Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Soapy Sunday Brunch

More facts and opinions on children’s books, served Sunday Brunch style.


CONGRATS

As Book Blogger Appreciation Week comes to an end, we send congrats to all the winners, particularly Steph Su Reads which won the category of Best Writing.


IN UNRELATED NEWS...

...here are a few children’s and young adult books currently on my bedside table:

LOSER by Jerry Spinelli
LOSING JOE’S PLACE by Gordon Korman
LOSING LOUISA by Judith Caseley
HEADS YOU WIN, TAILS I LOSE by Isabelle Holland
LOSING IS NOT AN OPTION by Rich Wallace
S.O.R. LOSERS by Avi
TELL ME IF THE LOVERS ARE LOSERS by Cynthia Voigt
THE LOSER’S GUIDE TO LIFE AND LOVE by A.E. Cannon
BEAUTIFUL LOSERS by Barbara Wersba



SOAPY BOOKS

I have never watched TV soap operas. Well, except for PRISONER : CELL BLOCK H, but I don’t think that counts because it ran late at night and had the added “It’s got to be cultural since it’s foreign” fillip of being produced in Australia.

Having said that, I was sort of sad to hear that THE GUIDING LIGHT went off the air this week after seventy-two combined years on radio and television. I remember flipping past it as a kid on those occasional days when I was too sick to go to school but not too sick to watch TV. It just always seemed to be there. From what I hear, a lot -- though not all -- daytime dramas are losing their audiences these days. I wonder if there will eventually come a time when there are no soap operas on TV at all.

This got me thinking of a time in the late seventies/early eighties when a number of young adult novels featured characters who appeared on television soap operas. To name a few:

I’LL LOVE YOU WHEN YOU’RE MORE LIKE ME by M.E. Kerr (1977)
IN REAL LIFE, I’M JUST KATE by Barbara Morgenroth (1981)
WICKED STEPDOG by Carol Lea Benjamin (1982)
IT’S NO CRUSH, I’M IN LOVE by June Foley (1982)
SUDS : A NEW DAYTIME DRAMA, BROUGHT TO YOU BY JUDIE ANGELL by Judie Angell (1983)
BEST WISHES, JOE BRADY by Mary Pope Osborne (1984)
YOU NEVER CAN TELL by Ellen Conford (1984)
TUNE IN TOMORROW by Mary Anderson (1984)

Can you think of any more?



SOAPY AUTHORS

Did you know that several well-known children’s and young adult writers labored in the world of daytime drama?

Cherie Bennett wrote for PORT CHARLES and ANOTHER WORLD
Elissa Haden Guest worked behind the scenes at ONE LIFE TO LIVE
Tessa Duder used to appear on a New Zealand soap called SHORTLAND STREET
Erika Tamar was a production assistant and casting director for SEARCH FOR TOMORROW
Francine Pascal once wrote for the soap THE YOUNG MARRIEDS
Sandra Scoppettone wrote for LOVE OF LIFE

Any others?



ANTIQUES ROADSHOW

I may not watch soap operas, but I do watch ANTIQUES ROADSHOW (using the ”It’s got to be cultural since it’s on PBS” excuse) and last night there was another appraisal with a children’s book connection.

A woman brought in a painting that had originally appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. She thought the artist was named Ellen Pyler, but appraiser Allen Fausel told her it was painted by Ellen Pyle. And here’s how she connected to children’s books: in 1898-99, when her name was Ellen Thompson, she was a student at the Howard Pyle School of Illustration Art. Howard Pyle was, of course, noted for illustrating a number of children’s books.

From what I’ve been able to piece together from last night’s ROADSHOW and a few other internet sources, while studying at Pyle’s School, Ellen met Howard’s brother Walter and fell in love with him, even though he was much older. And married. With a child.

When Ellen’s parents learned of the romance, they forced her to return home and told her she could never see Walter again. During the next couple years, she also did some work in children’s books, producing the cover art for the “Elsie Dinsmore” series by Martha Finley, as well as illustrating novels such as NATHALIE’S CHUM by Anna Chapin Ray (1902) and BRENDA’S BARGAIN : A STORY FOR GIRLS by Helen Leah Read (1903.)

