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Creative Chaos II

The occasional postings of a writer, illustrator, and mom.


NY12SCBWI Roundup. Yee-Haw!
anna, book
ajboll

If for some reason you missed the tumblg,tagging and tweeting from the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City, pull on your riding boots for the conference round up.

In this corral over here we’ve got we’ve got the VIP cocktail party Friday night. Agents, editors, and art directors schmoozed and enjoyed “Artisian Cheese Displays,” after their hard day at work. I spoke to some of those but also rubbed elbow with the assistants who told me that things had been pretty quiet. That must mean that they’ve recovered after the December lull, and it is prime time to start subbing again. 

Over here, we’ve lassoed some industry professionals. This group: Jean Feiwel, Barbara Marcus, Nancy Paulsen, and Rubin Pfeffer, is chock full of historical knowledge about the publishing industry having built Scholastic to what it is today. Now they are at MacMillan, Penguin, and East West Literary. They discussed their impressions on the present and future children’s book industry and brought us some new vocabulary. “E-tailers” are purveyors of e-books, “Discoverability” is the chance the consumer had to find your book in the millions that are out there. This used to happen through indie bookstores when the awesome retailer hand sold your book. This panel mentioned that with the demise of Borders, indies have actually had their best season in years and that the support of all of us is really helping. (Shop local.) “Transmedia” is the addition or transportability of your content into other media formats. 

Throughout the weekend, speakers agreed that publishers are moving towards more commercial, hard-cover best sellers, and that these best sellers allow them to publish the midlist. High concept is definitely on their mind. This idea was repeated by the agent panel on Sunday with the caveat that you have to have a “hook.” This doesn’t mean that you need a paranormal YA to get published. Agents Regina Brooks, of Seredipity, and Ken Wright, of Writer’s House, explained that publishers are always thinking: “Where is this book going to go? How are we going to get it there? How is the author going to get it there?” Certainly this is marketing and Regina Brooks has even added a Social Media strategist to help her authors develop their online presence. Ginger Knowlton spoke about the many web related links that she checks in on each day so that she can be in the loop about publishing developments. Note: you do not have to read all of these and if you do- you will never write/draw again. Here they are:

PW Marketplace
PW Lunch
PW

Media Bistro

Read Roger

The Passive Voice

The Shatzkin Files

Digiday

When we weren’t in the Ballroom, we were moseying into the breakout sessions. My favorite was the revision workshop with Cheryl Klein. If you went to that session, she posted the links that she mentioned at her own roundup. Yee-Haw!

At the Saturday night hoedown aka the Gala Dinner, the tables were arranged by region and I was thrilled to meet some of the Northern New Englanders who showed up. We ambled away from our tables to join the larger group from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. It was great to see everyone and we hope you’ll come to our New England spring conference April 20-22nd in Springfield, Mass. If you think you want to come, do it quickly. Joyce Johnson (one of the co-directors) kept us up-to-date all weekend with the registration numbers. (300, 350, 400, 450) A speedy sell out seems inevitable. 

The big news from the conference is a new grant for midlist authors, funded by New England’s own Jane Yolen. The rules for the grant are not on SCBWI.org quite yet, but if you are interested, keep checking the grant tab at SCBWI.org. I’ll announce when it is up as well and post a link on my twitter feed @annawritedraw. The money, as much as $2,000, is award to a nominee who had published at least two PAL books but has not been published in a year or more. You must be nominated and the money is intended to help you reinvent and reinvigorate your career. 

Here’s a few personal pictures from the trip. 


The bathroom in my hotel room (for Cindy Lord)


Times Square


Anna and Casey (the NESCBWI Illustrator Coordinator) at Mary Poppins

    
92nd Street and The Jewish Museum, 
Anna at the Jewish Museum to see the Ezra Jack Keats Exhibit


Joyce in the rain through the orchids. 


