Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Temporary Twilight-Insania

So we were driving back home after a week away when we noticed the parking lot at one of the most popular beach accesses was barricaded. A police car was immediately behind the barricade. We surmised it could have been one of two things -- a search and rescue (in reality, more like a "recovery," a tired euphemism if there ever was one) for a surfer out of his/her league, or ... a movie shoot. Option two was the correct one. It seems as if Tough City and environs were all a-twitter since some vampirey sorts were lingering in the neighbourhood.

Even though this is largely a blog about writing for children and youth, I doubt I will ever wade through the Twilight saga (I've got too many other books demanding my attention and besides, I am trying to work my way through this, which should take the rest of my lifetime).* And I am notorious for watching a movie for an hour or so before deciding that I'd much rather read on my nice comfy couch by the fire, so I doubt I'll ever watch the movies unless I'm stuck on a plane or in a hotel room, so I was happy to come across this summary of all four books in one handy-dandy cartoon.

*Related to the New Canadian Library. I am trying to collect the set. (Why, I'm not sure since my house is overflowing with books at the moment, but perhaps it's because I think I'm missing something by not trying to at least get through some of the "Canadian Cannon" -- mind you, only one publisher's canon. Just trying to be a good Canadian and all.) Plus, the spines of the older versions - with the coloured spines -- are pretty appealing lined up on my bookshelf. In a moment of insanity I actually thought I might blog my way through it, so thank goodness I found out another pair got there first. Phew, dodged that time-sucker. Anyhow, if you have any of the NCL that you would like to trade for some of my books, please get in touch. I'm looking for the versions with the one-colour covers with the numbers of the spine, or the earlier versions with the caricatures of the authors on the covers.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Books with Long Legs (and a long caterpillar)

I love the simplicity of Eric Carle's books (and, of course, the vivid illustrations). Other fans might enjoy this interview.

"I often joke," he says, "that with a novel you start out with a 35-word idea and you build out to 35,000 words. With a children's book you have a 35,000-word idea and you reduce it to 35. That's an exaggeration, but that's what's taking place with picture books."

One day, when I finally get to the eastern seaboard (final destination New York), I shall make a pilgrimmage here. What a legacy to leave.

Friday, March 13, 2009

BC Book Prizes - 2009

Congratulations to those on the short lists for the BC Book Prizes. An especially enthusiastic shout-out to a book on the history of Tough City and environs. The awards will be presented April 25 in Vancouver.

For some Friday Fun, check out this post on The Book Bench on how to write a bedtime story. Make sure you follow the links to Lemony Snicket's tale-telling tips. I will especially note the point about the cocktail.

The gray whales and tourists are making their way to Tough City for this event. This usually means that I migrate against the tide to leave more space in town for the visitors and this week is no exception. I'll be taking a hiatus for a week or so. I'll be back in awhile (perhaps with give-aways). Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Where the Wild Things Gather Dust

Some bloggers have "Funny Fridays" or some such day where they post things that are frivolous and slightly (or wholly) off-topic. I'm not so organized or disciplined and am always eager to share the fun (or avoid work), so here are some toys to make when you need some down time with the scissors, tape and glue. Check out Toy-a-Day's great paper figures. These are somewhat related to the (supposed) subject of this blog: Max, Cat in the Hat, and Bill.

Joe, the artist behind Toy-a-Day very generously has supplied a blank template, too. Might make a nice tie-in to a picture book or novel study. Have students create 3-D renditions of the characters. There. Not so frivolous after all.

Advice for Aspiring Writers

As usual, Editorial Anonymous's blog is full of great advice (and much hilarity). If you are an aspiring writer, or even a published one, this blog is required reading. EA is posting a very useful series called "Definitions for the Perplexed" where you can read about publishing terms such as C,M,Y,K or proofs or BookScan. Here's the most recent post, but make sure you scroll down to see the posts over the past few weeks. While you're there, make sure you check out EA's list of Things Not To Send in Slush Ever Again in the margin.

Also courtesy of EA is news of an virtual cat fight over the news that several agents twittered on why they were rejecting manuscripts. Follow the links, but if you want to cut to the chase, here are some of the Twitter posts. (From Chico Writer's Group.) Regardless of how you feel about the ethics, there is a lot of good advice in those tweets.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cool Science for the Discerning Reader

Science writer Fiona Bayrock has a great post over at Unabridged full of tips and the advice of a pro for those interesting in writing about science for children. She takes her own advice in her new book, Bubble Homes and Fish Farts. (Illustrated by Carolyn Conahan.) There are two launches coming up: one in Vancouver (March 14 - THIS Sat.) and one in Chilliwack (March 28). If you're nearby, get yourself over there (and don't forget your bubble blower).

