Archive for February, 2009

Tonight…. toniiiiiight…

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Tonight we have a sitter!  And so we are going to see our amazing friend Lucy at Eddie’s Attic.  She is singing songs with her papa.  It will be sweeeeeet!

There will be adult beverages and maybe even uninterrupted conversation.


Crazy week of flurries…

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

So, ever since the Nextbook story posted, I’ve been involved in some truly remarkable conversations about childrens’ books for Jews.  I’ve had journalists calling, and emails from Jewish organizations.  It’s been AWESOME!

Funny– I asumed people would get mad at me for taking this position.  Instead, it seems everyone agrees with me!

Omnivoracious (Amazon’s blog), and Fuse #8 (over at School Library Journal), and A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy, and Kaleidoglide, and Librarian Approved, and Killing the Buddha, and Desert Dispatches, and Sunshine State Safranim are all interested.

And that’s enough for me.

So I am officially declaring, on this tiny soapbox, my intention to do something about the problem. Alongside a wonderful partner in crime, as yet to be announced.

What that will be– on how large a scale and through what kind of publisher– will depend on a lot of variables. But we are getting busy!  And we appear to have a cohort!  So watch out!

In a related Jewish tale…

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

It occurs to me that this morning’s rant is not unrelated to my experiences a few years back, editing Half/Life: Jew-ish Tales from Interfaith Homes.

When my then-agent shopped Half/Life to the Jewish press, they were critical, nervous, and asked me to go find some celbrity contributors.  Intermarriage was a tricky subject, they said.

So I ignored them, and took the project to that BEST OF ALL PRESSES, Soft Skull Press! Who did an amazing job.  Yay, Soft Skull!  Half/Life was a weird title for them.  A Relig-ish book at a punk rock press.  But they were incredible. I could not have asked for a more supportive, understanding publisher.

And today, just coincidentally, after angsting over Jewish kidlit and how to push those limits, a friend emailed me the picture above, a picture of Half/Life, shelved in the library at a JCC.

Funny, how the problematic books get absorbed into the mainstream and that changes the conversation we have about the problems.  Funny how the zany ideas do, eventually, wiggle their way into the land of not-so-zany.  Funny, how the universe expands.

Sorry, Sammy…

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009


Okay, so today Nextbook will be publishing a short essay I wrote, an essay about the (sorry) state of Jewish picture books…

And some of you will read it, and get angry with me because you like the books I don‘t like.  Because you think that more books about Bubbe’s chicken soup, and orthodox-looking kids who like to plant trees, and latkes latkes, latkes… are just what we need.

To you I say feh.

But some of you will be angry because you are SMARTER than me. Some of you will be waiting to pounce on me and tell me about all the wonderful, funny, new Jewish books I haven’t read yet.  Some of you know things I don’t know.

And to you I say BRING IT ON!

Already, people are writing to tell me about the Five Little Gefiltes, The Castle on Hester Street, and the Chicken Man.  And I’m so glad!  I want to know MORE!

If you know of a wild and wonderful Jewish picture book, a book that is subtly about Jewish ideas and ethics rather than Jewish nostalgia for fatty heavy foods, please leave a comment below!  If you know of a Jewish picture book that is smart and funny and contemporary, sing out!

And if you are someone who wants to write such a book, backchannel me.  When I win the lottery, I’m planning a press.

I need fans!!!

Monday, February 16th, 2009

No, not *those* fans.

I need Facebook fans!

Will you “become a fan” of Any Which Wall?”

I promise you silly tidbits of information, pictures of my siblings, and maybe free crap, someday…

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

I love this holiday.  Because when I was a kid, my friend Susan and I used to make each other the most amazing cards. We’d spend weeks on them.  Crafting them from old doilies, bits of saved ribbon. I remember a particularly stellar example, for which I cut up pictures of unicorns from a Michael Hague calendar, stuck them into hearts, and glittered up all the horns. The whole thing was held together with bits of tinsel icicles.

Besides that, Valentine’s day always brings to mind the Blue Valentine for me. As well as a certain poetry collection I can’t find online. It was red, with goofy cartoon art, and a random assortment of poems that included Shakespeare’s “All in the morning betime…” (though as I recall they re-translated it as “morning, evening…”)  Anyone else remember such a book? Anyone? Anyone?

Then, too, Valentines Day brings a whiff of chalky candy hearts, and the flavor of the gum on those tiny thin envelopes that came with a packet of classroom cards. The smell of the tacky carnations sold by the “spirit committee” in middle school.  You knew the popular girls were popular girls because they each got about 14 stupid carnations.  What you *didn’t* know was that they just bought them for each other!


