Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?

Should somebody tell Kate DiCamillo that the protagonist of a children’s book should be a child? Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? is the third book of her tales from Deckawoo Drive, available from Candlewick on August 2. Illustrator Chris Van Dusen alerts us with his art, even before we begin, that it has been a long, long time since Baby Lincoln was actually an infant.

Baby Lincoln enjoys a very good dream where she is traveling on a speedy train through a night filled with shooting stars on a necessary journey. Rudely awakened by her older sister who still calls her by the childhood nickname, the day begins with Eugenia giving Baby instructions on goals for the day that she has to write down. For the first time in their gray-headed lives, Baby rebels against her older sister. Her dream has given her this necessary journey that she must take.

Aided and abetted by her next door neighbor Stella, who does happen to be a child, she purchases a ticket to Fluxom since she doesn’t have enough money to go to Calaband Darsh. Her travel gives Baby and the reader a delightful trip with some interesting travel companions, once she learns to answer to her real name of Lucille. Make that Lucille Abigail Eleanor Lincoln – but she doesn’t really need to use all of that.

Back to my original question of telling Kate about using children to star in children’s books – she’s not going to hear it from me. This tale will delight a kid reader or an adult who is reading it aloud. One word of caution. Have a bowl of jellybeans ready to munch as you read. You’ll be glad you did.


Moon Landing!

July 20, 1969 is one of those dates that bring memories of where one was and what was happening when the event appeared on the small screen TV. Exactly 47 years later, the Smithsonian has begun a year-long display of artifacts from Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” A trip to see it might make a good bucket list item.

While I shared the excitement of this great achievement, I must confess the first occasion that comes to my mind when someone mentions 1969 is not the moon landing but an event that occurred one month and one day before – the birth of our only daughter. (I apologize, Anna, for giving away your age.) We had been hoping for such an event for at least three years, so I hope you’ll excuse us if a Red Cross message to her father in Korea informing him that he had a baby girl has slightly more significance in the Butler family than the moon landing. This was back in the day when the obstetrician’s announcement at delivery settled the blue or pink question.

Our first big event of 1969 does color where I was and what I was doing as I watched the news of the second. My memories include sharing the excitement of the moon landing with an inquisitive five-year-old son while I juggled care of the new baby with making tapes and writing letters to an APO address in Korea. 1969 was a very significant year.


Bears at the Kaigler Book Festival

Normally, I don’t think about wild animals when I anticipate the annual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival. Two bears showed up at the one held this past April. In fact, bears almost looked like a theme for the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and New Illustrator Honor Awards.

In Julia Sarcone-Roach’s The Bear Ate Your Sandwich, one hungry bear follows a scent from his forest, across a long bridge, and into the city to find your sandwich, which he ate. Of course, he needed to travel back to home and safety and he did. Think that’s the end of the story? Guess again. I won’t spoil the ending which will give a major set of giggles to you and the preschooler listening on your lap.

The second bear in Mother Goose Bruce by Ryan H. Higgins, is grumpy and also hungry. He finds a gourmet recipe for eggs on the internet, collects all the ingredients, and prepares to cook them. Instead, they hatch and imprint on Bruce as their mother. He hilariously spends the rest of the book trying to rid himself of his “children.” This ending will also bring on the giggles.

Of course this led to a dilemma since I have two preschool grandchildren. Which bear do I buy? You probably have already guessed the answer. Both. Birthdays are coming up in August and November. Books are signed and ready.

I thought I was finished, but today I noticed that Ryan’s bear shows up again in Hotel Bruce, coming out in October.


Shameless Self-promotion

Little did I know fifteen years ago where my discovery would lead when I walked into the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection display room and found an exhibition of the life and works of Ezra Jack Keats. For those who are not from here (and some who are but are unaware), Dr. Lena Y. de Grummond began a letter writing campaign in 1966 to writers and illustrators for memorabilia that showed the process of producing children’s books to share with her graduate students in the library school at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her small collection has grown to papers from more than 1,300 authors and illustrators and a book collection of more than 180,000 volumes. Some of those authors, including Keats, chose the collection to house their extensive archives.

Beginning with inspiration I found that day for an article “Celebrate Variety” that was published in Highlights for Children, one door has opened to another. When time came for the fiftieth anniversary edition of The Snowy Day, I was invited to be the researcher through 180 or so boxes of correspondence, memorabilia, and original writings and paintings. My meticulous notes have allowed me to share with other researchers as they have visited the collection. Keats own words and those of his friends and colleagues have opened a door for my presentation called “From Katz to Keats” that I have given for groups from kindergarten to grandparents.

My latest open door has given me a way to share the story with my blog readers. Invited into the collection again early this year, I was asked to write his story and find items to illustrate a video for the 100th anniversary celebration of Keats’s birth at the Ezra Jack Keats New Writers and New Illustrators Awards luncheon. The following link will take you to the video produced by the library school at the university, posted on the de Grummond website, for your viewing pleasure when you have about fifteen minutes. Enjoy!


Moving the Magnet

What can I say that hasn’t been said? What can I do that hasn’t been done? These are two questions that have run through my mind as I’ve realized a lighthearted blog just wasn’t going to cut it after the bombardment of news from this past week.

As I begin to write, another question arises. How can I write without creating misunderstanding that only adds to the problem? Wrestling with this one, I know that silence is the coward’s way out, and I can’t trip merrily along with so much pain in the atmosphere.  

Maybe the biggest question is, since I’m just one, what possible difference can I make?

I’ve started by moving a magnet on my refrigerator, given to me several years ago by a friend who values all people. The people on the magnet have hairstyles, skin colors, and dress that are different from mine. Their culture and traditions are, too.

Since the refrigerator is one of my most frequent ports of call, if I put it at eyelevel with a space around it, I’m likely to notice. Maybe seeing it frequently will remind me to pay attention to the unique human beings that make our world interesting, people I often see without seeing.

Just maybe, the magnet will raise my consciousness that every person I meet feels joy and pain, jubilance and sorrow, companionship and loneliness, success and discouragement, that every person is a fellow traveler through life and may need a hand over a speed bump.

Back to the big question. I’m just one, what possible difference can I make? Maybe not a whole lot. But I can pay attention to the marvelous variety of people I meet, knowing that each of them has value. I can look them in the eye. I can smile, maybe even ask, “How are you?” and really listen to their answer. It’s not much, but it’s a start.