The Horn Book http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:55:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Week in Review, December 15th-19th http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/week-review-december-15-19th/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/week-review-december-15-19th/#respond Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:53:20 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44777 This week on hbook.com… Comics legend Stan Lee Talks with Roger Reviews of the Week: Picture Book: Blizzard by John Rocco Fiction: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan Nonfiction: The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of 
the Oceans [Scientists in the Field] by Elizabeth Rusch Read Roger: “Everything must […]

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banner weekinreview 550x100 Week in Review, December 15th 19th

This week on hbook.com…

Comics legend Stan Lee Talks with Roger

Reviews of the Week:

Read Roger: Everything must change

Out of the Box:

Calling Caldecott:

Events calendar

See overviews of previous weeks by clicking the tag week in review. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date on our articles!

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Merry Bookmakwanzaakkah http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/out-of-the-box/merry-bookmakwanzaakkah/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/out-of-the-box/merry-bookmakwanzaakkah/#respond Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:35:49 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43358 I know we’re in full holiday swing, but there’s still 1) time to think about bookish gifts to give your bookish loved ones and 2) time to hint about bookish gifts you’d like to receive yourself. Really, bookish gifts are great any time of year! I suspect I have successfully browbeaten my aunt into getting […]

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sabriel charm Merry Bookmakwanzaakkah

Miniature Classic Novels Book Necklace Charm: Garth Nix’s Sabriel by JaDaJewelry

I know we’re in full holiday swing, but there’s still 1) time to think about bookish gifts to give your bookish loved ones and 2) time to hint about bookish gifts you’d like to receive yourself. Really, bookish gifts are great any time of year!

I suspect I have successfully browbeaten my aunt into getting me a teeny-tiny Sabriel book pendant for Christmas. Not only does JanDaJewelry sell individual book pendants (Coraline! Fangirl! The Giver! lots of adult books too), you can also order a thematic charm bracelet of books (two options: the entire Harry Potter series or five John Green novels).

raven scarf Merry Bookmakwanzaakkah

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” Book Scarf by Storiarts

Storiarts is another (dangerous) recent discovery of mine. They screen-print text of classic books onto infinity scarves, gloves, pillow cases, t-shirts, etc. I am the proud owner of a “Raven” scarf and cannot get over how comfy it is. Guide Goddess-in-training Siân and Friend of the Horn Book Kazia also have excellent taste in scarves — they each have a Pride and Prejudice Storiarts scarf. Even Neil Himself is a fan: he custom-ordered two Ocean at the End of the Lane scarves.

Book Riot also often shares roundups of literary gifts. What book-related gifts are you giving this year?

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Gravity http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/calling-caldecott/gravity/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/calling-caldecott/gravity/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:00:08 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44018 In the past, Jason Chin has added a fantasy element to his information books. In Redwoods, for instance, a boy in the city reads about the redwood forest and is transported there, returning to his urban reality at the end of the book. In Gravity, Chin has gone fully meta: the children we see are […]

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gravity 300x233 GravityIn the past, Jason Chin has added a fantasy element to his information books. In Redwoods, for instance, a boy in the city reads about the redwood forest and is transported there, returning to his urban reality at the end of the book.

In Gravity, Chin has gone fully meta: the children we see are not reading about gravity, but the very book we are holding causes gravity to change around those children. On each spread, we see the book exerting its influence on a boy at the beach or, in a mystery-solving spread at the end, four girls at a lemonade stand. On each spread, the text is coming true for them.

While Gravity has the obligatory information in smaller print at the end of the book, the text on the first 29 pages is so spare that it doesn’t feel like an information book. In fact, the entire book (pre-endmatter) is shorter than the text on a single page of many other picture books. Here it is in full:

Gravity makes objects fall to earth. Without gravity everything would float away. The moon would drift away from the earth. The earth would drift away from the sun. Luckily, everything has gravity. Massive things have a lot of gravity…and their gravity pulls on smaller things. Gravity keeps the earth near the sun, the moon near the earth, and makes objects fall to earth.

Okay, enough about the concept and treatment. The committee isn’t allowed to consider Chin’s previous books, and they’re not supposed to be so concerned with all this text business. So what about art and design?

See that astronaut and spaceship on the cover — the cover that looks suspiciously like the Sandra Bullock/George Clooney movie of the same name? They are actually toys, and the half-peeled banana and beach ball floating nearby will be explained inside the book. The cover looks like the movie poster because the type treatment is the same: white against deep dark space, all caps, sans serif, and with generous kerning.  V E R Y   S E R I O U S .  Chin uses the same all-caps type inside the book, doling it out just a few words at a time. Those words become essential to the balance of each spread’s design.

I’ve been a fan of Chin’s art for a while, and I hope the fact that this book takes it up a notch will gain him even more fans. He hits a balance between humor and drama here with sweeping vistas and large objects — childlike objects like a plastic beach shovel that are given monumental treatment, á là 2001: A Space Odyssey. But humor and detail are key here. See that half-peeled banana? Watch how it gets progressively browner throughout the book. (Though I wonder whether it really would get browner without oxygen?) And what’s up with that pitcher and those lemons? All will be explained, especially when you read it again and again. Chin’s use of light and dark is extreme here and proves that he’s an artist. So often, I think, we assume a picture book shows us the “best” style of art the illustrator is capable of. In fact, most have many styles under their belts, including some that are a lot more serious and closer to what people might call “fine” art, but they choose something lighter and more humorous because it suits the text they are working with. Here, Chin has an good excuse to show his painting chops.

