I realize there is no trap in this. Fine. In real life, I bought a humane trap, and we'll see if lil' guy avoids the glue one until Monday.
[image: black and white comic, no panel borders.
panel one: large black letters across top, saying "Everything's coming up Mam! this week!"
panel two: artist and boyfriend are sitting on the floor with a small child, playing with blocks. behind them are two more children. dialogue: artist: "Que alto tu torre!" child: "si, es para los Ninja Turtles!" caption: Dakin and I help at a preschool where all the kids speak Mam first, some Spanish and English second (and third I guess).
panel two: artist is bending over in front of two little girls seated at a table. all are holding up two fingers. artist is looking hopeful and saying "Cuantos quieres? ...Jun? Kabak?" a caption with arrows pointing to both girls says "silence from both." caption: "I'm trying to get them to teach me some words in Mam, and it's NOT going well!" caption 2: "they will neither confirm nor deny that I am actually saving words."
panel 3: artist sitting on floor with two kids, who are laughing and pointing to an owl in her hand. she is smiling and saying "Carlitos, como se dice "buho" en Mam?" caption: "...nor will they acknowledge that Mam is, in fact, a language."
panel 4: little boy looks confused, artist looks like she's trying to be helpful. dialogue: boy: "Mam??" artist: "oh, um, what do you call this animal in your home?"
panel 5: closeup on artist and boy's faces. little boy is frowning, looking irritated. artist has a plus sign eye and looks bested. dialogue: boy: "we don't have one of those in my home." artist: "touche."
panel 6: scene change. artist looking delighted. caption: "in better news, I got an email from a linguistics professor who found my Mam tumblr from 2015, and emailed me looking for a referral to a Mam speaker to work as a consultant!
panel 7: artist, in different clothes, looking at phone, looking pleased. thinking "yay." dialogue: phone reads "we have an interview." caption: "and I got him connected to my coworker who's a native speaker."
panel 8: in a cloud, artist does "shh" with her lips and one finger. caption: (there's another maybe good thing but it's a secret! shh!")
I'm a total murderino. However, the Ted Bundy episode led me to a startling conclusion......
[image: hastily drawn black and white comic with no panel borders.
panel 1: large black block letters surrounded by tiny crowbars and handcuffs. "Ted Bundy wouldn't have worked on me!"
panel 2: artist hunched in front of computer, working. headphones are in and attached to an iPad, which is playing the words "fuck polite!" artist is staring wide eyed at the screen. caption: "I've been listening to a LOT of My Favorite Murder lately... and this week, they talked about Ted Bundy."
panel 3: artist's face, looking astonished. thinking: "ooh, the handsome manipulator!" audio from iPad: "he was SO charming!" caption: "I'd always heard about this guy as being SO gorgeous and SO charismatic, and that's how he lured his many victims."
panel 4: close up on google search for TED BUN. thought bubble: "this I gotta see!" caption: "so as I listened, I googled..."
panel 5: artist's face, looking surprised and angry. saying: "Wait WHAT? seriously?!" caption: "but to my surprise,"
panel 6: big letters: "He is NOT HOT AT ALL!!!"
panel 7: drawing of Ted Bundy. he has tiny eyes, weird hair, and a small pointy nose. wearing a turtleneck with blazer. caption: "he looks kind of like Bob Saget (sorry, Bob Saget) but with somehow WORSE hair. (sorry)"
panel 8: artist looking at Ted Bundy on computer, looking annoyed. thought bubble: "THIS guy?! THIS fuckin' guy??" audio from iPad: "He must've had great, like, eyes or something." caption: "I couldn't believe it! what is wrong with everyone? THIS is your handsome charming serial killer?"
panel 9: artist and boyfriend sitting on couch. between them are a sleeping chihuahua and a cat with a cone of shame. artist is looking annoyed. caption: "(re-listening later, with Dakin)" artist saying: "Yeah I totally don't get it! Maybe we should watch a video to see if he was charming?"
panel 10: caption: "so we did..." close up on iPad screen with Ted Bundy's face, looking sincere. he is saying "blah blah remorse, I've been changed by God etc." arrow pointing to iPad with a caption "Totally NORMAL dude"
panel 11: closeup on artist and boyfriend looking at iPad. boyfriend looks confused. artist looks angry. artist dialogue: "I don't believe a word this motherfucker is saying!! what the FUCK!?!"
