Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Mostly-Silly Sunday Brunch

Well, this has been a lousy week.

No sooner did I finish writing last Sunday’s brunch entry than a family member got very sick and ended up spending several days in the hospital.

Then a famous author dissed my blog. She even called it “the Collecting Children's Book thing.” As much as I love literary feuds -- and, heaven knows, we haven’t had a good one in the children’s book world since Eleanor Cameron duked it out with Roald Dahl in the 1970s -- I have no intention of adding fuel to the fire by revealing the identity of the author who was displeased with me. Nope, won’t do it. I’m not even going to provide a hint. Except to say that she wrote that Owl Moon thing.

After such a traumatic week, I’m in the mood for a little levity. So today’s Sunday Brunch will be a little more light-hearted than usual, focusing mostly on fun facts and silly scenarios involving children’s books of the past and present.


Fuse #8 at School Library Journal is the Queen Bee of children’s book blogging and no day is complete without me visiting her site a few times to seek inspiration (nice way of saying “steal ideas.)

I’d like to provide a direct link to her blog, but my computer is too old to perform such complex calisthenics (nice way of saying “and I’m also too dumb and lazy to figure out how to use the link feature on this blog.”)

But you can get there by copying this address:

and pasting it into your browser.

Anyway, Friday’s “Fusenews” blog contained the shocking report that WHERE’S WALDO is turning 21 years old this year.

I then did a little investigating and tracked down a few pages from a forthcoming WHERE’S WALDO book that will place the iconic figure in all kinds of locations that he wasn't permitted to visit when he was just a kid. For example, here he is at a bar:

He also pays a visit to an adult bookstore:

And can you find him hiding at this nude beach?

(Hint: he’s the only one wearing a hat.)


Books that should not be read together, shelved together, or even in the same room with each other:

THE MOUSETRAP by Agatha Christie

The “Anastasia Krupnik” series by Lois Lowry
MY BROTHER SAM IS DEAD by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

OWL MOON by you-know-who
LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by Susan Beth Pfeffer

BOOT CAMP by Todd Strasser

A TREE IS NICE by Janice Udry
HATCHET by Gary Paulsen


One of my favorite reality shows, THE AMAZING RACE, is about to return for a new season. This got me thinking about how well various characters from the world of children’s books would do if they were cast on reality TV shows.

Earlier this year CBS attempted a children’s book edition of their long-running SURVIVOR series, but it didn’t work out very well. Competing for the title of “sole surivor” were Claudia and Jamie Kincaid, who proved they could survive on their own in FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER; Jean Craighead George creations Sam Gribley and Julie (“of the Wolves”); Brian Robeson of HATCHET fame; Karana from the ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS; the legendary Robinson Crusoe; Ann Burden from Z FOR ZACHARIAH; Felice Holman’s Slake (who said “If I can survive the New York city subways, I can survive anything!”), and a girl named “Disaster.” Other contestants included the kids from SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, SNOWBOUND, and THE CAY, as well as a couple Will Hobbs’ protagonists, and new-kid-on-the-block Katniss from THE HUNGER GAMES.

The season started well with the surprising ouster of Robinson Crusoe, who proved he could not survive on his own without the assistance of Friday.

The following week Claudia and Jamie Kincaid took voluntary exits when they realized that slumbering on a sixteenth-century state bed and nibbling Hershey bars had not prepared them for sleeping in a tent and eating grasshoppers.

Unfortunately, the series came to an abrupt and tragic conclusion when Katniss, not realizing that it was merely a game and that the term “sole survivor” wasn’t meant to be taken QUITE so literally, picked off all the remaining contestants with her bow-and-arrow in a twenty-four hour period.

CBS extended its sympathies to the bereaved families of the other competitors, then quickly booked Katniss for the series CELEBRITY DEATHMATCH, where she will be competing with another new-girl-in-town, Katsa from Kristin Cashore’s debut novel GRACELING. Who will win the “Battle of the Wild-Kats”?

Meanwhile, competition is heating up on NBC’s THE BIGGEST LOSER, where Dinky Hocker has now lost 38 pounds and is still leading the field in a contest that also features Zachary Beaver; Lara Ardreche, who is anxious to move out of the fat lane; Junior Brown; Eric Calhoune (“I’m no longer staying fat for Sarah Byrnes or anyone else!”); Bobby Marks; Troy Billings (who announced upon joining the show, “This fat kid is going to RULE THIS GAME!”), as well as a young woman known mainly as “The Fat Girl.” The trio from Daniel Pinkwater’s FAT CAMP COMMANDOES are also competing, but have actually gained a combined total of 16 pounds in the first three weeks of the contest.

