Monthly Archives: February 2008

The First Book You "Read"

Alison Morris - February 28, 2008

Gareth and I recently had a conversation about the first books we memorized and could recite in full, believing ourselves to be actually "READING." His was Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell. Mine was One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss.

Wondering if I could find entertaining evidence of contemporary kids confused on the same "memorizing vs. reading" point, I turned to… (where else?) YouTube. I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for but nevertheless unearthed a few relevant "faux reading" gems.

For starters, there’s a pretty fascinating, completely charming video of a 15 month-old "READING" One Morning in Maine, using no actual words — or at least, no words in the language of grown-ups. But boy does she get the cadence of speech right!

Six year-old Sasha does a pretty convincing act of reading one of the Rainbow Fairies books, but if you try to follow the story you’ll find she’s clearly making it up as she goes along.

A non-fiction book about trees gets pretty exciting in Susie’s "reading" of it. Trees with wings? Who knew.

What about you? What book did you believe you could "READ" before you could actually do so? Do tell.

Occupation Explanation: Managing Editor

Alison Morris - February 26, 2008

Last Thursday "Morning Edition" did a great feature on what a script supervisor does on a movie set. The piece was interesting, insightful, and gave me a solid introduction to a profession about which I’d previously known nothing. The story got me thinking about the many jobs in the book industry about which I know the same (nothing) or at least very little. Heck, I have a career that I didn’t even know existed until I stumbled into it!

Knowing that I’m not the only one who could benefit from a larger book world education, I’m launching a recurring feature on this blog, in which people explain what it is that they actually DO. My hope is that these explanations will be enlightening for those of us who don’t have these jobs but also interesting for those who do — perhaps you’ll find that you’re in the same role but have completely different responsibilities or that you enjoy your work for very different reasons..If so, please share those observations with the rest of us by commenting on that particular post.

And now… On to this week’s feature!

In our first Occupation Explanation Cathryn McHugh, Managing Editor at Candlewick Press, reveals just what the HECK a Managing Editor actually does, or at least what a Managing Editor does at Candlewick. Cat’s first word was "hooligan" (how great is that?), she’s the mother of the world’s most mellow baby (Cian), and she’ll soon be a resident of California. (She, Cian, and her husband Josh are moving to Los Angeles in April.) Here’s what Cat has to say:

My job title is Managing Editor… and as I’ve been with the same company since I left university 9 years ago, I don’t know if this job title has the same responsibilities elsewhere, or if my job is unique…

I work with the entire company in order to oversee and manage the publishing list, both in the immediate future and the lists that are further out. I have to have an awareness and understanding of the complete list, and am specifically responsible for the schedules of about half of the list (the 4-color titles). I work up the schedules for these books based on the commitments given by the authors, illustrators, editors, and designers. Many factors play into these schedules and have to be taken into account… and it’s my job to juggle and revise schedules as events arise… and also to keep everyone appraised of these changes.

I also have responsibility for the bibliographic information of a title… the trim, the page count, the category, the Library of Congress Number, etc… I have to gather this information, enter it into our databases, and also feed it to those who need it.

I work closely with our overseas offices in order to facilitate the linked publishing programs… they publish some of our titles, and we publish some of theirs, and both have to be "translated"… materials have to get where they need to be and promptly… and then follow-up needs to happen to ensure that decisions are being made, and that actions are being taken.

I’ve described my job in the past as a professional nagger… and there is a large part of that… it’s making people do what they need to do to make sure the books are published on time, but being able to do it in a pleasant manner that allows them to feel that they are not being nagged… just gently reminded! In a highly creative environment, a little nudging is occasionally needed!

I love working with so many different people on a daily basis, and despite not being creatively inclined, being able to feel that I have had a hand in the publication of some truly fantastic books.

