2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards

The winner for fiction is Andrew Smith, for Grasshopper Jungle; for nonfiction is Steve Sheinkin, for The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights; and for picture book, Peter Brown for Mr. Tiger goes Wild.  The Honor Books winners in the fiction category are Elizabeth Wein, for Rose Under Fire and Gene Luen Yang for Boxers & Saints; for nonfiction, Steve Jenkins for The Animal Book: a Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest Shyest – and Most Surprising – Animals on Earth and Patricia Hruby Powell for Josephine: the Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker;and for picture book, Daniel Beaty for Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me, and Shaun Tan for Rules of Summer.  Congratulations to all!

 

Meet Janet Lawler, Levy Research Grant Recipient

Blog Post 1:  Author-Illustrators

 As a writer, I confess to a long-held jealousy of the author/illustrator who gets to “play” with both parts of the picture book package, from idea through publication. I somehow had the idea (prejudice?) that creating a picture book is easier for these multi-talented people because they can “see” the whole project; the story (and related art) must just flow for them. I suspected that their process would not include the painstaking attention that I give to every word, and to every one of multiple variations of a story.

Although I have had several well-received picture books published, I continue to strive to improve my craft. I decided that a study of the process of author/illustrators might well help me better understand the magical interface of text and art that occurs in the best picture books. I hope my research helps improve my skill as a picture book writer, even if unlocking the secrets of author/illustrators can’t turn me into an artist.

Because I mostly write for the very young, I started my research with archival material of author/illustrator Katie Davis, who also writes for this audience. While I have only completed a review of two of her picture books, Kindergarten Rocks! and I Hate to Go to Bed!, I have already learned so much. And I have totally discarded my assumptions and prejudices.

Katie’s author/illustrator process is meticulous and time-consuming. For I Hate to Go to Bed! I studied twenty-seven dummies that Katie created. Each one included text revisions and illustration revisions, as she tweaked her story in major and minor ways. It appeared that many of these versions were done as part of her creative process before she came to the point where she was satisfied and ready to show a dummy to an editor. (I hope to interview Katie, to confirm this and ask other questions).

I now think that the author/illustrator’s job of writing a story may even be harder than mine because he or she thinks visually and can see so many possibilities.

Text and illustration revision of I Hate to Go to Bed! by Katie Davis

As a representative sample, here are several text revisions Katie played with for the opening spread of this book:

 I hate to go to bed! This is because I’m a very outgoing person and I can’t stand the idea that I’m missing something. And I just know I’m missing something really fantastic.

 

I hate to go to bed. This is because I’m a very fun person and I can’t stand the idea that I’m missing something fun. And when I’m sent to bed, I just know I’m missing something really fantastic.

 

I hate to go to bed! My mama and daddy absolutely swear nothing good is happening and that I won’t miss anything but I’m not too sure.

 

I hate to go to bed! This is because I’m a very fun person and I just know I’m missing something really fantastic.

 

I hate to go to bed! Because I just know I’m missing something really fantastic.

 

I HATE to go to bed! I just KNOW I’m missing something.

 

I HATE to go to bed! I just know I’m missing something!

 

A study of the illustrations in these many dummies reveals a similar “visual” revision process. All of the dummies show a frowning little girl (Katie captured her protagonist immediately). Some of the earliest dummies show “thought bubbles” of her parents partying after she is asleep. Others show her room with piles of toilet paper rolls (from which she later makes binoculars for spying). In some, her matching fowl (ducks/chicks?) slippers are quipping back and forth.

Here are three examples of Katie’s many illustrations drawn for the opening spread of I Hate to Go to Bed! Click on each image to enlarge.

 

Opening spread of I Hate to Go to Bed!, 1st dummy in Box 4: Folder 15 of Katie Davis Papers.  All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

Opening spread of I Hate to Go to Bed!, 1st dummy in Box 4: Folder 15 of Katie Davis Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

 

A later version, with simplified text:

Opening spread of I Hate to Go to Bed!, 2nd dummy in Box 4: Folder 18 of Katie Davis Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

Opening spread of I Hate to Go to Bed!, 2nd dummy in Box 4: Folder 18 of Katie Davis Papers. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

And the final opening spread found in the published book:

Davis, Katie. I Hate to Go to Bed! (New York: Harcourt Children’s Books, 1999), 4-5. Photo taken from : CLDC1438, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries

Davis, Katie. I Hate to Go to Bed! (New York: Harcourt Children’s Books, 1999), 4-5. Photo taken from : CLDC1438, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries

The study of both text and illustrations reveals that Katie kept working the text and art, paring both to their essence.  Her final version of the first spread immediately grabs a reader and sets the stage for the storyline to play out in a well-paced way over the rest of the book.

