Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Brunch

More random ramblings about children’s books. Please forgive the erratic sizes of the pictures below. I'd like to have them uniform throughout but, for reasons I never can understand, sometimes I'm allowed to make larger images and other times only small ones work. However, you can sometimes click on an image and see a larger version.


The other day I thought I saw a new book about Martha, the canine star of Susan Meddaugh’s modern classic MARTHA SPEAKS. I eagerly pulled the volume off the shelf and discovered this instead:

It wasn’t really a new Susan Meddaugh book, though she was credited on the cover for creating the characters. Instead, it was a subpar picture book based on the PBS cartoon series. Neither the story nor the writing had the same appeal as the original “Martha” books. And when I glanced at the backflap, I learned that there are even more books based on the TV show, including early readers (FARM DOG MARTHA; PLAY BALL!) and chapter books (SHELTER DOG BLUES.)

I guess it’s inevitable that every original children’s book made into a movie or TV show will also later be published in cheap, moneymaking adaptations (weren’t Chris Van Allsburg’s POLAR EXPRESS and JUMANJI “novelized” when the movie versions were released?) But in the past you could usually tell the real thing from the pretenders: the original book was published in hardcover with its traditional cover image, while the adaptations were published in paperback and the cover featured a still from the movie or TV program. In the case of MARTHA SAYS IT WITH FLOWERS, the book was issued in hardcover by Ms. Meddaugh’s longtime publisher Houghton Mifflin and utilizes the same green-border-with-vegetable-soup-letters motif used in the original Martha books.

How many kids will know the difference between the originals and these pale imitations?

Do the latter books hurt the integrity of the Meddaugh originals?

Or are most kids savvy enough to create a division in their minds -- the way a generation of earlier readers did between the world depicted in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s children’s books and the characters and situations shown on TV’s LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE?


Last year the publisher Bloomsbury was under fire when they issued an advance reading copy of Justine Larbalastier’s LIAR which featured a caucasian girl on the cover, though the text explicitly stated that the character had dark skin and curly hair. After complaints from both the author and the public, Bloomsbury used a different photograph on the cover of the hardcover volume:

Now comes word that Bloomsbury has done it again.

Although the text describes the character as dark-skinned, the protagonist of Jaclyn Dolamore’s new novel, MAGIC UNDER GLASS, is shown as light-skinned on the dustjacket of the book:

The same mistake coming from the same publisher within six months has caused some bloggers to call for a Bloomsbury boycott.

From a book-collecting perspective, I think it’s probably a good idea to get a copy of the book with the offending dustjacket, for historical purposes, before Bloomsbury ultimately changes the illustration.


...there is no truth to the rumor that Bloomsbury plans to publish this biography:


Many years ago I was in the basement of the Strand, New York’s largest and best used bookstore, when a woman perusing the children’s shelves asked me if I’d ever heard of author Andrew Lang. I said, “Yes, he published a bunch of children’s fairy tale books and each one had a color in the title.” She identified herself as descendent of Andrew Lang and seemed very impressed that I knew about the books. I’m glad she didn’t ask me any more questions about the series, though, as I really didn’t know much more than the author, the titles, and the fact that each volume was named after a color and bound in that color. I’ve never read the books at all.

Recently someone asked me for a list of these books and I thought I’d provide it here for anyone else who might be interested. Beginning with THE BLUE FAIRY BOOK in 1889, there were eleven more books published over the next twenty-one years. Lang selected the stories from a variety of sources and edited them, but they were actually written and translated for the books by his wife, Leonora Blanche Alleyne Lang, and other writers. As stated in Anita Silvey’s CHILDREN’S BOOKS AND THEIR CREATORS, “The irony of Lang's life and work is that although he wrote for a profession—literary criticism; fiction; poems; books and articles on anthropology, mythology, history, and travel original stories for chldren...he is best recognized for the works he did not write.”

Here is the list of the volumes:


There is no truth to the rumor that Bloomsbury plans to re-publish these books by the titles THE FAIRY BOOK, THE FAIRY BOOK, THE FAIRY BOOK, THE FAIRY BOOK, etc., with all-white covers.


Has anyone read Julie Ann Peters’ latest, BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, I’LL BE DEAD? What did you think?

I’m still trying to sort out my feelings on this one.

Ms. Peters is clearly a talented author. Her works include the National Book Award nominee LUNA as well as GRL2GRL, a volume of short stories that includes some of best work ever.

Her latest, with its Lois Duncan/Carol Beach York-like title and provocative dustjacket will no doubt draw readers, though they may not expect the exceptionally dark content inside. BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS... is the story of teenage Daelyn who, after a lifetime of bullying and a recent failed suicide attempt, is intent on killing herself. Joining a website for the suicidal, Daelyn explores a number of (permanent) options, each of which (cutting one’s wrist, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc.) is thoroughly described in the text (including its effectiveness, the time and pain involved, etc.) Including this type of information in a YA novel will no doubt be deemed controversial (will any readers use this as an instruction book?) though it can be argued that such information is equally available on the internet at any time for anyone to read. In this introspective and unrelenting novel, Daelyn recounts her experiences being bullied throughout school and her wish for death. Although the book ultimately delivers a message of healing and hope, it’s heavy stuff. And the entire tone is overly purposeful.

This is especially evident by the “Discussion Guide and Resource list prepared by C.J. Bott” at the end of the book. As uncomfortable as Daelyn’s story and the blatant descriptions of possible suicide methods made me, this discussion guide (which includes phone numbers for suicide prevention lines and websites) bothered me as well. Part of me thinks that it was necessary -- and responsible -- to include it. Another part of me thinks that it diminishes the book as a work of fiction, turning it instead into a bibliotherapeutic volume.

I’d be interested in hearing what others think of this book. Right now I’m of two minds....


Recently I looked at a copy of GHOST HUNTRESS BOOK 2 : THE GUIDANCE by Marley Gibson and was surprised that this occult thriller included a disclaimer at the end of the book advising young readers to seek help from adults if they feel they have psychic tendencies.

I guess it was included to prevent young readers from going off the deep end, but it strikes me as kind of silly. How many books did I read as a kid -- including a half-dozen by Zilpha Keatley Snyder alone -- in which young people discovered they had psychic abilities. No one in those books ever went running to an adult for help -- what a way to spoil the story! -- and I doubt any real-life kids would as well.


A friend who attended the American Library Association’s midwinter conference sent me these cool souvenirs: a copy of COGNOTES, the daily newspaper distributed each day at ALA, as well as the press release for the Newbery/Caldecott selections.

According to my friend, copies of the newspaper and the press release are handed to attended as they leave the conference room after the award announcements. Considering the advance time that must be needed to print these materials, it’s surprising that this information is never leaked before the official announcements.

If I worked in the ALA printshop, I’d probably spend all night calling friends and telling them who won the prizes.

Which is probably why I will never be offered a job in the ALA printshop.


A few people have written asking about the first printing of WHEN YOU REACH ME.

In response:

The two arcs released prior to publication were paperback.

In order for a book to be a true first edition, it must have the entire print key on the copyright page: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. If the “1” is missing, you have a second printing, if the “1” and “2” are missing, you have a third printing, etc.

Once a book gets to ten printings, the row of numbers changes to 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11. At this point, WHEN YOU REACH ME is in at least its 15th printing.

Copies of the book with the dustjacket illustration printed on the front cover are probably book club (Junior Literary Guild, etc.) editions. They are usually not considered as valuable as the regular trade edition.

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books. Hope you’ll be back.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Clean-up Crew

I have never worked as a janitor. I did, however, spend a couple teenage years employed at McDonalds where, on rare occasions, I was assigned "lot and lobby" duty. This entailed mopping the restaurant's floors, cleaning the bathrooms, and crushing full garbage bags in the giant trash compactor behind the store. As I said, I didn't pull "lot and lobby" too often, but of course one of those times had to be the day someone died in the parking lot and the manager told me to go outside and "hose down the blood."

When I think of janitors...custodians...maintenance engineers...I always think of "Ty," the high-school-janitor protagonist of one of my favorite novellas, VALEDICTORY by Mackinlay Kantor.

Going back in my own life, I also recall "Ned," the beloved custodian at my old grade school -- and probably the only adult that we kids were allowed to call by his first name. Toward the end of our grade school days, a friend of mine said she went to say hi to Ned as he waxed the floor of an empty classroom...and he leered at her and began chasing her around the desks. That was one of the first times I realized that people are often not what they appear to be....

