Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Next on the Silver Screen?

So apparently Hollywood has, from time to time, made a picture book into a movie. Somehow.

Entertainment Weekly has some suggestions for the next few adaptations, including how to expand a ten-sentence picture book into a 90-minute movie. For instance:
Green Eggs and Ham: The car of a notoriously irascible food critic (Bradley Cooper) breaks down in a small rural burg while he’s on his way to an awards ceremony in his honor. He soon finds that the only place in town to eat is the local diner, where a quirky fun-loving waitress Samantha Iams (Anna Faris) serves up her famous green eggs and ham along with a side of loveable antics. While he initially declines to try anything but coffee and toast, she refuses to take no for an answer and they both soon realize that the quickest way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach.
Sample Dialogue: “I realized something, Sam. Eggs are a lot like people. They’re fragile and if you’re not careful with them, they can break so easily. I think that’s why I acted like I did. I was afraid of breaking. But not anymore”
Hee. I also enjoy the fact that most of the comments on this tongue-in-cheek article are very serious.

Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom for the link.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Belated Birthday Wishes

If you're an illustration fangirl or fanboy, I urge you to check out Three Kisses for Tomie. Basically, the story is that a number of children's book illustrators got together and drew tributes in honor of Tomie dePaola's 75th birthday last month.

What I find fascinating (other than the warm fuzzies of artists honoring a master) is how some artists blended distinctively dePaolaian art into their own, like Babymouse's encounter with Strega Nona's tortine oven or Matt Phelan's depiction of Big Anthony wrapped in pasta. Too cool.

Oh, yeah, and happy birthday, Tomie!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Book Review: Monster Mess by Margery Cuyler

Book: Monster Mess
Author: Margery Cuyler
Illustrator: S.D. Schindler
Published: 2008
Source: Local library

Yawn--it's bedtime for this monster. But when he gets to the room, it's such a mess that the monster just has to clean it all up before he can possibly sleep. As a little boy snores in the bed, the monster bustles around, picking up blocks, screws, and stinky shoes. At last . . . it's time to sleep. But what will happen when the little boy finds his unexpected guest?

What a fun book! The absurd delight of a scary monster daintily straightening a messy bedroom will provoke a smile. Even as he's obsessively cleaning up, kids will recognize the way he stuffs clothes higgledy-piggledy in drawers and squishes various items into a bulging closet. The structure of each sentence adds a rhythmic quality to a read-aloud, and the vocabulary is simple enough for beginning readers who aren't afraid of a little onomatopoeia.

I loved the monster, who seemed to be a crazy combination of catfish, sea anemone, centipede, and gecko. Even though he looks pretty weird, he is also very friendly-looking for a monster. Schindler gets a lot of intense, vivid touches of color in that I generally don't expect from watercolors, yet there are lovely and subtle shadings and blendings, especially on the monster, that you really don't get with anything else. Nicely done.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

KidLitCon: Overview Part Two

As promised, here's the second half of my conference day.

Greg Pincus of the Happy Accident kept us wide awake, even after lunch, with his presentation on Social Media for Fun (and Profit?) His advice? Go play in traffic--meaning put yourself out there in the online stream. Things will come to you much easier if you go where they are, and even pursue them. Something else he brought up that I tend to forget is that all forms of social media are simply tools. So MySpace is on its last legs, Facebook is (allegedly) fading, and Twitter may soon hit the downslope. There will be something else to take its place. What's important are the connections you make through it, and how those connections help your goals or enrich your life. One example is the most excellent Mitali Perkins' recent idea of Twitter book parties, where she tweets the title, author, audience, and publisher of a novel published that day and encourages everyone to retweet. This has become such a success that non-kidlit authors are running with the idea. Finally, remember to comment, say thank you, and generally play nice online. I'm not always the best at remembering the "social" part of social media, so I was glad to get this refresher.

After that, we had a panel discussion on Authors, Publishers, Reviewers (and ARCs). This starred Sheila Ruth of Wands and Worlds, Liz B of A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, author Paula Chase, and Laura Lutz of Pinot and Prose, who also works for HarperCollins as their School and Library Marketing Director. They discussed how the three groups see each other, and the way that the lines have become blurred. Also touched upon was the Liar controversy, also known as "that one time all the bloggers started talking about a cover at once and got the publisher to change it," as an example of the new power that bloggers are gaining and the need for responsibility to go along with it. Laura also talked about things from the publishing end, and pointed out that often bloggers are names in a (sometimes outsourced) marketing database with little room for details, which explains how a kidlit blogger can randomly receive an adult cookbook.

Our last (formal) session of the day was Coming Together, Reaching Out, with Jen Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page, Gina Montefusco from PBS Booklights Terry Doherty from The Reading Tub, and Ernestine Wells Benedict of Reading is Fundamental. We're all in this gig because we want to connect kids and teens with the best books possible. They talked about what happens beyond the blog, or how to leash the passion and knowledge of the kidlitosphere for others. The PBS Booklights blog is an example of this--written by experts for parents, its focus isn't on the hottest new picture books but on how to read with and to your kids to spark their love of reading. From the audience, Laurel Snyder had the idea to get various literacy organizations together and host a read-in day across the country. The response? "Absolutely, let's do it!" Awesome.

And that was it for the day! We had a dinner in the evening, where I shared a table with Karen and Bill of Literate Lives, Lara and Julie from the new company Grow Up With Books, Mary Lee of a Year of Reading (and her husband) and two more people who I remember talking to but can't quite recall their name. Oh dear. If this is you, apologies and please leave your name in the comments!

I have one (1) measly picture from the day, which was when BookNut came over with her camera. Here you can see our elegance and decorum.

