31 August 2004

August birthdays

Here we are, the last day of August, and I have a note on my desk reminding me to blog author birthdays, yet I kept not having time... So, without further ado, who did I miss?

August 28th was the birthday of illustrator/author Kevin Hawkes, whose new work, Sidewalk Circus (written by the amazing Paul Fleischman) has been a huge hit around here. (Their collaboration on Weslandia is one of my favorite picture books.)

August 28 was also the birthday of Tasha Tudor who celebrated her 89th birthday! Ms. Tudor has written or illustrated over 100 books, all with art that is iinstantly familiar. Her website is full of charming photos, examples of her timeless artwork, and fun facts, like this one: "She never allowed running water into her home until she turned fifty, never had central heating until she needed it for her greenhouse which was built when Tasha Tudor was in her 70's."

Last for August 28 (although not least by a long stretch!) is Brian Pinkney, son of Jerry and Gloria Pinkney. He was probably destined to be a shining star in field of children's literature, and he has obliged most impressively. His bold, powerful illustrations have guaranteed that his new books are always snatched off the shelf as soon as we put them out. The cover of Duke Ellington is one of my favorite paintings; I'd love to have a full-sized poster of it!

August 30th would have been the 95th birthday of Virginia Lee Burton. Her best known book, loved by children everywhere since it's publication in 1939, is surely Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. (In an unforgettable passage of Ramona the Pest, Ramona asks her teacher what we all wondered: "Miss Binney, I want to know -- how did Mike Mulligan go to the bathroom when he was digging the basement of the town hall?") Honestly, though, my favorite of her books was always The Little House. Wasn't there a cartoon made of this book? Maybe that influenced my preference...

Donald Crews, author of another perrenial favorite, Freight Train, also celebrated a birthday on August 30th. His bio at the Harper Collins' site reports that "When Donald Crews is asked why he focuses on picture books, he frequently answers, 'Why not?'" I know about a gazillion little boys (and girls, too) who would sound out a hearty "woo-hoo!" that he has chosen to create picture books.

The final August 30 birthday belongs to Laurent de Brunhoff, keeper of the Babar flame. I am a bit embarrassed to confess that, although I sent Babar Christmas cards one year, I have never actually read the books. (Wait! That's not entirely true. I love Yoga for Elephants. In fact, I even conduct a yoga class for kids at the library that bears that name!) I really have to check out that book some day!

Whew! Next month, I will stay more on task!

30 August 2004

Who *hasn't* wanted to do this some days?

From Yahoo!: "'Elderly retired school teacher seeks family willing to adopt grandfather. Will pay.'Lonely Giorgio Angelozzi, 79, published his appeal in the classified pages of daily Corriere della Sera over the weekend, tugging on heart strings across family-loving Italy." Read the rest.

Of course, in my case, it's less about loneliness and more about wanting to be left alone more... (To be fair, I guess I'm lucky none of them have tried to sell me yet, either!)

An Unfortunate Film

There is a trailer for the forthcoming film, A Series of Unfortunate Events available on-line, based on the best-selling series by Lemony Snicket. I love the books and am pretty much looking forward to this, although I do worry that they will give it a happier ending than it should have... Check out the trailer and see what you think.

26 August 2004


RefGrunt is back! (At least for today...)

Still rallying after all of these years...

I love this quote from the Stamford [CT] Advocate: "Folk legend and peace advocate Pete Seeger joined his voice last night with those of a new generation of anti-war activists forged after Sept. 11, 2001.

'This is what life's all about,' Seeger, 85, said in a hallway of the First Congregational Church on the Green a few minutes before the September 11th Families For Peaceful Tomorrows rally. 'Retiring and watching the world go to hell is no way to stay optimistic. Every time I get a crowd singing with me, I get a surge of optimism.'"

Read the rest.

Sometimes, I could just cry...

Tonight, this little boy -- maybe 7 or 8? -- was in here with his older brother. While wandering, he found Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy -- Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets by Dav Pilkey.

He was *so* excited! He came to show me the book and we discussed Captain Underpants a little bit. He told me that he was gonna read the whole book -- all by himself! It was pretty fun to see how happy he was.

So, after a while, it was time for them to go. He showed his mother the book and told her he was gonna read it.


She told him he's "too dumb" to read a chapter book like that. She had chosen a few picture book and cassette kits for him and that's what he would practice on. He begged her, but she stood firm.

