Monday, November 24, 2003

Barfing Chihuahuas

Or barfing chewwhooeewhooees as one of my sisters would have said when we were kids.

I am referring to Pablo, Joey Pigza's pet in Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos. I am a huge fan of this writer, and this book reinforces my respect. The Joey Pigza books are well-known for being about a boy with ADHD. I think that's beside the point. The quality of the writing is so fantastic--the characterization of Joey, his family, even his teachers in the first book. These books should be known for that, not because they are problem books or case studies.

The reviewer I linked you to above says he/she was surprised after reading Joey Pigza Loses Control to find that it was written for 8 to 12 year olds. That's my feeling about the Joey Pigza books, too. They seem to speak to me, the grown-up. I've heard from a fourth grade teacher who says she read the first one aloud to her class and they loved it. Gantos is a writer who anyone can read.

In this one, Joey's dad appears. He's an adult with untreated ADD. My heart is breaking for both characters.

A lot of authors would have turned the Pigza books into "disability of the week" stories. Gantos does so much more than that.

Here is an interview with Jack Gantos in which he describes how he became interested in Joey Pigza.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Power To The!

While mulling over my attempt to write a picture book, which I may or may not have mentioned here at some point, I decided to spend some time reading some. My favorite during last week's research excursion was Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type
by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin. I've been hearing about this book for a while. It definitely lives up to its reputation.

Click, Clack, Moo involves some cows who learn to type and are thus able to communicate with their farmer. The book is a powerful and moving lesson in collective bargaining. Child readers will learn that laborers--in this case cows--are powerful when they "herd" together and act as one. In our story the union movement spreads, just as it does in real life, though in this case it spreads to the chickens and ducks on the farm.

Why do clever, fun picture books become so popular? Yeah, sure, kids might like them. But, remember, it's a rare preschooler who can read. Mom and Dad have to read to them. So picture book authors have to capture both audiences.

Oh, woe. My work is cut out for me.

This book has generated so much interest that you can find lessons and activities designed around it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

A Highbrow Evening

Last week I was a guest at an independent bookstore that was holding a Teacher Appreciation Night. While sitting in my author chair, not too far from the cash register, I overheard a lengthy discussion about a picture book called Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glen Murray. Some women (teachers, because this was Teacher Appreciaton Night, and I believe the store was closed to everyone else) were just delighted with the thing, which the store owner said they had trouble keeping on the shelf.

One of the store employees suggested the women might like to consider another book called Farley Farts by Birte Muller and Marianne Martens. The bookseller even read portions of Farley aloud. It sounded pretty good to me.

However, the customer decided to buy Walter the Farting Dog instead of Farley Farts because she thought Walter was "more realistic." It's like they say, folks, you just can't make this stuff up.

Walter the Farting Dog is very famous.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Rory's Book Club

I am not a fan of the Gilmore Girls, myself, finding it just a little too cute and unbelievable. Am I the only one who thinks that mother and daughter get along way too well? And I know Connecticut. Wherever that place is that they're supposed to be living, it is notConnecticut.

However, on one of my travels through the Net, I found Rory's Book Club, which is a site for people (I assume mostly girls but, hey, I'm not restricting this) who want to be more like Rory. The site is a list of books to read to make you more like Rory with links so that you can find out more about them. The list includes "the books smart people everywhere have been talking about" as well as classics. It looks as if you can also give them some feedback.

This is an extremely well-intentioned site, the goal being to encourage reading and promote "smart people" as cool. The books do seem to be a little on the heavy side, though. Except for David Sedaris' Me Talk Funny One Day (which I loved, btw), there isn't much in the way of laughs here. Come on, Rory! You got into Yale. Lighten up.

Monday, November 10, 2003

My Heart Is Breaking...

...over Joey Pigza Swallowed the Keyby Jack Gantos (see Oct. 3 post). Joey suffers from ADD, and I do mean suffers. His trials, his inability to control himself, are painful to read about.

This is due, in large part, to the incredible writing of Jack Gantos. I am a definite fan and looking forward to the next Joey book, which just happens to be upstairs in my library basket.

I don't mean to suggest that Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is not a tragedy. There is hope for our boy. And I wonder if child readers find Joey's problems as painful as this mom who has known plenty of ADD kids does.

Doesn't matter. A good book is a good book.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Cooking With Gail

A couple of weeks ago I did my first author talk of the school year. During the first hour I spoke with some fifth graders at a school in Massachusetts. This was probably the most perfect moment in presentations that I've ever had. I was cooking and the kids were connecting. I told them about how when I was a teenager I hated hearing adults tell me "Write what you know" and that I was determined to show everyone that I was right and they were wrong. The kids broke into spontaneous applause!!!

Then while we were brainstorming this boy had this great idea for a story that involved aliens trying to take over the Earth and being destroyed by something simple like...farting!

And then I ate lunch in the cafeteria with the fifth graders. This was a big deal for me because usually the people running these things won't let me into the cafeterias. They're afraid I won't survive the experience. Hey! I know taekwondo! I have the heart of a warrior!

I'm still all excited.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Burning and Crashing

I see my last entry dealt with a disasterous day. And it was a while ago. Well, see, I was on this fanatastic new organizational plan that was supposed to make my life less cluttered and overwhelming making it possible for me to be more creative. Which is sort of about writing so it's okay to talk about it here. And I had been doing it for 5 weeks. A new behavior that lasts 6 weeks is a habit, or so I've read. I had only 1 week left to go! But I had to be away from home a couple of Mondays in a row and then I was in a school for a day and then I was working on the tailend of a 2nd draft, which always makes me very obsessive and angst-ridden.

But I'm all better now!

And I have lots of interesting things to write about. But since I believe blogs should be short, I'll wait until tomorrow.