Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Sunday Brunch with Tombstones

Today’s Sunday Brunch includes a couple Mock Newbery lists and takes a macabre Halloween walk through a graveyard of Newbery and Caldecott winners.


THAT TIME OF YEAR

This is the time of year when a lot of us get serious about the Newbery and Caldecott Awards. Which fall books have the buzz? Which spring titles are starting to lose momentum? Which titles will ultimately be announced, then immediately blogged and twittered and argued and defended come January?

To get a sense of what people are discussing, I always like to seek out Mock Newbery polls on the internet.

The Allen County Public Library of Fort Wayne, Indiana has been running a Mock Newbery for several years. Here is the list of the titles they are currently considering:

REALITY CHECK / Peter Abrahams
ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL / Noral Raleigh Baskin
ALL THE BROKEN PIECES / Ann E. Burg
WILD THINGS / Clay Carmichael
HAPPENSTANCE FOUND / P.W. Catanese
GIRL WHO THREW BUTTERFLIES / Mick Cochrane
CATCHING FIRE / Suzanne Collins
TROPICAL SECRETS : HOLOCAUST REFUGEES IN CUBA / Margarita Engle
PROBLEM WITH PUDDLES / Kate Feiffer
BORN TO FLY / Michael Ferrari
YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY / Kathryn Fitzmaurice
WILD GIRL / Patricia Reilly Giff
BROOKLYN NINE : A NOVEL IN NINE INNINGS / Alan Gratz
EMMALINE AND THE BUNNY / Katherine Hannigan
CHARLES AND EMMA : THE DARWINS’ LEAP OF FAITH / Deborah Heiligman
SCAT / Carl Hiaasen
COMFORT / Joyce Moyer Hostetter
EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE / Jacqueline Kelly
MELONHEAD / Katy Kelly
LOVE, AUBREY / Suzanne M. LaFleur
ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER / Ann Haywood Leal
NEIL ARMSTRONG IS MY UNCLE & OTHER LIES MUSCLE MAN MCGINTY TOLD ME / Nan Marino
HOW OLIVER OLSON CHANGED THE WORLD / Claudia Mills
TRAVELING THE FREEDOM ROAD / Linda Barrett Osborne
HEART OF A SHEPHERD / Rosanne Parry
MOSTLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF HOMER P. FIGG / Rodman Philbrick
WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS / Fran Cannon Slayton
WHEN YOU REACH ME / Rebecca Stead
MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD / Francisco X. Stork
SACRED MOUNTAIN : EVEREST / Christine Taylor-Butler
PEACE, LOCOMOTION / Jacqueline Woodson

The Allen County Public Library will be adding a few more titles to this list before the end of the year.

Here are their Mock Caldecott nominees, with a few more titles to be added to this list as well in the coming months:

OUR ABE LINCOLN / written by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS / Nic Bishop
THE CURIOUS GARDEN / Peter Brown
REDWOODS / Jason Chin
CHICKEN LITTLE / Rebecca and Ed Emberley
MOONSHOT : THE FLIGHT OF APOLLO 11 / Brian Floca
DINOTHESAURUS : PREHISTORIC POEMS / Douglas Florian
HELLO, BABY! / Fox, illustrated by Steve Jenkins
A BOOK / Mordecai Gerstein
BIRDS / written by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek
CITY I LOVE / by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Marcellus Hall
THE NEGRO SPEAKS OF RIVERS / written by Langston Hughes, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
TSUNAMI! / written by Kimiko Kajikawa, illustrated by Ed Young
ONE BEETLE TOO MANY : THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF CHARLES DARWIN / written by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Trueman
MACHINES GO TO WORK / William Low
LISTEN TO THE WIND : THE STORY OF DR. GREG AND THREE CUPS OF TEA / written by Greg Mortensen, illustrated by Susan L. Roth
AMIRI AND ODETTE : A LOVE STORY / written by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe
HIGHER! HIGHER! / Leslie Patricelli
DUCK! RABBIT! / written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
A WHIFF OF PINE, A HINT OF SKUNK / written by Deborah Ruddell, illustrated by Joan Rankin
ALL IN A DAY / written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Nikki McClure
BUTTON UP! : WRINKLED POEMS / written by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Petra Mathers
CORETTA SCOTT / written by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
RED SINGS FROM TREETOPS : A YEAR IN COLORS / written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
ALL GOD’S CRITTERS / written by Bill Stains, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
NAKED MOLE RAT GETS DRESSED / Mo Willems
GERTRUDE IS GERTRUDE IS GERTRUDE IS GERTRUDE / written by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Calef Brown
HOOK / Ed Young

The Anderson Bookshops of Naperville, Illinois have also run Mock Newbery contests for several years now. Here is their current list of 2009 up for consideration:

