Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TWO GREAT PICTURE BOOKS and a conversation between the authors!

DANGEROUSLY EVER AFTER
by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Valeria Docampo
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3374-9
Picture Book
Grades K-5

ABOUT THE BOOK

Not all princesses are made of sugar and spice--some are made of funnier, fiercer stuff.

Princess Amanita laughs in the face of danger. Brakeless bicycles, pet scorpions, spiky plants--that's her thing. So when quiet Prince Florian gives her roses, Amanita is unimpressed . . . until she sees their glorious thorns! Now she must have rose seeds of her own. But when huge, honking noses grow instead, what is a princess with a taste for danger to do?

For readers seeking a princess with pluck comes an independent heroine who tackles obstacles with a bouquet of sniffling noses. At once lovely and delightfully absurd, here's a story to show how elastic ideas of beauty and princesses can be.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dashka Slater’s novel, The Wishing Box, was named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, which called it “an impish novel, hopeful and full of humor.” She is the author of four acclaimed children's books: Baby Shoes; Firefighters in the Dark; The Sea Serpent and Me and Dangerously Ever After.

Slater is also an award-winning journalist who has written for such publications as Newsweek, More, Salon, Mother Jones, Sierra, and The New York Times Magazine. The recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, she is currently working on new books for both children and adults. Learn more at www.dashkaslater.com.


REVIEW

Princesses are a topic that is always popular among little girls.  But to be honest, I get sick of the Disney princess type, although they are getting better, the type where the princess has to be rescued, is beautiful, etc.  Because of this, I am glad that there are more princess books coming out involving girls that don't fit that image.  The princess in Dangerously Ever After is very much her own person. She loves things that are dangerous. Things like her pet scorpion, a bike with no brakes, and a garden full of 'prickles and stickles and brambles and nettles.'  When a prince shows up and wreaks havoc in her garden she is not pleased. And when he tries to fix the damage by giving her roses, she is even less pleased, until she sees the thorns. She loves the thorns and seeks some rose seeds of her own, but what she gets is not what she wanted and adventure results.  I enjoyed the fairy tale feel to the story, the story is definitely unique and fun. I highly recommend this to those who want a fairy tale, but a untypical one.

OH NO, LITTLE DRAGON!
written and illustrated by Jim Averbeck
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4169-9545-6
Picture Book
Grades K-3

ABOUT THE BOOK

Little Dragon wreaks adorable havoc in this energetic picture book from the creator of Except If. With a PHOOSH and a Grrrrrr and a CANNONBAAAALLLLLL! Little Dragon tears through his day (and the house). But even when he gets a little too rambunctious, there’s no OH NO! that Mama’s kiss can’t fix.

Jim Averbeck celebrates both the tremendous energy of a little boy and the tenderness shared between mother and child in this vibrant picture book that begs to be read aloud.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR

Jim Averbeck’s first book, IN A BLUE ROOM, was a Charlotte Zolotow silver medal winner. His illustrations have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, accompanying Newbery-winner Linda Sue Park’s serial novel, A LONG WALK TO WATER.  OH NO, LITTLE DRAGON! is his fourth book. His fifth book, THE MARKET BOWL, will be coming out in 2013.

REVIEW

This book makes me laugh.  Little Dragons antics remind me so much of a toddler, who loves to play but who doesn't like to get cleaned up.  I seriously admire his mother's patience. The illustrations are delightful, full of color and life.  The splashes of bright orange and red for the fire are impossible to ignore. This book is also perfect for helping children learn about solving problems.  When Little Dragon's fire goes out at first he tries to solve the problem himself.  When that doesn't work, he goes to his mother and she provides the help he needs.  I also appreciate the ending where Little Dragon has learned the value of prevention.  The ongoing refrain of "Oh, No" makes this perfect for an interactive storytime.  I highly recommend this fun book.

  

A conversation between Dashka Slater and Jim Averbeck
   
DASHKA: Hi Jim. Here we are making another stop on our Dragons & Dangerous Princess blog tour. I’m finding that we’re getting quite a few questions about traditional and non-traditional gender roles in picture books. Do you think of Little Dragon is a “typical boy?”

JIM: In OH NO LITTLE DRAGON! I tried to create a character that is a typical boy, but not a stereotypical boy. I've seen some stories recently that portray boys as little monsters, but don't necessarily go deeper to plumb the more emotional side of boys. We get all the noise and destruction, but not much introspection or vulnerability. In OH NO LITTLE DRAGON! on the surface, it appears that Little Dragon just wants his fire back, so he can continue his destructive rampage. But in fact, what he's worried about is losing his mother's love, which he mistakenly believes is tied to his fiery abilities. So that's what I wanted to say- that even the most destructive boys have a depth of emotion and a need for love.

What about you? How did you approach gender and gender roles in DANGEROUSLY EVER AFTER?

DASHKA: I’ve been getting kudos for writing a non-traditional princess book, but I have to say that I didn’t actually set out to write a non-traditional anything. I just created a princess who appealed to me -- someone feisty and adventurous and a little bit bossy. Princess Amanita is unconventional in her taste in plants and pets, but she does like beautiful dresses as much as the next princess -- in fact, Valeria Docampo has given her a wardrobe to die for. And by the end of the story, Amanita widens her interests a bit. She still likes dangerous things, but she also develops an appreciation for flowers that smell nice and for friends like Prince Florian, who is a far more gentle soul.  

