Children’s Lit Corner: The Inevitability of Change

As a young mother, I would sometimes read a little book to my children about a boy and a girl who planted a packet of seeds in some carefully prepared soil. They watered the ground and removed weeds and let the sun shine on the earth. The seeds sprouted and grew and bloomed into beautiful flowers. Eventually the plants produced seeds of their own that the children collected and saved to plant the next year. The book ended with the suggestion that if the reader wanted to know what happened the next year, just read the book again, substituting the seeds the children had collected for the packet they used the first year. The book said that the boy and the girl would have grown older and would eventually grow up. And, said the last sentence in the book, eventually so will you. Continue Reading →

Children’s Lit Corner: The Inherent Loneliness of Existence

One day when I was nine or ten years old I was walking to school on a frosty morning. The water in the gutter had frozen into bright silver glass, etched with swirls and crystals. It was so satisfying to step onto those fragile surfaces and feel them crack and hear the delicate chime and tinkle as the ice splintered into glittering shards. Children should be allowed, even encouraged, to walk in the gutter on the way to school. Every step can be an adventure!

This particular morning I was crunching through that delicate lacework when I noticed a white paper, folded into the shape of a note, that had frozen into the ice. I have always, I think, been a treasure hunter, so when I saw the paper I reached down and lifted up the long thin pane of ice it was trapped inside. I dashed the whole thing to the ground and the splinter shivered into a thousand tiny shards, freeing the note. I shook the remaining ice off, grateful that it was still cold enough for the paper to be intact, not turned to mush in cold water. I stuffed the paper into my coat pocket and walked on to school.

On the warmer afternoon walk home, I put my hand in my pocket and found the paper. I took it out and looked at it. It was a note, folded into the kind of origami envelope we all made to pass notes back and forth during class. Do kids still do that now? I hope so! Anyway, my steps slowed and I finally stopped in the middle of the sidewalk as I read the note inside. Continue Reading →

Children’s Lit Corner: It’s All about Love

Happy Valentine’s Day! For some time now an idea or theory has been ripening in my mind. It has to do, of course, with children’s literature because as a children’s librarian I spend the greater part of my days surrounded by books and stories and children. One of the great joys of my life is connecting those children with the books I love and I know they will also learn to cherish. I was thinking about the books, new and old, that make an impression on children and add richness to their lives. These are the books that never grow old, the books that continue to be checked out and read and loved year after year after year. They are also the new books that somehow spring to the head of the line and become immediate classics, even if they aren’t about superheroes or demigods or vampires. Sometimes those highly popular books make it onto the “Instant Classics” list, and sometimes they don’t. But what common characteristic do all these books—well-loved and new friends—share? This is where my theory comes in. I think at the very foundation, these books are all about love.

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In Memoriam: Rick Walton

dt-common-streams-streamserver-cls-3We note with great sadness the passing away of children’s book author Rick Walton, on October 7, from brain cancer. He was 59. His funeral will be held Saturday October 15, 11am at the Edgemont South Stake Center, at 350 E 2950 N, Provo, UT. There will be a viewing for those coming into town for the funeral from 10-10:45 am. The main viewing will be Friday October 14 at 5-8pm at the same location. Walton had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for several years, and was diagnosed with brain cancer early in 2015.

dt-common-streams-streamserver-cls-2Walton was the author of nearly 100 children’s books, most of them picture books. He also wrote riddle books, poetry, activity books, and mini mysteries. He was widely seen as a leader in the remarkably large and vibrant Utah children’s literature community. Continue Reading →

An Interview with Kristyn Crow, AML Picture Book Award Winner

We are pleased to present picture book aficionado Emily Debenham’s interview with Kristyn Crow, the winner of the 2015 AML Picture Book Award. 

kristyn-crowEmily: This interview is to celebrate the fact that Zombelina Dances the Nutcracker won the 2015 AML award.  This is your second book with Zombelina as the main character. Is it different writing a picture book sequel?

Kristyn: With a sequel, the idea is to hold on to what made the first book special and yet create a story that’s new. So writing a sequel is different in the sense that I’m not starting with a brand new character and concept. I’m expanding on something familiar. And with both of the Zombelina sequels there were specific marketing themes that the publisher wanted to craft the books around. That was challenging because prior to these books I had never written a manuscript “to order.” I was nervous I might not be able to make the second book as enjoyable as the first. Continue Reading →

On Writing, Mom-ing and Critics: An interview with Danette Hansen

What do you write? Tell me about your published fiction, and your current work-in-progress (if you don’t mind.)

