It is books like this one that reminds me of why I adore picture books and love to review them. There is something about children’s literature that just oozes joy and wonder when a book is done well. Simple illustrations and spare but eloquent writing can convey so much. WHEN I WAS SMALL does this beautifully.
The story begins with Henry, an adorable little boy that looks remarkably like my grandson Aiden (which instantly made me love him) asking his mother to tell him a story about when she was small. What follows is a charming and fanciful story about a very tiny, Thumbelina-sized tiny girl.
The language is simple and concise, letting the ethereal and powerful illustrations do most of the telling. The illustrations, done in pen and ink have this Old World feel to them and makes me think I’d stumbled across the book in a used book store. It’s got this vintage look and feel and has a dreamlike quality.
Each page is such a pleasure to read and look at. The reader is tempted to linger and examine the drawings. When I read it to Aiden and his sister Jasmine, they both asked me to read it again and again. Jasmine really loved a drawing of Henry’s very tiny mother feasting on a very large raspberry, while Aiden loved the illustration of her being borne away in the mouth of a cat.
Both children and parents will love this book. It is simply enchanting and a strong message about the power of story.
Curious little Henry from the award-winning books When You Were Small and Where You Came From has a new question for his mother in this charming new picture book. “What was it like when you were small?” he asks. His mother proceeds to describe her adventures to him, all about when she was little – very little!
About the Author
Sara O’Leary is a playwright, fiction writer, and literary journalist. She teaches Writing for Children and Screenwriting at Concordia University in Montreal.
About the illustrator
Julie Morstad is an award-winning illustrator and fine artist known for her surreal, whimsical work. Illustrator of numerous children’s books, including Singing Away the Dark and When You Were Small and its two sequels Where You Came From and When I Was Small, Julie has exhibited her work in galleries, animated two music videos with her brother, filled up stacks of sketchbooks, and made countless pots of soup and many loaves of bread. She lives in Vancouver with her family.
Disclosure: A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.
I started reading science-fiction in early 1950, when I was only nine years old. I quickly read through my local public library’s children’s s-f (a few Heinlein juveniles), and turned to the adult fiction shelves (where I was technically not supposed to go). I was too young to appreciate most of the few s-f books that it had besides H. G. Wells and Jules Verne (Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon), but I loved Ray Bradbury’s new collections that the library was just getting: The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, The Golden Apples of the Sun. I entered junior high school just as Ballantine Books started publishing original s-f paperbacks. While my teachers looked down on most paperbacks as cheap trash, they approved of Ballantine’s as Literature. One of Ballantine’s first s-f titles, and one of the first “adult” books that I bought for myself, was Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I thrilled to find comic-book adaptations of many of his best stories in the “EC horror comics” (many of which were straight s-f, not horror) of the early 1950s. Throughout my teens, Bradbury was there with a new book, most of them weirdly/wonderfully illustrated by Joe Mugnaini. The October Country. Dandelion Wine. A Medicine for Melancholy. Something Wicked This Way Comes.
In 1960, while I was in college (UCLA), I discovered s-f fandom and the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. What a pity that I hadn’t joined a few years earlier, I was told, when Ray Bradbury was still a regular attendee! A lot of the older members told, and agreed upon, their favorite Bradbury stories: How he and Ray Harryhausen used to go to horror moves in their teens, put on Harryhausen’s amateur monster masks in the darkened theaters, and try to scare those seated near them. How one time some woman wandered into a club meeting, asked, “Who ARE you people?’, and Bradbury rushed up to her, raised his arms, and exclaimed, “We are SCIENCE-FICTION people – and I am MOBY DICK!” How during the 1930s club members used to run when they saw Bradbury coming with one of his manuscripts, afraid that he would insist on reading it to them. Bradbury published four issues of his own spirit-duplicated fanzine in the 1930’s, “Futuria Fantasia”, and later tried to destroy all copies because he was embarrassed at how bad his earliest s-f was. (I got a couple of the issues, now part of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the UCRiverside research library. Yeah, ‘pretty bad” doesn’t begin to describe it.) How he hitchhiked cross-country to attend the First World Science-Fiction Convention in New York in 1939, and was not going to go to the $1.00 “banquet” because he couldn’t afford the buck. (Fellow LASFS member Forrest J Ackerman loaned it to him. There is a photograph of the L.A. fans cavorting together at Coney Island before returning home after the convention; Bradbury is grinning in the front row.) How proud he was of one of his first professional sales, about how the Earth is invaded by invulnerable aliens who are going to kill all humans, and how the humans trick them by surgically transplanting all their brains into their pet dogs & cats. (“Subterfuge”, Astonishing Stories, April 1943.) Bradbury boasted about it until another fan replied, “Yeah, and then we get to drink out of toilets for the rest of our lives.” Bradbury stopped talking about it. (I was going to say that that’s one story that you won’t find in Bradbury’s collections of his short fiction, but I see that he finally put it into, or agreed to its inclusion in, Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: A Critical Edition; Volume 1: 1938-1943; Kent State Univ. Press, April 2011.)
