Saturday, July 23, 2011

Brunch for the Last Day of July

July is nearly over.

I just hope my job isn't.

This past week the university where I work began lay offs. Two hundred positions were eliminated, including eighty that are currently filled.

Word began trickling in on Thursday afternoon: two employees let go from the Law Library. One from the Medical Library. A department head from my building. At the end of the day, we received an e-mail from the university president stating, "Most of those affected have not been notified."


Then we came in the next day and both my supervisors were laid-off and "escorted out of the building."

Now we hear that more layoffs are coming on Monday.

I was laid-off from a previous job about twenty years ago. It was the biggest nightmare of my life. I can only imagine how much worse it could be to lose one's job in this economy and at my current advanced age. It feels like my whole perspective on the world has changed in less than a week. A few nights ago I began hearing a tree frog broadcasting his distinctive two-beat croak from the umbrella tree across from my bedroom window.

At first it sounded like he was sending me a cheery greeting: "Hey Pete, hey Pete, hey Pete, hey Pete."

For the last couple nights it's sounded like he's saying, "Dead meat, dead meat, dead meat, dead meat."

Bookstores closing, library workers being laid off.... I imagine gangs of unemployed book lovers running through the streets, smashing e-readers, dumpster diving for discarded books and magazines, and holding impromptu readathons around bonfires.

A friend of mine says it feels as if we're entering a second dark ages.

Maybe she's right....


When I first started my job as a cataloger (please let me keep my job, please let me keep my job!), one of the first things I learned was that all the other catalogers referred to the copyright page of a book as the "title page verso." It's library lingo. In the past few days I've noticed these fun oddities on the versos of recent young adult and children's books:

The publisher of Sue Corbett's THE LAST NEWSPAPER BOY IN AMERICA doesn't want to get sued if readers are directed to anything questionable through websites mentioned in the book:

The publisher of THE SPACE BETWEEN TREES by Katie Williams "confirms to CPSIA 2008."

What is that? The Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008.

The novel ORCHARDS by Holly Thompson, as well as many other books published by the Random House group includes this thought-provoking quote:

In the midst of the typeset warnings on the verso of CARTER FINALLY GETS IT by Brent Crawford, we get a special "no copying" notice:

And I was sort of stunned by all the copyright and tradmark acknowedgements on the verso of BASS ACKWARDS AND BACK TO FRONT by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain.

I totally understand having to acknowledge the use of works by Amy Vanderbilt and D.H. Lawrence, but since when do we have to acknowledge a novel's use of trademarked products such as Chapstick, Tinactin, and Neosporin?

Have you ever seen a product trademark acknowledged in a book?

What is the strangest think you've ever seen on a copyright page...I mean verso?


I was just reading the book THE HIVE DETECTIVES : CHRONICLE OF A HONEYBEE CATASTROPHE by Loree Burns. On the backflap of the dustjacket, Dr. Burns says she was stung five times while writing this book -- once by accident, and for times while posing for this picture by photographer Emily Harasimowicz:

This got me wondering how many other children's authors have been stung, bitten, or attacked while working on books.

A British author named Ernie Gordon, who had written a children's book about a squirrel called THE ADVENTURES OF RUSTY RED COAT took in an injured squirrel whose bites caused the author to require a tetanus shot and antibiotics.

Mary Casanova was bitten by fire ants while doing research in Belize -- and later had her protagaonist experience a similar painful event in her children's books JESSE.

Many authors rely on secondhand accounts in writing their books.

The central event in Betsy Byars' THE TV KID is a rattlesnake bite. The author recalls, "I had a friend who was bitten by a rattlesnake, and I knew how many shots she'd had and what colors her leg turned, etc, and when a writer gets stuff like that, she's going to use it. I was waiting for just the right character and situation, and when Lennie crawled under that house, I said, 'Sorry, Lennie, it's going to be you.'"

In writing her "Horrible Harry" books, author Suzy Kline relied on a book called PAIN INDEX by professional sadist Justin O. Schmidt, stating that Schmidt "was a scientist who did fieldwork on insect bites. He went out and got bitten by all kinds of insects! Then he charted their sting—how much it hurt and for how long. I loved it! Harry and his classmates would be fascinated with this new information! I could have Professor Guo, who was leading Harry's class on a field trip to a local pond, share some of it.

But only Norma Fox Mazer turned the tables on the insects. When researching the prehistoric novel SATURDAY THE TWELFTH OF OCTOBER, the late author ate live insects so she could learn about her protagonist's diet!


For the past few decades, Ruth White has established a reputation for chronicling southern life in a series of well-regarded novels for young people. Although the Newbery Honor BELLE PRATER’S BOY is her best-known work, I’m partial to WAY DOWN DEEP, a feel-good novel with hints of magical realism.

This is a banner year for Ruth White fans, as the author is publishing two novels in 2011.

The just-published YOU’LL LIKE IT HERE (EVERYBODY DOES) is definitely an oddity in the author’s body of work. It starts in typical White fashion, with narrator Meggie Blue describing life in the small North Carolina town where she lives with her mother, brother, and grandfather. The setting may be pastoral --Meggie likes picking strawberries, discussing Taylor Swift with her best friend, and sleeping on the porch on hot summer nights -- but something strange is going on in town. There are rumors of UFOs and aliens. When a mob of neighbors shows up at their house in the middle of the night, the Blue family boards their “Carriage,” a space vehicle, and takes flight for a random planet. Turns out -- to the reader’s surprise -- that Meggie and her family are aliens “from the distant world of Chroma” who have secretly been living here on Earth.

The Blues end up landing in a town called Fashion City on avplanet which appears to be an alternate Earth. In this highly-regimented society run by “the Fathers,” adults work factory jobs, kids are schooled via television, and everyone takes tranquilizing pills and abides by curfews. With all the harsh dystopian novels currently published for young adults, Ms. White fills a need with this tamer book for somewhat younger readers, but she doesn’t always seem in complete control of the genre. Though the Blues’ new home resembles Earth, people from various eras -- including Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Chief Seattle, and even Elvis -- all seem to exist in the same time period. And what are we to make of the alien hunter who tracks down Meggie on both Earth and in Fashion City? His presence isn’t really explained, so he seems more like a plot device than a fully-understood presence in the story. Though not fully successful, YOU’LL LIKE IT HERE contains action, excitement, and thoughtful commentary on utopian societies for middle grade readers, but it doesn’t hold up to the best of the genre, such as Lois Lowry’s THE GIVER. Some readers may wish the Blues never left Earth for Fashion City, but had instead stayed home and showed us what life was like for extraterrestrials hiding in a small southern town in the US of A.

Ruth White returns to her more traditional narrative style in A MONTH OF SUNDAYS, due out in October. While her mother goes to seek work in Florida, fourteen-year-old Garnet is left with her father’s relatives in Virginia. Not only has Garnet never met her aunt, uncle, and cousins -- she has never met her father, who left town before she was born. Over the next several weeks, Garnet samples of variety of southern churches with her aunt Jane, falls for a boy preacher, and ultimately meets the father she has never known. Set in the mid-1950s, the book is strong in setting, character, and dialogue. Some aspects of the plot -- such as Aunt Jane’s miracle healing from terminal cancer -- seem rushed and facile, but an uncompromising ending gives the novel an unexpected depth, while its religious themes -- so often unexplored in children’s fiction -- add interest.


