Children’s Books

Not Your Kid’s Picture Book Anymore

19 March 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

There are picture books that engage, transport, amuse, intrigue, enchant, comfort, or even haunt adults, but that don’t connect with the children who are their purported audience. This would be absolutely fine—picture books are a unique and endlessly variable art form—but it can be hard to overcome customers’ resistance to buying them for themselves. As one of my bookselling colleagues said recently, people will spend $40 on glossy coffee table art books they’ll look through once or twice, but are reluctant to buy themselves an $18 picture book they can’t stop leafing through in the store.

I’ve had more than a few customers over the years pore through picture books, then sadly place them back on the shelves, saying, “I love this, but I don’t have little children in my life anymore.” Good news, my friends: Picture books are not just for children, especially now.

Why have we come to a place where picture books are relegated to the landscape only of the very young? It was not always thus. We didn’t used to hurry children away from picture books into beginning readers and chapter books at age six, the way most parents do now.

. . . .

Parents often dismiss picture books as an entire class—not registering their relative complexities, subtleties, and nuances. They don’t want to spend money on books they think are beneath their children’s intellectual capacities. Even in the span of time I’ve been a bookseller (22 years), I’ve seen word counts shrink and parents push their children out of picture books younger and younger. They may not understand that the language in picture books may be much more sophisticated than the chapter books they are eager for their kids to read.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Here are some of the picture books mentioned in the OP. Each has Look Inside enabled to provide an expanded view of the images and design. If clicking on the cover doesn’t work, I’ve included a text link below each cover.


The Stuff of Stars

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The Fox and The Star
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The Journey

The Problem with Problems

14 March 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

This post is strictly my personal opinion about something I care deeply about—children’s books—and view as having saved my life as a child. I have loved children’s books for 57 years, 28 of them as a bookseller. It is no accident that children’s books are filled with portals leading to other dimensions, wardrobes and tesseracts, Platforms 13 and 9 and ¾, Neitherlands and multi-verses maintained by nine lived enchanters. These passageways are metaphors for those real-world portals into other dimensions, books themselves.

We know from books of wonder that accesses to magical portals are periodically threatened by a variety of evils. These ills are sometimes the results of mistakes made by heroines and heroes, other times by ill will or the return of an ancient malice. We know too what must be done. Mistakes need to be set right, access to the portals preserved, whether through some manner of renewal, or by the beating back of a constricting malice. That is the heroine’s task.

In many ways our own multi-verse of books has been in a kind of golden age these last few decades. We have enjoyed an array of splendid new, entrancing, and increasingly diverse and inclusive worlds made available to readers alongside well trodden older doorways into realms whose pathways, castles, battlefields, museums, and gardens still beckon, beguile, and enrich.

We also know that evils often appear just when the sunlight is brightest. And so it is now, that a potent threat has manifested.

If we were to encounter, in the pages of a book, a maleficent communal voice which, with the heavy prongs of fear and public shaming, enforced an orthodoxy of perspective that constricted what people could write about, which consigned their identities to ethnic and racial attributes, that rewarded conformity and castigated dissent, we would know what the heroine’s task was. She would fight for what is truly important, creativity, social justice, imagination, liberty, a robust forum for dissenting opinions, for individuality and personal association and expression.

The force with which our heroine is confronted is currently being animated through Twitter. There has been a series of Young Adult books whose authors were pressured or, if you like, edified into submission, to remove their own books from pending publication. The pace of these removals is increasing. There have been two in the last several weeks, Blood Heir and A Place for Wolves. More are likely on their way as other people find problems in books and exert force on authors to remove their own work from imminent publication.

There is an enforced narrative at work here which demonizes dissent while rewarding compliance.

Free speech advocates are lumped together into a composite persona, that of privileged people yelling censorship to maintain their privilege. Authors who pull their books are doing so because they are brave not because they are being held under water and desperately looking to get back to the surface.

When your personal identity is in the hands of other people you will do most anything to preserve your safety. It is no coincidence that the two most recent authors to pull their books from publication were themselves active YA Twitter members. Both of them have been involved in argumentation within the Twitter community, and both were more susceptible to being flamed and dragged in an environment their identities were already embedded in.

This toxic environment is reinforced by pressure for people to stay in their racial and ethnic lanes and to adopt the opinions of others which have been granted imprimatur by virtue of authenticity.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

~ George Orwell, Animal Farm

What Books Will Boost Self-Confidence in My 10-Year-Old Son?