Eventually I met Bradbury at s-f conventions around Southern California, and he returned to the LASFS on a few occasions. When he started having stage adaptations of some of his short stories performed at local playhouses, the LASFS organized theater parties to go see them. We were all proud when Fahrenheit 451 became a major movie in 1966. Eventually the LASFS members who had known Bradbury personally dropped out (or died), and Bradbury drifted away from s-f events into more general literary and academic functions, so for the last couple of decades he became just another literary celebrity to us. But I will always treasure Bradbury’s early s-f & horror fantasies, and the long arguments that I had with other s-f fans as to whether the stories in The Martian Chronicles were “really s-f” or not, for leading me into imaginative – and good – literature.
The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.’
~ from Fahrenheit 451
I woke up to the news that Ray Bradbury, one of the hugest icons in Science Fiction, had died. This has been a horrible year for book lovers. We have lost Maurice Sendak, Carlos Fuentes, Lee Dillon, Jean Craighead George and others. While these authors and illustrators have lived long and full lives, bringing wonder, enjoyment and beauty to millions of people, they are deeply missed and their passing felt keenly.
A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?
~ From Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury was a huge influence on me and to all AmoXcalli’s writers. One of the first books I read of his was Fahrenheit 451 and it made me think. It was my first experience with dystopia and was one of the reasons I took television away from my own children years later (they still grumble about it 20 years later but they are prodigious readers). After Fahrenheit, I fell in love with Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes. I can’t imagine a life without those well worn covers on my shelves or a life without his gift for words and language or his flair for styling a story.
We’re nothing more than dust jackets for books, of no significance otherwise.” — Granger from Fahrenheit 451
Others from AmoXcalli will be posting their own thoughts and, as is our custom, we will be collecting links about him here. Rest in peace Ray Bradbury and thank you for a lifetime of beautiful words. I like to think that he followed the Transit of Venus and left this world piloting the planet as it crossed the sun.
The first book I read by Ray Bradbury was Something Wicked This Way Comes. I remembered liking the book, but didn’t retain remembering who wrote it. I saw it mainly as “just one of those books I was assigned”. It wouldn’t be until years later when another book – again assigned as reading, but this time in high school – would make an impact forever.
This would be the first time I ever read a required book in school that made me cry. Ever since sixth grade I knew with conviction I wanted to be a writer. So now I found myself reading a book proposing a world in which the written word is destroyed. The thought that anyone might even want to do that was devastating enough; the fact Bradbury created such a world where it seemed possible with such believability amazed me. It also changed my definitions of what I perceived as “science fiction” – another fact for which I am forever grateful. Also, when I was reminded that he’d written Something Wicked This Way Comes, this also impressed me. I’ve now never forgotten that book.
My exposure to Ray Bradbury’s worked increased greatly once I moved to Los Angeles. It turns out that my longtime friend and now fiance’ Kevin Paul Shaw Broden considers Mr. Bradbury to be one of his most favorite authors. Through Kevin, I finally gained exposure to The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, The Toynbee Convector… and more I can’t think of right now. I still can’t believe Ray Bradbury’s gone.
Every year, Kevin and I made sure that on our list of things to do at Comic-Con, we always went to the Ray Bradbury panel. This year we’ll be fitting in the tribute panel, I suspect. It better be Standing Room Only. Mr. Bradbury deserved no less.