Although most of her work is known and widely-read, few readers know about Ruth White's very first book, THE CITY ROSE. She wrote the book as a young teacher: "The schools had just been integrated in North Carolina the year before I started teaching, and I had two black girls in one of my classes. When we would go to the library, I noticed that they didn't check any books out. I was trying to help them find books, and they finally told me that they couldn't find any books about black children -- about themselves -- so I decided that was something we would have to fix. I decided to write one. So that's how The City Rose was born. Of course, it was several years after that that it was finally published, and those children had grown up and gone away by that time. I was really lucky with it. I had a copy of Writer's Market. I don't remember where I got it; I just looked through it for addresses of publishers who published children's stories, and I decided to send it to McGraw Hill. I had heard of them --probably because they published textbooks -- and they bought it."

The book was released in hardcover in 1977:

and was later available in paperback:

But it was eleven years before the author wrote her next novel. By then THE CITY ROSE was long of print and it's unlikely that even those who stumble across it in a library or used bookstore today realize that the "Ruth White Miller" who wrote THE CITY ROSE is now the critically-acclaimed and commercially-successful author Ruth White.


I haven't yet read it, but I'm excited by the new YA novel THE GIRL IS MURDER by Kathryn Miller Haines. This 1940s mystery concerns a teenage girl who gets involved in one of the cases her private investigator father is handling. I hope it has the same kind of fun and style as Sandra Scoppettone's 1940s mysteries (THIS DAME FOR HIRE; TOO DARNED HOT) which were published for adults, but also appealing to teenage readers.

Here is the cover of THE GIRL IS MURDER:

And here is a mystery!

Is she the same girl featured on the cover of Judy Blundell's National Book Award winning novel WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED, also set in the forties?

And is she also featured on Ms. Blundell's latest, NO STRINGS?

I think it's the same girl, but perhaps I'm confused by similar appearances and similar photographic styles. Is the same model on all three books? Is she the go-to gal for noirish YA novels?


Two weeks ago I wrote about the new YA novel ON THE VOLCANO and my surprise at the author's birthdate in the cataloging-in-publication inforamtion on the copyri-- I mean, verso:

According to the CIP, James Nelson was born in 1921, meaning he is turning ninety this year, and I wondered if this set a new record for a first-time young adult novelist.

A few days later, Helen Schinske wrote to say, "It's possible the Library of Congress made a mistake -- James Nelson is of course a common name, and they may accidentally have used an old authority record. I think that's a lot more likely than an 89-year-old getting a book deal without it being big news."

I thought about this and decided Helen was probably right. As mentioned above, I am a book cataloger in a library (please let me keep my job, please let me keep my job!) and work with CIP data every day. Although generally correct, I know that it's not unusual for the Library of Congress to make mistakes, especially involving a new author with a common name.

However, I decided to do a bit more research and finally came across this internet interview with the EIGHTY-NINE-YEAR-OLD AUTHOR!

Who would have guessed it!

Though I have to agree with Ms. Schinske: it's surprising that the story of an 89-year-old getting a book deal (for a teenage novel, no less!) did not become bigger news.


Sad to note the passing of Georgess McHargue, author of many wonderful children's books in the 1970s. Though she eventually left the field for other work, her award-nominated books remain a vivid testament to her talent.

Some savvy publisher should snap up the rights to her classic STONEFLIGHT, making it available to a new generation of kids.

IS IT 2012 YET?

I've mentioned my work as a cataloger (please let me keep my...yeah, yeah, you've already heard it!) One of the traditions in our cataloging department has always been seeing who would discover the first book with NEXT YEAR'S date on the verso. It often happens as early as midsummer. You don't get a prize for finding such a book, but you do get to show it around the office and then have bragging rights for the whole year ("Remember when I found that book dated 2003 way back on June 15, 2002?" "Oh big deal, I was the first one to find a 1996 book all the way back on April 19, 1995." It obviously take much to entertain us.)

I mention this because I have just seen my first 2012 book.

This time it's not a hardcover book ready to be put on a library shelf, but an advance reading copy. This makes sense, as such volumes are printed way in advance of the actual publication date.

The book is WHY WE BROKE UP:

I think it will be a talked-about title because it's written by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) and illustrated by Maira Kalman. The artwork will in color too, which is unusual for a young adult novel.

This ARC came shrinkwrapped in plastic and contains a number of postcards featuring Ms. Kalman's illustrations:

What a collectable package!

My friend also sent me some bookmarks:

and some promotional pieces advertising forthcoming children's books:

I'm so grateful to my friend for sharing these things.

And grateful that I can share them with you here in this blog.

And I'll be most grateful of all if I can hold onto my job!

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Crossing Borders

So many songs about getting older refer to the world getting darker, growing colder:

“For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder.
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older.”


"Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
Although you know the snow will follow."


“In only a moment we both will be old,
We won’t even notice the world turning cold.”

As a kid I didn’t understand that lyrical metaphor.

As I’ve grown older, it’s become all too evident.

The world really does seem to get colder with each passing year.

And though July 18 may have been the hottest day of 2011, I felt the cold winds of change blowing when I heard that Borders Books was going out of business.

I was lucky enough to have been there from the very beginning.

I grew up in Detroit, some thirty miles from Ann Arbor. Several relatives lived in A2 (as people around here call it) and, when I was a kid, I would sometimes spend a few days with an aunt who lived on the very same street as the University of Michigan football stadium. During my visits, she and I spent entire days going from one bookstore to another -- and back in the early seventies, Ann Arbor was filled to bursting with bookstores of every type: big ones, small ones; some specializing in counterculture books, feminist books, or the paranormal; some with miles of college textbooks, others no bigger than your living room and crammed with only crumbling, used paperbacks. In the midst of all this, Borders Books opened in 1971. I can’t say I have any special memories of those early years; it was just another stop on our list of local bookstores.

Borders didn’t make an impression on me until it moved to a larger, two-story location on State Street a few years later. I still remember how my pace would quicken as I got closer to the front entrance. I’d practically run up the stairs to see what was new in the children’s book department on the second floor. I could spend hours browsing in every section of the store, though: fiction, drama, science, history, art. I still own many books that I purchased there. And still have many memories of visiting that store on State Street. There was a wonderful summer Sunday when my friend Pat took me on a walking tour of the entire city, showing me all the places she hung out while attending U of M; during our stop at Borders I bought a copy of the then-brand-new SIXTEEN : SHORT STORIES BY OUTSTANDING WRITERS FOR YOUNG ADULTS, edited by Donald R. Gallo. Several years later I wrote a play that was produced by a small theatre in A2. One Saturday twilight, a couple hours before “show time,” I ran over to Borders and discovered a copy of Avi’s NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH in a new book display and it became an instant favorite. And for years and years, I had a tradition of driving up to Ann Arbor on New Year’s Eve Day and hitting all the bookstores --culminating with a long visit to Borders.

