Wednesday, January 31, 2007

SQUIDS 101: Commonly Confused Homophones

I often see these common homophones confused online and in printed matter, and I thought a quick and handy guide might be of use to readers. All definitions are taken or adapted from; all examples, as will become clear very quickly, are my own.

complement: (n) something that completes or makes perfect; (v) to complete; form a complement to.
The squid's hot-pink tentacles were the perfect complement to her sterling-silver skin.
compliment: (n) an expression of praise, commendation, or admiration; (v) to pay a compliment to.
Squids are a highly sycophantic species; they can spend a flood of ink in compliments.

eminent: (adj) high in station, rank, or repute; prominent; distinguished; conspicuous, signal, or noteworthy; lofty; high; prominent; projecting; protruding
The Great Sand Squid of the Kalahari is the most eminent example of the rarely seen desert variety (suborder Oegopsina, family Psanditeuthidae).
imminent: (adj) likely to occur at any moment; impending
If you feel a squid attack is imminent, remember: Do not use nunchucks.

faze: (v) to cause to be disturbed or disconcerted; daunt.
The squid was unfazed by my display of underwater kung fu.
phase: (n) a stage in a process of change or development; (v) to plan or carry out systematically by phases.
Common Phrases: phase in; phase out
Many young squids go through a Goth phase; only rarely is it cause for concern.

foreword: (n) a short introductory statement in a published work, as a book, esp. when written by someone other than the author
Dr. Mollusc wrote the foreword to Madam Calamari's classic study Squids and Sensibility.
forward: many definitions, most commonly (adj/adv) onward, (adj) ready, prompt, or eager, and (v) to advance.
The squid was very forward in his approaches, and I rebuked him for his uncouth manners.

mantel: (n) An ornamental facing around or a protruding shelf over a fireplace
Where most humans would mount their prizes over the mantel, squids apparently preferred to employ them as lawn ornaments.
mantle: (n) something that covers, envelops, or conceals; a loose, sleeveless cloak or cape; a single or paired outgrowth of the body wall that lines the inner surface of the valves of the shell in mollusks and brachiopods; (v) to cover with or as if with a mantle; to flush, blush
The squid's mantle mantled chartreuse in recognition of the compliment.

peak: (n) the pointed top of anything; the highest or most important point or level; (v) to attain a peak; to become weak, thin, and sickly
Stan Stanford and the Squids' latest record, "The Cephalopod Shuffle," peaked at number 127 on the charts.
peek: (n) a quick or furtive look or glance; (v) to look or glance quickly or furtively, esp. through a small opening or from a concealed location.
Common Phrases: take a peek, sneak peek (NOT "sneak peak")
Two squids in love peek / At a sweet tentacle's touch; / Six hearts beat as one.
peke: (n abbrev, short for "Pekingese"): A small yappy dog of Chinese origin.
The squid considered today's specials: peke, bichon, pug, or chihuahua?
pique: (n) a feeling of irritation or resentment, as from a wound to pride or self-esteem. (v) to wound, to excite, to arouse an emotion or provoke to action.
Common Phrases: a fit of pique; to pique one's interest (NOT "to peak one's interest")
My poking piqued the peke on the peak to peek at the hungry squid below.

pore over: (v) to read, study, gaze at, ponder, or meditate upon something with steady attention or application
Squids and Sensibility is widely regarded as the Moby-Dick of the mollusc world, and I pored over it for hours.
pour over: (v) to issue, move, or proceed in great quantity or number: to flow forward or stream
The squids poured over the coral reef in a Teutonic display of Teuthida power.

principal: (n) One who holds a position of presiding rank, especially the head of an elementary school or high school; a main participant in a situation; the main body of an estate or financial holding as distinguished from the interest or revenue from it. (adj) First, highest, or foremost in importance, rank, worth, or degree.
My principal objections to the plan were 1) the height, 2) the giant squid, and 3) Barry Manilow.
principle: (n) a rule or standard; an essential quality
The first principle of Squid School is -- you do not talk about Squid School.

stationary: (adj) not moving; having a fixed position
The fire squid remained stationary -- but for how long?
stationery: (n) writing paper and materials
As I picked up the stationery, my heart beat like a rare Euprymna scolopes, for there, in the corner, gleamed a tiny silver squid.

Looking for Good Theatre in NYC This Weekend?

