A Love-Letter to Children’s Books

Saturday’s Western Washington University Children’s Literature Conference was a love letter to children’s books. Attended by over 600 librarians, educators, and writers, it featured four amazing talents: Kate DiCamillo, Matt de la Pena, Yuyi Morales, and Joyce Sidman.

Next year’s Children’s Literature Conference will feature Cynthia Lord, Gene Luen Yang, Peter Brown, and Melissa Sweet. If you get a chance to head to Bellingham, Washington next February, I’m guessing it will be just as great as this year’s conference!

For those of you who weren’t able to be there this year, here are some highlights. I hope you find them as inspiring as I did!

Swirl by Swirl by Joyce Sidman

My eight-year-old daughter’s new-favorite book of poems.

One of the nicest things about this conference was finding a new author to add to my list of favorite. Joyce Sidman, a talented and award-winning children’s poet, is now on my list. Her poems feature natural rhythms and biological facts with a sense of wonder and mystery that is really compelling.

She spoke about how she comes up with her ideas and said most of them came from what she called “dawdling” out in nature: looking, hearing, smelling, feeling. That rich sensory imagery runs throughout her lovely poems.

I write for the person inside me who wonders about the world. –Joyce Sidman

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

Picturebook author/illustrator Yuyi Morales exudes infectious energy as she speaks. That vibrancy is reflected in her fanciful drawings, which often recall the folklore, culture, and history of her birthplace in Mexico.

When we start sharing stories, we realize how interconnected we are. –Yuyi Morales

The Hunted by Matt de la Pena.

Matt de la Pena’s new book, The Hunted, comes out in May.

I’m from Indiana, so I consider myself honor-bound to know about anyone who writes basketball stories for children. But even knowing his books didn’t prepare me for Matt de la Pena’s dynamic talk. He emphasized the importance of humility in reaching reluctant readers, and pointed out that self-definition is often even more limiting than the labels that are applied by others to children in today’s world. The talk was a good reminder not just to write for the eager reader, but to write for the child that has not yet discovered a love of books.

Books become a secret place to feel. –Matt de la Pena

2014 Newbery Medal-winner Flora & Ulysses

2014 Newbery Medal-winner Flora & Ulysses

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that Kate DiCamillo drew me to this conference. Her beautiful, heart-wrenching stories inspire me every single time I pick one up. So it’s no surprise that she was kind, humble, a little shy, very funny, and all around magnificent in person. Getting to thank her for writing the glorious Flora & Ulysses was a bucket-list item for me.

I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from the conference:

It’s a privilege to have anything to do with books. –Kate DiCamillo

 

 

 

Photo of Julie ArtzJulie Artz lives in Redmond, Washington, with her husband, two children, and two rambunctious kittens. She spent her young life sneaking into wardrobes hoping to find Narnia. Now she writes stories instead because let’s face it, adults hiding out in wardrobes is kind of creepy. Follow her adventures on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog, TerminalVerbosity.

Can You Judge a Book by Its Color?

color wheelWhen I was in high school, one of the electives offered was Fashion Design. I  never could fit that particular class into my schedule (I was a choir geek through and through), but I had many friends who took the course. And I noticed they spent a lot of time talking about the color wheel and its affect on fashion (and people, too).

I have always been fascinated by this idea that color affects our mood. As a gardener, I’m often surprised how much time I spend thinking about the colors I want in my flowerbeds and how each of the different plant colors make me feel. A few years ago, my chiropractor husband and I spent countless hours picking out just the right shade of green paint for the walls of his new clinic, since we needed something that made the place feel…well, healthy.

So, I began to wonder, if we talk about color in our clothing, and the color on our walls, and the color of the world outside our doorsteps, should we talk about color when it comes to our books, too?  I decided to take a look at some of the MG books sitting on my bookshelves at home. What do the colors on the covers say about the stories themselves?

YELLOW

Yellow is a happy color, but it’s also draining on the eyes, so frequently people surrounded by yellow can become agitated and angry.

On my shelf, the books in which yellow dominated the cover were in both of these camps. Many of the humorous titles were predominately yellow, such as Donna Gephart’s How to Survive Middle School.

I also had many titles which were stories where mystery or intrigue played a large part in the book. For example, in Jessica Day George’s Tuesdays at the Castle, the castle itself senses trouble. (As a side note, this book cover spirals from blue, a soothing color, to yellow, which mirrors the rise in tension as the story progresses.)