He stood here and just breathed, hot and loud and angry. She completely disregarded him, put the Captain Underpants book back on the cart, and made him leave.

I wanted to SCREAM! So what if he has trouble with his reading? It is my firm belief that many children *will* struggle to read a book they really want to read -- and *that* helps them improve! Giving him books he has no interest in (and is angry that he was forced to get) is not going to be helpful. I just pray that his love for books isn't dealt a death blow by the attitudes he's facing!

Swim, bunnies, swim!

Now playing, Jaws in 30 Seconds (and re-enacted by bunnies).

25 August 2004

Which Dylan song are you?

And speaking of The Man, I am one of my favorite tunes!

Which Bob Dylan song are you?

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Personality Test Results

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In Memoriam

"Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist who revolutionized the way the world looks at terminally ill patients with her book On Death and Dying and later as a pioneer for hospice care, has died. She was 78." Read the rest.

"Makes You Wanna Stop and Read a Book"

Bob Dylan "will shed light on his life and four-decade career as a singer-songwriter in a memoir to be published this autumn." Read the rest.

By the way, I saw Dylan perform with Willie Nelson in South Bend Sunday past. Amazing show. First of all, I was able to get super close to the stage. Secondly... Well, Dylan, man! I was struck, though, by the contrast between him amd Willie. Willie was all casual -- sleeveless t-shirt, jeans, long, loose hair, waving to the crowd, tossing out bandanas... Bob was customarily formal -- a suit, recorded introduction, played a helluva show, but no real interaction with the crowd. One gets the sense that he is just a more private, even shyer person that many musicians... If you have a chance to catch the one of the minor league ballpark shows these gents are playing, go!

I feel like a superhero!

As of this afternoon, I can register people to vote.


Bring 'em on!

Birthday Wishes

Two of my favorite people in the world of Children's Literature share a birthday today.

First up, happy birthday to Lane Smith who, until recently, illustrated the Time Warp Trio books. (By the way? What's up with that? Did he and Jon break up? Huh.) He also created several books on his own. I am partial to The Happy Hocky Family. "I have a balloon! Do you have a balloon? I have a balloon!"

Today is also the birthday of Olivia's daddy, Ian Falconer. I have to admit that, when Olivia appeared, I wasn't the biggest fan. In my mind, she was a pale porcine imitation of Eloise. My best friend heard such an opinion as blasphemy, however, so I gave the pig another chance.

And loved her.

Here's wishing both of these gentlemen a most productive year ahead!

19 August 2004

At last! A new novel!

S.E. Hinton has finally, after 16 years, written a new novel. (Alack! and Alas! for all her teen fans, this novel is aimed at adults.)

"A stark race gap - in kids' books"

From the Christian Science Monitor: "It's only been in the last decade or so that African-American children and teenagers have been able to see their experiences carefully rendered in books by African-American authors.

Before the explosion of multicultural children's literature in the early '90s, books by black authors with black protagonists were largely missing from the canon - absent from bookstores and school reading curricula."

Read the rest.

18 August 2004

Birthday memories

Today would have been the birthday of the magical and spendiferous Paula Danziger, who left us far too soon. I am so happy that she will live on forever throughout her books...

Still relevant after 150 years

Walden was published 150 years ago this week.

17 August 2004

New Poet Laureate

Ted Kooser has been appointed the new Poet Laureate of the US.

I particularly like "Flying at Night:"

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

Now, if only having lots of good poet laureates lately would help our nation to love poetry again... (To be fair, though, Billy Collins did his damnedest.)

(I realize that LOC will not consult me, but don'tcha think Nikki Giovanni would be a good next choice?)

16 August 2004

Fare thee well, Ranger. Hello, Joe Bloggs.

I always enjoyed The Lost Blogs' Home but, like all good things, it has come to an end. Happily, its creator will still be on-line. Woo-hoo!

The Boy Who Lived

At a reading in Scotland yesterday, J.K. Rowling told a group of young Harry potter fans: "He will survive to book seven, mainly because I don't want to be strangled by you lot, but I don't want to say whether he grows any older than that." The whole story is here.

"Mooses come walking over the hill..."

Saturday, Arlo Guthrie's charming children's book, Mooses Come Walking, was featured on Weekend Edition. I've heard Arlo recite this in concert and am delighted by both the somewhat surreal story and the artwork. You can hear the broadcast here. In my opinion, a definite step above most of the other children's books written by celebrities. (But, of course, since Arlo is a storyteller, that may have something to do with it!)

