Essays/Book Reviews

Another Repost? Now That’s Just Lazy: Jurassic Pick

Slightly moldy and warped, but otherwise perfect.
Slightly moldy and warped, but otherwise perfect.

It might be a tad lazy, but this oldie is one of my favorites.

And don’t worry; you’ve probably never read it before. Nobody was reading my blog when I first posted this. 

Enjoy! 

***

Bookshelf space was always at a premium in my childhood home. So when I outgrew my picture books, my mom wasted little time in packing them up into a giant cardboard box and depositing them in a dark, forgotten corner of the basement. Her plan was to parcel them out after I had children of my own. The unveiling of each book would be accompanied by the grandma bon mot: “Your daddy read this when he was your age!”

A vicious rainstorm during my middle school years almost put an end to that plan. Most of the collection remained above the waterline, but others were in sad and sorry shape.

But Mom and I ran hairdryers, Lysol-ed any pages that showed traces of mold and pressed the sorry specimens between dictionaries. Fortunately, most of the books that were beyond the pale were ones that could be easily replaced after my son was born. (The Diggingest Dog, for example.) Other books were no great loss. (Sure, I could buy a new copy of the unsettling Are You My Mother?, but will I? No, sir.)

I was thinking about this 20-odd-year-old event recently because it brought something into sharp focus: a basement flood is an excellent way to determine a book’s value. Most of the books in that wet box entertained me in one way or another, but only a couple of them really mattered.

I would guess that about three or four dozen books were waterlogged in that flood. Some were beyond saving. But even among the salvageable books, decisions needed to be made. There was only so much Lysol and so many heavy dictionaries to go around. Where should I devote the bulk of my rescue efforts? To put it another way, which book would just be too painful to throw away? Amazon.com was still decades away, so a lost book was really lost. Maybe forever.

I found my decisions to be surprisingly swift and easy. Are You My Mother? never got a backward glance. Danger in Dinosaur Valley by Joan Lowery Nixon, however, was a different story entirely.

Danger in Dinosaur Valley was the quintessential children’s book for boys – beautifully bringing together dinosaurs, baseball and time travel in a fast-paced, funny tale of prehistoric survival. The entire story is seen through the eyes of a curious young Diplodocus and ends with a stirring and violent confrontation with a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Ah. Remember the days when it was okay to have violence in a picture book?

So… Get me some Lysol and a Merriam Webster, STAT! This book ain’t gonna die on my watch!

The dust jacket never made it, the spine is shot and dots of mold speckle the end pages but my efforts were not in vain. Grandma delivered her line to Alex on cue: “Your daddy read this when he was your age!” True enough, but I also read it at this age, even when my little guy isn’t around. That is a true test of a great picture book.

Danger in Dinosaur Valley has been out of print since the 1970s, but thank heavens we now live in the age of Amazon. Get it. I’ll bet you’ll keep it.

Just promise me you’ll store it on a high shelf.

Which books from your childhood would you rescue from floodwaters? 

Book News, Essays/Book Reviews, On Blogging, On Writing

Bye Bye BCCBA! Acronym Contest Winners Revealed!

It is a joyous occasion! Grab the Lipps, Inc. LP; let’s hear some Funkytown!

Despite Hurricane Sandy and, I assume, Madonna’s henchmen, the Boycott Celebrity Children’s Books Acronym Contest could not be stopped! Hooray for us! Hooray for society!

The view from my driveway. Nice try, nature.

As I mentioned in past posts (this one and this one), I began a crusade to boycott awful picture books by celebrities. I have been delighted by your support. Apparently many of you, too, believe that Madonna And Company have done little more than kill trees and atrophy young minds.

What this cause needed, however, was a catchy acronym because, well, BCCBA sounds like an SAT cheat sheet. I needed your help and you fine folks came through. Below is just a sampling of acronyms designed to turn this little pet project into a national movement:

SCRIBE: Stopping Celebrities Regarding the Inking of Bad Editions

BABBLE: Buying Actors’ Books Begets Less Education

WRITERS: Wielding Righteous Indignation about Talentless Egos—Really, Stop

AUTHORS: Authentic Undermined Talented Hopefuls Over Rapacious Stars

CHUPACABARAS: Conceited
 Hogs
 Using 
Professional
 Avaricious 
Clout
 And
 Brash
 Artistic 
Rights 
Are
 Swine

ACT WISE: Avoid Celebrity Trash Writers; Inspire and Support Excellence

ACT NOWW: Avoid Celebrity Trash Nurture Only Writers Writing

HACKS: Humans Against Celebrity Kid Stories

FAWT: Famous 
And 
Writing 
Terribly

ESCHEW: Embargoing 
Self-promoting 
Celebrities
 Helps
 Excellent
 Writers

CRAP: Celeb Riters Are Poopy

DR“A”FT: Don’t 
Read
 “Art” 
From
 Tools

And this is just some of them. Man, do I love you guys.

