Category Archives: DISPATCH FROM DANIELLE
Over the weekend, I visited REDCAT in Downtown LA for an event I’ve been meaning to go to for years. And it did not disappoint. In its 10th year, the REDCAT International Children’s Film Festival is three weekends of short films, animated and live action, from all over the world. Sure, they’re meant for children, but the filmmaking, particularly in animation, is sophisticated enough for any movie-lover. (A lot like picture books!)
And with three showtimes each weekend day, that adds up to a lot of wonderful films! I went to one program last Saturday and I just might have to head down again for another, different installment of international shorts.
It’s exquisite, inventive, and profound. A boy has a saucepan. He just does, without explanation. The saucepan makes life difficult and makes people view him differently. But he’s artistic and sensitive, this boy. But still, things aren’t easy carrying a saucepan around. You see how the saucepan functions as a metaphor, right? Stick in any number of issues or ailments or differences, and there’s your saucepan.
Plus, things turn out alright for Anatole in the end. He may not be rid of his saucepan (who ever is?), but he learns from someone else how to cope with it. And how to play badminton with it too!
The sound effects, the story, and the sets and handmade characters are all standouts in this one.
Next, Notebook Babies: Someone Who Gets You, was a close second and entirely different in scope and tone! It’s a super funny crowdpleaser:
The creator, Tony Dusko, is a fifth grade teacher who puts up animated shorts on a YouTube channel called Notebook Babies. And they’re fabulous!
And if you’re not in L.A., the trailers are pretty satisfying too!
I remember when a college roommate of mine brought home a copy of this book she’d found at a thrift store. Since I grew up in Asia, my teenage years in Hong Kong, it was like holding a piece of the place I missed so much back then. Of course, I still have it on my shelf.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
This is Hong Kong truly takes you on a tour of the island. It’s got facts and even figures about how much you’ll pay for a ferry ride or to rent a flat (in 1960s prices!). Sasek captures the contrasts of a place that is old and new, city and harbor, modern and traditional. Not to mention, British and Chinese at that time.
Still, Sasek’s 60s portrait of Hong Kong wasn’t my Hong Kong of the 90s. And the 2007 version of the book, I imagine, details a place that’s already changed very much because it’s that kind of city. The change overnight kind. And I can’t wait to see what’s the same and what’s different since I called it home.
Because I’m going back! For the first time since I was 17! I’m bringing my husband so he can see where I grew up and I’m also bringing a notebook because I’ve got a YA novel set there and I want to record and remember the way it smells and sounds and feels to make sure I add all that stuff in.
So This Picture Book Life will be dormant for a couple of weeks while I’m traveling to Hong Kong and Tokyo. Which is why I thought I’d leave you with this special, vintage kids’ guidebook for now.
Please tune in again starting April 21st for new posts! And I’ll see you then!
And if you want to follow my travels, I’ll be instagramming them!
I’ve posted about how I volunteer once a month or so with Reading to Kids here in Los Angeles where we read picture books to elementary school students and craft with them. So while it’s not about my picture book life per se, I wanted to spread the word now about another wonderful literacy organization I’ve been volunteering with this year: WriteGirl.
“WriteGirl is a creative writing and mentoring organization that promotes creativity, critical thinking and leadership skills to empower teen girls.”
It has many components, but the main ones I’ve been involved with are weekly mentoring and monthly writing workshops. It’s been pretty amazing to work with a teen girl on a regular basis, one who blows my mind with her insight and natural talent. And the workshops are a chance to see the wide array of girls in the program, their varied voices and spirits. It’s a privilege.
Women are paired with girls as writing mentors. We meet once a week or so with our mentees to talk and write and share our writing. To encourage. To explore. To explain. To expand.
Pretty cool, right?
