By now, everyone has seen that Ugly Volvo post on everything that is wrong with Goodnight, Moon. Many of us were already quite firm in our understanding that Goodnight, Moon is abominable - in my case I find it suspicious that we say goodnight to AIR and to SOUNDS - much as one might if one were being nailed into a COFFIN because of premature burial, which people are not afraid of as they once were but maybe that is just because we're not reading as much Poe as we ought to be.
RIGHT?! Here in Baltimore, where we are generally pretty well up on our Poe, we know that the 'great green room' is a good place to lie in your bed scared shitless. So does Emily Carroll, apparently - this is one of the final spreads from her deliciously creepy graphic novel Through the Woods. I think it's the only use of green in the entire book - there is noooo way that's a coincidence.
In fact, one of the themes of that Ugly Volvo post is the utter hideousness of the great green room - and I mean KELLY green, SHAMROCK green, not apple green like my living room or swampy green like my basement bathroom (I am a big fan of green walls) but screaming pure uninflected green - with a red floor. And it's true, we can do better.
"You're going to have to realllly convince me," I can hear famous curmudgeon Philip Pullman mutter as he surveys the latest in what I imagine must be a never-ending parade of proposals to adapt his 1995 masterpiece trilogy His Dark Materials into graphic novels. He probably imagined himself as Penelope at her loom, trying to wave off a crowd of greedy suitors. He's got a Classics turn of mind, does our Phil.
But I'd say that the old atheist let the right one slip the ring on. This art - patently Frenchy in its scritchy artiness - is specific enough to let the reader's personal mental images of Lyra, Pan, Lord Asrael and NOT NICOLE KIDMAN Mrs. Coulter persist. It hews extremely closely to the original text (it's going to have to be hella long), so first-time readers will be no more lost than the rest of us were at first.
And the images of the College, the bogs, the gyptians' boats, and the glowing, faded sky of Lyra's England are beautiful. Panels are very small - there are often as many as a dozen per page - but the exterior scenes are extraordinarily full of light and air. Go ahead and click on that right-hand image to see it larger. Yum.
The ALA Youth Media Awards were just announced about an hour ago. These honors are awarded by committees of librarians who read, evaluate, and discuss approximately a femto-jillion books in a year and decide which book in a given category is THE BEST of the year and which few are THE RUNNERS UP.
I generally don't comment on these awards on this blog because, like any other award, calling any given anything THE BEST in a year is ridiculous. YOU ARE THE BEST TOMATO. WORLD'S BEST JOKE 2014 IS WHAT EDDIE IZZARD SAID ON TWITTER NOVEMBER 13th. THE AWARD FOR BEST LEFT BOOB OF 2015 GOES TO KATY PERRY'S LEFT BOOB.
I also have found these awards to be kind of stuck in the mud. Historical fiction or relationship drama tends to get recognized while funny books are disregarded. Lotta "girl books" have gotten the Newbery, while the Caldecott has gone to a disproportionate number of men. Creators of color are under-represented, as they are in all of children's publishing, except in the awards that are specifically given to African American or Latino authors and illustrators, which often go to the same squad of (very talented and totally deserving) people every year.
I mean, come on, "Pink Me" was always kind of dumb. The day I decided to spin all the children's book review posts off my (ahem) other blog, I had to quickly come up with a name that was short and memorable (having learned a valuable lesson from that other blog, whose name is 25 letters long and includes at least one difficult-to-spell word). I named Pink Me after my hair color at the time. I guess it could have been worse.
Giant 13-year-old boy voluntarily reading a picture book is on board with the name change. Or at least agrees, "Yeah, Pink Me was kind of stupid."
WHAT IS UNADULTERATED?
But six years and 770 blog posts later, it's time for a more meaningful name (or rather, a name with any meaning at all), and Unadulterated is it. I like it. It means pure and undiluted, and Pink Me has always been reviews and very little else. It's also a dumb pun. As in... I review un-adult books?
What is more, I've been working in the public library for more than a decade now, and reading and reviewing kids' and teen fiction for almost as long. I have formed opinions. UNADULTERATED is they. They appear on this blog UNADULTERATED. Waffle-free. Un-mealy-mouthed. With occasional swearing.
UNADULTERATED.US is not affiliated with my employer (which I never identify) and I don't soft-pedal my observations out of respect for my corporate pals (any pals I have in publishing must love me despite my big mouth).
Choosing a new name for Pink Me has caused me to think about not only what I write and how I write it, but how I work, and my attitudes about kids and reading. And you know what? I'm pretty damn comfortable with UNADULTERATED.