It’s Friday, and the holidays are approaching, so I wonder (like Sandra Bullock) whether there’s really anyone out there. But if you are, I hope you will weigh in (sorry) and tell us what you think of this one. Does it have a chance?

 

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Boxers & Saints: Author Gene Luen Yang’s 2014 BGHB Fiction Honor Speech http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/boxers-saints-author-gene-luen-yangs-2014-bghb-fiction-honor-speech/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/boxers-saints-author-gene-luen-yangs-2014-bghb-fiction-honor-speech/#respond Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:00:56 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44152 Thank you to the Horn Book and the Boston Globe. This is an incredible, incredible honor. Boxers & Saints is a two-volume graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion, a war that was fought in China in the year 1900. On one side of the conflict were the Europeans, the Japanese, and the Chinese Christians. On […]

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boxers saints Boxers & Saints: Author Gene Luen Yangs 2014 BGHB Fiction Honor SpeechThank you to the Horn Book and the Boston Globe. This is an incredible, incredible honor.

Boxers & Saints is a two-volume graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion, a war that was fought in China in the year 1900. On one side of the conflict were the Europeans, the Japanese, and the Chinese Christians. On the other side was a ragtag army of poor, starving teenagers from the Chinese countryside.

These young people were supposed to be farmers, but there was nothing for them to farm because a drought had killed all their crops. They felt helpless and hopeless, and they were angry that the Europeans and the Japanese had established concessions in their homeland. To empower themselves, the teenagers created a ritual that they believed would summon the Chinese gods, the heroes of the operas they watched every spring at their village fairs. The gods would possess their bodies and give them superpowers. It was like ancient Chinese Shazam.

Armed with these superpowers, the teenagers marched through the countryside, fighting European soldiers and missionaries and their Chinese Christian allies. They made it all the way to the capital city, where they were finally put down by a foreign coalition in the summer of 1900. Here in the West, we refer to these young people as the Boxers.

I’m fascinated with the Boxer Rebellion for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the way it highlights the importance of stories. The Boxers loved their stories so much that they wanted to become them; they wanted to embody them. Stories can empower us, or they can destroy us.

And that’s why it’s such an honor to be recognized by all of you. You all understand the importance of stories. You’ve dedicated your careers and your lives to promoting good stories.

I owe many, many people my thanks.

First, I thank God for the blessings and the trials.

I also thank my family, especially my lovely wife Theresa. She supports me in all that I do.

I thank my friend Lark Pien, who colored Boxers & Saints. She made my comic look about a million times better.

I thank my agent Judy Hansen for her wisdom and advice.

I thank Mark Siegel, my editor, for dreaming up First Second Books and then making it a reality. First Second has really become a home for me, as it has for many other cartoonists. Mark’s a risk-taker. When I proposed a two-volume graphic novel about an obscure Chinese war, Mark said yes.

I thank all the good people at First Second Books and Macmillan Children’s: Simon Boughton, Calista Brill, Gina Gagliano. I especially thank Colleen AF Venable, a designer who has since moved on from First Second. Colleen is an amazing talent. She designed the beautiful box that Boxers & Saints comes in. I’ve always wanted to see my comics in a box, and Colleen made it happen.

Finally, I thank all of you. Thank you for believing in the importance of story.

For more on the 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB14.

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The Port Chicago 50: Author Steve Sheinkin’s 2014 BGHB NF Award Speech http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/port-chicago-50-author-steve-sheinkins-2014-bghb-nf-award-speech/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/port-chicago-50-author-steve-sheinkins-2014-bghb-nf-award-speech/#respond Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:00:49 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44216 A few years ago I was researching a book on the making of the atomic bomb, and my brother-in-law Eric, who loves wacky conspiracy theories, as I do, hit me with a great one. “You know when the first atomic bomb was tested, right?” he asked. “Sure,” I said, falling into his trap. “New Mexico […]

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Port Chicago The Port Chicago 50: Author Steve Sheinkins 2014 BGHB NF Award SpeechA few years ago I was researching a book on the making of the atomic bomb, and my brother-in-law Eric, who loves wacky conspiracy theories, as I do, hit me with a great one.

“You know when the first atomic bomb was tested, right?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, falling into his trap. “New Mexico desert, summer of 1945.”

“That’s what they want you to think!”

And he told me the theory: the first test was actually in a place called Port Chicago, California, in July 1944. Sounded crazy, but I’d never heard of Port Chicago. I couldn’t offer any kind of refutation. But later that night I typed “Port Chicago” into Google, and I’ve been hooked on the story ever since — the true story of what happened there during World War II.

Step one for me was reading Dr. Robert Allen’s remarkable book The Port Chicago Mutiny. I then contacted Robert (he said I could call him that) and asked how I could find out more about this little-known chapter of civil rights history. After directing me to the scant supply of written sources, he suggested that if I really wanted to explore this story I should come to the memorial event held each year at the site of the disaster. A few Port Chicago veterans still attend, he explained, though at this point it’s mostly younger generations of family members and friends.

