Monday, October 25, 2010

Anita Silvey's Children's Book Almanac

Just launched, a fabulous online daily almanac by the awesome Anita Silvey. Her essays about children's books are wonderful.

As you know, I'm doing some of the research and editing for the project, with Roaring Brook Press. An actual print edition of this almanac should be out next spring.

Please do pass this on to any teachers, librarians, and other folks you think might be interested in this free daily dose of great writing and reading recommendations regarding children's books!


Friday, October 1, 2010

Snooki Venn Diagram

Sorry, I normally don't take cheap shots like this, but I couldn't help myself on this one:

Thank you to Mattie, The Daily What, and Flickr for this.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Writing Advice: By Writers, For Writers

A recent post on The League of Extraordinary Writers blog inspired my own post, as I began thinking over all the writing advice I've read over the past few years. This is particularly helpful to me right now as I haven't written anything other than an email or a letter to various relatives the past 3 weeks. If I'm not writing, I'm still reading, and as cleanliness is next to Godliness or something of the sort, so reading about writing should be next to actually doing it.

What a treasure trove of advice I've rediscovered!  The first advice that comes to mind is Elmore Leonard's essay for the NYTimes series "Writers on Writing". A complete archive of that column can be found here. I believe writing advice is as personal as shopping advice: if it doesn't fit your style, you're not going to pay attention to it. I want my writing to be the spare, pointed, hooptedoodle-lacking writing Elmore Leonard is encouraging, and so I take his advice. (Blogging is different, this is more like chatting to strangers.) But his advice might not fit you, which is why you should read through that archive; I know I'm planning to.

I also take the advice of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, because even if I don't remember everything she says, that core concept is comforting - we all have to begin somewhere, and might as well take it bird (word) by bird (word). Though I read this before grad school, I believe it was suggested or required reading for a course or two, and so I enjoyed it again, along with Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster, books I'm not sure I would have picked up had it not been for classes Writing I & I.

Some of my favorite books on writing are actually for children, most notably Avi's A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End: The Right Way to Write Writing, illustrated by Tricia Tusa.  This book is a sequel to The End of the Beginning: Being the Adventures of a Small Snail (and an Even Smaller Ant), which, while not about writing, does make some clever commentary about the nature of books and fables. As extra prizes for the Odyssey Book Shop's annual children's writing contest last year, I had the pleasure of handing out both A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End and another book on writing for children, one about the more technical aspects, entitled Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook by Ellen Potter, Anne Mazer, and illustrated by Matt Phelan. Both present encouragement and advice for aspiring young writers.

Just at the time I began writing this post, I discovered two more books about writing I need to look through. One, How Fiction Works by James Wood, has been compared to E.M. Forster's work mentioned above, but the second is the one I'm most interested in. Off the Page: Writers Talk about Beginnings, Endings, and Everything in Between is a compilation of authors' input marketed as a "literary tell-all". Edited by Carole Burns, with an introduction by Marie Arana, authors are quoted under section titles such as "Haven't I Seen You Somewhere Before?: How Characters Come to Life", "All That Jazz: Playing with Language and Style to Suit the Story", and "Good Writers Borrow, Great Writers Steal: The Writers Whom Writers Love and Why". The list of authors includes Tobias Wolff, Colm Toibin, Art Spiegelman, Marisha Pessl, Tim Parks, Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, Alice McDermott, Andrea Levy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edward P. Jones, E. L. Doctorow, Michael Cunningham, A. S. Byatt, Russell Banks, and Paul Auster to name a few.

What books about writing inspire you?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nom de Plume...

...a.k.a. pen name a.k.a. pseudonym a.k.a. literary double a.k.a. alias.

Do not be concerned, I am not talking about this Halloween costume supply shop.

I'm talking about the custom of a person who was born with one name adopting another (or several other) names under which to publish their books.

This was, and still is, a common practice among writers for various reasons. At one time (think at least two hundred years ago), female authors often used male pen names, fearing no one would read their books if they knew the author was a woman. In more contemporary times, authors who are established in one genre and want to break into another genre, may use a pen name so readers don't make a judgment based on what they've previously written. 

AbeBooks has written a great post on their website, showcasing the books of many talented writers that wrote under a name different from their original. Of course they mention the classics like Mark Twain (actually Samuel Langhorne Clemens), and for me, Nora Roberts, who is also well-known for writing as J.D. Robb.

I remember how shocking it was for me to find out Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb were the same person. (Okay, shocking may have been an overstatement, but I was surprised.) Do you remember any "big reveals" in your life?

