Some would say the books of Peter Sís aren't children's books at all. And yet you'll find them -- complicated mazes of lavishly illustrated visual information and sophisticated themes -- on the shelves of children's libraries or among the juvenile picture books at your local bookstore. It's no coincidence, though Sís himself reluctantly equivocates by describing his works, in marketing lingo, as "books for the inner child in all of us." For the multi-talented Czech-born author/ illustrator/animator, now a father of two living in New York, every book maps the expression of discovery outside the borders of public acceptance, delivered knowingly by someone who comes from an Eastern-bloc environment where none existed. "I realized how difficult it is to think differently than other people," Sís says, "because I grew up in a country where we were all made to think the same way." In the free world, Sís has chosen to explore the worlds of explorers, from his own daughter Madeleine's forays into her immediate urban world (in his Madlenka series) to more historical voyages, both geographical and scientific, taken by the likes of Christopher Columbus, Galileo and now Charles Darwin, the subject of his newest book, The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin. "I look at my own children and can see how pressured they are by popular culture, so I would like to leave them some kind of legacy about people who tried to think differently," Sís says.
In town this weekend to speak at the annual Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association conference, Sís will also introduce his book today at 11 a.m. at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 East First Avenue; for details, call 303-322-7727. -- Susan Froyd
Good, Clean Reality Littleton teen shows his Endurance SAT, 10/4
Endurance is what you get when you cross Survivor with the Disney Channel: a wholesome reality-TV show in which teens compete in athletic events to test their inner qualities. Todd Nelson, the show's executive producer, says a lot of kids and parents campaigned hard for a slot. But that's not how Mullen High School freshman Phil Morelli got his shot. The fifteen-year-old Littleton jock's aunt put him up to it.
"She saw a commercial for it and called my mom, who called the show," Morelli says. Producers notified him the day of the Denver audition. "It was so last-minute I didn't even have time to change out of my baseball gear. I just thought I'd go, have a good time and see what happened."
What happened, Morelli confides, is that he was flown, all expenses paid, to Baja California to compete with nineteen other teens. Beyond that, he's mum. "We can't talk about it," he says.
Locals can cheer Morelli on when Endurance airs today at 10:30 a.m. on KUSA-TV/Channel 9. -- Hart Van Denburg