I can’t tell you how excited I was when Borders finally began to expand from their Ann Arbor store. One of the first new locations they opened was in Lathrup Village, Michigan, just a few miles from my home. Within a few years there were, literally, FOUR Borders bookstores less than fifteen minutes away. I practically lived in these stores. They opened early and closed late. At Christmas there would be stacks of books on the floor waist-high and check-out lines stretching from the front of the store nearly to the back wall. It did my heart good to be surrounded by so many other book lovers.

…But I also noticed something chilling. Borders had a habit of moving into areas that already had established independent bookstores across the street or just down the block…and within months of Borders’ arrival, these small bookshops -- often beloved neighborhood fixtures -- would post “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS” signs. It was heartbreaking to see them go and I began to have mixed feelings about these big cookie-cutter superstores (and I’m including Barnes and Noble here) driving away unique mom-and-pop businesses that simply could not compete with Borders’ large selection, discount prices, and long hours.

Around this time, I stumbled across one of the few independent bookstores in my area that had been able to stay open, despite both a Borders and a B&N just a few miles away. Since then, I’ve done almost all my bookbuying from this store -- which specializes in handselling and calls you whenever a new book by a favorite author comes in. A place that saves up their old issues of Publishers Weekly for me to read. A place that shares advance reading copies of forthcoming books with me, knowing I’ll likely end up buying the hardcover anyway. A place where the owners love to talk about books and take great joy in sharing them with fellow readers.

Does this mean I turned against Borders completely? No, I still bought magazines there. And I was known to run in and buy a new bestseller from time to time. Before birthdays and Christmas, I’d sometimes drop by to pick up a dozen paperback mysteries as gifts for my father. I used to buy a lot of CDs and DVDs there. I also attended some Borders booksignings, forever grateful that I got to meet Jean Craighead George and Markus Zusak. And I can’t tell you how many evenings I’ve driven by a darkened strip mall and felt so good to see one lone store lighted up and teeming with life -- Borders providing a warm gathering place for readers late on a winter’s night.

And now I’m struck cold by the news of its closing, despite having been ambivalent about Borders’ big business mindset and takeover tactics. I have no idea what really went wrong. The bad economy? The encroachment of The new technology of e-readers? Did the chain just get too unwieldy and “big for its britches”? Maybe someday someone will write a book about the downfall of Borders. How ironic that you won’t be able to buy this book at Borders, because within a few weeks the remaining 400 locations will be gone. Over 10,000 people -- presumably people who know and care about books -- will be unemployed. And now those darkened malls will be completely dark and empty.

It feels like we’re about to enter foreign territory.

We’re approaching a different kind of border.

Will we soon be living in a cold, sterile world where every book is ordered online? Or where we just press a button and the book is delivered immediately to an e-reader? It feels like we’re headed in that direction.

But I, for one, intend to fight it.

I’m going to keep patronizing independent bookstores and -- of course -- libraries. I want to hang on to those last few places where we can pick up books, sample stories, feel the pages under our fingertips, and share time and space and thoughts with like-minded people -- fellow book lovers -- in a world that grows colder by the day.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Brunch : Looking Back at Library Cards, Looking Ahead to Newbery 2012

Sunday Brunch. Books old and new. Random facts and opinions. You know the drill.

Today's Brunch shows the "library book" given to those who attended this year's Newbery-Caldecott banquet, solicits memories of your first library card, notes a senior citizen making his debut as a YA author, and predicts the next Newbery winner...before quickly changing my mind about it!


All year 'round we obsess about it.

We read as many books as we can, looking for it.

By this point in the summer, certain titles have started to emerge, rising to the top like cream.

Will one of them be the next Newbery winner?

Or will it be a book from the fall season that most people haven't read yet?

Some years certain titles have received so much critical acclaim and popular buzz that people are not surprised when the Newbery winner is announced. That was how it was in 2010: WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead was declared the winner and everyone said, "Of course."

Then there are other years, when the "expected" titles are ignored or turn up as Honor Books and the Newbery goes to an out-of-left-field volume that was barely mentioned by pundits or in Mock Newbery polls. That was how it was in 2011: MOON OVER MANIFEST by Claire Vanderpool won and everyone said, "Huh?"

What kind of year will 2012 be? Hard to tell. At this point, a number of excellent books have been gathering support for the past several months: OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt, THE PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE by Jeanne Birdsall, AMELIA LOST by Candace Fleming, BREADCRUMBS by Anne Ursu.

However, this past week I read a new book that immediately had me thinking "Newbery 2012!" The book is SPARROW ROAD by Sheila O'Connor. Have you read it? What did you think? Newbery-ific or no?

Raine is nearly thirteen when her single mother takes a summer job as a cook at a rural artists colony. Raine misses her grandfather and the life she left behind in Milwaukee, and resents the rules of Sparrow Road, which include no television, no radio, and no talking all day until suppertime. But she soon finds herself forming friendships with many of the residents, including an extroverted fabric artist and an elderly poet who shares confused memories of Sparrow Road's mysterious past as an orphanage. Raine also has a few mysteries of her own to solve, such as why her mother took this unusual job. Could it have something to do with Raine's long-absent father?

An evocative setting, a strong cast of eccentric characters, and an emerging sense of community inform this middle-grade novel as Raine uncovers secrets, struggles with family loyalties, and discovers her own artistic sensibility as a writer -- her desire to uncover "what was or what could be" -- over the course of one growing-up summer.

The novel is not without flaws. It's a bit quiet, perhaps a little sweet. Like too many recent books, events are not always adequately foreshadowed (when Raine wants to go to the town's "Rhubarb Social" and insists, "We've been planning it all week," readers will wonder why they haven't heard of it before now and why they couldn't have been part of the fun as Raine and a friend planned their rhubarb taffy recipe.) The novel also suffers from a unclear historical milieu. It could be set in the present day, but the absence of computers and cellphones, plus Mama's past as a former "hippie," suggests a 1980s setting, with Sparrow Road's own past as an orphanage occuring around World War I.

But these are small quibbles, in an otherwise, strong and emotionally-rewarding novel that is one of 2011's best.


As soon as I finished reading SPARROW ROAD, it moved to the top of my Newbery list.

But over the last couple days, I've come to the conclusion that -- as good as the book is, and as deserving of the award it seems to be, it might actually be a longshot for the Newbery.


You could say that the book already HAS won the award a few times. Stories of parentless girls uncovering mysteries from the past are already a big part of the Newbery canon. Think WALK TWO MOONS. Think THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY.


That may be the book that hurts SPARROW ROAD's chances most of all.

Though committee members are not supposed to consider previous winners when choosing the year's most distinguished book for children, I can't imagine them not (secretly, privately) comparing MOON OVER MANIFEST to SPARROW ROAD, wondering if these two novels are too similar and not wanting to make the 2012 winner a "rerun" of the 2011 award.

As good as it is, I have a feeling that SPARROW ROAD might fall victim to timing.