Some of the authors who immediately come to mind (who use pen names) are children's book authors like R.L. LaFevers (real first name - Robin) and E. Lockhart (the E stands for Emily, but her real last name is Jenkins). I don't know why R.L. LaFevers writes under that name, but E. Lockhart writes on her website:  

"What does E stand for? What’s your real name? And why do you go by E?
E. stands for Emily, and I use it on my teen books because I write other kinds of books using my whole, legal name. My dad calls me E., and I always liked it."

As we new writers look into getting published, I think it's a legitimate question to ask ourselves - do we want to write under our own legal names or not? If you decide you do, but can't decide on a name, this handy dandy Pen Name Generator website will create one for you.

Mine is apparently Cindy Capleton. What's yours?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Welcome to September!

Hi All.....
I just sent a blog invite to Nancy, and as soon as she answers the invite we will all be Guinea Pig bloggers!
time to make a plan for a weekly? monthly? meet up at the hangout in Hadley. What do you think?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lane Smith & Molly Leach

The world of picture book design is a mysterious and wonderful place. I recently found a video about the dynamic duo of picture book creation, husband and wife team - Molly Leach and Lane Smith. Complimenting nicely the Horn Book Magazine article, Design Matters, this video lets the viewer in a little further on the design process of picture books. Bonus: You also get to see snippets of their lovely home offices.

Makes me really wish I had snapped up a copy of The Happy Hocky Family before it went out of print.

Thanks to Fuse #8 for the video link.

Also, on a sidenote for any Lane Smith fans, check out his blog, Curious Pages. It's tagline states: "recommended inappropriate books for kids TM" and has hilarious commentary on classic children's books. I unearthed a copy of Elizabite by H.A. Rey in a used bookstore and was cracking up reading it, thinking "How could I have made it this far in life without seeing this book?" I am so happy to know, I am not alone.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What Anne Carroll Moore Always Wanted?

I grew up in a small town with a small library. It was dark and crowded, full of shelf upon shelf of old books with one-color cloth covers, names embossed in gold and worn off so you had to read the title page if you wanted to know what you'd found. The pages were thin, usually spotted brown in places, and they smelled musty and delicious. To me, each one was a forgotten treasure: I discovered E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, Elizabeth Enright, and L. M. Boston on those shelves, and for years believed that I was the only one who had read the secrets of the Psammead and the Natterjack, Gone-Away Lake and Green Knowe.

Every spring, this library has a fundraising book sale. Every available surface is covered with old donated books and signs that read "Fill a bag for $1!" My mother went this year around the time of my graduation from Simmons with an MFA in Writing for Children and looked for children's books that might be of interest to me. She found one, complete with its own sign:

She put the book in her closet to give to me as a graduation gift, and lost it until yesterday when she cleaned out the closet.

The dust jacket is missing, the binding is beginning to unbind, and the front matter has turned the color of a nicely-toasted marshmallow, but it's absolutely beautiful. I delighted in reading the original first line on one of the original first pages: "When Mrs. Frederick C. Little's second son was born, everybody noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse." Two days after the book was released, Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker, read that line and told White he had made "one serious mistake." Jill Lepore recounts their conversation in her article "The Lion and the Mouse: The battle that reshaped children's literature." Apparently, Ross shouted at White, "You said [Stuart] was born. God damn it, White, you should have had him adopted!" White heeded his boss and in later editions changed Stuart's first appearance from "born" to "arrived."

Lepore's article is worth a read for more than just that anecdote. It spares no detail of the drama surrounding Stuart Little, Anne Carroll Moore, Ursula Nordstrom, and E.B. and Katherine White in the 1930s and 40s. E.B. White had written an article in 1938 that called writing for children "easy work," and Anne Carroll Moore, then Superintendent of the Department of Work with Children at the New York Public Library, replied with "I wish to goodness you would do a real children's book yourself." By the time White's first manuscript was ready to submit to legendary Harper children's editor Nordstrom in 1945, Moore had been retired for four years. In typical Moore-ish fashion, though, she felt that it was more her book than anyone else's and insisted on seeing a copy before its release. Nordstrom begrudgingly sent a galley...and Moore utterly despised it. She hated it so much she sent a fourteen-page letter to the Whites, had a closed-door meeting with Nordstrom about pulling it from the Harper list, and ordered Frances Clarke Sayers, her successor at the NYPL, not to buy the book for the library. (Sayers did buy a copy, but she kept it hidden under her desk.)

