"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fred Patten Reviews Dramacon, Vol. 1

Dramacon, Vol. 1
Author: Svetlana Chmakova
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
ISBN 10: 1-59816-129-8
ISBN 13: 978-1-59816-129-8

Christie Leroux is a high school student and anime fan attending her first anime convention, with her boyfriend Derek, to sell their amateur comic book – she writes it, he draws it. This 172-page young teen comic tells what happens to Christie during the three days at her first convention; but it is less about the chaos and traditions of big fan conventions – although that is certainly captured here authentically and hilariously – as it is about the emotional turbulence experienced by a sensitive teenager on her first solo outing from home.

How will she and Derek react in the “artists’ alley” to the fan public’s response, and to the criticism of professional cartoonists, to their amateur comic book? Is Derek just being friendly and a good salesman to attractive girls who look at their comic, or is he flirting with them? What should she and Derek do when their school roommates/chaperones stay out all night, leaving the two alone? Christie realizes that both she and Derek are immature, but how much self-centeredness should she tolerate from him? When Christie meets Matt, a sophisticated college student from across the country, she is torn between an instant attraction (is this just adolescent hormones or True Love?) and loyalty to Derek – but does he deserve it? “My first anime convention… did not go smoothly. But all things considered… I can’t wait to go back.”

Svetlana Chmakova is the young Russian-born commercial artist and anime fan who is one of the leading creators of what fans call “American manga” or “OEL (original English language) manga” – original American comic books written/drawn/published in the traditional Japanese manga style. DRAMACON reads front to back and left to right like standard American books; otherwise it is almost indistinguishable from a Japanese comic book. The art is black-&-white, presented in a thick paperback format. The style varies sharply from realistic when the characters are acting seriously to grotesquely “squashed” when they are acting silly. The art is heavily shaded and toned to compensate for the lack of color, and romantic scenes are full of the “shojo sprinkles” such as hearts & stars that Japanese romance cartoonists put into their art. The dialogue is full of fan slang such as “cosplay” and “J-Pop” .

DRAMACON Vol. 1 was published in 2005, and is currently in its fourth printing. Each volume takes place at the fictitious annual anime con, and shows Christie a year older with both her personal and creative relationships more advanced. It is a success both as a romance comic book, and as a primer for what to expect at your first anime convention. Vol. 3 will be published this December 10th.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sayle Away on a Snowflake with Shakespeare, Poetry Friday and Robert's Snow

Poetry Friday is here and with it my last feature of a Robert’s Snow snowflake and artist. These weeks have been a tremendous feast of visual delights and creativity. I can’t get over how beautiful each snowflake is. Just like a real snowflake, no two are alike and this one, “Titania’s Flowery Bed” is no exception. It’s based on Victorian lullaby and it features a sleepy little fairy.

Today, I’m featuring Elizabeth Sayles, who has illustrated more than 20 books for children. Her latest book is "The Goldfish Yawned" (Henry Holt) and it is the first book that she wrote as well as illustrated. It is a winner of the Bank Street College Best Childrens Book, 2005. She also illustrated "I Already Know I Love You" written by Billy Crystal which was a NY Times #1 best selling picture book.

Her Titania made me think of Shakespeare and A Midsummer Night’s Dream so my Poetry Friday offering is Elizabeth Sayles, her magical snowflake and Shakespeare. Makes a nice trio, doesn’t it?

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;

William Shakespeare, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Scene 1

Liz was kind enough to send me a long email telling me all about what inspired her snowflake, how she came to Robert’s Snow and a bit about herself.

“My Snowflake -- Titania's Flowery Bed -- was inspired by a book that I just illustrated called "Mother's Song." It is a Victorian lullaby and many fairies have found their way into the art. Some are fishing for pearls, or dancing on a spider's thread, or escorting the Queen over the River bridge. This little fairy seemed to fit pretty well in the snowflake, which is actually a flower. "Mother's Song," which was adapted by Ellin Green, will be published in Spring '08 by Clarion Books.

The fairy, somehow wound up looking an awful lot like my daughter, Jessica. I see it now when I look at it, but was not aware of it when I was painting it.

I usually work in pastel... but I have been incorporating acrylic paints in my work lately and this snowflake was mostly painted using acrylics.

In the summer of 2005 Grace had asked me to do a snowflake for the first Robert's Snow auction. I was so impressed by her, and her concept and energy. Most of us are paralyzed when someone we love is sick, at least I am. I can only think of how to get through the day, but Grace put all that anxiety into hopeful action. So I was happy to do it. Last year I was too busy, so I was more than happy to do it again this year, especially in light of the fact that Grace lost her husband in August.

