Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Holler Loudly by Cynthia Leitich Smith and Barry Gott

As a rule, Cynthia Leitich Smith doesn't holler loudly. Far from it. She speaks in a civil, knowledgeable, and informed voice. Her blog is probably the single most visited children's and YA literature resource on the internet. But those who know Cyn can tell you that she has an amazing, contagious, ricocheting sort of laugh. You can practically hear that laugh in her wildly funny new picture book, Holler Loudly, illustrated by the wonderful Barry Gott.

How can you not fall in love with a book in which Mama and Daddy Loudly name their baby Holler because he cries so loud?

Rollicking humor and wordplay mark this funny, original tall tale. Here's a picture book as big-hearted as a southwestern sky. And for those who like that little extra layer to a story, there's a kid-size aha! moment that reveals itself with a chortle, leaving us aware that every talent has its time and place. Please join me in hollering loudly about the release of this rib-tickling new offering from a beloved writer.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yasmin's Hammer, Rickshaw Girl, and Amadi's Snowman

Yasmin's Hammer by Ann Malaspina could in many ways be a picture book companion to Rickshaw Girl, the simply and beautifully written chapter book story by Mitali Perkins in which a girl struggles between her love for a traditional art form and her family's needs, all the time seeing her own education about to be held hostage.

What is so refreshing about both books is that neither features the culture as the source of conflict. One of the most touching spreads in Yasmin's Hammer is the one with the family poring over the book she has just purchased with her hard-earned taka. Before the father stands up, before he makes his announcement, we are poised with this family, on the edge of that story turn. It's quite remarkable.

I also really appreciated that while there is the obligatory glossary, words like taka and the glorious, mythic Bangla word for the water buffalo, mohish, are allowed to be understood contextually on the page without pulling the reader out of the story for the purposes of translation.

And I'm happily reminded yet again of Katia Novet Saint-Lot's lovely book,  Amadi's Snowman. It also deals with the power of books and reading but it does something else I absolutely love. It  takes a sly jab at the notion of what it means to be "exotic."

Friday, November 05, 2010

Updates and Downloads: R.A. Nelson on the Writing Itch, Nel on metafiction, Luka at last, Grand Plan galleys

Lighting a virtual lamp for Diwali this year (image from Many Windows).

R.A. Nelson writes about Charlotte Brontë and the itch to write. Watch this new blog, YA Outside the Lines.

And speaking of writing outside the lines, Luka and the Fire of Life releases November 16th. Here's a Shelf Awareness interview with Salman Rushdie himself. I like what he says about "that borderland when children can seem extraordinarily wise and confident and at other times are still little children. That particular moment is fascinating. It's a magical time." Rushdie himself is speaking of this book in terms of crossing the border between children's literature and literature, a gentler rhetoric than he employed before the release of Haroun and the Sea of Stories. While I'm waiting for my copy of Luka, I'm rereading Judith Plotz's very insightful article, "Haroun and the Politics of Children's Literature" (Children's Literature Association Quarterly).

Philip Nel uses a few nifty metafictional techniques in his video commentary on metafiction in picture books.

And finally, just yesterday, the galleys arrived for The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. After nearly a couple of decades in this business, I still can't get over the thrill of seeing a book take shape.