Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Yes, there is so a National Museum of Dentistry

Charlesbridgian Connie Brown, pictured right, goes to the most fascinating places on vacation. Keep your Saint Moritz, your Berlin, Prague, and Budapest, Connie prefers basking in the glow of well-brushed and flossed teeth and dentures.

On a recent trip to the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, Maryland, Connie perused the gift shop and found Charlesbridge well represented. We're proud to be on display at the museum, and its gift shop. Little known fact: company wide, we only have 17 cavities. All filled. That's far less than the national average, which if you don't know it, can be discovered at the National Museum of Dentistry.

Charlesbridge: Connie, what's the museum like?

CB: A fascinating and fun place that no one’s ever heard of. And it’s right between Oriole Park and Babe Ruth’s Birthplace Museum—I mean, prime Baltimore real estate!! It’s a Smithsonian affiliate with incredible displays and info about all facets of dentistry from ancient times to the cutting edge technology of the near future. It even has every single one of George Washington’s sets of dentures—and, no, not one of them is wooden!

Charlesbridge: Sounds great, Connie. And you're right, we should have a launch party for Sneed Collard's upcoming book Teeth.

Friday, August 24, 2007

We're Number 8!

Cannot help being excited to return to the PW Bestseller list with our back-to-school favorite, First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg and illustrated by Judy Love.

Thanks to all the teachers from Maui to Malaysia who read First Day Jitters on the first day of school. It's not too late to join them if your first day is yet to come.

Next year: #1!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the requisite Charlesbridge wedding shower!

Jill, Jill our dear friend,
Your single days now must end.
Now you're going to be a Mrs.
With joy, glad hearts, and lots of kisses.
- oh, my!

'Something's going on,' Jill thought.
Party planners might get caught!
'Everyone's running all around.'
But no one peeps, not one sound.

Charlesbridgians in all their finery
Line up to toast with champagne winery.
The conference room in bride's disguise,
Hush, hush, keep quiet for the big surprise!

Jill, Jill, our dear friend,Happy tidings your friends do send.
May your wedding be a happy day,
With laughs and love and cafe au lait!


Interns will work for food!

Posted by Donna

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Mommy Editor

I was an editor before I became a mother. There’s a persistent, if whispered, rumor in children’s publishing that unless you have kids, you can’t really be a good editor. I don’t believe that’s true—heck, Ursula Nordstrom had no kids—but I do find that having kids has changed the way I work.

I’m a different reader now: the internal kid voice I use when I read books and manuscripts is no longer just Kid Me, but also Kid Munchkin (my three-year-old) and Kid Niblet (my baby). Those extra voices make for a rather noisy brain, but I’m convinced the extra noise is worthwhile. (Kid Me was kind of a weirdo, after all.)

I’ve found that the tips that authors and illustrators hear all the time really do have merit. Repetition really IS important in books for toddlers; I knew it before, but now I have empirical evidence. (Over and over and over and over, I have empirical evidence.) Similarly, those little repeated or hidden elements in illustrations really ARE a special treat: I see that more clearly, now that I’ve watched my own kid gleefully point out the mouse in Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown, Harper).

There is a downside, alas: the inability to turn off my editor brain. Whether we’re at the library, at the bookstore, or just reading books at home, I find it hard to relax and just read the darn book. For the most part, I’m evaluating each book the way I would any manuscript. Does the plot hold together? Do I care about the characters? Do the illustrations complement, enhance, and extend the text?

But sometimes I find myself editorializing, too: I can’t read Martha Speaks (Susan Meddaugh, HMCo) without inserting our official family policy on the phrase “Shut up!” (For the record, it goes like this: “ ‘Martha, PLEASE! SHUT UP!’ Which is not a very nice thing to say at all.”) I’d never suggest that the phrase was inappropriate for the book—it’s not! it’s perfect!—but it does make me realize that other parents may do the same kind of read-aloud revision of the books I work on, too. Horrors!

The biggest perq to being a mommy editor is, of course, the in-house focus group. I can’t say I’ve brought home manuscripts to try out on the Munchkin (she’s not quite ready to sit still for a story without pictures), but I do bring home the books I’ve edited. There’s nothing better than sitting down with my own kid and sharing a story I helped bring to life—especially when it’s one she likes. (And for those who suspect a family bias: believe me, she would let me know if she didn’t like it. No shrinking violet, my Munchkin.)

Photo note: The Munchkin and the beagle are reading Aggie and Ben (Lori Ries, Charlesbridge).

Posted by Emily Mitchell

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ich bin ein Berliner

Sorry folks, no jelly doughnuts here.

I've been back stateside for two weeks, and I'm finally getting around to posting a blog and some photos from my Eastern European getaway. While I'm glad to be back in a country that does not make me pay for clean drinking water, my trip certainly reminded me of how young America as a country is compared to those in Europe.

First stop: Berlin. Berlin was hands down my favorite city. It's a city rich with history, and much of that history took place in the last century. Although many buildings, churches, and monuments were destroyed during WWII and the Cold War, many iconic landmarks, including the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenberg Gate, and the Reichstag, remain. They serve as constant reminders of the city's past.