The frowning face of the determined protagonist remains almost identical throughout all versions of the first spread. Ultimately, that face, along with twelve words in two short sentences, clearly share her BIG problem with the reader.

Throughout the many variations of the remaining storyline, Katie explores different approaches, both with art and text, to reveal how her protagonist tackles and solves her dilemma. All versions include varied layers of meaning and humor. Sometimes, the same words, illustrated in different ways, change the plot and the story’s pacing.

How will what I’ve studied so far change my own process as an author?

I plan to slow my process down to focus more clearly on my story’s essence. I will try to pare text to get to the universal—the situation, emotion, or problem that every kid can relate to in my writing.

I hope slowing down will help me to imagine different ways the story arc might play out around the universal theme. I shall play “what if?” and “why not?” with my words in a way that will let an illustrator fill in blanks. I will strive to be less wedded to the “first” story I write; there may be other words or plot angles that offer more opportunities for an illustrator.

If I am to truly leave room for an illustrator, I need to focus even more on making every single word musical and meaningful.

Writers should make dummies as part of their process

To accomplish all of the above, or to strive to do so, I plan to create a dummy (for the text) for every story I write. I have done this with some of my manuscripts, but not all, since I have developed a good sense of story arc and appropriate length for a 32-page picture book. However, I believe parsing the text of each story I write, and placing it on the pages, will further improve my craft by encouraging me to 1) better examine what words belong on each page/spread, 2) consider whether my words allow for expansion of my story through different actions/illustrations, 3) improve forward plot motion and page turns,4) evaluate alternate story possibilities and pacing, and, just perhaps, 5) “see” more clearly how a better story might be told.

I can’t wait to start! And I can’t wait to continue my research!

 

 

Ed Young donates extensive collection to Northeast Children’s Literature Collection

Archives & Special Collections is proud to announce that Ed Young, the multi-award winning author and illustrator of children’s books, has donated his extensive collection of artwork, sketches, scrolls, storyboards, color studies and other archival materials to the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection.  Mr. Young was born in Tientsin, China, lived in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and moved to the United States in 1951 to study architecture.  He graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and taught at the Pratt Institute, Yale University, Naropa Institute, and the University of California at Santa Cruz.

The awards and accolades for his books are too numerous to list but include the Caldecott Medal for Lon Po Po (1989) and Caldecott Honors for The Emperor and the Kite (1967) and Seven Blind Mice (1992). His books have been named to the ALA Notable Books list seven times, have been awarded the AIGA Award: The Fifty Most Beautiful Books of the Year ten times, and have received three Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Awards.  Mr. Young was also nominated in 1992 and 2000 as the U.S. representative to receive the Hans Christian Andersen Award, for “works that have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature.” Some of Mr. Young’s best-known and most-loved books are derived from Chinese folktales and include The Sons of the Dragon King (2004); Monkey King  (2001); The Lost Horse (1998); Mouse Match (1997); Night Visitors (1997); Little Plum (1994); Red Thread (1993); Seven Blind Mice (1992); The Voice of the Great Bell (1989); The Eyes of the Dragon (1986); Yeh Shen (1982); White Wave (1979); Cricket Boy (1977), and 8000 Stones (1971).

Ed Young in his studio

Ed Young in his studio © Gina Randazzo 2014. All rights reserved.

The Ed Young Papers have been on deposit in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection for approximately eighteen years.  His artwork travels extensively around the world for exhibitions, including many museums in this country as well as the European Union.  Mr. Young employs various media such as collage, watercolor and pastel, making his collection a treasure trove for researchers in the fine arts.  The finding aid for the Ed Young Papers provides information on the more than ninety books’ worth of archival materials.  Mr. Young now lives in Westchester County, New York, with his family and a cat.  More information on Ed Young is available at http://edyoungart.com/.   The Northeast Children’s Literature Collection holds a substantial collection of materials pertaining to children’s literature and is very grateful for this extremely important addition.

