiction
2008: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Hyperion.
2007: Boy Toy by Barry Lyga, Houghton Mifflin.
2006: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Knopf Books for Young Readers. My review.

You can find printable lists of the Cybils short lists for the past three years on the Cybils blog (in the right-hand sidebar), along with blurbs about each title. I think that these short lists are a tremendous resource. Think about it. Five to seven high-quality titles in each of the above categories, from each year. I think you'll find the lists well worth a look. And when the time comes for nominations for 2009 titles, I'll be sure to check back in with you for your input. Happy reading!

Pam

Thursday Three: Cats

Posted by Pam on May 14, 2009 at 12:04 AM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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For the most part, I'll be using my day of blog posting to introduce three new or newish picture books. Sometimes there will be a subject theme, but not always. Today I have some of my new favorite cat books to share.

Grumpy Cat
by Britta Teckentrup
The plot isn't uncharted territory, but it doesn't matter. A loner cat finds his personal space invaded and grows to accept the intruder, even as a friend. The bright colors, the simple text, and the cutey cute cuteness of the kitten intruder make this book special. The large broadly drawn pages and big print make it a good storytime book - no danger that someone can't see the pictures here. There's some wonderful expressions to the simple illustrations - especially the Grumpy Cat's angry face. A fun book, probably best for the twos and threes.

Cat Jumped In!
written by Tess Weaver, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
On a warm summer day, Cat jumps in the window of the house and gets into all kinds of messes through the day. At each untidy encounter, he is met by a pair of legs (that we can assume connect to a person) and the repeating phrase, "Cat? Out!" I like how the phrase "Tip-tap, pitter-pat came footsteps, closer and closer" gets steadily more tips and taps and pitters and pats and there's a growing urgency to the "OUT!." The illustrations are perfect for a book about a cat, lively and soft at the same time. Great for all ages.

Katie Loves the Kittens
by John Himmelman
First of all, gotta love the cover of a happy dog plowing through three kittens and their surprised expressions as they flip through the air. Katie, the dog, is excited that her owner brought home three kittens. So excited that she howled like crazy - and freaked those kittens out! Being scolded for scaring them, she tried to control herself (with a priceless picture of her tail wagging until her whole body is shaking), but couldn't. Katie is so sad that she scares the kittens, that she goes back to bed. There, where she is quiet, the kittens come to her. Wonderful book about kittens, dogs, and yes - patience. Personally, I've seen this book read and enjoyed by both a toddler and a teen, so I'd say this title has certainly got some range.

Susan

Board Books: Susan

Posted by Susan on May 13, 2009 at 12:06 AM in Board Books
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So, you can't wait to start reading to your baby. But your audience tends eat everything they can get their hands on including the books you're trying to read.

Not a problem, board books are the answer! They are smaller, durable, and should stand up to the average book-eating child. They're perfect for babies and toddlers, right? Well, the answer tends to vary.

Typically when hardcover books are reformatted into board books, they are abridged and changed from the original. Not every picture book transfers to a board book edition gracefully or effectively.

Guess How Much I Love You.jpgThe board book version of Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney cuts out many of the original illustrations and combines several pictures together. The hardcover edition is much easier to read and the pacing works far better.

Chicka Chicka abc is an abridgement of the wonderful Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. The poor lowercase letters never recover from their fall from the coconut tree the way they do in the original. Plus, we never get to meet the uppercase letters.

Brown Bear Brown Bear.jpg But all adaptations aren't bad. Goodnight Moon makes a delightful board book that preserves all the charm of the original. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? has just the right mixture of white space, rhyme and repetition to be a great board book for babies.

Also, there are many wonderful board books that were written as board books from the start. Sandra Boynton is an author that writes almost exclusively in board book format, with funny, effective, and enjoyable results.

Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy.jpgFuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy: a touch, skritch & tickle book is one of my favorite examples, because it's truly written for babies. It's slightly larger than typical board books, which makes it easier for babies to see and turn the pages. The pictures are simple, bright and straightforward. There's something to touch or feel on every page, which is a big hit with babies. And best of all, it's funny, something Sandra Boynton was able to accomplish with a mere 26 words. Fuzzy Fuzzy Fuzzy well loved version.JPG

The version I own currently looks quite different from the publisher's picture. (That's just the outside, the inside looks worse). Which goes to show you, even board books can't always withstand the love and rough handling of a baby.

I'm going to be posting a longer list of board book recommendations, but first I want to know which board books you like. Are there particular authors you enjoy? Are there board books your children are fascinated with?

Jen

Rick Riordan Event: Jen

Posted by Jen Robinson on May 11, 2009 at 3:00 AM in Authors and Illustrators
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LastOlympian.pngThis weekend, I attended a book signing by Rick Riordan at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, CA. The event was in honor of the publication of the fifth and final book in the Percy Jackson series, The Last Olympian. Despite the best efforts of the Kepler's staff, it was a complete madhouse - some 600+ people crammed into a single store, all with books they wanted signed.

Keplers1.jpgBut it was amazing, too. Hundreds of kids choosing to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon at a bookstore. Kids waiting more or less patiently in line for hours, that eager to meet an author. Kids treating said author like a rock star (my friend Camille, who blogs at Book Moot, calls him Rockstar Rick Riordan). It was a beautiful thing. (The pictures to the right were taken about 30 minutes before the signing, and give you some idea of how mobbed this event was.)

Keplers2.jpgThe event stared with Rick speaking to a packed crowd for just a few minutes, and then answering questions from the kids. He talked about his time working as a teacher in the Bay Area, and how the first seeds for the Percy Jackson series came from experiences that he had in California. It was a nice tie-in for the local crowd.

