Forgotten Author of the Week - Christine, Diana, and Josephine Pullein-Thompson

After asking what some of my readers' favorite authors were, I decided to give myself an education by featuring these authors in the coming weeks. The first one, Christine, Diana and Josephine Pullein-Thompson missed my radar as a kid for one simple reason. I did not read books about horses, dogs, cats, badgers, or anything else furry. However, I found the story of Christine, Diana, and Josephine Pullein-Thompson to be fascinating.

Christine, Diana and Josephine were sisters born one year apart in 1924-25. Diana and Christine were twins. The wrote several horse and pony books, mostly fictional, all geared for middle-grade girls. Their first books were published when the girls were in their early twenties. All 3 sisters have written at least 1 book under a different name. Josephine wrote under the pseudonym of
Josephine Mann, in which she published a ghost story, Place With
Two Faces. Diana wrote 3 books under her married name of Diana Farr. Christine wrote 2 books under the name of Christine Keir.
Their mother Joanna Cannan was the sister of the poet May Cannan, who wrote similiar equestrian stories but is better known for mysteries and her poetry. Their brother Denis Cannan managed to write books as well, but not as many works as his sisters. He did managed to make a living being a playwright. Their father, after being injured in World War II, sold refrigerators.

As if this literary family wasn't enough, Christine later had four children, two sons and two daughters. One her daughters Charlotte Popescu is an author in her own right, publishing children's pony books just like her mother. Diana also had two children, but neither became writers. Of the three sisters, Christine was the most published and well-known.

Illustrator of the Week - Don Freeman

Don Freeman was a painter, printmaker, cartoonist, children's book author, and illustrator. Born in 1908 and orphaned in the same year, Freeman was adopted and grew up in San Diego, California. Later he moved to New York Cirt where he studied etching at the Art Students League with Joan Sloan and Harry Wickey. Freeman was known for always carrying a sketchbook with him. His early images captured the vibrancy and humanity of New York City. He wasn't afraid to draw showgirls, Bowery boys, drunks, apple sellers, and window washers. To him, the people were New York. Freeman was also a jazz musician and the brother of hotel entrepreneur Warren Freedman. In 1951, Freeman began illustrating children's books. his wife, Lydia, also an accomplished artist, helped him write and illustrate many of his books.

Freeman first became interested in children's books when William Saroyan asked him to illustrate a few books. however, his greatest influence was the artist Honore Daumier. Freeman studied many of Daumiers works as well as possessed a large collection of books on the artist. Freeman wrote and illustrated over 20 children's book, however his most famous and well-read is the story of Corduroy. Corduroy was a groundbreaking books as it was one of the few books that featured an African-American child in a picture book. Freeman once said, "Simplicity is the essence of chilfren's books stories, not simple mindedness." Among his other books are A Pocket for Corduroy, Beady Bear, Dandelion, Gregory's Shadow, and Hattie the Backstage Bat.

Book of the Week - The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Always on the lookout for some great books for boys, I snatched up the advanced reader copy of this book and then promptly forgot about it until last week. Detailed, well-developed, with hardly a dull moment I gobbled this book up. I could almost see, smell, and hear this world that James Dashner has made.

The story follows young Thomas who wakes up in an elevator and the only thing he can remember about his past is his first name. He is a complete blank. But he's not alone. When the elevator stops, Thomas finds himself surrounded by boys who welcome him to The Glade--a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls. Just like Thomas, none of the other boys know why or how they came to be in The Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them open. Every night they close again, protecting The Gladers from the deadly things in the maze. And every 30 days a new boy is delivered in the elevator. Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up--the first girl to ever arrive in The Glade. And she has a message. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

As dystopian sci-fi's are getting more popular with books like Hunger Games, Uglies, and The Knife of Never Letting Go, I can safely say that this book is a nice addition to the genre. Dashner blazes a new and unexpected trail in a surprising direction and doesn't waste time making things happen in this story. The hooks and cliffhangers are carefully places and he's not afraid to beat up on these kids. The real hook happened for me about a hundred pages in when Thomas gets trapped outside the Maze a night--a major no-no because of the savage monsters that roam the Maze and won't hesitate to tear you apart should you encounter them. Like Dashner's 13th Reality, Maze Runner is a story about problem solving, but more directly it's about optimism in the face of adversity. It's about never giving up. Of fighting despite what the odds say.