Thank you, Mr. Young!

Sandra Horning’s Blog Post #3

Blog entry #3 – Meet William Gray

Looking through more than twenty boxes of the James Marshall Collection has made me feel close to this man I will never have the good fortune to meet. Marshall published about eighty books, many with both his illustrations and text. It is hard to imagine how much he would have produced if he had not died at the early age of 50. In fact, many days I have left the Dodd Center feeling a great sense of loss at his death. Through a friend, I was able to meet Marshall’s longtime partner, William Gray. I met William at the home he and James shared for much of Marshall’s career. For my final blog entry, I’ve included a few of William’s answers to the questions he generously and kindly provided. My thanks go out to William Gray for sharing his time and memories of James Marshall.

 

James Marshall giving a presentation (James Marshall Papers Collection File photograph, n.d.)

James Marshall giving a presentation (James Marshall Papers Collection File photograph, n.d.).  All rights reserved.  No reproduction of any kind allowed.

 

As I mentioned in my first blog, James Marshall wrote many of his books under the pseudonym Edward Marshall. William explained that Marshall wanted to work with more than one publisher. In order to not compete with his own picture books, the pseudonym was used and he wrote in a different genre, beginning readers. “They really suited his talent. I wouldn’t say they were easy to do just because they were easy to read.  It was something that just came more naturally to him, the smaller format.”

To clarify that the comments in the margins of the dummies and manuscripts are Marshall’s, I asked about the handwriting and if William knew if anyone else wrote comments on Marshall’s work. William replied that, “He [Marshall] used a Schaefer fountain pen with those plastic capsules to draw with and to write with. He had pretty distinctive handwriting, but no one came near his work.”

I went on to ask specifically about the Harry Allard and Jeffery Allen manuscripts I discussed in my second blog post. William told me that Allard and Allen were both friends of Marshall before each collaborated on books with him. “They would mail a manuscript to him [Marshall]. He would tear it apart limb from limb and then put it back together according to what he thought was best.”

I noted that almost all of Marshall’s changes went to print and William agreed,“Oh, they made every change he suggested. He ran the show….Jim appreciated their inventiveness. I mean Harry came up with The Stupids and with Miss Nelson. But as for shaping a story, that was always Jim’s work.

William and I talked about Marshall’s ability to critique his own work. “Jim was extremely critical of his own work and any work,” William told me. “Nothing was perfect. Even if it was a masterpiece he would find something to criticize, always. He would very seldom say, ‘I guess this is pretty good.’ He had critical faculties that kicked in and that is what kept him going.”

 This comment came back to me when I went through Maurice Sendak’s bequest of additional James Marshall material. Sendak and Marshall were good friends, and Sendak owned several of Marshall’s book dummies and original artwork, most of which are now with the Marshall Collection. Among these Sendak materials is a book that Marshall created for Sendak’s birthday. The book is extraordinary, with wonderful characters wishing Maurice a happy birthday. Marshall also includes a short story from his future publication Rats on the Roof.  At the end of the story, Marshall is once again critical of his endings, drawing two rats with speech bubbles. The first rat says, “Rather Chekhovian, don’t you feel?” The second rat replies, “He never could come up with decent endings.

  

A page from the Birthday Book for Maurice Sendak from James Marshall (Maurice Sendak Collection of James Marshall Box 2012.0152.2). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

A page from the Birthday Book for Maurice Sendak from James Marshall (Maurice Sendak Collection of James Marshall Box 2012.0152.2). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.


I asked William if there was a work that Marshall was most proud of or that achieved what Marshall wanted? William replied,  “I can tell you I really, really appreciate the Fox books. I think his talent went into that in a way that really expressed himself and certainly delights me.”  William went on to say that Marshall “was kind of stuck in the George and Martha books pretty much in the framework of a relation between two people, but with the Fox books there would be all kinds of plots and subplots. None of those characters is two dimensional.  In just a few sentence you know exactly who they are. I even have people say, ‘Oh, well obviously he used me for Carmen.’”

