Monthly Archives: January 2008

Last Year’s Mold-Breaking and Risk-Taking

Alison Morris - January 30, 2008

This seems to be my week of finding inspiration from alums of Wellesley Booksmith. On Monday I linked to a post written by our fleet-footed former bookseller Sarah Nixon. Today I want to point out a paragraph written by yet another uber-fabulous former colleague, Jill Saginario, whose talents now grace the children’s section of Powell’s Books (lucky ducks!). Jill wrote this paragraph for the most recent newsletter, which arrived in my inbox (and maybe yours?) last week:

Jill here. Sadly, 2007 has come and gone, but its passing has imbued a sense of hope for 2008. Personally, I’m thrilled at some of the recent trends in young adult literature, and I want to take this moment to cheer on those publishers that have taken risks and broken the mold. I’ve been seeing a lot of great, dynamic male characters: Sid Hite’s fantastically written novel I’m Exploding Now perfectly captures the deadpan humor of a typical ennui-filled sixteen-year-old. Hero by Perry Moore delivers the first gay superhero in a YA action-adventure. Most notably, however, is character James Sveck in Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron. We on the kids’ team unanimously love James Sveck, and I adore the way the author has constructed such a strong, relatable coming-of-age story with a gay character, whose gayness is almost incidental; it’s so matter-of-fact.

What risk-taking and mold-breaking did you observe in last year’s novels? Fallen in love with any great, dynamic characters of late? I’m with Jill — let’s take a moment to reflect on last year’s finest literary leaps and most memorable peeps.

I’ll start: Margaret McMullan’s beautiful novel When I Crossed No-Bob was bold in its honest exploration the emotional depression that choked the American South during the Reconstruction era. I can’t say that I’ve seen many books about this time period in American history — at least not ones narrated by kids whose parents are racist redneck scumbags. I would never have guessed that combination could yield a novel as beautiful as this one, but McMullan’s expert prose made it happen.

Now it’s your turn. Sing some of last year’s praises while this year is still young.

I Am 32 Pages and Then Some

Alison Morris - January 29, 2008

Today happens to be my 32nd birthday. If you equate years to pages, this means my life has just reached the length of your average picture book! Yippee!!

This entertaining little realization has had me thinking about the illustrated books that I loved as a child — the ones that might’ve unwittingly played a hand in making me the person I am today. As I don’t know who’d have the time to read my musings on 32 illustrated books I loved as a child, I cut the number in half. What follows is a list of 16 books I read so often as a child that they’re still somehow a part of me today. For the most part I’ve stayed away from including the same books that would appear on the childhood favorites list of almost everyone in my generation (Goodnight Moon, Pat the Bunny, Make Way for Ducklings, The Snowy Day, etc.), but there are some popular choices in here that I couldn’t help including.


A Hole Is to Dig by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
My grandmother’s first cousin, Bob White, was a sales rep for HarperCollins, back in its "Harper and Row" days. One of my favorite, favorite relatives, Bob (and his just-as-wonderful wife Peg!) always saw to it that my home library included some of the best children’s book gems, and this was one of them. A staple of our bedtime read-alouds, my favorite page was the one that explains, "Mud is to jump in and slide in and yell doodleedoodleedoo." Now, though, I’m also very partial to "A book is to look at," and "Rugs are so dogs have napkins."

Time to Get Out of the Bath, Shirley by John Burningham
This book and its companion, Come Away from the Water, Shirley, were two of my absolute favorites. My own childhood copies are falling apart at the seams because I read them and re-read them so many times, marveling at the fact that Shirley could be one place in body while simultaneously somewhere else in her mind. I experienced this magical dualism every day as a kid but was fascinated to see it represented in pictures. And I was entertained by the endless nagging of Shirley’s mum.

Bill and Pete by Tomie dePaola
Every time I buy a new toothbrush I think of this book. Seriously. Embedded deep in my subconscious is the image of William Everett (a.k.a. Bill), a crocodile standing in the store with his mother, eyeing all the birds lined up on the store display, looking for the right one to pick at his teeth. He picks Pete, a plover. My own toothbrush purchases have never been half so memorable as Bill’s.

