Friday, January 30, 2009

Food, again

Yes, this is my own personal hobby horse, but can I have a Friday pass?

The White House’s new chef, Sam Kass, has strong opinions about school lunches. To which I say, good!

At the moment, though, this is still all just a conversation among adults about young people but not with or even for young people—not something I think is always particularly helpful.  Apparently, though, Kass is  28, which officially makes him a Young Turk. So maybe he’ll use his credibility to bring young people, particularly teens, into a conversation about food.

Set your RSS readers on “subscribe”

Booklist has a new blog called Bookends, run by librarians Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan (both of whom are from my home state, Michigan). Check it out.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

‘Round the Blogosphere.

A couple of nice notices for Carolrhoda books have popped up in the blogosphere.

James Patterson’s new web venture, (of which more here) featured Joe Kulka’s Wolf’s Coming among its recommended picture books.

Reading Rebels, the book blog of junipr high language arts class, has a nice write up on Cliff McNish’s Breathe. Check it out. I love these kinds of blogs.

Number Three!

Sally Walker’s Written in Bone has earned its third starred review, this time in Kirkus. Congratulations, Sally!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Should I be writing this on my phone?

Are you reading this on your phone? I’m not, and you’re probably not, but this area is sure getting interesting quickly.

I already mentioned the excellent New Yorker article about cell phone novels in Japan and now Galley Cat is shedding some additional light on this. 86% of Japanese teens read novels on cell phones? Wow.

I’m sure this isn’t coming to the US, though. I mean, Japanese popular culture never explodes over here, especially not with children, right? So please go about your business as usual . . .

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Found in the New York Times John Updike obit:
“I really don’t think I’m alone among writers in caring about what they experienced in the first 18 years of their life,” he told The Paris Review. “Nothing that happens to us after 20 is as free from self-consciousness, because by then we have the vocation to write,” he continued. “At the point where you get your writerly vocation, you diminish your receptivity to experience.”

I really should read a Rabbit novel, shouldn't I?

Monday, January 26, 2009

A useful tool

Knowing when a book, poem, song, or whatever is in the public domain is frequently useful. This "slide rule” tool is the easiest way I’ve seen for making that determination. Check it out.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I love Larry McMurtry but . . .

. . . he’s wrong about this:
Q: What will you talk about at Rice [2009 Friends of Fondren Library Distinguished Guest Lecture]?
A: The end of the culture of the book. I’m pessimistic. Mainly it’s the flow of people into my bookshop in Archer City. They’re almost always people over 40.
I don’t see kids, and I don’t see kids reading. I think little kids love to have stories read to them, but when they get to 10 or 11 or 12, they run into this tsunami of technology: iPod, iPhone, Blackberries.
They don’t resist it, and it’s normal that they wouldn’t; it’s their culture. I’m not so sure they ever come back to reading. Some will, but most won’t.
This is from an interview McMurtry in the Houston Chronicle. I see kids reading. I saw kids reading and thinking citically and passionately about books when I accompanied author Pat Schmatz to a meeting of St. Paul’s Teen’s Know Best YALSA galley group last week. Pat blogged about the experience, so I’ll just say that I’ve visited this group many times over the last two years and it never fails to make me excited to be a part of the world of books.
Yes, they’ve all got cell phones and they take the Internet for granted, but I see that pushing them towards books more than away from them. For example, as Pat mentions in her blog, there was a vigorous and thoughtful debate about vampire novels among the twenty- five or so teens in attendance, and Pat and I were both struck by how this debate would never have happened when we were growing up (and I’m only fifteen years older than these teens). These “kids” are extremely sophisticated about the books they read within the context of popular culture and publishing trends. Maybe they’re  not curling up with a book and escaping all other distraction as frequently (a sentimental and suspicious activity I think is in some part a wishful adult projection), but there are lots of teens who are reading with their brains on.   I don’t think you found this awareness in the previous generation and I think this kind of reading bodes well for the future.

PS: Don't miss Leila Roy's blog on this.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A constellation is forming . . .

We’ve just received word that Sally Walker’s Written in Bone will receive a starred review in the February issue of School Library Journal. This is the second star for Sally’s latest book (the first was in Booklist), and we’re extremely proud to be her publisher. 

