Archive for December, 2012

Barnaby, Vol. 1

Barnaby, Volume 1

The book went to press earlier this month, and will be out in the spring.  I can’t wait for you to see it.  Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby Volume 1 is truly a thing of beauty.

If you read any books published by Fantagraphics, this last sentence will not surprise you.  But in case you are not (yet) a Fantagraphics devotee, let me give you a little behind-the-scenes look at why this book looks so great.  (If you can’t wait to see a few glimpses, please scoot on over to Fantagraphics’ post on Barnaby Volume 1: it includes images and Daniel Clowes‘ rough sketch for the cover.)

Fantagraphics is perfectionistic in all the right ways.  At each phase of the process, Eric Reynolds — who is co-editing the Barnaby books with me — contacted me with specific questions.  Most recently, at page-proofs phase, we talked about the layout of my essay, as well as those by Chris Ware and Jeet Heer.  Dan Clowes put the epigraph for the first section of my essay in a Barnaby-style speech bubble.  I thought: that looks cool. Might we try the same treatment for the other epigraphs? We did, and liked the result.  Eric, Dan, and Fantagraphics designer Tony Ong also experimented with how to lay out my notes.  We proofread everything many times, had conversations about grammar and word choice.  Eric worked hard on getting the spacing just right on the back cover’s panels (visible, if too small to read clearly, on Fantagraphics’ post — and below).  If these details sound boring to you, they really shouldn’t.  This sort of keen attention to detail makes for a beautiful book.

Barnaby, Volume 1: cover

Fantagraphics works with the best people.  Daniel Clowes! Chris Ware! Jeet Heer!  Dan designed the book to look as if it were designed by Crockett Johnson in the 1940s.  When you look at (for example) the back cover, it does not look as if it was designed using contemporary software.  The lines look hand-ruled because (I believe) they were hand-ruled.  For the typeface, Dan used Futura because that’s the distinctive typeface of Barnaby — and, incidentally, of Ruth Krauss‘s The Carrot Seed, which Johnson illustrated & designed.  Chris wrote a beautiful, insightful introductory piece on Johnson and Barnaby.  I’m tempted to quote it here, but I think I’ll leave it as a surprise.  I will say, though, that there are few comics creators who can speak as lucidly as Chris can about how comics work.  I’ll also say that Chris’s piece will make you look at Harold (of purple crayon fame) in a new way.  And… that’s all I’ll say.  Comics scholar Jeet Heer’s introduction features the best description of Mr. O’Malley (Barnaby’s fairy godfather) that I’ve ever read: “half-pixie and half-grifter, an otherwordly being most at home in low-life dives and gambling dens, raider of other people’s fridges and cigar boxes, an inept wizard whose magic only works intermittently and often with unintended consequences, a self-mythologizer whose account of his own past glories is an improbable farrago of tall tales, a rhetorician quick to smooth over any difficulty with rococo eloquence and irrelevant digressions.”

Fantagraphics — specifically, Eric Reynolds — communicated with me clearly and regularly.  He was always clear, polite, and had the best interests of the project at heart.  A great guy to work with.  I’m delighted that we’ll be working together on volumes 2 through 5!  (We’re collecting the full ten-year run of Barnaby, 1942-1952, with two years in each volume.)

Finally, we could not have done this without the help of collectors who loaned us their newspapers or scanned strips — the Smithsonian, Harvard University, and Charles Cohen, in particular.  So.  Thanks to them!  Note to the curious: a complete collection of old newspaper strips are not just lying around in an archive.  You have to go looking for them.  It’s an enormous amount of work, and is one of the reasons Volume 1 took so long.  The other is Fantagraphics’ admirable perfectionism.

So.  This spring.  Barnaby Volume 1.  Get it!