Despite Moore's best intentions, Stuart Little had a first print run of 50,000 copies, sold 100,000 copies in just three months, and has now sold over four million copies. After all of her work to keep it out of libraries and schools, Anne Carroll Moore is probably rolling in her grave to think that someone took a copy of Stuart Little out of a dump, brought it inside a library, and got it into the hands of a third-grade teacher. But now, just like Stuart at the end of his book, he is finally "headed in the right direction."


Friday, May 14, 2010

Repost: The "Good Guys" of YA Literature

This is a "repost", similar to a "retweet" on Twitter (follow me @rebf). Emily's Reading Room had an inspiring post recognizing the "good guys" of young adult fiction, as opposed to those moody, smoldering, dangerous "bad boys" everyone seems to fall for.

Some of Emily's top favorites included Gilbert Blythe from L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, Laurie from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and Peeta from Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games.

Obviously this made me question who my own top "good guys" of YA lit are, and these are a few names I came up with:

1. Philip Ammon from Gene Stratton-Porter's A Girl of the Limberlost, one of my top 5, all-time, desert island, favorite books. He's engaged to Edith, but he tries so hard to be a good guy and do the right thing to be worthy of loving Elnora. And of course, if I'm thinking of Philip, I have to put in Freckles, the title character from GSP's Freckles, and the Harvester, the title character from GSP's The Harvester. Really, all of her men are worthy "good guys".

2. Bookish Mac over fast and lose Charlie in Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom finally wins Rose's much-deserved love. And yes, I have a soft spot, in part, due to his bookish nature.

3. T. C. Keller from My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kruger. He loves baseball, has a great relationship with his dad, recites a standing address at the high school talent show to impress the girl, and he's cute to boot.

4. Poor Arthur Dent in A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. He didn't know what hit him when his planet was blown up, and he's dragged back and forth between one end of the universe to the other. What a relief when he finds a love interest. He deserves it after being such a good sport.

Who are your favorite good guys?


Click here to view this post, and others, on my personal blog.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"The Old Country" by Mordicai Gerstein

Book JacketI just finished this fable, fairy tale, 20th c history, and loved the language, and Gerstein's ability to weave so many worlds. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Middle grade, but adults would love it too. I think the picture book, called A BOOK that he created in 2009, has a bit of this flavor too.....

The Old Country
Mordicai Gerstein
Roaring Brook Press
Grades 4 - 12
Starred review in April 18, 2005 issue of Publishers Weekly
*Gerstein (The Man Who Walked Between the Towers) skillfully shapes a story by turns disturbing and comforting. His hybrid of fantasy and fable explores such themes as human nature, war, magic and music.

The tale within a tale opens as Gisella visits her great granddaughter, gives her a present and shares a story of her childhood in The Old Country, where, she says, "I was a little girl and where I was a fox." Gisella builds on this note of intrigue , as she describes her wise great-aunt warning her that in the woods "things may not be what they seem.

Things change; now it's this, then it's that. Look closely, be careful, and never look too long into the eyes of a fox." Indeed, danger befalls the young Gisella when her brother is drafted into the army, and it's up to her to kill the fox who's been stealing the family chickens. Deep in the woods, strange things occur--talking animals and "small people."

The girl finds herself gazing intently into the fox's eyes, and the two mysteriously exchange bodies. Meanwhile, war breaks out ("Air that had been full of springtime now had a new odor, bitter and jagged. It was the smell of pain, and it was everywhere"), sending Gisella on a labyrinthine journey with a forest sprite as her guide.

Gerstein brilliantly ties the war's escalations with the dwindling of magic, and caps off this vividly descriptive narrative with an unexpected ending.
Ages 11-14. (May)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book Review: White Cat by Holly Black & AUTHOR EVENT

 The Odyssey Bookshop welcomes 
Holly Black & Cassandra Clare 
in a duo-author event on 
May 11th at 7 p.m.!

Holly Black's New Release!

White Cat (The Curse Workers #01)
by Holly Black
9781416963967, $17.99, Pub. Date: May 2010

Introducing the beginning of a new Holly Black series! So dark, so complicated, so witty - so wonderful.

How to explain this book to without giving a page-by-page detailed explanation? Okay, let's begin with setting. The time is now, or sometime mirroring now, with the cars, phones, technology, etc. that we have. The difference is the existence of curse work. Some people have the ability to work curses, magic, by touching other people with their bare hands. There are different types of curse work - memory curses, emotion curses, and transmutation curses. Curse working has been outlawed and everyone wears gloves to avoid touching each other with bare hands.

