Thursday, January 17, 2008

2008 Caldecott Winner is a keeper! by DL Larson

The American Library Association recently posted their medal winners for Children's Literature. They offer some great awards, one being the Caldecott finalist for best illustrations in a children's book. Artist, Brian Selznick, stepped through a new door of creativity with his children's novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Selznick is the illustrator and author. In years to come, many will imitate his methods, but let me explain what he has done.

First: The Art Work
If you have a reluctant reader from third grade on, this is the book that could get your child excited about reading. The story starts with full blown illustrations on black cardstock. Page after page draws you into the story set in Paris, 1931. Each drawing steps closer to the mystery unfolding. By the time the words form on paper, the reader already knows there is a little boy with a secret, an old man watching him closely in the train station, and clocks all through the station mean something very important. By this time, the words nearly jumped off the page and are gobbled up by the curious reader.

Second: The Storyline
'This little boy, Hugo, is a recent orphan, secretly living in the walls of the train station where he labors to complete a mysterious invention left by his father.' (taken from book description at ALA.)
The suspenseful text is in conjunction with the artwork. Neither the drawings nor the words tell the complete story. One has to use both to understand the tale. Selznick uses cinematic intrigue from the time period as well to bring his story to its climax. And this is no small book; J.K. Rowlings has nothing on Selznick; his book is more than 500 pages long. Imagine how triumphant a reluctant reader would feel after completing such a huge book.

So why am I sharing this with you today? Yes, as a children's librarian, I like to keep up on the latest medal winners. But this artist has done something no one else has done. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is not a graphic novel, it is not a picture book. This is something new and different. Selznick took a chance; he created a new genre no one visualized or dreamed of. That's exciting news. We too can paint new doors and step into strange worlds where no one else has ever been. Our imagination is our biggest tool and as Albert Einstein has been quoted in saying: "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

The other day, I received an evaluation of my work I'd sent to a sci-fi manuscript contest. I didn't win anything; actually, the judges couldn't see what I saw. They liked certain parts, others they didn't. And I will use their comments to make my make-believe world a more see-able reality. Since I'm not an illustrator, I will have to rely on precise words to create my world, but in my mind I see it all unfoldling ... and it is very clear to me. And real. I imagine that's how Selznick must have felt when he visualized his book too.

So take encouragement that new ideas in writing are still happening. Your work in progress, no matter how obscure to some, may prove to be the next award winning novel for its creativity.

How fun is that?

Til next time ~

DL Larson

PS: The place to be Feb. 7: Barnes & Noble, 20600 N. Rand Road, Deer Park ~ Book signing for DL Larson, Margot Justes, and Morgan Mandel. MARK YOUR CALENDAR!

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