New York City dogs wearing rain coats (Maine doggies just wear their own fur coats)

If you’d like to see more pictures or post your own, visit the NY12SCBWI tumblr. http://ny12scbwi.tumblr.com/

As always: Any opinions expressed here are entirely my own and not the views of the SCBWI. FMI www.scbwi.com


Day Off
anna, book
ajboll

Thanks so much for visiting. I'm taking the day off for my birthday. Book Review Wednesday will return next week.

Please feel free to check out the review archives especially the post for Melissa Sweet's, Balloons Over Broadway which just won the Nonfiction award at the ALA Mid-Winter conference.

On Monday I'll post a round-up of the SCBWI New York conference.

Have a great weekend!

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.


Member Monday: Ten Reasons to Register for NESCBWI Annual Spring Conference
anna, book
ajboll

As I write this, the registration for New England’s annual SCBWI conference has been open for twelve hours. This means that I registered twelve hours ago. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I set my alarm for midnight, awoke from a deep sleep, and flipped open my laptop to register for this conference. You might ask, “Why?” I'm glad you asked...

Ten reasons to register for the NESCBWI Annual Spring Conference:

  1. The New England Conference gives you access to tons of industry professionals in the form of Quick Queries, Critiques, and Workshops. There are plenty of editors and agents but the authors and illustrators are amazing too! Just take a look at the faculty. This is an award winning group and they will be in Springfield, MA for one weekend to teach you. 
  2. The workshops focus on craft. Now New York is fun because that’s where the editors and agents are. It’s fun because it’s big and Headquarters can get big names for their keynote speakers. But New England is amazing because there is discussion of craft for all levels of writers and illustrators. 
  3. Look at OUR Keynoters!!! Sara Zarr, Harry Bliss (after you read the blogpost, follow Harry's link just to get a giggle) and Kate Messner. Wow!
  4. New England tries to provide something for everyone. Specialized conversations are organized into SIG’s, Special Interest Group meetings, and less formal meetings that happen all over the hotel at all hours of the day and night. So if you want to talk about hot, zombie boyfriends, there’s probably a group for that. The workshops cover an amazing range of topics too. Kathryn Hulick, Joyce Johnson and the workshop selection committee have a lovely balance of non-fiction, picturebook, YA, MG, poetry, and illustration workshops!
  5. Intensive Academies. In 2008 I launched the first illustrator academy at NESCBWI. For 2012, the roster of academies this year is mind-blowing. There is a beginner AND advanced illustration academies. An academy for non-fiction. A novel writing academy. A picture book writing academy. Need I say more?
  6. The new location is in Springfield, Massachusettes and while it means extra driving for me, it also means that I’ll get to go to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, and see the Doctor Seuss National Memorial
  7. Community. If you haven’t read Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s recent blog A Letter of Thanks to SCBWI -- do it. Then go register for the conference
  8. If you don't register for the conference today, this week, soon, you may not get to go at all. This conference gets sold out fast and the special events get filled up even faster. When it gets sold out, don't say I didn't warn you.
  9. If you register for Friday and Saturday you are able to apply for a critique. You won't be able to pay for the critique when you register. You must send in your pages, your check and the critique application.
  10. You'll get to meet the amazing team of volunteers who put together a writing and illustrating university for a weekend. They are amazing people who have taken their time to bring you the very best. If you've registered, please leave a comment below. I'll see you there. 

Book Review Wednesday: Mooshka, A Quilt Story
anna, book
ajboll

Mooshka. 

Say it aloud. 

Mooshka. 

In that one word Julie Paschkis has captured a hug, and a kiss, and the comfort of a sibling’s love. Mooshka is the name of the unusual quilt who belongs to Karla, a young girl and the main character in the vibrant and cozy book, Mooshka, A Quilt Story. 

Mooshka is infused with the stories Karla’s grandmother told while she sewed the quilt from scraps of cloth called “schnitz.” Mooshka tells these loving family stories to Karla. 

Pachkis surrounds her gentle story with boarders of “schnitz.” Decorative, geometric and organic patterns in saturated, true, primary hues, hug the text of the story just as Mooshka hugs Karla. Each hue: yellow, blue, red... tells Karla the story of its origin on a spread in the book revealing a bit of Karla’s family’s history. 


