Articles by " Blair"
8 Jun
2013

KU’s Book Bites: Soon I Will Be Invincible

soon

Sweet helmet, bro.

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

“What do you do when you find out your heart is the wrong kind?” asks the super-villain of this story, Dr. Impossible. This comic book turned literary fiction answers this question through the alternating perspectives of super villain and superhero.  I am so excited about this book I can’t stand it, I am in full nerd mode already searching out the author online hoping he will be my friend. The development of each character is stunning not only in substance but also timing; the unbelievably rich origin stories of each hero/villain unfold themselves suddenly and unexpectedly-and they’re AWESOME! One minute you’re immersed in an epic battle and the next you’re learning about what Dr Impossible was like in high school, that his name was Jonathan, that you knew a guy like him, and that maybe things would have been different if he got the girl.  But now, he’s fighting off a potbelly and living in a motel, planning his next scheme to conquer the world on his 12th attempt.  It’s got other dimensions, time travel, aliens, armies of algae and fungus-what else could you possibly ask for?

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21 Jun
2012

Go Skateboarding Day! Or, Remember When I Was Cool?

That's me in the middle. Wearing one earring.

Oh Josh Brolin, you will always be Corey from the best skate movie ever made. Thrashin, 1986.

oh josh.

Robert Rusler

Douchey Weird Science Version.

Because didn't everyone have skate gang fights with weapons?  I had a huge thing for Robert Rusler,  who was also in Weird Science as RDJ's douchey friend. And Now he looks like Huey Lewis! It's WEIRD! Oh aging.  And then there was Gleaming the Cube which was only cool because Tony Hawk was Christian Slater's stunt double. The trailer is HILARIOUS: Oh, the excitement of a freshly paved street, the thrill of a fresh curb to wax, the smell of a new deck, the inability to let go of the old one, the rush of landing your first kick flip, the disappointment of never getting better than that,  the awkwardness of pretending you can totally do lots of other tricks.   It was my favorite thing in the world to get a new CCS catalogue and see the new decks from my favorite companies, Element, Girl, Alien Workshop, Plan B, Black Label and circle my favorites as if I could have them all. I got my favorite t-shirt from that catalogue, the Girl brand logo. The logo was bigger on the one I had, this is the closest image I could find:

My first wheelz

Just seeing these images again makes me all aflutter! And no, I didn't use that word when I was skating. I can't remember what brand of deck I had because it was a hand-me-down whose art had been ground off over the years. It was given to me by a skate god, Straight Edge Scotty Zorn. Scott and his friend Steve (sounds like a gay porn) were legends. I think I was 12 or 13 and they were 18 when I first saw them skate. When Scott saw my interest he gave me one of his old decks and at first I just drueled on it a lot.  I eventually got my first set of wheels from Spitfire and some hand-me-down trucks and I was ready. The first thing I did was something I would never in a million years do today; I rode down the hill that I lived at the top of, going a million miles an hour, hit gravel, got thrown straight into the pavement, loved it, got up and did it again. I had stones in my knees for weeks. Remember when injuries were a badge of honor? And now I whine endlessly when I get a splinter.  I'm pretty annoying.  Scott also gave me my first few skate tapes that I still have on VHS. My brother and I would watch them and then go skate in the driveway. We found whatever we could to jump over, but I think a laundry basket was what we mostly used. And by we I mean my brother, because I could never make it. I became so obsessed with learning how to do a kick flip but never learned how to do one while moving, which, you know, is kind of the point. My calves would be so sore from hours of trying them in my garage at night.

The City Kids

I became friends with some skate kids called the borough boys and they would pick me up to go skate at the Plaza. These are some of my fondest memories.  Sometimes we would go downtown to skate with the "city kids", they were oh so cool...it seemed like that was the only world they lived in, like they didn't go to school or have parents. They just skated. We would congregate at the gazebo and they would jump off of it mid trick. Some of my favorite downtown memories are during winter; we would go to the parking garages and spend hours and hours there until we lost track of time, lost track of day or night. Oh to be young! Random side story but not actually that random...the shirt I'm wearing in the pic to the right-the Borough
Boys pic--here's the story behind it. Gather round chillins. In 8th grade on a "Jeans Day " Friday ay my Catholic school, I cried and cried because I didn't want to go to school. I didn't want to go  because I got made fun of for the clothes I wore--I was basically a tomboy and wore skater clothes. So, my mom drove me to my favorite skate shop and we bought that shirt because it said " You Can't Bring Me Down" and I went to school feeling so good, and have forever thanked my mother for it.