For years and years after that, as I went to school or held various jobs, I had little direct contact with custodians. Usually they worked a different shift than I did or, if our work hours did overlap, they'd rush through the office pushing a loud vacuum cleaner and listening to music on their iPod, with no personal communication beyond a nod or a muttered "hi." Although occasionally the custodian in one office would leave notes on my desk. The one I remember best said, "If you MUST chew gum, please wrap it in paper before throwing it your wastebasket." Good advice, I guess, though I still chuckle over the stern "if you MUST chew gum" reprimand.

For the past couple years, I have had the same custodian cleaning my office. I see "Billie Faye" almost every morning and she's always got something interesting to say.

A while back she told me that her grandmother cured lung congestion the old-fashioned way by drinking "cowpat tea."

"What's that made of?" I asked.

"Cow s--t," she said.

Another time Billie Faye told me that she and her "old man" once spent a year living in California.

"Did you go out there looking for work?" I asked.

"No," she replied. "We was running from the law."

The old man is now out of the picture, and Billie Faye currently lives with her ninety-year-old aunt. Recently B.F. came home from work and found her aunt laying unconscious, half on the floor and half on top of a shattered glass coffee table.

"Oh no!" I said. "Did she have a stroke?"

"Nope," said Billie Faye. "Passed out drunk!"

When I tell these Billie Faye anecdotes to friends, they always say, "You have to put her in a book someday!"

"I know!" I reply, already envisioning a fictionalized version of Billie having a small, but pithy, role in my future Newbery-winning novel. (Newbery? Hey, if I'm going to dream, why not dream BIG?)

But then it suddenly dawned on me...maybe it will be the other way around.

Maybe Billie Faye will base a character on me in her novel!

After all, just the other day I saw her pull an empty Lean Cuisine box out of my wastebasket and study it carefully. She saw me looking at her and explained, "I always like to see what everyone else had for lunch."

And when you think about it, who better than a custodian to know all your secrets? Who but a custodian sees the old shopping lists and bank statements you casually toss in your trashcan? I'm sure janitors have been known to find empty vodka bottles hidden in office desks. I'm sure they've pieced-together love letters that you've torn up and thrown in the wastebasket. They've overheard your private phone calls as they sweep around your desk, probably heard the boss yelling at you when they dust the computers. (Just because they've got their iPod buds in their ears doesn't mean they've got any music playing.)

Working as a janitor really would be a great job for an aspiring writer.

And lots of writers have done this kind of work in the past.

Writer-illusrator Michael Garland (THE GREAT EASTER EGG HUNT) once worked as a custodian. So did Elvira Woodruff (GHOSTS DON'T GET GOOSEBUMPS.) Audrey Couloumbis, who won a Newbery Honor for GETTING NEAR TO BABY, was a school custodian; can you imagine how much she may have observed about kids in that position?

Hey, even Stephen King once worked as a janitor.

For most of the above, custodial work was just a pitstop on their way to success. However, I can think of two highly-esteemed children's authors who worked as janitors throughout much of their writing career.

Trained as a grade-school teacher, Richard Kennedy worked as a cab driver, factory worker, and fireman before he became a custodian at Oregon State University, a position he held throughout much of his writing career. In addition to THE DARK PRINCESS and AMY'S EYES, Mr. Kennedy also wrote a short novel called INSIDE MY FEET : THE STORY OF A GIANT, which was inspired by a pair of empty shoes he found abandoned in a hallway he was cleaning at work.

And Meindert Dejong worked as a church janitor during the 1950s, as he was producing some of the most highly-praised children's books of that decade -- including Newbery winner THE WHEEL ON THE SCHOOL and four more Honor Books.

I wonder how many other famous children's book authors have done custodial work in the past?

And how many future children's book authors are doing custodial work now?

Just think: the person who quietly wet-mops your floor, peels sticky gum out of your wastebasket (I now wrap it in paper first -- really I do!) and empties your trash may one day be sharing your secrets in a book!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

By the Time It Reached Us

As I mentioned on Sunday, several people have asked about the availabilty of this year’s Newbery winner, WHEN YOU REACH ME, in first edition.

Unlike some titles which are published to little fanfare and grow in popularity due to good reviews and word-of-mouth enthusiasm, Rebecca Stead's novel had a lot of buzz right from the start. In fact, the publisher, Wendy Lamb Books, actually issued two versions of the ARC (advance reading copy) before publication. There are several cosmetic differences between these two versions; the first has a coated cover, the second does not. There are also variations in color, the size of the editor's signature at the beginning of the volume, etc. The first ARC contains a quote from Einstein on page 9, while the second ARC has the book’s dedication on that page. The second version also has the Library of Congress CIP (cataloging-in-publication) info on the copyright page, and the Acknowledgements and “About the Author” at the end of the volume.

I have learned that the initial printing for WHEN YOU REACH ME was about 8500 copies. However, there was so much buzz about the book that additional printings were ordered before the actual publication date of July 14. This is why some copies delivered to bookstores on publication day were already second printings. If your copy does not have the complete line of printing numbers on the copyright page (10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1) it is not a first printing. If the first number on that page is a "2," you have a second printing. If the first number is a "3," it's a third printing, etc.

As of last week, the book was in its 15th printing -- and there's no doubt that WHEN YOU REACH ME will be going back for many more BIG printings now it's won the Newbery!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Brunch for a Post-Award Weekend

Welcome to another Sunday Brunch containing random facts and opinions on children’s books.


I love monitoring the “keyword activity” on my blog’s stat counter because it gives me a sense of what type of info people are seeking from Collecting Children’s Books. This week’s most-asked question has been “How big was the first printing of WHEN YOU REACH ME?”

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the answer yet.

Sometimes the size of a print run is mentioned on the ARC of a book -- particularly when the number is big (i.e. “50,000 first printing”) although I have heard that such promotional numbers are often more optimistic than accurate.

Occasionally Publishers Weekly will list printing info for a title in an article (“After a first printing of 10,000, Book X has gone back for two more printings, resulting in 45,000 copies now in print.”)

However, in the case of Rebecca Stead’s novel, I have seen no info beyond the fact that, between its July 14 publication date and last week, the book was in its fifteenth printing and had sold well over 100,000 copies. Now that it’s been named this year’s Newbery winner, those numbers are sure to zoom way, way upward.

Which leads to the question of whether this book will become one of those impossible-to-find Newbery first editions. I can’t say for sure, but speaking completely subjectively, my guess is that this novel is going to become a kid-favorite along the lines of Ellen Raskin’s THE WESTING GAME and E.L. Konigsburg’s FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER. Those titles are widely-sought-after yet, while first editions are expensive to acquire, they are not impossible to find. WHEN YOU REACH ME got a lot of buzz when it was published (i.e. it was one of those rare children’s books reviewed in People Magazine) and I suspect that it sold a fair number of copies through bookstores -- so many of those first editions will continue to float around in the used book market in the coming years...meaning the book may become expensive, but won’t be near-impossible to find. The very hardest Newbery books to find are those that didn’t receive much buzz upon publication, and whose first editions were mostly sold to the library market. Examples of these are Cynthia Kadohata’s KIRA-KIRA and Linda Sue Park’s A SINGLE SHARD, first editions of which now sell for over a thousand dollars each.


The other thing I like about monitoring this blog’s keyword activity is that I often learn things I never knew before. This week several people visited the blog (or maybe it was just one person visiting over and over again) trying to find info on Lauren Tarshis and the book IRONWEED.

Well, that kind of threw me.

Lauren Tarshis is the author of one of my favorite recent children's books, EMMA-JEAN LAZARUS FELL OUT OF A TREE and its sequel, EMMA-JEAN LAZARUS FELL IN LOVE.

IRONWEED is the Pulitzer Prize winning adult novel by William Kennedy.

I recently read IRONWEED and guess what? I like the “Emma-Jean Lazarus” books better.

