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November 2005
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January 2006

Sonya Hartnett

Given that it's  Best Of season, the editors Trevor Jackson and Jeff Bryant at the literary blog Syntax of Things asked a bunch of other lit bloggers to name authors deserving of more attention.

One of the writers in the spotlight is Sonya Hartnett, who was nominated by Genevieve Tucker, of the Ozlit site You Cried for Night. Hartnett just made the Sydney Morning Herald's year's best list and she won a big literary award last summer, but she certainly is not well-known here in the States. Jackson and Bryant include several good links for more information about Hartnett.

P.S., Ozlit=Australian literature.  I borrowed it  from You Cried for Night and added it to my list of fun terms to sling around. Obviously.

Syntax of Things link via Moorishgirl. Merci.


La Bloga

La Bloga is my favorite new blog. (New to me, that is.) A year-old joint endeavor of five writers (including Daniel Olivas, whose work I've admired earlier), the site focuses on Chicano literature and culture. The writing is strong and thought-provoking, and una bloguista, Gina MarySol Ruiz, posts about children's books. Click on the following numbers for links to some of Ruiz's reviews, but do go visit La Bloga and read around. You'll get a lot of good ideas.

Uno: The Piñata Maker/ El piñatero, by George Ancona. (I love piñatas, too.)
Dos: Napí, written by Antonio Ramírez and illustrated by Domi
Tres: Where Fireflies Dance / Ahí, donde bailan las luciérnagas, written by Lucha Corpi and illustrated by Mira Reisberg
Cuatro: A Gift of Gracias, written by Julia Alvarez and illustrated by Beatriz Vidal
Cinco: Doña Flor, by Pat Mora, with pictures by Raul Colón

Manuel Ramos's entry about the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday  is interesante, tambien. You'll find some kids-book recommendations for that holiday, as well as titles for grown-ups. Although Ramos does not mention them, I also like Maria Molina and the Days of the  Dead, by Kathleen Krull, and  Day of the Dead, by Tony Johnston; both are good introductions to the holiday.

To Rockslinga for the link to La Bloga: muchas gracias.


"Llama Llama Red Pajama"

Lately we've been striking gold at the library. Miss K., the head of children's services, told me that this time of year can yield lots of treasures; people are so busy doing holiday things that they return all their library books. Here's a glittering example from our stack.

Anna Dewdney's picture book Llama Llama Red Pajama will amuse both preschoolers and beginning readers, who won't stumble over the simple, rhythmic  text. ("Llama llama red pajama reads a story with his mama.")  Mama Llama puts Baby Llama to bed and goes downstairs. When Mama doesn't answer Baby's bellowing, Baby panics. Sound familiar? I loved the nighttime blues in the author's own illustrations, which turn to purplish-black the moment of little  Llama's "tizzy." I hope I'm not giving away anything by mentioning that the ending is reassuring, to say the least.

Llama Llama Red Pajama would make a great holiday present!


Australia's Best, or So Says The Sydney Morning Herald

The Sydney Morning Herald named its books of the year last week. All of the following authors are Australian (although Astrid Lindren was, of course, Swedish). There are several other categories besides the children's books, so do click away.

Picture Books

  • Martin Jenkins's rendition of Swift's Gulliver, with illustrations by Chris Riddell
  • Pamela Allen's Where's the Gold
  • Patricia Crampton's translation (from the Swedish) of The Red Bird, by Astrid Lindgren

Chapter Books for Young Readers

  • How Hedley Hopkins Did a Dare, by Paul Jennings
  • Ziggy & the Plugfish, by Jonathan Harlen
  • The Silver Donkey, by Sonya Hartnett, with illustrations by Anne Spudvilas. This book won a CBCA award in August.

A note to all the Aussie lit fans out there, the young-adult author Justine Larbalestier is back in Sydney and blogging away about cricket and other peculiarities.


"A Good Night Walk"

Elisha Cooper's A Good Night Walk is one not to miss, says Elizabeth Ward at the Washington Post. Are you familiar with his work? His art is  exceptionally appealing, and Ward's comments second other high opinions that I've read about the author-illustrator's latest. When I worked at The New Yorker, a sketch by Eli was everyone's favorite going-away gift. I still have mine. Yay for Eli and his picture-book career!


