Thursday, April 28, 2016

CONTENT CREATOR

     I have wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little girl who loved to read, an author of books for children.

     I never aspired to be a "content creator".

     Yet that is what writers were referred to in an article I read recently about the future of publishing. Content Creators. Something about that term annoys me, perhaps because it implies that the content is at the service of the device.

     That's not what writing is all about.

     The same article suggests that writers will need to become "personalities" to be viable and published.That's basically fine, many writers have been terrific personalities. If I could find a time machine to zap me to the past I'd like nothing better than to attend a lecture given by the wonderfully personable writer, Mark Twain.

     But other fabulous writers have been shy, reclusive, too homely or eccentric to be ready for prime
time. And that's fine too.

     Being a personality is not what writing is about either.

     It's certainly not about the device which is presenting it, or the way it is written either. Most of our best beloved books were composed with a pencil and a piece of paper. It's about what a writer has to say, not the device she chooses to say it with. The important part isn't content, it's called story.

      Story is older, has lasted and will last longer than any kind of device or content ever invented. Story is powerful, masterful, engaging, enlightening, delightful. Being a writer is about telling a story. It's about having something to say. Long after Apple and Microsoft have taken their bows from the world stage, we will still be listening and reading story.

   

    

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

PHILIP STEAD IS A GENIUS

I just read Philip Stead's new picture book, IDEAS ARE ALL AROUND. I'm blown away! He manages to write such unique, original stories, so different from anything else I've ever read. Thought provoking, yet with plenty of kid appeal too. LENNY AND LUCY, A HOME FOR BIRD, everything he has done is  completely....wonderful.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

VOICE

    Last night I attended a meet up at a bookstore, where children's authors and illustrators had gathered to talk about voice in picture books. As easy as it is to identify a strong voice when one reads, it is difficult to achieve. In illustration, it seems to me, an artist's voice can be so strong that their work is instantly identifiable. Yet their illustration also must create a voice for their character.

     For me, as a writer, especially with the picture book I am working on now, voice is difficult. How to get so completely into a character's psyche that my words reflect my character's soul. I am having a hard time, maybe because my main character is a little mouse!

     Even in a story written in first person, it is tremendously easy for me to drop out of the character's voice to tell some piece of information. How much more demanding it is to keep writing in their voice. But once a strong voice is created, the work is so much more engrossing. So I'll keep working away, constantly striving to improve.

    

Friday, December 4, 2015

HANUKKAH BOOKS

     The Festival of Lights begins on December 6 this year. Here are a few of my favorite Hanukkah stories. They are good to read any time of year, but right now, fry up some latkes, spoon up some applesauce, get cozy and read.

Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard and Tanya Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel
      It's the seventh day of Hanukkah, 1938, when Oskar, a refugee from Nazi Europe, arrives in New York City.

Hanukkah Cookies with Sprinkles by David Adler, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
     Sara's Hanukkah is enriched when she shares food with a hungry stranger.

Hanukkah in Alaska by Barbara Brown, illustrated by Stacey Schuett
      a Hanukkah miracle in Alaska.

How Mindy Saved Hanukkah by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
      As tiny as The Borrowers, the Klein family lives behind the walls at the Eldridge Street Synagogue. Will Mindy be able to find the Hanukkah candle, before the cat finds her?

Beautiful Yetta's Hanukkah Kitten by David Pinkwater, illustrated by Jill Pinkwater
     a Brooklyn hen and her parrot pals find a cold, lost kitten at Hanukkah.

Potato Pancakes All Around by Marilyn Hirsh, illustrated by the author
     A wandering peddler teaches the villagers how to make potato pancakes from a crust of bread.

Hanukkah At Valley Forge by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Greg Harlin
     A Jewish soldier lights a menorah, then tells General George Washington the story of Hanukkah.

Runaway Dreidel! by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker
     On the first night of Hanukkah, a boy receives a spinning dreidel which just won't stop.

Honeyky Hanukkah by Woody Guthrie, illustrated by Dave Horowitz
     An illustrated version of a lively Hanukkah tune written by Woody Guthrie. The book comes with a CD.

Hanukkah Lights by David Martin, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
     A lovely story for the youngest readers.


