Category Archives: Children’s literature

Reading, reading, reading

On my weekends lately, I’ve been doing a LOT of reading, mostly for book groups, but also for fun (not that book group reading isn’t fun, because it is), and I’ve also been creating a lot of new storytime lesson plans.  I’ll talk about the storytime lesson plans in an upcoming post, but meanwhile, here is an update on the books that I’ve read this fall for the various book groups at the library:

  • For the 3rd grade book group:  Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise, The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, and The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin.  All great books for this age group, and all were quite successful with the 3rd graders in the group.  I love each of these books, and for quite different reasons.  The Klise book is approachable and funny; the Pennypacker book has a wonderful, true-to-life main character, and the Lin book is poignant and lovely.
  • For the 4th grade group:  Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief by Wendelin van Draanen, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, and Dominic by William Steig.  DiCamillo’s book remains one of my all-time favorites, but I very much enjoyed the Sammy Keyes book and was glad to have finally read Dominic, though I’m not sure that I’d want to use Dominic again for a book group (the kids were a bit baffled by it, and it didn’t make for the best discussion we’ve ever had, despite this being a group of Readers who love to Discuss).
  • For the 5th grade group:  White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages, The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John, and Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison.  I enjoyed The Green Glass Sea much more than its sequel, which disappointed me, and I was a bit taken aback by the Gilda Joyce book, having expected it to be more juvenile than it was.  And I enjoyed my re-reading of The White Giraffe, of course, a book that is unique today in its brevity, considering its intended audience of upper grade readers.
  • For the 6th grade group:  Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, and The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen by M.T. Anderson.  After having connected with M.T. Anderson at the Simmons College Children’s Literature Summer Institute this year (see my posts on the Institute here, here, here, and here), I was delighted to be able to bring two of his books to the 6th grade book group this fall.  I’ve also been reading The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (Volume I – The Pox Party) in my free time – it’s a terrific book, one of the best I’ve read in a long time.
  • For the Teen Book Group: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, Uglies by Michael Scott, and The Alchemyst by Michael Scott.  This group is still quite large, which means that we can’t read the hottest new young adult books, since we wouldn’t be able to get enough copies of the books for everyone in the group.  But I presented the group with one of my favorite books, Elsewhere, and they all loved it (and none of them had yet read it, even better), and with a book that had been a success with this group in past years, Uglies.   Surprisingly, none of the group members had read Uglies yet, and it too was a huge hit.  As for The Alchemyst – I had very high hopes for this book, and it didn’t quite live up to those hopes.  But, once again, none of the teens had read the book, and many of them have gone on to read the rest of the series (or, at least, what’s been published so far in the series).

It’s been a good fall and early winter for reading, and I’m now looking forward to the next batch of book group books that are sitting next to me, waiting to be read:  Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins (3rd grade), The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley (4th grade), Spy Mice: The Black Paw by Heather Vogel Frederick (5th grade), Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng (6th grade), and The Prophecy of the Stones by Flavia Bujor (teen book group).  The last three of these books were all chosen by kids in the book groups, which makes the whole process – reading and discussion – that much more fun.  Happy reading to me!!

Merry Christmas!

I had plans to take another look through my book collection this year to find more books that have been given to me as Christmas gifts – but last winter’s ice dam which caused a roof leak which made us take out the sagging damp ceiling in the porch which means that most of our bookshelves are currently under tarps…all of that means that I can’t access a large portion of my book collection at the moment.  (Ah, home repairs!)

But here is the link to last year’s Christmas post on books that I’ve received as gifts over the years.  And please, in the comments section do share any books that you received yourself this year (or in years past)!!

E-book webinar

Today several of us on the library staff were able to attend parts of the Library Journal/School Library Journal webinar on e-books and libraries.  There were a lot of good statistics about current e-book usage in libraries, and lots of good ideas and lots of questions.  But not many answers.

Many of the questions were questions that I’ve been thinking of myself:  with the rise of e-books, what happens to people who can’t afford e-readers?  What about the different formats of e-readers that don’t talk to each other?  How can libraries incorporate e-books into their budgets and their collections?  How is the advent of e-books going to affect the structure and existence of libraries?  What about the long waiting lists for popular e-books at libraries, when the e-book medium is perceived by the public as being an instant one – instant gratification?  How can libraries explain the need to wait on a list for a certain e-book title, even though that is the way it works for a popular, recently published print version of a book?  And, more specifically for library staff, how to decide which titles to spend limited available funds on?  And which e-book formats are worth investing in?

