Thursday, January 27, 2011


 "Don't be silly," said Brownie, wiggling free.  "You're too late for breakfast."
"Really?"  the fox frowned.  "What about lunch?"
"Too early," said Brownie.  "You'll just have to wait."
"I hate waiting," said the fox.
"I know what you mean," said Brownie.
A friendship is hard-won as a groundhog moves from prey to precious in the eyes of a hungry fox.  Having come out into the open to check his shadow, Brownie is pounced upon by a novice predator who is easily talked out of and tricked out of a meal.  When Brownie finally manages to tie the fox to a tree with a red scarf, maybe the fox has learned his lesson, or at least, Brownie's suffered from some mild form of Stockholm Syndrome.  What is freaky and ultimately irresistible about this book is the animals, for all of their human banter, are really quite animal-like, sweet and stupid and aggressive in turns...and always down for a good meal.  Wintry illustrations with a thoughtful limited palette of burnt umber, white and blue paint are both pretty and fun to look at, featuring figures that mix postures both people-like and very, very canine.  Above all, there is something very direct and naturalistic about this story, and children will appreciate the honesty of that bite. 

Dont Fidget A FeatherAlso of interest:
A ridiculous amount of Groundhog Day books here
And if you'd like more fox-on-animal action, tune into DON'T FIDGET A FEATHER by Erica Silverman, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Aladdin), an exciting and laugh-out-loud tale of a "freeze-in-place" contest between a very competitive Gander and Duck that goes dangerously awry when a hungry fox shows up. Move, Gander, move!!! The message is clear:  sometimes there's something more important at stake then winning.  I like a book that impels children to scream really loudly while you read, that means it's a good story.  Wear your earplugs. 

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

Sunday, January 09, 2011


Throughout the world of children's literature comes the call: "Who?  WHO?  Whoooooo?"  No, it it is not a forest full of owls, it is the community of librarians, teachers and kidlit enthusiasts all wondering who will take the coveted ALA/ALSC Library Media Awards,  the Caldecott for best American children's book illustration, the Newbery for best children's book writing, and a bevy of other significant commendations (Sibert for non-fiction, Coretta Scott King and Pura Belpre Awards for African American and Latino/Latina children's lit, Theodore Geisel for early readers).  These are better known the "Oscars" of Children's Literature (and even better known as "Day of Disappointment" for 99.9% of author/illustrators, but oh, well).  You can view the webcast live tomorrow at 7:45 San Diego time (that's 9:45 to you, Midwesterners, and 10:45, East Coast).  Who is going to take the silver and gold?  Please forgive some informal musing to follow...

The horse race for the Newbery points toward THE DREAMER by Pam Munoz Ryan, a piece of magical realism that depicts the childhood of poet Pablo Neruda, backed by the ethereal art of Caldecott winner Peter Sis...
The Dreamer
and ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia, the sensitively told story of a girl in the late 1960's whose mother is involved in the Black Panther movement.
One Crazy Summer

Perfectly deserving recipients and original reads, both, but I am still laying some coins down on a few dark horses.  There are other worthy contenders with middle grade readerships who could take it, each using history to tune in to the readership of today, excellent books that will speak to children in this economy.  Namely, THE YEAR MONEY GREW ON TREES by Aaron Hawkins (Houghton Mifflin), a lively story set in the Great Depression about a family who tries to survive by starting their own apple orchard.  Then there is TO COME AND GO LIKE MAGIC by Katie Pickard Fawcett (Knopf), set in 1970's Appalachia in which Chili Sue Mahoney longs to see the world outside of Kentucky, and finds herself living vicariously through her teacher.  Then there is the little gem PALACE BEAUTIFUL by Sarah DeFord Williams  (Putnam) with an unfortunately non-Newbery looking cover and already in paperback (ye of little faith), but inside is the poignant-with-a-capital-P story of a girl who finds a journal of a girl suffering through the flu epidemic of 1918, and finds the worlds of then and now converging; short and sweet, this is the most unassuming heavyweight contender read since Patricia MacLachlan's SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL. You heard it here first.
Palace Beautiful
To Come and Go Like Magic

The Year Money Grew on Trees

On to the Caldecotts.  All eyes and runny noses are on A SICK DAY FOR AMOS McGEE by Philip and Erin Stead (Roaring Brook, reviewed here), a perfectly respectable choice, if a bit old-skool (but don't we love old skool?)...
and illustrator John Muth, coupled with our golden boy (or rather, golden man) Mo Willems in the role of author, for CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG, which is pretty darn timeless and will probably take it...
City Dog, Country Frog
but that can't stop me from rooting for some love to go to G. Brian Karas's artwork in CLEVER JACK TAKES THE CAKE, done with Candace Fleming, two talented children's book workhorses who also deserve recognition.
Clever Jack Takes the Cake 

Luckily for American illustrators, Jeannie Baker (MIRROR) is from Australia and Suzy Lee (SHADOW) is from Singapore, or my oh my, with respect I have to say they would have given this year's crop a run for their money.

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring
Ninth WardBenjamin Franklinstein Lives!These awards are meant to represent the excellence of the larger whole, and so books like these will probably get awards:  BALLET FOR MARTHA:  MAKING APPALACHIAN SPRING, for instance; Susan Campbell Bartoletti's brave and well-researched THEY CALL THEMSELVES THE K.K.K.; Sharon Draper's gotten lots of buzz for her novel OUT OF MY MIND; if David Weisner has any more room on his shelf for more prizes, he might take it for ART & MAX; and BINK AND GOLLY is a shoo-in for a Geisel (who can resist Kate DiCamillo matching wits with Alison McGhee, coupled with David Fucile's work that is as fun as any television cartoon?).  Yes, I am a librarian, and I can recognize the distinguished qualities of some books.  But as a teacher librarian for elementary school kids, I have my own favorites based on what works well in classrooms...I look for distinguished books with a pragmatic edge.  Marilyn Singer's MIRROR, MIRROR for sheer inventiveness. Laura Amy Schlitz's  THE NIGHT FAIRY, short and action-packed, a perfect read-aloud.  THE DARK EMPEROR, so handsome, DOTTY, so wise.  I guess works like THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA and BENJAMIN FRANKLINSTEIN LIVES! are too base and funny to win, but by golly, how funny are they, and will anyone recognize with gold how truly hard it is to write something that funny, and how very very very much children want to read something that is that funny?  And these awards do mean these books will be bought by the thousands and put into probably more classrooms, even, than libraries, and children will be assigned to read I guess my wish is that whoever wins, let it be books that kids really like. That's why I so appreciate lists like The Allen County Public Library Mock Newbery and Mock Caldecott (impeccable taste always, by the way, my own nominations notwithstanding; this year, they chose NINTH WARD by Jewell Parker Rhodes for the Newbery, and mentioned the great wordless CHALK by Bill Thomson as a worthy Caldecott contender), and the mighty Cybils, chosen by children's book bloggers across the kidlitosphere, always an eclectic list that offers so many opportunities to connect so many readers.  Our own PlanetEsme Picks will be posted this month, the best of 2010.  I love lists more than prizes.  Motto:  the more the friends, in dishes on a table, in cookies in a jar, and in books. 

Fairly Fairy TalesWhat books did you really like this year?  Who do you predict will win, and who has already won your heart?  Please share in the comments section this week. One lucky winner chosen at random will get a signed copy of my new book, FAIRLY FAIRY TALES.  That way, tomorrow, any way it goes, I can be assured someone I really like will win something. 

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


Related Posts with Thumbnails