The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord, with verses by Janet Burroway
A town is besieged with wasps and comes up with the ultimate way to catch them — an enormous sandwich. The villagers make a huge open-faced jam sandwich, the wasps fly into the jam and get stuck fast, helicopters circling above drop another slice of bread onto the jam, and birds carry away the sandwich and savor the feast. Great fun! (But wow do those illustrations look "retro" to me now!)

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale retold by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
We didn’t own this book, but I checked it out of the library. Again. And again. And again. I think it scared me a little, which was part of its appeal. Even now I get a nervous little shiver when I think of it — amazing how a book can still affect the same way, years and years after you first read it.

George and Martha by James Marshall
I mean, really — when it comes to friendship stories, does it get any better than the George and Martha books? The older you are, the funnier they get — and the more you see your own relationships in them, too. I will never, ever fall out of love with these stories, and they’ll never stop making me laugh.

Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp by Mercer Mayer
I loved lots of Mercer Mayer books as a kid, but I think this one was my favorite. My mom’s from Tennessee, so the Southern flavor of this book felt very familiar to me, and the fact that the main character is African-American did too. My early schooling years were spent in inner-city schools where I was part of the mixed masses. I was, in fact, the only white kid in my kindergarten class and didn’t know that anyone else had it any different. Black/white/whatever color the protagonists, a story was a story to me. As it still is.

Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs
Why do kids love this book? Because Father Christmas is so cranky, and because you get to see him sitting on the toilet. Oh, the power of the naked bum! It worked wonders for David Shannon’s career too, you know. It’s the naked bum page of No, David! that sends kids into uncontrollable fits of giggles. You adults who were once fans of Father Christmas or The Snowman or the more recent Ug, Boy Genius of the Stone Age ought to now do yourselves the favor of reading Ethel and Ernest. It’s a graphic novel so beautiful it’ll move you to tears.

The Monster at the End of This Book, Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover by Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin
This is one of the few TV-inspired books that I can recall really loving as a child, as I did my Sesame Street records (in particular an album called "In Harmony," which I still think is great). This book cracked me up. I also loved another Grover book, Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum.

The ChildCraft "How and Why" Library published by World Book (mine were circa 1980)
I loved this set of books and pored over all the illustrations and stories and information in each of them. My favorite, though, was Make and Do, which apparently is the favorite of lots of others like me, who grew up to be artsy-craftsy types.

Eight Little Indians by Josephine Lovell (pub. by Platt & Munk, 1936)
I have no idea how many inaccuracies there were in these stories about Native American children from eight different tribes, but I do know that this book enthralled my mother as a child and had the same effect on me. Recently my mom loaned our copy to a neighbor girl who fell just as in love with it as we each did. I wound up having to go online and purchase a copy for her, just so that she wouldn’t be heartbroken when we took ours back!

Where Did I Come From?
by Peter Mayle, illustrated by Arthur Robins
Hey, you’ve got to learn the facts of life somehow, and this book and What’s Happening to Me? were the ones my parents used to broach those discussions in our house. I can’t say I *loved* these books, because (frankly) the very thought of what was on those pages pretty well grossed me out as a child. But I did find them informative and grossly fascinating, as did the person who wrote a very entertaining article for the San Francisco Bay Guardian in 2004, prompted by her memories of reading this book.


I’m Nobody, Who Are You? Poems of Emily Dickinson for Young People by Emily Dickinson, illustrated by Rex Schneider (pub. by Stemmer House, 1978)
I absolutely, positively LOVED this book as a child, and I think it’s precisely because I didn’t really understand most of the poems in it. I found them fascinating but odd, baffling but beautiful. (Probably not unlike how some adults feel about poetry in general, poor souls.) My favorite poem in the book was the title poem, "I’m nobody, Who are you?" for which I can still recall Rex Schneider’s illustration of a portly frog, telling his "name the livelong day to an admiring bog."

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You by John Ciardi, illustrated by Edward Gorey
Funny, funny stuff! My favorite poem in this collection was one called "Mummy Slept Late and Daddy Fixed Breakfast." Apparently it’s the favorite of lots of other kids too! The added bonus of memorizing this poem is the addition of two SAT-type words to your vocabulary: "bituminous" and "anthracite."

(these were ostensibly not for children, but they certainly did appeal to ME)

Gnomes by Will Huygen, illustrate by Rien Poortvliet
This elaborate book about gnome-life was not written specifically with children in mind, but I can recall poring over its pages as a child, and being fascinated by every little detail about gnome clothing, households, pets, food, and so on and so on and so on. I was, however, completely freaked out by the gruesome-looking, leaky-nosed trolls in the book and would flip past their sections of the book as quickly as possible. Ick.

