Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sunday Brunch

Among other topics, today's blog asks how tall your bookstack is, explores the Junie B. Jones/Pulitzer Prize connection, and reviews three novels about teens in small towns.


This past week, the #1 bestselling title on was a children's book.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that the title in question was GO THE F**K TO SLEEP.

Then we wonder why some people thought the world would end this weekend.

This generation's answer to GOODNIGHT, MOON features verses such as:

Thе eagles whο soar through the sky аrе аt rest
Anԁ the creatures whο crawl, rυn аnԁ creep
I know уου′re nοt thirsty. Thаt’s bulls**t. Stοр lying
Lie the f**k down, mу darling, аnԁ sleep.

The book had its origins on Facebook, when author Adam Mansbach, frustrated at getting his daughter to sleep, posted this one-liner on his wall: "Look out for my forthcoming children’s book, Go the — to Sleep."

From there it was only a hop, skip, and a few @#$@#s to a book contract. The finished product, illustrated by Ricardo Cortes and published by Akashic Books, was originally scheduled for this October, but due a viral publicity campaign, will be released next month, with a first printing of 150,000 copies (which is 149,635 copies more than Lionel Shriver's personal favorite among her novels, GAME CONTROL, sold in hardcover. Think about that.)

Yeah, yeah, I know: GTFTS isn't really a children's book.

It's pretty much a joke book for adults.


Look around you.

Think about the average intelligence of the people you see every day.

The kind of people who cut you off on the road, then give you a rude gesture as if it's your fault.

The kind of people who list THE HANGOVER, PART II, as their favorite movie.

The kind of people who appear on Judge Judy (i.e. the kind of people who "have went" on Judge Judy's show because they "borrowed" their best friend two hundred dollars.)

The kind of people who went to see Charlie Sheen's stage show.

Do you really think these people are going to "get" the joke?

Personally, I think they will be reading this book to their toddlers.

And as long as I'm prognosticating, here are a couple more predictions:

NEW YORK POST, April 14, 2012

A baby shower turned into a brawl last night -- all because of a children's book!

The fight broke out at a baby shower being held for twenty-six year old Nicki Edison, who is infanticipating her first blessed event next month. "It was going along fine," said shower guest Heidi South, who is now nursing a fat lip. "Nicki was opening her gifts and everyone was oohing and ahhing over the dainty little booties and cute little sippy cups. Then one of the older ladies gave Nicki a 'gag gift' -- a book with the title...well, I can't say the word...."

The book in question was GO THE F**K TO SLEEP, a bedtime book for kids.

The expectant mother took immediate offense to the present, insisting it was in bad taste "and besides, I look forward to many precious bedtime moments with my baby and I know that I will never, ever grow frustrated with my own child. I have more class than that. Plus, I have a very sweet nature."

Angered at the gift she'd received, the "sweet-natured" mom-to-be threw a punch bowl at her shower guest, instigating a brawl that resulted in two concussions, one broken arm, several black eyes, and at least one fatality....

CHICAGO TRIBUNE, October 9, 2011

Jeff Narwell was in a hurry when he ran into Borders last week seeking a book for his new nephew. "I saw GO THE F**K TO SLEEP on the shelf, glanced at the pictures, and purchased it immediately," said the 38-year-old banker.

Now he is suing Borders for causing him grief and embarrassment when he presented the book to his newborn nephew. "His parents were very offended by the language in the book -- and once I read it, I agreed whole-heartedly!"

Borders' spokesperson Lars Layman find the lawsuit without merit. "What was Mr. Narwell expecting?" asked Layman. "The title of the book contains the F word. Is it really a surprise that the text also includes similar language? Duh!"

Incidentally, there is word that Mansbach and Cortes are currently adapting GO THE F**K TO SLEEP into a gentler (i.e. curse free) edition more acceptable to kids. I'm sure that somewhere down the line, someone will order that edition for their children and instead receive the R-rated version from an online bookstore and start a lawsuit there as well.

As for all the kids who (I predict) WILL be experiencing this story as infants and toddlers...well, at least they'll grow up with big vocabularies.