Come to the Impact Theatre Winter One-Act Festival, featuring six new works by six exciting new playwrights! My boyfriend James (who henceforth shall be called by his proper name here) directed the first show on the list, "Snow in Galveston" by Schatzie Schaefers. It's on a bill with plays entitled "CAUTION! The True Imagined Story of My Parents' Romance," "The Fears of Harold Shivvers," and "Suicide Gal, Won't You Come Out Tonight, Come Out Tonight," among others, so it ought to be an interesting, thought-provoking evening of theatre.

The Impact Theatre itself is at 190 Underhill Avenue between Sterling and St. John's Place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (Q train to 7th Ave. or the 2/3 to Grand Army Plaza). The first week of the Festival runs this Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.; tickets available here.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Jazzy, Picture Book, New York Day

Yesterday was a nice New York day. In the spirit of research for my April talk, I went to the Central Children's Room of the New York Public Library, Donnell branch, and sat down with a two-foot-high stack of excellent picture books to think about what they had in common. I made lots of notes on pacing, writing style, characterization, etc., and found I was dividing most of the books I read into two categories: "Writing" picture books, where the story was mostly carried through the words and the pictures served as illumination and spirit more than an integral part of the narrative (Bread and Jam for Frances, Strega Nona, the mouse books by Kevin Henkes, much of William Steig's wonderful oeuvre); and "Art" picture books, where the art was so integral the story would make no sense without it, and which were mostly created by artists, unsurprisingly enough. (Aren't you impressed by my imaginative category titles?) The perfect picture books are the midway ones -- Kitten's First Full Moon (which has much the same structure as Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, the same crescendoing of effort), Where the Wild Things Are -- not that the individual Art and Writing ones aren't lovely themselves. And I am not sure these categories are useful anyway. I said hello to Betsy and John Peters, who was doing an enthusiastic storytime in another room, and I read Wilfrid McDonald Gordon Partridge, which I loved, and The Paper Bag Princess, which was funny but not quite as satisfying as it could have been, I thought -- in any case, they lifted my score here to 80.

Oh, and I glanced through a book called "How to Write a Children's Book and Get It Published," by Barbara Seuling, to see what she had to say about writing picture books. It seemed excellent advice, but I was tickled by one of her chapter titles:


I don't see why those identities have to be mutually exclusive.

Then I went down to the East Village, where I had dinner in a Puerto Rican cafe on Avenue C while reading the first draft of Charm School Dropout; and thence to stand in line in the cold outside a tiny storefront on the corner of 2nd St. and C, where Cassandra Wilson was in concert. Truthfully I wanted to go home after the library -- I had a bit of a headache from my contact lenses -- but a visionary jazz singer playing at an unmarked location in the East Village was one of those "only in New York" things I felt I couldn't pass up, and I was glad I didn't. She and her band played four songs based upon Yoruban principles of music and religion: the drums a waterfall, the saxes low bird cries, the voices mourning and benedictions.

Off to church now with me; wishing equally restful and thoughtful Sundays to all of you.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Brooklyn Arden Review: "Frank's Home"

Last Saturday I went to see “Frank’s Home,” a new play by Richard Nelson at Playwrights Horizons.* The title is both a complete sentence and a noun, and laced with irony in both constructions: As a sentence, in reference to this play, it recounts the tumultuous homecoming of Frank Lloyd Wright from Japan in 1922, where he met again the children he hadn’t seen in fifteen years and a country not as confident of his genius as he was. And as a noun, it is what Mr. Wright seeks and never finds, even as he builds houses for others from his own aesthetic visions. The play is like all the best features of Mr. Wright’s houses: strong-boned; elegant; contained, but with a view to the distance; and deeply inhabited by the spirit of its source materials—that is, the historical figures who populate the play, to whom Mr. Nelson brings understanding, great sympathy, and again no small dose of gentle irony in his recognition of their humanity and contradictions.

