Sunday, January 30, 2011

January 29 Brunch from a Louse

Today’s Sunday Brunch looks at the State of Children’s Books, lists the winners of the Sydney Taylor Awards, starts a feud with School Library Journal’s Newbery bloggers, and explains why I, a “louse,” have been “laughed upon and ridiculed” on this road of life….


Well, President Obama has told us that the state of the union is strong.

What about the current state of children’s books?

Is it also strong?

Here are some very subjective views from someone sitting over here on the sidelines as an observer:

In recent years, there seems to have been a shift in the age parameters of children’s and young adult books. On the higher end of the spectrum -- perhaps led by the success of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series -- there appear to be many more adults now reading YA novels. Hey, I love it -- the more the merrier. But a controversial New York Times article suggests that picture books for pre-readers or beginning readers are not doing well. Sales have slowed and some publishers are releasing 25% fewer picture books than they did in the past. Some say this is due to the economy; others say that many parents are bypassing picture books in order to push their kids into storybooks and novels before they’re ready for them. How this will affect visual literacy or a lifelong love of reading remains to be seen….

Books for young readers are getting bigger. I don’t need any stats to back this one up. Just go to any bookstore or library and look at the fat volumes on the “new book” shelves. Personally, I attribute this to the Harry Potter phenomenon. When publishers became aware that children had no problem reading those behemoth volumes, it seemed as if every subsequent book began gaining weight. Sometimes it’s justified; some novels do require more time and space to tell a tale. Many times, however, these weighty volumes are excessively wordy, poorly-paced, and could be easily cut by a third or a half. What’s that all about? People keep telling me that editors these days are more interested in “acquiring” manuscripts than actually editing them. I’m not sure that’s true, but if it is, it might explain a lot. I’m also intrigued by a third type of book -- the relatively short novel that, due to a large font and a small trim size, ends up at several hundred pages. Two of last year’s most acclaimed titles, THE DREAMER by Pam Munoz Ryan (384 pages) and KEEPER by Kathi Appelt (416 pages) are good examples of this trend. What does it mean...?

Another recent trend is the explosion of high-concept titles -- novels with a “hook” that can be sold in a single-sentence book talk. Vampires. Werewolves. Dystopias. Super wealthy kids. I guess part of the appeal is escapism, but an occasional story about a complicated friendship or complex family situation would be nice too. Your chances of dealing with a problem-friend are much greater than your chances of being the last person alive on earth or having a vampire boyfriend….

Kindles…Nooks…E-books. How are they going to impact the world of children’s books? No one knows for sure. But one word I keep hearing bandied about is “boutiques.” Just yesterday I read a Publishers Weekly article which described the Dutton Children’s Books transformation to a “boutique middle grade and young adult imprint with a focus on titles of exceptional literary quality and strong commercial appeal.” I’m also hearing the electronic book phenomenon may cause the book superstores to topple, but some independent booksellers will survive by becoming small “boutiques” specializing in printed books. Will “boutique” be the children’s book word for the future…?

Although the “state of children’s books” mentioned in this blog may sound worrisome, there is also heartening news. Kids’ books have a huge presence on the web, with so many bloggers that you couldn’t keep up with them all even if you tried. Children’s books are getting more notice in the media (well, except for the TODAY show) with more and more movies and TV shows being made from books for kids -- which in turn brings readers back to the original books. And the fact that the annual children’s book awards can still surprise us with its selections, PLUS honor debut creators such as Erin Stead and Clare Vanderpool, shows there is always great new talent joining the field and providing a lot of hope for the future.

So perhaps, after all, the State of Children’s Books is stronger than we think!


As a kid, I was an aspiring writer.

I dreamed of the day when I’d sit in a bookstore signing copies of my latest novel for legions of adoring fans.

But I recently realized that signing books isn’t such a rarified activity.

It dawned on me this past week when I happened upon one of my old yearbooks and saw all the inscriptions inside.

It made me realize I’ve been signing books all my life -- yearbooks.

We’ve all done it – even those who have never had any literary aspirations.

As I flipped through my junior high school yearbook, I looked at the faces of my old classmates with nostalgia…then I turned to the “autograph” section on the back inside covers and remembered what a bunch of jerks they were.

Reading their comments was like looking at a yearbook belonging to Dawn (WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE) Wiener.

To be sure, there were some nice inscriptions:

But a lot of them weren't so nice:

This next one was signed in pencil. Is it too late to erase it?

Gosh, this one is charming:

And here's a note from the friendly thirteen-year-old pothead who sat in front of me. How many back-handed compiments do you count?

Actually, I'm rather amazed at Robin's prescience. How did she know I'd be "laughed upon and ridiculed" along my road of life? I just wish she'd been right about the "success" part, though. I've endured the laughter and ridicule, but the success is still eluding me.

On a happier note, I also took a look at my high school yearbook from several years later and all the inscriptions were exceedingly nice. Maybe that's because I didn't ask Dave, Karen, Mark or Robin to sign that yearbook. And maybe I'd become better at selecting friends. By then (to use a favorite quote from a new YA book, PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A.S. King) "I knew not to give the best of myself to the worst of people."


My trip down memory lane, as bitter (and somewhat comical) as it was, got me wondering about the yearbooks of famous children's book writers.

Wouldn't it be fun to open your old high school annual and realize that classmate Maurice Sendak had provided some of the artwork way back in 1946? Sendak is one of many illustrators whose early work appears in his high school yearbook. John Schoenherr, Trina Schart Hyman, Nancy Ekholm Burkert, and Charles R. Smith Jr. also contributed art to their high school volumes.

David Macaulay was named “Best Artist” in his high school yearbook, and the words "Future Novelist" appeared under Lois Lowry's senior picture. Daniel Handler ("Lemony Snicket") was voted "Class Clown" and "Friendliest" in his yearbook, while Theodore Geisel ("Dr. Suess") was chosen as "Class Artist" and "Class Wit."

When she appears at speaking engagements, author Claudia Mills often entertains her audiences by doing the "Ape Dance" that she invented when she young. Her high school yearebook includes a photo of her doing the dance.

My favorite yearbook story concerns, by chance, my favorite author. Marijane Meaker ("M.E. Kerr") attended boarding school in Virginia and was expelled for throwing darts at a dartboard decorated with photos of teachers cut from an old yearbook. Her suspension ended up affecting her own status in the yearbook. By the time she was reinstated to the school, her senior yearbook had gone to press and her photo could not be included in the alphabetical display of graduates. It had to be slapped onto the last row of pictures, after her classmates whose names ended with X, Y, and Z!


Over at the School Library Journal, the annual Battle of the Books is about to begin. BOB is described as "a competition between 16 of the very best books for young people of the year, judged by some of the biggest names in children's books."

This year's contenders are:

THE CARDTURNER by Louis Sachar
A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS by Megan Whalen Turner
COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles
THE DREAMER by Pam Munoz Ryan
KEEPER by Kathi Appelt
THE ODYSSEY by Gareth Hinds
ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia
THE RING OF SOLOMON by Jonathan Stroud
SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos
THEY CALLED THEMSELVES THE K.K.K. by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
TRASH by Andy Mulligan
WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan

I'm glad BOB is starting up just as the Heavy Medal blog is closing down for the year, as I will miss all the Newbery discussions.

Here's where I'm going to get in trouble....

I shouldn't do this...I shouldn't do this...I shouldn't do this....

And I especially don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, as the folks at HM are great. I've corresponded with Nina a few times and she seems really nice, and I've known Jonathan forever and he's a friend.

But was anyone else disappointed that, after months of discussing every aspect of the Newbery -- what should win, what shouldn't win, why some books didn't cut it as contenders, why others were better suited for the medal, parsing every official rule and regulation, etc., etc. -- that we never did get a final blog telling us their opinions on MOON OVER MANIFEST and whether it was the best choice for the Newbery?

Unless I missed something, the only statement we got from Nina was, "MOON shows remarkable complexity and attention to audience in its multilayered 'interpretation of theme or concept'…a confluence of themes of 'story,' 'home' and 'belonging.'"

And Jonathan says he's still on the library waiting list to get a copy of the book!