Plus, there are a dozen workshops through the school year on Saturdays. Workshops on journalism, memoir, songwriting(!), fiction, poetry, comedy, you name it. And women come and talk to the girls and help lead the writing activity-filled days. Special guests are women in the news business whose names you might recognize. Successful songwriters for pop stars. A wonderful champion of poetry in L.A.
But the real draw is that the girls are guided through a day of writing. Their words. Their stories. And at the close of every workshop, some of them read snippets aloud to the whole group. It’s moving and incredible to see them speak.
“Never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen.”
Every WriteGirl who graduates high school goes to college. Michelle Obama honored the organization with National Arts and Humanities Youth Program award. One of the girls is the first Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. WriteGirl publishes anthologies of the girls’ work so they get a taste of publication. There’s a program that reaches out to girls in schools and juvenile detention centers. But most importantly, there are women helping girls and girls being together and girls writing. That’s WriteGirl.
Keren Taylor, Founder and Executive Director is standing in the middle there. She’s also been featured as a CNN Hero!
If you’re in L.A., Skylight Books is holding a WriteGirl reading this Saturday, March 21st!
Is there anything like WriteGirl where you live?
I want to share with you the platform my picture book critiques now call home:
for just 5 bucks.
(If you want more in-depth feedback, you can get that too.)
I’m really enjoying the variety of manuscripts I get to see and that the service starts at a price most people can afford.
Check out my profile with a video describing my approach.
And read my reviews!
Here’s what one person who received a mini-critique said:
Danielle Davis took my picture book manuscript to another level with her suggestions. She really knows her stuff. Highly recommended!
And one more:
Danielle seemed to ‘get’ what I was trying to achieve…Her comments will be very useful.. in revising my manuscript.
I give you, my six very favorite books of 2014 and why.
(Please remember I haven’t read every book published this year—how I wish Viva Frida and The Farmer and the Clown were at my library—sigh. So do tell me your favorites in the comments for us all to check out when we can!)
(Please also remember that I was selective. Hugely, massively, almost impossibly selective.)
I’m choosing just the books that really wowed me. Me as a particular reader. And me as a particular writer who took inspiration from these, some because they’re exactly what I’d like to create and some because they’re exactly the wonderful kind of thing I never ever could.
Sparky by Jenny Offill & Chris Appelhans.
I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this book. I was being selfish with it, it’s true. (Though the main character did once get a fashion shootout for best homemade costume!) The girl’s narration is pitch-perfect. Hilarious. Insightful. Childlike and sophisticated, that coveted combination. It will make you laugh and then melt your heart at the end.
Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo.
What is this book honest about? It’s honest about Felipe the Cactus’s prickly family. Of course all families aren’t prickly, but to portray one that is that way, I find truthful and daring. Authentic and helpful. And yet, it’s fun! Not mention how adorable Felipe is or the way he journeys to finally find kinship.
Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam.
This picture book really packs a punch. Incredibly beautiful cut-paper scenes and then the quiet, touching heart of the story: A little boy who is kind to a fox. And the fox’s gift in return. A story for winter and kindness and slowing down to look.
It’s impossible for me not to like one of Tan’s books. This one showcases his bizarreness at its finest. Not only that, it’s a portrait of a complicated sibling relationship between two brothers. There are layers to look at and puzzles to contemplate. All in the most enjoyable, poignant way.
Beekle is so adorable that I had to craft him out of marshmallows. I think this is a character that will stick around. He’s brave and good and you just want to give him a squeeze. Plus, he’s the charming star of a magical story of imagination and friendship. There’s a friend out there for everyone, if you just believe. This picture book reminds me a whole lot of a couple of my very favorite books ever.
This book is beautiful and stylish and heartwarming. But what sticks out most to me is what a fabulous example of writer and artist collaboration it is. Beaty and Robertst are so clearly a team and they’ve created a collaborated quilt of loveliness and detail and surprise.
Cheers to another year of exuberantly wonderful picture books and another yet to come!
(p.s. Here are 10 that took my breath away last year.)