People who collect children's books are often interested in related ephemera such as posters, bookmarks, and promotional pieces.

I am always on the look-out for programs from the annual Newbery/Caldecott Banquet. Sometimes I find old programs offered for sale by used bookdealers. They can run $50-$100 a piece. Some years I get lucky and a friend who attends the banquet snags an extra program and gives it to me. Other years I have no luck at all. (There is still an empty place on my shelf for the 2010 program. Anyone have a copy to sell?)

2011 was one of the lucky years. This week a very kind book buddy who attended ALA in New Orleans sent me a copy of the latest program. I haven't even thanked him yet -- but maybe this blog will serve as a preliminary thank you until I send a personal note expressing my great gratitude.

It's always fun to see the format of the N/C program, which can range from a tiny hardcover souvenier book to a fold-out pamphlet. This year's is especially clever. It takes the form of a library book, right down to the (correct) Dewey Decimal call number sticker on the spine:

The cover is folded to create endpapers at the front and back of the book. The front endpaper describes the book:

Inside are photographs of Newbery winner Clare Vanderpool, Caldecott winner Erin Stead, and Wilder winner Tomie dePaola. There is an excerpt from MOON OVER MANIFEST, illustrations from A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE, lists of this year's Honor Books, committee members, and Honored Guests. The back of the program also mimics an endpaper with (what else?) "author biographies" of John Newbery, Randolph Caldecott, and Laura Ingalls Wilder:

But as they say in the world of late-night commercials -- "but wait, there's more!" Did you notice what's underneath that back flap? It's the coolest thing ever -- a mock-up of the pocket in a library book:

And inside are three "date due" slips, one for the Newbery, one for the Caldecott, and one for the Wilder. The people who "checked out" the book are all the winners of these awards! Here's the front of each card:

And here is the back of each card, with lots of empty space for all the upcoming winners' name. So much promise for the future here:

You know what I think would be hilarious? If the American Library Association got a mailing list of everyone who attended the banquet and sent out "overdue notices" for the 2011 AWARDS BANQUET book which they borrowed on June 26 in New Orleans and never returned.


I treasure the N/C banquet program my friend sent me. It's also sent me on a nostalgia trip, thinking about my own childhood days checking out books from the Edison Branch Library in Detroit.

Not to sound like one of those old men who rants about walking four miles to school in waist-high snowdrifts, but I really must say: there actually was a time when libraries checked out books without the aid of computers! In the middle of every table in our library was a black wooden box filled with borrowing slips and small pencils. At the top of each slip were lines for checking out three books. You had to copy all the info off the book's back pocket:

J Cleary, Beverly. Henry and the Paper Route. c. 14
J Hayes, William. Project Genius. c. 1
J Konigsburg, E.L. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. c. 2

Now you have to picture those titles copied onto the forms in sloppy and smeary grade school writing with the Konigsburg title so long that it had to be written in tiny print and looped upwards and almost off the side of the slip.

Beneath that you had to fill in your personal information:

Name: Peter D. (yes, I even used the initial then; I wanted to be a famous writer) Sieruta
Address: 9982 Minock
City: Detroit, Michigan 48228
Telephone: 273-4396

There was no limit to the number of books you could borrow as long as you filled out slips (with three books per slip) for each of them. Then you took your books to the circulation desk with your library card. You were not allowed to borrow books without the card, even if you were a regular customer and the staff knew you personally.

Back then the library cards were about the size of a credit card, printed on stiff paper. Cards for kids had red lines across the top. I can't say for sure, but I think the adult cards were green or blue. I do remember that, if you used your card as much as I did, the cardboard would eventually wear down to a soft, almost cloth-like texture and your ink signature would become so pale and dim that it might have been written in invisible ink. When we got a little older, we'd go to Woolworth's and buy two square pieces of laminating plastic out of a machine for a quarter (which felt like $5 back then) and carefully seal our cards to preserve them. Those laminated cards stood up to anything from sweat to bike accidents. Once in a while a circulation clerk would disapprovingly tell us, "You're not supposed to laminate your library card." Instead of asking why, we'd worry they were going to revoke our borrowing privileges for breaking a library rule. Incidentally, this last step of the circulation process (after filling out the slips for our books, taking them to the circ desk, handing over our library card, and getting yelled at for illegal lamination) was the only one that involved automation. As early as the mid-sixties the date due slip placed in each book pocket was a punch card with the due date printed in a "computerized" font. Originally, these cards were about 3x5 inches, but later became much smaller -- about half their original size.

As I said, this topic makes me nostalgic for my old library cards. I wish I still had them -- the older cards worn to a cottony softness or the ones I laminated and had such sharp corners that they'd draw blood if you pulled it out of your pocket too quickly.

I still remember the summer day I got my first library card and wonder why this "rite of passage" isn't depicted in more children's books.

Of course it is described in some.

Who can forget Rufus M. trying to get a card in the eponymous volume by Eleanor Estes:

Ramona Quimby also struggled with getting her own library card.

And Jerry Spinelli wrote an entire volume on the topic called -- what else? -- THE LIBRARY CARD.

Can you think of any others?

And what are your memories of your first library card?

Do you remember the circulation process at your first library?

Did you create pockets and date due slips for the books you owned at home?

What are your favorite childhood library memories?


As one of the judges for this year's Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the category of young adult literature, I have been reading as many YA books as I can get my hands on. I think I've read close to sixty so far this year.

Yesterday I picked up a new novel, ON THE VOLCANO by James Nelson.

I can't comment on the quality of the book yet, as I never made it much past the copyright page. The author is identified as having written four nonfiction books (apparently for adults), but this is his first novel. Then I noticed his age in the cataloging-in-publication data:

According to the CIP, James Nelson was born in 1921, meaning he already is or is about to turn ninety this year.

Is that a new record for a first-time young adult novelist?

Can anyone think of another YA author whose published their very first novel in their nineties?

Let me know if you can think of any other names. I have a feeling that James Nelson may be the first!


A couple weeks ago I blogged about an upcoming book called ROBERT MCCLOSKEY : A PRIVATE LIFE IN WORDS AND PICTURES. It was released this week and I picked up a copy on Friday. I haven't yet had time to read it, but I'm already intrigued by the fact that the originally-announced dustjacket:

has now been changed to this one:

I've only skimmed through the book so far, but have already learned a lot about this important children's book figure and what made him tick. I was particularly intrigued by a chapter on "The Paranormal and the Weird" which discusses one of McCloskey's unpublished manuscripts and its parallels with Crocket Johnson's HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON.

The only thing in the book that made me wince was a reference to Robert McCloskey's mother-in-law, Ruth Sawyer, winning the "Newbury" Award.

But this is definitely a book you'll want to read if you have any interest in Mr. McCloskey, twentieth-century book illustration, or the general topic of children's books.


I put this last because it really doesn't have anything to do with children's books.

But regular readers of this blog have heard me complain about the chipmunks bent on destroying my container garden.

I may have finally found an answer to the problem: a garden owl!

