Friday, March 19, 2010

Hearing Voices - The Children's Book

I’ve been a fan of children’s literature since writing and illustrating my first little book as a senior in high school, winning the art student of the year scholarship and award. Wow, that was a very, very, very long time ago.

Over the decades, I collected children's literature for my own pleasure, and even worked as a trade rep at the Denver Merchandise Mart just so I could sell all the Random House imprints. What a marvelous time that was, getting boxes of new books every week. I was gifted with a tremendous selection, from classics to the newest contemporary, and before very long I developed an “ear” for a story that children and adults both could learn from and enjoy. It was an education through immersion. Of course, it didn't hurt that Dr. Seuss himself was the director of the Beginner Books division at the time. What could possibly inspire a fledgling writer more?

Recently, Little Pickle Press caught my eye at Facebook just as owner, Rana DiOrio, was releasing the first title in her What Does It Mean To Be? series.

What Does It Mean to Be Global? is a book written for her children, and every other child whose parents want to instill strong social values about caring, diversity, and protecting the environment. This book is for children ages 4-7. Or is it? The questions and answers presented are actually quite relevant for anyone from  ages 4-70.

Here are a few examples of text:
What does it mean to be global?

Does it mean being round? No!

Being global means...recognizing that your language is jut one of thousands spoken on our Earth.

... understanding how your actions affect another person's experience.
Following the guidance of child psychologists, each page answers the question in a simple and direct way, without elaborating on the issue any further than the child requires. This is an important part of teaching – give the information the child asks for, but don't confuse him by offering more than he needs. He'll ask more questions when he is ready. This is also the essence of "voice" in children's stories – it must be clear and more importantly, spare. Every word has to count.

Illustrations build on the straightforward text in a colorful and detailed style reminiscent of a youngster’s finest little masterpiece. Parent and child alike will spend time exploring the pictures and embellishing on the simple storyline, because there are many wonderful details well worth examining. Use them as a catalyst for further discussion once the child has thought about the fundamental lesson.

Little Pickle Press takes a strong stand in the area of environmental impact. The book is printed on recycled paper using soy inks and distributed with green packaging. And 10% of the purchase price of each book is donated to Starlight Children's Foundation.

To buy copies for the little ones in your life (and why not donate a set to your library?) visit Little Pickle Press at their website. You'll find the other titles in the What Does It Mean to Be? series, too, so be sure and collect them all. Notice the foreign language editions as well.

Second in the series is What Does It Mean To Be Green?

Coming this Fall What Does It Mean To Be Present?

Highly recommended, and a fantastic example of simple but strong voice in kidlit.

Dani Greer is a founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil, and lately she's spent more time drawing than writing as she explores the graphic novel format. She also edits for other writers, paying particular attention to voice and detail in their manuscripts. Contact her by email for critique costs.

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  1. What a fantastic idea for a children's book. And like you say, it is for all ages from 4 to 70.

  2. This sounds marvelous!!! I am going to visit their website and check them out further!

  3. The example looks cute. Great messages also.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. Hooray for "What Does It Mean to Be Global." When cultures meet they can either clash or they learn from each other. To save our globe, we must learn from each other.

  5. Could not resist adding this global quote from Goethe:
    "... this business of hatred between nations is a curious thing. You will always find it most powerful and barbarous on the lowest levels of civilization. But there exists a level at which it wholly disappears, and where one stands, so to speak, above the nations, and feels the weal or woe of a neighboring people as though it were one's own."

  6. Thanks for the intro to some interesting books and unique presses. Like you, I have always loved children's books. I volunteered in the elementary school library as my kids went through the school and continued long past when the last kid went on to middle school. The librarians didn't complain, but they did wonder why I stayed. I told them it was so I could talk to the kids about their books.

  7. What a neat concept -- "What does it mean to be . . ." Kids are a blank slate when they're born. We adults -- parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and others -- write on that slate as long as they are with us. We write with words, and we write with actions. But what is it we are saying to these young ones who look up to us to shape and guide their thinking? And what do we read to them . . . or encourage them to read as they get older? What does it mean to be . . . what an incredible teaching tool for all ages!

    Wonderful post, Dani! It's a "thinker," and I absolutely love it.

  8. I wish I'd landed a cool job like that...

    The books look gorgeous.

    Blood-Red Pencil


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