Of course, as you may imagine, the ending does set up for a sequel and rumor has it that this will be a trilogy. Perhaps that is my biggest complaint about most books these days. Why does everything have to be a series?

The only complaints I have about Maze Runner is how the beginning moves just a little too slow and the ending was very abrupt. One of those endings where you are almost done and you realize that there is no way they can tie up all the loose ends in the next twenty pages. Also, the descriptions of the Grievers (the monsters within the Maze), were much more audible than visual. I could "hear" them in my head, but could never really imagine what they looked like. Imagine a hippo with no face and no legs, with robotic arms that can pierce through its blubbery skin, powered by a high-torque diesel motor. The sound effects mostly made up for the visual though.

I'm definitely hooked and will wait anxiously for the sequel. Perhaps most interesting is that I think this book would make a great video game. Perhaps you were expecting me to say movie? Perhaps it would make a good movie, but honestly, video game is where I would go with this. Puzzles, problem solving, codes, mazes that change from day to day, maze baddies. It has all the makings of a cool video game. Read the book and tell me what you think.

Forgotten Author of the Week - Russell Hoban

Today's forgotten author is not really forgotten, however he has written so many book that are out of print that some of his books are forgotten. Among them is one of my favorite Christmas stories, The Mole Family's Christmas (1968). When the Mole family finds out about Christmas and the fat man in the red suit, they ask for a telescope to help them see the one thing they have always wanted to see--stars. Among one of his other books that is now out of print is Harvey's Hideout (1969), part of the Francis series. Among his more famous works are Bread and Jam for Francis (1962), The Mouse and the Child (1968), and Emmet Otter's Jug-band Christmas(1971). Emmet the Otter was later turned into a film by Jim Henson. What you may not know about Russell Hoban is that he wrote books for both children and adults. He published almost a dozen books for adults including Turtle Diary (1975), Fremder (1996), The Bat Tattoo(2002), and My Tango With Barbara Strozzi (2007).

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Illustrator of the Week - Eric Fortune

Eric Fortune is an illustrator who has done numerous children's book illustrations. Born and raised in Ohio, Eric received his BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design where he was honored with the Outstanding Senior Award upon graduation. His work has garnered much acclaim in competitions and Artist societies. Currently Eric is focused on doing personal paintings for upcoming gallery shows in NYC, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Some of the book that have featured Eric's artwork have included The Shadow Thieves, The Siren Song, The Immortal Fire, Magickeepers: The Eternal Hourglass, and Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Poe.

Book of the Week - Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

As a science fiction addict, I devoured Suzanne Collins' first book Hunger Games with ferocity. If you have not read the first book and intend to, I suggest that you stop reading now or at least skip down a paragraph as I am going to offer up the plot and opinions of Hunger Games before I get into the second addition to the series.

Hunger Games is told by spunky sixteen-year-old Katniss. In a future society America has undergone a lot of changes. After an open rebellion, The Capital rose up and destroyed the rebels, splitting their country into thirteen districts. Each district produces certain items like District 11 grows things, District 12 works in coal mines, and Distrcit 3 creates electronics. The districts live in deep poverty, often struggling just to make ends meat. As a reminder that the Capital is always in control they have created the terrible and cruel Hunger Games. Every year they choose a girl and boy from each district to compete in the Hunger Games, a fight to the death. Katniss takes the place of her little sister and is soon thrown into the most terrifying game she will ever play. Somehow, mostly by accident, Katniss defies the Capital and manages to save her friend Peeta, making two winners for the Hunger Games and an enemy of the Capital.