Ellen was unaware that Walter’s sickly wife had died during this time. One morning in 1903 she found Walter at her front door, holding a bunch of flowers and asking, “Nelly, will you marry me?”

See why I don’t watch the soaps? Tales from the world of children’s books are just as enthralling -- and you don’t have to sit through any detergent commercials!

Incidentally, after Walter Pyle died in 1918, Ellen was left with four children to raise and that’s when she began illustrating magazine covers, including forty for the Saturday Evening Post. The one that turned up on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW this week was appraised at between $25,000 and $35,000!

There is currently a retrospective of Ellen Pyle’s work at the Delaware Art Museum.



A NEW NOVEL FROM SYLVIA ENGDAHL

Sylvia Louise Engdahl’s ENCHANTRESS FROM THE STARS was one of my all-time favorite novels as a kid. It still is. Ms. Engdahl was the only author I ever wrote a letter to when I was a growing up. I still have her response -- typed on space stationery and posted with a lunar stamp -- and still treasure it.



Back in the early seventies (i.e. when lunar stamps cost only eight cents!) I anticipated a future full of Sylvia Engdahl novels. Little did I know that the stories for her six first novels (JOURNEY BETWEEN WORLDS; ENCHANTRESS FROM THE STARS; THE FAR SIDE OF EVIL; THIS STAR SHALL ABIDE; BEYOND THE TOMORROW MOUNTAINS; THE DOORS OF THE UNIVERSE) had all come to her in a blast of creativity in the early sixties and she’d had no future ideas for narratives/plotlines since then.

The good news is that Ms. Engdahl has returned to fiction writing!

Her speculative novel STEWARDS OF THE FLAME -- particularly timely in this era of health care debates -- was published as a print-on-demand title in 2007 and its sequel PROMISE OF THE FLAME -- which can also be read as a stand-alone novel -- is going to be published within a few weeks. Although these volumes are written for adults, those of us who grew up with the author’s books for young people may be interested in checking out Sylvia Engdahl’s website for additional info.


ANOTHER, EVEN OLDER, CHILDREN’S CHOICE AWARD

A few weeks ago I blogged Vermont’s Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, which was billed as the second oldest children’s choice award in the country. I thought I’d found THE oldest reader choice award a couple weeks later when I wrote about the William Allen White Award of Kansas. But now an anonymous blog-reader has alerted me to what may be the VERY oldest of these awards.

Begun in 1940, the Pacific Northwest Library Association’s Young Reader’s Choice Award is selected by American children in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington and Canadian kids from Alberta and British Columbia.

Here is the list of winners. You’ll note that, beginning in 1991, there were two winning titles for younger and older readers. Starting in 2002 there were three winners each year for junior (grades 4-6), intermediate (grades 7-9) and senior (grades 10-12) readers.

1940: PAUL BUNYAN SWINGS HIS AXE by Dell J. McCormick
1941: MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS by Richard and Florence Atwater
1942: BY THE SHORES OF SILVER LAKE by Laura Ingalls Wilder
1943: LASSIE COME HOME by Eric Knight
1944: THE BLACK STALLION by Walter Farley
1945: SNOW TREASURE by Marie McSwigan
1946: RETURN OF SILVER CHIEF by Jack O’Brien
1947: HOMER PRICE by Robert McCloskey


1948: THE BLACK STALLION RETURNS by Walter Farley
1949: COWBOY BOOTS by Shannon Garst
1950: MCELLIGOT’S POOL by Dr. Seuss
1951: KING OF THE WIND by Marguerite Henry
1952: SEA STAR by Marguerite Henry
1953: NO AWARD GIVEN
1954: NO AWARD GIVEN
1955: NO AWARD GIVEN
1956: MISS PICKERELL GOES TO MARS by Ellen MacGregor
1957: HENRY AND RIBSY by Beverly Cleary
1958: GOLDEN MARE by William Corbin
1959: OLD YELLER by Fred Gipson
1960: HENRY AND THE PAPER ROUTE by Beverly Cleary
1961: DANNY DUNN AND THE HOMEWORK MACHINE by Jay Williams
1962: SWAMP FOX OF THE REVOLUTION by Stewart Holbrook
1963: DANNY DUNN ON THE OCEAN FLOOR by Jay Williams
1964: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY by Shelia Burnford
1965: JOHN F. KENNEDY AND PT-109 by Richard Tregaskis
1966: RASCAL by Sterling North
1967: CHITTY-CHITTY-BANG-BANG by Ian Fleming


