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Dan Coleman

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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The Tao of Another Now

This fall Amazon will release an original series adaptation of The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick’s classic depiction of a postwar world ruled by the Nazis and Japanese. Hearing this, I headed for the basement to track down my old copy, a paperback on the inside cover of which I had scrawled my name and “1995,” the year I read it. Read More..

Walking with a Pilgrim

Several weeks ago when I took my two young kids to Clinton Lake to hit one of their favorite playgrounds, we inadvertently stumbled onto a riotous scene.  Read More..

About a Boy

 On the tail end of a warm, windy afternoon last month at Lyons Park, my 4-year old son, who had been running the bases on the ball fields there for 45 minutes, reached a familiar point of no return, triggered by his frustration that I was unable, at the moment, to continue trying to tag him out with an invisible baseball.  Reason being, my 2-year old daughter, whose idea of fun doesn’t have much to do with imaginary plays at the plate and “real baseball dirt” swirling into her eyes, had reached her own point of no return just moments earlier.  I was close to a meltdown myself as I shuffled over the mound through the screams, trying to conjure a little inspiration from a vision of big league pitchers struggling on up here without their best stuff.

Usually at times like this I look for humor in the situation, but that wasn’t working today, even though at the same time my son was pretending to be Eric Hosmer, he was also wearing his little sister’s Minnie Mouse sweatpants—pink with white polka dots and a long black mouse tail attached in back—quite tight in the seat and three inches too short for him at the ankles.  It would be a few more hours until I could cure myself of the weariness and frustration of the afternoon.  Kids put to bed, my wife and I watched a DVD from the library that shifted my perspective and transformed my dusty funk into a sense of wonder, as if I had been able to zoom out and glimpse a big picture view of family life akin to one of those images of Earth from space.   Read More..

Fail Better

Curious George and I got off on the wrong foot.  One of my earliest memories is an epic tantrum I threw at age four when my parents returned home from a trip bearing the gift of a stuffed monkey, when what I really wanted was a G.I. Joe (and yes, I’m so old I mean the kind that was a foot tall).  These days, Curious is curious as ever, in large part due to 2008’s Will Ferrell-voiced feature film, and the PBS television reboot, which airs every morning in these parts around the time my own 2- and 4-year olds are doing their utmost not to get dressed, brush their teeth, eat breakfast, or any other of the morning requirements that distinguish humans from the lesser primates.

Like Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, Transformers, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Curious George is riding a wave of resurgent popularity, as Gen X and Y parents introduce old favorites to their own kids.  But I suspect I’m not alone in my frequent disappointment with new versions of old shows, and in sometimes finding even the originals not quite as cool as they were when I was five. Read More..

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