Mom on the edge.
Today over at Brain Burps About Books I review Sergio Ruzzier‘s new book, Bear and Bee. Which I love. I love how it’s funny and sweet and lovely, and how it manages to be all these things in very few words.
I also mention the new book by Eve Bunting that Sergio Ruzzier illustrated, Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? which we also love. We had so much fun reading these that we had to go get our first Sergio Ruzzier fave: The Room of Wonders. You should get that one too. Have I told you before that William Steig is my most favorite children’s book author ever? I love The Room of Wonders for what it is, but I also really love its intense Steigishness — the feelings of desperation and hopelessness, and the blooming beauty of hope at the end.
I think I say the words “Sergio Ruzzier” 1000 times in this review. I felt pretty confident about it. I took Italian for three semesters and college and everything. Then I listened to Sergio pronounce his own name and I felt less confident. I could either go crazy full-on pronouncey, or just say it like the American girl that I am, and oh, neither seemed right, and it just felt weirder the more times I said it. So you have that to look forward to.
I HAVE NOT STOPPED SHOUTING ABOUT THE FACT THAT I HAVE AN AGENT! AND I AM EXCITED!
My kids are not impressed.
Me: Guys! I have an agent!
Them: So you have a book published?
Me: No. It’s different. You’ll know when I get a book published. Plus there will, you know, be a book.
Them: Oh, right. What’s for dinner?
Me: I don’t know.
Dave, yelling from bathroom construction upstairs: I got stuff to make French Bread Pizzas!
Kids: Nooooo! We hate French Bread Pizza!
Me: Are you serious? What kind of kid hates French Bread Pizza? I can make you tempeh….
Kids walk away, sobbing.
Me, to no one: I have an agent!
I am so, so excited to announce that I am now represented by the amazing Danielle Smith at Foreword Literary! Do you know Danielle? She’s runs a book review site called There’s a Book, where I saw that she has essentially the exact same taste in children’s literature that I do. And so when she became an agent, I had to send her a query.
Let me back up a moment and talk about my querying process. I spent 2012 with a severe case of submit-o-phobia. Last summer I started cautiously sending out my one polished story (and by “cautiously” I mean I sent it out twice). Then someone in my critique group got an agent, and she stressed how her agent stressed that it was really important to have more than one story. Preferably three.
So my submit-o-phobia said, “Ha! Told you so!” and I stepped back and wrote a lot more. I needed more than one story. And thank goodness for Julie Hedlund and her 12×12, because that pushed me to keep writing, and keep writing more, and pretty soon I had three polished stories and three more almost-theres.
But my submit-o-phobia still made me cautious, so I only queried agents that I could tell liked the same kinds of stories that I do. Because, this may shock you but: I tend to write kind of wacky offbeat stories. So what would be the point in submitting to someone who showed a preference for stories about fluffy bears who cuddle with their mommies? I needed an agent who might appreciate a story about a fluffy bear who finds out that his mommy put an exploding sandwich in his lunchbox by mistake.
So this is to say that I am OVER THE MOON EXCITED that Danielle likes my stories and asked to represent me, because she is completely awesome, and knows everything about children’s books, and and and. I might be a little too giddy. I’m having trouble formulating grammatically correct thoughts.
I am being totally insufferable to Dave. He’ll say, “Do you think we bought enough mortar?” and I’ll say, “Maybe I should ask MY AGENT.” Or he’ll say, “What’s for dinner?” and I’ll say, “I don’t know. Do you think MY AGENT has any ideas about dinner?”
For right now this means lots of fun work getting my stories in tiptop shape! HURRAY! Have I told you I’m excited?
Here’s a confession: I love reading (you knew that already), but I’m on the fence about poetry. Sometimes I…well, I don’t know what it’s talking about. I do love rhyming kid poetry, but I feel like I’m supposed to love esoteric non-rhyming poems about fields of wheat also.
I haven’t told my kids about this. I don’t want them to think it’s not cool to love wheat poems. Like I talked about a few months ago on Nerdy Book Club, sometimes I hand them books I think they’ll like and walk away.