panel 12: caption: "Basically, it is kind of a disappointment to learn, after all these years, that Ted Bundy was just a normal-looking-and-sounding dude who TOTALLY wouldn't have worked on me!!!"
signed: Amy Martin 2017
I wrote this comic because I've been struggling with PTSD triggers around everything Trump-related for the last week or so. I know there are others feeling the same thing--lots of us. If you're having anxiety symptoms around this election, or finding yourself triggered by images and words that remind you of sexual assault, don't forget your self care but also, reach out to the people around you. This is one of my reaches.
In my other life I'm a children's librarian, and right now I have a shot at being on the 2018 Caldecott committee. If you are an ALSC member, please vote for me! Voting closes April 22. I put together a little 4-pager to tell you why I'd be great. (Will these two ever get along??)
In December, I went to Mexico for the Guadalajara International Book Fair, the Feria Internacional por los Libros, or FIL. It was my first visit to Mexico and I did it largely solo--more solo than I planned, because my phone didn't work--except for occasional accompaniment by my randomly assigned hotel roommate, Gladis, who turned out to be awesome. Yes, I work in a field where you have to share a room to get your hotel paid for. Gladis got to witness my Marx-Brothers-esque 5-minute-long arrive-from-airport-and-change-into-formalwear-with-makeup montage. She was nice about it.
For the record, I brushed with tap water once and ate my share of local produce, and yes I did get sick, but only slightly and Immodium handled it.
FIL has a big gala dinner for librarians the night before it opens to professionals. It's always at this restaurant called Santo Coyote.
Papel picado in the restaurant where I ate lunch the first day.
I had very little trouble finding vegetarian food and it was all delicious.
When I get frazzled, I lose my Spanish along with other major cognitive functions.
Poor kid, she was real cute.
That day was kind of crazy.
The coolest place I went in Guadalajara was the Templo Expiatório (not Expositório as I had written here). A guy at the hotel recommended it to me; I asked my cab driver to take me past it on the way to the Cathedral, but when we saw it, I told him to let me out there. I HAD to go inside. The interior was incredible:
I don't think the pigeon shit came through on the scanner. Oh well.
Forget what this place was--some plaza in Tlaquepaque. Tlaquepaque was the place everyone told us we had to go, and it was kind of a tourist trap, but pretty.
Glad I'm not the only one who wants to adopt every stray they pass.
I owe a big debt of gratitude to Jenna Freedman at the Barnard Zine Library. She received some of my old comics as part of a donation and, in cataloging them, emailed me to ask what year one was made. Turns out she had a copy of "Libraries, Privacy, and You," which I made in 2010 and not only neglected to keep a print copy, but can't figure out where (or if) I saved the digital files. It was basically gone to me. Jenna kindly agreed to scan the book and send it to me. I'm so grateful to get back this little piece of my own art history.
The "Dylan" I signed this copy to was Dylan Williams, who ran the wonderful Sparkplug Comics until he passed away in 2011. Barnard received a donation of comics and zines that belonged to Dylan from his wife, and this book was among them. I didn't know Dylan--only spoke to him a handful of times--but I know there are folks out there who did who may appreciate this little postscript.
Okay. This is a funny comic. So try to get in a laughing mood now. Okay? Laugh!
In loving memory of my dear friend and collaborator, Annie D... I don't know how I will ever carry on our work without you, but I will try. Much love to her, wherever she is, and to her family and friends, wherever you are.
This isn't a comprehensive tour diary--I was moving too fast for that. I have a list of cartoons still to draw.
This statue is in the Musée d'Orsay. Oh, by the way, before we went into this museum there was a flood of people rollerblading past the front of it for like, at least 15 minutes. We got inside and they were still going. We still do not know why.
We went to a really nice bar called Les Trois 8. We did not get to go to the tapas place with the lucha libre wrestling in the basement, because it was closed. But this was nice.
This is the front of the, National Academy of Music? Something? I was too focused on drawing at a cafe to write it down.
Inside Schlenkerla, in Bamberg, Germany. We had smoked beer.
