11.10.2010

Times, They Are a'Changin'

Well, everyone, the time has come for me to close down Afterthoughts...

As my job changes, my reading habits change, and I find I can no longer sustain a children's book review blog, an adult book review blog, and the blog I ran mostly for myself where I collected font-, vocabulary-, and typography-related items.

The good news is, they're now going to be combined into one blog to rule them all (I'd say 10 life points to the person who guesses that reference, but that's almost too easy).

Introducing, Wildly Read, my new blog based on the concept that I'm wildly, if not exactly widely, read.

If you're interested in continuing to read what I have to say, please click the link (the title of my new blog) above, check out the new blog, friend/follow me there, and I look forward to seeing you around.

This is officially the last post I'll make on this blog.

G'night. Share/Bookmark

10.25.2010

A Children's Book Almanac

Drop everything, hop online, and check out this new project by Anita Silvey:

A Children's Book Almanac

Both an online resource and later (next spring) to become a book, this project is perfect for your daily dose of children's lit information. Anita Silvey - former publisher for Houghton Mifflin, children's non-fiction author, professor, and all-around children's and young adult literature expert - is writing daily posts about a children's book or author, something relevant to that date. Giving current information, background stories, historical context, reading audience, and any other tidbits that pop up, you'll find a treasure trove of information from this exalted, knowledgeable source.

While I think this is a brilliant project in its own right, I can't help but be proud of the behind-the-scenes research done by Alison A. Ernst of Alison Ernst Associates, a fellow graduate of the Simmons MFA program in Writing Literature for Children, and librarian extraordinaire-turned-consultant.

Congratulations, Anita and Alison! Share/Bookmark

10.18.2010

New Book Porn

Hi all,

I apologize for the long hiatus. For the past 2 weeks, I have been busy settling into my new role as Sales Assistant/Receptionist for Beacon Press, and figuring out where my blogging life fits into that. This is the first position I've had in 5 years where I wasn't required to read something for work. It's an odd feeling - I work for a publishing company, and yet my opinion on the books published isn't sought.

Not that I'm the end-all-be-all in opinions, but whether it was as a bookseller, book blogger, book buyer, or editorial intern reader review writer (say that 5 times fast), I was encouraged to give a well-thought-out opinion on the books I came into contact with on a daily basis. Now as the sales assistant-slash-receptionist, I am required to process book orders via computer, phone, and fax, and above all, have a friendly smile in place while greeting Beacon Press and UUA visitors. Where do book reviews fit into all of that? For the first time, my professional life isn't directly linked to my personal interests, my academic pursuits, or my reading/blogging passions. Eek! Identity crisis in the works!

Not that I have anything to complain about, really. At Beacon, everyone has been incredibly nice and welcoming. I've joined twice-weekly lunchtime yoga and a once-a-week lunchtime knitting group. What's not to love about that? In addition, they were charming and understanding about the one sick day I already had to take. (And can I pause for a moment here to give thanks to the bizarre blessing that for the first time in 2 years, I could actually afford to take a sick day - make that a sick weekend - without getting behind in either grad school homework or employment home work.)

In the meantime, while I get adjusted to my new schedule and figure out where blogging fits in, check out some new book porn in the sidebar, and don't forget to hit up the links of other favorite blogs to see what they have to say. I promise blogging will fit back into my life soon.

Stay tuned for a final "What I Learned From My Fall Internship" post and a hopefully a true Beacon Press introduction. Share/Bookmark

9.30.2010

Book Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
9780375866593, Knopf (Random House), $16.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

This was my first foray into the brilliant David Levithan/Rachel Cohn author combo. Yes, I admit it, I never picked up Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (9780375835339) or Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List (9780375844416). Clearly now I'll have to, because I unabashedly LOVED Dash & Lily.

Maybe it's because this is one of the bookiest romances I've ever read. Maybe it's because a lot of the story takes place in The Strand. Maybe it's because you get to experience all the good and all the bad of the holiday (Christmas) season, which is coming up shortly and yes, I've already listened to Christmas carols, so all you purists waiting until December 1st can just ignore that last part. Maybe it's because David Levithan and Rachel Cohn have the incredible talent of making the everyday profound and of showcasing the idealism versus reality that [should] lives in all of us.

Dash is exploring his favorite haunt, The Strand, when he spies a red moleskin notebook on a shelf. He picks it up, opens it, and reads these words:


I've left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don't, put the book back on the shelf, please.

How many times have I wished for that very thing to happen to me? Haven't we all? To find mystery and adventure and possibly love hidden away in a place that is meaningful to only us (and the 50 million other people who feel the same way, but we won't think about them right now).

Dash follows the clues, and so begins an epistolary adventure in which he and Lily communicate solely by clues in a notebook they hide all over New York, from the madhouse of Macy's and F.A.O. Schwartz in the days leading up to Christmas, to Madame Trousseau's Wax Museum, to the most well-known houses that showcase Christmas lights.

Romantic, yes? But what happens when they meet up? Will they live up to each others' expectations? Or will the person they've created in their heads be too strong for them to allow for the imperfections of the very real human standing in front of them?

Written in alternating chapters between characters & their authors, this is the perfect book to hand to any teen or tween or hell, adult, who needs a little shot of belief in the spirit of love. Share/Bookmark

9.27.2010

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day: Steady Hands:Poems About Work by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy

#6 in the HMH Book of the Day series:

Steady Hands: Poems About Work
by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy
9780618903511, $16, Clarion

This hardcover picture book harkens back to the post I did earlier about picture books for adults (Part I is posted, Part II is coming soon). Published by Clarion Books just last year in 2009, everything about this book screams "made for an adult audience here!". From the sophisticated collage-style, often abstract artwork (not that children can't also appreciate, understand, and create this type of artwork) to the free verse, deep though poetry about various types of jobs adults have, I can't really imagine children under the age of 12-14 enjoying this book in the "Can we read that book before going to bed?" sort-of-way.

That said, not being a child any more myself (despite whatever my parents may tell me), I greatly enjoy this book and keep a copy above my desk at work. Not only is the cover illustration inspiring, but if I need some inspiration, it's fun to take a 2-minute break and read about what someone else may be doing for work right that very minute, say as a Dog Walker, Filmmaker, Personnel Administrator, or even:

Writer
Paid daydreamer
imaginary soothsayer
odd-fact researcher,
the writer
hovers like a hummingbird
by the
answering machine
computer
mailbox,
holding her breath while
scanning e-mails
listening to messages
sifting through junk mail
waiting, waiting,
forever waiting,
for the next
check
project
or call.

The artwork, in particular, is what draws me to this book, especially the displaced ISBN/barcode on the back cover. I love collage-style art, and also am a huge fan of this illustrator duo, who have numerous other picture books together. Going back to my earlier point about the "sophisticated, often abstract artwork", just to emphasize how much children can appreciate it, this duo has co-illustrated one of my favorite high concept picture book series: Trains (9780761455936, Marshall Cavendish, $6.99), Cars (9780761456162, $6.99), Airplanes (9780761453888, $14.99), Trucks (9780761453284, $6.99), and Boats (9780761455240, $17.99).