I purchased this plastic owl from a catalog. You simply insert two AA batteries at the base, place it in your garden, and every time a critter creeps by, a motion detector goes off causing the owl to hoot and twist his head like Linda Blair. His eyes also light up. The chipmunks run away and your veggies are safe!

Want to see the owl in action?

I couldn't kneel outside in the hot sun all day waiting for a chipmunk to appear and hoping that I'd get it all on camera, so I brought the owl into my library, made a chipmunk-paperdoll-glued-to-a-Popsicle-stick, then filmed this video. I like to tell myself that highly-creative types like Robert McCloskey and Erin Stead probably started off by making whimsical paper chipmunks on sticks. Otherwise, it just looks like I'm a bit nutty....

Incidentally, if you think my video is silly, I'll tell you something even more ridiculous. The garden owl was sold by the Walter Drake company. The catalog photograph clearly shows the owl sitting outside on a fence post surrounded by vegetable plants. The text says to use this garden owl to scare off plant-eating critters and other outdoor pests.

However, it arrived with an instruction sheet showing how to insert the batteries. At the very bottom of that page, in all caps and a large font, the instructions say:



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

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Brunch for July 10

This and that about children's books old and new on a hot summer Sunday....


Back in the 1960s and 1970s, THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW was a staple of afternoon television. Every weekday at 4:30 PM, the amiable host would interview a variety of actors, singers, athletes, and other celebrities -- ranging from TV sitcom sidekicks to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Considering that I had an afterschool paper route and was rarely around during those hours, I'm surprised by how many of those shows I remember watching. I still recall Cass Elliot telling Mike that she loved to read and "It's not unusual for me to go into a bookstore and spend one hundred dollars at a time." I remember gasping. And feeling jealous. I wondered if I'd ever be "rich enough" to spend $100 in a bookstore. What a dream for the future! Now, many decades later, there have been times I've spent $100 at a time in a bookstore. The only difference is that Cass probably left the store toting bags containing ten or twelve hardcovers and maybe thirty or forty paperbacks, while I leave the bookstore with a single bag containing four hardcovers and two paperbacks. A hundred dollars ain't what it used to be....

I was also jealous of all the "famous kids" who appeared on Mike Douglas's program. Teen actress Linda Blair. Tiger Woods, barely out of diapers and already playing golf. A kid who advertised canned deviled ham even got to co-host for the entire week. But I was most envious of a twelve-year-old girl who appeared on the show in 1975. Her name was Alexandra Elizabeth Sheedy and she'd written a novel about a mouse who lived in England's royal court, SHE WAS NICE TO MICE : THE OTHER SIDE OF ELIZABETH I'S CHARACTER NEVER BEFORE REVEALED BY PREVIOUS HISTORIANS. The little girl talked about how she'd come to write a book, and then read a few paragraphs aloud to Mike Douglas. I wished I was sitting there reading a book I'd written to Mike Douglas. Of course I hadn't actually written a book, but that was beside the point.

The next time I was at the bookstore, I skimmed through a copy of SHE WAS NICE TO MICE. (I didn't have $100 to buy books from a bookstore. Heck, I didn't even have $5.95 to buy this book!) It wasn't my kind of story, but I still wished it was my smiling juvenile face that appeared on the dustjacket instead of Alexandra's.

A couple years later the book was even released a Yearling paperback, with the author's age emblazoned on the front cover:

Alexandra Elizabeth Sheedy never became a major writer or literary star, but she did become a movie star. Ten years she was all over the big screen -- as Ally Sheedy -- starring in such "brat pack" favorites as THE BREAKFAST CLUB and ST. ELMO'S FIRE. Who can imagine that one person could be both a young movie star and an even younger author! (It probably didn't hurt that her mother was a well-known literary agent either.)


How did I miss this?

Way back in February, Candlewick published a book called PICK-UP GAME : A FULL DAY OF FULL COURT. Edited by Marc Aronson and and Charles R. Smith, Jr. the book contains a series of linked stories set on a New York City basketball court. Some of the literary stars who wrote these stories include Ally Sheedy (just kidding)...Walter Dean Myers, Joseph Bruchac, Robert Lipsyte, and Rita Williams-Garcia. But the reason I'm now itching to read PICK-UP GAME is because one of the included authors is Bruce Brooks. It's been a long time since we've read any of his fiction, and I've been hoping he'd make a comeback. Brooks burst into the field of children's books in 1984 with THE MOVES MAKE THE MAN, a Newbery Honor, and two years later returned with MIDNIGHT HOUR ENCORES, a novel totally unlike MOVES, but just as brilliant in style and execution. He received another Newbery Honor for WHAT HEARTS (1992) but over the next decade produced books that seemed below his abilities (the self-indulgent "Wolfbay Wings" series, the picture book text EACH A PIECE (it had to be a work-for-hire job. Had to be) and some rather thin (in quality and content) middle-grade novels -- though I'm a huge fan of the under-appreciated ASYLUM FOR NIGHTFACE. It's been nearly a decade since he's published a book, so learning that he has a short story in PICK-UP GAME is a real source of celebration for me. Let's hope he's soon back with another of his brilliant novels!


By now everyone knows about the "printers key" that appears on the copyright page of most books. Here's how I described it in one of my earliest blog entries:

Nowadays it's fairly easy to identify most first edition books, as the majority of publishers utilize a "printers key" on the copyright page.

The printers key is a sequence of numbers that indicate the current printing of that particular volume. Some publishers use ascending numbers (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10), some use a run of descending numbers (10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1) and others use a line of alternating numbers (2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1.) In all these cases, the presence of the number "1" indicates a book is a first printing. When the book moves into a second printing, the "1" is lopped off and "2" will be the lowest number in the line.

Here are some examples:

This ascending sequence of numbers

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

indicates the book is a third printing, as that's the lowest number present.


This descending sequence

10 9 8 7 6 5 4

tells us the book is in its fourth printing.


And in this alternating sequence:

6 8 10 9 7 5

the absence of the numbers 1 through 4 shows us this is a fifth printing.


These numbering systems are fairly standard, but by no means universal. In the past, each publisher often had its own distinctive method of indicating printings, so it's important to check with a reference volume on book collecting to learn how each publisher designates its printings.

Collectors are often worried that their first edition book may not be accompanied by a "first state" dustjacket. This is a valid concern since it's obvious that someone could easily remove a dj from a later printing and place it on a first edition to "dress it up" and raise its value. (A first edition with dustjacket is always going to be worth more than one without a dj.) There are several ways to make sure that you have a true first editon dustjacket on your book.

First, look up the cost of the book when it was originally published. If the original price was $15.95 and your copy says $16.95 or any other price, you've got a later printing.

Secondly, check to make sure that no books published AFTER this one are listed among the author's credits. For example, if you're looking at first edition of Lois Lowry's NUMBER THE STARS, which was published in 1989, the dj should make no reference to THE GIVER (published 1993), SILENT BOY (2003) or THE BIRTHDAY BALL (2010.)