One of my favorite books is "Five Little Kittens" (a New Public Library 100 Books for Reading and Sharing Selection) My artwork has been on display at the Society of Illustrators in NYC, The New York Public Library, The Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio, Every Picture Tells a Story gallery in Los Angeles and Chemers Gallery in Orange County, CA. I am an adjunct professor of Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.”

Liz Sayles is one busy woman! Along with all her work, she has a website and a blog that feature her delectable art. snowflake and others at the Robert's Snow online auction. . I fell in love with her work and it’s dreamy, soft feel.

Getting to know about artists like Liz and discovering their art has made this experience a joyful and fulfilling one. Please visit the Robert’s Snow Online Auction and bid often for these selfless and thoughtful pieces of themselves the artists share. Each snowflake, the work creating them and the stories behind them are worth far more than will ever be fetched at auction.

Poetry Friday's round-up is at the place it began, Big A, little a.
Prox It

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Robert's Snow: Akemi Gutierrez and I Love Me New Boots!

Joyful is the word that comes to mind when I look at Akemi Guitierrez’ work. Her sketches and paintings are filled with joy and such an amazing exuberance. I start smiling and keep smiling for a long while after visiting her colorful and happy website which is filled with fun things like The Curio Corner which features a monthly quiz, a Book Nook, her gallery, Animal Crackers and more. If you're having a down day, swing by Akemi's site - it's sure to put a smile on your face.

Akemi is the illustrator of such fun books as The Pirate And Other Adventures of Sam & Alice and The Mummy And Other Adventures of Sam & Alice which are both published by Houghton Mifflin Co.; What the Elephant Told and A Nap in a Lap are published by Henry Holt & Co.; and Three Little Bears published by Candlewick Press. She has a new book coming in 2008 entitled I'm Just Like My Mom/ I'm Just Like My Dad to be published by HarperCollins.

Akemi Gutierrez has been illustrating and writing children's books for seven years, and is currently working on her seventh book. Akemi lives in northern California with her husband Ed. She has won the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award for two of her book illustrations: “Three Little Bears” and “What the Elephant Told.”s: “Three Little Bears” and “What the Elephant Told.”

Her story about what brought her to Robert’s Snow is a touching one and her snowflake is filled with that joy and exuberance that he brings to his paintings. I love the idea of an ice skating pirate named Dead-Eye Dirk, don’t you?

Here are Akemi’s words about her involvement with Robert’s Snow and a bit about her snowflake.

Dear Gina,

Thanks so much for writing & thinking of me for your blog!

I first heard about the Robert's Snow event from my editor at Houghton Mifflin in 2004. It sounded like such a great idea and a wonderful cause, I really wanted to get involved. My brother passed away in 2000 from cancer so this charity felt especially close to my heart. After contacting Grace, I painted a snowflake for the first auction and the following two. I strongly believe in all the good that can come from people working together, such as the artists & coordinators of Robert's Snow and plan to participate in this charity as long as they'll have me.

When I was designing this year's snowflake, I thought back to my first (and only) attempt at ice skating. There's just 2 kinds of people that shouldn't be on ice skates: pirates & me. So it seemed like a good chuckle to put my pirate "Dead Eye Dirk" on the same slippery skates that I once wore. I think he's better at skating than I was, and it helps that he's properly distracted from the icy peril by the sweets at hand.

I hope this was helpful to you! Thanks again for writing & I hope this year's auction is another big success!

Happy Autumn,

Isn’t she nice? I just want to give her a big hug! Akemi's snowflake is adorable and like each of the snowflakes I see, I want it. It’s not every day you can have a pirate skating on a snowflake.
So bid, bid, bid! Let's help to make this the most successful Robert's Snow ever. Many, many thanks to all the wonderful illustrators that gave of their time to create these beautiful works of art.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

On My Block: Stories and Paintings by Fifteen Artists

On My Block: Stories and Paintings by Fifteen Artists
Editor: Dana Goldberg

Artists: Cecilia Alvarez, Carl Angel, Cbabi Bayoc, Kim Cogan, Maya Christina Gonzalez, Yasmin Hernandez, Felicia Hoshino, Sara Kahn, Conan Low, Joseph Pearson, Elaine Pedlar, Ann Phong, Jose Ramirez, Tonel, Jonathan Warm Day

Publisher: Children’s Book Press
ISBN-10: 0892392207
ISBN-13: 978-0892392209

On My Block is an incredible homage to neighborhoods, those childhood neighborhoods that were filled with enchantment and the wonder of young eyes and minds. Each sumptuous and very different page features a different artist talking about the neighborhoods of their childhood and what made them wonderful. Some pages are the stuff of dreams, others are filled with magic while some are grounded in reality, yet others contain the wispy quality of memory.