My suggestion: buy a copy of the book.

I know, times are hard and books are expensive but, c'mon, it's a good thing to support the Newbery...and support the children's book industry that we work in. When you're done with the book, you can donate it to the library. Give it to student or library patron. Write if off on your taxes.

If that's not possible, contact the publisher and see if they can send a review copy for Heavy Medal -- I'm sure your blog is famous enough to merit a review copy.

Heck, if it comes down to it, I will cash in 170 of the empty Diet Coke cans in my garage, go buy a copy of the book, and personally send it to Heavy Medal so you can read and review it.

Because closing down the blog without a final judgement on the winning title is like watching an entire season of TOP CHEF and then missing the last episode...walking out of a play at intermission...or eating dinner and having to leave before dessert is served!


The Association of Jewish Libraries has announced the 2011 winners of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards. "Presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience," the awards are given in three categories -- Younger Readers, Older Readers, and Teen Readers. This year's winners are:

GATHERING SPARKS / Howard Schwartz, author; Kristina Swarner, illustrator / Younger Readers

HOW MIRKA GOT HER SWORD / Barry Deutsch / Older Readers

THE THINGS A BROTHER KNOWS / Dana Reinhardt / Teen Readers

2010 / NEW YEAR AT THE PIER : A ROSH HASHANAH STORY / April Halprin Wayland / Younger Readers
2010 / THE IMPORTANCE OF WINGS / Robin Friedman / Older Readers
2010 / TROPICAL SECRETS / Margarita Engle / Teen Readers

2009 / AS GOOD AS ANYBODY / Richard Michelson / Younger Readers
2009 / BROOKLYN BRIDGE / Karen Hesse / Older Readers
2009 / A BOTTLE IN THE GAZA SEA / Valerie Zenatti / Teen Readers

2008 / THE BEDTIME SH'MA / Sarah Gershman / Younger Readers
2008 / THE ENTERTAINER AND THE DYBBUK / Sid Fleischman / Older Readers
2008 / STRANGE RELATIONS / Sonia Levitin / Teen Readers

2007 / HANUKKAH AT VALLEY FORGE / Stephen Krensky / Younger Readers
2007 / JULIA'S KITCHEN / Brenda Ferber / Older Readers
2007 / THE BOOK THIEF / Marcus Zusak / Teen Readers

2006 / SHOLOM'S TREASURE / Eric Silverman / Younger Readers
2006 / CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC / Sarah Darer Littman / Older Readers

2005 / Change in dating system of awards

2004 / REAL TIME / Pnina Moed Kass / Older Readers

2003 / BAGELS FROM BENNY by Aubrey Davis / Younger Readers
2003 / WHO WAS THE WOMAN WHO WORE A HAT? / Nancy Patz / Older Readers

2002 / CHICKEN SOUP BY HEART / Esther Hershenhorn / Younger Readers
2002 / HANA'S SUITCASE / Karen Levine / Older Readers

2001 / RIVKA'S FIRST THANKSGIVING / Elsa Okon Rael / Younger Readers
2001 / SIGMUND FREUD: PIONEER OF THE MIND / Cathrine Reef / Older Readers

2000 / GERSHON'S MONSTER / Eric A. Kimmel / Younger Readers
2000 / THE KEY IS LOST / Ida Vos / Older Readers

1999 / THE PEDDLER'S GIFT / Maxine Rose Schur / Younger Readers
1999 / SPEED OF LIGHT / Sybil Rosen / Older Readers

1998 / NINE SPOONS / Marci Stillerman / Younger Readers
1998 / STONES ON WATER / Donna Jo Napoli / Older Readers

1997 / WHEN ZAYDEH DANCED ON ELDRIDGE STREET / Elsa Okon Rael / Younger Readers
1997 / THE MYSTERIOUS VISITOR by Nina Jaffe / Older Readers

1996 / SHALOM HAVER = GOODBYE FRIEND / Barbara Sofer / Younger Readers
1996 / WHEN I LEFT MY VILLAGE / Maxine Rose Schur / Older Readers

1995 / STAR OF FEAR, STAR OF HOPE / Jo Hoestlandt / Younger Readers
1995 / DANCING ON THE BRIDGE OF AVIGNON / Ida Vos / Older Readers

1994 / THE ALWAYS PRAYER SHAWL / Sheldon Oberman / Younger Readers'
1994 / THE SHADOW CHILDREN / Steven Schnur / Older Readers

1993 / THE UNINVITED GUEST / Nina Jaffe / Younger Readers
1993 / SWORN ENEMIES / Carol Matas / Older Readers

1992 / SOMETHING FROM NOTHING / Phoebe Gilman / Younger Readers
1992 / LETTERS FROM RIFKA / Karen Hesse / Older Readers

1991 / CAKES AND MIRACLES / Barbara Diamond Goldin / Younger Readers
1991 / DADDY'S CHAIR / Sandy Lanton / Younger Readers
1991 THE DIAMOND TREE / Howard Schwartz and Barbara Rush / Older Readers

1990 / MY GRANDMOTHER'S STORIES / Adele Geras / Older Readers

1989 / BERCHICK / Esther Silverstein Blanc / Younger Readers
1989 / NUMBER THE STARS / Lois Lowry / Older Readers

1988 / THE KEEPING QUILT / Patricia Polacco / Younger Readers
1988 / THE DEVIL'S ARITHMETIC / Jane Yolen / Older Readers

1987 / THE NUMBERS ON MY GRANDFATHER'S ARM / David Adler / Younger Readers
1987 / THE RETURN / Sonia Levitin / Older Readers

1986 / JOSEPH WHO LOVED THE SABBATH / Marilyn Hirsh / Younger Readers
1986 / BEYOND THE HIGH WHITE WALL / Nancy Pitt / Older Readers

1985 / BROTHERS / Florence B. Freedman / Younger Readers

1984 / MRS. MOSKOWITZ AND THE SABBATH CANDLESTICKS / Amy Schwartz / Younger Readers
1984 / THE ISLAND ON BIRD STREET / Uri Orlev / Older Readers

1983 / BUBBY, ME AND MEMORIES / Barbara Pomerantz / Younger Readers
1983 / IN THE MOUTH OF THE WOLF / Rose Zar

1982 / THE CASTLE ON HESTER STREET / Linda Heller / Younger Readers
1982 / CALL ME RUTH / Marilyn Sachs / Older Readers

1981 / YUSSEL’S PRAYER / Barbara Cohen / Younger Readers
1981 / THE NIGHT JOURNEY / Kathryn Lasky / Older Readers

1980 / A RUSSIAN FAREWELL / Leonard Everett Fisher


1978 / THE DEVIL IN VIENNA / Doris Orgel

1977 / EXIT FROM HOME / Anita Heyman

1976 / NEVER TO FORGET / Milton Meltzer

1975 / WAITING FOR MAMA / Marietta Miskin

1974 / no award


1972 / Molly Cone for her contributions to Jewish children's literature

1971 / Isaac Bashevis Singer for his contributions to Jewish children's literature

1970 / THE YEAR / Suzanne Lange

1969 / OUR EDDIE / Sulamith Ish-Kishor

1968 / THE ENDLESS STEPPE /Esther Hautzig


The Sydney Taylor Book Award is named after the ground-breaking children's author whose "All-of-a-Kind-Family" stories are still read and loved.

She was born Sarah Brenner in 1904 and grew up on New York's Lower East Side. As an adult, she changed her first name to Syndney and danced professionally with Martha Graham. She would later marry and have one child. At night she would tell her daughter bedtime stories about her own childhood. She eventually wrote these stories down and put them away, with no plans for publication.

Years later, when Ms. Taylor was away working at a summer camp, her husband submitted her manuscript to the Charles Follett contest without Sydney's knowledge. The author later recalled, “No one was more surprised than I when I received a letter
from Mrs. Meeks, the Children’s Book Editor of Wilcox & Follett, telling me she wanted to publish ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY. I didn’t know what she was talking about. I told my husband and the whole story came out." She later received word that she had won the Follett Award.