16 February 2019

From The Guardian:

Q: What books would help instil confidence in a preteen boy?
Stay-at-home mother, 33, trying to help her 10-year-old son to become calmer and more confident

A: Fiona Noble, children’s books editor at the Bookseller, writes:
The act of reading can itself create an oasis of calm in a busy world, and I believe children’s fiction can play a powerful role in building confidence and resilience. Look for stories showing characters facing and overcoming fears and persevering in tough times. SF Said’s modern classic Varjak Paw, with wonderfully menacing artwork from Dave McKean, is about a young cat on a voyage of discovery and self-acceptance in the big city, replete with martial arts and terrifying villains. Another thrilling tale of bravery is Katherine Rundell’s epic adventure The Explorer, last year’s Costa children’s book of they ear. Four children lost in the Amazon jungle face a compelling physical struggle to survive while each facing their own, more personal battles.

Nonfiction may also offer inspiration. In Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different, Ben Brooks looks beyond the stereotypes, at a diverse selection of male lives, from Lionel Messi to Barack Obama and Daniel Radcliffe.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG would add The Dangerous Book for Boys to this list.

You can get a sense for this book from the book’s first page, which describes Essential Gear for boys:


As a former boy of a certain age, PG can attest to the attractiveness of the items on this list to such a boy, not necessarily because they’re essential for specific tasks, but rather because they’re highly beneficial for the imagination of such a boy and contribute to his self-confidence.

If a boy is prepared to write down a description of a crime he might witness, even in the tamest of neighborhoods, he becomes more observant and feels a bit of mature responsibility for the safety of others. A small flashlight will keep him amused for hours and he will certainly use it to examine a map, even one he draws himself, in the dark or perform a late-evening security check of the perimeter of his home.








New Amazon Crossing Kids: Translating Picture Books Into English

25 January 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

Today (January 25), Amazon Publishing–which is the trade publishing house, not the self-publishing platform–has announced the creation of a new children’s book imprint: Amazon Crossing Kids.

The new imprint will focus on picture books in translation for children.

Needless to say, Amazon Crossing Kids has the benefit of a powerful and much-appreciated sibling imprint, Amazon Crossing, which today is the world book industry’s largest and most aggressive publisher of literature in translation.

. . . .

Amazon Crossing Kids may be welcomed by the translation community as a new chance to get culturally and thematically diverse content in front of the youngest readers.

In a prepared statement, the publisher of Amazon Publishing, Mikyla Bruder . . ., says that the new development “blends the missions of Amazon Crossing and Two Lions by introducing terrific books from around the globe to readers who are beginning to develop their worldview.

“Whether a title has a universal theme with regionally-influenced artistry or focuses on an aspect of local culture,” Bruder says, “our list will encompass a broad range of perspectives, styles, and characters that celebrate what makes us unique as well as what we have in common.”

. . . .

Led by editorial director Gabriella Page-Fort, Amazon Crossing has broken the translation barrier for many readers by using some of the business’ most skilled and best-known translators and by offering genre literature as well as literary fiction–a way to attract consumers to the work by genre rather than by language or cultural background.

The imprint doesn’t shy from literary fiction, but features historical fiction, romance, mystery, thrillers, and other work that great translation houses in the past tended to eschew. The same understanding of the market can be expected to inform the new Amazon Crossing Kids imprint. Skea will work with Page-Fort and with Two Lions editor Marilyn Brigham. The project is to engage a pool of authors, illustrators, and translators from many parts of the world.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Here’s a link to Amazon Crossings Kids

The Secret Power of the Children’s Picture Book

18 January 2019
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From The Wall Street Journal:

Millions of people—perhaps you’re one of them—have watched viral videos of a Scottish granny collapsing in laughter while she reads to a baby. Comfortable on a sofa with her grandson, Janice Clark keeps cracking up as she tries to read “The Wonky Donkey” and, in a second video recorded a few months later, “I Need a New Bum.”

Her raspy burr sounds great, and she’s fun to watch, but the real genius of the scene is what’s happening to the baby. Tucked beside her, he’s totally enthralled by the book in her hands. In the second video especially, because he’s older, you can see his eyes tracking the illustrations, widening in amazement each time that she turns the page. He’s guileless, unaware of the camera. He has eyes only for the pictures in the book.

What’s happening to that baby is both obvious and a secret marvel. A grandmother is weeping with laughter as she reads a story, and her grandson is drinking it all in—that’s obvious. The marvel is hidden inside the child’s developing brain. There, the sound of her voice, the warmth of her nearness and, crucially, the sight of illustrations that stay still and allow him to gaze at will, all have the combined effect of engaging his deep cognitive networks.

