Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Some Books I Read in 2012

I used to list my recent kidlit reads in a monthly post. My reading time took a dip last year while I managed my pregnancy and the arrival of my newborn. So I didn't have too many books to list for my regular monthly "books I read" post.  I ended up compiling the names of some of the books I'd read on a draft with the intention of publishing the list in early 2013.  So here it is:

1. SIDEKICKS by Dan Santat (Arthur A. Levine- Middle Grade Graphic novel) House pets compete to be the new sidekick of their superhero master.

2. PILOT PUPS written by Michelle Meadows, Illust. by  Dan Andreasen (Simon & Schuster- Picture Book)  Toy puppies fly through the house in this rhyming book. Check out my author interview.

3. NOWHERE GIRL by A.J. Paquette (Walker & Company- Middle Grade) A girl born and raised by an American mother in a Thai prison must venture out into the world after her mother's death. Check out my author interview.

4. A TALE DARK AND GRIMM by Adam Gidwitz (Puffin-Middle Grade) Two children leave their home and navigate through many dangers of the outside world. Check out my author interview.

5. MONEY BOY by Paul Yee (Groundwood- Young Adult)  A gay student who is kicked out of his home struggles with an opportunity to make money out on the streets. Check out my author interview.

6. DEAR BULLY edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones (Harper Teen-Young Adult) Authors share their personal experiences with bullying.

7. THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick (Scholastic-Middle Grade Graphic Novel) An orphan boy tries to finish the work his father had been doing before his death.

8. TRY NOT TO BREATHE by Jennifer R. Hubbard (Viking- Young Adult) A boy tries to recover from his suicide attempt. Check out my author interview. 

9.  THE RED THREAD: AN ADOPTION FAIRY TALE by Grace Lin (Albert Whitman- Picture Book)  A Chinese-born girl hears the story behind her adoption. Check out my author interview.

10. LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green (Speak-Young Adult) A boy attends a boarding school where he meets an intriguing girl named Alaska.

11. SCONES AND SENSIBILITY by Lindsay Eland (Egmont USA-Middle Grade) A girl tries to play matchmaker with the people in her life. Check out my author interview.

12.  THE THREE NINJA PIGS by Corey Rosen Schwartz, Illust. by Dan Santat (Putnam Juvenile- Picture Book) Three ninja pigs stand up to the bullying wolf.

13. THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Claire Legrand, Illust. by Sarah Watts (Simon & Schuster - Middle Grade) A girl unravels the secrets behind a mysterious school that holds children against their will.

14. TIME BETWEEN US by Tamara Ireland Stone (Hyperion-Young Adult) A girl meets a boy who is visiting from the future.

What were your favorite reads from last year? 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Kidlit Art Talk and Exhibit at the Art Museum of Los Gatos

Last night, I attended a children's book illustration panel discussion at the Art Museum of Los Gatos in the South Bay. Titled Children's Illustration A-Z, the event featured Susan Jaekel, a kidlit illustrator, Gennifer Choldenko, a Newbery-winning author, Summer Laurie, a former editor at Chronicle Books for Children, and Heidi Long, a librarian at the Los Gatos Library.

The hour flew by fast as the panelists answered questions presented by both Heidi, who was the moderator, and audience members.  One of the questions: What's the best piece of advice you can give others? 

Summer talked about the importance of having rhino-skin- and certainly, writers and artists need a thick skin to survive the publishing industry.  Gennifer mentioned the late Norma Fox Mazer for her philosophy of feeling one's way through a project instead of thinking the way. Susan remembered an instructor she had in college  who encouraged her to just follow her passion.

Something Gennifer said really resonated with me: "I'm never lonely when I write. I have my characters with me." Sometimes when I'm writing late into the night, and it seems like I'm all alone at my computer, my characters actually keep me entertained. And I think Gennifer's statement speaks to a larger idea---we're never alone as long as we have stories inside of ourselves to share.

Although the panel discussion was a one-night affair, a children's book illustration exhibition, Draw Me A Story- A Century of Children's Book Illustration and Storytelling in Pictures: From Idea to Art, will be sticking around at the Art Museum of Los Gatos from now through February 24. So if you live in the area, you should check this out.

The exhibition is pretty cool. And there's something unique that distinguishes how each of the featured artists show their interpretation of the universe. (I avoid using the word unique because it's so overused- like epic, for example- so I only use this word when I really mean it, and I do mean it here.) Susan Jaekel's animals with personality, Bob Barner's edgy dinosaurs, Yuyi Morales' dreamy, rich brushwork, and Emma T. Capps and Thi Bui's enlightening graphic novel excerpts are just a few of the many things I saw.

As a child, I loved drawing- I used to win all these random poster contests and hang my prize ribbons and certificates up on my wall. Back then, I'd even  fancied being both a children's book author and illustrator someday. But as I got older, I got sidetracked with other stuff and put my art on the back burner. When I heard about this art talk and exhibit, I attended with the intention to learn a thing or two more about picture book writing. But once I arrived at the museum and saw all the  awesome children's book illustrations on the walls, I thought to myself...maybe, just maybe, I can rekindle this old flame someday.

How do your characters keep you company when you write? 

How many of you are both artists and writers? How do you balance the two things? 

Artists of the images shown here, from top to bottom: Bob Barner, Susan Jaekel, Emma Capps, and Thi Bui