Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Rousing...enormously appealing"

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer has finally acknowledged Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. I was never given a guarantee that it would but I did assume that if only one newspaper in the world would take notice, it would be that one, the daily of the city where the story took place. It's a nice review.

Today I also learned that the book did not make the holiday round-up in People, though they did consider it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Three C's for "Steel"

On her School Library Journal blog, Betsy Bird called Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman "ultra-cool." (This on top of her kind official review from earlier this year.) Even though kids immediately recoil from anything adults call any kind of cool, I will gladly accept her compliment. (Besides, of course, kids are not reading her blog.)

Random House made flash cards to showcase recent picture book biographies, and Boys of Steel is included. I believe they send these to schools and maybe even bookstores.

Boys of Steel has been nominated for a Cybil. The Cybils are the "premier Web awards for children's literature," run by bloggers. In their third year, they are already established enough that publishers submit books for consideration. A lot of books in my category (nonfiction picture books) got nominations, which makes me struggle to think of a nonfiction picture book released this year that was not nominated...but it nonetheless is an honor to be nominated! If even a fraction of the number of books were nominated, it'd still be stiff competition, so I am eager to see what happens. (I don't yet know how the process works or precisely what it means.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Perhaps the nation

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman was named to the Kirkus Reviews list of the Best Children's Books of 2008. It's on page 12 of this PDF. [5/18/11 update: This link is now inactive. I am waiting to hear if the list has been posted elsewhere since a quick search didn't reveal it.]

The write-up describes the book as celebrating "the birth of an American icon that reinvented the comic book and, perhaps, the nation itself."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Photos from a mini-book tour

Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco, 10/26/08

Top billing: baked goods. Technically, unbaked goods.

Sequoia Middle School, Pleasant Hill, CA 10/28/08

Sequoia interior photos courtesy of Nancy Brenner

Bancroft Elementary, Walnut Creek, CA, 10/30/08—no baked goods!

books to sign

Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books, Findlay, OH,
"Funday Sunday" (event held every first Sunday of the month);
Superman theme, 11/2/08;
volunteers wore homemade Superman outfits, author did not

Kids (and adults) "signed in" on a window on a Metropolis cityscape drawing.

I did not drink this.

Superman and Lois Lane

Clark Kent and (another) Lois Lane

This actually gives me a better hairline.

Kids could design their own blue, red, and yellow cookies.

certain Mazza photos courtesy of Diana E. Hoffman

The Cleveland Public Library made a spiffy handbill for my two 11/6/08 talks there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Flying Colors

When in San Francisco, I stopped by Flying Colors, a comics shop that I'd heard is particularly savvy about marketing. Everyone there was more than nice, and Joe, the owner, was easy to talk to. They have a blog, too, and since you know how much I like proof, here is proof I was there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Siegel, Shuster, and Obama

On Thursday, November 6, something happened in a small room at the Cleveland Public Library, Glenville branch, that made me even more excited about politics than I already was last week. Except it wasn't really about politics at all.

Glenville is the neighborhood where Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster lived when they created Superman in 1934. At the time, it was predominantly Jewish. Today it is predominantly black and poor.

Earlier that day I had spoken at the main branch, downtown. The audience was mostly young black people. I was expecting the same in Glenville. Instead I was ushered into a room where about 35 or 40 members of the adult community leadership organization were finishing up a meeting. They, too, were almost all black. Some of them were holding Obama signs—two days after the election. The purpose of the signs had switched from tool of persuasion to badge of honor.

I gave my presentation, hoping they would feel pride for the seminal event that had occurred in their neighborhood. They did seem moved by the story, which some had not known before.

Then my friend Tracey Kirksey, head of the Glenville Development Corp. and almost certainly one of the ten kindest people in the world, asked if she could say something. I said of course.

She proceeded to emphasize how Jerry and Joe were underdogs who had a vision and worked hard to see it come to pass. In succeeding, they bucked the odds and made history. Then she unexpectedly compared them to Barack Obama in spontaneous words so eloquent that I wish I had recorded them. The essence was that she felt she could tell her children that they could be president one day
—only now, she finally fully believed it to be true. The others, of course, reacted with jubilation.

Of all the
Boys of Steel experiences I've had since the book came out, this was by far the most profound. I felt so lucky to be in Ohio, in Glenville, for that moment.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ping-Ponging around Ohio

After five days in California, I flew to Ohio on Halloween morning. This is the state where Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman took place. Highlights so far:

- The Buckeye Book Fair in Wooster on 11/1 was an exceptionally well-run event. Patient and efficient organizers, brisk attendance, even great signage. I sold more copies there than at any other single-day event I've been to so far.

- For months, other writers have told me to expect enthusiasm of a higher level when I appeared at the Mazza Museum of picture book art in Findlay. Despite that, I was still not prepared for what greeted me there when I came to speak and sign on 11/2. I will be posting photos and a rundown next week once I'm home (and reunited with my camera cable).

- On Monday, 11/3, I had my first school visits in Cleveland, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they were all in Glenville, the neighborhood where Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster lived when they created Superman. In fact, the host school (two other schools came there for the presentations) runs along Parkwood Avenue, the street Jerry ran down to Joe's apartment in 1934 to share the fanciful idea he'd had the night before. It was so meaningful to me to share the story with these kids. I wish I knew how they processed it. I wanted to know if it meant something to them to learn that they live where America's most iconic fictional character was born.

After, I had the pleasure of meeting the head of the Glenville Development Corp., the tireless Tracey Kirksey, who has done so much for the community and has been a great ear for me this past year as I've pitched her various ideas to assist the Siegel and Shuster Committee in revitalizing the neighborhood and boosting its Superman heritage. She gave me a slate tile from the roof of Jerry's former home, which has been redone thanks to Brad Meltzer's successful fundraising campaign. This tile dates back to the beginning of the house, so it was over Jerry's head the night he conceived Superman.

- On 11/4, I enjoyed being in a swing state on a presidential election day. There's a different energy here than what I'm used to in Connecticut, which of course has not been a swing state as long as I've been voting, if ever. Another first for me today was speaking at a hospital (the Cleveland Clinic) to children in the pediatric ward. This is the only time I have gone into a presentation hoping for a small audience. The kids and their accompanying parents or caretakers were engaged and seemingly wowed to learn that Superman comes from their hometown. I even broke my own rule and drew someone else's character for them.

Guess who.