Monday, March 2, 2015

Honors: Caldecott + Printz = This One Summer

This One SummerThis past February, This One Summer (First Second, 2014) by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki rocked the publishing, library, and literary world by being the first graphic novel to receive the Caldecott Honor for “Most Distinguished American Picture Book for Children” and the Printz Honor for “Excellence in Literature for Young Adults.” It has also been the subject of book challenges since receiving these honors. In this post, we examine This One Summer’s merits, issues of concern, and teaching elements to empower educators, parents, and librarians to make their own decisions (for ages 12+).

Here's a bit about the book:

This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
Told in warm prose and exquisite monochromatic blue images, This One Summer delicately balances the nostalgic power of summer traditions with the often harsh and intruding lessons of life. It embraces readers of all ages as two tween girls, local townie teens, and one set of parents all tangle in the delicate balances of friendships and relationships, grapple with the pains of growing up, deal with the torments of depression and of wanted and unwanted pregnancies, and cope with the heartbreaks and hopes of life. This One Summer has received outstanding praise and unprecedented honors for its stunning art and thoughtful, sensitive content.

In This One Summer, the art is as powerful as the prose and they work brilliantly together, delicately weaving the troubles and traumas of Rose’s summer at Awago Beach. The beach’s bright summer days are mixed with endless wet heavy rain, both helping to sustain the luscious trees, vines, bushes, grass, milkweed, and verdant undergrowth of the surrounding woods. Then, there are illuminating summer night skies full of stars and striking moonlight. The details of the beach, the lake, the woods, and even Brewster’s convenience store are breathtaking and contrasted by the less-detailed characters. The story and art are richly relayed and juxtaposed, giving extraordinary depth and presence to the story and its true-to-life characters.
This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

For example, Rose and Windy are often seen swimming, diving, splashing in the water, and readers wonder if they are literally and figuratively out of their depth. Alice, Rose’s mom, and Dunc, the store clerk Rose develops a crush on, are both drawn with strong angles reflecting their short straight hair (that they run their fingers through in exhausted exasperation) and lanky, wiry physiques. They also both wrestle with unwanted aspects of pregnancies. While Dunc refuses to acknowledge Jenny and his role/responsibility for her pregnancy, Alice wrestles with facing her infertility and miscarriage.

Themes embraced and delicately tackled in This One Summer include:
  • The tugs of friendship as Rose and Windy (a year and a half younger than Rose), face adolescence at different paces and stages;
  • The pains and torments of depression felt by individuals and their families;
  • The importance and frailties of communication;
  • The challenges of dealing with unwanted pregnancies and failing at wanted ones;
  • The stresses and responsibilities of teen sexuality and group pressure.
This One Summer byMariko and Jillian Tamaki

In This One Summer, Mariko Tamaki’s prose and Jillian Tamaki’s lush art invite us to watch and learn about real life issues in a sensitive and hopeful manner. We meet tweens fantasizing about what their developing breasts will look like. We learn how one family deals with the mother’s growing depression. We watch along with Rose and Windy as we observe, overhear, and deal with older teens. We see how long, comfortable summer friendship is stressed and strained by a one-and-a-half-year age gap between the girls as they enter adolescence. And finally, we observe (along with Rose and Windy) how older teens and adults deal with their own relationships and sexuality.

Jillian Tamaki’s monochromatic blue images and the wide range of textures and details in the artwork add incredible depth, passion, and complexity to Mariko Tamaki’s prose. This One Summer is truly a feast for mind and eyes. The beauty, power, and serenity of the beach, the expansive night skies, the milkweed plants and pollen, and the woods of Awago Beach balance the secrets, sorrows, and unfolding drama of the characters. What makes this book so outstanding is the sensitive manner in which important real life issues and challenges are faced honestly and imperfectly by the very real characters of Awago Beach. The out-of-depth feelings the characters experience are beautifully offset by the power of the water and the beach. As their secrets unfold, all but the tweens are reluctant to talk about them. As a result, this book can be a powerful resource and jumping point for healthy, open, non-threatening discussion about powerfully challenging life issues.
This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

Elements of Concern
This One Summer earned a Caldecott Honor, which covers children’s book for readers up to age 14, putting the book at the high end of the age spectrum for the honor. First Second recommends this book for ages 12 and up because it contains mature content. Despite having rightfully received this honor, there may be some confusion by consumers unfamiliar with this book and who believe the Caldecott honor is given exclusively to books for younger readers. To clarify, please note that there is some profanity, especially dealing with the older teen characters (the girls are labeled “sluts”). There is also a teen pregnancy and the burgeoning questions of sex and sexuality that the tweens experience in parallel subplots.