Do you have a title no one can remember, or perform tasks you feel that no one truly understands? Do you want a chance to explain why you enjoy the job you have, be it in a publishing house, in a library, or in some book-related place most of us know nothing about? If so, send me an e-mail (shelftalkerATgmailDOTcom), explaining what your title is, what it is that you actually DO, and what you do (or don’t) like about your current position. Please also tell me whether or not I can use your name and your employer’s name in my post. I can’t promise to use everyone’s submissions, but I can promise to read them at least! One more thing: remember that these are Occupation Explanations, not Occupation Obfuscations, so try not to use too many "industry terms" that might completely baffle outsiders.

Outfitted in Olivia

Alison Morris - February 22, 2008

She’s been the star of merchandise galore and featured on a U.S. postage stamp, but did you know Olivia, porcine wonder, also stars on a line of FABRIC? It’s true! I was recently very entertained to stumble upon four different Olivia fabric collections that are available at Repro Depot.

I believe my favorite might be this one, on which the text reads "Exercising is good. Accessorizing is better." (I’m sure Fancy Nancy would agree.)

Although, this print with the repeated phrase "worn out" would make very appropriate pillow cases:

And surely anyone with the name Olivia should have a garment made out of this:

16 Ounces of Kid Lit

Alison Morris - February 21, 2008

The other day at the gym I suddenly realized I was staring right at the subject of a new ShelfTalker post. No, it wasn’t Spandex that caught my eye (though I’ve love to try to find a way to work in THAT theme!). It was my water bottle.

My take-to-the-gym water bottle happens to be one that I purchased a few years ago at Powell’s, the venerable independent bookselling institution headquartered in Portland, Ore. Powell’s sells several different water bottles (mystery, outdoor lit, modern art, mathematics, philosophy, literature), but the one I own (go figure) is the kids’ bottle, which holds 16 ounces of liquid, making it half the size of the others.

Below is a photo of  my Powell’s bottle on a (shamefully dusty… how embarrassing) bookshelf. It looks like a typical 16 oz. Nalgene bottle, no?

No indeed! This is not a typical Nalgene bottle. If you read the fine print on the front side, you see that the details look like this:

In case you can’t comfortably read those details, I’ve reprinted them for you here:

Suggested Serving Sizes:

Serving Size: 15 pages
Servings Per Bottle: About 4

Suggested Daily Reading *
Excitement   34%
Fun   23%
Magic   26%
Suspense   17%

*Serving sizes are based on a 60 page per week diet

The fluid ounce markings on the back of the bottle, though, are what I think REALLY sets this one apart.  Beside each of the fluid ounce markings is the name of an author whose books are typically read by kids at the age corresponding with that number:

Again, in case it’s too small to read on your monitor, the printing looks like this (from the bottom to the top):
At the 4 ounce mark = Seuss
At the 6 ounce mark = Sendak
At the 8 ounce mark = Lobel
At the 10 ounce mark = Pilkey
At the 12 ounce mark = Cleary
At the 14 ounce mark = L’Engle
At the 16 ounce mark = Hinton

I’m assuming "Lobel" refers to Arnold, but who says Anita can’t take the credit? I could quibble a bit over the idea that 12 year-olds are reading Beverly Cleary, but why bother? Cleary grew up in Portland, so I certainly don’t question the need to have her name *somewhere* on this vessel. Besides that, does anyone ever really outgrow Ramona Quimby?

Still, every time I look at that bottle I try to figure out who I’d put beside each of those volume markings, were I in charge of a similar bottle’s creation. It’s pretty hard to whittle down the list of potential names to just one per age level! Who would make it onto YOUR bottle list?

Ringside 1925 and Other Travels in Time

Alison Morris - February 19, 2008

When I packed books to read on my trip to East Tennessee last December, I included a copy of Jen Bryant’s new novel in poems, Ringside 1925 (Knopf, Feb. 2008), without thinking about its setting. I cared only about two things: 1) the fact that I loved Jen’s first two novels, and 2) the fact that this book was about the Scopes trial, on which I was due for a refresher course. To this short list of reasons, I should have added the fact that I’d be traveling in the same general region in which the Scopes trial took place. Unfortunately our trip was too short for me to tack a three-hour drive to Dayton onto our brief stay in Johnson City, but after finishing and loving Jen’s novel, I was especially sorry I hadn’t been able to.

