And now for something a little lighter in tone (and lower in brow, but higher in theme!)

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Sometimes, when people ask me where I live, I say in reply, “The internet!”

It’s mostly true. Today, the internet made me very happy. That’s because something special happened today: I discovered the awesome Tumblr Dirty Library.

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It’s everything I hoped for.

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It’s everything I dreamed.

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It’s basically me. Childish, NSFW, filled with puns, sketchily drawn, good for a quick laugh. Me, me, me, me. (Quoth the Millennial.)

Check it out.

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Things with wings and grief like fire.

At_Night_Achile_CasanovaI’ve been thinking a lot about bats lately, which is due in part to working at Islandport Press (I’m a contributing editor, one of my many part-time positions). Islandport is a small Maine publishing house that has produced many great books, including  a very charming board book written by my co-worker, Melissa Kim. This particular book, published in a partnership with the Maine Audubon Society, is about the daily life of a little brown bat. It is cute and funny and full of science and I really adore it.

But it doesn’t sell quite as well as other picture books—sweeter picture books, ones with earth-bound animals like cats and horses. And I’m not sure why. Is it because bats aren’t as cute? Because bats are scary and gross? Don’t kids want to read about the only mammal capable of true flight? Haven’t they heard of Stellaluna? I was a girl who loved bats—I can’t be the only one of my kind.

And now that I’m thinking about them, bats seem to be everywhere, including in my memory. Several years ago, I was visiting a friend in Austin following a horrible heartbreak. I was devastated—filled with a kind of grief and desperation that I hadn’t known before, the kind that climbs from your stomach to your heart and back again, trailing hot fingers of pain through my torso, up and down and up and down. Few things brought me joy, but the bat bridge did.

In Austin, there is a bridge that connects the two sides of the city. The walkway below the bridge smells earthy and strange from the guano, so much of it. Bats roost below, clinging to the bottom of the man-made cavern. Every night at twilight, bats stream out from under their hanging spaces. Hundreds, thousands of creatures, wings spread, chirping, devouring the night. bats_austinI was so taken by the bats that I went back the next evening, and again the next. The sight soothed me with its strangeness, its utter unfamiliarity. I felt better, watching those bats. Less lonely somehow.

Now, years later, I am married to the man who once broke my heart. I’m as far from Austin as one can be and still be in America. I wonder if I will ever see those bats again—if I will ever need them, like I once did, to heal an aching heart.

[Top image: At Night by Achille Casanova (1861-1948) medium unknown.]

A little reminder of what’s important.

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“How many of you know what’s important?”

Up went all the hands.

“Very good,” said Stuart, cocking one leg across the other and shoving his hands in the pockets of his jacket. “Henry Rackmeyer, you tell us what is important.”

“A shaft of sunlight at the end of a dark afternoon, a note in music, and the way the back of a baby’s neck smells if its mother keeps it tidy,” answered Henry.

“Correct,” said Stuart. “Those are the important things. You forgot one thing, though. Mary Bendix, what did Henry Rackmeyer forget?”

“He forgot ice cream with chocolate sauce on it,” said Mary quickly.

“Exactly,” said Stuart. “Ice cream is important.”

— Stuart Little, E.B. White

Calling something a “kid’s book” or “children’s literature” should be the highest compliment. After all, I don’t know anything that taught me so much about bravery and kindness as spending time with Lewis Carroll and E.B. White and Tamora Pierce and J.K. Rowling and Roald Dahl. Kid’s books are brilliant. And sometimes, kids are brilliant, like little Mary and Henry, who answered Stuart’s question just right.

Plus, it’s worth nothing that E.B. White had an awesome sense of humor in his everyday interactions, too. Just look at how he turned down a rather impressive offer from an earlier POTUS: Continue reading

Fanciful work: Inside the studio with children’s illustrators.

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If you, like me, get the Sunday night blues, here’s something that might get you excited for the work week: inspiring photos of artists at work! Photographer Jake Green spent the past year documenting children’s illustrators in their studios and the results are intimate, sharp, and cool. The above picture is of Katja Spitzer, a Berlin-based artist, drawing one of her colorful creatures. (If you’ve got little ones, take note: her book Let’s Go Outside is so cheerful and bright, I bet kiddos would love it.) I always enjoy seeing how creative types work, and Green’s photographs make me feel like I’m peering through the window, spying on their process (but in a nice, admiring, non-creepy way… is that possible?) Take a closer look here. 

Grimm plus Gorey equals macabre fairytale perfection.

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Edward Gorey once illustrated classic fairytales from The Brothers Grimm, retold in sparse but humorous language by author James Donnelly. How did I not know this?!? What a perfect combination. If I had a kid, I would buy this for them straightaway. rumpelstiltskinIn case you couldn’t tell, the top picture shows Little Red Riding Hood meeting that big, bad wolf in the forest before it runs off to do some mild cross-dressing. The second picture is Rumpelstiltskin, that little gnome-y scoundrel, dancing in the forest and celebrating the victory that will never be his.

Buy the book here.