This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
That said, these issues are sensitively and realistically developed through a warmly complex and penetrating story that delicately deals with questions young teens have. Furthermore, the characters are true to life, flaws and all. While mature content may cause some concern, this book is wonderfully appropriate for mature tweens and young teens as they explore adolescence, sexuality, and the increasingly complex relationships they find themselves facing.

For classroom lessons or book club lesson suggestions, please see my post "Using Graphic Novels in Education: This One Summer- a featured column I write for The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund


In the meantime, below is an excerpt from an interview I did with Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki right after hearing they received the Caldecott and Printz Honors. [For the full interview, please visit my post "CBLDF Talks with Caldecott and Printz Honor Winners Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki"

This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
This One Summer has taken the children’s books and graphic novel communities by storm, being the first graphic novel to win the Caldecott Honor for “Most Distinguished American Picture Book for Children” and Printz Honor for “Excellence in Literature for Young Adults.” It is a coming-of-age story that embraces readers of all ages as two tween girls, some local townie teens, and one set of parents all look at growing up, pregnancy, and babies from very different perspectives. What makes this book so special is how it sensitively and somewhat magically deals with these very difficult and mature issues through the growing awareness of two girls one summer. CBLDF is thrilled for the recognition graphic novels are beginning to get outside the comic book communities (hoping this will be just the beginning), we are thrilled for the recognition this gem of a book has received for its breathtaking prose and art, and we are thrilled to have had the opportunity to talk with Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki just after receiving these honors.

CBLDF: First, we’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk with us.  We know you’ve been getting tons of interview requests and appreciate the time and consideration you’ve given us.
This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
Jillian and Mariko, what were your first thoughts/reactions when you heard you won the Caldecott Honor AND the Printz Honor?

Jillian Tamaki: What more is there to say except for it’s really, really cool? I never expected to win the Caldecott, given it is not a picture book.
Mariko Tamaki: It was an honor to be honored.

CBLDF: What were your later thoughts about winning these prestigious honors?
Mariko Tamaki: Wow, I must be prestigious now.  Better get back to work.
Jillian Tamaki: It’s only been a few days!

CBLDF: Mariko, you’ve written both graphic novels and prose. What made you decide this story was a graphic novel? (Jillian, feel free to jump in here too).
Mariko Tamaki: I think in this case the setting felt really ripe for a comic.  Also so much of this was about atmosphere.  Not just the visual details but the little noises in the silence that Jillian captured so well.

CBLDF: You’re cousins, and some swear it’s best to keep work and family separate. How does your familial relationship affect the ways in which you work together?
 Jillian Tamaki: Ehh, that’s usually good advice, probably. Oh well. I think we share a similar Tamaki humour. Very dry.
Mariko Tamaki: I think it makes it all the more important to make sure we don’t wear the same thing when we appear in public.

 CBLDF: I loved This One Summer for so many reasons. What struck me while reading this was how many subtle layers there were in the prose, art and story lines and yet how exquisitely seamlessly it unfolds. It’s a thoughtful, sensitive journey exploring love, relationships, life and growing up, but feels as light and warming as the magical milkweed pods that float up and around the beach on pages 32-33. The dialogue, the characters, and situations in this book ring so true and personal. Were they taken from your own lives, were you channeling you or your friends at Rose and Windy’s age, or is this story purely fictional?
Jillian Tamaki: I don’t think anything is purely fictional or purely autobiographical. You’re constantly weaving in elements of your life and personal philosophy in ways that are conscious and subconscious.
Mariko Tamaki: Exactly.
This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

CBLDF: There are so many stories going on here between tweens Rose and Windy, the mystery around Rose’s parents’ marital issues, and even around the local teen scene. In short, this coming of age story for tweens has mature topics and some mature language, especially with Dunc the Corner Store Guy and his friends. Was there an editing process around the book, story and its rating?
Jillian Tamaki: Sure. There was some discussion about the sex terms. But, to be honest, that’s not something Mariko and I consider too much. We’ve been lucky in that we’ve been able to make the books we want to make and reflect what we believe to be a true experience.
Mariko Tamaki: I think half the fun of this is remembering the ways we talked about stuff when we were little.  Which were probably FAR TAMER than the way kids talk about things today.

CBLDF: As a follow-up, have you received any challenges for this book from tween or younger reader communities?
Mariko Tamaki: I believe the book was removed from one shelf in New Jersey, but the decision, thanks to an amazing librarian’s fighting the good fight, was reversed.  Beyond that I tell people that the book addresses the existence of sex, when they ask if there’s anything inappropriate in it.  I follow that up by saying that I, myself, do not think that is inappropriate.