Catching Up with "The Independent"

Jon, a reader in Great Britain, alerted me to a couple of good articles in The Independent. Thank you!

In the first piece, three boys from one family review new Christmas books. (I'm guessing they had a little help from their parents.) One is from the Horrid Henry series, which I'm so curious about. The nine-year-old writes, "Horrid Henry is a very bad and disgusting boy. In Francesca Simon's Horrid Henry's Wicked Ways (Orion £9.99) he's always playing tricks on his little brother, Perfect Peter, his parents and friends."

New titles for teens are considered by Edward Malnick, who mentions the second U.K. young-adult novel I've heard of that deals with suicide bombers: The Innocent's Story, by  Nicky Singer.  Malorie Blackman's Naughts & Crosses, published earlier this year,  eerily  foreshadowed the London bombings and became a best-seller.

In another Independent article, Brandon Robshaw looks at young-adult and middle-grade books by authors who often write for grownups: Carl Hiaasen, Andy McNab, Melvin Burgess, David Almond, Helen Dunmore, Adèle Geras, and Geraldine McGaughrean. Robshaw is a funny, forthright reviewer. Geras's Ithaka is not to his liking:  "It seems an extraordinary achievement to make the Odyssey boring, but Geras has done exactly that." McGaughrean's acclaimed novel The White Darkness fares much better: "This is a literary novel of superb technique, and has more real excitement than any amount of shoot-'em-up action stories."


Loving the Berenstain Bears

Julie Miller at the Shreveport News pens a heartfelt tribute to the books by the late Stan Berenstain and his wife, Jan.

One of my most remembered books is The Berenstain Bears and the Truth.  For the record, I stopped reading these books a really long time ago, but the last time I read this particular book was in high school. I don't even remember what rebellious adolescent behavior I had committed, but I do remember the lesson was this book. Mom dug it out from the old box of books and put it on my bed that night. We started laughing, but I read the book and it was a lesson well remembered to this day.

Since Stan Berenstain died, I have heard similar sentiments about the Berenstain Bears from a number of people. Many children love and have loved these books.


Remembering John Lennon

Elizabeth Partridge, the author of an acclaimed new biography of John Lennon, appears at Book Passage, in Corte Madera, California, tomorrow, December 9th. (Corte Madera is in Marin County, f.y.i.)  She'll talk and show slides, and two musicians will perform some of the former Beatle's songs. John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth is written for children aged twelve and up. You can read an excerpt on the publisher's web site. Click here.

Today is the 25th anniversary of Lennon's death, and many people are planning to gather at Central Park's Strawberry Fields, according to the New York Daily News.


The Lion, the Witch, and the C.S. Lewis

William Booth explains the brouhaha about the Narnia movie, opening  tomorrow, in the Washington Post. His article is called "The Roar Over C.S. Lewis."

The New Yorker critic Anthony Lane reviews the movie in the December 12th issue of the magazine, which is on the newsstands now. About the books on which the film is based, he writes,

Lewis lovers must squabble among themselves. I cannot join the party, having missed out on Narnia as a child. I was busy elsewhere, up to my armpits in hobbits, and starting to ask hard questions about the sexual longevity of elves.


First Class Illustrations

Even though the price of stamps is going up to 39 cents on January 8th, there's good news from the U.S. Postal Service. A November 30th press release announced:

Favorite Children's Book Animals

Also in January, children and adults alike in the U.S. and U.K. will delight when eight cherished characters from children's literature are featured with the "Favorite Children's Book Animals" stamp pane, issued in Findlay, OH at the Children's Storybook Museum. Two of the stamps — The Very Hungry Caterpillar (The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, 1969 and 1987) and Maisy (Maisy's ABC by Lucy Cousins, 1994 in the U.K. and 1995 in the U.S.) — will be jointly issued with the United Kingdom's Royal Mail, Jan. 10. The sheet of 16 stamps also depict Wild Thing (Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak,1963); Curious George (Curious George Flies A Kite by Margaret [sic] and H.A. Rey, 1958); Wilbur (Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, 1952); Frederick (Frederick by Leo Lionni, 1967); Olivia (Olivia by Ian Falconer, 2000), and Fox in Socks (Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss, 1965).