Images © Julie Paschkis, Peachtree Publishers

The text of this picture book holds its cozy feel until about two-thirds of the way in when Paschkis introduces Hannah, Karla’s baby sister. The author does not elaborate on how long the new baby has been around, instead she gets right to the point.

“One day a little white crib was moved into Karla’s room. Hannah was in the crib.”

The new crib and the crying baby sister silence Mooshka. It is up to Karla to solve this problem on her own. Paschkis shows Karla’s resentment and growth in simple language and spare text. The illustrations mirror this as they loose their decoration and become flat fields of deep blue. 


Images © Julie Paschkis, Peachtree Publishers

Mooshka, A Quilt Story, is part quiet tale for young children, part family history, part color concept book, and part sibling story- but it is all beautifully crafted. Coming to a bed-time near you on March 1st from Peachtree Publishers. 


SCBWI Member Monday- Conference To-Do’s & the contest winner.
anna, book
ajboll

Last Wednesday, I posted an interview with Toni Buzzeo and reviewed her new picture book, One Cool Friend. If you commented at the blog or on Facebook, I put your name in a hat for a chance to win One Cool Friend. And the winner is...

Agy Wilson!!! Agy, message me on Facebook with your snail mail address and I’ll send you a new book. Thanks to all who participated. Please keep reading and sharing links to the blog.

If you are going to the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC, and you have a smart phone or iPad, do yourself a favor and download the Guidebook App. Once you get Guidebook, search “SCBWI” and tap on the SCBWI “Winter Conference.” 

The Guidebook app gives you schedules of each conference day and maps of the hotel, as well as the conference evaluation form, and faculty bios with great pictures. (Just the thing for networking.) 

If you are a social networking addict you’ll love Guidebook. It has an instant twitter link to #ny12scbwi so you can follow the conversation as well as a link to the SCBWI Facebook page. I’m especially fond of the “to-do” list feature. It is a great way to keep track of meetings on the fly, and sessions you must attend. In fact, if you browse the faculty and tap on their bio it gives you an instant “to-do” link so you can remember to go to their session or send them a manuscript/illustration sample. 

Speaking of things to do, make sure that you have your postcards (illustrators) and business cards ready to go. Pack business casual and bring layers. You never know if a workshop room is going to be hot or chilly. 

Once you get to NYC there are plenty of fun things to do. Take a look at the official SCBWI blog for three new fun social events added to the conference schedule.

Please say hello and introduce yourself at the conference. See you soon!

Disclamer: SCBWI information on their website www.scbwi.org  is accurate and true. Any opinions here are my own and not necessarily the opinions of SCBWI.


Book Review Wednesday: One Cool Friend- One Cool Contest
anna, book
ajboll

Shop Indie Bookstores

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, Illustrations by David Small

Last August, I was privileged to attend the LA SCBWI conference. Privileged because I was in the company of my idols: Judy Blume, Donna Jo Napoli, Bruce Colville, Laurie Halse-Anderson, Denise Fleming, Richard Jesse Watson, and David Small to name a few. 

David Small is, of course, the acclaimed author/illustrator of the graphic memoir Stitches, and he is also one part of the brilliant team (with his wife Sarah Stewart) who brought children The Money Tree, The Gardner and The Library. In his breakout workshop, David was in the front of the room telling us about this amazing manuscript that fell into his lap written by a Maine author (my ears perked up) Toni Buzzeo (I gave a little scream). All heads swiveled my way. “Sorry,” I said. “She’s a friend of mine.” 

She is. And I was thrilled that I got a sneak peak at her wonderful new picture book, One Cool Friend.

One Cool Friend is about a very proper boy named Elliot whose eccentric, academic father takes him to the aquarium one day. Elliot falls in love with the penguins and tells his father he’d like to take one home. The odd father agrees, assuming the penguin Elliot wants is plush and stuffed. But it isn’t. That is- as they say- when hilarity ensues. 

