Tag Archives: Picture Books

Lois Lensky Exhibit at Florida State University

Courtesy FSU Special Collections

Courtesy FSU Special Collections

Anyone living near Tallahassee would be well advised to check out a current exhibit at Florida State University featuring artwork by Lois Lenski, winner of the 1946 Newbery Medal for Strawberry Girl. The physical exhibit runs through September 30th. There is also a supplementary digital collection, available to all.

Press Release:

“The members of Dr. Teri Abstein’s spring 2013 Museum Object class have been working with Florida State University Special Collections to design the exhibit entitled Farms, Fields, and Florida: Lois Lenski Illustrating the South. Through materials that have not been on display since Lenski presented them herself, the exhibition highlights the children’s author’s connection with the rural south, focusing on the state of Florida. Showcasing tales such as Bayou Suzette (recounting the life of a young Cajun girl in Louisiana), Strawberry Girl (the Newbery Award winning novel depicting the life of a young Cracker girl in Florida), and Judy’s Journey (tracking a young migrant girl’s travels through the south and eastern coast), the exhibition displays the rustic yet realistic tapestry of Southern life woven by Lenski. In addition, with featured photo albums, handwritten manuscripts, fan letters, original illustrations, and her published books, visitors receive a glimpse into Lenski’s own life and process.”

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“You think of a nice word and rhyme it with a lot of other nice words”

“How do you write a poem?” he asked.

“You think of a nice word,” said the first lead soldier, “and rhyme it with a lot of other nice words until you come to the end.”

Kenny’s Window, story and pictures by Maurice Sendak

To contribute your favorite poem as a video or Soundcloud file, email thatklickitat [at] gmail [dot] com. Submissions will be accepted throughout April.

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University of Washington children’s literature bibliographies

Recently came across some terrific children’s literature bibliographies compiled by Kathleen Collins, the Children’s and Young Adult Literature Specialist at the University of Washington. (Aside: What a cool job!) They appear to have been created in conjunction with exhibits within the UW libraries.

They’re all great resources. I plan to seek out the wordless books I haven’t read in the Ann Arbor District Library’s catalog. Hope they’re useful for you too.

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Some books I’m looking forward to reading in 2012 (updated)

As the title says, here’s list of books I’ve heard or read about that I look forward to reading in 2012. You’ll see they cover quite a range of genres, from children’s to adult, fantasy to literature, which is pretty typical for me, since my reading habits are all over the map. The books are arranged chronologically, by the month of their release date. The good thing about publishing this list almost one-fourth into the year (really?) is that several of the books are either released or will be soon! As a matter of fact, I just picked up The Girls of No Return and The Snow Child from the library.

All synopses and images courtesy of Goodreads and Powell’s (except for Grave Mercy, provided by publisher and NetGalley.)


The Flame Alphabet, Ben Marcus

Published: January 17th (Knopf)

Synopsis: “…a brilliant, mesmerizingly dark new novel in which the speech of children is killing their parents. At first it’s just Jews–then everyone. People are leaving their families to survive. Sam’s wife, Claire, is already stricken and near death. In a year or two, as she grows into adulthood, their daughter, Esther, too, will become a victim. Sam and Claire decide to leave Esther on her own, hoping a “cure” will miraculously appear. Sam’s car is waved off the road at a government-run laboratory where horrific tests are being conducted to create non-lethal speech. Throngs bang on the doors to be subject volunteers; they’re all carried out half-dead. When Sam realizes what’s going on, he makes a desperate escape, vowing that if he dies it will be with his family, the only refuge of sanity and love. Ben Marcus’s nightmarish vision is both completely alien and frighteningly familiar.”

Why I look forward to reading it: First, the synopsis intrigues me. Also, I’ve always meant to read something by Marcus, having heard good things.


The Girls of No Return, Erin Saldin

Published: February 1st (Scholastic)

Synopsis: “…a lacerating young adult debut about girls, knives, and redemption. The Alice Marshall School, set within a glorious 2-million acre wilderness area, is a place where teenage girls are sent to escape their histories and themselves. Lida Wallace has tried to negate herself in every way possible. At Alice Marshall, she meets Elsa Boone, Jules, and Gia Longchamps, whose glamour entrances the entire camp. As the girls prepare for a wilderness trek, Lida is both thrilled and terrified to be chosen as Gia’s friend. Everyone has their secrets – the “Things” they try to protect; and when those come out, the knives do as well.”

Why I look forward to reading it: A lot of people I trust have raved about this one. It’s also a nice break from the genres I’ve been reading lately.

Review from 60second Recap:

The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey

Published: February 1st (Reagan Arthur Books)

Synopsis: “Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart — he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone — but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.”

Why I look forward to reading it: The cover drew me in initially. It sounds like a good winter book that might help get me through the next eight months until Spring. (Okay, okay. It just feels that way.) The re-told fairytale aspect (from a Russian folktale, arguably some of the best folktales) intrigues me.

