Saturday, January 24, 2009

A children's picture book creator talks about Caravaggio, Velázquez, Bacon and Eric Carle; The Book of Negroes gets mixed reviews

Two excellent articles in today's Guardian: the first is an interview with Oliver Jeffers, author of How to Catch a Star and Lost and Found. Joanna Carey finds him to be intense, which doesn't surprise me: his books are so simple and so well-crafted that it's evident he is a master at balancing the text and the art in the picture book format. Lost and Found was undeniably one of my favourite winter books for storytime last year.

The second fabulous Guardian article is a review of Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes by a senior lecturer at UEA, where my uncle teaches. Sarah Churchwell says Hill's book loses credibility, in part because of some of the unaddressed coincidences in the narrative that keep Aminata from coming to real, lasting harm throughout her turbulent life. Churchwell's right, especially when she remarks upon the particularly convenient coincidence at the end of the novel, where Aminata is reunited with someone she has lost many years ago. I agree with Churchwell, though, that readers are likely relieved at how Aminata emerges from many crises unbroken: I would add that it is a testament to the human spirit, and to the spirit of men and women who did survive the Middle Passage and build meaningful lives for themselves in Canada and the U.S. I also agree with Churchwell's high praise of Hill's writing: he is absolutely brilliant here, and this in part explains how I devoured the book in three evenings this week, when I really should have been doing other reading.

In related news, those of you attending the Ontario Library Association's Superconference next week may have noticed that Hill's book is the selection for One Book, One Conference (click here and read session 1201 - why can't OLA make internal links on each page of the Superconference schedule? I digress...). Some of you may also know that I've been asked to make a reading map for The Book of Negroes, which will be available at the conference. In fact, I'm folding the maps right now...


  1. Yay! So happy to find your blog, Alex! I hope you'll keep it up beyond what's required. I'll be checking in for more book recommendations. By the way, we have a certain 4-yr. old here who has been requesting The Way Back Home at bedtime every night this week...

  2. Such a good book! So glad he likes it :)