Have you ever really looked at an egg? It's oval and white with slimy stuff inside the shell. Have you ever really looked at an egg? If you keep it outside in the sun all day it will smell.
-- Peter Himmelman, Have you ever really looked at an egg?
In no particular order, some things that I think go together on this day that is struggling to be springtime.
First out of the gate, for today's Nonfiction Monday, Travis at 100 Scope Notes says "do you ever think about trees?" which is what put me in mind of this Peter Himmelman song in the first place. If you are a consumer of pop music written for kids, you really must get your hands onMy Green Kite. Sly, open-hearted songs about baseball, feet, parents, food, and the feel-good power-pop title track.
"Among the Redwoods" by A. E. Ericson.
Anyway, today Travis reviews Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World, which I did last week. Sometimes Travis gets to a book first, sometimes I do, but as sure as night follows day, Travis and I will review the same picture books! That boy has marvelous taste. In case you or Travis wanted, as I did, to see actual photos of the celebrated angiosperms and gymnosperms in Margie Preus's book, Neatorama featured many of them in this post from a few years ago.
Also for Nonfiction Monday, Shelf-Employed reviewed Roxie Munro's new book, Hatch!, which am looking to get my hands on due to the strength of this review. I am also going to find a copy for my son's 2nd grade teacher, who every year around this time sets up an incubator in the classroom to teach the OMG IT'S ALIVE lesson. Most ancient story in the world, but it never gets old.
I used to keep chickens (that's Barge, above), but those stories are too tragic to recount here. I don't mind swearing or getting off-track in my reviews of children's literature, but the fate of my beautiful birds, no, that's just too harsh.
Now I get my chicken kicks vicariously through friends and family. My cousin just got some chicks, and my friend Kate. Eventually, anyone who spends much time with chickies comes to the conclusion voiced in the second-to-last line of this post by SJ, in which she describes moving the chicks to the garage. It's funnier than that makes it sound. Plus there's video.
Looking forward to Katie Davis's new book Little Chicken's Big Day. There's a special secret book trailer that I got to see, featuring... mmm-hmmm MOAR CHICKS. Talking chicks! Cute!
I swear, I could watch chickens all day.
Bunnies, though, bunnies are boring to watch. I am thinking about them though, because the peas we planted in February are coming up, and I want the daggone bunnies to NOT EAT THEM. But I am glad that the bunnies that hop idiotically around my yard are not Giant Prehistoric Bunnies. Of all the things that used to come in the Giant Prehistoric Size - for example, rhinoceroses, deer, sloths, chickens - rabbits have to be among the stupidest.
But in honor of those Giant Prehistoric Bunnies,io9 did a list of the scariest freakin bunnies in The Genre Formerly Known as Sci-Fi. Hated that thing in Twilight Zone - The Movie. Brr. But the good folks at io9, who know an awful lot about movies and vinyl figurines and all that, know just about squat about kidlit - they forgot Andrea Beaty's Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies, reviewed on Pink Me a while ago and never seen on the library shelf since. Hand it to one kid, and that kid will hand it to another. But isn't that strange - I could have sworn I reviewed that book, I know we enjoyed it... weird.
Let's review. Chickens. Bunnies. Peas. Must mean only one thing: a major chocolate holiday approaches. Or... I don't myself believe that marzipan is fit to eat, but aren't these cute? Bunnies and chickies. Awww.
Maybe I should save this one for the hot weather that is to come. Because right now I have heard that it's going to snow one last time in our neck of the woods before Spring (and, immediately on its heels, Summer) shows up for good. Sigh. Quit, already!
Meanwhile, I have the sunny skies and sepia tones of a new Arthur Geisert book to keep me warm. Arthur Geisert is an etcher of pigs, a devotee of hot-air sailing ships, a contraptionist if there ever was one, and yes I just made up that word in his honor. Hogwash and Oops and Lights Out delight kids and adults who enjoy cause-and-effect, who dream of a better mousetrap, who can't see a stream of water in a gutter without building a tiny dam.
Let's just get this right out of the way: Emily Gravettearned my undying devotion long ago, with Monkey and Me, and she's never let me down since. So - no surprises - I am going to gush about this book. Get ready.
Chameleon, who is drawn using the most vibrant colored pencils on the roughest paper I've ever seen, is sad. All that throaty texture and voluptuous color is for nought - he is nothing but blue on the inside. So, gamely, he tries to make friends.