This led me to ask if Marshall was most like Fox.  William said, “I think so… There is a lot of Jim in Fox.” William and I continued on to discuss the brilliant endings and humor in the Fox stories, and the way the humor was not spelled out. William said that was intentional. In fact, it was“his [Marshall's] number one rule. Never condescend to children. Don’t do it ever.”

Most of Marshall’s sketchbooks and drafts are marked with a place and date. It became clear that he worked constantly, even while traveling. There are often to-do lists in the midst of his sketches. In one list from a trip to Cape Cod on March 10, Marshall is “working on a dummy for Yummers II, driving to Boston, going to lunch, meeting with someone from Houghton Mifflin, doing something at Nickelodeon, driving back to the Cape, picking up lamb shanks, and working in bed on Roberta Molesworthy (an iffy book).”

A page from Marshall's sketches. (James Marshall Papers. Box 8:Folder 170). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

A page from Marshall’s sketches. (James Marshall Papers. Box 8:Folder 170). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

 

The year isn’t dated,  but Yummers Too was published in 1986. If Marshall was working on a dummy for this book, I can guess the date would be around 1984. Williams said that Marshall always worked. “Everything was integrated into his work.” He didn’t like to fly and preferred to work on trains. “He’d take a train to Texas or California. He loved to work on the train.”

 

 

 

 

In addition to sketchbooks, William said Marshall also kept extensive diaries. William has kept these diaries, but I did find one trip diary in the collection. The year isn’t dated, however, I can guess from what he was working on that it is probably from around 1990. The diary is all text and details his trip to New Orleans, including what he read each day: “finished a book on Janet Flanner…masterful novel by Nina Berberova, The Accompanist… Editon Wharton.”

A page from Marshall's trip diary to New Orleans. (James Marshall Papers. Box 21:Folder 299). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

A page from Marshall’s trip diary to New Orleans. (James Marshall Papers. Box 21:Folder 299). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marshall was also a voracious reader. William showed me the special shelves Marshall had built around his room to hold some of his books.

A list of books from the Marshall Collection. (James Marshall Papers. Box 21:folder 303). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

A list of books from the Marshall Collection. (James Marshall Papers. Box 21:folder 303). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

William said he liked “Moliere and Chekhov…and a lot of the British women novelists like Elizabeth Taylor and Jean Rhys.” I found a piece of paper with a list of books in the collection. I am assuming these were books Marshall had read or books he purchased to read.

The page was numbered 67.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve learned much in going through the Marshall papers and in talking with William Gray. James Marshall was incredibly talented in his ability to do both quality text and illustrations. He worked very hard to achieve the high quality. Going forward, it will be impossible for me to view my own work without giving it a more critical look: What would James Marshall say? He would most likely say “it could be better” and he would probably be right. Achieving the highest quality takes not only talent, but the sweat, tears, and labor of hard work. On that note, with all that I have gleaned from seeing Marshall’s process, it is time that I get back to the hard work of improving my own manuscripts. Thank you James Marshall, and thank you to the Dodd Research Center and the providers of the James Marshall Fellowship.

New Exhibition: “For Young Naturalists: Ocean Ecology in Children’s Literature”

Explore the diverse ways authors and illustrators use word and image to explain to
children the complex relationships between man and the ocean in a new student-curated
exhibition “For Young Naturalists: Ocean Ecology in Children’s Literature,” on
display from March 27 to April 11 in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center’s John P.
McDonald Reading Room. Featuring artwork and books drawn from the Northeast
Children’s Literature Collection in Archives and Special Collections, student curator
Rebecca D’Angelo presents children’s books from 1844 to 2012 that illuminate how
subjects such as ocean biodiversity, food security, and conservation have been depicted
and narrated through time.

An Ocean World by Peter Sis (New York : Greenwillow, 1992). Pg. 8.

An Ocean World by Peter Sis (New York : Greenwillow, 1992). Pg. 8.

This exhibition is on view to coincide with the Edwin Way Teale Lectures “What role
will the oceans play in meeting the global demand for food?” by Steven D. Gaines,
Thursday, March 27, and “Climate, Weather, Oceans and Biodiversity: Science in Policy
and Politics” by Jane Lubchenco, Thursday, April 10, 4:00pm in the Dodd Center’s
Konover Auditorium.