Anyway, I figured that someone was just confused about the authorship of IRONWEED. But then I did a little research and discovered there really is a connection between Ms. Tarshis and IRONWEED. The novel was made into a 1988 film starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson and, in connection with the movie, Penguin released a paperback entitled THE MAKING OF IRONWEED. It appears the main selling-point of that book were the photographs by Claudio Edinger; his name is the only one on the cover. But it turns out that Lauren Tarshis is credited with doing all the interviews that accompany the photographs inside. Who knew that, twenty years before Emma-Jean Lazarus, Lauren Tarshis was writing books about Meryl Streep?

Oh, and guess who narrated the audio book versions of both “Emma Jean” books? Meryl Streep’s daughter, Mamie Gummer.

How’s that for a coincidence?

Now I’m wondering if IRONWEED photographer Claudio Edinger is related to children’s book blogger, New York Times book reviewer, and School Library Journal covergal Monica Edinger.


This week, while sitting in the drive-thru line of a fast food restaurant, I heard an ad on the radio featuring a dramatic excerpt from Gary Paulsen’s HATCHET. It’s one of several public service announcements from the Library of Congress that promote reading children's books. Other ads contain clips from CALL IT COURAGE by Armstrong Sperry, ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine, and MANIAC MAGEE by Jerry Spinelli.

You can learn more about these commercials, view author webcasts, and even enter children’s book contests at the website, located here.

Anyway, as I sat waiting in that drive-thru line, I started thinking about the cheap plastic toys that fast-food restaurants hand out with “kids’ meals” to promote all the latest movies. And this got me wondering if any restaurant has ever tried to give out books as freebies. I guess it would be asking too much for them to give away whole paperback books, but how about chapter-length excerpts? I bet that moms and dads (already feeling guilty about yet another drive-thru dinner) would jump on board for this, especially if there was an advertising campaign along the lines of “Nutrition for the Mind.”

To be honest, I doubt that most kids would rather read a chapter of book than hit each other with some wind-up plastic action figure (“Caution: this toy contains movable parts and may be a choking hazard”) but some will. And some of those will then go to the library and seek out the entire book to find out what happens after Chapter One....


Jesse Young sent me a note about a new website that may be of interest to readers of Collecting Children’s Books. It’s called 100 Fantastic Book Sites for Kids and Teens and contains all kinds of links to literature-related websites and blogs.

It looks like it’s worth checking out!

Hey, wait a minute, how come my blog wasn’t listed there?


I just read in Publishers Weekly that Gabrielle Zevin, whose ELSEWHERE and MEMOIRS OF A TEENAGE AMNESIAC were big hits with YA readers, is publishing a new adult novel, THE HOLE WE’RE IN. In an accompanying interview, Ms. Zevin was asked if her creative process was different when writing for an adult audience. She responded: “For a long time, I said there was no difference, but that was a lie, born from a futile desire to convince people that writing for youth wasn’t something I did when my brain was on vacation. Essentially, though, when I am writing for children, I feel a certain responsibility toward them and the kinds of stories I find myself wanting to tell them likely reflect that. When I’m writing for adults, the characters are old and seem to curse a lot.”

This got me wondering what other authors have said about the differences between writing for adults and kids. I’ve rounded up a few responses from the web here:

Catherine Jinks
There are certainly differences, but I wouldn't say I go into a different 'space'. When I get an idea for a story, I simply decide right from the get-go whether it's an idea for children or an idea for adults. Then I find that everything stems from the initial choice of category, and I don't have to spend much time worrying about what 'hat' I am wearing. When I am writing for children, there are more restrictions on content and writing style, but absolutely no restraints on ideas - the sky's the limit. When I am writing for adults, the reverse applies. Adults won't necessarily 'go with' you as far as a child will, but are far more amenable when it comes to big words, sex, violence and slow, meandering plots.

M.E. Kerr
I love writing for kids because I'm a person with an agenda usually. I should've been a preacher. I usually have something on my mind that I want to talk to people about, change their mind about and writing for kids, you still have that opportunity. You don't have much opportunity when you write for adults of changing their minds.

Carl Hiaasen
The biggest challenge was trying not to subconsciously "write down" for younger readers. As J.K. Rowling and others have proven, kids are sophisticated readers with terrific vocabularies. They're also quite aware when adults are underestimating them. ...It didn't take me as long to write HOOT as it does to write the other novels, partly because it was slightly shorter and partly because the plot wasn't quite as multilayered. Another reason it went along so quickly, frankly, is that I was having so much fun writing it.

Lemony Snicket
I guess one thing that is handy about writing for children is that books tend to be shorter, so I've written a large number of books in a short amount of time, and that's good training. But in terms of specific things about writing for adults versus writing for children, I don't think there's that much of a difference.

Louis Sachar
I don't really believe that writing for children is very different from writing for adults. What makes good children's books is putting the same care and effort into them as I would if I were writing for adults. I don’t write anything—put anything in my books that I'd be embarrassed to put in an adult book. The literary world often places children's literature below adult literature. But looking back through the ages, the really classic children’s books have all had beautifully developed plot, structure, and characterization. ...I've always believed that I learned to write for children by reading books written for adults. For instance, Kurt Vonnegut's Hocus Pocus and William Goldman's The Princess Bride influenced the way I wrote Holes. I liked the way the opening chapters of these books were sort of short and jumpy, and how they led into the story. And The Princess Bride had these colorful characters and this bizarre setting, and that's sort of like Holes.

Joan Aiken
As far as I am concerned an autopilot takes over to change the mode between writing for adults and writing for children. There are many differences -- the vocabulary is simpler, the style more direct. The pace is faster when writing for children, who soon become bored by descriptions of thought-processes, flashbacks, overlong descriptions. There is no great difference in the structure of plots. Characters in children's books are simpler and more strongly defined, like those in Morality plays -- personified abstractions.

Eileen Goudge
Adults are more patient when it comes to giving a slow-going story a chance. Young adults, on the other hand, will give a book one, maybe two pages before they'll put it down, if it doesn't interest them (the exception being if it's assigned in school). I learned early how to hook a reader and not let go. The same rule has served me well in my adult fiction.

Armstrong Sperry
I learned that there is no essential difference between writing for young people and writing for adults, except that the former is perhaps more exacting. It calls for a discipline of words almost as demanding as the discipline of poetry. Every word must tell. The writer who loses himself in the windy descriptive passages, who indulges too many flights of philosophical fancy, will wake up to find that his reader has gone out to play ball. His story must move. It must have pace, action, drama and suspense.

Francisco X. Stork:
My own recent experience of writing a "Young Adult" novel about a sixteen year old boy is that I would not do anything differently had the story been intended for adults. What was required here, as in any fiction work, was the ability to "remember" the thoughts, experiences, of a young man. ...There was no need to write differently than I would otherwise write. There were no formulas to be followed. There was one concern, however, that pressed on me more than if the potential readership of young people had not been in my mind. I am writing as an adult and as such I cannot forego a certain "moral obligation". This "moral obligation" is not a prissy sense of decorum, but rather an awareness of the need to present not only the adversity, ignorance and evil that may be present in a young person's life but to show the ability inherent in us all (and perhaps especially in young persons) to confront adversity with courage, hope and the power of friendship.

Kevin Brooks
There are not many differences, I don't think, between writing for children and writing for adults because children aren't that different from adults. But I would say the story is the main thing, with children. With adults you might use different styles and structures, perhaps indulge in fiddly niceties. Writing for children brings you down to basics.


I got a kick out of yesterday’s blog by Fuse #8, which tells of her recent stay in a Boston hotel where you could have a “dream butler” bring you a special pillow from their “pillow library.” (And you thought my idea of drive-thru books was quirky!) Fuse titled her blog “Oh, Dream Butler. I Believe You Can Get Me Through the Night” -- a take-off on the Gary Wright song “Dream Weaver” which seemed to be on the radio incessantly throughout my high school years and which now, thanks to Fuse #8’s blog, I can’t get out of my head this weekend-- no matter how hard I try!

Oh well, at least it reminded me that the song has a children’s books connection.

Did you know that the title story in Jane Yolen’s 1989 book DREAM WEAVER AND OTHER TALES was inspired by this hit record, which Ms. Yolen describes as “a bad rock song.”

You never know what phrase will spark an author’s interest and lead to a story.

For all we know, an author read Fuse #8’s blog yesterday and is now working on a fantasy story about “dream librarians” who catalog and loan out people’s dreams and nightmares....


I’m still exhausted from this week’s book award announcements. Still haven’t caught up on my sleep...still haven’t read all the Printz selections...still haven’t placed the new winning books on my shelves.