He turns himself yellow and curvy to try to fit in with his potential new friend Banana. No dice. Turns orangey sunset gold and blub-blub-blubs at his potential new friend Fish. That fish's expression is priceless, as is the green grasshopper's when Chameleon hops after him in pursuit of companionship.
Poor Chameleon. He has all but given up, faded whitely into the page, when a there's a tap on his tail.
Look! Someone who shares his appetite for fun, his bangin' dance moves, AND his fashion sense! The other chameleon, I mean - I'm sure it was just a coincidence that this book arrived the day I wore my new purple suede cape embroidered with multicolored flowers over a green and blue striped sweater.
I read this book. I did. I wanted to sample these "Kindle Enriched" editions that will play on Kindle for iPad, and I have been on kind of a girly YA kick lately.
Red Riding Hood, of course, is the novelization of the movie that very fine production designer (Tank Girl, Laurel Canyon) and disappointingly pedestrian director (Twilight) Catherine Hardwicke has just made. Catherine Hardwicke tapped a young friend to write it, and then tacked in the content that you'd ordinarily find on the film's website and later on the DVD: production stills, storyboard sketches, costume designs, video interviews with staff.
The only way to get Red Riding Hood (Enriched) is to buy it from Amazon, which I did. Thank me later. Seriously, I'm saving you money here. And self-respect.
Cloudette. Cloudette is a little bitty soft white cloud. A friendly little cumulus cream puff whose name, as I say, is Cloudette. I could say that all day: isn't it satisfying when you come upon something that is that just-right and self-evident? "Yes," you think. "Of course her name is Cloudette." It's so clever - not show-offy clever, just cute clever. Clever like putting bacon in a chocolate bar. Anyone could have thought of it. But you know what? Tom Lichtenheld thought of it.
And since Tom Lichtenheld thought of it, he got to write a story for Cloudette, too. It's not a very complicated story. It's got a status quo, a note of dissatisfaction, crisis, venue change, and resolution. That's a nice arc, and in Lichtenheld's hands it has balance and excellent pace. It's a story that's built like a brick... rainbow.
It's the right time of year to be thinking about trees. The gigantic willow outside my window is just beginning its annual fireworks show: today it is dripping antique gold stippled faintly with grass green. That's pollen, mostly - just a warning that this review might be a little less coherent than usual. Pollen makes me dippy.
The trees in this book are better-known than my willow. Older, for sure. Larger (the Tule Tree in Mexico measures 177 feet in circumference), taller (a coast redwood named Hyperion is 379 feet tall), more hollow (the Boab Tree, used as a prison in Australia, could fit 10 men inside).
Forgoing my usual Electronic Thursday post because I am just that excited about the U.S. debut of Australian teen services librarian Lili Wilkinson. Smart, funny, individual, open-hearted, uncontrived - Pink is like the Ferris Bueller of YA novels. Herewith, Pink:
I think, if my husband and I had girls instead of our two boys, I might be sorely tempted to move to Australia or New Zealand. If the girl protagonists of the last couple of YA novels I've read from those parts are any indication, girls down there are smart and strong and funny even when they screw up.
Which Ava, the star of Pink, does. Kind of a lot. Ava is not so sure where she fits in. Her hippie-intellectual parents are thrilled with her life: her subdued ungirly fashion choices, her good grades in public school, and especially her neo-Beatnik vintage-aggro Anais Nin-reading girlfriend Chloe. But Ava, as I say, is not so sure.
Ava thinks maybe she might like going to prom - with a boy, wearing a corsage. She thinks it might not be so bad to wear skirts. And she is absolutely sure that her favorite color, secretly, is pink.
So she transfers to an elite high-performing high school. She starts dressing girly. She cultivates friendships among the Pastels, the preppy, sure-of-themselves perfect people at her new school. But after bombing at the auditions for the school musical, she finds herself on stage crew, among the few black-clad misfits on campus.
And oh, the shenanigans that ensue. While trying to be a Pastel, she finds that she enjoys herself more among the stage crew. Even though she is pursuing a lacrosse-coifed jock at her new school, she tries to maintain her relationship with the beauteous and acerbic Chloe. How all this gets juggled and what happens when the balls drop to the floor and go bouncing all around the stage is a disaster that is just plain fun to watch.
Brittle Chloe is the personification of outrageous cool. I knew a girl just like her in high school - never knew what became of that girl but I always expected her to turn up as the owner of a cabaret-style nightclub in New York. Or an NPR overseas correspondent.