As the play opens, Mr. Wright has just returned to the U.S. from six years in Japan. He is confident, careless, energetic, broke; an architect without a house of his own, a prophet without recognition in his own country, and, as so often happens, both a true genius in his work and an absolute bastard in his personal life. He has come to California, where his grown son (Lloyd) and daughter (Catherine) live, accompanied by his mistress, Miriam Noel, and soon joined by his mentor, one of the first major architects of the skyscraper, Louis B. Sullivan. Lloyd and Catherine hate Miriam, not least because their mother has finally agreed to give Frank a divorce, and they love and hate their father in turn: He casually denigrates Lloyd’s abilities as an architect and he’s never met (or tried to meet) Catherine’s husband. Miriam is a morphine addict who expects Frank to marry her, but he’s just as likely to send her away for her unpredictability; and Louis Sullivan is a wry alcoholic who has been eclipsed by the apprentice he now must beg for a job. And then, in the middle of this idyllic family reunion, news arrives that the Imperial Hotel in Japan, the lifework of Frank’s last half-decade and the world’s first “earthquake-proof” building . . . has been destroyed by an earthquake.

Historical plays, like historical fiction, live only as much as the characters who inhabit them, and Mr. Nelson has done masterful work here in that every character seems effortlessly real. His Frank Lloyd Wright especially has just the right degree of cruelty and charisma—he’s astoundingly attractive for the very assurance and vision that blind him to anyone else’s needs. As Frank, Peter Weller (yes, Robocop) offers a terrific performance that never slips over the top, as much as that must have been a temptation given the character’s egomania. Weller is equally matched by the rest of the fine cast: Chris Henry Coffey and Maggie Siff as Lloyd and Catherine, who each reveal the longing and hurt beneath their characters’ priggishness; Mary Beth Fisher in a brief but searing appearance as Miriam; Holley Fain as a young woman who shares Frank’s arrogance and thus manages to resist his advances; and especially the wonderful Harris Yulin (yes, Quentin Travers) as the ever-observant Louis Sullivan, a man past his prime both personally and professionally but still maintaining a worthy dignity. Special appreciation also to the lovely costumes by Susan Hilferty, which subtly enhance each individual character while uniting in a coherent and beautiful stage picture. This is an excellent play given an excellent production (transferred from Chicago’s Goodman Theatre), and worth seeing by all students of architecture and character.

Through February 18; for tickets, see the discount here.
* Full disclosure: Playwrights Horizons offers me comp tickets to previews of its shows in exchange for posting a discount offer and a review of the play here on my blog. I am allowed to say whatever I like regarding these shows, and I do, as you can see from my reviews here and here. Many thanks to the PH staff for the opportunity.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Full of Cheers

I am going over the copyediting queries for Jaclyn Moriarty's wonderful next novel, The Spellbook of Listen Taylor (to be published in Fall 2007), and I've just discovered this very cool feature on Whenever you look up a word, the bottom entry provides not only an English definition, but translation of that word into twenty-eight other languages! Thus I can tell you that "plate glass" is not only two words in English (in its noun form, anyway; the adjective can be compounded or hyphenated), but it is "lembaran kaca" in Indonesian; "telefonstolpe" is Norwegian for "telegraph pole"; and "hood" translates not just to "Capuchon" in French -- meaning it probably gave its name to the Capuchin monks, and perhaps the monkeys too? -- but also "cappuccio" in Italian; so the drink name, I'm guessing, derives from the hood of foam over the top of the coffee. This could provide just hours of distracting fun: Yay language and etymology!

Also, in completely unrelated but equally cool news, a documentary that my boyfriend worked on has just been nominated for an Oscar! It's called "My Country, My Country," about a doctor in Iraq under the American occupation, and he (the boyfriend) served as assistant editor. Yay him!

Lisa Yee has posted the winners in her Bodacious Book Title Contest, which was judged by Michael Stearns and yours truly. Yay Lisa and winners!

And did you hear George W. Bush mention health-care credits, climate change, and balancing the budget in his speech tonight? I'm reserving the hoorays on this for real action; but it's nice to see him becoming a Democrat -- or at the least, a rational and responsible Republican -- at last.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Okay, I Lied

Having bragged/whined/self-aggrandized my getting to work on a Saturday at the end of the last post, I immediately thought, "Wait! The second half of Zadie Smith's essay was supposed to go up today!" And indeed it has, and is here. It's much too rich to unpack now, because I do need to work, but there was one line that stood out for me in relation to that work: "Fiction confronts you with the awesome fact that you are not the only real thing in this world."