Share/Bookmark

9.23.2010

What I Learned From My Fall Internship, Part 2

One of my recent projects has been to conduct a sales analysis of award-winning titles for the Coretta Scott King awards and the Pura Belpre awards across the three Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprints: Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt, and Clarion.

Having some experience with sales figures from my previous career as the children's book buyer for the Odyssey Bookshop, it was useful to bring my own knowledge of the bookselling world to the sales information gathered from the publishing world. Book awards like the Newbery, the Caldecott, the Coretta Scott King, and the Pura Belpre are awarded by the American Library Association through the Association for Library Service to Children. When looking at sales figures, in order to understand them, one must have some understanding of the influence and intersection of three separate communities: the library market, the publishing market, and the bookselling market.

Publishers publish a book, doing all the first-tier work: editing, creating an attractive package, sales and marketing promotion and events, etc. Booksellers do the second tier work: showcasing the books available for purchase in-store, on websites, hosting author events, writing reviews, furthering the sales and promotion begun by the publishers, and also often working with schools to partner on making the book available for educational purposes. Libraries are the third tier: making the book available to a non-book-buying audience, also holding author and book events, also furthering the publisher promotion, but then increasing the school/education element, as well as often discussing the book in a more academic context. All three tiers have their own wide reaching, and often overlapping, spheres of influence, and all three tiers will often evaluate the book within the children's literature canon as a whole.

How is this reflected in sales? Well, remember Venn diagrams? Same concept: the book wants to have as much of the publishing, library, and bookselling market overlap as possible. But, because these are three separate entities, there's no guarantee they're all going to agree. Obviously the publisher is going to be gung-ho about their books, but each book receives a different amount of promotion. Then, the ALA might love a book and honor it with an award, but it turns out to be a book more suited for the library (read: book-borrowing) market, rather than flying off the book store shelves. Conversely, booksellers may love a book and elevate it to a higher sales status than one afforded by publishing promotion, but that still doesn't guarantee it a spot on the ALA best list - or it could, as with the case of recent Newbery winner When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

Now, the neatest part about this project was that there were several books on my list that had been published prior to 1990 (as you might imagine). Specifically two titles - one published in 1970, another in 1976 - did not have sales information available through any HMH computer database. This is because these titles are currently out-of-print, meaning though they won awards, they fell into that category of library appreciation, not bookselling appreciation, and so have fallen out of popularity. The tricky part is that they went out-of-print before the time when records began being recorded in a computer database. This means I got the help of a very nice gentleman in the sales department who kindly looked up and photocopied for me the original recipe card sales records of these books, hand entered, from about 1970-1981 (for the two books combined).

How cool is that?

I got to sit here, holding these photocopies of ancient (okay, I know the 1970s was not an ancient time) records, adding up the numbers by hand (okay, on the calculator on my computer), because they were not in a computer database. Before all of you who remember the '70s start lambasting me for making fun of something 40 years old, the point is I LOVE moments like this, when I feel so connected to a history and a time before the current digital age. (I wish I could scan the photocopy of the card to show, but that would involve revealing sales figures and I don't want to risk that.) So, despite my slight exaggeration in tone, I'm actually very appreciative and excited that I had this experience today. Share/Bookmark

9.22.2010

Picturebooks for Adults, Part I

Going through the slush pile a few weeks ago, I came across an artist who layers photographs and clipart pieces to create ethereal digital collage artwork. I wish I could show them to you, but unfortunately the artist doesn't have a website. While the project wasn't right for Houghton Mifflin, the illustrations were beautiful, and for me, immediately brought to mind the song used in this video:


(The song is Strange Love by Little Annie, and it's eerie, and a little weird, and I love it. If you want to hear the whole song, click here, though I have to warn you that the typewritten lyrics on the YouTube video are a little off.)

I could envision full-color, full-bleed pictures adding their surreal quality to the already haunting lyrics. Of course, with the heavy, sexy lyrics and accompanying illustrations, this picture book is more appropriate for adults than children, and that thought made me consider the concept of picture books intended for adults as a whole.

The picture book that immediately came to mind was Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence (9780877017882, $19.95, Chronicle) by Nick Bantock. There are four books in this series that is a mysterious love story between two people named Griffin and Sabine, spanning continents and time continuums. Each book contains gorgeous hand-designed postcards and letters between the two lovers as they unravel the mystery of their romantic communication. Perfect for fans of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, though not quite as dark.

Speaking of Audrey Niffenegger, she has created several picture books for adults: The Adventuress (9780810970526, $27.95, Abrams), The Night Bookmobile (9780810996175, $19.95, Abrams), and The Three Incestuous Sisters (9780810959279, $27.95, Abrams). In keeping with the classic Audrey Niffenegger style, these picture books are dark and fantastical while exploring complex emotions of primarily female characters.

Not all picture books intended for adults are as serious as these. Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, had quite the naughty side. In addition to writing beloved children's books, Dr. Seuss was also a political cartoonist during World War II; his cartoons have been collected in Dr. Seuss Goes to War (9781565847040, $19.95, Perseus). He also wrote several picture books that are much more adult-themed in nature, including You're Only Old Once!: A Book for Obsolete Children (9780394551906, $17.99, Random House), detailing the hilarious medical checkup one of a certain age might go through, and Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History's Barest Family (out-of-print), a book featuring seven naked ladies romping through tongue-in-cheek explanations of common idioms. Then, of course, there are other Dr. Seuss classics that are favorites to give to adults upon certain graduations and employment transitions, such as Oh, the Places You'll Go! (9780679805274, $17.99, Random House).

Other children's books are often given between adults for various holidays. Two of my favorites make perfect Valentine's Day presents for both friends and loved ones: I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast (9780395071762, $6.95, Houghton Mifflin) and A Friend is Someone Who Likes You by Joan Walsh Anglund (9780152296780, $9.95, Houghton Mifflin). Both of these offer adorable illustrations accompanying sweet, child-like text celebrating like, love, and friendship. Though those were published as children's books, their full value is understood more by adults, I think, who can better appreciate the nuances of both text and illustration.

This is true for many other children's picture books, whose humor, while appealing to children, is of a particularly cheeky, sarcastic, implied, or ironic nature that is greatly enjoyed by adults. Some of my personal favorites catering to the dual audience are the Knuffle Bunny trilogy, the Pigeon books, and the Elephant & Piggie series created by Mo Willems. A classic of this genre is The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (9780670844876, $17.99, Viking/Penguin), hilarious retellings of classic fairy tales by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith. Lane Smith is quite the connoisseur of this type of work, both by discussing children's books in an adult way on his blog Curious Pages, and by creating books of this nature, such as the recent release It's a Book (9781596436060, $12.99, Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan), a book about the introduction of a hard copy book in a digital age.

