Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Harry and Bill

Obama's in the White House, my kids are off to bed, all's right with the world.
My friend Vincent and I always write to each other like this.
One sentence per line.
It's less jumbly.
He does it always.
I only do it with him.
He wrote a book, but I am going to talk about his book in a few days.
You can visit him at
He is currenly into all recipes having to do with Obama. I love that.
Today he sent one for sangria!

Remember in college when you'd take two seemingly unrelated courses?
Then something would come up and you'd realize they had so much in common?
This happened today with two books.
I read a biography of Bill Gates written by Marc Aronson.
Yes, it's for kids--but believe me, it's for eveyone!
He did something really cool.
He made the book sort of interactive by structuring it as a HOW-TO.
I am not sure I can explain it, but basically, the idea is that he tells all about Bill Gates'
childhood, personality and everything else you'd want to know--
but he structures it in terms of the principles Bill Gates used
to accomplish his dreams, which were: 1) To computerize the world and 2) to get rich.
The book is terrific and any kid would love it--especially a nerd or geek,
many of whom I know and now want to give this book to!
But it's also about how he made himself seem like the best, strongest, etc.
even when there was nothing behind what he was saying.
The mere thought of competition would make Bill Gates
say he could do something better. Then he'd do it.
I wondered how we could apply this better to book publishing.

I read this book because I was asked to write a review for it.
Not really a review, but some catalog copy for my nice
friend Susan at the Junior Library Guild.
Don't ask me to explain.
One word: Freelance!

Well, like I said--a great book. But then it was time to read to Gus and Henry.
Gus was in bed reading his favorite type of book: an illustrated Simpson's book.
Gus is currently obsessed with any flow chart that is funny. I am not kidding.
Henry was reading Night Shift by Jessie Hartland,
which is the perfect book for a six-year-old beginning reader.
It's all about the jobs that are done at night.
Each job is linked to the next and the book features
my favorite job of all--window dresser! (How did I not get that job?)
Jessie Hartland was once a window dresser. So was Vincent Kirsch.
See? S e e m i n g l y unrelated and YET!
Visit Jessie at
She is fabulous.

So, I pulled a graphic novel off the shelf. I had never read it.
It was Houdini: The Handcuff King by Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi.
Brought to us by the Center for Cartoon Studies via Hyperion.
The book is about 88 pages, and the boys loved it.
At first Henry was worried it looked too long--and some of the language isn't for kids his age--
but he got into it and I explained some of the references.
In it, Houdini refers to the fact that in those days some people thought Jews had horns.
This made no sense to Henry.
Maybe if they had said Jews have lice, it would have made sense.
The entire book is about one handcuff escape that took place
in Boston in 1908 in Cambridge on the Harvard Bridge.
Great suspense, lots of credit given to his wife Bess, and the entire book is in black and blue ink.
Gives you that cold feeling when Houdini is in the water in the middle of winter.
Kind of like last week in the Hudson River!

As I was reading and thinking about Houdini,
and how concerned he was with what everyone thought of him--
and how he thrived on risk--I thought of Bill Gates.
Okay, so it's not that profound, but if you read both books,
you will see the similarities.
So much is smoke and mirrors.
So much is REALLY about the marketing.
It's fascinating. Isn't it??

Now I have to go and put all the jackets of the books on for you to see the books,
so this might take a while.
If I don't return tonight, adieux!

BTW--Thanks for the nice comments on my first blog entry,
especially the comments about my mother's comment asking
me not to reveal to much or overcommit myself.
That received "the most mail!"
Moms!! You gotta love them, right?

Wait--I already added the book jackets (Sorry, no Simpsons)
so I just have to say one thing:
I now know how Dav Pilkey came up with Captain Underpants,
because just tonight, Henry ran into the bathroom wearing
three pairs of underpants OVER his footsy pajamas
and as he ripped each pair off he got more and more hysterical--
very VERY pleased with his own antics.
Everyone should have their own Captain Underpants--
even if it's just you putting them on.


  1. Hah! We are reading Captain Underpants with Michael right now (The box set comes with a speaker in the lid and when you open the box it proclaims in a very kermit-the-frog-as-superhero-voice, "Tra-La-La!")
    I love your big brain, Jill!!!!

  2. Your friend Vincent does FABULOUS art.

  3. Hi Jill, this is from your mother.
    I am very excited because Dad and I are coming to NYC for a weekend very soon. I am not revealing the dates on the "blog". We have ordered two double beds so the boys can have a sleepover and you and your valentine can take an evening or two off. Can't wait to see you all.
    Your mother