MY BATTLE BUNNY REGRET

MacBarnettFan

A few Mac Barnett favorites that aren’t pictured here: SAM AND DAVE DIG A BIG HOLE, MUSTACHE, OH NO!, OH NO! NOT AGAIN!, GUESS AGAIN, and EXTRA YARN

If you get the opportunity to meet Mac Barnett, read Battle Bunny first.  Take it from me. I blew it. When Barnett visited  the Red Balloon bookstore in my neighborhood I hadn’t read it yet. MacBarnett Sept2014MacBarnettSept2014KEM friend, Elise, even pulled the  book out of a Barnes and Noble book shelf and told me I’d like it. But  I figured I’d look at it later.

Now I’m thinking the only thing I would have liked better is an autographed copy of Battle Bunny and a chance to gush about it. Dang it.

BATTLEBUNNYBOOKThe strange-looking treasure is two books in one.

 

 

It began as Birthday Bunny, written by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett in the style of a syrupy, grandma-friendly Golden Book.

Then it was given to  protagonist Alex (Scieszka and Barnett’s alter ego) by who else, but his doting Gran Gran. “Alex”  transforms it into a disturbingly entertaining, testosterone-ridden, hare-raising tale of doom and destruction.  (Alex’s artistic side comes compliments of Matthew Myers).

ToAlexanderLook closely.
The raw beauty of this book lurks in the details.  For instance, check out Gran Gran’s sentiments.

 

This note looks so real, I first assumed the library had a used book on their shelves. I can picture Alex gagging, choking, then gritting his teeth in response to his grandma’s  saccharine birthday endearments.

I’d type excerpts, but half the brilliance comes from “Alex’s” illustrations.AlexCredits

PluckedChicken

AlexToTheRescueAlexToTheRescueII

BackCoverBattleBunnyOur son wrote and drew BATTLE  stories in grade school. We know this because of the calls to the principal’s office.
CRACKLINOATBRANDThe principal would run his hand over his face and  suggest Ritalin. We’d try to look concerned, then save the confiscated manuscripts in scrapbooks.

Luckily, Josh had a revolutionary teacher with revolutionary ideas about letting kids be kids.

THE BEST STORY OF HANSEL AND GRETTEL Personally, I think the wrong family member creates children’s books.

 THE BEST STORY OF HANSEL AND GRETTEL

Text and spelling copyright 1991, Joshua Honeyman,
5th grade

T’was a time when sheep smoked cigars and elephants had cars and there lived a gangster group called the devils. In that group was two of the baddest, the leader Hansel and his evil side kick Grettel. Hansel and Grettel went into the woods in their nuclear tank while they redecorated it with spray paint. When they were nearly done they saw a house full of candy. They spray painted it with black, green, and purple paint. Then they knocked it down with a silver battle axe. hen I glanced at brats wrecking her  house, I got out my ninja stuff. Sharp like a knife I knocked the axes out of there hands. Suddenly Hansel kicked me into the microwave. I kicked the door down.

“You SKUM!” I yelled “NO ONE MESSES WITH ME!”

“Except us,” chuckled Gretel.

“HI-YA!” I yelled while kicking Gretel to the ground. Hansel took a missile lancher from the tank so I threw a sword it nocked it away from him.

“DIE DANDREFF DOG!” I yelled kicking them both to the TV set. I chained them to the couch and switched the channel to PBS.

“NO!” yelled Hansel and Gretel. Mr. Rogers was on. “AAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!”

(Incidentally, this valiant superhero is now an Army Captain.)

BattleDuckiesWhile reading Battle Bunny to children, one must read it first as originally written, then reread it Alex’s way. Our grandkids’ faces light up as they notice each detail and witness the unleashing of an imagination (Technically, three imaginations: Scieszka, Barnett, and Myer’s).