In addition to ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY (1951), she published MORE ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY (1954), ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY UPTOWN (1958), ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY UPTOWN (1972) and the posthumous ELLA OF ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY (1978.)

She also wrote a few stories unconnected with her famous series, but these are mostly forgotten. But sisters Ella, Henrietta, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertrude (Taylor used the real names of her sisters and herself in the books), growing up poor in New York City remain known today.

One of the earliest children's series to feature Jewish protagonists, the books provide insights into Jewish traditions and holidays within the context of warm family stories. The many readers comments on range from "I am Jewish and could relate to the characters" to "I first read this as a child, growing up in the south in a pentacostal holiness church. This book was my very first introduction to the Jewish Faith, what it means and how it impacted day-to-day life." One common theme that runs through the customer comments is that so many readers say they wanted to be part of this family when they were growing up -- surely a sign of the books' success!

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

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Brunch with Betty White

Today's Sunday Brunch lists the latest Edgar Award nominees, recommends books for Chinese New Year, and takes you dancing with Betty White.

Okay, not the Betty White, but still....


So, the 2011 book awards have now been announced.

Collectors have spent the past couple weeks scurrying around trying to find copies of the winning titles.

In years past it seemed as if all available copies of the books would disappear from store shelves within twenty-four hours of the announcement...and then there would be a lull of four to six weeks (during which the book was being reprinted) before bookstore shelves were stocked again. However, I've noticed for the last couple years that the reprint process is much faster than it used to be. Desperate customers no longer have to wait till late February or early March for copies to become available.

As you know, the awards were announced on January 10 this year.

By January 20, my local bookstore already had a new batch of MOON OVER MANIFEST -- fourth printings with the gold Newbery sticker on the dustjacket.

A couple years ago a book-collecting buddy talked about the annual "ritual" of adding the new winners to the shelves that hold the previous winners. He asked if I played any special music to commemorate the event.

This year, due to the economy, I had to ditch the trumpet corps.

But it was still a wonderful moment when I added the books to the shelves. Here are the latest entries to my Newbery shelf:

And here's the Printz shelf:

Actually, I cheated a bit with this one. Normally I collect only first editions, but my copy of NOTHING is second printing. Right now it's serving as a "place holder" until a first edition turns up.


The nominations for the 2011 Edgar Awards have just been announced.

The finalists for Best Juvenile Mystery are:

ZORA AND ME by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon

The nominees in the young adult category are:

THE RIVER by Mary Jane Beaufrand
7 SOULS by Barnabas Miller and Jordan Orlando
DUST CITY by Robert Paul Weston

The winning titles will be announced on April 28.


I'm always on the lookout for references to children's books in the popular media. And on Friday night a famous book by Charlotte Zolotow got mentioned on TV's WHAT WOULD YOU DO? I don't know if you've ever seen this program, but it might best be described as a serious version of the classic series CANDID CAMERA : a hidden camera tapes the reactions of bystanders who witness actors engaged in situations that have moral or social repercussions. Will they help a welfare mother who runs out of money at the grocery checkout? Will they get involved when they see someone discriminate against a minority? This past Friday one of the segments concerned a father in a toy shop who refused to buy the Barbie doll that his young son was demanding.

Several shoppers contributed their opinions, then one woman jotted something down on a piece of paper and handed it to the man:

She said, "You should read this book." The camera then showed the cover of the book and several pages of the text.

Hurray for children's books on TV!

How ironic that this 1972 picture book got more airtime this week than the Newbery and Caldecott winners got from the TODAY show last week.

If you're still steamed about the TODAY fiasco, read the next item.


Did you hear about the Facebook campaign to get this year's Newbery and Caldecott winners, Clare Vanderpool and Erin Stead on the TODAY SHOW?

Incidentally, according to, the word "snook" is defined as "a gesture of defiance, disrespect, or derision."

Don't you think the TODAY SHOW deserves our defiance, disrespect, and derision for the Snooki debacle?


I was browsing through the library stacks this week and discovered several books for teenagers written by Betty White.

Okay, it's not the Betty White of Password/Sue Ann Nivens/Rose Nylund/Snickers Bar/Saturday Night Live fame, but this lady had the same name and she wrote books of dance instruction for young readers, including DANCING MADE EASY (1953), HOW TO MAMBO (1955) and, my favorite, TEEN-AGE DANCE ETIQUETTE (1956.)

That last book, a slim, picture-filled (illustrations by June Kirkpatrick) volume was written, according to the foreword, because "Too often...the teen-ager who knows how to dance does not have any conception of what constitutes socially acceptable behavior at a dance."

BETTY WHITE'S TEEN-AGE DANCE ETIQUETTE explains the "socially acceptable behavior" from popping the big question (notice how the guy gets to sort through options like a gambler sorting through a deck of cards while the lonely girl is thrilled to simply be chosen?)... the end of the date, with a last-page fade-out just before the good-night kiss?

But it's everything in-between that makes the book so fun! (Make sure to click on the images to get a better view of the pictures.)

There are tips on selecting the right clothes, proper grooming, arranging transportation, then arriving to pick up one's date. I love the line "And don't forget to include the small fry if they happen to be hanging around."

My favorite section comes at the end: several pages of admonitions on what NOT to do.

They include not primping at the table...

...not pigging out at the refreshment table or being a "dance exhibitionist"...

...and not having "octopus" hands on the dance floor:

And remember, kids, no rough-housing" or closing your eyes!

(Actually, I think the girl bustin' the balloon with a pin looks kind of fun.)


As I said, the Betty White we know from television has never written a children's book...but her husband did!

Those of us who are, well, old, may remember Betty's late husband, Allen Ludden, who hosted PASSWORD and other game shows on television.

Because he knew all the answers on these games shows (of course he did -- he had the answers on index cards in his hand!) and because he wore glasses and had a slightly professorial appearance, he was known on early TV as "the happy highbrow."

I wonder if that nickname influenced the name of Betty's character on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW -- the "Happy Homemaker"?

I did not know until recently that Mr. Ludden parlayed his "happy highbrow" persona into a career as a children's book writer. During the fifties and sixties, he wrote several books of advice for young readers, including PLAIN TALK FOR MEN UNDER 21 (1954), PLAIN TALK FOR WOMEN UNDER 21 (1956), PLAIN TALK ABOUT COLLEGE (1961), and PLAIN TALK FOR YOUNG MARRIEDS (1964.)

He even wrote a novel, ROGER THOMAS, ACTOR! (1959) for Dodd Mead's Career Book series for young readers.


I came across several intriguing books. First, a children's book by entertainer Pearl Bailey:

Because DUEY'S TALE came out in 1975, years before the recent explosion of "celebrity author" books, I thought it may have been published due to some real writing ability rather than just because the a author had a famous name.


This is a book about a maple seed.

Yeah, one of these things:

After a big wind blows him off the mama tree, Duey the seedling floats around, meeting other goofy objects like Gabby the Log and Slicker the Bottle. Duey apparently has eyes and a mouth (at one point he sticks out his tongue) though it's hard for me to envision this and the unappealing gray silhouette illustrations provide no clue.

(The touching group portrait below features Duey, Gabby and Slicker. AKA a seed, a log, and a bottle.)

Because the story is so slight, the text is formatted oddly with a paragraph here, a paragraph there, until it reaches the inevitable conclusion in which Duey the seedling becomes...

(Wait for it.)

...a mighty maple tree!

Pearl Baily (1918-1990) was a hugely talented actress and singer. I love watching this Youtube clip of her Broadway performance in HELLO DOLLY.

But as a children's book author, she's...well, she's a hugely talented actress and singer.

I was shocked to learn that this hacknayed, cliched, and poorly-written story won a Coretta Scott King Award in 1976.

The committee must have been starstruck.

Or maybe they thought Ms. Bailey would perform at the award ceremony and save them from having to hire entertainment.

During my library stack wanderings, I also stumbled across (well, not literally) these two curiosities:

TEN BOYS FROM DICKENS and TEN GIRLS FROM DICKENS by Kate Dickinson Sweetsir contain portraits of Little Nell, Sissy Jupe, Tiny Tim, Oliver Twist, and Pip and other young people from the novels of Charles Dickens. As Ms. Sweetsir says in the foreword of TEN BOYS, the characters are "followed only to the threshold of manhood and in all cases the orignal text of the story has been kept, except where of necessity a phrase or paragraph has been inserted to connect passages."