There is also a particular family myth, about my father walking through a blizzard to buy me a box of cherry cordials( my favorite) when I was a wee thing.

Double sigh.

Still not clear on what candy and flowers have to do with a saint martyrd by a nice beheading, after failing to die like a good boy during a good sound clubbing.  But either way, I plan to celebrate this year with spicy szechuan green beans.

I’ve got a craving!

Five Children and It… and ME!!!

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

I finally have a contract in hand, and so I think I can reveal, at last, that this fall I wrote the introduction for a new edition of Edith Nesbit’s classic book, Five Children and It.

If you know me well, you know what this means to me.

If you are familiar with the book, you can guess what this means to me.

If you are not familiar with the book, and do not know me well, I’m not sure why you’re reading this blog.  Though I’m (of course) happy to have  you, and I suggest you read the book!

It is only one of the best books ever written. Ever!  It is only the very first book in which “regular” kids find magic in the “regular” world and have zany adventures.

The very first.

American Rust…

Friday, February 6th, 2009

I’m reading the BEST NEW BOOK!

American Rust is a fence-sitter.  It walks this wonderful middle ground between so many things.  It’s literary, but fast-paced and action packed. It’s “gritty” and “American” but also hyper-intelligent and totally self-aware.  It’s in dialogue with the American literary “tradition” (esp Hemingway and Steinbeck) but it’s also absolutely contemporary.

To be blunt, it’s awesome!

Basic story: two oddly-matched friends  (one all body and the other all brain) who wish their lives were different (college, money, family,  etc) in rust-bowl Americana-land (i.e. Pennsylvania steel town) KILL a dude while attempting to change their lives,  then find their lives changed.  It’s about “who we are” and how we become other.  It’s about class and education and nature/nurture and roots and messed up families.  It’s about a lot more, I’m sure, but I can’t write a real review until I’m done.

This book feeds the smarty-pants-writer part of me, but also the Springsteen-listening, child-of-a-socialist, Baltimore-bred, pretensions of a gal who once hooked up with a guy hopping freights through Tennessee. I adore it.

I’m not finished it yet so I suppose it could take a nose dive and the end could suck, but even so..  GO GET A COPY!

Full discosure.  The author, Philipp Meyer, is someone I have known since kindergarten.  But in my defense, I am blessed to know a LOT of writers who write a LOT of books.  And I don’t usually gush like this.

Plus, when we were five, I thought he was kind of an ass.

Happy Groundhog Day!!!

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Here is a silly little ditty, an outtake from a book I’m working on.  This one isn’t *quite* good enough to make it into the book, but maybe you’ll think it’s kinder fun:

Song to a Groundhog

It’s perfectly fine to be scared of a shark
Who swims through the ocean, all vicious and dark
With  big gnashing teeth he can cut you to slivers.
You’re right to fear lightning, and gross chicken livers.

But there’s no need to fear your own shadow!
No need to be scared of a shadow!

If you see your shadow and dart underground,
The snow will fall heavy and spring won’t come round.
So please, little groundhog, we’re practically begging.
We want to go swimming.  We’re so sick of sledding!

And there’s no need to fear your own shadow!
No need to be scared of a shadow!

We ask that you grant us this one little wish,
And bring on the spring, for the cold little fish,
Are frozen like ice cubes. The trees are all bare.
And we’re sick of the mittens our moms make us wear.

But there’s no need to fear your own shadow!
No need to be scared of a shadow!

If you see your shadow, and don’t run inside,
We’ll give you our comic books, take you for rides
In our bicycle baskets. We’ll pet you and then
We’ll feed you and pet you all over again.

So there’s no need to fear your own shadow!
No need to be scared of a shadow!

To Shubenacadie Sam, who is most unpronoucable
To dear General Beauregard Lee
From old Malverne Mel and his small wife Melissa
To Jimmy in fine Sun Prairie.

To dear Brandon Bob  and his friend Balzac Billy
But most of all— Punxsutawney Phil—
You’re the king of the groundhogs, so strong and so brave…
The others will come if you will!

All out in…

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

… the yard.

I’m just wandering aimlessly around the yard this week.  Made a cover for the sandbox, painted the adirondak chairs, hung a rope in a tree (but have not yet found a tire).  I’m hoping to make it nice enough I don’t feel pssy  that we can’t afford to put a porch on right now.

Also working on a little essay about (not) being a Jewish children’s author.  Tending to the boys.  Waiting (nervously) for notes from my editor on the new book.  Paying bills.  Eating soup.

You know, life.