Guys at Schlenkerla.
End of a letter to a friend.
Met this nice guy in Jacob's Antiques, in Cardiff.
Okay, this next part requires some explanation. We spent some time with family in England, including my boyfriend's six-year-old niece. She and I were talking about how sad it is that you never see a badger. She said they must hide in their holes, so then we reasoned that you would have to send a camera into a badger hole to get a picture. But people are too big to go in. But! she said...a baby could fit.
The rest kind of explains itself.
She insisted on these pictures.
We had fun.
Llamas! Who knew? (I guess they're technically alpacas)
I went back the next day, and they were up close to the fence.
They came closer when they saw me.
Then, they realized I did not have food,
I can't remember the actual name of the tv show she referenced. Something really popular there.
I still have to draw a bunch--I have a list. But that's what I've got for now.
So, the obvious: I was crossing France and Germany with one boyfriend and one suitcase between us. I couldn't buy EVERYTHING. My final total of twelve picture books (and four other books, plus the two I brought from home) was already more than I could manage comfortably. I did document some of the left-behinds that impressed me, though. I wanted to be able to look up the publishers and illustrators when I got home. And now you get the benefit!
A lot of the French books I left behind, I did so only because they had longer text, and I don't speak French. I bought books that I could more or less enjoy as a complete package even without understanding the text. These first few are English, and there's a decent chance I'll see them in the States at some point.
This book is really, really gorgeous, and I put it back very reluctantly. Many interior illustrations here.
Flying Eye is the children's book imprint of Nobrow Press, who I love. They made this one, which I've seen around quite a bit. From their website it looks like they just launched in February 2013, and with some of the prettiest design and illustration I've seen on either continent, they seem to be off to a good start.
One Night, Far From Here is gorgeous, but I skipped purchasing because the much hyped transparent overlays on each page really didn't add much, and when you turned them over, they didn't mesh with the artwork of the left-facing page.
Another from Tate Publishing--this is a collection of Russian books from the 1920s.
Okay, this isn't a book. But Jesus!! That type! That's the best type I've EVER SEEN.
It should be a book. I'd eat it.
Sorry for the action shot. Another lovely one from Sarbacane. They seem to do mostly picture books and BD (French comics).
An Angouleme winner. Glowingly bright and pleasingly drawn, and BIG!
Only skipped it because I couldn't read it. :(
I've got to hand it to La Rubrique à Bulles. It's a shop for BD, but they had an AMAZINGLY curated little picture book section. It wasn't greatly displayed, kind of crammed in a corner behind some furniture, but each and every book they had was *gorgeous.* All the French books above came from there, and about half of the ones I ended up buying. I dropped a lot of euros in that store. And then the guy working there told me next I should go to l'Enfant Lyre.
Really cute shop, amazing window displays.
And I'm sure I would have loved it....
...except it was closed.
Another illustrated by Renaud Perrin. This one by Rue du Monde, which looks interesting.
Dammit I forgot to get the cover of this one. It was awesome.
Another thing that was great in France? The bindings. No book jackets--all hardcover, some with pretty cloth spines like this one.
This one.... I should have gotten it. Observe:
There are cutouts over the eyes. Turn the page:
On to dogs. Oh crap, I should have bought this one too:
Ohh, and then! And then! I got to Chantelivre.
This store was recommended to me by Clémentine Bouvais, a French children's lit scholar/author I follow on Twitter.
They had an amazing, overwhelming selection. And a nice shop lady there saw my full, sagging arms and weary expression and gave me a basket.
Animaux. The typeface made this one.
Another Père Castor!
Somehow I can't find this book online, and I could keep looking but I'm getting hungry.... in the meantime, here's the delicious website of the illustrator, Aurélie Guillerey.
Another by Alexandra Pichard, from Gallimard Jeunesse. I love an ant story.
Oh god, these toys. Okay: I carried that fox around Chantelivre for a good half hour before deciding it was too bulky to carry all the way home. Pity because it is SO SWEET, and I kept seeing and loving books by Marion Billet, who created the little guy.
Another toy I almost bought. How pretty would this look on a shelf? Djeco has nice toys.
It was nice to see the Bay repped.
And last, but not least. HOW F***ING CUTE:
The little dresses!!