It's a Book walks that fine line between being really intended for an adult audience but being published in a children's market. There are many picture books published in this vein, such as All My Friends Are Dead (thanks to A. Neff for this!) by Avery Monsen and Jory John (9780811874557, $9.95, Chronicle), just published in June, about all the people, animals, and objects who have deceased friends. I can't think of a single friend who wouldn't snort with laughter at this snarky book.

What are some of your favorite picture books?

Stay tuned for Part II! Share/Bookmark

9.21.2010

What I Learned From My Fall Internship, Part 1

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Let me tell ya - it works!

After literally months of job searching, cover letter-writing, resume-restructuring, informational interviews, actual job interviews, nail biting, and losing sleep, I have an announcement to make:


As of Monday, October 4, 2010, I will be the new Sales Assistant/Receptionist for Beacon Press, located on Beacon Hill, in Boston, MA.

I can hardly believe my good fortune. Not only is Beacon Press located in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Boston, but the company itself is such an inspirational institution. Associated with the Universal Unitarian Association, Beacon Press is known for publishing outstanding works of poetry (Mary Oliver is published by Beacon), liberal and thought-provoking works of adult fiction and non-fiction, and most recently some YA graphic novels.

In my position as Sales Assistant/Receptionist, I will be at the front desk, serving as a representative of both Beacon Press and the UUA, meeting & greeting Beacon Press visitors, answering phone and email inquiries, and other sundry receptionist duties. I will also be assisting with the website, online marketing, and coordinating with organizations hosting author events with Beacon Press authors. I'm sure there will be other duties I can speak about later as I settle into the position and find out what they are.

But Rebecca, some of you might be gasping, this isn't editorial work, nor is it related to children's literature!

Good point, but this is an opportunity to work within a small, independent, well-respected publishing company in Boston. This is obviously an entry-level position, and as I have only internship experience within the publishing industry as a whole, I am thrilled to gain full-time employment in the industry. I can learn so much about various aspects of publishing I've never experienced, while also keeping my eyes open for a future position in editorial work. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I am so lucky my publishing career has begun at Houghton Mifflin and now at Beacon Press. Share/Bookmark

9.18.2010

Book Review: ABC is for Circus by Patrick Hruby

ABC is for Circus
by Patrick Hruby
9781934429617, Ammo Books, $14.95, Pub. Date: November 2010

Whimsical. Bright. Colorful. Creative. A must-have for a baby or design library.

I realize I haven't reviewed any board books as a stand-alone post,  a gross oversight I'm going to correct beginning with my latest find. For those who stopped by the Odyssey Book Shop while I was Children's Department Manager there, you might have noticed my taste in design work similar to this. Board books featuring the work of Charley Harper and Dwell Studio received front-and-center placement on the board book shelves, while Bruno Munari's ABC picture book was featured on both the picture book shelf and in my own personal library. Now I can add the up-and-coming Patrick Hruby to my list of favorite designers in this vein.

While his artistic influences are clear, Hruby's illustrations in ABC is for Circus are unique, inspired, and delightfully cheerful with a mix of colors and shapes that are both riotous and carefully constructed. I love the clean, crisp geometric shapes among the bursts of color, as well as his use of color against black and white silhouettes. The subject matter is charming, too! Who wouldn't love learning "A is for Acrobats" and "B is for Big Top," but you'll also want to pay attention to "H is for Horses" as they're horses on the carousel (which, believe it or not, is not featured for the letter "C"). I think my favorite is "N is for Nighttime" because I love the switch of a colorful starry background with the Ferris Wheel silhouette layered on top.

Run to your nearest independent bookstore to grab your copy in late October/early November.

To find out more about Patrick Hruby, visit his website here.
Check out ABC is for Circus at the Ammo Books website.
Befriend Patrick Hruby Illustration on Facebook.
Read a great review of his artwork in general on My Love For You Is A Stampede of Horses.

Thank you to NetGalley for letting me preview this book! Share/Bookmark

9.17.2010

Book Blogger Hop!

Book Blogger Hop
This is my third Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Crazy-for-Books, discovered (by me) through Presenting Lenore - thanks to both these blog/gers for providing a great way to meet new blog/gers!

To see the amazing blogs I discovered previously, visit my first Hop and my second Hop.

As this is Book Blogger Appreciation Week, as part of the Hop, I will be sharing my "favorite book bloggers and why [I] love them".

I, of course, have to begin with Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, commonly known as Seven Imp, a book blog about children's books that is (if I may give my humble opinion) the preeminent children's book world blog. Interviews, artwork, children's book world discussions, this blog is a treasure trove of goodies waiting to be explored almost every day. Also, personally, they're named after a Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland quote, so how can I not love that?

a thousand Books with Quotes is another blog I look up often, as I appreciate the sampling of quotes from each book with the general synopsis. Better than any "look inside!" preview, it whets the appetite even more to find out what those quotes are about and where they fit in to the overall plot.

Last, but not least, As the Crowe Flies and Reads by my friend and former co-worker Ms. Emily Crowe is a fabulous read-and-travel-log. Sharing informed opinions, asking critical question, reviewing great books, and showcasing incredible photography and travel stories, this is one of my favorite blogs whether I'm looking for a literary book recommendation or my next dream vacation.

Blogs I have discovered today through the Hop include:

1. Pen and Paper, who gave me a great idea for a post about a Shelf of Awesome, coming soon, I hope!
2. Blkosiner's Book Blog hosted the original Shelf of Awesome idea.
3. A Trillian Books has an adorable blog design and great YA and adult book reviews.

4. For What It's Worth also has a stylish blog design and combines book reviews with music reviews - how great is that? I love discovering both!

As always, check 'em out!

Also just discovered this Follow My Book Blog Friday:




Hosted by Parajunkee, this is very similar to the Book Blogger Hop mentioned above. Today they are featuring Bailey of IB Book Blogging, and the question is: Do you read YA or stick with adult?

Both, of course! (Of course for me, anyway.) But this blog is for my children's/YA book review-related posts only. My adult book reviews can be found on Afterthoughts for Adults.

Thanks to Bloggin' 'Bout Books for turning me on to this! Share/Bookmark

9.15.2010

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day: I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow

#5 in the HMH Book of the Day series:

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!
by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow
9780152024888, $16

Despite not knowing the tune to the song "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More," the new lyrics stand on their own as very funny, lively, interactive text, whether you're literally painting or just reading and singing along. A little boy paints all over his house - the walls, the curtains, the ceiling, the floor - so his mother forbids him to paint anymore. The boy gets around this by painting himself while singing this song, with such lyrics as, "Guess there ain't no harm if I paint my...[kids guess as you flip the page] ARM! Now I ain't gonna paint no more." Kids can mime painting themselves while dancing around and signing this song.