During a recent overnight stay, our youngest granddaughter forced me (Okay, she said, “Please.”)  BattleDuckiesIIto read Battle Bunny to her twice–which, technically, means four times. The next morning she asked if she could play with the bath toys. I thought her request was unusual, because A.) she wasn’t taking a bath, and B.) we have way cooler toys than bath toys. Later, as I cooked breakfast, I overheard her, deeply immersed in her play world. “Take that! Evil Battle Bunny! You’re no match for my Superhero Duckies!”

When I looked under the coffee table, her request made perfect sense. A rebel  squeeze toy rabbit peered through his transparent plastic cup prison at an intimidating fleet of rubber ducky wardens.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m so proud of my bunny-trapping granddaughter. (Sheer genius, like her Gretel-kicking uncle.)

Gran Grans, Nanas, Grandmas–whatever you call yourself–UNITE! We owe it to our grandkids to supply each one of them with a copy of Battle Bunny (for inspiration), a box of markers,  and a mushy Golden Book with a title page note from us urging them to go wild and re-create.

I do hope their parents (and their school principals) will forgive us.BATTLEBUNNYMEETSBATTLEDUCKIES

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

“One day, a still day when the hot air hummed, the humans came.”
~ Ivan, page 128 in THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

THEONEANDONLYIVAN600Folks, there’s one and only book like Katherine Applegate’s THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. It’s no wonder that it won the 2013 Newbery Medal  and became a #1 New York Times bestseller. And that’s why we’ve featured the middle grade novel as our October KEM GEM. Based on a true story, it’s written in the truly unique voice of a silverback gorilla with an unusual penchant for painting.

Patricia Castaleo’s illustrations are . . . Well, see for yourself. Don’t they tug at your heart?IVANBACKCOVER

Our library had so many holds on this book, I finally purchased my own copy.  Read The One and Only Ivan to learn why this book is so popular among people of all ages and why we think it’s a story that needed to be told. Read our KEM GEM review and join the conversation.   Please share your thoughts with us in The One and Only Ivan COMMENTS section. We’ll post a new book recommendation on the 15th of every month, so plan to visit often. We’re excited to read and learn with you!

KEM GEMS

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HOW KEM GEMS BEGAN.

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B J Brilliant

Someone once said “A picture book without pictures is like the Pips without Gladys Knight.”

BJ Novak proved this wrong.

BUSYTOWN THE MUSICAL

BUSYTOWNIIAny children’s book writer or illustrator would think they’d gone to Heaven if their work was brought to life in a musical. That’s why Richard Scarry is probably smiling right now. His awesome picture books have  achieved that prestigious honor with Busytown The Musicaladapted by playwright Kevin Kling and composer Michael Koerner.

Yesterday, my daughter, three granddaughters, and I attended this lively, pickle-car, chug-a-wug-a-choo-choo show at the Children’s Theater in Minneapolis.  I’ll be honest. I enjoyed it as much as anyone. My cheeks still hurt from ginning.
BUSYTOWNSET
The caliber of acting, singing, and performing far exceeded my expectations. The show was almost over before I realized only six actors played the bazillion busy parts. The most phenomenal multitasker, however, was the one-woman organist/flutist/kazooist/percussionist/every-instrumentalist who played the musical accompaniment. (Sorry, I don’t know her name.)

Reed Sigmund, the  actor who played Huckle the Cat (and a back-up singing nurse and various other characters) had the  voice and endearing presence of Chris Farley. I kept hoping he would break into lame ninja moves or warn the kids about living in a van down by the river.

Meghan Kreidler played a brassy mail carrier so well, she reminded me of Rosie O’Donnell in A League of Her Own. And she had no problem seamlessly transitioning into a lovesick nurse, Grocer Cat, a train car, or a busy commuter.

Dean Holt had the perfect voice and feathered hat-wearing head for heart-throb Lowly Worm.

I’d mention all the cast members and behind-the-scenes stars, but you need to  experience the colorful set, funny costumes, energetic choreography and happy audience yourself. Busytown the Musical is playing until October 26, so get your tickets now.

