To read (or not): The Brothers Lionheart

I came across a reference to The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren (1973, but OOP in the US) in Lucy Knisely's An Age of License: A Travelogue (Fantagraphics Books, 2014) and like Lucy, I'm a bit skeptical! In Knisely's book, Lucy and her Swedish sort-of boyfriend Henrik are comparing their favorite books from their youth. Lucy's is Harry Potter; Henrik's is The Brothers Lionheart. It's about (he tells her) two young boys who die tragically and then go to Nangijala, where they join a war over slaves and land. Lucy is all, "Wait, what?" Apparently, The Brothers Lionheart is beloved in Sweden, but I might have to stick to Pippi and Ronia, the Robber's Daughter, my favorite of Lindgren's characters, unless someone out there can convince me otherwise.

I can, however, recommend An Age of License, especially to young adults and recent college graduates! It's a travelogue, in comics, of Lucy Knisely's 2011 Scandinavian and European book tour (a sequel of sorts to Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, which won a 2014 Alex Award), so it touches on her career (and a creepy con experience), as well as traveling alone, with family and friends, and with the aforementioned Henrik. I like Knisely's clean, uncluttered drawing, the variety of layouts (there's lots of white space, not really any panels), and the occasional splash of watercolor. A companion book, Displacement, is forthcoming from Fantagraphics in January 2015, although that one promises to be a bit more serious and sad (it's about her relationship with her aging grandparents).

Top Ten Arts Books of 2014 from Booklist Online

The November issue of Booklist features books about the arts for children and adults. On their top ten list of arts books for youth are a handful of biographies (about the Wyeth family, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, potter George Ohr, and painter Vasily Kandinsky), three books about dance, and two YA novels (The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone and The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, both of which I promptly added to my to-read list). Also Draw! by Raúl Colón (Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman), a wordless book inspired by the artist's own childhood, and long hours spent drawing in his family's New York City apartment.

Now I'm wondering (in the tradition of the What makes a good...? series at Horn Book): What makes a good arts book? Is it information, inspiration, or some combination of the two? How do the novels on the list fit the criteria? What about instructional arts books, like Susie Brooks's Get Into Art series from Kingfisher? And where, oh where is Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Daly (illustrations by Lisa Brown; Neal Porter/Roaring Brook)? Or The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse by Patricia Maclachlan (pictures by Hadley Hooper; also Roaring Brook)? They would be on my list (I'm working on it), but first I need to sort out my criteria--not to mention my definitions. What is an arts book anyway? Something to think about.

More Binny, Please

I preordered the second in the Binny series by Hilary McKay--Binny in Secret, the sequel to Binny for Short (American edition Margaret K. McElderry, 2013) from back when it had a publication date of September 4, 2014. Eventually (this morning) I noticed that it had not arrived and located a new release date of June 16, 2015, a blurb, and cover art by Micah Player, who did a fantastic job on the illustrations for Binny for Short (I'm also a fan of his picture book, Lately Lily: The Adventures of a Travelling Girl, published by Chronicle earlier this year). So I'm sad about the delay, but on the plus side, the blurb promises a school story (with obligatory bullying--poor Binny is called a "grockle" by her stuck-up classmates), a move to an old house in the country (always good), and some sort of connection between Binny and the three children living in the house in 1913, whose stories are interwoven with hers. Worth the wait. [Waiting on Wednesday.]

Cybils nominations closing in five...four...three...

That was fast! The Cybils nomination window closes today, so if, like me, you have been waiting to nominate for whatever reason, now is the time. Kids can nominate, too, so if you have any of those around, please help them navigate the nomination process. They are experts on at least one of our criteria: kid appeal.

For the rest of us, there are lots of nomination strategies, and good reasons to have waited. In the past I've thought about using my nominations to bring attention to diverse books (before it was a thing, even!)--multicultural, international, translated. You might choose to nominate books written by debut authors, or published by small houses . Usually I end up nominating books I'm just surprised haven't been nominated yet! There are always some great ones out there.

See this post from the Cybils organizers for more information on how to nominate, and remember that eligible books will have been published between October 16, 2013 and October 15, 2014. So if a book has a publication date of yesterday (and many do--books tend to come out on Tuesdays), this is its only chance. Likewise books that came out late last fall.

I'll be back tomorrow with my list of nominees!