If you're reading this at an activity-based storytime, you can have the kids draw an outline of themselves, and then paint in the body like the illustrations in the book. The illustrations are black-and-white outlines with shading; as the little boy paints himself, each body part becomes a riotous mix of colors, shapes, styles, and images. This illustration style really appeals to me, and if it does to you, too, check out Super-Completely and Totally the Messiest by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, one of my favorites. Share/Bookmark

9.08.2010

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day: Sisters by David McPhail

#4 in the HMH Book of the Day series:

Sisters
by David McPhail
9780152046590, $9.99

Originally published in 1984, this delightful little book (apparently I have a preference for books with a small trim size) is perfect for the care package I'm sending to my sister at college. Published with a new jacket image and color illustrations for the first time in 2003, each page exhibits spot illustrations of romping sisters, demonstrating how they are alike and how they are not. The most important thing, of course, is that no matter how different they may be, they both love each other a lot. Sweet without becoming saccharine. Share/Bookmark

9.02.2010

What I Learned From My Summer Internship, Part 3

Good news on the summer internship front: It has now been extended into a fall internship. Hooray!

Beginning today, for the next 10 weeks (or until I find a full-time position), I will remain the Children's Editorial Intern, now working directly with Kate O'Sullivan, Senior Editor at Houghton Mifflin, as well as with other HMH children's editors, including Margaret Raymo, Ann Rider, Erica Zappy, and editorial assistant Christine Krones. I will continue to read manuscripts and write reader reports, make my way through slush piles, write decline letters, and in general learn more about the Houghton Mifflin way of children's publishing.

Subsequent postings on my experiences will be entitled "What I Learned From My Fall Internship". Also, I hope to continue posting (albeit sporadically) the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day. Lastly, check out Afterfonts..., my blog dealing with things typographical- and word-related, where I sometimes post the new vocabulary words I've learned from all my reading. Occasionally, I also get the urge to make words up, like the word hippoltergeist, a word that came about when I somehow got the words hyperpolyglot and poltergeist mashed together in my head. A fellow intern and I decided hippoltergeist should be defined in this way:

hippoltergeist, n.

-the spirit of a deceased hippopotamus that wreaks havoc on family homes, mainly in the children's bedrooms, though not in a malicious way Share/Bookmark

8.16.2010

Library Love

Feelin' the library love today. Hope all y'all do too.

Share/Bookmark

8.13.2010

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day: Out of the Egg by Tina Matthews

Third in the HMH Book of the Day series is...

Out of the Egg
by Tina Matthews
9780618737413, $12.95

A retelling of the Little Red Hen, Tina Matthews updates not only the illustrations, but the ending as well. The illustrations depict a mix of country and city elements complete with farm, apartment buildings, cars, computers, and telephone wires, yet the simple woodcuts in black, red, and green maintain the classic feel this tale requires.

For those who don't remember the story, the Little Red Hen finds a seed, plants it, and cares for it. She asks Fat Cat, Dirty Rat, and Greedy Pig for help throughout the seasons, but "Not I," they say each time. "Then I shall [insert task here] myself," answers the Little Red Hen. Over the years, the seed grows into a large tree, providing a safe space for the Red Hen to lay her egg. Soon a little chick appears, as does a little cat, a little rat, and a little pig. When the Red Hen would deny the little cat, little rat, and little pig the chance to play beneath her shady tree, she learns a lesson in kindness from her cheeky little chick.

I don't know if the title is a play on the phrase "out of the mouths of babes," but that's what I always think of when I relate the title to this book, for out of the egg came a little chick and out of her mouth comes true friendship. Share/Bookmark

8.12.2010

What I Learned From My Summer Internship, Part 2

Today I want to share two issues I learned about this summer that had not previously occurred to me as problems editors encounter.

The first issue involves an author an editor has worked with before. Say Editor A has published Book B by Author C. Author C's agent then continues to submit Author C's work to Editor A. Unfortunately, none of the work appeals to Editor A as much as Book B did. This could be for any number of reasons - different subject matter, different genre, not as well written, etc. Yet Editor A doesn't want to lose Author C as one of "their" authors. If Editor A continues to turn down Author C's manuscripts, the agent is no longer going to submit them to the editor. This would disappoint Editor A, because Editor A believes in Author C, and thinks Author C is capable of producing another book as good as Editor A thought Book B was. What's Editor A to do?

I was surprised at this situation, having never thought the continued working relationship between editor and author would be anything other than magical (naive, I know). What should/could/would an editor do in that situation? There's no hard-and-fast rule. Anyone in that situation has a number of options, including acquiring a book the editor is not as thrilled with, just to keep the author as one of "theirs" - perhaps they could work on it together to make it more like whatever the editor liked about Book B; not acquire anything and let the author go elsewhere; or perhaps an unorthodox option would be to talk to the author directly to inquire what else the author might be working on to see if there's anything similar to Book B (I thought of this one myself, so I don't know if it would really work).

The second issue is trickier, and is almost more philosophical or ethical than strictly editorial. Let me make it clear that this is a line of questioning I'm pursuing on my own, not in affiliation with any publishing company. In this scenario, Editor A purchased Book B from Author C. Though several people read the manuscript, it wasn't until after acquiring it that someone realized the manuscript for Book B was awfully similar to Movie Plot D. Names, characters, and general themes were changed, but the basic plot points were eerily similar. Now is that plagiarism of ideas or not? And if it is, what should the editor do? Book B is obviously going to be a huge hit for various reasons. To complicate matters, say Editor A has not worked with Author C before; therefore there is no rapport for Editor to say, "Look, Author C, what's up with this manuscript?" What's Editor A to do? Un-acquire Book B, a book that's sure to be a best-seller? Confront the unknown author and risk having Author C pull the project and hand it to a different publisher? Or ignore the similarities and publish it anyway?

I don't have a ready answer to this second issue myself. Does anyone have an opinion on this?

These are two of the major issues that stand out to me as particularly difficult to negotiate, and are probably indicative of the types of decisions editors deal with on a daily basis (though I imagine situation 1 is more common than situation 2, though I don't know for sure). While a part of me can not wait for the day when I have the power to make decisions like these, it is very clear to me that I will need years more experience before I feel comfortable handling a decision like that on my own. I'm very much looking forward to continuing to work my way up to that. Share/Bookmark

8.11.2010

What I Learned From My Summer Internship, Part 1

I can hardly believe that one week from Friday, my internship with Houghton Mifflin will be over. Ten weeks wasn't nearly enough time to fully absorb everything, yet I also learned so much from the wonderful editors I've worked with this summer.

Margaret Raymo, Kate O'Sullivan, and Erica Zappy were the Editors "on location" in the Houghton Mifflin Boston office, with the knowledgeable Christine Krones as Editorial Assistant, and the ever-helpful Meredith Wilson as Assistant to the Publisher. Editor Ann Rider also sent me tasks from her home office in Minnesota.