Location:  The John P. McDonald Reading Room, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

Dates: March 27-April 11, 2014

Exhibition hours: 10:00am to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday

For more information contact:
Melissa Watterworth Batt, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research
Center, UConn Libraries, melissa.watterworth@uconn.edu

Dr. Victoria Ford Smith featured in UConn Today

Check out UConn Today’s wonderful feature article about Victoria Ford Smith, professor of children’s literature in UConn’s English Department.  With the engaging title “Children’s literature not as simple as it seems” Dr. Ford Smith describes her background as a specialist in 19th and 20th-century British literature and culture, as well the challenges of teaching students who have grown up in a multimedia world.  Dr. Ford Smith’s first book, Between Generations: The Collaborative Child and Nineteenth-Century Authorship, “examines how children collaborate in the creation of stories” says author Ken Best.  Dr. Ford Smith is also interested in how stories such as Alice in Wonderland can be perceived as simple when in actuality, they are quite complex.

Sandra Horning’s Blog Post #2

 

Blog entry 2 – Every Word Counts!

All writers are familiar with the concept of “every word counts.” For writers of children’s picture books and beginning readers, every word literally counts. Most picture books published today have about 300 words. Many editors won’t even read a picture book manuscript much longer than that. Level 1 beginning readers are even shorter, with about 100 words. Keep in mind that, despite the low word count, a good story needs an arc, a plot, humor, and character development. It might seem like these stories are written quickly, and perhaps the first idea is written in a short period of time, but getting the text ready for publication can take many days, weeks, months, or longer to get right. Each word and every sentence is reviewed and revised many times. Here are some of the questions an author (and an editor) considers with each word and sentence:

 

Is the word necessary?

Is it the right word to convey the meaning you intend? (Does the word have more than one meaning?)

Do the challenging words have contextual clues to allow the reader to infer the definition?

Is the word count within the guidelines?

 

In an early beginning reader, an author needs to follow additional guidelines:

The words need to be simple enough for an emerging reader to pronounce and understand.

Contractions should be spelled out.

The words should be no more than two syllables.

Complex sentences should not be used.

The majority of the words in the text should be repeated, as you can’t introduce too many new or challenging words to an emerging reader.

 

I’ve been heartened to see that even someone as talented, prolific, and well known as James Marshall didn’t get every word right on his first few drafts. In looking through the dummies and drafts of his stories, I’ve enjoyed seeing his notes and eraser marks as he struggled to search for the best word.

For example, a George and Martha story usually has between 100 -150 words, but there is still much humor and character development packed into each simple story.  In one of my favorites, “The Trick” in George and Martha Back in Town, George can’t resist playing tricks on Martha, so Martha plans a trick of her own. Even at the final galley stage of the book, Marshall was still requesting changes to the text. For example, the sentence

“And when she discovered that the house slippers had been nailed to the floor, she was not amused.”

 was changed at the galley stage to:

age from galley, "The Trick" in George and Martha Back in Town (James Marshall Papers Box 8:Folder 161). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

Page from galley, “The Trick” in George and Martha Back in Town (James Marshall Papers Box 8:Folder 161). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

“And when she found her house slippers nailed to the floor, she was not amused.”

The final sentence is much more succinct and flows better, while still maintaining the humor. Every galley page I’ve viewed has author edits similar to this page.

 

 

 

In the picture book The Cut-Ups Carry On, the cut-ups Spud Jenkins and Joe Turner take dance lessons and end up entering a contest with one of them dressed as a girl. In a dummy for the book Marshall describes the scene as Spud and Joe arrive at the studio for the contest:

At the T.V. Studio, Mary Frances and Charles Andrew Frothingham were just finishing up a superb tango.

“Superb” is crossed out and “flashy” is written above it. Then “flashy” is crossed out and “dazzling” is written, which is the final version in print.

At the T.V. Studio, Mary Frances and Charles Andrew Frothingham were just finishing up a dazzling tango.

“Dazzling” is a great choice that combines the essence of both “superb” and “flashy.”

 

Pgs. 28-29, dummy for The Cut-ups Carry On (James Marshall Papers Box 14:Folder 238) All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

Pgs. 28-29, dummy for The Cut-ups Carry On (James Marshall Papers Box 14:Folder 238) All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

                               

In a dummy for The Cut-Ups Crack Up, Marshall describes Spud and Joe as they speed around town in a “borrowed” car.

