Saturday, December 10, 2011

December 12 Sunday Brunch -- with Hog Calling and Sardines

Sorry for my recent silence. Things got busy over Thanksgiving weekend, and then last weekend I had unexpected company.

I intended to catch up with a couple weekday blogs, but fans of A WRINKLE IN TIME will remember what Charles Wallace told Meg Murray about "good intentions."

In my own defense, I should add that part of the problem involved a broken key on my keyboard. For about a week, the “B” key was stuck, so I pried it off to clean the keys and ended up breaking part of the mechanism.

How can you log about ooks without the letter B?

Thankfully, I discovered you can order replacement keys for almost any laptop for only $5 each from a company called Laptopkey. My key arrived yesterday and I am Back in Business!


As the calendar year comes to a close, most of the book review magazines are publishing their lists of 2011’s best. Since today’s “best books” are tomorrow’s award winners and collectable volumes, it’s probably a good idea to link to each of these lists in case you haven’t seen them already. You can find School Library Journal’s list here . Then there is Kirkus’s list of 2011’s Best Teen Books, as well as Publisher’s Weekly’s round-up of best books in every genre. The Horn Book has also published its 2011 Fanfare list.


This is also the time of year that award juries start publishing their shortlists.

Personally, I live for the day that the Newbery and Printz either publish a shortlist or a LOOOONG list of all their nominees. (Hey, the Newbery did it before, they can do it again.)

Till then, we’ll have to make due with the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults and the William Morris

Choosing among titles published between November 1, 2010 an October 31, 2011, the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults selected the following five titles for it shortlist:






The winner will be announced January 23.

The five finalists for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award honoring a “debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens” have also been announced. They are:


PAPER COVERS ROCK by Jenny Hubbard

UNDER THE MESQUITE by Guadalupe Garcia McCall



True to form, the Morris Award continues to favor fiction (no nonfiction title has ever been included) written by female authors (John Corey Whaley is only the second male ever nominated for this prize.)


Well, if I had gotten around to writing a blog on Thanksgiving weekend, this would have been the headline story:

I was excited to recently learn that Greg Hefley -- the “Wimpy Kid” himself – appeared in the 2010 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. I guess I slept in on Thanksgiving morning last year, as I did not get a chance to see it.

But it got me wondering if he was the first children’s book character to float above that famous parade as a giant balloon.

Far from it.

Doing a little research, I discovered that many children’s book characters have floated over Broadway during the past few decades. The Wimpy Kid’s predecessor’s include: Raggedy Ann (1984), Humpty Dumpty (1986), Clifford the Big Red Dog (1990), Babar (1991), The Cat in the Hat (1994), Peter Rabbit (1996), Arthur (1997), Babe the Pig (1998), Wild Thing (1998), Shrek (2007), and Horton (2008.)
Granted, most of these figures didn’t appear until they achieved success in the movies or TV…but they started in children’s books, so we still hold a claim on them.


Some weeks back I blogged about author Marc Tyler Nobelman tracking down and interviewing Edward Ormondroyd, author of Marc’s favorite childhood book, DAVID AND THE PHOENIX.

In the interview, Mr. Ormondroyd revealed that, during his writing career, he never spoke at schools.

Here is a great story and video about Marc Nobelman surprising the now 86-year-old Ormondroyd with his very first “school appearance.”


Who caught Google’s tribute to Tom Sawyer a couple weeks ago on Mark Twain’s birthday:


I just spent the last couple weeks withdrawing many damaged books from our library’s collection. As usual, I was quite fascinated to get a look at titles which were apparently quite popular “back in the day.”

First I found a series of opera books geared toward children. Published in the late 1930s/early 1940s, these were billed as “authorized editions” by the Metropolitan Opera. They contained color artwork, retellings of the opera’s narrative, and occasional bars of music:

I questioned how honest these children’s books would be in presenting the more mature aspects of these operas but, as you can see, they do a pretty accurate job, right up to killing off Carmen on the final page of her book:

I wonder if any publishing company would find it profitable to release an opera-related title for kids today. I know Leontyne Price wrote one a few years ago, but would it have been published if her name wasn’t Leontyne Price? According to the cards in the pockets of these library books, they circulated pretty well throughout the forties, but hadn’t been checked out since 1948!

I was also drawn to THE HANDBOOK OF CO-ED ACTIVITIES by Edythe and David DeMarche, if only because of this dorky title page illustration:

Published through the YMCA in 1958, this 640 page book is filled with overwritten descriptions of boy-girl activities, including parties, games, dances, hobbies (including cooking, with a selection of recipes including recent teen favorite…pizza), putting on plays, listening to music, and volunteerism. It’s the kind of book that refers to its subjects as “teeners” and, in describing a game called “broom ball,” advises that it “can be too rough for girl players, so divide the boys…into two teams” and “each boy may choose a girl to ‘root’ for his team.”

Games in the book include: “Hog Calling” Contests, “Sardines” (not mentioned in the book, but here is today’s bit of trivia: did you know that actor David Niven’s first wife met her accidental death while playing “Sardines” at a Hollywood party?), “Fam-blies are Coming” (what the?), “We Won’t Go Home Until Morning” and “Tax Deductions.” (I’ve noticed that teens who don’t go home until morning frequently do end up with little tax deductions.)