This articulated for me exactly why I love Lisa Yee's "Millie trilly" so much -- because you are first drawn into Millicent's viewpoint, and you think her perspective on events is the definitive account, the only real thing in the world; then you read Stanford's viewpoint, and you realize how much you missed when you were reading Millie's POV -- how much of his pain and sensitivity she was unable or unwilling to see or admit, or simply didn't know. And then you read Emily's take on things and you realize how much both Millicent and Stanford underestimate her according to their particular tastes and needs: Millicent sees her as unintelligent and has to learn to appreciate her emotionalism and heart, while Stanford sees her as the perfect girl and has to come to accept her complications. And of course Emily has a whole journey of her own with her parents, recognizing these same limits and possibilities. Each book, read in concert with the others, reminds us how limited our viewpoints are and becomes an argument for greater empathy toward us all. Quoting Smith again: "Both the writer and the reader must undergo an ethical expansion -- allow me to call it an expansion of the heart -- in order to comprehend the human otherness that fiction confronts them with. . . . That writing and reading should be such difficult arts reminds us of how frequently our own subjectivity fails us. We do not know people as we think we know them. The world is not only as we say it is." And great fiction, like Lisa's, reminds us of that every day.


How long has this week been? So long I can't even come up with a clever title for a blog post.

  • I had some friends over for chili earlier this week and made two of the recipes from the comments here -- both ones that involve chocolate, which I couldn't resist: Mrs. Pilkington's vegetarian variety, and the meaty "Laura's Chili" from facelesswords. They were both terrific, so thanks very much to those commenters and to all of you who left recipes.
  • I also made my mother's signature Ramen Noodle Salad, which we Kleins break out for pretty much every potluck and picnic we attend, thanks to its ease and deliciousness:

Becky Klein's Ramen Noodle Salad

  • 1 package precut cole-slaw mix
  • 2 packages ramen-noodle soup mix, beef or Oriental flavor
  • 2 bunches green onion, chopped
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Slivered almonds as desired (optional)

Mix the slaw mix, ramen noodles (crushed), onions, and almonds. Separately combine the liquid ingredients, sugar, and seasoning from the ramen-noodle packets. Toss salad with dressing and serve immediately. Yum!

  • I finally saw "Casino Royale" last night -- also yum. I went in thinking I wasn't going to like Daniel Craig as Bond -- too lined, too thuggish -- but his smile and the intensity of both his performance and the movie won me over.
  • And last week I saw "Pan's Labyrinth." It's definitely not for children, even though it's partly about children's stories, and I recommend it if you can stand bloody, sometimes gratuitous violence. More commentary, but also spoilers, if you highlight what follows: What most impressed and depressed me was the ending, because it isn't often that writers/filmmakers/fantasists of whatever sort are willing to admit that sometimes stories are only stories, no matter how beautiful they are, and they can't heal and comfort and fix everything -- that sometimes they're just escape, not rescue, and escape isn't enough. It's a gutsy move on Guillermo del Toro's part, considering his audience would be primarily aesthetes like him and me, and it left me feeling, "Well, my job is pointless . . ."
  • Also thinking about my job: I don't often watch "American Idol," but I like the audition shows for the sheer range of characters they display, and my heart hurt this week for poor Nicholas of Salt Lake City. After he gave a truly awful rendition of "Unchained Melody," Simon barked, "What the bloody hell was that?" and Nick answered, in a tiny voice, "That was me." It wasn't a put-on line -- Nick was speaking from his heart, just as he sang from his heart -- and I wish Simon had tempered his criticism a little more after that, as he seemed to do for the overweight man toward the end of the show (sorry, but I can't remember his name). . . . Actually, Simon's critiques reminded a lot of Jane Austen, in that the fools and villains in Austen's novels are people with either no self-awareness or no humility or both; and while Simon, like Austen, always called things exactly as he saw them, the degree of vitriol in both creators' judgements felt generally in proportion to their subject's arrogance or lack of talent. Though also sometimes neither one of them can resist getting in a good line. . . .
  • Finally, for any of you who think editors are slackers: I am now going to work, and I'm planning to work tomorrow too. From home, granted, but.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I have a mad writer crush on Zadie Smith

because she writes things like this:

[Once] you have removed all the dead language, the second-hand dogma, the truths that are not your own but other people's, the mottos, the slogans, the out-and-out lies of your nation, the myths of your historical moment - once you have removed all that warps experience into a shape you do not recognise and do not believe in - what you are left with is something approximating the truth of your own conception. That is what I am looking for when I read a novel; one person's truth as far as it can be rendered through language.

