Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Coming out of the woodwork

When the May issue of Harper's came out, I knew it was time to finally get to the April issue.  And I'm glad I did, as there was an article about Lynd Ward, whom I know as the illustrator of dozens of children's novels and picture books (Forbes' Johnny Tremain, Coatsworth's The Cat Who Went to Heaven) but who also created wordless "graphic novels" for adults composed only of wood engravings, which were compiled in Six Novels in Woodcuts by the Library of America last year.  It's always a revelation when I find out folks actually do stuff beyond the realm of children's and YA literature - sort of like when little kids assumed I lived at the library and were astonished to see me at the supermarket.

A person who writes children's books automatically takes on an aura of sweetness and wholesomeness, at least so far as Hollywood is concerned; witness the Arthur remake starring Russell Brand.  His love interest is Greta Gerwig, who plays a quirky fresh young tour guide (unlicensed) named Naomi who dreams of writing and illustrating her own pop-up children's book about New York.  This being a movie, the book not only gets accepted* - and then published within 6 months - but also its publication apparently transforms Naomi from a just-scraping-by gal with an eccentric wardrobe to a sleek-haired successful woman.  I can just feel the outrage of all writers who published their first picture book and failed to see the mega-bucks roll in.  *It must be noted that jillionaire Arthur purchases the publishing house in order to ensure that the book is published, to Naomi's horror when she finds out.  So there is some understanding that it might not be so easy to get published.

Speaking of folks who publish first-time picture books, Maya Soetoro-Ng, author of the just-published Ladder to the Moon (illustrated by Yuyi Morales), will be appearing at Central Library in Los Angeles this evening, April 19, at 6:30.  In addition to being a children's author and a PhD in Education, she is President Obama's half-sister. For more information, call the Children's Literature department at 213-228-7250.

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