To read this quick description of the book one might say, “This seems like a slight story line for a picture book. Where is the hook, that repeat readability that I always hear editors talk about.” If I told you that, I’d spoil the book. Suffice it to say, David’s illustrations work so seamlessly with the text and add so much to the story that the book is not only a serious “read it again-Mommy” candidate but also packed with humor and mystery. 

So as not to spoil the book, but to give you more information, I’ve invited Toni to answer a few questions about writing this book and writing in general:

Welcome Toni! I loved seeing David’s retro, limited color, illustrations in August. Now that I’ve read your book I can’t imagine the illustrations being conceived any other way. He told us that he hates illustrator notes but in your book there’s quite a lot of visual storytelling and humor through the illustrations that adds to the narrative. How do you trust and leave space for the illustrator but still get your story across with so few words?

When I was an aspiring picture book author, I learned, as most of us do, that it’s best to keep illustrator notes to a minimum, and I’ve generally heeded that advice.  After all, a professional illustrator will be bringing his or her own vision to the project and needs to have free rein for his or her creativity. If you take a look at my 15 published picture books, you’ll see that this has worked well for me. I’ve been wonderfully blessed with amazing illustrators!

Regarding illustrator notes, One Cool Friend was a slightly different case, however. As you note, the text is enormously spare and the humor and much of the plot is delivered through illustration, so I needed to provide many more illustration notes than the three or four I might usually supply. I did so with two thoughts in mind: 1) the notes should only provide “set-up” or stage directions, such as location or action and 2) the notes could be disregarded if my illustrator had a better vision! My text includes thirteen illustration notes, all of which give the illustrator a clue as to the set-up.

For example:

  • [Illustration note: Poster on the wall with a very formal portrait of Ferdinand Magellan, discoverer of the Magellanic penguin, and information about the penguins.]
  • [Illustration note: Dad still sitting on the bench]
  • [Illustration note: Elliot’s father glances at the gift shop display]
  • [Illustration note: Icicles forming across the room]


David used some and provided his own vision in other cases (each time, in a much funnier manner than my idea).

When I saw the initial sketches, I expected to be delighted—and I was. In fact, I was astonished at the over-the-top humor David brought to my story with his graphic style and spare use of color. And those speech bubbles embedded in the text! A stroke of pure genious.

Many picture books use a pattern where the main character tries three times to achieve a goal and fails, then succeeds in the end. In your book, Elliot doesn’t really try to hide his penguin from his father. Elliot’s goal seems to be to make his penguin comfortable which he does in multiple ways. Still, the reader gets a sense of mystery through the vague and disjointed interactions between father and son. Can you tell us a little about the initial seed for this type of structure?

As a former writing teacher and elementary school librarian, I love to analyze structure and pattern in picture books and I DO think about structure choice as I write my own books. I keep a list of common patterns in mind, including:

  • Pattern of three (both try-fail, try-fail, try-succeed, and try-fail, try-fail, try-fail, succeed)
  • Circle story
  • Frame story
  • Cumulative story
  • Chronological (including day-->night, seasonal, etc) story
  • Concept (including alphabetical, counting, etc.) book
  • Flip book


But this story was different. It’s based on an urban legend about a boy stealing a penguin from the New England Aquarium in Boston. I heard the story first in a teacher’s room.

So I had the bones of the story right there. The challenge was to discover the way to make the surprise ending work (I’m being circumspect here so as not to spoil the book for those who haven’t read it). The story takes place over the course of 24 hours and as such, its structure is chronological, but rising tension is the driving force. The best method was to build suspense in the reader with an unanswered question—does Elliot’s dad know about Magellan all along? In fact, if you finish reading the book and still don’t know the answer to that question for certain, I’ve succeeded in my mission.

In the book, Elliot brings his penguin to the library. I loved how the librarian is unflinching as she faces the penguin and Elliot’s passion. As a librarian yourself, what was the oddest thing a child brought you? Or the most passionate researcher you’ve helped?

One of my teachers at Margaret Chase Smith School in Sanford, Maine set me up to be the unflinching recipient of an hysterical research question from one of her transitional-first grade students. The kids were doing rain forest research and one little girl, a real favorite of mine, came down to the library with this question. “Mrs. Buzzeo, you know that sloths live up in trees, right? And they stay up in trees all of the time, right? Well, my question is, do they even stay up there to poop?”