Enter Cassel Sharpe. He was born into a family of curse workers, and though he's an excellent con artist, he's not actually a curse worker. That doesn't mean there isn't something a little magical going on. Cassel keeps dreaming of a white cat, and waking up not in his boarding school dormitory bed. His dreams tend to center around one event he'd like to forget: the night he killed the girl he loved, Lila Zacharov. She was the daughter of the powerful head of the Zacharov crime family. The only reason Cassel is still alive is that his older brothers, all powerful curse workers, covered up for him.

While this all sounds strange in its own right, the part that's more bizarre is that Lila's curse magic was an ability to turn into other animals, and a white cat was her favorite. How is Lila controlling Cassel's dreams if she's supposedly dead? As the complex plot unfolds, Cassel begins to realize he can't trust anyone or anything - not his own family, and worst of all, not even his own memory. Someone has been curse working him. Now if only he could figure out who and why...

Throw in a dysfunctional family, a girlfriend who just dumped him, the beginnings of actual friends for the first time in his life, and you've got one heck of a teenage life to get through.


See this review on my personal blog.

Cassandra Clare's Trilogy, Mortal Instruments!

City of Bones
9781416955078, Simon & Schuster, $9.99

City of Ashes
9781416972242, Simon & Schuster, $9.99

City of Glass 
9781416914303, Simon & Schuster, $17.99

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book Review: Serena by Ron Rash

This was a post I intended to publish over a year ago. Now in paperback, I'm finally going to post my review of Ron Rash's Serena.

Hardcover: 9780061470851, HarperCollins, $24.95
Paperback: 9780061470844, HarperCollins, $14.99

Serena blew my mind a bit.

You wouldn't think upon first picking up a book about a timber empire in North Carolina during the years leading up to the Great Depression that it would be a gripping read for anyone other than a history buff. Yet the cast of characters and the stark reality of Ron Rash's writing creates a compelling and bone-chilling story.

The absolute lack of morality and concern for anyone other than herself makes Serena a heinous individual. You want to hate her, but her intelligence and self-possession make her fascinating. In a harsh land, building a harsh timber empire, Serena is a beautiful, feminine, immovable steel rod who has a blow as heavy as one of the trees felled by her timber crews. Recently married to owner George Pemberton, Serena is as obsessed with power and the unplumbed Brazilian forests, as George is with her. Together they form an nearly unstoppable team of knowledge, money, and Serena's ruthlessness. If someone stands in their way, they will be taken down - whether by a swift knife across the throat, a hunting "accident", or Serena's right-hand man who always gets his prey.

An unnerving subplot involves George Pemberton's illegitimate child, mothered by a local mountain girl, conceived prior to George's marriage to Serena, but birthed afterward. Distracted by her ambitions in other directions, Serena does not focus on the mother and child until later in the book. Then, for reasons of her own, Serena turns her obsession toward them - and it is time for them to die.

Much like the trees now clogging the riverways, Serena will cut down everything in her path: Teddy Roosevelt's plan for a national forest, a local sheriff who is the only man with backbone enough to stand up to her, and the mother and child who retain a claim on the man and the empire that must be solely hers. Serena doesn't share; she takes, eliminates, and possesses.

A frighteningly compelling read, you won't want to put it down until you find out how, why, and who is the next to die. 


Read this review and others on my personal blog.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

David Foster Wallace Vocabulary

Thanks to @kentmeusemarian for today's post! (Follow me on Twitter: @rebf)

David Foster Wallace was an American novelist, essayist, and short story writer, whose most famous work, Infinite Jest, was included in Time magazine's All-Time 100 Greatest Novels list.

Hardcover: 9780316920049, Little, Brown & Co., $35
Paperback: 9780316066525, Little, Brown & Co., $17.99

In his work, he had much occasion to check out his favorite American Heritage Dictionary, and while he was there, circled a multitude of words. Though this article doesn't really go into detail about why DFW circled all these words, this is, apparently, a complete list of the words he did circle.

Were they his favorites? His most-used? Words he could never remember the definitions for? Words he most-loved to use at dinner parties? Was he studying up for an adult spelling bee? We may never know, but you should check them out.


Check out this post on my personal blog.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pioneer Valley Children's Book Exhibit

For those folks living in, around, near, or feel like traveling to the Pioneer Valley in Western Mass (an area consisting of towns such as Amherst, Northampton, & South Hadley), a traveling area picturebook exhibit is making its final stop.