My primary responsibility was to read, read, read - a job with which I had no problem, as you might imagine. I read manuscript submissions for the various editors and wrote reader reports. What are reader reports, you ask? Basically, it's my opinion. How great is that? As I clearly have no trouble stating my opinion, that's pretty much the perfect task for me. What was harder was putting into words the feelings I get from reading manuscripts, both those that appealed to me and those that didn't. What was it I was/was not liking? What about that character was so compelling? Was the dialogue too stilted and unreal? What impressed me about that turn of phrase or plot sequence? Could a paragraph be removed to tighten a scene? I don't know how other interns/editorial assistants work, but nothing seemed too large or too small for me to comment about. Thanks to my MFA and the critical papers I spent the last two years writing, I was somewhat more prepared to describe the answers to these questions using (I hope!) appropriately descriptive language and industry jargon. The hardest part about this? Not knowing if or when I might see the books I liked in print. It IS thrilling, though, to know that at least a few manuscripts I liked were acquired during the time I was at HMH. Sometime in the next few years, I'll be able to pass a bookstore shelf and smile, knowing I'd read the manuscript version years prior.

Other fun editorial tasks I learned included how to write decline letters, catalogue descriptions, and flap copy. For decline letters, I learned never to send them right before a major holiday - even if it clears off my desk, the recipient won't be so pleased. I also learned to say something nice before making a suggestion, much like operating within a writing group structure. Lastly, personal to me, I had to learn to change my tone - I was sounding too condescending (shocker!). Catalogue descriptions are comprised of a one-liner sell-line, a short descriptive paragraph, and maybe an excerpt from the book. This all goes into the catalogue publishers put together to give to their reps who sell to bookstores and other retail accounts. As for flap copy, in April 2011, go take a look for The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True, Book 3 in the Knights' Tales series by acclaimed Arthurian author Gerald Morris, illustrated by Aaron Renier (9780547418551, $14.99). On the cover of the book, on the inside flap, should be printed my synopsis/description of the tale. Book 1 is pictured here; this series has been approved by the eight-year-old boy in the household I live in.

Last, but certainly not least, I also got to go through slush piles. Confession: this was my favorite part, second only to reading the actual solicited manuscripts. Slush piles are unsolicited manuscripts, sent to Houghton Mifflin by hopeful would-be authors who have not made a personal contact with any of the editors. Houghton Mifflin is one of the few publishers that still accepts unsolicited manuscripts; most publishers prefer that potential authors work through agents. The slush piles were my favorite because it was like a treasure hunt AND a project I got to organize at the same time. My fun-loving, slightly-OCD self was in heaven. What's even more exciting is that one of the picture books I plucked from the slush pile might get picked up by HMH! Nothing for sure yet but an editor is taking a second look at it. I have daydreams of helping an unknown author get their work published to the joyful satisfaction of us both. I can't help it; I'm an idealist.

Those are the major day-to-day tasks I work on. Stay tuned for the next installment of "What I Learned From My Summer Internship," when I will be discussing unexpected (by me) issues that editors come across.

Oh, the other thing I get to do? Go out for after-work-drinks with my fellow interns (and co-workers). Share/Bookmark

7.31.2010

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day: King Bidgood's in the Bathtub & Heckedy Peg by Audrey & Don Wood

Today will actually be a mini-ode to the author/illustrator genius of husband-and-wife team Audrey and Don Wood who publish a lot of work with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub
Hardcover: 9780152427306, $17
Paperback: 9780152054359, $7.99

A Caldecott Honor-winner, this book is a true delight to both read and look through, as there is so much happening in the illustrations that you'll want to spend forever discussing each page. Quirky rhyming at its best, this story is about King Bidgood who won't get out of the bathtub.

"Help! Help!" cried the Page when the sun came up.
"King Bidgood's in the bathtub, and he won't get out!
Oh, who knows what to do?"

The people of the court including the Queen, a Knight, and a Duke suggest various amusements to tempt the King out of the tub, but none of them work. All of the suggestions are adapted to working within the tub. Much hilarity for the readers ensue, while the poor Page has to run around not knowing what to do until FINALLY at the end of the day, he figures out a way to force the King out.

Heckedy Peg
Hardcover: 9780152336783, $17
Paperback: 9780152336790, $7

You'll find a similar depth of illustration in this picturebook, but a little less light-hearted story. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are seven children told by their mother to not let any strangers in and don't touch fire while she goes to the market. She intends to bring back something for each one of them, but while she is gone, a clever witch convinces the children to open the door, light her pipe with sticks from the fire, and then turns them into food. When their mother gets back, she must rely on how well she knows her children in order to save them from being eaten by the witch. The illustrations are too bright to really be scary, and the mother is a tremendously loving force to be reckoned with at the end. Share/Bookmark

7.28.2010

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day: Guyku by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Introducing the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day series!

This series is pretty self-indulgent for me, as it combines my intern life at HMH and one of my favorite blogging exercises - a picturebook series.

First up in the series is a book coming out this fall:

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys
by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
9780547240039, $14.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

Whimsical and kid-friendly, these haikus speak to the little guys about favorite seasonal activities. Acclaimed illustrator Peter H. Reynolds (probably known best for his books Dot and Ish) brings his signature charm to these illustrations, using a muted color-palate of shades of one color per season - greens for spring, yellows for summer, browns for fall, and blues for winter. Children of all races and sizes fly kites, pound cattails to make pretend snow, skip rocks, and play in the stream. My favorite aspect of this book is that almost every scene takes place outside. This is a true celebration of outdoor fun during all four seasons.

Proving these activities can be enjoyed just as much by girls as guys, one of my favorite haikus reminds me of summer nights from my own childhood when my father used to take my sister and me out to tell us about the stars:

"Lying on the lawn,
we study the blackboard sky,
connecting the dots."

This is a perfect book to share on the first day of each new season, and then write your own seasonal haikus. Encouraging notes by the author and the illustrator at the end will help the reader connect with the creators of such a poignant, inspiring book. Share/Bookmark

7.23.2010

I'd like to thank the Academy (Part 2)...

Thank you to The Fourth Musketeer for this great honor!

I apologize to you, Fourth Musketeer, and everyone else for being MIA. I'm still trying to figure out how to fit blogging into my new Boston life. I think I'm finally figuring it out, though, and today will be the start of my Boston blogging phase.

In accordance with The Versatile Blogger Award rules, I must do these things in acceptance of this award:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.

Done above, but will also link to The Fourth Musketeer now.

2. Share 7 things about yourself. 

Here goes nothin':
a. I like lowercase letters better than uppercase letters.
b. Garamond is my favorite "everyday" font. Cool Garamond fact: it uses less ink to print than other fonts. Don't believe me? Check it out here.
c. I have about 60% of my body mapped out for tattoos; 3 already on my body. Now I just have to save the money to get the rest.
d. The next three places on my travel list: New Zealand, Australia, & Ireland.
e. Children's book editing is my dream job. Still working on making it full time.
f.  Skydiving is on my bucket list.
g. If I had to pick a favorite color, it would probably be orange.

