Author-illustrator Lindsay M. Ward has created two memorable picture books in the last two years, tales proving that friendship can be an adventure. I’m so glad I found Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon, as well as her newest, When Blue Met Egg.
Friendship is fun. So are Lindsay’s books!
Lindsay, what’s right right now about children’s books?
I love that authors and illustrators are really pushing the envelope with the type of books they are creating. In the last few years we have seen books that play with the physical construction of a picture book, such as Wave by Suzy Lee and Press Here by Hervé Tullet. Or those that have challenged readers to question what constitutes a picture book like Brian Selznick has done with both The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, which were published as middle grade novels but incorporate a lot of illustrative storytelling. I think now more than ever publishers are looking for creative and unique books that reinvent the idea of what a picture book is and can be for its young readers. Children’s books are constantly evolving, which is one of the things I love most about my job as an author and illustrator.
What can be done to make that “good” better?
I think we as communities and readers need to stand up and support our local bookshops and libraries. I was a book seller for 10 years while I was working to become an illustrator and can tell you firsthand that booksellers and librarians are the ones who make a difference. They connect with the readers, helping them discern their likes and dislikes in books. Some of the most popular books today wouldn’t have become what they are now with out booksellers and librarians hand-selling books to readers saying “you have to read this, it’s fabulous!” I am so grateful as a reader to be able to go to my local bookshop or library and ask for the latest and greatest from a knowledgeable staff of booksellers/librarians. Due to the loss of many bookstores and libraries, not all of us have that luxury anymore. We must fight for the ones we have left.
Lindsay has a BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University. She has illustrated a handful of children’s picture books including The Yellow Butterfly (Bright Sky Press) by Mehrnaz S. Gill, A Garden for Pig (Kane/Miller) by Kathryn Thurman, and the covers of both STAR Academy books by Edward Kay (Random House Canada). Lindsay’s most recent books Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon (Kane/Miller) and When Blue Met Egg (Dial Books for Young Readers) were both written and illustrated by her. Her upcoming book with Dial Books for Young Readers will be released in 2013. You can visit her on the web at lindsaymward.com or check out her blog at respectthecupcake.blogspot.com.
I’m agog over how many elite names of kidlit creators point to their profiles done on the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast website as badges of honor. Likewise, I’m impressed at how Julie Danielson spotlights the right book or the most deserving book maker at the right time. Kirkus Reviews is lucky to have her insights.
Julie, what’s right right now with children’s literature?
I did a Q&A with Leonard S. Marcus recently, and he talked about the fact that many older illustrators or author/illustrators once set out to work in another field (say, editorial illustration) and then inadvertently landed in children’s book illustration. However, more and more today you meet younger illustrators who grew up telling themselves, I’m going to illustrate picture books when I grow up.
And I nodded when I read that. I blog about contemporary illustration and picture books. And it’s very exciting to see new authors and artists on the landscape, the energy, the passion for creating good, quality books for young children. In some ways it’s a topsy-turvy time in publishing (the current economy, the rise of e-books, etc.), but in many ways it’s a really exciting time—and I get psyched all over again about children’s lit when I see a really well-crafted picture book and all the talented new authors and artists who decide to make it their life’s work.
What could be done to make that “good” better?
Well, now I’m going to quote someone else again and risk looking like I don’t have original ideas in my own brain (but, needless to say, I read a lot about picture books) …
Back in February, Roger Sutton had a great discussion at his Horn Book blog about “weird” picture books, asking folks where the risk-taking is today. And author/illustrator Sergio Ruzzier wrote (in a comment), “Please, let us have a little bit of uncertainty, here and there, otherwise life can get pretty boring.” And I didn’t just nod when I read that; I also probably did some jazz hands and cheerleader spirit fingers. (Okay, not really. But I did probably give a little yawp.)
His point in that part of the conversation was that European picture books tend to leave more room for uncertainty, for leaving some things unexplained. I think many parents I meet have trouble with this when it pops up in children’s lit. They want answers, and they want tidy endings. I love to see picture books that leave space for the reader, that have ambiguity. A bit of mystification never hurt anyone. (Think: Shaun Tan.) And I’d love to see more of it.