11 BIRTHDAYS / Wendy Mass
ALL THE BROKEN PIECES / Ann E. Burg
ALSO KNOWN AS HARPER / Ann Haywood Leal
ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL / Nora Raleigh Baskin
BURN MY HEART / Beverley Naidoo (but is this book eligible?)
CAROLINA HARMONY / Marilyn Taylor McDowell
THE DAY OF THE PELICAN / Katherine Paterson
THE DEVIL’S PAINTBOX / Victoria McKernan
THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE / Jacqueline Kelly
FAITH, HOPE, AND IVY JUNE / Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
FLYGIRL / Sherri L. Smith
THE GEORGES AND THE JEWELS / Jane Smiley
THE GIRL WHO THREW BUTTERFLIES / Mick Cochrane
GONE FROM THESE WOODS / Donny Bailey Seagraves
KALEIDOSCOPE EYES / Jennifer Bryant
THE LAST NEWSPAPER BOY IN AMERICA / Sue Corbett
THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT / Kate DiCamillo
THE MOSTLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF HOMER P. FIGG / Rodman Philbrick
NOTES FROM A DOG / Gary Paulsen
THE ROCK AND THE RIVER / Kekla Magoon
WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS / Fran Cannon Slayton
WHEN YOU REACH ME / Rebecca Stead
WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON / Grace Lin
WILD THINGS / Clay Carmichael
THE YEAR THE SWALLOWS CAME EARLY / Kathryn Fitzmaurice

An observation, not necessarily an opinion: both the Allen County and Anderson Newbery lists seem heavily-weighted toward female authors.


GET WITH THE PROGRAM

Whoever does win the Newbery and Caldecott will be feted at next summer’s American Library Association convention. I collect the programs from these banquets. Here is the most recent program, along with the CD containing the acceptance speeches of the winners, which I received as a birthday present last week:



MORE ABOUT MANKIND

The most recent entry in this blog contained some information about, and scans from, the first edition of THE STORY OF MANKIND by Hendrik Willem Van Loon.

An anonymous reader has provided a link to a fascinating website about the first Newbery winner. Maintained by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this site provides some intriguing details about various editions of Van Loon’s book -- and a plethora of images.

Incidentally, I meant to mention a curious thing about THE STORY OF MANKIND in my last blog: the dustjacket of the first edition lists three different prices:

$4.50
$5.00
$5.50

The first and last numbers are lined-through, with only $5.00 remaining completely visible; this was the advertised price for the first edition. I have no idea why $4.50 is listed since, to my knowledge, the book never sold for that price. I’m assuming that the $5.50 is there in case the publisher later wanted to increase the price. Rather than print a brand new dustjacket, the publisher (or possibly the bookseller) would merely need to cross-out $5.00 and leave $5.50 as the current cost.

By the way, these prices are substantially higher than the average cost of a children’s book in the 1920s, which generally averaged $2.00.


BOOK REVIEW: WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS

It’s Halloween -- or “All Hallows’ Eve, as his father calls it -- in 1943 Rowlesburg, West Virginia. In the dead of night, young Jimmy Cannon and his older brother sneak out of the house to investigate a mystery involving their father and his secret “Society”...a mystery that leads the boys to the embalming room of the local funeral home. Halloween is the link between each episode in this novel which explores Jimmy’s relationship with his taciturn father, a railroad foreman. On Halloween 1945, Dad and his friends find a way to close the local school for the first day of hunting season. On Halloween 1946, Jimmy and his football team compete in a championship game. The following Halloween, Jimmy accompanies his father to work and the next year his father saves his life. First time-author Fran Cannon Slayton presents a strong portrait of a rural community in transition. Jimmy’s present-tense narration gives immediacy to an era when diesel trains began to replace steam engines -- yet the well-defined historical setting never overwhelms the human dynamics of this story, as Jimmy strives to understand the man who is his father. Because the novel consistently rings so true, the occasional false note (could Jimmy really “have forgotten” the death of an uncle until he sees him in the aforementioned funeral home?) is especially jarring. Still, the novel feels real, the conclusion is moving and, on the whole, WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS is a strong debut that marks Fran Cannon Slayton as a talent to watch.

WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS by Fran Cannon Slayton. Philomel, 2009.

First edition points: $16.95 price on dustjacket. Full number line on copyright page must read 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2.

Why the book may be collectable: This well-received novel may be an award contender; notice it appears on both the Mock Newbery lists above. Also, as a first book by a new writer, it may become more valuable as the author’s fame increases with future books.

Difficulty in finding first editions: Published in June, the book may already be in later printings...but I imagine some first printings are still on the shelves at bookstores.