The book also has this dessert suggestion for a New Year’s Eve party: Take a large fruitcake and secrete in it a thimble (for industry), a coin (for wealth), a ring (for love), and a toothpick (for dining well…another “what the?” moment.) Those who discover the objects in the cake will learn their fate for their new year. (All I’m picturing are lawsuits for broken teeth and choking deaths.)

The section on music describes some of the jargon associated with this hobby: “Tunes are torrid jumpers,’ ‘rhythm romancers’; records are ‘disks’ and ‘biscuits’’; styles are ‘rock and roll,’ ‘easygoing shuffle’ or ‘velvet delivery.’”

Finally, I was tickled by the section on manners which says that, when introducing others, “the use of ‘shake hands with’ or ‘make you acquainted with’ or ‘get to know’…should be avoided, as well as such trite responses as ‘Charmed, I’m sure.’”
When I read a book like this, I wonder if it accurately reflects 1950s “teener” culture or if it seemed anachronistic to young people even then?

Finally, I came across this book:

I wonder if this early children’s book on divorce (published 1977) strikes fear into the hearts of many kids from that era. Although the message is supportive and sympathetic:

Sometimes my Mom said bad things about my Dad.
And my Dad said bad things about my Mom.
My mom said my Dad was a liar.
My Dad said my Mom was stupid.

I couldn't stand listening to either one.

I didn't want to hear them say bad things
about each other.
I loved them both.

the documentary photographs are dark and rather cold. I just wonder how many kids were handed this book when they heard their parents were divorcing. And if you were one of them, did the book make you feel a little better, or does it just take you back to a sad, bad time in your life?

Though the book is dated, our library copy had been checked out several times in this new millennium. The only reason we’re getting rid of it is because it’s worn out….


I wonder if anyone has ever done a survey or research on sequels.

Do they mostly disappoint and make the reader wish they’d never been written, or are readers usually glad to have ANY additional story about a favorite character.

I’m not talking about books in a series which, in most cases (HARRY POTTER, etc.) were conceived as series, but rather a follow-up to a famous book – often appearing many years later. A case in point would be SMALL STEPS – Louis Sachar’s sequel to the classic HOLES. Is there anyone out there who finds SMALL STEPS a superior book? Is there anyone out there who feels this book was ultimately necessary?

I must say that I approached David Almond’s latest, MY NAME IS MINA, with a great deal of trepidation. A sequel to the near-perfect SKELLIG, I wondered if this book could possibly emerge from its predecessor’s shadow.

To my surprise, I found this unique and powerful book to be quite amazing.

Perhaps Almond beats the “sequel curse” by making this book a “prequel” to SKELLIG and by focusing on a completely different character than the first novel. In SKELLIG, Mina was the neighbor of protagonist Michael, but she comes front and center in this volume, telling her own story of the months leading up to Michael’s arrival in the neighborhood. Written in the form of a journal (the font resembles a child’s printing), Mina muses about leaving school to be taught at home, her sorrow at her father’s death, and her interest in words and writing and nature. Less a plot-driven narrative than a character study, this luminous book may not appeal to every reader, but special readers will be amazed at how brilliantly the author captures the essence of the imaginative, misunderstood, almost mystical title character in a book that can truly take its place on the same shelf as SKELLIG.


I recently needed to purchase a book for a one-year-old baby. My bookstore buddy recommended THE HOUSE IN THE NIGHT by Susan Marie Swanson; Beth Krommes won the Caldecott for illustrating the book. I immediately said, “No, I don’t think so—“ as the book was not a particular favorite of mine.

Then my friend handed me the new “board book” edition of THE HOUSE IN THE NIGHT. I didn’t really want to look at it, as I’ve always thought that “board book” versions of traditional picture books are kind of a rip-off –- just another way to make more money off a known commodity. But then I began to look at the board book version…and found myself really liking it.

In fact, I liked it much better in that format than I did the original version!

My bookstore buddy agreed. She said that she'd had a hard time selling the larger hardcover edition of this book, but “can’t keep the board book in the store – everyone loves it!”

It’s as if the story was meant to be a board book all along….

Have you seen this particular board book? Do you agree with us or do you find the board book version inferior to the original?


Have you seen THE FUTURE OF US, the new novel by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler?

Obviously this is a book destined for big things. Jay Asher’s first novel, 13 REASONS WHY, was a monster hit and here he’s paired with the popular and acclaimed Carolyn Mackler (THE EARTH, MY BUTT, AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS.) As we’ve all noticed in recent years, it’s suddenly hot to pair young adult authors as collaborators – something you rarely saw even a decade ago.

No money was spared on the dustjacket design either. Some months back I commented on the verso of the dustjacket for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis featuring a blueprint of the novel’s spaceship and wondered why more publishers don’t take advantage of this blank space. One blog reader wrote back to say, “The back of the dust jacket is usually blank (or white) because it costs money--generally LOTS of money--to print on the reverse side (also known as 4 over 4--4 color over 4 color). It's not really wasted space so much as extremely pricey.” So the fact that the publishers used that space -- and spent that money –- on Asher and Mackler’s novel shows that this is a “quality publication”:

They also charged $18.99 for this book –- a bit on the high side for a current YA novel.