The Making of a Picture Book: The Marriage of Text and Art is an exhibit curated by Mount Holyoke College Professor and author, Corinne Demas. The exhibit focuses on these four picturebooks:

Hans Christian Andersen's The Perfect Wizard
written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Dennis Nolan
9780525469551, Dutton Books (Penguin), $16.99

The Littlest Matryoskha
by Corinne Demas, illustrated by Kathryn Brown
9780786801534, HarperCollins, $15.99

Once I Ate a Pie
co-written by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, illustrated by Katy Schneider
9780060735319, HarperCollins, $17.99

Ten Times Better
by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Leonard Baskin
9780761450702, Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, $17.95

The exhibit has toured around the Pioneer Valley, most recently at Mount Holyoke College, and now is installed in its final exhibit space at the Forbes Library in Northampton (20 West Street, Northampton, MA - 413.587.1011). The exhibit will be up through the end of May. Stop by and check it out!


See this post on my personal blog.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Today in the Boston Globe

From unpublished to Pulitzer

Paul Harding (Anthony Pidgeon/Redferns)
Personal interactions between publishers, booksellers, and reviewers launched Mass. writer Paul Harding’s book, “Tinkers,’’ the old-fashioned way. (Boston Globe)

The author’s unlikely success story is rooted in a series of personal interactions between publishers, booksellers, and reviewers that launched a book the old-fashioned way. There were no media campaigns, Twitter feeds, or 30-city tours. Instead, the success of “Tinkers’’ can be linked to a handful of people who were so moved by the richly lyrical story of an old man facing his final days that they had to tell others about it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Now here's a DEDICATED book designer!

Jessica Hische
Shopping in Marrakech
Designed with Louise Fili while working at Louise Fili Ltd. // Client: The Little Bookroom // This fun guidebook was especially fun to design. I developed the lettering first in illustrator and spent three days embroidering the cover for this book (the original now hangs on my wall). The interior is also decorated with bead and embroidery ornamentation where possible to make for a very rich design reflective of the wares you might purchase in Marrakech.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

from "Jacket Knack" on Design Terms

MONDAY, MARCH 29, 2010

10 Book Design Terms Explained!

For beginners, from a beginner, here are ten terms to know about book creation. (Would be most grateful if the better-informed will correct or clarify in the comments! --Carol)
  1. Blind, blind stamped or stamped in the blind: "This refers to stamping or impressions on the cover of a book that have not been filled in with color or gilt." (source)A blind stamp
  2. Cast-Coated Paper: Coated paper with a high-gloss reflective finish. (source)Cast-coated paper
  3. Foil: "A metallic or pigmented coating on plastic sheets or rolls used in foil stamping and foil embossing." (source)Foil
  4. Headbands: "Most commonly, the bands of thread which extend beyond the top and bottom edges of the text block at either end of the spine." (source)A headband
  5. Levant: "Elegant and highly polished morocco goatskin leather with a grain-pattern surface." (source)Levant
  6. Slab Serif: "A certain class of font whoseserifs look like slabs (e.g.: flat lines or blocks) and not hooks." Rockwell uses slab serifs. (source)
  7. Sparkle: "A typographic property associated with many classical, readable typefaces that is related to their typographic contrast." The typeface Bodoni is said to sparkle. (source)
  8. Spot varnish: "Varnish used to hilight [sic] a specific part of the printed sheet." (source)
  9. Spot varnishThermography: "Method of printing using colorless resin powder that takes on the color of underlying ink. Also called raised printing." Printers can even make the raised part metallic, pearlescent, or glittery! (source)Thermographic Glitter!Thermography/Raised printing
  10. UV coated paper:"Liquid laminate bonded and cured with ultraviolet light. Environmentally friendly. Comes in gloss or matte finish." (source) This is used to protect the paper. UV coating can apparently provide the glossiest finish of all available coating methods.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Scrabble Sacrilege

Some disturbing news concerning the game Scrabble was released today. Matel, the toy company who holds rights to Scrabble in the UK, has announced that they will be releasing a new form of the game in which proper nouns will count for points (there has been no news as to whether Hasbro, the toy company who holds rights to Scrabble in the US, will release a similar game). Those are the names of people, places, and things, that up until this time have been considered cheating by the more serious scrabble players. This causes some concern for me, and I will tell you why, but first let me confess something:

I am horrible at Scrabble. No, really, considering how much I read, what I attend grad school for, and the scores I received on my SATs and GREs, you'd really think my apparently impressive vocabulary would hold me in good steed when it comes to a word-based game such as Scrabble. Not so, my friends. Though it's taken me many years to admit to this, I've finally made my peace with the fact. Now on the rare occasions I play, I resign myself to the knowledge that even the 9-year-old I'm playing against will probably beat me.