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lerner on Fuse #8

Fuse caught my colleague Carol Burrell’s presentation at the SLJ Day of Publisher Presentations. I suspect Carol will use this opportunity to negotiate for a wardrobe allowance, since she clearly dressed to impress. Carolrhoda’s books thank you for your sartorial splendor.

Update: Carol was kind enough to provide details on her ensemble, for those of you who are shopping at home:

[The shoes] are Clarks "Marilla" Mary Janes. The colour is "Vampire Red," which of course is a nice burgundy, such as all classy vampires prefer. I'm not sure the photos from do them justice, but, yes, these shoes are spectacular. Even if they don't have insanely thin fashionable stiletto heels. And they are spectacularly comfortable and surprisingly well suited to standing around at conferences, or at secret Manhattan cocktail lounges in one's Mondrian dress. (And, to add a disclaimer, all items were purchased on sale... what with having an editor's salary ;) ).


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For what it’s worth, I too am wearing Clarks (black, driving loafers).

First Hamline MFA in Kidlit commencement

I had the pleasure of attending Hamline University’s first-ever graduation ceremony from its MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults (ask me how much I love the separate billing for YA).

Kate DiCamillo gave the commence address, and honestly she was amazing—something rarely said of commencement speakers. She built her speech around a quote from an essay by Ian Frazier (a quote that has more to do with John Cheever than Frazier). Here, Frazier relates a story he heard from a man at a soup kitchen, would apparently attended a writers’ workshop Cheever gave in a prison:

“Cheever, you understan’, he was a brilliant writer. When he wrote something he always had two things going on at a time. He told us, when you writin’, you got this surface thing, you understan’, goin’ on up here”—he moved his left hand in a circle with his fingers spread apart, as if rubbing a flat surface—an’ then once you get that goin’ on, now you got to come up under it”—he brought his right hand under his left, as if throwing an uppercut—“come under this thing here that’s goin’ on up here, you understan’. That was how John Cheever said you write.”

DiCamillo, like any great writer, not only told her audience that this is valuable advice, she deftly showed it. It was a memorable address.

Congrats to all the graduates.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Never mind the Constitution! “They’re showing their naked behinds!”

Via BoingBoing, check out the latest “kids these days!” overreaction (or perhaps reaction to the wrong thing).

"I certainly respect the Constitution, but we have some issues that are much bigger than the Constitution."

Congrats to On the Scale, a Weighty Tale from Millbrook

The Just One More Book podcast has a fantastic review of On the Scale, a Weighty Tale  by Brian P. Cleary with illustrations by Brian Gable. Millbrook is Carolrhoda’s sister imprint at LPG. Congratulations all around.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Andersen Press

andersen logo bitmapI’m very happy to report that Lerner will be distributing books from the Andersen Press list in the US, beginning in fall 2009. The full press release is below. Andersen Press is home to many of the UK’s best children’s book authors and illustrators, and I’m looking forward to introducing these books to American audiences.

January 14, 2009

CONTACT: Lindsay Chall
1-800-328-4929, ext. 385

Lerner Publishing Group Announces
USA Distribution Agreement with Andersen Press

MINNEAPOLIS – Minneapolis-based Lerner Publishing Group is now the USA distributor of a selected list of titles from London based publisher Andersen Press. The new Americanized titles will be published under the imprint of Andersen Press USA beginning Fall 2009.

The first Andersen Press USA titles that will be sold through all channels of Lerner Publishing Group’s na-tional sales and distribution network include Elmer’s Special Day, Flabby Cat and Slobby Dog, Millie's Marvellous Hat, and The Wild Washerwomen.

Founded in 1976, Andersen Press publishes some of the most well-known and best loved names in the world of children's books. Authors and illustrators such as David McKee (Elmer’s Special Day), Jeanne Willis (Flabby Cat and Slobby Dog), Tony Ross (Flabby Cat and Slobby Dog), Satoshi Kitamura (Mille’s Marvellous Hat), and Quentin Blake (The Wild Washerwomen) have made Andersen Press one of the most award-winning inde-pendent children’s book publishers in the UK.

“It is an honor to be distributing such a prestigious list directly for the first time to US readers,” said Adam Lerner, president and publisher of Lerner Publishing Group. “American booksellers, parents, and librarians will recognize many of Andersen’s authors and artists and the launch list is a classic.”