I flew to Oakland in July 2011. Not only did Robert drive me to the memorial event, he spent three days taking me around the Bay Area and introducing me to the amazing community of people who are working to keep the Port Chicago story alive. At the end of my visit, he allowed me to make photocopies of the transcripts of the oral-history interviews he had conducted, decades earlier, with many of the Port Chicago sailors. This priceless material makes up the heart of my book. My deepest thanks to Robert for his generosity, encouragement, and helpful suggestions along the way.

And as an additional tribute, I want to use the rest of this speech to tell the story of Robert’s own Port Chicago journey — a classic old-school detective tale.

“This was the mid-1970s,” Robert remembers. “I was a grad student at Berkeley, and also working as a journalist, working on a story about some racial incidents that had happened on ships in the U.S. Navy. In an archive, I came across this pamphlet entitled ‘Mutiny?’ It had a picture of some black sailors on the front. I picked it up and thought, ‘What’s this about?’ The first sentence in there was, ‘Remember Port Chicago?’

“I thought, ‘Port Chicago?’ Do they mean the port of Chicago? What is this?’ And I read it, and it told the story of a terrible disaster at Port Chicago, which is in California, near San Francisco, a small port town, where they had built a Navy base, an ammunition loading facility. And it turned out that all the ammunition loaders were black, all the officers, white.”

The pamphlet, printed by the NAACP in 1945, told the Port Chicago story: the strict segregation in the Navy, the lack of training and unsafe working conditions for black sailors at Port Chicago, the disastrous explosion that killed more than three hundred, and the “mutiny” — the refusal of fifty of the men to return to work under unfair and unsafe conditions.

“I was just amazed as I read this,” Robert says. He asked the archivist if he could make a photocopy, and was told he could just take one of the pamphlets; they had several. “So I took a copy, which I still have, and came home, read through it again, and went to the library right away. I wanted to check out a book about it. But there was nothing. I looked in the standard black history references, and it’s briefly mentioned in John Hope Franklin, one sentence, that’s it. But all of this had intrigued me, because clearly this was a huge story and nothing had been written about it. So I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to have to find some way to find out about this story,’ because by now I was really hooked. The explosion and this so-called mutiny, and then the whole thing just disappears from history.”

Robert read through the newspaper archives at UC Berkeley and found many stories about the Port Chicago explosion, and a few about the subsequent mutiny trial. “But just as quickly, the story disappeared. It’s the middle of a war, 1944, so there’s some dramatic news happening every day.”

Other work pushed Port Chicago aside for a while — but the story wouldn’t let Robert go. “This is really just a fantastic story,” he thought again and again. “How can I begin to learn more about it? What I need is something to start with.” He had the newspaper accounts, but they were brief and often contradictory. “Then I thought, ‘There’s a trial. There’s a mutiny trial, and there must be a mutiny trial transcript. If I could get hold of that, I might have access to the whole story.’”

So he contacted the Navy the old-fashioned way — he looked up the number and called them. He was lucky; the records had been declassified in 1972. No one had ever asked to see them.

“Yes, we have them here,” a young clerk told him.

“Do I have to come there to see them, or can I get a copy sent?”

“We can make you a copy if you know exactly what you want.”

“I want exactly the full transcript.”

The man was momentarily speechless. “It’s 1,400 pages!”

“Well,” Robert said, “I want it all.”

He agreed to pay ten cents a page for copies, no small sum for a broke student. “And that,” he says, “was the first big break.”

He got the transcript and started reading, taking notes. But the more he read, the more questions he had. “Because I now had the details of the events that happened, that the men had refused to go back to work. But nothing about what was going on at Port Chicago before that. The trial record was silent on that. And I realized this court had decided that any testimony about events prior to the date of the work-stoppage was irrelevant. The only question was, ‘Did you, or did you not, on August 9th, refuse to return to work loading ammunition?’ The court basically ruled out any testimony about the conditions existing at the base before the explosion. The discrimination, the lack of training, the fact that white officers were betting each other about which division could load the fastest — all of this, which contributed to the men’s anger and outrage, they weren’t allowed to tell any of it in court.”

As Robert read, he tried to see the story from the point of view of the accused mutineers, many of whom were teenagers. “What was it that motivated the men?” he wondered. “It’s never brought out in the trial. This is only half the story. Where’s the other half?”

The answer was that it didn’t exist. Not in any written record, anyway. “And I realized,” he says, “the only way to get it was to find some of the survivors and interview them, especially the fifty, the ones who were involved in the mutiny. And that struck me as a daunting task.” He looked for the names of the defendants in Bay Area phone books and made a few calls. No luck.

“How am I going to find these guys? Well, who would have information about them? The Navy’s personnel department.” So he wrote to the Navy asking for addresses.

The reply: “We cannot release these addresses to you. These records are confidential.”

Robert’s hopes sank. Without the slightest clue as to where the men lived, how he could he begin to find them? But at the bottom of the letter was something surprising. Whoever wrote it had clearly broken from form letter–speak to make a suggestion: Robert could write letters to the men and send them to the Navy, along with self-addressed stamped envelopes. The Navy would forward the letters, and if the men felt like responding to Robert, they would.