Written in prose poems, Ringside 1925 is narrated by several characters, some of them permanent Dayton residents and some visitors who have come to town for the trial that’s attracting national attention. Each member of the story’s ensemble cast speaks in a distinct voice, representing a range of ages, classes, and races, each person having a different tie to the case and a different opinion about how it’s unfolding. As is the case in Karen Hesse’s wonderful novel Witness, the advantage here is that the reader is able to view the same story from several different angles. In less capable hands this might make for cumbersome storytelling, but Bryant keeps the plot moving and keeps the story from becoming overly complicated by its conflicting points of view.

In the end Ringside 1925 reads like the portrait of a small town that’s been caught up, however briefly, in the tide of some BIG questions — questions that are still surfacing and resurfacing today more than 80 years later. In the notes at the end of the book Bryant urges readers wanting to know more about the Scopes trial story to visit the town of Dayton, Tenn. (as she did during her research), and see the places that helped her conjure up visions of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan holding court.

Reading this book in Dayton would have been an extra special treat, as I love reading historical fiction or non-fiction in the place where it all happened, feeling that sense that important history was made on the very spot where you are standing, that you’re seeing the same general horizon line some prominent person once gazed upon. I thought of this "it happened here" feeling the day after Christmas, when Gareth and I stopped in New Hampshire to have lunch with my former landlord and dear friend Larry Howard. Larry’s a 76-year-old landscape painter and devoted history buff. During our visit Larry shared a gem of a story with us about a trip he’d taken to Canada with two friends, on a quest to find an obscure but significant site all of them had read about in the same historical novel. With Larry behind the wheel and his friends navigating, the three of them drove and drove, finding nothing and growing almost hopelessly lost. Finally Larry suggested that he be allowed to look at the map his friends were using, only to learn that they weren’t using a map at all — they were navigating using the historical map and references in the novel!! Larry was flabbergasted. His friends were cowed. Eventually, though, the three found the place they’d been looking for, making it a bit easier to forget that times change, geographies change, and novels contain fiction.

In doing research for my own book I was ridiculously entertained by the discovery of a seafaring map from the 1750’s that had been reprinted in a 20th-century book and labeled with the words "Not to be used for navigation." WHO, I wondered, would be so stupid as to try such a thing?? Now I know the answer!

Thankfully, you don’t have to read Ringside 1925 while in Dayton, Tenn., to enjoy it. But if you decide to make the trip south to do so, I’d recommend picking up/printing out a map before you go.

Slay ‘em with Sensitivity

Alison Morris - February 18, 2008

I’ll admit it. When I saw this t-shirt design, I laughed out loud!

Click on the image to find out how to purchase your very own shirt sporting this win-them-over slogan. (And, no, I don’t know whether or not any royalties from the sale of this shirt actually go to Nicholas Sparks.)

A Valentine for Sales Reps

Alison Morris - February 14, 2008

In thinking about a post for Valentine’s Day, I thought a lot about who and what we booksellers love. We love good books. We love loyal customers. We love successful author events, extra discounts, delayed billing, and seemingly limitless access to free reading material. AND… we love, love, love our sales reps. From what I’ve gleaned in my conversations with other booksellers, almost all of us love almost all of them. I think these often unsung heroes of the book world deserve a little praise and a lot of love on Valentine’s Day (and every day), so I’m listing here the qualities that apply to the best of them and make them so valuable to the work of we booksellers AND (whether you know it or not) to the work of you publishers, authors, and illustrators too.

Sales reps are useful. For booksellers, your rep is often the only consistent human link you have to a publishing house. When you have a problem with an order, you call your rep. When you’re particularly interested in hosting a certain author, you call your rep. When you want to be sure your newsletter blurb can be pre-approved for co-op, you call your rep. And so on, and so on. If there’s a phrase I hear spoken more consistently than any others by our sales reps, it’s "I’ll see what I can do." And, in almost all cases, they get back to you with an answer, a solution, a name, a number, a something helpful. Amazing.