It seems to be working. Last week Henry got a bright look in his eye, grabbed a pen, and churned out this thing:
This poem I like. I want to hug it, even though it’s not a particularly huggable poem (also: paper is not very cuddly). This poem is the sum total of feeding your 4th grader a steady diet of books that he enjoys.
And yes, it’s bragging, but I’m super proud that he wrote this.
Happy poetry month, everyone!
So the other morning I woke up to find Eli at the dining room table hacking away at The Complete Works of William Shakespeare with a razorblade. I think I passed out.
Around the time I got up off the floor, he’d abandoned the Shakespeare (“these pages are too old”) and moved on to The New Modern American and British Poetry.
He wasn’t being destructive though. He was following the instructions in Unbored to make a secret book box.
Unbored is amazing. You should get it. Really. Someone is always reading it here. It’s a huge, huge book, with about a million interesting things to read and do. Like, you know, cut up a book to make it into a secret box.
This project was also definitely inspired by Mac Barnett’s Brixton Brothers series, which we listened to on a recent roadtrip (narrated by Arte Johnson!) (um, the book is narrated by Arte Johnson, not our roadtrip, although that would’ve been fun too). The main character Steve Brixton, who is obsessed with a Hardy-Boys-esque series called the Bailey Brothers, makes a secret book box and keeps it under his mattress. I highly recommend the Brixton Brothers series too; it’s hilarious and suspenseful.
And so that is what led Eli to attack an old book with a razorblade and a bowl full of glue. Weirdly, this ended up being a hands-off activity for the grownups. Not sure if that’s related to Eli’s razor skills or the ease of the project. But he’s very happy with the results. So far he seems to be keeping cash and Lego minifigures inside — his most treasured possessions.
Last week, I reviewed The Monster’s Monster by Patrick McDonnell on Brain Burps About Books. I really love the use of color in this book: In the beginning of the book, when the three little monsters are trying to be bad, the colors are all grey and dark and gloomy. And then, when they build their own monster (who’s supposed to be big and bad but turns out a bit different), the colors lighten and get sunnier.
You should also listen to this review to hear a cameo from Dave as the voice of the monster.
You can go here to listen to the episode (or you can subscribe in iTunes).
Then, this week, I review Pirateria: The Wonderful, Plunderful Pirate Emporium by Calef Brown. I love Calef Brown. His art makes me so happy. His nutty, loopy world is populated by lovable oddballs. People might have green or purple skin: what of it? Sometimes I just poke around on his Etsy shop, pretending I live in CalefBrownlandia.
Oh, and guess what? He can write, too. Not only write, but write in rhyme. Seriously, I’d read a Calef Brown book if it was just his illustrations and, like “GUY. OTHER GUY.” written underneath. But he writes, in rhyme, and the poems are funny and interesting and perfectly complement the wacky illustrations.
Yeah, Julie, could you get to this book, please? Ok: So Pirateria is a book about a store for pirates, who need to load up on pirate gear. Why has no one written a book about a pirate store before? I don’t know. I’m glad Calef Brown is the one that did it. This book rocks.
You can listen to the episode here.
Today on Brain Burps I review Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs. This is one of those books that I grabbed without reading it first, because Ramona insists that a certain percentage of our library haul is made up of dog books. We were all completely charmed by this story, and every photo is cuter than the last. The story is such a powerful (and sweet) one, about second chances, patience, and perseverance.
You want to see Luciano Anastasini and his circus dogs? We did too! Here’s a video of their act.
I also have to say that books like Stay and stories like the one in today’s New York Times about the woman in North Carolina who has hundreds of cats do nothing for my repressed desire to have three dogs, nine cats, a goat and some chickens.
You can see more about this episode here, or go subscribe in iTunes.
I found this list while I was cleaning today. My thoughts (other than: Henry needs to work on his handwriting) are that there is a quiet poeticism going on in my 9-year-old that I only find out about when I find discarded papers under the couch. Secret poetic tidbits.