This was the turning point. “I got these packets together and sent them out,” he remembers.

There was a long silence after that, and Robert began to doubt he would get any responses. “I’ll never know if the Navy mailed the letters or not,” he thought. “They could have all been thrown in the trash.”

But finally, a response came. Then a few more. Robert was thrilled. He talked to several of the men on the phone, including Joe Small, the man the Navy accused of being the ringleader of the Port Chicago mutiny. It wasn’t easy. “Because for these men, who was I? What was my motive? That’s on everybody’s mind, whether they say it or not, so you have to speak to that.”

He explained what he was trying to do. “Your perspective is missing from the written record,” he told the men. “The story of you and the other sailors, and what was happening in the years, weeks, days before the explosion, that’s not in the written history of Port Chicago. And I want to get your story out.”

Many of the men agreed to talk, and Robert was determined to do it in person. “I learned as a journalist, face-to-face contact is always better,” he says. “You get much more from somebody if you talk to them face to face.”

But that raised a new problem. “I looked at the list of addresses, and every single one of them was along the East Coast and on down into the South. I thought, ‘How in the world am I going to do this?’ I was in graduate school, and graduate students, by definition, are poor. So I really didn’t have the money to make a big trip, but then, reading the newspaper, I saw a Greyhound Bus ad, and they had what they called a ‘See America’ fare. You paid $100 and you could ride any Greyhound Bus anywhere they went in the United States for a month. And I realized, that was my ticket.”

Robert flew the red-eye to New York City. He had a list of men to interview. The first lived in Harlem.

It was nearly the last.

“The very first interview practically stopped me in my tracks,” he says. “I went to the man’s building in Harlem, and he opens the door and says, ‘We can do the interview, but let’s go down the street to my friend’s house.’”

Sure, Robert said, thinking, “This is his interview, and if I want to get it, I have to do it on his terms.” They walked to a neighbor’s apartment and went in. There was no one home. They sat and talked for over an hour. Robert could sense the man relaxing as the interview went on. “But what had happened at his front door was still hanging over me,” he says. When they were done, Robert decided to ask about it.

“I hope I didn’t create a problem for you,” Robert said.

“No, you didn’t create a problem,” the man said, “but my son was home today, my grown son. And if you had come in, I would have had to introduce you, and I didn’t want to do that. Because I’ve never told him what happened to me at Port Chicago. And I’m still not sure I want him to know.”

Robert was stunned. “I hadn’t really thought about how the families might be affected by what had happened, and how that might create pain all these years later.”

He walked to a YMCA and got a room. It was a rough night. “If he hasn’t told his son, what does that mean about how he feels about it?” Robert wondered. “If the men haven’t told their families, what right do I have to be asking these questions? Am I not re-traumatizing them by even asking the questions? I should just get on the bus and go home. Even if the men agree to be interviewed by me, can I really do it? Do I have a right to do it?”

One sleepless night later, he still hadn’t made up his mind. His conscience was telling him to get on a plane and fly home. But he had already bought the bus ticket. And the next person was nearby, in northern Jersey.

“I should do the next interview,” he decided. “I should at least do one more.”

And the next interview was Joe Small. “Thank goodness!” Robert says, laughing. “If it had been a couple of others who came later, I would have said, ‘No, I shouldn’t be doing this.’ Joe Small was ready to talk. His attitude was, ‘I want to get the story out.’”

And the rest is history. History that literally would not exist — not in any form accessible to us today — without Robert Allen’s amazing detective work. All fifty of the men convicted of mutiny at Port Chicago are gone. But their voices live in Robert’s interviews. Their story is very much alive.

For more on the 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB14. Read Steve Sheinkin’s .

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Rose Under Fire: Author Elizabeth Wein’s 2014 BGHB Fiction Honor Speech http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/rose-fire-author-elizabeth-weins-2014-bghb-fiction-honor-speech/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/rose-fire-author-elizabeth-weins-2014-bghb-fiction-honor-speech/#respond Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:00:45 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44144 Greetings to Roger Sutton, the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award judges, and everyone at the awards ceremony, from Elizabeth Wein in Warsaw, Poland. Between you and me today stretches a distance of over four thousand miles, and I do “mind the gap.” I am both grateful and utterly stunned that Rose Under Fire has been named […]

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wein rose under fire Rose Under Fire: Author Elizabeth Weins 2014 BGHB Fiction Honor SpeechGreetings to Roger Sutton, the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award judges, and everyone at the awards ceremony, from Elizabeth Wein in Warsaw, Poland. Between you and me today stretches a distance of over four thousand miles, and I do “mind the gap.”

I am both grateful and utterly stunned that Rose Under Fire has been named one of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Books this year. I can’t tell you how sorry I am not to be there in person, to celebrate with you and meet the other award recipients, to eat and drink and talk and talk and talk with all of you. Because, in the words of Antoine de Saint Exupéry, “Nous demandons à boire, mais nous demandons aussi à communiquer.” We need to drink, but also we need to communicate.

