Today’s blog entry contains the usual Sunday mix of random facts and opinions on children’s books old and new...though I may have to cut this brunch short in order to run out to K-Mart and buy myself a new wallet. On Friday night I threw a bunch of clothes in the washing machine and didn’t discover until too late that I’d left my wallet in the back pocket of my pants. Remember Ramona and the washing machine?
That Louis Darling illustration from Beverly Cleary’s HENRY AND THE CLUBHOUSE pretty much represents me on Friday night. Okay, I didn’t open the washer while it was still running. In fact, I didn’t realize what I’d done until the entire cycle was finished and I’d removed all the clothes...then wondered what that limp, melted-looking thing stuck to the side of the drum was. But the look of outrage on Ramona’s face -- including the hair standing on end! -- matches my reaction. Driver’s license, charge cards and other bits of plastic came out fine. So did the money, though it remained clammy all weekend. Some of the other pieces of paper turned to mush though. Now I’ve got to go buy a wallet and pay for it with clammy but clean cash.
TWILIGHT ZONE GETS GRAPHIC
Has any television show permeated our culture in quite the same way as Twilight Zone? Rod Serling’s classic ended its original run in the early sixties, but over four decades later people still talk about their favorite episodes. The familiar theme music is a cultural touchstone; if you tell someone about a spooky incident or odd coincidence you've experienced, they will often respond by singing that unforgettable “doo-doo, doo-doo” TWILIGHT ZONE tune. This series simply refuses to die (sounds like the title of a TWILIGHT ZONE episode: “The Show That Refused to Die”) and returns again and again in new guises. And now it’s returning to life in a series of graphic novels from Walker Books. The first two volumes (of eight), WALKING DISTANCE and THE AFTER HOURS, adapted by Mark Kneece and illustrated by Dove McHargue, have just been simultaneously released in paperback and hardcover. Most kids love the TWILIGHT ZONE, so issuing this new series of books for young readers was a good idea...though I question the specific episodes chosen for adaptation. The whole premise of “Walking Distance” -- a middle-aged businessman returning to his bucolic youth and wanting to tell his younger self “Don’t let any of it go by without enjoying it...because there won’t be any more cotton candy. No more band concerts” is advice that even the protagonist learns cannot be shared with the young.
WALKING DISTANCE is a melancholy story that will be best appreciated by adults. I’m hoping the other seven volumes in this graphic-novel series have more kid-appeal. If they do, I can imagine these TWILIGHT ZONE books really taking off with young readers.
TWILIGHT ZONE / GREEN ZONE
I was impressed to see this notice on the copyright page of WALKING DISTANCE:
“All papers used by Walker & Company are natural, recycable products made from wood grown in well-managed forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.”
I wonder how many other publishers follow this policy?
SPEAKING OF GREEN GRAPHICS
I just heard on Rachel Maddow’s radio show that the reason the color green is used so much in comic books (the Hulk, the Green Hornet, the Green Lantern, etc.) is that historically green was a cheaper color to produce and purchase...so comic book artists were encouraged to utilize it more frequently than other colors. True or urban legend? And I wonder if the same was ever true in children’s book illustrations. If anything, I think green may have been used less often than other colors in children’s books. I say that because I once read that Arnold Lobel was praised for using the color green so well when many other illustrators had trouble with it.
IDENTIFYING A HARCOURT FIRST EDITION
If you find an Eleanor Estes book, or any Harcourt title from the 1930s through 1950s, and want to know if it’s a first edition, check out the copyright page. If you see a Roman numeral “I” on that page, you’ve got a first!
MY LATEST PURCHASE
I just added a first edition of the 1975 Newbery Honor MY BROTHER SAM IS DEAD to my collection. What makes this book special is that it was signed by both authors, brothers James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier.
I well remember what a huge splash this Revolutionary War novel made when it was first published and I now wonder if it’s still assigned in schools or read for pleasure by kids today. Back in 1975, I was surprised by how modern the dialogue was. But the novel’s afterward explained that contemporary language was used “partly...to make the story easier to read, but mainly it is because nobody is really sure how people talked in those days.” I’d never thought of that before.
From what I understand, the Collier brothers contributed to MY BROTHER SAM in different ways. Esteemed historian Christopher did the initial research, then he and James created the characters together. Novelist James would then plot and actually write the novel.
If the Colliers had won the Newbery (over Virginia Hamilton’s M.C. HIGGINS THE GREAT) it would have been the first time a book by two authors had won the award. Other Newbery Honor colllaborations include 1931’s pretty-much-forgotten OOD-LE-UK THE WANDERER by Alice Lide and Margaret Johansen, the classic MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS by Richard and Florence Atwater and MAGIC MAIZE, THE APPLE AND THE ARROW, and BIG TREE by Mary and Conrad Buff.
MISSING FROM THAT LIST
How I wish I could add a title by Vera and Bill Cleaver to that Newbery list, but this husband-and-wife team never even got a Newbery Honor, despite writing many worthy titles. During the 1960s and1970s they were considered among the greatest creators in the field and today all of their books, with the exception of the classic WHERE THE LILIES BlOOM, are out of print. How sad is that?
COLLABORATIONS FROM PAGE TO SCREEN
The new movie NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST is getting great reviews. It’s based on the recent young-adult novel written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. They’ve also collaborated on NAOMI AND ELY’S NO-KISS LIST which is about to be made into a movie starring Hayden Panettiere.