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Children’s Literature and Comics/Graphic Novels at MLA 2013

MLA Boston 2013

For those heading to the MLA in Boston (3-6 January 2013), here’s a handy list of panel sessions on either children’s literature or comics/graphic novels.  I compiled the list below by searching the MLA’s program for children’s literature (so, I may have missed some), and by re-posting the comics/graphic novels sessions from the MLA Comics/Graphic Narratives Discussion Group: sessions sponsored by the group & other comics/graphic novels events — I strongly encourage you to visit those pages for more information.  The second of the two pages also lists individual papers on comics and graphic narratives.


90. Paintings and Photographs Remediated in Film, Graphic Narrative, and Newspaper

Thursday, 3 January, 3:30–4:45 p.m., Riverway, Sheraton Boston

Program arranged by the International Society for the Study of Narrative and the American Comparative Literature Association

Presiding: Emma Kafalenos, Washington Univ. in St. Louis; Lois Parkinson Zamora, Univ. of Houston

  1. “The Remediation of Painting within Cinematic Narrative Discourse,” David Henry Richter, Queens Coll., City Univ. of New York
  2. “Remediated Photographs and Reconstructed Memories: Personal and Familial Pasts in Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” Genie Giaimo, Northeastern Univ.
  3. “Front-Page Ekphrasis,” Lisa Zunshine, Univ. of Kentucky

105. Theorizing the Early Reader

Thursday, 3 January3:30–4:45 p.m., Jefferson, Sheraton

Program arranged by the Division on Children’s Literature

Presiding: Abbye Meyer, Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs

  1. “Curiosity Killed the Kid: The Drive for Knowledge in Early Readers,” Jennifer M. Miskec, Longwood Univ.
  2. “Empathy and the Developing Reader,” Karen Coats, Illinois State Univ.
  3. “From ‘Loose Baggy Monsters’ to ‘Terrific Fun!’: Adaptations of Victorian Novels for Young Readers,” Katie R. Peel, Univ. of North Carolina, Wilmington

132. Black Studies and Comics

Thursday, 3 January, 5:15–6:30 p.m., Back Bay D, Sheraton Boston

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives

Presiding: Qiana Joelle Whitted, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia

  1. “(In)Visible Bodies: Rewriting the Politics of Passing in Incognegro, a Graphic Mystery by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece,” Christophe Dony, Univ. of Liège
  2. “Birth of an Imperium: Tragedy, Comedy, and the Graphic Representation of African American History,” Jonathan W. Gray, John Jay Coll. of Criminal Justice, CUNY
  3. “A Work of Its Time and a Timeless Work: The Spirit, Ebony White, and Will Eisner’s Legacy,” Andrew James Kunka, Univ. of South Carolina, Sumter

201. Margin Call: The Marginalization of (Children’s) Poetry

Friday, 4 January8:30–9:45 a.m., Jefferson, Sheraton

Program arranged by the Division on Children’s Literature

Presiding: Michael Joseph, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick; Joseph Terry Thomas, San Diego State Univ.

  1. “New-Found Tongues,” Lissa Paul, Brock Univ.
  2. “(Mis)Reading Romantic Children’s Verse,” Donelle Ruwe, Northern Arizona Univ.
  3. “If This Is the Golden Age of Children’s Poetry, Why Is Everything So Yellow?” Richard McDonnell Flynn, Georgia Southern Univ.

303. Graphic Lives in Wartime

Friday, 4 January, 1:45–3:00 p.m., The Fens, Sheraton Boston

Program jointly arranged by the Division on Autobiography, Biography, and Life Writing and the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives

Presiding: Linda Haverty Rugg, UC Berkeley; Joseph (Rusty) Witek, Stetson Univ.

  1. “Joe Sacco on Joe Sacco,” Julia Watson, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
  2. “Ethical Obligation in the Wartime Graphic Memoir: Theorizing the Face in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis,” Joseph Darda, Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs
  3. “Atomic Bomb Manga,” Hillary Chute, Univ. of Chicago
  4. “Views from Nowhere: Journalistic Detachment in Joe Sacco’s Palestine,” Marc Singer, Howard Univ.

504. New England DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Comics

Saturday, 5 January, 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., The Fens, Sheraton Boston

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives

Presiding: Martha B. Kuhlman, Bryant Univ.