I had two favorite parts of this e-book summit: several speakers mentioned that libraries will need to change their focus from being solely book-based, and these speakers mentioned that libraries can pump up their programming (storytimes, book groups, etc.) in order to retain a wholly relevant place in the community.  As a programming-ambitious children’s librarian, that’s a lot of what I do.

And the other favorite part for me of the webinar was M.T. Anderson’s closing address.  It was very similar to the closing address that I heard him present at the children’s literature summer institute at Simmons this summer, but I was glad to hear it again.  Anderson is an intelligent, wise speaker, and his talk on e-books is dense and packed with information and meaty thoughts to digest; a second hearing only helped my understanding.  I won’t attempt to summarize his nearly one hour talk in a few sentences here, but I will say that I left both hearings of Anderson’s address feeling hopeful about the future for books and libraries and authors and literature.  Change is nothing new, and change could bring great things to our culture.  It could also bring unpleasantness, but despite Anderson’s balanced presentation (both hopeful and pessimistic), I came away feeling good about my career and my passion for books.  A good way to end an enlightening day.

T.A. Barron

Just got home from a lovely author visit at Willow Books in Acton – we went to see T.A. Barron, who just happens to have lived for the first ten years of his life in the town in which I work.  A year and a half ago he graciously came to our library for an evening event, and it was such a fabulous evening, with many people coming to hear him speak who had grown up with him or known his parents.  Truly the most unique and special event we’ve had at the library, in my opinion.  And it was so nice to see him this evening: he’s an incredibly intelligent, well-spoken, kind, and gracious man, and it’s so neat to watch him interact with his younger fans.  He remembers their names, he references letters that they have written to him, and he encourages them in their love of reading and their dreams of becoming writers.  In this age of technology it’s heartening to witness old-fashioned human connection, especially with books, real books, as the backdrop.

It must be fall

I’ve been reading lots of book reviews the last two weeks – trying to catch up on my book ordering after a busy summer – and from those reviews it’s clear that it’s the fall season, and a good fall season at that.  I have found dozens of books that sound absolutely terrific, and I’m more excited about this order than I have been about an order in a very long time.  There are many additions to popular series (even a new adjunct entry to my favorite series, Ranger’s Apprentice), as well as new books by masters like Jerry Pinkney, and also books by some new authors that sound fabulous.  Some authors, like Gabrielle Zevin, are branching out into new genres (I just brought home her book All These Things I’ve Done – can’t wait to read it) and other authors and illustrators, like Maurice Sendak, sound like they’ve produced their best work in years.

Keep your eyes out for this batch of books to be on the library’s shelves in a couple of weeks – allowing time for me to finish my order, the books to be shipped, and the books to be processed.  And then it will be happy reading to all, and to all a good read.  (Or something like that…)

From vacationland

Today is the third day of my vacation – yay – and just a quick check-in from the land of projects and reading.

Projects scheduled for this vacation include filling the dumpster that arrives tomorrow (thus gaining much space in garage, yard, and basement); preparing for our upcoming yard sale; finish painting in our glorious new bathroom; and final coats of paint on the front and back doors.  And maybe we’ll be able to build those front steps that we’ve been procrastinating on – Jim dug and poured the cement footings last year, so it shouldn’t be too hard to complete the project.  Plenty of stuff to keep me very busy!

Reading that is planned for this vacation includes:  The Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine Queen by Geraldine McCaughrean; Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos; The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente; and a few books from that pile of to-be-read books that has been dejectedly glaring at me from the shelf in the living room for two years.  And if anyone has a suggestion of a *fabulous* book that I simply *must* read, please do list the title in the comments…

I’ll post reading and project updates as time allows!

Summer institute, final post, part two

The last event of the day on Saturday was the speaker’s reception in the Trustman Gallery, where there was a special installation of art by Karen LaFleur and Tommy Simpson.  Karen LaFleur gave a brief talk about their artwork before we had fifteen minutes of book signing downstairs prior to moving up to the gallery.  As I waited in the enormous line to have David Small sign my books, I had a chat with Sara Pennypacker who was right behind me.  We talked about how much the library’s third grade book group has consistently loved reading Clementine (we’ve used it several times over the last few years), and she very graciously and very sincerely thanked me for doing what I do.  Wow.  That made me feel good.

