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?
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
A 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.
by Nic Bishop
The 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
Mo 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.)
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.
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.
My favorite joke:
Me: Ask me what makes me so funny.
You: Okay, what makes you so f--
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.
Junie 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, 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'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.
The 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.