Why am I telling you this? So you won't think the following rant comes from a die hard Scrabble lover who just can't imagine imposing upon the sanctity of the game rules.

Now, back to why a Scrabble rule change is horrifying. Basically, Matel is saying that the current "younger generation" they're trying to reach is too dumb to play Scrabble, so they're making the rules easier. Oh, you can pretty it up by likening it to an updated version of Trivial Pursuit that has references to pop culture from J.T.T. (Jonathan Taylor Thomas to those who don't get that reference) to Beyonce, but we all know the original Trivial Pursuit is the best, the hardest, and has the most equal playing field, and so is the now-old version of Scrabble.

Also, both articles I could find on this tragedy - one from the BBC and one from the NY Daily News - neglected to mention that in the globalized communities we find ourselves in, ALMOST ANYTHING can be argued as a proper name. There are names from languages other than English that do use silent Qs, Ps, Xs, Ys, and Zs (probably)! Even as I realize these new rules will probably make the chances of me actually winning a game all the more greater, I still can't endorse a change as apparently ill-conceived and not thoroughly thought out as this one.

Last, but not least, if you haven't already figured out that you can change the rules on your own when you play Scrabble with someone to include proper nouns, and thus enjoy the already existing game of Scrabble, then you really are too dumb to play and probably shouldn't bother in the first place.


Monday, April 5, 2010

MoCCA Festival

MoCCA Fest 2010 Poster

MoCCA Festival
 Saturday & Sunday April 10 & 11, 2010
68th Regiment Armory
68 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY
The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art - MoCCA is pleased to announce that the next MoCCA Festival will take place over April 10-11, 2010. The annual two-day event attracts thousands of comic art lovers and creators from around the globe to celebrate the world's most popular art form in the heart of New York City.
Special guests at MoCCA Fest 2010 include Bill Ayers, Kyle Baker, Gabrielle Bell, Kim Deitch, Emily Flake, Tom Hart, Dean Haspiel, Jaime Hernandez, Paul Karasik, Neil Kleid, Peter Kuper, Michael Kupperman, Hope Larson, David Mazzucchelli, Frank Miller, Josh Neufeld, Rick Parker, Paul Pope, Henrik Rehr, Alex Robinson, Frank Santoro, Dash Shaw, James Sturm, R. Sikoryak, Jillian Tamaki, Raina Telgemeier, Gahan Wilson and Craig Yoe!
Featured exhibitors include Abrams ComicArts, ACT-I-VATE, Buenaventura Press, Drawn and Quarterly, Fantagraphics, First Second, NBM, Pantheon, Royal Flush Magazine, Secret Acres, Sparkplug Comic Books, Top Shelf Productions and more!
The 2010 Klein Award wil be presented to David Mazzucchelli by Chip Kidd!
Since 2002 the MoCCA Festival offers a unique venue to experience comics, mini-comics, web comics, graphic novels, animation, posters, prints, original artwork, and more. Each year, the Festival invites dozens of established and emerging creators, scholars, and other experts to participate in two days of lecture/discussion panels on a variety of comics and cartoon topics. For 2010, the panels and programs are being organized by Brian Heater (The Daily Crosshatch) and Jeff Newelt (Pekar Project, SMITH, Heeb, Royal Flush).
MoCCA Festival 2010 is sponsored in part by Disney Book GroupDrawn and QuarterlyMidtown ComicsPantheon and Yoe Books!
MoCCA Fest 2010 will again take place at the historic 69th Regiment Armory at 68 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY.
Much more information coming soon!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Birthday Hans Christian Andersen

Thank you to Google for reminding me that today is the 205th birthday of Hans Christian Andersen. Google has a five-image series of Andersen's  Thumbelina surrounding their logo today.
Andersen was a Danish writer and paper-cut artist who not only recorded tales from the oral storytelling tradition (in the style of the Brothers Grimm), but who also wrote his own creations. His fairy tales were published in Europe beginning in the 1830s, but it wasn't until the 1860s that Americans first got a look at them (in an American English edition - maybe they'd seen them before elsewhere, people did travel back then, you know).