But it’s never too early to start thinking about next year.

Very early last year I heard someone mention Rodman Philbrick’s MOSTLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF HOMER P. FIGG as a Newbery possibility. I’m so glad I bought a copy then, as it turned out to be a surprise Newbery Honor this week.

Sometimes those early whispers turn out to be right on the mark.

A couple years ago, I began hearing “Newbery talk” about Gary D. Schmidt’s THE WEDNESDAY WARS before it was even published. ...Months and months later, the novel was named a Newbery Honor Book.

Of course sometimes it works the other way around. The following year I also heard early “Newbery talk” about Mr. Schmidt’s novel TROUBLE...but by the time the award season rolled around that book seemed a distant memory and received no recognition at all.

So you never know.

Anyway, my plan was to end today’s blog by citing three titles that are already inspiring “Newbery talk” in the children’s book world.

They are:

A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS by Megan Whalen Turner

MOCKINGBIRD by Katherine Erskine

ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williaims-Garcia

I was patting myself on the back for scooping everyone else on these title, but then I did a little search and discovered that Jonathan Hunt and his readers at the Heavy Medal Blog have already begun a list of 2011 Newbery contenders.

Not only are the three titles on my list included, but so are a dozen more -- some of which I’ve never even heard of until now.

And now I’ve got to track those books down so I won’t feel like I’m behind!

In other words, the gold award stickers haven’t even dried on this year’s winners and it’s already time to go chasing after next year’s contenders!

No wonder I’m tired!

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books. Hope you’ll return.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Everyone's a Winner!

It was still dark when I awoke Monday morning and sat down in front of the computer in my pajamas. Then, for the next hour or so, I followed the book award announcements live -- right hand scrolling down the Twitter feed, left hand holding my cellphone to relay the results to a friend in her darkened bookstore some ten miles away.

She was doing the two-handed thing as well, pressing a phone to each ear. I was on the right-hand phone, shouting out, " CALPURNIA TATE just got an Honor!" Then she'd turn to the phone in her left hand and tell her book distributor, "I want to order ten copies of THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE." Then I'd yell "MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON got an Honor!" in her right ear and she'd turn to the left and add, "I'll need fifteen copies of WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON."

Sibert, Printz, Caldecott, was a frantic morning.

But by the time the sun was fully up, we knew all the winners and my friend had ordered everything she needed for her store.

I was very glad to help her out. In these uncertain times, independent bookstores -- the kind where they know your name and make personal recommendations -- are having an terrible time competing with the big chains and dealers. When Awards Day rolls around, everyone -- from local libraries to first edition collectors -- calls or drops by my friend’s store, trying to find the winning titles. So it was very important that she have these books in stock; her business depended on it.

It wasn't until the event was over and I'd turned off the computer and cellphone that I actually had time to reflect on the winning books. I thought the Newbery slate (winner WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead and Honor Books CLAUDETTE COLVIN by Phillip Hoose, THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly, WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON by Grace Lin, and THE MOSTLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF HOMER P. FIGG by Rodman Philbrick) was a good one. And, with the exception of the Grace Lin book, which a friend found for me over the weekend and will mail later this week, I already owned all the other books in first edition. I was glad that I'd picked up a copy of HOMER FIGG months ago when I first heard someone of the 'net mention it as a Newbery possibility; it's now in at least its fourth printing. And WHEN YOU REACH ME is in at least its fifteenth printing, with first printings selling for over $100. On the other hand, the Printz list (winner GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray and Honor Books CHARLES AND EMMA by Deborah Heiligman, THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST by Rick Yancey, PUNKZILLA by Adam Rapp, and TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND by John Barnes) contained some real surprises. I had only read a couple of these and didn’t own many of them either.

Then I started thinking about all the strong books that weren't recognized by Newbery or Printz. TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA. CROSSING STONES. WINTERGIRLS. FIRE. WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS. MARCELLO AND THE REAL WORLD...on and on. When we talk about which books “won” this year’s awards, it’s natural to think of everything else as having “lost.”

But of course that’s not true.

There are so many factors that come into play when choosing a book for an award: the pool of possible contenders…the composition of the award committee…even luck.

In truth, all the books considered for an award are winners in their own way. Hey, just having a book accepted for publication out of the thousands and thousands of submissions is a kind of victory. And the day the awards are announced –- one of the few times a year that kids’ books get any national attention -– shines the spotlight not just on the handful of winning titles, but on the entire field of children’s literature.

So everyone's a winner on Newbery Day!

...Though I have to admit I spent part of Monday feeling like a loser.

About an hour after the award announcements, someone knocked at the front door and returned my wallet, which they had found tossed beside a dumpster down the street.

It was great that someone returned it, but…I never knew it was missing!

The previous evening I had made my usual Sunday-at-midnight midnight grocery run. As I struggled from the car with several heavy packages, my wallet had apparently wiggled out of my pocket and landed on the sidewalk. The next morning, some jerk found it, removed all the money, and then tossed it into the dumpster.

I was pleased that it was found with credit cards still inside –- but furious about losing the money. I never carry more than $20 or so with me, but of course that happened to be the one time that I had over $100 in my wallet! And I can’t even understand the mentality of anyone who’d find a wallet full of identification and take all the cash inside. Is the world full of immoral opportunists?

The next evening, still feeling a little despondent, I stopped at my friend’s bookstore on the way home from work. She’d just received the shipment of the award books she’d ordered the previous morning. It did perk me up to see the entrance way was crowded with stockpiles of Siberts, piles of Printzes, stacks of Steads, and pyramids of Pinkneys. Because I didn’t have any cash (thanks a lot, wallet thief!) I took out my credit card to purchase the couple Sibert and Printz books I still needed for my collection (now come on, did anyone predict PUNKZILLA and MONSTRUMOLOGIST would win anything?) Then my bookstore friend handed me a book and said, “This is for you –- for helping me out with ordering the books yesterday.”

“You don’t have to give me anything—-“ I began. But she insisted and pointed at the stacks of award-winning volumes in the aisle, saying, “If it hadn’t been for you, I would never have gotten my order in early enough yesterday to receive all these books today.”

I looked down at the book in my hand. It was the brand-new Newbery winner, WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead. I said, “No, really, that’s okay. ...Besides, I already have this book.”

She said, “I know, but this is a special copy. I held back a handful of first editions when the book was released last summer, and I really want you to have it –- to trade or resell or whatever –- because you helped me with the order yesterday and have been a good friend to the store.”

It's funny how things turn out.

I lost over $100 on Monday...but ended up receiving a book worth more than $100 on Tuesday!

Newbery Day even made me feel like a winner this year.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Brunching Before the Big Day

I should start by apologizing for the recent erratic schedule of Collecting Children’s Books. A family member has been in the hospital and I haven’t had the time nor had the right mindset to blog. The good news is that my family member is now out of the hospital and on the road to recovery -- and I’m back to blogging...just in time for Newbery Day! A bookseller friend recently told me, “I have decided that award day for the kids and young adults is my favorite day every year. It is so much better than my birthday.”

I agree...with one proviso: at least on your birthday you are reasonably certain that you’ll get a couple good presents. On Newbery Day you never know what you’re going to get.

Maybe your favorite book will win and you’ll end up doing a Happy Beagle Dance.

Maybe your least-favorite title will win and you’ll punch a hole through your computer screen. (Well, I haven’t done thatyet.)

Or maybe the winner will be a book you never even heard of...and you’ll spend all day (or all year) trying to track down a copy.

It’s always kind of fun when the winner comes out of left field, especially when that selection makes perfect sense in retrospect and has everyone saying, “Why didn’t we think of that one?!” However, in my experience, surprise winners often turn out to be among the worst Newbery picks. And from a collecting perspective, they’re extremely difficult to find. Gone are the days when a title could win the Newbery or Caldecott and you could simply mosey into a bookstore, order a copy, and be moderately assured that a first edition would arrive. Due to increased interest in the children’s award winners -- as well as the advent of cellphones, blogging, and Twittering -- news of the Newbery and Caldecott is instantly broadcast from the floor of the convention center and, within minutes, the winning titles sell out at every book warehouse. They shoot to the top of the bestseller list at Amazon and we’re told, “Book out of stock.” I’ve even ordered copies of potential winners from used bookdealers only to have the orders cancelled after the awards are announced.