Unbeknown to him and invisible to the viewer, there is connection and synchronization among the different domains of his brain: the cerebellum, the coral-shaped place at the base of the skull that’s believed to support skill refinement; the default mode network, which is involved with internally directed processes such as introspection, creativity and self-awareness; the visual imagery network, which involves higher-order visual and memory areas and is the brain’s means of seeing pictures in the mind’s eye; the semantic network, which is how the brain extracts the meaning of language; and the visual perception network, which supports the processing of visual stimuli.

And it is all happening exactly when it needs to happen, which is early. In the first year of life, an infant’s brain doubles in size. By his second birthday, synapses are forming for language and many other higher cognitive functions. And by the time he’s blowing out five candles on his birthday cake, today’s viral-video infant celebrity will have passed through stages of development involving language, emotional control, vision, hearing and habitual ways of responding. The early experiences he’s having, and the wiring and firing of neurons they produce, will help to create the architecture of his mind and lay the pathways for his future thought and imagination.

. . . .

Just as Goldilocks sighs with relief when she takes a spoonful from the third bowl of porridge and finds that it is “just right,” so a small child can relax into the experience of being read a picture book. There is a bit of pleasurable challenge in making sense of what he’s seeing and hearing. There is time to reflect on the story and to see its reverberations in his own life—a transaction that may be as simple as the flash of making a connection between a real donkey he once saw with the “honky tonky, winky wonky donkey” of Craig Smith’s picture book. The collaborative engagement that a child brings to the experience is so vital and productive that reading aloud “stimulates optimal patterns of brain development,” as a 2014 paper from the American Academy of Pediatrics put it, strengthening the neural connections that will enable him to process more difficult and complex stories as he gets older.

Much of the hidden magic of reading aloud has to do with those curious eyes and that devouring gaze. Looking at a book with an adult, a child increases his capacity for “joint attention,” noticing what others see and following their gaze. This phenomenon has a remarkable tempering power in children. It encourages the development of executive function, an array of skills that includes the ability to remember details and to pay attention. Children “learn to naturally regulate their attention when they are focusing on a task they find interesting in a context that is nurturing, warm and responsive,” as Vanderbilt University’s David Dickenson and colleagues put it in a paper summarizing the rich developmental value of reading aloud.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Ontario’s 49th Teachers Site Supports Canadian Books in Schools

5 January 2019
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From Publishers Perspectives:

Launched in the spring of 2018 with the aim of getting Canadian books into Ontario classrooms, 49th Teachers expands on the established book promotion platforms 49th Shelf and 49th Kids, but is designed to connect directly with teachers and teacher-librarians.

. . . .

The new teacher initiative may well be of interest to other world markets’ publishers who would like to see their books better featured in educational settings.

The site offers educators a database of nearly 20,000 Canadian-authored kids’ and YA books as well as nearly 800 related resources, all available as free downloads.

One area of the site, for example, features “character education” selections that are recommended for development of respect, responsibility, empathy, kindness, teamwork, fairness, and so on.

. . . .

In addition to the database, the site offers users:

  • Options to search by author, title, genre, subject area, age, and grade level
  • Access to nearly 800 resources developed specifically for use with books in the database, searchable by subject, grade, and by resource type such as teacher’s guides, reading guides, handouts, etc.
  • A variety of themed booklists prepared either by the site editor or by educators
  • A books blog written by a children’s books librarian
  • Links to reviews, recommendations, and purchasing options
  • The ability to create book lists and share them with other site members

Link to the rest at Publishers Perspectives

I used to hide books from my children – I couldn’t bear to read them again

21 December 2018
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From The Guardian:

The house opposite Hampstead Heath where Helen Oxenbury has lived with her husband, fellow children’s writer and illustrator John Burningham, in north London for more than 40 years, is a home you might find in an old-fashioned children’s book: turreted, with steps up to a porch, a sun-lit kitchen – all paintings, pots and pans and piles of books. It is easy to imagine it as a family haven for their three children; the youngest, Emily, an artist, now lives next door with her baby and toddler. And Oxenbury, a sprightly, upright 80, with angular features and hair in the messy bun she has worn all her life, is the sort of no-nonsense grandmother you might find in such a book.