The second book picks up right after Katniss and Peeta have won. The horrors of the Hunger Games still haunt Katniss who suffers from nightmares and guilt. She likes Peeta, but isn't in love with him the way that she pretended she was in order to win the games. And it seems the Capital is not going to let her forget it.

My problem with the second book is that Katniss, despite being thrown into very mature and grown-up situations, is still utterly clueless. She began the sparks of rebellion in the first book, but it was simply an accident not an act of defiance. When she offers her apologies to the families of those killed in the Hunger Games, again she defies the Capital--by accident. In fact, there isn't much that Katniss does on purpose. She sneaks out of the District and stumbles across some rebels from District 8, and it was only because she needed some alone time. Never on purpose. When the Capital announces their devious plan of sending previous victors to the Hunger Games, Katniss flips, but instead of refusing or defying or fighting or something, she starts training.

The plot is great, the story is wonderful. Exciting, thrilling, fighting, killing, rebellion. The main character on the other hand...never changes. She never learns. She never gets it. Even in the end (don't worry I won't reveal the end) she still doesn't get it. Come on girl. Get a clue. The reader is so often aware of what the character isn't that it is frustrating. I like the story and wanted to see these people rebel, but most of all, I wanted to see Katniss rebel. She never did.

Forgotten Author of the Week

I was recently having a conversation with a friend about this particular weekly entry of forgotten authors. We discussed how even though I have been offering up forgotten authors for a year and a half now, I have not even begun to touch on some of her favorites. So I offer it up to my readers...

Who is your favorite forgotten author? An author that you thought you were the only one who knew about him/her. An author whose books may not be in print anymore, but demand a trip to the library and possibly An author that you stumbled across when you were ten and have never forgotten.

Share with us!

Illustrator of the Week - John Rocco

John Rocco was born and raised in a small town in Rhose Island. At eleven he began to work in the shell fishing industry, which he loved. Rocco attended the Rhose Island School of Design and then the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Upon graduation he went right to work, collaborating with actor Whoopie Goldberg, creating the picture book Alice. Shortly after, he moved to Los Angeles where he worked as an art director and then creative director in the entertainment industry around the world. At Walt Disney Imagineering he helped design attractions and served as the art director for DisneyQuest. Then Rocco went on to work for Dreamworks, working as pre-production art director for Shrek. In 2005, Rocco decided to go back to his roots and focused on pictures books again, creating Wolf! Wolf!, Moonpowder, Fu Finds the Way, and his best known book Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Rocco currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife, daughter, and dog.

and because I just found out that The Lightning Thief is going to be a is the movie trailer for you. Here's to hoping they do it justice.

Book of the Week - The Maze in the Heart of the Castle

The Maze in the Heart of the Castle by Dorothy Gilman

This is probably one of my favorite books. Sadly, the book was in limited print and difficult to find. However, if your library carries this book than I highly recommend a good read. Every time I read this book I always find something new and interesting about it. There is such a depth to the story that is not found in many adventure stories.

The story is about Colin, who loses both his parents to a plague that is sweeping the land. With his parents gone, Colin is left scared, confused, and angry. He seeks out a monk who tells him that the answers he is looking for at a haunted castle on Rheemback Mountain--where Colin meets a strange wizard. Instead of answers though, the wizard opens two large oak doors to reveal an ancient maze. The answers lay not in the maze though, but beyond it. In the maze Colin discovers people who love their misery, kindness in the desert, people who live in caves, afraid of the light, cruelty, and love. He finds betrayal and pain and eventually the answers he seeks although not in the way he imagined.

It's all here. The stages of grief ranging from anger, to denial, to deal making, and finally acceptance. All played out in an allegory built around one young man's adventure of self discovery. When you first encounter this book, you may read just an adventure story, full of original action and intriguing characters, all of it taking place in a time and space somewhat similar to but significantly different from the conventional Wester fantasy. It is a hard book to find, but I promise it is well worth the effort.