Even the glowing preps are given individual strengths and traits - they are more than just The Smart One, The Artistic One, The Slutty One. Ok The Slutty One is a bit one-dimensional, she doesn't have much dialogue.
Finally, I have a few random points to make. Yes the title of the book is Pink and the title of this blog is Pink Me, so I would naturally be expected to at least try this book out. But two separate editors at Harper urged me to read it, both saying, "BESIDES the fact that it's called Pink - you're just going to love it."
AND... any book that successfully integrates a rather involved joke from the Aristophanes play The Frogs - to the point that as soon as I finished the book I fished out my old copy of Aristophanes and found that scene and laughed myself silly over it - that is a book that seeks to share the love. Also there are references to the Hubble Space Telescope. And a sci-fi movie marathon. Pranks. Physics. More Greek.
Also, sigh. Sadly, I guess this is still a rare and great thing, and so it's probably important that I point it out. Wish it were not still rare: gay, lesbian, and questioning characters who are just gay, lesbian, and questioning people, and whose sexuality is not the point of the whole book or even the point of their characters. Although there is more than one interesting conversation about homosexuality and image and femininity. Nice stuff. Plus, one homophobic character who gets over it. It can happen.
For nerdy girls who like math and aren't ashamed of it. For non-nerdy girls who like a funny book. For anyone who has ever hoped that being a teenager can have a happy ending. A big box of chocolates and a bouquet of daffodils to Lili Wilkinson.
When an idea is so simple you can't believe nobody's thought of it before - and to my knowledge, IN the whole history of books, which is a pretty long damn history, nobody has - and when that idea works SO well that everyone who encounters it, from age 3 to, well so far I haven't discovered an upper limit, gasps at its cleverness... well, that's magic.
(Contrary to what the tag line of this video avers. Screw you guys, I know magic when I see it!)
Press Here is a book that's been compared to an iPad app. Simple instructions ("Press here." "Rub the dot on the left." "Clap once.") create the illusion that the reader is rearranging a series of dots, causing them to multiply, grow, change color, etc. But I'll tell you - don't worry about the iPad app comparison. I've shown this book to plenty of people who've never touched an iPad, and they are charmed and blown away, just as I was the first time I saw it, at ALA Midwinter in San Diego.
This is the rare picture book that I feel compelled to carry with me wherever I go. Delightful, simple, and everyone who sees it wants to show it to someone else, to share the magic. Best of all, it invites imitation. If it weren't French, I'd expect Hervé Tullet to win the Caldecott Medal for it. Bravo. And thank you to Chronicle Books for sending me a copy.
What does it take to suck a kid into a book of nonfiction? You can't use a drag net, or barbed hooks. Robotic arms cannot scoop a child into a lucite barrel, and very few children old enough to read are small enough to pick up with two fingers and stuff into a test tube.
But those are just a few of the methods that scientists use to collect marine specimens for study. Rebecca Johnson tagged along with the Census of Marine Life on several collection expeditions and had a chance to observe firsthand all the going and the getting and the looking and the recording. She does an amazing job describing the research activities - clearly, economically, accurately, using sensory details to extend the you-are-there impression that begins with her use of second person narration.
And the spectacular photos of fantastic-looking creatures that accompany these descriptions - those are the seine nets, the robotic arms, the probing fingers that snag the kid reader.
"Oh yes," said Nanny Piggins. "I can regale people with anecdotes from my sordid past and think at the same time."
That's my kind of nanny. In fact, if resumes had epigraphs, I might have to ask her if I could use that quote on mine. It should certainly be inscribed on Nanny Piggins's calling card. After all, I'm just a librarian who used to sell kites for a living - Nanny Piggins is a pig on the run from a cunning ringmaster who has signed her to an exclusive fifty-year contract which stipulates, among other things, that she is to be shot out of a cannon on a daily basis.
Here is a sumptuous iPad app, a well-organized reference database, an appropriate use of available technological tools. Here is a distillation of fact, a coherent representation of material that is often too overwhelming for our petty mortal minds to comprehend, a layout that informs and is pretty at the same time.
Why, there's Grandma! Looking very soignee in her cloche hat and two-tone wingtip Oxford shoes.
(My other grandmother, by the way, was a page in the public library system I currently inhabit. I wasn't fully aware of all this heritage until I was halfway through library school - and it was the nail that sealed the coffin on any notion that I was some kind of rebel. You can wear all the motorcycle boots you want, but if you are in the same profession as both of your grandmothers, you are an acorn that has not fallen far from the tree, and there is nothing punk rock about acorns.)