The fifteen artists are each completely wonderful in their own right and there is a small bio and photo of each at the bottom corner of each page, giving children and parents the opportunity to learn more about them. Each page is a journey of discovery.

Travel to Cuba with the artist known as Tonel and let his bright colors liven up your day.

Take a walk with Cecilia Alarez through her grandmother’s garden in Tijuana and feel the power of Mother Earth and view nature as a Goddess.

Visit with Los Angeles artist and teacher, Jose Ramirez in his East L.A. neighborhood on Ithaca Street (I lived there too!). His lush earth tones and warm brown faces will make you smile.

Yasmin Hernandez takes you through a gritty city dressed as Wonder Woman on her magical tour.

Maya Christina Gonzalez sweeps you away with her gorgeous use of color and sweeping dreamlike style.

Felicia Hoshino takes you to San Francisco where you have the fun of working at making tofu. Her soft colors made me think of the delicate, pale nature of tofu.

Cbabi Bayoc takes us to the park and that joy of just hanging on monkey bars. His wonderful illustrations of children’s faces smiling with the simple joy will bring back memories and make you smile long after you close the book.

I could go on and on about each artist and find more and more to ooh and ahh over. I open this book after a long day and I can’t help but be transported to that magical place of childhood where everything has magical potential. This is a book for both children and adults and is highly recommended. Each of the artists is well worth learning about and their websites or websites about them are easily found. On My Block is a wonderful way to teach children about art and artists, styles and diversity.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Poetry Friday - Dylan Thomas' Birthday

Today is the birthday of Dylan Marlais Thomas, one of my favorite poets.

In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labor by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.
To read the rest of this poem, click here. To find out more about Dylan Thomas, click here.
The round up is being held at A Wrung Sponge. Thanks for hosting!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Meaning of Amoxcalli

I’ve been getting a few questions on how to pronounce and spell my blog name AmoXcalli so I decided to give a little Aztec/Mexica culture lesson 101 from the indigenous point of view.

An Aztec book showing the folds

The Aztec people were called the Mexica before the Spanish Conquest. The name Azteca was given to them by the Spanish conquistadores. From what I’ve been told by my family and fellow Aztec dancers is that as the Spanish were coming over a mountain and they pointed and asked the indigenous people who the people were that lived over that mountain. The people said, the Azteca – meaning the feather workers who lived there, the Spanish took it to mean the people as a whole and the name stuck. We call ourselves the Mexica, which is pronounced Meh shee ka. The letter X in Nahuatl (the Mexica language at the time of the conquest and still in use by over a million people in Mexico today) is also soft, almost like a whisper. Ssh. So if you’re saying flower Xochitl – you say Sho sheetl – the l at the end kind of get thrown to the back of your throat.

Aztec pictographs for the days on the calendar

Nahuatl is an accentuated language, where the emphasis occurs on the adjacent syllable of the last syllable. Nahuatl is what is called a Uto-Aztecan language. The majority of speakers live in central Mexico, particularly in Puebla, Veracruz, Hildago, San Luis Potosi, Guerrero, Mexico (state), El Distrito Federal, Tlaxcala, Morelos and Oaxaca, and also in El Salvador. There are smaller numbers of Nahuatl speakers throughout the rest of Mexico, and in parts of the USA. There are numerous dialects of Nahuatl.

One of the few existing Aztec codices

Classical Nahuatl was the language of the Mexica people, also called the Aztec Empire and was used as a lingua franca in much of Mesoamerica from the 7th century AD until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. The modern dialects of Nahuatl spoken in the Valley of Mexico are closest to Classical Nahuatl.

An Amate tree

Nahuatl was originally written in pictograph script and was often carved on stone or painted into books made of Amatl paper. Amatl paper was made from the bark of the amate tree and is still made in the traditional way today in various parts of Mexico. The Spanish called these books Codices or Codex and they destroyed most during the Conquest. The books were considered sacred and were filled with histories, knowledge of herbal medicine, astronomy, ritual, surgery and so much more that is lost forever. The books were folded accordion style and were read back to front, right to left. Sometimes they were written on animal skin, but usually with the Amatl paper. A book was called Amox (ah mosh) and a house was called Calli. Together Amoxcalli means library or literally book house.

This gives you a good idea of the detail within a codex and a sense of what we've lost.