  1. “Minicomics and the Graphic Nonnovel,” Isaac Cates, Univ. of Vermont
  2. “Comics Culture and Community: Providence,” Martha B. Kuhlman
  3. “‘Like Us Be Free and Bold’: Innovation, Rebellion, and Self-Reliance in Boston Minicomics,” Susan E. Kirtley, Portland State Univ.
  4. “The Illegitimate Sons of Superman: DIY Publishing and the Rutland Halloween Parade,” Craig Fischer, Appalachian State Univ.

608. Children and Fame

Saturday, 5 January3:30–4:45 p.m., Public Garden, Sheraton

Program arranged by the Children’s Literature Association

Presiding: Nicole Lynne Wilson, Wayne State Univ.

  1. “Girls Just Want to Control the Fun: Power and Fame in Gossip Girl and The Clique,” Anne Layman Horn, Temple Univ., Philadelphia
  2. “‘The World Will Be Watching’: The Panoptic Nature of Fame in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Trilogy,” Nicole Lynne Wilson
  3. “‘Un-Chosen One Roolz!’: Sidekicks, Fame, and Autonomy in the Harry Potter Novels and Un Lun Dun,” Jennifer Mitchell, Weber State Univ.

623. Gender(ed) Performativities in Latin American and Latina/o Graphic Novels

Saturday, 5 January, 5:15–6:30 p.m., Room 205, Hynes Convention Center

Program arranged by the Division on Twentieth-Century Latin American Literature

Presiding: Hilda Chacón, Nazareth Coll. of Rochester

  1. “Unbecoming Cuban American: Representations of Female Subjectivity in Bad Habits: A Love Story, by Cristy Road,” Irune del Rio Gabiola, Butler Univ.
  2. “Ashes and Masks: Gender according to Gilbert Hernandez,” Christopher Pizzino, Univ. of Georgia
  3. “Trans-nepantlista Visual Geographies and the Inked Latina Body: Ana Mendieta’s Graphic Life Writing,” Emma Ruth García, Colby Coll.; Magdalena M. Maiz-Peña, Davidson Coll.

657. Cash Bar Arranged by the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives

Saturday, 5 January, 7:00–8:15 p.m., Independence West, Sheraton Boston

To quote the description from the MLA Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives’ blog, “Please join us for this informal mixer—and help us chart our future! Members of the Discussion Group’s Executive Committee will be on hand to chat about our programming, our plans, and the further growth of comics studies at the MLA. We invite your input, and hope to connect with all those who are interested in comics scholarship. Not to be missed!”


676. Re–Understanding Comics

Sunday, 6 January, 8:30–9:45 a.m., Gardner, Sheraton Boston

A special session

Presiding: Margaret Galvan, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York

  1. “The Citational Uses and Abuses of Understanding Comics and the Scholarly Futures They Forecast,” Michael Chaney, Dartmouth Coll.
  2. “Living Lines: Comics as a Phenomenological Encounter,” David Bahr, Borough of Manhattan Community Coll., City Univ. of New York
  3. “Drawing on Theory,” Samantha Close, Univ. of Southern California

Responding: Charles Hatfield, California State Univ., Northridge


695. Race, Girlhood, and Social Justice in Children’s Literature

Sunday, 6 January10:15–11:30 a.m., Beacon A, Sheraton

Program arranged by the Children’s Literature Association and the MLA Committee on the Literatures of People of Color in the United States and Canada

Presiding: Michelle Holley Martin, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia

  1. “A Credit to Their People: Race and Resilient Rebirth in Ntozake Shange’s Whitewash and Alma Flor Ada’s My Name Is Maria Isabel,” Ada McKenzie, Coll. of the Bahamas
  2. “Battling for Opportunity: The Girl Soldiers of Shuttered Windows and Warriors Don’t Cry,”Sara Schwebel, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia
  3. “Fired Up: Compromising Social Justice in the Figure of the Girl,” Sarah Sahn, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana

Responding: Kristen Proehl, Clemson Univ.