This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
CBLDF: As mentioned earlier, you won the Randolph Caldecott Honor for most distinguished American picture book for children AND the Michael L. Printz Honor for excellence in literature for young adults. Two awards for one book covering two different age groups.  What does this tell you about your book, your story and the graphic novel format?
Jillian Tamaki: I feel like a lot of those distinctions are marketing decisions. I try to make books that appeal to myself and maybe a few ideal readers. I love that people of different ages can take various things away from the story, though.

CBLDF: Thank you so much for your time and awesome responses. We are thrilled for you and we’re thrilled for the industry.  We’ll definitely be looking out for your next projects.
This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

For extended reading here are some Paired Reading Suggestions:
  • I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura: About an 11-year-old girl who struggles to face and understand an untimely loss, first through escapism and then gradually through acceptance.
  • Chiggers by Hope Larson: About growing up, friendships, funs and foils of summer camp.
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume: About the trials and tribulations of growing up, particularly for adolescent girls.
  • Chinese Born American by Gene Luen Yang: Another Caldecott Honor winner about a teenager’s need to fit in.
  • Before You Go by James Preller: About Jude, who takes a summer job flipping burgers at Jones Beach while dealing with his mother who is kept in a darkened room ever since his little sister drowned several years before.
  • The Color of Earth Trilogy by Kim Dong Hwa: Like This One Summer, the Color of Earth Trilogy is a beautifully balanced blend of prose, poetry, and art that tactfully and sensitively deals with a girl’s growth from adolescence to adulthood.

This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
For further discussion, here are some additional Links and Resources:

This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Courage is Exhilarating

Personally, I've started out 2015 with an awful stomach flu, a burst steam pipe --- and home-related damage.

My aunt says I need to start the year all over again. But I say, I just need courage and a great sense of humor.  I'm working on both.

Found at:

According to
COURAGE (n.) -
the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
Word Origin
C13: from Old French corage, from cuer heart, from Latin cor
In the meantime, I found some powerful quotes from a variety of sources as well as some awesome graphic-quotes from Zen Pencil about courage. I am parking them here.  For me, and for you.

I hope you enjoy. 
And when you're done, please share how and where you find courage in the comments below.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ― Winston S. Churchill
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
- Atticus Finch” ― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird 
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”― Nelson Mandela
“Courage is found in unlikely places.”
J.R.R. Tolkien
This quote was used in the final episode of the Roosevelt Documentary and was taken from Eleanor’s book You Learn By Living, which she wrote near the end of her life. There’s a great article about the book on Brain Pickings.

Here is another zenpencil rendering on courage. It is a powerful rendering of Frank Herbert's Litany Against Fear and I warn you, it's quite powerful.The Litany against fear is the mantra of a group of powerful women in the Dune books called the Bene Gesserit, who have achieved superhuman powers from mental and physical training. Zenpencil notes that while not familiar with the Dune series when this was created (February 27, 2012), he created an even more meaningful interpretation.  What do you think?

As always, thanks for your visit.
Please let us know how and where you find courage in the comments below.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Zeitgeist: Year 2014
As we begin 2015 and end yet another round of ABCWednesday, I offer you a look back at  Zeitgeist: Year 2014. Please share your favorites and your insights in the comments below.

According to Wikipedia:
"The Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought which typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time."
So here's to 2014 with the hopes that 2015 will be a better year. A year of hope, of peace, of health and prosperity, of greater friendships and greater sharing.

Google's Zeitgeist MOST SEARCHED in 2014:

In 2014 we searched trillions of times.  We searched about our hopes and our fears, about science, space and technology. We searched our favorite shows and movies, about sports, the Olympics and the World Cup and searched to come to grips with tragedies. And, we searched to be inspired by dance, music and by the joy of giving. Here's a sweet 90 second glimpse at our searches:

Here are the ranks for the greatest trending topics as searched in Google within the U.S.:
  1. Robbin Williams
  2. World Cup
  3. Ebola (For more see:
  4. Malasia Airlines Tragedy
  5. Flappy Bird
  6. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
  7. ISIS (For more see:
  8. Ferguson
  9. Frozen
  10. Ukraine
 Here are the greatest trending "How To" Google searches in 2014:
  1. How to Airdrop
  2. How to Contour
  3. How to Vote
  4. How to Kiss
  5. How to Craft
  6. How to Colorblock
  7. How to Wakeboard
  8. How to Refurbish
  9. How to Delegate
  10. How to DIY
Here are the "Most Searched" on Google Maps in 2014:
  1. Walmart
  2. Starbucks
  3. Target
  4. McDonald's 
  5. Home Depot
  6. Bank of America
  7. Walgreens
  8. CVS
  9. Wells Fargo
  10. Costco