Julie Danielson received her Master’s degree in Information Sciences at The University of Tennessee. She writes articles on children’s books and interviews their creators for Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a blog she co-founded that focuses primarily on illustration and picture books. She also writes a weekly column on children’s literature for Kirkus Reviews and is currently working on a book with Elizabeth Bird and the late Peter D. Sieruta. Tentatively titled Wild Things!: The True, Untold Stories Behind the Most Beloved Children’s Books and Their Creators, it will be published by Candlewick Press in 2013. In 2011, she served as a jury member for the Society of Illustrators’ Original Art award, and just this year she juried for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair Bologna Ragazzi Awards. Her website is sevenimpossiblethings.org.
On his website, he reveals that his only childhood baseball experiences were on vacant lots. I’m stunned after just one look at his Mudville novel and his “Topps League” chapter book series. He writes about the sport with an insightful, passionate hand. If this isn’t the work of someone who’s played the game, the words are from someone who’s loved it.
A veteran player or not, Kurtis is a real author. No pretending at all. Read one of his works and you’ll agree.
Kurtis, what’s right right now about children’s literature?
The quantity and variety of books being published. There has never been more for kids to choose from, and I think there’s never been more awareness that kids should choose their own books. I’m impressed when I visit schools and see the displays in the library, or the amount of books right there in the classroom. The children’s section in bookstores used to be paltry, now it’s a wonderland. There are so many books to choose from and just about any kid will find the right book.
What can be done to make that “good” better?
I’m not sure the variety is evident. A few books get all the buzz and attention. I hear from teachers that there aren’t enough of a certain kind of book—realistic books, books with boy heroes, books about important issues—I can always think of a bunch of books like that, but somehow, even though they’re getting published, the news isn’t getting out. Those books might even be at the bookstore, but the end-cap displays and tables tend to have a limited selection, so unless they’re prepared to take every book off the shelf and read the jacket copy, a parent might quickly decide that there isn’t much to choose from.
Kurtis Scaletta is the author of three middle-grade novels (Mudville, Mamba Point and The Tanglewood Terror), and a “Topps League” chapter book series that debuted in April. The Tanglewood Terror received the Minnesota Book Awards’ Readers’ Choice Award in 2012.
What is her debut novel Cinder? It’s a fascinating blend of the past and future. This cinematic author has me lining up for the arrival of Book Two.
Marissa, what’s right right now about children’s literature?
Children’s literature is a jumble of genres and mash-ups, which makes it a fertile ground for imagination and encourages today’s youth to experiment with their reading material – something that too many adults shy away from. We’re currently seeing books that combine steampunk with mythology, sci-fi with horror, dystopian with paranormal, and any number of unexpected combinations. Some may sound wacky, but many writers are pulling it off, making for a genre that has become brilliantly creative and full of surprises. It’s great for writers, who may not want to be pigeon-holed into any one type of story, and it’s great for readers, as there is a book out there for every taste and preference. Any reader willing to look around is bound to find something that strikes their fancy.
What can be done to make that “good” better?
As both readers and writers, we can choose to continuously move beyond our comfort zone. It’s easy – too easy – to consider ourselves “mystery” readers, or “fantasy” readers, or “contemporary” readers. We know what we like, so why not stick to it? But it’s those books that we may never have thought to pick up that can surprise us the most and teach us about craft, about genre, about the basic art of storytelling. By exposing ourselves to new tropes and ideas, we’re filling the creative well and allowing our own muses to fuse new and unusual connections. By falling in love with great stories well-told, not just the genres they fall in, we’re contributing toward a rich and diverse market of children’s books. It benefits not only ourselves, as readers and writers, but also the next generation of readers who are just now discovering all the potential worlds and adventures that fiction books have to offer.
Marissa Meyer is the New York Times bestselling author of Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University and an MS in Publishing from Pace University. Cinder is Marissa’s debut novel, which gives a futuristic twist to the classic Cinderella tale. It tells the story of 16-year-old Cinder, a girl who’s part-human, part-machine. Become a fan at http://www.facebook.com/lunarchronicles.
Learn more at http://marissameyer.livejournal.com or follow Marissa on Twitter at @marissa_meyer.