Her life and 50-year career as one of the UK’s best-loved illustrators – with classics such as Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little ToesFarmer Duck and, most famously, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (written by Mem Fox, Martin Waddell and Michael Rosen respectively) – is celebrated in a handsome coffee-table book by the critic and children’s book specialist Leonard S Marcus. “Helen has mapped out the territory of childhood in drawings that combine the intimacy of a family snapshot with the formal mastery of a searching and rigorous art,” Marcus writes, placing her in the English tradition of Randolph Caldecott, Beatrix Potter and Edward Ardizzone.

How does it feel to see her achievements between hard covers? “A bit embarrassing,” she grimaces. “I don’t find it easy to look at it.” She feels the same about being interviewed. “I just get so bored of myself. If I were to talk about John, I could do it for hours.” “John! Are you listening John?” she calls periodically to check a date or anecdote. “No!” he shouts back, before retreating to his studio on the ground floor, from which, for decades, he produced one or more books a year, including such nursery favourites as Husherbye and Avocado Baby.

. . . .

At first she just wanted to make enough money to afford some help around the house. “Then I loved it so much I wouldn’t have stopped anyway.” Motherhood “spurs you on”, she says. “You think: ‘I’m bloody well not going to sit back and do nothing,’ and she would start work each evening once the children were in bed. “I do feel for mums,” she says, and they are always sympathetically portrayed in her books (Spare Rib approved of the resourceful, fun-loving single mum in Meal One).

Oxenbury’s initial playful counting book, Numbers of Things, was published in 1967. Just two years later she became the first artist to take the Kate Greenaway medal for two books, The Quangle Wangle’s Hatby Edward Lear and the gloriously trippy The Dragon of an Ordinary Family by Margaret Mahy.

“We were in at the beginning of a great boom of children’s illustrated books,” she says of the way in which her and Burningham’s careers took off as part of a group of British artists who are now household names, including Janet Ahlberg (Each Peach Pear Plum), Quentin Blake (The Enormous Crocodile and many more Roald Dahl stories), Raymond Briggs (The Snowman), Shirley Hughes (Alfie) and Jan Pieńkowski (Meg and Mog), and who transformed the drab postwar children’s publishing scene. “It was just wonderful, the energy and the excitement. Printing improved. Also publishers got the idea that you could make money out of children’s books – that helps. We were very very lucky.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Three Good Men, Three Great Kids’ Books

19 December 2018

From The National Review:

Men get a bad rap. They’re blamed collectively for rape culture, violence, war, poverty, climate change, and all other manner of global suffering. They’re forced to apologize on college campuses for their chromosomes, anatomy, and athleticism. They’re vilified incessantly in women’s magazines, on women’s talk shows, and at women’s confabs promoting the male-bashing #MeToo movement.

Not me.

This holiday season, I write in praise of three fine gents and their three great children’s books.

. . . .

Saving Montana, by John Paolucci (illustrated by Doris Tomaselli).

A retired detective sergeant from the New York Police Department, John has a thousand-watt smile, central-casting résumé, and heart of gold. He worked narcotics undercover, patrolled housing projects in the South Bronx, supervised a crime-scene unit for the forensic-investigation division, and managed the entire agency’s DNA evidence. He’s a teacher, trainer, expert witness, musician, church-mission volunteer, and animal lover. Saving Montana is the true story of how he met, bonded with, and rescued a “white freckled horse with a mane that was blond” from a kill auction.

In real life and in the book, John moved out of the gritty city to the countryside and shared the transformative power of his beloved Montana with two young children, Anthony and Charlotte. Having seen the worst of humanity over the course of his law-enforcement career and lost some of his closest friends and colleagues on 9/11, John notes that Montana saved him as much as he saved the horse.

. . . .

Kirkus Reviews praised The Pepperoni Palm Tree for its “touch of Seuss” and “inclusive message that sets out to prove everything has value, no matter how strange it seems at first.” On a faraway tropical island where life is a jungle, a palm tree that grows bulging, spicy pepperoni sausages stands out among “normal trees” that bear coconuts and mangoes. Young Frederick befriends the tree, which pines for evidence that it is not alone. In the end, the boy concludes:

“You are the only one in the universe, and that’s what makes you so special.”

. . . .

Lulu is a Rhinoceros is a buoyant father–child collaboration with a life-affirming message, like Jason and Aidan’s book, and a treat for animal lovers of all ages, like John’s. Jason and his daughter, Allison, built a story of embracing differences around their real-life pet bulldog, Lulu, who imagines herself to be a rhinoceros and fights to establish her unique identity. In an interview with Billboard magazine about the book, he expressed a life philosophy that binds the trio together and me to them:

“I’ve always been someone who believes in standing up for the underdog.”

Link to the rest at The National Review

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