The Horn Book http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:30:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Week in Review, June 29th-July 3rd http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/news/week-in-review-june-29th-july-3rd/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/news/week-in-review-june-29th-july-3rd/#respond Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:30:20 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50785 This week on hbook.com… From the July/August 2015 Special Awards issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Table of Contents Editorial: “What the Survey Doesn’t Say” Profile of 2015 Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat by editor Connie Hsu Profile of 2015 Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander by poet/teacher Nikki Giovanni “Dream Keepers”: 2015 CSK Author Award acceptance speech […]

The post Week in Review, June 29th-July 3rd appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
Week in Review

This week on hbook.com…

From the July/August 2015 Special Awards issue of The Horn Book Magazine:

Reviews of the Week:

Out of the Box: 

Lolly’s Classroom: Brain-bending books

Events calendar

Summer Reading 2015

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!

Share

The post Week in Review, June 29th-July 3rd appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/news/week-in-review-june-29th-july-3rd/feed/ 0
All ALA, all the time http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/all-ala-all-the-time/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/all-ala-all-the-time/#respond Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:15:46 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50816 The Horn Book Magazine‘s annual special Awards issue (cover by Caldecott winner Dan Santat) is out! Here’s what we’ve posted just this week, with more coming soon: Table of Contents Editorial: “What the Survey Doesn’t Say” Profile of 2015 Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat by editor Connie Hsu Profile of 2015 Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander by […]

The post All ALA, all the time appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
san francisco

July/August 2015 Horn Book MagazineThe Horn Book Magazine‘s annual special Awards issue (cover by Caldecott winner Dan Santat) is out! Here’s what we’ve posted just this week, with more coming soon:

A few of our favorite things shared by those lucky enough to attend the conference: *cough cough #alaleftbehind cough*

Share

The post All ALA, all the time appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/all-ala-all-the-time/feed/ 0
2015 Mind the Gap Awards: The books that didn’t win at ALA http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/2015-mind-the-gap-awards-the-books-that-didnt-win-at-ala/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/2015-mind-the-gap-awards-the-books-that-didnt-win-at-ala/#respond Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:03:50 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50626 Mad, man! The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis No Printz for the princes The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett #WWBYD (What Would Baba Yaga Do?) Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire Slow and steady didn’t win the race The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye, illustrated by Betsy Peterschmidt […]

The post 2015 Mind the Gap Awards: The books that didn’t win at ALA appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
mindthegap2015__237x203

Mad, man! The Madman of Piney Woods
by Christopher Paul Curtis
No Printz for the princes The Children of the King
by Sonya Hartnett
#WWBYD
(What Would Baba Yaga Do?)
Egg & Spoon
by Gregory Maguire
Slow and steady didn’t win the race The Turtle of Oman
by Naomi Shihab Nye,
illustrated by Betsy Peterschmidt
Locked out The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza
by Jack Gantos
Eclipsed West of the Moon by Margi Preus
Not its day in the sun Buried Sunlight
by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm,
illustrated by Molly Bang
Stalled My Bus by Byron Barton
Drat! Draw! by Raúl Colón
There. Are. No. Words. The Farmer and the Clown
by Marla Frazee

 

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015.

Share

The post 2015 Mind the Gap Awards: The books that didn’t win at ALA appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/2015-mind-the-gap-awards-the-books-that-didnt-win-at-ala/feed/ 0
Profile of 2015 Wilder Medal winner Donald Crews http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/profile-of-2015-wilder-medal-winner-donald-crews/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/profile-of-2015-wilder-medal-winner-donald-crews/#respond Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50621 Looking back on my childhood, it is clear that my parents, Donald Crews and Ann Jonas Crews, gave my sister and me a visual education. They taught us to look at the world and shared with us their passion for visual and cinematic art. They taught us that the way something is presented is a […]

The post Profile of 2015 Wilder Medal winner Donald Crews appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
crewsfamily_adjusted

Nina, Donald, and Ann Crews, 2009. Photo: Amy Crews.