A man named Horace E. Scudder worked for an early version of the publishing house we now know as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, known then as Hurd & Houghton. At that time in children's publishing, children's magazines were becoming a big deal, with many publishers vying for the position of top-circulating, best-illustrated, most-engaging-stories-by-most-famous-authors children's magazine producer. The Riverside Magazine for Young People was first published by Hurd & Houghton in December 1866. Scudder had a close relationship with Andersen and was able to not only publish 17 of Andersen's fairy tales in The Riverside Magazine beginning in 1868, but Scudder also negotiated on behalf of Hurd & Houghton to publish the only authorized American edition of Andersen's stories (thank you to Leonard Marcus's Minders of Make-Believe for this information). Scudder was constantly encouraging Andersen to make the trip across the pond and visit the States, but sadly that never happened.

Andersen's tales have been made into movies - cartoon and live-action, plays, and ballets. They also continue to be collected in anthologies and illustrated as individual stories. Just last month in March 2010, Chronicle Books published a version of Thumbelina, illustrated by Sylvia Long (9780811855228, $17.99). One of my favorite versions of this story was illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger, published under the title Thumbeline (9780735822368, $6.95, NorthSouth). There is even a graphic novel version (9781434217417, $4.95, Capstone Press), and a re-imagined full-length middle grade novel with silhouette illustrations by Barbara Ensor (9780375839603, $12.99, Random House).

Of the hundreds of anthologies of Andersen's work, Lisbeth Zwerger has illustrated a beautiful edition in her signature dreamy watercolor style (9780698400351, $21.99, Penguin). W.W. Norton (a publishing house) has released an annotated collected works (9780393060812, $35), while Calla Editions, an imprint of Dover Publications, has published an immense, bound in a cloth binding with gold embossed lettering, gift edition (9781606600009, $40). Lastly, don't miss a collection of his paper cuttings - artwork that looks like reverse silhouettes, compiled by Beth Wagner Brust for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (9780618311095, $9.95).

However you prefer your Andersen, illustrated or performed, take some time today or this weekend to read a few of his treasured tales. I'd start with The Little Mermaid (if you're reading with older children or for yourself). This isn't a washed-out Disney version. It's the real classic. As it should be.
 - Rebecca
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Young Author Cuts Six Figure Deal for YA Trilogy

Young Author Cuts Six Figure Deal for YA Trilogy

laurend23.jpg25-year-old debut novelist Lauren DeStefano just inked a six-figure deal forThe Last Chemical Garden--the first book in a dystopian trilogy about genetics and "a failed effort to create a perfect race." The book is scheduled for an April 2011 release.
Barbara Poelle from the Irene Goodman Literary Agency sold the book to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers senior editor Alexandra Cooper.
DeStefano (pictured) has her own blog and bio here. The young author had this statement: "There's so much debate when it comes to genetics--what's natural, what's fair, and when science begins to cross the line ... I just took that idea and let myself get carried away."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Movie Inspiration

Can you add to this list of movie moments when characters receive their first published books?

Julie and Julia - Julia dances with her Mastering the Art of French Cooking in her kitchen with her husband looking on.

Anne of Avonlea - Anne shows a copy of her first book to Gilbert as he lay deathly ill.

Little Women - What is more exciting than watching Winnona Rider as Jo tear the brown paper wrapping from her manuscript?

Miss Potter - Don't you want to see your book displayed in the front window of a bookshop?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Books on Design by Ellen Lupton (and sometimes Julia Lupton, too.)

Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students (Design Briefs)Ellen Lupton's book Thinking with Type (2004) is a basic guide to typography directed at everyone who works with words. Thinking with Type is a type book for everyone: designers, writers, editors, students, and anyone else who works with words. Presented through succinct, decisive language and carefully curated examples, the book explores the history, theory, and practice of typography. It serves as a handy reference, a classroom textbook, and a welcoming introduction. More info at

She is a 2007 recipient of the AIGA Gold Medal, one of the highest honors given to a graphic designer or design educator in the U.S.

Indie Publishing: How to Design and Produce Your Own Book (2008). 
Indie Publishing: How to Design and Produce Your Own Book [INDIE PUB]

Design Your Life, by Ellen and Julia Lupton, is a series of irreverent snapshots about design and everyday life. Design Your Life casts a sharp eye on everything from roller bags, bras, porches, and stuffed animals to parenting, piles, and potted plants. The book is illustrated throughout with original paintings of objects both ordinary and odd.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Recommendations for 3rd & 4th Grade Boys

Emily, one of this blog's team members, and a grade school teacher, prompted this blog post. Actually, she asked me for this list over a year ago, and she knows how very, truly sorry I am that it's taken me this long to get it for her. Once I had done so, though, I thought I might share it with the world.

