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The Illustrator's Notebook (An "Under the Radar" Recommendation)

The Illustrator's Notebook
by Mohieddin Ellabbad
English translation by Sarah Quinn
Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-88899-700-5
For ages 6+ (according to publisher)

An Egyptian writer and illustrator, Mohieddin Ellabbad has constructed this picture book as an illustrator's book of ideas, and it's full of small beauties. Meant to be read from right to left, as it would be in the Arabic world, the book opens from what is the back to us North Americans.

On each page, Ellabbad explains an aspect of making art. Instead of a global "how to" book, though, each of these aspects is personal. He talks about souvenirs, for instance, on the first page. "Souvenirs awaken our memories and bring them to life. Without memories, we would have no past." You can see this page at Amazon here. (Click on "Excerpt.") It's a collage of found objects: a ticket, a dried flower, a photograph, a postcard and stamp, and an illustration (another artist's, I presume) of a bird and flower. Ellabbad's description, written in Arabic calligraphy, fills the top third of the page. On the left is an English translation of the Arabic.

The calligraphy appears throughout, and because I don't write or speak Arabic, I look at the writing as an element of the art. But that adds to Ellabbad's compelling mosaic. Younger artists could definitely get some inspiration from the book, but they are going to need some help reading it. It's not told in a narrative form; the text and vocabulary are occasionally complex; and some of the concepts are abstract. For those reasons, the book is perhaps better suited for teenagers and adults. The Illustrator's Notebook would be a great present for an artist or someone who has lived in Egypt. And if you like to visit the Metropolitan Museum's Islamic galleries, this is a book for you.

This post about The Illustrator's Notebook is part of the "Under the Radar" book tour, taking place at a number of blogs today. I chose it because although the picture book got excellent reviews in the library-advising magazines and some Canadian

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Saturdays with the Flock


This is Bossy, who's about 9 weeks old. She's a Barred Plymouth Rock chicken, usually referred to as a Barred Rock. Bossy and Petunia, the other Barred Rock, are the calmest of our small flock. They do not take off like a rocket when out of the run. (Ahem, Loretta, are your ears burning?) Junior is training Bossy to jump for a grape, and it's working, much to my surprise. Bossy likes a good snack: watermelon, tomatoes, and dainty bites of cheese. Bossy has ridden in a wagon, slid down the slide on Junior's lap, and participated in a playdate (not her idea but she went along with it). Bossy is a good egg.

In regard to literary matters, the book of the day is The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza, written by Philemon Sturges and illustrated by Amy Walrod. A great choice for a preschool-4's or kindergarten class, the picture book was featured on a Just One More Book!! podcast. The husband-and-wife team of Mark and Andrea say, "The colourful cut paper illustrations and the playful narrative make this funky, urban retelling of the Little Red Hen a hoot to read aloud."

Grace Paley (1922-2007)

"Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life."

from "A Conversation with My Father," Enormous Changes at the Last Minute

"I was popular in certain circles, says Aunt Rose. I wasn't no thinner then, only more stationary in the flesh. In time to come, Lillie, don't be surprised—change is a fact of God. From this no one is excused. Only a person like your mama stands on one foot, she don't notice how big her behind is getting and sings in the canary's ear for thirty years. Who's listening? Papa's in the shop. You and Seymour, thinking about yourself. So she waits in a spotless kitchen for a kind word and thinks—poor Rosie..."

from  "Goodbye and Good Luck," The Little Disturbances of Man

Goodbye, Grace Paley.

Obituaries, reminiscences: Maud Newton, The Millions, Thulani Davis (Women's Voices for Change), Associated Press (Hillel Italie), New York Times, Amitava Kumar, Wondermachine, NPR's "All Things Considered,"  Francine Prose and others (PEN American Center), David Gates (Newsweek), Katha Pollitt ( And Another Thing blog @ The Nation), Book Book Book

Plus, Paley's "My Father Addresses Me on the Facts of Old Age," at The New Yorker.

Spanning the Blogosphere...and Queens

The Millions' Max Magee was on NPR's "Weekend Edition" recently, talking about summer reading.

The teacher/mom at Little Acorns Treehouse posts a good, classics-leaning list of read-alouds for seven year olds. Make note of her thorough fidget kit for kinesthetic learners, too.

The new You Read to Me, I'll Read to You is out. See A Year of Reading for a review. Scary stories. I can't wait! (I wrote about another in the series last year.)

My friend MJN spends the summer in Rockaway, which is part of NYC's Queens; it's on the Atlantic Ocean. Usually her blog, The Alternate Side Parking Reader, concerns city life with a car, but this post is about the deli. Read around in her blog; MJN writes with such wit and finesse that it knocks me out.

Min Jin Lee (Free Food for Millionaires) writes about Queens (do I detect a theme here?) and Middlemarch in "My Other Village," over at Chekhov's Mistress. (Props to the lovely new design there, too.)

From A Fuse #8's hat tip, I found Pinot and Prose, the fun new blog of a children's librarian in the borough of [drum roll, please] Queens.

Do you know which library system is the busiest in the whole country? It's the one in the most ethnically diverse county in the U.S.

At Critical Mass, Nicholas Christopher writes of taking a poetry seminar with Robert Lowell.

"Lowell was not just the best known poet in America at that time, but also a celebrity. It was still possible, somehow, for a poet to be a celebrity in 1969 America."