A few years back when Worldcon was in Anaheim, I also went to Mr. Bradbury’s panel there. Afterwards as we all filed out, he came out the door near where I was and some people approached him and started crowding around. Part of me wanted to go up to him – he was so very close – but for some reason I didn’t want to crowd him there in the Convention Center hall. I think part of me will always regret that.
Farewell, Ray Bradbury.
— Shannon Muir, Writer/Reviewer for AmoXcalli
Watch this wonderful little documentary, Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer by David L. Wolper.
“#9 in the national best selling RCN space adventure series.
Captain Daniel Leary with his friend–and spy–Officer Adele Mundy are sent to a quiet sector to carry out an easy task: helping the local admiral put down a coup before it takes place. But then the jealous admiral gets rid of them by sending them off on a wild goose chase to a sector where commerce is king and business is carried out by extortion and gunfights.
With anarchy and rebellion in the air, a rogue intelligence officer plots the war that will destroy civilization and enlists the help of a brute whom even torturers couldn’t stomach.
And, of course, it’s up to Leary and Mundy to put a stop to the madness.” (publisher’s synopsis)
Each of David Drake’s Republic of Cinnabar Navy interstellar adventures begins with an Author’s Note explaining where he got his idea. This novel is a space opera expansion of a brief mention in Livy’s history of Rome from its beginning to the death of Augustus in 14 A.D., about the chaos in Northern Italy following the end of the Second Punic War in 201 B.C. “Northern Italy at the end of the third century BC was a patchwork of Roman colonies and allies, Celtic tribes recently conquered by Rome, and independent tribes, mostly Celtic. A man calling himself Hamilcar and claiming to be a Carthaginian raised a rebellion against Rome. In the course of it he sacked cities and destroyed a Roman army sent against him. Nobody was really sure where Hamilcar came from. […] The point that particularly interested me was that the Roman Senate reacted by sending an embassy to Carthage, demanding that the Carthaginians withdraw their citizen under the terms of the peace treaty. […] Livy’s account got me thinking about the problems that the envoys would have had. […]” (pgs. ix-x).
The Road of Danger is a direct sequel to Drake’s What Distant Deeps. In it, the Republic of Cinnabar (Rome) and the Alliance of Free Stars (Carthage) have finally declared a truce to their long-running war; or more exactly, both sides are exhausted. But unlike the historic Rome and Carthage, Cinnabar and the Alliance are still equal in power. “Neither superpower could resume the conflict without collapse: forty years of nearly constant warfare had strained both societies to the breaking point.” (p. 1) Captain Daniel Leary and his subordinate, Communications Officer Adele Mundy, of the sometimes-RCN Princess Cecile (a space yacht that Leary has heavily armed) and their loyal crew, are sent to deliver an important message to a Cinnabar admiral in a backwater space region on the Cinnabar-Alliance border, and then place themselves under his orders. The admiral, jealous of Leary’s past successes, sends him on what is meant to be a potentially-fatal wild-goose mission. The Macotta Region of the galaxy is a hodgepodge of Cinnabar and Alliance planets, independent planets loosely allied to one or the other superpowers, and truly independent planets (that the superpowers do not consider worth annexing). The Funnel Cluster in the Macotta Region is mostly Alliance-controlled. When a revolt breaks out on Sunbright in the Funnel Cluster, it would normally be considered an Alliance internal affair, except that the Alliance charges that the rebel leader claims to be a Cinnabar citizen with backing from the Cinnabar government. The Alliance has formally protested and demanded that Cinnabar stop the four-year-old rebellion. The Cinnabar admiral commanding the Macotta Region sends Leary in the Princess Cecile, without any backup, to “solve” the problem. Leary recognizes that if it is genuine, it could force the Alliance for its interstellar prestige into resuming the war against Cinnabar that neither wants.