Ooh-- this one I actually photographed in Whole Foods after I got home, but I saw it everywhere in Europe. It's by Britta Teckentrupp, who I'm starting to love.
And speaking of home, and books...
I don't have to buy this one, he's mine. (And yes, his name is Books.) <3
I did not get to go to the Bologna Children's Book Fair this month (someday...). However, I did go to Europe--for the first time ever. EUROPE Europe, where they speak not-English. It was a difficult trip. It was also a wonderful trip, but wow, was it scary for me to be in such unfamiliar territory. I don't want to tell you how many times I cried. Not daily, because I didn't cry on each calendar day, but if you average things out... pretty much daily.
I spent most of my time looking for a mix of the familiar and unfamiliar that made sense to me. The best success I had with that? Picture books. Of course.
I had already planned to go to Chantelivre* in Paris because someone had recommended it to me, but I wound up going to something like twelve different bookstores to look at kids' books. England had a lovely selection; Paris had an AMAZING one; Germany, meh (but I didn't look in as many places there). I had to really, really reel myself in from buying too many picture books--they're expensive and heavy, and we were supposed to be traveling light.
These are the ones I found worthy of allowing my arm to be wrenched off:
This was my one picture book purchase in England, partly because there's a lot of crossover between American and British children's publishing, so a lot of the great stuff makes its way across the pond eventually. This one, according to Amazon, is due for US release in November 2014. When it does come out here, pay attention to illustrator Alex Barrow's deft inclusion of people of color on every spread.
Also, pay attention to the endpapers. These endpapers!!
I am going to show you a lot of endpapers in this post.
This is a reprint of a 1948 Dutch children's song book. The illustrations are very sweet:
Even so, I probably wouldn't have bought it except that it came from a tiny (I mean like 8'x8') children's bookshop in Bristol called Benjamin's. As we walked in, a fella, I'm assuming Benjamin, jumped up from a tiny table and said "Hello! I'm about to have a coffee! Would you like one?" We politely declined as we were already well caffeinated, and I chatted with him a bit about his store. It's a labor of love. Benjamin's sells some new, some used children's books, and he tries to have a stash on hand that cost under a pound so children can buy them with their pocket-money (as Roald Dahl would say). He also has storytimes. Seems like a lovely small business to support, so Bristolians, stop by.
I found this one at the bookstore in the Musée d'Orsay, unwrapped and gathering dust on a top shelf.
A very sweet English-speaking employee checked their stock for me and found that this was the last copy, so they offered me a small discount. Win! This was one of two accordion-style Perrault books published in 2013 by Helium, whose books I loved everywhere I saw them. Here's the illustrator, Clémentine Sourdais, who is fantastic.
Also I want to give this book props because I saw another gorgeous cutout book on this trip in which the pages behind the cutouts interfered with the illustrations, and Ms. Sourdais (and/or the design team) did not allow this to happen. Good show.
This is part of a series of reissues called Les Albums du Père Castor, and I almost bought all four of the ones on display because they are so gorgeous. They seem to be a bit like Golden Books, and originated during the American era of Leonard Weisgard and Esphyr Slobodkina. Here's the story of the original series.
I so, so wish Étienne Morel's work had made it to the states!
I loved this book's limited palette and graceful linework. The beautiful hand-lettering catapulted it onto my must-buy pile.
Though a little credit must go to the endpapers:
If I could read French, I could tell you more about the illustrator, who appears to be primarily a cartoonist.
Okay, I think I went a little soft over this one. It's a French picture book set in Memphis, Tennessee, about little kids who love rock n'roll. I think.
I may have bought it mostly because it comes with a CD of the book, read by Dominique Pinon, that contains the classic rock tunes referenced within. Remember that I am a homesick tourist.
Which is not to say that the illustrator is not quite good--he is, and he draws a mean fight scene.
I'd love to see this one get translated. The colors and faces are delightful. I also like the positive breastfeeding image, and that little Roro's aunt and uncle appear to be people of color.
And I do love a tiny little dog in a sweater. Dead ringer for my guy.
The homesickness won on this one. It's exactly the same as the US version... except for slight cover modifications that happen to be BEAUTIFUL. The color is richer, and the typefaces used for the title are divine.