CoincidenceI have two historical novels published; one under the title Coincidence. With a strong Christian tone, the past and the present resemble each other in my tender WWII mystery where Annaliese risks her future career in her search for answers. It has a deep family history theme. Here is a quote taken from the story, “It’s the legacy our loved ones leave behind that is important, not how many years they actually lived on the earth.” The book is set in the Netherlands where my husband’s grandfather is from which gave it a personal feel as I wrote. Continue Reading →

Children’s Lit Corner—March, March, March

March, March, March, March! The repetition of this word, this action, this month, makes me think of one of my favorite Marches: Jo March. In 1868, shortly after the Civil War was over, Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson, was talking with a man who was a publisher of children’s stories. This man told Bronson that they were looking for a story for girls. Bronson told his daughter and asked her to write such a story. Louisa, who had been writing and writing for many years, didn’t think she could do it. She liked best to write “blood and thunder” stories full of drama and disaster and deeds of derring-do. But Bronson encouraged her and Louisa decided to challenge herself and write what she could. She wrote in her diary that she didn’t know how it would turn out. She didn’t really like little girls, and she didn’t even know any, except her sisters, but she figured she would just write about her life and the things she knew best, even though that regular life seemed very boring. What flowed from her pen eventually became Little Women, one of the most beloved stories of all time. “What a good joke on me,” Louisa wrote later. Continue Reading →

Children’s Lit Corner: The Fluent Imagination

The Fluent Imagination

     A couple of years ago I decided to learn another language. At first I just dabbled in it and learned a few words and phrases. Then as I learned a little more, I started to become, in stages, hungry, frustrated, intrigued, enchanted, and increasingly confident. Now, two and a half years after beginning, I find myself fluctuating between being hungry to learn more and happily becoming more and more confident. But I know I still have a very long way to go before I actually become fluent. I was thinking about this process of learning a language in relation to the way children develop their imagination. In this case, it is a lot more than just acquiring a good grasp of language. It involves figuring out how to think and make connections between the life within and the life outside of oneself. I believe that just as learning a new language is a long and hard and often rewarding and sometimes frustrating process, so too is learning to cultivate one’s imagination or to stimulate the imagination of a child.

400000000000000082294_s4Imagination is much more than just learning to use and apply language, and it is also not limited to fictional, “imaginary” things. The way I see it, developing an imagination depends on being exposed to many opportunities to think creatively. For example, in Beverly Cleary’s book Ramona the Brave, Ramona had to throw one of her shoes at a dog in order to get past him on the way to school. Of course her teacher was concerned when Ramona arrived with only one shoe, so she gave Ramona an old brown boot to wear to protect her foot. But, “Ramona did not want to wear an old brown boot, and she made up her mind she was not going to wear an old brown boot!” Now was the time for Ramona to think creatively and use her imagination. I think I know how she felt because I know the feeling of trying to solve a problem with the resources and raw materials at hand. I can almost feel Ramona’s brain cogs turning as she ponders the situation. “If only she had some heavy paper and a stapler, she could make a slipper, one that might even be strong enough to last until she reached home. She paid attention to number combinations in one part of her mind, while in that private place in the back of her mind she thought about a paper slipper and how she could make one if she only had a stapler.”

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2015 AML Awards Finalists #4: Lyrics, Picture Book, and Poetry

We are excited to announce the finalists in the fourth group of categories of 2015 Association for Mormon Letters awards, Lyrics, Picture Book, and Poetry. We previously announced Creative Non-Fiction and Religious Non-Fiction, Novel, Short Fiction Collection, and Short Fiction, Young Adult and Middle Grade Novel, and soon will announce Comics, Criticism, Drama, and Film. The final awards will be announced and presented at the AML Conference on March 4 at BYU Hawaii. The finalist announcements include blurbs about each of the books and author biographies, usually provided by the publishers or authors.

Lyrics

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Brandon Flowers, The Desired Effect                       Imagine Dragons, Smoke and Mirrors

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Low, Ones and Sixes                                                      The National Parks, Until I Live

This is the first time AML has done a lyrics award.

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2015 AML Awards Finalists #3: Young Adult and Middle Grade Novel

We are excited to announce the finalists in the third group of categories of 2015 Association for Mormon Letters awards, Young Adult and Middle Grade Novel. We previously announced Creative Non-Fiction and Religious Non-Fiction and Novel, Short Fiction Collection, and Short Fiction, and soon will announce Comics, Criticism, Drama, Film, Lyrics, Picture Book, and Poetry. The final awards will be announced and presented at the AML Conference on March 4 at BYU Hawaii. The finalist announcements include blurbs about each of the books and author biographies, usually provided by the publishers or authors.

Young Adult Novel

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