Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Brunch

Today’s briefer-than-normal brunch shares the TV commercial that traumatized me as a child and the one that scares me now…includes a couple new book lists…and extends an invitation to join me on Goodreads.


When I was a little kid, this TV commercial for Anacin used to terrify me:

At that time, I was about the same age as the boy in the ad and probably interrupted my own mother’s sewing more than once to show her a stick-figure masterpiece I’d just finished creating. It was scary to imagine your mother turning on you with that kind of fury. Anacin Mommy was one fierce woman! In fact, I can’t think of any commercial since in which a mother attacks a small child with that much venom. I remember staring at the TV in horror whenever the commercial aired -- and I never believed it when the old bag (because the actress looked ancient to me back then; now she looks downright youthful) – later came in the kid’s room and tried to make nice. After the way she screamed at him, I figured she either had a switchblade in her pocket or planned to slip something into his Bosco at bedtime.

Obviously that commercial had a big impact on me.

Who knew that, in 2010, I’d see another commercial that terrified me even more:

The opening line chills me to the bones: “Once upon a time, there were books.”

It’s bad enough that this commercial for V.Reader (a kinda kiddie Kindle) anticipates a future without books, but did you get a load of the stories you read (er…view…watch?) on this infernal machine? With one or two exceptions, such as Ian Falconer’s OLIVIA, most of the “books” on the V.Reader are cheapie TV and movie tie-ins. TOY STORY. SCOOBY-DOO. SHREK -- and not the William Steig kind.

Now don’t get me wrong, any product that inspires learning and reading has to be a good thing. But is it good enough? Is it as good as a real book? They say that these electronic readers offer “character voices, vivid graphics, and music.”

So do the best books.

Although in the case of books, the reader hears the voices and music in his or her head as they interpret the story for themselves. At least that’s how it used to be when we had imaginations...once upon a time...when there were books….


At least I can console myself with the fact that children’s e-readers -- like everything else in this world of ours -- will one day experience a backlash.

I can already anticipate some of the future problems we’ll be reading about:, November 26, 2010 : Children’s e-readers, this year’s hottest must-have Christmas gift for kids, caused a riot during today’s Black Friday sale at a New Jersey Walmart. Priced at only $9.95 (with purchase of SOUTH PARK children’s e-book), four customers suffered injuries when they were crushed by a group of two hundred shoppers keen on getting one of the e-readers before they were sold out.

DRUDGE REPORT, May 11, 2011 : Parents buy “Toy Story” e-book for five-year-old, but it turns out to contain sexy Jackie Collins novel instead. Company that manufactured e-reader believes a discontented employee pulled switcheroo.

NATIONAL ENQUIRER, September 13, 2013 : SCOOBY-DOO ELECTROCLUTION! Girl reading in in bathtub drops e-book and gets zapped. Fry Baby’s Brave Final Hours!

EDUCATION DIGEST, April 2015 : First-grade teachers are reporting a startling phenomenon. Their students, raised on animated e-books, are pressing down on the words in their school primers expecting the words to honk, meow, or fly off the printed page as they do on their V.readers.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, August 2016 : Since changing their name from Horn Book Magazine to Horn E Reading, the Boston-based publication has seen a rise in circulation.

COLLECTING CHILDREN’S BOOKS, January 2, 2017 : Beginning next week, this blog will change its name to COLLECTING CHILDREN’S E-BOOKS.


The New York Times announced its annual “Best Illustrated Children’s Books” list in today’s newspaper. Judges were illustrator Robert Sabuda, Elizabeth Bird from the famous Fuse #8 blog, and designer David Barringer. The honored books are:

CHILDREN MAKE TERRIBLE PETS written and illustrated by Peter Brown
SEASONS written and illustrated by Blexbolex
SHADOW by Suzy Lee
BUSING BREWSTER by Richard Michelson ; illustrated by R. G. Roth
BIG RED LOLLIPOP by Rukhsana Khan; illustrated by Sophie Blackall
HENRY IN LOVE written and illustrated by Peter McCarty
A SICK DAY FOR AMOS McGEE by Philip C. Stead; illustrated by Erin E. Stead (yay, they live in Michigan!)
SUBWAY written and illustrated by Christoph Niemann
BINK & GOLLIE by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; illustrated by Tony Fucile


I am also intrigued by the 2010 ABC New Voices list of “outstanding debut books by authors for middle-grade and young-adult readers.” These selections were made by a “committee of independent children's booksellers from around the country who all belong to The Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC).”