When I began writing Rose Under Fire, I was fascinated by the flying bombs — the Vergeltungswaffen — that the Third Reich launched at southern England in the summer of 1944 immediately following the invasion of Normandy. These were, essentially, the first cruise missiles. I wanted my story to move from the receiving end of these weapons to the production line, at some point, which is one of the reasons I planned to set the second part of the book in the Nazi women’s concentration camp at Ravensbrück, where there was a German munitions factory. I felt that the plight of the prisoners there was one of the lesser-known events of the Holocaust — a gap, as it were.

It wasn’t until I began the research for this second part of the novel that I discovered the story of the “Rabbits,” the Polish women who were subjected to Nazi experimentation at Ravensbrück. I’d never even heard of them — another gap. And it wasn’t until I’d already read three survivor accounts and a nonfiction history of the camp that I discovered the story of the Rabbits’ rebellion against the camp authorities in the winter of 1945. Here, buried in the rubble of well-known history, was an amazing tale few people were aware of.

The irony is that during their internment the women known as Rabbits were desperate to make their own story public. They stole a camera and took photographs of their scars, which were later used in the Nuremberg trials; a fellow prisoner kept the single roll of film hidden for them for six months until her own release. While still imprisoned, the Rabbits smuggled a message to the Pope and received a blessing from him over the radio. They sent messages in invisible ink made of urine. They managed to get all their names read aloud over the radio by the BBC. Imprisoned, under sentence of death, even as they were starving, their driving purpose was to get their story out.

In Rose Under Fire, the need to communicate is as strong as the need for sustenance. “Nous demandons à boire, mais nous demandons aussi à communiquer.” The mission of the survivors of Ravensbrück in particular, and of the Holocaust in general, is to “tell the world.” I will say exactly what I said two years ago when I thanked you for giving Code Name Verity this honor as well: thank you for helping to bring this message of horror and hope to a wider audience. And thank you for helping to fill in the gaps.

For more on the 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB14.

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Grasshopper Jungle: Author Andrew Smith’s BGHB 2014 Fiction Award Speech http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/grasshopper-jungle-author-andrew-smiths-bghb-2014-fiction-award-speech/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/grasshopper-jungle-author-andrew-smiths-bghb-2014-fiction-award-speech/#respond Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:00:44 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44223 I feel very connected being here tonight. I suppose my books — Grasshopper Jungle in particular — are all about connections. I have a cousin who lived with my family of four boys when I was very young. Her name is Renata, she has gentle Italian hands, and she lives near Phoenix now. I’ve never […]

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smith grasshopper jungle Grasshopper Jungle: Author Andrew Smiths BGHB 2014 Fiction Award SpeechI feel very connected being here tonight.

I suppose my books — Grasshopper Jungle in particular — are all about connections.

I have a cousin who lived with my family of four boys when I was very young. Her name is Renata, she has gentle Italian hands, and she lives near Phoenix now. I’ve never known any other Renatas, although the name is fairly common in Italy, which is where my family comes from.

The American writer Renata Adler was born in Italy, too. In the novel Slapstick, or Lonesome No More!, Kurt Vonnegut quotes Adler as having said that a writer is someone who hates writing.

Let me tell you how strongly I empathize with that statement.

I’m sure my close friends, and especially Michael Bourret, my agent, and Julie Strauss-Gabel, my editor, know all too well that from time to time I have a propensity to melt down about this thing I can’t stop doing even when it feels like I’m tearing chunks of stuffing from my soul. I think all of us who write feel the same way on occasion. At least, I sure hope so.

I wouldn’t want to be the only one, after all.

So Vonnegut wrote about a note he’d received from his agent after Vonnegut’s own writing-related meltdown. The note said this: “Dear Kurt — I never knew a blacksmith who was in love with his anvil.”

I wrote Grasshopper Jungle after I decided to quit writing, which happened in the summer of 2011. I realize that’s a strange thing to say: I wrote after I quit writing. A lot of bad things made me feel really terrible about being a writer, which is a different thing altogether than simply writing. Being a writer was making me sick, and I was losing sleep over it.

So I quit.

The thing is, I couldn’t really stop myself from putting new words on empty pages, but I could escape from all the rest of the being-a-writer stuff that was dragging me down. So I wrote this story about some kids who are all in love with each other and who accidentally trigger the end of the world from the economically downturned heart of Iowa. I had no intention of ever allowing anyone to read it, because the book was, at its core, about loving something that also destroys your world, which was awfully close to how I felt about being a writer in the summer of 2011.

Because here’s the thing: I didn’t really want people looking into my head after writing a novel about pizza, genetically modified corn, medieval saints, christened (and sometimes dissolving) balls, Paleolithic cave painters, urinal factories, cigarettes, barkless dogs, war, sexual confusion, and how all those things made seamless connections according to my thinking.

After all, I am certain that everything really is connected in some way. So I tried to write a book that was about everything.

That summer of 2011, when I wrote Grasshopper Jungle, was a rough time for me. I had just dropped my son off for his first year away at university and I couldn’t stand the thought of our being separated — disconnected — by such great distance. I wasn’t ready to let him go. And I filled that book up with all my confused frustrations, firing shots at every just-like-it’s-always-been thing I thought was stupid and pointless and unfair.

And I guess my son missed me, too, because in September he asked if I had anything of mine that he could read. He didn’t care what it was I sent him; he just wanted to see some of my words again. So, I was scared, but I asked him if he wanted to read this insane thing I’d just finished working on, called Grasshopper Jungle.

