Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Westside Writers Schmooze December/January Book-Tacular!

Happiest of Happy New Years, Schmoozers!

We’ve been a little remiss here at Schmooze Central.  Okay.  More than a little.  A LOT remiss.  It’s been three whole Schmoozes with no blog posts.  (We know, you’re crushed, right??) We have an awesome…or dare we say WAY COOL blog post on the November Schmooze, but that’s still a work-in-progress—

—and speaking of works in progress, did you know the SCBWI has a bunch of awesome Work-In-Progress grants?  Read all about the different grants and their submission guidelines on the "grants and awards" page at www.scbwi.org.  Applications are accepted between February 15th and March 15th – so don’t delay!!

Where were we?  Oh, right!  The Way Cool post is going to be Way Late but in the interim, we have this December/January recap which is all about AWESOME books!

First up, in December, we welcomed back the venerable Diane Applebaum, longtime bookseller (now retired) from Children’s Book World.  It had been a few years since Diane had come and schooled us on what’s hot, what’s not and what’s missing from the Kid Lit landscape – at least from a bookseller's POV.

Photo: Rita Crayon Huang

Here's a taste of some of the general tidbits she shared:

  • Robots, superheroes, cowboys/cowgirls, mermaids, unicorns, fairies, knights, construction stories & dinosaurs simply never get old
  • Kids love joke books – especially of the “knock, knock” ilk
  • There can never be too many ballet books
  • Middle grade readers need ADVENTURE
  • The current trend for YA readers is fantasy, fantasy, fantasy
  • Historical fiction often does quite well
  • Non-fiction is HOT

Of course, Diane brought many wonderful books to “show-and tell” us about.  (She apologized for focusing primarily on picture books.)  She mentioned the following books that were both delightful and in high demand:

  • Silly Doggie written and illustrated by Adam Stower
  • Pluto Visits Earth written by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Jared D. Lee
  • King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson written and illustrated by Kenneth Kraegel
  • Vampirina Ballerina written by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
  • A Kiss Means I Love You written by Kathryn Madeline Allen, photographs Eric Fultran
  • Just Being Audrey written by Margaret Cardillo, illustrated by Julia Denos
  • My Heart Will Not Sit Down written by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Ann Tanksley
  • The Quiet Place written by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small

And perhaps most useful to us Schmoozers was Diane’s list of subject matter that seems to be in short supply and/or is always needed:

  • Divorce (as experienced by little kids)
  • Moving – kids or their neighborhood friends having to move
  • Going to a new school (especially elementary)
  • Family member going to the hospital for a non-life-threatening issue
  • Death of a pet has been done well – but there is always room for more good stories about this (it’s like ballet and dinosaurs in that respect!)
  • Alternative households
  • Books on nutrition - but the trick is to avoid being didactic
  • Timeless photojournalism books (babies love looking at pictures of babies!)

A couple of other cool things Diane mentioned were…

In January, the focus was once again on Great Books.  And not just great books but  A Few Of Our Favorite Books!

Intros featured the standard “name and what you write” but also what book you’d like to have zapped from your memory so that you could experience reading it for the first time again (we all have them!).

Some titles mentioned were:

  • Gone With the Wind written by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling
  • The Giver, written by Lois Lowry
  • Dune, written by Frank Herbert
  • Pride and Prejudice, written by Jane Austen
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, written by Roald Dahl
  • A Wrinkle in Time, written by Madeleine L ‘Engle

Then, the Schmooze kicked off with a very moving, highly personal and rather lengthy (some might say indulgent) story from Karol about how she’d come across the favorite book she’d brought to share, Newbery Honor book Incident at Hawk’s Hill, written by Allan W. Eckert and illustrated by John Schoenherr.  Karol had been introduced to the book, in a very round-about way, through her oldest sister, Jane.  The point – and Karol did have one – was that books that truly move and entertain us can sometimes come from unlikely places.

Charlie put the question to the group:  How do we come across our favorite books?  Answers varied.  Recommendations from friends, teacher etc., book reviews, our parents reading to us as children, new titles from our favorite authors and even book covers (by which, apparently, you sometimes can judge a book) were mentioned.