I had to keep an absolutely straight, unblinking face, and then set out to help her to answer the question. Because this was in the days before ready online connections in school libraries, we had to read every article about sloths in our reference collection. (Nowadays, it would be as simple as heading over to the San Diego Zoo website.). Once the student was on her way back to class, I was finally able to burst into laughter, and I was still laughing when Colleen, the teacher, stuck her head in the door to see my reaction. I can just imagine Ms. Stanbridge in my story doing the very same thing.

I’ve retyped your text so that I can see what your manuscript might have looked like. First it is short at less than 600 words. It has a lot of dialogue, no scene description, and no mention of how the characters look. You use time and place markers such as: “Saturday morning, at noontime, in his room, on the way home,” to keep the story moving forward. Is your first draft so lean? Tell us about your revision process. How was your editor involved in your revisions?

The first submitted draft of One Cool Friend was 792 words, so about 200 words longer. Here’s how it started:


On the tenth morning in his new town, Elliot stared up through the skylight at two bald eagles wheeling overhead.  They probably aren’t lonely, Elliot thought.

“How about a family trip to the aquarium?” his mom asked.

Elliot shrugged.  Fish, he thought, wet and boring.  Birds, on the other hand, feathery and exciting.  “How about a trip to Wings ‘N’ Things instead?”
“But Elliot,” his father said, “we were just there yesterday.”
“Besides,” said his mother.  “It’s Family Fun Day at the aquarium.”

Outside, tiny tree sparrows flitted into the feeders Elliot and his dad had mounted in the yard.  But when a Cooper’s hawk dove down, the sparrows scattered.

“I wish they’d all stick around,” Elliot said.  “I sure could use the company.”

“Well then,” his mom said.  “How about the aquarium?  Maybe you’ll make a new friend there.”

“I guess.”  Elliot thumped down the hall to fetch his backpack with his field guide and binoculars for the ride.

His dad patted him on the back.  “We can go to the bird shop another time.”  

Elliot climbed into the backseat of the car for the long, tiresome drive.  He pulled his binocs from his backpack and searched the sky for geese.  He searched the fields for crows. He searched the marsh for snowy egrets.  “What’s so FUN about Family Fun Day at an aquarium anyway?” he wondered.


During the long revision process (I worked on this ms. for 4 years, two rounds with my editor after which time she rejected it, and then with other astute readers until I had something so different that I felt confident in bringing it back to my editor and asking her to have another look), I deleted the mom, and I also eliminated the theme of loneliness (at my editor’s request). Now the text begins:

Elliot was a very proper young man. 
So on Saturday morning when his father said, "Family Fun Day at the aquarium.  Shall we go?” Elliot thought,
Kids, masses of noisy kids. But he only said, "Of course. Thank you for inviting me.”

Then we hop right over to the aquarium. No mom. No lonely boy. No transportation scene. It’s very streamlined.

We hear a lot about the lack of picture book interest from publishers, yet you seem to be doing well. What is your take on the market right now?

Actually, I do find the picture book market to still be sluggish. Everyone is being cautious in contracting new ones. In addition, while One Cool Friend is for a slightly older audience, as was my fall title, Lighthouse Christmas, now editors are looking for much younger picture books with strong and quirky main characters who can become the backbones of picture book series. I’ve got just such a character in development right now, but it hasn’t stopped me from wanting to write picture books for older readers. Selling them, though, is the tough part.

Toni, thank you for sharing with us today. In December, Lighthouse Christmas came out. How is it doing and what else is in the publishing pipeline for you?

A second printing of Lighthouse Christmas is about to pop, as the first one sold out very quickly this holiday season. With a starred review in School Library Journal and a glowing review in the New York Times Book Review , it got lots of attention.