She explains the purpose of these books: "If through this volume any boy or girl should be aroused to a keener interest in the great writer, and should learn to love him and his work, my labor will be reachly repaid."

I'm not sure how much "labor" was involved in cutting and pasting Dickens' own words together, but I digress.... I found the books interesting for a couple reasons. First, that there was so little true children's literature being published back then that one had to adapt stories from adult books to serve a young audience. Secondly, it's intriguing to think that much of Dickens work was only forty to fifty years old when these books were published in 1901 and 1902 -- yet Dickens already had the kind of "classic" appeal that made it appropriate for all audiences. To put that in perspective, can you think of many authors who flourished from 1960 to 1970 who would merit a children's volume of this type today?

...Continuing my stack wanderings, I noticed this book on the fiction shelves:

I took it down mainly because the spine title made me think it was an author study and not a work of fiction. I thought I'd have to recatalog it.

As it turns out, THE MANY WORLDS OF ANDRE NORTON is basically a book of fiction. It does contain a couple essays about the author, but most of the volume is devoted to seven Andre Norton stories that were originally published in science fiction and fantasy magazines from the 1950s through the early 1970s. They recall an era when the newstands were filled with all sorts of magazines that published short stories. Try to find such a magazine today. The science fiction and fantasy magazines were particularly important because they introduced new writers to the genre as well as allowed established novelists, such as Ms. Norton, make an occasional foray into short fiction.

I suspect that even some fans of the author are not familiar with THE MANY WORLDS OF ANDRE NORTON, which was published by a smaller press (Chilton) in 1974.


Long known as the "Grande Dame of Science Fiction," Andre Norton amassed quite a large research library during her writing career.

One of her lifetime goals was to establish a library complex and retreat for genre writers -- those writing science fiction, mysteries, romances, and westerns for adult, YA, or juvenile audiences.

Ms. Norton announced plans for "High Hallack" (named after a geographical region in her "Witch World" novels) in the early 1990s. It would be located on seventy acres of land in the Tennessee mountains. Norton's personal collection of ten thousand volumes would seed the library and the elderly author's administrative assistant would continue to run the library after Andre Norton's death.

You know what they say about "the best laid plans"....

Despite her fame as a writer, Ms. Norton was unable to get funding for her dream project. Her decades-younger assistant, who was supposed to continue Norton's legacy after her death, ended up dying of cancer long before Ms. Norton herself died.

However, Andre Norton's dream did not die.

Instead of establishing a huge library complex in the mountains, she instead had a large building constructed behind her Murfreesboro, Tennessee home and opened High Hallack in her own backyard.

Curious to know what it looked like? Then take the virtual tour!

Several years later, the 92-year-old author was in declining health and decided to close High Hallack to the public. In 2004, the contents of the library were auctioned off to private collectors and book dealers, with the remaining books sold to the public for two dollars per hardcover and fifty cents a paperback.

I understand that all these bookswere labeled "Formerly Owned by High Hallack Library/Andre Norton."

Who knows where they've ended up?

Maybe one day you'll stumble across one at a used bookstore or rummage sale and you'll hold a piece of Andre Norton's dream in your hand.


I just read something awful.

The Chinese Year of the Rabbit begins on February 3 and many people are marking the event by giving rabbits as pets. Most of these animals are being shipped through the mail and, according to a CNN article, "many have suffocated or frozen to death in the small boxes in which they are sent."

So I've come up with an alternative idea.

Instead of sending a kid a pet rabbit for the Chinese New Year (or, come to think of it, for Easter a couple months from now), why not send a children's book about rabbits instead?

There is certainly no lack of good bunny books.

Here is a just a small sampling:

THE RUNAWAY BUNNY by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd, 1942

WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams, 1972

UNCLE REMUS STORIES by Joel Chandler Harris, beginning in 1881

BLACK RABBIT SUMMER by Kevin Brooks, 2008

BUNNICULA : A RABBIT TALE OF MYSTERY by Deborah and James Howe, 1979

THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT by Beatrix Potter, 1902



SHADRACH by Meindert DeJong, 1953

PAT THE BUNNY by Dorothy Kunhardt, 1940

VOYAGE TO THE BUNNY PLANET by Rosemary Wells, 1992


RABBIT HILL by Robert Lawson, 1944

KNUFFLE BUNNY by Mo Willems, 2004

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children's Books. I plan to write another blog entry sometime during this week and and hope you'll come back to read it.

Till then, remember:

Don't play with your food or silver...

Don't be an exhibitionist on the dance floor...

Avoid "octopus holds"...

And don't forget to "include the small fry" and their books in your life!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

13 Random Midweek Facts, Opinions, and Anecdotes


Sometimes authors ponder and debate and fret over character names for weeks. Other times a name will fall into their lap. That’s basically what happened to Beverly Cleary when she was writing her first book about Henry Huggins. She’d just realized that all her characters were from single-child families and decided she needed to add a little sister. Just then she heard someone yell the name “Ramona!” outside her window and gave that name to Beezus’s little sister.

However she based part of the character's personality on another little girl in the neighborhood who was always getting in trouble. For example, the girl was once sent to the store to buy a pound of butter, but by the time she got home, she had unwrapped it and begun eating it.

Ugh. The worst thing Ramona Quimby ever ate in the books was a raw head of cabbage.


Not every character name comes wafting through the window. Sometimes you have to seek them out. When writing a story about a boy’s correspondence with his favorite author, Ms. Cleary found the name in the obituary section of her local newspaper. I wonder if the family of the deceased ever knew that their own late “Mr. Henshaw” inspired the title of the Newbery-winning novel DEAR MR. HENSHAW.


The protagonist of Cin Forshay-Lunsford’s 1985 young adult novel, WALK THROUGH COLD FIRE, is named Désirée (a name so pretentious that it makes me want to throw up) but there's a striking story about why the author chose another name found in that book. One of the female villains has a very bland name. But in a long-ago article, Ms. Forshay-Lunsford admitted that if you remove a few letters from that character's name you will see the author's opinion of her. No, I cannot give a hint. The word Forshay-Lunsford was hinting at was very, very vulgar.


The winner of a Delacorte Press Contest for a First Young Adult Novel, WALK THROUGH COLD FIRE got a lot of attention when it was published, mainly because the author was only nineteen years old. Cin Forshay-Lunsford never published another book, but this first effort has garnered quite a few devoted fans, many of whom rhapsodize about it on They've also started a Facebook page for the book.

Me? I never could finish the novel.

Maybe it had something to do with the grandoise name of the narrator.


Too many vowels! Too many accent marks!

No sirée, not a book for me.


I’m so intrigued by the Young Adult Library Services Assocation’s new Best Fiction for Young Adults list. With ninety-nine titles (out of 191 nominations) it's pretty much an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink list…yet Morris winner THE FREAK OBSERVER by Blythe Woolston is not to be seen, nor is Morris nominee HUSH by Eishes Chayil. National Book Award nominee DARK WATER is absent, as is the highly-praised suspense novel YOU by Charles Benoit.


Did you know you can order a print or postcards featuring Amos McGee?

Unfortunately, it’s not this Amos McGee.


In Sunday's blog I mentioned that our latest Newbery winner Clare Vanderpool cited Laura Ingalls Wilder's ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK as one of her favorite books. I added that, for me, PLUM CREEK was not a stand-out title the way the first and last Wilder volumes, or the epic LONG WINTER, were.

Since then, I have received several notes from readers who disagree!

Wendy said, "I think it's the most kid-friendly (for all kids, not just bookish ones), because it shows Laura having lots of normal-kid adventures, getting in trouble, being resourceful in a fun way, and so on, plus living underground and Nellie Oleson."