At the corner of Maple and Elm, they passed by an astonished Mary Frances and Charles Andrews.

In the final version, “passed” was changed to a much better action verb: “sailed.”

At the corner of Maple and Elm, they sailed by an astonished Mary Frances and Charles Andrew.

Again, this is a very simple word change that greatly improves the sentence.

In the dummy for the beginning reader Three Up A Tree, the story begins with the characters looking at a tree house:

Some big kids down the block had made a treehouse.

The final version reads:

Some big kids down the street had built a swell treehouse.

 Three word changes, “block” to “street”,  “made” to “built”, and the addition of “swell” give this sentence a boost. Now the reader can imagine the kids building a treehouse, and adding “swell” shows how much they admire it.

Marshall paid so much attention to words that he even made suggestions on other author’s manuscripts that he was illustrating. His notes and papers make it clear that he shared suggested changes to words and sentences with the authors Harry Allard (of the Miss Nelson and the Stupid series) and Jeffrey Allen (Nosey Mrs. Rat, Bonzini, and the Mary Alice stories).

In Nosey Mrs. Rat the story begins with Mrs. Rat spying on her neighbor in the bath. Allen’s original manuscript read:

“I see that you are using lilac bubble bath,” Shirley Foster said.

“I personally prefer rose.”

Mrs. Davis stepped out of the bath and locked the window.

Marshall’s suggestion for changing the last line was as follows:

Mrs. Davis pulled down the shade.

This sentence was used in the final text. With fewer words Marshall made a funnier sentence and one that also worked better for the humor in the illustration. It is easier and funnier to show a shade being pulled down than to show a window being locked.

 

Pgs. 1-2, manuscript , Nosey Mrs. Rat (James Marshall Papers Box 8:Folder 170). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

Pgs. 1-2, manuscript , Nosey Mrs. Rat (James Marshall Papers Box 8:Folder 170). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any kind allowed.

 

 

As you can see from the image, Marshall made many suggestions to Nosey Mrs. Rat. Many of them were used, including changing the title and main character from Nosey Shirley Foster to Nosey Mrs. Rat. It is rare for an illustrator to suggest text changes to the author. Most of the authors I know have never had an illustrator suggest changes. It is obvious that Marshall paid just as much attention to words, both his and others’, as he did to his illustrations. Although revising a manuscript over and over again can be tedious, Marshall’s papers and ultimately the success of his books remind me that every revision is worthwhile because every word does count, especially for the youngest readers. That said, I probably could have made this blog post a bit shorter! I will certainly be revising my work again before I send it out.

 

 

 

 

Norman H. Finkelstein to speak at UConn Co-op Bookstore in Storrs Center

The UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center will host the launch of Norman H. Finkelstein’s new book, Schools of Hope on March 31, 2014 at 4pm.  If you haven’t seen the new store at One Royce Circle in Mansfield, CT, this is a wonderful opportunity to visit, see the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, meet Mr. Finkelstein and get a copy of Schools of Hope signed.  In addition to being a prolific author, Mr. Finkelstein is also a donor to the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection and continues to add to his Papers. 

Norman Finkelstein

Norman Finkelstein

The subtitle for the book is How Julius Rosenwald Helped Change African American Education and details how the wealthy president of Sears, Roebuck and Company decided to support schools for poor African American children in the South.  Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library in Holt, Michigan reviewed the book for School Library Journal and reports:

Gr 5-8–This highly accessible, beautifully illustrated book tells how a Jewish tycoon helped provide educational opportunities for countless African Americans. Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck, and Company, used his millions to support social causes like YMCAs, hospitals, and universities. In 1911, his life’s purpose was forever changed after reading Up from Slavery and then meeting the author, Booker T. Washington, who introduced him to the deplorable educational opportunities offered African Americans in the South. Rosenwald put his personal philosophy of “Give While You Live” into practice by establishing the Rosenwald Fund for “the well-being of mankind.” Its largest accomplishment was to help build, furnish, and staff schools for African Americans in the rural South. Before the program ended in 1932, it had contributed funds to help build more than 5300 schools. Rosenwald Schools, as they were known, operated until the 1960s when they were closed due to forced school integration. Rosenwald did not just give money to build schools–he required community “buy-in” from both the black and white communities in an effort to promote racial reconciliation. This is a fascinating look at how one man’s vision changed the lives of more than 600,000 people through increased educational opportunities. The book is superbly illustrated with numerous black-and-white, excellently captioned photos. A first purchase, and of special interest for Jewish collections and communities with Rosenwald Schools.