Looking back on my childhood, it is clear that my parents, Donald Crews and Ann Jonas Crews, gave my sister and me a visual education. They taught us to look at the world and shared with us their passion for visual and cinematic art. They taught us that the way something is presented is a form of expression and has meaning. That in the spaces between words there are actions and gestures. In the spaces between words there are pictures. When I look at my father’s body of work, I marvel at his elegant visual solutions for telling any story. He knows how to communicate in the spaces between words. This ability is something integral to his temperament, and it was an elemental part of my childhood.

Over the years, my sister, Amy, and I have joked about communications with our father. They are often brief and to the point, their tone imperative — the complete opposite of the longer digressive chats we would have with our mother. Amy and I might laugh, but rarely do we have much argument with what my father has to say. His style is just Dad — he’s not one to ramble on but is clear and concise in word and gesture.

Crews_early_years_gray

Donald and Ann Crews, 1962. Photo courtesy of Donald and Ann Crews.

My parents worked at home, which meant that they were always working and never working at the same time. Jazz music or talk radio programs played constantly. There were advantages to having our parents always available in that way. Even though we’d be shooed away when deadlines loomed, they were ready and available when my sister or I wanted help building something for our dolls or with a school project. We were even called upon, on occasion, to participate in their work — both of us posed for photographs and drawings that were included in their freelance projects.

My father and mother moved to New York City from their family homes in New Jersey to attend art school. They became passionate and committed New Yorkers, raising my sister and me in the New York of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s — a time when many families chose the safer nearby suburbs. The city offered culture — high and low. My parents marveled at the architecture and the energy of our hometown. Sure, they had to be careful in a city with a high crime rate, but that was a small sacrifice to make to be inspired and creatively energized the minute they walked out our front door.

donald crews taking photo

Donald Crews, 2014. Photo: Nina Crews.

Our family would take bike rides past the abandoned piers on the west side of Manhattan, down to the Staten Island Ferry. We would ride the ferry back and forth to Staten Island, without getting off, simply to look around the harbor and get a nice view of lower Manhattan. When I was in seventh grade and taking a photography class, my father walked with me around our neighborhood as I took pictures, encouraging me to take one more look here or there. On these excursions, he would take photographs, as well — visual notes that might be helpful for projects down the road or things that he just found interesting. He still carries a camera with him most of the time and records scenery and signs, or events such as the parades, bicycle races, and county fairs that became the subjects of his books.

crews_envelope_adjusted

Photo courtesy of Nina Crews.

When I was nine and ten, my family sent letters to me at sleep-away camp. My mother’s letters were filled with news of the past day or two since her last letter. She made sure I was up-to-date on my sister and the cat and anything special that had gone on. My father wrote less often, and his letters were less detailed. Instead, he created visually playful hellos. One letter begins, “Don’t have much to say so I’ll write small…” It is a tiny handwritten message occupying a rectangle the size of a postage stamp in the middle of a letter-sized page. On the envelope of another letter sent by my mother, he drew an elaborate gothic-style N for the first initial of my name. A third letter featured a self-portrait, because while he had sent photos of my sister, my mother, and the cat, he had none of himself to send.

My father’s first books, We Read: A to Z and Ten Black Dots, were part of my early childhood library, but his biggest successes came when I was a teenager. When Freight Train won a Caldecott Honor, the four of us traveled to Dallas for the convention and awards ceremony. We took a side trip to New Mexico afterward, making the most of our time in the Southwest for more looking and more photographs. When we got home, my father created a slideshow that we watched together, and we had an animated discussion of our different memories of the trip.

While I was soon off to college and much more involved in finding my independent self, I felt the magic of those years after Freight Train. My father had success followed by success, and with each new project he worked to match the design of his art to the story at hand. I remember him doing photo experiments for the blurs of the moving carousel in Carousel, and expanding upon his use of airbrush in Flying. And all the while, my father and mother were building a friendship with his editor, Susan Hirschman. In time, she would become my mother’s editor — and mine.