Sales reps are knowledgeable. They’re knowledgeable about their books, knowledgeable about our stores, knowledgeable about their companies’ policies, and knowledgeable about US, meaning "we booksellers," meaning "actual people." I don’t mean to suggest that the reps who call on me, specifically, all know my birth date, my grandparents’ names, and whether or not I’ve cut my hair since they last saw me (though many of them do). They know things instead that are considerably more useful and a testament to their abilities to both listen and intuit well: they know what I generally like, they know what I’m likely to buy, they know what our store generally sells, they know the other booksellers I admire, and they know the best ways to approach me. This may not seem like much, but it makes both their job and mine infinitely easier, and it makes our buying sessions incredibly smooth.

Sales reps are respectful. They don’t insult buyers’ intelligence by "selling" to us or by pushing us to purchase books we’re unlikely to sell to our customers. When I sit with a rep and we’re going through a catalog together, he or she will give me what extra "beyond the catalog" information they have about a title, answer my questions about it, express their honest opinions about it (if they’ve read it), or tell me the buzz it’s getting in-house, then accept my decision of "2" or "5" or "37." If they are genuinely concerned that I’m selling myself short on a title — if, for example, they think a book is going to get a LOT of media attention, they think there’s a particular market this book might fit that I haven’t considered — they might suggest that I take a chance on a title I was inclined to skip or recommend that I increase their order. But they do this only when they REALLY feel it’s in our store’s best interest, and they probably don’t do with more than a couple titles on any season’s list. Why? They respect my abilities, as a buyer, to purchase what I think my customers will want; and they respect that every store has a budget that (believe it or not) does ultimately have its limitations.

Sales reps are honest. They don’t walk the corporate "marketing" line and sound like catalog copy. In other words, they concede that some of the titles on their list are MUCH better than others. A sales rep who is good to me is a sales rep who… (brace yourselves) tells me which titles I can skip.

I know, I know! Many of you authors and publishers just gasped in horror, thinking "NOT MY SALES REPS!!" But it’s true. If your sales rep is worth their salt (which most of them are, at least in the case of those calling on our store) they will not waste a buyers’ time or money, filling their shelves with books that don’t fit their market. If I’m uncertain about a novel, because I’ve never read it, and a sales rep thinks it’s not going to appeal to the readers in our store’s community, they are 100% right in telling me to move on and spend my money elsewhere. By doing this they save my time, earn my trust, and increase the likelihood that I’ll then take their advice later and increase my order on a different title, or take a chance on something I wouldn’t have considered if I didn’t trust their judgment. No buyer CAN or SHOULD buy every book on a publisher’s list. Especially not with output increasing by substantial margins every year. A good sales rep, then, is one who will help you separate the wheat from the chaff. (And, let’s be honest: we all know that in any given season the book world publishes plenty of chaff.)

If you’re now panicking, imagining that your sales reps are now instructing all buyers in all stores to skip the same books, worry not. Refer to my remarks after "our sales reps are knowledgeable." The same book a rep tells me to skip might be a book they encourage another buyer to buy in bulk. Again, they know our stores, they know our sales histories, they adjust their recommendations accordingly.

Sales reps are readers. You’re probably thinking, "But they HAVE to be." They do have to read a large number of the books on their list, yes, but they don’t have to be "readers." Nevertheless, with very few exceptions, they are. And that’s what makes them passionate about what they’re selling and eager to pass that enthusiasm along to the rest of us. What we do with our customers while handselling, sales reps do with us in our buying sessions — they make us want to buy the best titles on their list, and much more convincingly than any publisher’s catalog ever could.