Laurie A-B added, "Plum Creek is jam-packed with memorable scenes and characters: Ma's new stove, Nellie Oleson, the Olesons' store, Laura's Christmas furs, going to school, going to church, Pa giving the money for his new boots to buy the church bell, moving the woodpile inside the house, LEECHES, the dugout, Reverend Alden, GRASSHOPPERS!!!!"

Bybee noted, "Plum Creek was one of my favorites when I was younger because this is the one in which Nellie Oleson and her family are introduced."

Lisa Jenn Bigelow said, "Add me to the list of people whose favorite Little House book has always been Plum Creek! I think everyone else has probably mentioned all the reasons it stands out in my memory -- leeches, Nellie, Pa getting stuck in a blizzard and having to eat all the candy and oysters.... I think I first read it when I was just Laura's age, which made it perfect. Plus I always thought it would be immensely cool to live in a dug-out. (Actually, I still do, though I could do with indoor plumbing.)"

Laura Canon added, "I'd say the same about Plum Creek -- maybe it's a girl thing, but it's very easy to identify with Laura in that book. She's about to right age to start to interact with the outside world more,getting to know the neighbors and going to school. Also, leeches.

"And even today I cry over the scene where Ma makes her give away her only doll to the mean neighbors and later she finds it discarded and frozen in a mud puddle. And I'm not much of a doll person, or a crier."

Ali said, "I'm another Plum Creek lover. I adored the Little House books as a child. I could "see" Laura, her family, the Oleson's store and Nellie so clearly, even though I am English and grew up in the north western suburbs of London."

And Grrlpup added a succinct: "Re: the memorability of Plum Creek, I have one word: LEECHES."

Obviously I am going to have to go back and re-read ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK very soon!


Just came across some 2007 paperback editions of Wilder's "Little House" books with photographic covers. Ugh.

Bring back Garth Williams!


I know several Jehovah’s Witnesses and we get along quite well as long as I remember not to wish them "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Fourth of July."

I'm a little slow on the uptake at times.

Like yesterday when one of them was telling me about a wedding she attended at the Kingdom Hall. I said, "Is it a traditional-type wedding? Does the bride wear a wedding dress? Does she come down the aisle to the usual wedding march?"

My friend said, "Oh sure, she wears a wedding gown and comes down the aisle. But we don't use that song everyone else uses. We feel that song places too much emphasis on the bride. And even though everyone says, 'It's the bride's day, it's the bride's day,' it's really not the bride's day. It's His day."

I'm like, "Whose? The groom?"

(Told you I was slow on the uptake.)

"No," she said, looking upward, "HIS day."


Anyway, a couple Jehovah's Witnesses I know once went on a trip to Brooklyn, New York, where the Watch Tower Society is headquartered. One of the buildings the Witnesses own there is the former Hotel Bossert, a landmark once know as "the Waldorf-Astoria of Brooklyn."

You may wonder what any of this has to do with children's books.

Barbara Cooney, who won the Caldecott Medal twice (CHANTICLEER AND THE FOX, 1959; OX-CART MAN, 1980) was born in Room 1127 of the Bossert Hotel on August 6, 1917.


British author-illustrator Mini Grey was actually born in the front seat of a Mini Cooper. Her parents memorialized the event by giving her that unusual first name.

Thank goodness she wasn't born in a Lamborghini.

11. DID YOU KNOW...?

...That Katherine Paterson is related to Mark Twain?

...That the agent who sold this year's Newbery Honor Book, HEART OF A SAMURAI by Margi Preus, is the great-great-great grandson of navigator Nathaniel Bowditch, himself the subject of the 1956 Newbery winner CARRY ON, MR. BOWDITCH?

...That Newbery Honor author Polly Horvath (EVERYTHING ON A WAFFLE) recently published an ABC book with a small press here in Michigan?

...That double-Newbery winner Lois Lowry has written a book in the "Dear America" series?

I've never understood why famous established writers such as Walter Dean Myers, Karen Hesse, and Kathryn Lasky would ever write for a pre-formatted series of this type, but a friend of mine who has read Ms. Lowry's entry, LIKE THE WILLOW TREE, says it's something special and you definitely feel you are "in the capable hands" of a gifted writer while reading this book.


IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE by Laura Numeroff -- brilliant!

IF YOU GIVE A MOOSE A MUFFIN by Laura Numeroff -- gilding the lily.
IF YOU GIVE A PIG A PANCAKE by Laura Numeroff -- overkill.
IF YOU GIVE A CAT A CUPCAKE by Laura Numeroff -- unnecessary.


Boy, this blog entry by author Eric A. Kimmel depressed me.

But I refuse to stay depressed. The new year has just begun and there are lots of good books on the horizon: OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt; a new Penderwicks novel by Jeanne Birdsall; a biography of Alexander Hamilton by 95-year-old Jean Fritz; books by Cynthia Voigt, Shaun Tan, Lisa Yee, Melina Marchetta, Jennifer Holm, Joan Bauer, Walter Dean Myers, Helen Frost....

As well as new books by authors we haven't ever read before.

We'll be okay.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Brunch for a Three-Day Weekend

For the past few days, I've been Newberied-out and Printzed-off.

It's not that I'm unhappy with the award selections -- quite the contrary. I was as excited as everyone else to see a few surprises among the winning titles. It's just that, after all the excitement and frenzy of the the past couple weeks, I needed to "step away from the book." I deliberately opted to put MOON OVER MANIFEST on hold and instead spent my time watching THE BIGGEST LOSER and TOP CHEF ALL STARS on TV, reading several books from a different genre (three old plays: THE JOYOUS SEASON by Philip Barry, JASON by Samson Raphaelson, and KNICKERBOCKER HOLIDAY by Maxwell Anderson), sorting through some paperwork, and taking a nap.

But now the latest Newbery winner is starting to call my name and I am ready to read it.

In other words: I'm back!

Today's blog corrects an error I made in last week's blog, looks at some new book covers, and -- what else? -- starts the predictions for next year's awards!


Last week I wrote the following:

A blog-reader just asked me if this was the first year in which both the Newbery and Caldecott were given to debut creators.

I believe it is!

The closest example I can find is 1961 when Nicolas Sidjanov won the Caldecott for the first book he illustrated, BABOUSHKA AND THE THREE KINGS, and Scott O'Dell won for ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, which was his first work for young readers. However, Mr. O'Dell had previously published a few books for adults, so he was not truly a first-time author.

However, in doing a little more research, I discovered that BABOUSHKA AND THE THREE KINGS was not Nicolas Sidjanov's first book. Three years before BABOUSHKA, he illustrated THE FRIENDLY BEASTS by Laura Nelson Baker.

This means that not only is Erin Stead the youngest Caldecott winner ever (she just turned 28) but she's also the ONLY artist to win for illustrating her very first book!

Every other previous winner had illustrated other books before winning the award -- and that includes Lynd Ward, who illustrated a number of adult books before winning the 1953 Caldecott for his picture book debut THE BIGGEST BEAR, and David Diaz, who had illustrated a book of children's poetry by Gary Soto before winning the 1995 Caldecott for his first picture book, Eve Bunting's SMOKY NIGHT.


While not the only author to win the Newbery for her first effort, Clare Vanderpool joins a very small group of authors who have achieved this feat.

If my research is correct, the following are the only authors who won the Newbery for their debut books:

Arthur Bowie Chrisman / SHEN OF THE SEA / 1926

Eric P. Kelly / THE TRUMPETER OF KRAKOW / 1929

Laura Adams Armer / WATERLESS MOUNTAIN / 1932

Eliabeth Lewis / YOUNG FU OF THE UPPER YANGTZE / 1933

Emily Cheney Neville / IT'S LIKE THIS, CAT / 1964

There are a handful more who won for their first juvenile novel, though they had written in other genres before that:

Charles J. Finger / TALES FROM SILVER LANDS / 1926 / had written a number of works for adults

Walter Edmonds / THE MATCHLOCK GUN / 1942 / his previous novels for adults included the classic DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK

Esther Forbes / JOHNNY TREMAIN / 1944 / had won the Pulitzer Prize for her adult biography of Paul Revere

Joseph Krumgold / ...AND NOW MIGUEL / 1954 / had published an adult mystery novel

Scott O'Dell / ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS / 1961 / published several adult works many decades earlier

Maia Wojciechowska / SHADOW OF A BULL / 1965 / had previously published a book on hairstyling, as well as a picture book

Joan Blos / A GATHERING OF DAYS / 1980 / had written a couple picture books with Betty Miles, but this was her first novel

Cynthia Kadohata / KIRA-KIRA / 2005 / had previously written adult novels


As the most recent Newbery winner, we'll be learning much more about Clare Vanderpool in the months and years ahead. One bit of info I found on the author’s website is this list of her favorite books. I always think we can tell a lot about a person by the books they love. Here are hers:

A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'Engle
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by Lucy Maude Montgomery
HALF MAGIC by Edward Eager
TREASURE ISLAND and KIDNAPPED by Robert Louis Stevenson
Little House Books (especially ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK) by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Hmm...three of those books are Newbery winners; perhaps it's fate that Ms. Vanderpool has joined their ranks.

