Sunday, October 11, 2009

Being Lois Lowry

I wouldn't mind being Lois Lowry. The Giver and Gathering Blue, perhaps two of the most effective cautionary tales out there, are among my favorite books, but she also has the range to give us Anastasia Krupnik and the Gooney Bird Books. And the stamina to have written something like 40 books for kids.

After all her accomplishments, including winning the Newbery medal twice, Lowry has just published her first picture book. Like we picture book writers need the competition!


Lowry has ventured into picture books to tell her own story. Crow Call is about a day she spent with her father shortly after he came home from World War II. It captures the awkwardness of a child who barely knows her own parent and the special ways he reaches out to her -- a story that reviewers have noted will resonate with many children today.

The illustrations, by Bagram Ibatoulline, are especially nice. Realistic yet evocative.

Crow Call is a picture book in the old style -- what some people call a storybook. I don't know the word count, but it's clearly well beyond the 600 words or so that most publishers are looking for today. In fact, it could work as a short story without pictures.

It also takes on a touchy subject, hunting. Even though shooting the crows is portrayed as necessary to protect crops, it's not something most authors could successfully work into a picture book.

In other words, it's the kind of book that only someone with the talent, stature (and guaranteed sales) of Lowry can get away with.

I don't usually think of myself as a curmudgeon, but this blog is starting to make me realize I must be. I haven't quite started using phrases like "back in the day," but I keep finding myself writing about how I regret the current state of publishing and literature. In this case, how I wish stories like this one could get published even if they weren't written by Lois Lowry.

I'm going to work on that. There's no reason -- and certainly no benefit -- to comparing today's reading and publishing environment to that of the past. Plenty of excellent picture books are getting published today. Like Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser. Brand new, and a delight. And Meschenmoser isn't exactly a household name.

So no more malcontent musings for me.

At least, not this week.