He said yes, but I made him promise to tell me after he finished reading it whether or not he thought I ought to go see a therapist. My son read the book the same day I sent it to him. I’ll reserve the content of his follow-up call for some future speech. It was a real humdinger.

People in Iowa say things like humdinger.

My books are things that connect me to my family, many of whom come from Iowa. Well, my in-laws do, at least. And I don’t even ask them to read my books; they just do.

And I’ll admit that a lot of the time I don’t really want people to read my books.

I sure got my wish for the first half-dozen or so of them I put out!

But the reason I frequently don’t want people to read what I write is because I can’t help but slip in things that are intensely personal. I try to disguise those parts. Whether or not this strategy works is debatable.

A boy in Iowa sent me a photo of himself, standing in a cornfield and holding up his copy of Grasshopper Jungle.

A same-sex married couple in Iowa asked if I would be willing to be named godfather to their son, who is going to be born this month.

An adult man in Iowa sent me a letter thanking me for writing a book about who he was when he was a teenager. He told me his life would have been much easier if there had been books like Grasshopper Jungle when he was a kid.

These are all true stories from people I have never met.

This is part of my history.

Sometimes I can’t help but see all the connections that keep crossing right in front of me.

Among my closest friends are other people who work over the same anvil I do, especially Amy Sarig King, who has powerful German hands and comes from Pennsylvania. And, like Vonnegut, I feel a sense of kinship toward all writers — in particular those who are fortunate enough to work in the young adult and children’s literature community.

To you all, I will end with another line from Vonnegut’s Slapstick, or Lonesome No More!, which goes like this:

“I am a brother to writers everywhere…It is lucky, too, for human beings need all the relatives they can get—as possible donors or receivers not necessarily of love, but of common decency.”

You are, for the most part, a very decent lot.

This is an incredible honor.

For more on the 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB14.

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Rules of Summer: Author Shaun Tan’s 2014 BGHB PB Honor Speech http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/rules-summer-author-shaun-tans-2014-bghb-pb-honor-speech/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/rules-summer-author-shaun-tans-2014-bghb-pb-honor-speech/#respond Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:00:44 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44197 Thank you very much for this fantastic honor, and for an award that so generously includes far-flung Australians such as myself, currently ten thousand miles away and probably asleep, or else unsuccessfully trying to settle a teething infant. It never fails to amaze me how books can travel, find an audience, and touch imaginations across […]

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tan rules of summer Rules of Summer: Author Shaun Tans 2014 BGHB PB Honor SpeechThank you very much for this fantastic honor, and for an award that so generously includes far-flung Australians such as myself, currently ten thousand miles away and probably asleep, or else unsuccessfully trying to settle a teething infant. It never fails to amaze me how books can travel, find an audience, and touch imaginations across vast oceans and even larger tracts of history and culture, particularly those books that begin life as silly ideas that rarely constitute good public conversation (which is why so many of us turn to writing and painting, I guess). Somehow, statements such as “I wonder what happens if you sell your own brother to a bunch of ravens” never seem to find a sufficient opening in any normal, everyday, non-psychiatric context. Although, I notice kids have a fair ear for it, and perhaps this is what unites so many of us adults around the tolerant glow of children’s literature, where certain things are discussed when we should really be discussing certain other things, like war and politics. But maybe we can do both, in a roundabout way. So again I put it to you: “What happens if you sell your own brother to a bunch of ravens?” Surely it’s a relevant question.

When a book wins any prize, the first thing most people want to know is simply what it’s about. That’s tricky, because I’m never entirely sure what my stories or images really mean. In fact, that’s how I know if they are any good! There’s a certain thing that most artists are searching for, regardless of medium; a certain kind of transcendence even from their own understanding; a recognition that life in all its minute detail is mysterious. This is perhaps nowhere more true than in the relationship between two people, and the closer that relationship becomes, the more intense the mystery. Rules of Summer is based largely on memories of my own childhood, much of it spent with my older brother in Western Australia. Of course our personal history is far less tumultuous than the one represented in my book — we never really had fights like the two boys in my story — but, to paraphrase Picasso, art is the lie that reveals the truth. By exaggerating the undercurrent feelings of my childhood, and making them absurdly disproportionate, I was hoping to get close to a kind of truth, the “invisible reality” that all readers are looking for. Even if my pictures of giant rabbits, tornadoes, urban fish, strange cat-men, and half-finished robots are bewildering, the emotions and memories they provoke are quite real: fear, delight, jealousy, forgiveness, and a kind of pervasive uncertainty about the world that we are still, as adults, trying to grow up within. What’s around the corner? For all our wisdom and experience, we really don’t know. We have a lot more growing up to do. Even the smallest of little brothers or sisters can tell us this with utmost confidence — once we’ve rescued them back from the ravens.

