Friday, July 31, 2009


Raised by nature lovers during the late 19th century, the drive to become a naturalist came early to William Beebe, who taught himself taxidermy as a child, had articles published and was hired by the director of the New York Zoological Park before he was out of college. He believed, as he wrote in his journal, "to be a naturalist is better than to be a king." During his world travels in search of specimens, he decided the methods of nature study were outdated, and so pioneered the study of ecology and wildlife in its natural habitat. While helmet diving in the Galapagos, he was inspired to devote the rest of his career to studying the magical and abundant undersea world, and so designed the Bathysphere, to go, truly, where no man had gone before.

Travel! Danger! Adventure! Invention! Renown! Who could have imagined what was in store for this little boy, mounting bugs in his room, or counting the migrating birds? The move from "passion to profession" is documented here, poised to motivate other young people in their pursuits. Though the cover suggests an undersea theme, the book, in fact, feels broader, though the drama of the descent into the deepest parts of the ocean cannot be denied. Acrylic, gouache and India ink illustrations also have a depth, heavy and thick on the page, and well-matched to the bubble of brackish water or the humid overlay of jungle canopy. A very nice read-aloud, it can be enriched with Steve Jenkins' latest, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN: A JOURNEY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (Houghton Mifflin), which progressively takes us deeper and deeper into the ocean and introduces us to the strange, almost alien life forms living there and that Beebe might have encountered, and/or the oldie but goodie MOTHER TO TIGERS by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Peter Catalanotto (Atheneum), an amazing picture book biography about the first woman zookeeper at the Bronx Zoo. The book feels very complete with a note from the author (and labeled diagram of the Bathysphere), a glossary and bibliography, and a collection of quotes, my favorite among them:
"When you look for things...year after year, and train your senses to concentrate, then sooner or later very special things happen within sight or hearing."
These are the kind of wise words that open the chapter to a child's own real life adventures. (7 and up)

Also of interest:
Another wet and wild biography!
THE MERMAID QUEEN by Shana Corey, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (Scholastic) Subtitled "The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History," we meet the unlikely heroine Annette Kellerman, a little Australian girl who longs to create artistry like the dancers in attendance at her parents' music school but is thwarted by the braces on her legs. In an effort to help her grow stronger, her father taught her to swim, and boy, could she swim, not only winning races but inventing dives and the art form of water ballet. During a time when girl athletes were an anomaly, she determined she would have to go over the top to make people pay attention, and so she attempted to swim the English Channel, caused a coup at the London Bath Club when she was about to swim showing bare legs (gasp!), and finally ended up in court after a beachfront arrest in which she went swimming in her then-racy racing suit.
"Your honor," Annette told the judge. "Swimming is the most wonderful and healthy exercise. Why, every child in America should be taught to swim."
The crowd gasped.
Then Annette asked the judge how women could possibly be expected to swim in bathing suits that felt like lead chains?!
Everyone waited to see what would happen.
A fashion-forward feminist way ahead of her time, Kellerman was successful in parting the waters for women. Author Shana Corey is no stranger to topics of girl power and barrier-busting through history (YOU FORGOT YOUR SKIRT, AMELIA BLOOMER, illustrated by Chesley McLaren [Scholastic] and one of my all-time favorites, PLAYERS IN PIGTAILS, ingeniously illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon [Scholastic]). The artist, too, has visited the theme before in his recent award-winning foray WHAT TO DO ABOUT ALICE by Barbara Kerley (Scholastic), and employs similar technique here, with over-sized pages, whirling-swirling color and design, and diverse, kinetic layouts that do crazy inventive things with perspective to keep the eye moving. Dubbed "the perfect woman," Kellerman's life story pairs nicely with Megan McCarthy's tribute to Charles Atlas, the "perfect man" (STRONG MAN [Knopf]). She was a household name a hundred years ago, and thanks to the lovely treatment in this title, like Aphrodite rising from the sea on the half-shell, so Kellerman rises again. (6 and up)

On a personal note:
Pizza party at PlanetEsme! Chicago style deep-dish, anyone?

Thanks to everyone for being patient with my posting. July has been an incredibly busy month! It started with two big library conferences in Chicago, which meant mandatory and marvelous celebrations at the PlanetEsme Bookroom. We were off with a bang with a pizza party for friends at the Association of Jewish Libraries (blogged about very generously by Heidi Estrin at the Book of Life) and then later in the week we celebrated the ebullient author/librarian Toni Buzzeo with a brunch at the start of the American Library Association (ALA) conference (blogged about with mucho gusto by Elizabeth Bird at her School Library Journal blog, who also posted a video of our moments of remembrance dedicated to children's book legend Coleen Salley). It was wonderful to see old friends (like Matthew Cordell, with his upcoming gem TROUBLE GUM...I knew you when, brother-man!...and poetess Bobbi Katz, whose THE MONSTEROLOGIST: A MEMOIR IN RHYME is this Halloween's middle-grade must-have) and make some new ones (like Tony Fucile, author of LET'S DO NOTHING, a very imaginative cure for summer whaddayawannado blues, and April Halprin Wayland, author of NEW YEAR AT THE PIER, a sweetheart who might very well be my new "BFF" if she didn't live all the way in California). I can't list everybody I saw and met and loved here because it might create text as long as a Harry Potter sequel, but please know it was a pleasure and honor and a genuine delight.

In direct opposition to the idea of "let's do nothing," straightaway from the conferences I started in on pursuing my higher education full-time in a rigorous academic program which launches its participants into the cerebral fray via something called "boot camp," to which I said, "boot camp, ha-ha-ha, how cute!" Well, it turns out, it is NOT AT ALL cute, and involved brutal seventeen-hour days (might have been shorter for brighter people than I) and extensive reading about federal depositories and archiving, and activities that required using words like "disintermediation" in conversation. In fact, the only cute part was my adorable and sunny roommate; it was like getting to share a bathroom with Anne of Green Gables. Also on the bright side: the other students were dazzlingly brilliant and kind at every turn, and the reputation of the professors offers the promise of the transformational. And I did begrudgingly learn an awful lot about disintermediation. Ask me over cupcakes sometime.

The result of this commitment/opportunity and the necessary Rocky-Balboa-like retraining of my brain for schoolwork, as well as some upcoming on-line extravaganzas surrounding the reissue of EDUCATING ESME, is that I have to cut back on speaking engagements and the salon will only be open publicly for special events, one of which will be a launch party for Esther Hershenhorn's S IS FOR STORY: A WRITER'S ALPHABET (Sleeping Bear Press), an incredible back-to-school boon of a book for both teachers and children, followed by an open mike for kids (I know many of you have been asking; the last one was a blast, wasn't it?). Details to come...if you're in the Chicago area, please make sure you're on my mailing list (esmeATripcoDOTcom) so you receive invitations and alerts, or continue to follow this blog. Thanks again!

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.
More Esmé stuff at


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


girish said...

Thanks for post. It’s really imformative stuff.
I really like to read.Hope to learn a lot and have a nice experience here! my best regards guys!

fateh singh
seo jaipur--seo jaipur


Related Posts with Thumbnails