Sales reps are hard-working. And I mean physically, intellectually, and paper-worky. Some of our commission reps show up with (no exaggeration) four or five cases or crates or suitcases of book samples for us to go through. They haul these loads in and out of bookstores ALL OVER their region, sometimes to multiple stores in the same day, and haul them all out again after each appointment. They write up and submit paperwork or computer files to each of the 12 or more publishers they represent for each of the stores that they visit, either before or after they’ve been in their cars for hours at a stretch, driving from store to store, state to state, to talk about the exact same books they’ve just talked about at 18 other stores in their region. Despite the fatigue that must result from that toil, they almost always show up on time for their appointments and betray no fatigue with the fact that you’re the third buyer in a row to gripe to them about the cover of the lead title on their list, or complain that their publisher was perpetually out of your favorite title throughout the holiday season.

Sales reps are friends. With us, I mean. We build relationships with these people who slog through slush to bring us their kits and catalogs season after season. We sit across from or beside them, for several hours at a stretch in some cases, doing little else but talking about books. But it’s amazing how many other topics slip easily into that conversation, and how much you learn about one another after years of exchanges of this kind.

Sales reps are good listeners and worth listening to. It’s true that as a bookseller I see a lot, opine a lot, and often long for a way to give feedback, in some form, to the publishers of the books I see every day. So, I share observations and raise questions with my sales reps, with whom I know I can be candid. My sales reps move o
to other stores where other booksellers do exactly the same thing. The season progresses, the trend continues, and a sales rep becomes a valuable repository of ideas and opinions that could quite possibly help a publisher shape a marketing campaign, reinvent a failing book cover, and reverse a negative trend or two. In this way a sales rep who is valuable to booksellers is valuable to publishers too. And authors. And illustrators. And anyone trying to figure out how best to get good books into people’s hands.

Sales reps are loved. At least, they are at our store. And I hope most you booksellers reading this have found cause to love your sales reps too.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Three Superbly Sneaky New Reads

Alison Morris - February 13, 2008

In the past two weeks I’ve read four novels back to back that were each very different from one another, but each noteworthy for their lack of predictability. One of them was, of course, The Mysterious Benedict Society. The others are as follows:

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams
(Scholastic/Chicken House, Jan. 2008)

I’ve read a couple mixed reviews of this book of late, all of which surprised me considerably, as I couldn’t put this book down! What starts as the story of a boy whose strange archeologist father has hooked him on the habit of unearthing oddities, ends as a rollicking subterranean adventure in a world that’s both decidedly sinister and deliciously complex. The descriptions that bring the book’s figures and settings to life were complete enough to make even the most secondary characters step right off the page for me.

It’s been ages since a fantasy book sucked me in with as much speed and force as did this one, and perhaps even longer since I was so surprised by the unexpected twists a story has taken. As I compulsively turned the pages I couldn’t help thinking that there are very few kids in the world who wouldn’t be swept up by this unpredictable adventure, and its forthcoming installments! I am, however, miffed that if our customers embrace this book with the speed I think they will, we will undoutedly lose some sales to their purchasing its sequel overseas. Deeper goes on sale in the U.K. this May but won’t hit American bookstores until January 2009. That’s a long time for true fans (like me!) to wait.

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
(Random House/David Fickling Books, Feb. 2008)

It’s a challenge to write about this book without mentioning the traits it has in common with Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Both books are mysteries narrated by kids on the Autism spectrum. In The London Eye Mystery, said kid is Ted, a teenager with Asperger’s or, as he explains it, "a funny brain that runs on a different operating system from other people’s."

Trouble mushrooms in Ted’s life when his cousin Salim pays their family a visit then goes missing on a family outing to the London Eye. Ted and his sister Kat both saw Salim enter a capsule on the enormous wheel and watched it complete its rotation, but when the passengers disembark from Salim’s "pod," he is not among them. Ted and Kat’s race to figure out what happened to Salim makes for a pleasingly puzzling read that will indeed keep you guessing, as you watch Ted assemble the missing in his own intriguing ways.