Unadulterated is the steely glint I get in my eye when I start a new teen sci-fi novel and all the girls in it are healers and babysitters. Unadulterated is the ribbon of resolve that threads through my spine when I meet a parent who insists that his child only select books that are "challenging" or "not junk." My belief in the ability of untrammelled pleasure reading to improve skills and enrich lives is - say it with me - UNADULTERATED.
2008 flashback: some of the kids I often shared books with back then.
WHY IS IT .US?
Well, I was going for .com, of course. Or .net, like parenthetical.net. (Parenthetical was completely my inspiration for allowing myself to consider adjectives by the way - thanks Sam!)
But some Indiana basement-dweller bought unadulterated dot com in like 2002 and has been sitting on it ever since. Won't accept a penny below $4500 - I assume he's holding out for a porn site. Lord knows kidlitters don't have that kind of money. I spent $21.00 to find all that out and it nearly killed me. Not the basement-dweller part. Please. I'm a librarian. You give me a corporate name and I will find a home address, look it up in the tax database for that state, AND look at the place on Google Street View.
I'd just like to go on record as saying I would NEVER do that to YOU.
ANYWAY. Making lemonade! I decided that the .US announces the inclusivity of this site! It is US who are unabashed and unfiltered! We ALL have opinions that we fiercely hold and animatedly debate! And here we do it.
Same kids in 2014: she's the youngest performer in the Baltimore Rock Opera SocietyAnd she can kayak circles around you. She's the towhead looking at the camera in 2008.
DOES PINK ME STILL WORK?
Yes. No links or feeds need to be updated. But all of the Pink Me content will also appear at unadulterated.us. It's easier to type.
A picture book roundup from Feb 2008. I see Peter Brown's Chowder, Iggy Peck, Jacqueline Jules, and Englebert Sneem!
IT'S NOT AN END BUT A BEGINNING
I'm going to end this post with a paragraph that has lived on the About Pink Me page for many years. It's a paraphrase of the best speech made by Crash Davis, the last likeable character Kevin Costner ever played, in the only baseball movie I have willingly watched more than once.
I believe in the word, the picture, the rhyme, the cover of a children's book, the illustrated endpaper, nonfiction, illustrated poetry, I believe that the novels of Susan Cooper are sheer, unadulterated genius. I believe more middle grade chapter books should feature nonwhite main characters. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing celebrity-penned picture books and the unreliable narrator (I'm lying about that). I believe in the audio book, teen romance fiction that is not necessarily about vampires, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in reading for pleasure to, with, and around children.
Here I am back at work after a little Holiday holiday. I can see my tan hands on the keyboard and still don't actually believe that they were paddling through salt water a little more than a week ago. SIGH.
Before we get down to this big ol' stack of picture books I've devoured since returning (FROM THE CARIBBEAN HOLY CRAP), may I politely mention a series of posts on Pink Me's red-headed step-sister blog, Your Neighborhood Librarian. Children's literature devotees of legal drinking age may enjoy these posts featuring authors and characters from teen and young adult fiction. There's more swearing over there, but you're a grownup.
Speaking of swearing, let's have a look at the picture books that have caught my eye this chilly first week in January:
I'm a generalist. Professionally. Personally, I'm a bit of a specialist, but - hrmhm - that's just between us. No, I'm a generalist librarian - a librarian who serves both adult and juvenile customers. Most public library systems don't expect their professional staff to be proficient with teens, children, adults, and seniors, but the one I work for... does.
As you might imagine, librarians in other systems sometimes scoff at this arrangement. School librarians in particular are kind of amusingly horrified.
Generalists are expected to maintain at least a glancing knowledge of the adult best-seller list and genre fiction (I can name 3 Amish romance authors off the top of my head - we all can!) and stay abreast of trends in juvenile and young adult literature. It's admittedly kind of a lot. You read a lot of e-newsletters.
But the up side is that when I read an adult novel, I notice when that book includes teen or kid characters who are going through teen or kid things, and I file it in my head as possibly good for underage readers. Books like this are called Adult Books for Teens, and there's a whole blog over on SLJ devoted to them. There's also an award, the Alex Award. In an interesting boomerang effect, if you are an adult who likes books that are both well-written and fast-paced, you might mine these lists for suggested reading. I do.
By the same token, when I read children's literature, which I mostly do, sometimes I notice when the characters, the setting, or the obstacles they confront would resonate with the adult readers I serve. There's no blog for Children's Books Recommended for Adult Readers, but maybe there should be.