My father had encouraged my mother to consider making picture books, and soon they both had successful picture book careers. While they never collaborated, they cared deeply about each other’s work and offered both support and criticism. What mattered was to make each book the best that it could be. It was an excellent education for the aspiring artist that I was. I saw my parents create meticulous book dummies. I watched them start final art for a page and then abandon that art if it wasn’t quite right. I learned that it is not enough to have words on the page, but that the words must be well spaced and well placed. I learned that a beautiful picture book takes months and months of thoughtful, careful work.

When I began my career in children’s books, I strove to use the lessons learned from years of watching my parents work. Both of them were thrilled to have me follow in their footsteps, and their thoughts and advice have always been helpful and supportive. As I worked on my own books, my appreciation of their work has grown.

Surprisingly, even after years of work in the field, I found that there were still lessons for me to learn from my father. Lessons I learned from reading Dad’s books to my infant son, who by the age of six months showed a deep passion for all vehicles. Freight Train was the most popular. And not just for the obvious appeal of trains moving down the track, but for the final moment of the book when the train was “gone.” The final page is so very spare, showing just empty tracks and a trail of smoke. That moment is epic for a child that age, for whom the presence and absence of known things is still deeply mysterious.

My father knows how to hit the right note at the right time, as a jazz musician might. He punctuates a simple text with an observation that gives us a reason to look and look again at that train, bus, or busy harbor. He shares with very young readers his deep engagement with looking at and observing the world. A visual education.

Donald Crews is the winner of the 2015 Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal. From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015.

Share

The post Profile of 2015 Wilder Medal winner Donald Crews appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/profile-of-2015-wilder-medal-winner-donald-crews/feed/ 0
Whack-a-Word app review http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/whack-a-word-app-review/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/whack-a-word-app-review/#respond Wed, 01 Jul 2015 17:20:46 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50494 Practice turning letters into words with Whack-a-Word (Reading Horizons, 2013). The setting: a garden with a row of carrots in front and a spate of moles popping up, whack-a-mole style, behind them, each holding a placard with a letter. Your mission: to tap the moles holding the letters you need to spell words, and thus […]

The post Whack-a-Word app review appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
whack-a-word title screenPractice turning letters into words with Whack-a-Word (Reading Horizons, 2013). The setting: a garden with a row of carrots in front and a spate of moles popping up, whack-a-mole style, behind them, each holding a placard with a letter. Your mission: to tap the moles holding the letters you need to spell words, and thus keep your carrots from disappearing.

A chipper young voice gives you instructions, and a measured adult voice and says the first word you’ll need to spell. Question marks appear in front of the screen, one for each letter you’ll need. Watch the moles and tap the one holding the first letter, and then the second…You can tap either on the mole or on the letter itself. If you don’t tap each before it goes back to its hidey-hole, you lose one carrot; if you tap a mole holding a wrong letter, you lose two. Helpfully, you can tap the speaker icon in the corner to hear a word repeated.

whack-a-word game

There are “Easy,” “Medium,” and “Hard” modes, and you can change your level at any time. Within each, though, there are ten sublevels, which you have to unlock one at a time. Increasing difficulty means longer words, and also more moles popping up at a time, which means you have to think faster to choose the right ones.

The interactivity makes spelling a little more fun, and anticipating the next letter can make the word’s spelling more memorable. Once you figure out which letter you need next, it’s easy to start muttering, “Come on, H!” The quiet beat in the background is motivating, though I could have done without the clanging sound for every single correct letter and the briiiing for every correct word. The laughter, presumably a mole’s laughter, that follows a wrong answer is actually a more pleasant sound. (Muting isn’t much of an option in this game, since you need to hear the words to know what you’re looking for.)

Sounds aside, this is an entertaining way to practice spelling and letter recognition. No moles were harmed in the writing of this review.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 4.3 or later); free. Recommended for primary users.