CHILDRENSTHEATERCheck out other Children’s Theater Company productions. We’re bringing in the holiday spirit with The Grinch Stole Christmas. (I can’t wait to meet Cindy Lou Who. Can you?)

And, remember, there’s no better way to get your children’s book creations in shape for future musicals than the 2014 MN Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Annual Conference. It’s not too late to register!

2014 MN SCBWI Annual Conference

Writing well involves community. A fabulous opportunity awaits you in just two-and-a-half weeks. The 2014 Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators will hold their annual conference.

2014_ConferenceTearOffPosterforWebThe first perk of the conference will be the wisdom you’ll gain; the second, the relationships you’ll develop.

If you haven’t signed up, it’s not too late. We can’t wait to see you there!

https://minnesota.scbwi.org/…/2014-mn-scbwi-conference…/

1 ZANY Picture Book

Many children’s book legends were/are also picture book poets: A. A. Milne, Theodor Seuss Geisel, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Judith Viorst, Dan Yaccarino, Anna Dewdney, Corey Rosen . . .

But go to any writer’s conference and someone will beg you not to write a rhyming picture book. Why? Because agents, editors, and publishers are drowning in poorly written submissions.

What makes a rhyming picture book so hard to write or publish?

  • Phrases need to read smoothly, with precise beats, using words that are fresh, original, and intriguing—not the standard “you”, “to”, and “blue”.
  • Each rhyme should be pure, but not forced. A book with too many near-rhymes, like “tag” and “bake” will annoy, not entertain its readers.
  • A good picture book requires a plot that unfolds naturally, without being manipulated to fit rhymes.
  • Rhyming stories are difficult to translate into other languages. These limitations make them a bigger challenge to market internationally.

DegmanOneZanyZooYet, what books do you most cherish from your childhood? We’re willing to bet there’s at least one rhyming picture book on your list. For these reasons we chose Lori Degman’s 1 Zany Zoo as our September KEM GEM. We bow to anyone who can write the elusive  picture book rhymes.

Speaking for myself:
Lori Degman, I’m not worthy.

Everyone’s invited to join the KEM GEM conversation.  Read why we chose 1 Zany Zoo and share your thoughts with us in the
1 Zany Zoo COMMENTS section. We’ll post a new book recommendation on the 15th of every month, so plan to visit often. We’re excited to learn with you!

How KEM GEMS started.

KEM GEMS

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 HOW KEM GEMS BEGAN

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KIRA-KIRA

KiraKiraI think you’ll enjoy our eighth KEM GEM, middle grade novel, Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kahodata.

Elise, of our KEM trio, heard Kahodata speak at the 2014 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Summer Conference in Los Angeles, California, two weekends ago. This happened months after we’d selected Kira-kira as a KEM GEM, so Elise was excited to learn more about the story behind the story. Kahodata shared that the inspiration for this 2005 Newbery winning story, came from the life and death of her beloved dog. Based on this story, that must have been one delightful pet.

If you’re new to our KEM GEM page, we developed this monthly reading and writing exercise to grow as children’s book creators. As a team we’ve committed to an ambitious reading regimen. This prompts conversation about writing and illustrative styles, trends, points of view, plot arcs, character arcs, believability, voice, creativity, timelessness, cohesiveness, and skill.

Out of our reading lists, each of us selected four books–one in each genre (picture book, chapter book/easy reader, middle grade, and young adult)–to write about and recommend for the year. All three of us deliberate to agree before a book can rise to the top as a KEM GEM.

We would be delighted for you to join the conversation.  Read why we chose Kira-kira and share your thoughts with us in the KIRA-KIRA COMMENTS section(in 1-150 words). We’ll post a new book recommendation on the 15th of every month, so plan to visit often. We’re excited to learn with you!

KEM GEMS

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 HOW KEM GEMS BEGAN