But you know what really intrigues me? Her singling out ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK among Laura Ingalls Wilder's books.

Why that particular title?

If someone asked my favorite Wilder title, I'd probably choose the epic LONG WINTER. And of course LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS and THESE HAPPY GOLDEN YEARS have a special place, as they begin and end and the series.

But PLUM CREEK (and BY THE SHORES OF SILVER LAKE) are smooshed into the middle of the pack and never seem to stand out as individual titles.

You know how there's always one of the Seven Dwarfs you forget? Well, I'm in the same way with the eight Wilder books. "Let's see there's LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, THE LONG WINTER, LITTLE TOWN ON THE PRAIRIE, THESE HAPPY GOLDEN, FARMER BOY...and..and...[thirty seconds pass]...oh, I know: BY THE SHORES OF SILVER LAKE and ON THE BANKS OF PLUM CREEK!"

(The dwarf I always forget is Doc.)


Someone nice just gave me an advance reading copy of Judy Blundell's forthcoming young adult novel, STRINGS ATTACHED.

I was a big fan of the author's WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED. I think a lot of people were surprised when that title won the National Book Award a couple years back, but I thought it was quite good: thought-provoking, unpretentious, and hard to put down. Here's the cover:

Don't both books look an awful lot alike? I know publishers like for the books in a series to have a "uniform" look, but WHAT I SAW and STRINGS ATTACHED are not part of a series; the stories are completely unrelated. In fact, if I saw the name "Judy Blundell" and glanced at the cover of the new book, I might think I was looking at the older title and not even pick it up.

Secondly, do you think it's the same model on both covers? In the most recent book she'd be two or three years older. If it's the same girl, it again robs these titles of individuality. (And if it's not the same girl, they sure look alike!)

Speaking of uniform designs. The first book had something I've never seen in another YA book -- a photo (slightly variant from the dustjacket) was used as a frontispiece:

The new book employs a similar device:

Like it? Hate it? It's definitely something different.


Is something going on with Paula Fox?

I like to check the "keyword activity" statistics on my blog to see what brings people here. In addition to the nearly-daily search for "the book about soda pop coming out of faucets" (MR. PUDGINS), people come here looking for an amazing array of titles and authors. But what I've noticed for the past week or so is that I'm getting DOZENS of searches for information on Paula Fox every single day. I don't recall getting many searches for her in the past at all, yet every time I check my stats these days I see "Paula Fox," "Paula Fox," "Paula Fox," as a search term. Many of these requests are coming from Switzerland, the Netherlands, and other European countries. Are they running a movie based on one of her book on European TV? Or is there some kind of resurgence of her literary works going on right now?

Speaking of Ms. Fox, is anyone a REALLY big fan of her Newbery-winning novel THE SLAVE DANCER? Does anyone really LOVE it? I know the critics swooned over it when the book was published and I know that many readers respect and admire it, but it left me cold as a kid and I don't think I've still warmed up to it nearly forty years later. I think I'd probably appreciate it better today -- the author is a fine stylist -- but there is a big difference in APPRECIATING a book and LOVING a book.

Do you love this book, or merely appreciate it?

How did kids today feel about this novel?

Is it better to be appreciated or loved?


The ALA's Association for Library Services to Children has issued their list of 2011 Notable Children's Books.

It seems like I've seen the notation "An ALA Notable Children's Book" on the covers of paperbacks all my life, but it's never meant a lot to me.

However, I was intrigued to read this comment on the Horn Book blog by children's book expert K.T. Horning:

In days of yore, Notable Children's Books was a subcommittee of Newbery/Caldecott, meant to highlight books that didn't make the final cut as an award or honor, but that had been strong contenders and were worth noting. So there is a historic connection between ALSC awards and Notables.

But in the 21st century, there are so many awards I think ALSC could probably do away with Notables all together and simply compile the list of all the winners, including the CSK, American Indian, Asian/Pacific,and Stonewall and call it "ALA Notable Children's Books of the Year."

Now that's intriguing! You mean that all those old "ALA Notable Children's Books" I read had been strong contenders for the Newbery?

That makes me want to get a hold of all the old Notables lists and study them!

You always wonder what other books had a shot at the awards each year....

Maybe these lists will tell us.


Do you get tomorrow off work? My library is closed. But I'll probably spend most of the day at home working on an overdue chapter for the book I'm writing with Julie Danielson of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and Betsy Bird from Fuse #8 fame. However, if your library is open, you might want to check out some of the many children's books that have been published about this holiday.

Have there ever been so many books with the exact same title?

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Sheri Dean / Gareth Stevens / 2010
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Helen Frost / Capstone / 2000
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Margaret Hall / Rourke / 2010
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Lynn Hamilton / Weigl / 2010
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Linda Lowry / Carolrhoda / 2003
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Margaret McNamara / Simon / 2007
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Dianne MacMillan / Enslow / 2008
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / David F. Marx / Children's Press / 2001
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Reagan Miller / Crabtree / 2009
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Julie Murray / Buddy Books / 2005
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Robin Nelson / Lerner / 2002
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Dana Meachan Rau / Children's Press / 2000
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Rebecca Rissman / Heinemann Raintree / 2010
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Trudi Strain Trueit / Children's Press / 2006

In case you can't remember those titles, you might also try:

CELEBRATE MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY WITH MRS. PARK'S CLASS / Alma Flor Ada / Alfaguara Infantil / 2006
CELEBRATING MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY / Joel Kupperstein / Creative Teaching / 1999
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. / Jean Marzollo / Scholastic / 2006
LET'S GET READY FOR MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY / Lloyd G. Douglas / Children's Press / 2003
MAX CELEBRATES MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY / Adria Worsham / Picture Book Windows / 2008
WHAT IS MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY? / Margaret Friskey / Children's Press 1990


I was recently in a bookstore that was selling wobble-headed figurines, some of which had characters that originated in children's books.

There was the Wimpy Kid:

A Wild Thing:


And the "author" who usurped the Newbery spot on this week's TODAY SHOW -- Snooki!



Now that 2011's award frenzy is over...

...Let's start the 2012 frenzy!

What books already sound Newberyific and Caldecottable to you?

Several people -- including a few blog readers have said that Gary D. Schmidt's forthcoming OKAY FOR NOW is the one to beat:

I'm also hearing good things about SMALL THINGS WITH WINGS by Ellen Boorman. When I first heard the title I got the dry heaves, thinking it was another of those sensitive books about an ethereal and lonely girl who, either literally or figuratively, grows a pair of wings. You've seen those books. I know you have.

But apparently it's a snarky comedy about girl whose home is overrun by fairies.

There have been two covers so far. Here's the arc:

And here's the eventual hardcover:

Which do you think is better?

(Neither. I prefer OKAY FOR NOW.)

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

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Today Show Interview with 2011 Newbery Winner!

As most children's book fans know, every January the latest winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Awards are interviewed by NBC's TODAY SHOW on the morning after the prize announcement.

In case you forgot to watch the show this week, I am including Matt Lauer's interview with the Newbery-winning author here:

Actually, that is only a portion of the interview (an "expert" of it, to quote Matt.) After the commercial, Newbery Medalist Snooki talked about how exciting it was to get that early morning phone call from the prize committee:

Matt: Did the phone call wake you up?