Richard Scarry nut here. Yeah, I know. Interesting to note: the changes described in this blog post (updates to the illustrations between the 1963 and 1991 printings) did not make it into this French version, published in 2010.
Just eye candy. Gorgeous, gorgeous color--I could live in this book. And eat it.
This one. SO cute.
It's a story about a princess who attacks. That's about as much as I could glean from the French text. There's something modern-day-Tomi-Ungerer about the art. And? It's a choose-your-own-adventure book!
This, I assume, is the crazy disco scene.
And a brutal murder for such a lady.
I got all excited seeing this one everywhere because I thought Helium was the press that had just paired up with SF-based Chronicle to launch the imprint Twirl. But I was wrong; it's Éditions Tourbillon. (Still excited) (And still hoping for a translated Princess Attacks!)
Now we have arrived in Germany.
Germany is beautiful, but I struggled there more than in France. I do not have a passing familiarity with German, as I do with French (lots of words are similar to Spanish), and also I happened to be reading a vivid and excellent book set during the Holocaust. I do know that much has changed since then. But I am an anxious traveler with an active imagination.
Anyway, this book was originally published in America, by Quarry, and the illustrator is American. (Julia Kuo illustrated the cover for The Thing About Luck!) I bought it because it has only very simple words (animals!) in German, so I could read it. The drawings are beautiful. Nice variety of styles.
I could have bought it for the endpapers alone.
Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest endpapers of ALL TIME:
I only bought this because the kitty was cute. And it is in Welsh, and I like the way Welsh looks. I found it at Jacob's Market in Cardiff, a fantastic old antique shop that's great for a wander. Lots of taxidermy.
Not cats, thankfully.
I picked this up in Sheffield--really cute, and fun to draw the little people.
Bought for a friend. Can't be described. Must be seen.
Matilda, by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake. Puffin 2013 (orig. 1988)
I bought this in Manchester Airport because all the villages we were seeing in England made me think of Matilda's village. I love that book. Bonus, we ended up visiting Llandaff, the part of Cardiff where Dahl lived for a while.
'Cause a girl can dream, right? Sigh.
*For a few of these places I'm linking to a review of the store rather than their actual site because that will be more useful for English-only readers, and these reviews do link back to the store's website if you want to see it.
I was walking to a drawing group earlier this evening and I thought, in my mind's running narration of the book of my life (this is normal, right?), "It had been eleven years since she went to her first comic drawing group." Eleven, my editor commented, I don't know where you came up with that--and then I counted, and if I place myself in the year that I first dated the ex who got me into comics and before I moved to California, I would have been 24, and so that means that it would have been ten years ago, which is pretty darn close. I was living in Chicago then, and I remember it was very cold, and there was a lot of snow and slush on the streets. So it may very well have been February. And it's possible, so, yeah, why not, let's just go with this--TODAY was my ten year anniversary of making comics. As of today, I have been making comics for ten years.
On that day in Chicago, I walked and took the bus to an overly warm coffee shop near Wilson and Broadway, where I met a really nice guy named Dirk and some other lovely nerdy types. Today, I went somewhere off another Broadway in a different city, met some new people who were just as lovely, and by way of introduction I passed around Aaron Becker's JOURNEY, a fine example of sequential art, wordless, in picture book form. I think the only complaint I have about JOURNEY is--it isn't long enough? It feels like it ends just as the adventures start to ramp up. I could see it being a long graphic novel that goes on to cover multitudes of time and space and cycles the two kids and their magic bird through archway after archway into distant lands.
(But, I'm a homebody. I like JOURNEY the way it is.)
People ask me if I'll ever move back to Chicago. I say I won't, but I think the real answer is I can't. I go back to visit friends, and I spend every visit in the jaws of nostalgia--there was one day I was struck, walking along the edge of Grant Park, nearly to tears by the arrangement of tiny pebbles in the cracks between each square of the sidewalk, because those were the pebbles I spent hours picking and choosing and layering in the bottom of my terrarium so the soil I put in for my pet crickets would drain properly. Yuh huh. I am a nerd AND a giant sap. But while I can travel to Chicago any time, and I could pack up and move back to Andersonville, I can never move back to that sidewalk pressing points against my bare knees as I carefully chose the best rocks for the cricket jungle. I can't move back to the way it felt to wear a jean jacket on the first warm day of spring even if that song did give me the strongest sensory memory of warm wind with a little rain.
