Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

May Day 2013

on May 1, 2013

The registration for the LA Summer Conference of the SCBWI opened April 18. My friend Sue Peters and I will be making the pilgrimage to the source of all things SCBWI. It should be a fun and exhausting trip. I promise to report back. One thing I like to do before conferences is to familiarize myself with the work of some of the speakers. For an event such as the LA conference, I never get as much reading done as I would like because of the sheer volume of materials available and because I do have other reading to do.

The trip to the library was very productive, though. Of course, the best books are not always available, which is probably a good thing. That often means some kid is reading them. The first keynote is Laurie Halse Anderson, and I am reading Catalyst now. I checked out the three picture books that won the Caldecott Medal for David Wiesner and an award winner from the “39 Clues” series by Peter Lerangis. So sue me for liking variety.  I enjoy traveling, but the best part of traveling, for me, is getting ready to go. In the case of writer’s conferences, that is surely the case.

David Wiesner is, let’s say, very inventive and has an unexpected view of the world.  His picture books are exactly that. Pictures that tell stories. I can see them as read-alouds where the adult would constantly ask the child-on-the-lap questions about what’s going on. Or very young kids could “read” them totally on their own.

Tuesday (1991 republished 2011, Sandpiper, ISBN 9780395870822) is probably my favorite of the three. It asks a lot of what if questions. What if lily pads were really magic carpets and frogs could fly on them at midnight on Tuesday? What if people witnessed this miracle but couldn’t convince anyone of the truth of the flying frogs? What if, the next Tuesday, pigs could fly? Laugh-out-loud funny.

The Three Pigs (2001, Clarion Books, ISBN 9780618007011) begins as the traditional story, but quickly becomes something else. The pigs escape The Three Pigsone-by-one to the relative safety of the off-page world. Not satisfied with escape alone, the pigs make friends with characters from other pages. Eventually, they have to go somewhere, so they invite their new friends, including a very large dragon, back to the homestead. Boy, is that wolf ever surprised!

Flotsam (2006, Clarion Books, ISBN 9780618194575) is about a kid at the beach, who finds an underwater camera. When he has the film developed, he discovers some surprising things: beautiful underwater scenes surely, but also one photograph that telescopically includes the last several finders of the camera. Taking his cue, the boy loads the camera with new film and includes himself in the photo of the finders. The reader then gets to see the next finder.

To explore Peter Lerangis’ world, I chose The Viper’s Nest (2010, Scholastic Inc., ISBN 9780545060479) to read because it was one of the award winners by Lerangis. Little did I realize that this is one series where it’s a good idea to read the preceding volumes first. Once I got past my confusion with the characters and what they were up to, it’s a wonderful and exciting adventure. I love the fact that the kids are world travelers and thus give the reader a taste of geography. The puzzle aspect forces the reader to think. Also a plus. An appealing, well-done, and popular series.

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