It appears that I have some 'splaining to do.
In the inaugural edition of this newsletter, I said it would be
a monthly publication. Turns out that was wishful thinking. Baby
Daisy and two new books in the works are keeping me busier than
I ever imagined, so I'm going bi-monthly.
Daisy is teaching me many things, and one of them is that there
are only 24 hours in each day. Back when I was three months'
pregnant and knew everything about everything, my OB - a mother
of two small children and a partner in a busy NYC practice -
asked me if I was going to continue working after my baby was born.
"Yes, I am," I said.
"Make sure you get help," she told me. "You can't
deal with a newborn and work at the same time."
Oh, you poor deluded woman, I thought. Of course I can deal
with a newborn and work at the same time. The baby will sit happily
and quietly in her bouncer chair in my office and I will write and
it will all be business as usual.
Well ... six months into this motherhood thing, I can tell you that
there definitely was a poor deluded woman in the doctor's office
that day, and it wasn't the doctor.
It's been a couple of very exciting months for A Northern Light.
In January, the American Library Association awarded the novel a
Michael J. Printz Honor, and in February, the book received the
Borders 2004 Original Voices Award for Intermediate/Young Adult
literature. Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled by both of
these awards. To have my work recognized by librarians, educators
and booksellers is an immense honor, and one for which I am very
In March - March 2, to be exact - The Tea Rose will be
published in paperback. The cover is that same as the hardcover
version, but it's been colorized quite fetchingly. I'm hoping the
paperback format will bring the story to many new readers.
Ummmm ... not a lot to report right now. See above. Geez, but I
hope my publishers aren't reading this.
Isn't discovering a great new book the best?! I received
two novels by Graham Swift for Christmas and have devoured them. Waterland is a tale about a murder and a family, but it's
also about the ineluctable press of history, and how family and
home shape us. It was challenging at times, and a bit of a trudge
at others, but ultimately very rewarding. I also read Swift's Last
Orders, which won the Booker Prize and was made into a movie
with Michael Caine, Helen Mirren and Bob Hoskins, and loved it.
It's about a group of aging friends who get together to scatter
the ashes of another friend, Jack. It's told from several points
of view, all of which work together to reveal not only Jack but
the narrators themselves. It's set in Southeast London and is just
heartstoppingly sad and beautiful. It's one of those rare books
that takes a handful of people living quiet and unremarked lives,
and through them, shows us something of what it means to be human.
Also read Greg Critser's Fatland, on obesity in America.
Critser, a journalist, goes way past the obvious - we're eating
more and exercising less - to examine the role politics, farm subsidies,
biology, marketing, history, schools, religion, and society play
in an epidemic that has seen 60% of Americans become overweight,
and young children begin to suffer from dreadful weight-related
diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. It's a fascinating book, exhaustively
researched. Critser's passion for his subject comes across loud
and clear. He cares deeply about what's happening to his fellow
Americans, and - not content to simply point fingers and sound outraged
- he gives us a thoughtful and hopeful last chapter titled "What
Can Be Done."
Okay, I know I just said in the preceding paragraph that discovering
a great new book is the best, but there's a better best, and that's
discovering it with a baby. Their wonder and concentration - the
little puckering brow, and big eyes, and then the smile and bounce
of approval - there's nothing like it in the world, is there?
A friend gave Daisy a boardbook called Go to Sleep, Daisy by Jane Simmons, and she liked it so much that we bought her two
more in the series, Daisy's Favorite Things and Daisy
Says Coo. They're about a little duck with big feet who's discovering
her world and her place in it, all within the watchful, loving presence
of Mama Duck. The artwork is beautiful, and I like that children
can really see Simmons' wonderful painter's hand. The text is short,
and makes good use of rhymes and alliteration, but isn't bound by
them. It's perfect for little kids, and of course Daisy loves hearing
her name mentioned over and over again.
Another big boardbook hit is First Book of Sushi by Amy
Wilson Sanger. Believe me, I'm not the biggest sushi fan - California
rolls and the odd bit of salmon are about as adventuresome as I
get - but this book is so much fun, it'll get you and your little
one laughing even if you don't know your tekka maki from your kappa
maki. The rhymes are a hoot and roll around crazily on the tongue,
and the graphics are so colorful and compelling, and while quite
sophisticated in a way, they - like Simmons' illustrations - definitely
look like someone made them. I'm no expert on these things,
but I think that seeing and sensing the illustrator's hands at work
must give budding artists a great deal of inspiration and confidence
in their own endeavors.
Lastly, I learned an important lesson about child-rearing recently.
You can strive to assemble a thoughtful and intelligent collection
of books for your baby. You can make sure she listens to Mozart,
Beethoven and Bach. You can spend time watching educational programs
like Sesame Street and Baby Einstein. And it just doesn't matter.
Because her cousins will come along and introduce her to www.homestarrunner.com and she will love it and there is nothing you can do about it.
My fifteen year old niece and twelve year old nephew adore this
site. When they first showed it to me, I didn't get it. Not a bit
of it. They were both saying, "Isn't it great?" and I
was thinking, Boy, am I old. But I have to admit, it's
starting to grow on me. It features odd cartoon characters in strange
scenarios. They have names like Homestar, Strong Bad, Strong Sad,
Marzipan and the Poopsmith. Strong Bad is kind of a boxing glove
with a Kabuki face ... I think. I don't even know what Homestar
is. They like to goof on Japanese cartoons, break the internet,
and sing thirties-style ditties. I'm not sure this site is suitable
for babies. I'm not even sure it's suitable for adults. What I am
sure of is that it's one of those things that definitely makes you
feel that the joke's on you.
Daisy adores it, though. She and her dad watch the shorts about
The Cheat and Coach Z and sing all the songs. I watch them and sigh
and brace myself for the eventuality of my little girl pooh-poohing
sweet nursery songs like "Baa Baa Blacksheep" and instead
belting out a line like, "Who put the Bengal tiger in the Kaiser's