Susan had to cut off the line for David Small way in front of me, so I headed upstairs to the gallery to wait my next chance.  Twelve years ago, I remember having a fabulous time at the gallery reception, gossiping with my friends and eating the yummy food and getting a wee bit tipsy on the champagne.  This time, I felt like the awkward, friendless old lady, as I watched the current batch of students having all the fun.  It was actually good for me to be so anonymous and so, well, lonely, since I spend most of my days surrounded by children and parents who know and like me.  My daily life is so public that it’s almost impossible for me blow my nose without a child or adult coming up to talk to me mid-snort and sniffle.  Even when food shopping I run into folks that I know – even when I try to disguise myself in grubby clothes, sunglasses, and a baseball cap – and it was definitely healthy to be reminded that I’m “not all that.”  Although it didn’t feel particularly fabulous in that moment, I’ll admit.

So as I stood awkwardly in the small gallery, looking at a drawing for the third time while wondering whether I really needed to get my books signed (and Jean, if I hadn’t bought a copy of Stitches for you I might well have headed home), suddenly David Small and Sarah Stewart appeared and sat down a signing table almost directly in front of me.  And, suddenly, I was third in line to have my books signed.  O happy day, that ends with meeting an amazing author and illustrator, and then being able to get on the road and head home to my even more amazing husband!  I don’t even remember what David Small and I said to each other, but I was once again impressed by his grace and kindness.  And then I left, ducking by the so-young current grad students on my way out (and feeling once again a bit jealous of that graduate school bond and the joy of being in the middle of an intense educational experience).

Sunday morning it was tough to haul myself in to Boston for “just” one speaker, but Jim raised his eyebrow and suggested that I might regret it if I didn’t (wise, wise husband), so I did.  As I waited at my solitary table (the tables in the conference center sat three people), feeling once again like an old fuddy duddy, my old – or should I say “former”? – professor and independent study advisor Cathie Mercier sat down next to me to say hi, and I finally felt once again like maybe I’m not too stupid for this world of children’s literature stars.  Cathie is smart and cool, and it was really good to spend a few minutes catching up with her and hearing about how the children’s literature program at Simmons has grown and changed.  It’s much bigger now, she said, and the average age of the students is indeed much younger – an encouraging thought for me, leaving me feeling much less old.  Cathie didn’t say this, but I’m guessing that the lousy economy is driving this young women and men directly from college to graduate school, unlike when I attended all those years ago and 99% of my classmates and I had spent several years in the working world before coming back to school.  I do think there is a definite benefit to having spent time in the real working world before engaging in advanced study, but today’s twenty-somethings don’t really have much of a choice in that matter, if they are unable to find work.

M.T. Anderson was the speaker of the day on Sunday, and he gave a terrific and enlightening talk on books and ebooks.  I should have taken notes, but of course I didn’t, but what I took away from his talk was a renewed hopefulness for the world of books and publishing.  He pointed out that ebooks lend themselves to all kinds of innovation and experimentation, like non-linear plotlines in which readers can choose plot direction for themselves as they read.  But he did also talk about how any aspiring authors and illustrators in the audience might want to “keep that barista job,” as authors and illustrators are bound to suffer from lowered incomes due to the pricing of ebooks.  And I do wonder about something that neither Anderson nor any of the other speakers mentioned when discussing ebooks: that ebooks, for the most part, cost money, since publishers are not too friendly about making ebook copies available for library circulation.  I worry that this will cause a societal stratification – those who can’t afford to purchase ebooks might be pushed out of the reading world, and soon only those people with money will be able to read.  And with what appears to be the disintegration of the middle class, this could mean that only the very wealthy will be reading.  Please, let’s keep reading and books alive and viable through our public libraries, whether it be in traditional book format or ebook format or a combination of both; our country’s intellectual health depends upon it.

But back to the institute.  After a concise and intelligent closing by Cathie Mercier and Megan Lambert, in which they highlighted each speaker’s thoughts and contributions to the institute, we headed down to the cafeteria for a lovely brunch.  Being one of the first to head down, I got my food and sat a table alone, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t remain alone; but the two women with whom I’d forged some connection over the weekend were not in attendance at the brunch and I, again, felt like an extra wheel.  But then Susan Bloom, bless her lovely soul, called me over to her table and I re-met one of my former classmates (whom I hadn’t known very well at all, but it was good to talk to her), and Susan then asked me why it was that she knew that I had worn long white gloves at my wedding and been married at a church in Concord.  I finally figured it out: my sister’s friend Marie, who used to work at Simmons, had come to our wedding and taken lots of photos – she must have shown those photos to Susan and Cathie.  How small our world is!