Hope they like the taste of Palmolive.


I've gotten woefully behind in recording the books I'm reading on Goodreads -- and even farther behind listing the books I own on Librarything.

I think that catching up on both these activities would make a good summer project for me.

Because I've been away from Librarything for so many months, I was unaware that they've added a fun new feature. Based on the number of books in your collection, and the pages included in each volume, they now provide some fun stats.

They estimate that my collection weighs 1905 pounds.

If you laid all the pages end-to-end, it would take a half hour to drive from beginning to end.

And this chart (you may have to click the image to enlarge it) estimates that my books (the blue column) would form a stack 166.3 feet high -- taller than the Statue of Liberty, but not as high as Niagara Falls.

When I add my uncataloged volumes to Librarything this summer, I'm sure I'll pass Niagara Falls...and maybe even start to catch up with the 239 foot Taj Mahal.


The 2011 Charlotte Zolotow Award, given annually by the Cooperative Children's Book Center for "outstanding writing of a picture book" has been won by Rukhsana Kahn for BIG RED LOLLIPOP, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

The Honor Books are:


Sandra Markle for HIP-POCKET PAPA, illustrated by Alan Marks

Philip C. Stead for A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Mo Willems for CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG, illustrated by Jon J. Muth

The committee also noted six "highly commended" titles: CHAVELA AND THE MAGIC BUBBLE, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Magaly Morales; WILLOUGHBY & THE MOON by Greg Foley; MY GARDEN by Kevin Henkes; I AM A BACKHOE by Anna Grossnickle Hines; LITTLE BLACK CROW by Chris Raschka, and A BEACH TALE, written by Karen Lynn Williams and illustrated by Floyd Cooper.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America just announced that the winner of the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy is I SHALL WEAR MIDNIGHT by Terry Pratchett.

Finally, PEN American Center is announcing a new award named in honor of children's book creator and former PEN trustee, Steven Kroll.

According to a report in School Library Journal, the Steven Kroll Award "will acknowledge the literary contributions of an American or U.S-based writer for an 'exceptional story illustrated in a picture book,' [and] will be presented for the first time in 2012 and come with a $5,000 prize."


Now those are two phrases you never expected to see in the same sentence!

Yet there is a connection.

I just finished reading this year's Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD by Jennifer Egan.

Liked it, didn't love it.

But I was intrigued enough to seek more background info about the book and its author, and came across an interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal in which Ms. Egan discusses her painstaking revision notes for the novel:

Writing that book I was so focused on making each piece technically different from every other one I tried to summarize the technical aspect, so I wrote “first person female, present tense.” In the notes to myself, it says: “Voice: it’s a little Junie B.” “Junie B. Jones” was this book I was reading with my kids. It was written for five year olds so that was obviously a problem.

I imagine so! Junie B. is unlikely to ever win a Newbery -- much less the Pulitzer Prize!


Wandering through the library stacks this week, I came across an unusual book of poetry.

IT'S A BOY'S WORLD was written by August Derleth and illustrated by Claire Victor Dwiggins, who went by the pen-and-ink name of "Dwig."

Published in 1948, it turns out this was the second of two books in the same series. The first, THE BOY'S WAY was released a year earlier.

Paging through this book (you'll have to click on these images to enlarge them) I was impressed by its scope and subject matter. Derleth's evocative words capture a boy's view of springtime, Halloween, school dances, and acorns falling on the roof at night.

The nostalgic tone (as in this piece about drying hickory nuts) made me wonder if these books were originally published for adult readers:

Though at other times, as in this poem about snow, the tone is so universal that I think boys in 1948 and 2011 might see themselves in the words:

One reason I thought the books might be intended for adults is that Dwig's busy-but-effective illustrations sometimes contain risque elements, as in this verse about the wind:

And this one about a bat:

I don't know if these titles were marketed as adult or children's books, but CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS, SOMETHING ABOUT THE AUTHOR, and other reference sources list them as children's books. Published by Stanton and Lee, a small press in Sauk City, Wisconsin, I doubt these volumes found their way into many children's libraries. Have you ever seen them there?