Finally, the contestants for the upcoming second seaon of CBS’s “THE GREATEST AMERICAN DOG” have been announced and are currently awaiting veterinary approval and flea dips before the start of filming. The cast includes Lassie; Ribsy; Shiloh; Sounder; Old Yeller; Carl; Winn Dixie; Walter (who plans to show the other dogs they are full of hot air); Searchlight; Strider; Ginger Pye; Big Red: Martha (“I’ve told you and told you I’m going to win this competition!”) and Clifford.

Something tells us that Old Yeller won’t make it through the entire competition.


Great Britain’s children’s laureate, Michael Rosen, recently founded the Roald Dahl Funny Prize to honor humorous books. Rosen said, “"I have sat on judging panels before and what happens is that the funny books get squeezed out, because somehow or other they don't tackle big issues in the proper way. They'll get through to the last four or five books, and then historical fiction, or something about death or slavery or new technology will win out. I think it's a great shame, because actually when I think about the books I remember from childhood they are the funny books."

Two prizes will be announced on November 13, one for ages six and under from this shortlist:

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
THE WITCH’S CHILDREN GO TO SCHOOL by Ursula Jones, illustrated by Russell Ayto
THERE’S AN OUCH IN MY POUCH! by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Garry Parsons

and one for ages seven to fourteen from this shortlist:

MR GUM AND THE DANCING BEAR by Andy Stanton, illustrated by David Tazzyman
PADDINGTON HERE AND NOW by Michael Bond, illustrated by RW Alley
STOP IN THE NAME OF PANTS by Louise Rennison
COSMIC by Frank Cottrell Boyce
ALIENS DON’T EAT DOG FOOD by Dinah Capparucci
URGUM AND THE GOO GOO BAH! By Kjartan Poskitt, illustrated by Philip Reeve

Lots of interesting authors, lots of fun titles, lots of exclamation points. And the winners each get 2,500 pounds, which is nearly equal to the number of pounds that will be lost by Dinky Hocker, Zachary Beaver, Junior Brown and the others by the time this season of the BIGGEST LOSER -- CHILDREN’S BOOK EDITION is complete.


So that’s why we need our own version of the “Funny Prize” over here in the States.

And, guess what? We have one!

The Sid Fleischman Humor Award was established by the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators in 2003. The first winner was Mr. Fleishman himself, who was honored for his entire body of work. Since then the awards have been specific titles:

2004 / AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS by Gennifer Choldenko
2005 / ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NOT by David LaRochelle
2006 / CLEMENTINE by Sara Pennypacker

...Strangely, I can’t find the winner for 2007. Does anyone know?


Just last week I bought an interesting copy of AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS on eBay. Since I already have a hardcover first edition of this title in my Newbery collection, you may wonder why I would want a eighth printing of the paperback edition. What drew me to the book was its inscription:

The book was inscribed by John Dekker (prison Identification number AZ1076) who was incarcerated at Alcatraz from 1953-1958 as a bank robber and escape risk. According to the eBay seller: “Today, Dekker plays poker and deals coins in Vacaville, California. During his heyday, he was known as the would-be John Dillinger, after he successfully robbed the same bank as Dillinger.”

Now, I should add a little disclaimer here: It is not the policy of this blogger or of his “Collecting Children’s Book thing” to glamorize or glorify criminals and acts of criminality. We support law and order, the sanctity of our legal system, and the rights of victims. Furthermore, we believe that Alcatraz Island was a serious penal institution and should never be made light of, nor should its importance as criminal justice community ever be diminished. But having said all that...

Isn’t this the greatest inscription ever???

I can hardly believe my copy of this children’s book is signed by someone who actually served time at The Rock.

Way cool!!!

And cheap too.

I only paid $5.99 for it.

The cover price of the paperback book alone is $6.99.

What a steal!



On Friday night, I picked up (bad choice of words after that last entry; I should say that I BOUGHT it) the new book DARK DUDE by Oscar Hijuelos; I’m anxious to read the young-adult debut of this Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

However, as I flipped through the book, I came across this “Note to Readers” on the back page. I’m curious to hear what anyone else thinks of it:

“The publication of DARK DUDE by Cuban-American Oscar Hijuelos marks an exciting moment at Atheneum Books for Young Readers. We intend to offer the finest literature of Latinto inspiration to the world’s readers, whether they be young adults or young-at-heart adults.

“Atheneum/Simon & Schuster greets the largest and fastest growing ethnic community in the United States with enthusiasm by saying, Your voices, your dreams, your experiences, and your hopes will find expression in our books. We believe the Latino community - so diverse in tradition, cultural sensibility, historical pacing, race and religion -- is renewing the American spirit. We invite you to share with us in celebrating our new venture. Read this literature that defines a whole new world in a promising new millennium. Saludos!
-- The Editors”

Obviously the editors (I mean, “The Editors”) have their hearts in the right place, but I found this note rather patronizing and self-serving. It might have made sense if they were announcing this as the first book in a new Latino IMPRINT. That way readers could look out for that imprint at the bookstore or library. But Athenum publishes all kinds of books for every age and interest, so the word “Atheneum” is never going to have any kind of “brand appeal” or “product visibility” as a publisher specializing in Latino literature. Therefore the note seemed a little desperate and pandering to me.