and this:
Writers fail us when that interface is tailored to our needs, when it panders to the generalities of its day, when it offers us a world it knows we will accept having already seen it on the television. Bad writing does nothing, changes nothing, educates no emotions, rewires no inner circuitry - we close its covers with the same metaphysical confidence in the universality of our own interface as we did when we opened it. But great writing - great writing forces you to submit to its vision. You spend the morning reading Chekhov and in the afternoon, walking through your neighbourhood, the world has turned Chekhovian; the waitress in the cafe offers a non- sequitur, a dog dances in the street.

and this:
Readers fail when they allow themselves to believe the old mantra that fiction is the thing you relate to and writers the amenable people you seek out when you want to have your own version of the world confirmed and reinforced. That is certainly one of the many things fiction can do, but it's a conjurer's trick within a far deeper magic.

Marilyn asked a long time ago what I thought constituted good prose, or good style, and I've been thinking about the question for a while. My answer thus far is "observation and surprise" -- observation, that the writer tells the truth as s/he sees it, and it's a human truth one recognizes (if not necessarily relates to immediately); and surprise, in that I have never seen this truth described that way before, and the newness and rightness of it delights me. Ms. Smith's essay here touches on this question of style and others, and is eminently worth reading; many thanks to Monica for pointing it out.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Drinks Night Reminder, and Y, oh Y?

A reminder: Drinks night Thursday! Put on your sparkly shoes and come buy a drink for Betsy to relieve her pre-Newbery stress. Sweet & Vicious, on Spring St. between Elizabeth and the Bowery, 6 p.m.

Also, my laptop here at home seems to have a bizarre virus wherein every fifty times I type a "y" (I am guessing at the number), it kicks my cursor up or down a few lines to the middle of another word. I have no idea what causes this, and of course it never works when I want it to test it scientifically, e.g. typing "sysysysysysyys" etc. for the length of a line, but it occurs often enough to be really distracting. Has anyone ever seen this kind of thing before, or know what's making it happen? Thanks for any tips!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

FAQ #6: Why does it take editors so long to respond to manuscripts?

So you are a polite, mild-mannered children's book editor sitting at home on a Saturday evening, waiting to meet your boyfriend for a night out with some friends. You have 45 minutes to kill, and quite a bit of work you've brought home with you; so do you

A) Review the copyedit for the dauntingly long (but excellent) Fall 2007 novel, which will be due back to the production department within two weeks
B) Respond to the author under contract, who has written asking a few questions about your latest editorial letter, and who needs an answer to progress with her revision
C) Respond to an author who isn't under contract (but whom you like a great deal), who has written asking a few questions about a recent editorial letter and request for revision, and who likely won't move forward with full confidence until you write back
D) Read an agented manuscript, as the agent will need a response within a month if not sooner
E) Read an unagented requested revision
F) Read an unagented new manuscript
G) Work on your talk for April, which requires planning long in advance, and which has been retitled "Words, Wisdom, Heart, and Art: Making a Picture-Book Cookie"? (This title will make much more sense in practice than it does on the screen.)

Of course, if you were in the office, you would have even more choices/responsibilities, including:

H) Follow up on foreign projects
I) Respond to questions from the Legal department about contracts
J) Prepare materials for Acquisitions meeting
K) Line-edit a manuscript under contract (not right now, but a couple are coming in soon)
L) Write rejection letters
M) Write offer letters
N) Write editorial letters
O) Attend meetings
P) Basic office work: phones, mail, filing

And so forth. But because you're at home instead, the options include

Q) Read something for pleasure
R) Surf the Web
S) Talk to your sister
T) Procrastinate fifteen other enjoyable ways
U) Scrub the bathtub so you feel at least mildly productive, and
V) Write a blog post about your dilemma in deciding

So -- what would you do on a Saturday night?

I chose (U) and (V), because it is a Saturday night, so I didn't feel like getting deeply involved in work, and the bathtub was really water-stained. But I wanted to write this up precisely to illustrate the amount of work there is to do as an editor, and the number of choices and competing priorities I'm faced with when it comes to how to spend my time. So if you ever wonder why an editor isn't responding to your manuscript as quickly as you'd hope, it's not personal -- it's A-P, and the desire to preserve enough of a life for ourselves that we can have Q-V as well.

ETA: For more thoughts on this, from both me and many writers, please see the comments.