Eau de Used Book Store

Something light, but book related (sort of).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Which Way Should I Go?

Congratulations to Ron Martin — who lives very near to Tough City — on his book (written with Sylvia Olsen and illustrated by Kasia Charko): Which Way Should I Go? This lovely picture book explores several themes, the main one being that we all have choices to make, often very hard ones. Joey is a happy boy who loves visiting with his grandmother. One of the things she does is pass on a song, which talks about choices: which way should I go? When his beloved grandmother dies, Joey has to learn to make choices to create his own world into being. This is an empowering book, that tells us, despite the sad and bad things that happen to us, life is what we make it. Although the characters in this story are First Nations, the sentiment is universal. In 2009, this book was selected as the title for the First Nations Communites Read program.

Here's more on the First Nations Communities Read program. And be sure to check out their resources, including the very helpful and handy "2009 Tips Sheet." Here are the other books submitted for this award. A must-read for anyone wanting to include First Nations-related literature in their home, school or library. The publisher also has produced a Teacher's Guide. And here's a review from Canadian Materials.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers, Lest They be Angels in Disguise

Not much to do with children's book (although I'm sure Shakespeare & Co. has some), but, if, like me, you're a fan of Jeanette Winterson, bookstores and Paris, the here's a great read for you.

A Smattering of Book Reviews

The latest reviews from Susan Perrin at the Globe and Mail.

Here are links to the titles:

Have You Ever Seen a Duck in a Raincoat? by Etta Kaner and illustrated by Jeff Szuc.

The Orphan Boy by Tolowa Mollel and Paul Morin. Here's another review of this title.

A New Life by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Nasrin Khosravi.

Call Me Aram by Marsha Skrypuch and illustrated by Muriel Wood. Here's another review.

You Are Weird by Diane Swanson. Here's a review from Quill and Quire.

Friday, March 06, 2009

How Does Your Paper Get Pulped?

I'm all for alternative papers, but this is a new one.

For Aspiring Picture Book Creators

If you are a writer or illustrator who aspires to write a picture book, you should carefully study this post on the beast know as a "picture book dummy." Even though pictures books are 32 pages long, you do not have 32 pages to play with. Thanks to Kirsti Wakelin for the head's up on this one. (Canadian Illustrator extraordinaire.) Check out her fabulous blog to learn about projects in progress.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Could Kindle Kill the Comic?

There are not a lot of comics read around here (graphic novels are big though) and we can't get Kindles in Canada, but some food for thought re. electronic readers. Lots of discussion and confusion amongst writers and readers about whether these readers are a good thing. I love the idea of being able to travel with hundreds of books in one handy-dandy reader, but I do love my books. And then, is it just another gadget that is going to be continually upgraded and made obsolete but the next best thing to come along (and thus, putting more electronic junk into our landfills)? The debate continues. What do you think?

Getting Back on Track...

Surprisingly, I've had a few comments on my blog lately. This has me mightily excited and wondering why people are wading in now and choosing to comment. Regardless, it's been a good kick in the butt to get me going again. Suffice to say, I've been swamped with work and school and, ahem, trying to be the nice-parent-who-seems-to-be-in-control-but-is-just-on-the-verge-of-losing-it. (Oh, did I mention that we were having a door that wouldn't close probably fixed yesterday and it's not morphed into ripping apart one corner of our house?) School ends in a month or so, and then I hope to be back on track with some regular posting and reviews. For now, though, I give you this website. My goodness. Is that fabulous or what? (I have website envy. Me thinks my website might need an overhaul (and an artist*).) I have several Shaun Tan books in the bookshelf right above my desk. They stare at me daily, begging to be read and read and written about. In Canada, Tan is published by Simply Read books, who is doing so many innovative books I fear daily for their survival. I loaded up on their books at last year's Word on the Street. I regularly cull my children's book shelves for books to donate to the free shelf at the local elementary. I dare say that Simply Read books will ever go in that cull pile. The quality and innovation is so high.

* Speaking of artists... I've always had a couple in the house — my children are pretty talented (no bias there) — but imagine my delight when this painting arrived in my home. It the first painting my husband has ever done and is the product of a weekend painting workshop I gave him for Christmas. I was even more excited when he spent the day after arriving home painting another one. The boy needs to relax and (once said house is put back together) I hope he keeps this painting thang up.