I wish I could go back to ten years ago some days--I wish I could go back to the warm rush of people in a coffee shop liking me, asking me what kind of microns I've tried so far. I wish I could go back to fresh and new in art. Aaron Becker is a first-time picture book author and he got a Caldecott Honor, so I guess you could say he nailed it. I wish I could move back to the time before I failed and made mistakes... big, adult mistakes. Not like filling your terrarium with soil without a layer of stones at the bottom so then your crickets are too damp and don't survive. Oh no.
Not that it's all been mistakes! So many wonderful things have happened too. I moved to California. I lived in San Francisco. I fell in love and got a dog. I learned to speak the truth, to look honestly at things even though I didn't like them. I danced in party dresses until 1am and fell exhausted into cabs, too warm to even think about putting my coat back on even though it was probably February. Most of all, I made lots and lots of art. Some good. A lot of it bad. In every way I drew a door of my own engineering and hurled my little body through it. I didn't have a deeply saturated red balloon, but all the same, it's been nice.
When I visit Chicago I get to look through a knothole, the last ten years peeled away. I can flip through the book. But as I close the cover it occurs to me that someone really ought to tell that little girl that if she goes through the door she can never come back out.
I walked home from drawing group and it was raining. I tried at first to duck my head, squinching up my face to, I don't know, spook the rain away from it? But then I remembered that in Chicago I gave up umbrellas--they so often flipped inside out that I decided they were a waste of money, and the worst that was going to happen was I would get a little bit wet. So, tonight, I put my face up and walked in the rain. I was glad I did because it was a misty kind of rain, and under the streetlights it looked just the slightest little bit like snow.
Because I'm also really interested in illustrated children's books, illustration in general, and children's librarian stuff:
-I just discovered Clementine Bouvais' blog, thanks to Betsy Bird, and I am grateful. Dr. Bouvais is a French lady living in England writing academic critiques of children's literature. And she has recently started an academic study of "cultural and literary representations of child precocity." I love this. Also she has pretty hair.
-I'm a nerd for the ALA Youth Media Awards, and my reasons are twofold: 1) without fail, they showcase writing and art that is outstanding; and 2) they speak to the conservatism and limited perspectives that are common in librarianship. This last one is for better or for worse, and I do not count myself outside of that limited perspective. I am a white lady from a middle class background who possesses an advanced degree and works in a professional classification; I do not have lived experience as a person of color, a person who struggles with poverty, or a person of an underrepresented race or social class. I deeply appreciate when I get called out on views that I have that exclude or disrespect people not of my background.
I like LOCOMOTIVE, the 2014 Caldecott winner. It's lovely, and I don't necessarily dispute its choice as the most distinguished picture book for children of this year. However, I did notice while reading it that it's a white, white book. It's about a white family who travels across the country on the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. Picture books about white people make up the vast majority of picture books (well, the ones not about animals, anyway); what is noteworthy about this one is that the family's voyage takes place through American Indian lands, and the latter half of the railroad was built by Chinese immigrants. Both of these groups make small appearances in the book, but ya know... not much.
Debbie Reese took Brian Floca to task over this... and he responded. And then she responded. The whole discussion should be required reading. It's great stuff. And now Debbie Reese is my hero.
Again, I don't dispute the selection of this book for the Caldecott--I DO think the conversation between Debbie Reese and Brian Floca should be spread far and wide and included in lesson plans that spring up around the book. It's part of the context of the book now (the most interesting part of any book, imho).
-At the Mock Newbery I attended this year, we had a discussion around the book ERUPTION: VOLCANOES AND THE SCIENCE OF SAVING LIVES. Several of us perceived a negative bias on the part of the author toward the people living in communities affected by the volcanoes. But we had a hard time nailing down why. The one that jumped out at me was on page 22, in the caption under a photo of people evacuating a village; it reads "Aeta tribespeople threatened by Mount Pinatubo flee their village with their meager belongings." Why choose to describe the belongings as "meager?" Most of the people in the picture are carrying one bag; one small child is carrying a puppy and another what might be a chicken. Do the people in the photo consider their possessions "meager?" The word "meager" implies pathetic to me, deserving of sympathy or pity. If the author's intent was to highlight how few possessions the people had, a word like "minimal" could have conveyed that with less negativity.... but why couldn't she just say "with their belongings?" (Side question--does the author usually write the captions for a book's photos? Or does the photographer? I can't find any indication in this book.)