And last, but certainly not least, I asked Susan whether it would be ok to for me to ask M.T. Anderson to sign my books, since I really needed to be heading home.  And with her blessing, I did.  I told him that all of the librarians in my library were jealous that I was meeting him, and he asked which library, and when I told him, he stopped, looked me in the eye, and said, “I used to live there!”  Yes, indeed, he lived in the town in which I work for a couple of years, and spoke quite fondly of the town and the old library, and told me that he even wrote a story about the time he spent in that town.  (A story which I have since found and read, and he does a lovely job describing the town in the first paragraph of the story.)  What a neat coincidence, and what a happy way to end this inspiring, humbling, and intellectually stimulating weekend.  I’m so glad that I went, and so glad that I have so much mental fodder to chew on and digest for a long time to come.  It’s good to step outside my “comfort zone,” and even better to step back and look at the larger view of children and books than I see in my daily life.

Summer institute, final post, part one

A week has passed since the first day of that three day institute at Simmons, and since it’s summer reading time, I’ve hosted three storytimes, one book group, a puppet-making workshop, Paws and Read, a Book Gobblers readaloud, the Robert Rivest comic mime show, and a movie night in that week.  Which means, of course, that my memories of the institute are fast becoming fuzzy.  So I’ll just write a brief recap of what I experienced on Saturday and Sunday at the institute, with my apologies for not remembering more details…

Saturday morning I arrived at 8:45 to an already full room, and so I claimed a seat at an empty table near the back – which also happened to be directly in front of Laban Carrick Hill and Bryan Collier and directly behind Sarah Stewart, author and wife of David Small.  Pretty erudite neighbors for this small-town librarian.  Bryan Collier began the day with his talk about his illustrations for Dave the Potter.  The more I pay attention to this book, and the more I learn about it, the more I love it; and I was very impressed by Bryan Collier and his presentation.  I do wish I’d been a little braver and asked him to sign my book after he came back to his seat, because unfortunately he didn’t attend the evening’s speaker’s reception.

After Collier came the amazing David Small, who discussed his memoir Stitches.  He began with a short film he’d made of Stitches, and it was fascinating to watch the film and to also watch Sarah Stewart watch the film.  I was most impressed by David Small’s evident lack of bitterness over his harrowing childhood; few people could survive that youth with his grace and dignity.

Then came another professional connections session, and I chose to go hear Vicky Smith, editor of children’s book reviews at Kirkus, discuss interactive book apps for the iPad.  Very informative, and lots of useful information for me to bring back to my role at the library.

Then came lunch, a yogurt and sandwich brought from home, quickly eaten – then to sit outdoors and enjoy the perfect summer day.  Being a pale type of girl, I sat on a bench in the shadow of one of the buildings that has been built since my grad school years at Simmons, and I marvelled at how much the campus has changed.  Where there once was a parking lot is now a green quad with huge new buildings and an underground parking garage; the main campus building has a big glass pimple where there once was an outdoor patio and stairs down to the parking lot.  Inside that pimple is the new student union or whatever it’s called, and underneath that student union is the revised cafeteria area.  And sadly, it’s almost impossible to see the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum now from the parking lot-turned quad: I could only spot a small scrap of the museum in between the old main campus building and the new building where the parking lot valets used to triple park our cars underneath shady trees.

Barbara O’Connor got the after-lunch speaking spot, and I felt badly for her, since I and many other people were a little sleepy after eating.  The older woman sitting in front of me – she took the spot previously occupied by Sarah Stewart – fell completely asleep, though gracefully so with her head against the wall.  But O’Connor gave an excellent talk, and I’m thinking about using one of her books for one of my book groups this year.

Next up was Helen Frost, who treated us to a combination of PowerPoint presentation and poetry reading.  I love that the poetry she read to us was genealogically based – about aunts and uncles, great-aunts and grandmothers, great-great-uncles and nephews and grand-nephews.  Lovely stuff.

Before I knew it, it was 3:00 PM, and time for another professional connections session.  I was near the point of burn-out, and needed a break, so I wandered through the improvised book store for a minute, then mentally slapped myself and forced myself to leave before I bought any more books; then I found the double-wide brownies and decaf coffee that had been put out for us and found a quiet chair to settle into while reading Stitches.  I hadn’t read Stitches before, and wanted to dip my toe into it before meeting David Small at the speaker’s reception.  It’s a stunning work that lives up to all the praise and adulation that it has earned.