The Homemaker’s Pictorial Encyclopedia of Modern Cake Decorating by McKinley Wilton and Norman Wilton (originally published in 1954)
My mother was not the "bake an elaborate cake for every occasion" type, so I’m not quite sure how this book made it into our home library. Perhaps it was a hand-me-down from my grandmother, who was at one time a home economics teacher? Whatever the case, this book landed on our bookshelves and then into my hands where it took up frequent residence. Bad black-and-white photos and a few mediocre color photos showed fancy cake designs with elaborate frosting curlicues, incredible floral arrangements, and a few very kid-friendly designs. For years I dreamed of having an upside-down bowl-shaped birthday cake with a Barbie-like doll jutting out of its center, her skirt (the cake) frosted to look like layers of silk chiffon or something else fancy-like. I might have been a tomboy in some ways, but I was not above dreaming of sickeningly sweet cakes with frilly pink icing. The cakes I loved most in this book, though, were the many-tiered wedding cakes with plastic columns between their layers and a fountain — A WORKING FOUNTAIN!! — perched on the bottom-most slab of cake. I thought the idea of having a gurgling fountain ON your actual cake was unbelievably cool.

Today, though, I’m much happier with life’s simpler sweet-tooth pleasures, like the carrot cake and brownies two of my colleagues baked for me today. No fountains in sight, thank goodness!

What were YOUR favorite picture books growing up? And what’s YOUR dream cake? Do tell.

(Inspiration for the title of today’s post came from Ani DiFranco. If you don’t know why I say that, listen/look.)

Are You Prone to Peeking?

Alison Morris - January 28, 2008

Sarah Nixon, one of our store’s veteran booksellers, recently confessed on her blog that she is (gasp!!)… a peeker. Yes, she peeks at the ending of a book before she begins reading it!

To those of us who are not thus inclined the very idea of reading the end before the beginning is horrifying. Unimaginable. Why would we want to deprive ourselves of a story’s suspense, of being surprised by where it takes us?

I am one of those "if you tell me how it ends I won’t want to read it" types. I HATE having the ending of a book (or movie or play) revealed to me in advance. I want to get there on my own time, with own two eyes, thank you very much.

And yet, I *know* a lot of you are not like me. A lot of you, like Sarah, like to skip to the last chapter and read it first, or read a book’s last sentence before you read its first one.

What I’d really like to know is WHY? When Sarah dropped by the store soon after the appearance of her "peeking" post, we had a funny conversation in which she sheepish confessed that she has NO IDEA what it is that makes her sneak a peek at the ending. Nervousness, you might be thinking. An anxious need to know where something is heading, perhaps. But I have to say that those aren’t personality traits I would ascribe to Sarah, a world-class marathon runner who’ll run 26 miles on an unfamiliar road in a country she’s never set foot in before. No, I don’t think Sarah’s the fretting type. I think her peeking tendency stems from something else… But I don’t know what that is.

Anyone have any theories? Want to confess and/or justify your own peeking? Have any other odd reading habits to share? You can easily post anonymously here, so please — do tell!

Once Upon a Time in the North is Worth the Trip

Alison Morris - January 27, 2008

For the past few weeks I’ve been listening, again, to the audio recordings of all three books in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Though this is probably my second or third time experiencing these books on audio I’ve been wanting to revisit them this way ever since I saw the movie version of The Golden Compass, as I wanted to hear the books "performed" for me in full — the way I’d have liked to have seen them on the big screen.

It was wonderful timing, then, to have all these character’s voices in my head again when I received a coveted envelope from Random House, bearing the page proofs of Once Upon a Time in the North, the His Dark Materials companion "episode" being published this April. Like Lyra’s Oxford, which was published in 2003, this short (approx. 100 pages) book gives us a glimpse of something that happened outside the timeline of His Dark Materials but features characters who appear in Pullman’s beloved (except where it’s hated) trilogy.