Whole libraries were burnt to the ground and almost every codex or book destroyed during the Conquest. The few that remain are stored in museums in other countries like other important historical things from that era. For example, Montezuma's quetzal feather headdress resides in a museum in Austria. Aztec dancers like myself and other Mexicans have been protesting for years to have it and the codices returned to Mexico.

This is the Aztec pictograph for Amoxcalli.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I'm there!

3rd Annual Los Angeles International
Tamale Festival
at "The tamales capital of the world"
MacArthur Park - Mama's Hot Tamales Café
(2124 West 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90057
between Parkview & Alvarado Street on 7th Street)

November 9, 10 & 11, 2007
Friday: 3pm - 8pm
Saturday:10am - 9pm
Sunday 11am - 6pm

Best Tamale Contest Tamale Eating Contest Biggest Tamale Contest
Tamale Making Demo Non-profit Booths Commercial Booths Art & Crafts
Booths Kids Zone

Entertainment Schedule:
3:00 P.M. Perdy Montes
4:30 P.M. Emilio Tejeda
5:00 P.M. Banda Sinaloense Los Angelinos
5:30 P.M. Sol Latino
6:10 P.M. Fama Nortena
6:45 P.M. Ruben dela Cruz
7:30 P.M. Juan Carlos "La imagen de Juan Gabriel"
8:00 P.M. Closed

10:00 A.M. Juan Elizulde
10:30 A.M. Julio Molina
11:00 A.M. Natalie Reyes
12:00 Noon Alan Reyes
1:00 P.M. Best Tamale Contest - Stage
2:00 P.M. Rosy Gonzales
3:00 P.M. Rico Mago
4:00 P.M. Rock en Espanol
5:00 P.M. Sangre Fria
6:00 P.M. Gustavo VII
7:00 P.M. Yaky La Indomable
8:00 P.M. Alerta 3
9:00 P.M. Closed

11:00 A.M. Danza Folklorico Netzahaul
12:00 Noon - Stage Honoring all Veterans
1:00 P.M. Tamale Eating Contest
2:00 P.M. Sangre Fria
3:00 P.M. Ballet Folklorico Azatlan
3:30 P.M. Lupita Fernandez
4:00 P.M. Lenny Lopez y su lluvia Tropical
4:30 P.M. Los Ases del Tamboraso
5:00 P.M. Pateles Verdes
6:00 P.M. End of Event

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fred Patten Reviews The Game

The Game
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: Firebird/Penguin Group
ISBN: 10: 0-14-240718-6
ISBN: 13: 978-0-14-240718-9

Hayley is a young girl living in London with her grandparents since her parents disappeared when she was a baby. Her overly strict grandmother keeps her virtually a prisoner at home, especially denying her knowledge of the mysteriously beautiful “mythosphere” which her grandfather studies on his computers. Finally she is banished in disgrace (but without being told why) to the home of relatives in Ireland.

Glumly expecting an even harsher household, Hayley is pleasantly bewildered to find that “the Castle” is a lively place overflowing with friendly aunts and young cousins her own age who seem to have been expecting her for ages.

The children eagerly introduce her into their secret game, a scavenger hunt for objects like a scale from the dragon that circles the zodiac, Sleeping Beauty’s spindle, a drinking horn used by Beowulf, and a hair from Prester John’s beard. Since Hayley has grown up uneducated, she does not realize how rare these are; but she is delighted when the search takes them into the forbidden mythosphere:

“They could see the strand they were on now, a silvery, slithery path, coiling away up ahead. The worst part, to Hayley’s mind, was the way it didn’t seem to be fastened to anything at the sides. Her feet, in their one pink boot and one black boot, kept slipping. She was quite afraid that she was going to pitch off the edge. It was like trying to climb a strip of tinsel. She hung on hard to Troy’s warmer, larger hand and wished it were not so cold. The deep chilliness made the scrapes on the front of her ache.

To take her mind off it, she stared around. The rest of the mythosphere was coming into view overhead and far away, in dim, feathery streaks. Some parts of it were starry swirls, like the Milky Way, only white, green, and pale pink, and other more distant parts flickered and waved like curtains of light blowing in the wind. Hayley found her chest filling with great admiring breaths at its beauty, and she stared and stared as more and more streaks and strands came into view.”

It is obvious almost from the start that Hayley is a special child. Just how special is revealed slowly as the story progresses and Hayley learns who she and her parents really are. Jones has used the plot device of walking between worlds in previous novels, but The Game is separate from her other books.

A knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology may help the reader recognize some of the characters whom Hayley does not know, but Jones introduces them all in a curtain-call endnote. This short novel or novella is in the Firebird series for young readers, although it, like Jones’ other novels, will charm readers of all ages.