Fall into Butler

Welcome to the fall semester here at Dominican University GSLIS! The semester began yesterday, and today’s the first day of September, so despite the fact that it’s 90+ degrees outside and meteorological fall doesn’t begin until the autumn solstice….we’re pleased to announce the fall open hours, AND the fall schedule for Butler Book Banter (B3).

We encourage visitors (teachers, librarians, students, parents, grandparents, caregivers, anyone interested in literature for young people) to come in to the Center to view our array of newly-published books for kids and teens, and of course to attend our events.

Mondays & Tuesdays 1:00-7:00 p.m.
Wednesdays & Thursdays 1:00-6:00 p.m.
Or by appointment (contact me at butler@dom.edu).

I’m thrilled to bring back the Butler Center’s popular series of evening book discussion events! B3 will take place in the Butler Center on the following (TUESDAY this semester!) evenings from 6:00-8:00 p.m.:

Tuesday 9/15: Books about Hurricane Katrina (Drowned City by Dan Brown; Marvelous Cornelius by Phil Bildner)
Tuesday 10/13:
Spooky books (I know, unoriginal perhaps but still fun; titles announced as the date draws closer)
Tuesday 11/10: Books about music and musicians (titles announced as the date draws closer)

Hope to see you here in Crown 214 this fall!


Mocking the Caldecott

Of course I would never do such a thing!

I am, however, teaching a Mock Caldecott course here at Dominican GSLIS this fall. How fun is THAT? A Mock Caldecott? For graduate credit (PS. It’s open to auditors and students-at-large, so join us even if you aren’t a current student)? Since we’re doing this in the fall semester, voting the weekend of December 12-13, I’m particularly excited to see how our choices stack up against the “real” winners, to be announced during the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Boston at the Youth Media Awards press conference, January 11, 2016.

I’m in the thick of preparing the course now, and true to the “real” process conducted by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), I’m seeking suggestions from our “membership” (that is, readers of this blog, not necessarily ALSC members, although I hope you’ll join if you aren’t already a member). Which 2015 picture books have resonated with you and/or the children you serve?

I’ll use this suggestion list to get my students started; also true to the real process, they will have the opportunity to make suggestions, write nominations, and–of course, the most fun part–deliberate and vote.

Interested in learning more about the Caldecott Medal, its history, eligibility terms and criteria, and more? Visit ALSC’s Caldecott Medal web page.

Please, please, help me with some good suggestions! Otherwise, I’m left to my own devices, and combing what’s been starred so far by the various journals (noticing weird and meaningless things like the fact that “The Octopuppy” by Martin McKenna and “The Octopus Scientists” by Sy Montgomery and Keith Ellenbogen have both received stars this year).

What Post Should I Host? What Draft Should I Craft?

Pet CoverThose of you who are eagerly anticipating the soon-to-be-published (posthumously) Dr. Seuss book “What Pet Should I Get?” (Penguin Random House, 2015) will likely recognize my futile attempts to come up with a clever title “in the spirit of Dr. Seuss” for this, my first Butler’s Pantry blog entry since becoming curator of the Butler Children’s Literature Center this month. I’m not alone in my plight; children’s book creators ever since the publication of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (Vanguard, 1937) have been trying to capture Dr. Seuss’s unique blend of silliness and aptness. Anyone familiar with the children’s canon recognizes the creators who’ve successfully done it (Mo Willems! among a very few others) and those who struggle with it (we all know who they are; I’m not going to skewer anyone here). But I’d never actually tried to do it myself. It’s surprisingly hard to come with Seussian verse that isn’t clunky or awkward!

Last week I was pleased and a little nervous, when the Chicago Tribune reached out for comment on this upcoming new work from a perennial favorite author and illustrator. Pleased, because it’s always nice to be asked one’s opinion (and what’s more fun than talking about children’s literature, anyway?); nervous because, well, I haven’t actually seen the book. Turns out there is a strict laydown date of July 28, as is commonly done for books with built-in instant demand, such as every Harry Potter after the second one. It’s a bit of a reality check for those of us in the business of writing and talking about books; turns out in some cases, our opinions are pretty much irrelevant. Dr. Seuss is one of those whose names, and styles, resonate immediately with kids. It doesn’t really matter what we adults think (come on, who among you REALLY enjoys reading Fox in Socks out loud?).

