Friday, August 26, 2011

Being a grown-up can be fun

In comedian Weird Al Yankovic's picture book debut, When I Grow Up, eight-year-old Billy enthusiastically discusses his many (mostly improbable) career options, from "snail trainer" to "friendly mortician" to "giraffe milker." The app adaptation (HarperCollins, June) takes this tale a step further—augmenting Weird Al's text and Wes Hargis's illustrations with simple, but effective animation and sound effects. Most screens include a few interactive extras (e.g., close-ups of Billy's homework assignments and imagined accolades, snails that slide back and forth along a tightrope) that come to life when users tap, swipe, or tilt their device. Games like "Xtreme Snail Race," "Gorilla Masseuse," and "Tarantula Shaver" allow the user to experience some of Billy's potential professions first-hand. You can play each game just as the associated job is mentioned; if you prefer to wait until the end of the story, all are easily accessible from the main menu.

What really makes the app is Al's own excellent narration. The litany of bizarre occupations can feel a little overly long when reading it yourself, but his perfectly timed, just-over-the-top-enough performance adds life and warmth to the wackiness. Weird Al fans will appreciate his cameo as Billy's classmate in the illustrations, emphasizing the message that any kid can grow up to live his wildest dreams.

The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch ($3.99 in the app store).

—Katie Bircher

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Annual Carle Honors announced

Each year, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art "pays tribute to those individuals who are dedicated to the art of the picture book and its integral role in art appreciation and early literacy" with their Carle Honors.  The 2011 honorees are
Artist: Lois Ehlert
Angel: Jeanne Steig
Mentor: Michael di Capua 
Bridge: Karen Nelson Hoyle
Learn more about the honorees and the categories here

An Honors Gala—including the ceremony, a dinner reception, and a silent auction of author experiences and original art to benefit the museum—will be held September 22 at Guastavino's in New York. The auction items are unbelievable; go ogle them either online or in person at NYC's Books of Wonder. A sampling:
- illustrations by Tomi Ungerer, Chris van Allsburg, honoree Lois Ehlert, and more
- visits with Tomie DePaola and Kadir Nelson
- personalized poems by Jane Yolen
- customized art by Rosemary Wells and Eric Carle himself

Friday, August 19, 2011

Modelling opportunity for blue-eyed brunettes

While editing my reviews for the upcoming Fall 2011 Horn Book Guide, Elissa spotted these:

From the last Guide:

Apparently, the heroine of a paranormal YA romance must be an extra-pale, blue-eyed brunette with her hair in her (partial) face—at least, if I'm going to review it.

—Katie Bircher

Thursday, August 18, 2011

All steamed up

As my friend and fellow blogger observed not long ago, “steam is so hot right now.”  This year has seen a mind-boggling number of steampunk-themed events in the northeast alone: International Steampunk City, which took over the town of Waltham for a weekend; a book tour for The Steam­punk Bible; an exhibit on steampunk aesthetic , form, and function at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation; The Steampunk World’s Fair three-day festival in New Jersey…  Whew! And the events just keep on coming, with next week’s performance of Valve: Antique Vaudeville Circus and the Museum of Industry’s ongoing Steampunk Calendar. Entranced by the wide, imaginative (or should I say “re-imaginative”?) world of steampunk, I recently read two short story collections that explore the ever-expanding boundaries of the genre.

In editor Trisha Telep's collection Corsets & Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances (Running Press, May), authors such as Caitlin Kittredge, Dia Reeves, Kiersten White, and Adrienne Kress write the steamier side of steampunk, where “technomagical and natural desires collide.” This naturally means lots of flirting and first kisses (with gorgeous automatons or gentlemen criminals, aboard airships, or after narrowly escaping mad inventors); it also entails deeper ethical concerns about technology, progress, and humanity’s impact on nature. Don’t miss contributor Dru Pagliassotti’s excellent essay “How Do I Write a Steampunk Story?” at Steamed!.

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant (Candlewick, October) goes even further in expanding the steampunk oeuvre—but you’ll have to wait for the September/October issue of The Horn Book Magazine to read my review. In the meantime, pilot your airship over to the website for our list of recommended steampunk-inspired reads.