RED

Red is a color of power. It evokes strong emotions such as love, intensity, and excitement.  The books on my shelves do the same.

In Scumble, by Ingrid Law, the main character is given a extraordinary power which makes the things around him fall apart…literally. You can’t get much more intense than that! (As a side note, this book also has quite a bit of yellow, which I think adds to the agitation this cover evokes, but is grounded in green, a color of good luck and prosperity, which in my opinion hints at the awesome natural powers this boy has been given.)

In Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, the title itself tells you that this is going to be an adventure–that excitement awaits. (Not to mention that the red dragon on the cover looks terrifying–is the girl really going to let it loose? And that hint of yellow makes me slightly uneasy about this whole idea of releasing the dragon into the wild.  How exhilarating and alarming at the same time!)

School spiritsBLUE

Blue is a soothing, calming color, but it can also be associated with feelings of sadness, loneliness, or alienation.

In Michael O. Tunnell’s School Spirits, the main character is new at his school, so he feels isolated from the rest of the students. Oh, and there’s a ghost in the book, too, who just happens to be blue-green.  And lonely. And very much the sad being you would expect of a restless spirit.

Though there are many different covers for  the classic Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater, most of them are predominately blue.  Mr. Popper (a dreamer and a painter by trade) spends his time caring for, and enjoying, the penguins he receives from Admiral Drake who is currently on an expedition in the Antarctic. Though the book is full of the antics of the penguins, and Mr. Popper and his family as well, the entire book exudes a soothing sort of safeness that all will be well if Mr. Popper is around.

GREEN

Green is the color of nature. It’s also associated with good luck, tranquility, and health.

In Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Treasures of Weatherby, a girl names Allegra literally flies. There is much in the book that is mysterious as well, but the front cover captures so vividly this character’s flying attributes, which mirrors what mother nature has given the birds.  (Side note: this image is not the one on the cover of my book, but I do like how the bit of yellow in this version  captures some of the anxiety and restlessness of these characters, plus the black invokes some lurking evil that is hidden just out of sight….)

In Kim Baker’s Pickle, the main characters want to use school funds to pull off their pranks, and they decide to start  a pickle club as a cover. They are going to need all the luck they can get!  (I’d also like to point out that this book cover uses a lot of blue, too, which helps make this group feel aloof and alienated, because, well, they are are SECRET group, after all. They do stand apart.)

gregorBLACK

Black is associated with evil and menace, as well as death and mourning.

In Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander, not only is the Underland devoid of sunlight, but it is full of menacing creatures who have captured Gregor’s father.  This cover, though full of lighter buildings, has much hidden in the shadows.

In The Search for WondLa, by Tony DiTerlizzi, the main character, Eva Nine, leaves in search of the long-lost (and possibly no longer existing) land of WondLa.  She uncovers a world full of dangers, both of the natural world and of men. (As a side note, note that Eva herself is light against the darkness of the rest of the cover, and as she begins her journey she is the only one innocent of the world around her. Interesting.)

WHITE

White denotes purity and innocence, but also can be cold, unfeeling, or bland.

In Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, Hazel’s best friend, Jack, is captured by a woman made of ice, and Hazel sets off into the forest to rescue him. (Side note, notice the hint of red in the middle of the cover, which I think helps the readers feels the intensity of Hazel’s love for her friend as well as the power of the Snow Queen.)

In Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society, the four children who make up the society are chosen through a random set of challenges…it’s a very cerebral way of choosing some very resourceful children to take on a supervillain the likes of which the world as never seen.

There are more colors than my above-mentioned categories, obviously.  I’m sure there are many more books out there that might not fit into any one particular color category, either.  Or how about those that use lots of different colors?  Where would they fit?

Besides, colors can also be influenced by culture, so one culture may have a different perception of a particular color than another would.  For example, in Western culture white symbolizes purity and innocence, but in some Eastern cultures it symbolizes death and mourning.

Historical cultures attached slightly different meanings to colors than our modern sensibilities do, too: for example, black meant death in ancient Egypt, but it was also a symbol for rebirth and resurrection.

And, if I’m being honest,  color psychology is often met with skepticism in the psychological and scientific world.  I doubt any scientist would take my thoughts seriously, anyway.  So even though this is all in good fun, I hope the next time you pick up a book, pay attention to how the cover makes you feel.  I bet you’ll see that the colors on it might be helping to create the mood the book is trying to portray.