While wandering the library stacks this week I also came across HOSTESS IN THE SKY -- a 1955 career book about stewardesses (as they were called then) by Margaret Hill.

I'd never seen this book before, but what struck a nostalgic chord for me was the illustration on the cover. Remember when rebound library books looked like this -- with an off-colored, muddily-reproduced illustration from the original dustjacket or frontispiece stamped upon that bumpy cold rebound cover:

(Here, incidentally, is the original illustration from the frontispiece.)

These are the kinds of books I grew up with in my local library as a kid. Nearly every older library book had been rebound and was now pea green or sunset orange or bright red or mellow blue, with a picture stamped on the front panel:

My question is: do libraries still bind books this way? I don't see many rebound books on public library shelves these days. Maybe it's just cheaper to buy new replacement copies. When I do see rebound titles, they are either paperbacks bound into hardcover, with the original cover slid into a plastic outershell (as demonstrated on the left) or completely found in one color, such as the uninviting Judy Blume book on the right:

I miss the old rebound books with stamped illustrations. They take me right back to my old public library, many decades ago....


I just read three recent books for young adults that happen to focus on teenagers growing up in small towns. The first, and most ambitious, is WHERE THINGS COME BACK by John Corey Whaley. Growing up in Lily, Arkansas (population 3,947) seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter who finds it "very difficult to deal with the boredom brought on by living in Lily." Actually, Lily seems fairly hectic to the average reader, considering all that goes in this story, including the death of Cullen's druggy cousin, rumors that Lily might harbor an extinct Lazarus woodpecker, and the sudden disappearance of Cullen's somewhat mystical younger brother Gabriel. The story of Gabriel's disappearance is related in alternate chapters that take place in Africa, as well as Georgia, and dip into such topics as missionary life, suicide, teenage marriage, and a missing book of the Bible. The story is busy and the characters remain frustratingly distant. (It doesn't help that narrator Cullen frequently goes off into third-person tangents, refering to himself as "one," as in: "When one enters the kitchen to find his mother, father, and best friend all seated in front of a stack of uneaten pancakes, he knows that something strange has happened." Also, Cullen's blase attitude about two different sexual affairs is so offhand that the book feels more like a adult novel about teens, rather than a YA story written for teens. Though the complex plot is intriguing, the remote characterizations, many unfinished subplots, and cold storytelling may not appeal to the targeted teenage audience.

Kendall Fletcher lives in Cryer's Cross, Montana (population 212) where her parents run a potato farm and Kendall attends a one-room high school. The town has been devastated by the recent disappearance of a teenage girl and now Kendall's best friend and de facto boyfriend Nico has also disappeared. Rumors abound (did Tiffany and Nico runaway together?) but Kendall, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder so severe that she must get to school early in order to line up all the desks properly, suspects there may be a darker reason for the dual disappearance: mysterious notes are being etched into the school desk that Tiffany, and later Nico, once used; Kendall also begins to hear voices. The supernatural element that propels the plot is actually one of the weaker aspects of the novel; much more compelling is the multifaceted protagonist's struggles with OCD and her blossoming romance with edgy new-boy-in-town Jacian in this fast-paced novel

The town of West River (population ?) is the setting for SMALL TOWN SINNERS by Melissa Walker, due out July 19, 2011. The premise for the novel is intriguing, centering around a "Hell House" that narrator Lacey Ann and her friends are staging. A staple of some midwest and southern fundamentalist churches, Hell Houses dramatize "sinful behavior" such as abortion, gay marriage, suicide, and cyberporn in an effort to prosletyze young people. The daughter of a pastor, Lacey Ann is complacent in her faith until a new romance and revelations about her friends (one becomes pregnant; another seems to be questioning his sexuality) have Lacey Ann questioning her personal belief system. Though the plot is predictable, the author has created well-rounded characters who are sincere in their beliefs. The Hell House background is fascinating and, even though many readers may not be familiar with this phenomena, Lacey Ann's struggle to reconcile family beliefs with personal growth is a universal experience.


Have you ever unexpectedly received a package in the mail, opened it, and discovered it was exactly what you wanted?