“We are delighted to increase our readership by distributing US editions with Lerner Publishing Group,” said Klaus Flugge, founder and publisher of Andersen Press. “Lerner’s solid background in the institutional sector combined with a strong trade presence makes them a perfect partner for Andersen and working together we are proud to offer an exciting range of picture books to American schools and families.”

Andersen Press USA titles will be edited for the American audience by Carolrhoda Editorial Director An-drew Karre. Karre will be working directly with Andersen Press to choose the most suitable titles for the imprint.
Lerner Publishing Group also distributes fiction and nonfiction titles from other publishers including Darby Creek Publishing, based in Columbus, Ohio, and Kane Press, based in New York City.

About Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.
Lerner Publishing Group creates high-quality fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults. Founded in 1959, Lerner Publishing Group is one of the nation’s largest independent children’s book publishers and currently has nine imprints and divisions: Lerner Publications, Carolrhoda Books, Millbrook Press, Twenty-First Century Books, Graphic Universe, ediciones Lerner (a Spanish-language imprint), First Avenue Editions, LernerClassroom, and Kar-Ben Publishing. For further information, visit Lerner Publishing Group’s Website at

About Andersen Press, Ltd.
Andersen Press is one of UK’s foremost independent children’s book publishers creating internationally famous picture books and a range of prize-winning fiction for young adults. Founded in 1976 by Klaus Flugge, the com-pany now consists of more than 1000 published titles. For further information, visit Andersen Press at

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Written in Bone sees a star

The February 1 issue of Booklist features a starred review of Sally M. Walker’s Written in Bone. “[T]hose intrigued by forensics and history will find this absolutely fascinating.”
Congratulations to Sally (who is no stranger to awards and stars)!
Credit is also due to my predecessor, Shannon, who acquired and edited this book. It’s very nice to inherit someone else’s high-quality editorial vision.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nonfiction Monday: Becoming part of the story’s an article in The New York Times today about Ubuntu, the popular, consumer-centric version of the Linux computer operating system. I don’t want to get too geeky (and I’m not a regular Linux user), but I do see a story in here that is very interesting to me in the way it involves school children. While you’re not likely to know somebody who uses Linux regularly here in the US, in Europe, it appears to be another matter: “The Macedonian education department relies on Ubuntu, providing 180,000 copies of the operating system to children, while the Spanish school system has 195,000.” Less than half a million users appears to be nothing to Windows’ global dominance of desktops, but it’s not necessarily the numbers of users; it’s who those users are: kids.

Still, let’s get a sense of the numbers and where they are. Add to the kids in Spain and Macedonia, all the young people from from the US, Europe and Asia who have bought tiny, cheap laptops like the Asus Eee or Dell’s Mini 9, many of which are most affordable when loaded with Linux instead of Windows, and then there are kids who are using laptops provided by the One Laptop Per Child project, most of which will be running Linux. Put all of this together, and you get a very interesting group of young people who are having a fundamentally different experience of software than their parents.

Is this a big deal? Maybe, maybe not. There’s no way to know because it’s never really happened before. In the earlier days of PCs, Apple had a significant toehold in schools (correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s true), whereas DOS and later Windows prevailed elsewhere. Years later, “Mac user” and “Windows user” are practically cultural categories (for my part, my first computer was an early Mac and I’ve been a largely faithful Apple consumer ever since). But the differences between Linux and Windows or OS X are much greater, and operating systems and computers are much more integrated into our lives than they were then. The difference between Macs and PCs for users are cosmetic and ergonomic, whereas the difference between Linux and Windows or OSX are financial and philosophical. If Linux gained traction with even a small fraction of young people, what happens ten or fifteen years later when they enter the workforce? I think it would be fascinating to consider this in some depth.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Poetry Friday

Lord, where did the day go? I didn’t have time for a properly poetical post, but thankfully Rod Blagojevich is here to help me.

He ended the news conference by quoting a poem from [sic] "Ulysses" by Lord Alfred Tennyson, ending with: "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

First Kipling, now this. I think he may be giving occasional poetry a bad name. Maybe they can add that to the charges against him.