Again, great time and thanks to everyone who made it so, especially MotherReader! I shared a hotel room with the woman and I can tell you, she worked her tail off on this one, even the evening before and the day of. I can only imagine the months of work that already went into it.

If you didn't make it this year, there's always next year. No firm place yet, but I heard Minneapolis being thrown around. (Not the actual city; that would be loud. And I imagine distressing to Minneapolites.) I can tell you, being one of only four people who've made it to all three conferences thus far, it's worth it.

Check out the Twitter transcript over at The Happy Accident, and look for more roundup posts, collected in the comments of this MotherReader post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

KidLitCon: Overview Part One

What a great weekend this was! I love meeting the people whose blogs and books I've been reading. I hung out and talked books, blogging, general geekery, and all manner of other things.

As to the conference itself, here's what we did.

The Blog Within: This was a solo presentation by MotherReader, about the 5 W's and one H of blogging. It wasn't so much a presentation as a rather Zen reflection on why we blog, who we blog for, etc. She also recommends doing this at specific times during the year to return yourself to your original intentions for your blog, and re-energize yourself.

Building a Better Blog: MotherReader and GalleySmith did this one as a team. They talked about such nitty-gritty, nuts & bolts things as the design of your blog to make it a better experience for your readers and how to comport yourself online knowing that the Internet is forever. While they gave a lot of great tips, it all boiled down to three things to keep in mind: purpose, passion, and professionalism.

At this point, we split into concurrent sessions. I went to It's All About the Book, presented by BookNut, BiblioFile, The Miss Rumphius Effect, and A Year of Reading. We talked about writing reviews, content vs. filler, and ways to participate in the larger blogging community. By the way, what do you guys think about comments? I don't often get the chance to leave comments, but there's a difference between "Cool post, yeah" and "Interesting, here's my thoughts." Greg Pincus of The Happy Accident thinks blogs should have a "Like This" button like Facebook, and I agree. It's a way to participate a little if you don't have time for more. Google Reader did recently add a "Like" option, but it only works for readers, and the blogger doesn't get notified. Hmm. Something to think about.

Then it was back to the big ballroom for Meet the Author. My inner fangirl really comes out to play at these things. I got to talk to Varian Johnson (who gave me one of the two ARCs he'd brought with him, largely because I begged shamelessly), Elizabeth Scott, Joan Holub, Jacqueline Jules, Paula Chase, Pam Bachorz, and too many other authors to count. Between this session and the ARC table in the back, I ended up mailing boxes to myself. It was either that or lug it all in my carryon luggage, and then the plane would never get off the ground.

Then it was time for the last-minute, special surprise treat of the conference: FTC Regulations for the Blogger. Okay, that's not the formal name but it was so last-minute that it didn't even have a formal name. Pam got ahold of the FTC last week and managed to get a representative to come out to us. Mary Engle, Associate Director of Advertising Practices, agreed to visit and hear our concerns, and give the answers that she could. This was probably the most useful session in a whole valuable day. There are excellent, thoughtful recaps from Galleysmith, Jennifer R. Hubbard at WriterJenn, A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, and any number of others. Here are the main points I got out of it:
  • There's a difference between an impartial reviewer and someone who's part of a specific marketing campaign. We're the former; they're looking at the latter.
  • The FTC is targeting corporations who are advertising unethically, not individuals who are the medium by which the corporations are advertising. They have no ability, or desire, to patrol the entire blogosphere and bring the hammer down on individual bloggers.
  • That scary $11k figure that was getting thrown around is a miscommunication. That fine is for the hard-and-fast rules, and the recent blogger regulations are more guidelines. Like the pirate code.
  • It's a smart idea to disclose review copies, but the FTC isn't requiring it. (That being said, the kidlitosphere has pretty well agreed that disclosing ties like free reviewer copies, Amazon Affiliate/Vine membership, etc, is the professional and ethical thing to do.)
  • However, if you do disclose, especially things like Amazon Affiliate membership, it needs to be upfront and prominent. In Engle's words, readers should not have to search for it. The best way is probably a short line right in the post. For instance, LizB at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy has taken to noting her Amazon Affiliate membership at the end of every post.
  • This is all a work in progress. Engle admitted that they could have set more definitions to clarify the difference between reviewers and marketing programs. The FTC has set up an email address,, for concerns. They can't answer individual questions, but it sounded like they were going to use the emails they get to write a FAQ for bloggers.
Awesome work by MotherReader getting that set up, and thanks to Mary Engle and the FTC for taking the time for us.

After that, it was lunchtime. Part Two of the day is coming your way tomorrow! By the way, if you want some more dimension than my brief comments provided, check out other roundups around the blogosphere (here are a few, in the comments of MotherReader's post) or check out the Twitter transcript that Greg Pincus posted at the Happy Accident on the evening after the conference.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's Not Always Easy

Over at Booklights, Susan talks about some of the struggles involved in reading aloud to her son.
When he was younger, he wouldn't hold still for anything, let alone a book. He wiggled. He squirmed. He was totally uninterested. It was tough on a parent like me who had been waiting for years until she had kids of her own to read to. It was hard not to feel like I was doing something wrong.

All kids develop differently, even when it comes to reading aloud.
She goes on to give a few pointers and reassurances. Don't miss the comments, where some other parents share their own travails and advice.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reading Roundup September 2009

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 12
Early Readers: 2

Writing: Anatole by Eve Titus
Illustration: Baby Shoes by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
Overall: Opposnakes by Salina Yoon

Because I Want To Awards
Surefire Bedtime Book: Goodnight Me by Andrew Daddo
For When You Really Need a Sharing Book: Bears on Chairs by Shirley Paranteau
Best Foreshadowed Twist: Annie Was Warned by Jarrett Krosoczka