Many thanks to Arthur Levine and his wonderful team at Scholastic, with a shout-out to Sheila Marie, Emily, and Phil. You probably already know that Arthur is such a wonderful guy, an astute and sensitive editor, much better than myself at giving speeches, and can also do a pretty good Australian accent, too — no worries at all. Such a pleasure to work with on all counts. Thanks also go to my Australian publisher, Hachette, in Sydney and to my long-term collaborator Helen Chamberlin, who commissioned my very first work back in 1996, when everyone else worried I might be too weird (and hopefully still do!). And, of course, huge appreciation to many people I have never met, all the teachers, librarians, booksellers, reviewers, academics, and other enthusiasts, without whom all our books would float in the dark like asteroids, only hoping to collide with an occasional reader. Instead they are magically turned into beacons of light. And with that illumination in mind, final thanks to the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award committee, whose task of judging among equally brilliant apples, oranges, grapefruit, bananas, and so on is not one to envy, though I do appreciate your penchant for antipodean strawberries. Warm greetings from Melbourne, and I wish you all a wonderful evening of strange and interesting things.

For more on the 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB14. Read Shaun Tan’s 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Special Citation Award speech for The Arrival.

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Mr. Tiger Goes Wild: Author Peter Brown’s 2014 BGHB PB Award Speech http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/mr-tiger-goes-wild-author-peter-browns-2014-bghb-pb-award-speech/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/mr-tiger-goes-wild-author-peter-browns-2014-bghb-pb-award-speech/#respond Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:00:26 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44221 First, I have to thank my editor, Alvina Ling, who has become a great friend of mine. She lives two blocks away from me, so that’s pretty sweet. We get to go for the occasional cocktail on the company. It’s a totally legitimate business expense. Alvina gives me lots of room to fall flat on […]

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brown mr tiger goes wild Mr. Tiger Goes Wild: Author Peter Browns 2014 BGHB PB Award SpeechFirst, I have to thank my editor, Alvina Ling, who has become a great friend of mine. She lives two blocks away from me, so that’s pretty sweet. We get to go for the occasional cocktail on the company. It’s a totally legitimate business expense.

Alvina gives me lots of room to fall flat on my face, and I do, every time. Every book is an emotional roller coaster, and she lets me find my bearings. Then she’s there to pick me up off the ground when I need her help, which is often.

People ask me, “How did you get your first book deal?” wanting to hear me tell some horrible story of trials and tribulations. And I’m like, Oh, I was at this cocktail party ten years ago and I bumped into these young ladies. I started chatting them up, and one of them turned out to be a designer, and another was a publicist, and another an editor. I started talking about this book idea I had, and the editor gave me her card, and she’s edited every book I’ve ever written. I was so lucky that night not only to meet people in the publishing business but also to meet an amazing editor who worked at an amazing publisher. That was a big night for me.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about this book. We are all animals, even though we don’t feel like it. Human beings are animals; we know this, and yet most of us feel totally separate from the animal world. I don’t think children feel totally separate from the animal world. The younger they are, the less kids look at animals as being some other thing. Little kids crawling around on the floor with their dogs and their cats are just hanging out with their friends. I think kids have an interesting appreciation for animals that, unfortunately, the rest of us lose over the years. If a kid grows up in the countryside, as I did, I think they have an even greater appreciation and connection with animals, with wildness, with wildlife.

I grew up in New Jersey. Contrary to popular belief, there’s actually really beautiful countryside in New Jersey. I grew up near the Delaware River, where there are rolling hills and forests and farmland. I spent my youth in the woods, climbing trees, getting muddy, occasionally bringing home little animals from the woods. I would bring them home and be like, Why can’t I have a turtle? Why can’t I have a pet frog or a squirrel? I don’t see why I shouldn’t have a pet monkey. This, to me, makes perfect sense. My connection with the natural world translated to a love of animal characters as well. I loved animal book characters; I loved cartoon characters. Disney films were huge for me. I still love all of those things.

And so I’ve always been fascinated with the relationship between humans and wildlife, and wildness and wilderness. That inspired an earlier book of mine, Children Make Terrible Pets, where we see an animal and a person interacting in a really strange way. Instead of a kid bringing home a wild animal as a pet, as I used to do, it’s a wild animal who brings home a kid to be her pet.

I’m also interested in transformation, in metamorphosis. When I was a kid and saw butterflies come out of cocoons, it blew my mind — and it still does. Tadpoles turning into frogs: that is insane. My interest in transformation is one reason why I made The Curious Garden, about a boy tending to wildflowers growing in a gray, dreary city. We see, over the course of that book, a city transforming before our eyes.

I decided that I wanted to combine my two real passions, my love of wildness and wildlife and my love of transformation, into one story. I wanted to follow an anthropomorphic animal character — a character who does people things, wears clothes, rides bikes — as he gets in touch with the animal that he really is, a strange getting-to-know his true self. I wanted the arc of this story to be as extreme as possible. It had to start off with a character who’s super-proper, maybe an Edwardian-era character, and then the animal character had to become the opposite of that, which would be super-wild, maybe a tiger in a jungle. I thought that would be a pretty cool transformation to watch happen before our eyes: the least wild thing in the world turning into the most wild thing in the world, and the step-by-step progression of that transformation. That was the idea that started this book.

I started looking at some of my favorite books featuring animal characters. I went back to my favorites from childhood, like Frog and Toad. I love those stories now and I loved them when I was a kid, but when I was a kid I had some problems with them because I knew for a fact that frogs do not ride bicycles. I knew because I would pick them up out of the stream by my house. I knew that toads do not wear newsboy caps. And I wondered, do Frog and Toad eat sandwiches, or do they eat flies? They probably eat fly sandwiches.