Attention LiveJournal users


Some probably saw the item on ValleyWag earlier this week. Now LJ has responded

As has been reported, we had staff cuts at LiveJournal Inc. this week. Early media reports seriously exaggerated the impact of the decision on the continued existence of LiveJournal as a company and misrepresented the scope of the staff cuts. The cuts were part of a restructuring that shifted global design and product development to the LiveJournal office in Moscow. Product decisions for the English-language site will still be made in the U.S., and LiveJournal Inc. remains headquartered in San Francisco. You can read more about the reasoning behind the restructuring here.

The restructuring is done with an eye to the future to ensure the long-term viability of LiveJournal as a business. As a team, we know that LJ has a great future as it prepares for its second decade. We recently invested a considerable amount on all-new server equipment and a facility in Montana to house it all as part of our commitment to the longevity of LJ. We will be around for years to come and we're committed to ensuring that your journals, friends pages, and communities will be, too.

As with any of these kinds of decisions, it's always hardest to lose valued team members. We're very sad to see our colleagues go and want to acknowledge all the hard work, dedication, and love they've given LiveJournal over the years. They will be missed. While they are no longer a part of LiveJournal Inc., they are still a part of the LJ community.

LiveJournal is enormously popular with authors, and I know authors have invested a lot of work in blog content on LJ, so I think it would be very wise to take measures to preserve that content outside of the LJ servers. How? Frankly, I’m not sure, but I’ll do some investigating. Meanwhile, if anyone has a good way to back up an LJ profile and blog, please post it in the comments.

(There’s recent precedent for massive data losses from blog hosts, so it’s probably worth thinking about this no matter who hosts your blog.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Vowel Family

Congratulations to Sally M. Walker and Kevin Luthhardt! The Vowel Family: A Tale of Lost Letters is one of ten books on the Book Links Lasting Connections 2008 list for pre-school to second grade.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The end of DRM and a sentimental journey

As you've probably seen, Apple announced yesterday that it was all but eliminating DRM--digital rights management, the copy protection that tethered iTunes purchases to iPods--from music sold in the iTunes store. They also abandoned their monolithic pricing scheme, thus allowing record companies to charge more for high-demand music and less for the rest. The Harper Studio blog (which aptly dubbed publishing the record biz's younger sister in this regard) asks the important question, what about ebooks? Is this a precedent? (I think not, because this move had no effect on audio books on iTunes).

While all of this is fascinating, my real first reaction was to be transported momentarily to my childhood. Let me explain. I have a fair amount of iTunes music that I'd like to be able to play on a non-Apple player, so I was interested to see that you can "upgrade" your existing iTunes tracks to DRM-free files--for 1/3 their original price! I grumbled at this and then I remembered this wasn't my first experience with an expensive format "upgrade." I managed to make a fair bit of money converting my father's LP collection to cassette in the early 90s. I think I got a buck a tape.

I suppose, then, paying $50 bucks to update my own library is fair in comparison and karmically just, but it seems like something is lost in the impersonal ease of the process (you literally push a button and it's done). Upgrading my father's library took weeks, and his buck didn't come easy. Perhaps because he didn't want the constant reminder of this "upgrade" he insisted that I not record the sound of the needle falling at the beginning or being lifted at the end. He also combined more than one LP onto a tape where possible. The end result was I listened to much of what I was recording, and thus, it's probably not surprising then that a fair amount of the music I'll upgrade at a click of a button is music I recorded onto dozens of green 90-minute Maxell tapes when I was in sixth grade . . . .

(Awww. Is this the "warmth" of analog Neil Young is always yammering about?)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The British Invasion

File:Flag - Great Britain.jpgOne of the very first jobs I ever did in publishing was intern for the craft and lifestyles division of Creative Publishing international (yes, small “i”), and one of the more memorable jobs that summer was helping to “Americanize” a British entertaining book for the American market. I was 21 or so, and this was probably the first thought I’d ever given to the concept of Americanization. It was fun—at least more fun than sorting and scanning film, which is much of what I did the rest of the summer (I also learned a fair bit about quilting and baking).