With The Most Searched behind us, now we take a look at BEST IMAGES OF 2014:

TIME has posted their "TIME Picks the Top 10 Photos of 2014"  Sadly, they were all depressing (albeit breath taking). Here are a few.  Please visit for the complete selection.
<b>Whitney Curtis. Ferguson, Mo. Aug. 11, 2014:</b> "I was not surprised by the reaction following the fatal shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson," says photographer Whitney Curtis. "The racial tension in the St. Louis area was something I noticed when moving to the city. It was an issue bubbling just under the surface.
"Aug. 11 was my second day covering protests in the suburb. That night I was working at the site of Brown’s makeshift memorial when I heard the sound of tear gas canisters being fired in the distance. As gas started to fill the air, I rushed several blocks to the main road where 23-year-old Rashaad Davis stood with a small group on the sidewalk with their hands in the air.
<br><br>"I turned and walked away from the group to photograph the police presence, which had increased dramatically from the night before. Some officers were in tactical gear holding their weapons, and several armored personnel carriers were parked behind them. Suddenly I felt my knee buckle under me and it took me a moment to realize the police had shot me with a rubber bullet or beanbag round. I quickly ran to a parking lot to take cover behind cars and at that moment I saw a group of officers round the corner and approach Davis as he slowly backed away with his arms in the air. They tackled him to the ground and he was arrested that night."
Ferguson, Mo. 8/11/2014 taken by Whitney Curtis for The New York Times
<b>Ross McDonnell. Kiev, Ukraine. Jan. 25, 2014:</b> "The banging of sticks on metal is the only noise I can remember from that Saturday on Hrushevskoho Street," says photographer and filmmaker Ross McDonnell. "It provided a dull, metronomic backing-track to my afternoon as I photographed in and around a barricade of charred vehicles in central Kiev. It was only then, in the daylight, that the results of the previous nights rioting, a scene of seething anger and towering, explosive flames, were visible. Temperatures had dipped below -20ÂșC and the winter light, diffused by heavy smoke and the spray of fire hoses created an alien but ethereal scene that will linger long in the memory.<br><br>"The rioting continued. Young, brave protesters ventured beyond the line of torched buses to launch molotov cocktails, their wooden shields and pastel ponchos making them seem so vulnerable against the backdrop of metallic shields and the armed riot police that stood behind them. Other protesters, with blackened faces and tired eyes, continued working, ferrying tires to the barricades and shoring up their defenses. Keeping busy meant keeping warm.<br><br>"This is an image I'm sure 'we all' have; those that were there that day, capturing the moment. I took a couple of images from this position and then found this frame within a frame that the bus window provided, the icicles and the distant police...and Kiev."
Aftermath of riots - Hrushevskoho Street, Kiev, Ukraine 1/25/2014 taken by Ross McDonnell
<b>Tomas van Houtryve. Lake Oroville, California. Nov. 25, 2014:</b> ”I took this photo with my camera attached to an aerial drone as part of my ‘Blue Sky Days’ personal art project,” says VII photographer Tomas van Houtryve. “During the past year I've traveled from coast to coast building a portrait of our country as seen from the sky. In addition to the unique point-of-view offered by this new technology, my project allows me to push back against what I consider to be a troubling trend: cameras are increasingly weaponized – used for surveillance, targeting and killing – rather than their traditional role as tools for portraiture, fine art and journalism. The rapid rise of drone technology means our sky will soon be buzzing with many more cameras.
“Do we want these robotic machines only to be scanning our faces and license plates for suspicious patterns, or we do want them documenting beauty, historic moments, and a hint of poetry as so many human photographers have since the invention of the camera?
“In this photograph, house boats are seen on Lake Oroville which is 70% empty due to California's severe drought. Much of the food eaten across the U.S. comes from California, and agriculture has been severely impacted by the scant snowpack and low rainfall of the past three years.”
Houseboats in California’s Central Valley where the shoreline shows the effects of a months-long drought. This is a drone’s-eye perspective taken by Thomas van Houtryve
<b>Jerome Sessini. Torez, Ukraine. July 17, 2014:</b> “We were in Donetsk when we got word that a military plane had come down,” says Magnum photographer Jerome Sessini. “As we made our way there, we heard it was, in fact, a passenger plane. When we arrived, I could see the burning wreckage along the small roads. And the scene [revealed] itself to me: There were bodies strewn everywhere, and bits of plane scattered – it was a horrific scene.
“There were separatists guarding the place. I saw one woman in part of the wreckage and she looked like she was just asleep. Her body was intact. At one point, near some fields, I noticed this purple color on the edge of my sight and we walked in and found this body. He was still strapped into his seat and the scene looked totally unreal. It was pretty scary, actually. I only took a few frames. I didn’t want to go any closer. What you see here is as close as I got.
“One security guard asked me to hand over my memory card. I had to – and I think this photo was on it. But when he was leaving, I stood in the middle of the road and blocked the car as they left. He gave the card back to me, and even apologized for taking it.
I was there with two other photographers and on the way back in the car we didn’t talk. It was such a hard scene to process. It was hard to take it in. Nothing can prepare you for a scene like that. It is one of the most violent I have seen.”
Photo by Jerome Sessini, Torez, Ukraine, 7/17/2014 - a scene of a man still strapped in his seat from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 "allegedly" shot down in eastern Ukraine by Russia-backed separatists.