Soon enough you’ll be judging books by their colors, too.

 

Elissa Cruz likes colors.  If asked, she’d be hard-pressed to choose a favorite.  However, she’s not a big fan of avocado.  Or mustard.  Or beige.  She’s not a big fan of 1970s fashion, either, come to think of it.  And in her opinion turquoise is a little too garish in anything larger than a piece of jewelry.  She writes books for kids of all ages and is the ARA of the Utah/Southern Idaho region of SCBWI.

March New Releases

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to SPRING into March! There are so many wonderful books releasing this month, and I’m honored to have one of my own  among them!

(Listed In Order of Release Date)

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold; illustrated by Emily Gravett (March 3) 

Rudger is Amanda Shuffleup’s imaginary friend. Nobody else can see Rudger-until the evil Mr. Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr. Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumor has it that he even eats them. And now he’s found Rudger.

Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. He needs to find Amanda before Mr. Bunting catches him-and before Amanda forgets him and he fades away to nothing. But how can an unreal boy stand alone in the real world?

Flunked by Jen Calonita (March 3)

RlunkedFull of regret, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, Flora, has founded the Fairy Tale Reform School with the mission of turning the wicked and criminally mischievous into upstanding members of Enchantasia.

Impish, sassy 12-year-old Gilly has a history of petty theft and she’s not too sorry about it. When she lifts a hair clip, she gets tossed in reform school-for at least three months. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there’s more to this school than its sweet mission. There’s a battle brewing and she starts to wonder: can a villian really change?

The Box and the Dragonfly (The Keepers #1) by Ted Sanders (March 3)

KeepersArtifacts. Miseries. Mysteries . . .
From the moment Horace F. Andrews sees the sign from the bus–a sign with his own name on it–everything changes. The sighting leads him underground to the House of Answers, a hidden warehouse brimming with peculiar devices. But there he finds only questions. What is this curious place? Who are the strange, secretive people who entrust him with a rare and immensely powerful gift? And what is he to do with it?

 

Ms. Rapscott’s Girls by Elise Primavera (March 10)

MsRapscott'sGirls

Fans of Mary Poppins will love this whimsical tale of a boarding school for children of very busy parents, where an extraordinary headmistress teaches them life lessons about courage, adventure, friendship . . . and the importance of birthday cake.
Nestled inside a lighthouse, Great Rapscott School for the Daughters of Busy Parents takes its motto from Amelia Earhart: Adventure is worthwhile in itself. Headmistress Ms. Rapscott couldn’t agree more, but her students, who are shipped to the school in boxes, could use a little convincing. Still, despite their initial reluctance, the students are soon soaring through the sky and getting lost on purpose. In addition to learning what birthday cakes are and how best to approach a bumbershoot tree, the students also manage to learn a little something about strength and bravery.

Little Miss Evil by Bryce Leung, Kristy Shen (March 10) LittleMissEvil

When you live in a volcano, ride to school in a helicopter, and regularly see your dad on the news with the caption “EVIL GENIUS” underneath his picture, it takes a lot to rattle you. Until you get a message that says: We have your father. Deliver the NOVA in 24 hours or we will kill him. But telling him to stop building weapons is like telling Michelangelo to stop painting. And that’s why thirteen-year-old Fiona has a flamethrower strapped to her arm. After all, who’d mess with a girl who can throw fireballs? Apparently, these guys. Big mistake.

Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi (March 10) CatchYouLater,Traitor

Brooklyn, New York, 1951.
Twelve-year-old Pete Collison is a regular kid who loves Sam Spade detective books and radio crime dramas, but when an FBI agent shows up at Pete’s doorstep accusing his father of being a Communist, Pete finds himself caught in a real-life mystery. Could there really be Commies in Pete’s family? At the same time, Pete’s class turns against him, thanks to similar rumors spread by his own teacher; even Kat, Pete’s best friend, feels the pressure to ditch him. As Pete follows the quickly accumulating clues, he begins to wonder if the truth could put his family’s livelihood–and even their freedom–at risk.

Roller Girl (A Graphic Novel) by Victoria Jamieson (March 10) RollerGirl

For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead. And so begins the most difficult summer of Astrid’s life as she struggles to keep up with the older girls at camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. As the end of summer nears and her first roller derby bout (and junior high!) draws closer, Astrid realizes that maybe she is strong enough to handle the bout, a lost friendship, and middle school… in short, strong enough to be a roller girl.