FEARS AND PHOBIAS

Halloween is the one day a year we celebrate scary stuff, such as ghosts, witches, skeletons, and neighbors who give trick-or-treaters toothbrushes instead of Hershey bars. (Shiver.) But for many people, fear is a year-round thing. I recently saw a list of the “worst fears” of many Americans. It got me wondering if how children’s books could alleviate or exacerbate particular phobias.

For example, many people report to be afraid of snakes. I would think a book like Bernard Waber’s THE SNAKE : A VERY LONG STORY might help alleviate this fear for some readers. ...On the other hand, I would not give someone who hates snakes Susan Patron’s THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY. Particularly if that person is a boy.

If you’re afraid of spiders, steer clear of THE SPIDER AND THE FLY by Mary Howell, with illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi. On the other hand, CHARLOTTE’S WEB may lessen your phobia.

Afraid of flying? A nice book like Betsy Byars’ COAST TO COAST may help. But Gary Paulsen’s HATCHET -- the one with, you know, the dead pilot and the plane plunging toward the ground -- is not for you.

If you’re afraid of the dark, Jeanne DuPrau’s CITY OF EMBER and Ouida Sebestyen’s THE GIRL IN THE BOX will make you hysterical. Better stick with THREE BUCKETS OF DAYLIGHT by Robbie Branscum.


A NOT-SO-SCARY SKELETON

The skeleton on the cover of OPEN ME UP : EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE HUMAN BODY might seem appropriate for Halloween:


but actually this book is more insightful than scary. Written by Laura
Butler and six other authors (did you know that in library cataloging, any book with over three writers is attributed to the first author only and the others are clumped under an “et al” designation, so their names never appear in card catalogs or electronic cataloging systems? It’s true.), OPEN ME UP is one of those massive informational volumes that publisher Dorling Kindersley specializes in. This look at the human body explains how we’re made (starting with DNA), how our organs function, how our bodies change over our lifespan, and what can go wrong through sickness. The busy double-page spreads, illustrated in a staggering array of styles (photographs, historical reproductions, drawings, comic strips) often employ metaphors to relate information; for example, blood cells are depicted as characters in video game while the flow of blood is represented in a series of sailboats. The wide-ranging content and over-the-top presentation are head-spinning, yet detail-oriented science fans and, conversely, casual browsers will find the book informative and fun.

GRAVEYARD BOOKS

This year’s Newbery winner, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman, seems particularly appropriate for Halloween reading. And it got me wondering how many other children’s books are set in and around cemeteries. Here are a few:

MIDNIGHT IN THE CEMETERY by Cheryl Harness; illustrated by Robin Brickman
BELOVED BENJAMIN IS WAITING by Jean Karl
THE BELOVED DEARLY by Doug Cooney
MY LIFE AND DEATH, BY ALEXANDRA CANARSIE by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe
THE GATHERING ROOM by Colby F. Rodowsky
KING OF THE CATS by Joseph Jacobs; illustrated by Paul Galdone
THE MONSTER AND THE TAILOR by Paul Galdone
THE BUG CEMETERY by Francis Hill; illustrated by Vera Rosenberry
TOMBSTONE TEA by Jeanne Dahme

Can you think of any more?


THE GRAVEYARD AUTHORS

A couple days ago I was looking at the “Find a Grave” website and discovered quite a few familiar names.

Yeah, it’s a little macabre, but here are the final resting places of several Newbery and Caldecott winners.

I hope you don’t mind me giving away their plots.

You can click on the links to find additional pictures, info, and photograph credits at the Find a Grave site.

1923 winner for THE VOYAGES OF DR. DOLITTLE, Hugh Lofting.


1926 winner for SHEN OF THE SEA, Arthur Bowman Chrisman.


1930 winner for HITTY : HER FIRST HUNDRED YEARS, Rachel Field.


1946 winner for STRAWBERRY GIRL, Lois Lenski.


1952 winner for GINGER PYE, Eleanor Estes.


1958 winner for RIFLES FOR WATIE, Harold Keith.


1965 winner for SHADOW OF A BULL, Maia Wojciechowska.


1969 winner for THE HIGH KING, Lloyd Alexander.


1944 winner for MANY MOONS, Louis Slobodkin.


1954 winner for MADLINE’S RESCUE, Ludwig Bemelmans, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.




SIX MORE DAYS TO HALLOWEEN

In WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS, Jimmy Cannon experiences six Halloweens -- or “All Hallows’ Eves” -- from 1943 to 1949.

In one of my favorite books, THE DAY I BECAME AN AUTODIDACT by Kendall Hailey, the young protagonist marks the day with this passage:

Another Halloween, we’re all a year older. I remember when I first saw MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS and hear Marjorie Main (who I always wished lived at my house) say that line, I was so shocked. I didn’t think time could be measured by anything but your birthday. The thought of time passing with each moment is a concept I have yet to accept.

When I was a kid, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. Just think: a special night celebrated mostly by kids! Dressing up in disguise. Going out after dark. Pillowcases full of candy.