But how to choose? For a decision this important, I wanted to bring in four qualified judges:

Steve Patchett is the Director of Communications at Morristown-Beard School, responsible for all of the school’s marketing and public relations. Years ago I held this exact same job. After the school administrators came to their senses and fired me, they hired Steve. This was a wise move. The guy is very, very good at his job. He is also a pal.

Jacqueline Haun is a librarian and archivist at The Lawrenceville School and a supurb writer. I should know; she is a regular contributor to The Lawrentian, the magazine I edit. She was an editorial assistant and arts reviewer for a daily newspaper. She also has an unhealthy obsession with the show True Blood.

Lisa Gillard is the Director of Public Relations at The Lawrenceville School. When the fit hits the shan, she knows how to make all the badness go away. She can also get “rah rah” stories in The New York Times if you ask her nicely.

Ellen is my wife. A former high school English teacher, she now runs a very successful SAT business. She also ruthlessly critiques my stories. She is my sweetie.

None of these judges were allowed to see who authored what. None of them were influenced by me in any way.

The results are in. Here is the moment of truth.

In a split decision, with two out of four votes, the winner is…

HACKS

And – oh, you gotta be kidding me – that means Madame Weebles has won both of the contests I’ve held on this blog. So Weebles is the HACKS co-president and wins a signed copy of my book, Sarah Gives Thanks!

But here’s the thing: Since Weebles already HAS a signed copy of my book, she has decided to give the book away to another acronym author of her choosing. How cool is that?

Her choice? AUTHORS.

So Khaula Mazhar wins the book! You know how to reach me, Khaula; send me your mailing address and I’ll send you a book.

And for those of you keeping score, Lauri Meyer’s FAWT and harulawordsthatserve’s ACT WISE each received a single vote. Because of this, I would like to offer both Lauri and Harula the Executive Vice Presidency of the newly-named HACKS.

If FAWT won, I would’ve used this old stamp as the model for the Association’s logo. Perhaps FAWT’s loss is not such a bad thing.

All of you who entered the contest (especially Vanessa, who inspired this contest and whose CRAP acronym still makes me giggle like a schoolgirl), may now have roles on the HACKS Executive Committee. Please indicate your willingness to be on the committee in the comments below.

And, hey, ANYONE can join the club! Wanna join? Write me a comment and tell me! Only together can we make a difference!

ONWARD!

About Sarah, Book News, Essays/Book Reviews, On Blogging

Boycott BCCBA’s Acronym! Win My Book!

And Madonna’s ego lived happily ever after.

Two weeks ago I began what I was confident would become a nationwide movement: The Boycott Celebrity Children’s Book Association (BCCBA).

While I am delighted to report that many of the regular commenters on this blog are now active members of this fine organization, the “nationwide movement” thing still eludes me.

Fortunately, the always charming Vanessa “Candy” Chapman came up with a possible reason for this: the Association’s acronym sounds more like an answer key to a multiple-choice quiz than the name of a powerful social movement.

Vanessa’s idea was wise.

Then Vanessa suggested the acronym, CRAP – and, well, that didn’t quite do it for me. Even when the equally charming Anne Woodman seconded the CRAP idea by suggesting it could stand for “Celebrity Resistance and Avoidance Project,” I was unmoved.

You see, the problem I have with CRAP, or any negative-sounding acronym, is that it sends a mixed message:

Support CRAP!

See what I mean? The reason why I started BCCBA was so people would STOP supporting crap.

But, hey, acronyms are tricky.

They are so tricky, in fact, that a really good one might be worth…wait for it… a free copy of my book, Sarah Gives Thanks!

“Wait,” you might be saying, “is that the book that’s so popular it’s going into its second printing?”

YES, THAT’S THE ONE!

Don’t delay! Suggest a new, snappy acronym in the comments section. The best one (as determined by a panel of judges) will receive a signed, first edition of Sarah Gives Thanks!

But wait there’s more! The winner will also be offered the co-presidency of the soon-to-be-renamed BCCBA! (That executive title, by the way, is suitable for any resume.)

The contest will be closed on October 31. So put your thinking caps on! Enter early and often! Spread the word!

Good luck!