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Dan Coleman

Squashing the Back-to-School Jitters

With a preschooler and kindergartener in the house these days, trips to and from school are a big part of my life.

Like most of the experience of parenting, many of my preconceived worries about school have never materialized, but issues I didn’t expect at all have surprised me. For instance, I spent my own first few years of elementary school staring down long hallways as older kids and adults rushed past me in a faceless torrent. Read More..

Dahl in All

You never know what thoughts will pop into your head when you wake up two hours before dawn, creep down to the darkest, quietest corner of the basement, and make a giant paper mache blueberry.  “Why the heck am I doing this?” is one recurring theme. Read More..

Republish or Perish

Back in 3rd grade, my best friend hipped me to the wonders of Bertrand Brinley’s novel The Mad Scientist’s Club, about a group of boys who float a mannequin over their town’s Founder’s Day celebration, construct a remote controlled “monster” in a local lake, and wreak further havoc with various other products of their tinkering.  Read More..

Monkey See, Enkidu

Like many in town, our home has not been immune to an influx of sugar ants in recent weeks, made worse by a wet May.  Unfortunately, word spread among them that, due to its plentiful supply of improperly disposed lollipop and Popsicle sticks, my 5-year old son Ray’s bedroom was a sort of ant Las Vegas.  At bedtime for a week straight, no matter what we did to make his room less interesting, a steady line marched past his bed, the sight of which, combined with a tired brain and body, resulted in as many tears as ants.  Read More..

Cranky Kirkus

“It has come to this: werewolves on The Titanic.”

Favorite first lines of novels make great discussion fodder, but book reviews rarely begin with sentences as memorable as that one, which led off a review of Claudia Gray’s Fateful in the curmudgeon of professional book review journals, Kirkus Reviews.  Kirkus is so notoriously grouchy there is even a Tumblr blog dedicated to its crafty disses, Sick Burns: The Best of Kirkus Review’s Worst. Read More..

Things Are Looking Up, but Hopefully You Weren’t

It’s hard to put a finger on what makes a great title, and like everything else about reading, it’s a matter of taste.  Among the classics are the biblical (East of Eden), the ominous (For Whom the Bell Tolls), the elegant (Beloved), and the just plain weird (Wuthering Heights . . . what does “wuthering” mean, anyway?).  My favorites tend to be titles which make universal pronouncements in complete sentences, like The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Things Fall Apart, or You Can’t Go Home Again.  So I was pleased to see a new book arrive at the library which has as its title the grandest, truest statement about the human experience I’ve ever heard: Someday a Bird Will Poop on You.   Read More..

Reading Across the Galaxy with Adam Rex

Road trips don’t get much stranger than the one 11-year old Gratuity Tucci must make, accompanied by a soap-eating alien named J-Lo, in this year’s Read Across Lawrence for Kids title, The True Meaning of Smekday.  But author and illustrator Adam Rex, whose “divinely demented” sensibility has entertained children and adults alike for over a decade, rarely stays on the map.

Rex, who will join us via Skype on February 27th to crown a month of events we’ve put together with the help of KU Libraries and the Friends of the Library, recently answered a few questions about his book, free copies of which will be distributed (along with pizza, but not soap) to kids at the kickoff party on January 30th.  Read More..

Interview with Stephen T. Johnson

A working wrench, screwdriver, and pencil are not commonly found in children’s books, but the versatility of artist and Lawrence resident Stephen T. Johnson is reflected in his classic My Little Red Toolbox, an object which bridges the gap between book and toy.  Each day, thousands view his sculpture “Freeform,” located on the southwest corner of 6th and Massachusetts, and in places like the DeKalb Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, or Love Field Airport in Dallas, his work offers color and energy to thousands more.  But he may be best known as an illustrator of children’s books, from the dynamic realism of the basketball players in Hoops, to the intriguing found images of Alphabet City, which received a Caldecott Honor, and its companion, City by Numbers.  Johnson blends beauty and text in a title published this year, Alphabet School, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his life and work when he stopped by the library recently.       Read More..

Face the Nation

“What about this: a tribe of asparagus children, but they’re self-conscious about the way their pee smells.”  Whenever I happen to catch the movie Elf around Christmastime, I relish this line from a scene depicting a roomful of publishing wonks desperate to get to the top of the children’s bestseller list.  Read More..

Read Them All, You Must

Inevitably, I hear the same four words when I talk to parents of grown children: “It goes so fast.” Parents with kids just a few years older than my own, when asked for tips on common problems, rarely muster more than “I can’t remember.” I draw a blank myself when I think back on how my wife and I handled stuff that happened just last year. “It’s a blur,” say newbie and veteran parents alike, and there’s no better word I can think of to describe this mysterious sensation of amnesia and accelerated time.

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