CNN had a somewhat happier collection of "best" images from 2014. Please check out their complete album at My favorites:
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty of ice building up along Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach as temperatures dipped to record lows in Chicago, IL.
Aurora Borealis over Mt. Hoffell, Hoffellsjokul Glacier, Iceland (3/9/2014) - image by Arctic-Images/Corbis
Image by © Arctic-Images/Corbis
Image by © Arctic-Images/Corbis
Image by © Arctic-Images/Corbis
A Palestinian man and a member of Israel's security forces take pictures of each other after a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh (3/14/2014) Photo by Abbas Momani/AFP-Getty Images

Boys in a slum on the outskirts of Brasilia, Brazil, watch a World Cup soccer match between Brazil and Mexico. Photo by Reuters
Dozens of commuters (8/6/2014)  in Perth, Australia, work to rescue a man who got his leg trapped between a train and the platform. The passenger was able to wriggle free with their help (

Young activist Malala Yousafsai attends an awa Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai sits before receiving the 2014 World’s Children Prize for the Rights of the Child during an award ceremony at Gripsholm Castle in Mariefred, western Stockholm on October 29, 2014. Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP
 A couple kiss during a perigee moon, also known as a "supermoon," as it rises in the sky in Sydney. The phenomenon occurs when the moon becomes full on the same day as its perigee -- the point in the moon's orbit when it is closest to Earth. (9/9/2014 found at

Not to be outclassed, The New York Times has a collection of 100 "Best" photos from 2014.  I could not copy or find these images to paste here,  but you can check them all out at:

 The Atlantic has their "2014 year in photos" in three installments:
 Here are a few of my favorites:
Thousands of Bluebells bloom, carpeting a forest near Halle, South of Brussels, Belgium 4/1/2014. Photo by Yves Logghe/AP
Michael Phelps warming up prior to a 50-meter freestyle preliminary at the Arena Grand Prix swim event, Mesa, Arizona 4/25/2014 Photo by Matt York/AP

"Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red" by artist Paul Cummins, under construction in the Tower of London Moat 9/10/2014. Each of the 88,246 ceramic poppies represents an allied victim of WWI (on its 100th anniversary). Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.

Now, onto the BEST INFOGRAPHICS of 2014.
The first contender for "Best" is Travel Hacks by Best Hospitality Degrees. I thought it packed some really cool information and was easy to read. What do you think?


My next choice for "Best" is Your Brain on Beer vs. Coffee by I Love Coffee. Not only is this an age-old question, I loved the colors, the playfulness and the details given.  What do you think?


The final contender for "Best" is an interactive infographic "The Existential Calculator" designed by artist Kelli Anderson who was asked by Adobe to "make something interesting." She did - a paper infographic that answers that age-old question: "Should I take that job?" Under the image is a vimeo link showing how it works. [And please check out her blog link here, to learn more about all the decision factors involved: ] [Note: if you look closely on the blog this was designed in 2013, but I discovered it in 2014 - and just couldn't resist posting it.]
Link for Kelli Anderson's Existential Calculator -


After exploring the above links from Google, here is my choice of "Best"  YouTube Zeitgeist 2014 [Note: while not comprehensive, I found it captured much of the year's best and worst.]

Last year I also included the Best Graphic Novels of the year in my Zeitgeist.  As this post is so long already, I'll be doing a separate post shortly on the best graphic novels of 2014 and the promise of what's going to be around in 2015.  I hope you'll check in for that.

And if you're still with me, and want to see how 2014 compares to 2013, please check out:
A Zeitgiest 2014 versus Zeitgeist 2013 at;postID=3545338069166267041;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=1;src=link
As always, thank you for your visit and for your visits in 2014.
I hope you'll leave your favorite 2014 impressions in the comments below, and I look forward to your insights and kind remarks in your 2015 comments.
Finally, I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful 2015.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wishing You A Happy Holiday...