—Katie Bircher

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Newbery books will win new readers

The four titles in Houghton/Sandpiper's welcome Newbery Collection boxed set (September) seem to belong together: Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard, and Elizabeth Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

The publisher may have grouped these winners together simply because they’re all historical fiction. But their affinities go beyond that: they each contain sustained adventure or intrigue, moments of heroism, and an unusual depth of feeling, all channeled through a singularly relatable, empathetic main character. Can’t you just picture the avid readers, the introspective ten- and eleven-year-old girls eager to experience the wider world, who will gobble these books up? This collection may have been produced to spur sales, but it should also win hearts.

—Martha Parravano

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Borrow this.

Lucy Hull, protagonist of Rebecca Makkai's adult novel The Borrower (Viking, June), is a sardonic twenty-something children's librarian. Her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian, runs away to escape his parents and the anti-gay youth group they've stuck him in. Like Claudia Kincaid before him, Ian realizes that he needs somewhere to run away to, and the library presents a safe haven overnight. Lucy discovers the runaway when she arrives early the next morning, then finds herself on an unexpected, unauthorized road trip with Ian. It's never quite clear to Lucy or the reader who's kidnapping whom. Woven throughout their madcap escapades (featuring the Russian mafia, ferrets, a holy relic, and the Canadian border) are homages to the canon of kids' books, with cameos by The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Hobbit, Goodnight Moon, Madeline, The Wizard of Oz, and more.

Ten pages in, I texted a children's librarian friend: "You HAVE to read this book." Lucy and Ian's adventures are occasionally heart-wrenching and often hilarious, but no matter how outrageous their exploits, their actions feel organic and believable. Makkai's frequent literary allusions seem like secret messages from one children's lit lover to another: have you read this? how about this one? While I have a hard time picturing a more perfect audience for The Borrower than myself and my twenty-something Simmons grad friends, it's not just a novel for the children's lit in-crowd. Decoding The Borrower's literary references does make up a significant part of the reading experience, but the books Makkai alludes to are mainstream enough that most readers will be able to share in the fun. Lucy's relatable early-adulthood ennui and insecurity make her a sympathetic character; Ian captures that delicate balance of adorable and annoying only a precocious pre-teen can truly embody.

Chicagoist has a great article on the novel here. Also check out Screwy Decimal, the blog of New York public librarian Rita Meade. Her tongue-in-cheek dispatches from library land could have been written by Lucy herself—particularly "Postcards from the Edge (of the Reference Desk)," detailing an encounter with Meade’s own feisty ten-year-old patron. 

—Katie Bircher

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August Notes from the Horn Book

August's Notes from the Horn Book is available now. Here's what to expect this issue:
- five questions for historian and scholar Marc Aronson
- More new nonfiction
- Concept books with a twist
- YA sequels
- Books of interest to adults
- updates on the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards ceremony and Horn Book at Simmons

Sign up here!

Monday, August 8, 2011

HBGO update

We've just added another 213 reviews to the Horn Book Guide Online database—take a peek at the newly added authors/illustrators and titles.

I think my favorite title this time around is The Time-Traveling Fashionista, though Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance and Labracadabra are close runners-up.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Save the date—BGHB Awards and Horn Book at Simmons

The office is starting to buzz about the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards taking place Friday, September 30, and the Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium, happening Saturday, October 1. On Friday night, BGHB judges Jennifer Brabander, Robin Brenner, and Dean Schneider will present the awards to this year's winners and honorees:
Winner: Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
Honor book: Chime by Franny Billingsley
Honor book: Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia

Winner: The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin
Honor book: Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air by Stewart Ross, illustrated by Stephen Biesty
Honor book: Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Vicky White

Picture book
Winner: Pocketful of Posies by Salley Mavor
Honor book: Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Honor book: Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen
The ceremony will be followed by a reception with the winners. Mosey over to our website to see video and pictures of last year's (and previous years') awards festivities.

Join us the next day for the Horn Book at Simmons colloquium, led by Horn Book editor in chief Roger Sutton and Cathie Mercier, director of the Simmons Center for the Study of Children's Literature. Entitled "Engaging Worlds, Real and Imagined," the colloquium will feature all three of this year's winners (and many more speakers) in presentations, panels, and workshops. Registration for the colloquium includes an invite to Friday's awards ceremony. Sign up here!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Updated blog reading list

We've revamped our recommended blog list, first compiled by NYPL librarian and Fuse #8 blogger Betsy Bird to accompany her article "Blogging the Kidlitosphere." Check out old friends and new faves here at the Horn Book website.