Snooki: No, I'd just gotten home from clubbing and hadn't even taken off my high heels or hair extensions yet.

Matt: Someone told me you fell to the floor when you got the big news.

Snooki: Actually, I was already on the floor. It was a wild night.

Matt: Tell us about your book.

Snooki: It's about two girls who go to the Jersey Shore for summer vacation and spend a lot of time partying, drinking, and hot-tubbing.

Matt: And what happens?

Snooki: I actually haven't read the whole book yet.

Matt: But--

Snooki: But I did write it myself. I really truly did! Honest!

Matt: How does it feel to win the Newbery Award for your first book?

Snooki: To be honest, Matt, I never heard of this Blueberry Award till I won, but I guess I like it. My publisher said the book is going to have a big gold sticker on the cover now. I like shiny things.

Matt: What are you going to wear to the award banquet this summer?

Snooki: Something tight. Something short. Something lowcut.

Matt: So...where are you planning to go after our interview today? Will you be signing your book at a store, or speaking to a library group?

Snooki: Naw, I think I'll just hit the tanning salons.

Matt: Before you go, what do you say to those who think your book didn't really deserve the Newbery?

Snooki: They can kiss my bodunk.


Okay, she really didn't win.

But Snooki did appear on the TODAY SHOW this week, during the spot normally reserved for the ALA award winners.

The Newbery and Caldecott winners were nowhere to be seen.

Shame on TODAY.

But I'm here with good news.

As I write this blog, the just-crowned Newbery winner, MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool, ranks #11 on the bestseller list.

Snooki's bookie is ranked #668.

So it is and so it shall forever be.

MOON OVER MANIFEST will be in every library and bookstore for generations to come.

It will never go out of print.

Remember, the very first Newbery winner, THE STORY OF MANKIND, is still in print an still read ninety years after it was published.

And MOON OVER MANIFEST will still be read ninety years from now.

Will anyone still be reading Snooki's book ninety years from now?

Heck, will anyone be reading it next year?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sleeping with the Newbery

Some people sleep with husbands or wives.

Some sleep with dolls or teddy bears.

Me? I sleep with books.

It's not intentional. It's just that I like to read before going to sleep each night and, over time, the one or two books on my pillow becomes three or four. Or ten or twelve. On Sunday night -- the night before the prize announcements -- there were twenty books beside me as I slept. Here they are:

Let's zoom in for a closer view. (You can click on the image to enlarge it even more.) It's a mix of new hardcovers I purchased, a couple ARCS I received free, and several library books. Recognize any of these titles? Let's see...

Isn't that the Morris winner, THE FREAK OBSERVER by Blythe Woolston?

And there's SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi, which won this year's Printz.

Plus TWO Printz Honors -- REVOLVER by Marcus Sedgwick and PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A.S. King.

Finally, what's that book down on the far left side?

Let me flip it over:

Yep, MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool, the winner of this year's Newbery Medal!

MOON OVER MANIFEST was very much a surprise winner, but I'd heard the title mentioned several times as a possible under-the-radar contender over the past few weeks, so on Friday evening I picked up a copy of the novel on the way home from work. How lucky was that? Sunday night I slept beside it (and SHIP BREAKER and THE FREAK OBSERVER) and all three won major awards. Not to mention Honors for my bedmates VERA DIETZ and REVOLVER.


Of course.

But still.... I think next January, on The Night Before the Awards -- I'll take all my special favorites for the year and tuck them in beside me to see if lightning strikes twice!

Today's blog is a very random mix of facts and opinions about this year's book awards.


The 2011 Newbery Medal went to MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool.

There were four Honor Books:

TURTLE IN PARADISE by Jennifer L. Holm
DARK EMPEROR AND OTHER POEMS OF THE NIGHT by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen
ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia

The 2011 Caldecott Medal went to Erin E. Stead for A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE, written by Philip C. Stead.

There were two Honor Books:

DAVE THE POTTER : ARTIST, POET, SLAVE, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Laban Carrick Hill
INTERRUPTING CHICKEN, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein

The 2011 Printz Award went to SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi.

The four Honor Books are:

STOLEN by Lucy Christopher
REVOLVER by Marcus Sedgwick
NOTHING by Janne Teller

The 2011 Sibert Prize went to KAKAPO RESCUE : SAVING THE WORLD'S STRANGEST BIRD, written by Sy Montgomery and illustrated by Nic Bishop.

There were two Honor Books:

BALLET FOR MARTHA : MAKING APPALACHIAN SPRING, written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan and illustrated by Brian Floca


I've only had a fast internet connection for a few months, so this was the first time I was able to watch the award ceremony live.

Wow, it was exciting to hear the events in real time and listen to the audience response to each winning title. It was just like being there!

However, before the presentation began, the internet feed began playing LAST YEAR'S AWARDS. I thought it was funny that all the winning books were titles from 2009! Luckily I caught on just before the 2011 feed began. Did this happen to anyone else?

And how many people were unable to get online or had the feed go out on them halfway through the program? Several of my friends told me this happened to them.


A couple years ago I wrote a blog about the comparative ages of each Caldecott winner. The oldest winner was Mordicai Gerstein (THE MAN WHO WALKED BETWEEN THE TOWERS) who received the award at age 69.

The youngest was Robert McCloskey, who won for MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS at age 28.

Now along comes Erin E. Stead, who is also 28 years old.

At the very least, she has tied Mr. McCloskey for youngest Caldecott winner ever. Depending on her birthdate, she may actually have set a new record. Robert McCloskey was about six months into his twenty-eighth year when he won (back then the awards were usually announced in March), so if Ms. Stead is less than six months from her last birthday, she has established a new Caldecott record!

UPDATE : Philip C. Stead, the author of A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE and husband of newly-crowned Caldecott winner Erin E. Stead wrote in to say that Erin just turned twenty-eight on December 27.

This officially makes her the youngest Caldecott winner EVER -- beating out previous record holder Robert McCloskey by several months.

Thanks for the info -- and congrats to Mr. and Mrs. Stead on their winning book!


Erin Stead is originally from Farmington Hills, Michigan (hey, that's where I live!) and her husband, who wrote A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE and both wrote and illustrated CREAMED TUNA FISH & PEAS ON TOAST, hails from nearby Dearborn. Now they live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Erin joins other Michigan-born Caldecott winners Gerald McDermott (ARROW TO THE SUN), Chris Van Allsburg (JUMANJI; THE POLAR EXPRESS), and David Small (SO YOU WANT TO BE PRESIDENT.)


You might want to check out this newspaper article from the Detroit Free Press or this wonderfully in-depth blog entry from the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog.


Anyone notice that the Morris Award winner THE FREAK OBSERVER was mistakenly announced as FREAK THE OBSERVER?

Now several other websites and blogs have recorded it incorrectly.

...And I'm counting down the minutes till someone asks if FREAK THE OBSERVER is a sequel to Rodman Philbrick's FREAK THE MIGHTY....


In Beverly Cleary's 1984 Newbery winner, DEAR MR. HENSHAW, the eponymous character is a children's book writer whose works include WAYS TO AMUSE A DOG.

Ms. Cleary, a former bookseller, came up with that fictional title because she'd heard the possibly-apocryphal story about a bookstore customer who wanted a copy of Franz Werfer's big old serious novel FORTY DAYS OF MUSA DAGH and instead asked for "Forty Ways to Amuse a Dog."

Do you think anyone will now try to seek out MOON OVER MANIFEST and instead get this 2008 children's book:

Or how about those who want this year's Sibert Honor, BALLET FOR MARTHA and instead end up with:


Two books.

Both historical novels for young readers.

Both published in 2010.

One's nominated for the Morris Award, the other wins the Newbery.

And both cover girls need to watch where they're walking.


A blog-reader just asked me if this was the first year in which both the Newbery and Caldecott were given to debut creators.

I believe it is!

The closest example I can find is 1961 when Nicolas Sidjanov won the Caldecott for the first book he illustrated, BABOUSHKA AND THE THREE KINGS, and Scott O'Dell won for ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, which was his first work for young readers. However, Mr. O'Dell had previously published a few books for adults, so he was not truly a first-time author.

