Sunday, January 30, 2011

Whale Watching #1, Guinea Bissau

To shake off the negativity of yesterday's post on Norwegian whale hunting we'll be spending the next three days visiting some ocean friends, sans explosive harpoon.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Boat #118, Norway

Let's all send a collective boo and hiss in the direction of Mr. Foyn here. This scoundrel invented an explosive harpoon which, coupled with the new practice of whale hunting from steamships (the 19th century version of Sarah Palin's favorite hobby, helicopter wolf hunting), worked almost instantly to deplete global whale populations. Dumb jerk.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Boat #119, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania

These three neighboring East African nations have had somewhat intertwining governments since their days as Royal British Colonies. Ah, Great Britain, is any nation better than you at putting opposing cultures together and drawing single boundary lines around them?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Boat #121, South Africa

And off we go into the sunset...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Boat #122, Guyana - A Stead on the Titanic

A distant relative of mine, William T. Stead, was aboard the Titanic as she embarked on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City. Sadly, he was still aboard when the Titanic reached its final destination. William T. Stead was an unusual character—a famous journalist, a oddball spiritualist, and an all around interesting guy. Read more about William and the unusual circumstances surrounding his life and death here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Boat #123, Japan

Today is our fifth and final day in the Sea of Japan. Tomorrow we sail to points unknown. Beware, there be monsters!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Boat #127, Japan

We'll be spending the next few days in Japan. Quite frankly I'm too tired this week to ship off to new ports.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Boat #128, Singapore and Malaya

in 1963 Singapore merged with the Federation of Malaya to form Malaysia. Things didn't work out too great though. By 1965 Singapore had declared it's independence.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Boat #131, Bolivia

Did you know that Lake Titicaca sits 12,500 feet above sea level? Wow! Also, it's the largest lake in South America, although apparently Lake Maracaibo has a thing or two to say about that. Lake Titicaca thinks Lake Maracaibo is too brackish, and Lake Maracaibo thinks Lake Titicaca is just being uppity.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I know you're all wondering what's happened to the boat countdown over the last few days. The truth is it'll have to wait, because congratulations are in order for Erin, my lovely wife, who has just won the 2011 Caldecott medal for A Sick Day for Amos McGee! Not bad Erin. Not bad at all.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Boat #133, In Which Our Hero, Jonathan, Embarks on a Journey Aboard His Favorite Blue Boat

I couldn't resist showing one more image from Jonathan before returning to our regularly scheduled postage stamp countdown. Here we see Jonathan waving goodbye to the tugboat captain as he embarks on a journey to find his lost friend Frederick. Bon voyage, Jonathan!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Boat #134, The Big Blue Boat

This week I was excited to receive the scanned art for Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat back from my publisher. I can be pretty ornery sometimes, but I have to say I think these images look great—somehow better than the originals themselves. This illustration is from the opening spread of the book. That's Jonathan and his stuffed bear Frederick out on the dock, looking up at their favorite blue boat.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Announcing the Second Annual STEADBERY and PHILDECOTT AWARDS (continued)

From the Desk of Phil and Erin Stead

Yesterday we kicked off the Stead family awards season with our list of 2010 Steadbery winners. Today we're pleased to announce the winners of our Second Annual Phildecott Awards. You can link to last year's winners and review our criteria for selection at yesterday's post.

Man, oh man. This was an unbelievable year for children's book illustration. In a year where authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, booksellers, and the general reading public are all wondering what the heck the e-reader is going to do to the children's book future, picture book authors and illustrators of the world made a bold case for paper book. These books are too rich, too beautiful to be appreciated in pixels. The Phildecotts this year are not just a celebration of the books that inspired Erin and I this year. They're a celebration of books—real books—as objects. Objects to be carried around in your backpack. Objects you wait your turn for at the library. Objects that take 4–6 weeks to arrive at your local bookstore. E-books just can't provide that kind of suspense. Let's remember, books are technology too—an old technology, sure, but the best technology there is sharing a story that you love. These are the stories that we loved this year. And now...

The Second Annual Phildecott Award, going to the finest work of illustration for a children's picture book is...

Bunny Days, by Tao Nyeu
This book floored us. We don't know if we've ever read a book that so perfectly inhabits the mind space of a little kid. This book is so perfect it makes Erin and I wonder why we even try. Tao Nyeu is a genius. Consider these illustrators humbled.