It is important to check for reviewer quotes on the dustjacket as well. Be wary if you see a rave from one of the literary journals printed on the front flap or back cover, as it's likely that the review was published AFTER the book...and added to the dj at a later time. HOWEVER, this is not always the case. There are occasions when a review publication (typically Kirkus) publishes their review early enough that it actually does appear on the original dustjacket. Again, this is a case where your best bet is to track down a true first edition and compare it to the questionable copy.

Some people assume that if an award sticker is on a dustjacket, then it cannot be a true first-state dj. I don't hold with that idea. In many cases, there are copies of the true first edition with the true first state dustjacket in warehouses when the awards are announced. At that point, the stickers are affixed to the these djs are not second state or reprinted, but simply first state djs with stickes affixed.

I bring up this long, wordy issue because of something I encountered this past Friday. In the bookstore I saw a novel called FLUTTER by debut novelist Erin E. Moulton.

The copyright page had one of a printers key with alternating numbers indicating this was indeed a true first edition:

But what surprised me was that the front flap of the dustjacket also had a printers key, albeit one using a different number run, indicating it was a first printing:

I've never seen something like this on the dustjacket of a book before, have you? Is it just an oddity, or is it the start of a new trend?

If it is a trend, it will at least be one way for readers to know they have both a true first edition and a true first-state dustjacket.


The year is only half-over, but I think I've already identified the creepiest, most unwholesome, bizarre, and perverse young adult novel of 2011: VICIOUS LITTLE DARLINGS by Katherine Easer. Promiscuous California girl Sarah narrates the story of her first-year at Wetherly, an east-coast women's college. Assigned a dorm room with beautiful, unstable Maddy, she soon meets Maddy's lifelong best friend Agnes, a wealthy and rigid pre-med student who, while proclaiming that she's not a lesbian, is clearly in love with her BFF. Almost immediately, the girls injure a fawn in a car accident and let him live in their dorm room. Then Sarah sleeps with two guys (including Maddy's boyfriend) and suffers a pregnancy scare. Finally, the trio moves to an off-campus house (paid for by Agnes) where they engage in lies, betrayals, and psychosexual games. Readers will need a score card to figure out who's lying, who's truthing, and who is downright crazy. Nearly all the novel's characters -- from narrator Sarah and her roommates to the most minor secondary figures -- are cold and unsympathetic, and what propels the story isn't the reader's concern for the protagonists' well-being, but rather the increasingly disturbing elements of the plot: a gypsy's prediction that Maddy will die young, the gun that Agnes carries in her purse, and Sarah's curiously malleable agreeance to a murder scheme. If the author intended to buck trends by writing a twisted, unnerving book without relying on supernatural components, she's done her job well. This is a novel for sophisticated YA readers (it's also the first young adult novel I've read in which female/female rape becomes a plot point) and may appeal to many for its over-the-top perversity. When I was in high school there was a certain "type" of girl who dressed all in black and read books such as Francis Farmer's WILL THERE REALLY BE A MORNING? and Joanne Greenberg's I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN. This "type" of girl always ate a plain -- not raspberry, not strawberry -- but a plain yogurt at lunchtime and loved to describe -- in graphic detail -- the lobotomy scenes in those books just as you were biting into your meatloaf-and-catsup sandwich. VICIOUS LITTLE DARLINGS is a novel for this type of girl: dark, disturbing, and hard to forgot. I'm having a hard time shaking it myself. Personally, I can't say I "enjoyed" it. In fact, when I finished the novel I immediately felt like I needed to take a shower. And even after taking the shower, I still feel a little dirty.


A couple weeks ago I wrote about how much I enjoyed Dana Reinhardt's new novel, THE SUMMER I LEARNED TO FLY.

This week my bookstore friend received a signed copy as a promotional piece. Knowing I was a fan, she asked if I'd be interested. I said, "Of course!" Then when I tried to pay for it, she gave it to me free. How cool is that?

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

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday Brunch Featuring Chipmunks, Mice, and Cuckoos

Today's Sunday Brunch asks if you've ever remembered pictures in books...that didn't actually exist, mentions an uninvited guest at last weekend's ALA awards, and praises a great new book that celebrates the current holiday.


Back in 1975, when children's books had painted portraits on the cover (as opposed to today's photos of kids-shown-only-from-the-nose-down) and ran about 185 pages (as opposed to today's 480-pages-and-counting), Carol Farley published a solid middle-grade novel about a girl coping with her father's death. It was called:

I think about that title every morning when I go out and water my container garden on the back patio. Here's how it looked on June 11:

And here it is this morning, July 3:

I am growing several kinds of heirloom tomatoes, green beans, yellow squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, snap peas, and green peppers. We'll see how many end up on our plates. Last year, as a first-timer, I think I harvested a grand total of four tomatoes, twenty beans, and about a dozen green peppers. Thus the reason for this year's zucchini. Someone told me, "ANYONE can grow zucchini. Even you."

Because last year's crop was so sparse, I did cheat a little this year. I'm growing everything from seedlings, except for one plant, which already had a good dozen tomatoes already on it when I purchased it. I figured I was sure to get some nice plump fruit from this particular plant:

I figured wrong.

While all my other plants seem to be thriving, here is the sad state of that tomato plant at present:

Every morning for the past two weeks, when I've gone out to water my garden, I've found another nearly-ripened tomato pulled from the vine, partially eaten, and then left on the porch! Now there is only one small green tomato left on a few yellow, shriveled stalks.

Obviously I had a varmint!

I looked up some info on the internet and learned that cayenne pepper will often keep animals away from plants, so I went to the store and bought some, sprinkled it all over the patio and plants...and still my tomatoes were being stolen. I didn't know which particular animal was doing it until I looked out the window and saw a chipmunk dart between the ceramic pots. Then this real-life Chip or Dale leapt from the ground to the top of the pot with the acrobatic skill of a Chippendale dancer, grabbed my second-from-last tomato from the plant and started chowing down!

Now that I knew which critter I was up against, I returned to the internet. The information I found was not encouraging. Apparently it's almost impossible to prevent chipmunks from eating your vegetables. Most of the advice I found boiled down to the same two words: "SHOOT THEM!"

One person suggested a loaded, lethal rat trap, adding, "vermin are vermin .. and if they are stealing your food.. its you or them ... this aint disney ... if you just cant bring yourself to act accordingly .. then perhaps you shouldn't complain ..."

Another person said to throw handfuls of hair around your vegetables, which sounds like some kind of old wives tale. (Though I guess in some ways it makes sense if those chipmunks are anything like me. I certainly don't like it when I find a piece of hair in my food either.)

Someone else said to pour coyote or fox urine around the edges of your garden. Oh right. Where am I going to find a coyote or fox -- much less convince them to pee in a cup?

In truth, I wouldn't even mind sharing a few tomatoes with Chip or Dale...but this chipmunk has been taking everything he can get his paws on! To return this blog to its rightful subject, children's books, I wanted to end this entry recalling the final pages of Robert Lawson's RABBIT HILL, in which a statue is placed in Little Georgie's garden containing the words "There is enough for all." I had a very clear memory of how the statue looked in the book's illustrations, so I thought I'd conclude by posting that picture as a peace offering to the 'munks.

