Monday, June 04, 2007

When Max Became a Mom by Tracey Kuffner

I'm not usually a big fan of self-published books given they often need a good editor, but I quite enjoyed When Max Became a Mom by Tracey Kuffner. Kuffner is both the author and illustrator but her illustration style is totally unique; they are created with felt.

Tracey started out as a felt artist who raises sheep, dyes the wool and creates beautiful clothing. She is full of stories though, and so far two have spilled out. This one is her first, and like many good story tellers, she's dug into her own experiences to create this one. Felt is about layering raw wool in different directions, and this story mimics that process. Max lives on a sheep farm and when he discovers that one of the twin lambs isn't thriving he decides take matters into his own hands. Max has a hard road ahead of him though since bottle-fed lambs have to be fed often and at inconvenient times. Max sticks with it though and the payoff comes in an unexpected form when Max's lamb becomes a mom herself. Friendship and responsibility lay at the heart of this lovely story, but Kuffner is wise enough not to hit her readers over the head with it. It's a gentle story, and having recently met Max (and his little sister Isabelle) I could see why exactly where the story's sensibility came from. Kuffner clearly gets that story is about character. You'll enjoy meeting Max, if it's between the pages of a book.

Kuffner's whimsical illustrations ,while limited in scope, are as charming as this tale is well told. You can check out both of Kuffner's books at Woolmine Publishing

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Ok, I admit it. I hadn't read Cornilia Funke. Hard to believe I know considering that her books have been wildly popular. But then, I'm not a huge fantansy fan, although once I discover a fantasy author that I like, I generally read everything they write and pick up their new books fairly quickly. It happened though that we were speaking at the same conference recently (she being one of the big draws, me being local small pototatoes) and she was an extremely compelling speaker, so I picked up a couple of her books including Inkheart. Here she is signing books. I totally loved Inkheart, especially the premise that characters from a book come to life. The good versus evil theme was very well handled, and I particularly like the lack of sugar coating; people die, bad things happen. In fact, Funke is a real marvel at upping the ante, something that new writers may want to consider when tackling a novel. Her characters are compelling enough to make me want to read more, and I wasn't at all displeased to find the first chapter of book II conveniently located at the end. Wise publisher!

I might also mention that Cornelia's translator was at the same conference. If you are ever privileged enough to hear Anthea Bell speak, don't pass up the chance. She is one of those incredible throw-backs to the a real scholar who is as thoughtful as she is learned. I totally loved her. One of the best things about that conference (Serendipty put on by the Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable by the also wonderful Dr. Ron Jobe) was the dialogue that translator and author engaged in after their respective talks. The two spoke back and forth as well as answered questions from the audience and it was so informative in terms of the play between art and craft and language.

More later. Sheryl

Great YA book reveiw site

I know that it's been ages since I've posted, but here is a really cool link I've discovered to more great reviews, bios and book excepts not to mention a great place to win book prizes, so check it out. Sheryl.