Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Risky Business

The children's literature world is all abuzz with possible contenders for this year's big awards. On Monday, January 23rd, at 8 am EST, the American Library Association will once again announce winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, and many other awards. If you want to get a closer look at some hot contenders, just hop on Twitter for a few minutes and follow hashtags with those award names.

This week I read two new picture books. One has a some buzz around it for a possible Caldecott (illustration award) and the other was on a lot of lists as favorites. Both books involve real people who took great risks. Check them out!

A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785 written by Matthew Olshan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Way back in 1785, two frenemies (I'll wait while you roll your eyes at my lingo...) decided to take the first international flight on a hot air balloon. Dr. John Jeffries and Jean-Pierre Blanchard decided to cross the English Channel (La Manche!) from England to France. After a dispute over who would get to ride, they both hop in, dogs in tow, and fly away. About halfway through the flight there is trouble and the two men lose altitude fast. When they have thrown everything overboard, including most of the clothes they are wearing, and the basket of the balloon is floating dangerously close to water, they decide the last step is to pee overboard. Voila! They are saved, the balloon takes flight again and they reach France safe and in their underwear. The mostly true part of this story comes from a few tidbits added here and there. But yes, they actually did pee over the side of the balloon.

Sophie Blackall is a dynamite illustrator and if you want to win a Caldecott she is a good buddy to have on your side. Last year she won for her gorgeous illustrations in Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear. Sophie warmed my heart over with her illustrated Missed Connections: Love, Lost and Found in which she illustrates some of her favorite "Missed Connections" posted to Craigslist.

In 1785, even a sheep had flown

Blackall uses a mix of text and speech bubbles

Oh, yes, they did!

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe

I remember watching the movie Basquiat when I was in high school. I was fascinated by, what seemed to me at the time, a rebel in the art scene. Being a young caucasian female in rural America, the art scene of NYC and a Puerto-Rican/Haitian artist was - well - other worldly.  I only heard of Basquiat in subsequent years in bits and pieces - I admit my dedication to the art world was limited. A few weeks ago, my interest was piqued when I saw Javaka Steptoe's picture book about Basquiat make it's way through my Twitter feed.

In this book, Steptoe uses his own art, mimicking the style of Basquiat, to tell the story of how this young man rose to fame. Through tragedy - a car crash and his mother's mental illness - Basquiat uses art to give his strong emotions a home and a voice. Basquiat presses on despite setbacks to become the famous artist he yearned to become. His short life is narrated in rhythmic prose. Steptoe explains that the art for this book is painted on pieces of wood found all over NYC, inviting his readers "to create using the materials, people, and places in their environment." He adds that by blending the style of Basquiat with his own, "...my goal was to show how his work has inspired me and to give young readers a sense of his artistic style."

I've seen multiple musings on the internet that Radiant Child is a heavy contender for the Caldecott this year.  I am happy to see another work of diversity added to the world of children's literature. I am excited to see a new face on the biography scene. Huge shout-out to Steptoe for this radiant book.


Basquiat's inspiration was the world around him

Basquiat's mother is taken away
and his heart breaks

Basquiat with his mother in the background
and his world of inspiration in the foreground

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017, I'm Ready

Happy 2017 friends!

I am one of those faithful resolution type people, as you may recall. In 2016, in what should have been a sign of things to come, I forgot to blog about my resolution. Despite the challenging year it was, I did meet my resolution. It was quite cheesy but some of you editing types have reaped the benefits, unknowingly, as you read my blog. (No, I did not master the art of avoiding passive voice. Maybe this year.)

My sister and BF are two such people. It drove them crazy that I always put two spaces after every sentence when I typed. Have you heard of this? When I learned to type, back in the day, we were taught to put two spaces after every period. This harkens back to the days of typewriters. Since it is no longer needed, using two spaces is just some sort of "old habits die hard" thing. Of course, some people feel as if the whole debate is no big deal. After doing some research, I decided 2016 was going to be the year I joined the one-space team. It was a little tricky at first. My rhythm was slightly stilted when typing. However, now that I am used to it, I am back to quickly clicking keys and whammo! another New Year's Resolution has been met.

My grandma got this rocking chair in 1973 (we think)
and I brought it home this year. She once said to me, "I'd rather
have a rocking chair than a bed." 

On to bigger and brighter 2017. My resolutions this year take on a more personal nature, so pardon me for not sharing. I will share with you some other things I would like to accomplish this year. These aren't resolutions, more like, "Dang, wouldn't it be cool if I could..." followed up by, "Why not this year?!"

Here's a beginner list and my guess is it will grow.

  1. I'd like to read 30 minutes every day (not riding the T to work has severely cut down on my reading time. Shame, shame, Meg)
  2. More dates. 2016 threw me into a bit of a lonely place. My heart was healing and not quite ready to give it all to the relationship. So, dates are back. We're going for once a month.
  3. Fly fishing! I've wanted to try this ever since my resolution to do 60 new things. Maybe this will be the year!
  4. Learn to chop onions really fast. My friend Afton is going to help me with this.
  5. Learn to cook more than one poached egg at a time. I love them! It takes too long! Afton (new link! She gets two!) says she will help with this as well.
  6. No summer camp. I've worked at the same summer camp every year since 2010. Mostly I did it because my gypsy lifestyle always left me in debt. Almost all my debt is paid off (just those pesky college loans, but, meh) so I think I can skip it. Also, the sis and I launched a small business recently (more here) and I might sell our wares over the summer instead. Or read. Or sit in a hammock. 
Afton and I, and 6 other friends, rang in the new year together!
We give 2017 a big ol' thumbs up.

That's about it for now. Do you do resolutions? Or are you one of those people who scoffs at the idea? My sister's bf says his resolution is to get annoyed at the people who make resolutions to work out and then crowd the gym for the month of January. (Email me and I'll let you know which gym to avoid!) Ha!

However you have decided to march into 2017, I hope you have a year filled with love and life lived to the very brim, and then maybe overflowing just a bit. If for you, 2017 leaves you some sadness, soak that up too. Someday you will emerge ready to begin again.

Thank you 2017 fortune cookie,
I think I will