Two authors remained for the day, both of them excellent and funny speakers.  Sharon Draper came first, entertaining and enlightening us with talk about her work interspersed with reading from letters she has received from kids and teens.  I really like Sharon Draper, and would love to see her in action as a teacher, since I’m willing to bet she’s amazingly good at simultaneously motivating, engaging, and challenging her students.  And she’s a darn good writer, to boot.

Jack Gantos, of course, brought the house down with his witty imagining of his own mausoleum in the cemetery of children’s literature canon fodder.  I can’t and won’t try to replicate his talk here; the best that I can do is to recommend that if you’re given the chance to hear Jack Gantos speak, you should jump at it.  He’s not only funny, he’s also wise, and puts out thoughts of great substance disguised as pure entertainment.  I was also impressed that he attended the entire institute, listening attentively to every other author and illustrator who spoke; I believe that he was the only author/illustrator who did attend the entire weekend.  And he was kind enough to sign the two books of his that I brought, listening to me politely as I blathered on about how he signed books for me twelve years ago, but Pippa peed on those books when we first moved to our house and were still renovating, meaning that my books were in boxes and susceptible to the angry peeings of an uprooted semi-feral cat.  He even immortalized Pippa on the title page of my copy of Happy Birthday, Rotten Ralph, drawing a cat on one of the colored bubbles and labelling it “Pippa.”  Nice guy.  (And, by the way, he sat directly behind for the second part of Saturday, after Laban Carrick Hill and Bryan Collier had left.  I wonder if any of that greatness will have spread in my direction?)

Tune in tomorrow for the final post on my Boston adventure…

Day one, part two

In my last post I forgot to talk about the professional connections workshop that I attended Friday morning, a fascinating presentation by Adrienne Pruit, special collections archivist at the Free Library of Philadelphia, on “‘The Nightmare of Pedagogues’: Tomi Ungerer’s Subversive Body of Work.”  I almost didn’t go to this session (attendees are given a choice of five different professional connections sessions) because I don’t know much about Tomi Ungerer – and the woman who sat next to me for the first part of Friday made me feel like an idiot: “Do you know Tomi Ungerer???  Do you know his work??”  Oh dear, I thought, I’m so illiterate – I can’t go to this session.  But I did anyway, and I’m glad I did – I learned a lot.  Adrienne talked to us about what she and her team of archivists do, what collections they are working on cataloging (the only one I remember besides Ungerer is Virginia Lee Burton’s Life Story), and told us quite a bit about Ungerer.

Then we had our lunch break, and we came back from lunch for the disappointing announcement that Mordecai Gerstein would not be speaking; but, in his stead, Laban Carrick Hill stepped up to the challenge and gave a great talk entitled “Wonder Where Is All My Relations: Negotiating Identity and Self in Children’s Literature.”  Hill is author of the fabulous Dave the Potter, illustrated by the amazing Bryan Collier.  If you haven’t yet read the book, go buy a copy.

Then came a presentation by Sandra Jordan, Jan Greenberg, and Brian Floca, authors and illustrator of Ballet For Martha: Making Appalachian Spring.   I enjoyed hearing about how Jordan and Greenberg write collaboratively;  it fascinates me that there are people who can do that, and do that successfully.  And then Floca showed us some of the photos and video that he used from the Martha Graham dance company to assist him in creating the gorgeous illustrations for this book.  Yet again, another terrific book created by talented people.  It’s truly amazing how many of these talented people I got to listen to over those three days; I’m not sure my brain has totally absorbed all that I saw and heard yet.

Then came another professional connections session – this time I chose a presentation by a designer at Charlesbridge Publishing on how she designs picture books.  And then >whoosh< back for another speaker, Sara Pennypacker, author of the Clementine series of books.  Pennypacker is an engaging and funny speaker who had lots to say about life and kids and literature.  I love that she is proud that her character Clementine belongs to a whole, functioning family, and that she based Clementine on her now-grown son’s personality.  She pointed out to us that Clementine is a gender-neutral character, something so obvious that I’d missed it.

Next up were the spirited and intelligent pair of Victoria Bond and Tanya Simon, co-authors of Zora and Me.  I haven’t yet read this book, but can’t wait to do so; perhaps it will even work as a book group book.  And once again we got to peek into the inner workings of an author collaborative team, as Bond and Simon led an incredibly engaging conversation with the audience.  I was really, really impressed by these ladies, and am only angry with myself for being too tired/intimidated to talk to them at the speaker’s reception at the end of the day.