Ok. Sap time over. Go skating. Watch some Rodney Mullen and get your mind blown. Don't be afraid to break a couple bones. (Unless you don't have health insurance. Then maybe just cruise a lil bit down a nicely paved road.) Here's to youth, and to Scott Kershner, the hubby of the owner here at KU, who is the coolest 42 yr old I know. Not only does he have great war stories of his wilder days on wheels, AND the coolest collection of shoes, but he built a RAMP in his back yard. Scott, I need a dad, you need a daughter. Let's do this.

Downtown Gazebo

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8 May
2012

In Memory of Maurice Sendak

We are sad to hear of the passing of one of our favorite humans. We look back on an ode we wrote for him in 2011:

Ok before I get started, we need to get something adorable out of the way. Something that will bias you into loving this man like I do.

This is Sendak's dog Herman. NAMED AFTER HERMAN MELVILLE. SITTING ON A WILD THINGS RUG. I KNOW. IT'S AMAZING. It's true. It's all true. The dog. The Melville. The rug. It's all true.
He was once quoted in an interview on PBS about Melville, "My gods are Herman Melville, Emily Dickenson, Mozart. I believe in them with all my heart." IKNOWRITE. Swoon. For being a children's book author, he's not really...child-like...so to speak. He attributes this difference between himself and other typical children's book authors--especially when he started out--to his Jewish European background. In an interview with Npr's Jennifer Ludden, he remembers the many bedtime stories about Jewish friends and relatives dying horrible deaths and how it gave him insomnia, as well as a sense that he could never really be joyful in the presence of his parents without feeling guilty. WOMPWOMP. When Wild Things came out, parents and librarians freaked out because they thought it was too scary, little did they know Sendak's favorite thing to do is scare children. True story. Same interview.
Ok so are you ready to hear the most beautiful thing ever? I can't wait. I'm doing it now. I'm playing my trump card.

"I picked a modest form...I didn't have a lot of confidence, I hid inside this modest form called the children's book and expressed myself entirely. I wasn't going to paint, I wasn't going to do ostentatious drawings, I wasn't going to have gallery pictures, I was going to hide somewhere where nobody could find me."

CCCCCCCCCRRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYYYYIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG.

This is from an interview with Bill Moyers, YOU NEED to watch it. It's only 17 mins. Here, DO IT. And if you want to hear him call Mickey Mouse a whore, listen to this interview. He used to be obsessed with Mickey, in fact was inspired to draw because of Fantasia, and has an incredible collection of Mickey shiz.

He even wrote Walt Disney a letter asking him to adopt him, but never heard back. He has since become disillusioned with Disney, hence the whore comment.

Ok here's the next super awesome hilarious thing. After years and years of apprenticing and illustrating other people's books (there's like a billion) he finally gets his chance. So he goes to his editor, Ursula, whom he describes as "torrential" (another reason i love this man) and pitches her the title for his yet unwritten book,

 WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE

I'm sorry. I'm not sure you heard me. Let's try that again. The original title of Where the Wild Things Are was

WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE

But here's the best part. He then realized he COULDN'T DRAW HORSES. I'm sorry. I'm not sure you heard me.

 HE REALIZED HE COULDN'T DRAW HORSES

That's pretty much adorable.

Oh and get this. This is messed up. His book, 'Outside, Over There' published in 1981, is a story about a girl who resents her baby sister and then the baby gets stolen by goblins and she has to go into the goblin world to rescue her. Now let me tell you about a movie called Labyrinth from 1988. It's a story about a girl who resents her baby brother and the the baby gets stolen by goblins and she has to go into the goblin world to rescue him. I don't think you heard me. A story about a girl....ok i won't.

Oh and also get this. He illustrated an unpublished edition of the Hobbit. It's part of the Rosenbach Museaum and Library in Philly along with thousands of pieces of Sendak memorabilia. Oh and get this. Spike Jonze made a documentary about him called 'Tell Them Anything You Want' which follows Sendak during the making of Where the Wild Things Are--a movie that I want tattooed all over my body, all the images in it, on my body, for always.

 

 

Thanks Maurice, for hiding in these books, for expressing yourself entirely, and for bringing out the beasts.
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7 May
2012

We LIVE for Children’s Book Week!

Limited Edition KU Bookmarks!