While this story is by and large a light one (especially in comparison to Dowd’s previous novel A Swift Pure Cry), there are moments where it shows an emotional depth that belies its tone. These moments appear whenever Salim’s family is forced to confront the fact that Salim might not be coming home, and consider the terrible fates that might have befallen him. I couldn’t help connecting these little nods to mortality to the fact that Siobhan Dowd passed away just this past August. To quote from her web site: "Siobhan died on 21st August 2007 aged 47. She had been receiving treatment for advanced breast cancer for 3 years and, did not go gentle into that good night." Because I can’t decide which of her obituaries impressed or moved me more, the one in the Guardian or the one in the Independent, I say read both.

Cicada Summer by Andrea Beaty
(Harry N. Abrams/Amulet Books, May 2008)

Four things led me to move this book immediately to the top of my read-these-a.s.a.p. pile:
1.) I loved the cover.
2.) I’ve really been enjoying Andrea Beaty’s picture books (a new favorite is Doctor Ted, which is being published this April — see a sneak preview on Pascal LeMaitre’s web site).
3.) I could tell it was a short book — one I could read in under two hours, which is helpful for someone who is forever hoping to increase her BPM (Books Per Month).
4.) It’s about a girl who’s obsessed with Nancy Drew. Enough said.

The closest book I can think to compare this one to is Love, Ruby Lavender. Though Cicada Summer strikes a more serious tone than Deborah Wiles’ first novel, in both books a likeable tomboyish girl is too traumatized by the loss of someone close to her to open up about it to anyone in her small Southern town. In the both books this girl is nurtured by her relationship with an elderly woman. In both books this girl finds her closest friend in someone who seems an a very unlikely prospect. In this book, though, the unlikely prospect is a girl in some rather serious danger — the kind of danger that would benefit from an observant girl sleuth.

This book snuck up on me. I couldn’t *quite* decipher the mystery on these pages before it was finally brought together for me. And I wasn’t fully aware of the extent to which it had me in its clutches emotionally, until I hit a page that turned on the water works and found me reaching for the nearest box of tissues. I wound up reading Cicada Summer from cover to cover in one sitting, too drawn in by the its story and characters to be able to set them aside. Which is, come to think of it, what used to happen to me while reading Nancy Drew….

Faking It

Alison Morris - February 11, 2008

I have a confession to make. Until this past week, I had not read The Mysterious Benedict Society.

I know! I know!! Everyone read this book last year, EVERYONE loved this book, everyone’s been raving about this book, it was on every mock-Newbery list in the country, and my best friend’s husband (Kelly) said I HAD to read it a.s.a.p. because Trenton Lee Stewart’s wife is a friend of his from high school. Kelly, Everyone, I apologize: I just didn’t get to it last year. Just like I didn’t get to even a fraction of all the books I’d hoped to read. As happens every year.

Here’s what I will say in my defense: At least I didn’t lie about it. I did NOT claim to have read this book. Nope. I might have used evasive language a time or two or avoided contributing to conversations about it and in so doing "suggested" (perhaps even unintentionally!) that I’d read this book, but I never outright LIED about having read it. (At least not that I recall…).

Why would I even consider lying about such an insignificant thing? Because it’s exhausting to have to endure over and over again the shocked gasp that generally follows admissions of this sort. In their interviews with "Book Brahmins" one of Shelf Awareness‘s standard categories to fill in is: "Book You’ve Faked Reading" which I always love seeing and find completely reassuring. ("Whew! I’m not the only one!") It’s tiring to sheepishly recount the reasons that you still haven’t read this book or that book on the neverending list of "books everyone else has read and you know you ought to have read but didn’t and now feel needled by and therefore are less likely to read ever."

The good news is that The Mysterious Benedict Society did not fall so deep into that trap as to become irretrievable for me. I fished it out, I read the book, and by golly I did indeed LOVE it!! I loved it so much, in fact, that I went back and awarded it a Morris Medal, which is something I can do, because (of course) it’s my own awards list and I make the rules. I have since moved on to reading the ARC for The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, which will be published in May, and challenging my friends to take the Personality Challenge on the official Mysterious Benedict Society website, so I can see how well we’d work as a team. (Apparently I’m most like Reynie.)