Speaking of books that humbled us, the first of our many Phildecott Honors goes to...

Here Comes the Garbage Barge, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio (a.k.a. Chris Sickels)
This is another one that can make an illustrator think: Why go on? Will I ever be as good as this guy? It's just amazing, incredible work. We were more excited for the release of this book than probably any other book this year. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away Erin worked for a major publishing house in New York City. Sample art would come in from around the globe. It came in such volumes that it was rare for a any one thing to stand out. But Red Nose Studio stood out. Erin and I were instant fans. So, many years later when we heard about the upcoming release of Here Comes the Garbage Barge, we ran over to our local indie store and put in our pre-order. We were not disappointed.

Now to France for:

The Chicken Thief, by Béatrice Rodriguez
A very fun book, and a surprising love story—told in pictures only. A picture book in the truest sense. The American edition of Chicken Thief was brought to us by Enchanted Lion Press, a plucky little publishing house that's making a name for itself (at least in the Stead house) by bringing great imports stateside while also reissuing out-of-print almost-classics (i.e. Fly Away Peter, by Ralph Steadman).

Next up we have:

The Boys, by Jeff Newman
Because what's not to like about a kid's book where the vast majority of the characters are over the age of 65? Not to mention the first-rate artwork and masterful visual storytelling. Nicely done Mr. Newman!

And now back to Europe for:

The Tree House, by Marije Tolman and Ronald Tolman
This title comes from a father-daughter team working in the Netherlands (We hope that's right. Research is not our strong suit.). The Dutch publishing scene is very exciting. So many great books seem to flow from that little country. We would fail if we tried to describe the art in The Tree House, it's just too good. Instead, try this: Step 1. Go to your local independent bookseller and find The Tree House. Step 2. Be impressed.
We certainly were.

And now to one of our perennially favorite illustrators:

Hey, Rabbit!, by Sergio Ruzzier
Hey, Rabbit! seems to be flying under the radar a little bit this year. This is the kind of book that will make an illustrator kick him or herself and say: Dang! Why didn't I think of that! That's exactly what we did anyway. Sergio has written a simple text that allows his artistic imagination to explode every time Rabbit opens that little suitcase. Some books are fantastic but would be no fun at all to make. Not so with Hey, Rabbit! Mr. Ruzzier, I'm sorry, but we're jealous that you made this book before we had the chance to do it ourselves.
Full disclosure: Hey, Rabbit! was published by Roaring Brook Press/Neal Porter Books, the same publisher/editor that we work with. Go team!

Next up we have a book from a former short-term Ann Arbor resident (Go Blue!):

Little Black Crow, by Chris Raschka
Chris Raschka is of course a giant in the world of children's books. So why the heck haven't we heard more about this book? Well, you're hearing about it here folks. Not only is Little Black Crow among Raschka's best illustration work ever, it's maybe his greatest text yet too. We love this book. Love, love, love it.

And now:

Little Owl Lost, by Chris Haugton
Little Owl Lost is a case study in why indie book stores need to exist. Little Owl Lost is an assuming little import from a London based Irish illustrator. It's not exactly the kind of book you stumble on in the American midwest unless you happen to have a great bookstore like we do in Ann Arbor (Hooray for Nicola's Books!). Check out a nice little interview with Chris Haughton at the blog of the illustrious Craig Frazier here.

Now, another UK import:

If we had a prize for "favorite new illustrator who isn't actually a new illustrator" then Catherine Rayner would likely be the winner. Somehow we've missed her past work. Trust us, it's all great. Look her up on the interweb. By the way, Ernest here ends (spoiler alert!) with a neat little pop-up. How exactly are e-readers going to capture a moment like that in the future?

Back to the United States for our final two books. Both, incidentally, are second time Phildecott recipients. First:

Children Make Terrible Pets, by Peter BrownPeter Brown simply doesn't make bad books. We're proud to say we've been Peter Brown fans since his Flight of the Dodo days. A lot of kid's books try to be funny. The results can be painful. Not so with Peter. Not only are Peter's books beautifully illustrated, they have an amazing and unique quality: They're actually funny.

Speaking of actually funny...

Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein
Interrupting Chicken reads like an Abbott and Costello routine for the lower elementary crowd. Very funny and wonderfully illustrated. We can't wait for David's next offering. Are three straight Phildecotts in his future? We'll have to wait and find out.