Share

The post Whack-a-Word app review appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/whack-a-word-app-review/feed/ 0
Paul Bunyan and Boston http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/paul-bunyan-and-boston/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/paul-bunyan-and-boston/#respond Wed, 01 Jul 2015 16:00:40 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50192 An example of the spare beauty of mid-century design, Barbara and Ed Emberley’s The Story of Paul Bunyan (originally published in 1963 by Prentice Hall; new edition AMMO Books, January 2015) is illustrated with woodcuts and printed in two colors — woodsy brown accented with a bright blue befitting Paul’s beloved ox, Babe. The story […]

The post Paul Bunyan and Boston appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
emberley_story of paul bunyanAn example of the spare beauty of mid-century design, Barbara and Ed Emberley’s The Story of Paul Bunyan (originally published in 1963 by Prentice Hall; new edition AMMO Books, January 2015) is illustrated with woodcuts and printed in two colors — woodsy brown accented with a bright blue befitting Paul’s beloved ox, Babe.

The story conveys the usual information about the legendary strongman — he weighed a mere 105 pounds at birth, he combed his long beard with a pine tree — with a folksy, conversational style: “Paul dug his river that afternoon and he called it the Mississippi, which, as far as I know, is what it is called to this day.” But, being a not-so-recent transplant to Boston, what delighted me most was learning the part Paul played in the origins of The Horn Book’s home city: he “caused Boston to break off of Maine and float down the sea to Massachusetts, where it still is to this day.” Who knew?

Share

The post Paul Bunyan and Boston appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/paul-bunyan-and-boston/feed/ 0
Review of Stonewall http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-stonewall/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-stonewall/#respond Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:00:05 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50718  Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum Middle School, High School     Viking     120 pp. 5/15     978-0-670-01679-2     $16.99 Bausum begins her history of the gay rights movement with a careful, detailed exposition of the June 1969 Stonewall riots, laying out the events leading up to the clash between the […]

The post Review of Stonewall appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
bausum_stonewallstar2 Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights
by Ann Bausum
Middle School, High School     Viking     120 pp.
5/15     978-0-670-01679-2     $16.99

Bausum begins her history of the gay rights movement with a careful, detailed exposition of the June 1969 Stonewall riots, laying out the events leading up to the clash between the Greenwich Village gay community and the police and putting those events in the context of time and place. She dedicates the first half of the book to the riots themselves, drawing on reports, interviews, and other first-person accounts to put together a candid linear narrative that takes into consideration the perspectives of both sides of the conflict. And on both sides there is nuance, from different factions in the gay community advocating for peaceful or more combative protest to the militancy of the Tactical Patrol Force at the time (and the subsequent remorse of some of the officers involved). Bausum presents the riots as a galvanizing moment that gave the gay rights movement some traction, and traces its evolution in a more cursory way for the second half of the book. Her coverage includes the Christopher Street Liberation Day march, Harvey Milk, the AIDS crisis, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” DOMA, going up through United States v. Windsor, and arriving at the (pre–Ireland vote) present, which she characterizes with hopeful momentum. Bausum writes with the precision of a journalist; there is never any doubt as to what she wonders, what she conjectures, and what she knows. The resulting narrative integrity makes her observations and her conclusions about the persecution and resilience of the LGBTQ community all the more powerful. Back matter includes an extensive bibliography, copious source notes, and a heartfelt author’s note.

From the July/August 2015 Special Awards issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Share

The post Review of Stonewall appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-stonewall/feed/ 0
Profile of 2015 Newbery Medal winner Kwame Alexander http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/profile-of-2015-newbery-medal-winner-kwame-alexander/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/profile-of-2015-newbery-medal-winner-kwame-alexander/#respond Wed, 01 Jul 2015 12:56:30 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50609 I laugh with my students…I hope never at…when they tell me they are having Writer’s Block…No Such Thing…I declare…that’s only a sign…of not enough knowledge…go do your research…and to me that’s the end…yet…I am having Writer’s Block…because I want so much…to write the perfect introduction…to one of the nicest young men I know Do I […]

The post Profile of 2015 Newbery Medal winner Kwame Alexander appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
alexander_giovanni