709. Picturing Photography in Graphic Memoirs

Sunday, 6 January, 10:15–11:30 a.m., Berkeley, Sheraton Boston

A special session

Presiding: Courtney Baker, Connecticut Coll.

  1. “The Queer Contest between Modern and Postmodern Modes of Vision in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home,” Robin Bernstein, Harvard Univ.
  2. “Drawn Photographs and the Performance of (Post)Memory in Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know,” Mihaela Precup, Univ. of Bucharest
  3. “‘I Saw It’: The Photographic Witness of Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen,” Laura Wexler, Yale Univ.

790. Comics, Moving Images, and Intermedial Criticism

Sunday, 6 January, 1:45–3:00 p.m., Gardner, Sheraton Boston

Program arranged by the Division on Film

Presiding: Nicholas Sammond, Univ. of Toronto; Paul D. Young, Vanderbilt Univ.

  1. “Autobiographical Constructions: Authorial Absence and Presence in Julie Doucet and Michel Gondry’s My New New York Diary,” Frederik Køhlert, Univ. of Montreal
  2. Avatar: The Last Airbender and Shifting Intermedial Spaces,” Sandra K. Stanley, California State Univ., Northridge
  3. “Spiegelman’s Home Movie: Art at Auschwitz,” Brad Prager, Univ. of Missouri, Columbia

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Top 12 Covers of 2012

Top 12 covers of 2012Here are the best covers of 2012!  Well, they might be.  I haven’t kept up with music as well as I’d like to this year, and so I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones.  (I’m sure I can trust you to tell what I’ve missed, in the comments below.)  Though I recognize that there is no such thing as a cassette with 22 minutes per side, I’m nonetheless dividing this into the more uptempo side A and a quieter side B.


side A

1) Acapella The Futureheads (2012)            2:28

From the FutureheadsRant, a cover of Kellis. The album, incidentally, is entirely a capella, which I think earns the Futureheads some bonus points for coolness. Below: after mucking about for a minute, they perform this song live.

2) Judy Is a Punk The New Piccadillys (2012)             1:44

I have no idea who the New Piccadillys are, but this Beatle-esque cover of the Ramones is fantastic.  The group also created a Beatles-ish video to accompany the song.  Fun.

3) Feelin’ Alright Jackson 5 (1971)             3:13

This is the sole song here that was not recorded this year.  But it’s a great cover, and the box set on which it appears was released this year.   Come and Get It: The Rare Pearls features previously unreleased material from the Jackson 5.  Listening to it, I can’t help but think that the group could have had even more hits, had these songs been released at the time.  Great stuff.  This is their cover of Traffic.

4) You Be Illin’ Carolina Chocolate Drops (2012)             3:14

From the Carolina Chocolate Drops‘ Leaving Eden, a rootsy cover of the RUN-DMC classic.

5) Time Will Do the Talking Bettye LaVette (2012)             4:05

On her latest, Thankful n’ Thoughtful, Bettye LaVette performs a song from Patty Griffin’s debut album.  Tough to choose just one cover from this album.  I also considered the album opener, “Everything Is Broken,” but I already had a Dylan cover in the second half of the mix.

6) Right Back Where We Started From Chandler Travis Philharmonic (2012)           3:25

It was also tough to choose just one cover from this CD, Superhits of the Seventies: Original Hits, Today’s Stars, a 2012 WFMU fundraising exclusive assembled by Michael Shelley.  In addition to the Chandler Travis Philharmonic‘s merrily ragged cover of the Maxine Nightingale hit, the CD includes Yo La Tengo’s cover of Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light,” the Dahlmanns’ cover of ABBA’s “Ring Ring,” and many other greats.  It’s only available to people who gave $75 or more to WFMU’s latest fundraising drive.  And you can still get it.  (If you can afford to, I’d recommend giving even more so that you can get more DJ premiums.  WFMU is the greatest freeform station in the nation, and is struggling to bounce back from Sandy.  It’s managed to get back on the air, but needs more money this year than it usually does.)


side B

7) Bloodbuzz Ohio Julia Stone (2012)           5:11

Lovely cover of the National by Julia Stone, from her album By the Horns.

