DyAnne, what’s good right now in children’s literature?
That’s a hard question. Did everybody get that question? Let me distract you with a story: When I first began illustrating children’s books, Maurice Sendak rocked my world. He sparked the pencil and ink line of my drawings, the movement on my page, the color and characters and neighborhood influence that inspired me to create my own world of literature and picture book art. The same magic of the Brooklyn sidewalks that gave us Really Rosie and the overbearing relatives that lovingly haunted us in Where the Wild Things Are fed me and satisfied me like “chicken soup with rice.” I slurped down books by Mercer Mayer, Arnold Lobel, Tomie dePaolo, Vera Williams and Patricia Polacco. These are the great illustrators and authors (for me, anyway) that paved the way with gritty, concrete, lively, and compelling picture books.
I’m a city girl with a fast-paced life of travel and work and (did I mention that I toured for the past 12 years as the rhythm guitar player for the pop-rock band Smash Palace?) when it comes to a children’s book, I want to sit down and linger on each word that is written. I want to imagine the author typing the sentence as I read it. I want to be transformed into the life of the main character and recognize the pictures as something brand new, yet familiar. I want to eat the whole book, one bite at a time and feel satisfied when I am done. I don’t want to be distracted by too much color or too many words or too much glitter or so many sparkles that I feel I am being suckered into liking something just because everyone else seems to like it. What’s good right now in children’s books? Let’s just say, ‘when I cracked open this year’s Caldecott winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip C. Stead and Erin Stead, I ate it, burped, and happily went “straight to bed—cakefree and dried.”
What can make that “good” better?
Sorry, I’m busy writing!
Learn more at www.Dyannedisalvo.com.
Starred reviews, from Kirkus Reviews, Booklist and School Library Journal followed her historical fiction debut, A Name Like Love (FSG, 2011).
Whether she’s writing about 1957 or the constellations (an October hint from her blog), Hilmo has the talent to make readers believe.
Likewise, she believes in the future of children’s literature!
Tess, what’s good about children’s literature?
The people. Nowhere else in the world can you find the support and enthusiasm that exists within the world of children’s literature. Teachers, librarians, authors, and publishers are all focused on the same goal: reaching children who long for a connection to story.
Early on in my writing endeavors, a fellow author said, “It is not a race, it is a marathon, and there is room for all of us at the finish line.” That is a perfect summation of the atmosphere I have found in this industry. Our work is creating and sharing stories that bring joy to children. Being able to do that alongside so many like-minded professionals is a wondrous thing.
What could make that “good” better?
This is tricky for me because I am a newbie to the children’s literature scene. My grandma used to always say, “When you go into somebody else’s house, keep your hands from touching and your tongue from wagging.” Maybe someday I will feel as if this is my house, and have a few opinions, but for now I just feel overwhelmingly grateful to be invited.
But, if I am to say anything, it would be that I think we are generally too nice. We need to stand up at the local school board meeting, write thoughtful correspondence to our state leaders, and be a stronger voice. We need to encourage our friends to support independent bookstores and advocate for more reasonable library budgets. The children can’t be the voice and the books haven’t the ability but we can…and should.
What is it like to be part of the Hitler Youth? How does someone in the Ku Klux Klan feel?
Seeing her walk in those shoes explains how she could create a poetic picture book tale of Mrs. Noah in Naamah and the Ark at Night (Candlewick, 2011).
Her perspectives on children’s literature prove just as insightful:
Susan, what’s good right now about children’s literature?
During tough times and tight markets, I hold onto something a very wise editor once told me: there’s always room for a good story, and then I try my best to write a good one. When I lament electronic and digital formats, I remind myself of the impact these formats have on my research and the possibilities they offer.
From your perspective, what can be done to make that “good” better?
Never before has a nonfiction writer with little or no institutional affiliation had access to so many archival materials and databases and experts! This has raised the bar for nonfiction, forcing “good” nonfiction to become “excellent,” and at the same time, opened the playing field.
Despite the title, there’s nothing “mock” about Jonathan Hunt.
You’ll find this passionate school librarian writing weekly at “Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog.”
If anyone could see the future for books winning awards, it’s the man from Modesto.
While every author would dream of a Newbery, I think a word of praise in a Hunt review is an honor in itself.
Jonathan, what’s right right now about children’s literature?
The fantasy renaissance led by Harry Potter, The Golden Compass, and The Lord of the Rings movie franchise showed us that children crave this genre, and many of them are more than capable of the demands made on the reader.
From your perspective, what could be done to make that “good” even better?
Not every child will read 300-400 pages, and we need more good books in every genre that fall in the 100-200 page range, especially for the readers in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.
Jonathan Hunt, a school librarian in Modesto City Schools, has served on numerous award committees and currently blogs at “Heavy Medal” for School Library Journal. Find his reviews at http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/heavymedal/.