Book Trailer:

No One Is Here Except All of Us, Ramona Ausubel

Release date: February 2nd (Riverhead)

Synopsis: “In 1939, the families in a remote Jewish village in Romania feel the war close in on them. Their tribe has moved and escaped for thousands of years- across oceans, deserts, and mountains-but now, it seems, there is nowhere else to go. Danger is imminent in every direction, yet the territory of imagination and belief is limitless. At the suggestion of an eleven-year-old girl and a mysterious stranger who has washed up on the riverbank, the villagers decide to reinvent the world: deny any relationship with the known and start over from scratch. Destiny is unwritten. Time and history are forgotten. Jobs, husbands, a child, are reassigned. And for years, there is boundless hope. But the real world continues to unfold alongside the imagined one, eventually overtaking it, and soon our narrator-the girl, grown into a young mother-must flee her village, move from one world to the next, to find her husband and save her children, and propel them toward a real and hopeful future. A beguiling, imaginative, inspiring story about the bigness of being alive as an individual, as a member of a tribe, and as a participant in history, No One Is Here Except All Of Us explores how we use storytelling to survive and shape our own truths. It marks the arrival of a major new literary talent.”

Why I look forward to reading it: I saw it on a “Books to Watch Out For” list back in January and it sounded like an interesting take on well mined subject matter (WWII, the Holocaust).

Interview with the author:


Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories, Megan Mayhew Bergman

Release date: March 6th (Scribner)

Synopsis: “Megan Mayhew Bergman’s twelve stories capture the surprising moments when the pull of our biology becomes evident, when love or fear collide with good sense, or when our attachment to an animal or wild place can’t be denied. In “Housewifely Arts,” a single mother and her son drive hours to track down an African Gray Parrot that can mimic her deceased mother’s voice. A population control activist faces the ultimate conflict between her loyalty to the environment and her maternal desire in “Yesterday’s Whales.” And in the title story, a lonely naturalist allows an attractive stranger to lead her and her aging father on a hunt for an elusive woodpecker.

As intelligent as they are moving, the stories in Birds of a Lesser Paradise are alive with emotion, wit, and insight into the impressive power that nature has over all of us.”

Why I look forward to reading it: A solid short story collection is a thing of beauty. This one has promise.

Book Trailer:


Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1), Robin LaFevers

Release date: April 3rd (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Synopsis: “Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?”

Why I look forward to reading it: I’ve loved LaFevers ever since I read her Theodosia Throckmorton and Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series. Friends with advance copies have backed up my assumption that the His Fair Assassin series will delight as well. I’m really excited to have an ARC, thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, and I plan to read it as soon as I clear my out-from-the-library shelf.

Book Trailer:

Boy and Bot, written by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

Release date: April 10th (Random House Children’s Books)

Synopsis: “One day, a boy and a robot meet in the woods. They play. They have fun.

But when Bot gets switched off, Boy thinks he’s sick. The usual remedies—applesauce, reading a story—don’t help, so Boy tucks the sick Bot in, then falls asleep.

Bot is worried when he powers on and finds his friend powered off. He takes Boy home with him and tries all his remedies: oil, reading an instruction manual. Nothing revives the malfunctioning Boy! Can the Inventor help fix him?

Using the perfect blend of sweetness and humor, this story of an adorable duo will win the hearts of the very youngest readers.”

Why I look forward to reading it: It looks adorable. Also excited about the possible 826michigan cross-overs.


The Last Princess, Galaxy Craze

Release date: May 8th (Poppy)

Synopsis: “Happily ever after is a thing of the past.

The year is 2090.

England is a barren land. Food is rationed. Oil has decimated the oceans. The people are restless.

A ruthless revolutionary enacts a plan to destroy the royal family, and in a moment, the king is dead. His heiress, Princess Mary, and her brother, Jamie, have been abducted, and no one knows their fate. Princess Eliza Windsor barely escapes, and finds herself scared and lost in London’s dangerous streets.

With a mind for revenge and the safe recovery of her siblings, Eliza joins the enemy forces in disguise. There she is tempted by her first taste of independence — and true love. Ultimately she must summon her courage and fight to ensure that she does not become… The Last Princess.”

Why I look forward to reading it: Looks like a good adventure and an interesting mix of genres.

In Honor, Jessi Kirby

Release date: May 8th (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)

Synopsis: “Honor receives her brother’s last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn’s celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her.

Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn’s last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn. . . and ruggedly good looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn’t. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn–but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?”

Why I look forward to reading it: Someone compared the love interest to Tim Riggins. Say no more; I’m there! Also, books about road trips are always welcome.

Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein

Credit: Goodreads

Release date: May 18th (Hyperion Books for Children)

Synopsis: “Oct. 11th, 1943–A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.”

Why I look forward to reading it: Everyone says it’s fantastic. And who doesn’t love a good spy story?


This Is Not a Test, Courtney Summers

Release date: June 19th (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Synopsis: “It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?”

Why I look forward to reading it: I’ve heard good things from people that’ve read advance copies. I’ve never been very into zombies but this sounds like an interesting treatment.


The Waiting Sky, Lara Zielin

Credit: Goodreads

Release date: August 2nd (Putnam Juvenile?)