Detail from Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke
But first!the ballots have just been announced for the 2017 Newbery and Caldecott award committees. I am so proud and overjoyed to see the names of talented friends on there - Betsy Fraser! Jamie Watson! and Lovely Laura Lutz! are nominated for the Newbery Committee! Stacy Dillon (mytweendom) is on the Caldecott ballot and Laura Given (liblaura5) is on the 2016 Caldecott Committee!!
If you are a member, vote for these fabulously smart and well-read women! That is all.
Our new baby Tumblr. So cute! So bloody!
SO! I came in to work this morning after a long weekend immersed - IMMERSED - in violence and depravity (and that was just the soccer game!) (no, kidding - I worked on our new Tumblr Something Wicked Comes of Age, developed as an on-the-go Reader Advisory tool to go along with the "Something Wicked This Way Comes of Age" presentation Paula G. and I are giving at the 2014 YA Lit Symposium and could I pimp that event any harder?? I could? Ok well then we are giving away candy and books to people who attend, how's that for pimpin'?! Still time to register!).
For some reason - it's not like I've got nothing else going on - I have been unusually aware of upcoming titles recently. I've spent a bunch of time on Edelweiss and Netgalley scanning publisher catalogs, and just yesterday attended the Book Buzz that the AAP put on at DC Public Library.
Reps from Scholastic, Penguin, Sourcebooks, Quirk, Tor, and many others gave a roomful of librarians a preview of what they've got coming down the pike.
Here are the books that I thought really stood out, plus books that weren't represented at the event that I know about and am looking forward to. These are in age order.
Golda. Meir. WHO... reads that book? HOW... do they end up picking it up? Without adult intervention, that book NEVER gets read. I interviewed the brilliant Chris Raschka about his new picture book biography The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening this past spring. And I somehow never got up the courage to ask, "What the hell, Chris Raschka? What child will be interested in the life of Sun Ra?" I played Sun Ra's music for my kids in the car, and after about 20 minutes, they politely asked me to turn it off because it was making them crazy.
They've never wondered about these people. They've never even heard of them, in some cases. It is usually possible to tease out a reason for kids to learn about them - we need true stories of struggle against adversity, the power of will, or an example of a kid "just like you" who grew up to find his or her place / succeed on his or her own terms / change the world. But in ten years at the library, I bet have helped fewer than ten kids who were looking for a picture book biography.
I'm not saying they'll never get read. WITH the aforementioned adult intervention, they'll get read. They'll also show up in classrooms an get taken home for reports. Although since they aren't programmed to provide report answers (no bolded vocabulary words, no timeline, no maps), kids tend to reject them in favor of Time for Kids or Who Was when report time comes around.
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash stands a greater chance than most of getting plucked off the shelf by an auntie or a dad - there are plenty of grownups who just can't wait to share The Man in Black with their kids. Heck, my friends Aimee and Jim named their firstborn June.
And I'm so glad. I love this book. Greg Neri is clearly a devoted fan, inspired by the way struggle and talent shaped the life of this extraordinary musician. In a note at the back, Greg states that he shaped this biography around the stories Cash told about himself - in essence, telling Johnny's story the way Johnny would tell it.
That is such an interesting take on research, and I think especially thoughtful for a children's book. Everything I've read about Johnny Cash seems to indicate that he wanted to inspire people to do good deeds and follow their conscience, and to that end he would probably have told children about the poverty and sorrow that shaped his actions in his early years, and how music kept him going and ultimately lifted him up.
Big curves, arched body, and then the guitar angling just north of a horizontal line - everything points at Cash's squinty take-aim expression.
The oil illustrations are in a straightforward pictorial style, full of air and open faces. That picture on the cover pretty much says it all - this is one case where the cover is just as strong as the interior art (I'm looking at you Grandfather Gandhi - why is your cover so blah when your inside is so dramatic?!).
In the end, regardless my misgivings about the audience for picture book biographies, as long as the publishing companies will put a few bucks into them, I am of course happy they're around. School libraries should keep buying 'em, teachers should use them to introduce music units and history units and to put a human face on math and the sciences.
And I'll keep shoving them at youngsters and parents at the public library. "Golda Meir! Very important lady!" "Sun Ra! Um... it's important to show that even serious weirdos have a place in our culture!" Who knows, that kid may grow up to be our next serious weirdo, brilliant mathematician, or straight-shooting Israeli prime minister.