Looking ahead, I have a new picture book due out in March from Hyperion titled Stay Close to Mama, the story of a curious little giraffe and his mama on the African savannah, charmingly illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, and one from Upstart Books in March as well titled Inside the Books: Readers and Libraries Around the World, with stunning illustrations of libraries on all seven continents by South African illustrator Jude Daly. It’ll be a banner season in picture book publishing for me!



A big cogratulations to Toni for her publishing success AND a contest. If you’d like to win a copy of One Cool Friend please post in the comments here or on Facebook. If you do, I’ll put your name in a hat and let my trusty assistants pick a name. Please comment by Sunday, January 15th at midnight. I’ll post the winner in my “Member Monday” post on the 16th. Good luck!


SCBWI Member Monday-Crystal Kite Award Season
SCBWI
ajboll

It is member Monday here at Creative Chaos and we are in the thick of the SCBWI Crystal Kite Member Choice nomination season. 

From the SCBWI website: 

To be eligible for the 2012 Crystal Kite Awards, be sure to update your member profile with the publication information about your book published in 2011 by a P.A.L. publisher by January 31, 2012. Simply log in at SCBWI, click on "Manage Profile" and the "Publications" tab. Enter your book published in 2011, and click the box that reads "Yes, I would like to submit this publication for Crystal Kite Awards nomination." Once voting has begun on February 1, 2012, no books will be able to be added to the competition.

Did you hear that?! January 31st is THE LAST day to get your book nominated for this award, so get over to SCBWI.org as fast as your little clicking fingers can click and nominate your 2011, PAL published book. 

What? Did you say, “Why bother?” First-- Stickered books, sell. Second-- I can tell you that while it feels a bit like running for homecoming queen/king, being recognized by your peers is a very satisfying feeling. These are people who care about what you do, who will listen when your spouse/partner/friends have had enough of your hand wringing over plot or composition, people with whom you can start a conversation at one SCBWI conference and finish it at the next. We have such a wonderful and unique community in the children’s book world-- take advantage of it. Third-- think of how long this journey has been. Don’t tell me you haven’t dreamed of accepting an award. (I have. Usually I compose the acceptance speech in the shower. Trust me the speeches are short, witty, and intellectual.) Finally-- you get gloves with the award so you don’t get finger prints on crystal!

Here are the important dates:

  • Tuesday, January 31st - Last day to make sure your book is posted in your profile.
  • Wednesday, February 1st - Round 1 Voting Begins.
  • Wednesday, February 29th - Round 1 Voting Ends.
  • Friday, March 2nd - Round 2 Voting Begins.
  • Friday, March 16th - Round 2 Voting Ends.
  • Monday, April 30 -  2012 Winners announced.

If you need more info, click through to the FAQ page and good luck!

Disclamer: SCBWI information on their website www.scbwi.org  is accurate and true. Any opinions here are my own and not necessarily the opinions of SCBWI.


Book Review Wednesday: Cold Cereal by Adam Rex- Magically Delicious
anna, book
ajboll

Happy New Year to those in the kidlitosphere! Thanks to NetGalley and generous publishers I am back in reviewing action with relevant and upcoming titles. Today, grab a spoon and dig into the new Adam Rex middle grade novel, Cold Cereal. 

Shop Indie Bookstores

Adam Rex, made the middle grade reader fall in love with poetry with the brilliant Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich. TheTrue Meaning of Smkeday was my go-to book for boys in my 5th and 6th grade classes who “didn’t like to read.” Now Rex has written Cold Cereal. This book may have started with Rex looking at his Lucky Charms™ and asking himself, “What if they really WERE magically delicious?”

Enter the fictional Goodco Cereal company in the fictional New Jersey town of Goodborough. (Yes anything can happen in New Jersey.) Scott Doe, has recently moved to Goodborough so his scientist Mom can have a job at the cereal factory. He’s a smart kid who is angry at his  famous movie action hero father Sir Reginald Dwight (aka John Doe) for leaving the family. On his first day of school he meets the twins Emily and Erno. The three of them are in the class for gifted kids, “Project: Potential,” but it is obvious from the start that Emily is more gifted than Erno or Scott. Emily and Erno’s foster father pits them against each other to solve riddle and scavenger hunt style games. What starts as a simple game turns into a magical mystery. 