JIM: This blog has a geographic theme. So, in a map of the real world, where would you place Amanita's kingdom? What clues point to that location?  (And if you are wondering where Little Dragon lives, the answer is, of course, Fire Island.)

DASHKA: I’d think it would have to be a Mediterranean climate, given the plants that grow in Amanita’s garden -- lots of succulents and cacti and thistles, but also (stink) lilies and roses.

Speaking of travel, didn’t Little Dragon have his origins in China? Do you often travel to such far-flung places?

JIM: I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have traveled the world. It started in college. My brother worked for an airline, and before President Reagan began taxing middle class employee benefits, I was able to travel first-class for free on passes from my brother. So when everyone else went to Florida for spring break, I went to England, France and Germany. (And it cost me less!) I spent 3-1/2 years in the Peace Corps in Cameroon. It’s my goal to touch foot in all seven continents before I die. I have three more to go. I’ve been to China, Sao Tomé, Nigeria, Libya (to see a total solar eclipse), Greece, Sicily, Italy, Spain, Malta, Taiwan, and, in answer to your next question...

DASHKA: Where in the world would be your favorite place to write?

JIM: Bali.  I actually spent time there illustrating a book for Linda Sue Park called A LONG WALK TO WATER. Bali is so beautiful and peaceful. Where would you go?

DASHKA: Cornwall. I love the wild coastline there, and the ambience of Arthurian legend. My ideal writing day begins with an ocean swim (yes, even in those chilly Atlantic waters) and ends with a country ramble and a pint. Plus there’s lots of wonderful children’s book history there, as it’s the setting for much of the Dark is Rising series.
:
If you were going to make a pilgrimage to any children’s literature related place, where would it be?

JIM: I think I’d go to Middle Earth (aka New Zealand).  Peter Jackson made it look so inviting. And then I could just pop over to Australia and I’d have only two continents left.

DASHKA: Does Little Dragon like to travel?

JIM: In his mind he travels back to his Nordic homeland and terrorizes Viking villages and castles. He likes family vacations to Myrtle Beach, NC. What about Amanita?

DASHKA: Amanita loves to get on her brakeless bicycle and pedal off in search of strange plants. But while she loves to read about dangerous jungles and steaming volcanoes, she isn’t sure she actually wants to visit them.

Now tell me about the book tour process. Has anything surprising happened in relation to OH NO, LITTLE DRAGON?

JIM: I’ve been reading it at school visits lately and was so happy with the way kids have taken to this character. They love to draw Little Dragon (and I have a million drawings to prove it) and I was surprised with how they responded to it when it is read aloud. I thought they’d get into calling out “oh no!” which is a repeated phrase in the book. But it turns out they really get into making “phooshing” noises, which is the sound of Little Dragon spewing his fire. What about with you? Any surprises as you’ve been out promoting the book?

DASHKA: Two surprises. One is how much boys like the book. It’s fun watching their faces change from skeptical to enthusiastic in the course of a reading -- and even more fun to watch a boy leave a bookstore with a princess book under his arm. The other is the terrific dangerous plants kids keep inventing. I’ve posted some of them on this tumblr.

Does Little Dragon take part in any literary feuds? Is there anyone he won’t share a book shelf with?

JIM: Little Dragon takes on all comers with his fierce and awesome firepower, but he prefers to stay away from those with flammable bodies or clothing. He keeps his distance from Fancy Nancy and also the stinky cheese man.

What about Princess Amanita?  Is there anyone she prefers to see on another shelf?

DASHKA: Well, I have to admit that she doesn’t have much to say to Disney princesses. They never want to do anything she wants to do. She also tends to have trouble with Olivia. Both of them want to be in charge and they always end up arguing.

9 comments:

  1. What a fun idea, having the authors interview each other! I think Max will especially like OH NO! LITTLE DRAGON. He always loves the comic book sounds (BANG, SMASH and on and on). Thanks for sharing these great books and for hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop yet again! Happy hopping ;)

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    1. I can't take credit for the authors interviewing each other that was their idea. But I think it worked really well. And Little Dragon does have lots of parts perfect for a toddler to participate.

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  2. That was a hilarious interchange between the authors! What a clever idea! Thanks for hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop once again. :)

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    1. I thought the authors did a great job. The idea was theirs. It was nice to have a different sort of guest post.

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  3. Interesting post. I have never seen anything like it. Kudos on the imagination and creativity to think of this. Very nice aite you have here.

    Sue from Kid Lit Reviews http://kid-lit-reviews.com

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    1. I wish I could claim credit for the interview, but it was their idea. I enjoyed it myself very much.

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  4. Love "Dangerously Ever After" and the whole move away from Disney princesses. Although to be fair, many of them showed gumption, wit, and courage. But yes--fewer frills and more thrills, please!

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  5. Ingenious. I loved the interview and Australia even got a mention woot woot. Great catching up again on the blog hop, cheers Julie

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  6. Two very popular subjects to write a book about. A charming little princes and charming author. The a darling little Dinosaur and an author with a tender heart no doubt. I enjoyed both reviews and the interview with Jim.

    I am hopping along on the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

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