Leda Schubert * Writer of Picture Books

An Occasional Post

Q&A with Anita Silvey

November 30, 2010

Tags: Children's Book Almanac, Anita Silvey

Over Thanksgiving, Anita Silvey and I had a chance to talk about her new project, the Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac (www.childrensbookalmanac.com) while our four (combined) dogs gradually destroyed the house. Anita has a new puppy, Lancelot, who is quite possibly the cutest thing on the planet at the moment.

LS: Anita, why did you decide to do the Almanac?

AS: I had decided to create a much more ambitious book which would have included reviews of 1000 titles. Simon Boughton, my editor at Roaring Brook Press, thought it too daunting for most readers, parents, or even teachers. He tried to find a way to trim the proposal and was simultaneously working on another idea about a children’s almanac. It occurred to Simon that he could blend the two.

I was handed this fabulous project at dinner at ALA Midwinter by Simon and Lauren Wohl, who said, “Wouldn’t you like to create a Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac?”

LS: It’s still a very large project. What are the biggest challenges?

AS: Making sure that every day of the year is appropriately represented by a really first-rate title, and then doing enough research so that I have something original to say about the book. And, of course, no matter what I feel like or what is going on in my life, derriere-in-chair every day to create an essay.

LS: What are some of your favorite discoveries so far?

AS: As with all my reference books (such as 100 Best Books for Children), I use every opportunity I can to work in archives and actually look at manuscripts and editorial correspondence. I spent a day with Oliver Butterworth’s The Enormous Egg archive at the University of Connecticut and Marc Simont’s book dummies for Nate the Great.

I’ve been able to interview contemporary writers like Helen Frost and art directors like Carol Goldenberg about David Wiesner’s work. I love to get behind the scenes with these books – and then convey what I have learned to readers.

LS: How far ahead do you plan your entries?

AS: I’m about two months ahead. It takes time to get art scanned in, to include the newest cover. Then the night before the post, I edit the essay one more time. But the schedule means I’m out of sync with real time. It’s now the end of November, and I am making the selections for February. I’m already worried about what to do for Valentine’s Day, when Christmas has yet to occur.

LS: Do you know when it will be published in book form?

AS: Once we have 365 essays, we can put the book in production. But I am not sure when I will have everything written.

LS: Are you having fun?

AS: I’ve never had more fun working on a project. I only hope people have as much fun reading the entries as I have had writing them. When I go to sleep at night, I know at least I have done something to help one author or illustrator, one book, one editor, and one publishing house.

Great books and authors need all the support they can get; I try to provide that encouragement every day on the Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac.

Comments

  1. November 30, 2010 11:41 AM EST
    Thanks to you both for the background on Almanac. It's my morning wake up/coffee read and better than vitamins, both fascinating and inspiring. Thanks!

    (ps--wondering why my verification words are "was indaze" and how do they know this about me?)
    - bonnie christensen
  2. November 30, 2010 10:40 PM EST
    Thanks, Leda, for this interview and the heads-up about the Children's Book Almanac. It will be a daily check-in for me.
    - Joyce Ray
  3. November 30, 2010 10:51 PM EST
    I, too, start my day with a visit to the Book- A -Day- Almanac and also enjoyed learning more about how it is written. Come on, Anita, please do go to 1000 books. I promise to buy whatever you write!
    - Judy Weymouth
  4. December 9, 2010 9:02 AM EST
    I really enjoyed reading the backstory on Anita Silvey's almanac, and was impressed by how much research she does. The dog party sounded like crazy fun.
    - Deborah Kops

Now Available or Coming Soon (Click on each title for complete information.)

Available now! Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, June, 2017
Click for a pdf discussion and activities guide. (Look on left of page after clicking.)
A nonfiction picture book illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker. Roaring Brook Press, 2006
Holiday House, Fall 2011. Illustrated by Amanda Haley
Illustrated by Bonnie Christensen and published by Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press.
Illustrated by Andrea U'Ren and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. March, 2010.
Illustrated by Mary Azarian, published by Houghton Mifflin 2005
Illustrated by William Benedict. Candlewick, 2000.
Serial Novel for the Boston Globe's Newspapers in Education