So that concludes this years Phildecott Awards. Thank you for reading and thanks most of all to the fantastic authors and illustrators that made it such an amazing year for kid's lit. Before we go we'd just like to say that unfortunately we're only two people. We do a lot of reading but inevitably there are great books that slip by us. A great example is last year's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin.
Last year at Steadbery time we were still on our library's waiting list for this title. It more than lived up to the reputation it'd been garnering and we immediately regretted not including it in our 2009 list. So surely there will again be some books that we stumble on too late. So apologies to Grace Lin, and to all the other great bookmakers we've missed and are going to miss. So many books, so little time.

Phil and Erin Stead

Announcing the Second Annual STEADBERY and PHILDECOTT AWARDS

From the Desk of Phil and Erin Stead

After much contemplation, deliberation, and lively discussion, we, the Steads, are proud to announce The Second Annual Steadbery and Phildecott Awards—a celebration of our favorite books of 2010. You can find a complete list of last year's winners by clicking here. The criteria for selection are as follows:

Authors and illustrators selected for the awards must have had their book published in the United States during the previous calendar year. However, unlike the real Caldecott and Newbery Awards, the author or illustrator need not be a United States citizen or resident. Basically, this is just a list of the books that have excited, inspired, and challenged us this year year to be better authors and illustrators ourselves. 2010 was an amazing year for children's books, especially picture books. Last year Rebecca Stead (no relation) wrote what we considered to be one of the best middle-grade novels of the last 20 years, When You Reach Me. This year it was the picture book authors and illustrators that really blew our minds (and let's face it, intimidated us). Then again, there was some great middle-grade and YA material too! Oh, man. So many good books, so little time. Let's begin with the Steadbery.

The Second Annual Steadbery Award, for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature in 2010, goes to...

I Know Here, by Laurel Croza (illustrated by Matt James)
I Know Here occupies a strange middle ground between picture book and middle-grade fiction—fully illustrated, but with a longer and more emotionally complex text. It's quite simply one of the finest works of short, short fiction we've ever read. Truly inspiring. Due to her Canadian citizenship Laurel is not eligible for the Newbery this year (as far as we know). Sigh.

This year we've selected six Steadbery Honor books. Each one is wonderful and completely different from one another. We'll start with another Canadian:

Plain Kate, by Erin Bow
Just a great, great story. The cover might make you think that it's a book for girls. All I can say is (Phil speaking here) that I'm basically a 10 year old boy at heart and I LOVED this book. Can't wait for your next offering Ms. Bow!

Next we have a book that any 10 year old boy will love:

Great title. Great storytelling device. Just a fun, fun book.

Next we're off to the Netherlands with:

Departure Time, by Truus Matti

Departure Time is one of the most unusual and ultimately rewarding books of the year. It challenges perceptions of what a children's novel can be. Yet I find myself at a loss to
describe exactly what this book is. You know when you wake up from a dream, and although the dream was bizarre, the dream still somehow made perfect sense. That feeling is the feeling that Departure Time offers to its readers. It's ambitious without pretension. Its gorgeous and sad and uplifting all at the same time.

Next up we have:

Scrawl, by Mark Shulman

Full disclosure: Scrawl was published by Roaring Brook Press/Neal Porter Books which also happens to be our publisher/editor. Scrawl is the type of book you pick up only to discover that 3 hours have passed and you've completed the story. It's written plainly in a way that makes you think: Sure, I could write a novel. And if I did, it would sound just like this. Of course, it's not quite that easy.

Now to Germany for:

Remembering Crystal, by Sebastian Loth

Picture books are often ignored when it comes to the the writing. It makes sense. After all, it's the pictures that make us pull the book off the shelf in the first place. But the writing in Remembering Crystal is impossible to ignore. Writing about death is no easy task for any reading level. For a picture book it's dang near impossible to touch on the subject unhamhandedly (no, that's not a word). Remembering Crystal will move even the hardest, most cynical children's book fans to tears. Simply beautiful.

And last, but not least:

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

There's not too many kid's books out there with story lines dealing with the Black Panthers. One Crazy Summer has a great premise, and is told expertly. What more can you ask for?

Well, that does it for the 2011 Steadbery Awards. Congratulations to the winners. Of course, the pleasure was all ours. You made the year worth reading.

We'll continue this post tomorrow (it's getting late here in Ann Arbor) with the Second Annual Phildecott Awards. And oh boy, there's some good ones!

Phil and Erin Stead