Friday, April 29, 2011

NMLA handout, part 2: Books cited

Here are the picture books (and a couple of illustrated books) that Carolee Dean and I cited during our NMLA session. Thanks to everyone who came, and especially to those who asked questions and came up later to extend the conversation. We appreciate you all and the good work you do.

Adams, Simon. World War II. Dorling Kindersley, 2007.

Clinton, Catherine, Ed. I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry. Illus. Stephen Alcorn. Houghton Mifflin, 1998. 

Coburn, Jewell. Domitila: A Cinderella Tale from the Mexican Tradition. Illus. Connie McLennan. Shen's Books, 2000.

Coerr, Eleanor. Sadako. Illus. Ed Young. Puffin, 1997.

Coerr, Eleanor. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Illus. Ronald Himler. Puffin, 2004.

Drescher, Henrik. McFig & McFly: A Tale of Jealousy, Revenge, and Death {with a Happy Ending}. Candlewick, 2008.

Gaiman, Neil. The Wolves in the Walls. Illus. Dave McKean. HarperCollins, 2003.

Howitt, Mary. The Spider and the Fly. Illus. Tony diTerlizzi. Simon and Schuster, 2002.  

Lee Tae-Jun. Waiting for Mama. Illus.  Kim Dong-Seong. North-South Books, 2007.

Macaulay, David. Black and White. Houghton Mifflin, 1990.

Napoli, Donna Jo. Albert. Illus. Jim LaMarche. Harcourt, 2001.

Radunsky, Vladimir. Manneken Pis: The Simple Story of a Boy Who Peed on a War. Atheneum, 2002.

Selznick, Brian. The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Scholastic, 2007.

Tan, Shaun. Lost and Found. (Omnibus edition) Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2011.

Taylor, Laini. Lips Touch: Three Times. Illus. Jim di Bartolo. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2009.

Wiesner, David. Flotsam. Clarion, 2006. 

Here's more on Carolee's blog. And here are the two links from the slide show. The article about students performing an original Cinderella story, and the Flotsam trailer.


Here's to picture books for readers of all ages!




NMLA Handout on Picture Books Across the Age Range

For NMLA attendees and anyone else who might be interested:

From the session with Carolee Dean and me, on The 21st Century Picture Book: Much More Than Color and Gloss,  here is some more on our conceptual framework.

A 7-point system for evaluating picture books for a wide range of audiences
Why seven points? Oh, I happen to like odd numbers.

Why a wide range? Because the best picture books can convey one set of meanings for a very young reader, a different set for that same reader 5 years later, and then yet another set in another 5 years or more. Think about picture books in terms of these criteria. Keep the related considerations in mind to find the right ones for audiences from elementary to high school and beyond.


This is not an all-inclusive list. It's meant to get you thinking about how to construct your own list.

  1. Central question: What is the central question of the book? Can it be discussed in varying degrees of complexity? E.g., The Red Tree by Shaun Tan and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr.
  2. Character development: How are the characters delineated? What is stated in words? What is unstated and picked up in the pictures? What is left to the reader to conclude? E.g., McFig & McFly: A Tale of Jealousy, Revenge, and Death (With a Happy Ending) by Henrik Drescher.
  3. Poetry and Pictures: Is a poetry collection enhanced by the visual poetics of the picture book form? E.g., I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African-American Poetry, edited by Catherine Clinton, or Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa by Shonto Begay. 
  4. Literary connections: How does the book relate to literary works in other forms? E.g. various picture book Cinderella versions compared to Perreault, or Albert by Donna Jo Napoli compared to "St. Kevin and the Blackbird" by Seamus Heaney. Here's a link to Heaney reading the poem: Thank you to my VCFA student, Rachel Hylton!
  5. Story structures: Does it demonstrate fictional structure that is easier to recognize because of the smaller story container? E.g., Waiting for Mama by Lee Tae-Jun as an illustration of rising action and the creation of scenes, and Black and White by David Macaulay for a host of characteristics of postmodern fiction.
  6. Introduction or overview of a complex subject: Has the picture book creator distilled primary source research into a compact introduction or overview? E.g., World War II: The Definitive Visual History by Richard Holmes. Or has she shed light on an aspect of reality that has never before been examined in quite this way? E.g., Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don't You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge.
  7. Rhetorical choices: Has the picture book writer made interesting word choices and demonstrated a suitable variety of rhetorical options? What has s/he elected not to say in words? E.g., The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Web Site Redesigned and Live Again

It's up and live with a new look and feel. Thanks for your patience.

Still needs a few small fixes, and more content will be added shortly. E.g., look for a downloadable discussion guide on the main page, complete with a recipe for that elusive curry puff-with-a-secret-ingredient that Grand Plan readers will find to be Mr. Mani's pride and joy, next only to his chocolate cake.

A huge thank you to Beena Ramaswami of Geometree for racing the clock to get the new site up in time for the one-month countdown to the release of The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. Starting today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Web Site Under Construction

My web site, http://www.umakrishnaswami.com is currently undergoing a major overhaul and redesign. Thanks for your patience and apologies for the inconvenience, those of you who may have tried to access it and found an "under construction" sign.

It should will be up and ready by the time The Grand Plan to Fix Everything is released in May.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Parkside Community School


Thank you to Parkside Community School (a beautiful Montessori school nestled in a leafy campus in the heart of Austin) for a lovely morning!

Thank you, first through third graders, for listening so well, for talking about so many complicated ideas from viewpoint to cliffhangers to the growth of characters, and for your wonderful questions.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

YA A to Z in Austin

I'm off to Austin to speak at the very first YA A to Z conference sponsored by the Writers' League of Texas.

What am I, a picture book and middle grade writer, doing speaking at a YA conference? Oh, you may ask!

Here's the thing. A novel is a novel. Story is story. And revision (the thing I'll be talking about in my workshop session) is its own beast, regardless of the audience. Over the years, and through more than a dozen books, I've managed to learn a little something about wrangling words onto the page. Well, we shall see. I always come away from such events feeling I've learned more than I've taught.

And I'll be reading from galleys of The Grand Plan at a private reading, and visiting a couple of schools. After which I will need to scurry back to my desk, chain myself to it, and begin revising the sequel to The Grand Plan. Another novel under contract awaits its turn as well. Clearly, this is going to be the revision year. As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice, where you go with such things "depends a good deal on where you want to get to."


Monday, April 11, 2011

The Grand Plan To Fix Everything: Book Trailer

Courtesy of iMovie and my son Nikhil, here it is--The Grand Plan to Fix Everything: The Trailer. The book releases May 24. There will be a (Grand) blog tour. More to come.