Politically conscious authors

Well-known authors and illustrators of books for children are being sought to add their names to a new ad for John Kerry under the umbrella name of Authors and Illustrators for Children.

Nobel Prize Winning Author dies

Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish émigré writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980 died Saturday at his home in Krakow. He was 93.

excerpt from "A Poem for the End of the Century"

When everything was fine
And the notion of sin had vanished
And the earth was ready
In universal peace
To consume and rejoice
Without creeds and utopias,

I, for unknown reasons,
Surrounded by the books
Of prophets and theologians,
Of philosophers, poets,
Searched for an answer,
Scowling, grimacing,
Waking up at night, muttering at dawn.

What oppressed me so much
Was a bit shameful.
Talking of it aloud
Would show neither tact nor prudence.
It might even seem an outrage
Against the health of mankind...

...Totally enigmatic.
Impossibly intricate.
Better to stop speech here.
This language is not for people.
Blessed be jubilation.
Vintages and harvests.
Even if not everyone
Is granted serenity.

12 August 2004

sad news

Bill Martin, Jr. died yesterday at the age of 88.

Mr. Martin, of course, was the author of some of the best-loved picture books to come out of the past 50 years. Chicka Chicka ABC was the first book I bought my nephew when I met him (at 7 weeks of age) and we read it so often that I can still recite the book in its entirety quite easily. Another of Jonathon's favorites (and a favorite of children all over the planet, I'm sure) is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? One of my absolute favorite picture books is The Happy Hippopotami: "Happy Hippopotami / On the sunny beach do lie / Like a row of granite boulders / Except, of course, for sunburned shoulders."

Bill Martin, Jr. was one of the brightest stars in the firmament of children's literature. We are all richer for having had him among us and his light will doubtless shine in the smiles of children (and their adults) for generations to come.

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to Walter Dean Myers, one of the best authors around! I was lucky enough to meet him briefly a few years ago and was thrilled to find that he is also a charming and captivating speaker. His books always make me stop and think; I *still* can't *quite* figure out if I know, in my heart, how Monster ends.

11 August 2004

Which cartoon character are you?

Apparently, I'm a French skunk:

You are Pepe le Pew (without the smell).

You are a lover. Romance, flowers, and wine are all you need to enjoy yourself. You are serious about all commitments. A family person. You call your Mom every Sunday, and never forget a Birthday. Don't let your passion for romance get confused with the real thing.

Hmm... Kinda true, which is scary. Then again, Pepe always entertained me (not that that's too tough), so at least that's cool.

Find out who you are. Thanks to lalcorn for the link.

Happy Birthday, Don Freeman!

"Corduroy is a bear who once lived in the toy department of a big store. Day after day he waited with all the other animals and dolls for somebody to come along and take him home..." (from Corduroy by Don Freeman)

When I was in junior high, my English teacher, Mr. Wisowaty, read this book to our class, believing (as I do) that you are never too old for picture books. I remember being captivated.

Later, when I was in high school and my cousin Paul was a baby, I must have read this book about a thousand times. I think it is the only children's book I know straight through by heart.

Today would have been the 96th birthday of Don Freeman, the creator of this magical book. He also played jazz trumpet. I seem to remember reading that he wasn't sure which path to pursue, jazz or art, until he left his trumpet on the subway and the decision was made. I don;t know if that story is true, but I am grateful he chose to create so many beautiful picture books all the same.

10 August 2004

Lawsuit may erupt over 'The Village'

from CNNMoney: "Simon & Schuster Inc. is reviewing its legal options against The Walt Disney Co. and writer-director M. Night Shyamalan over what the author of a children's book says are similarities between its plot and the film 'The Village,' said a spokeswoman for the publisher." Read the rest.

09 August 2004

Mad Charity Rackham

This is, apparently, my Pirate name: "Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!"

Who are you?

I love you, too, Mr. Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut loves librarians: "So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries."

Grab your towel

Don't panic. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is coming to theaters soon, according to the Toronto Star, which guided me to the official film site.


Went to see M. Night Shyamalan's The Village last night. The film was okay, except...

It seems to be largely lifted from Margaret Peterson Haddix's 1995 award-winning juvie novel, Running Out of Time! We watched through all the credits, waiting to see if Ms. Haddix would be credited somewhere, but to no avail. M. Night Shyamalan claims to have written the story.