Ok, so children's books usually make me do one of two things: cry or laugh, much like my two reactions to wasabi. So I'm going to tell you about my new favorite cry and laugh tales in honor of Children's Book Week, which is weird, because we really like to talk about the classics. A lot. But the new kids on the block are pretty cool too and we thought we'd introduce you in case you hadn't met, so that at the next party you go to you can impress people. You should make sure to have one of these AMAZINGLY AWESOME FREE BOOKMARKS YOU SEE ABOVE because we are also amazing and awesome. It's how we roll. Start your child off on the right path by teaching them NOT TO DOG EAR PAGES! Now there are staff who vehemently disagree with me and think it's ok to deface the written word with a painful and cruel crease, BUT THIS IS MY BLOG AND I DO WHAT I WANT. Ok now that you know where I stand on bookmarks, (I know it was keeping you up at night) let's get down to gold safety pins. I mean brass tacks. WORD PLAY! GOTCHA! That's the kind of fun you can have reading kids books, because children's book authors are the wisest, clever-est, best-est thinkers in the whole wide world and although you think their grammar is simple and sometimes nonsensical, their words are some of the truest ever written. Despite my ability to run-on, I think brevity is beautiful. I like to pack in in. (Ew.) Children's book author's are the best at this; they manage to take all the big heavy meaningful stuff and put it through the sieve that is the heart of a child. As we grow up, we just complicate things with language. So without further ado...

The Heart and Bottle by Oliver Jeffers

The AWESEOME SECRET COVER of The Heart and Bottle

The cover of this book is enough reason to crack it open.  BUT HERE'S THE THING. THIS IS A SECRET SO COME CLOSER....so this isn't the ACTUAL cover. The actual covers we had were torn so we undressed them and THIS was underneath! Why you would cover up this cover with a cover is just crazy talk. So, we've decided to display it as such. It’s like you’re on drugs. fun for you AND the kids! But seriously the cover rules. It’s got space, whales, squirrels, elephants, Buckingham Palace Guards, bees on fire, yes i said bees on fire, and yellow duckies. Ya that’s just the cover. It begins with illustrations of the many curiosities in a little girl’s head; in one of my favorite images she is under the water passing by a whale and the little speech bubble says, “oh, hello” and another favorite is a ship falling off the edge of the world. BUT I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE BEES ON FIRE. BUT WAIT I HAVEN’T EVEN TALKED ABOUT THE BEST PART...THE WWUUURRDDDSSS! And the point they make in sentence form. Some like to call it the lesson, the moral of the story, the point, if you will. You might cry. I may have cried. If we’re being honest here. And I think we are. I’ll just say this; any story that reminds adults to be child-like is.....wait hold on...crying again...ok ...any story that reminds us what our hearts were like when we were small is my kind of story. This is one of those books ; that transcends age; it’s for all of us. YAY!

 

Leon and the Place Between by Grahame Baker-Smith

Cover of Leon & The Place Between. I KNOWRITE!

“With a ripple of gold braid, the curtains slowly parted... Leon could smell the magic”
“Where am i? asked Leon.
“This is the place between,” said the boy.
“Between what?”
“Between there and back again. This is the place where magic sends you.”

Hold on i’m crying, I just finished this.
Ok. I’m ok. Let’s talk.  This is a book that has that Peter Pan-esque “if you believe” vibe AND it has absurdly gorge illustrations so it’s a win win. The cover is what first drew me in, (because you know, that's how that works) but the story kept me there. My favorite part about this story is that instead of a special girl or boy experiencing an adventure (whoch does happen) Leon assures his friends that anyone can go where he went, as long as they believe. SOBBBBB.

 

 

 

Then there is the stunning "Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit" by Il Sung Na:

This makes me want bunnies and sheep badly!

A page from Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a simple yet lovely tale about the changing of the seasons. A cute bunny peeks in on various animals as they hibernate or migrate and its terribly sweet and beautifully illustrated.

Don't like crying or being swept off your feet by the wonder of a beautifully written children's book but do enjoy laughing at sometimes cold and harsh reality of karma? Then check out the adorable, no gimmicks tale "I Want My Hat Back" by Jon Klasson.

I Want My Hat Back

 

This was a wonderful surprise for us when we read it; word spread through the unbreakable KU grape-vine to check it out and check it out we did. Now we are spreading the word to you! Voted one of the 10 Best Illustrated Books of 2011 by the NyTimes, its illustrations are clean and simple. If you want something different, check this AHT.  See also: "Walter the Farting Dog", and "Poop".

Tell us your favorites!

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