But for all that fuss and frustration, I’m always excited when N/C Day rolls around -- and tomorrow morning I’ll be sitting right here at my computer, hitting “refresh” over and over until the news appears on my screen. In one hand I’ll have a pen and paper, to jot down the winners. In the other hand I’ll have a bottle of Mylanta or a roll of Tums.


For the past few months, Jonathan Hunt and Nina Lindsay have been keeping us apprised of possible Newbery frontrunners at the Heavy Medal Blog. A recent posting there said that Rebecca Stead’s WHEN YOU REACH ME has already won fourteen Mock Newbery polls -- far more than any other title.

Here are some of the books which we may be hearing about tomorrow:

WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead
This story of a girl growing up in New York City during the 1970s features a fascinating time-travel element. Already embraced by many readers, this novel has the feel of a modern classic -- even without a gold foil seal on its cover. If it wins, it will be a very popular selection. The only criticism I’ve heard against the book is that the details of the time-travel subplot are not accurately developed; I’m not sure I agree, as this aspect of the novel worked for me...but then I’m not a technically-oriented person. WHEN YOU REACH ME will be a difficult book for collectors to acquire in first edition; it’s already in its fifteenth printing with well over 100,000 copies released. Good luck finding one of the earliest editions.

This nonfiction work, about an Alabama teenager who made an early impact on the Civil Rights movement, has already won the National Book Award. Over at Heavy Medal, Jonathan Hunt has deemed it the year’s "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." I liked it too, especially because it marks the first time that Ms. Colvin’s life has been explored with depth in any type of book -- for children or adults. However, I also had a few small problems with the work. By focusing on two separate events -- Claudette’s initial trial for breaking segregation laws and, a year later, her participation in the Browder v. Gayle, busing case, the book never quite reaches a climax. Much of the story is told through Claudette’s own words, which certainly provides a sense of immediacy, but sometimes prevents the reader from seeing the bigger picture. For example, the organized efforts of Rosa Parks are not fully explored in relation to Claudette Colvin’s experiences. And some of those experiences need more context. We are told repeatedly that Claudette hopes to become a lawyer, yet we’re never (except for a brief throwaway paragraph) told why that dream died. The book is generally well-written, though I was bothered by the few instances of colloquial language (“gonna” instead of “going to,” etc.) in Ms. Colvin’s first-person passages -- something that, it seems, would either be consistently used throughout or not at all. Then there was occasional laziness in the prose (lines such as “Reporters flocked to Montgomery from all over the world to report...”, etc.) Still, CLAUDETTE COLVIN is a strong book -- a Newbery frontrunner that will no doubt receive other honors, such as Sibert recognition, at the ALA convention.

A Texas girl discovers the wonders of nature and science in this historical novel. I hear CALPURNIA has been picking up steam during Newbery season and would not be surprised if it won an Honor Award tomorrow, despite criticism that this promising debut novel is slow and a bit wordy.

WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS by Fran Cannon Slayton
Another striking debut novel, this episodic tale of Jimmy's discovery of self and family in rural West Virginia could receive some Newbery recognition.

PEACE, LOCOMOTION by Jacqueline Woodson
I found this epistolary novel, a sequel to the author’s LOCOMOTION, a little slight, but never count out Ms. Woodson at Newbery time; she’s had three Honor titles in the past four years.

Lots of buzz for this novel, which I haven’t yet read. Has anyone even seen a first printing? Every bookstore seems to have received this one in its second printing!

Like CLAUDETTE COLVIN, this book deserves huge kudos for tackling a topic in a children’s book before it appeared in an adult work. It’s wonderfully written, too, but doesn’t have a lot of kid-appeal.


Although the above titles are among the frontrunners, it’s always possible that a book no one has considered could swoop in out of nowhere to claim the prize. There’s certainly precedent for that. Looking over the past thirty years, I see that the winning titles are well-divided among books that many would deem inevitable or “sure things”; titles that seemed possibilities; and some that no one was really expecting.

The following seemed inevitable, or at least very strong contenders, based on reviews, previous prizes won (NBA, BG-HB Award, etc.) and overall buzz:

2009 / THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman
2004 / THE TALE OF DESPERAUX by Kate DiCamillo
2000 / BUD, NOT BUDDY by Christopher Paul Curtis
1999 / HOLES by Louis Sachar
1996 / THE MIDWIFE’S APPRENTICE by Karen Cushman
1994 / THE GIVER by Lois Lowry
1993 / MISSING MAY by Cynthia Rylant
1991 / MANIAC MAGEE by Jerry Spinelli
1986 / SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL by Patricia MacLachlan
1985 / THE HERO AND THE CROWN by Robin McKinley
1984 / DEAR MR. HENSHAW by Beverly Cleary
1983 / DICEY’S SONG by Cynthia Rylant
1981 / JACOB HAVE I LOVED by Katherine Paterson

The following weren’t “sure things,” but they had been discussed -- and sometimes mentioned in Mock Newbery Contests -- in the months leading up to the awards:

2008 / GOOD MASTERS, SWEET LADIES by Laura Amy Schlitz
2006 / CRISS CROSS by Lynne Rae Perkins
2002 / A SINGLE SHARD by Linda Sue Park
2001 / A YEAR DOWN YONDER by Richard Peck
1998 / OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse
1997 / THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY by E.L. Konigsburg
1990 / NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry
1989 / JOYFUL NOISE by Paul Fleischman

These books had very little buzz before they won the Newbery and, I believe, would be considered surprise winners by most people:

2007 / THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY by Susan Patron
2005 / KIRA-KIRA by Cynthia Kadohata
1995 / WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech
1992 / SHILOH by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
1988 / LINCOLN : A PHOTOBIOGRAPHY by Russell Freedman
1987 / THE WHIPPING BOY by Sid Fleischman
1982 / A VISIT TO WILLIAM BLAKE’S INN / Nancy Willard
1980 / A GATHERING OFDAYS by Joan Blos

...So, will this year’s winner be a sure thing, a sure thing, a possibility, or a complete surprise? Stay tuned.


Though the focus of today’s blog is the Newbery, I’m also very curious to hear what wins this year’s other awards.

Many think that THE LION AND THE MOUSE by Jerry Pinkney is a shoo-in for the Caldecott.

I haven’t heard much talk about the Printz Award this year, but I just hope the winner is something really enjoyable to read. I was the happiest guy in the world when they began this new award for young adult books in 2000, but too often I find the winners to be books I may admire but don’t always enjoy reading....

Regarding the Coretta Scott King Awards: I recently received an e-mail about the Coretta Scott King Book Award Online Curriculum Resource Center , a free website that contains “more than nine hours of originally produced audio with Coretta Scott King Book Award authors and illustrators talking about their books in two- to three-minute clips” as well as lesson plans for these books. This resource was created to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the CSK Book Awards.

Sounds like it’s worth checking out.


Remember a few years ago when everyone was complaining that the covers of young adult book were too pastel -- Milk of Magnesia Pink, Banana Milkshake Yellow, Easter Egg Purple? Well, yesterday I visited the young adult section of a chain store and discovered the predominant color of most young adult book jackets is now black. I guess that’s the influence of TWILGHT and ECLIPSE.


With Haiti on the cover of every newspaper and magazine this week, here is a list of children’s picture books and novels set in that country:

TI JACQUES by Ruth Eitzen
UNCLE BOUQUI OF HAITI by Harold Courlander
FRESH GIRL by Jaira Placide
A TASTE OF SALT by Frances Temple
TONIGHT, BY SEA by Frances Temple
PAINTED DREAMS by Karen Lynn Williams
BEHIND THE MOUNTAINS by Edwidge Danticant
TIP-TAP by Karen Lynn Williams


Someone asked if the reason I haven’t been blogging this week was because I was trying to catch up on my reading before the awards were announced. I wish! Every year I find myself facing N/C Day with an enormous pile of books I still haven’t read. This year is no different. But whether I’ve read all the books or not, tomorrow morning will find me sitting in front of this computer on a better-than-a-birthday day, excitedly awaiting the news. You too?

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books. Please return soon.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Schwa Goes Here?