I laugh with my students…I hope never at…when
they tell me they are having Writer’s Block…No Such
Thing…I declare…that’s only a sign…of not enough
knowledge…go do your research…and to me that’s the
end…yet…I am having Writer’s Block…because I want
so much…to write the perfect introduction…to one of
the nicest young men I know

Do I start twenty something years ago…when he walked
into my classroom…with an anxious smile saying…I
Want To Be A Writer? My job is not…to teach you to
write…I shared with the class…but to not get in the way
of your writing…My job is to remind you…to have faith
in yourself…and find your voice

Kwame learned maybe only one thing…from me…The
Answer Is Yes…Yes to Juanita Britton (Queen Mother
Nana Botwe Adobea II) who asked him to go to her village
of Konko, in Ghana, to build a library…Yes to small
cities and Book Festivals around the country who needed
a writing friend…Yes to starting his own Book Festival…
His own publishing company…His own line of greeting
cards and posters…Yes to his own idea of empowering
young writers by helping them publish a Book-in-a-
Day…Yes to the excitement of life…to writing on the
road…to growing taller and stronger while trusting that
vision and strength…and every time he said Yes we all
said Yes to him…Family and Community say Yes…A
Poem is like an orange you peel…bit by bit…and enjoy
the juiciest part that drips on you…Yes to interviews…
Yes to wonderful anthologies…and Yes to his own voice
that created the incomparable The Crossover

I cry at many things…in my old age…but tears of joy
trickled down…when I was hospitalized recently…I
awoke after two days to find Kwame sitting across from
me…What are you doing here?…You have work to do…I
said…It’s the Writer’s time of year…I heard you were
sick…he replied…My Literary Son at my side…Nikki…I
won The Newbery Award…You have to get well…and
come to San Francisco

No matter where I am…I’ll be there…Singing the Praises
of a writer…who listens to Yes…who will climb that
ladder to higher and higher spaces…as he CrossesOver all
obstacles…to share his warm and loving…vision

Nikki Giovanni
Poet/Teacher

Kwame Alexander is the winner of the 2015 Newbery Medal for The Crossover (Houghton). From the July/August 2015 Special Awards Issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015.

Share

The post Profile of 2015 Newbery Medal winner Kwame Alexander appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/profile-of-2015-newbery-medal-winner-kwame-alexander/feed/ 0
Profile of 2015 Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/profile-of-2015-caldecott-medal-winner-dan-santat/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/profile-of-2015-caldecott-medal-winner-dan-santat/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 12:39:29 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50607 Dan Santat is one of the hardest-working people in publishing. This is widely known among his followers on Twitter and Facebook, who often see him burning the midnight oil, and the editors and art directors at the several publishing houses with which he’s worked. This is obvious in the number of books that bear his […]

The post Profile of 2015 Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
bigbook

Dan Santat is one of the hardest-working people in publishing. This is widely known among his followers on Twitter and Facebook, who often see him burning the midnight oil, and the editors and art directors at the several publishing houses with which he’s worked.

This is obvious in the number of books that bear his dynamic illustrations, in everything from picture books and chapter books to graphic novels. This is undeniable, because last year he created over five hundred pages of four-color illustrations.

This is unheard of.

bikechickenBut what Dan does isn’t just hard work. It takes a lot of guts too, a blind leap of faith that gave him the drive to sleep for only four hours a night for ten years, so that he could, time and again, turn in consistently great work — all while raising two young sons, Alek and Kyle, with his wife Leah, and taking care of a menagerie of pets.

Like Beekle, Dan Santat has been on a journey.

He was born in Brooklyn in 1975 to Adam and Nancy Santat, a Thai couple who immigrated to the United States in 1968. When he turned three, his parents moved the family to California, where they both eagerly awaited the day their only child would become a doctor.

When Dan graduated from the University of California, San Diego in microbiology, he found himself pulled by a calling that he’d had for many years but had never acted on. Rather than going on to dental school, he instead enrolled at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. There he saw something familiar — other students just like him who dreamed of a life filled with art. This is also where he met one of his closest friends, illustrator Peter Brown.