With the holidays upon us, I wanted to wish you all a very happy holiday. May you celebrate it in warmth with those you love and may 2015 bring you and your families a year of good health, success and joy.

With holiday cheer abounding, I thought I'd share with you different images, songs and events being celebrated and sung this year around the world.

So HAPPY HANUKKAH, KWANZAA AND CHRISTMAS - I hope you enjoy my "Holiday Wishes: Mash-up" and hope you can take the time to celebrate a little of each.  Please leave your own holiday favorites and wishes in the comments.

Celebrating HANUKKAH:
As Hanukkah is the first of the holidays to occur this year (December 17-25, 2014) let's start with that.

A heads-up for any Hannukah grinches who aren't into songs, in this mash-up the first three videos are songs. The FOURTH is a very cool SCIENCE "miracle" from Israel's Technion. Enjoy:

First is a song-dance mash-up by Elliot Dvorin and the Key Tov Orchestra

Then there's Six13's Chanukah version of "Shake it Off:"

Here the Maccabeats tell us "All About That Neis (Miracle) - Hanukkah" a parody of "All About that Bass" originally performed by Meghan:

And from the Technion in Israel, a Hanukkah Message/Miracle:

Celebrating KWANZAA:
Sharing images for Kwanza 2014 was a bit more challenging for me as it is a community celebration from December 26-January 1.

Along with these images, I thought I'd share different community calendar events for Kwanzaa 2014:
kwanzaa Candles
Photo Credit: Kwanzaa Guide

  • Umoja=Unity,
  • Kujichagulia=Self Determination,
  • Ujima=Collect Work and Responsibility,
  • Ujamaa=Cooperative Economics,
  • Nia=Purpose,
  • Kuumba=Creativity and
  • Imani=Faith

Celebrating CHRISTMAS:
I thought I'd spread cheer with some awesome trees and decorations from around the world:

Our first stop is Paris.  Here we see an 82-foot Christmas tree, hung upside down in a shopping mall (along, of course with a light show that I wasn't able to find or link :-(  my apologies).
Giant, upside-down Christmas tree in a Paris shopping mall.(Photo: Chen Xiaowei / Xinhua / Corbis)

Our next stop is at the Freitas lagoon in Rio de Janeiro with its 279-foot floating Christmas tree (which also holds the Guinness World Record for highest floating tree).  What's cool about this is that NOT only is it the tallest, it has some awesome lighting options:
The floating Christmas tree at Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in Rio de Janeiro.(Photo: YASUYOSHI CHIBA via Getty Images)

A 85-meter-high floating Christmas tree illuminates
Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP/Getty Images

A 85-meter-high floating Christmas tree illuminates
Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP/Getty Images

A 85-meter-high floating Christmas tree illuminates
Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP/Getty Images

A 85-meter-high floating Christmas tree illuminates
Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP/Getty Images
Amazing, isn't it.... all the same tree!

Next stop, Byblos (north of Beirut) Lebanon, where their 97-foot Christmas tree is covered with 2,500 gold-colored iron leaves.
Wael Hamzeh/European Pressphoto Agency

And the Pitt Mall in Sydney Australia is hosting a tree made entirely of Lego pieces.
Photo by Dean Lewins/Eupropean PressPhoto Agency

Our next stop on our magical holiday tour is in Singapore where the tree (which from this angle looks more like a cake to me - although I mean no disrespect) features Doraemon, a Japanese manga character.
Edgar Su/Reuters

Our next stop... Honduras where another record was set: the world's biggest HUMAN Christmas tree that was formed last week by almost 3000 people.
The world's biggest human Christmas tree in Honduras.(Photo: Xinhua / Corbis)

And, in Sydney Australia's Pitt Mall, here's a giant Leggos Christmas Tree

Finally, we end the tour in my neighborhood (or pretty close), New York City's Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I's a 90-year old tree Norway Sprice donated by Dan and Rachel Sigafoos of Hemlock Township, PA and is  decorated with 45,000 LED lights and crowned with a massive 9.5 foot Swarovski star. It will be on display through January 7, 2015.

Here's the tree in place before the lights, pomp and circumstance:
View image on Twitter
Here's the scaffolding put in place to decorate it:
View image on Twitter

 And here we see it from behind the promonade of angels (facing Fifth Avenue):
Here is how to watch the lighting of the 2014 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
Getty Images
 And finally, here we see it at the gala lighting ceremony :

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

And for more, please check out over-the-top holiday links:

As always, thank you for your time and your visit.

Please leave your own holiday images, songs, links or favorites in the comments.