3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...) 

Okay, problem with this - not only have I not had time to blog, I haven't had time to read (and thus discover new) blogs. So, I only have 2 new blogs to share, but please see the blog roll in the side panel for other favorites:

a. SlushPile Hell: A grumpy literary agent wades through query fails.

HILARIOUS blog, and today's post is a compilation of Twitter responses to the question: Worse Children's Book...Ever.

b. Catalog Living: A look into the exciting lives of the people who live in your catalogs.

A daily laugh, I guarantee it.

4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

Check.

With this taken care of, I'm officially back in blogger mode! Stay tuned for my new series:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Book of the Day Share/Bookmark

6.20.2010

Book Review: Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf, illustrated Robert Lawson

Wee Gillis
by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson
0440845947, A Special Trumpet Edition (Penguin), © 1938, renewed © 1966 (OP)
9781590172063, New York Review of Books (Random House), $15.95

I found this book in a flea market in Madison, IN. Loving the Munro Leaf/Robert Lawsom combo (and the $1 price tag), I picked it up and read it aloud to my sister on our road trip. We were both laughing at how ridiculous and wonderful this little story is. It’s about a Scotsman (a boy at the beginning) named Wee Gillis and how he has to choose between living with his father’s family in the Highlands or his mother’s family in the Lowlands. I won’t tell you how it ends, except to say, it’s another classic about following your heart and everything working out the way it should. Delightful. 

The paperback I bought is a Special Trumpet Edition book issued by Penguin in 1966. Thank goodness the New York Review of Books has reissued it in a beautiful hardcover edition in 2006. Run out and grab a copy!
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5.31.2010

Book Review: Matched

Matched 
by Ally Condie
9780525423645, $17.99, Dutton Books (Penguin), Pub. Date: November 2010 

Matched was fascinating. It had a slow start, but kept me intrigued, and gathered momentum until I was reading at full gallop toward the end of the first book of what is obviously a new series.

Cassia Maria Reyes lives in the Society: a perfect futuristic society created out of the ashes of a society much like ours today. Food is prepared in individually-specific packages, jobs are carefully assigned to those for whom they would best suit, and at 17-years-old, Matches are selected for romantic partnership. During Cassia's Match Banquet, she is unexpectedly Matched with someone she already knows - her best friend, Xander. Highly unusual, yet not unwelcome, Cassia is pleased to be Matched with someone she feels so comfortable with.

Even though she already knows everything about him, a few days after the banquet, Cassia puts the information data stick given to her into the home computer to learn all about Xander. After she scrolls through all of his information, another screen pops up. This screen holds a second match for Cassia. It is also a boy she knows. A boy named Ky.

The Officials have caught the mistake and they attempt to do damage control. Cassia can tell no one. The faulty data stick is destroyed. But that glance at a second face has Cassia imagining a different life than the one she is living every day. She feels a connection to Ky now, and though Ky has no idea she saw his face, he seems to feel a connection for her too.

In a perfectly controlled Society, emotions such as love are not allowed to enter into any equation, as they rarely determine what is best for anybody. But Cassia has something inside her, a feeling, a spirit, an emotion, of independence, of rebellion, of fighting for her right to choose her Match for love. But the Society sees all. It knows all. And it orchestrates all. How can one 17-year-old girl take on the whole Society and win?

Cassia's story is well-told, with layers carefully built upon each other. By the end of the book, my interest in these characters was complete. The beginning only seemed sluggish because I didn't understand why all the elements were important to mention, but Condie does a great job of picking up those snippets and tying them together at the end. I'm excited to read more of Cassia & Ky's story. Share/Bookmark

5.30.2010

Book Review: Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

Touch Blue 
by Cynthia Lord
9780545035316, Scholastic, $16.99, Pub Date: August 2010 

This book is a departure from my usual reading fare. It was a conscious choice - I've been reading so much fantasy lately, I wanted something with a little touch of reality.

Touch Blue is a quick, quiet, and utterly delightful middle grade novel perfect for a New England summer read. Tess Brooks and her family live year-round on an island off the coast of Maine. Her father is a fisherman, her mother, a school teacher. Their way of life is threatened when the state of Maine decrees there are too few children to continue operating the island school. The island families decide to become foster parents, simultaneously giving good homes to children in need and adding enough children to the island to (hopefully) keep the school open.

The storyline follows Tess and her family as they welcome 13-year-old, trumpet-playing Aaron. Tess and her younger sister are so excited to have a friend (possibly an older brother?), and can't understand it when Aaron doesn't return their enthusiasm. Aaron's been bounced around from home-to-home, and still has some secret, contact with his mother. Can this city born-and-bred skittish boy accept the warmth, humor, and lifestyle of the island folks?

What I loved most about this book is that while it can certainly be used as an "issue" novel - as in, hand it to a child as a gentle introduction to what being a foster child can be like - Cynthia Lord has crafted a touching slice-of-life tale of love, family, and lobstering in Maine. Share/Bookmark

5.28.2010

BEA: BookExpo America

This blog is becoming a bit more "the life and times of a person involved in the children's book industry" than a straight forward review blog. I hope all you followers out there find this equally read-worthy.

So, BEA. BookExpo America. That's where I've been since Tuesday, when I was picked up at 5:30 a.m. by Andrew Laties, author of Rebel Bookseller, and Manager of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art Bookstore. Fellow MFA graduate and Assistant Manager of the Carle Bookstore, Eliza Brown, came too.

What is BEA, you might ask? In a nutshell, BookExpo America is an annual conference for people related to the book industry. Booksellers, both indie and corporate, publishers, editors, agents, librarians, teachers, published authors & illustrators, unpublished authors & illustrators, and some really die hard fans of the book industry all come together to talk industry buzz, pick up advanced copies (called galleys or ARCs - advanced reading copies), network, discuss new ideas, attend informational sessions and panels, etcetera etcetera etcetera. The American Booksellers Association hosts a Day of Education for booksellers. The Association of Booksellers for Children hosts several ticketed events. The exhibit floor hosts hundreds of publishers all showcasing their work, handing out tote bags and galleys, and holding author signings people wait hours in line for.

Though there are roughly 5-100 things you could be doing at any given time while at BEA, here is the general schedule of events that interested me:

Tuesday

Serving the “Tween” Reader: Issues & Best Practices
No reader is harder to serve than the "tween," ages 9 – 12. This is the cusp of adolescence, with a wide range of developmental needs, reading levels, and social issues to navigate. Join a panel of experts as we discuss the definition of "tween" and examine key issues, including how to navigate content, how to interface with parents and teachers, how to shelve books for this market, what role outside services like Common Sense Media are playing in this category, and more. Presented in conjunction with the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC). Moderated by Kristen McLean, Executive Director, ABC.