The following list is a brief overview of some books that are currently in-print that I think would suit the tastes of boys who are in 3rd or 4th grade,
or are reading at a 3rd or 4th grade level. Having never been a 3rd or 4th grade boy, my opinion comes from having a father, an older brother, and many boy customers, all of whom I observe and talk with about books. The general trend runs toward sports, "funny" books, and action/adventure. I'm also throwing some part-graphic novel titles on here, just for fun.

The original series I recommended at the teacher's request was the Dan Gutman series, Baseball Card Adventures (HarperCollins). These stories featured a boy who upon touching a baseball card, would be transported back in time to meet, say, Mickey Mantle or Shoeless Joe.

Continuing on the sports theme, I would also recommend a series by Loren Long and Phil Bildner, originally known as Barnstormers when it was a hardcover-only series, now known as Sluggers in hardcover/paperback (Simon & Schuster). This has a similar feel to the Dan Gutman series, in that it combines baseball and magic, but aren't high-fantasy (no goblins, trolls, etc.). There are six in the series so far. My favorite aspect of this series is that a lot of baseball terminology and slang are used right in the prose, and then defined in the margins of the page. You get to read a great baseball adventure story and learn baseball vocab - what could be better than that?

One last sports series, that's not baseball specific is the Comeback Kids series by Mike Lupica (Penguin). Each book features a boy playing a different sport; so, for instance, one plays basketball, one football, one baseball, etc.

On to non-sports recommendations:

Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder by Jo Nesbo, illustrated by Mike Lowery (9781416979722, $14.99, Simon & Schuster). The word "fart" is in the title. Need I say more?

The Indian in the Cupboard (series) by Lynne Reid Banks (Random House). An oldie but a goodie, though being sensitive to the portrayal of Native Americans in literature, I have to say this series is typically lacking in its cultural sensitivity and accurate tribal-specific information. That said, I read this series as a kid and it's what, in part, influenced me in becoming a Native American studies major in college. So, you never know.

Never underestimate the power of the
Choose Your Own Adventure novel, mostly written by R.A. Montgomery, though other writers fill in the series (Chooseco). These don't need to be read in order. They have started publishing some CYOAs at the beginning chapter book level for 1st and 2nd graders, too.

The Jon Scieszka recommendation section of this post:

Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka (9780670011384, $12.99, Penguin). The subtitle is Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka. These tales feature the outlandish (mostly true) events that occur when you grow up as one of six brothers. Pictures of Jon Scieszka and his family are sprinkled throughout the book. Some parents have been sensitive to the cover - it was designed specifically that way to reflect the covers of comic books that Scieszka read as a child that age, not as a political statement of today.

Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things...
(...that aren't as scary, maybe, depending on how you feel about lost lands, stray cellphones, creatures form the sky, parents who disappear in Peru, a man named Lars Farf, and one other story we couldn't quite finish, so maybe you could help us out)

by Nick Hornby, Neil Gaiman, Jon Scieszka, Jonathan Safran Foer, etc. (9780385737470, $12.99, Random House). Besides winning best title of the decade, this book is a great introduction to some fantastic authors. Basically these are all short stories, a few pages long, mostly sci-fi or fantasy-related. A good introduction to this genre and these writers for kids at the Middle Grade reading level.

A similar book for those reading at the higher end of Middle Grade, say 10-14 years old, try Guys Write for Guys Read , edited by Jon Scieszka (9780670011445, $11.99, Penguin). This is the same type of book where all the stories are a few pages long, only not only sci-fi/fantasy-based tales. In this compilation, all the contributing writers are guys, writing for a guy audience.

Part graphic novel, part regular novel recommendations:

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom & Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000 (series starring Frankie Pickle) by Eric Wight (Simon & Schuster). This series is a little easier reading level for those reluctant readers, more of a 2nd to 3rd grade level. The "every day" scenes are in prose; it's when Frankie's imagination takes over that the graphic novel element comes to life.

Dragonbreath (series) by Ursula Vernon (Penguin). A relatively new series starring a little dragon as the main character, but in the role of a boy; also featuring a foreign exchange student (a salamander) and ninja frogs.

The Fog Mound (trilogy) by Susan Schade and Jon Buller (Simon & Schuster). Recommended by my Simon & Schuster book rep, this series is about a chipmunk named Thelonious who is given the chance to find out if the old stories are true - if people rather than animals once ruled the Earth, and if they did, what happened to the humans?

Now that you've heard my two cents, does the peanut gallery have any favorites they'd like to add?


Also posted on my personal blog here.

the future of publishing by DK