Others have noticed the similarities, too, though, including the Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Times. From the Times: "The author, Margaret Peterson Haddix, said she saw 'The Village' on Tuesday after receiving several telephone calls and e-mail messages from friends and from fans noting the parallels between the film and her book, 'Running Out of Time,' published in 1995 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. 'The spoiler ending is the thing that is the biggest similarity,' Ms. Haddix said."

Of course, "Dennis Rice, senior vice president for publicity at Buena Vista Pictures, a unit of the Walt Disney Company, said yesterday, 'Whatever claims are being made of similarities between the book and the movie have no merit.'"

I'll be interested to see where this goes, or if, indeed, it goes anywhere. I hope Ms. Haddix chooses to fight this battle.

06 August 2004

If you ever get the chance...

... to see Mark Dvorak in concert, do so. We just (about an hour ago) had him at our library and, as ever, he enthralled young and old alike with his masterful renditions of traditional folk songs by Pete, Woody, Leadbelly, and others. Best of all, everyone sang along joyfully.

Happy Birthday, Barbara Cooney!

Today would have been the 87th birthday of the beautiful and gracious award-winning children's book author and illustrator, Barbara Cooney.


True Chicagoan

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So, a study was done of the most literate cities in the US and Chicago didn't make the top ten. In fact, overall, we rank a shameful number 58. In libraries, Chicago ranked even lower.

I have to confess that I am shocked. While I didn't neccessarily expect us to make the top ten, I didn't think we'd rank so low! What about the Chicago Public Library? One book, one Chicago? Printer's Row? Oprah's book club? What about Daley's commitment to the public libraries? He has said, "By investing in libraries, we invest in the most important mission we have today--the education of our children."

I am shocked and saddened and, honestly, I feel personally offended by the results of this study. Now, what part will I play in turning things around? Something for me to think about.

02 August 2004

excuses, excuses

The last few weeks have been some kind of hectic!

Summer reading club to do, library concerts to organize, grants to finish... Actually, this last one was the main portion on my plate, as I completed a pretty major grant (with some help, of course) last week. I don't want to say too much until I have heard one way or another, but it was a lot of work. Lots of extra hours spent at work (and working at home) contributed to the lack o' bloggy goodness here.

Prob'ly won't get much better in the next week or so, neither. Tomorrow, I leave for the second part of Synergy, come home late Thursday, Friday night we have the last of our summer concerts, and Saturday night, I have volunteered to work overnight (7p to 7a) at a teen lock-in at a neighboring library.

On the plus side, I actually took the time to go out last Thursday. (What a sad commentary on my lack o' social life as of late that one night out is such a boon!) My friend, Frank, and his cool girlfriend, had a chance to dj at Club Foot, so my cousin and I headed there. I'm not usually big on the party, but I'm glad we went. When we got there, Beth tried to convince me that the bouncer was flirting with me but -- even though I can be slightly, um... stoopid about boys -- she was just being kind. (Or not. He wasn't all that. Bitch.)

While I'm pretty convinced I was, by far, the biggest geek there, it was a good time. We just hung out, had a few beers, chatted with some pals. (Pals who kindly refrained from mocking me when I realized that I was ranting on Ray Bradbury.)

After Club Foot closed, a friend joined us as we attempted to go fountaining in Millennium Park.

Apparently, Millennium Park closes at 11pm. We didn't know, cranky security guard! I swear! We were very polite to her, but she called back-up anyway, even though we watched quietly from the sidewalk of Michigan Ave...

Watching the fountain, though, however lovely, made me need to find a restroom (and why does Chicago not have public restrooms available in the middle of the night?), so we headed to Greektown. Fairly tastylicious (and clean bathrooms, natch). We took our friend back to his car, and then back to Beth's apartment to get mine own car.

On the way home, though, I was totally freaked out. I kept hearing a loud Thump! coming from my trunk area. Eek! I had accidentally left the back door unlocked, so I was trying not to have seriously ridiculous thoughts of bad things in my trunk. When I got home, I was too jumpy to check, so I just left it and went in.

The next morning, I made The Boy look with me. Nothing. Thank the gods. I swear that I heard the noise, though, the whole way home. Maybe it was a friendly beastie guiding me home...

ANYway, ended up getting home around 5am, straight to bed, back at work by 11am the next day, worked 'til 9p, then grocery shopping. I think I am too old.


I'll be away for a few days, but I'll try to get some sleep and get back to more regular blogging upon mine return. (Good stuff, not this boring personal life crap.)