Happy Holidays to you all!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How to find the Ultimate Comic/Graphic Novel Gift for 2014

With holidays and gifting approaching, I present to you some wonderful graphic novel gift choices for kids of all ages.

[Please note: many of the books are being sold by  CBLDF- Comic Book Legal Defense Fund - and are signed editions to help battle book banning.  So, not only are you giving someone special, a special gift, you're helping a great organization. Where available, I've included a link to the CBLDF offer. I have also included links to the titles that have online classroom/discussion suggestions.]

I hope these links and titles are useful, the books and stories are truly awesome:

My 2014 holiday gift favorites for kids:

Sara Varon
Young fans are probably aware of Sara Varon’s work; she’s been making great kid’s books for several years now. We have signed copies of one of her “silent” graphic novels, Bake Sale (First Second), which is perfect for beginner readers. Here's a link for signed editions through CBLDF:

Brother and sister team Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm have two extraordinary series of graphic novels for kids.  The first is Babymouse (Random House) about the trials and tribulations of elementary school students and teachers, as seen through the eyes of Babymouse, as spunky, lovable mouse who wrestles with popularity, quirky lockers, competition — in the school band, school play, math Olympics, and even the best birthday party ever — and more. The series has won multiple Children’s Choice awards, the 2006 Gryphon Award, the 2006 ALA Notable Children’s Book Award, and the 2006 New York Book Show Award. 

Jennifer and Matthew Holm
Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm also have a series, Squish (Random House) about a comic book-loving, Twinkie-eating, blubbery, super-swell amoeba “kid” who wrestles with good and evil in life around him, and learns about life’s responsibilities. Note that   Squish: Game On, is available as a signed edition by Jennifer and Matthew Holm through CBLDF:

Jimmy Gownley's Amelia Rules! series is one of my favorites. It's an empowering, heart-warming story about Amelia Louise McBride who moves with her Mom to a small town in Pennsylvania to live with her uber-cool aunt Tanner, after her parents’ divorce.  Amelia, along with her friends Reggie, Pajamaman (or PJ), and Rhonda Bleenie (Amelia’s best frenemy) tackle all the world throws at them, with some guidance from Tanner, Amelia’s aunt, confidante, and former rock-star. Through laughs, challenges and spills, we all learn about friendship, family, about the “truths” of life, and about the joys of not taking anything too seriously – as long as there are people (as flawed as they may be) to provide support when necessary. A New York Times Bestseller, these books have also  been nominated for thirteen Eisner Awards (four nominations in 2008 alone), five Harvey Awards, and was a short list finalist for the Howard E. Day Prize in 2002. Jimmy Gownley also has a new book The Dumbest Idea Ever (Scholastic, 2014) - a memoir of his days in Catholic School and how comic books changed his life.

Raina Telgemeier has some awesome graphic novels (Scholastic Graphix): Smile, Drama, and Sisters. Smile is an autobiographical coming-of-age graphic novel memoir, Raina Telgemeier ruminates with humor and honesty on the tumultuous challenges and perils of her teen years: from the trauma of falling one night on her way home from a Girl Scout meeting severely injuring her front teeth, to dealing with boys, earthquakes and the true meaning of friendship. smilecover
 It's a New York Times bestseller; winner of the 2011 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens; winner of the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, 2012; winner of the Maine Student Book Award, 2012; finalist for the Children’s Choice Book Award, 2011; ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2011; Honor Book for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, 2010; Kirkus Best Book of 2010; and the New York Times Editors’ Choice, 2010. Drama is about Raina's life in her highschool Drama club, and Sisters, Telgemeier's latest volume is about her relationship with her sister. Note that Drama hardcover, signed by Raina Telgemeier is available through CBLDF at:

I also LOVE, love, love  Lumberjanes (BOOM! 2014) a comic book series by Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and  Brooke Allen. It is about five friends, Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley who are determined to have an awesome summer together...and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! Lumberjanes has wonderfully empowering female characters, an awesome camp counselor and director, who support the gumption of the fab five friends.

A fabulous fantasy series, Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi (Scholastic, Graphix) is another great gift choice.  It's about Emily and her brother Navin who, through extenuating circumstances, find themselves battling for the freedom of a parallel world and face mounting dangers with newfound friends. The Young Adult Library services Association named it one of Best Books for Young Adults in 2009. In 2010, it won a Rhode Island Children’s Book Award and was included in a Library Journal list of “Graphic Novels for Reluctant Readers.” In 2011, it received a Young Reader’s Choice Award, and in 2013, it was ranked fourth on Goodreads’ “Best Graphic Novels for Children” list. These books received an Eisner nomination and are currently New York Times bestsellers.
Jules Feiffer

Jules Feiffer is one of the greatest living cartoonists, and we had the honor of hosting him at the Small Press Expo this year. While there, he took the time to sign copies of his children’s book, Rupert Can Dance. Mr. Feiffer is an American original, and this is a very special item. Here's a link for signed editions through CBLDF:
This year, Ben Hatke concluded his series Zita the Space Girl (series, First Second Books) - a truly awesome read.  The story and art are loads of fun and our hero, Zita is wonderfully strong, real, and warmly vulnerable.

