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!

The Bagthorpes: A Who's Who

Somehow Trina Schart Hyman managed to include every one of the Bagthorpes on the cover of Ordinary Jack ("Being the First Part of The Bagthorpe Saga") by Helen Cresswell. Why should you care? Because the Bagthorpes are eccentric and brilliant (well, all except Jack; he's ordinary), and the books are like manic 1970s versions of the classic British family story (as well as the inspiration for Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, if that helps). Here's a who's who, which may or may not make sense, but should give you a feeling for what the books are like and whether you would like them:

Back row
Aunt Celia, who is not only ravishingly beautiful but can also solve The Times crossword in ten minutes flat without a dictionary and do pottery and poetry.
Uncle Parker. The way he drives his car is the talk of the neighborhood.
Tess. A Black Belt in Judo besides talking like a dictionary.
Mrs. Bagthorpe. Has an Agony Column in a monthly journal under the name of Stella Bright.
Mr. Bagthorpe, a screenwriter for the BBC. He fell over at teatime.
William. A veil of secrecy must be preserved.
Grandpa. S.D. (Selectively Deaf.)
Atlanta, the au pair. Bilingual in Danish and German.

Front row
Daisy. Four-year-old pyromaniac.
Rosie. Second string, portraits.
Grandma. Likes arguments and gets disappointed when nobody else wants them.
Mrs. Fosdyke, the Daily. Moves like a hedgehog, i.e. fast without actually doing much.

Front and center, Jack and his dog Zero (also known as Nero, or rarely Hero). The plot of Ordinary Jack has to do with Jack's search for a way to distinguish himself from among the rest of his relentlessly talented family; his Uncle Parker decides he should become a prophet. To be honest, it didn't immediately appeal. But the plot is incidental (in both senses of the word), and I quite liked the book! I only wish there had been more than three Bagthorpe books at the sale (I also picked up Bagthorpes Unlimited and Bagthorpes V. the World), but at least I get the pleasure of tracking them down. Maybe not all ten of them, though.

[For comparison, here is the poster for The Royal Tenenbaums, which may well have been inspired by the Trina Schart Hyman book covers (she illustrated the covers for the first five books in the series). I haven't seen the movie since it first came out, and now I'm curious about the Bagthorpe connection. I will say that Gene Hackman is a ringer for an older Mr. Bagthorpe. Apparently the role of Royal Tenenbaum was written just for him.]