I have a friend who's very intelligent and extremely well-read -- though she does tend to mispronounce a lot of words. She attributes this to having a large "reading vocabularly," meaning she picked up these words from books rather than from spoken conversation. For example, she first encountered the word "epitome" in a novel. She understood exactly what the word meant...she just didn't realize that the last syllable didn't rhyme with the words "home" and "dome."

It's a plight common to many young readers. It certainly happened to me. It's been decades, but I still turn red thinking about the time I publicly referred to something being in a "state of chay-os."

I also used to refer to that column in READER'S DIGEST as "Toward More Picture-es-cue Speech."

Okay, I was an idiot.

Naturally, those types of mistakes wouldn't have occured if I'd developed better dictionary skills. Strangely, I really did consult the dictionary fairly often as a kid -- but mainly to discover definitions. I tended to skip right past the pronunication guides, with their accent marks and umlauts and those confusing upside-down lowercase e's, long before Neal Schusterman made them famous.

But even if I had become an expert at deciphering diacritics, I still would have been up a creek when trying to sound out various proper names in books.

Geoff? I pronounced it GEE-off.

Reggie? I rhymed it with Peggy.

And for the longest time, I thought that Denys, Meg's brother in the Madeleine L'Engle books, pronounced his name like the restaurant chain Denny's.

Come to think of it, even today I'm not certain how to pronounce Ms. L'Engle's name!

Why didn't she go by her birth name "Madeleine Camp" or her married name "Madeleine Franklin"?

Camp and Franklin I could deal with.

L'Engle...? Not so much. When I have occasion to say her name outloud, I usually just sort of slur and smush it together and hope people know who I'm talking about. I once heard a little kid in a bookstore refer to her as "Madeleine L. Engle," which is certainly one way to solve the problem.

Heck, I'm not even sure how to pronounce Robert Cormier's name.



Oh wait, he was French-American. Is it Cormy-AY?

The sad thing is that I've actually asked people the pronuniciation of Mr. Cormier's name and they've told me...but it eventually flies out of my head because all those other alternate pronunications have been flitting around in there for thirty years and I ultimately forget which is correct.

And let's not even get into Jon Scieszka. I just refer to him as "the Stinky Cheese Guy" and everyone knows who I mean.

As I said, I know I'm not the only one who suffers from having a better "reading vocabulary" than "spoken vocabulary." I've already told you about my friend who is the epitome of a good reader and bad pronouncer.

Are you also in this boat?

I'd love to hear what words you learned incorrectly from the books you read as a child. Did you ever embarrass yourself by repeating them in public? Do you sometimes mispronounce them still? Please send your own examples to me, Peter Sieruta -- which is pronounced Sir-oo-ta.

Nah, even that's too hard to pronounce!

Just call me the "Collecting Children's Books Guy." I'll know who you mean.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Sundae Sunday Brunch

All year I look forward to having the week off between Christmas and New Year’s -- can’t wait for it. But it seems like something happens every year to spoil that vacation. This year one of those things was the flu; I wasted one whole day sleeping! Otherwise the week flew by and I didn’t get nearly as much accomplished as I expected. So now it’s time to go back to work and I am not a happy camper. Oh well, there’s always next Christmas. ...Only 51 weeks away.

Among other things, today’s Sunday Brunch includes a list of the books I read in 2009, as well as a list of the children’s book creators we lost.


Doing a round-up of library books to take home over the holidays, I came across A SUNDAE WITH JUDY by Frieda Friedman. It seems like I’ve heard of this book all my life, but had never bothered to pick it up before. I guess I was under the mistaken notion that it was a teenage romance -- probably about a girl named Judy who goes out for a sundae with her beau. However, this time I actually took the book off the shelf and discovered it’s a middle-grade novel about an eleven-year-old girl whose father owns a sweet shop. Judy spends a lot of the book standing behind the soda counter making sweet treats for customers and friends. This sounded kind of appealing to me -- the guy who likes to play the Candyland board game with little kids just because I get a kick out of landing on “Ice Cream Floats” -- so I took the book home and read it.

Published in 1949 and was named an Honor Book in the New York Herald Tribune’s Spring Children’s Book Festival, A SUNDAE WITH JUDY is probably most notably for its authentic Amsterdam Avenue setting, its multicultural cast of characters, and its depiction of warm neighborhood relationships. The prose is a bit sentimental and the author sometimes tells more than she shows -- even in dialogue (“She said she wanted a toy for her four-year-old niece. When Daddy suggested a toy carpet sweeper the customer said she would like to look at it”), but on the whole, the book holds up as a nostalgic portrait of New York City life in the mid-twentieth century. It’s easy to see why it remained in print for well over thirty years.

I was surprised to see how little information I could find on the internet about author Frieda Friedman. Born in 1905, she wrote several other middle-grade novels with NYC settings including another book I’ve heard of all my life but never picked up -- DOT FOR SHORT. Maybe I’ll read that one soon.


I was surprised to see that both A SUNDAE WITH JUDY and DOT FOR SHORT were illustrated by Carolyn Haywood. I was unaware that this popular creator illustrated many books other than her own stories about Betsy and Eddie. Doing a little research on Ms. Haywood today, I came across a few references to her having written “a number of adult books” including BOOK OF HONOR, a biography of famous women from Pennsylvania. I’ve never heard of this book or of ANY adult books by Carolyn Haywood.

I guess I’ve just found my first literary mystery to track down in 2010.


Incidentally, when I was growing up on Carolyn Haywood’s books in the 1960s, I was always impressed that the front of each volume had a complete list of her titles (well, complete except for those adult books!) in chronological order. As I recall, the list began in 1939 and there was one book listed for every year. But in the early sixties (I want to say 1961), she skipped year -- and it always bugged me to see that missing year on the list.

Of course she was entitled to “skip” a year -- most authors don’t publish one title every year like clockwork -- but I always wondered what happened that year. Did she take a year off? Was she ill? Did she write a manuscript that wasn’t accepted for publication. I guess I’ll never know, but I guess it’s a measure of my own obsession with books and authors that -- forty years later -- I’m still wondering about that “missing year” and would still love to know the answer!


Here is a list of the children’s book creators who departed in 2009. Although it’s nice to realize that, as long as their books remain on the library shelves, they will never really be gone.

Blair Lent died on January 27 at age 79

This illustrator and occasional writer (both under his own name and as “Ernest Small”) is best known for the picture books TIKKI TIKKI TEMBO and the Caldecott winning A FUNNY LITTLE WOMAN.

John Updike died January 27 at age 76

Though best known for his adult novels, poetry, and criticism, John Updike also wrote a few children’s books. His CHILD’S CALENDAR was illustrated by Nancy Burkert Ekholm in 1965; Trina Schart Hyman received a Caldecott Honor for illustrating the re-issue in 2000.

Karla Kuskin died on August 20 at age 77

Her first book, ROAR AND MORE (1956) began as a class project when she was attending Yale. Since then she wrote and illustrated more than fifty acclaimed books including the modern classic MOON, HAVE YOU MET MY MOTHER? : THE COLLECTED POEMS OF KARLA KUSKIN in 2003.

Milton Meltzer died September 19 at age 94

One of the most highly-regarded authors of juvenile nonfiction, Milton Meltzer was nominated five times for the National Book Award and received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his entire body of work. I think the American Library Association’s new nonfiction award, clumsily called the “ALA | YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults” should be renamed the Milton Meltzer Award in honor of this groundbreaking children’s book creator.

Norma Fox Mazer died October 16 at age 78

Beginning with I, TRISSY in 1971, Norma Fox Mazer published dozens of books, spanning the genres of realistic fiction (AFTER THE RAIN, a Newbery Honor), fantasy (SATURDAY, THE TWELFTH OF OCTOBER), short stories (DEAR BILL, REMEMBER ME?), mystery (TAKING TERRI MUELLER.) She was especially adept at writing about working class family life.

Esther Hautzig died November 1 at age 78

An author of both fiction and nonfiction, she is best known for her autobiographical work THE ENDLESS STEPPE : GROWING UP IN SIBERIA, which was a National Book Award finalist and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book.

Margaret B. Young died on December 5 at age 88

THE FIRST BOOK OF AMERICAN NEGROES (1966) was one of several African-American-themed children’s books written by this Spelman College professor.

If you know of any other children’s books authors and illustrators I’ve missed, let me know and I’ll add them to the list.


