Saturday, November 27, 2004

Laurie Halse Anderson, Holly and Theo Black

The ever effervescent Laurie Halse Anderson's official author site is getting a facelift by webdesigner Theo Black, who is married to author Holly Black.

I don't have the honor of knowing Theo, but if Laurie and Holly's sites are any indication, he's a first-rate Web designer.

My fave book by Laurie Halse Anderson: Catalyst (and, yes, I loved Speak, too, but every reader is different)

My fave book by Holly Black: Tithe (which I've read in hardover and paperback for reasons that can only be attributed to compulsive fandom)

Friday, November 26, 2004

Jane Naliboff

Jane Naliboff's new author Web site is up and running. That would be Jane Naliboff as in The Only One Club by Jane Naliboff, illustrated by Jeff Hopkins (Flashlight Press, 2004). Surf by and check it out!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

How To Write A Children's Picture Book

How To Write A Children's Picture Book by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock (E&E, 2004). Analyzing more than twenty-five classics such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Sylvester And The Magic Pebble by William Steig, this academic look at picture book and picture storybook structure can offer writers insights into their own work at many stages. Have an idea for a story but not sure how to begin? Read this book. Stuck in the middle and don't know what to do next? Take a look at this book. Uncertain about the overall plot? Bine-Stock dissects the parts of each example to reveal how its author created the whole. This clinical approach to plotting shows how the masters of the craft have succeeded. Highly recommended. Recommendation by Anne Bustard, author of Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly (Simon & Schuster, 2005).

Monday, November 22, 2004

Effective Aspects

A college student (hi, Meredith!) emailed me a few days ago to ask me about the "effective aspects" of a children's book. All good, except I had no idea what she was talking about. So, she clarified that she was wanting to know what a good children's book was. This is from my answer:

What makes a good children's book depends on the particular book in question.

A story picture book should have all the elements of story, engaging writing, a hero who grows and changes, and the best fit art for the protagonist and tale.

A concept book should convey the concept (be it, say, alphabet, numbers, colors) in a clear and engaging manner, one that will engage young minds.

If rhyme is used, it should be flawless and sophisticated.

Humorous books should be funny. Adventure books suspenseful and exciting. Mysteries intriguing. Fantasies imaginative. Gothics scary.

A children's novel must do all that an adult novel does, but the hero and sensibility is that of a younger person. They are generally a bit leaner, though, less self-indulgent on the part of the author. The audience tends to have a shorter attention span.

No kid reads a book because of what the New York Times has to say. To them, it must sing.

Basically, a good book should be the best book it can be, in whatever manifestation fits best for its unique nature. The same could be said of what makes a good person--one that lives up to its fullest potential and exceeds expectations.

As an aside, for the most part, literary children's books are written with a higher vocabulary than adult books, and for the most part, this is appropriate. What matters is the best word for the purpose, not its reader level.

But if the book is designed specifically for emerging or reluctant readers, the author will take that into account. Likewise, if the book is part of an easy reader line, the author's challenges include crafting a story that is so engaging we fail to notice the limits placed on the prose. It must transcend its form while staying within it.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Janie Bynum

Had dinner a couple of days ago with author/illustrator Janie Bynum at Z Tejas. Janie has just recently moved to nearby Wimberly, and we're thrilled to have her in the area.

Her titles include Get Busy, Beaver by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Janie Bynum (Orchard, 2004) and Bathtime Blues by Katie McMullan (Little Brown, 2005).

Anyway, the evening went on to BookPeople, then the Four Seasons, and then she spent the night before heading back to scenic Wimberly. Such a treat.
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