This is the background for another space opera adventure of interstellar derring-do and political intrigue. Instead of going to Sunbright openly as a Cinnabar government representative, Leary and his crew disguise the “Sissie” as a neutral Kostroman space yacht owned by a Kostroman noblewoman (Mundy in disguise), rich but of dubious morality, touring the stars; while Leary, also in disguise, joins the crew of an Alliance civilian blockade runner chartered to deliver a cargo of weapons to the Sunbright rebels. Leary and Mundy discover separately that Everybody Is No Damn Good: both sides of the “rebellion” are corrupt local politicians and merchants hoping to line their own pockets, or petty warlords building their own personal armies, or perverts out to destabilize society so they can practice their own perversion without any local government to stop them. The only honest party in the whole affair is the Sunbright rebel leader, a naïve young idealist who has gotten disgusted after realizing that the “oppressed peasants” are as brutal as their oppressors, and who has become a helpless figurehead of his corrupt subordinates. He is more than ready to return to Cinnabar with Leary, if the latter can figure out how to get them out of the hellhole and end the “rebellion” in a manner that will defuse the Cinnnabar-Alliance tensions. There is lots of bluffing, macho face-offs, outright murders and assassinations, deals and betrayals, and space naval action when Leary and the Princess Cecile confront a more powerful gunboat of one of their enemies.
The main complaint is endemic to this series: Drake does not convincingly dress up the various primitive tribes of pre-civilized Europe, or the Scandinavian viking societies, into futuristic interstellar nations. It is hard to swallow that a space-traveling multiplanet government would be controlled by so many independent trigger-happy local despots and ungovernable guerrilla warlords. But the action is non-stop, and Leary and Mundy and their crew are charismatic underdogs who always satisfyingly confound (or kill) their adversaries. The Road of Danger is #9 in a series that will probably go on for some time to come.
A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids’ Comics: Choosing Titles Your Children Will Love
Author: Scott Robins and Snow Wildsmith
Foreward: Jeff Smith & Vijaya Iyer
Publisher: Krause Publications (May 31, 2012)
What kid doesn’t love comics? The colors, the drawings, the easy and short format make comics both appealing and fun for kids and publishers know this so there’s a ton out there. The world of comics and graphic novels can be hard to navigate for a parent. Enter Snow Wildsmith and Scott Robins with their practical and comprehensive guide to help you out.
The guide is incredibly detailed and well-made. There are sections by age group and type of comic. Each page is covered with glossy images and good details on each series or comic, making it both as fun as the comics it addresses and visually appealing for parents and kids.
At my house, the grandkids got to it first – six year Aiden specifically. They have permission to open my mail if it looks like books and they love letting me know I have book mail. By the time I got home from work and was handed the book, it was covered in Post-it highlighting stickies. Aiden had already selected all the comics he liked and made sure I knew that the yellow stickies were his. Jasmine’s predictably, were the pink ones. They’d both pored over the guide and I have a long list. They found old favorites too, books I’d reviewed and books I’d judged for the Cybils, so the guide also became a source of much discussion. We jabbered on for hours about comics and what they liked about them and what they looked for. I didn’t expect that. I was expecting a book for parents. This is much, much more.
I highly recommend buying A PARENT’S GUIDE TO THE BEST KIDS’ COMICS not just for the great recommendations, but for the fun you and your kids will have going through the book. Since it promotes literary discussion, it’s highly educational for both parents and children and will foster of a love of reading that will last a lifetime.
I’m not surprised at how well the book is done or how organized it is. Snow was on a Graphic Novel panel on the Cybils with me years ago and I remember being very impressed with her insight and knowledge of the genre. If you have kids in your life, you NEED this guide. It’s perfect for librarians and teachers as well.
About the Authors
Snow Wildsmith has served on committees for the American Library Association and Young Adult Library Services Association. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2.com, Good Comics for Kids and Robin Brenner’s No Flying No Tights. She also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco’s NoveList database. McFarland will publish her first books for teens, a nonfiction series on joining the military, in 2012.
Scott Robins is a librarian at the Toronto Public Library and an advocate for children’s graphic novels. He is a contributing blogger for Good Comics for Kids via School Library Journal.com, and is the children’s programming director for the annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival. He has also served on the graphic novel selection committee for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Best Books for Kids and Teens in 2010 and 2011 and was a jury member of the 2011 Joe Shuster Awards in the “Comics for Kids” category
Disclosure: A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review via the publisher, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.