IN THIS CASE, NEWBERRY IS SPELLED WITH TWO Rs
If you’re interested in the history of children’s books, Chicago’s Newberry Library is the place to be. They are currently running an exhibit called “The Artifacts of Childhood : 700 Years of Children’s Books” which, according to a recent Chicago Tribune article, features sixty-five items “including 500-year-old Italian and French publications of Aesop's Fables, an exquisitely illustrated 1823 early translation of Grimm fairy tales from German to English and an extremely rare 1865 first edition of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." The exhibit is curated by Paul Gehl and Jenny Schwartzberg. According to the article, when Ms. Schwartzberg began working at the Newberry in 1989, there were only 300 volumes listed in the library’s catalog but “since then, she has turned up 10,000 books and games in the Newberry's vast collection, some of them among the rarest, most beautiful examples anywhere.”
What a fun treasure hunt that must have been.
In 2003 Garth Nix began writing the “Keys to the Kingdom” series, each of which uses a day of the week in the title: MISTER MONDAY, GRIM TUESDAY, DROWNED WEDNESDAY, SIR THURSDAY, LADY FRIDAY, SUPERIOR SATURDAY and the upcoming LORD SUNDAY.
If you can read a book a day, you can make it through the whole series in a week.
It crossed my mind that anyone can create their own week’s-worth-of-reading list (my version of N & N’s INFINITE PLAYLIST or N & E’s NO-KISS LIST) using other titles for kids and young adults that incorporate the days of the week.
MISSING SINCE MONDAY by Ann M. Martin
ANOTHER KIND OF MONDAY by William E. Coles
TODAY IS MONDAY by Eric Carle
ONE MONDAY MORNING by Uri Shulevitz
WHO WANTS MUSIC ON MONDAY? by Mary Stolz (did anyone else write such sophisticated novels for young adults in the 1950s?)
MEOW MONDAY by Phyllis Root
MONDAY ON THE MISSISSIPPI by Marilyn Singer
TUESDAY ELEPHANT by Nancy Garfield
A TOAD FOR TUESDAYby Russell E. Erickson
TUESDAY by David Wiesner (the only Caldecott winner with a day in its title)
JUNE 29, 1999 by David Wiesner (because June 29, 1999 was a Tuesday!)
RUBY TUESDAY by Jennifer Anne Kogler
LIBBY ON WEDNESDAY by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
THE WEDNESDAY WITCH by Ruth Chew (it’s October -- time to read it again!)
THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary D. Schmidt (the only Newbery Honor with a day in the title)
ALEX AND THE WEDNESDAY CHESS CLUB by Janet S. Wong
WACKY WEDNESDAY by Dr. Seuss
WHAT HAPPENS ON WEDNESDAYS by Emily Jenkins
AWFUL THURSDAY by Ron Roy
GIANT, OR WAITING FOR THE THURSDAY BOAT by Robert Munsch
THURSDAY by Catherine Storr (a boy named Thursday is at the center of this novel, based on the Tam Lin legend; a wonderful book, worth tracking down)
SEE YOU THURSDAY by Jean Ure
GETTING THROUGH THURSDAY by Melrose Cooper
WHERE DOES THURSDAY GO? by Janeen Brian
...and of course any Thanksgiving book!
FRIDAY NIGHT AT HODGES’ CAFE by Tim Egan
FISH FRIDAY by Gayle Pearson (I’d like to see more books by this interesting author; she hasn’t published anything in the twenty-first century)
FREAKY FRIDAY by Mary Rodgers
DOG FRIDAY by Hilary McKay
FLOOD FRIDAY by Lois Lenski
FIELD DAY FRIDAY by Judith Caseley (these last five titles all sound alike!)
...and of course ROBINSON CRUSOE by Daniel Defore.
TODAY IS SATURDAY by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (the only poetry book by this novelist)
ONE SATURDAY MORNING by Barbara Baker
SATURDAY THE TWELFTH OF OCTOBER by Norma Fox Mazer (one of my all-time favorites)
THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY by E.L. Konigsburg (the only Newbery winner with a day in the title)
THE GHOST ON SATURDAY NIGHT By Sid Fleischman
THE SATURDAYS by Elizabeth Enright
JAZZ ON A SATURDAY NIGHT by Leo and Diane Dillon
ALEXANDER, WHO USED TO BE RICH LAST SUNDAY by Judith Viorist
THE SUNDAY OUTING by Gloria Jean Pinkney
CHICKEN SUNDAY by Patricia Polacco
SUNDAY MORNING by Judith Viorist
BABAR’S FAIR WILL BE OPENED NEXT SUNDAY by Laurent de Brunhoff
ADORABLE SUNDAY by Marlene Fanta Shyer (the title character is named Sunday)
WE HAD A PICNIC THIS SUNDAY PAST by Jacqueline Woodson
If you’ve been following any of the children’s book blogs this past week, you have probably seen a lot of controversial discussions about the state of the Newbery Medal. Since some of the participants rank among my dearest of friends and archest of enemies, I’ve pretty much stayed out of the fray, watching from the sidelines:
But I have to admit, I LOVE any and all discussion of book awards. Arguing about past winners and predicting future winners are among my favorite hobbies. In the coming weeks, I’ll be listing some of my 2009 Newbery dreams and guesses on this blog.
Till then, I’m off in search of a new wallet.
Unfortunately, because of our country’s current economic crisis (and the fact that I just spent over $60 on that copy of MY BROTHER SAM IS DEAD) I have almost no money to put in that new wallet.
....Oh well, at least I still have my library card.