Norman H. Finkelstein is an educator, editor, librarian and writer. For over thirty years he has been an instructor in the Prozdor High School Department of Hebrew College in Boston where he continues to teach courses in Jewish history.  Recently retired as a public school librarian, Mr. Finkelstein Norman is the author of eighteen nonfiction books. Two of his titles, Heeding the Call and Forged in Freedom, both published by the Jewish Publication Society, were winners of the National Jewish Book Award. His biography of Edward R. Murrow, With Heroic Truth (Clarion) received the Golden Kite Honor Award for Nonfiction. His recent titles include The JPS Guide to American Jewish History, (Jewish Publication Society), Plastics (Marshall Cavendish), Ariel Sharon (Lerner) and Three Across: The Great Transatlantic Air Race of 1927 (Boyd’s Mills Press).  He also served as the editor of the Jewish Publication Society’s series, The JPS Guides.

He holds B.S, Ed.M, and C.A.G.S degrees from Boston University and B.J.Ed. and M.A. degrees from Hebrew College which honored him with the Louis Hillson Memorial Prize for Excellence in Jewish Education. For nine summers he was a teacher and educational director at Hebrew College’s Camp Yavneh. He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Association of Jewish Libraries.  For further information about Mr. Finkelstein, go to www.normfinkelstein.com. 

And don’t forget to join us on March 31 at 4pm for the book launch!

 

Meet Sandra Horning, James Marshall Fellow for 2014

Sandra Horning, of Chaplin, Connecticut, is the author of three children’s books:  The Biggest Pumpkin, a picture book illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker and due out later this year; Chicks!, a beginning reader illustrated by Jon Goodell and published by Random House in 2013; and The Giant Hug, a picture book illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev and published by Knopf in 2005.  The Giant Hug won several awards and has been translated into Dutch, Italian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese.

Ms. Horning is studying the Papers of James Marshall to support the completion of a new beginning reader with the working title Crab and Snail.  She is researching word choice and length, Marshall’s revision process and his creative process from the first idea to publication.  This is Ms. Horning’s first of three blog posts in fulfillment of the Marshall Fellowship.  Welcome, Sandra!

 

Blog Post 1: Kids are Really Smart These Days

 

Most people think of James Marshall as an illustrator and vividly remember his characters, George and Martha, Miss Nelson, and Fox, among others, but I, as a children’s author myself, think of his words and how well crafted his stories are.  Since he wrote many of his stories under the name Edward Marshall, there may be people who don’t realize the large number of stories he wrote and illustrated. I’m thrilled to now have an opportunity to research how James Marshall may have created such memorable stories and characters.

As I dig into the collection, which is quite vast, I’ve been looking at story plots and character development, but Marshall’s endings are what keep jumping out. One of the reasons his books can be read over and over again is that his endings are always satisfying and funny. Since I am currently in the midst of writing a beginning reader, for the last few weeks I’ve been closely looking through drafts and dummies of Marshall’s beginning reader stories of Fox. I’ve noted several times how Marshall made a small comment in the margin near the ending: “Funnier ending” and “Make better.” When I compare the dummy to the final version in print, indeed, Marshall has always made a change to a better and funnier ending, just as he noted.

For example, in the story “Monday Morning” in the book Fox All Week, Fox jumps out of bed eager for the school field trip. When he looks out the window it is pouring down rain. He says, “This isn’t funny.” Fox is sure the field trip will be canceled and it will be school as usual. He then pretends to be sick so he can skip school.  Reading comics and having his mom wait on him, Fox is having a great time in bed when he hears voices outside his window. The last page of the story reads,

It was Miss Moon and the class.

“We are off on our field trip!” called out Carmen.

“A little rain can’t stop us!” said Miss Moon.