Is it worth all the care they put into the novel?

Yes and no.

Set in 1996, the story is told in alternating chapters by teenagers Josh and Emma. Trying out a new America Online disk, Emma stumbles on a website called “Facebook” (yes, THE Facebook…which didn’t even exist in 1996) and is able to see profiles of herself, Josh, and many of their friends from the year 2011. It’s a fascinating premise. Through Facebook, Josh discovers he’s going to marry the most popular girl in school…while Emma is stuck in an unsatisfactory marriage. Or can change that, fifteen years in advance, by just altering the college she plans to attend? One of the most intriguing concepts in the story is realizing that a minor incident in 1996 can change, for instance, the number of children Josh and his wife will have fifteen years later. THE FUTURE OF US is a real page-turner -– a breezy, light novel that never delves too deeply or seriously into the topic. And the ending feels a little rushed. This is a book a lot of kids are going to read, and love, though it ultimately may not have the “staying power” of many of its contemporaries. Five years from now Facebook may no longer be the phenomenon it is today. Will kids be interested in reading the novel then? So this is a book that may date very quickly. But if you want to read a fast, fun, and timely book TODAY, then THE FUTURE OF US is a great choice.


People often ask which contemporary books are mostly likely to be collectable in the future. In the case of THE FUTURE OF US, I would say that the publicity push for this novel and its large first printing will assure that copies are always out there for purchase.

On the other hand, the fact that this book speaks so clearly to TODAY’S ERA, it may not be a book that will remain in print for years and years. It may be one of your best choices if you want a title that clearly defines YA publishing in 2011 –- the fancy dustjacket (I doubt later editions will contain illustrated versos), the two-author team, the very contemporary subject matter. Ultimately, I can’t think of a more timely book to represent the current era for any book collection.


No, this isn’t my Christmas tree:

but I saw it on Facebook today and I’d sure like to have one.

If you’re the type of person who’d also like a tree like this, feel free to friend me on Facebook.

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children’s Books. I will try to post more frequently in the coming weeks, so stop back often!


Anonymous said...

I love the book Christmas tree and The Handbook of Co-Ed activities!

At my library we field requests for picture book versions of The Magic Flute pretty frequently, but that's the only opera that jumps to mind. In terms of classical performances, we also get requests for picture books of Peter and the Wolf and The Nutcracker. Yesterday I got a request for a picture book version of The Pirates of Penzance -- which, unfortunately, I could not fulfill.

Bybee said...

The co-ed activities fruitcake reminded me of the (1970) Family Affair tie-in book "Buffy Finds a Star". A bunch of little toys and trinkets that had belonged to the kids' mom were baked inside Buffy's (?) Cissy's (?) Uncle Bill's (?)birthday cake (by Mr. French, who could do everything) and Buffy accidentally gave it away to a school bazaar. The kids spend the rest of the book trying to hunt down all the 'hideinsides' as Buffy called them.

Calliope said...

My dad, who died this year, had the entire collection of these Metropolitan Opera children's books, and they helped to shape his passion for opera. Sadly, I couldn't keep his collection and they have gone to a bookseller ... but I am glad to know the joy they brought him both as a child growing up in Chicago (far away from the Met) and as an adult who later was a subscriber. Who are tomorrow's opera lovers, and how are books reaching them today?

Anonymous said...

As to sequels, how about "Gone-Away Lake" and "Return to Gone-Away" written four years later. Both titles are terrific.

There is a "Pirates for Penzance" book for kids, published around the same time as the Met series, if I remember correctly.

lin said...

Glad you're back, Peter!
I wish that they would publish more opera stories for kids. My community is fairly into the arts, and I'm hanging on to my well-worn copies of Clyde Robert Bulla opera stories because they go out regularly. Maybe Renee Fleming will publish an illustrated compilation.

Thanks for the 'Bests' lists! Since our periodical budget was drastically cut, I don't see these anymore, and I can make sure we've got copies.

Re: collectability: how much does it have to do with sentimental attachment to a title? You see the very high prices for original publications of "Snip, Snap and Snurr" or the "Betsy-Tacy" books; things that were well-regarded, but not necessarily considered 'award-worthy,' but evidently very fondly remembered. In fifty years, will a first printing of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" in excellent condition fetch big bucks?

Nicole said...

Regarding children's opera books --
Due to over-enthusiastic library book sale buying, we've ended up with two copies of the Barber of Seville book from that Metropolitan Opera series.

(I'm trying to instill a love of opera in my sons so that I'll have someone to take me to the opera in my old age. So far, it's working.)

Edward Sorel did a great illustrated version of Pirates of Penzance (which we luckily also found a copy of).

I grew up with Sing Me a Story, and there's a copy of the Barefoot Book of Stories from the Opera kicking around the house somewhere. But nothing beats those older books you're talking about!