So what, you might ask. Well, the issue of Americanizing books has returned to my job and to my reading habits in a prominent way recently. And it’s not a simple issue. That same summer I was an intern, I also read the first Harry Potter book, which I remember as the one most conspicuously Americanized (the title, of course, but also the text, if I recall correctly—didn’t they have “fries”?). Eight years and six more Harry Potter books later, it seems to me like readers have different needs and expectations when it comes to Americanization. I have no solid evidence of this, but I think Harry and others have probably made a generation of American readers more comfortable with foreign usage than they might have been and more sensitive to the sense of place that comes with unfamiliar language or usage. This is a good thing, and not just because I don’t have to change “chips” to “fries.” Part of the beauty of books is being transported by language. The words matter and the fewer of them we have to change, the better.

Do you notice Americanization in British books? Does it bother you when you do? Are there instance where you’d welcome it?

(Do I think there’s a place for Americanization? Yes, where meaning would be come insurmountably inscrutable. For example, the British and their weird insistence on using “public school” in exactly the opposite way we do is problematic.)

The Monkey has landed

IMG00200Yes, that blurry picture is a freshly arrived copy of the much anticipated new book from Chris Monroe, Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem.

All of the editorial credit for this one goes to others, but art for this was coming when I arrived and we were making final tweaks, so I’m taking a particular thrill from the is one, too.

Congratulations, Chris!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bits and pieces and Poetry Friday

[…]And new philosophy calls all in doubt,
The element of fire is quite put out,
The sun is lost, and th'earth, and no man's wit
Can well direct him where to look for it.
And freely men confess that this world's spent,
When in the planets and the firmament
They seek so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out again to his atomies.
'Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone,
All just supply, and all relation;
Prince, subject, father, son, are things forgot,
For every man alone thinks he hath got
To be a phoenix, and that then can be
None of that kind, of which he is, but he.

-John Donne (From “An Anatomy of the World” 1611)

Happy New Year!  Actually, it’s not such a gloomy poem when you think it was written 400 years ago, but it was definitely on my mind a lot recently.

For instance, over at the Harper Studio blog The 26th Studio, Debbie Stier makes an excellent observation about watching music industry statistics: “I watch the music industry like a little sister who may find lessons to learn.” Well said, though I might say “older, underappreciated step sister” instead of “little sister.” We were here first, after all.

And speaking of “all in pieces, all coherence gone . . .” The gist of her observations is, for me, that the music industry is a very mixed, broken picture at the moment. CD sales are in free fall; downloads are growing steeply (but not downloads of albums—more single tracks and ring tones). In short, the music industry is trading “analog dollars for digital dimes” (I have heard this phrase often lately regarding both books and music).

Then, in last week’s New Yorker, there’s a fascinating piece about cell-phone novels in Japan (novels both composed and read on cell screens that, in later print editions, have begun to occupy significant bestseller space):

The Japanese publishing industry, which shrunk by more than twenty per cent over the past eleven years, has embraced cell-phone books. “Everyone is desperately trying to pursue that lifeboat,” one analyst told me. Even established publishers have started hiring professionals to write for the market, distributing stories serially (often for a fee) on their own Web sites before bringing them out in print. In 2007, ninety-eight cell-phone novels were published [in print]. Miraculously, books have become cool accessories. “The cell-phone novel is an extreme success story of how social networks are used to build a product and launch it,” Yoshida, the technology executive, says. “It’s a group effort. Your fans support you and encourage you in the process of creating work—they help build the work. Then they buy the book to reaffirm their relationship to it in the first place.” In October, the cover of Popteen, a magazine aimed at adolescent girls, featured a teenybopper with rhinestone necklaces and pink lipstick and an electric guitar strapped to her chest, wearing a pin that said, “I’d rather be reading.”

There’s no aha! in any of this for me, actually. I don’t think you can tease any of these data points into a trend or a single direction. And maybe that’s the point. For the better part of a century, our experience of music was coherent on the format side (whether radio, LP, cassette, or CD) and reasonably neatly generational and cultural on the content side (your parents reliably didn’t understand your music and Pat Boone and Elvis had to sing black R & B before it could be mainstream). Now, this coherence is largely obliterated. “Crumbled out … to atomies” seems absolutely apt when you think that that even the basic building block of popular music, its atom, the single, has been split: “Twenty percent of Rihanna’s revenue, he said, has come from the sale of ring tones,” says the New York Times.

The prospect of a similar atomization for books is even more head spinning, given the much longer history of the format and the relative inflexibility of the content (what is the book equivalent of the ring tone?).

Obviously, no answers here, but I think 2009 is going to be very interesting.