Discount Theatre Tickets: "Frank's Home"

Playwrights Horizons is once again kind enough to offer a discount on their new show to my blog readers. From the press release:

A new play by Richard Nelson
Directed by Robert Falls
January 13 – February 18, 2007

It is summer 1923, and architect Frank Lloyd Wright (Peter Weller, “24,” “Robocop,” “Naked Lunch”) has recently left Chicago for California, determined to embrace Hollywood's youthful zest and mend broken relationships with his adult children. Having completed his latest "wonder of the world" – Tokyo's Imperial Hotel – Wright is poised to settle down and embrace his new home. But his splintered family still holds deep-seated resentments. Frank's Home is a lyrical, heartbreaking story about one of our greatest, if less than perfect, visionaries – a man who created a new architectural vocabulary but couldn't create a home for himself and his family. Joining Mr. Weller in the cast are Harris Yulin (Fran’s Bed; Arts & Leisure) as renowned Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, Chris Henry Coffey, Holley Fain, Mary Beth Fisher, Maggie Siff, Jeremy Strong, and Jay Whittaker.

Discount: Order by January 30th and receive $40 tickets (reg. $65) for performances thru Jan. 21, $50 thru Feb. 18. Mention code "FHBL" to receive the discount.

Voice: call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 (Noon-8pm daily)
In Person: Visit the Ticket Central Box Office, 416 W 42nd Street (Noon-8pm daily)

An Inconvenient Warmth

I just walked down the street in a short-sleeve t-shirt.

Some cherry trees are in bloom at the Botanic Garden.

The current temperature: 70 degrees.

It is January 6.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Two Drinks Nights for the Price of One!

Yes, that's right! Betsy and I are scheduling kid-lit bloggers' drinks nights for both January and February to get not only all that pre-ALA gossip goodness, but the pleasure of you SCBWI Winter Conferencees' company. The first: January 11 (next Thursday), at our regular hangout Sweet & Vicious, 6 p.m.-ish. Be there and catch up. The second: Friday, February 9 -- stay tuned to fusenumber8 for details. Now if only we could offer you two drinks for the price of one. . . .

Thoughts + 2007 = ?

Happy New Year! I've been back in New York for just about thirty-six hours now, and pretty much completed the process of transferring my brain from Missouri/vacation life to New York/work/"real" life. Katy's wedding weekend was lovely, personal and meaningful and comfortable and homey, with quiz bowl questions and a mariachi band and delightfully non-matching bridesmaids' dresses (I wore my sister's sophomore-year prom dress, deep red with spaghetti straps and a bell skirt) and IHOP. Pictures to come when I have them.

In the meantime, I've also chosen the topic for my Los Angeles SCBWI talk in April: picture books, as several people suggested, with the working title Words + Art = ?: The Art and Architecture of Picture Books. Actually, that title sounds both pretentious and overambitious to me right now, but it is usefully (and purposely) general, as I have vague ideas about what I want to address (emotion, story development, page layout, what makes a good manuscript) but no idea really how it will come out. I write talks very much as I used to write English papers: I find something that interests me and assemble all the relevant material I can, then I comb through that material for a thesis/through-line, then I construct the argument with supporting evidence from the material, revising the thesis/through-line as I go. Right now my planned relevant material includes Uri Shulevitz's Writing with Pictures, Perry Nodelman's Words about Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children's Picture Books, Molly Bang's Picture This, the brain of Arthur A. Levine (which I hope to pick, as he's a genius at editing the things*), and probably a day at the Donnell Children's Library with a very tall stack of books. Anything else I should be looking at? (Though I can't let myself get too caught up in the research, delicious as it is . . . "Read like a butterfly, write like a bee," as Philip Pullman says.)

Tonight I was listening to "Company" and thinking how a good picture book is like a really good song in a musical: The words are like the lyrics, defining the ideas, action, character, and point of the song, while the illustrations are the music, providing the appropriate background, atmosphere, and support for the ideas set forth in the words. Maybe there's a better title in that idea somewhere. Or I can just draw on "Sesame Street" (which my brother-in-law and I watched over the break):

Sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things, not bad
Sing of happy, not sad

Sing a song
Make it simple
To last your whole life long
Don't worry if it's not good enough
for anyone else to hear . . .
Just sing
Sing a song

* If you have any doubt, you should check out The End by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Richard Egielski -- a brilliantly constructed and illustrated backwards fairy tale, with two starred reviews and counting.