While the book is heavy on action-- there are motorcycles, cars, vans, guns, wands, magical voids, evil doctors, and a secret society, don’t tell the kids but this book is well-written too. (Tastes great and good for you?) Rex writes fabulous character description that goes beyond the physical and gets to the emotional heart. Here, Scott meets Emily for the first time.  Every seat on the school bus is taken...“Except for a seat right up front, on which sat one very small and delicately pale eggshell of a girl.” Rex often uses humor to develop and expose the flaw’s in his characters. The gifted and talented class that Scott, Emily, and Erno are in... “was taught by Ms. Wyvern, a musty, clown-faced woman who spoke with an unplaceable accent that was thick with gurgling r’s and sneezy vowels.” 

Is this book “magical realism?” I suppose so. There’s a lot of magic, and it happens in the real setting of a small New Jersey town. To help the reader, Rex introduces the magic slowly and makes the reader wonder if it is real. Does that human really have a rabbit’s head? Does that cat really have a unicorn-like horn? Or is it a hallucination brought on by Scotts migraines. This device, along with the portal-based magic that centers around the cereal factory gives the reader a reason to believe that this magic could logically happen in the book even if they don’t see it in their own town. By then the reader is fully hooked in the world and things get really absurd. Rex trusts his reader. From vocabulary and figurative language, to action and magic, he allows the reader to look between the lines. 

The book is highly illustrated and Rex is a master artist. While the advanced copy I saw only included sketches, it was obvious that Cold Cereal is another wonderful example of the blending of written and graphic elements ala Brian Selznick, and Lynne Rae Perkins.  Personally, I’m thrilled to see publishers embracing the visual for older kids instead of casting aside visual literacy at the expense of text.

Everything was not green clovers, and yellow horse-shoes for me with Cold Cereal. Rex has a lot going on in the structure of the story. Maybe too much. He manages the changes in focus from Scott to the Twins well, but he has more going on than that. Mick the Leprechaun has his own magical stories that get thrown in from time to time taking the reader out of the story action. Rex also includes long passages of back story, secret society and magical history at the expense of pacing and forward story movement. The baffoonery of the Freeman sometimes feels irrelevant to the story and comes across as Rex's personal commentary on secret societies in general. The age old device of having the bad-guy talk too long to expose her evil history and plot may work well in movies, but it seemed like another pause button violation to this reader. 

A good middle grade novel needs to stand on its own, and Rex certainly ties up most of the loose ends, but he leaves the reader poised for a sequel. If you are a sequel lover, as are most middle grade readers, you’ll enjoy this but the whole sequel phenom is a recent pet peeve of mine. 

The book launches on February 7th. Adam Rex has served up a slice of humor, and a glass of action, alongside the magical Cold Cereal for a nutritious reading experience. 


Important SCBWI info for Illustrators
SCBWI
ajboll
This month I finished the first draft of a YA manuscript, so I basically made the month of December a no-blog month. However, SCBWI news has been piling up. Today, information for illustrators. First, congrats to all those who took on the Tomie dePaola Award challenge. I've seen some beautiful pieces. Today, a call for art for the bulletin and next, info about the Bologna Book Fair from Bridget- the SCBWI International Illustrator Coordinator. Whether or not you travel to Italy, your work could. Read on!
Anna
PS: 
I'm busily reading and reviewing quite like a squirrel gathering nuts for winter. Exciting book reviews will start again on Wednesdays after the New Year.

ART SPOT:


Ever since Tomie dePaola insisted the I be added to the SCBW, the society of children's book writers and illustrators have been trying hard to serve their illustrator members. Now Sarah Baker, head of all-things-illustration-and-design at SCBWI headquarters in Los Angeles, has an exciting new initiative. A new column called Art Spot will feature one artist who submits a black and white spot illustration to the National Bulletin. In addition to a feature article about their work, and their experience, the artist will receive $100. Since the bulletin is viewed by industry professionals around the world including editors and art directors, the winner will enjoy wide publicity of their portfolio. 
Sarah is looking for art work that is well-designed, and well-executed. Remember that spot art should engage the viewer and lead them to read an article. There are many regular features in the Bulletin. Become familiar with the table of contents and see if you can link your artwork to regular features. Make sure your artwork is child-friendly. Since the artwork will be black and white, consider how your use of value adds to the piece. Good Luck!