But you see where I’m going with this. The Berenstain Bears always confused me because they don’t hibernate in winter. How can you be a bear and not hibernate? It feels pretty fundamental. When you’re a kid, bears equal hibernation. That is the thing. So to have a bear character who doesn’t hibernate was really confusing to me.

The animal character that confused me the most — and still does to this day — is Babar, the elephant.

As most of you probably know, the story starts off with Babar out in the wild with his mom. His mom gets shot by a hunter — which is awesome and crazy to have happen in a picture book, but that was another time — so the hunter brings the baby elephant into the city. And then Babar goes off on his own. He’s a wild elephant walking on four legs through this city. That’s super-cool. He walks right on into a department store. Amazing. He hops on the elevator, goes to the top floor — I’m totally into this — turn the page, and suddenly, he’s walking on two legs and wearing a suit.

One page turn, and he goes from four legs, naked, to two legs, clothed. In a single page turn. When I was a kid, I would look at the edge of the page. Is there some secret message on the edge? Because I need an explanation of what the heck just happened. But there was no explanation. I wanted to show that. That’s the story I wanted to tell, because — that page turn? That’s the whole story!

That was one of the inspirations for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. I wanted to show the transformation that happened in a single page turn, spread out over, say, forty pages. I went back and looked at a lot of the classic books and Disney movies I loved as a kid. I started looking at the artists behind those Disney movies — people like Mary Blair and Gustaf Tenggren and Bill Peet, who did really amazing work for Disney films but who also did amazing picture books. Those artists led me to other mid-century illustrators such as Eyvind Earle, Alice and Martin Provensen, and Leonard Weisgard. A lot of them had crossover between animation and picture books, and they were exploring anthropomorphism with their characters.

Disney’s Robin Hood is a good example; he’s a fox, and most of the time he acts like a person. And then all of a sudden something’ll happen and he’ll snap his jaws. You see that fox that’s in there. So I watched these movies and I started going, Yeah, that’s cool. I’m gonna try that out, too, with my character. Suddenly I had inspiration for my characters, I had inspiration for my story, and I also had inspiration for visuals. All of those books are so beautiful; the design is impeccable. All of this started swirling together in my imagination, and I got down to business on this visual story.

I ended up with a story about a very proper tiger who is living in a very proper world and is bored with it. He decides to rebel against the monotony of his life and gets in touch with his inner wildness. He gets in touch with the tiger that was there all along underneath the suit and the top hat and the bow tie.

And along the way, he takes off all of his clothes.

Perhaps my proudest achievement is that I managed to put a nude centerfold in a picture book. It’s true. It was serendipity, because I didn’t mean for it to be the centerfold, but it totally is. I remember saying to Alvina, “Whoa…did you realize that it’s the centerfold where the character is first spread out across two pages, buck naked?” That, clearly, was meant to be.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is really about a character becoming his true self, which is pretty poignant stuff. The story is dripping with metaphors and meaning, but honestly I wasn’t thinking about any of that when I was working on the story. To me, it was just a thought experiment. I was thinking to myself, How can I tell a story with this huge character arc, where a character goes from as un-wild as possible to the wildest thing in the jungle? And I guess it turned out pretty well, because here I am accepting a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for it.

For more on the 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB14.

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The Animal Book: Author Steve Jenkins’s 2014 BGHB NF Honor Speech http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/animal-book-author-steve-jenkinss-2014-bghb-nf-honor-speech/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/animal-book-author-steve-jenkinss-2014-bghb-nf-honor-speech/#respond Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:00:24 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44158 I’ve been interested in the science of the natural world for as long as I can remember. As a child, I read anything and everything about animals that I could get my hands on, even if I didn’t always understand it. At the time — this was in the late 1950s — the children’s nonfiction […]

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jenkins animal book The Animal Book: Author Steve Jenkinss 2014 BGHB NF Honor SpeechI’ve been interested in the science of the natural world for as long as I can remember. As a child, I read anything and everything about animals that I could get my hands on, even if I didn’t always understand it. At the time — this was in the late 1950s — the children’s nonfiction landscape was pretty bleak. There were high-quality reference books — the Golden Guides were my favorites — but many of the nonfiction trade books for children were written in that insipid Dick-and-Jane style. The publication I remember most clearly from that time — and one that in some ways led, many years later, to The Animal Book — was a 1958 Life magazine my parents gave me. The cover story was titled “The Fantastic Galapagos: Darwin’s Treasure of Wildlife.” It included page after page of remarkable illustrations of the islands’ flora and fauna, and it served as my introduction to the theory of evolution. Things have changed a lot since then. Sadly, it’s been an uphill struggle for Darwin, but the picture is much brighter when it comes to children’s literature. Today there are many, many excellent nonfiction books for children. To have my book recognized among such company is a significant honor.

I suppose that there is something a bit oxymoronic about a 208-page picture book, and I’d like to thank my editor, Margaret Raymo, for believing that I could pull it off, and I’d like to thank the Boston Globe-Horn Book committee for apparently agreeing.

Thank you.

For more on the 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB14. Read Steve Jenkins’s 1999 Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Award speech for Top of the World.

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