8) Daydream Believer Renee & Jeremy (2012)            2:25

Beautiful, gentle cover of the Monkees’ hit — from Renee & Jeremy‘s A Little Love.

9) Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) Active Child (2012)            3:27

Active Child perform this cover of the Eurythmics’ classic at Australia’s Triple J radio station.  Here’s a video of the performance:

10) Landslide Antony (2012)            3:31

From A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac, in which Antony, the New Pornographers, Best Coast, MGMT, Lykke Li & others cover Fleetwood Mac songs.

11) Simple Twist of Fate Diana Krall (2012)           3:51

One of many fantastic songs from the 4-CD set Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan, a benefit album (for Amnesty International) featuring 128 covers of Dylan songs and Dylan himself performing “Chimes of Freedom.”

12) Video Games John Mayer (2012)              3:32

An instrumental take on the Lana Del Rey song.  In Mayer‘s rendition, it sounds like Ennio Morricone’s score for a 1960s western, or maybe incidental music for John Sayles’ Lone Star.


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Essential Holiday Tunes, Vol. 2

Essential Holiday Tunes 2Happy holidays!  A couple of years ago, I posted a mix of “Essential Holiday Tunes.”  Here is the sequel to that mix — and, yes, of course these selections are also idiosyncratic.  Unlike the previous mix, I’ve ventured a little further afield here: that is, I’ve deliberately veered towards some lesser-known songs.  Like the previous mix, this one is uptempo.  (For those interested in something quieter, I also posted a quieter, more melancholic “Blue Christmas” mix.)  I’m also posting a different song each day (some of which are featured here, and some of which are not) via Twitter, using the hashtag #FavoriteHolidaySongs

1) Now Sound of Christmas Introduction   The Free Design (1969)            0:33

The Free Design were contemporaries of (and had a comparable sound to) the Association, but never had much chart success.  Indeed, one of their songs, “2002 — A Hit Song,” pokes fun at their hit-less-ness and at pop music in general.  Only “Kites Are Fun” (the title track from their 1967 debut) cracked the top 40.  But their close harmonies and beautifully arranged orchestral pop influenced many, including Stereolab, whose “The Free Design” is named for the group.  Though they disbanded in 1974, the surviving members of the group — all of whom were siblings — reunited for one final record, Cosmic Peekaboo (2001). The group’s leader, Chris Dedrick, died of cancer in 2010.

2) Peanut Brittle Brigade (March)   Duke Ellington (1960)            4:38

Duke Ellington’s Three Suites includes his version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, from which this track comes.  If this isn’t part of your music collection, get the whole album — which also includes Ellington’s arrangement of Grieg’s Peer Gynt, and Ellington’s original music for John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday.

3) Hurray for Santa Claus   The Fleshtones (2008)            1:58

From the FleshtonesStocking Stuffer, this is a cover of Milton Delugg and the Little Eskimos’ theme for the science fiction film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964).

4) Santa Claus Got Stuck (in My Chimney)   Ella Fitzgerald (1950)            3:07

One of my favorite Ella Fitzgerald holiday tunes (another is on the first Essential Holiday Tunes mix). I wonder, though, is it possible to listen to this song and not think of Freud?

5) (Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man with the Bag   Black Prairie featuring Sallie Ford (2012)            3:35

From the new Holidays Rule compilation, which I like nearly all of.  I particularly like the way this song opens in a minor key — gives it a slightly darker undercurrent.

6) I Want an Alien for Christmas   Fountains of Wayne (2005)            2:19

The masters of power pop give us a catchy tune on Out of State Plates, their double-CD compilation of non-album cuts and outtakes.

7) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer   The Fab Four (2002)            2:03

No, not that Fab Four.  These guys do fantastic Beatles-esque versions of holiday songs.  In this one, you get Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer performed in the style of “I Saw Her Standing There.”

8) Everywhere It’s Christmas   The Beatles (1966)            0:53

This is the real Fab Four, from their 1966 record sent to members of their fan club.