But wait – there’s more!  Friday was the loooong day of the institute, stretching from morning coffee starting at 8:00 AM through to the final lecture of the day which began at 7:00 PM (and yes, there was also a reception afterwards).  Jacqueline Woodson – how do I describe her lecture?  Smart, quick, poetic, graceful, inspiring; all of these can apply, and more.  I really enjoyed hearing her speak, just as I enjoyed hearing her speak twelve years ago at my first institute, and I only wished that my sister could have been there, too, because Woodson’s poetic sense would have suited Jean, I think.  And when I met Woodson at the speaker’s reception, I told her that, and wished that I had bought a book of hers for Jean (but I didn’t…sorry…the wad was already spent, and there is a copy of Stitches coming my sister’s way).

Swaying on my tired feet at the speaker’s reception, dreading the drive home, I waited in long lines to meet Gene Yang, Sara Pennypacker, Brian Floca, and Jacqueline Woodson.  At times like those I feel sort of like a vulture, swooping around the authors and illustrators, waiting for them to sign my book.  It makes me feel a wee bit dirty and cheap, actually, but of course that didn’t stop me from asking each of them to sign some books.  And I know that it’s a good way for the authors and illustrators to sell books and to spread the word so that even more books are sold – but still.  Sometimes I look around the room and see glints of rather revolting autograph lust in the eyes of my fellow fans, and I try awfully hard to not be like them.  But then again, I am like them.  Alas.

And so ended Friday.  I left home at 7:00 AM and returned back home to a worried husband at 10:15 PM (this is why I drove and didn’t take the T, even though the T would have been the socially responsible option).  Worn and tired, yet also invigorated, I fell into bed to get some rest before another long day.  To be continued in another post on another day

Notes from the morning of Day One

Full of energy at the beginning of the children’s literature summer institute at Simmons, I spent my lunchtime on Friday writing notes on my thoughts about the conference so far.  My plan was to continue to write my notes to myself throughout the conference…guess what?  Didn’t happen.  But at least I can post here the notes that I did write, and if I’m still awake after all that typing, perhaps I’ll try to write about the rest of the weekend.

Notes from the morning of Day One

So here I am at “The Body Electric,” the summer institute for the children’s literature department at Simmons: just finished my budget lunch of yogurt, a corn muffin, and water I brought from home, and I’m sitting here in the student union (or whatever it’s called, this lounge area wasn’t here when I attended Simmons), freezing with cold because I forgot to bring a sweater.  It’s only 12:15, and I’ve only been to three hours of the institute so far, four if you count morning coffee time.  Grace Lin was the first speaker of the day, and I really enjoyed hearing her speak to an adult audience (when she came to my library last year she did a presentation for young kids and a second presentation for older kids).  She talked about her artistic development and how she moved into her Chinese folk art style.  I loved hearing her speak about her college year in Rome and how she had a realization that Italian art was not her art.

After Grace Lin came Gene Luen Yang, who spoke with all the character of a practiced, excellent highschool teacher (which he is) and who treated us to lots of humor and high spirits.  I can’t wait to read American Born Chinese, one of those books I meant to read years ago but never got around to.  He talked us through the three separate storylines of American Born Chinese, and his discussion of the Monkey King character brought back vivid memories of reading and re-reading a book my aunt and uncle brought me years ago – I was probably ten or eleven – from a visit they made to China:  Monkey Subdues the White-Bone Demon.  I loved, loved, loved that book (and yes, it’s in English), most especially the character of Monkey.  I also appreciated that a member of the audience asked at the end of Yang’s talk about the difference between “cartoon,” “comic book,” and “graphic novel.”  I’d always suspected that the name differences between comic book and graphic novel were primarily due to marketing, and Yang confirmed that.  He also said that he calls himself a cartoonist.

On a personal level, I’m feeling old and inexpert.  Old because a large number of my fellow attendees are current grad students and young and fresh-faced.  At one point I thought I saw one of my former classmates from twelve years ago, then came to the sad realization that this young woman was twelve years too young to be my old friend.  And I’m feeling inexpert because there are so many books I haven’t read and there’s so much I don’t know.  If only there were twenty four extra hours in the day – if only.

And then there’s the side note of money.  I bought waaaay too many books.  Aagh. I’m rather ashamed, but also thrilled.  I do love my books, and I’m looking forward to getting them signed by the authors and illustrators and then putting those signed books on display in the library.

That’s all from the first part of day one…to be continued with my memories from the rest of the institute…