It happened to me this week.

A couple months ago I came across this 1940 chilren's book in the library and was entranced by the cover. Living for the past year in a house with almost no windows, I've found myself hungry for a view of the sky. This peaceful blue dustjacket instantly relaxed me. I wanted to fall right into the picture:

The illustrations inside were also nice, plus I figured I could learn something from the simple scientific text. So I looked for a copy on the internet, placed it in my "online shopping basket" and then had second thoughts. Yeah, the book was only $8, but the gas and electric bills were due. I didn't need the pretty picture that much.

After several weeks, I had the occasion to order a couple books I needed from the same website. They both arrived in the mail a few days later. Then a third book arrived. I had no idea what it could be -- I'd only ordered two books!

I opened up the package and -- SURPRISE! -- out slid a copy of THE SKY IS BLUE.

Once again, I was mesmerized by the cover...but I knew I hadn't ordered the book.

...Then I figured it out.

I had accidentally left the book in my "shopping basket" a couple months ago, and when I bought the additional two books weeks later, THE SKY IS BLUE order was sent in as well.

Maybe "there are no accidents" and I subconsciously left the book in my basket on purpose. I don't know. All I can say is that I was delighted to be surprised by this book, and am delighted to add it to my bookshelves. It was only eight bucks -- well worth the cover picture alone. I almost feel like framing it.

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children's Books. I'll be back midweek with a blog linking a famous adult author with a well-known children's and YA writer. Hope you'll be back.


Anonymous said...

So... did Shel Silverstein's Uncle Shelby's ABZ book upset people when it was published, or were they smart enough to see that it was meant for adults? I remember that there was a sticker put on later editions, so maybe people were just as stupid back then as they might be now.
I very much doubt that any parent is going to get confused and read this new one to a kid. The language makes it too obvious that it's not a kid's book. But I'm probably wrong. Why are we so stupid, anyway? What has made us so blind to satire?

Anonymous said...

Just wondering who illustrated the cover of Reed's "The Sky is Blue".

Peter D. Sieruta said...

Hi Anonymous,

That's an interesting question about the ABZ Book -- and something I should do further research on.

Truthfully, I don't think a LOT of parents will read the book to kids...but I think some will. There are an awful lot of dumb people out there. As I mentioned in the blog, just watch a couple episodes of Judge Judy and you'll despair for the future of America.

Thanks for reading Collecting Children's Books!


Peter D. Sieruta said...

Anonymous 2:

I should have been more clear in the post. W. Maxwell Reed both wrote and illustrated THE SKY IS BLUE. The line drawings inside the book are just as nice as the cover illustration; they have a very clean and appealing look. I am now a fan of his work!

Thanks for reading Collecting Children's Books.


Linda said...

You would have thought the title of the book might have clued these people in. [eyes roll]

Skip Booth said...

Angry parents demand an apology and the removal of librarian and book from the county library system.
Monday evening parents attending the Bedtime Storytime at the Linthicum Branch with their preschoolers walk out of the meeting room enmasse to confront branch manager, Adam Malfronto over the choice of books read that evening. The book in question is titled "Go the F""k to Sleep." The reading of this book to impressionable children was unconscionable said one angry parent. Some threatened to sue.
Tuesday morning there was no comment from the Library Director....
This is from an article not published anywhere yet.

Peter D. Sieruta said...

Not published anywhere yet, Skip...but someday it could be! Good one.


Allister Van Twinkle said...

This book seems to be something fresh and new, it’s a short list of books that seem like they’re for kids, but really they’re for parents. Just over that line are books that really are for kids, but they’re made in a way that adults (yes, non-parent adults) can like them too. Anyway, I’m looking forward to checking this book out.

crissy said...

In my experience children learn much worse from their parents' actions in everyday life. Any book that can make me laugh while I try to tuck my daughter in is okay by me.

Anonymous said...

I ordered the Go The ---- To Sleep book the instant I heard about it. I am a parent, and it sums up my feelings exactly!! I can't wait to read myself, not to my children. It will be shelved in my room, nowhere near the children's books in our house.