 

Marshall had many different lines ending the story:

“That’s just dandy!” said Fox.

And Fox felt just awful.

Fox couldn’t believe his ears.

“I could just die,” said Fox.

 

James Marshall dummy pg. 10.  All rights reserved.

James Marshall dummy pg. 10. All rights reserved.

A page from the dummy for the story “Monday Morning’ in  James Marshall’s book Fox All Week. Note “funnier ending?”  in the margin above the number 10. (James Marshall Papers:Box 7:Folder 131).  All rights reserved.  No reproduction of any kind allowed.

 

 

 

 

The ending in the final version is “This isn’t funny,” said Fox.  It is simple and subtle, and it ties into the beginning of the story, repeating Fox’s line when he thought the rain canceled the trip. It lets the reader know how Fox felt without saying it. It assumes the reader has the ability to get the understatement and humor.

 

In another story, “The Friday Dinner,” from the same book, Fox’s mother burns the dinner. Fox steps in and announces that he will make dinner. Then he clears everyone out of the kitchen. The reader hears Fox banging pots and pans. The last page of the dummy reads,

When dinner was served it was simply delicious. 

 

The last page as it was printed reads:

 Finally dinner was ready.

 “Fox,” said Mom, “These peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are simply delicious.”

 

The dummy ending was funny, but it is much funnier to have Mom refer to the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Plus, the illustration  might not be able to make it clear that it is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Again, as in the first example, the child reading it has to understand the humor: you don’t need pots and pans to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

In my final and favorite example, “Tuesday’s Lunch,” again from the same book, Fox and his friends are sick of the tuna sandwiches their mothers give them for lunch. They decide to teach their moms a lesson and throw the sandwiches over the schoolyard wall. Of course, later they are hungry and unhappy. As they leave school, the dummy with “Make Better” in the margins ends with the following:

On the way home Fox and his friends met a poor old cat.

“You look hungry,” said the cat.

“Would you like a tuna sandwich?”

“Oh yes!” They cried.

And they ate every bite.

 

James Marshall dummy pg. 16.  All rights reserved.

James Marshall dummy pg. 16. All rights reserved.

A page from the dummy for the story “Tuesday’s Lunch” in  James Marshall’s book Fox All Week. Note the “Make better” at the end of the text. (James Marshall Papers:Box 7:Folder 131).  All rights reserved.  No reproduction of any kind allowed. 

 

 

 

Below is the ending in print:

 On the other side of the wall they met a poor cat.

“I’m so happy,” said the cat.

“A nice lunch fell from the sky.”

“Three tuna sandwiches?” said Fox.

“Gosh,” said the old cat. “Kids are really smart these days.”

 

Once again, Marshall successfully made a better and funnier ending, one with additional meaning. Fox and his friends were not too bright when they decided to throw out their tuna sandwiches. The line “Kids are really smart these days.” adds an ironic note to the humor.

 So what is the secret behind his perfect endings? I think the secret is that Marshall trusts that the child reader is intelligent enough to understand the humor without spelling it out in a didactic way.  Children love to be in on a joke. Books with great endings are the books children remember and read again. This has led me to review some of my unpublished manuscript endings. Reading through them, I am taking a lesson from James Marshall and writing “Make better” and “Make funnier” next to my endings that need it! And, of course, I will keep in mind what Marshall himself stated: “Kids are really smart these days.”

ALA announces 2014 youth media awards

See the full story at http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2014/01/american-library-association-announces-2014-youth-media-award-winners.  Congratulations to all, especially NCLC donor and CT Children’s Book Fair friend Mo Willems, for his Geisel Honor Book award for A Big Guy Took My Ball, published by Hyperion Books for Children.  Other past participants in the CT Children’s Book Fair to win major awards this year are Holly Black, for Doll Bones, published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, a Newbery Honor Book; Aaron Becker for Journey, published by Candlewick Press, a Caldecott Honor Book; Rita Williams-Garcia for P.S. Be Eleven, published by Amistad, the Coretta Scott King Book Award for Authors; Bryan Collier for Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me, published by Little, Brown and Company, the Coretta Scott King Book Award for Illustrators; and David Levithan for Two Boys Kissing, published by Alfred A. Knopf, a Stonewall Book Honor Award.   Fantastic!