WELCOME! Once a month, usually on a Thursday evening, a group of writers, illustrators, teachers and librarians meets in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles to discuss children's books. Usually we talk about one picture book and one middle grade or YA novel. After the meeting, Sandy Schuckett, a retired LAUSD librarian, summarizes our discussion. Here are her reports of our thoughts about the books we have read. We'd love to have your comments too!
Thanks to Nancy Hayashi for our wonderful title art! Our group has been meeting since 2007. It was organized under the auspices of the Children's Literature Council of Southern California (CLCSC).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

SHARK VS TRAIN by Chris Barton and WARP SPEED by Lisa Yee

Picture Book: Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton:
We had a small but vocal group at our recent meeting. Everyone, without exception, LOVED Shark vs. Train. We loved the illustrations, the humor, the 'boyness' of it, and the clever wordplay that maybe kids wouldn't get, but that the adults reading it to kids would. Michelle had done an interview on her blog with the illustrator, and we had a couple of questions that she agreed to ask him, like: 1) did he collaborate with the author, or just do the illustrations upon seeing the manuscript; and 2) did he, or the author, write the comments in the bubbles?
Here is his answer:
Chris and I collaborated on everything. We created many, many scenarios, then whittled it down to the best ones. We spent a lot of time on the phone, I sent him sketches and we went back and forth on pretty much everything, including the captions. We both came up with scenarios and captions, so it's impossible to say who wrote what.
Once we were in the home stretch, I went down to Austin, where we spent a weekend at the library hammering things out.

Then I asked him how the collaboration on SVT came about, since it's so atypical in picture books. He replied:

I always collaborate with authors to some extent; it's part of "the deal" when a publisher works with me. I know it's atypical, but I love collaborating and think it always makes for a better book. When the publisher showed me the idea, I thought it was brilliant and knew I could add to it, so I just told her I'd only do it if I could collaborate with Chris, and he was open to it.
Novel: Warp Speed by Lisa Yee
As for Warp Speed, we mostly liked it. Some more than others. Some of our members thought the writing was really tight and descriptive with very well-developed characters. Others thought it was a great read for middle school kids, but not the greatest piece of literature in the world. A couple of people thought the 'bullying' part and the ending was a bit didactic. But generally, we had a positive feeling about it.