During 2009 I tried to keep a running list of all the books I read. In many ways, this list is atypical for me. In earlier years, I’ve usually found myself reading children’s and young adult books 90% of the time. This year I challenged myself to read Pulitzer Prize novels (still have about half to go) and, in the past few months, I began reading a lot of plays. Still, there are a fair number of children’s and YA titles on the list and in 2010 I’m sure there will be many more. I ended up a total of 226 books, or an average of 4.3 books per week. Granted, a few of those were picture books, which helped bulk up the total number! Titles with an asterisk indicate books I had read before but read again this year for the second...third...or twentieth time.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN / Lionel Shriver / Adult novel
THE AFTER HOURS / Mark Kneece / Graphic novel
I’LL PASS FOR YOU COMRADE / Anita Silvey / Middle-grade nonfiction
GOTHIC LOLITA / Dakota Lane / YA novel
BLISS / Lauren Myracle / YA novel
THE GUERNSEY POTATO PEEL PIE AND LITERARY SOCIETY / Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows / Adult novel
NOTHING PINK / Mark Hardy / YA novel
THE GOOD GIRL / Kerry Cohen Hoffman / YA novel
AFTER TUPAC AND D FOSTER / Jacqueline Woodson / Newbery Honor
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK / Neal Gaiman / Newbery Medal
THE SURRENDER TREE / Margarita Engle / Newbery Honor
WINTERGIRLS / Laurie Halse Anderson / YA novel
THE HOUSE IN THE NIGHT / Susan Marie Swanson / Caldecott winner
WHAT TO DO ABOUT ALICE? / Barbara Kerley / Sibert Honor
HOW I LEARNED GEOGRAPHY / Uri Shulevitz / Caldecott Honor
A RIVER OF WORDS / Jen Bryant / Caldecott Honor
WHEN YOU REACH ME / Rebecca Stead / Middle-grade novel
MISS BIANCA IN THE SALT MINES / Margery Sharp / Middle-grade novel
ABRAHAM LINCOLN COMES HOME / Robert Burleigh / Picture book
TIME STEPS / Donna McKechnie / Adult autobiography
BERL’S BLUES / Anna Olswanger / Middle-grade fiction
LILIES OF THE FIELD / William Barrett / Adult novel
JELLICOE ROAD / Melina Marchetta / YA novel
A MAN LAY DEAD / Ngaio Marsh / Adult mystery
BLESS THE BEASTS AND THE CHILDREN / Glendon Swarthout / Adult novel
EXIT THE KING / Eugene Ionesco / Play
BEIGE / Cecil Castellucci / YA novel
CHANGE HAS COME / Kadir Nelson / Picture book
SWISS MIST / Randy Powell / YA novel
HEART OF A SHEPHERD / Rosanne Perry / Middle-grade novel
PEACE, LOCOMOTION / Jacqueline Woodson / Middle-grade novel
KEEPING SCORE / Linda Sue Park / Middle-grade novel
TODAY IS SATURDAY / Zilpha Keatley Snyder / Middle-grade poetry book *
RINGSIDE 1925 / Jen Bryant / Middle-grade novel
LOOKS / Madeline George / YA novel
M FOR MAGIC / Neal Gaiman / YA short stories
BOX OUT / John Coy / YA novel
PAPER TOWN / John Green / YA novel
WHITE SANDS, RED MENACE / Ellen Klages / Middle-grade novel
SCAT / Carl Hiasson / Middle-grade novel
COLUMBINE / Dave Cullen / Adult nonfiction
THE COMPOUND / S.A. Bodeen / YA novel
BLACK BOX / Julie Schumacher / YA novel
IF THE WITNESS LIED / Caroline B. Cooney / YA novel
1001 CRANES / Naomi Hirahara / YA novel
TORN TO PIECES / Margot McDonnell / YA novel
PERPETUAL CHECK / Rich Wallace / YA novel
CRICKET MAN / Phyllis Reynolds Naylor / Middle-grade novel
LORETTA MASON POTTS / Mary Chase / Middle-grade novel
WICKED PIGEON LADIES... / Mary Chase / Middle-grade novel
A COUPLE OF BOYS HAVE THE BEST WEEK EVER / Marla Frazee / Caldecott Honor
THE GREAT GATSBY / F. Scott Fitzgerald / Adult novel
GODLESS / Pete Hautman / YA novel
LUCKY ONES / Stephanie Greene / Middle-grade novel
FAMILY GRANDSTAND / Carol Ryrie Brink / Middle-grade novel
FAMILY SABBATICAL / Carol Ryrie Brink / Middle-grade novel
I’M EXPLODING NOW / Sid Hite / YA novel
DIARY OF A WITNESS / Catherine Hyde / YA novel
OLIVE KITTREDGE / Elizabeth Strout / Pulitzer winner
HICKORY / Palmer Brown / Early reader *
LAZY TOMMY PUMPKIN HEAD / William Pene DuBois / Middle-grade novel*
PRETTY PRETTY PEGGY MOFFITT / William Pene DuBois / Middle-grade novel*
PORKO VON POPBUTTON / William Pene DuBois / Middle-grade novel*
CALL ME BANDICOOT / William Pene DuBois / Middle-grade novel*
AUGUST : OSAGE COUNTY / Tracy Letts / Pulitzer winning play
SLIGHTLY IRREGULAR FIRE ENGINE / John Barthelme / Picture book *
DAISY MILLER / Henry James / Adult novel
ALL SOULS / Christine Schutt / Adult novel
DISHES / Rich Wallace / YA novel
THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE / Jacqueline Kelly / Middle-grade novel
VACATIONS FROM HELL / Libba Bray, et al / YA short story collection
CHASING LINCOLN’S KILLER / James Swanson / Middle-grade nonfiction
THE FROG SCIENTIST / Pamela S. Turner / Middle-grade nonfiction
THE SLEEPING GIANT AND OTHER STORIES / Eleanor Estes / Middle-grade *
GOOD LUCK HORSE / Plato Chan / Caldecott Honor
THE SUN AND THE WIND AND MR. TODD / Eleanor Estes / Early reader*
A SEASON OF GIFTS / Richard Peck / Middle-grade novel
IN THE YEAR OF THE BOAR AND JACKIE ROBINSON / Bette Bao Lord / Middle-grade novel *
THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS / Booth Tarkington / Pulitzer winner
ALICE ADAMS / Booth Tarkington / Pulitzer winner
STITCHES / David Small / Graphic novel
SURFACE TENSION / Brent Runyon / YA novel
MISSION CONTROL, THIS IS APOLLO / Andrew Chaiken / Middle-grade nonfiction
DRUMMER HOFF / Ed Emberly / Caldecott winner *
SEVENTEEN / Booth Tarkington / Adult novel
BEASLEY’S CHRISTMAS PARTY / Booth Tarkington / Adult novel
KING OF THE SCREW-UPS / K.L. Going / YA novel
THE CAT AND THE COFFEE DRINKERS / Max Steele / Middle-grade novel
SEA OF GRASS / Conrad Richter / Adult novel
THE HOURS / Michael Cunningham / Pulitzer winner
EMMA JEAN LAZARUS FELL IN LOVE / Lauren Tarshis / Middle-grade novel
ANOTHER THING TO FALL / Laura Lipmann / Adult novel
LAUGHING BOY / Oliver LaFarge / Pulitzer winner
THE STONE DIARIES / Carol Shields / Pulitzer winner
OWLS IN THE FAMILY / Farley Mowat / Middle-grade novel
WHEEL ON THE CHIMNEY / Margaret Wise Brown / Picture book
A SAVAGE THUNDER / Jim Murphy / Middle-grade nonfiction
LOSERVILLE / Peter Johnson / YA novel
THE BEAUTIFUL LADY / Booth Tarkington
NOTHING EVER HAPPENS AND HOW IT DOES / Dorothy Canfield Fisher / YA short story anthology
CATCHING FIRE / Suzanne Collins / YA novel
SOUNDER / William H. Armstrong / Newbery winner *
SOUR LAND / William H. Armstrong / Middle-grade novel *
BOOT CAMP / Todd Strasser / Young adult novel
MEMORIES OF AN AMNESIAC / Gabrielle Zevin / Young adult novel
ELBOW ROOM / James Alan McPherson / Pulitzer winner
A SUMMONS TO MEMPHIS / Peter Taylor / Pulitzer winner
THE MILES BETWEEN / Mary Pearson / YA novel
THE HIGHER POWER OF LOVE / David Levithan / YA novel
HALF-MINUTE HORRORS / Susan Rich / Middle-grade short story collection
THE AVION MY UNCLE FLEW / Cyrus Fisher / Newbery Honor *
THE ROAD / Cormac McCarthy / Pulitzer winner
THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT / Kate DiCamillio / Middle-grade novel
THE LATE GEORGE APLEY / John Marquand / Pulitzer winner
A BELL FOR ADANO / John Hersey / Pulitzer winner
ELEPHI / Jean Stafford / Middle-grade novel
THE STORM IN THE BARN / Matt Phelan / Graphic novel
THE TREES / Conrad Richter / Adult novel
IRONWEED / William Kennedy / Pulitzer winner
THE LION AND THE MOUSE / Jerry Pinkney / Picture book
THE ABLE MCLAUGHLINS / Margaret Wilson / Pulitzer winner
CORDUROY / Don Freeman / Picture book *
CROSSING STONES / Helen Frost / YA novel
THE WONDERFUL HOUSE-BOAT-TRAIN / Ruth Gannett / Early reader
A LITTLE GRASS ON THE SIDE / William Johnston / TV tie-in
FUNNY BUSINESS / Leonard Marcus / Adult nonfiction
THE FIXER / Bernard Malamud / Pulitzer winner
YEARS OF GRACE / Margaret Ayers Barnes / Pulitzer winner
THE SHIPPING NEWS / Annie Proulx / Pulitzer winner
FOREIGN AFFAIRS / Alison Lurie / Pulitzer winner
WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS / Fran Cannon Slayton / Middle-grade novel
FLOWER DRUM SONG / David Henry Hwang / Play
IMPOSSIBLE / Nancy Werlin / YA novel
GOOD SCENT FROM A STRANGE MOUNTAIN / Robert Olen Butler / Pulitzer winner
COME WIND, COME WEATHER / Daphne DuMaurier / Adult short stories
IN THIS OUR LIFE / Ellen Glasgow / Pulitzer winner
LOVE IS THE REASON FOR IT ALL / Jim Manago / Adult biography
BOMB IN THE CLASSROOM / William Johnston / TV tie-in
A FAIR COUNTRY / Jon Robin Baitz / Play
WILD GIRL / Patricia Reilly Giff / Middle-grade novel
BECAUSE I AM FURNITURE / Thalia Chaltas / YA novel
WHAT’S MY LINE / Gil Fates / Adult nonfiction
THE FIELDS / Conrad Richter / Adult novel
THE BOOK THAT EATS PEOPLE / John Perry / Picture book
CREAMED TUNA FISH AND PEAS ON TOAST / Philip Christian Stead / Picture book
MIDNIGHT SUN / Mark Kneece / Graphic novel
BYSTANDER / James Preller / Middle-grade novel
TOYS IN THE ATTIC / Lillian Hellman / Play
THE PARIS LETTER / Jon Robin Baitz / Play
JUMPED / Rita Williams-Garcia / YA novel
CLAUDETTE COLVIN / Phillip Hoose / Middle-grade nonfiction
LIPS TOUCH : THREE TIMES / Laini Taylor / YA novel
CHARLES AND EMMA / Deborah Heligman / YA biography
THE VINEGAR TREE / Paul Osborn / Play
THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE / John Van Drutan / Play
OLD ACQUAINTANCE / John Van Druten / Play
BELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE / John Van Druten / Play
SELF-HELP / Lorrie Moore / Adult short story collection
CLAUDIA / Rose Franken / Play
AT JASPER’S HOUSE AND OTHER STORIES / Alice Low / Young adult story collection
THE DEATH OF JAYSON PORTER / Jaimie Adoff / Young adult novel
FREAKY MONDAY / Mary Rodgers and Heather Hach / Middle-grade novel
PLAIN JANES / Cecil Castellucci / Graphic novel
PSYCHE IN A DRESS / Francesca Lia Block / Young adult novel
JANE / S.N. Behrman / Play
THE TALLEY METHOD / S.N. Behrman / Play
KALEIDSCOPE EYES / Jen Bryant / Midde-grade novel
ANGELS AND DEMONS / Dan Brown / Adult novel
MIDDLEMARCH / George Elliot / Classic
HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT KELLY? / William Johnston / TV tie-in
BEACH BLONDES / Katherine Applegate / YA novel
THE LIGHT AT TERN ROCK / Julia L. Sauer / Middle-grade novel *
THE CHICKEN CHASING QUEEN OF LAMAR COUNTY / Janice N. Harrington / Picture book
WOOLVS IN THE SITEE / Margaret Wild / Picture book
MARCHERS OF THE DREAM / Natalie Savage Carlson / Middle-grade novel
DESPERATE HOURS / Joseph Hayes / Play
LIAR / Justine Larbalestier / YA novel
MANHATTAN LOVE STORY / Kathleen Norris / Adult novel
ONE THOUSAND TRACINGS / Lita Judge / Picture book
METEOR / S.N. Behrman / Play
CARNIVAL / Michael Stewart / Play
COMPANY / George Furth / Play
THE FATAL WEAKNESS / George Kelly / Play
THE MALE ANIMAL / James Thurber and Elliot Nugent / Play
THE PINK DRESS / Anne Alexander / YA novel
RIOT / Walter Dean Myers / YA novel
ENTER LAUGHING / Carl Reiner / Play
HIS FAMILY / Ernest Poole / Pulitzer-prize fiction
THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA / Edward Albee / Play
THREE TALL WOMEN / Edward Albee / Pulitzer-prize play
THOMAS SCARECROW / Otfried Preussler / Middle-grade novel
ANOTHER LANGUAGE / Rose Franken / Play
WHEN LADIES MEET / Rachel Crothers / Play
JUMPING FROM SWINGS / Jo Knowles / YA novel
EARLY AUTUMN / Louis Bromfield / Pulitzer prize fiction
MRS. MINIVER / Jan Struther / Adult short story anthology
AS IF A DRY WIND / Helen Frost / Adult poetry collection
ALMOST ASTRONAUTS / Tanya Lee Stone / Middle-grade nonfiction
SUSAN AND GOD / Rachel Crothers / Play
LET US BE GAY / Rachel Crothers / Play
PLAIN AND FANCY / Joseph Stein and Will Glickman / Play
INVITATION TO A MARCH / Arthur Laurents / Play
LEVIATHAN / Scott Westerfeld / YA novel
MOCKINGBIRD / Kathryne Erskine / Middle-grade novel
THIS WORLD WE LIVE IN / Susan Beth Pfeffer / YA novel
BLADE : PLAYING DEAD / Tim Bowler / YA novel
THE MOON IS BLUE / F. Hugh Herbert / Play