Charlie presented his favorite, The Book Of Lost Things, by John Connolly, a book about the power of stories and fairy tales, and asked the group, “What do we go to books for?”  Responses ranged from lighthearted escapism/wish-fulfillment to connection and inspiration, a desire to relate to “underdog” or marginalized characters, to feel community with others and even to help us figure out stuff in our own lives.  Unable to allow others to find joy in the lighthearted, Charlie sniffed that there was no such thing as escapism and that, in fact, those books were actually about deeper, darker and more personal issues than could be faced in more prosaic works.  Most Schmoozers smiled indulgently (not without a touch of pity), cleared their throats, and moved on…

Clearly, good books play an extremely important role in our lives – however we happen to come across them and whatever value we ultimately get from them. 

So what were a few of the Schmoozers favorite books?

!       The Girl Who Could Fly, written by Victoria Forester
!       Shatter Me, written by Tahereh Malfi
!       Obstinate Pen, written by Frank W. Dormer
!       For Love For Mother Not, written by Alan Dean Foster
!       The Magician’s Nephew, written by C.S. Lewis
!       Holes, written by Louis Sachar
!       Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, written by Douglas Adams
!       Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperrump-a-Zoo, written and illustrated by Mercer Mayer
!       The Magician’s Elephant, written by Kate DiCamillo
!       The Night Circus, written by Erin Morgenstern
!       Yips and Yankah (this is a very popular Dutch kids book series and we at Schmooze Central could not find the author – our apologies!)
!       Snark Out Boys and the Avocado of Death, written by Daniel Pinkwater
!       What My Mother Doesn’t Know, written by Sonya Sones
!       The Underneath, written by Kathi Appelt
!       Whale Talk, written by Chris Crutcher
!       The Silly Book, written and illustrated by Stoo Hample

Naturally, Dr. Seuss was an entity unto himself.  The Sneeches and 
Other Stories, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, Bartholomew and the Oobleck, McElligot’s Pool and My Book About Me were some of the Seuss favorites mentioned.

Feel free to add MORE favorite books in the comments!

Of course, we’re forgetting one very special part of the Favorite Books Schmooze – the SINGING!!!

As any of you who read the description of the January 2013 Schmooze know, the possibility (some would say threat) of the first-ever Schmooze Sing–Along was mentioned.  And we “made it so,” fine Schmoozers!   

For any of you who missed the Schmooze or came late (whether intentionally or not), here’s your chance to sing-along with the gang!

These Are a Few Of Our Favorite Books

Charlotte and Katniss and Christopher Robin
Bus-driving pigeons and bank-owning goblins
Thousands of pages of Edward’s good looks
These are a few of our favorite books

Picture book classics that signal our bedtimes
Colorful pictures and fanciful end rhymes
Middle-grade fantasies, YAs with hooks
These are a few of our favorite books

Stories that take us to new awesome places
Make us feel happy, put smiles on our faces
Hardbacks and board books and Kindles and Nooks
Each format works for our favorite books

When the muse leaves
Lost my car keys
Day job is a drag
I simply start reading a favorite book
And then I don't feel so bad

Schmoozers pose with their fa-vor-ite books!  Photo: Rita Crayon Huang

 Who knows?  Maybe we’ll have a Schmooze Sing-Along EVERY month!!  OK…maybe not.

Next up - just in time for the day-before-Valentine’s, join us on Wednesday, February 13th for…Fifty Shades of Schmooze: The Sex Schmooze!

(Any Schmoozers caught tittering or blushing will be mocked ruthlessly.)

Until then, keep passing the open windows,
Charlie & Karol


  1. I'm so glad you posted this, Charlie and Karol! I wrote down tons of recommendations from the last couple Schmoozes and seem to have lost track of those notes. I'm sure they'll turn up any moment, but in the meantime . . .

    I'm putting these on hold at the library! Yay!!

    What a good looking and fun group this is! And what clever, clever lyrics! :D


  2. Nice find on musical accompaniment, too. Perfect. :D

    1. Rita - we just won't discuss how much time I spent (wasted?) searching for just the right clip...