And it’s not as if this is the first Latino, or even Cuban-American, book they’ve ever published. What about UNDER THE ROYAL PALMS : A CHILDHOOD IN CUBA by Alam Flor Ada, which won the 2000 Pura Belpre Award?


Personally, I like a publisher with a sense of humor. I’ve always gotten a kick out of the spine of HENRY REED’S BABYSITTING SERVICE, written by Keith Robertson and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, because it substitutes a safety pin for the V in Viking. Can anyone think of other examples where a publisher fiddled with its name or spoofed its logo to fit a book’s theme? I seem to recall a Jon Scieszka/Lane Smith volume that featured a sinking Viking ship on the title page....


We all know him from his wonderful picture books (including Caldecott winners MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS and TIME OF WONDER), his HOMER PRICE tales, and the illustrations he contributed to novels like the “Henry Reed” series.

However, I recently came across two other novels he illustrated early in his career. In both cases, the books were originally published in previous editions. TREE TOAD : ADVENTURES OF THE KID BROTHER by Bob Davis was first published in 1935, then re-issued with McCloskey’s illustrations in 1942. It’s an odd book, featuring a cutesy frontispiece by another illustrator, while the rest of the book contains Robert McCloskey’s vibrant and comical ink drawings.

The second book is TRIGGER JOHN’S SON by Tom Robinson, first published in a 1934 volume with no pictures and then reissued in 1949 with illustrations by Robert McCloskey. The dustjacket states that Mr. McCloskey had wanted to illustrate the book ever since he first read it.

I was unfamiliar with either book and now wonder why I never saw these in the library when I was growing up. I suspect that one character in TRIGGER JOHN (an African-American performer named “Sambo”) kept the book out of libraries by that time. Or at least out of my library.

But the book is filled with wonderfully detailed, comic illustrations:

And I love looking at similarities between the illustrations in TRIGGER JOHN and later books such as HENRY REED, INC. Notice here how the boys are industriously doing work while the girls are consigned to secondary positions -- typical for that era:

And here are two similar McCloskey illustrations from TREE TOAD and HENRY REED’S JOURNEY which you can compare...cheek to cheek:

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you return for another visit to this “Collecting Children’s Book thing.”


Kelly said...

Um, sorry you were dissed. That stinks. I enjoy reading your blog, btw.

Also, dealing with illness can take all your time. I'm going through that at the moment with a close family member, so I really hope things get better for your soon.

Anonymous said...

Ha, I love the Where's Waldo illustrations and "bad pairings" features!

Regarding spoofed logos, I read recently that Chip Kidd, who designed the cover of the adult novel Geek Love, added an extra mutant leg to the Borzoi logo to to go with the story. It was without Borzoi's knowledge, though. I wish I could find a picture of it online!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, that was the Knopf logo, not Borzoi.

Anonymous said...

I think the Fleischman (sp. sorry) went to Adam Rex -- but I'm not certain.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE your blog. It's thoughtful, insightful, and well written.

Lisa Yee said...

There was no Sid Fleischman Humor Award given for 2007. In the past, all books submitted for the Golden Kite Award were eligible for the Fleischman and set aside. Next year publishers will be asked to submit directly to the Humor Award committee.


P.S. Just discovered your blog and am loving it!

Anonymous said...

Well it sounds terrible, but if having a lousy week yields posts as good as this then I'll do everything I can to maintain your sense of perpetual ennui. That said, beautiful collection of titles (particularly the inscription on Al Capone). Does Choldenko know about this? She should, lucky lady.

Anonymous said...

If it's any consolation, my children and I have always thought that particular author is a little overrated. She's just not a favorite for us.

I like your blog and think it's fabulous. I'd much rather read it than a JY book!

David LaRochelle said...

What a great site!

Your updated Waldo pictures were hilarious, and I loved the children's literature version of TV reality shows. Perhaps YOU should have been given this past year's Sid Fleischman Award.

Hoping you are having a better week.

David LaRochelle

Bibliopinions said...

Who cares about old What's Her Name? Great blog post -- and I read you all the time. Keep up the good work!

And I loved Henry Reed when I was little.

mga taratitat ni maria said...

honestly, she's becoming popular because of your blog. i went to her site and i can't believe how she's even become a writer with that kind of prose!

Cheap Viagra said...

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