Also at Critical Mass, we get a peak at one of the next My Year Of... books, this one about reading the Harvard Classics. Check out Christopher Beha's provocative essay, which incorporates his views on literary blogs.

The Hold List, 8.21.07

I now have so many books on hold at the library that I will be doomed when they come in. Because you know they'll all come in at once.

I'm still hoping to find a novel or memoir or nonfiction this that or the other as good as Carol Muske-Dukes' Channeling Mark Twain, but my last three library finds have been duds. For me. Fake-o chick lit dating story that did not merit a rave in People? Check. First three pages, then buh-bye. Environmental-spiritual book of essays that featured a great cover and, ack, academic writing inside? More pages perused but still vastly unfinished by this reader. Adios. Hurricane Katrina book, again with the raves, by a dude channeling Faulkner and Dave Eggers? Just couldn't get into it. And I was so hopeful. Sigh.

So, the hold list.  Oh, the promise of the hold list.

At Large and at Small: Familiar Essays, by Anne Fadiman. Enjoyed Ex Libris earlier this summer.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Woo, by Junot Diaz. Yay, his novel! Did y'all read Drown, his book of stories? No? Go read Drown.

Free Food for Millionaires, novel by Min Jin Lee. Good review somewhere, not People, I hope.

Gifted, by Nikita Lalwani. On the Booker longlist.

Knuffle Bunny, Too, by Mo Willems. We're wild for Mo. Picture book, for the those without wee ones underfoot at home or work.

The Year of the Goat: 40,000 Miles and the Quest for the Perfect Cheese, by Margaret Hathaway. I can relate to a cheese quest. Totally.

A Year Without "Made in China": One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy, by Sara Bongiorni.

I need to think of a one-year-experiment book to write. My Year on Hold, perhaps? The genre seems popular, doesn't it? And bloggish: like Julie Powell's blog about cooking her way through Julia Child's French cooking tome, which became Julie and Julia. Initially the subtitle was "365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen." Now, on the paperback, it's "My Year of Cooking Dangerously," naturellement.

Are we in a bloggish literary age?

A Few Kids' Books from the Library

Today's library haul included

  • A Day with Wilbur Robinson, by William Joyce. Picture book, basis of the movie "Meet the Robinsons." We're fans of Joyce's Dinosaur Bob and  His Adventures with the Family Lazardo.
  • Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen, with illustrations by Kevin Hawkes. Junior has wanted to re-read this one. He knows and likes it from 2nd grade.
  • Sardine in Outer Space, graphic novel by Emmanuel Guibert and Joann Sfar (illustrator). School Library Journal says, "Gr 4-8–What would happen if you mixed up the Little Rascals with Pirates of the Caribbean, and shot them off into space? Hopefully, something nearly as delightful and entertaining as this title." And also mentions "bawdy humor."

I haven't read any of these yet. Have you?

Poetry Friday: "Mercy on Broadway"

Sense of hope. I know it's a book reviewer's cliche. I don't care. It's one of the things I like about Mark Doty's exquisite "Mercy on Broadway." There is so much to like here: the whole New Yorkness of the poem, the turtles, the resplendent imagery (how on earth does Doty do it?), the snatches of Motown lyrics. I'm not even going to quote anything; it's best read all at once.

"Mercy on Broadway," by Mark Doty, Ploughshares, Spring 1997

To read more poetry on this rainy Friday, head over to the blog of the delightful Kelly Fineman, who has the roundup

Australian Children's Book of the Year Award Winners 2007

The Children's Book Council of Australia announced its Book of the Year winners on Friday.

The book of the year for older readers was Margo Lanagan's Red Spikes, which was reviewed at Seven Impossible Things this week. (The 7 Imp crew also interviewed Lanagan.)  The Red Shoe, by Ursula Dubosarsky, was an honour book in the same category; Shaken & Stirred reviewed it yesterday. Monster Blood Tattoo, also well-received in the kidlitosphere, was the other honour book. See Book Moot, Kids Lit, Miss Erin, and Original Content. (Yes, this was a book promoted to the children's book blogs.)

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan, is the picture book of the year. A Fuse #8 has been singing its praises for ages.

The winner in the nonfiction category is The Penguin Book: Birds in Suits, by Mark Norman.

There are many more winners and honourees, so go visit the CBC's site, linked in the first line of this post.

More Australia: Oscar's Half Birthday

Yesterday's One Shot World Tour: Australia reminded me of a favorite picture book of the last few years: Oscar's Half Birthday, by Sydney native Bob Graham. Since Oscar deserves all the attention it can get, I'm re-running this bit from December 2005.

One of SLJ's recommended picture books [for 2005] is Bob Graham's Oscar's Half Birthday, which is just adorable. We've been reading it this week at home. Here is an excerpt from SLJ's list of 62 books:

PreS-Gr 2–A picnic in an urban park to celebrate a baby’s first six months attracts onlookers and soon turns into a neighborhood affair. Fresh images, clever phrasing, and lots of funny details convey the perfection of everyday life. (July)

Oscar's family is bi-racial, and his sweet parents look like East Village hipsters. Mom rocks a belly shirt and arm bracelets; Dad sports a goatee and a ponytail. His big sister, Millie, wears angel-wings and carries a dinosaur puppet, both of which seem just right for an almost four-year-old. Oscar himself is one cute baby. Great fun.