Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Authors, Illustrators, and Author-Illustrators

In an interesting interview with author-illustrator Tomi Ungerer today, he claimed that all the classic children's book writers are author-illustrators, not "merely" authors or "merely" illustrators.  Specifically, he said, "Look, it’s a fact that the children’s books that withstand the grinding of time all come from authors who did both. Because the author has a vision, and there’s an osmosis between the oral and the visual, which come together and mix." Do you agree?  Can you think of counter-examples?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Library Loot #7

For the kids:

Not pictured: lots and lots that I didn't keep track of, unfortunately.

For me:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Library vs Museum (Redux)

As promised, I went to what my children call the "wide library" and I call the "main library" at 42nd Street to see the children's book illustration exhibit (very small and not worth a separate trip, but the children's room itself is - more on that below) and the centennial exhibit.  And just outside the centennial exhibit are the Lego Lions!  It was quite a day if you like that sort of thing which, of course, I do.

The exhibit showcases the great variety of objects the library owns, which is staggering.  From a Gutenberg Bible to diaries of Malcolm X, from original scores by Beethoven to works by Matisse, from a lock of Mary Shelley's hair to a model for the set of Sunday in the Park with George, from e.e. cumming's typewriter to a Ku Klux Klan robe, from art by Kiki Smith to Charles Dickens' letter opener (incorporating, creepily enough, his cat's paw)... it was just amazing. 

The New York Times review of the exhibit criticizes its lack of focus.  But to me that was exactly the point.  To show the vastness and diversity of items the library has collect.  And it raised the question for me, again: what is the difference between a library and a museum?

As for the "wide library" itself, it manages to be both grand and peaceful.  A real oasis in the city.  More so than some of the better-known museums, which are often so busy that it is hard to get close enough to see whatever you came to see. 

The children's room, worth a trip even without the exhibit, is cheerful, with lovely murals mostly featuring New York locations, the standard cut-out cardboard book characters and bright-colored, inviting furniture.  I wanted to move in. 
Have you been to any NYPL exhibits?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

All Things in Moderation

As summer approaches and my 6-year-old will soon head off to day camp (on a school bus and everything) for the first time, a few books have left me wondering if I should be leaving her to her own devices instead.  You know, to build forts in our backyard (oh, wait, we don't have one), or catch frogs in the creek (ditto). 

The first book, which I previously discussed here, is A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee.  The two boys go off to a week of nature camp, which they instead spend complaining about various things, watching TV and playing video games at their relatives' house, and eating food they don't get at home.  It's not til the end of the book, when left alone, that they do anything remotely nature-related.

Conversely, A Fine, Fine School by Sharon Creech (more well-known for her award-winning Walk Two Moons, for an older audience) shows us the pitfalls of too much school.  The well-meaning but overly enthusiastic principal keeps adding days to the school calendar (weekends!  holidays!  summer!) until a wise student points out to him that this means that some people are not learning.  She is not learning how to sit in a tree for an hour, her younger brother is not learning how to skip (because she is not home to teach him), and so on.  The principal, realizing the error of his ways, relents.  A fun read-aloud, my children liked to join in when I read the principal's refrain: "I love this school!  Let's have more school!" 

Saturday, June 11, 2011


The idea of a child's paradise as candy-filled is not a new one.  In The Nutcracker, Clara/Marie is whisked away to the Land of Sweets.  And in My Garden by Kevin Henkes, a little girl declares that in her (fantasy) garden, the rabbits will be chocolate rabbits - so she can eat them!  Not satisfied yet, she goes on to plant a jellybean bush.  The illustrations in My Garden are beautiful with a lovely pink-and-green-and-yellow color palette.  The last page shows a seashell (sadly, not edible) the girl planted, with roots beginning to sink into the earth.

Two parents in my daughter's kindergarten class used this as a jumping off point for a project with the students.  After reading the book, the class planted flowers and could choose other items, such as magic wands and lollipops, to "plant," too.  A nice way to bring the book to life.

My younger daughter just learned a song with a similar theme in preschool: "Oh, if all the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops, oh what a rain it would be-ee!  Standing outside with our mouth open wide!  Aah-a-ah-a-ah-a-ah! Oh, if all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops, oh what a rain it would be-ee!"

This song and book triggered a memory for me.  At my kindergarten graduation we sang a song called The Lollipop Tree, and I got to hold said tree!  As in My Garden and the raindrop song, the song not only uses the theme of a candyland paradise, but plays with the inversion of the natural order.  If only we could plant something man-made, such as lollipops (or money!) and have them grow into trees!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Right Up My Alley - And Yours?

Tomorrow what sounds like a fantastic exhibit of children's book illustrations opens at the NYPL.  I plan to check it out and to see the centennial exhibit too.  Maybe I'll see you there!

And if you love the library like I do and are concerned about impending budget cuts, consider signing this petition.  Thanks!

Monday, June 6, 2011

That's English!

Watching my daughter learn to read and write has reminded me that English is just so darn hard.  When explaining why onion is not spelled unyin (as she logically wrote on my grocery list) or why right is pronounced rite, the only reason I can come up with is "That's English!"  A friend who has a child in a Spanish-English dual language program said her daughter is reading fluently in Spanish but not in English, because Spanish is phonetc.  Sometimes I marvel at the fact that people learn to read and write (and spell correctly) in English at all.  I, of course, see some of the patterns and word roots (and maybe would see more if I'd ever studied Latin), but to a child just learning to read, they must seem like roadblocks thrown up just to frustrate her.

How do you deal with English's myriad exceptions when teaching new readers and writers?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Paying it Forward

Zoe at Playing by the Book was kind enough to award me the Versatile Blogger Award.  Thanks, Zoe! 

The Rules of the Award are:

Thank the person who gave you the award.
Tell us seven things about yourself.
Award fifteen recently discovered bloggers.
Contact the blogs to let them know they received the award.

So, for the seven things about me:

1. I have never been to London or Paris but I have been to Rome and Moscow.

2. I once died (in a role) onstage at Madison Square Garden.

3.  My mom claims that as soon as I learned to read she taught me to play Scrabble.

4.  I eat chocolate every day.

5.  I am always early.

6.  I have danced the Ribbon Dance in a Chinese New Year show.

7.  I hate summer.  Really.
As for naming fifteen newly discovered blogs, well, fifteen is way out of my reach.  As a new blogger myself, I mostly read a lot of the well-known kidlit blogs.   But here are four that you may not know about:

Storied Cities, all about picture and early chapter books with urban settings.

Annie and Aunt, wherein Annie, a high school English teacher and Deborah, her bookseller aunt discuss books that cover the spectrum from baby board books to young adult literature.

The Book Chook, which includes not only book reviews but great ideas for working with kids and improving their reading skills.

Library Chicken, which also spans a huge range of children's literature, both in terms of targeted age groups and genres.

Do you have any favorite children's literature blogs to recommend?