And yes, I deliberately read that last book on December 31, as the year really did end with a blue moon in the sky.


AbeBooks, the online seller of used and collectable books, has listed their three highest-priced sales of children’s and young adult books for 2009. They are:


First London editions in two volumes (1866 & 1872). Illustrated by John Tenniel and bound in red morocco with a slipcase.

The books sold for $14,377.


First edition copy from 1866, published by D. Appleton and Co.

Sold for $9500.

“The first British editions of the first three books in L’Engle’s Time Quartet sci-fi/fantasy series, including her Newbery Award winning novel, A Wrinkle in Time. The first two in the series are inscribed and the third flatsigned.”

The trio sold for $7,500.


Did you know that Agatha Christie published a book for young readers?

Well, I guess she didn’t WRITE a book for kids...but in 1961 Dodd, Mead released 13 FOR LUCK!, a collection of previously-published mystery tales, with the subtitle “A SELECTION OF MYSTERY STORIES FOR YOUNG READERS.”

I happened upon the book last week at the library and checked it out. It contains stories about Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple, Tommy and Tuppence, and Christie’s lesser-known detectives Harley Quinn and Mr. Parker Pine. I wonder if the book helped introduce many young readers to Christie’s adult books?

Incidentally, I took the book with me out to lunch this week and the young waitress asked what I was reading. When I said “Agatha Christie,” she was not familiar with the name.

No wonder I’m depressed.

Oh well, life will get better. The Newbery and Caldecott winners will be announced two weeks from tomorrow!

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books. Hope you’ll be back.