1968: THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE by Beverly Cleary
1969: HENRY REED’S BABY-SITTING SERVICE by Keith Robertson
1970: SMOKE William Corbin
1971: RAMONA THE PEST by Beverly Cleary
1972: ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN KEEPS THE PEACE by Donald Sobol
1973: NO AWARD GIVEN
1974: MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH by Robert O’Brien
1975: TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING by Judy Blume
1976: THE GREAT BRAIN REFORMS by John D. Fitzgerald
1977: BLUBBER by Judy Blume
1978: THE GREAT BRAIN DOES IT AGAIN by John D. Fitzgerald
1979: ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY by Mildred Taylor
1980: RAMONA AND HER MOTHER by Beverly Cleary
1981: HAIL, HAIL, CAMP TIMBERWOOD by Ellen Conford
1982: BUNNICULA: A RABBIT TALE OF MYSTERY by Deborah and James Howe
1983: SUPERFUDGE by Judy Blume
1984: THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD by Lynne Reid Banks
1985: THIRTEEN WAYS TO SINK A SUB by Jamie Gilson
1986: THE DOLLHOUSE MURDERS by Betty Ren Wright
1987: THE WAR WITH GRANDPA by Robert Kimmel Smith
1988: SIXTH GRADE CAN REALLY KILL YOU by Barthe DeClements
1989: WAIT TIL HELEN COMES by Mary Downing Hahn
1990: THERE’S A BOY IN THE GIRLS BATHROOM by Louis Sachar
1991: TEN KIDS NO PETS by Ann Martin
SEX EDUCATION by Jenny Davis
1992: DANGER IN QUICKSAND SWAMP by Bill Wallace
EVA by Peter Dickinson
1993: MANIAC MAGEE by Jerry Spinelli
THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON by Caroline B. Cooney
1994: SHILOH by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
WOLF BY THE EARS by Ann Rinaldi
1995: TERROR AT THE ZOO by Peg Kehret
WHO KILLED MY DAUGHTER by Lois Duncan
1996: THE BOYS START THE WAR by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
THE GIVER by Lois Lowry
1997: NASTY STINKY SNEAKERS by Eve Bunting


DRIVER’S ED by Caroline Cooney
1998: WAYSIDE SCHOOL GETS A LITTLE STRANGER by Louis Sachar
THE MIDWIFE’S APPRENTICE by Karen Cushman
1999: FRINDLE by Andrew Clements
SOS TITANTIC by Eve Bunting
2000: MOUSE CALLED WOLF by Dick King-Smith
TAKING OF ROOM 114 by Mel Glenn
2001: HOLES by Louis Sachar
THE BOXES by William Sleator
2002: BUD, NOT BUDDY by Christopher Paul Curtis
MARY, BLOODY MARY by Carolyn Meyer
REWIND by William Sleator
2003: BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo
NO MORE DEAD DOGS by Gordon Korman
HOPE WAS HERE by Joan Bauer
2004: SKELETON MAN by Joseph Bruchac
ARTEMIS FOWL by Eoin Colfer
THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS by Ann Brashares
2005: THIEF LORD by Cornelia Funke
SON OF THE MOB by Gordon Korman
HOUSE OF THE SCORPION by Nancy Farmer
2006: TALE OF DESPEREAUX by Kate DiCamillo
ERAGON by Christopher Paolini
FAT KID RULES THE WORLD by K. Going
2007: DRAGON RIDER by Cornelia Funke
THE SUPERNATURALIST by Eoin Colfer
A HAT FULL OF SKY by Terry Pratchett
2008: A DOG’S LIFE : AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A STRAY by Ann M. Maarti
THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan
PEACHES by Jodi Lynn Anderson
2009: THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE by Kate DiCamillo
THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS by John Boyne
NEW MOON by Stephenie Meyer