So, what are your thoughts as P-Day (“Pet” Day, 7/28/15) approaches? Do you have concerns about posthumous publishing, especially in light of the current Harper Lee controversy (and she’s still with us!)? Will the kids and families you serve be lining up at your door to get their hands on “Pet?”

Read the article here (you’ll be asked to register, but it’s free at least):


PCP Three of Diamonds: Separate is Never Equal

separate is never equalSeparate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

by Duncan Tonatiuh

Abrams, 2014

In 1943, Sylvia Mendez, her two brothers, and three cousins all go to the local 17th Street Elementary School to register. Sylvia’s light-skinned cousins are accepted, and she and her brothers are told they’ll need to enroll at the inferior Mexican school, father from their home. Sylvia’s parents aren’t having it, and push back, filing file suit, undertaking multiple appeals, and ultimately prevailing. Tonatiuh’s account details the family’s many struggles, from the complexities of the legal process to the personal attacks Sylvia experiences. After rigorous research, and interviews with Sylvia herself, Tonatiuh delivers a story that is both compelling and inspiring. And his archetypal artwork, with its Pre-Columbian influences, connects the contemporary fight with its formidable ancestry. The strong lines, simplified postures, and fixed profiles convey the family’s resolute determination; theirs is a victory that comes from strength, and a strength that comes from family.

Mal Peet

life: an exploded diagramI met Mal Peet when his gorgeous, expansive novel Life: An Exploded Diagram won a Boston Globe Horn Book Honor the year I served on the jury. I sat beside him at dinner after the Awards ceremony, and reveled in his gruff, take-no-prisoners affability. He somehow managed to be warm and exacting, all at once. It’s that quality that I love so much about his work. His observations are searing and precise, yet grounded in an unmistakable affection.

And boy, howdy, could he spin a sentence.

He got a late start in the author business–his first novel was published when he was 56–but he leaves behind a wonderful body of work defined by its ambition and uniform quality.

Mal Peet died Monday at the age of 67. I’m going to revisit some of his writing today. You should, too.

PCP Three of Clubs: When I Was the Greatest

when i was the greatestWhen I Was the Greatest

by Jason Reynolds

Atheneum, 2014

This funny, gritty, tender story follows three young men growing up in Bed-Stuy, navigating the pressures and tensions that would pull them up or drag them under as they make their way to manhood. There’s Ali, bright, respectful and curious; Noodles, tight, irascible, and full of bravado; and his brother Needles, sweet, fragile, and genius. Needles struggles with Tourette’s, a syndrome his neighborhood doesn’t really understand, and finds solace in knitting (Ali’s mother’s very good idea), something else not everybody gets. Ali and Noodles have his back, until one night, at a house party, all hell breaks loose, and everything breaks apart.

There is so much to love here. The crisp writing crackles with wit and rings with authenticity. The exploration of maleness, and the ways in which young men are called to define themselves, is bare and nuanced. Every single character lives and breathes in three dimensions. But for our playing card purposes, it is these boys’ inextricable relationship that beats at this marvelous novel’s heart. Theirs is a special bond, and no matter what comes at them, they belong to one another.

For those looking for an especially immersive and gratifying experience, I recommend Random House Audio’s extraordinary audiobook recording, narrated by J.B. Adkins.

PCP Two of Spades: Born in the Wild

born in the wildBorn in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents

by Lita Judge

Roaring Brook Press, 2014

This bright, instructive exploration of different mammal families offers lots of concrete information about what mammal babies need and how mammal parents meet those needs. Sections feature a brief identification of a particular need on a single spread, followed by a few pages with specific examples of different species attention to it. The text is full of fascinating explicatory zoological detail about everything from food to shelter. But the star of this charming outing is Judge’s open, inviting portraiture that finds a perfect balance of natural authenticity and friendly accessibility. The informative text provides the facts and figures, delineating our common place in the natural world, and the warm, soulful imagery makes good on that promise, allowing the reader to feel the connection as well as understand it. In a world where growing up can feel like a daunting endeavor, how comforting it is to know that we’re all in it together.