Okay, remind me to not let Pink Me go dormant for more than a week ever again. This site became such a magnet for spam comments - casinos, antibiotics, generic Cialis, lonely girls, lonely girls in casinos taking generic antibiotics - oh I got it all, baby!
I hope your December has been reasonably uneventful. No inflamed joints, for example. Or impounded vehicles. I hope Christmas Eve didn't find you thirty feet up in a tree rescuing a stray kitten. I'd like to think that you are easing into the New Year in full possession of your voice and without intermittent fever and a hacking cough. Jury duty is for you but a distant bothersome memory, as is the veterinarian's office. You will have had no height-induced panic attacks nor fights with your loved ones and you will have made merry with all your good relatives, while the ones who are b-holes stayed away.
If not - if your holidays have included any of the above situations or b-holes, or if you're like me and the past week has included ALL OF THEM (AAALL OF THEM GOOD GOD LOOK AT THAT WHY AREN'T I DEAD?) - allow me to direct you to a suite of posts on another blog, posts which I recommend purely for their temporary palliative effect.
TEMPORARY. Nobody wants to see you pole dance.
Meanwhile, I am going to ease back into the business of thinking about children's literature by engaging in the time-honored activity of making a list. I can't call it Pink Me's Best Books of 2011, because I frankly can't think that hard. Not at this point. Can I interest you in a kitten? No, I'm going to call it Books I Would Buy in 2011.
I don't buy a lot of books. I work at a library, why would I? But if I didn't, these are the books, out of everything that came out in 2011, that I think I would want to own:
My Name Is Elizabeth! by Annika Dunklee. Great not only because of the story - a little girl with a mouthful of a name who would prefer if people did not shorten it - but the art: fat lovely swipes of gouache or black ink, little scritchy lines, and a vast color palette encompassing exactly two colors - sun orange and pale blue - plus black and white.
Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet. Never got a chance to review this in 2011, but my goodness the mixed media, the authority with which the author writes this story - because she has researched the shit out of it - plus the whimsical subject matter - oh yeah this is a winner.
Press Here. Just to bring out at cocktail parties and watch the grownups' eyes light up.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. Timeless. Slightly evil. And done in an illustration style that will, when people pull this book off the shelf five years from now, make people go 'oh yeah, remember that faux–naïf sepia palette thing that people were doing in 2011?' cf Carson Ellis, Marcel Dzama, Jim Houser. It's ok: nothing wrong with style moments.
PICTURE BOOK NONFICTION
The House Baba Built: An Artist's Childhood in China by Ed Young. Such an unfortunate, static cover for such a singular book. Ed Young grew up in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation in World War II. Fortunately, his father had had the foresight to built a near-fortress of a house in a safe district, which Young and his large family, and later cousins and near-strangers, lived in. So we have a childhood memoir set during a lesser-known wartime event, which the narrator survives without significant privation, and the author happens to be one of the finest artists working in picture books alive today. Check, check, and check. Lively story, lively art.
In Search of Sasquatch by Kelly Milner Halls. Make this a mother-son or father-daughter gift by pairing with Me Write Book: It Bigfoot Memoir and Graham Roumieu's other illustrated memoirs of Bigfoot.
Me . . . Jane. This book is the book that should earn Patrick O'Donnell his Caldecott. The moment when you turn the page and O'Donnell's tiny sweet ink drawings have given way to the famous picture of her greeting the baby chimpanzee with the back of her hand... because she grew up and her dream came true - well I'm sorry maybe I'm still emotional from my acrophobia panic attack at the Ravens game, but that wrecks me every time.
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. I think this is Kadir's best work yet - a set of loosely strung-together biograhical essays about the history of black people in America. The pieces are short and not overwhelming, while the pictures, which employ Kadir's usual low perspectives and unsmiling beauty, are predictably gorgeous.
Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins and Vicky White. This is the kind of book that will turn a child an environmentalist. Thoughtful, beautifully executed portraits of animals pair with pertinent conservation info in an overall sumptuous yet spare package. It is no surprise to me that Vicky White has worked as a zookeeper - her drawings are clearly informed by long hours of observation. That one of the best animal artists working today has been employed illustrating children's books speaks of somebody - Martin Jenkins or his editors - taking an uncompromising stand on presenting quality work to children. This is my favorite of this team's books so far.
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg and Kevin O'Malley. I did in fact buy this, and my 8 year old... well, you can see in the picture.
Bigger than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder and yes the author is my pal but objectively, this is a book that would stand up to repeated readings. It's the character - this is a girl who feels like a friend by the end of the book. That's why I got my friend Paula and her daughter to review it for Pink Me.
The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales / With an Introduction by Lemony Snicket. Yum. These are the kind of off-kilter imaginative tales that I would have read again and again when I was a kid. Certain kids really thirst for a story that is its own mystery.
Sherlock Holmes. Not a new book this year by any means but we've set my ten-year-old loose on it and I'm so pleased that he's learning the original stories before Robert Downey Jr. has become his mental image of the great detective. No offense to Robert Downey, Jr. But everyone should have their own Holmes in their head. I plan to pair this book with The Sherlock Holmes Handbook, a 2009 book co-written by Ransom Riggs - yes that Ransom Riggs. The Sterling Classics edition is the one I prefer for young people.
Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists. A nice pairing with Axe Cop, this lively anthology twists familiar nursery rhymes into new shapes, spinning them around til they mean something else. Not bad to look at, either!
Axe Cop, Vol. 1 by Malachai and Ethan Nicolle. If you don't listen to me about anything else, listen to me about Axe Cop. Or - don't listen to me. Preview it online. Our copy got read TO PIECES and I had to buy another one.
The 4th Amulet book. My house is an Amulet house. Even though I find the series rather derivative, the kids read it over and over.
The 2nd Vordak book. My house is a Vordak house. This I support - Vordak is some funny shit.
YOUNG ADULT NOVELS
All of these I think I've reviewed. I do not finish a YA novel that I don't like, and if I finish a YA novel I like, I will want to share my thoughts.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Did I say this in my review? That this is one of those books that seems to not care who its audience is - it's just a good, weird, neato book. For grownups and teens and, heck, I'd say kids as young as 6th grade.
Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. I lent my copy to someone and I totally want it back. It's funny. I like funny. It's smart and it refers to stuff I know - like the fact that everyone looks like an ingenue dancer in Marchesa. It's not disrespectful to girls. Who did I lend that book to? Review here.
The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston. Technically not a 2011 book, this has been with me since January, when I read it on the plane on the way home from ALA Midwinter. Blythe Woolston's language is so specific to place, and her characters are intimately, exactly thought out. Review here.
Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick. All those people who say they "don't like science fiction but I do like this book," when they are referring to sci-fi novels of ideas that someone has talked them into reading, have not read enough books like Ashes. Hell, half of all sci fi novels are meditations on governance and freedom, and this is the best one I've read this year. Review here.
The kitten is very cute. But we can't keep her, having just adopted two new cats from the shelter (a big fluffy orange job I named Babe, and a 3-month-old spaz attack kitten Zhou named Brother John), bringing our total up to three.
The rescued kitten is about 5 months old, tabby colored, very friendly and snuggly, even-tempered, and quite comfortable around other cats. We think she was dumped in the park, and when I climbed the damn tree to get her down, she was scared but not so scared she sliced me to ribbons. (The kids started calling her Squeaker, after the cat that Mr. Incredible rescued from the tree in the beginning of The Incredibles.)
If you are in the Baltimore area and think you have a home for this sweet cat, please let me know.