He then sailed through unknown waters and took on many different jobs, from texture artist and 3D modeler to concept art designer for video games, until he reached the children’s book world. In 2002, he met Scholastic editor Arthur Levine at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference, which led to his first book, The Guild of Geniuses. Aside from developing a Disney animated television series, The Replacements, it was all books from there on.

Children’s book publishing is a strange place. The process is slow. It takes a lot of work. And most people don’t get paid very much.

In 2010, Dan was offered what most people would call a dream job. Google approached him, wanting him to become one of their Google Doodlers. Taking that job meant financial stability for his family. It would prove art school wasn’t a mistake. It would change his life.

He turned the job down.

It was not an easy decision, but he loved creating children’s books, and deep down, he knew he would look back and wonder “What if?” He also thought about the example he was setting for his sons and how he wanted them to also follow their dreams no matter how difficult. Determined to have no regrets, Dan became a work machine.

surlyasian2He took on as many projects as he could, always pushing himself to make the next book better. He woke up every morning at 6:30 to help his boys get to school and worked until 2 a.m. He illustrated over sixty books, and in 2014 alone, he had thirteen books published that featured his art. He drank so much coffee that he began roasting his own beans, even creating his own brand he called “Surly Asian Guy,” which he shared with friends, family, and colleagues. The coffee is bold, strong, and a touch bitter, but still quite pleasing — a little like Dan himself.

This grueling routine went on for years, and Dan assumed he could do it for more, but 2014 was rough. Family health emergencies led to hospitalizations, and multiple deadlines for big books left him with as few as twelve hours of sleep in an entire week. He was exhausted, and on his birthday last October he shared the following in a blog post: “I want and expect far too much than what I may be capable of. I’m thirty-nine and I feel tired.”

A few weeks later, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend began to appear on year-end “best of ” lists. Minh Le at The Huffington Post blog named it the Best Overall picture book of the year, and in his review he wrote, “As with all great books, Beekle has an air of inevitability about it. As if somewhere out there is an island of perfect stories just waiting for the right person to come along and imagine it into being.”

Up until then, Dan was known for his action-packed illustrations, full of humor and high energy, as seen in books such as Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World, The Three Ninja Pigs, and Chicken Dance. Beekle’sstory reflected his softer side and was inspired by Dan’s first child, his son Alek. Like Beekle imagining his real friend, Dan had wondered, before Alek’s birth, what his child would look and be like. A few years later, on Alek’s first day of school, Dan eased his son’s worries about making friends. “All it takes is one,” he’d said, just as when Alice finally meets Beekle and his friendship opens up for her the possibility for more.

santatfamilyThe name “Beekle” itself comes from Alek’s first word, an early attempt at “bicycle.” There’s a video of one-year-old Alek pedaling a tricycle at Christmas, cheerfully exclaiming, “Beekle!” At the time, Dan’s wife Leah said the name would make a great picture book character. Years later, “Beekle” became an unimaginary friend.

The book began as a very short script, a few black-and-white sketches, and one full-color sample. Beekle had one eye, a hat and scarf, and a story that hinted at journey and adventure. Since he’d written only one picture-book text, and that over ten years earlier, writing did not come quickly to Dan. He took an ambitious approach at first. At one point, the story was a metaphor for the creative process, a tale of how
an author and illustrator come together on a picture book. But then he took a step back and adhered to the old adage of “speaking from the heart.” The minute you meet Dan you can tell he’s a captivating storyteller and speaker, and he soon realized that all he had to do was take those words out of his mouth and put them onto paper.

santat_adventures of beekleThroughout the process, Beekle and his story changed. Dan believes that in character design, every single element must serve a purpose. So Beekle got two eyes, because there was no reason for him to have just one. Beekle became even more amorphous, an ambiguous blob, because he was meant to be dreamed up by a shy young girl who thought she didn’t deserve any imaginary friend, much less an awesome one. Like a white sheet of paper, Beekle represented possibility and imagination.