BOLOGNA BOOK FAIR:

PAL illustrator members of SCBWI across the world, 
even if you can't make it to Bologna yourself, don't miss this chance for your work to be visible at the international Bologna Book Fair, We will be showing a select number of illustrator's promotional pieces 
in our special Illustration Portfolio Display at the SCBWI stand at the Bologna Book fair and also online in our SCBWI Bologna 
Illustrators' Gallery. 

Deadline for email submissions: February 14, 2012.
Full details on how to apply are on http://www.scbwibologna.org/display-portfolio.php
If your work is selected, we'll contact you with details about snail mailing a quality print-out of the piece.

If you are coming to the fair, then how about promoting your work at our SCBWI stand?
Duelling illustrator sessions, on-the-spot illustrations to a read-aloud story, and other live art demonstrations have been particular 
popular events at our past SCBWI stand.
To apply for a Showcase slot check out
http://www.scbwibologna.org/showcase.php

Why not book a slot, or share a space alone or with another PAL,then send out announcements ahead of time, and invite your publishers there to come and watch? There are no children at the fair, but publishers, agents and foreign rights people may well enjoy a break from their busy schedule to be reminded that it all starts with a good idea and a pencil, pen, brush and paint or even your laptop!

And if you aren't yet published but are going to be in Bologna for the Fair, how about booking ahead for 5 minutes of feedback on your 

portfolio from a publishing pro at the Stand?




Disclamer: SCBWI information on their website www.scbwi.org  is accurate and true. Any opinions here are my own and not necessarily the opinions of SCBWI.

Book Review Wednesday: Soup!
anna, book
ajboll
Picture book month continues here at Book Review Wednesday, but first a word from our sponsors...


Now back to our regularly scheduled program. When the temperatures cool it is a good idea to pull out the ingredients for a little soup– the ultimate comfort food. In my husband's family, the joke is that a chef can't make truly good soup until they've reached 40. (We're there.) To pull together the right ingredients and spices, and end up with love in a pot, it takes creativity, know-how, and risk taking. 

Ruthie, in The Princess of Borscht, has all of these qualities. The Princess of Borscht, written by Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member Leda Schubert, and illustrated by another VCFA faculty member, Bonnie Christensen comes out Tuesday, November 22rd. (Happy Book Birthday Leda and Bonnie!) 

From the publisher:
Ruthie's grandma is in the hospital, not surprisingly complaining about the food. All she wants is a nice bowl of borscht. Ruthie comes to the rescue, even though she hasn't the faintest idea of how to make it. With the help of a few well-meaning neighbors (including the Tsarina of Borscht and the Empress of Borscht and some ingenuity of her own), a soul-reviving brew is concocted…

The book has earned a star from Kirkus
"Of course, it’s not just about borscht or even about cooking, though there’s a great recipe included. Schubert has concocted a sweet mixture of traditions that bind and give comfort, along with love in many forms; intergenerational family, friends and neighbors all act with selflessness, kindness and compassion. Christensen’s heavily outlined, strongly colored illustrations emphasize equally strong personalities. The paintings are filled with details that add interest to the proceedings, from the array of get-well cards in the hospital room to the homey, old-fashioned décor of Grandma’s apartment."

The book also got some attention from the New York Times (that's nothing to sneeze at):
"Schubert (“Ballet of the Elephants”) turns the story of a sick relative, not a particularly cheery topic, into a sweet and salty tale, warmed by Christensen’s lively sketches, about bickering Jewish neighbors and intergenerational caregiving."

If you'd like to know more about Bonnie and her art work I can point you to not one, but two! lovely postings on Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast. 

Soups on, grab a book!



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