 
 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Holiday Reading

     It's that time of year again, time to curl up on a cold day with a cozy 
holiday read.  Today I am going to list a few of my favorite vintage children's
books for Christmas. Some may be hard to find, even in the public library, but  they are still the best! (I'll follow up in a few days with books for Hanukkah, and then some recent favorites.)

     In no particular order:

1. Star Mother's Youngest Child by Louise Moeri, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.
      She was so old no one remembered her. Then Star Mother's youngest child visits to learn what Christmas is all about.

2. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
     The war has ended, but Ruthie's father still hasn't returned to their Appalachian town. How will she and her mother find the perfect Christmas tree for the holiday celebration?

3. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
           O. Henry's classic tale of a husband and wife who sacrifice to buy each other Christmas gifts, beautifully illustrated by Zwerger.

4.  A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
           My favorite illustrated version, her illustrations remind me of a scene in a snow globe.

5. The Story of Holly & Ivy by Rumer Godden, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
          A beautiful story of wishing, by one of my all time favorite authors.

6. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs 
         When his snowman comes to life, a boy goes on a magical flight.

7. Christmastime in New York City by Roxie Munro
          Panoramic illustrations of the glories of Christmas in New York

       Happy holiday season and happy reading too!

  

 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

FAVORITE AUTHORS

     I was recently asked who my three favorite children's book authors are. It took a while to answer because I found the question so overwhelming. Reading has been such an enormous part of my life ever since I was a young child. How could I categorize all of the books I've read down to three responses? Would I answer with the favorite authors of children's books I read when I was a child? Or would I go with authors of books I had read in the past year?

      My standard answer when anyone asks me what my favorite children's book is, is to say PETER PAN. I never tire of the story. I love the Neverland, I think children can fly, and I will always clap my hands when asked if I believe in fairies.

     I could just as easily say LITTLE WOMEN. I love that book, and the moment I begin to read, I still fall right into the story. I read all of Louisa May Alcott's books as a child.

     Yet there are so many other children's books which I hold dear.

      In the end, I went with three authors I read as an adult, John Burningham, Jacqueline Woodson, and Maira Kalman.

     I love John Burningham's illustration. If I could hang an original illustration from SEASONS or MR. GUMPY'S MOTORCAR on my wall I would be very happy. WOULD YOU RATHER? is always so fun to read aloud with children. Besides the gorgeous illustration are the imaginative stories like, COME AWAY FROM THE WATER, SHIRLEY and EDWARDO THE HORRIBLEST BOY IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, and so many more. I could go on and on about how much I like his stories.

     The first book I read by Jacqueline Woodson was LOCOMOTION, and I've been a fan
ever since. Her writing is beautiful and her subject matter is unique. I like the way she looks at the world. She autographed a copy of BROWN GIRL, DREAMING for me at the American Library Association convention last month, and that was so great. THE OTHER SIDE is another of my favorites by her.

      Maira Kalman is unique. I love the children's books she has written and illustrated, and I am especially taken with her two recent picture book biographies, LOOKING AT LINCOLN and THOMAS JEFFERSON, LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF EVERYTHING. I was privileged to hear her speak at Stanford about her work. She made it all sound so effortless, when  actually so much goes into her books and illustration.

      So there it is. I'm pleased with my answer, and also very happy that I don't have to make choices like this often.  

     

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

THE CALLENDAR FAMILY

   When I wrote my post about sequels, I remembered a series of books I had loved as a child. They were British children's books about a large family who lived in the countryside. I knew that one character was named February, and that was about it. For years I have wanted to reread them but could not find them. Thanks to Link+, a wonderful interlibrary loan service available at my public library, I was able to order the books!

     I am so happy I did - they were wonderful!

     The author is John Verney and the two books are January's Tunnel and February's Road. They are among the most sophisticated children's books I've ever read, especially when you consider they were published in 1959 and 1961. We have broken all sorts of barriers in children's books, yet that doesn't always translate into a sophisticated read. These two books deal with political intrigue, government scandal, international power grabs, yet in a way that doesn't talk down to children (or adults for that matter). I was probably about nine years old when I first read them and I don't recall questioning anything. It was still a powerful read now, and I was dumbfounded that the books could engage me so well. And I do love it when February calls things she dislikes, "Ghastly".

     Highly recommended!