Here are a few highlights from the Q&A:

Rick's favorite characters from the series: Grover and Tyson. (I agree. I especially love Tyson)

Greek parent that Rick would like to have, if he were a Half-Blood: Poseidon.

Greek parent that Rick thought he would actually have: Dionysus, or someone else like that.

Rick's favorite myth: Orpheus

Keplers5.jpgOn whether the movie set for The Lightning Thief accurately represents Camp Half-Blood: The best pictures are always the ones in your head, so it's always hard to see the movie at first (though he was in general wowed by the movie set - see here for details).

And the two pieces of news that elicited screams of excitement from the crowd:

1. Rick is working on a second series about Camp Half-Blood, with the first book due out in late 2010, featuring next generation characters. He promised that some of the characters that we know and love will be there in the background, though not the major focus of the new stories.

2. He is also working on a new book based on Egyptian mythology, and promises that next spring, "the Gods of Egypt will be invading the modern world." Boy, is that series going to be huge.

Keplers4.jpgYou could tell during the Q&A that the author was a former teacher. All of his attention was for the kids. The signing portion felt like a parade, with people everywhere, and everyone there had books in hand. They even had a wheel that you could spin, to see which of the "Big 3" gods was your father. (The picture shows my better half, spinning the wheel. He landed on Hades. But we thought that the wheel was rigged - most people seemed to land on Hades.)

Keplers3.jpgWe had to wait in line ourselves for about an hour, but it was time well spent. I was impressed by the many parents who took time out on a Saturday afternoon to bring their kids to a celebration of books. Seeing kids, and their parents, treating any author like a rockstar is an inspiration.

Other links:

Pam

Favorite Funny Chapter Books: Pam

Posted by Pam on May 7, 2009 at 12:12 AM in Chapter BooksRecommendations
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My favorite joke:

Me: Ask me what makes me so funny.
You: Okay, what makes you so f--
Me: TIMING!

I love this joke. It's pure in its simplicity, it conveys an important truth about humor, and it's my father's favorite joke. Whenever I tell it, I think about my father telling it to me and laughing so hard he could barely speak (we were a little punchy that day). But it's a joke that doesn't work well when written.

A funny book takes on the challenge of conveying humor through written word, thus ridding itself of many of the ways to make something funny -- inflection, timeliness, personal connection, and... timing. And if that isn't enough, it has to find the right audience.

What makes something funny is different for every person, depending on taste, gender, experiences, and age. A baby finds peek-a-boo to be the funniest thing in the world, but is uninspired by knock-knock jokes. A kindergartener will insist on telling knock-knock jokes until you run screaming from the room, but doesn't follow the humor of Seinfeld. Mom loves Seinfeld, but can't understand why her son laughs so much at farting. The son laughs at fart sounds, and his father laughs along with him. Some things don't change.

Humorous books for preschoolers focus on funny situations and wordplay. The gender difference in humor isn't as noticeable, and many of the life experiences are the same. But as the kids get older, all of the factors of humor become relevant. There is more separation of girl books and boy books. Gross-out humor and situational humor. Funny real-life situations and funny things happening in completely crazy ways.

Since I'm all about the punchline, here are some of my favorite funny chapter books. I haven't listed ages, but the list starts with books that are better for younger elementary school set and continues on from there.

51crbl-ht5L._SL160_AA115_.jpgJunie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business, by Barbara Park
Kids get the joke of the mixed-up language and bad situations Junie B. gets herself into, and parents can too. This series is a comedy gem. Try the audiotape too.

Judy Moody, by Megan McDonald
A moody, mouthy eight-year-old girl gets into funny situations in this series of early chapter books. Her little brother Stink has his own series as well.

Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci, by Jon Scieszka
One of the later books in the Time Warp Trio series, where a group of three boys travel though time and into wacky situations.

Clementine.jpegClementine, by Sara Pennypacker
A curly-headed girl who tries to do the right thing, but it often ends up wrong - in a hilarious way.

Birdbrain Amos, by Michael Delaney
Every hippo needs a bird to pick the bugs off his skin. But Amos got more than he bargained for with his bird, who builds a nest on Amos's head.

Amelia's Notebook, by Marissa Moss
Amelia uses her notebook to record thoughts and drawings of growing up with a snotty older sister and a world full of real-life girl problems.

Little Wolf.jpegLittle Wolf's Book of Badness, by Ian Whybrow
Little Wolf is trying to learn to be a Big Bad Wolf in this funny series.

Utterly Me, Clarice Bean, by Lauren Child
Like Judy Moody a few years later and British.

How to Train Your Dragon (Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III), by Cressida Crowell
Taking funny and mixing it with a little Viking and magic.

Toad Rage, by Morris Gleitzman
From down under comes this story of a ugly toad who wants to make a difference, if he doesn't get himself killed first. Some gross-out humor.

Bad Beginning.jpgThe Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
While truly a Series of Unfortunate Events, there is lots of humor throughout.

Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer, by JT Petty
Clemency Pogue mistakenly kills fairies all around the world and sets off to make things right again. Dark humor and some very witty lines.


I'll leave you with my second-favorite joke. A string walks into a café. He walks up to the counter to order a coffee. The barista says, "We don't serve strings here." The string leaves. Outside the café he ties himself up and untwists his top, then walks back in.
"Hey," the café owner says, "you're not a string, are you?"
"Nope," he says, "I'm a frayed knot."

You know, I guess that joke is also funnier spoken too. Well, I've made my point.

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