9) Feliz Navidad   El Vez (1994)            2:34

El Vez offers up a rockin’ cover of José Feliciano.  From El Vez’s Merry MeX-mas.

10) Soulful Christmas   James Brown (1968)            3:09

“James Brown loves you.”  From James Brown’s Soulful Christmas, which also includes “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” and “Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year.”

11) What Christmas Means to Me   Stevie Wonder (1967)            2:28

From Stevie Wonder’s Someday at Christmas, which includes versions of “Silver Bells,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” and Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song.”

12) Mrs. Claus Ain’t Got Nothin’ on Me   Little Jackie (2010)            2:57

This appeared on The Christmas Gig, a compilation created by Target in 2010.

13) The Merriest   June Christy (1961)            2:08

Christy is perhaps best known for her Something Cool (1954), which in addition to the title track has great performances of “Whee Baby,” “You’re Making Me Crazy,” and “The First Thing You Know, You’re in Love.”   She performed with Stan Kenton’s band in the 1940s, and retired in the mid-1960s… though I don’t know why.  It seems to me that she could have had a longer career — along the lines of, say, Peggy Lee.  This song appears on Christy’s This Time of Year (1961).

14) Silver Bells   The Yobs (1980)            2:44

A punk shredding of Ray Evans & Jay Livingston’s classic.  From the Yobs’ Christmas Album.

15) Winter Wonderland    Peggy Lee (1965)            1:54

Written in 1934 by Felix Bernard (music) & Richard B. Smith (lyrics), “Winter Wonderland” has been recorded in hit versions by over 150 artists, including two hit versions in 1946 — one by Johnny Mercer, and the other by Perry Como.  Ella Fitzgerald has a version on her Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas (1960), a great holiday record.  And, yes, many great versions — Chet Baker, Eurythmics, Brian Setzer….  Peggy Lee’s recording appears on the compilation Christmas Cocktails, and (I’m sure) on several other compilations.

16) Horchata   Vampire Weekend (2010)            3:27

From Contra, the band’s second LP.

17) Little Jack Frost Get Lost   Frankie Carle with Marjorie Hughes, vocal (1947)            2:47

A swingin’ little number that deserves to be better known.  Appears on A Big Band Christmas and on other compilations.

18) Santa Claus Is a Black Man   AKIM & the Teddy Vann Production Company (1973)            3:30

An Afro-centric re-casting of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” featuring Teddy Vann’s daughter Akim.   This appears on A John Waters Christmas (2004), though without Teddy Vann’s permission.  Apparently, Vann sued Waters over it.  Mr. Vann passed away in 2009; I’m not sure about the results of the lawsuit.  I do know that the John Waters Christmas album is currently the only CD on which you can find this song.

19) Happy Christmas Baby   The Boy Least Likely To (2010)            3:31

Appears on the Boy Least Likely To‘s Christmas Special.

20) Little Drummer Boy   The Soulful Strings (1968)            3:06

“Little Drummer Boy” may be my least favorite Christmas song. I’m including it here because the Soulful Strings have recorded a really great version — the sole recording of this song that’s actually listenable.  It surprises and pleases me every time I hear it.

21) Children of December   The Slip (2006)            4:50

From the band’s album, Eisnhower, some sympathy for people born in December.

22) Just Like Christmas    Low (1999)            3:08

Here, our mix veers towards the slightly more melancholic — but only slightly.  This song, from Low’s Christmas, has an uptempo bounce (and echo-ey Phil-Spector-ish drums) that contrasts nicely with the lyrics: “On our way from Stockholm, / It started to snow. / And you said it was just like Christmas. / But you were wrong. It wasn’t like Christmas at all.”

23) Is This Christmas? [Radio Edit]   The Wombats (2008)            3:38

This appears as a bonus track on the 2008 re-release of the Wombats’ first LP, A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation.  Even more uptempo than the Low song, but with more downbeat lyrics: “Here comes our darkest end. / Christmas is here. / It’s about not extending the overdraft / to scrape out what is left / at the end of the year.”  The Wombats are one of my favorite contemporary pop groups.  I recommend both of their albums.