There was always something both magical and scary about Halloween.

Year after year, relatives who we saw all the time would come to our door in costume and we wouldn’t recognize them.

One Halloween I watched an entire three-act opera play out when a girl talked a boy she liked into throwing an egg at the house of a boy she liked even better.

The only time I’ve ever seen a bat in my life occured on Halloween, as I looked up at a tall bare tree and saw the bat swooping around the highest branches.

But unlike Kendall Hailey, I was very aware that I was getting older every Halloween. Each year I’d traverse a little farther in my trick-or-treating, each year I’d stay out a little later. And I was always aware that eventually my trick-or-treating days would be over -- which was another scary thought to contemplate on that scariest of holidays.

Even when we outgrew trick-or-treating, my brother and I would celebrate Halloween by playing spooky music from the window and hanging a ghost and a witch outside for the little (were we ever that little?) trick-or-treaters.

Then I got a job that required me to work every night till nine p.m. For the next ten years I pretty much missed Halloween completely. When I eventually left that job for a position that freed up my evenings, Halloween seemed very different. I still celebrated by eating chili, cider, and doughnuts -- our family’s traditional Halloween dinner. I still sought out a scary book or movie to enjoy on Halloween night. But it seemed like most of the magic and mystery was gone.

One Halloween morning, as I drove to work, I thought, “Halloween just isn’t as exciting as it used to be.” Immediately, as if on a cue, a blanket-sized sheet of plastic flew up off the road, wrapped around my radio antenna, and plastered itself against the window so that I couldn’t see a thing as I drove blindly down the expressway for about twenty seconds. Finally, the plastic whipped away in the wind. Whew! Late that evening I went for a walk and thought, “Except for that incident on the road, this Halloween hasn’t been too exciting.” Once again, as if on cue, I felt something grab me by the collar. It was pitch dark. Eleven at night. No one was on the street but me. But something had me by the collar! It turned out that a low-hanging branch from a tree had hooked itself onto my collar as I walked. I hurried home after that and, as I stood in the kitchen taking off my jacket, the phone suddenly rang, making me jump about six inches from the floor. I answered it and no one was there.

After that, I didn’t find myself wishing for any more Halloween excitement for the next several years.

But then...a few years later...Halloween fell on a Saturday. It was a bright and sunny afternoon and, as I got out of the car in front of my favorite Chinese restaurant, I thought, “This sure doesn’t feel like Halloween.”

As soon as I said that, the door of the restaurant opened and a witch came out.

Well, it was a young woman dressed as a witch: black dress, pointed hat, green make-up.

Then I entered the restaurant and stood frozen in shock. Inside, it was pitch dark. There was only one small candle on a table. Confused, I waited in the doorway, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness. “Electricity’s out,” said the restaurant owner, “but we’re still open. The stove is still working. I’ll bring you a candle.”

Eating in a dark restaurant on Halloween. I couldn’t resist. I said, “Okay, I’ll sit over--” and threw my hand back to point where I was going.

And hit something.

While I’d been standing there, unbeknownst to me, the witch had come back into the restaurant and was standing behind me.

When I lifted my hand to point, I’d backhanded her across the face!

Of course I apologized profusely and she said she wasn’t hurt, but still...I felt terrible as I sat there that afternoon in a pitch-black restaurant, lunching by candlelight, green make-up smeared across my hand.

It appears that every time I complain that grown-up Halloweens are unexciting, I conjure up some new scares out of thin air.

Maybe I’d better quit complaining.

Have a Happy Halloween.

6 comments:

Monica Edinger said...

Another observation: the Allen County and Anderson Newbery lists seem heavily-weighted toward fiction (vs nonfiction which seems so strong this year).

Charlotte said...

Gosh, I think "well done" is a rather awful thing to have on one's gravestone...it's too much like what you might see written on a homework assignment! Like "good try."

viz books in graveyards--in LM Montgomery's Rainbow Valley, the children use the graveyard as a playground, causing great consternation. But then the story moves on, so I think it might not count.

carterbham said...

And where the heck was Pinkney's "Lion and the Mouse?!"

One book that's really got my attention is Helen Frost's "Crossing Stones." I feel this is aged at the high end for Newbery, but the low end for the Printz. I think in the end, it's more suited towards the Printz, at least that's where I'm betting.

Eric said...

I hope Catching Fire wins the mock newberry it is SUCH a good book

http://themockingjay.vndv.com

Bybee said...

I saw Laura Ingalls Wilder's grave when I went to Mansfield, Missouri. I've got pictures.

LaurieA-B said...

Children's book in a cemetery: Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. SPOOKY.

In the Katie John books by Mary Calhoun, KJ's friend lives in a cemetery (I think his father is the caretaker), so she ends up there frequently.