Forgotten Author of the Week - Miriam Young

Miriam Young was an American children's book author who published over thirty books, only one of which is still in print. Born in 1913, Miriam spent her childhood growing up outside of San Francisco. She was always fascinated by her mother's stories about growing up in San Francisco in the 1880's. This fascination led to her writing two books, No Place for Mitty and Mother Wore Tights, which chronicles her parent's theatrical careers. Her most famous and still in print book is Miss Suzy, about a squirrel who finds a home in a dollhouse and makes friends with some toy soldiers. There were sequels written about Miss Suzy, but none garnered the success that was there for the first one. She wrote a series of books with illustrator Robert Quackenbush that included If I Drove a Bus, If I Drove a Tractor, If I Flew a Plane, etc. al published in the 70's. She also wrote a book illustrated by Steven Kellogg called Can't you pretend?. Many of Miriam's books were aimed at little girls and her books became extremely popular in the late 60's and early 70's.

Illustrator of the Week - Elise Primavera

Elise Primavera is an American author and illustrator. Born in 1955 in West Long Beach, New Jersey, she began drawing and painting as most children do. She began copying cartoons she found in comic books, drawing on anything she could find including her school books. She got in the most trouble for drawing on her clothes. Her interest in art grew more serious at 11 when she contracted rheumatic fever and was cinfined to her bed for an entire summer, giving drawing a large role. Primavera enjoyed horse back riding and fashion design as well, but found a renewed love for art in college. After college, she began working for a few publishing houses, eventually getting her first book The Mermaid's Cape and The Snug Little House being release in 1981. Her first book as an author and illustrator was Basil and Maggie. Her most famous book is Auntie Claus (1999). According to the New York Times Primavera gets many ideas while taking showers and Auntie Claus was the product of one such "shower session". Her first novel was called The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls.

Book of the Week - The Black Tattoo

The Black Tattoo by Sam Enthoven

Being a fan of the macabre as well as the illustrator of the cover John Jude Pelancar, I jumped at the opportunity to read this book. However, thirty pages in and I knew there was reason to be concerned. Perhaps it is best to begin with the good rather than bad. Enthoven created a highly imaginative world that plays and twists the various concepts of demonic possession and hell in some very original ways. His young hero is rather likeable, particularly as one views his own struggle with feeling "ordinary" and left out of things. Kind of the opposite of your regular story in which the character feels like an oddball.

That said, I was amazed at the lack of empathy created in the characters. I didn't care about any of them. They were unconvincing, flat, static, and contrived. Enthoven filled their speech-bubble like dialogue with nothing but fluff, devoid of anything that would actually connect the reader to the characters. The character with the most emotional resonance was rarely in the story and was too often portrayed as evil rather than a victim. Perhaps that is what the author intended, but it is not how he came across within the emotional resonance. As a result of this poor characterization, the plot suffered as well, often feeling jump and random. Weird things felt placed simply for the sake of being weird. Some of the concepts, like a secret society could have been interesting but instead felt rather glib and cliched. Nothing wrong with using such societies, but an author has to make it their own. It was an imaginitive effort, but in the end a boring and long one with characters you cannot connect to.

Forgotten Author of the Week - Thomas Handforth

Thomas Handforth was the second person to win a Caldecott Award for his book Mei Li (1938). It was based on his personal experiences in China. Born in 1897, Handforth was fascinated with the Far East from a young age. He filled sketchbook after sketchbook with drawing of Eastern symbols, monuments, and characters. After high school he studied art at the University of Washington and then at the L'Ecole des Beaux Arts in France. He lived in various locations such as Paris, India, North Africa, Mexico, and China before moving back to the US. Despite the magnificent drawing of Chins, Mei Li is seen as sexist by contemporary standards. Even so, Handforth's heart seems to be in the right place. Handforth is considered a "single author" as he only wrote and published one book. However, he worked for years as a lithographer and illustrator for magazines.