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman (March 10) Nightbird

Twelve-year-old Twig’s town in the Berkshires is said to hide a winged beast, the Monster of Sidwell, and the rumors draw as many tourists as the town’s famed pink apple orchards. Twig lives in the orchard with her mysterious brother James and her reclusive mother, a baker of irresistible apple pies. Because of a family secret, an ancient curse,Twig has had to isolate herself from other kids. Then a family with two girls, Julia and Agate, moves into the cottage next door. They are descendants of the witch who put the spell on Twig’s family. But Julia turns out to be Twig’s first true friend, and her ally in trying to undo the curse and smooth the path to true love for Agate and James.

Molly Pepper and the Night Train by Courtney King Walker (March 13) ???????????????????

Hidden somewhere in the fog of the San Francisco bay lies Blue Rock Island, home to the bay area’s two best-kept secrets: Bell’s Bluff, the old, abandoned prison on one side of the island, and the Night Train, a mysterious train ride on the other. When twelve-year-old Molly Pepper receives a secret invitation promising a night of magic and adventure aboard the Night Train, she is skeptical. In her experience, most promises prove too good to be true. The fact that she lost her mom is proof enough.

Still, Molly gives hope another chance. Together with her loyal friend, Noah Wonderly, they sneak out of the house and follow a string of clues leading to the Night Train. But when the train stops at Bell’s Bluff, Molly discovers the real reason she was invited. There, she starts to wonder if hope and magic not only fix broken promises; but make you believe in them again.

The Luck Uglies, Fork-Tongue Charmers by Paul Durham (March 17) TheLuckUglies

It’s not easy being the daughter of the High Chieftain of the Luck Uglies. Now an insidious new lawman in Drowning has declared Rye an outlaw, and she’s stuck on the strange and remote Isle of Pest. But the island quickly feels much less remote when the battle to control the future of the Luck Uglies moves to its shores. To defeat the Luck Uglies’ bitterest rivals, Rye must defy a deranged earl, survive a test meant to judge the grit of the fiercest men—and uncover some long-buried family secrets. And when Rye leads the charge to defend the island, she and her friends will meet an eerily familiar enemy. . .

In Todd We Trust by Louise GalvesInToddWeTrustton (March 17)

In the sequel to By the Grace of Todd, the Toddlians believe Todd has forgotten all about them. There’s only one solution to their problems: to find a new god! And so they decide to build a raft à la Noah’s ark in order to search for a more thoughtful deity. But who can the Toddlians turn to in their time of despair? And does Todd really not remember the miniature race generated by the dirt on his smelly sock? It will take more than divine intervention to save the Toddlians and mend their relationship with their neglectful creator.

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly (March 24)

BlackbirdFly

Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. Her mother still cooks Filipino foods, speaks a mix of English and Cebuano, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” It becomes unbearable in middle school, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is.

The Penderwicks In Spring by Jeanne Birdsall (March 24) ThePenderwicks2

Springtime is finally arriving on Gardam Street, and there are surprises in store for each member of the family. Some surprises are just wonderful, like neighbor Nick Geiger coming home from war. And some are ridiculous, like Batty’s new dog-walking business. Batty is saving up her dog-walking money for an extra-special surprise for her family, which she plans to present on her upcoming birthday. But when some unwelcome surprises make themselves known, the best-laid plans fall apart.

The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein (March 24) TheIslandofDr.Libris

What if your favorite characters came to life? Billy’s spending the summer in a lakeside cabin that belongs to the mysterious Dr. Libris. But something strange is going on. Besides the security cameras everywhere, there’s Dr. Libris’s private bookcase. Whenever Billy opens the books inside, he can hear sounds coming from the island in the middle of the lake. The clash of swords. The twang of arrows. Sometimes he can even feel the ground shaking. It’s almost as if the stories he’s reading are coming to life! But that’s impossible . . . isn’t it?

What books are you excited about SPRINGing into this month? Tell us about them in the comments!

LouGbiopicLouise Galveston is the author of By the Grace of Todd and its sequel, In Todd We Trust (Razorbill) www.bythegraceoftodd.com When she’s not shuffling through the mixed-up files on her messy writing desk, you’ll find Louise directing children’s theater, playing games with her big family, or up to her eyeballs in laundry.