One monument in particular stays with me. Bebelplatz is a beautiful square on Humbolt University's campus, near the street lined with linden trees (Unter den Linden). It's a peaceful square flanked on all sides by buildings where students gather to learn, and that's what makes the Nazi book burning that took place there all the more unbelievable. I can't even begin to think of the number of first editions that went up in flames here. A small glass plate set into the cobblestone gives onlookers a view into a stark white room below. There are shelves, but they are all empty. It's an empty library capable of housing the 20,000 books by Jewish and other "degenerate" writers that were burned on May 10th, 1933. What's especially haunting is the bronze plaque that lays beside the glass plate. It highlights a quote from Jewish poet Heinrich Heine that reads, "Dort, wo man B├╝cher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen," ("Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too.") Heine wrote that in 1821.

Berlin constantly walks that fine line between forgetting and glorifying its notorious history. Neither forgetting or glorifying are acceptable, and I think city officials have done a good job at acknowledging the past and looking to the future. For example, instead of destroying the austere Nazi government buildings, like Joseph Goebbels's Department of the Propaganda, the government still works in these buildings. Another example is the Reichstag. Once the seat of the Third Reich, the German house of parliament was rebuilt with a glass dome on the top. The dome itself symbolizes the need for transparency in government. Within the dome is an inverted cone of mirrors that serves not only as something cool to look at, but also as means of gathering energy to power the building. It is a testament to Germany's dedication to energy conservation. Looking to the future and recognizing the past.

No trip to Germany's capital could be complete without stopping by a local bookstore. I picked up a copy of Der Struwwelpeter (or Slovenly Peter), the popular German children's picture book written in 1845 by Heinrich Hoffmann. Comprised of ten illustrated and rhymed stories, the book pokes fun at the strict punishments preached by religious rulers by exaggerating what happens to children when they don't do as they are told. It's supposed to be a parody of the cautionary tale, but the gruesome illustrations and horrible consequences of each child's actions will scare, if not traumatize, even the bravest of among us.

Like Boston, Berlin seemed to me to be a city under construction. The city has become a playground for the world's best and most innovative architects. Cranes and scaffolding ruin any attempt at capturing that perfect photo of the city's skyline. However, I am convinced that unlike Boston, Berlin's construction will come to an end in the foreseeable future. I plan to go back in 5 years to find out what kind of progress they're making. Anyone want to join me?

Posted by Jenny

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Big 3-0

Congratulations to Brookline, Mass's, Children's Book Shop. They turn 30 this year (you don't look a day over 29) AND they won Boston Magazine's 2007 Best of Boston's Kids Books selection. It's a little place for little people, but they have a lot of choice in over 21,000 books. 21,000 books... imagine.

I love the way the writer for Boston Magazine (who? I don't know) described it: "The shop may be considering a spiffing up for its 30th anniversary this year, but here's hoping it'll always be a tad dog-eared: after all, that's how bookworms mark a place they want to go back to." It's so poetic because it's true.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Trekking the Kokoda Trail with Prue Mason

My name’s Prue and I wrote Camel Rider which is an adventure story set in the Middle East. It’s about two boys called Adam and Walid who trek through deserts and mountains to save a dog called Tara.

I love adventures and I’m just in the middle of packing for a trek of my own. This one is through the jungles of Papua New Guinea. One of the best things about being a writer is that I can go on adventures and call them research. This one should be an adventure because Papua New Guinea is a country where people still live in their remote mountain villages without running water or electricity like their parents and grandparents and great, great etc. parents did before them.

The reason I’m going is because my two brothers talked me into it. Our Dad was a soldier in the Second World War and he fought alongside the Americans in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. They had a really tough time because this is how a soldier who was there described it – “Imagine an area approximately 100 miles long – crumple and fold this into a series of ridges each rising higher and higher until 7,000 feet is reached and then dropping to 3,000 feet – cover this thickly with jungle, short trees and tall ones tangled with vines… About midday and through the night pour water over all this so everything becomes slippery and muddy.” Sounds great doesn’t it? Well if you like trekking through mud and being eaten by mosquitos and attacked by leeches it could be fun.

My Dad and lots of other soldiers traveled along a track through this area called the Kokoda Trail. Not only did they have to try and make their way up and down these slippery, muddy ridges and through fast flowing rivers but they were also being shot at by their enemy. I remember my Dad showing me and my sisters and brothers a scar on his back that he told us was when an enemy soldier dropped out of a tree and had his knife almost into Dad’s back when luckily for Dad, but unluckily for the enemy soldier, there was a friend behind Dad who saved him. Dad said he learnt a lot about himself and life during the time he was a soldier. He said one time when he was fighting he got so close to an enemy he looked into his eyes. He saw the man was really frightened. From that time on Dad said he knew that there’s no such thing as an enemy – just people who don’t know each other but who have got themselves into a situation which is about life or death and they’re just doing what they can to survive.

When I’m struggling up and down those folded ridges I’m going to try and remember that at least I’m not being shot at.

But I’d better get on with my packing. When I get back from this trip I’ll be back to work. One of the interesting things about being a writer is the variety of work you can do. My next job is reading nearly 15,000 poems from children all around Australia because I’m one of the judges of a national poetry competition. Someone asked me what I’ll be doing with all those poems after I’ve read them. I figure I might plant them in our garden. Maybe I’ll grow a Poetree.

Hope you enjoy Adam and Walid’s adventures. I wrote this story when I was living in the Middle East and although Adam and Walid aren’t real people, Tara is a real dog. She’s here alongside me now and is waving a paw. She likes being the heroine of the story and has visited lots of schools here in the Australia when we go and talk about Camel Rider and what it was like living in the Middle East.

Posted by author Prue Mason.