Someone else in the room stated an objection to the author's use of the word "villagers" to describe the people living in volcano-impacted communities, and this was echoed by a commenter on Heavy Medal (scroll down). I scanned the book again and noted that the author seems to use the word "villagers" interchangeably with "locals" (as on p. 45) and "citizens" (as on p. 25). She describes the communities in which they live as "villages," which seems accurate, and therefore "villagers" seems to be an accurate description. However, most often she uses the word "people." And other similar words, like "woman," "man," "children," etc. Which I find pretty downright respectful, actually.
What was it, then, that made some of us feel the word was loaded? And that made some of us uncomfortable with the book's presentation of the people living around the volcanoes?
What I've come up with, after much thought, is that the book as a whole lacks the voice of the people who live in the communities affected by the volcanoes... in kind of the same way that LOCOMOTIVE lacks the voice of the American Indians impacted by the transcontinental railroad. And in both books, you could make the counter argument "the book wasn't about that." And that's true. LOCOMOTIVE is, in Brian Floca's own words, "a book about what it was like to operate and travel behind a steam locomotive in 1869." ERUPTION is a book about scientists working on a problem related to their field of science. It told the story of an international communitiy of volcanologists working to save lives by predicting volcanic eruptions, and it did a great job at that. LOCOMOTIVE tells the story of a family riding the brand new transcontinental railroad in 1869 exceptionally well. Do those books HAVE to tell the stories of the people who were impacted by the volcanic eruptions, or had their lives and cultures ruined as a result of the TR? (And I should note that I do not equate volcanic eruptions and American colonialism! eek.)
No, they don't HAVE to. But, they could. And the fact that they don't means that once again, someone's voice has been left out of the conversation. Guess whose? (Give you a hint: it's not the dominant class.)
Of course we evaluate a book for what it is and not what it isn't.... but as a children's librarian, I really value books that include the perspectives of those who are usually excluded: people in poverty, people of color, people of minority races, etc. Like, REALLY value them. It makes me genuinely sad to encounter books that are ripe with opportunity for the inclusion of minority voices, and they just.. don't do it. It sucks. It feels like a great opportunity passed up.
I don't think that missed opportunity makes a book not good, or not valuable... but geez, it's a bummer that it wasn't even MORE good and valuable, when it had the opportunity to be so. For example, the Aeta people mentioned in ERUPTION. The name "Aeta" only appears twice in the text of the book, and it's not in the glossary or the index. So I googled. There's a Wikipedia article (don't hate, I love Wikipedia) that describes the Aeta people as nomadic, with an average life expectancy at birth of 16 years. The references at the end of the article point to other sources, some of which can't be accessed online, but they could surely be gotten by somebody researching a book. I found an article in one of my library's databases that talks about how the Aeta's way of life changed enormously after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo--the eruption that takes up about three chapters of ERUPTION. A sidebar about the Aeta people would have been a fascinating inclusion. Why isn't there one? Is it necessary in a book about volcanologists? Possibly not. But I wonder about the kid with the puppy. What's her life like? From my minimal research, I know that the western clothing she wears is a relatively new thing for her community, and that if she is lucky and healthy and survives the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, she may reach her tribe's upper life expectancy of 27 years. I would love to know more. I would love to have learned this from ERUPTION.
-Switching gears. I ILLed the book LITTLE BOY BROWN and promptly forgot why. It sat on my desk for about two weeks while I tried to remember. Finally, I googled the title and remembered the Brain Pickings article that highlighted its re-issue by Enchanted Lion. (It also made Brain Pickings' list of Best Children's Illustrated Books of 2013.) Maria Popova describes it as "a magnificent ode to childhood and loneliness, easily the greatest ode to childhood and loneliness ever written." Well, I can get behind that. The drawings are lovely too.