IndieBound Workshop
The Local First movement isn't an abstract concept—it lives in your community. Explore ideas for utilizing the energy of IndieBound to create events, sales opportunities, and awareness together with your indie business neighbors. Presented by Meg Smith, ABA Membership and Marketing Officer, and Paige Poe, ABA Marketing Manager.

The Nuts & Bolts of Children’s Bookselling: Roundtable Discussions
Join in roundtable discussions about the day-to-day operational issues that children's booksellers rarely get a chance to discuss in a conference environment, but which can make a big difference in their experience as booksellers. Topics will include title selection and shelving, creative display ideas, events, the mechanics of receiving and returns, managing co-op, community networking and partnerships, and more. Each table will focus on a single topic, and seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Bring your questions, ideas, and problems. Participants will learn from each other and emerge with fresh ideas and best practices to take back to their stores. Presented in conjunction with the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC). Moderated by Elizabeth Bluemle & Josie Leavitt from Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont.

The ABC Not-a-Dinner and (Mostly) Silent Auction 2010
An annual evening with children's booksellers involving great art, wonderful speakers, and a celebration of Being Independent!

MC: Michael Buckley, NYTimes bestselling author of The Sisters Grimm series (Abrams).
Keynote speaker: David Weisner, Caldecott Award-winning author of Flotsam (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Disney Book Group Mo Willems & Jon J. Muth Art Reception
A reception featuring original art from their new book City Dog, Country Frog, words by Mo Willems, pictures by Jon J. Muth.

Check out this GREAT REVIEW on the IndieNext list by...me!

Emerging Leaders Council BEA Party @ WORD 
For young independent booksellers and the people lucky enough to be their plus ones.


Wednesday

Children's Book and Author Breakfast 
Presented in cooperation with the Children's Booksellers and Publishers Committee [the American Booksellers Association (ABA), Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC), and the Children's Book Council (CBC)], this opening-day breakfast will feature:
The Celebration of Bookselling Luncheon
This event is always a highlight for ABA member booksellers. Enjoy lunch with award-winning authors and experience the best awards show in the industry.

Guess what author/illustrator was seated at my table...Jon J. Muth! I don't know if that was the biggest coincidence ever or what, but when I sat down and he introduced himself to me, my response was, "Oh, hello! I'm you're IndieNext quote." What a surprise & a pleasure!

Speed Dating with Children's Authors
Get to know children's book creators up close and personal! Each bookseller will get quick get-to-know-you chats with up-and-coming children's authors and illustrators, moving from table to table to meet them all. After the Speed Dating, enjoy larger discussions with those you piqued your interest!

Participating "dates" include: Heather Brewer, Bryan Collier, Eirean Corrigan, Beth Fantaskey, Adam Gidwitz, Charlie Higson, Lauren Kate, Sean Kenney, Jonathan Maberry, Carolyn MacCullough, Matt McElligott, Kate Millford, Daniel Nayeri, Mitali Perkins, Diana Peterfreund, Matthew Reinhart, Karen Gray Ruelle, Bob Seha, Nadja Spiegelman & Trade Loeffler, Jonathan Stroud, Iza Trapani, & Maryrose Wood.

BEA Young Adult Editors' Buzz
Young Adult Editors tell us about their hottest picks for the upcoming season.

Candlewick Booksellers & Authors Dinner 
I was honored to dine with Bonny Becker, Elizabeth Bluemle, Victoria Bond, John Cusick, James Howe, Megan McDonald, Tanya Simon, Daniel Nayeri, David Ezra Stein, Roger Sutton, & Rosemary Wells. Much thanks to Elise Supovitz, Director of Field Sales, for including me in this evening!

Thursday

Tea With Children's Authors 
This great new program gives librarians and booksellers a chance to chat with some of the industry's brightest stars in a more relaxed and casual environment. Each author will join a table of book enthusiasts for refreshments and an open-ended conversation about the author's life and work. Each table will be moderated by an ABC bookseller. 

Authors scheduled to appear: Laure Halse Anderson, Jan Brett, Peter Brown, Doreen Cronin, Jennifer Donnelly, Russell Freedman, Cornelia Funke, Geoffry Hayes, Gordon Korman, Megan McDonald, Brandon Mull, Richard Peck, Sara Pennypacker & Marla Frazee, Rick Riordan, Peter Sis, & Carmen Agra Deedy.
  
So, you can well imagine how busy I've been over the past few days! A big shout-out to Margaret Raymo, Editorial Director at Houghton Mifflin's children's imprint, who I kept running into at various events; to Noa Wheeler, Associate Editor at Henry Holt, who I literally almost ran into on the show floor; and to Holly Ruck, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt sales rep extraordinaire, and my kind, generous host for the last three days! If you're part of the book industry, I highly recommend signing up for BEA 2011, May 24th - 26th.
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5.23.2010

Times, They Are a'Changin'

Exciting news!

1. I am moving to Boston for the summer to be the Children's Editorial Intern for Houghton Mifflin's children's imprint, working with Margaret Raymo, the Editorial Director. This is such an exciting opportunity, and everyone has great things to say about living in Boston, especially in the summer. As this is an internship, I'm still looking for a more permanent job in children's publishing for the future.

2. Moving to Boston means Monday is my last day as the Odyssey Bookshop's Children's Department Manager. Marika McCoola will be replacing me there. Marika is a great artist, knows loads about children's books, and is going to be a great addition to the Odyssey staff. Check out her book reviews and artwork on her website, her review blog, and her exhibition blog.

For those wondering, yes, I will still be reviewing books and children's lit-related topics on this blog. Don't forget to check out my adult book reviews on my newest blog Afterthoughts for Adults. Share/Bookmark

5.20.2010

Afterthoughts for Adults

Introducing Afterthoughts for Adults, my new blog featuring my adult book reviews.

With grad school completed *cue applause* I hope to have more time to read adult fiction and non-fiction. Rather than muddying Afterthoughts... with my adult book reviews, I decided it was time for a second blog. I will continue to blog children's lit and children's lit-related topics on Afterthoughts..., but now you can decide what you're in the mood for and hit up the appropriate review site.

All feedback is appreciated. I hope you enjoy!
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5.17.2010

Book Review: Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters
Paperback: 9780440421108, Yearling (Random House), $6.50
Hardcover: 9780375835230, Knopf (Random House), $15.95

This post was originally published here in May 2008. It has been edited from its original version.

A quick little review for you of a fantastic book I just plucked off the shelf. Another one of those "read a book for its cover" moments that paid off handsomely.

This was a fabulous read! I was pleasantly surprised to find the content reflected both the title and the cover art. This book reminds me of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, except, you know, shorter, updated, and the storyline is a different. 