Once Upon a Time in the North is the story of one of Lee Scoresby’s early aeronautical adventures, the adventure that brings him face-to-furry-face with Iorek Byrnison for the first time. It’s a rollicking little ride of a book — a cold-climate Western, if you will, complete with gunslingers and wanton women (at least Lee wishes they were wanton) and Hester. Sweet, wonderful Hester. Best dang daemon any gunslinger could hope for.

Having found Lyra’s Oxford a bit disappointing, I didn’t expect much from this slim volume, but I was truly, VERY pleasantly surprised. It was a real treat to have a glimpse into the past of two of my favorite of Philip Pullman’s characters, AND to find a glimpse of one character’s future, too. The last couple of pages of this book reveal a bit of what’s happened to Lyra, in the days since, well… you know — the stuff that happened at the end of The Amber Spyglass. It gave me a little thrill to find some evidence of her more recent whereabouts. And it made me hunger for more of her story too!

The wait may not be too much longer: In recent interviews Pullman has said that The Book of Dust could possibly be published as soon as 2009. Did you miss his interview with Charlie Rose a couple weeks ago? Well, then you’re missing out. Fortunately you can watch the ENTIRE INTERVIEW online.

Penderwicks Two Gets a Rave Review

Alison Morris - January 23, 2008

If you’re looking for my own personal thoughts on The Penderwicks on Gardham Street, I’m afraid you’re not going to find them here. I have not yet read the book, because it’s been in such high demand by others working at or reviewing galleys for our store! One of the latter is 14-year-old Caroline Joyce, a student at Wellesley Middle School who is currently reading through the galleys in my office at a speed several times my own. She couldn’t wait to get her hands on this particular ARC! What follows is Caroline’s wonderfully enthusiastic review. (And, YES, there are SPOILERS here! Consider yourself warned.)

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, April 2008)
Reviewed by Caroline Joyce

I first discovered The Penderwicks about a year ago. My family was on a long plane ride and I was bored. My mom, who thinks of everything, had gone to the library and gotten us books, and I the moody teenager had discarded most of the ones that she brought along. I am not a good person when I am bored. I whine, and I get grumpy. As a last resort my mom handed me The Penderwicks, thinking maybe I’d like it. I loved it!

Imagine my surprise then, when I’m downstairs in Alison’s Cave of Wonders (otherwise known as her office and galley storeroom) and see the galley for the sequel, The Penderwicks on Gardham Street!!

I have finals to study for but the book sits on the corner of my desk almost beckoning to me. I swear I can hear it speaking. At 10:00pm my resistance breaks down and I just have to read it! Sadly at 11:30pm I have to put down this amazing and marvelous book because my parents are starting to get a little annoyed, and I really don’t feel like pulling a Harry Potter (784 pages in 6 hours – I think that’s a record!). The next day I finally finish the book in an hour.

This book starts off with the Penderwick family back at home on Gardam Street. (Hence the title The Penderwicks on Gardam Street.) Rosalind the oldest is 12, then comes Skye the sporty one (age 10), followed by her creative sister Jane (a mature 9), and, last but not least, Batty, who is only 4 years old but has quite a mastery of the English language.

Since their mother died 4 years ago it’s just been the sisters and their dad, until Aunt Claire comes with a letter telling Mr. Penderwick that he must date again. The letter, of course, is from the girls’ dead mother (which I just think is morbid, but anyway…). No one in the family is happy about this idea, except for Aunt Claire who seems just a little too excited about it. Rosalind in particular seems a little shaken; she obviously still has some grief issues.

In the sequel we are introduced to many new characters, including a new neighbor who is a single mother and works at the University with Mr. Penderwick. (He’s a botanist while she specializes in astrophysics.) Yes, you may be thinking, “This is a book about Mr. Penderwick starting to date, right? And there is a single mother living next door to him who also works at the same place as him? I think I know what happens!” You know what! You’re right! The ending of this book is very predictable but that’s what makes it so awesome!

There are other neighbors in the book, the Geigers to be exact. Nick is a senior in high school and a football player while Tommy is Rosalind’s age. (Cue Donny Osmond: “And they calllll ittttt PUUUUUUUUPPPPYYYY LLLLLLLOOOOOVVVVVVE!!!”)