He was also bestowed with a crown; while Beekle was simple and indistinct, he was always a king in Alice’s mind. He got one of the cutest butts in picture books, because creative director Dave Caplan would exclaim, “Look at that tuchus!” every time he saw it, and Dan, ever a professional with publishers, aimed to please.

While Dan took out some of the layers of the story, he added much to the overall design and illustration. The endpapers feature various children with their imaginary friends, each one specifically paired with the child’s interests. In the front endpapers Beekle stands alone, and in the back, there he is with Alice. The case cover reveals a cruder Beekle, as though he were hand-drawn by a child — in this case, we imagine it was done by Alice. On the front cover and in the book we see that while adults never pay attention to Beekle, animals do. The colors embark on a journey too, from the psychedelic rainbow palette of the imaginary world to the dark grays and blues of the real world. As the sun sets, Beekle sits perched atop a bare tree waiting for his friend, the sepia tones in the background matching his melancholy, and when he meets Alice at last, the world blooms with bright color.

Though the story itself took a step away from being about the creative process, the message is still there, on the pages where Alice shares her drawings with Beekle — each one echoing the previous pages in the story. So he got that in there after all. Touché, Dan.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend is the culmination of hard work and hard-earned experience. With this book Dan felt he had finally reached his destination, which is why, for the first time in his career, he allowed himself a little hope. He thought that if all the stars were aligned, he might be in the running for a Caldecott Honor. That was all he could imagine.

When his cover appeared on that last Caldecott slide at the ALA Youth Media Awards, cheers erupted, and everyone, from the publishers he’s worked with to the large and loving community of authors and illustrators who’ve had his back for years, knew.

Dan Santat had done the unimaginable.

Dan Santat is the winner of the 2015 Caldecott Medal for The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend (Little, Brown). From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more speeches, profiles, and articles click the tag ala 2015.

Share

The post Profile of 2015 Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/profile-of-2015-caldecott-medal-winner-dan-santat/feed/ 3
Brain-bending books http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/brain-bending-books/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/brain-bending-books/#respond Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:01:33 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50318 Lately, I’ve read several books that blew me away with their beautiful and sometimes anarchic originality. I’ve written before about the creepy dreaminess of the almost-song We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and I was equally bowled over by the lyrical oddity of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, which […]

The post Brain-bending books appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
Lately, I’ve read several books that blew me away with their beautiful and sometimes anarchic originality. I’ve written before about the creepy dreaminess of the almost-song We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and I was equally bowled over by the lyrical oddity of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, which seems to be part magical realism, part historical fiction, and part myth.

I sank into Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (who always overwhelms me with his creativity), as I went over the beautiful panels showing Little Bao and Four-Girl on either side of the Boxer Rebellion in China. And I still have no idea what to think about the coming-of-age meets praying mantis science cautionary comedy Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, except that it was unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

I loved the experience of each of these, but I was dismayed to find myself having the same knee-jerk reaction, thinking I had no idea how I’d teach with these texts. I found myself thinking that I wouldn’t know where to put them in terms of genre because they don’t totally conform. Or that it could be tricky to figure out how to handle a two-volume piece like Yang’s. Or that I wasn’t sure where a science-like tale might fit in my typical ELA classroom.

After some thought though, I’ve decided it was totally uncreative of me to react that way. Maybe it is these books’ originality that makes them exactly the ones I should find places for, either with full classes, small groups, or individuals. If I’m teaching genre conventions, an example that pushes the boundaries could be just as useful as one that meets all of the typical criteria. Or maybe a topic we don’t usually cover could give us a new insight into literary analysis or I could use two volumes to contrast different perspectives in some fun way I haven’t tried before.

Maybe my typical teacher categories have caused me to react too narrowly to these very cool and interesting books. So I’m on a mission to be more creative myself — I’m going to stop reacting that way and see what opportunities books like these offer to teach new and interesting ways of thinking about text. So, I’m wondering how other folks have thought about this. What genre-benders and other tough-to-classify books have people found to use in classrooms, and how did students react?

 

Share

The post Brain-bending books appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/brain-bending-books/feed/ 0