This year’s selections are:

THE FAMILIARS by Adam Jay Epstein and Andew Jacobsen
THE SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS by Marianne Fineburg
WALLS WITHIN WALLS by Maureen Sherry
MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool
THE RED UMBRELLA by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
WHAT MOMMA LEFT ME by Renee Watson
ZORA AND ME by Victoria Bond and TR Simon

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver
DARK LIFE by Kat Falls
SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers
SPLIT by Swati Avasthi
THE FREAK OBSERVER by Blythe Woolston


I’m intrigued by the titles on the “New Voices” list and wonder if any of the YA books will be nominated for the Morris Award next month.

The William C. Morris Award was named after (and endowed by) the late, much-admired library promotions director at Harper and honors a debut young adult novel. What makes this award different than many others (Printz, Newbery, etc.) is that a shortlist of five titles is released every December, with the winning title announced during the American Library Association conference in January.

The winning of the first award, in 2009, was Elizabeth C. Bunce for A CURSE DARK AS GOLD.

The other finalists included Kristin Cashore for GRACELING, James Lecesne for ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS, Christina Meldrum for MADAPPLE, and ME, THE MISSING, AND THE DEAD by Jenny Valentine.

The 2010 winner was FLASH BURNOUT by L.K. Madigan.

The other shortlisted titles were BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, THE HEREAFER by Amy Huntley, HOLD STILL by Nina LaCour, and ASH by Malinda Lo.

What titles will be shortlisted for 2011? We’ll know in about a month!


Has anyone read HOTHOUSE, the new novel by Chris Lynch? What did you think? I just finished reading it this morning and admired the book, as I admire most of Lynch’s work…but I also found myself wondering about its potential audience. The story is narrated by high school senior Russell, whose fireman father was just killed on duty. The father of Russell’s former best friend, DJ, also died in the incident The tightly-focused novel does a good job exploring the deep pain experienced by both boys, as well as the pride they feel as the community salutes their fathers as heroes. However, halfway through the book, things suddenly change. First come rumors…then an investigation by the Fire Department’s Board of Inquiry. Then it’s revealed that both firefighters were under the influence of alcohol and drugs during their fatal call; their actions may have made things worse for the elderly neighbor they were trying to save. Lynch has written an elemental tale of hero-worship leading to inevitable disappointment -- made that much worse because, in this case, the object of Russell’s adulation is now deceased and any reconciliation must be one-sided. This is a powerful story, honest its emotion, yet -- as with many of Lynch’s recent novels -- I questioned the voice. The author employs an affected, almost experimental, writing style replete with repetition, run-on sentences, and self-conscious banter. Although beloved by critics, award committees, and English teachers, I wonder how teenage readers feel about meandering sentences such as:

It is a few minutes past six a.m. and we have just finished breakfast because he got home around five and I was already up waiting for him, the eggs and sausages and the yogurt and berries, all lined up and ready to roll because I knew he was coming because I always know when he’s coming and it’s time to roll with the breakfast.

Or how about:

I know I know and I know we would have been talking about the old handwriting chart, or classroom flagpole or ancient leather-bound class register book or pull-down map of an unrecognizable world, for days, after he got home from saving Mrs. Kotsopolis and her house and her life from the fire.

(I know I know and I know it all sounds very artistic, but what is the difference between saving Mrs. Kotsopolis and saving her life?)

And am I the only one who cringes at this kind of silly banter:

”We should get a dog,” Dad says.

“Should we? Why should we do that?”

“What, you don’t like dogs? Who doesn’t like dogs? What kind of person doesn’t like dogs? I didn’t raise no dog-hating kind of a kid.”

He likes to pretend to get outraged at things he knows damn well are not even true.

“I like dogs as much as the next guy,” I say.

“Not if the next guy is me, you don’t. And if you look, I think you will notice that the next guy, right here next to you, is in fact me.”

“Then why don’t we have a dog, dog-daddy?”

(After using the word "dog" eight times in barely over a hundred words, I wanted to scream, "Please stop talking about those DOOOOOGS!" a la Lily Tomlin in "Lud and Marie Meet Dracula's Daughter.")

