25 May 2010

It’s Pronounced “Check-Eye”

I’m just back from moderating the Foundation for Children’s Books celebration of “New England Voices.” This year’s session featured three talented and friendly authors with three very different types of books and types of presentations:

And then came the question session. I always think the best questions for a panel of three authors address the work of two or ideally all of them. So where’s the common ground?

Um, wasn’t it hot today?

Did you like dinner at Tartufo?

Where do you get your ideas?

But in fact there are some areas of overlap. First, the baseball team in Super Sluggers is haunted by ecological disasters: thunderclouds over their slumping hitter, unseasonable winter, plagues of locusts. A Place for Frogs talks about how changes in habitats affect animals. Kevin and Melissa were thus able to discuss the environmental awareness of today’s kids, how the idea of ecological trouble is now part of our world-view.

Second, the picture-book authors are using text in non-traditional ways, not just a single thread of third-person narration that an adult can read. A Place for Frogs has three levels of text: a simple main text, additional information about each species, and a more complex description of an effort to save that habitat. Hip and Hop is in comics style, with speech balloons in addition to the narration.

That opened the door to Jef talking about how comics techniques have become acceptable in picture books; he used to write his stories as comics, then convert them to traditional picture-book forms, but now he doesn’t have to. Melissa and audience members talked about how kids can process different levels of texts, particularly when reading together (PDF download).

1 comment:

nyrdyv said...

The love of frogs should definitely be promoted more amongst the youngsters. Frogs worldwide continue to die off at an alarming rate. It says something when you consider that partially frogs breath through their skin.


Steven G. Willis