When the girls really do start confiding in their neighbor they come to think of her as a mother figure, which turns into a “Let’s set Daddy up with Ms. Aaronson!” plan. It’s a bit quick, this change of heart, but what the heck! Ms. Birdsall can pull it off. There is also a bit of a side story in which there is a creepy stalker guy trying to steal Ms. Aaronson’s work, but the girls plus Tommy pull off some amazing superhero stunts that are so cool that they’re almost unbelievable yet still made me want to sign up for Tae Kwon Doe lessons.

Throughout the entire book you will be laughing and cheering along with the Penderwicks and their extended family. I now randomly quote the book, much to the annoyance of my friends, he he he.

While the book says that it is for those aged 8-12 I think that it is for anyone and everyone. I am 14 and still loved it more then most books out there (e.g. Gossip Girl.) Personally I think that the second Penderwick book is the best, and now I am just waiting for the third!

On Mondays I Never Go to Work

Alison Morris - January 21, 2008

Gareth has been working from home since last March, when he left his day job in the video game industry with the goal of illustrating full-time. Since then he’s been reveling in the joys of self-employment, as many artists and writers do when they aren’t bemoaning the cost of single-payer health care, worrying about the source of their next paycheck, or missing the company of others engaged in similar work.

Last week Gareth e-mailed me to announce that he’d found his new theme song. I laughed out loud when I heard the lyrics to this VERY catchy little tune by They Might Be Giants that many of you may feel you can relate to, and most of you are likely to find very entertaining (though you might find this song is stuck in your head for days — consider yourselves warned)! It’s animated in kid-friendly/grown-up-friendly fashion and viewable by way of This Might Be a Wiki, the They Might Be Giants knowledge base. If you get a kick out of it, you might want to subscribe to TMBG’s free podcasts. Click on the image below to get this party started…

Watching the video again before posting it here, it suddenly struck me that the line drawings (in particular the animated ones during the "practice trumpet every day" section) look like they could’ve been done by Laura Ljungkvist, author/illustrator of (most recently) Follow the Line Through the House. I’ve got no reason to think that Laura actually DID do the drawings for that TMBG animation, but the very talented Laura would certainly have been capable of doing so! Perhaps, though, she’s been too busy working on Follow the Line Around the World, which is due out in May 2008 from Viking.

Through the Wardrobe

Alison Morris - January 18, 2008

We got hit with a pretty significant snowstorm on Monday, which pretty much turned the world to white. This time the snow has really clung to the bushes and trees, making Boston and its surrounding towns look like something out of a fairy tale, even after the snow has long since melted off the roads (thank goodness).

On my drive to work on Tuesday, curving around a bend in a back road, I suddenly felt like I’d caught a glimpse of Narnia. Passing by a converted rail trail I took a quick look down its track and saw a white path framed by over-arching trees, all of them coated in white. If I’d had a camera with me then I’d have stopped to take a picture. Alas, mine was a camera-less commute. Wanting, though, to capture a bit of this C.S. Lewis-like phenomenon, I grabbed the store’s camera and walked over to the Wellesley College campus in the afternoon, where I was suddenly struck with the most incredible realization. Here I was, looking for a snowy space that resembled Narnia, when I realized that the lampposts lining Wellesley’s campus are the PERFECT Narnia lampposts!! I don’t know why I’d never noticed it before!

I will say that the true Narnia effect had been ruined a bit by the fact that the footpath was perfectly free of snow, making it clear that none of these lampposts is actually just standing in the middle of the forest. But I took some pictures nonetheless. And I do think they capture a bit of that "world outside a magical wardrobe" effect. You tell me whether or not you agree.

How perfect would this have been when that snow was newly fallen and that lamp was lit?

Imagine the same things with this photo, and notice the beauty of that heavily laden evergreen.

I cropped the path out of this picture to set the scene a bit better.


My dream photo: the shot below, but with one of those lampposts standing right in the middle of it.

The down side of the snow sticking to every green surface in sight is the terrible effect it’s having on the trees in all our neighborhoods. I can’t remember a time when I’ve seen so many substantial branches collapse under the weight of all that white stuff. But, boy, you take away that reality and it really does look like we’re living in some magical place!

Awarding the 2008 Morris Medals

Alison Morris - January 16, 2008

There is not (as yet) any such thing as The Morris Medal, but every year when I get frustrated with the titles I see getting left off everyone else’s "Best of the Year" picks, I think maybe there ought to be! I’ve been intermittently adding to my list of "Morris Medal Contenders" as 2007 has progressed, and what follows is how this year’s results would look, were actual Morris Medals being minted. Or printed on shiny self-adhesive paper.