Is that father-son exchange honest and accurate, or showy and false? I tend toward the latter. While I can see many adults loving this sort of exchange, I can also imagine many young readers wishing the author would cut through the blather and get to the point.

Chris Lynch has written over a score of books, many of which are excellent and some that seem overwhelmed by affectations. He’s won a Printz Honor (FREEWILL) and been a National Book Award finalist (INEXCUSABLE.) But the question I want to know is whether kids themselves enjoy Lynch’s writing or whether they sometimes find it tedious?


A book collecting friend recently told me that he’d been contemplating the purchase of a very expensive novel. While he was still trying to make up his mind someone else swept in and purchased the book.

I asked how he felt about losing the book and he said, “Sad but relieved.”

Truer book-collecting words were never spoken!

I knew exactly how he felt, as I’ve “lost out” on books I really wanted as well, and have felt simultaneously sorry I couldn’t own them and glad I didn’t have to pay for them.

And of course the converse is true as well. There have been many times I’ve purchased a book and then thought “How am I going to pay for this?” I guess the phrase for that feeling is “Happy but worried.”

Sad but relieved.

Happy but worried.

The battle between wanting and getting is always waged around the wallet.


Over the past year or so, a few blog readers have invited me to join

I wasn’t sure how it worked, so I never really investigated it.

A few weeks ago I decided to try it out…even though I’m still not exactly sure how it works.

For several years I’ve been cataloging my book collection on and I plan to continue doing so.

But I think that Goodreads is different in that you are not compiling a list of your collection, but instead listing all the books you are currently reading and sometimes sharing your opinions on them.

Both LibraryThing and Goodreads allow you to make friends and connections among fellow readers.

If you’re a member of either of these groups, feel free to add me to your list of friends.

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


Sarah said...

Love the Horn E Reader.

Kristin said...

What worries me most is that the VTech reader begins to feed children's brains into desiring commercial, for-profit, branded characters instead of bonding with non-commercial characters. said...

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Anonymous said...

I look forward to adding you on Goodreads, where I add not just my current reading, but every book I have read such as all the Maud Hart Lovelace, Louisa May Alcott, and LM Montgomery books to name but a few....

Unknown said...

I think you got it right about YA readers (those that are actually in that age group) might not appreciate the meandering prose. My adult bookgroup reads a few YA/children's titles each year, and one of the characteristics that we like is that the author gets to the point of the story much faster. (Not that author's can't use beautiful language on the way to get there, just they don't spend as much time meandering.)

Lisa Jenn Bigelow said...

Ditto on the Horn E Reader. My boss caught me guffawing at that one. Fortunately, she thought it was funny, too. :-D

Kaethe said...

I'm also using GoodReads, just as Anonymous does, to keep track of everything I've read. I stopped collecting a while ago, in favor of the public library. The best thing is, it gives me one place to cut and paste all the suggestions I get for books to read. My TBR list is epic.

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Lauren Eldridge-Murray said...

I found this absolutely fascinating! As a huge fan of children's book (and an illustrator) I find it so scary after reading reports of children seeing books as foreign objects. So many children seem to lack imagination and creativity, technology has a lot to answer for!

I'm pregnant with my first child and will definitely be using my collection of 'old fashioned' picture books!

Read Aloud Dad said...

Funny idea: the name change from "Horn Book Magazine to Horn E Reading"...

But your points are very valid.. I also hope that the kids book e-reader craze does not turn into another game marketing craze that leaves the really good books behind.

Read Aloud Dad

Anonymous said...

That commercial about the electronic book is so depressing and disheartening I could weep.

Lisa Raymond said...

I am definitely afraid of raising our kids on tech books instead of regular paper books. I can see using them sometimes, but just like TV, computers, video games, and other screens, their time needs to be limited. Part of reading from a book is that it encourages kids to create the voices and add imagination to make the pictures come alive. We don't want kids to lose their creativity!

P. J. Grath said...

That viewer is scary and depressing both. The idea of kids pressing words on a book page—should we laugh or cry?

On a more general matter, I’m wondering if you’ve given any thought to moderating comments so you won’t be inundated with all the spam I notice creeping in. The wiggly verification deal doesn’t keep it out, you see. After getting excited that I had comments only to find they were spam, then having to go in and delete each spam faux comment manually, I started moderating, and blogging is back to being fun again.