Illustrator of the Week - Jack Kent

Jack Kent was a prolific author and illustrator of over forty children's books. Not only did he illustrate his own books, but also worked on other's books as well. Born in Burlington, Iowa, Kent dropped out of high school at fifteen to begin work as a freelance commercial artist. After military service during World War II, Kent began working on the King Aroo comic strip which syndicated internationally from 1950-1965. He began writing and illustrating children's books in 1968. One of my personal favorites is The Grown-Up Day about two little kids who play at being grown-up but soon discover that they like being children. Among his many books are also There's No Such Thing As Dragons, Little Peep, Silly Goose, Socks for Supper, Mr. Meebles, and Just Only John which won two awards.

Book of the Week - Cranberry Thanksgiving

As is tradition in my family, we read Cranberry Thanksgiving, a delightful and funny book. As featured in a previous post Harry and Wende Devlin created a whole series of Holiday books, each featuring a recipe that was relatable to the book. This book features Grandmother's Famous Cranberry Bread. So for Thanksgiving and my book review I give you:

Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread

  • 2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1.5 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 t. grated orange peel (optional)
  • 3/4 c. orange juice
  • 1.5 c. light raisins (optional)
  • 1.5 c. fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add egg, orange peel, and orange juice all at once; stir just until mixture is evenly moist. Fold in raisins and cranberries.

Spoon into a greased 9×5.3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.

If you choose, you may substitute cranberries to have an all cranberry bread.


Forgotten Author of the Week - Sam Levinson

Sam Levinson was a comedian in the 60's. A teacher for almost thirty years, Levinson offers a lot of wisdom and humor. I stumbled across him as a teenager when I wrote a paper about children at the turn of the century. Levinson's book In One Era and Out Another offered an interesting aspect not only to my paper but to myself. Even today I find myself quoting things from Levinson's books. So I give you some of Sam Levinson's wisdom and humor, although I highly recommending finding this book at your library and thoroughly enjoying something that never grows old.

“For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone”

“The simplest toy, one which even the youngest child can operate, is called a grandparent.”

“It's so simple to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say and then don't say it.”

“Insanity is hereditary; you can get it from your children”

“We should not permit prayer to be taken out of the schools; that's the only way most of us got through.”

“If you want to know how your girl will treat you after marriage, just listen to her talking to her little brother.”

“Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we'll find it.”

“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”

“I'm going to stop putting things off, starting tomorrow!”

“Happiness is a by-product. You cannot pursue it by itself.”

“Somewhere on this globe, every ten seconds, there is a woman giving birth to a child. She must be found and stopped.”

“The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy.”

“If you die in an elevator, be sure to push the Up button.”

“One of the virtues of being very young is that you don't let the facts get in the way of your imagination.”

“Don't watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.”

“It's a good thing that when God created the rainbow he didn't consult a decorator or he would still be picking colors.”

“Just try to be happy. Unhappiness starts with wanting to be happier.”

“You must pay for your sins. If you have already paid, please ignore this notice.”

“I admit that: my wife is outspoken, but by whom?”

“Any kid who has two parents who are interested in him and has a houseful of books isn't poor.”

“When I was a boy I used to do what my father wanted. Now I have to do what my boy wants. My problem is: When am I going to do what I want?”

“It was on my fifth birthday that Papa put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Remember, my son, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm.'”

“Love at first sight is easy to understand; it's when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle.”

“You must learn from the mistakes of others.”

Illustrator of the Week - James Gurney

Years ago my brothers and I stumbled across a book that became a source of much amusement and amazement. This book was Dinotopia. The story is of a Will & Arthur Dennison who shipwreck on a lost island, an island wear dinosaurs and humans live together in a sort of Utopian society. The book itself, along with its sequels, is done like a journal of Arthur Dennison. There are pictures of plants, the animals, sleeping arrangements, etc. The illustrations though are incredible. So I give you the work of James Gurney. The first book was turned into a Hallmark movie in which Gurney acted as the artistic director.