Imagine my surprise when I went to my copy of the book and the picture was not there!

But I saw it so clearly in my mind!

The only thing I can think is that Robert Lawson conjured up the image so vividly with his words that I actually saw the picture in my head.

It reminds of a well-known tale about Patricia MacLachlan's Newbery-winning story SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL. Back when the book was first published, several reviews mentioned how perfect the illustrations were.

...But there were no illustrations in the book!

Yet Ms. MacLachlan had created such perfect "word pictures" that many people would later recall illustrations in her story.

Has this ever happened to you?

Have you ever gone back to a book looking for a particular illustration, only to discover that it existed only in your mind?


Meanwhile, back inside the house, I now have a cuckoo clock hanging just outside my bedroom door.

When we were very little, my brother had a cuckoo clock in his bedroom. I loved that clock. I coveted that clock. I never forgot that clock. The other day I reminded my brother of that clock and he said, "I don't remember ever having a cuckoo clock!"

Well, I sure do! And I always wanted one of my own. So even though I had no money, I went ahead and ordered a cuckoo clock as a one-year anniversary gift to my house.

After I got it unpacked (note: never, ever open a big box full of styrofoam packing peanuts while sitting in front of a fan), I immediately broke the hour hand as I took the clock out of the packaging. Fortunately, I was able to stick it back into place, though it's still detached. Then I had problems getting the cuckoo to call out the correct number of hours. Finally got that fixed. I should add that, while I had the option of ordering an authentic cuckoo, where you set the time by pulling on the chains, I opted to get one that's battery-operated. Yeah, I'm a big cheater.

This cuckoo clock is loud.

Fortunately, it automatically shuts off at 9:00 PM.

UNfortunately, it comes back on at 6:00 AM!

Did I mention that this clock is right outside my bedroom door?

Every morning at 6:00 AM I hear: CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO!

Oh, and every hour -- after the cuckoo goes back behind his doors -- the clock plays a short song. I was really excited by this, as I loved most of the twelve songs listed on the clock company website: Happy Wanderer, Edelweiss, Dr. Zhivago, Swan Lake, He Was Beautiful (theme song of the movie "Deer Hunter"), Lorelei, Home Sweet Home, Sound of Silence, Clementine, The Entertainer (theme song of the movie "Sting"), Love theme of the movie "The Godfather", and Fur Elise. I didn't pay attention to the note on the website that said some clocks may play different songs than these. Unfortunately, mine is one of them. Mine does play Clementine and Happy Wanderer, but the rest are foreign to me. And I mean that literally. I believe all these tunes originally appeared on obscure European record albums with titles like LOOSEN YOUR LEIDERHOSEN : GERMAN JIGS AND POLKAS (those are the snappy unrecognizable songs) or PUT ON YOUR LONG PANTS, HANS, WE'RE GOING TO A FUNERAL : TYROLEAN DIRGES (those are the slow unrecognizable songs.)

Again, bringing this thing back around to the subject of books: one of the most popular late nineteenth-century novels for children was THE CUCKOO CLOCK by Ennis Graham. Published in 1877, the story concerns young Griselda, who is sent to live with a pair of elderly great-aunts. The cuckoo in her aunts' clock takes Griselda on a number of fantasy adventures. The book proved so popular upon publication that its pseudonymous author allowed her real name, Mary Lousia Molesworth (or "Mrs. Molesworth," as she was commonly known) to be used on all subsequent editions. In a 1898 poll, THE CUCKOO CLOCK placed as the sixth-most-popular children's book, following ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND by Lewis Carroll, ROBINSON CRUSOE by Daniel Defoe, fairy tale collections by Andrew Lang and Hans Christian Andersen, and THE WATER BABIES by Charles Kingsley. It came in ahead of THE JUNGLE BOOK by Rudyard Kipling, GRIMMS' FAIRY TALES and Robert Louis Stevenson's TREASURE ISLAND.

Though the book is not widely read today, it has many fans, ranging from Newbery winner Paula Fox and British dame -- and I mean that literally -- Jacqueline Wilson, both of whom have written essays in appreciation of THE CUCKOO CLOCK. Then there are the regular folks, who have submitted comments to such as:

Alice, Peter, Dorothy, the Wardrobe, Half-Magic...all on quests in magical places. But this one is the best and the most meaningful. Alone, Griselda is be-friended by magical creatures--not unlike imaginary friends--until she finds strength within herself and her real world. This old book never gained the notariety of others, but is far more enchanting, well-written, and touching than those that became more fashionable. It is a book that many readers claim changed their lives. It entertains and touches the hearts of young and old.

If you find all these comments intriguing, THE CUCKOO CLOCK is just a mouse-click away. Kindle editions are free...or you can just click here and read the entire book on your computer screen, courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

Incidentally, Mrs. Molesworth started off as a writer for adults, and didn't begin writing for young people until she had children of her own. Anyone in publishing knows -- and cringes when they read -- this familiar comment found in most aspiring authors' cover letters: "I know my book is good because my own children love it!"

Mrs. Molesworth also tested her stories out on her own children, but used a unique method in doing so. She would hide her manuscript pages within the hardcovers of a published book before reading the stories aloud. That way she would insure that her children would provide objective feedback.

Over one hundred years after Mrs. Moleworth published THE CUCKOO CLOCK, twentieth-century author Mary Stolz also published a book by the same name. Leonard Marcus's indispensable volume, DEAR GENIUS : THE LETTERS OF URSULA NORDSTROM, gives a hint about this book's long gestation. In a 1976 letter to Ms. Stolz, editor Ursula Nordstrom writes, "I know you think I am not interested in THE HAUNTED CUCKOO CLOCK, but that is not true." She goes on to tell the author that she was only concerned about Stolz writing "a very young picture book" because "you haven't been satisfied yourself with how your younger books have done" and, that with picture books now approaching costs of $6.95 each (!) "all in all I don't know how this picture book thing is going to end up."

Ultimately, Mary Stolz's THE CUCKOO CLOCK was published by David Godine in 1986...ten years after Ursula's note. Now a novel, not a picture book. With a somewhat different title. And issued by a completely different publisher.


Anyone interested in the history of children's books will be excited to learn that Jane McCloskey has written a memoir about her Caldecott-winning father, ROBERT MCCLOSKEY : A PRIVATE LIFE IN WORDS AND PICTURES.

The book will be released on July 16 by Seapoint Books, an imprint of Smith/Kerr Associates. According to a recent Publishers Weekly article, Robert McCloskey's publisher, Viking "passed on the project," which is how the book ended up being issued by a much smaller company from Maine. Granted, there may be many reasons why Viking turned down this work, ranging from cost to quality to a lack of interest on the publisher's part. I guess we'll never know...but personally I'm shocked that the publisher who supported McCloskey and his work for so many decades (and vice versa) would ever pass on this, the first-ever true biography (after Gary Schmidt's more academic, bio-critical volume) of the first-ever two-time Caldecott winner. I've often said that publishers have lost their sense of history. I wonder if that was the case here....

