Thoughts + 2007 = ?

Happy New Year! I've been back in New York for just about thirty-six hours now, and pretty much completed the process of transferring my brain from Missouri/vacation life to New York/work/"real" life. Katy's wedding weekend was lovely, personal and meaningful and comfortable and homey, with quiz bowl questions and a mariachi band and delightfully non-matching bridesmaids' dresses (I wore my sister's sophomore-year prom dress, deep red with spaghetti straps and a bell skirt) and IHOP. Pictures to come when I have them.

In the meantime, I've also chosen the topic for my Los Angeles SCBWI talk in April: picture books, as several people suggested, with the working title Words + Art = ?: The Art and Architecture of Picture Books. Actually, that title sounds both pretentious and overambitious to me right now, but it is usefully (and purposely) general, as I have vague ideas about what I want to address (emotion, story development, page layout, what makes a good manuscript) but no idea really how it will come out. I write talks very much as I used to write English papers: I find something that interests me and assemble all the relevant material I can, then I comb through that material for a thesis/through-line, then I construct the argument with supporting evidence from the material, revising the thesis/through-line as I go. Right now my planned relevant material includes Uri Shulevitz's Writing with Pictures, Perry Nodelman's Words about Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children's Picture Books, Molly Bang's Picture This, the brain of Arthur A. Levine (which I hope to pick, as he's a genius at editing the things*), and probably a day at the Donnell Children's Library with a very tall stack of books. Anything else I should be looking at? (Though I can't let myself get too caught up in the research, delicious as it is . . . "Read like a butterfly, write like a bee," as Philip Pullman says.)

Tonight I was listening to "Company" and thinking how a good picture book is like a really good song in a musical: The words are like the lyrics, defining the ideas, action, character, and point of the song, while the illustrations are the music, providing the appropriate background, atmosphere, and support for the ideas set forth in the words. Maybe there's a better title in that idea somewhere. Or I can just draw on "Sesame Street" (which my brother-in-law and I watched over the break):

Sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things, not bad
Sing of happy, not sad

Sing a song
Make it simple
To last your whole life long
Don't worry if it's not good enough
for anyone else to hear . . .
Just sing
Sing a song

* If you have any doubt, you should check out The End by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Richard Egielski -- a brilliantly constructed and illustrated backwards fairy tale, with two starred reviews and counting.