Lego!

sneetches

 Photo by Hilary Leung

I must admit, my love of picture books probably exhausts my co-workers.  I can wax rhapsodic about the latest Scaredy Squirrel book or tell you at length why I LOVE Oliver Jeffers’ newest release until your eyes glass over from boredom. There’s just something about the language of picture books, the illustrations, and oh…the stories! I know I’m not alone on this idea.

I came across a wonderful blog (via Instagram) by Hilary Leung, a man who has turned his love of all things picture book related (and especially Canadian picture books), into fan art!  He uses Legos, simple children’s building blocks, to re-create characters or book covers!  They’re amazing and so creative. Why hasn’t anyone thought to do this before?  Drop by his page and look at all his work…you’ll love it!

Just the facts

Over at Mental Floss, a recent post celebrated the world of children’s books with 19 Fun Facts! We often don’t think about (or know) the stories behind the stories, so this was an eye opener on many fronts.

For example, did you know that Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar was almost called A Week with Willi Worm ? Would it have been as popular?  Maybe, but I guess we’ll never know. Stop by the link above to see more of the wacky and interesting facts you never knew about children’s books. And thanks to the people at Mental Floss for the entertaining article!

Would you read it anyway?

Just this past week, I’ve had to do this twice….mention to an adult, who has picked up a book by one of their favourite authors, that this new book is YA or even worse, for middle grade readers.  Why would they be so confused?  It seems that more often now, well established adult authors are trying their hand at writing for teens or kids.  Is it a way to make more money? Or is it just something they’ve always wanted to do? You be the judge.

Now, it’s not that we don’t want our patrons to read something they might like, it’s just that we feel the need to warn them that the subject matter might be a little below their interest level, or even slightly off the wall from what they’re used to reading. Sometimes, a patron will take it and say they want to try it anyway, but more often, they’ll put it down and say they didn’t realize.  They aren’t picking these up off the shelf, usually.  Either the book has been on a cart, or they’ve put it on hold over the internet. Either way, I always hope they’re not too disappointed.

James Patterson, who was just named the top selling author on this year’s Forbes list (he made $84 million last year), has not only released a series of books for Young Adults, but also one for the younger crowd. His Witch & Wizard series seems to follow the whole Harry Potter fling  (I’m sure he didn’t write to trend…..) but is directed at young adults. I think his middle grade book is more obvious.

Kathy Reichs also recently joined the ranks of YA authors with her book, Virals, which could also cross-over into adult reading quite easily (it involves a group of teens solving a crime). The great thing about this new series (the next book is about to be released) is that it comes with a fun, interactive website.

The Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer books by John Grisham are some of the latest to hit the market. Yes, the main character is a kid and he’s a lawyer…..but most teen and juvenile books play with the fantastical and make it work. (You’d probably never believe an adult book that had the main character going back to 1st grade as a student, but a kid lawyer?  It works.) The interesting thing about Grisham’s books for kids is that they don’t even appear on his official website, almost like they don’t exist at all. Is this because he doesn’t want his loyal adult readers to get confused?  I’m not so sure. But Theodore Boone has his very own interactive website that looks like lots of fun.

Of course, there are many more authors I could use as an example, but these are some of the more famous few. What’s your feeling as an adult reader…would you try any of these, just because they’re written by your favourite author?

John Gotti Jr. writes a children’s book!

Why is it that people who have some sort of notoriety, be it good or bad, can get a book published and regular people have such a hard time doing so?  Early this year, Gambino crime family member John Gotti Jr. announced that he has written a children’s book (of all things!), and is trying to get it published.  The book, entitled Children of Shaolin Forest was supposedly written while Gotti was serving a sentence in prison and the illustrations were done by his cell mate!  Convenient, yes, but should people actually buy this book if it is ever published?  I’m sure that some publisher somewhere will want to get the book out there and there certainly will be sales of some sort, but maybe not enough to be viable to keep Gotti going as a writer. Will that matter?  Probably not.  Gotti says he’s continuing to write.

