Archive for January 12th, 2017


by Sam Juliano

The following is a transcript of a student-teacher interview conducted at the beginning of December in an undergraduate class in children’s literature taught by Dr. Katherine Smith at Jersey City State University.  The interview was the final stage of an assignment each class member was required to complete.  The specifications required that each student sponsor a picture book that they will propose for the Caldecott Medal, due to be announced in late January of 2017.  The student, Kaitlyn Mercado chose The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas with illustrations by Erin E. Stead.  (transcript begins)

Professor Smith:  Hello Kaitlyn!  (Kaitlyn responds in kind)  Please hold up and identify your choice.

Kaitlyn Mercado:  Professor, my book is The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, published by Dial, written by Michele Cuevas, with the illustrations by Erin E. Stead.

Professor Smith:  Thank you Kaitlyn.  Can you talk a little about why you chose this title?

Kaitlyn Mercado:  Professor, I am a big fan of the Steads, Phillip C. and his wife Erin E.  I was thrilled when their first book together, A Sick Day for Amos McGee was awarded the Caldecott Medal six years ago.  The woodblock and pencil work in that book was so precise and exquisite.  Amos is an irresistible character in his ill fitting clothes, but his friendship with the animals under his watch is so genuine.  The book has elements of Goodnight Moon and a much older 1965 Caldecott Medal winner called May I Bring A Friend?  Philip is both an author and illustrator, but Erin only illustrates.  Eric sometimes does the art for other authors.  I really love And Then It’s Spring, which she illustrated for Julie Fogliano.  Her art is so sumptuous.  This past year was huge for the couple.  In addition to this book for Erin, Philip was the sole creator of two other great ones, Ideas Are All Around and Samson in the Snow.  I pretty much fell in love with The Uncorker… as soon as I saw the dust jacket cover. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

One page turn from the conclusion of Anne Rockwell’s  Library Day a beaming fair-haired boy with a red shirt named Don D’Angelo (Italian-Irish perhaps?) is shown holding a newly-processed library card to the Byram Public Library.  For those baby boomers growing up in the 60’s a library card was the key to the world.  In households where books were not a priority item in the family budget, the library was the place to secure copies of the latest picture books, biographies and young adult novels.  The issuance of a card to enable borrowing was one of the earliest opportunities for young people to demonstrate responsibility.  While some had a penchant for losing books and incurring late fines (two cents a day) most students took full advantage of the privileges a card with bring them.  All it took was a rubber date stamp on the back end papers and the removal of a white card -similarly stamped- for the library to keep track of who held what.  Usually you were allowed two weeks with the option to renew  Books and magazines were the basic loan items, and that longtime archive of library holdings, the card catalog with its narrow roll out drawers led you to them.  The library to be sure was a meeting place for students looking to hang and find ways to avoid doing their work, but those were served up with eviction notices by vigilant personnel.  Possession of a card was just the impetus a child needed to take up reading in a hands on manner. Though the public libraries have experienced a meteoric overhaul in the years since there was a line spanning months to get hold of a copy of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are or for older kids Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith, the love for reading hard copy thrives, and age old practices continue to hold sway to the present.  A young boy’s unbridled excitement at securing the power to take advantage all that a public library offers within his age specifications lies at the heart of a picture book that celebrates a unique institution that remains one of the proudest cornerstones of any community. (more…)

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