Author Jacqueline West is writing a fun, surprising series in The Books of Elsewhere. I’m ready for the debut of book three.
Until then, I want to wear Olive’s glasses!
Jacqueline, what’s right right now about children’s literature?
Sherman Alexie recently said ‘right now YA is the Garden of Eden in literature,’ and I completely agree. There is so much fresh, exciting, readable, lovable, beautiful stuff coming out in the YA and MG fields right now—and many studies show that kids’ consumption of books is on the rise, which is kind of a chicken-and-egg situation, I suppose. I just hope that authors and publishers will be able to keep on raising these chickens (or laying these eggs) for a long time to come.
What can be done to make that “good” better?
We need to support local, independent bookstores. For every publishing juggernaut that rolls into the major book chains and big box stores, there are a thousand other books—many of them dealing with important social issues, or using experimental techniques, or published by small presses—that have just as much to offer to readers but lack the same commercial force. Without independent shops, many of these books will have a harder time finding their way to readers. While the big chains and department stores need to follow literary trends, independent booksellers can help to set them. To torture Alexie’s metaphor a little: If kids’ lit is the Garden of Eden, the online booksellers and the big chains can work wonders with the harvest, but the independent stores are tending the seeds.
CLN member Jacqueline West lives in Red Wing, Minnesota, surrounded by large piles of books and small piles of dog hair. Her first novel for young readers, The Books of Elsewhere, Volume One: The Shadows (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2010) has been translated into ten languages, won the Cybils award for fantasy/science fiction, was a Minnesota Book Award finalist, and made the master lists for the Texas Bluebonnet Award, the Illinois Bluestem Award, and the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Award. The Books of Elsewhere, Volume Two: Spellbound followed in 2011, and Volume Three: The Second Spy will be released on July 5, 2012. Visit her at www.jacquelinewest.com, and learn more about the books at www.thebooksofelsewhere.com.
Older fans have told me this often. I’ve seen the game footage. What they meant is that I deserve the FEELING of seeing Ted Williams play.
Impossible? Not with There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived by Matt Tavares. (This book is a Chapter & Verse Book Club selection for June 21st.)
The new book doesn’t need such game footage, not even a photo. The book has a gifted author-illustrator on its team.
There is a lot that’s right about children’s literature right now. I make picture books, so the first thing that comes to mind is the art. Decades ago, illustrators were limited by the technology of the time, but with modern printing technology, illustrators today can work in any style, at any size. There is some amazing artwork in today’s children’s books, and it runs the gamut from Kadir Nelson’s monumental oil paintings in Heart and Soul to Chris Raschka’s expressive scribbles in The Hello, Goodbye Window, to Barbara McClintock’s beautiful ink and watercolor illustrations that look like they could have been made in the 19th century. Add to that the element of digital art, and it really is an exciting time to be illustrating picture books.
What can be done to make that “good” better?
With so much changing in the publishing industry, and everyone worrying about what’s going to happen as ebooks and ereaders become more and more popular, the main thing I try to remember is that making a great book is the most important thing. We’re always going to need great stories and great pictures. So I think the best way to make “good” better is for everyone to take a deep breath and focus on making excellent books for children, and not waste too much time worrying about where all this new technology is taking us. Whether a kid is reading a printed and bound book, or reading it on a nook, or a kindle, or whatever the next thing is, the technology is not the most important thing—it’s always going to be about the story, the characters, and the illustrations.
Matt wrote and illustrated his first picture book, Sebastian’s Ball, as his senior thesis at Bates College. Three years later, after much revision, Sebastian’s Ball became Zachary’s Ball, his first published picture book. Zachary’s Ball went on to win an Oppenheim Gold Seal Award, a Massachusetts Book Award Honor, and was named one of Yankee Magazine’s 40 Classic New England Children’s Books.
Since then, Matt has published eleven more books: he is the author-illustrator of There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived, Henry Aaron’s Dream, Mudball and Oliver’s Game, and the illustrator of Over the River and Through the Wood by L. Maria Child, Jack’s Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy, written by Doreen Rappaport, The Gingerbread Pirates, written by Kristin Kladstrup, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, attributed to Anonymous, Jack and the Beanstalk, written by E. Nesbit, Iron Hans: A Grimms’ Fairy Tale, retold by Stephen Mitchell, and Lady Liberty: A Biography, written by Doreen Rappaport.
Matt’s books have won several awards, including three Parents’ Choice Gold Awards, a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor, four Oppenheim Gold Seal Awards, an International Reading Association Children’s Book Award, and an Orbis Pictus Award for Oustanding Nonfiction for Children. His books have also garnered starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly, The Horn Book Magazine, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews. His artwork has been exhibited at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators, the Brandywine River Museum, and the Mazza Museum of Picture Book Art.
Learn more at www.matttavares.com