Note that because this is my award, I can select as many Medalists and Honor books as my little heart desires, and I’ve exploited that fact, though at the expense of being able to put links in for all of these titles (there are just too many!). Note, too, that I add and subtract categories from my Medals list every year, because some years there are books that fit them well, and other years there are not. In the same vein, some categories have honor books this year, and some don’t. That’s just the way I’ve decided to do things this time, and it’s kind of nice, actually, that these awards aren’t "real" so I don’t have to take any actual flack for those changes!

That having been said, let me explain that just because I don’t have actual tangible medals to award to this year’s Morris Medalists and Honor recipients, that doesn’t mean I love their books any less. My sentiments here are the real thing, even if the medals aren’t.

Titles within each category are listed alphabetically by author’s last name, not by any "I like you more than this book but less than that book" or "this author was especially nice to me at such-and-such conference" ranking system.

Also, on the topic of authors being nice to me, I recused myself from the voting for any books adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds, because I feel my ability to be impartial regarding said books has been extremely compromised by 10 months of blissful cohabitation. Gareth supported this decision.

And one more thing: I know there are probably great books missing from each award category, but honestly? I haven’t read every single novel that came out this year, nor have I necessarily seen every picture book. If your novel or picture book or misc. nonfiction title hasn’t made it onto this list of accolades, just assume that I didn’t read it or see it, but that I will in the very near future, okay? That way no one has to feel insulted, and I suffer a lot less guilt over the number of books I’m not getting to nowadays.

And now… The lack of envelope please:

The 2008 Morris Medal for Best Book Illustration goes to 6 books this year (listed alphabetically by author’s last name):

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

The Castle on Hester Street by Linda Heller, illustrated by Boris Kulikov

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch

17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by Polly Dunbar

Honor Books (there are 18 this year, again listed alphabetically by author’s last name):

The Nightingale by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated by Igor Oleynikov

The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen, retold by Stephen Mitchell, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

New Clothes for New Year’s Day by Hyun-Joo Bae

Deep in the Swamp by Donna M. Bateman, illustrated by Brian Lies

Let It Shine by Ashley Bryan

The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary by Beverly Donofrio and Barbara McClintock

Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett

The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Shelley Jackson

Little Eagle by Chen Jiang Hong

Today and Today by Kobayashi Issa, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Waiting for Mama by Tae-Joon Lee, illustrated by Dong-Sung Kim

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Red Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk Out of China by Deborah Noyes, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird by Jacques Prévert, translated and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein

The Invention of Hugo Cabret (a novel) by Brian Selznick

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon


The 2008 Morris Medal for Best Writing in a Picture Book goes to:

The Castle on Hester Street by Linda Heller, illustrated by Boris Kulikov
(Apparently the text of this book is 25 years old, but it’s presented in this edition with new illustrations and the text was new to ME this year, so… It qualifies. Because I make up the rules here, remember?)

Pink by Nan Gregory, illustrated by Luc Melanson

Honor Books:

 I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry


The 2008 Morris Medal for the Most Engaging Middle Grade Novel of the Year goes to:

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Honor Books:

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan

The Invention of Hugo Cabret (a novel) by Brian Selznick

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon

The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles

Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson


The 2008 Morris Medal for the Most Engaging Young Adult Novel of the Year goes to:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean

Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow by James Sturm, illustrated by Rich Tommaso


The 2008 Morris Medal for Best Writing in a Graphic Novel goes to:

Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow by James Sturm, illustrated by Rich Tommaso


The 2008 Morris Medal for Best Illustrations in a Graphic Novel goes to:

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Honor Books:

Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow by James Sturm, illustrated by Rich Tommaso

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon


The 2008 Morris Medal for Best Beginning Reader Book goes to:

Dodsworth in New York by Tim Egan

The Cat on the Mat Is Flat by Andy Griffiths

Honor Books:

Wiggle and Waggle by Caroline Arnold and Mary Peterson

Little Rat Makes Music by Monika Bang Campbell, illustrated by Molly Bang

My Friend Is Sad by Mo Willems


The 2008 Morris Medal for Best Book of Poetry goes to:

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch

Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by Polly Dunbar

Honor Books:

