Illustrator of the Week - Dan Santat

Dan Santat is most well-known as the creator of the Disney series, "The Replacements," a show in which two children have the power to replace 'boring' people in their lives. Have a disgusting gym teacher? Replace hi with an awesome Elvis impersonator. Dan graduated from the Arts Center, College of Design and works as a children's book writer and commercial illustrator. He has worked on numerous books including Chicken Dance, Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo, The Secret Life of Walter Kitty, Guild of Geniuses, and Oh No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World. The last of which is getting a lot of early Caldecott buzz.

Author of the Week - Billy Collins

Today isn't the usual fare of an author bio. I stumbled across this poem and wanted to share it with my readers as it hit both the intellectual and childlike way that I view books. Enjoy.


From the heart of this dark, evacuated campus
I can hear the library humming in the night,
a choir of authors murmuring inside their books
along the unlit, alphabetical shelves,
Giovanni Pontano next to Pope, Dumas next to his son,
each one stitched into his own private coat,
together forming a low, gigantic chord of language.

I picture a figure in the act of reading,
shoes on a desk, head tilted into the wind of a book,
a man in two worlds, holding the rope of his tie 10
as the suicide of lovers saturates a page,
or lighting a cigarette in the middle of a theorem.
He moves from paragraph to paragraph
as if touring a house of endless, paneled rooms.

I hear the voice of my mother reading to me
from a chair facing the bed, books about horses and dogs,
and inside her voice lie other distant sounds,
the horrors of a stable ablaze in the night,
a bark that is moving toward the brink of speech.

I watch myself building bookshelves in college, 20
walls within walls, as rain soaks New England,
or standing in a bookstore in a trench coat.

I see all of us reading ourselves away from ourselves,
straining in circles of light to find more light
until the line of words becomes a trail of crumbs
that we follow across a page of fresh snow;

when evening is shadowing the forest
and small birds flutter down to consume the crumbs,
we have to listen hard to hear the voices
of the boy and his sister receding into the woods. 30

Billy Collins, 2001

Illustrator of the Week - Bernice Myers

As I was cleaning out my shed in preperation for a move and yard sale, I ran across a box of books my mother had set aside. These books she fondly refers to as her "Grandma Books". These books were hers when she was a little girl. When she grew up she read the book to me and my brothers. In turn she hopes that she can read them to her grandchildren and perhaps, if we love them as much as she does, we will read them to our granchildren and so on and so on. Sadly, many of those books are falling apart, having lost their covers or even entire pages over the years because we do in fact love them. Perhaps one of the favorites of my brothers was How Joe the Bear and Sam the Mouse Got Together. Part of the reason for this is because my mother used to change the characters names for my brothers. It is known in my house as How Nathan the Bear and Sam the Mouse Got Together.

So today's illustrator is in honor of that book. All hail Bernice Myers, whose books live on in my family and perhaps yours.

Book of the Week - X-Isle

X-Isle by Steve Augarde

Half of the world is underwater. Those who have survived are struggling to get by, dreaming of a place where food isn't scarce and dry land. Baz's father wins his son passage on a ship to an island where boys work, but there is rumored to be tons of food brought up by divers. And things were as promised, there are tons of food, not that Baz or any of the others boys can eat it. Along with nine other boys, Baz lives in a filthy room. He is forced to work hard labor six days a week, and hopes to stay out of the way of the cruel drunken men who roam the island on Sundays. On Sunday, Preacher John, the island's leader and self-appointed prophet, preaches of sacrifice, a worrisome lesson as he grows more and more insane. Together with the other boys, Baz begins to form a plan to free them from their oppressors, but is their planning enough against the cruelty displayed by their captors?

When I first started this book I was apprehensive. There was a lot of foreshadowing and I was sure that I knew where the plot was going by page 15. One of the biggest red flags to me was the fact that no one had ever met any other boys who had come back from the island. This told me right away that the boys were being killed and I thought this would be the real crux of the story. I am happy to report it was not. In fact, that little tidbit of information was lightly glossed over. One of the other boys looks at Baz and basically says, "Come on, you don't really think anyone ever gets back do you? Think Baz. Think." For that I was grateful.

Although the plot was predictable at points, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the turns in events. Most importantly, I liked Baz. He is a survivor in a world full of them, and he stands out. He refuses to become a mindless drone or a hard hearted fool. Instead he forces the other boys to cooperate. To think outside the box. That is what made the book good. But here is the best part, this book just flows. I couldn't stop reading. I wanted to know what would happen. The story is dark and grim, but there is hope and this is what I love about young adult sci-fi. That glimmer that the characters are searching for.