You can see an interview on the CBS show 60 Minutes with John Gotti discussing his newfound career right here.

There was an old lady

One of my favourite books growing up had to be There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. I’ve seen it done in a variety of forms since, and it never fails to interest kids when I read it in storytime, but a new version put out by Mutt Ink with illustrations by Jeremy Holmes is sure to entice readers back to the tale, even if they’ve long since gone past the reading level.  The latest version is a flip book of sorts, with the old lady’s head remaining throughout and the contents of her stomach as she swallows various objects visible as you flip through the book.

oldladybook

You can see more of the book here, as well as other fascinating books in the collection.

Write something funny

chesters-back

If you are thinking about writing a children’s picture book,  my advice would be to write something funny.  Why?  The awards are the proof.

We have been busy with the Forest of Reading program and after talking with a lot of children about the books that they thought were the best (and eventually voted for), the resounding idea is that they want to read something funny.  I can’t tell you how many great stories that I read each week, either as I catalog or for my storytime, and nine times out of ten, the books that have the kids giggling are the ones that they want to take home and read again.

chester

Canadian writer Melanie Watt (and a long-time favourite of mine), just won the Blue Spruce prize in the Forest of Reading program 2009 for her book called Chester, about a crazy cat who takes over the writing of the book by doodling his own artwork and text over the original using a red marker.  And today, it was announced that Watt also recently won the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award 2009 for her sequal to Chester called Chester’s Back!  She also previously won for her funny book  Scaredy Squirrel.

scaredyWhat makes funny books so important to children and why should you write something funny if you are an author?  Of course, the monetary rewards are nice, but this generation of children is used to dynamic colours, instant gratification and fun.  Gone are the days of the sweetly artistic bunnies and stories with a theme or moral (some of the funniest books DO have great morals.  They are just hidden, somewhat.).   These days, our kids need to be amused and the funny picture books are where they start learning that.

Just an observation on a Friday morning.

Book shopping

Later this week, we’re going book shopping!  Yes, its that time of year again to purchase new books at a special sale put on by Scholastic. We are lucky enough to be able to go to these sales a few times each year and then in between, we purchase books from our favourite booksellers that travel around to local libraries, and we visit local bookstores for great deals as well.  But these special shopping trips are usually lots of fun.  Imagine a grocery cart stacked high with books.  I swear, it is like Christmas, going up and down the aisles and throwing book after book into my cart.   But it all benefits the library in the big scheme of things.

We are lucky enough at the Carleton Place Public Library to be able to buy lots of new books each year for our readers.  Not only do we update copies of books that might have been lost or damaged, but we can select new authors, new titles and new genres to keep things fresh.  So do we just buy randomly or is there a method to our madness?  Both, actually.

kids-reading

Janet and I talk about this frequently.  We both look through book catalogs that arrive in the library to learn about new selections being offered by our favourite suppliers, but we both also read book blogs to come up with great ideas.  Sometimes, we’ll just spot a new author, or sometimes, the book blog will feature an author we already have who many have a new title coming out.  It’s nice to be on top of things and ahead of the game.

It is also useful for us to be able to see the books when we purchase them.  No matter how much a book is recommended, you can be greatly disappointed when something arrives and the font is strange or the pictures are not what you’d like young children to look at.  Holding the book and being able to flip through it make choosing books for adults and children much easier.

Thinking about our book buy this week, I found a great site that detailed the Top 100 books for children as recommended by readers, which is a fabulous way to come across books.  Thanks to the SurRural Librarian for the idea and follow up on this list, done by Elizabeth Bird who is a children’s librarian in New York City. The entire list is here and if you visit the books listed separately, you’ll see that she did an amazing job of finding out about each book, author and website.  This is truly fascinating, even if you aren’t a big fan of children’s picture books.

And while you’re there, check out a few of the great book review blogs for chidlren’s books that the SurRural librarian recommends.  They are now going on my list so that I’ll be on top of the books I want to buy in the fall!