Cornelia is the only child of two famous pianists. She's never met her father, and her mother is always off traveling to some foreign part of the world giving piano concerts (hence the orphan-like existence of Sara Crewe). People, especially adults, often relate to Cornelia only as this famous woman's daughter, not as Cornelia herself. As a result, Cornelia spends a lot of her time alone reading books, especially dictionaries, coming up with longer and longer words to use to get people (especially her well-intentioned but nosy housekeeper, Madame Desjardins) to stop talking to her. When a new neighbor moves in across the hall, this famous Somerset sister opens up new worlds of adventure and imagination for Cornelia, with the unexpected improvement of Cornelia's happiness along the way. 

A must-read for anyone who loved A Little Princess or The Penderwicks series. Simple, beautiful descriptive language, and the bonus of funny stories within the story make this a delightful summer read. This could be read aloud to anyone age 6 and up, probably a read-alone for anyone age 8/9 and up.
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5.15.2010

Fall 2010 Picturebook Highlights: Candlewick Press

Ready for another long post? Introducing Candlewick's Fall line for the Fall 2010 Picturebook Highlights round-up!

Disclaimer before we begin: I have not seen these books with my own two eyes. As I'll soon be leaving the Odyssey Bookshop to pursue a career elsewhere in the children's book industry (more on that in a later post), I've been going through catalogues but haven't been able to get my hands on the actual books. So, these books have been chosen based on my knowledge of the author and/or illustrator's previous work, the catalogue description, and my own personal taste.

Grandma's Gloves
by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Julia Denos
9780763631680, $15.99, Pub. Date: August 2010

These charming illustrations showcase the talent of first-time illustrator Julia Denos. More than an "issue book", this picturebook tells the story of a little girl and her grandmother who bond over growing plants and gardening. When her grandmother dies, the little girl is sad until she remembers all the gardening skills her grandmother has taught her. The illustrations capture the love and vivacity of their relationship, as green growing things jump off the page at the reader.

Snook Alone
by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
9780763626679, $16.99, Pub. Date: September 2010

Though not technically a picturebook, this book is intended for a picturebook-age audience of ages 4-7. The combination of acclaimed poet Marilyn Nelson and award-winning illustrator Timothy Basil Ering (who illustrated Kate DiCamillo's A Tale of Despereaux, among others) is sure to produce a hit. A quiet tale, this story is about a monk named Abba Jacob and his rat terrier, Snook. They live on an island together, but when the two are separated in a storm, the tale becomes Snook's journey finding his way back to his friend.

There's Going to Be a Baby
by John Burningham, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
9780763649074, $16.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

For the first time EVER, husband-and-wife team up for a darling picturebook. John Burningham's witty take on a timeless story of an older sibling's uncertainty over a new family member is perfectly matched by Helen Oxenbury's "freshly enchanting and wonderfully nostalgic" illustrations.

Tiny Little Fly
by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Kevin Waldron
9780763646813, $15.99, Pub. Date: October 2010

I can already tell this is going to be a storytime favorite. Michael Rosen's (British Children's Laureate) simple text creates the sound affects for the animals trying to catch the fly. Tramp, crush, tramp - swat, swoop, snatch - roll, squash, roll: so many sounds and animals to act out with each reading! The tiny little fly lands here and there, while Kevin Waldron helps us imagine a fly's-eye-view of each animal the fly passes.

Fantasy: A Artist's Realm
by Ben Boos
9780763640569, $19.99, Pub. Date: October 2010 

Okay, I'm slipping this in here with the picturebooks. It is definitely an illustrated book, but for the older reader, 7 or 8 and up, all the way through to adults. Ben Boos has created a whole new world (stop singing the Aladdin song, right. now.) with this illustrated fantasy. Welcome to New Perigord, a land full of elves, dwarves, minotaurs, hobgoblins, and much more; scary and mystical, the detail of this land will leave you breathless and inspired to dream up a world of your own.

Mirror
by Jeannie Baker
9780763648480, $18.99, Pub. Date: November 2010

Having written a paper on Jeannie Baker, I was thrilled to see a new book of hers in the Candlewick catalogue - and what a book it is! The title, Mirror, refers to the dual stories told side-by-side, one of a little boy in Sydney, Australia, one of a little boy in Morocco. The two different cultures are pictured in brilliant collage illustrations on opposite pages so the reader can examine each boy's day, and compare it to their own. Share/Bookmark

5.14.2010

RePost: The "Good Guys" of YA Literature

This is a "repost", similar to a "retweet" on Twitter (follow me @rebf). Emily's Reading Room had an inspiring post recognizing the "good guys" of young adult fiction, as opposed to those moody, smoldering, dangerous "bad boys" everyone seems to fall for.

Some of Emily's top favorites included Gilbert Blythe from L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, Laurie from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and Peeta from Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games.

Obviously this made me question who my own top "good guys" of YA lit are, and these are a few names I came up with:

1. Philip Ammon from Gene Stratton-Porter's A Girl of the Limberlost, one of my top 5, all-time, desert island, favorite books. He's engaged to Edith, but he tries so hard to be a good guy and do the right thing to be worthy of loving Elnora. And of course, if I'm thinking of Philip, I have to put in Freckles, the title character from GSP's Freckles, and the Harvester, the title character from GSP's The Harvester. Really, all of her men are worthy "good guys".

2. Bookish Mac over fast and lose Charlie in Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom finally wins Rose's much-deserved love. And yes, I have a soft spot, in part, due to his bookish nature.

3. T. C. Keller from My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kruger. He loves baseball, has a great relationship with his dad, recites a standing address at the high school talent show to impress the girl, and he's cute to boot.

4. Poor Arthur Dent in A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. He didn't know what hit him when his planet was blown up, and he's dragged back and forth between one end of the universe to the other. What a relief when he finds a love interest. He deserves it after being such a good sport.

Who are your favorite good guys? Share/Bookmark

5.13.2010

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Hardcover: 9780316042673, Hachette, $17.99
Lena Duchannes is forever the new girl in town, jumping from place to place to conceal her power and the curse on her family. Ethan Wate is forever a townie, determined to leave yet fated to always be a part of Gatlin, South Carolina. 

Lena longs for normalcy, friends, a chance to go to the prom, and an answer as to how to control her powers. Ethan longs for something different than the bleached, tanned, vapid cheerleaders and dead-end feeling he has for this town. 

Seeing each other in dreams weeks before actually meeting, when they finally are face to face, it's the showdown of the century as history repeats itself, when once again a Wate and a Duchannes fall in love and are determined to beat the odds keeping them apart.

Lots of supernatural stuff meets high school stuff in this book - stuff being the catch-all term for magic, witches, telepathy, vampires, dogs who see all, secret libraries, full-moon ceremonies, voodoo, cheerleaders with attitude, nosy neighbors, best friends with crappy cars, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

Pretty funny, witty internal monologues and external dialogues keep this chunky book from getting too long, and the tension built up during the countdown to Lena's birthday is sure to keep you reading to the exciting conclusion on the final page.
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