Synopsis: “Seventeen-year-old Jane can’t quite face her mother’s alcoholism even though it sucks to spend all her time and energy keeping them afloat—making sure her mom gets to work, that the bills are paid when there’s money to pay them, and that no one knows her mom is so messed up. But when Jane’s mom drives drunk almost killing both them and Jane’s best friend, Jane can no longer deny her mom is spiraling out of control. Jane has only one place to turn: her older brother Ethan, who left years ago to go to college. A summer away with him and his tornado chasing buddies may just provide the time and space she needs to figure out whether her life still includes her mother.”

Why I look forward to reading it: An interesting premise. Bonus: Zielin is a local author (she lives in Yspilanti, Michigan).


Drama, Raina Telgemeier

Credit: Goodreads

Release date: September 1st (Scholastic)

Synopsis: “Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she’s a terrible singer. Instead she’s the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen, and when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier! Following the success of SMILE, Raina Telgemeier brings us another graphic novel featuring a diverse set of characters that humorously explores friendship, crushes, and all-around drama!”

Why I look forward to reading it: I loved Smile and, like so many others, look forward to seeing what Telgemeier has up her sleeve next.

The Diviners, Libba Bray

Credit: Goodreads

Release date: September 18th (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Synopsis: “Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.”

Why I look forward to reading it: Bray always writes fun books and this one sounds especially so! Hoping I can snag a copy at Annual.

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Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary: Children’s Books and Graphic Arts (University of Chicago)

Stumbled across a really neat exhibit currently up at the University of Chicago’s Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery, through the end of the year (December 30th). If you’re in the area, I suggest you take a look! Press release, take it away!

Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary: Children’s Books and Graphic Arts
Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery
1100 E. 57th Street, Chicago, Illinois
August 22, 2011—December 30, 2011
Mon.-Fri., 9:00 a.m.­-4:45 p.m.
Sat: 9:00 a.m.-12:45 p.m. when University of Chicago classes are in session.

The Soviet Union was a world in pictures. Its creation in the wake of the Russian revolutions of February­–March and October–November 1917 was facilitated by a vibrant image culture based largely on new media technologies. Its periodic re-makings ­– during Stalin’s Great Leap Forward (1928–1932), World War II (1941–1945, the Thaw (1956–1964), Perestroika (1987­–1991) – were all accompanied by new media revolutions.

Two of the most striking manifestations of Soviet image culture were the children’s book and the poster. Both of these forms testify to the alliance between experimental aesthetics and radical socialist ideology that held tenuously from the 1917 revolutions to the mid-1930s—and did so much to shape a distinctly Soviet civilization. The children’s books and posters in “Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary plot the development of this new image culture alongside the formation of new social and cultural identities, from the beginning of Stalin’s Great Breakthrough in 1928 to the reconstruction and regrouping that followed World War II.

“Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary,” drawn entirely from the collections of the University of Chicago Library, was created by the collaborative efforts of eight graduate students, one former undergraduate and two faculty members at the University of Chicago. Led by Professor Robert Bird, the participants, representing a range of academic disciplines, from history to art history and Russian literature discuss topics such as “The Collective,” “The Individual,” “Transportation,” “Do It Yourself,” and “Military Preparedness,” and individuals including Aleksandr Deineka and Vladimir Mayakovsky.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

(Image from illustrator Sophie Blackall’s new book and authorial debut, Are You Awake?, available May 10th. I saw a preview copy at ALA Midwinter and adored it.)

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Review: Mirror by Jeannie Baker

Written and illustrated by Jeannie Baker
Candlewick Press
ISBN 9780763648480
For ages 2 and up
On shelves now

When I was a kid I was fascinated by photographer Peter Menzel’s book Material World. Menzel arranged for a team of photographers to visit 30 different countries, live with a “statistically average” family for one week, and then, at the end of the week, take a photograph of the family standing outside their home, with all their possessions surrounding them. As you’d expect, the images vary quite a bit. Somewhere along the way my parents acquired an interactive CD-ROM atlas that exhibited all of the project’s images. (I have a hunch it was part of our Encarta* suite but I’m not sure.) I loved that CD-ROM. I spent dozens upon dozens of hours, flipping through it, fascinated, trying to imagine what my life would be like if I’d been born in Iceland or Mali or Texas.

I mention this because collage artist and author Jeannie Baker’s Mirror puts me very much in mind of Menzel’s work. The book actually is two picture books in one. On the left side, we witness a day in the life of a young family in Sydney, Australia. To the right, the same day in the life of a Moroccan family is shown. The book is bound so that both sides can be viewed either together or independently. As the two families go about their lives, their experiences are paralleled. Both families eat breakfast, go shopping, and gather together in the evening when the day is done. Except for a brief introduction, the book is wordless and the story is told through Baker’s stunning paper collages, full of texture and life.

It’s a stunning effort. Flipping through, I felt like I was simultaneously present in a Sydney family room, under the hot North African sun on market day, and in my parents’ family room, using that old CD-ROM and discovering the world for the first time.

Highly recommended. This book is not only a work of art, it’s a great discussion starter.

Reviewed from library copy.


* Gasp. Do they not make Encarta anymore? I feel so old!


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