Oh well, Viking's loss is Seapoint's gain.

I sure plan to buy this book as soon as it's published and I hope you will too!


Last week we pretended we were at the Newbery-Caldecott banquet eating osso bucco.

Now that the event is over, what are we hearing from those who attended?

First, according to School Library Journal, Paolo Bacigalupi, author of the Printz winner, SHIPBREAKER "dropped the F-bomb during his acceptance speech."


And blog reader Madigan McGillicuddy reported that a mouse ran past her table during the Newbery-Caldecott banuqet!

From what I've been hearing, it was a very emotional evening, with both the award winners and some audience members blinking back tears during the speeches.

If you'd like to read the full speeches by Newbery winner Clare Vanderpool, Caldecott winner Erin E. Stead, Wilder winner Tomie dePaola, Coretta Scott King Author winner Rita Williams-Garcia and CSK Illustrator winner Bryan Collier, check out the July/August issue of the Horn Book. This issue also contains a fascinating article by Kathleen T. Horning called "Secrecy and the Newbery Medal." I did find what I think is one tiny error in it, though. Ms. Horning states that "until 1959, the runners-up were not listed in alphabetical order by author but in the order of the number of votes they received, so that the first runner-up always appeared at the top of the list." I could be wrong, but it appears this practice went on at least till 1962 (when FRONTIER LIVING by John Tunis appeared over THE GOLDEN GOBLET by Eloise Jarvis McGraw and BELLING THE TIGER by Mary Stolz on the runners-up list) and may even have lasted through 1964 or 1965. I know...who cares? Only us Newbery Nerds!

Also, let me delve back into my own Collecting Children's Books archives to mention another aspect of the Newbery (and Caldecott) runners-up being listed in order. Here is a piece I wrote in September 2009:

Robert McCloskey’s BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL did not win the Caldecott Medal in 1949...but should it have?

And what about Kate Seredy’s THE SINGING TREE? It was a 1940 Newbery Honor Book (then called “runner-up”)...but might it actually have won the award under a different set of rules?

Recent years have given us a number of repeat award winners, but did you know that, for the first few decades of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, it was virtually impossible for an author or illustrator to win these prizes twice?

In 1930, Rachel Field won the Newbery for HITTY : HER FIRST HUNDRED YEARS. Two years later, her novel CALICO BUSH was considered a strong contender for the award, but the committee questioned whether the same author should be honored twice. At that time the ALA Executive Board made this resolution:

"Since the Newbery Medal is intended to encourage an increasing number of authors to devote their best efforts to creating children’s literature, the book of a previous recipient of the Newbery Medal shall receive the award only upon unanimous vote of the Newbery Committee."

Unanimous? That almost never happens!

This same "unanimous only" policy was later applied to the Caldecott Medal. It wasn’t until 1958 that this rule was changed -- in a fairly dramatic fashion.

That was the year of Robert McCloskey’s TIME OF WONDER. Having previously won in 1942for MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS, the only way McCloskey could ever win again would be with one of those near-impossible-to-get unanimous votes. During their deliberations at the conference that year, the Caldecott committee actually adjourned in order to ask the American Library Association if the “unanimous” requirement could be repealed. The board held a special executive session, approved the request, and the committee went back to deliberations...and declared TIME OF WONDER that year’s Caldecott winner.

Since this rule was changed there have been a fair number of artists who have also won the Caldecott twice: Nonny Hogrogian, Leo and Diane Dillon, Barbara Cooney, and Chris Van Allsburg. And Marcia Brown and David Wiesner have each won the award three times!

Newbery double-dippers include Joseph Krumgold, Elizabeth George Speare, Katherine Paterson, Lois Lowry, and E.L. Konigsburg.

One has to wonder about the years prior to 1958. How many previous winners MIGHT have won a second award but for the “unanimous vote” rule? Obviously there is no way of knowing for sure, but we do know that, up until 1964, Honor Books (then runners-up) were listed in order of their ranking. (Since ‘64, they have been listed alphabetically in order to give them equal prestige.) If we go back and look at “first runners-up” by previous winners, we see that BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL placed second to 1949’s Caldecott winner, THE BIG SNOW and that THE SINGING TREE was second to DANIEL BOONE for 1940’s Newbery. Can we assume these books may have outranked the winning titles and could have/might have won the awards those years if they had received unanimous votes? There’s no way of knowing, but it’s fun to speculate!


The July/August Horn Book also includes an article that runs throughout the issue in scattered squibs: "The Ones That Got Away," described as "What book do you think most deserved to win the Newbery or Caldedott and didn't even get an Honor?"

I submitted one of the items in this feature:

Elizabeth Enright’s THE SATURDAYS is a great family story, with well-drawn characters, and a uniquely-memorable plot full of empowering individual adventures. And since I’m giving Enright the award for 1942, let’s take away her THIMBLE SUMMER win (she doesn’t need two) and give her 1939 medal to MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS. (How’s that for being sneaky?)

I actually submitted two other unpublished suggestions to this article:

Louise Fitzhugh’s HARRIET THE SPY should have won the Big N. How odd that the previous year’s winner, IT’S LIKE THIS CAT, was also a contemporary New-York-City-kid-book, albeit without Harriet’s “Portrait of the Artist” intensity. It’s as if the earlier committee read the zeitgeist correctly, but couldn’t wait till 1965 to give the award to Harriet.

To quote another Newbery winner, “if only, if only” Bill and Vera Cleaver had won the Newbery for WHERE THE LILIES BLOOM. I don’t know what’s more impressive – the Appalachian setting, the pitch-perfect narrative voice, or the fully-realized characterizations. If it had won, I’d like to think the authors’ other outstanding books would still be read and loved today instead of out of print and nearly forgotten.

What would YOU suggest for "The Ones That Got Away"?


Looking for something to read this long holiday weekend? I think I've discovered the perfect Independence Day book for young readers, FIVE 4THS OF JULY by Pat Raccio Hughes. This novel follows teenage Jake "Mal" Mallery from July 4, 1777 through July 4, 1781. In 1777, he's a fourteen-year-old, mostly concerned with teasing indentured servant Hannah and trying to join a ship's crew. By 1779, he's in love with Hannah and helping to fight off the British invasion. The following July 4, he's held captive on a prison ship with his best friend. The grueling prison scenes highlight a seldom-discussed aspect of the Revolution; the author's note later informs us that about 11,500 Americans died on British prison ships, compared to only 4,500 American deaths in all the Revolutionary War battles combined. This is historical fiction in the vein of MY BROTHER SAM IS DEAD by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collins. Authoritatively-written, the novel is abundant with gritty details and doesn't place its characters on lofty pedestals, but instead features down-to-earth, full-blooded individuals who make mistakes, crack vulgar jokes, and change with the times. The format -- showing Jake's life only through the events of five successive Independence Days -- is fascinating and allows the reader to watch this character grow into maturity, just like his incipient country grows, over the course of those five years.

Hope you enjoy the Fourth of July holiday and return to visit Collecting Children's Books in the days ahead.