24) Fairytale of New York    The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl (1988)            4:33

One of the all-time great holiday songs.  Love, conflict, and a little profanity, too.  Dorian Lynskey wrote a great history of the song, which ran in the Guardian last week.  I recommend it.  The piece also embeds an early demo version of the song, which is fascinating.  But go and read the article.  It’s well worth your time.

25) Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas?    The Staple Singers (1970)            2:31

“Searching for light, and can’t seem to find the right star.” A no. 2 pop hit for the Staple Singers, this song originally appeared as a single.  It later appears on The Very Best of the Staple Singers. I have it from the compilation Snow 3 — The Get Easy! Christmas Collection Volume III.

26) (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding    Brinsley Schwarz (1974)            3:34

This is the first recording of the song made famous by Elvis Costello. Written and sung by Brinsley Schwarz’s vocalist Nick Lowe, the song’s message makes it apt for a holiday mix. It’s also been a source of lots of royalties for Lowe: Curtis Stigers covered the song for The Bodyguard soundtrack, which sold over 40 million copies.

27) Christmas Medley: Carol of the Bells / Melodies for the Day / O Sanctissimo    The Swingle Singers (1968)            3:11

Ending the mix with a gentle a cappella medley.  The final song on the Swingle SingersChristmastime.

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Mock Caldecott 2012: Manhattan, Kansas Edition

With thanks to the Children’s and Adolescent Literature Community (ChALC) for organizing the event and the Manhattan Public Library (especially Melendra Sanders) for hosting it, we held a Mock Caldecott at this afternoon. We weren’t able to get all of the books we wanted to look at, and we likely overlooked other Caldecott contenders.  But, based on what we did get to review, here are the top choices of our group (composed of undergraduates, graduate students, children’s lit faculty, and members of the community).

The Winner:

I.C. Springman, More (illus. Brian Lies, 2012)Brian Lies, More (text by I.C. Springman).

The people voting for this one felt that Lies‘ artwork makes this book work.  The brief text offers only indicators of quantity (“a few,” “lots,” “too much”); the illustrations of all the items the magpie gathers result in an increasingly full nest.  While there’s clearly some didactic intent (the magpie hoards too much), the pictures convey the accretion of stuff in a way that’s playful and fun.  The book strives to teach us to want less, but never does it feel like it’s preaching at us.

The Honor Books:

Jon Klassen, This Is Not My HatJon Klassen, This Is Not My Hat.

This book won praise for the dynamic relationship between the pictures and words.  The small fish thinks that the large fish (from whom he stole the hat) will never catch him,  but the illustrations contradict him.  If the premise (hat thievery!) recalls last year’s excellent I Want My Hat Back, Klassen‘s new chapeau-centric book holds its own and, in some senses, may be even better than his 2011 effort.  It’s no sequel to the other book, but a completely new work, complete with hat-based humor.

Julie Fogliano, And Then It's Spring (illus. by Erin Stead)Erin Stead, And Then It’s Spring (text by Julie Fogliano).

People enjoyed the very detailed illustrations, which offered the eye many places to look.  Each of the animals in the pictures (none of which were named in the text) had its own distinct personality, and were fun to follow from page to page.  As is true of the other two books, the text here is very brief; Stead‘s pictures carry the day, telling us of those days just before spring, when everything looks brown.  Great balance between artwork and words.

There were many others that didn’t quite make the cut.  For example, Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Green, Karina Wolf’s The Insomniacs (a particular favorite of mine), Maurie J. Manning’s Eisner-esque Laundry Day, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Extra Yarn all made the finals.  And we were sorry to discover that the artist behind Up Above and Down Below, Paloma Valdivia, lives and works in Chile.  (The Caldecott goes to American illustrators.)  Many of us loved that book, but… it was ineligible due to the nationality of its artist.

So. What are your favorite picture books from 2012? And which do you think will win the Caldecott Medal?

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