MANY of you recently confessed your propensity for or dislike of or indifference to the idea of peeking at a book’s ending: I think it’s now time to confess the books you’ve faked reading or outright lied about.

In order to establish that we have a trusting relationship here I will not admit publicly that I’ve never read anything by Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck. I don’t remember reading Anne of Green Gables, which leads me to believe that I never have. I’ve met Eoin Colfer but I haven’t read a single Artemis Fowl book. And I’ve read only one novel by Avi (The End of the Beginning, which I loved).

ARGH! Admit it: You just gasped at that last one, didn’t you?? As recompense you ought now to lay bare some of your own sins. Confess your deepest, darkest reading omissions and/or fakes right here, where you (unlike me!) have the option of doing so in complete anonymity. I promise I will not use my "connections" (thanks, Kelly) to send the Mysterious Benedict Society out to discover your real identity.

Global Board Books for Worldly Babies

Alison Morris - February 8, 2008

Suddenly, finally, I’m noticing a lot of wonderful new multicultural board books appearing on the market. Not that I will ever tire of hand-selling Baby Born by Anastasia Suen or "More, More, More," Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams, but it’s nice to adding so many new favorites to the mix!

Global Babies
by The Global Fund for Children (Charlesbridge, June 2007)

Our store is not the only one to embrace this board book and include it on our list of last year’s best. I’ve heard many other booksellers tout their love for this book, which is noteworthy for its simplicity and effectiveness. Each page shows a photograph of a baby in their native country, which is identified on the page, sporting their everyday clothes, doing their everyday baby things, and being loved for them. The complete text of the book reads as follows: "Wherever they live, / wherever they go, / whatever they wear, / whatever they feel, / babies everywhere / are beautiful, / special, / and loved." What baby anywhere doesn’t need to hear that message? And what better way to give a baby or toddler a taste of the wider world than to give them this book? (It’s certainly a lot easier than taking them on flights to Spain, Guatemala, Rwanda, Iraq, Greenland, Thailand, South Africa, Peru, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Fiji, Mali, India, and Malawi.)

Baby! Baby!
by Vicky Ceelen (Random House, January 2008)

Wordless entertainment is what this book contains. Each spread shows a photo of a baby on one side, an animal sporting a similar posture or facial expression on the other. A solid colored border around each page makes the photos pop. You can’t help but laugh at thes entertaining similarities here between baby and beast.

There are a couple of online galleries that show some of Vicky’s photographic comparisons. The images of giraffe + baby and bunny rabbit + baby in gallery one appear in this book. So do the gorilla + baby in gallery three, and the frog + baby in gallery four. To see the others, you’ll just have to "read" this wordless book!

Haiku Baby
by Betsy E. Snyder (Random House, May 2008)

While this new board book doesn’t feature images of babies like the others, I love that it brings the Japanese art of haiku down to an infant level. Bright, colorful collage illustrations pay homage on nature, on spreads that each feature a different 17-syllable poem. The titles of said poems are written in both English and Japanese. Here’s one, just to give you a taste:

yoo-hoo, peekaboo!
wind plays tag with autumn leaf —
catch me if you can!



Circle + Square / Circulo + Cuadro by Jill Hartley (Groundwood Books, April 2008)

Colors + Flavors / Colores + Sabores by Jill Hartley (Groundwood Books, April 2008)

Red + Green / Rojo + Verde by Jill Hartley (Groundwood Books, April 2008)

Stripes + Arrows / Rayas + Flechas by Jill Hartley (Groundwood Books, April 2008)

These wordless board books feature some of the brightest, most interesting photos I’ve seen on the cardboard page. Beautiful, bold shots of objects, signs, children, and scenery from Hartley’s native Mexico fill their pages, making each one a visual feast. Fantastico! Groundwood Books’ Web site adds this note to the info. about each of Hartley’s books: "Coming Soon: A new Board Books setion of our web site with a glossary of the book’s objects in English and Spanish!" This will be especially useful to readers baffled by some of the things they’re seeing. (Just think — that must be how babies feel all the time!)