Today and Today by Kobayashi Issa, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Dancing on the Roof: Sijo Poems
by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Istvan Banyai

This Is Just to Say: Poems of Forgiveness and Apology by Joyce Sidman


The 2008 Morris Medal for Best Read-Aloud goes to:

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown by Cressida Cowell

Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by Polly Dunbar

Honor Books:

Young Cornrows Callin Out the Moon by Ruth Forman

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry

The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles

Who Likes Rain? by Wong Herbert Yee


The 2008 Morris Medal for the Book Most Likely to Entertain a Toddler goes to:

What’s Wrong, Little Pookie? by Sandra Boynton

Penguin by Polly Dunbar

The Police Cloud by Christophe Niemann

Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by Polly Dunbar


The 2008 Morris Medal for Best Children’s or Young Adult Book to Give to Your Adult Friends goes to:

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie


The 2008 Morris Medal for Best Book to Give to Your Teacher Friends & Their Classroom Libraries goes to:

Vinnie and Abraham by Dawn FitzGerald, illustrated by Catherine Stock

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis


The 2008 Morris Medal for the Best Ways to Beat Boredom goes to:

101 Things You Gotta Do Before You’re 12 by Joanne O’Sullivan

Squiggles: A Really Giant Drawing and Painting Book by Taro Gomi


The 2008 Morris Medal for Best Non-Fiction Book goes to:

The Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story by Peter Lane Taylor with Christos Nicola

Honor Books:

Disguised: A Wartime Memoir by Rita la Fontaine de Clercq Zubli

Vinnie and Abraham by Dawn FitzGerald, illustrated by Catherine Stock

Lightship by Brian Floca

One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II by Lita Judge

Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas by Meghan McCarthy

Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Eric Velasquez


The 2008 Morris Medal for the Book That Made Me Laugh the Loudest goes to:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Honor Books:

Millie Waits for the Mail by Alexander Steffensmeier

Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend by Mélanie Watt

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs (This is a book for grown-ups, but I had to include it here because it DEFINITELY qualifies for this award — just ask anyone who was near when I was reading it!)


The 2008 Morris Medal for the Book That Made Me the Teariest goes to:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

Today and Today by Kobayashi Issa, illustrated by G. Brian Karas


The 2008 Morris Medal for The Book(s) I Most Wish I’d Discovered in My Childhood goes to:

How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake

A Near Thing for Captain Najork by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake


The 2008 Morris Medal for the Most Kid-Friendly Book of the Year goes to:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Honor Books:

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

The Cat on the Mat Is Flat by Andy Griffiths

How Big Is It? A Book All About Bigness by Ben Hillman

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller

Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems


The Eyes Behind the Prize

Alison Morris - January 15, 2008

I’m still reeling a bit from the surprises that came with yesterday’s announcement of the ALA’s biggest book awards. After months of speculating about the likelihood of The Invention of Hugo Cabret being awarded a Caldecott Honor at least, I was nevertheless shocked to see a Caldecott committee bold or forward-thinking enough to give it top billing. WOW!!

And THEN to have the Newbery committee make such an unusual and creative choice too?? I found it rather thrilling, to be honest with you. And I also found it quite satisfying for a different reason too. The editor of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! at Candlewick Press is Mary Lee Donovan, who happens to be brilliant and long-overdue for accolades at exactly this level. While it’s true that Mary Lee is my editor and I therefore have some very personal insight into her talents, my editorial relationship with her has really only just begun. No, my knowledge of Mary Lee’s abilities comes primarily from the work I’ve done as a buyer and the conversations I’ve had with other people about Mary Lee’s editing skills. I see the types of books she chooses, I read the books she edits, and I’ve spoken with a lot of authors she’s worked with — all of whom seem to think she’s brilliant. Seeing the work Mary Lee gets out of them suggests that that is indeed the case. And now there are going to be a lot of shiny gold seals in the world acting as proof!

I rarely hear much discussion, at least among booksellers, about which editors are behind the books at the top of the annual heap, but the longer I’m in this business, the more I appreciate the part they’ve played in getting these books to that position. It’s in large part their eyes for talent and editorial instincts that make each year’s pool of potential award-winners such a deep one. So, authors, illustrators AND editors of the year’s best books (both those applauded today and those not) I tip my hat to you. Thanks for another great year of reading.