Incidentally, many authors have received the Newbery for their first book, but I'm hard-pressed to think of many illustrators who have won the Caldecott for their first book.

Let's see, there's Sidjanov and Stead.... Who else?


MOON OVER MANIFEST was published October 12, 2010.

I've heard that this novel had a first printing of 15,000 copies.

By the time the award was announced on January 10, the book was already in its second printing.

Based on my own experience, I think this winner may be similar to the 1995 Newbery WALK TWO MOONS in terms of collectability. That is, the book was released recently enough that all the copies haven't been snapped by libraries -- which is what happened with some other winners such as KIRA-KIRA and A SINGLE SHARD. Right now, just a couple days after the announcement, copies may be hard to find (it's currently #10 on the Amazon bestseller list) but when things calm down, I think first editions will trickle onto the market and be available for a moderate-to-high price.

A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE was published May 25, 2010.

I do not know the size of the first printing.

By the time the award was announced on January 10, the book was in at least its sixth printing.

Time will tell whether this becomes a classic, impossible-to-find Caldecott, but anecdotal evidence suggests it is selling very well, with some booksellers reporting it a hand-selling success long before the award was bestowed. The book is currently #8 on Amazon's bestseller list. Considering its early date of publication and its subsequent multiple printings, this is a difficult book to find in first edition at present and may remain so. Expect to pay a high price for a first edition in the coming years.


Some fun facts and figures about this year's prizes:

All of this year's Newbery titles were written by women.

This is the twentieth time that the entire Newbery slate (winner and Honors) have been won by all females: 1930 (winner plus six Honors!), 1932 (winner plus six Honors!), 1933, 1935, 1943, 1944, 1946, 1951, 1956, 1963, 1965, 1970, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2007, and 2011.

The number of female Newbery winners is now exactly double that of men, with sixty women winners vs. thirty men.

There have been complaints that Newbery novels tend to feature young girls with absent and/or bad mothers. This year's list reinforces those complaints, with three of the five books: MOON OVER MANIFEST, ONE CRAZY SUMMER, and TURTLE IN PARADISE following that trend.

This year's Newbery winner and honorees are all newcomers to the award, except for Jennifer Holm. This is her third Newbery Honor in eleven years. She joins the following group of "three-peaters" who have won three Honors without having won the gold:

Mary and Conrad Buff : BIG TREE (1947), THE APPLE AND THE ARROW (1952) and MAGIC MAIZE (1954.)

Padraic Colum : THE GOLDEN FLEECE (1922), THE VOYAGERS (1926), and BIG TREE OF BUNLAHY (1934.)





Eloise Jarvis McGraw : MOCCASIN TRAIL (1953), THE GOLDEN GOBLET (1962) and THE MOORCHILD (1997.) The forty-four years between her first and last Honors represents the longest stretch of time between honored books in an author’s career.


Gary Paulsen : DOGSONG (1986), HATCHET (1988), and THE WINTER ROOM (1990.)

Isaac Bashevis Singer : ZLATEH THE GOAT (1967), THE FEARSOME INN (1968), and WHEN SHLEMIEL WENT TO WARSAW (1969.)

Zilpha Keatley Snyder : THE EGYPT GAME (1968), THE HEADLESS CUPID (1972), and THE WITCHES OF WORM (1973.)

Jacqueline Woodson : SHOW WAY (2006), FEATHERS (2008), and AFTER TUPAC & D FOSTER (2009.)

Something tells me that Jennifer Holm will eventually win the Big N.

MOON OVER MANIFEST is one of the lenghiest Newberys to date. At 351 pages, it ranks only behind the first winner, THE STORY OF MANKIND (489 pages) and the second year's winner, THE VOYAGES OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE (364 pages.)

This year's winner is the fourth Newbery title to have the word "moon" in its title, following last year's Honor Book WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, winner WALK TWO MOONS, and Honor Book SING DOWN THE MOON

As of this year there are 53 male Caldecott winners and 27 female.

DAVE THE POTTER marks the third time Bryan Collier has received a Caldecott Honor, after ROSA and MARTIN'S BIG WORDS. He joins a select club of illustrators who have won three Caldecott Honors without winning the gold:


Peter Parnall : THE DESERT IS THEIRS (1976), HAWK, I’M YOUR BROTHER (1977), and THE WAY TO START A DAY (1978.)


Peter Sis : STARRY MESSENGER (1997), TIBET THROUGH THE RED BOX (1999) and THE WALL (2008.)


Taro Yashima : CROW BOY (1956), UMBRELLA (1959), and SEASHORE STORY (1968.)

I also think that Bryan Collier will eventually receive the gold medal -- sooner rather than later.

KAKAPO RESCUE was the third Sy Montgomery/Nic Bishop collaboration to be recognized by the Sibert committee after Honors THE TARANTULA SCIENTIST and QUEST FOR THE TREE KANGAROO. Mr. Bishop was also honored for his solo work, SPIDERS.

This year's two Sibert Honorees, Russell Freedman and Jan Greenberg/Sandra Jordan are not strangers to this award. Both have been cited before, with Mr. Freedman winning the 2005 Medal for THE VOICE THAT CHALLENGED A NATION and Greenberg/Jordan being Honored for ACTION JACKSON.


On Saturday I asked if anyone had any Newbery or Printz predictions to share.

Kudos to Sherry for getting the Printz winner right -- it was SHIP BREAKER!

And Kristen actually got the Newbery correct!

Plus I must give retro-props to Harper who predicted GOING BOVINE and TALES OF A MADMAN UNDERGROUND for the Printz last year. I only know one other person who predicted BOVINE and I don't think anyone (but Harper!) saw MADMAN coming.


When the awards were announced, I already owned all the Newbery books, except for HEART OF A SAMURAI. Fortunately, I was able to find a copy at a local store within minutes of hearing the announcement.

I'm especially pleased that my copies of TURTLE IN PARADISE are signed. Here is the ARC (advance reader's copy):

And here is the eventual hardcover:

Which cover do you prefer?

I have not yet read either MOON OVER MANIFEST or HEART OF A SAMURAI, but hope to read them soon and review them in this blog.

When the awards were announced, I already owned all the Printz books, except for STOLEN, which I hurried out to purchase.

Unfortunately, my copy of NOTHING is a second printing, so I am scrounging around trying to find a first. Has anyone ever seen one?

I have yet to read STOLEN, but hope to read it soon and review that here as well. And I'm very anxious to write about both REVOLVER and NOTHING -- REVOLVER because, while I enjoyed the book's fast-paced suspense, I felt the story centered on a somewhat sticky moral crisis that led to a rather unsatisfying conclusion; I'll explain more -- with spoilers -- in a future blog. And I must say I didn't like NOTHING (how could anyone like this deeply disturbing novel?) but I do think it's rather brilliant and almost impossible to forget. Why aren't more people talking about it?


As mentioned earlier, Erin and Philip Stead live fairly nearby and on Saturday my bookstore friend called them and asked if she could meet them to sign her store's copies of A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE. (I'm always amaazed at the ease with which other people can simply telephone or even meet famous authors and illustrators. I'd be way too shy (and way too in awe of their talent) to ever meet them. When my friend got back from Ann Arbor, I asked if she'd told Erin Stead that she wanted AMOS MCGEE to win the Caldecott. She said she hadn't. I said, "But you thought that book deserved the Caldecott since the first time you saw it! For months you've been saying it's your number one choice for the prize! Why in the world didn't you mention that?"

She said, "I didn't want to jinx the book's chances by saying anything."


I've never heard of anything so silly and superstious!

How could a few sentences uttered in Ann Arbor, Michigan affect the committee's deliberations all the way out in San Diego, California?

Besides the whole concept of jinxes and good luck charms and superstitions is positively medieval!

Some people need to wake-up and enter the twenty-first century.

I hope my friend dispels herself of such antiquated thinking -- and fast!

In the meantime, what 2011 books should I put in my bed next year at Newbery time? I know, I know it sounds crazy, but this thing really works!