For those who love to draw and/or tell stories: Adventures in Cartooning (First Second Books) an ongoing series by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost illustrates basic elements of catooning (for kids of all ages) while telling tales of knights, princesses, kings, dragons and faithful steeds.

For Tweens, Teens, and Older:
Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Faith Erin Hicks (First Second)is a graphic novel for older kids (for mature middle school or high school and older) adapted and drawn by Faith Erin Hicks from the young adult novel Voted Most Likely by Prudence Shen. It’s full of unlikely friendships and nicely nuanced characters who bend and shatter stereotypes and expectations as they discover more about themselves, their friendships, and their passions.

The Shadow Hero (First Second Books, 2014) by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew is another 2014 gem. This book is a tribute to the almost forgotten golden age comics series, The Green Turtle. The Shadow Hero, like The Green Turtle is about a crime solving hero who fights injustice, but like most masked crusading superheroes has a secret and a past.

Jeff Smith
Bone by Jeff Smith is a truly classic tween graphic novel series that has influenced many of the younger graphic artists such as Kazu Kibuishi (see above).  It's about three cousins from Boneville who have lost their way and stumbled into a different world full of love, laughs and adventure. Here is a CBLDF link for  a limited number of the very cool Bone: The Great Cow Race Artist Edition. These oversized hardcovers are reprinted from the original art pages, and are absolutely beautiful. These editions are sketched and signed on CBLDF bookplates and are a very rare item. Also through CBLDF, if you are thinking something smaller, artist Jeff Smith has once again offered to PERSONALIZE editions of the Complete Bone.Here are some CBLDF links:

One of the best new books for younger readers (in this author’s opinion) is the dynamic and gorgeous Battling Boy (series published by First Second Books) from Artist Paul Pope. We not only have signed copies of the book, but a special gift set that comes with an exclusive embroidered patch featuring Haggard West, the greatest hero of Battling Boy’s world. Here's a link for signed editions from CBLDF

In Real Life by Cory Doctrow and Jen is a powerful story about tolerance (or the lack thereof), and about how technology and persistence can help us overcome hateful barriers. The story centers around an Arizona teenager named Anda Bridge. Anda, inspired by a school visit from an older gamer named Liza the Organizer, joins Liza’s all-woman gamer group within Coarsegold Online, a fictional MMORPG with upward of 10 million players in the hope of meeting friends from all over the world. But things become complicated, rules somehow interfere, and Andra realizes that issues of right and wrong are not straightforward.

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown (First Second, 2014) is a strong, brilliant and moving graphic novel biography about wrestler, actor Andre the Giant.  It takes us deep into his life, into the life of championship wrestling, showing us vulnerabilities in each.  It also illustrates the terrible hardships Andre endured (both physical and emotional) because of his size, and makes us think more carefully about our own gifts and crosses to bear.  I highly recommend this book for school and recreational reading.

For additional lists and suggestions for kids please visit:


Brandon Graham is one of the most unique voices on the current comics scene, and we have a nice set of items featuring signed books, and sketchbook samplers for folks who are into genre-bending work influenced by sources as varied as street art, classic manga, and trippy ’70s sci-fi. For someone who needs to see some of the more interesting work in comics. Here's a link to get a signed edition from CBLDF:
One of the more lauded books this year is the unlikely story of Brian Epstein, a graphic novel labor of love by author Vivek Tiwary and artist Andrew Robinson. The Fifth Beatle won a wheelbarrow full of awards this year, and for the music fan in your life, we have copies signed by the author. Here's a link to get a signed edition from CBLDF:
Art Spiegelman
But maybe, the best selection for this section,  is the ultimate classic and the only graphic novel to date to win a Pulitzer prize, Maus. You can probably find these in most book stores, but CBLDF is offering signed by Art Spiegelman on a bookplate he designed specifically for this volume. Here's the CBLDF link:


Please check out CBLDF's  collection of comics and graphic novel educational materials at:

As always, I thank you for your visit, and I wish you and your family a happy holiday season.
Please leave your own ultimate comic/graphic novel suggestions in the comments below.