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An Occasional Post

Q&A with 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.
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