ABOUT THOSE AWARDS

It’s always fascinating to look at these kinds of lists, especially when the winners range from the brilliant (MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beverly Cleary) to the mundane (which Encyclopedia Brown book won? Aren’ they all about the same?) For an award whose voters include Canadian kids, I was surprised by how few Canadian writers have won. It’s also interesting that the senior division titles include adult books. ...And there’s Mary Downing Hahn again, who seems to pop up more on children’s choice lists than any other author. Finally, I’m curious about that three year gap in the fifties when no award was giving. I wonder what was up with that?

UPDATE: Blog reader Laurie A-B just wrote in with an interesting comment:

1940: PAUL BUNYAN SWINGS HIS AXE by Dell J. McCormick reminded me of a passage in Beverly Cleary's memoir, My Own Two Feet. As a young librarian in Yakima, 1940, she traveled to Mount Hood to attend a library conference where the Young Reader's Choice Award is presented. Cleary wrote, "To me the highlight of the conference was seeing Dell McCormick accept the Young Readers' Choice Award for his book Tall Timber Tales, which I had used with success with my little troop of nonreaders. I was awed to hear a real author speak and would have been even more awed if I had known that someday I would win the same award and win it more than once." (Chapter 13, "A Job and a Wedding") Until I read your post today I did not know that Cleary named the wrong book as the winner. Tall Timber Tales, published in 1939, was a sequel to Paul Bunyan Swings his Axe (1936).

Laurie also adds, "Interestingly, the Young Reader's Choice Award Selection Policy was revised in 2008 to include the stipulation that "Nominations of books that are a sequel in a series will not be considered."

Look at all the previous winners that would have been disqualified if this rule had been in place before now!


THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT

A friend just gave me the September 7 issue of Publishers Weekly, which features an ad for THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT by Kate DiCamillo (“America’s beloved storyteller”) on the cover.

There are three quotes from three starred reviews beside a picture of the book:

“Spellbinding.”
--Booklist

“Brilliant.”
--Kirkus Reviews

“Timeless.”
--School Library Journal

I am glad they did not ask this blog for a quote, as it would have been:

“Meh.”
--Collecting Children’s Books

Ever since bursting into the field of children’s books with her wonderful novel BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, Kate DiCamillo has racked up an extraordinary number of prizes and honors: A Newbery winner and Honor Book, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, a National Book Award nomination...hey, she even got a couple of those Pacific Northwest Young Reader’s Choice Awards. Clearly she’s doing something right. But I’ve got to say that I find myself growing colder and colder toward her work. The heartfelt quality that made WINN-DIXIE such a compelling novel seems to be slowly seeping away with each new book. I feel as if each book is trying too hard to be a “classic” (the phrase “Newbery bait” comes to mind) but it’s often at the expense of emotion and characterization.

Obviously many reviewers don’t agree. Just look at those comments for THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT -- spellbinding, brilliant, timeless! But I was mostly unmoved by this story of an orphan boy’s search for his missing sister. Part of it had to do with the remote, vaguely European setting. Part of it had to do with the limited characterizations; each person in the story seemed to be defined by a single characteristic. Then there is the novel’s rather affected voice. Finally, I feel every book -- no matter how fanciful -- requires its own internal logic, but I did not find it here. Peter visits a fortune teller who informs him he must “follow the elephant” to find his sister. Next we learn that a magician has accidentally conjured up -- what else? -- an elephant during a stage performance. It seems a random plot device and the events that lead up to the climax seem created to -- well, they simply seem created to lead up to that climax. There are no startling twists or plot developments. We never doubt that Peter will find his sister Adele.

I’m not saying that THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT is a bad book. Kate DiCamillo is a skillful writer, especially adept at creating atmosphere. But in the end I still felt indifferent. Should I give this book a second chance? Will a second reading cause me to join the ranks who call it spellbinding, brilliant, and timeless? Maybe I should give it another try....


SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST

In a fascinating blog entry, Sam Riddleburger notes some amazing similarities between Maurice Sendak’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE and some Japanese folktales. Did these tales serve as inspiration to Sendak or is it just an entertaining coincidence? You can read all about it here.

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books.

Will we ever learn what happened during the “missing years” of the Pacific Northwest Children’s Choice Award?

Will one of us find an Ellen Pyle original illustration in our attic and sell it for $25,000?

Will this blogger re-read THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT and change my tune?

And will this loser ever read his way through all those “loser books” stacked beside his tear-stained pillow?

As they say in the soaps, tune in next time!

10 comments:

LaurieA-B said...

1940: PAUL BUNYAN SWINGS HIS AXE by Dell J. McCormick
reminded me of a passage in Beverly Cleary's memoir, My Own Two Feet. As a young librarian in Yakima, 1940, she traveled to Mount Hood to attend a library conference where the Young Reader's Choice Award is presented. Cleary wrote, "To me the highlight of the conference was seeing Dell McCormick accept the Young Readers' Choice Award for his book Tall Timber Tales, which I had used with success with my little troop of nonreaders. I was awed to hear a real author speak and would have been even more awed if I had known that someday I would win the same award and win it more than once." (Chapter 13, "A Job and a Wedding")

Until I read your post today I did not know that Cleary named the wrong book as the winner. Tall Timber Tales, published in 1939, was a sequel to Paul Bunyan Swings his Axe (1936).

Interestingly, the Young Reader's Choice Award Selection Policy was revised in 2008 to include the stipulation that "Nominations of books that are a sequel in a series will not be considered."

Anonymous said...

Here's a new book for you to read, it is the first of a new author - Ashley Howland

Ghostnapped

http://www.strategicbookpublishing.com/Ghostnapped.html

Daughter Number Three said...

I thought I was the only one who was less than enchanted with Kate DiCamillo's post-Winn Dixie works (although I don't claim to have read them all).

I particularly found Despereaux thin and forced, but thought, Hey, I'm not a kid anymore, so it's not written for me.

Bybee said...

Oh, man...I voted for you. Just wait till next year!

The Tale of Despereaux annoyed me because of the intrusive narrator telling the kids to stop and get their dictionaries. The subplot with the girl who had a pig-like name was disturbing and annoying all at once. I was put off of reading any more of the author's books.

kinderny said...

"unrelated news". hmmm. You are too funny.
aka Chris in NY

Wendy said...

I really liked the book Taffy Sinclair: Queen of the Soaps by Betsy Haynes when I was a kid... Taffy gets a bit part in a soap opera, main character Jana becomes obsessed with soap operas, as usual everyone but Taffy learns a valuable lesson.

CLM said...

Starring Peter and Leigh by Susan Beth Pfeffer is one of my favorites of her books - while not a soap opera, the heroine starred in a Brady Bunch-like sitcom before her mother remarries. Then she tries going to high school like a normal teen and becomes very attached to her stepbrother.

My Darling Villain by Lynne Reid Banks is about a British family in which the father just got killed off from a successful soap opera (the book is more about the class conflict between the heroine and her boyfriend). I love this book!

I own most of those you mentioned, and could probably provide several adult titles if I tried.

Anonymous said...

I got hooked on the Happy Hollisters (wow, that series name sounds so silly now) when I first read The Happy Hollisters and the Antique Mystery. I was so young I did not know how to pronounce antique which made my parents stifle giggles.

hschinske said...

We have a mispronunciation story about the Happy Hollisters, too. My brother read one in which there was a flash flood, and went around talking about "flash fleweds."

Helen Schinske

monkeyface said...

I didn't find an Ellen Pyle original drawing, but I did find an original Dell McCormick of Paul Bunyan and Babe! It seems that he was signing books at Greenlake when my aunt was a child and he drew her (very quickly) a poster sized Paul and Babe-and signed it. Very cool! Probably not worth anywhere near 25 grand though..